Sunday, June 30, 2013

maintenance, water filter edition

In addition to the normal maintenance schedule for most houses - changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, cleaning out the gutters - tin box has a few other systems that need regular service. One of them is the group of filters we use to make rainwater potable. The three filters are mounted on a skid in the garage, close to the point where the supply line from the rainwater cistern enters the house. The pump (lower right) draws water from the cistern whenever we turn on a tap or appliance; the water passes through a string filter (blue tube, far right), an ultraviolet lamp (silver cylinder, center) and a charcoal filter (left). These three items need to be replaced annually.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

garden, bush bean edition

Our first batch of bush beans from the garden.

act now, climate change edition

A much less sanguine, but even more important article, is Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell's piece on the devastation facing Miami as a result of climate change. This is an important article, and the real shame of the matter is that it took a national magazine - not a local news organization - to make public what scientists and activists have been arguing for years. No amount of individual action is enough to stave off an existential threat to our lives and our region. We need collective action at the state and federal levels, and we need it now.

Our economy and our political institutions are driven by people who cannot see beyond the next quarterly report or the next election, and their disingenuous (in)actions on environmental issues will leave our city in ruins. Those who deny climate change and its effects will be seen by history with the same harsh judgment as those who did nothing in the face of other epochal threats to human life. But I will never feel any joy in being right, only despair that I did not do enough.

act now

James Jiler, the brilliant gardener and social activist who turned our back yard into a food forest and butterfly nursery, recently published an excellent essay on the value of gardening programs in prisons. Using examples taken from his own work in New York and Florida, as well as research and programs in the US and abroad, James makes a compelling case for reforming prisons to better support the rehabilitation of prisoners. We have a chance to help our neighbors and to relieve ourselves of the crushing financial burden of prison costs. Talk to James about how you can get involved.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Harlan, the elder child of tin box, had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for nine months, and agitating for a real bed most of that time. No more. Last week, we had a chance to build a bed for him, and the results were not terrible. Harlan and I drew up a plan, found some sustainably harvested lumber and formaldehyde-free plywood, and knocked together a bed with a headboard and shelf, and which sits on a continuous book shelf. The whole assembly is lifted off the floor to leave a half-inch reveal at the base.

Friday, June 14, 2013

garden, pole bean edition

We harvested our first batch of pole beans yesterday. These insanely long (and surprisingly sweet when sautéed) guys grew from beans we planted in April. Beans like to be sown directly into the ground, and pole beans need an armature to climb on. These vines produce elegant violet flowers which then turn into two quickly-growing beans.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

garden, sweet potato edition

We just harvested our second batch of sweet potatoes. This huge pile came from a single potato we planted back in the fall. The vines spread quickly in the garden (the nutritious leaves make for a tasty sauté) and as they set down roots, some of them turned into tubers. And those tubers include some giants: the conch-shaped one in the photo is about the size of a conch shell (over nine inches long). Sweet potatoes are about as easy a crop as you'll ever encounter: they required no maintenance or irrigation, and spread throughout the shallow and loose soil. However, they are not without their problems...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the garden at midsummer

Modern Farmer magazine just posted a letter to the editor under the provocative headline, "Can I Legally Grow Food in My Front Yard?"The response: it depends on zoning, deeds and neighborhood associations. In South Miami, we're fortunate that the city allows us to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs instead of lawns. As we head into mid-summer, it's a good moment to take stock of what's been growing out in the front yard...

Monday, June 10, 2013

spreading the word, AIA Florida edition

The spring issue of Florida/Caribbean Architect, the journal of the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects, has a nice article about tin box. Thanks to editor Diane Greer for including us in this issue!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

day job, Rome edition

Continuing the video lecture theme, here is the link to the lecture I gave at the Accademia San Luca in Rome in October 2012, where I got to sit with Howard Burns and Francesco Moschini (!) in a palazzo partly remodeled by Francesco Borromini. Another bucket list item crossed off.

day job, Texas A&M edition

Back in March I gave a talk on my research in Ethiopia, called "Less Rupture than Amplification: Ethiopian Cities and Italian Colonialism" at Texas A&M University. The video is available online. Thanks to Peter Lang and Sarah Deyong for the kind invitation.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Why have there been no great women [architects]?, continued

Our old friend Mark Humphries responds to Friday's post on attribution by noting the great fame and critical success enjoyed by Zaha Hadid, including her 2004 Pritzker Prize. And certainly, Hadid is not alone - we could easily fill post after post with work by critically-acclaimed and financially successful women architects. Yet such a list belies two fundamental problems: women remain systematically under-credited for the work they do in shaping the built environment, regardless of how many success stories we can name, and the very nature of Hadid's fame embodies the marginalization of architecture as a meaningful way of shaping the public realm. In numerous ways, Hadid's success is the problem.