Monday, December 28, 2015

Bog Rainstorm by Kevin Shea - Giclee on Canvas

Bog Rainstorm, 16" x16" Giclée canvas mounted on frame. Signed and numbered limited edition (of 50)

Bog Rainstorm by Kevin Shea
Species included are:
Bearded grasspink, Calopogon barbatus;
Manyflowered grasspink, Calopogon multiflorus;
Pale grasspink, Calopogon pallidus;
Tuberous grasspink, Calopogon tuberosus;
Xyris, Xyris spp.;
Candy root, Polygala nana;
Largeflower Rosegentian, Sabatia grandiflora;
Rose of Plymouth, Sabatia stellaris;
Bartram's Rosegentian, Sabatia decandra;

$250.00 plus shipping and tax

Community Sustainability through Art and Nature

After four years of recovering from a massive aortic dissection I am beginning a new life.

Red Mangrove Estuary by Kevin Songer
Exploring and discovering the beauty of our earth is my obsession now.  I want to share earth's magnificent colors, textures and life sustaining wonders with others.

My hope is we can all learn and appreciate nature even more through ecological art and that our communities reflect love and appreciation of mother nature.

Through education we will learn to cherish and protect our natural surroundings.  Through art this education can become reality.

From common wildflowers growing on a roof, wall or planted in a garden to rare and endangered species struggling to survive within critical habitat, nature calls to us all.

Come here often for more nature.  Share, learn, love and prosper.  This is what mother nature desires for us all.

Todays art piece is my illustration of a red mangrove estuary, one similar to those found here along Sanibel Island's shoreline just west of Fort Myers, Florida.

The nature features found inn the illustration include:

  • Red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle and propagules;
  • Railroad vine, Ipomoea pes-caprae;
  • Blue-eyed darner, Aeshna multicolor;
  • Fiddler crabs, Uca pugnax;
  • Barnacles, Crustacea; and
  • the constellation of Cancer (the crab) the second most biologically diverse ecosystem in the world - the mangrove estuary.
If you wish to purchase a signed and numbered copy of the Red Mangrove Estuary glicee print on canvas for $375 plus tax and shipping, click on the Paypal button below.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Urban Agriculture DIY Low Cost Raised Vegetable Bed for Urban Core Sustainability

Our yard soil is well drained sand.  Gardening in Florida sand is difficult to say the least.  It does little good to water with a hose because the moisture disappears almost immediately.

Even our native horsemint, Monada pnctata wilts on a daily basis here in the dry, hot sandy soil.
Here in Palm Coast the Atlantic winds are constantly blowing hot, dry air across our yard.  Even the native plants such as spotted horsemint, Monarda punctata and black eye Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, are all wilting by the time four o'clock in the afternoon arrives.

I wanted to do some serious gardening this year without spending hundreds of dollars each month trying to keep the impossible to irrigate sandy garden patch, irrigated.

The idea of a raised bed filled with organic matter to hold the moisture stayed in my thoughts as I considered different gardening bed design options.

But raised beds can be expensive.  After totaling my first materials list for a 8' long by 4' wide by 3' deep bed, I was shocked at the price tag. No way will I build this.  I'd be better off financially by buying organic veggies from Publix, I told myself.

The affordability component of sustainability and urban agriculture is crucial for long term success.  So rather than spend the four hundred dollars it would cost to buy nice straight cedar boards and stainless hardware, I spent the morning looking at what few scrap materials were stacked neatly (lol) in the backyard.

I soon found out constructing a raised growing bed for pennies can be easily accomplished.

After gathering about thirty metal stakes and laying them out in the shape of a rectangle, I retrieved the big hammer from the garage and enlisted my tall teenager into tapping them into the sandy ground about one meter apart.

Soon the rough outline of the garden bed appeared above the sand.

Recycled stakes and old chicken wire form the perimeter of the urban agriculture raised planting bed
Once the stakes were in place, reused chicken wire was stretched and attached to the stakes with ties fashioned out of copper strands from an old, worn out extension cord.

With the 'frame' in place the next step was to line the interior of the bed with saw palmetto.  Our back backyard is filled with saw palmetto.
Urban agriculture raised bed lined with saw palmetto fronds

Saw palmetto, Serenoa repens, grows broad and fibrous fan shaped leaves approximately two to three feet in diameter.  Saw palmetto, besides being a Florida native plant, provides a variety of ethnobotanical benefits from fiber from the leaves, nectar from the flowers and medicine from the berries.
Urban agriculture planting bed uses saw palmetto fronds as an organic bed liner.

We placed three layers of fresh cut, green saw palmetto fronds inside the chicken wire and over the bare soil.   The fronds served two main purposes of; A. keeping the dirt from spilling out of the chicken wire, and B. slowing down any vertical drainage of water from the bed into the thirsty sand below.
Urban agriculture planting bed layered with leaves and sandy soil

Urban agriculture planting bed layered with leaves and sandy soil
 Once the saw palmetto fronds were in place, sandy soil from our old garden beds was added over the fronds.

With four inches of soil over several inches of fronds in the raised bed, we then added a foot of decomposing oak leaves, another four inch layer of sand-dirt and them more leaves, then more dirt.

Soon our bed was a full three feet full of sand and decomposed leaf compost.  We watered in the bed and allowed the organic planting mass of leaves and dirt to settle for a week.

Urban agriculture planting bed, scatter seeds and water.
Judy always keeps a chest full of seeds in the house, so when it came time to plant I had fun selecting a variety of summer vegetables.  Seed packets are usually so pretty and jump-start a gardener's imagination.

I simply scattered the seeds across the top of the raised bed and watered them in.

The enormous amount of organic matter in the bed holds moisture, keeping the planting area from drying out like the sand in our backyard.
Urban agriculture raised bed, seeds soon sprout and vegetables grow
Earth worms have already made their way to the raised bed and in turn the robins and mockingbirds frequent the area daily in search of any raised bed bugs.

One of the most important keys to a successful urban core agriculture project are pollinators.  The native Rudbeckia hirta, best known as 'black-eyed Susans' grow around the perimeter of the bed, loudly calling the pollinators, attracting them en masse and in turn facilitating the development of many yummy veggies.
Urban agriculture raised bed with pollinator plants, Rudbeckia hirta
The bed is the perfect compost pile.  The raised growing area also keeps the plump, furry saw palmetto rabbits from grazing on our veggies.

Growing plants in the rich, deep leaf humus is so much easier than in our well-drained sand.  Water tends to stay inside the frond lined bed instead of draining away quickly down into the surgical aquifer.
Urban agriculture raised bed easily grows organic vegetables

Urban agriculture raised planting bed with three week old squash plants and lots of baby squash

Urban agriculture raised bed plant roots and saw palmetto fronds hold soil in place, eliminating need for side boards.
Though I first considered lining the outside of the planting bed with boards, I can see now that an outside covering is not necessary.  The root architecture of the plants weaves into the chicken wire forming an impenetrable vertical wall.  In fact, flowers and veggies are growing out of the side, forming an edible and blooming living wall of sorts.

Urban agriculture can be effective without becoming expensive.

Recycling, reuse and use of locally available materials are key.  As is a little imagination.  Just hold a packet of veggie or wildflower seeds in your hand and look out back and think - 'in just three weeks'....

Friday, May 22, 2015

Genius Design. Creating Smart Stormwater and Landscape Ecology.

Land is usually expensive in the urban core and that is why it is so important for the site designer to try and maximize buildable space while incorporating green space, stormwater and parking.
Genius design - combining stormwater and landscape (& using native plants!)
Historically the trend has been to specify the square or rectangular stormwater pond and the linear, parallel strips of landscape separately.

Really, the only reason I can think this practice was started was because many civil designers grew up playing with square Legos.

Or maybe neatly compartmentalized site design components on the blueprints were easier to get approved by the planning department.

People get into a mindset.  Most do not like change.  So once the square stormwater pond and parallel strips of landscape islands and no trees and lots of black asphalt became the norm, well... who were civil designers to rock the boat with natural complicated curves?  After all, most schools teach - square stormwater pond plus parallel strips of landscape islands plus sprawl equals quick governmental approval for the project.

But occasionally I see a really successful genius design where the smart engineer foregoes the separate stormwater and landscape components.  Instead they maximize space and create urban ecology by using natural curves and native plants integrated together into a sustainable and cost efficient functioning part of the site layout.
The above photo is an example of how to perfectly combine landscape buffer requirements with stormwater obligations and create a wonderful native fern living wall too!

Native wetland trees, cypress, Taxodium spp., were planted in a depression and act as visual barriers to the adjacent highway while also serving as stormwater siphons, transpiring several hundred gallons of water each day into the atmosphere - assisting in water attenuation and flood control.

Instead of a gaping, unsightly, litter filled stormwater pond that requires extra real estate, this designer has created vital urban ecology all the while satisfying stormwater and landscape requirements with the jurisdictional permitting agency.

I can hear the square designers howling now.  Yes, I know that there are many factors in creating adequate stormwater facilities.  But it just makes sense to maximize site density with respect to the environment, the community and the economy.

Think outside the box (square)!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Urban Sustainability Requires Pedestrian Legitimacy

Urban sustainability must be centered around adequate pedestrian infrastructure.
Sidewalks need maintenance just as roads require upkeep.  Many times with pedestrian infrastructure the prevailing attitude is 'out of sight, out of mind'.

Building sidewalks and leaving them to become unusable through neglect and lack of landscape maintenance does nothing to perpetuate the legitimacy of sustainability.

Our cities must become pedestrian friendly.  Our public works department must take pedestrian life seriously with respect to budgets and upkeep.

Here in America we have such a long way to go to recognize the legitimacy of pedestrian life.  WE are too embedded in our seat belts.

Urban Landscape and Stormwater Integration

I always recommend integrating landscape and stormwater.  
Small SWMF feature incorporated into a landscape buffer.

Never could I understand why a developer or engineer would design a site with separate landscape and stormwater facilities, especially with the dire lack of urban vacant land.  

Such a waste.  

However some designers have their thinking caps on correctly and come up with some really awesome stormwater-landscape designs!  

Here is a photo of a small attenuation and treatment stormwater facility designed into the landscape buffer! 

The concept is quite simple and straightforward:
  • select a wetland tree or shrubs
  • build a berm around a small perimeter to receive rooftop of parking lot runoff
  • incorporate into the landscape design
  • achieve stormwater credit and landscape credit in the same amount of space.
Love to see more of this type design.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

True Urban Sustainability Must Be Foot Traffic Based

Motorized vehicles have put us on a non-sustainable path towards societal failure.

True sustainability incorporates complete integrated pedestrian design - not just sidewalks
We no longer walk like our ancestors.  Instead the obesity epidemic exponentially blossoms and life expectancy may be declining.

Peak oil has come and gone.  Price instability associated with petroleum products is here to stay and impact pocketbooks.

One significant incident of oil or gas supply disruption would rock the markets and ultimately our existence.  We are walking a fine line and possibly unprepared for what could happen.

The answer is simple.  Relearn the foot-centric community design of our grandparents generation.

We should be planing future development around the brilliant pedestrian concept of parks, shops, food and communities interconnected by sidewalks and bikeways instead of blueprinting our cities around roads.

Unfortunately our modern day automobile centered towns are ripe for catastrophic collapse because even in the best of pedestrian focused communities the infrastructure for functional bike and foot transportation is woefully inadequate.

For walking to catch on, the facilities to encourage safe, beautiful and efficient pedestrian movement must be built.

Design and build communities correctly around foot and bicycle traffic with efficient mass transit and the future will be amazingly prosperous.

Yet giving lip service through poor design gets us all nowhere quick.  That is where most of our cities are today.

For instance, Palm Coast has built many miles of bikeways and sidewalks.  You would think the area here is a pedestrian dream city.

We have all fooled ourselves into thinking our cities are eco-friendly because we build sidewalks.  Truth is though that most of these sidewalks are constructed as an after thought to roadways.

We will never approach credible sustainability with the thinking - design for automobiles first - and then design for foot traffic and bicycles as an afterthought.

Each day I walk to Public for our daily food.  The entire walk is about three miles give or take.  Every day I chuckle or curse, depending upon my mood, the weather and how heavy the groceries are when I come to this really nice crosswalk across Belle Terre Blvd.

The wide, nice sidewalk ends two meters away from the crosswalk button.

Yes, I am grateful for the button and crosswalk light.  But for a disabled person - or that matter any pedestrian - stepping across huge mounds of fire ants and sliding down a steep hill above a stormwater ditch to reach the cross walk button is more than a little absurd - and certainly sends the wrong message to would-be-pedestrians.

And this one example is just the tip of the huge, unseen by most, sustainability iceberg.

Few but the dedicated pedestrian really understand.

The planning or civil designer and plans reviewer drives a car home.  They have only limited understanding of anything foot traffic centric.  Many think sidewalks are the solution to community sustainability when sidewalks are only a piece to the overall sustainability puzzle.

Walking has opened my eyes to so much.  Give me a city or municipality that really wants to become eco-sustainable from an environmental, economic and social perspective and with pedestrian perspective and the right opportunity, and amazing prosperity could be created.

But few are willing to give up the automobile approach.

And so the cars will burn oil and our cities will sprawl outwards.

Until a petroleum supply event.

And then we will wonder why we didn't take pedestrian design seriously, sooner, while we are sliding into the stormwater ditch after attempting to press the crosswalk button.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Time to Focus on Sustainability

I have learned a lot being on death's doorstep with my dissected aorta.  My transportation is solely by walking now.  In becoming a pedestrian for the past three years I have had my eyes opened to urban green design issues.

I want to share those.

They may come slow as I am truly physically limited.  But I will share as I can.

Sustainability from a disabled person's perspective is wild!

Can't wait to share some of what I've learned walking along the roadside for the past three years.

Living in a world without a car, in a world designed for automobile life, is a trip.  I now do not think a automobile-centric lifestyle is a sustainable approach.

So over the next while - while I am still alive - I want to share some new ideas on how we can create real sustainable, urban green.

Hope you join me.