What the site looked like after the mowing on May 13, 2016.

Annapolis Rd Greening Project Progress

The Annapolis Rd. Greening Project is moving forward and latest developments include a schedule of dates to volunteer, and collaboration with local businesses, and non-profits. You can find the greening/cleanup schedule on our Facebook page and the gallery below.

When I first started planning this initiative, the task was overwhelming. I kept asking myself, how are we going to accomplish clean up, beautification and sustainability of site. All too often, initiatives like this start, get momentum but die once the organizer leaves. Working with non-profits nearly ten years helped me develop a skill I don’t take for granted, the ability to build partnerships with folks who share a common ethos. Here are our partners thus far and their roles in this project. I’m extremely thankful and blessed to be working with them.

Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved. – Mattie Stepanek

Parks and People Foundation – It was actually Parks and People that initially reached out to both Keisha and I via email asking if we (WNA) would be interested in adopting the three lots. Their mission is focused on greening Baltimore, and they have various projects, programs and initiatives that revolve around environmental stewardship. Parks and People are our knowledge/green thumb partner. They are also implementing the buffer management plan.

Additionally, teens who need Student Service Learning (SSL) hours can obtain them by volunteering at our cleanups. Parks and People will facilitate the awarding of hours.

Sagamore Development – It was a casual conversation at one of the WNA meetings that turned into a fortuitous opportunity where they indicated interest in helping via in kind support. Renting heavy equipment is costly, and they have the willingness to support us in this endeavor. On May 13th, Sagamored mowed minor weeds.

Volunteering Untapped – A newly minted non-profit that is focused on volunteering, and specifically connecting young professionals with volunteering opportunities. They usually have a large crowd of willing volunteers, sometimes up to one hundred volunteers. For the size of our lots, the more, the merrier. I reached out to them via cold email, and our site was assessed, reviewed and they even paid us a visit to scope out the location. I’m specially thrilled and looking forward to their help in June.

Weed Warriors  – A program under Tree Baltimore with a mission to remove invasive species in the city. Part of their program includes educating residents about invasive weeds and certification to be authorized to remove invasive plants in city park property. Because, although WNA adopted the lots, the property is still city-owned.

Wheelabrator Baltimore – You can actually see the Wheelabrator from the site and our published photos. At our March meeting, one of the representatives from the company indicated interest in helping us maintain the site also by mowing as in kind support and also engaging their employees in a site cleanup.

The next phase of this project is to implement the buffer management plan, and removal of bigger invasive plants that require city permission. This summer I’ll reach out to youth focused non-profits so we can host volunteering days for youth next fall and those students can earn SSL hours. If you want to schedule your company employees or you work with youth who need SSL hours, reach out to me at dianawna@gmail.com

Here’s to collaborating and getting things done :)

Annapolis Road Lots

Annapolis Road Greening Initiative

Ever since I moved to Westport, my focus has been greening and starting the farmers market. I figured, I live here now and if I can do something to make my neighborhood/community better, I’ll do it. Like many of my other neighbors I clean my property and part of my block too. I also do a little bit of guerilla gardening here and there.

November 2015, Keisha Allen (WNA) president reached out to me about the possibility of spearheading a greening initiative that spreads across three lots along Annapolis road, and as you exit the neighborhood toward the incinerator. These Lots have been city owned and are considerably unattractive. Also, they’ve been overwhelmed with invasive species which of course is not any good for our environment.


 

We submitted our application for adoption first week in December through the Department of Housing Adopt-A-Lot Program and we got a positive response from the city this Thursday.

Through the adoption, we’ll be collaborating with Parks and People foundation  for greening and implementation of a buffer management plan. As you near Monroe street, this area also touches water. Since the land has essentially been uncared for by many years, water runoff is an issue. Interestingly, I’ve learned from neighbors that the spot is a common fishing spot. We’re discussing ways to beautify this pace without interrupting wild life and encouraging our community to also enjoy the beauty of nature.

I’m really excited as this adoption provides an opportunity for us to give our neighborhood a facelift. Additionally, the environmental benefit of this greening initiative will help our thriving urban ecosystem. We discussed installing native plants and pollinator friendly plants to help the bees.

So the next few weeks we’ll be putting together a plan of action and calling for volunteers to join us. Stay tuned.

 

 

Westport Market opening day

Becoming a food access advocate

In February 2014, I experienced my first winter storm as a resident of Baltimore City.  Prior to moving to our neighborhood, we both wanted to own our home and live in an area that was affordable and where we had access to city life. Westport provided that. The neighborhood was a hidden gem with a lot of potential, also with a light-rail station and cycling proximity to the downtown Baltimore area.  After Kevin Plank’s, purchase of our waterfront, Westport transitioned as an “up-and-coming area” and now it is on the eye of many real estate investors and the media.

The wake up call

As snowflakes accumulated and we became unable to drive anywhere, we shoveled our sidewalk and walked around the neighborhood. I was interested exploring the corner stores to buy vegetables. We walked to the three stores along Annapolis Road (the main road of our neighborhood) and what we found inside was only potatoes and onions. There is nothing wrong with potatoes and onions, but I was looking for more variety. We found chips, soda, alcohol, lots of salami and packaged food. Zane shared with me the difference in NYC’s Bodega’s which did have vegetables and fruits.

It was disheartening and a wake up call. Growing my own vegetables during the summer and having access to a car so that I can drive outside our neighborhood, blinded me from the truth: I lived in a food desert. The next few months were filled with me finding public health reports about my neighborhood, district, and essentially, the new city I called home.

small-wm-logoThe birth of Westport Market

I began to plan for Westport Market in the spring of 2014, developed a strategic plan to make the market a reality with the help of other neighbors who shared the same mission. In the fall of 2014, I was able to successfully get others to join me. My neighbors included: Keisha Allen, Shanna Brittner, Brian Brittner, Douglas Wise, Gregory Wright and Jose Santos-Dory. We launched the farmers market June 18, 2015, and are now working on our 2016 season.

Through the endeavor of starting the market, I learned that I became what you call a “Food Access Advocate”. It’s something new, but something I’m extremely passionate about as I grow food, and enjoy cooking.

This 2016 season, we’ll be solving a problem of food access to SNAP recipients in our community. We’re taking the necessary steps to accept SNAP/EBT benefits at the market level.

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Baltimore 2016 Urban Homesteading Series

As our land grant institution, University of Maryland’s extension programs, workshops and clinics give Marylander’s opportunities to expand their knowledge in areas of Agriculture.

Most recently, the Baltimore County Extension office released a list of urban homestead courses. The 2016 schedule includes courses in the areas of gardening, canning/preservation, farming or those that simply want to start a new one.

Urban Homesteading Series flyer

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The first class of the series is focused on gardening. It will be held on March 2, 2016 and title of workshop is “Organic Vegetable Seed Starting and Indoor Worm Bins” held at the  Cylburn Arboretum Greenhouse Classroom (4915 Greenspring Ave, Baltimore, MD 21209)

In 2013, I attended a similar workshop for canning/food preservation with the Montgomery County Extension office and it was great!

Online registration may be found here: https://extension.umd.edu/baltimore-county/home-gardening/urban-homesteading-series-2016

 

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Pomegranate Vinaigrette Recipe

This is one of my all time favorite simple and impressive recipes for dressing up a greens salad. Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and are widely available (imported) during the holiday season. I find that the vinaigrette is always a crowd-pleaser at potlucks and food gatherings. Most importantly, the color is aesthetically cohesive with fall-winter occasions.

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Some of the key ingredients used for pomegranate vinaigrette

Before I go into details, please be sure you know how to get your pomegranate seeds. The first time I worked with pomegranate it was a mess to get those seeds. Zane and I wondered if there was a better/less messy way to retrieve the precious seeds. We searched youtube videos and found this one and adopted that specific methodology. Use this recipe to make a 4oz mason jar container (enough for a potluck gathering and then some).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds.
  • 1 tbsp of pomegranate membrane (the white pulp enclosing seeds)
  • 1 tbsp of Sherry Cooking Wine
  • 1 tsp of Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of Olive Oil

Preparation:

  1. Cut and retrieve seeds from one pomegranate fruit using this methodology.
  2. Measure all your ingredients according to specification.
  3. Blend all ingredients using a magic bullet or blender. Use a small spoon to test and find the appropriate texture consistency desired.
  4. Store in 4oz mason jar and put in the fridge until you are ready to use.
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Your vinaigrette and leftover seeds ready to be used for a salad.

Use:

After you have created your vinaigrette you can put together a beautiful greens salad with spring mix (greens, arugula, spinach), artichokes, dill, red/yellow peppers, cucumbers, nasturtium and add leftover pomegranate seeds. If you want it less tarty, add more olive oil and place in small container so folks can use a spoon to put on their salad to their liking. I like to use a small glass bowl or ramekin for presentation purposes. You can also add cracked salt/pepper to your liking or just have a salt/pepper shaker handy adjacent to vinaigrette. I leave the salt and pepper flavoring up to the folks eating the salad.

 

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Why I translate WordPress Plugins

As an undergrad at UMBC, I was chosen (along with other peers in our Modern Languages and Linguistics major) to assist a Psychology professor with survey translations for her study which focused on parenting practices of Latino and Asian parents.

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BMX at the Farmers Market

Healthy eating and sports go well together. To celebrate the near end of the first Farmers Market season in Westport, we put together a showcase of the sport of BMX . The goal was to introduce kids to the sport and hopefully generate enough interest to get more kids to compete.

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Westport Sunflower Project

Westport-Baltimore-MuralI live in the community of Westport, Baltimore. For those of you that are not familiarized with it, it’s a community located in South Baltimore city and in close proximity to the Middle Branch Park, the incinerator, Horseshoe Casino, M&T Stadium, Baltimore Rowing Club and the historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery.  I moved to the community sometime in January 2014.  In the summer of 2014, I joined the Westport Neighborhood Association board and began my planning for the Wesport Market and in April 2015 thought of bringing Sunflowers to the community.

The Catalyst

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Neighbor Greg Wright tilling the soil so we can direct seed the flowers.

Prior to the announcement of the ownership of the Westport waterfront, and renewed buzz for the area; Westport remained still and in the same state as many other communities in Baltimore. Furthermore, the riots in April, put Baltimore in the center of national news and discussions of race, police brutality, and socio-economic inequality permeated our consciousness.

Homes were still deteriorating, illegal dumping and the emptiness of unoccupied shells still blatant.

I wanted to bring Sunflowers and plant them during the International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day of May 1. Yes, there is such a thing. google it. Also to signify a new chapter in this community.

Why Sunflowers

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Sunflower gloriously blooming in our urban neighborhood of Wesport, Baltimore

Sunflowers have a temporary but glorious lifetime and peak in the heat of the summer. The Westport Sunflower Project was born to symbolize the hidden beauty and hope of this tiny neighborhood called Westport. Nature and flowers also have a transformative effect on those that live in the neighborhood.

Naturally, sunflowers serve as soil transformers. They collect toxic material from the ground and amend it for the next year. If you plant sunflowers for three consecutive years, your soil will be wiped of all toxins and ready for direct seeding. The symbolism of the choice in flowers was all so fitting.

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My friend Sharon helping out with weeding and clearing out space for the sunflowers

So, I gathered help from my friends/neighbors and together we planted the seeds along the CSX line. The sunflowers were located strategically so that they can be viewed by folks who ride the lightrail to the O’s or Raven’s games. Also, artistically juxtaposed against the electrical grid and abandoned graffitied row homes.

We planted about 100 seeds on May 2nd and this August we were able to see the fruits of our labor come to life. The individuals who helped me with this endeavor were Doug, Greg, and Sharon.

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First sunflower harvest. Note: the sunflower head is bigger than mine

Once they bloomed, neighbors who live near the sunflowers got their cameras and took pictures with smiles in their faces. It was transformative. Specially, since most of the sunflowers were a mammoth variety which can grow up to 10 feet in height.

Next year, I’ll be continuing this project and will expanding to possibly covering a larger area. I would love to get a larger group of volunteers from Westport and sorrounding areas to help make this an annual tradition.

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Step-by-Step Peach Jam Session

Here’s a step by step peach jam making session. We made Peach Jam with Liquid Pectin. This recipe may be found on So Easy to Preserve 5th Edition, page 211.
Materials needed per about 8 half-pint jars

4 Cups prepared peaches (about 3lbs of peaches)
1/4 Cup lemon juice
7 1/2 Cups of sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin
Kitchen weight/measurement utensils