Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries are small personally managed ‘take a book or leave a book’ libraries. They are usually adorable. You can look at their Flickr gallery to see some examples of the awesomeness that people create.

If you want to have your library registered and affiliated with the site you need to pay a small fee. They send you an official plaque and list your library on their map so people can find you.

I would like to make mine with a green roof! I am not a builder type though and have no tools. I have a couple of friends who are and I plan on commissioning them to make this for me.


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Neighborhood Walks – Moss Edition

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Olive Percival and her children’s gardens

The other day in a used bookstore I came across a book called ‘The Children’s Garden Book’ by Olive Percival. I now know this is only an excerpt from the full, never published, manuscript.

The first line of the forward is, “This is a book of suggestions for children to whom destiny has given such golden things as a plot of ground and many hours, or several years, uninterrupted by the city’s call (ever more insistent, clamorous) to indoor amusement”.

And further down, “If, for the first ten or twelve or fourteen years of life, the children of today could have personal flower gardens in which to play, to study, to read, to work, to dream, the world tomorrow would be greatly lightened of it’s ugly and menacing burden of materialism and general faithlessness”.

The next section of the book are thoughts and notes to the “to the young gardener”.

Here is an example, “Long ago, in Elizabethan England and when our colonial history was just beginning, a bouquet was not called a bouquet nor a nosegay nor a boughpot by those of highest fashion. It was called a tussy-mussy! Nobody seems to know why.”

Thanks to the internet you can read all about tussy-mussies!

The books goes on with more tidbits and advice and then she shares her garden plans for children. Things like “the Fairy Ring”, “The Kate Greenaway Garden”, and “the Moonlight Pleasance”. Each garden comes with a plant list, and illustration and planting plan and text describing details of the garden.

Olive Percival in her garden

“In this our lovely and bedazzling world – a perplexing world that deafens and deadens us with screaming sirens, rattling dragons, many toys, and noisy amusements (omg, girl, you have no idea.) – we contrive to to remain avowed lovers of flowers, even if allowed little time or place to make plants grow and willingly or unwillingly come into blossoms.”

It is so sweet. I fell in love with Olive Percival. Besides being a gardener of some fame and a published writer and poet, she was also a book and doll collector, an antique hat collector AND a milliner, an expert on Chinese and Japanese art, a traveler, and a photographer and generally a mover and shaker amongst the intellectual set of southern CA.

I love her because not only was she sweet and all into flowers, paper dolls, cats and 19th century children’s books but she was also a feminist and could bust out a bit of snark. We would have been friends for sure. Here’s a quote from an article she wrote for the LA Times in 1910,

“As for equal suffrage, I have never in my life heard one sane argument against it. I think the only argument that men who are opposed to the measure have ever advanced in justification of their unfair and un-American position, is that they do not want women to lose their delicacy and charm by rough contact with matters political. This is not ‘sentiment’ but sentimentality. . . . There is no sense or intelligence about it. Women must live in the world as truly as men and in many instances they are as well equipped for the actualities of life as men. . . .”

I have acquired one other book written by her, “Our Old Fashioned Flowers”. The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA has her diaries and photographs.
I may have to road trip to the Huntington Library to see her photographs and all the gardens and art that it looks like that museum and botanic garden have. It looks awesome! They have a tea room! Maybe I will go by myself for my 40th birthday (fast approaching).

– Olive May Graves Percival (July 1, 1869 – February 18, 1945).

You can read more about her here.

I HIGHLY recommend listening to this 30 minute talk about her life. *sniff*

Oh, and someone’s term paper on her life here.

The more you read about her the more awesome she gets.

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Hermit crab cityscapes

Okay, this contains many of my favorite things.

Amazing tiny things!
Small animal!
3D printing!
More miniature things!
Art idea that most people would think, “What?! WHY?”


Artist Aki Inomata creates beautiful plastic shell for hermit crabs that are crafted into elegant cityscapes.

You can watch a short video here.

Reading articles about Ani’s work led me to this article on Inhabitat about Maker Bot’s Project Shelter and the shortage of hermit crab shells.

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More Labyrinth pictures from around town

Sibley volcanic preserve
labyrinth - sibley volcanic preserve

There’s a tiny old one over by Lake Merritt. I can’t find a picture of it right now.

I know there is another labyrinth in Tilden somewhere but I haven’t made it out there.

Okay, this one is on Maui. I can dream it is about town.
labyrinth @ Nakalele Blowhole

This is the labyrinth I talk about here and here.

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Gardens at NIMBY – A Playground for Adults

About 5 years after NIMBY moved to a new location in East Oakland I finally made it over there for a fundraiser and got to check out the space. The first thing I noticed that there there were plants everywhere and I was really surprised. Thinking about it now I’m not surprised at all. who better to create gardens from cast off junk than the founder of the largest do-it-yourself industrial art space in the Bay Area? The second thing i noticed was that they have an old metals twisty slide from a Mcdonalds and I WANT IT! Like, really want it. It could totally fit in our side yard and would be awesome.


But, back to the gardens at NIMBY… one of the first containers of unexpected food were these old ducts filled with kale and then this pink bath tube with more food plants:
food in unexpected places pink bathtub with food plants

gardens @ nimby

Apparently it is very east to get cheap discarded hydroponic/pot grow house equipment like these huge trays:
gardens @ nimby
Love the tree house going up in the background. I saw that out on the playa about a month later. :)

I counted about 5 big trays of food plants and many smaller pots scattered about. That’s a lot of fresh veggies to share!

And here are the beginnings of some aquaponics tanks. I think they could build a decent chicken coop on top of this that dogs would not be able to get in to. A sort of chicken condo, if you will.
gardens @ nimbycan you find the Buddha peeing and the hamburglar? Then there was this huge tank filled with beautiful glass sculptures, fish and plants used to a be a huge gas tank. I think? I could be remembering wrong, but either way, it was very pretty and soothing!

There were some great succulent gardens as well. I wish I had written down the name of the person who made this lovely wall sculpture with succulents:

And outside, there were these great plastic pipes filled with succulents. I can see this working really well on a back porch or even front yard.

Industrial junk being turned to good use, whether for art or to grow food or to make a playground is always beautiful and inspiring!

morning glories and razor wire @ NIMBY

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Boston Children’s Museum

This picture is taken out the window of the Boston Children’s Museum while waiting for the tour of the authentic Japanese house (very cool, btw).


I watched the painted hopscotch game get used by several passers-by. There was also a great paver maze at the entrance to the museum. I love using the ground plane as a design element, it’s something that kids especially notice and can’t resist reacting to.

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Garden project: Create an Urban Hedgerow

I stumbled on The Urban Hedgerow Project recently. Hedgerow is one of those words you may have probably encountered if you read the right sort of children’s books, the sort of children’s books where small English children roamed the countryside having adventures or maybe the sort of book where small English creatures roamed the countryside and had adventures. A hedgerow is a “A hedge of wild shrubs and trees, typically bordering a road or field.” It’s a gathering place, if you will, for all the small animals and insects that need a place to live but can’t live where people live and work. Mice and bunnies and bees and ants are often considered pests but not only are they super cute, they need to live as well. In urban environments these creatures are considered even more pesty and unacceptable than the country or suburbs.

Here’s a description of The Uban Hedgerow Project.

The Urban Hedgerow makes space for the feelings and thoughts that urban wild animals and plants provoke. Instead of a row of trees, we are exploring wall-mounted vertical forms that will comprise varied substrates, from repurposed industrial components like plastic tubing and lumber discards, to habitat for indigenous plants—hosts to indigenous fauna.

This project is parts art, political and environmental statement and is very thought provoking and beautiful.

The first time I ever saw anything like this is was some instructions on how to make a wild bee habitat. I can’t find the exact one I remember but The Consensus Life has a nice couple of tutorials here.

Here is an Instructable for another kind of bee habitat.

and.. another one from the National Wildlife Foundation.

But this basic idea can spawn a ton of similar projects. For instance, what if all you have is a porch or you are allergic to bees and don’t want to risk getting stung. You can still create a fun project for your kid and I love this Insect Habitat from a shoebox idea from Indietutes. Simple and fun for a little!

Read more about the idea of urban hedgerows at Pacific Horticulture.

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Evolution of an herb spiral

When we moved in and had an arborist come cut down some of the plum trees we kept all the branches. When I was making my herb spiral I dug a hole to mix in compost and such and I buried some of the plum branches in a nod to Hugelculture. We also piled up most of them along the back wall and dumped dirt on it and hove things growing on it (oh, and an embedded hillside) in a more traditional hugelculture bed.

April 2011:
herb spiral to be.

It started fairly small.
June 2011:
herb spiral

I enlarged it to include an attached bed for flowers.

October 2011:
herb spiral

February 2012:
herb spiral is getting bigger and bigger

Here’s the flower part of it in May 2012:
Spring 2012 - backyard

I had a fantastic crop of borage, chamomile and comfrey plus some nice annuals this spring. I have prepared the bed for some new things but I’m not sure what. I already sprinkled some seeds randomly and put in a few ground cherries. There is also some lovely lovely smelling lemongrass and some valerian in there plus some basic herbs like rosemary and oregano.

Here it is June 2012:

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