29 Apr
A Solitary Gardener Keeps a Busy City at Bay

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

 

 

 


 

 

N.Y. / Region

Defending His Daffodils, an Eighth Avenue Gardener Keeps a Busy City at Bay

 

 

Photo

 

Donald Wolfe tending to a small patch of garden near 50th Street and Eighth Avenue. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The daffodils were in bloom, which meant the garden had to be watered. Donald Wolfe said he would walk there from his apartment on West 50th Street in Manhattan — 38 steps to the elevator, 54 steps through the lobby, 75 steps down the block to the corner and 37 steps across Eighth Avenue.

First he put the jug with the water on his wheelchair. His oxygen tank was already in place, on the back. Off he went, pushing the wheelchair, a transport device for the garden supplies if not, at the moment, the gardener. He was not shuffling. Not shambling. But not speedwalking, either.

“We’re so dry right now,” said Mr. Wolfe, who is 69 and has emphysema.

He paused halfway down the block, breathing noticeably. In a moment or two, he would suck on a tube that functioned like a siphon to start the water flowing, this man in a windbreaker who said he had only 18 percent of his lung capacity. But he was not there yet.

The garden, in the distance, stood out in a neighborhood aspiring to stylishness. The little flower bed was a patch of land created a couple of years ago when a median was put in to separate bicycles from cars, trucks and buses. “It was just there,” he said. “Whenever I see an empty spot of dirt, I think, what could you grow in it?”

But this is not Park Avenue, with its wide medians and tulips. This is Eighth Avenue, where Mr. Wolfe was once cursed out by a woman who accused him of stealing the flowers. “She was not about to hear me trying to explain, ‘We’re planting them, we’re not stealing them,’” he said. The “we” referred to him and his home health aide, who had accompanied him that day.

This is not Fifth Avenue, with the Conservatory Garden and its imposing iron gate, between 104th and 105th Streets. Mr. Wolfe’s garden is surrounded by a nylon-rope fence that he installed because somebody trampled on the flowers.

And this is not the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which covers 250 acres and has more than one million flowers. Mr. Wolfe’s garden covers 35 square feet — eight ten-thousandths of an acre — and has perhaps 100 flowers and one tree. All are daffodils, except for a couple of hostas and the tree. All were planted by him, except for the tree, which was planted by the city. All are watered by him, except when he does not have the strength to do it. Some days, he cannot make it to the elevator.

Photo

 

Before he headed to his garden, Mr. Wolfe first prepared the jug that helps water the daffodils. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

“The plants don’t get watered those days,” he said.

And the stories do not get told on the bad days. But on the good days, there is time to tell stories, to talk about life and memories. Like the night, years ago, when he went to a charity auction and got into a bidding war with Donald J. Trump’s brother Robert over a gingerbread house. Mr. Wolfe said he proposed joining forces and pooling their money.

“He didn’t go for it,” Mr. Wolfe said of Robert Trump.

Or how he hauled peat moss to the garden in a taxi.

Or how he planted the daffodils last fall, not because he has a special love of daffodils but because they were free.

They came from New Yorkers for Parks, a century-old nonprofit that distributes a half-million bulbs to community groups and gardeners like Mr. Wolfe every year. He plans to dig up Park Avenue tulip bulbs in a few weeks — every year, the Fund for Park Avenue, which plants tulips from 54th to 80th Streets, announces a tulip dig after the tulips have bloomed. “They’re gorgeous tulip bulbs,” he said, “but being in a wheelchair on oxygen, it’s not the easiest thing to get over to Park Avenue and dig.”

This is his third spring in the garden. The first year, everything he planted was trampled.

Last year, he tried geraniums. They did not do well. “This only gets a couple of hours of sun,” he said. “I should’ve known. Geraniums require direct sun, full sun, all day long.” He should have known, he explained, because when he was in his 30s, he owned a garden store in Syracuse.

The garden is litter-free, at least by the time he leaves, because he picks up cigarette butts and other debris with a contraption he made, a trowel attached to a long metal arm. It lets him reach from the wheelchair.

Finally he turned the jug upside down and emptied it around the tree. Then he sank into the wheelchair, but not before he reached for the oxygen tank. He turned the valve that increased the flow. He said he was concerned about what people would make of his walks to the garden.

“People are going to say, see, the only thing he’s using the wheelchair for is the water,” Mr. Wolfe said. “Well, the reason for the wheelchair was, I would have to stop and grab onto a building.” He would also have to wait until his breathing settled down, and that brought up another reason for the wheelchair: to carry the oxygen tank. But the main reason was to have a place to sit when he becomes exhausted.

“It’s the hand I was dealt,” he said. “It’s my fault. I smoked for 40 years.”

A version of this article appears in print on April 27, 2016, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: A Solitary Gardener Keeps a Busy City at Bay. 

13 Apr
Afghan General Plants Flowers in Helmand, but Taliban Lurk

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

Afghan General Plants Flowers in Helmand, but Taliban Lurk

By ROD NORDLAND

Maj. Gen. M. Moein Faqir is the top military man in Helmand Province, more than half of which has been overrun by the Taliban in the past year.

see http://nyti.ms/1SHgRzT

28 Mar
The Short Life of My Mother’s Garden

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

My Mother’s Garden

IT was my first year as a scholarship student at a school that prized itself on teaching the skill of dispassionate debate. I quickly learned that the best thing you could bring to an argument was “objectivity.”

We practiced this objectivity in our current events class. It was never explicitly tied to identity, but it was implied. I learned that the best person to talk about wealth and class was an upper-middle class person because she supposedly could look at it dispassionately. The best person to talk about race was a white person, for the same reasons. The best person to talk about gender was a boy.

When people affected by issues spoke for themselves, they got too angry, too weepy, too irrational.

In the mid-1990s, the biggest threat to America continued to be the welfare queen. Or at least that’s what the news and many politicians all said. My school was far too genteel to name the welfare queen outright, but she haunted our balanced class discussions. The welfare queen was worse than disease and death and the destruction of the icecaps. She was worse than that because she was all those things in one, perpetually pregnant with pathologies, birthing out criminals and addicts and losers and apparently eating $50 steaks and driving gleaming Cadillacs while doing so.

I was acutely aware that, on the surface, I could potentially fit all the stereotypes of the welfare queen: I was black, the daughter of a single mother, on welfare and food stamps and living in the projects.

I would sit in class and listen to the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers and policy makers — people who had never needed and would most likely never need welfare — earnestly advocate the dismantling of the welfare state, and I would shake and shake and shake with something I couldn’t name.

I told myself it did not matter that my classmates and teachers described a reality that was not mine, was never mine, was so far removed from mine as to be a fiction. Their fiction was the truth because they didn’t live in my reality. That’s what made them objective. I wanted to be objective, too. I longed for that voice and the authority that came with it.

My objective classmates did not know, for instance, about the garden. The housing project we lived in had been built just before the war on poverty, probably intended for G.I.s returning from World War II. They were suburban-style tract houses, two units to each trim building.

No one came to visit us there in the bad part of town. We had arrived not that long before, when we were a month away from homelessness, but I did not look at this as a place of shelter. The other people in these projects were nearly all white. We were one of the few black families.

The project’s tract houses stood behind green lawns and weeping willow trees and generous blacktopped driveways. To an outsider, there was little distinction between where we lived and the middle-class homes across the street. But everyone in our town knew which side of the street was which, which side was where the real people lived and which side was to be avoided.

So when I answered the doorbell one spring afternoon when I was 14, I was very curious. I could see four children, smaller than me, the oldest probably no more than 8, the youngest barely 4.

“Where’s the lady?” the oldest one asked. She had a hoarse voice with a strong Boston accent, and her green eyes blinked up at me from behind a pair of blue plastic glasses, the lenses clouded with finger grease.

“Who?” I said.

“The lady,” the girl repeated. “She works in the garden. We want to work in the garden,” which to my ears sounded like “gah-den.”

As soon as the ground thawed in this strange new place, my mother started planning a garden. She’d chosen a circle of lawn along the parking lot, in the no man’s land between the project and the street behind it, where the middle-class homes resumed. She planted cherry tomatoes and cucumbers and marigolds.

A garden was my mother’s way of holding on, as tightly as she could, to any scrap of our former middle-class life. In our homes before poverty, before the divorce, we had always had a garden. When I was younger, my mother would give me my own small plot. I always chose to plant pansies.

My mother had decided to go back to school for a master’s degree. She did not want us to stay in this housing project forever. But, as she told me, the housing project administrators argued that her scholarships to graduate school should count as her income and that even though she was also working, being a full-time student meant she could not live in public housing.

There were other strange rules, too. My father unexpectedly sent a desktop computer instead of back payments for child-support. But the housing project forbade personal computers, because they used up too much electricity. My mother made a quick calculation — hours and gas spent driving back and forth to the university computer lab to work on papers versus the cash she could get if she sold it. She decided to keep it. The computer sat hidden under piles of bedsheets, far from any windows, in a dark corner of my mother’s room, a ghost of our need.

My mother is radically honest, one of the few people I know who is incapable of lying. But it was an impossible choice: Obey the housing project’s rules, don’t go back to school, certain that path would mean no upward mobility and thus, no way to leave public housing. Or break the rules, work quiet and quick and hard, hoping the path she hacked in secret would allow some sort of escape.

That spring, my mother got up at 5 every morning to work in the garden before she drove to her full-time job and then to class. When she finally came home, in the dusk, she worked in the garden again before coming inside to make my sister and me dinner and then staying up to study and write papers.

All this time, the children of the projects had watched her weed and water and seed with interest. And now they were here to join her.

They came every afternoon, ringing the back doorbell. “Is the lady home? Is she going work in the garden? Tell us when she gets home, O.K.? We want to work in the garden.”

I teased my mother about her fans, imitating their accents. She’d laugh a little and then she’d invite me to join them outside. But I would always say no. I stayed indoors, in the rooms we kept dark (the air-conditioning of the poor — heavy shades and high-powered fans) and listened to Björk.

MY whole life, at that point, was focused on proving that I did not belong to the poor. I doubled down on outsiderness. The weirder the affectations I adopted the better. I saved for months to buy heavy men’s Oxford shoes and wore only overalls and became the most devoted They Might Be Giants fan I could possibly be — all signifiers, I hoped, that I was smart and quirky, and most of all objective, like all my classmates.

When I came home from school in the afternoons, I remembered what was said about us, about the projects, about our poverty. My mother asked me if I wanted a plot for my pansies in her garden and I said no. I wasn’t brave, like her and those kids. I was ashamed to claim any part of this, to make it my own, to love it so hard as to seed it with flowers and patiently hope for them to bloom.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The garden lasted a few months. Then, an agent of the town’s housing authority found out about it and told my mother it was against the rules. “But no one’s using the land,” I remember her arguing. “The kids in the neighborhood play there.” The response was clear: Get rid of the garden or be evicted. Here was another one of those impossible choices of poverty. This was what my classmates would never understand, as they earnestly debated welfare fraud and the grasping desperation of the undeserving poor.

My mother stopped tending the garden and the next weekend a maintenance worker came and poured something onto the soil that made all the plants die and turned the grass brown.

In September, I was back at that prep school, still obviously a scholarship student no matter what disguises I secured. The earnest debates in the halls had moved on to other topics because at that moment, poverty was no longer news. But I was still shaking with rage. I didn’t know what to do with it; I didn’t even know yet that it was rage that made my voice quiver and come out small when I had to speak in class.

Every morning, I passed the big floral arrangements that sat on the chestnut tables outside of the sleek, walnut-lined school office. I’d sneak a hand underneath their leaves, break the heads off the heaviest blooms and ball the petals up until my fists smelled like roses.

Kaitlyn Greenidge is the author of the novel “We Love You, Charlie Freeman.”

 

18 Feb
Waging Life in a War Zone

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

Waging Life in a War Zone A film by Jehad Saftawi.

“From the stones of the destruction we will build plant basins to grow flowers.” It started with one man’s efforts to beautify his home with paint and flowers, but the initiative spread as neighbors came forward to spread the beauty. Using salvaged and recycled material, with some funding from a local and U.S. nonprofit, the densely populated neighborhood of al-Zaitoun in Gaza City, Palestine, is awash in color, murals, and flowers, bringing some much-needed comfort to an area besieged with war and destruction.

- See more at: http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=7002

13 May
gardens planted by syrian refugees in Jordan

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

The non-profit organization Save the Children is teaching some of the camp’s 800,000 refugees how to garden. The group is giving the Syrian refugees who have fled their homes during the civil war in Syria to Jordan, lessons on landscaping and gardening.

-       http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/10/secret-gardens-planted-by-syrian-refugees-in-jordan/#sthash.8axzq8mt.dpuf

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-       http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/10/29/secret-gardens-of-syrias-refugee-camps_n_6068550.html

Ma’moun, 54 and his wife fled to Jordan after his sister and her children were killed by a bomb. The couple now live with their newly married son and daughter in law in Za’atari Camp. After spending long, slow days unemployed in the camp, Ma’moum decided to create a garden.
“I had a wonderful garden back in Syria. It was beautiful and had everything in it. I made it into plots of squares, with specific designs, and had one flower that has five different looks. White, pink, yellow, maroon, and another colour that I’ve forgotten.
“My wife and I used to work on the garden together. I made this one, because most of the time I’m staying here and doing nothing, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I worked very hard on it.”

 

13 Aug
HIGHGROUND - ROOTS TO RECOVERY

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

HighGround provides access to a wide range of rural skills and experiences for Service Leavers and Veterans in order to give the necessary support, assistance and training to these individuals to facilitate their transition to civilian life; regardless of any health issues. This service is augmented by a network of mentors who provide on-going support.

 

See their website

http://highground-uk.org/

13 Aug
Greening in the Red Zone Disaster, Resilience and Community Greening

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

SEE Greening in the Red Zone: Disaster, Resilience and Community Greening

 What an extraordinary volume!

 

http://www.springer.com/environment/environmental+management/book/978-90-481-9946-4

Greening in the Red Zone

Disaster, Resilience and Community Greening

Tidball, Keith G.; Krasny, Marianne E (Eds.) 2014

ISBN 978-90-481-9946-4

·       Makes a first foray into the intriguing and potentially important field of “greening”

  • Paints a comprehensive picture of how greening might be useful after major disasters
  • Gathers renowned experts and practitioners from around the world

Creation and access to green spaces promotes individual human health, especially in therapeutic contexts among those suffering traumatic events. But what of the role of access to green space and the act of creating and caring for such places in promoting social health and well-being? Greening in the Red Zone asserts that creation and access to green spaces confers resilience and recovery in systems disrupted by violent conflict or disaster. This edited volume provides evidence for this assertion through cases and examples. The contributors to this volume use a variety of research and policy frameworks to explore how creation and access to green spaces in extreme situations might contribute to resistance, recovery, and resilience of social-ecological systems.

This book takes important steps in advancing understanding of what makes communi­ties bounce back from disaster or violent conflict. The authors’ findings that creating and caring for green space contributes positively to recovery and resilience add to the toolkit of those working in disaster and conflict zones. W. C. Banks, Director, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Syracuse University

Greening in the Red Zone is a highly relevant book. At a time when society is more separated than ever from the natural world, it offers additional reasons why our ongoing experience of nature is essential for the human body, mind and spirit. This book is both instructive and inspiring. S. R. Kellert, Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus, Senior Research Scholar, Yale University

This is a fascinating book that greatly elevates our understanding of how the perspective of humans as an integrated part of nature may contribute to the resilience discourse. I warmly recommend this book to anyone interested in how we may prepare ourselves for an increasingly uncertain future. T. Elmqvist, Department of Systems Ecology and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Greening in the Red Zone is an important contribution to science and security policy and practice. This edited volume provides unique and novel approaches from a participatory, transparent, ecosystem-based perspective that puts those affected by disasters and conflict into positions of empowerment rather than weakness and dependency. This book is an interesting and timely contribution. C. Ferguson, President, Federation of American Scientists

Content Level » Graduate

Keywords » Community-based natural resource management - Greening - Post-conflict - Post-disaster - Resilience

Table of contents

Foreword.- Preface.- PART I: Foundations.- Introduction: Greening in the Red Zone.- Resilience and Transformation in the Red Zone.- GRZ Vignette 1 - An Urban Park in Earthquake Stricken Port-au-Prince, Haiti.- PART II: Motives and Explanation.- Urgent Biophilia.- Sowing Seeds of Resilience: Community Gardening in a Post-Disaster Context.- GRZ Vignette 2 - Transforming Degraded Space into a Community Asset – The Soweto Mountain of Hope.- The Role of Nature in Children’s Resilience: Cognitive and Social Processes.- Children’s Engagement with the Natural World as a Ground for Healing.- GRZ Vignette 3 - 8,000 Trees - A Refuge From Ruins in Afghanistan.- Topophilia, Biophilia and Greening in the Red Zone.- Urban Gardens: Pockets of Social-Ecological Memory.- GRZ Vignette 4 - Reconstructing Village Groves After a Typhoon in Korea.- Nature Engagement to Foster Resilience in Military Communities.- Garden for Victory! The American Victory Garden Campaign of World War II.- GRZ Vignette 5 - The Korean DMZ: From Red Zone to Green Zone.- Green Zones from Above and Below: A Retrospective and Cautionary Tale.- Reflections on Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime.- PART III: Cases & Practices.- Restoration of the Urban Forests of Tokyo and Hiroshima Following World War II.- Valuing Urban Forest: Lessons to Learn from Hurricanes.- Trees, Rebirth and Resilience: Symbol, Ritual and Resilience in Post-Katrina New Orleans.- GRZ Vignette 6 - The Risks of Greening in the Red Zone:  Creating Afghanistan’s First National Park in the Midst of Conflict.- Destruction and Replanting of the Urban Forest of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.-  The Re-greening of the Grey: Some Practical Considerations for the Urban Forest.- GRZ Vignette 7 - Trees and Tree Planting in Southern Madagascar:  Sacredness and Remembrance.- Community-Based Memorials to September 11, 2001: Environmental Stewardship as Memory Work.- GRZ Vignette 8 - Six Ares of Land for the Resilience of Urban Families in Post-Soviet Russia.- Beyond the Bars: Landscapes for Health and Healing in Corrections.- GRZ Vignette 9 - Wildlife: The Catalyst for Peace in Northern Kenya.- Sustainability-Oriented Social Learning in Multi-Cultural Urban Areas: The Case of the Rotterdam Environmental Centre.- Developing a Safe, Nurturing and Therapeutic Environment for the Families of the Garbage Pickers in Guatemala and for Disabled Children in Bosnia and Herzegovina.- GRZ Vignette 10 - Reforestation Activities at a Chadian Refugee Camp in Northern Cameroon.-  Growing Hope: How Urban Gardens are Empowering War-Affected Liberians and Harvesting a New Generation of City Farmers.- Cyprus - Greening the Dead Zone.- GRZ Vignette 11 - The Berlin Wall Trail – A Cycling and Hiking Route on the Traces of Berlin’s Cold War Divide.- Synthesis and Conclusions: Applying Greening in Red Zones.- Name and Subject Index.

 

Also check out:

 

http://greeningintheredzone.blogspot.com/

29 Jul
Ron Finley: Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Uncategorized archive

Watch this You Tube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w