MakeShift is a design series for city dwellers with roommates, space constrictions, and other such awkwardness. It's a conversation for people who are being artful with their space and kicking ass while doing it.
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Farm-to-table is an obnoxious yet oh so necessary phrase, aka "local," otherwise known as: real food. Another step beyond the farmers market, farm-to-table is growing your own, doing your own, weed, basil, and what-have-you. It's a system that can be applied to not just food, but plants in general. Succulents are the new French Bulldog. And like all home projects, whether it's in your closet or outside, there's a lot more to consider besides posting pictures of your balcony chicken farm on Facebook.
For instance, I'm paranoid about growing anything in the ground in the city. I'm not an environmental expert, but I picture the roots of a well-loved urban garden being sandwiched between our extensive sewage system and toxic rainwater runoff. Which is why I feel more inclined to taking the D.I.Y. garden to the sky.
Not that I know anything about gardening. Once my friend gave me an air plant that lasted about five minutes because apparently this was how I cared for it:
New York is fire escape gardening central, especially with the genius fire escape garden of Mike Lieberman, who didn't know grow from his toe until he pulled together some self-watering five-gallon jugs, a couple two-liter bottles for smaller herbs, and fashioned himself a little foliage farm.
Woolly Pocket is a good business and I want to give them my money, but I have also been doing some research on how to sew my own Woolly Pockets on the ol' sewing machine. My research consists of going to fancy stores where Woolly Pockets are sold and feeling the Woolly Pockets up, you know, deep inside. I don't want to grow mold on my walls in addition to growing plants. Here's a fine Instructable on how to build your own pocket.
Then there's the reality of rules and safety. I talked with Great Escape, Inc., San Francisco's "Original Fire Escape Service," specializing in inspection and maintenance. Founded by retired New York City firefighter Eli Giaquinto in 1988, Great Escape Inc. proclaims to be the Bay Area's original fire escape service. They say, "There should be nothing blocking the fire escape landing or ladders. Blocking any access to any area -- to a window or ladder -- would be a major problem. Imagine yourself trying to get down. If there's a plant blocking your path, you're dead." According to Great Escape, in San Francisco, building inspections are annual, and mandatory, and if there is any SF Fire Department violation, it is a property violation and subject to a fine for the owner, a fine which may get passed on to you, depending on your lease.
This is super important to consider if you're broke after paying $5 million in Muni fare evasion tickets, but also if you enjoy, you know, life and such, because most San Francisco Victorians have no firewalls and not much insulation. So, your building may be retrofitted for earthquakes but is still a box o' matches with windows, especially when that San Francisco wind kicks up off the ocean, leading to potential damage such as last December's tragic fire in Western Addition that displaced 60 people. There was a previous huge fire in April of last year on Mission and Valencia, destroying a restaurant and displacing several residents, and then another this past May, at Valencia and Duboce, leaving six injured and 37 displaced. So while it's way sexier to be accountable for growing our own mint leaves, we are also accountable in our communities for keeping each other safe, you know.
If your Eden is a safe, non-code-violating haven, let us know how you made it happen.