PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Monarch zoo

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Monarch on meadow blazing star

We can’t help but modestly gloat a bit right now, as the monarch loop we had written about a few weeks back is starting to pay off. There are now almost 15 monarchs living in the Joppa Avenue Landscape, hanging out mainly on the Liatris ligulistylis / meadow blazing star, but equally enjoying the Verbena bonariensis / Brazilian verbena, and the Eupatorium purpureum / Joe Pye weed. It’s a veritable monarch zoo, and it flittingly rocks the house.

Sensory evolution and the landscape

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Common damselfly (courtesy of the BBC)

We recently posted on the PRAIRIEFORM website a section of before / after photos of some of the landscapes we have designed and installed. While the photos do indeed give a clear visual retrospective of how the landscapes have filled in and evolved over time, they don’t necessarily include how the sensory experience within these landscapes has evolved over time for the visitor to that landscape. Part of that sensory experience includes scent and fragrance, part of it includes the awareness of movement – particularly the movement of pollinators and insects darting in and out of the landscape. One of the greatest additions of movement to these landscapes has been the damselflies. The petit, perhaps more graceful, cousin to the dragonfly, these slender, brightly colored beings hover delicately throughout the landscape, clasping to blades of little bluestem, or spires of Russian sage, for a little r&r and presumably to scope out lunch. While delicate in appearance, damselflies are succinct carnivores and dine on some of the more nuisance bugs we might otherwise swat. For more information on damselflies and how you can participate in locating hotspots of them, click here.

Urban infill, distributed unevenly

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Sunset Junction, Silver Lake, Los Angeles

For those unfamiliar with Silver Lake in Los Angeles, it is that prototypical once down-and-out neighborhood that saw a brief period of low rents and many artists but that is now too expensive for real artists to live there and has been largely transformed into a neighborhood of consumption. What couldn’t make its evolution more typical within the modern flow of gentrification is a proposed, sleek new development for the site shown in the photo above. Residents are out in full force to fight against the development and to save the historic commercial building. While we agree that the building should be saved, it is not necessarily for the reasons enumerated on the blog opposing the development. In typical NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) fashion, the primary arguments against the development center around traffic, noise, architectural compatibility, resource consumption, and an increase in renters, who supposedly will not care about the neighborhood. None of these cuts the mustard by our book, not only because they are bona fide verbatim copies of arguments used against all new developments in the city, but because they fail to understand the underlying forces as to why infill is being pushed on this site to begin with. In essence, zoning and development codes have become so restrictive in much of the city, the forces of NIMBYism so great in the more well-to-do neighborhoods, that where infill development is now possible is concentrated and cannot be distributed equitably. As a result, developers are limited in their options for viable inner-city land, and this historic building might face the chopping block.

What strikes us as the greatest travesty of this proposed new development, is that it, like all new mixed-use developments in Los Angeles, will be lined with the same hum-drum usual suspects of chain retail on the ground floor. While there are countless small businesses that readily have the cash to set up shop within one of these new spaces, major banks who finance this kind of project refuse and only lend to the big-wigs. So, you’ll get Jamba Juice or Robek’s, FedEx Office, maybe a Quizno’s. . . Great. All of which fly in the face of what still makes Silver Lake great, which is that it is a neighborhood of numerous young-upstart businesses and establishments that are independent and local. Trendy and occasionally obnoxious they may be, yet they are small and they are struggling to make it in a political climate where small businesses are helped out little, and where big business reigns supreme.

For more info on the proposed project, click here.

Creating a true urban playground

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In the city of Utrect, Netherlands, the Dutch railway maintenance company ProRail has installed a slide at one of the city’s subway stations. For those who are in a hurry to catch the train, you can opt to take the slide down rather than pokily walk down the stairs. We’re wondering why it has taken so long for this kind of urban amenity to be put into practice. It’s a small investment that ultimately offers the promise of infusing into what could otherwise be a routine, monotonous commute, something just a bit zippier, a nice tonic to the stresses, work-induced overseriousness, and occasional doldrums of the modern world.

Local produce, a kitchen, and full-color results

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Bitter greens steaming (Might they be surly too?)

Buying local is the new black, and it’s a trend that might actually stick, given the realities of supply and demand and finite amounts of petroleum on planet earth. Signing up with a Community-Supported Agriculture (or CSAs) establishment is an easy way to get cheap and fresh locally grown produce, sometimes delivered right to your door. The tricky part, though, is what to do with the three-weeks-worth of kale you might receive, or the six heads of cauliflower instantly sitting in your kitchen. Such is why we dig this blog, as it provides zippy recipes, and accompanying photos, for making the most out of your insta-mountain of collard greens. For example, collard green pesto: Who would have thunk? We love it. Go to Mpls Locavore to see more.

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