Greening

In these last two months, we’ve gone from 40s to 80s. I think we had all of four days in the 70s and then suddenly it’s summer.

A big chunk of the work here lately has been outside. Installing and planting the window box I built for the front. Spreading grass and wildflower seed out front. Depaving (busting up concrete and replacing with grass) almost 200 sq. ft. of the backmost backyard, moving the rubble to the space under where 400+ sq. ft. of raised vegetable gardens will be installed later this year or next spring.

Design has focused on shaping the retaining walls, garden, deck and fencing, including irrigation (rainbarrels) and drainage. Research and shopping has been focused on green vs. conventional choices: stone vs. wood for the veggie garden retaining wall (we favor stone), treated lumber vs. new composites for stairs and decking (treated wood seems not as toxic as it was pre-2003), asphalt vs. steel vs. aluminum roofing to catch rainwater for the veggie garden (no clearly best solution 1 2 3 for safest water collection, but we like aluminum pending cost research), and what about photovoltaic (solar) shingles? It is possible to generate a significant share of electricity we use with solar shingles. Also, soil testing, several sources for new composted soil, and learning about nitrogen levels (the peach tree wants lots of nitrogen, the veggies not as much as might be expected in tree-chips compost mixes).

Next up inside, plumbing updates, plaster repairs, window restoration… after I finish wrassling a herd of facilitation projects that have popped up in the last couple months.

We’re one year old here next week, and we figure it’s another year to get things really all updated, rebuilt, refinished, and sustainably efficient.

Land Connecting

Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection to save Illinois farmland, sends out one of the first signs of spring around here: an invitation to RampFest.

Ramps are the first edible greens to appear in our Midwestern forests each spring. They are in the allium family (along with onions, garlic, and leeks), and were called chicagoua by the native Miami and Illinois peoples. This was also the Indian name for the Chicago River, along which ramps grew abundantly. In the late 17th Century, French explorers began referring to the area at the mouth of the Chicago River as “Chicago.”

The foliage, stems, and bulbs can be used raw or cooked — in salads, soups, on pizza, or in sandwiches. They are especially good in omelets and quiches. Many chefs say that ramps are the best-tasting member of the entire onion family.

We live six houses from the River, on land once held by the Miami people. My guess is that it’s probably not a great idea to go foraging for this sort of food along the cleaner-than-it-used-to-be, but not as clean as it should be, Chicago River.

Even so, it’s good to be thinking about fresh food, garden and growing. We’ve got several inches of snow that might just disappear this weekend and a bungalow landscaping workshop tonight.

Terra Cotta

Well, I’ve done it again. Changed my blog skin. Not the formatting this time, just the name. Maybe it’s just the name finally catching up with the format.

This blog started as GlobalChicago, a place to link global movements and learning with Chicago people and practice. When I went to London for a year, everything got a little murky and the blog became PeaSoup. Returning home and refocusing on Inviting Leadership Practice, the blog took on many names, until it came sort of full circle to Inviting Chicago.

Since March, I have immersed myself in the renovation of an 80-year old Chicago Bungalow that for its first 50 years sported a terra cotta roof, ultimately replaced by red shingles. I’ve done much of the work myself (between client calls and business trips) and am hoping to replace the old roof with a new set of terra cotta shingles. (Still trying to talk Jill into the latter!)

Along the way I wondered what “terra cotta” actually means. I like to know where words come from. Terra cotta, I find, is old. Baked Earth. Hmmm. I might call blogging Cooked Experience. Terra cotta’s timeless, earth used forever for cooking, construction, works of art, and symbols of strength and practice. Not too far from some of the main themes here. And besides, it fits the colors I’ve used for 10 years of writing about Invitation and matches the color of my roof. So terra cotta it is — for now. I’ll see what I can do about a proper photo.

Moving Meditations

…we’re three days in the new old house and i think i’m using everything i know… backcountry camping, financial planning, cleaning up, building out, design, meditation, meeting and greeting, parntership, muscles, brains, care, rain and shine… have all been marvelously swirling and practically applied these last few days. it feels good to be fully deployed.

some interesting finds… “millions of nazis surrender” from may 21, 1945 newspaper lining back porch floor… only key to the back door lock is an old skeleton key… and smashing apart a basement bathroom wall i find 2-3 feet of old level built into the wall, nailed in as structural member, glass and bubble intact — scrappy!

Moving Day

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Our new home, as of today. You can see from the listing picture taken in the snow, it’s been a long Spring waiting to get into this place. We’ve got drawings, tradesmen, budgets and such already in place. Now we finally have our stuff inside. Come visit! …and bring a hammer a scraper or a paint brush!

Inviting Chicago, Mountain of Care

In the beginning, there was Global Chicago. Then the Global Chicago weblog, started three years — nay, four years ago (!) this month.

When I went to London for the better part of a year, it became Pea Soup. Then Small Change News grew up next to it, and eventually merged in. In the last two years, it’s flown under a number of headings, including various combinations of Inviting, Practice, and Leadership.

Recently, you may have noticed, it’s become Inviting Chicago, as my professional Inviting practice begins to settle into a new (and permanent?) home at the edge of the Chicago River. I continue to work nationally and internationally, with near-term focus grounded in updating an 80-year old classic Chicago bungalow.

In conversations about developing a new Open Space website, in Korean, Stanley Park shared this phrase — Mountain of Care — to describe Open Space. This describes so well what I aspire to in this blog, my professional practice, and now in this new house, that it feels just a bit silly that in four years of hacking about here, I couldn’t name it for myself.

Slowly, slowly… I get there. In the practice and in the house. Met with an architect yesterday. Blew up the budget. (!) Back to work… piling up Life and plans and things as Mountain of Care.

Our New Backyard

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This trail is about 200 feet from the back door of the 1924 bungalow we now have under contract. We’re thrilled about the new place and totally immersed in the logistics of moving and rehabbing, on top of all the usual business. Before we move, I’ll also be heading off for ten days in South Africa, to work with corporate and community groups.

Expect slow blogging ahead. But here’s a remarkable piece of music to watch in the meantime. Stringfever, the world’s first genetically modified quartet.