Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Harvest Chili Celebration

Date: Saturday, November 3, 2007
Time: 4-7 p.m.
Location: Empty lot, East end of 7th street

By Ann Kreilkamp

I sit here in Green Acres, listening to blessed rain on leaves turning gold—and find an email from a friend trapped indoors by smoke from San Diego's raging brush fires. When Californians do go outside, they rarely say howdy to neighbors, but scurry into cars and lock into freeway formations to distant places.

I've just spent three months on the road, mostly in the arid West, with the last two weeks in the villages of Peru. Above all, on return, I feel immensely grateful.

The sweetness of the Andes mountain peasants lives on inside me. They have a practice which they call "reciprocity," where they help each other plant and harvest fields, hand build their small mud and straw brick homes, and in countless other ways share both burdens and fun. This custom finds encouragement in the design of even their tiniest villages, each spreading out from a colorful, bustling central square.

Like many Midwestern towns, Bloomington enjoys a central square. GANA would like to see a permanent commons in our neighborhood as well. Until that happens, we will continue building reciprocity with gatherings that help us to get to know our neighbors better. So please join our Harvest Chili Celebration on Saturday, November 3, from 4-7 p.m., in the temporary commons where we held our Solstice Gathering in 2006. Remember? That empty lot at the end of 7th Street with the beautiful big tree.

If every household will bring chili and table settings for yourselves, GANA will supply the cider and neighbor Peggy Stuckey will gift us with homemade cornbread.

In case of rain, let’s plan to meet at my house, 134 North Overhill Drive.

Whoever wants to help us get flyers to all 430 houses in Green Acres, please let us know.

Thanks so much, and see you there!


Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

View full story>>

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thoughts on Signs

By Kevin S. Polk

When GANA holds neighborhood events, signs go up at the neighborhood's most trafficked intersections and entrances. For temporary signs, visibility matters most. But as we consider mounting permanent signs, two new purposes emerge.

First, permanent signs help define a place. They give a name and an image to that commuter short-cut that many parts of our neighborhood have become. Coupled with event announcements, the signs say Green Acres is not just a path, but a destination with a life of its own.

Second, when they provide more than just a quick read from the road, signs create common ground. Signs that incorporate art, plantings, benches and bulletin boards give neighbors a place to gather and things to talk about.

The map above shows four types of locations in Green Acres:

  • Major entrances that carry most of the traffic into and out of Green Acres.
  • All other street entrances.
  • The corners that define the neighborhood's boundaries.
  • Some junctions where much of the neighborhood foot and car traffic passes, or where gatherings are held.
Clearly, not every location can serve the purposes of visibility, definition and common ground equally well. Signs at the gathering junctions, for example, would not define the neighborhood as well as signs on the corner boundaries. We also want to avoid placing so many signs as to create an eyesore. So we're looking for a few good locations of at least two different types.

GANA's Sign Proposal Committee plans to visit neighbors who live near some of the colored dots on the map. We'll be asking whether you're interested in having a permanent sign near your property, and if so, what "look" suits you.

View full story>>

Friday, October 5, 2007

Buying In

How We Went From Renting to Owning in Green Acres
By Kevin Polk

When Kimberly and I started visiting homes for sale in Bloomington two years ago, we looked briefly at Green Acres. We liked the idea of living within walking distance to IU and a short bicycle ride from the library, the farmer's market and downtown. We also liked the schools that served the neighborhood.

However, we didn't like the noisy rentals or the IU traffic that cut the heart of Green Acres into a harrowing warren of speedways twice a day. We saw a few clumps of houses that still looked settled and inviting to families. But they all lay practically on top of the Bypass. So our search soon turned elsewhere.

We were both ready to set down roots. We had lived in eight states. We had become experts at holding garage sales, packing, shipping and postal regulations. Now we wanted to plant a garden and raise pets and children. We wanted anything but a sterile, anonymous apartment life.

In the spring of 2006, I completed a permaculture course. For a final project, I worked with Green Acres residents Ann Kreilkamp and Sylvia Van Bruggen to establish a neighborhood plan. Their enthusiasm was infectious, so we looked into the neighborhood again. When we realized we weren't quite ready to buy, a nice rental turned up on 8th street.

Our year on 8th street went much better than our time in various commuter apartments. Kimberly enjoyed her daily walks to IU through all four seasons. I took the GOES and Habitat Stewards courses and kept a low profile with my sustainable gardening activities at first. But I eventually observed that among the five houses on the block, there were already four organic gardens, an orchard, two or three compost piles, two backyard wildlife habitats, a greenhouse and a passive solar home. Neighbors started turning up at permaculture events.

As we became involved with GANA events and the Neighborhood Plan, it gradually dawned on us what a gem this place was. Residents of four and five decades missed the days when children playing in the streets and yards bound the community together. These elders especially seemed to appreciate efforts to recapture a lost sense of place through neighborhood events, signs, rain gardens and traffic calming. Since many had seen so much of the world used up in their lifetimes, they also encouraged all efforts to make Green Acres a sustainable village. Our landlords seemed delighted with our straw mulches, native plantings, leaf mold bins and tiny vegetable plot, having done plenty of organic gardening when they lived on the property long ago.

When we began to look for a house in spring of 2007, we focused on Green Acres. Yes, it was noisy and carved by traffic. But young families were starting to move in. The neighborhood plan was complete and GANA was full of energy. We looked beyond what the neighborhood was, to what it was becoming again.

We finally bought a house on Edwards Row. In July, while hauling boxes and furniture, we realized that this was our first move to a place where we already knew people. One of Kimberly's colleagues had lived in our house for 28 years. Our neighbor Stan two doors up told us about seeing our house built fifty years ago, on an open field at the edge of town.

The house has plenty of yard space and an unshaded south-facing roof. We've begun a program of energy upgrades which we hope will culminate in geothermal heating and cooling and solar panels on the roof. The neighboring yards sport plenty of native and edible plants. We have begun planting trees, flowers and salad greens in the yard. They seem to be setting down roots. So are we.

View full story>>

Monday, October 1, 2007

For Sale: 323 Hillsdale Drive N

NOTE: Property sold 11/27/07 for $131,000
(near 8th st)
0.4933 acre lot (84' x 247')
1,501 sq ft + 787 sq ft unfinished basement
4 bedroom 1.5 bath
Attached 1-car garage
1955 Ranch with aluminum siding,
gazebo, covered porch, storage building
MLS # 10048868
Listing Agent: Zach Craig
Broker: RE/MAX Acclaimed Properties
(details at homefinder.com)

View full story>>

Neighborhood Improvement Grant

Here's the Letter of Intent we have submitted to Bloomington's Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program:

GANA currently uses temporary signs to announce monthly meetings and neighborhood events such as plant shares and parades. However, the signs are now heavily weathered due to frequent use. To establish a better sense of place (Neighborhood Plan, Objective 1.2), GANA proposes to replace these signs with permanent installations bearing the GANA logo, the words GREEN ACRES, and weatherproof, transparent slots to display meeting and event announcements. To support our goal of being an exemplary “green” neighborhood, the new signs would use durable natural building materials such as cob and recycled wood. These lend themselves to volunteer labor and diverse design (see drawings, ATTACHED).

Sketches by Nathan Harmon

We would start with simple but permanent signs at several prominent intersections and neighborhood entrances. Eight signs may require $3,200 of donated labor and $3,200 in matching funds for materials, professional services and equipment rental. Next, we would upgrade selected signs with structures and landscaping. Two sheltered cob benches with paving may require a total of $6,200 in donated labor and $7,600 in matching funds. GANA would recruit volunteers and donations from past and present neighbors, neighborhood churches and service organizations, and the local Permaculture guild.

Watch this space for pictures and further background on this project!

View full story>>