Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Will Happen To All Of The Empty Buildings?

I read a post over at The Crallspace the other day about many of the businesses that have closed in Corvallis, a small city in Oregon where I used to live. Compared with many of the cities I was familiar with back in the Midwest, Corvallis seemed to thriving when I lived there. I don't recall too many empty buildings, even downtown. But we all know that downtowns have been struggling since big box stores, malls, and crappy chain restaurants like Applebees and Outback Steakhouses have invaded the once farmland of city edges. The urban sprawl was the land of opportunity for bigger and better stores. Well, yesterday I took a trip down to Spokane, Washington. As I came in from the north through the miles of urban sprawl, I couldn't help but notice many newer buildings that were vacant. Restaurants, chain retailers like Linen N Things, Circuit City (well almost, they were having a going out of business sale), a party supply store, and many others. At first I was like, well this is depressing, but then I came to realize that I had despised the existences of most of these places. They were big, corporate, dependent on free trade with countries with awful human rights, and above all pointless. They sold bad food from factory farms to feed the fat, unhealthy consumer driving their SUV's from corporate chain-store to corporate chain-store like college barhoppers. They may have provided some jobs, but a more legitimate business would have as well. I feel some sympathy for the workers that were handed the pink slips, but not for the fact the businesses themselves are gone.

So what will become of the former buildings Linen N Things, Circuit Cities, and the many others that have come to pass amidst our recession? Will they remain vacant only to be demolished seven years from now?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cheap Seeds

It's that time of year when it still looks and feels like winter here in North Idaho, yet the thought of gardening needs to take place. Moh and I plan on having our own garden about equal to last year, but we also plan on having a greater involvement on the community garden project here in Sandpoint. Moh attended a meeting the other day with the Sandpoint Mayor, the Park Director, and the City Planner. The goal is to create a community garden in one of the city parks. Moh attended as the garden designer although the intention is to have several people involved collectively on the project. So far the plan has the go-ahead as long as the the plans are accepted and a non-profit group sponsors the project (for insurance reasons or something). Water will also be an issue because the city will not pay for the water. Anyhow we are hopeful that it will work out.

Getting to the cheap seed part, I recently found a seed company called Rougeland Seeds out of Oregon. They offer a bundle of 100 seed packets for only $40.00. The variety is great and are all heirloom open pollinated varieties. I figure it will an ideal purchase for ourselves and to be able to donate the extra seeds to the community garden. We also have friends that want just a few seeds for a very small garden or a container garden so we should have enough to simply give to them. I was a bit hesitant to buy that many seeds because I had already placed an order with Uprising Seeds which is a small Pacific Northwest seed company that sells only locally grown organic seeds. Still I feel with all of the extra seeds I will be able to provide a service to others by giving out seeds. So anyhow, heres to the upcoming garden season. I can't wait to get all of my seeds and start doing some indoor starts. Hopefully we'll be able to preserve even more food than last year.
Gorgeous Chard From Last Season

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Local Meat

Lately I have really been slacking on my responsibility of purchasing local products and preparing my own food. While we still have a decent supply of potatoes and shallots and our applesauce and other preserved food are abundant, I have not felt like baking bread, making my own granola, baking muffins or other tasks I am used to doing with pride and enjoyment. This does not mean, however, that I am filling myself with tv dinners and mac and cheese. It means we have been eating a lot of beans and rice, burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and simple stir-fry's (foods that are quick and easy to prepare). My biggest concern has been the protein. We buy local eggs along with some cage-free eggs from over in Washington, fish from wherever (the local fish has too much mercury), and my newest find Brown's Buffalo. This is a real score. The farm is a little north of Priest River, Idaho. His prices can't be beat-$3.99 for burger or stew meat. He mostly sells out of his home or to a couple local restaurants, which I will occasionally hit when I fail to pack a lunch and I'm stuck in Priest River for my lunch break. Now if I can find a good local chicken producer.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Another Troubled Bridge Over Water, But Without Water

Awhile back I posted about the horrific bridge leading to my home. Since then it has been fixed with a more stable, but still scary bridge with no guard rails.  Well  another bridge I drive over nearly everyday has drawn national attention.

The Dover bridge which crosses over a railroad on US Highway 2 heading from Sandpoint to Washington was built in 1937. Popular Mechanics listed it as one of "The 10 Pieces of U.S. Infrastructure We Must Fix Now" along with such powerhouses as the Brooklyn Bridge, Atlanta's Water System, O'Hare Airport, and Chicago's Interchange. Wow, lucky us.

More recently the bridge is to be highlighted on a History Channel show about the deteriorating infrastructure in the US. The show may be named "Crumble". That would be great.

What has been interesting is IDT's decision to fund projects based on reducing congestion and traffic rather than the unsafe bridge. In early January the Dover Bridge was taken off of the priority list because a lot of money was already being spent in the Sandpoint area for the new bypass. But then, perhaps due to the History Channel showing up, or because Idaho anticipates more money flowing in from the stimulus, the Idaho Transportation Board reversed it's decision and the bridge is back on the priority list. Who knows. Still, they have no plans for the bridge.   It is estimated to cost around $40 million however.  Until then, I'll just make sure I don't cross it while any log trucks are coming. Dying on a bridge is not how I want to go.

The Dover Bridge from the Bike Path