Thursday, October 8, 2009

Papu Charlie's NEW Adventure!

Since I officially ended this blog on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina last year, a few folks have asked, "What's going on?" "How's the house?" "Are you going to update the blog?" Of course, I've been meaning to do it for the longest, but have plunged head first into a new project - developing The Backyard Gardener's Network, whose current focus is The Guerrilla Garden Project. The work that I did organizing around the Laurentine Ernst Community Garden way back when has spun into a new mission - community building and revitalization through urban agriculture.

Together with other Lower Ninth Ward residents, I've been converting an empty lot into a vibrant greenspace! We've cleared the lot, planned the layout, secured resources, and garnered the support of local organizations and businesses. There's nothing like this in the Lower Ninth Ward right now, and hopefully, it will be the first of many. More importantly, however, is that it is bringing community together around a singular goal. By definition, "community" is people. And strong connections between people begets a strong community. I hope the Backyard Gardener's Network is able to play a significant role in supporting this strong community.

We are currently fundraising to buy the Guerrilla Garden site and install a water line. In order to receive a generous donation of 25 fruit trees for our tree grove, we must have long-term land security and water. Since the owner (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority) will not sign a long-term lease, we resolved to BUY the lot!! Our fundraising goal is $6000. Please visit The Guerrilla Garden site and donate. And spread the word! If 500 folks gave $10, we'd be able to buy the lot and install water next week! (If you noticed the disparity in my arithmetic, please note that we've already raised $1000! lol.)

Now to the house update - In a previous entry, I told y'all about the Historic Building Recovery Grant I FINALLY received. Well, the work was just completed and I'm proud to say that I have FLOORING now... real flooring, not just plywood. Also got some other work done, and I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. I appreciate the experience of rebuilding my house on my own, and the tremendous support I received from friends, family and volunteers. But there was no way I could've installed the flooring, replaced sills, repointed the brick piers, etc. (well, actually, I probably could have but how much longer would THAT have taken?!). Anyway, the house feels more like a home, and I'm looking forward to settling in again. Check out the pics below:

The flooring is reclaimed wood from an old school that was torn down, I'm told. I wanted to have the old stuff. And I love that it looks as though the house has ALWAYS had that flooring.

I also wanted to replace the picture rail that was on the wall pre-Katrina. I think it gives more character to each room, and I like the two-tone paint job!

The transoms (window above the door) are now working. I can open and close them. And the paint was removed so sunlight can actually come through. I like that I was able to keep the historic elements of the house and make them functional again.

I think about what the house looked like when I bought it, and what it looked like post-Katrina. And I can proudly say that what it looks like now far surpasses both. It's a colorful, structurally sound, inviting little house where my daughter and I can comfortably live. The rest of the block is still quite empty, except for one house across the street. But I hope that will change. The problem in New Orleans now is that there is SOOOOOOOO much vacant property, but it's SOOOOOOO difficult to acquire it. So much of it just sits untouched, i.e. all the other houses on my block (save the neighbors across the street and two houses acquired by Preservation Resource Center).

So that's all for now, folks!! Please SUPPORT THE GUERRILLA GARDEN PROJECT!!