Shared posts

11 Nov 05:39

Jian Ghomeshi and the problem of narcissistic male rage | Toronto Star

Jian Ghomeshi and the problem of narcissistic male rage | Toronto Star:

We live in a society steeped in male narcissism, one in which aggression towards women is deeply entrenched in the collective male psyche. Nor is male sexual predation confined to a few “sick” individuals: that we see it portrayed, relentlessly and voyeuristically, in movies, TV shows, and advertising is beyond obvious, except for those mired in denial.

Acknowledging such realities is not “a tremendous slur against men,” as one denial-mired national columnist suggested recently; it is not to label men as “pigs.” It is simply to recognize that Ghomeshi’s reported behaviours arise from a misogynistic culture that degrades and confuses people of all genders

06 Jul 21:36

hellstarfantasy: just let him have the pizza Hi gguillotte



hellstarfantasy:

just let him have the pizza

Hi gguillotte
13 Jul 19:02

Reporting Rape, And Wishing She Hadn’t

A freshman said she was sexually assaulted at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The school’s handling of the investigation left her wishing she had remained silent.
14 Jul 01:30

MOMENT | Feminism in 2014

by Lizzie

This is mostly a style blog, but this weekend I was lured in by a click bait post called 14 Women Who Don't Need Feminism and I felt the need to comment here. It made me aware of a Facebook page with 3000+ likes called Women Against Feminism. One thing is clear: there's real disagreement on the connotation and definition of the word feminism. It reminded me of watching the Makers documentary last year where Marissa Mayer, the first female engineer at Google and current CEO of Yahoo said matter-of-factly, "I don't think I would consider myself a feminist." She went on to say, "I certainly believe in equal rights and believe women to be just as capable if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don't have the militant drive and the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that." That really made me pause. There are still women, even extremely successful business-minded women, who are seemingly afraid of identifying with the word feminist because they see it as a negative.

Feminism isn't about style choices. It's not about hating men. It's not about sexuality. It's really at its core about believing that men and women should have equal rights. I'm a feminist. My husband's a feminist. My dad's a feminist. President Obama is a feminist. If you're afraid of identifying as a feminist because you think that makes you a "bitch" or a "slut" or a "man hater" or associates you with a political party (as suggested by many of the 14 Women Who Don't Need Feminism), then you're letting someone else define you. We've come a long way in this country as we near the centennial anniversary of the women's right to vote, but equality doesn't just land in people's laps and sit safely there for eternity, we have to protect it and foster it as it evolves—there are plenty of nations around the globe that prove women can be considered and treated as second class citizens.

Don't be afraid to be a feminist.

[Related: A post from a few years ago on the word tomboy.]
13 Jul 20:01

clusterpod: Mycena interrupta Myrtle Forest, Collinsvale,...

saucie

Commonly known as Pixie's Parasol



clusterpod:

Mycena interrupta

Myrtle Forest, Collinsvale, Tasmania

13 Jul 23:18

Even Google doesn’t know what to make of the weather today



Even Google doesn’t know what to make of the weather today

13 Jul 18:02

(via Lents Street Fair | Summer, 2014)

saucie

belmont goats beat

11 Jul 23:06

You’d think Lawyers would understand Trademark...



You’d think Lawyers would understand Trademark Infringement ?

Hood River-based Full Sail Brewing Company, brewer of Session Lager and other beers, is suing an Atlanta-based law firm called Sessions Law for trademark infringement and “irreparable” business damage.

The case stems from the law firm’s use of a “Sessions Law” logo—a dead ringer for the Session Lager trademark—to advertise DUI defense services, including on brown paper-bag beer can cover

(via Hood River Brewery Sues DUI Lawyers for Stealing Logo)

03 Jul 11:24

The Web We Lost

saucie

via firehose

Update: A few months after this piece was published, I was invited by Harvard's Berkman Center to speak about this topic in more detail. Though the final talk is an hour long, it offers much more insight into the topic, and I hope you'll give it a look.

The tech industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated win for regular people, a triumph of usability and empowerment. They seldom talk about what we've lost along the way in this transition, and I find that younger folks may not even know how the web used to be.

So here's a few glimpses of a web that's mostly faded away:

  • Five years ago, most social photos were uploaded to Flickr, where they could be tagged by humans or even by apps and services, using machine tags. Images were easily discoverable on the public web using simple RSS feeds. And the photos people uploaded could easily be licensed under permissive licenses like those provided by Creative Commons, allowing remixing and reuse in all manner of creative ways by artists, businesses, and individuals.
  • A decade ago, Technorati let you search most of the social web in real-time (though the search tended to be awful slow in presenting results), with tags that worked as hashtags do on Twitter today. You could find the sites that had linked to your content with a simple search, and find out who was talking about a topic regardless of what tools or platforms they were using to publish their thoughts. At the time, this was so exciting that when Technorati failed to keep up with the growth of the blogosphere, people were so disappointed that even the usually-circumspect Jason Kottke flamed the site for letting him down. At the first blush of its early success, though, Technorati elicited effusive praise from the likes of John Gruber:
[Y]ou could, in theory, write software to examine the source code of a few hundred thousand weblogs, and create a database of the links between these weblogs. If your software was clever enough, it could refresh its information every few hours, adding new links to the database nearly in real time. This is, in fact, exactly what Dave Sifry has created with his amazing Technorati. At this writing, Technorati is watching over 375,000 weblogs, and has tracked over 38 million links. If you haven’t played with Technorati, you’re missing out.
  • Ten years ago, you could allow people to post links on your site, or to show a list of links which were driving inbound traffic to your site. Because Google hadn't yet broadly introduced AdWords and AdSense, links weren't about generating revenue, they were just a tool for expression or editorializing. The web was an interesting and different place before links got monetized, but by 2007 it was clear that Google had changed the web forever, and for the worse, by corrupting links.
  • In 2003, if you introduced a single-sign-in service that was run by a company, even if you documented the protocol and encouraged others to clone the service, you'd be described as introducing a tracking system worthy of the PATRIOT act. There was such distrust of consistent authentication services that even Microsoft had to give up on their attempts to create such a sign-in. Though their user experience was not as simple as today's ubiquitous ability to sign in with Facebook or Twitter, the TypeKey service introduced then had much more restrictive terms of service about sharing data. And almost every system which provided identity to users allowed for pseudonyms, respecting the need that people have to not always use their legal names.
  • In the early part of this century, if you made a service that let users create or share content, the expectation was that they could easily download a full-fidelity copy of their data, or import that data into other competitive services, with no restrictions. Vendors spent years working on interoperability around data exchange purely for the benefit of their users, despite theoretically lowering the barrier to entry for competitors.
  • In the early days of the social web, there was a broad expectation that regular people might own their own identities by having their own websites, instead of being dependent on a few big sites to host their online identity. In this vision, you would own your own domain name and have complete control over its contents, rather than having a handle tacked on to the end of a huge company's site. This was a sensible reaction to the realization that big sites rise and fall in popularity, but that regular people need an identity that persists longer than those sites do.
  • Five years ago, if you wanted to show content from one site or app on your own site or app, you could use a simple, documented format to do so, without requiring a business-development deal or contractual agreement between the sites. Thus, user experiences weren't subject to the vagaries of the political battles between different companies, but instead were consistently based on the extensible architecture of the web itself.
  • A dozen years ago, when people wanted to support publishing tools that epitomized all of these traits, they'd crowd-fund the costs of the servers and technology needed to support them, even though things cost a lot more in that era before cloud computing and cheap bandwidth. Their peers in the technology world, though ostensibly competitors, would even contribute to those efforts.

This isn't our web today. We've lost key features that we used to rely on, and worse, we've abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world. To the credit of today's social networks, they've brought in hundreds of millions of new participants to these networks, and they've certainly made a small number of people rich.

But they haven't shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they've now narrowed the possibilites of the web for an entire generation of users who don't realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be.

Back To The Future

When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram's meager metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can't search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.

We'll fix these things; I don't worry about that. The technology industry, like all industries, follows cycles, and the pendulum is swinging back to the broad, empowering philosophies that underpinned the early social web. But we're going to face a big challenge with re-educating a billion people about what the web means, akin to the years we spent as everyone moved off of AOL a decade ago, teaching them that there was so much more to the experience of the Internet than what they know.

This isn't some standard polemic about "those stupid walled-garden networks are bad!" I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They're amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they're based on a few assumptions that aren't necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that's about Twitter's business model or Google's social features or anything else. We have to know what's been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.

So what did I miss? What else have we lost on the social web?

A follow-up: How we rebuild the web we lost.

12 Jul 14:30

Helsinki's Vision for Ending Car Ownership: Best #CityReads of the Week

by Jenny Xie
Image
Helsinki from above. (Ville Miettinen/Flickr )

Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

Helsinki’s Ambitious Plan to Make Car Ownership Pointless in 10 Years,” Adam Greenfield, The Guardian  

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.

That the city is serious about making good on these intentions is bolstered by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority's rollout last year of a strikingly innovative minibus service called Kutsuplus. Kutsuplus lets riders specify their own desired pick-up points and destinations via smartphone; these requests are aggregated, and the app calculates an optimal route that most closely satisfies all of them.

The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit,” Ben Austen, The New York Times

Economists fret that Detroit, in the absence of the manufacturing economy that built it, no longer has any reason to be. And indeed, large chunks of the sprawling, 139-square-mile city have literally vanished: Of Detroit’s 380,000 properties, some 114,000 have been razed, with 80,000 more considered blighted and most likely in need of demolition. But the new prospectors have an abiding faith that cities, like markets, are necessarily cyclical, and that the cycle has finally come around. It is the same ethos that turned other urban disasters into capitalist boomtowns — New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina or the cities of Western Europe after World War II. If the scale of Detroit’s failure is unprecedented, then so (the local reasoning goes) is the scale of its opportunity.

In the process, the Motor City has become the testing ground for an updated American dream: privateers finding the raw material for new enterprise in the wreckage of the Rust Belt. Whether or not they’re expecting to profit, Gilbert and other capitalists — large and small — are trying to rebuild the city, even stepping in and picking up some duties that were once handled by the public sector. 

 “Is there a D.C. Dialect? It’s a Topic Locals Are Pretty ‘Cised’ to Discuss,” Frances Stead Sellers, The Washington Post

Linguists have studied dialects all over the country — in Philadelphia, New York, Detroit, Stanford and Chicago. But Washington presents particular challenges, not only because so much of the population is on the move but because the city is at a “dialect crossroads,” Schilling says.

“When asked about their accent, people from D.C. often say, ‘Whenever I go north, they think I talk Southern, and when I go south, they call me a Yankee,’ ” Schilling says.

The city is also undergoing the social upheavals of gentrification — felt particularly by communities that have long called this city home.

Once in a while, Annan heads out to favorite spots on U Street, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl, to watch and document that change.

“It used to be solidly African American,” she says. Now, she can not only see the demographic shifts, she also listens for them in people’s speech.

California Screaming—The tech industry made the Bay Area rich. Why do so many residents hate it?,” Nathan Heller, The New Yorker  

In the folklore of the Costanoan, a native people of the Northern California coast, there is a story about Coyote, the trickster figure from whom all human beings descended. One day, Coyote caught a salmon, but he didn’t want to share, even with his children. As he cooked the fish over the fire, he covered it with ash to hide the meat. When he felt hungry, he plucked up some of the food and ate it. “You’re eating fire!” his children cried. “You’ll be burned!” But when he seemed all right they wanted to eat fire, too. Coyote, still hungry, forbade them. “You’ll be burned,” he said. His children got no fish.

Many people in San Francisco today worry that the tech industry is behaving like Coyote, professing to nurture and provide while actually hoarding. San Francisco has a real-estate shortage. Some speculators, looking to capitalize on growing demand, have started circumventing rent control using buyouts: lumps of cash given if long-term tenants leave. Others have invoked a 1986 California law known as the Ellis Act, which permits evictions when landlords want to go out of business permanently. By repeatedly going “out of business” and exploiting a loophole in the local condo laws, speculators have been able to transform rent-controlled buildings into market-value homes. From 1990 to 1997, there were twenty-eight Ellis Act petitions in San Francisco. From 2006 to 2013, there were three hundred and seventy-four. (A California Senate bill that would curb Ellis Act abuses had been heavily championed by the San Francisco mayor and a few tech firms, but it was abandoned in Sacramento by its chief legislative advocate last week.) San Francisco today has the second-highest median income in the United States, but, even using that peg, middle-income San Franciscans can afford less than a sixth of the homes available in town. Every city on the up-and-up must contend with a gap between rich and poor. Yet few have also, like San Francisco, managed to immiserate a relatively well-heeled middle class.

 “When Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things,” Carl Alviani on Medium

Now, there’s nothing unusual about this kind of bikers vs everyone drama, especially on the Internet: browse the comments section beneath a bike-related article on almost any broad-reaching publication, and you’ll find that few topics besides Israel, healthcare and gun control stir up as much debate.

What’s remarkable is that Simon should’ve known better. An experienced reporter with a sterling reputation for fairness, he’s one of the last people you’d expect to engage in this sort of stereotyping. And yet something made it OK for him to veer from fact into conjecture when talking about some people riding their bikes, in a way that would’ve been unimaginable in describing a professional, economic, ethnic or gender group.

This exception is something I stumble across regularly though, in the media and in everyday life. Delia Ephron, the celebrated screenwriter of “You’ve Got Mail” and producer of “Sleepless in Seattle” was so perturbed by New York’s new Citibike bikeshare system last October that she wrote a 1000-word opinion piece for the New York Times, complaining that “these bicycles have made walking around the city much scarier.” It’s a bold statement, completely at odds with the evidence—as of last month, after 15 million miles traveled, the Citibike program has still caused not a single fatality for either pedestrians or riders, and fewer than 30 serious injuries, while helping to improve the overall safety of the city’s streets.

A similar bikeshare system has been proposed here in Portland, but was vocally opposed in 2011 by city commissioner Amanda Fritz, who cited the“unsafe behavior” of existing cyclists as a reason to avoid anything that might put more of them on the streets.

Even my mom has gotten in on the act, complaining several times of the menace that bicyclists pose to the citizens of Santa Barbara, where she lives. As evidence, she described once witnessing a pack of seven men on bikes, speeding down Alameda Padre Serra at 30mph in the dark, and being struck with terror, despite the fact that hundreds of cars travel that same stretch of road day and night at 35 or 40, posing a vastly greater threat.

In each of these cases, a thoughtful, intelligent observer is prodded by a mix of fear and anger to give an alarming anecdote more weight than an abundance of evidence, or even common sense. On a street carrying thousands of 3000 pound vehicles a day at 40mph or more, we focus our fears on the handful of 30 pound vehicles moving half that fast.

Crowdsourced signage. (Pablo BM/Flickr)







12 Jul 07:34

run-rabbit-junk: comicsfacts: That or he watched the anime, or...





run-rabbit-junk:

comicsfacts:

That or he watched the anime, or he just spends a lot of time on wikipedia researching random stuff.

Source

yes.

12 Jul 02:58

Juniper tries to get to the bottom of this issue

saucie

(video of us dog sitting a border collie)



Juniper tries to get to the bottom of this issue

12 Jul 07:50

ohsresearchlibrary: Recording session at the studio of D’Zama...



ohsresearchlibrary:

Recording session at the studio of D’Zama Murielle (far right), Portland, OR, c.1930
Photo file #791, Neg. #26890

D’Zama Murielle (1901 - 1985) was a conductor, musician and teacher. She led the Portland Women’s Symphony Orchestra. She biked to Chicago. She hopped trains. She toured across the states and throughout Europe. She collected musical instruments from around the world and displayed them at her Museum of Musical Instruments. She was ahead of her time.

12 Jul 07:41

ohsresearchlibrary: D’Zama Murielle hopping a train with her...



ohsresearchlibrary:

D’Zama Murielle hopping a train with her bike, c. 1930-40s
Photo file #1060, Neg. # 27044

12 Jul 03:07

Penko-san



Penko-san

12 Jul 03:07

In case you needed any proof that Shirokuma Cafe was the best TV...



In case you needed any proof that Shirokuma Cafe was the best TV show ever….

12 Jul 02:56

poochin: Daily Picdump #1140

11 Jul 21:02

White Men Retreat Taught White Men to See White Men Differently

saucie

headslappingly awkward

Mayor Charlie Hales office has released testimonials from the $56,000 diversity seminar for white managers held this week at a golf resort near Mt. Hood.

The retreat taught Hales and other high-ranking City Hall and Portland Police Bureau officials about the "small slights that affect women, people of color and the gay community that I have never had to deal with," one participant wrote in reflection on the seminar, held Monday through Thursday at the Resort at the Mountain.

WW first reported last month that Hales decided to spend $56,000 on a 3 1/2-day training seminar run by a Portland company, White Men as Full Diversity Partners.

The mayor's office received criticism this week for sending 16 white men to a golf resort. Today, the mayor's office released the anonymous testimonials from the conference-goers.

"These are complex issues I cannot fix or take complete responsibility for," one attendee wrote. "I need to rest in the messiness of it all and be okay with that.”

"I have learned to listen better, to not react so much by trying to fix ‘the problem,’ and to be vulnerable about the emotional impact I have felt by social pressures specific to white culture," said another.

Another attendee wrote: "Each relationship I have involves at least one white man — me — and having a much better understanding of what that means and the tools necessary to use that understanding will allow me the chance to deepen my relationships. I will be a better listener, a more understanding partner, and, inevitably, a more complete person.”

“Each human has value!" was the take-away of yet another.

Here's the full agenda for the seminar.

 

11 Jul 13:50

Strange As It Seems, Cycling Haters Are a Sign of Cycling Success

by Eric Jaffe
Image
a loves dc/Flickr

The past couple of weeks have witnessed more than one high-profile instance of journalists demonizing cyclist behavior. In one case, NPR's Scott Simon tweeted that all city cyclists "think they're above the law" (though he subsequently toned down the venom). In the more severe case, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy made the seemingly sociopathic suggestion that drivers annoyed by cyclists should consider hitting them and paying the $500 fine.

Driver rants against cyclists are of course nothing new. It's been pointed out in this space before, most skillfully by Sarah Goodyear last year, that cycling haters are actually a sign of cycling success. As major American cities embrace multimodal transportation and balanced mobility networks, cycling has shifted from an outsider enterprise to the mainstream. That shift, in turn, has produced a new psychological strain for drivers accustomed to the belief they own the road.

The source of much driver contempt toward cyclists is a basic cognitive bias called the fundamental attribution error.

The most thoughtful response, in the current case, came from Carl Alviani, writing in Medium. Alviani traces the source of much driver contempt toward cyclists to a basic cognitive bias called the fundamental attribution error—basically, a tendency to attribute behavior to personality or disposition, rather than a situation or environment. So, cyclists think they're above the law because that's how they are; not, cyclists occasionally make poor riding decisions because the road network wasn't designed with them in mind.

Alviani cites a British study from 2002 on driver perceptions of cyclists. Going back to the work, we see that these perceptions are overwhelmingly negative. Drivers consider cyclists vulnerable, irresponsible, despised, dangerous, erratic and unpredictable, and arrogant. (There were only two positive perceptions, one of which—that cyclists are brave—is kind of a backhanded compliment.) The authors don't cite the fundamental attribution theory by name but do suggest it plays a key role:

[T]he 'out group' status of cyclists brings with it a tendency among drivers to impute the poor or incompetent behaviour of some cyclists to all cyclists. Thus, despite degrees of unpredictability, cyclists en masse are seen as less reliable than motorised road users. Moreover, this unpredictability seems to be considered inherent, i.e. 'dispositional', not a consequence of the influence of external environmental factors on the cycle user.

Getting back to the point: The idea that cyclists are part of the "out group" and unpredictable has shifted considerably even since this study was conducted in 2002. Cyclists may always make up a minority of city travelers (at least in U.S. metros), but the increased prevalence of bike lanes and bike-share systems, alongside steadily rising rates of ridership, means that every passing day makes them less an unpredictable "out group" and more an integral part of the urban transportation fabric.

This certainly doesn't excuse nasty generalities, but it does recommend—to Sarah Goodyear's point—that cyclists recognize the transportation sea change occurring around them. Because the fundamental attribution error here is a two-way street. If not all cyclists are scofflaws, then not all drivers are Courtland Milloy. So many Americans moved to the suburbs decades ago on the social promise of a swift car commute into the city, and now find themselves locked in terrible daily congestion and surrounded by an urban transport network (rightfully) placing greater emphasis on alternative modes.

You can try to argue it's the personality of all drivers to hate cyclists. Or you can realize that much of the hate is really a symptom of frustration with a changing environment.

 








11 Jul 18:47

Bushwhacker Cider Plans Ciderhouse Restaurant in Woodlawn

Gluten-phobic drunks in Portland's far north have reason to rejoice. Brooklyn's Bushwhacker Cider plans to open a new ciderhouse restaurant and bottle shop in the Woodlawn neighborhood, at 901 NE Oneonta St. Currently, the northernmost cider-centric outpost in town is Reverend Nat's, near the Rose Quarter.

"It won't be quite as large of a cider selection," says Bushwhacker co-owner Erin Smith, who adds that they plan a full menu for the 2,200-square-foot space. "It's mostly going to be Northwest-inspired, locally sourced," she says. "Looking at food that’s already up there we’re doing something different from burgers and fries, pizza—we're not redoing the same pub grub model."

They've already signed a lease on the location, and are currently planning both the menu and buildout at the space, which is located across Dekum Street from Breakside Brewery.

Anticipated opening date is Nov. 1. 

11 Jul 16:42

(via Twitter / TheUnipiper: And now for something completely...

10 Jul 22:46

Backyard and basement homes bring car-lite life into neighborhoods, local study finds

by Michael Andersen (News Editor)
Sally Spear, 63, moved into a 200-square-foot backyard cottage designed by her son-in-law Schuyler Smith, 33, in 2010. Smith now designs ADUs for a living.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When it comes to cars, accessory units in backyards and basements are nearly as low-impact as big apartment buildings next to bus lines.

That’s the conclusion of a new state-funded analysis (PDF) that combines the results of a survey of Portland accessory dwelling owners with other recent studies to start examining one of Portland’s newest real estate trends.

The average rental unit in Portland brings 1.31 cars on site, according to the U.S. Census. For transit-oriented apartment buildings, that falls to 0.83 cars — and for accessory dwelling units, it’s 0.93 cars.

In other words, transit-oriented apartments have been bringing 37 percent fewer cars into the city than the typical rental unit, and accessory dwellings (usually defined in Portland as being less than 800 square feet with a private entrance, bathroom and kitchen, among other requirements) bring in 29 percent fewer cars.

That’s the case even though Portland doesn’t restrict ADU construction to the blocks facing frequent bus and rail lines, as it does new apartments.


As we reported in February, the number of tiny homes being built and permitted in Portland has jumped to more than 100 a year following a city decision to subsidize such homes by waiving development fees. Unlike many cities, Portland also allows property owners to rent the primary and secondary dwellings on a lot to different tenants.

“ADUs are dispersed through neighborhoods, and each additional dwelling creates only a small incremental change.”
— Martin Brown, accessory dwelling unit researcher

In the study, author Martin Brown speculates on the reasons ADUs haven’t attracted many public complaints compared to “TODs,” the transit-oriented developments that have become a lightning rod for some central-city neighborhood associations.

“TODs add a high number of living units to a small area, so any increase in vehicles will be more noticeable,” Brown suggests. “In contrast, ADUs are dispersed through neighborhoods, and each additional dwelling creates only a small incremental change.”

On the larger scale, though, Brown calculates that ADUs and transit-oriented developments have almost exactly the same impact on street parking, because ADU residents are slightly more likely to have on-site parking spaces. According to the state survey, the average Portland ADU adds 0.46 parked cars to city streets, compared to 0.49 parked cars for the average transit-oriented apartment unit.

All this summer, Brown will be writing blog posts about this and other findings from his wide-ranging study on AccessoryDwellings.org, the local website dedicated to all things ADU. Other questions include whether ADUs increase senior housing more than average (conclusion: not really), whether they increase affordable housing more than average (only inasmuch as people seem more willing to let friends or family stay in them for free) and whether they are something renters truly demand (almost certainly).

Brown tackled the project with help from Jordan Palmeri of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s green building program.


The post Backyard and basement homes bring car-lite life into neighborhoods, local study finds appeared first on BikePortland.org.

11 Jul 10:00

Fisherman’s Wharf Tiny Floating Home

by Kent Griswold

tiny floating home

On our vacation a couple of weeks ago we stopped in at the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. When we walked into town we walked by Fisherman’s Wharf a historical part of town. While there were many larger floating homes the one that stood out for me was this unique tiny floating home so I took several photos. As usual I was not allowed inside to photograph it but maybe a reader of ours from the area might be able to.

Here is a little more information about Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf: Fisherman’s Wharf is located just around the corner from Victoria’s Inner Harbour or just a 10 minute walk from the Ogden Point cruise ship terminal.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a lively place — the waterfront home of harbour ferries and pirates, of seals and seabirds, of fishing captains, sailors and floating houses. You can learn more of the history by clicking here.

tiny floating home 2

tiny floating home 3

10 Jul 16:00

Finding Shelter Photography Project by Jesse Freidin

by Katherine Becker

Finding Shelter Photography Project by Jesse Freidin

We’re super big fans of rescue dogs here at Dog Milk, and we’re also super big fans of California doggie photographer Jesse Freidin, too. (If you’re not familiar with his work, go check it ALL out, right now… or, in a second, after you finish reading this post.) For his latest photography project, Jesse is turning his amazing eye (and camera) toward pet shelter volunteers, focusing (get it?) on the special relationship between animal rescue workers and the animals they save. In Jesse’s words: “This is not a shelter dog project. It is a people project. It is a story about the symbiotic relationship animal shelter volunteers share with their canine and feline dependents, and the beautiful caretaking that happens between the two species…Together, both human and animal can lift each other up through that shared shelter experience. I see that as the magic of shelter work.” Beautiful, right? And so are the photos. Check out the project here.

Finding Shelter Photography Project by Jesse Freidin in other

 

Finding Shelter Photography Project by Jesse Freidin in other

 

Finding Shelter Photography Project by Jesse Freidin in other

 

Finding Shelter Photography Project by Jesse Freidin in other


Share This: Twitter | Facebook | Don't forget that you can follow Dog Milk on Twitter and Facebook.
© 2014 Dog Milk | Posted by Katherine in Other | Permalink | 3 comments
10 Jul 15:53

Agent Orange Ingredient Could Soon Be Used to Kill Superweeds

by Clare Foran
saucie

jesus h christ, do you know what kills weeds? pulling them up. with your hands.

Image
AFP/GettyImages/Philippe Huguen

Dow Chemical is seeking federal approval for an herbicide containing one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange.

The company is billing the compound as farmers' best bet in the battle against a new strain of "superweeds"—invasive plants that can't be killed by traditional herbicides and choke crops.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which is tasked with reviewing Dow's application, says that if the chemical, known as 2,4-D, is used in fields, trace amounts could end up in food and drinking water.

Agency officials insist, however, that any amount of the weed-crushing chemical that shows up in food or water would be so small that it would not pose a threat to public health. And Dow says its product bears little resemblance to the Vietnam War-era weapon, which caused a host of medical problems for the troops exposed to it.

But pesticide watchdogs are up in arms, asking EPA to keep the proposed pesticide off the market. Green groups say widespread use of the weed zapper could cause lasting environmental damage, while chemical-safety advocates warn of its potentially devastating public health impact.

Extensive use of the Monsanto weed killer Roundup has given rise to superweeds that are ravaging farmland. Dow markets its product as the antidote.

"If this gets onto the market, it could create a highly dangerous situation," said Linda Wells, the associate organizing director at the Pesticide Action Network.

Thus far, however, EPA appears more likely to side with the chemical firm. The agency has already unveiled a proposal to greenlight the chemical compound, and is expected to make a final decision as early as this summer.

The debate hinges on two questions: Does Dow's weed whacker carry any of the health risks of the wartime weapon? And, long term, would the pesticide create a bigger problem: a new generation of stronger, even harder-to-kill superweeds?

U.S. soldiers sprayed Agent Orange—a mix of two herbicides—over South Vietnam as part of a plan to decimate the jungle and reduce ground cover for North Vietnamese guerrillas. But Agent Orange proved toxic largely because it contained a cancer-causing contaminant that formed when it was manufactured.

"We need to be very cautious when we're registering chemicals, and at this point we really don't have all the data."

Dow says its newly minted product won't be similarly tainted. The company also points out that the Agent Orange ingredient it plans to use has been approved by federal regulators for agricultural use for years.

"The idea that this product is anything like Agent Orange just doesn't hold up," Garry Hamlin, a spokesman for Dow said. "That had a unique contaminant, and it was phased out of use in the U.S. in the 1980s because of those concerns."

But testing conducted by an Agriculture Department researcher using samples collected in the mid-1990s showed that the chemical that plays a starring role in Dow's product can still contain contaminants similar to those found in Agent Orange. The study concluded that there was a "need for more investigation into possible human health effects." 

The Agent Orange ingredient in question has also been linked to thyroid problems. And in April, the International Research Agency on Cancer published a review of epidemiological studies showing that exposure to the chemical was associated with a significant risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.

EPA, meanwhile, has not done a cancer risk assessment of the weed killer because the chemical is not classified as a carcinogen.

"We need to be very cautious when we're registering chemicals, and at this point we really don't have all the data," Ted Schettler, the science director for the Science and Environmental Health Network said.

Green groups also warn that use of the product could spur the creation of the next-generation of superweeds. 

Extensive use of a Monsanto-manufactured weed killer called Roundup has given rise to herbicide-resistant superweeds that are ravaging farmland across the country. 

Dow markets its product as the antidote. The company says the release of new herbicides like its own will decrease chemical resistance in plants by multiplying the options farmers have to attack monster weeds.

But environmentalists and some farmers say that all of this won't stop superweeds, it will create even more of them.

"Weeds evolve to tolerate the chemicals you use to get rid of them, and then they become much harder to deal with," said Lisa Griffith, the outreach director for the National Family Farm Coalition. "This has already happened, and if we increase the use of these products, the problem is going to get much worse."

This post originally appeared on National Journal, an Atlantic partner site.

MORE FROM NATIONAL JOURNAL:

How Cash-Strapped Towns Are Saving Fourth of July Fireworks

Mars Mission: Obama Wants an Asteroid. Republicans Want the Moon.

How to Launch a Silicon Valley Start-Up When You Can't Live in the U.S.

 








10 Jul 02:17

Cider Review: Standard Cider Company's True Believer

by Meredith

Tonight, I'm reviewing the True Believer by the Standard Cider Company. They are a Long Island based cider company that uses 100% New York state apples for their ciders. As far as I can tell they have a small number of ciders; The True Believer, The True Companion make up the mainstays, but I've seen enough mentions of a holiday season limited edition that I think they've had at least one of those. Please pardon my lack of total confidence in my information, but I've not been able to find out as much about the Standard Cider company or their products as I would like. What info I can find comes from magazines and blogs covering the NY state beverage scene (thank you!) and the Facebook page for Standard Cider Co. here's a link if you'd like to check it out. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Standard-Cider-Co/444740802236202

When I saw this cider for sale locally, the graphic design caught my eye immediately. I really enjoy creative, visually appealing use of text. The lettering on this label definitely counts! This label manages to achieve some cute old-timey cachet while still being totally clear and easy to read. This is a genuinely difficult feat, so kudos to Standard Cider Company for this.

Of the True Believer and True Companion, I chose to review the True Believer first. It is a blend of Cameo, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji and Granny Smith apples. The True Companion begins with that as its base, but it also blends in orange zest, ginger, and spices. Starting with the apple-only cider seems logical to me. It is a relatively modest blend of dessert apples, so I know I'll be drinking something with a good bit of aroma, high acidity, but almost no tannins. We'll see if I'm right.


Appearance: dark peach, hazy, big bubbles

This cider looks peachy in the glass, but it is almost brilliant, barely hazy. The bubbles appear quite distinctly: notably larger than in most ciders, even forced carbonation ciders. A touch unusual.

Aromas:  apple sauce, cinnamon, earth

Oh wow, when I smell this I immediately think of the two most aromatic apples I know for a cider blend: Northern Spy and Golden Russet. It just has that rich, warm, applesauce aroma. But I get a lot more than that in this particular cider: cinnamon, spice, dusty minerals, earth, and brown sugar. My predictions aren't terribly wrong so far. Let's see if I can keep this up.

Sweetness to dryness: Sweet

The sweetness is so integral to this set of flavors, I don't want to give anything away too soon. Just read on.

Flavors and drinking experience: mulled, spicy, sweet, cherries

Interesting! Though the apple blend mentions absolutely no addition of other ingredients or flavors, this tastes mulled. I'm sure most everyone knows this, but a mulled beverage is one that has been sweetened and spiced while being heated. Usually they are then served hot, but they can be chilled  back down after being heated and spiced. Obviously out of the bottle and out of the fridge, I drank this cold, but it still tastes mulled. Cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger, and spices just jump out at me.

This cider coats the tongue and has such a massively thick mouthfeel. The True Believer delivers a  strong aftertaste of ginger, powdered sugar, and Maraschino cherries.

Beyond a sweet spiced cider experience, the other aspect of the True Believer that I notice the most is the strong sparkle. If you like your ciders bubbly, sweet and sweetly spicy, then this is absolutely for you.

So, my predictions were not entirely correct. I did not anticipate the apple pie spice palette of this cider, and I'm not sure I can easily explain it using only that blend of eating apples. Overall, this isn't really the sort of cider I enjoy most. I can see the appeal of the True Believer, but for me and for summer this isn't a great match. But, wait for a stormy night with unseasonably cool wind (they sure happen up here) and curl up with something indulgent and fun to watch. A bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer perhaps? That's what I'm about to go do.
10 Jul 15:51

How a Tiny Record Label Jump-Started One Midwestern City's Arts Economy

by Michael Seman
Image
Indianapolis-based folk duo Lily and Madeleine are some of Asthmatic Kitty's most promising new artists. (Asthmatic Kitty)

The story usually goes like this: A local music scene develops, bands start to attract attention beyond city limits, the homegrown independent record label blossoms, and the city reaps the cultural and economic development rewards.

It happened in 1980s Manchester, England, where Factory Records’ legendary Haçienda was the hub of the “Madchester” scene, helping to transform the surrounding neighborhood into a destination for artists, musicians, and young people. In the 2000s, Saddle Creek Records—home to Conor Oberst’s seminal indie band Bright Eyes, among other acts—turned a former brownfield in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, into a thriving live/work/play destination with its mixed-use Slowdown project. And in 2006, singer Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records adapted a crumbling, historic church in Buffalo, New York, into its label headquarters—and a 1,200-seat concert hall.

But in Indianapolis, this story has unfolded backwards. And this time, the music label’s benefit has reached beyond any actual building. Indie label Asthmatic Kitty Records launched in 1999 to capture and broadcast the output of a small, experimental music scene in Holland, Michigan. Its primary artist then was co-owner Sufjan Stevens, an idiosyncratic singer-songwriter who would eventually bring the tiny label to national prominence with a stream of successful indie albums.

More than a thousand miles away in the remote town of Lander, Wyoming (pop. 7,677), Stevens’ first releases were handled at the label’s ad-hoc headquarters. As sales climbed, the label needed a manager, and San Diego resident and grad student Michael Kaufmann came on in 2001.

While it may have started out of necessity, the free-floating geography of Asthmatic Kitty is now de rigueur for the indie music industry.

In 2005, Kaufmann migrated to Indianapolis and began managing Asthmatic Kitty from there. The city’s low cost of living let him meet the increasing demands of running a small label representing a popular indie act in a way that living in New York City never could. Plus, it was nice there. “There seemed to be a real exciting, embracing community in Indianapolis,” Kaufmann offers, “and an influx of cultural things within the city.”

Within months of Kaufmann’s move to Indianapolis, Asthmatic Kitty released Stevens’ critically acclaimed, state-themed concept album, Illinois. The unanticipated popularity of the album meant that Kaufmann needed an assistant, so he hired a fellow Hoosier state transplant named John Beeler. The label’s roster grew exponentially with new, buzzworthy bands—now from all over the country. They added an employee in England to help with international press and distribution. Very quickly, the once-tiny label became a global company—with the bulk of business decisions made via email from Indianapolis, Lander, and Brooklyn, where Stevens had settled.

The paradox of running a label in a city with no direct connections to its location was not a hurdle to Kaufmann, who viewed Asthmatic Kitty “as an opportunity to make a cultural impact on [Indianapolis].” In fact, Kaufmann and Beeler sought out opportunities to leverage the label’s impact on its home city.

In Indianapolis, Asthmatic Kitty has signed local acts, offers guidance to other entrepreneurs in the city’s music scene, and occasionally books evenings of music in local spaces. They’ve also sponsored an “Unusual Animals” pop-up art gallery in the city and established an informal partnership with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. But perhaps the label’s biggest steps in connecting with its urban environment came from Kaufmann’s and Beeler’s desire to influence urban policy “with a small ‘p’” in Indianapolis.

In 2011, Kaufmann helped host an Indianapolis screening of director Gary Hustwit’s film Urbanized with Hustwit in attendance. The screening expanded into a half-day event with speakers examining urbanism and Indianapolis. After that success, Kaufmann and a handful of city residents roped in Beeler and formed a virtual think tank, called We Are City. The result is a twice-weekly email reaching more than 1,200 subscribers, detailing urban action and thought in Indianapolis as well as information on similar happenings elsewhere. We Are City has since programmed two annual day-long “summits” open to the public, featuring speakers discussing city-building ideas. (Full disclosure, I spoke there on music scenes and economic development in 2013.)

In 2012, Super Bowl XLVI provided a new opportunity for Kaufmann and Beeler to use the knowledge they gained running Asthmatic Kitty to engage Indianapolis residents. While creating a compilation of music by Indiana bands for use in the game’s accompanying city-wide festivities, Kaufmann—who, at this point, had left Asthmatic Kitty to oversee “civic investment” for an Indianapolis public health care provider and to manage New York-based alt hip-hop act and composer Son Lux—and Beeler (now the label’s manager) initiated conversation with members of the local music scene, leading to the formation of The Music Council. Made up of a diverse cross-section of music professionals, the council includes representatives from local blogs, indie labels, the chamber of commerce, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and educational institutions. Its goal is to influence city policies that might foster growth for the music scene while also developing the city’s creative economy.

“One thing music brings to a city are these creative small businesses that have a huge impact on the creative economy of the city,” Beeler says. “It is really important for our city to think about how we can get more of these businesses into our ecosystem. That’s where the Music Council is heading … looking at bands, venues, publicists, videographers as creative small businesses.”

The goal of the Music Council is to influence city policies that might foster growth for the music scene while also developing Indianapolis' creative economy.

These efforts give credibility to the city’s music scene as a creative economic cluster, something Kaufmann saw play out in October 2013 when Asthmatic Kitty was marketing the self-titled debut album from Indianapolis-bred folk duo Lily and Madeleine. “What was it worth to Indianapolis when they were on CBS This Morning for nine minutes and talked about their home town and what it was like to grow up in Broad Ripple? How much would that [publicity] have cost?,” he asks. “Thousands.”

The value that Kaufmann and Beeler have created for Indianapolis is not lost on city representatives, who are looking to the label and others in the local music scene for insight as they try to lure young professionals to Indianapolis’s urban core.

Former Asthmatic Kitty A&R director Michael Kaufmann. (Courtesy Asthmatic Kitty)

And while it may have started out of necessity, the free-floating geography of Asthmatic Kitty is now de rigueur for the independent segment of the music industry. “Everybody is remote,” says Beeler. “A lot of people go for months not knowing that I don’t live in Brooklyn.” Indie-label album sales are also an increasing market share of the industry—and these labels are in places like Omaha and Buffalo, far from cultural hotspots like Brooklyn or traditional music epicenters like Nashville. Small labels and the scenes they represent are literally rebuilding parts of their cities on rock 'n' roll.

Today, Asthmatic Kitty Records continues to leverage its virtual global network to help advance and strengthen Indianapolis’ music scene while weaving itself deeper into the city’s existing cultural infrastructure.

“That’s a lesson from the record label,” Kaufmann says. “When you get the right people in the room talking, things happen.”

 








27 Jun 04:30

Portland Tribune Article: How Hard is it to Live with Less?

by Lina Menard
saucie

mwip
“Especially in Portland, you don’t have to buy things to acquire a lot,” Menard says. “Learning to say no to free things is actually a challenge.”

a photo of me and Raffi taken in the Sweet Pea by Jaime Valdez of the Portland Tribune

a photo of me and Raffi taken in the Sweet Pea by Jaime Valdez of the Portland Tribune

A couple weeks ago I was interviewed by Peter Korn of the Portland Tribune. (My first feature in the Trib in April 2012 was called Home Tiny Home by Jason Vondersmith.)

I met Peter while tabling for the Breathe Building at Portland’s Earth Day Festival and we got to talking about micro housing and downsizing. He told me he’s been doing articles that address these topics and wanted to pick my brain. (You can also check out his recent article about whether people living small give up their cars.)

So we met up in a coffee shop for a chat. Peter also talked to my friends and fellow tiny house dwellers Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings. Today the article we were interviewed for came out in the Portland Tribune. It’s called How Hard is it to Live with Less? Here’s an excerpt:

Two hundred things seems about right for Lina Menard. The Northeast Portland tiny house resident has tried for a few years to live with less stuff. She teaches workshops in downsizing. She thinks living with fewer material possessions is not only responsible from an ecological point of view, but frees her to live a happier, more meaningful life.

And yes, her “200 things” has a little bit of cheat in it. She counts her jewelry box as one item, even though there are about 30 pieces of jewelry inside. Her bike counts as one, though it has paniers, a water bottle and lights that could be considered separate items. A truer count of her possessions, Menard says, would be more like 577. But that’s not the point.

Menard used to live in a nice, two-bedroom house before she took the 200 Things Challenge, her version of the “100 Thing Challenge,” inspired by Dave Bruno’s 2010 book about living a simple life with only 100 possessions. So she had stuff she had to lose. And getting rid of stuff, she says, is hard.

For example, there was her grandmother’s fur coat. Menard had worn it to high school dances and the coat was associated with all sorts of pleasant memories. Still, it had to go. So Menard discarded the coat in a way that would attach a new meaning to it. Research revealed that the Humane Society of the United States accepts fur coats to help in its wildlife rescue program, the fur comforting cubs of the same species.

“It seemed like an appropriate choice because it kind of sent the fur back where it should have been,” Menard says.

Most of us are surrounded by thousands of material possessions, only a few of which deliver pleasure, say academic researchers and downsizing experts such as Menard. In her Less is More workshop, Menard has encountered young couples intrigued by tiny house living as well as baby boomers transitioning from houses to apartments and lives with more travel.

So why is it so hard to downsize?

Portland is part of the problem. Yes, the city is a national center for the tiny house movement and as an adjunct, the

living-with-less ethic. But that means there’s also a lot of free stuff here.

“Especially in Portland, you don’t have to buy things to acquire a lot,” Menard says. “Learning to say no to free things is actually a challenge.”

On the other hand, the popularity of tiny houses and micro-apartments here, and the many communal efforts such as the city’s tool libraries, make Portland a leader in living with less. One lesson Menard says she’s learned is that an Oregon-style conscience can get in the way of downsizing.

“The process wasn’t so much about tearing myself away from possessions as it was trying to figure out a way for them to be somewhere else,” she says. “I was responsible for these things, and because of my environmental ethic, I didn’t want to throw things away unless they were truly garbage.”

Downsizing became an emotional process for Menard, and an analytical one. Throughout each day, before moving into her 121-square-foot tiny house, she was mentally prioritizing every object she owned. She was just 27, not old enough, she thought, to have accumulated much.

“But it was still amazing to me how many things I had that I had never intended to own and how few of them had meaning and how few of them had a story,” she says. She took photographs of objects that did have meaning but were still destined for a new location. Among the items that made her 200 things cut: the blanket she had as a child, a hammock from Costa Rica, her laptop and cell phone, one mattress, one pressure cooker, and a favorite teacup she had brought back from Prague.

09 Jul 20:01

cactusmandan: Today I decided to repot a few Lithops, so I...

saucie

hi russian sledges













cactusmandan:

Today I decided to repot a few Lithops, so I figured it’d be cool to show you what goes on below the face of Lithops. Lithops have quite a small permanent root system, pretty much just consisting of a stubby, woody taproot. The rest of the root system (which can be huge, usually totally filling the pot they’re in) consists of lots and lots of very fine feeder roots. These fine feeder roots are produced within 24 hours of the plant receiving water and usually die shortly after the root-zone dries out. Cacti do a similar thing, rapidly growing root tissue (particularly root hairs) when water is present and having parts of the roots die back with extended drought, but cacti tend to produce much thicker roots which take longer to die back in periods of drought.

Another interesting thing about Lithops you can see in the first picture is the transition from the coloured, non-photosynthetic top of the leaves to the actively photosynthetic, green lower portion of the leaves. The photosynthetic sides of the leaves are usually below ground for protection. The face of the plant is actually a window, which allows light into the body of the plant (filled with a transparent gel) where it can then be harnessed by the photosynthetic sides of the leaves. As the face isn’t photosynthetic, only the sides of the leaves need to obtain Carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, allowing the stomata to be concentrated on the sides of the leaves too. By doing so, the stomata are kept below ground, where it is cooler and so the plant loses less water when the stomata are open. Coupled with CAM (only opening stomata at night and metabolic differences), this allows Lithops (and other succulents which do this kind of thing) to use water extremely efficiently.

Anyway, these were all repotted today. The names of some of these are ridiculously long, so if anyone wants to know what a particular plant is, it’s probably best to message me. The first unpotted plant is a single-headed plant and the second is double-headed. The heads divide when the new leaves grow, after the old single-head reaches a certain size.

09 Jul 14:31

Finally, Farm Tools For Her

by Deborah Huso
saucie

oh hey, and they are not pink

“At the farmers markets, we got together with other women producers or couples farming, and the topic of tools constantly came up,” says Adams. Women farmers said they felt they were too weak to work with certain tools and regularly expressed frustration with everything from roto-tillers to tractor hitches. But Adams and Brensinger decided weakness wasn’t the problem. “Some of the tools didn’t work because they were designed for men,” Adams adds. “We saw a need for a place where women could go for tools that work for their bodies.”

And as a result, they founded Green Heron Tools in 2008 — to find and develop farming and gardening tools designed to work with the strengths of the female body.

It seemed like a market opportunity dying for attention. After all, in the past 30 years, the number of farms in the U.S. operated by women has nearly tripled. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women operated five percent of the nation’s farms in 1978. By 2007, they owned 14 percent. While women-owned operations tend to be smaller (most have annual sales of less than $10,000), their numbers and their revenue are growing. Some 2,000 female producers have sales of $1 million or more.

As the engineers began videotaping women farmers shoveling, they discovered women use tools very differently.

And women who are not sole owners are still a significant force in agricultural labor. While 300,000 women own their own farms, about one million qualify as “farm operators,” often running an agricultural operation alongside a spouse.

And while any producer knows how physically demanding farm labor is, most accept back and muscle injuries as part and parcel of lifting and maneuvering heavy equipment or contending with tough farm labor like repeated digging. But Adams and Brensinger felt it didn’t have to be this way, for women or men. “What we discovered was a gaping niche,” explains Brensinger. “We understood the link between tools and equipment and health and safety.”

To get their business idea up and running, the partners applied for an $80,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We held focus groups with women throughout the country and conducted an online survey,” Adams explains. “We received a lot of feedback from women on what they liked and didn’t like about tools and which ones they most wanted to see redesigned.”

Feedback in hand, Adams and Brensinger applied for a Phase II SBIR grant, this time in the amount of $400,000, to actually develop the equipment women farmers said they were lacking. They hired an agricultural engineer in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department at Penn State University, an industrial engineer specializing in ergonomics, an occupational therapist and a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State to help them create women-focused tools.

Green Heron co-owner Ann Adams throws soil into a wheelbarrow using HERS and an auxiliary D-grip from the Canadian company MOTUS; Green Heron is the U.S. distributor for these ergonomic grips, which also include a T-grip for the end of hoes and other long-handled tools to reduce wrist bending/twisting and allow for using the whole body in pushing and pulling. (Photo by Liz Brensinger.)
Donna Gayer shovels with HERS, a shovel-spade hybrid scientifically designed for women. Green Heron Tools' development of HERS was supported by a USDA Small Business Innovation Research grant focused on the increasing number of women farmers in the U.S. (Photo by Liz Brensinger.)

    As the engineers began videotaping women farmers shoveling, for example, they discovered women use tools very differently. They put shovels into the ground at an angle to take advantage of lower body strength, rather than straight down as men do. “Women’s strength is in their lower body,” Adams explains, “so we decided to create a shovel that capitalized on how women put shovels in the ground.”

    For two years, the partners and their researchers pulled shovels off the shelf at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot and sent women into the fields with them to monitor how they used them, including measuring the CO2 exchange in their breathing to determine the calorie burn required of different shovel types. They ultimately designed a shovel with a large definition, angled blade, and large D-handle (available in three sizes) that weighs only four pounds. “Our shovel required the least energy to use,” Adams remarks. “There was real science behind it.”

    ‘Everything we sell has particular characteristics that make them ideal for women’

    Called the HERS™ Shovel, it is the world’s first ever ergonomically designed shovel for women. The shovel is their best-selling tool and so far the only one they’ve developed themselves that they’ve brought to market (the other ergonomically-designed items now for sale were developed by outside sources). Currently, Adams and Brensinger and their research team are finishing up a three-year project to design and develop a new lightweight, battery-powered roto-tiller.

    “Instead of using rotary tines, it uses coiled, conical blades that look like augers,” Brensinger explains. “They dig as well as help propel the machine forward.” She says because it’s battery-powered, the Green Heron tiller doesn’t vibrate or throw the operator around either, nor does it pulverize the soil as traditional roto-tillers do. “It’s gentler on both the operator and the soil,” she adds.

    Green Heron Tools co-owner Ann Adams prepares a field for planting using a prototype of the company's new tiller. More than 3 years in development, the tiller utilizes a patent-pending technology that allows for battery-powered, vibration-free operation. Lighter and easier to maneuver than traditional rototillers, the tiller is undergoing rigorous testing and will likely be available late in 2014. It was developed with support from a USDA Small Business Innovation Research grant. (Photo by Liz Brensinger.)
    Green Heron co-owner Liz Brensinger uses a wheel hoe from Valley Oak Tool Co. in California. The wheel hoe is ergonomic in that handle height can be easily and quickly adjusted to match the height of the user, and it allows for weeding while walking, thereby saving the back from bending and twisting. (Photo by Ann Adams.)

      The tiller also allows users to adjust the handlebar height and the depth of the till. The tiller is patented but not yet available for sale.

      Green Heron also sells a variety of hand tools, from soil knifes to hand plows, developed by companies that have paid special attention to ergonomics. “Everything we sell has particular characteristics that make them ideal for women,” Brensinger says. They’ve discovered many of the tools through feedback from their own customers.

      “Women play a critical role in producing food,” she says. “Our philosophy is to build on the strengths of women.”

      The post Finally, Farm Tools For Her appeared first on Modern Farmer.