Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Iris and Chickens in the Ghetto Garden!
Showcase Antiques-Detroit

Oh what a delight, a chicken delight! These friendly egg-laying creatures live right in the middle of the angry Cass Corridor, down here in Detroit City! These beautiful hens and roosters are enjoying the balmy weather with temperatures that had reached 54 degrees on January 29, 2013! Can you also see the jagged edges of Iris plants peeking up over the fence? We have about three more months of cold winter ahead of us, but don't tell them!

This is a small  fraction of the flower garden that used to stand here on this spot. The wooden fence to the right was built to section off the rest of the acreage, where hundreds of colorful Iris bloomed for many years. The land on which they grew did not rightfully belong to the gardeners, but everyone loved them; those  flowers brought an abundance of joy to the neighborhood every spring.
The great expanse of wooden fence in the picture above shows you just how big that Iris garden was. Unfortunately , the owners of a new business bought their building along with the adjacent land which served as the Iris garden. The new owners understood the importance of the garden, so everyone in the community was given the opportunity to bring a shovel and bushel basket and fetch home as many plants as they could. This was a chance to keep the garden alive in the minds and hearts of everyone. Forever.

There were a few dozen plants left over when the backhoe came through to prepare the land to become a paved lot. The remaining plants were placed carefully last summer in the big pile that you see to the left. Iris plants are grown from bulbs and are usually quite hardy, but you should take precautions to not lose too much soil when transferring them.
Ah, nature. You can tamper with it, move it, shake it and all but destroy it, but it will not let you kill it very easily. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see tiny shoots of Iris popping up through the hard, frozen, winter  ground. These are the plants that I rescued and put into my ghetto garden last summer. I knew nothing about planting bulbs and I basically just dug some holes and plopped them in. Most of the flowers went into immediate shock, and died. Or so I had thought. I had one Iris plant keep on flowering for the rest of the summer and I was happy that even one had thrived! Every time I checked on my plants to water or feed them, it seemed as though all the squirrels were digging them up or eating the tender roots. I basically began to give up hope that any of the Iris would survive.

Let this serve as a lesson to all of us, that even in the harshest of conditions, life is precious  and it will do whatever it takes to reproduce and keep the species alive. No matter how badly something is treated, there is always a chance that it will overcome the obstacles and maybe try even harder to live and bring happiness. A discarded Iris plant, left in a heap on a litter-strewned mound in summer, will find a new home and eagerly want to flower come the spring. Such is the beauty of nature. Such is the beauty of love.

Friday, January 18, 2013


 Detroit is a huge area filled with abandoned homes and vacant land. Forty square miles of vacant land! There is so much vacant land area it is overwhelming for the city of Detroit. Infact, the size and population of San Francisco would fit into the current vacant land in the city of Detroit.
Although Detroit faces a lot of negativity on the media front, one thing is for certain, the artist types and urban dwellers of our city are not going to let this land mass go to waste. Over the last few years, residents and suburbanites have taken over the vacant lots and turned the fallow land into some of the most amazing ghetto gardens in the country. Obviously, the gardens are noticed the most when they are looking their summertime best, but have you ever wondered what happens to these gardens when the harshness of winter sets in? The creativity of the artists and the gardens becomes even more apparent when the lush greenery has turned barren.

The top two pictures represent the garden boxes that are part of Mariner's Inn, a drug and alcohol recovery center for adult men in downtown Detroit's Cass Corridor. Gardening is therapy. The residents even paint the signs! Look how perfect the empty garden boxes look in winter.


The pictures directly above show the ingenious use of old bricks from houses in the area that have been torn down. This artist is the world famous Jerome Ferretti. This sculpture is usually surrounded by some nice landscaping, but right now it looks like kitty litter! 
Winter ground reveals all!

This garden area best represents a good effort. Nothing too fancy. Just good old fashioned hard work will apply. The garden is about two feet from a busy street! Urban atmospheres do a lot of damage to foliage. I will make sure I get pictures of this one in the spring!

The two garden areas here look like they had a surplus of food! Lot's of greenery remains. I love the way our ghetto gardeners take such good care of their winter wonderlands. And please note that nobody disrupts these little garden squats! So much respect!

The Brush Park Community Garden, in the three photos below, are an example of perfect planning and design. Some really talented people, somehow managed to acquire a lot of new garden blocks. They have made their garden areas into true works of art. As you can see from the photo below, this garden is pretty far away from downtown Detroit. The  Renaissance Center looms in the distance...

    Using more decorator garden blocks, our talented gardeners
 created a little star burst planter, and inside,
  pods of summer seeds remain,

 The photo below shows a garden that is two doors away from my own house. We have the distinction of having several really striking "scarecrows" in this garden to ward off the dangerous predators that roam the streets of the Cass Corridor!!

 I really love this ghetto garden that is located two doors away from me. It's kind of scruffy but shows the dedication and ingenuity of the people who take care of it, The Michigan Works Project, located on Peterboro Street. It never ceases to amaze me how the people of our community are really honest about the food growing these gardens. I sometimes see people just staring at the gardens, but never just helping themselves to the bounty! In the summer, you never really have an opportunity to see the underbelly of the ghetto gardens...but when winter sets in, you can see all the nuances such as seed packs and little veggie totems! Once again, it looks like there was food left over from the harvest.

 Finally, the two remaining photos below represent MY own gardening efforts! I took found objects from my alley and other spots about the neighborhood and scattered them on the ground. I like the look of the land when it is barren. It's fun knowing that in a matter of a few months the grey will turn to green! If you look closely at the last photo you will see one of our little squirrel scavengers perched on the fence with a bagel in his teeth! He looks deranged!

To sum it up, I have enjoyed photographing and writing about gardens in winter. I think they are just as beautiful and maybe even more interesting than the ones we take for granted in the summer! I hope you all can take the time to drive around your neighborhoods and see what's happening as we wait for the 2013 planting season to begin! Peace.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

RESTORATION PROCESS...making the space a home!..

Just a quick update on Ghetto Homes and Gardens-Detroit Living...the saga continues! As you may or may not know, my daughter, Cara,  has been living with me downstairs in my flat in an old Victorian home. It had been pretty invasive with her and her THREE CATS (one of which recently died)! Plus, she had so much stuff it became apparent that her days with me were numbered. I was smothering under the weight of her clothes! We had to make a change. The house has a flat upstairs as well. The flat had been vacant now for about six months and so the time had come for the little bird to take wing!

 Cara and I are in the process of updating and decorating the amazing 1,300 square foot flat. The place had not been cared for and needed the proverbial "woman's touch"! With a little paint and a few carefully selected accessories, we are in the process of turning shabby, into shabby "chic"! Keep in mind that everything is being done by Cara and myself. Everything we buy is from thrift stores, consignment shops and/or Estate Sales...and THAT'S on the high end. We keep our eyes open on garbage day too! You just never know WHAT you can "pick" up!

 Let's start here with updates on the bathroom, bedroom and living room. We have made the rooms clean and functional. Over the next few months, we'll be finding "anchor" pieces for the rooms, such as book cases, hutches, bars, chairs, window treatments etc. and I'll do a separate blog on each phase. Both Cara and I pride ourselves on having a great sense of style and we try hard to keep the cost way low, both in our personal style choices and our environment.


 Never underestimate the power of garbage picking! The fabulous orange Naugahyde mid-century modern couch was sitting on a curb with FREE neatly taped to it with that blue painter's tape! Cara and I shoved it into the trunk of the old Camry and drove it home to her place on Laurel Street. She followed while I drove slowly! It was a few blocks but we had just scored big time! That awesome litho print on her mantle...TWENTY BUCKS at a thrift store! To top it off, it's by Tanya Forgares who used to own Highway Press. It's an early test print of her's. Cara also found an early ORIGINAL watercolor by local FAMOUS artist Jerome Ferretti  (who appeared in Searching For Sugarman). You should really, seriously, consider STALKING us when we go thrifting!

PS. I am still working on my new website. It's not as easy as you think to build a website!
Thanks for being here on my journey!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

URBAN RENEWAL PROJECT-Seva Detroit Vegetarian/N'Namdi Gallery

I usually pay strict attention to my immediate surroundings. I try to keep on top of all of the news and goings on in my Cass Corridor/Midtown Detroit neighborhood. So, I'll be the first to admit that I was blown away to find out that this magnificent building located at 66 E. Forest between Woodward and John R has been here for over a year! The building that houses Seva Detroit Vegetarian Restaurant and N'Namdi Gallery occupies thousands of square feet of space that was beautifully converted and restored to contemporary perfection.

Owned by George N'Namdi, the purchase price and restoration of this building topped off at over two million well spent dollars. Just check out the craftsmanship of the heavy wooded ceiling and the duct work. Not only is this masterful in design, it serves as an acoustical leveling off for too much sound bounce. I've been in places like this where the volume of noise from the customers and the music makes the entire dining experience miserable. Not so here! They had the nicest music playing in the background that was a pleasant accompaniment to our stay. We could actually hear ourselves talking, but not so much the talk from the people at the table next to us!

Whether they re-purposed the old cement floor or poured new, the cement worked well in this space because it was lightly stained in a warm gold-gray hue, picking up the other colors in the room. The floor was also an addition to the acoustics being as mellow as they were.

The bar area is long and lean and can comfortably sit a lot of patrons. Alcohol and wine is served. There is a Happy Hour daily from 4-7 with drink specials, plus you can purchase an array of small plate appetizers!

This is the front section of the restaurant suitable for larger parties and it has a view of the outside courtyard area. The hosting area is right there, prepared to seat you.

The immaculate kitchen was where all the magic was made! Vegetarian and Vegan food prepared to perfection! The door was open so you will have never have to wonder what's going on inside. I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Cassandra on this visit! You know me! The minute I walked into this place I knew I had a story and Cassandra was there to help me out!
 Imagine yourself drinking a tall beer or a nice glass of Chardonnay out here in this lovely courtyard come springtime! If you would like more information on this beautiful Detroit restoration, please visit the restaurant.