Lopping and Helping One Another

Lopping and helping one another

I was walking by Richmond Elementary School just now. Kids playing, sun shining, laughter in the air. If you need a reminder of something good in the world – walk by a playground full of kids. Across the street a woman who I’ve met before stood in her driveway – sweating and doing some yard work. We got to talking about the amazing tree she has that drapes across her garage. She mentioned it needed trimming and I offered to lop it some. Lop, lop, lop, lop and a few minutes later she can walk under the tree without getting bopped so much.

I’ve been wanting to write something about home preservation – and how we might aid people whose homes need a hand, but perhaps they can’t manage it anymore. I don’t have an exact solution – but what would it look like if everyone who was able dedicated 30 minutes a week to working on someone else’s yard/house? Or, just walked the street trimming bushes/trees (while asking permission) to clear the sidewalks so they are passable, and signs remain visible. I know these folks are working on developing a model like this. http://www.eastsidevillage.org/ – but perhaps there’s something easy we could do.

In this vein, I imagine we could create some sort of matching service for people with pets that need walking + those who can’t walk them anymore, but love having pets at home + can’t afford to pay someone to walk their pets. Ideas welcome.

NextDoor.com – The Future Is Here

NextDoor.com – A Great New Way to Meet Your Neighbors and Build Community

nextdoor.com

If you’ve been anywhere near me in the last year or two, or have been reading my newsletter, you’ll know I’ve been doing my best to spread the word about NextDoor.com.

I have been a fan of local all my life. I love the idea of the 20 minute neighborhood – being able to walk to everything you need in 20 minutes – which leads to less car use and having a lighter impact on the Earth. It leads to a lot of other benefits, as well. Not being in a car means you use other modes of transportation such as walking, biking and roller-skating. And while you’re out you end up meeting your neighbors and catching up – sometimes learning important news that you wouldn’t find out any other way. Knowing who lives around you also creates safety as everyone can keep an eye on things. This is what life used to be like in village days of yore. We’ve lost much of this familiarity as the United States has developed suburbs and we’ve designed our world to fit the car rather than what’s best for our thriving.

Enter the internet and social media platform, nextdoor.com. Nextdoor is a combination of social media worlds that many of us are familiar with (particularly, Facebook). Once you’ve signed up (which is a simple process where you, a real person, living at a real address are verified) you suddenly land in the neighborhood you live in on-line. There’s a newsfeed where you can see what your neighbors have posted, and you can also view the feed of your surrounding neighborhoods. For me, that’s North Richmond, Portland, Oregon = 200+ members, and the greater area about 2,000 members. I can connect to the people on my block, or to all the people in about a mile radius around me.

What I’ve seen so far is a mixture of things. People use NextDoor to offer each other extra of what they have (fruit was popular last Summer), kind of like Freecycle, which I helped jumpstart in 2003. The conversations are about everything from people seeking recommendations for home improvements; bodyworkers; tech support; local events; to neighborhood-watch type notifications about break-ins; missing pets and the like.  There’s also a fair bit of discussion about how our neighborhoods are developing. Currently, in the neighborhood I live in there has been an increase in old houses being torn down to be replaced by much larger scale buildings and that’s led to a lot of discussion of where we’re headed as a neighborhood and city.  These type of discussions used to happen on community discussion lists and at neighborhood council meetings, but this new forum provides an opportunity to use collaborative technology at the neighborhood level.  Without ads! Then, there are the yardsales and notices from the City and other odds and ends – things for sale; re-posts of Craigs List ads; homes for sale or rent; and new groups forming (the first of these I have seen is a local singles group).

There are many reasons why I am so gung-ho about Nextdoor.com. As someone who has been involved in high-tech for years, I am always excited when I see something come along that will help on a local level. I see this as that – a way for us all to get closer – to build community resilience through locals being in each others’ lives more. To make local bonds rather than keeping up networks that take a lot of fossil fuel to maintain. NextDoor also dovetails with another passion of mine: Farm My Yard. Farm My Yard is an effort to connect homeowners who have sunny yards with those who have urban farming skills and would like to grow food, but are lacking the space to do it. I also see Farm My Yard as a possible youth employment/business opportunity. In my dream I see teenagers using the Farm My Yard agreements and walking their neighborhoods to find a few yards to farm. This can and does lead to real income; vegetables for all; and less trips to the grocery store for everyone.

Farm My Yard

So, for me, it’s all coming together – and, I hope, we’re coming together. I see these types of developments leading to something fantastic in the future. Nextdoor.com is not perfect yet – it doesn’t always correctly identify neighborhood boundaries; the tech support can be iffy; disputes are left up to neighborhood “leaders” who sometimes make questionable calls; and I’m sure there are other imperfections, as well. That said, for now, this is one horse I am betting on! And, I recommend, if you’re not a member yet that you give it a try and see what you find. If you have comments, please leave them below.

For a better world,

Albert Kaufman
February 21, 2015

Update: 6.25.18Here’s a new article about Nextdoor by yours truly – about How to use it effectively for neighborhood change

March 4, 2015 NYT Article

9.24.15 – My neighbors pulled together via a great conversation on Nextdoor.com to preserve some giant trees and build community at the same time in Portland, Oregon, The United States.

2015-09-22 09.46.51

 

Irvington Tree Planting – March 12, 2011

[slideshow]
Tree planting 3.12.11 Irvington, Portland, Oregon, USA!

We had a great day planting trees with Friends of Trees on Saturday, March 13th. Starting with our breakfast at the Holladay Park Church early in the morning through a delicious lunch held after the planting – supplied by residents of the Irvington, Grant, Sabin and Alameda neighborhoods.

I want to thank the following people and businesses for their support in our efforts.

Friends of Trees – especially Jesse Batty and Erica Timm who led the day of planting

The neighborhood coordinators for each neighborhood

Neil Davidson – Alameda
Lisa Johnston-Smith – Sabin
Angela Gusa – Grant Park
Albert Kaufman – Irvington

Holladay Park Church – our wonderful host!
Helen Bernhard Bakery – baked goods
Caffee D’arte – Coffee
Starbucks on 15th & B’way – Coffee and more Coffee
Grand Central Bakery – pastries, yum
Costello’s Travel Caffee – pastries, more yum!
Penske Trucks – truck donation
Eric McClelland – Treeform Woodwork – drove to Boring and back to pick up our trees
City of Portland – Bureau of Environmental Services – a huge hand in many ways
Backyard Bird Shop – our main sponsors!

I could write a novella about the task of being a neighborhood coordinator for this event. It’s full of contacting neighbors, reaching out to businesses and interacting with the great staff at Friends of Trees. And, I enjoyed the fun of planting trees even more. Working with great crew leader, Karen, and crew assistant, David, we walked in a 5 block circle and planted 11 trees in 3 hours. This involved pulling the trees out of the truck, unwrapping each, making sure holes were the right size, involving homeowners and their kids, filling the holes in with dirt, and watering and staking them.

It was a rainy day, but our spirits were high. And when we returned to the basecamp, there were all of the other volunteers and crew leaders sitting down to a well-deserved bountiful lunch of soups, chilis, stews, bread, salads and deserts. It was a great time to swap stories, share smiles, and make some new friends beyond the crew that you’d been assigned to.

All in all, I’d say the day was a complete success. We planted 182 trees together and another 30 were planted the following Monday, bringing us to a grand addition of 212 trees for our 4 neighborhoods. These trees will add to the canopy of our neighborhoods – help reduce the amount of water going into the stormwater drains, shade us in the summer, provide us fruit and nuts, look beautiful, increase property values, and increase the safety of our neighborhoods.

If you didn’t get a chance to join us, please consider volunteering with Friends of Trees and see what fun it can be to plant trees in Portland. Also, Friends of Trees is a membership organization and I encourage you to become a member today. They do great work that makes our City more livable and our lives healthier and happier.

friends of trees

One happy tree planter!

The world might feel like it’s unraveling… hold yourself, friends and family tight

Water rushing by a lighthouseIn doing some interesting reading and then noting what I’m seeing in our world – It feels that our world is unraveling a bit. There are a multitude of things going on at the same time, some of them tragic, some of them unseen in the past and thus a little hard to wrap our heads around. The natural world also seems to be going through changes – for anyone who is paying any attention at all to various scientific papers to recent conferences on the climate and just plain looking out your window (if it’s not frozen shut as the East Coast of USA experienced a bunch this year) – the climate is changing. Then, there’s the political/media circus of giving the Tea Party movement a lot of time and attention = cacophony in the political and social sphere.

All that said, and more. So, what to do when overloaded with stimuli – there are many reactions that people have. Some clam up, hide. Some pretend that nothing different is going on. Then there are some who are speaking about the change – and many who have been speaking about it for a while – Bill McKibbon comes to mind. But other authors, like James Kunstler, Richard Heinberg – these folks are tracking the change and writing about it.

But what I might suggest is for us not to forget ourselves.  Our strengths. What we each bring to the world – and not let the strong winds of change push us around too much, make us lost. That would be unfair. It’s unfair to you because this is your life, and it should be as sweet, powerful and wonderful as you wish it to be. And, it’s not fair to the rest of us and future generations – for a large group of us to sleepwalk through this next period of time – the next chapter in our lives.

So, learn to dance with the change – learn to see the signs of something changing and instead of “holy shit!” your mantra could be “how interesting?” or “hmm, how will I dance with this in my life?”

This is also a good time to remember to take the best care of yourself that you can – physically and emotionally. Take your vitamins, get plenty of sleep, move that body, and make sure to stay connected to people. Your friends. Your Neighbors. Your Family. and new friends. If I’ve learned one thing at Burning Man lo these past 10 years, it’s that friends and close connection is key in life. Also, the ability to make new friends quickly is an art and can be learned. Start by introducing yourself.

Albert Kaufman
3/29/10
Portland, Oregon

Related: 8.31.18 – A More Or Less Definitive Guide To Showing Up For Friends

And, Ben Bochner’s song – Hold on Strong!

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