Ask the Bartender, Ask the Plants, Ask Karoline #76

Milwaukee...
    Ahhh, summer in the City of Suds.  It’s hot, it’s humid and boy oh boy do I love it! Everyone else thinks I’m crazy, but I live for weather like this. Hard to believe that summer is half over already...and I still haven’t gotten my container garden started yet. After all that talk in the last column, and then no action. I still think that I’ll be able squeeze in a small one before the first snow flies (although in Wisconsin, you just never know). I’ve got two books to recommend this time around (I haven’t been digging in the dirt, but I’ve been reading about it!).
EAT MORE DIRT by Ellen Sandbeck, is full of homespun tips for planting and nurturing land (and window boxes) without pesticides/chemicals. Info on compost heaps, choosing the appropriate plants for your region, battling weeds, banishing bugs, painless pruning, growing healthy soil. Extremely readable, fun layout and chock full of great info. Published by Broadway books (www.broadwaybooks.com)
1,001 OLD-TIME GARDEN TIPS edited by Roger Yepsen, is a collection of organic gardening advice from 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century gardeners. Arranged by topic, the chapters include vegetables, herbs and home remedies, flowers and garden projects, just to name a few. There’s a funny ‘strange but true’ section scattered throughout the book, as well as some old time recipes and ‘old time wisdom’. This is the kind of book that you can open up to any page and enjoy reading it. I’m a big fan of the herb section in here. Published by Rodale Organic Living Books (www.organicgardening.com)
    Also on the home front, today my friend Jason (also known as J-La) demolished my downstairs bathroom. Layers and layers of old wallpaper, paint, lathe and plaster circa 1916 all came down in about 5 hours. The sink and toilet came out. All that’s left is the tub, the built in medicine cabinet and linen closet. It looks really weird down there. To be expected, of course. It will be really fun to start fresh with essentially a blank canvas and decide how to rebuild it/design it. I’m a little nervous about tearing out the floor, but that’s why we’ve got Jason (a trained professional) on the job. Next project is the kitchen floor (hideous peel-n-stick floor tiles over gorgeous - if I can get all the really old glue off of it - hardwood) and then the garage roof and doors. I hope my dear husband enjoyed his extended tour of Europe, ‘cuz he’s got some hard labor ahead of him. It’s a really incredible feeling to work on something that you own and know the work isn’t going to benefit some landlord. The next time I’m mudding and taping seams (ugh) it’s gonna be for keeps...no risk of eviction by Yuppie scumbag condo builders this time. That’s exciting.
Sweden and Denmark...
    I finally got to go to Scandinavia!  It was phenomenal. Not dramatic, like New Zealand or South America, but gorgeous nonetheless. I can understand why so many Danes, Swedes and Norwegians settled in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The lay of the land is very similar. No mountainous regions, just lots and lots of rolling farmland and water. A few big communities/cities and lots of small ones. Fairly similar climate...although in comparison, it’s a hell of a lot milder here. Stockholm, Malmo, and Copenhagen were the standouts, but Robert and I just had a blast driving around and being total tourists. Found some stellar vegan food (should you ever find yourself in Stockholm, you must visit ‘Malaysia’) all along the way, ate vegan banana ice cream (tofu line), drank Carlsberg beer, walked as much as possible, visited Viking burial mounds, tried to go to the ‘Ice Bar’ (bar, tables, stools, and glasses all made out of ice) but it was closed on Sundays. We biked around Copenhagen on the free bikes, experienced ‘the free state of Christiania’ (former military barracks in Copenhagen that were squatted in 1971 and the government reluctantly allowed it to remain that way as a ‘social experiment’) and it was truly impressive. Imagine a functioning NYC squat expanded into many city blocks full of businesses, residences and amazing gardens. They were on high alert, with lookouts posted at every entrance, as the government has been staging raids with alarming frequency. We also took a day trip to the island of Langeland where my paternal ancestors are from. It’s a tiny island (we drove across it in 15 minutes) and is incredibly beautiful. You’ve never really seen the color yellow until you’ve seen a massive field of rapeseed flowers growing in Denmark. Wow. I know that sounds cheesy, but it really is mind boggling. Also on the highlights list were all the kids in Malmo (thanks for all the hospitality and love), Kronborg Slot (Hamlet’s castle and home of Holger Danske-Viking protector of Denmark), all the bicycles (absolutely everyone rides a bike in both countries), and the skull with wings and crown in Roskilde Domkirke. Whew. Oh yeah, we also saw the infamous Little Mermaid, and boy is she little. Think Hans Christian Andersen, not Disney.
Chicago...
All right all you zine geeks out there. I’ve got a little tip for you. If you haven’t heard of Quimby’s yet, you should be ashamed of yourselves! I thought that the Bay Area was a mecca for finding rad zines, but I had forgotten about the brilliant gem that is Quimby’s. Located at 1854 W. North Avenue in Chicago, this is THE spot to stock up on incredible zines, books and comics. Christine and I spent well over an hour in here, just oohing and ahhing and exclaiming in pure ecstasy before purchasing a huge pile of stuff from the very pleasant girl (I think her name is Liz, but I could be entirely wrong) holding down the fort. This is zine/book paradise and if you are in the Chicago area, you must stop in and see for yourself. You can get more info at www.quimbys.com, and I’m not kidding when I say that this place is worth a roadtrip in and of itself.  You should also check out The Chicago Diner and Soul Vegetarian while in the windy city.
back to Milwaukee...
It’s really late and not only am I sleepy, I’m late turning in my column (as usual) but I guess I’m done now. Thanks for reading my chaotic babble. Perhaps next time I’ll actually have more plant/herbal stuff to talk about. I might also have some tales to tell about The Fleshies (in town this weekend) and Milemarker (in town at the end of the month) or What Happens Next? (Who I’ll get to see in Los Angeles on the 26th of July). Who knows...life is just full of interesting twists and turns, ain’t it?!  Enjoy your summer.
-karoline / roadiegirl@hotmail.com