As April nears, I’m always looking for the first signs of spring: crocus breaching the soil, warmer weather and abundant sunshine. But what I most look forward to is replacing my storm windows with screens, so I can open the windows and let in fresh air. Doing this is always a reminder that I need to scrub the winter grime from my windows.
The first cleaning is never a quick spray-and-wipe job. There’s a lot of muck that needs to be washed off before those windows can shine. It would be easy to buy a bottle of commercial window cleaner, but I’m usually not satisfied with the end result, and I’m almost never happy with the ingredients. Many well-known cleaners contain ammonia, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol or methanol, all of which can be harmful if swallowed or inhaled in large quantities. So I make my own. It’s so quick and easy to put together that I don’t lose my window-cleaning motivation.
In October, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled the first phase of their “greenest street in America” project. Located on a 1.5-mile stretch of Cermak Road in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the street is made with air pollution-eating materials and features solar panels, native plants and stormwater-sucking pavement, among other impressive technology. The street’s success has since launched the city into the national limelight for innovative planning. Of course we’re happy for Chicago, but it leaves us wanting to know — who in Philadelphia will steal this idea?
So what makes Cermak Road the greenest street in America?
Asparagus is a hard worker. Plant it in a field, and you’ll see. Once the stalks get growing, they don’t stop. “Keeping up with it is a chore in itself,” says Deborah Rudman, this month’s featured gardener. “Though a good chore.”
Asparagus’s constant growth calls for a relentless (almost daily) picking schedule, with stalks shooting as high as 10 inches in just 24 hours. The crop is only harvested in the spring, though it needs space in the garden all year. As long as you properly take care of the perennial, it will zealously do its job for years to come. Fifteen growing seasons down the road, don’t be surprised to see the same patch of asparagus sprouting just as quickly as during its first year.
It’s a Monday afternoon in mid-February and a half-dozen Strawberry Mansion residents gather in a building at 30th and Ridge Streets. They stand around tables loaded with vibrant, fresh vegetables, like lettuce, mushrooms and bean sprouts. One resident, Beth Lisby, talks excitedly about her dinner plans: chicken salad over a bed of fresh green lettuce with plump tomatoes and yellow onion.
It’s a simple meal, but it’s one made with high-quality, fresh vegetables in a neighborhood where fresh vegetables can be a challenge to find. Adding to the satisfaction of the meal is how Lisby earns her bounty. During the week, she spends her time caring for elderly neighbors, making sure they are warm, well-fed and have their prescriptions filled. “I’ll even do the ladies’ hair, if they want that,” she says with a grin.