Tag Archives: diy

I’m Learning How To Grow An Edible Garden (On A Tiny Balcony In Tokyo!) – Part 1

I love plants. I love looking at them, I love smelling them, I love touching them, I love watching bugs crawl and land on their leaves. Proof: see my Instagram #yourdailytree.

I’ve never actually grown an edible garden. I have lots of succulents (because my cat won’t eat them), I’ve grown a herb or two, a tomato bush magically appeared in our yard one day (my husband said it was from cat poop?), but I’ve never purposefully grown a veggie garden.

Now that I live in the biggest metropolitan area in the world and have very little outdoor space to call my own, I want a garden more than ever. And because food labeling here is both difficult for me to read and truthfully, a bit sketchy, I want to grow my own veggies and make my own food with it. I should also mention that I’m vegan so growing edible plants seems like something I should know how to do.

As you can see, my balcony is taken up by a little table because I really wanted somewhere to sit in the morning and the evenings. If you have a little imagination and few hours to spare to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest, then you can see that it has potential as a plant growing happy place.

It seems simple enough to grow veggies and fruit. Buy some seeds, stick em the dirt, give them some water and sunlight, and boom, instant-carrot. Not so much. The type of soil you are using is important – ingredients, PH, not too mention whether or not it has any chemicals in it. Then there’s the zone you are living in that’s appropriate for certain plants to grow. And the direction in which your garden lays in relation to the sun matters because some plants need full sun, partial, sun, lots of shade etc. Oh, and some plants don’t do well living together. Not to mention having a really small space makes everything that much more complicated…cucumbers, beans, tomatoes can be grown vertically but take up lots of space. Oh, and you need to fertilize and you can do that with your own homegrown compost, but there are lots of ways to compost (I’m thinking Banana Peel Tea because we eat a million bananas per day) and there is something called humus not to be confused with hummus…

Phew!

After reading about permaculture and watching lots of videos on balcony gardens I decided to take a step back and ask myself the first most important question: what do I want to grow that I will actually eat! I thought about what fruits and veggies we buy at the grocery store and farmers market and made a list:

Avocados
Apples
Bananas
Basil
Broccoli
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chives
Cucumber
Edamame
Ginger
Green Onion
Mushrooms
Onion
Oranges
Peppers
Tomato

And here’s the list of things that would be cool to grow because I’m in Japan:
Rice
Tea

Now that I have my list, I need to research the following:
1. Will they grow in containers
2. How many hours of full sun does my balcony get each day
3. Which of these plants will grow in zone 10a
4. What type of soil do they need
5. When do the seeds need to be planted
6. What do I do about bugs

You may think, gosh, I’m sure there’s an app for that! I have tried many many apps and they all suck. I think I’m going to stick with a simple spreadsheet to go along with my simple list of veggies. If you can recommend an easy to use app then by all means, please share!

PLANT
ZONE 10A
CONTAINER
VARIETY
SUN
SOIL
NOTES
Avocado
Mexican-Guatemalan hybrids that can handle hot summer and cold winter.
May not fruit in a container. 🙁
Fuerte, Ettinger
Full or near-full sun.
Don’t like waterlogged soil (which can cause root rot) and have shallow feeder roots so do best with a thick layer of coarse, weed-free mulch underneath
Avocado farm in Shikoka

The other thing I’m thinking about is whether I want to grow from seeds I buy in a nice little package or grow from scraps! This sounds ripe for an A/B experiment!

My son and I started growing avocados. Unfortunately, all of the literature I read said it’s very unlikely we will ever see an actual fruit. 🙁 That’s OK because I think tomatoes will be a snap.

Grow Avocado Pit

Last but not least, I bought some adorable kits here in Tokyo but they are pretty expensive so it doesn’t seem like the best way to grow a garden. I do love my little kitty strawberry grower though!

Grow Mini Carrot Kit

Japanese Wild Strawberry Kit

Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll cover all the stuff I’ve learned and my progress.

Luz Rivas and Tara Tiger Brown at White House

KitHub Turns Two

Today is the day after Trump was elected as President. Not the easiest day to celebrate a birthday.

Two years ago today, Luz Rivas and I launched KitHub. We attribute our collaboration to President Obama, because it was at an Town Hall with Obama in October, 2014 that we ran into each other and the idea was sparked.

I thought about delaying the celebration because of the results of the election, but then I thought about what I can do to fight, and my fight is to bring STEM education to kids, awareness about the environment and climate change and support of women in tech.

Obama has done a lot in his past 8 years as President to support STEM education and climate change efforts:

– Under the Obama administration, we established Computer Science for All, Educate to Innovate, the Nation of Makers and more.

– Obama’s climate change efforts include the Paris Agreement on climate, the Clean Power Plan, expanded the Clean Energy economy, established national limits for mercury, arsenic, and other toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants, the Better Buildings Challenge, permanently protected more than 260 million acres of America’s public lands and waters.

So today I will celebrate the past two years of KitHub, the past 8 years of President Obama, and continue my work over the next four years to do everything I can to ensure that our next President doesn’t ruin everything Obama has done during his Presidency.

“One of the things that I’ve been focused on as President is how we create an all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math… We need to make this a priority to train an army of new teachers in these subject areas, and to make sure that all of us as a country are lifting up these subjects for the respect that they deserve.”

President Barack Obama
Third Annual White House Science Fair, April 2013

“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

— U.S. President Barack Obama, State of the Union, January 28, 2014

Tara Brown at White House Cities of Learning

It Takes A Nation Of Makers To Make A Nation

Back in 2012 when the seeds were planted for LA Makerspace, it was still a fairly novel idea. We were the first family friendly makerspace in Los Angeles and we launched one of the first makerspace crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter. People came to our space in downtown LA from all over Southern California because it was the only place like it.

Fast forward three plus years and a lot has changed. There are not only multiple makerspaces in Los Angeles but across the nation.

Last year, President Obama convened Mayors from around the country, and hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” By democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.

In early May of this year, I had the chance to join a conversation at the White House to discuss next steps as part of a Maker Cities Roundtable. I joined twenty communities from around the country in an exciting half-day conversation, where we talked about each other’s successes and challenges, and came away with lots of ideas we should bring back to our communities. We’ve kept the momentum since, and I’m excited by everything going in our community and around the country.

June 12–18th is the Week of Making, and I’m excited to highlight a few things we have already accomplished at LA Makerspace, and what we hope to do in the next year.

  • Facilitated more than 100 workshops at LA Public Library branches including robotics, programming, filmmaking, Minecraft and more.
  • Brought on a new board of directors with experience in education, nonprofits, tech startups and civic engagement.
  • Hired our fabulous director, Mya Stark.
  • Kicked off the Scratch Squad thanks in part to Google Rise. Kids teaching kids how to program.
  • Partnered with Connected Camps to teach LA Public Librarians how to play Minecraft so they can run Minecraft workshops and clubs in their library branches. Their “Minecraft-in-a-box” allows us to host workshops when the internet bandwidth doesn’t meet requirements.
  • Completed our second successful Kickstarter campaign.

What’s next:

  • Planning our next series of workshops at LA Public library branches. We’re expanding to teach younger tinkerers and adults.
  • Partnering with UCLA Remap to host workshops in their space across from the LA State Historic Park in Downtown LA.
  • Writing curriculum for our most popular workshops which we’ll be sharing freely.
  • Hosting an event on Sat., June 13th, 1pm at the Standard to meet and brainstorm with other SoCal nonprofit STEAM organizations to discuss how we can create a network to better share resources and events. RSVP on Meetup.com.

I’m proud of the Los Angeles maker community and the mentorship and resources it provides to Angelenos. I’m excited that work being done here in LA and cities across the US is being recognized nationally as vital to the economy and job creation.

Got: Kid Friendly Hackerspace in Los Angeles

This update is a huge deal to me…I hope you’ll read on.

 

If you’ve been paying attention to any of my updates for the past several months, then you may have read my post from May 3rd “Want: Kid Friendly Hackerspace in LA” and you may have paid attention to what the response was. If you didn’t, here’s the scoop:

 

After I wrote that post, 25 people showed up at Crashspace to discuss our common desire to run kid friendly maker events in LA. If you aren’t familiar, here’s a definition of a makerspace:

 

Makerspaces (aka Hackerspaces) provide shared physical resources otherwise unaffordable or attainable by an individual or family. They provide a fluid workspace as well as the collaboration, inspiration and encouragement of others. We want to appeal to youth, families, school groups, stay-at-home-parents, home-schooled kids and individuals that are comfortable working around and with kids.

 

The maker movement, as it pertains to education, seeks to build the confidence, analytic skills, and creativity of those involved by establishing an environment centered on the creative act. This collaborative and project-based approach to learning runs counter to the current trend in education of defining academic success in terms of standardized tests, especially at the cost of hands-on programs such as shop, art, and laboratory science. By establishing a permanent physical location for Los Angeles Young Makers students, and their families, will have a place to learn about engineering, design, and research through both organized classes as well as open-ended projects.

 

 

Very soon after that first meeting, a group of us started running events including the LA Youth Hack Jam, Scratch Classes, Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Social and an Arduino Class taught by 11 year old Quin. You can read all about it on our website and a running list here.

 

During that time, I started bi-weekly planning meetings where anyone interested could come and help plan the opening of our own space. Our goal was to determine interest in the community for DIY events/classes/projects and then find a place before the end of the year to call our own with 24×7 access for late night project hacking and lots of fun equipment and tools to play with.

 

We certainly aren’t the first group to open a makerspace, but Los Angeles is a very large place (500 sq miles) and we had people from the westside and eastside attending events, so finding a central location that met our long list of requirements was incredibly hard. We did some research and identified DTLA as our best bet from an affordability standpoint but also  accessibility to a train stop and the work being done to reach the westside. You can read all of our requirements here.

 

 

After hosting planning meetups every 2 weeks, the committed became apparent and a core group of enthusiasts formed. We met at several places around DTLA including Urth in the Arts District, Americano and NationBuilder near Pershing Square. The participants included Software Engineers, Hardware Engineers, Scientists, Teachers, Filmmakers, Roboticists, Rocket Scientists, Librarians, Small Business Owners, Parents! The diverse backgrounds made for interesting conversations and the kind of members that we wanted to exist in the space…an eclectic mix of experiences, skills and interests.

 

 

After months of meetings and a couple of failed possibilities, one day I got a call from Sharon Ann Lee of Culture Brain asking if I could meet at LA Mart. Levi, Sean, Sharon and myself met with Ava, the Business Dev. Director at LA Mart and got a tour of the 11th floor. If you aren’t familiar with LA Mart, picture multiple floors of Furniture and Gift Showrooms. Ava explained that the entire 11th floor is being dedicated to a community of creatives curated with artists, filmmakers, tech entrepreneurs and everything in-between.

 

We checked out all the available spaces and found one that was 2100 sq ft and perfect. There’s an area for childcare, windows to bring in natural light, freight elevators to move in large equipment, and the bonus is a Fab Lab right next door. So anything we can’t offer, members can walk a few feet and get what they need. It met almost every single one of our requirements except the outdoor space, but we are discussing plans for the roof.

 

It was a no-brainer decision, we knew that it was the right spot to setup LA Makerspace.

 

I am super SUPER excited to let you know that we will be opening up LA Makerspace in the New Year!

 

Between now and January we’ll host some events including the Halloween Open House on Oct. 28th to let people see the space and learn more about what we are doing. We need to build the space out and we need to raise some funds to pay for equipment, tools, insurance, etc. until we can become self-sustaining through memberships and events.We’ll raise some funds through Corporate Sponsorships and a KickStarter campaign. Anyone can donate money on our website now or equipment and tools can be dropped off. Pretty soon we’ll be pre-selling memberships. We were very fortunate to meet Sabrina at home&community who agreed to be LA Makerspace’s fiscal sponsor so that we can apply for grants and take in donations. We’re in the process of doing the paperwork for our own 501(c)3.

 

Our Mission

 

To provide an all ages 24×7 community workspace with a workshop, research areas, babysitting area, gallery to showcase projects and outdoor space. The space is to be used for developing and prototyping ideas, projects, events, classes, and tech group meetups.

 

Reach for the stars

 

I know this is just the beginning, but jumping over that first hurdle was a big deal. Now it’s real. Now we have a homebase and we can focus on some of our projects like Citizen Science, continuing Scratch Classes for our young kids, Mom & Dad Hack Days including Childcare, Little Engineer classes for Toddlers and Preschoolers. And maybe building an elevator to the moon.

 

If you’d like to get involved please email me. And don’t forget to come out to one of our amazing events:

 

 

Thank you to our Board of Directors, Joseph, Sabrina, Luz, Michelle, Sara, Kent, Cassy, Travis, Nirvan, Harley, Patricia, Jean, Stacie, Donna, Adam and especially to all the makers that have come out to our events. We hope you like the new space and look forward to working alongside you on a bunch of amazing projects!

 

Just look for the big wooden chair!

 

Hearts and Hugs,
Tara

 

Maker Faire 2012

Maker Faire 2012 was everything that I hoped it would be. The creativity and enthusiasm was infectious. I wanted to see and try everything but I would have needed weeks to do that.

I covered some of my favorite things during my interview with Super Awesome Sylvia and Joey Hudy, two of my favorite young makers.

The Take Apart tent was a ton of fun. Kids were everywhere taking computers and who knows what apart.

 

Some were making some new creations out of the chaos using soldering irons and hot glue guns.

 

I spent some time at the Exploratorium Tinkering Station making a Mobile Headband. I’m not sure I’m going to wear it outside of Maker Faire…

 

S~q~u~i~s~h~Y Circuits!! Weeeeee

 

Not just an apple II, an apple II signed by WOZ

 

Over at Lynne Bruning’s eTextiles Lounge we learned how to sew and light up an LED using conductive thread and a watch battery.

 

Here’s my pal Bunnie getting his pic taken of his head. I’m eagerly awaiting a 3D Model of my head from AutoDesk. Guess what you’re getting for Christmas!

 

There were SO MANY 3D printers. These colorful 3D printers are very attractive, but the $50 cartridges are kind of a turn-off.

 

GameDesk helped 13 year old Jasper fly like an Albatross (he said it has been his dream since he was very young 😀 ).

 

A Laser Cutter for $3k? Whoa.

 

Here’s the Little Bits tent. My son Ripley has recently been introduced to them and I’m excited to see him build stuff!

 

I’ve been eyeing the MaKey MaKey Kickstarter campaign. Out of nowhere Josh from the Rockwell Group gave me a free kit. WIN!

 

Thanks to old friends and new for such an awesome time!