Greenhouse on Grant Street

Watch a building contractor and a librarian/writer, Yuppie scum who should know better, rescue an abandoned urban greenhouse in Buffalo, NY and launch an organic herb business

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lease signed

Well, it took a cranky comment to make me wrestle with Blogger, subdue cryptic error messages, drill into the "help" bulletin boards, and restore access to this blog. The good news is that Gelato Ji has signed a lease and will open in June or July.

Also, avid gardeners with more ambition than space can rent 100 SF garden plots by the season or year. Lots are behind the greenhouse with access through a gate. Interested? Contact:

Current pictures are here:

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Testing, testing

Just testing to see if posting by mail works, since I suddenly
cannot access this blog any other way. My editing privileges
have vanished and I am trying everything I can to rectify it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

New Grant-Ferry Association online

The newly-formed Grant-Ferry Association has its website up. See:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vince at work

Originally uploaded by bettybarcode.
Okay, here's my maiden voyage with blogging a photo. THis comes from the set I just created.

Long Awaited Pictures

Buffalo's laziest blogger is hopelessly trying to recover her lost reputation. Here are pictures I took last November of Vince & Bob working on the facade. Yes, it was November in Buffalo and it was warm and sunny. No snow.

Click on the headline to see the pictures.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What Else You Can Do With a Rubber Sheet

Die, weed, die!

The Bishop's Weed suppression project has begun. Vince spread a large section of rubber roofing material behind the greenhouse. The idea is to deprive it of sun and water, but as a rhizome, it can probably linger underground for years and reappear when conditions favor it. My friend Lynn suggests planting something like mint to outcompete it. Mint is also aggressive and can take over your yard but at least it has commercial value.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bishop's Weed

Ever heard of Bishop's Weed? Well, it carpets the entire back yard behind the greenhouse. It is a hardy ground cover, adapts to poor soil, appears virtually indestructible. If you live in Buffalo and have a patch of ground that would be improved by it, drop us a line. You can dig up as much as you want, no charge.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Greenhouse Gets Political

In yet another pathetic attempt to distract our neighbors on Grant and readers of this blog from our lack of actual, you know, progress at the greenhouse, we offer a political diversion. BuffaloGreenhouse is increasingly impressed by the candidacy of Judy Einach for mayor of Buffalo. Sick of candidates who are machine-made? Beholden to the BenderCiminellAdinos of Buffalo? Check out Judy's website.

Hint for newbies: Blogger lets us use a header, as in "Greenhouse Gets Political," as a link to a website. Aim your mouse up there.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Shiny New Bridges

We interrupt our regularly scheduled and apparently notorious (as I learned at tonight's first ever Buffalo Blogger "Convention" at the Anchor Bar) blogging idleness to bring you a completely non-greenhouse link. Here are pictures of the new Grant Street bridges, less than a mile north of the greenhouse. I'm glad to see artists get work and aesthetics taken seriously, but pretty bridges do not alter the destructive effect that expressways have on neighborhoods.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Still chipping away

No pun intended. Vince recently cut down some trees that were growing into the foundation or in prime growing spots. Then he rented a chipper and now we have wood ships galore. That hospital smell is wood alcohol being released as they compost.

In the absence of dramatic developments to report, here's a website about urban agriculture. Figures that Canada would devote a government office to it. Meanwhile we just keep subsidizing big, unsustainable agribusiness.

Urban Agriculture Notes

By the way, some hardy violets survived and even bloomed in the tree wells!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

What Inspires Vince

Vince has been at work restoring the greenhouse. Like everything else in Buffalo, it has suffered 50 years of deferred maintenance. The steel pipes holding up the glass were nearly all rusted away from interior condensation. Little was holding up the greenhouse but the window frameworks. So he has repaired 5 of the posts, half done.

Oh, and we got tagged again. Can't paint over it until there's a thaw.

The good news is that after a record-breaking -6F temperature night this week, it was 22F inside the greenhouse first thing the next morning. This is just from the heat of the earth, since there was no solar gain. The roof was covered with snow and half of the greenhouse is boarded up.

I mention the temperature because Vince is inspired by Eliot Coleman's successful, unheated, year-round harvest in his greenhouses in Maine. Visit the link to learn more. You can keep certain crops alive at 22F.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Media should spotlight Grant Street neighborhood

So as not to violate copyright by reproducing the whole thing without her permission, here is the best paragraph from Julia Wilkins' letter to the Buffalo News, December 10, 2004:

"So why doesn't this location get more attention? I suspect it is because the inhabitants are primarily poor, working-class people, not the people the small business owners of Elmwood Village consider profitable clientele. However, if this dynamic neighborhood received more of the attention it deserves, business owners would realize that there is a huge untapped market in those who enjoy a more diverse shopping environment."

Sunday, December 05, 2004

It's Really Green Now

Today's photos show the green paint we applied last month, plus the cool brick storefront building to the south, recently purchased by our favorite architect, Kathy. In the time-honored urban tradition of mixed-use, it will be her office and other things. That is Vince's electric car, a GEM, parked in front.

I guess the Yuppie invasion has begun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Violets--No, Electricity--Yes

The violets died (why did it suddenly stop raining after a sodden summer?) but we finally wrestled the bureaucracy at Niagara Mohawk into turning on the electricity.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

More clean-up

Today we addressed cosmetic issues. As long as the greenhouse has to be boarded up, it doesn't have to be ugly. Vince got a cheap gallon of blue-tinted wash to cover the "oriented strandboard," as that nasty waferboard stuff is called in the trade. He thought he'd get two coats, but it absorbed so fast that it didn't cover all the way once. The plan is to get an undercoat on the boards and then invite the neighborhood kids to a painting party, in which we add flowers and the names of the artists. The theory is to instill a small sense of ownership, which we hope will cut down on tagging and other forms of vandalism.

For my part, I dug up violets from our front and back yards at home and transplanted them into the tree wells under the linden trees. Judith warned me that the soil needed amending (more organic material) and leveling, or the rainfall will just run off and the violets won't make it. I was not convinced, as these very violets were aggressively crowding out everything in their path at home and our soil is not especially good.

I continue to sweep up broken glass from the sidewalk, tree wells, and neighbor's yard. After the greenhouse was abandoned, it attracted a lot of thrown rocks, and whoever swept up the shards was not very thorough. This is the "broken window" theory in action. Leave one window broken and it signals to the world that that no one cares about a place, and further vandalism and social breakdown occurs. I do not want one child getting hurt on broken glass on or from my property.

Vince reports that two weeks ago he hosed down the first vomit from in front of the greenhouse.

Nevertheless, we are both annoyed by the opinion, usually voiced by our white middle class peers, that Grant Street is getting worse. Objectively, it has more people than ever buying houses as owner-occupants, joining the neighborhood association, and opening small businesses. Our theory? People may not be consciously racist but their unconscious yardsticks are. More white faces = good. More brown faces = bad. It's a stupid, false equation and we should all know better by now.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Weed-whacking party

Here's how Vince described our accomplishments:

"We spent the afternoon cutting weeds and brush and carrying out garbage yesterday. Amazing what you can get done with a bunch of people. Cynthia's mom & eight other friends came over to work. We made three compost bins and one big pile of brush that
needs chipping. Nearly filled a 6 yard trailer with junk."

So here's a heartfelt thank you to Susan, Rob, Ryan, Ian, Babs, Camille, Walter, Rosie, and Judith! Most of the crew is shown below with New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (second from right), who inherited a sense of smell so powerful that he is able to sniff out photo ops from ten miles away. Just kidding--we invited him.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Oldest Commercial Greenhouse in Buffalo

A friend reminded me that the South Park Conservatory dates from 1901, so our humble little circa 1907 greenhouse is not the oldest greenhouse in the city, just the oldest commercial greenhouse. I am tempted to speculate that it is also the oldest commercial greenhouse in the county, since the suburban garden centers mostly opened after World War II. But there could be a similarly humble structure of the same vintage out there somewhere in rural Erie County. If you know of one, drop us a line.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

We own it

We finally closed on the greenhouse today. It took about an hour in Erie County Hall under the most hideous yellow-green fluorescent office lighting I have experienced in some time. I wonder if the clerks have Seasonal Affective Disorder year-round.

Vince went and secured the property and noticed that someone recently 'broke trail' through the weeds and found their way into the back wing of the building. How did he know? The appearance of a fresh condom on the floor. If having safe sex is the worst that trespassers have been doing, I am greatly relieved. Better that than graffiti, drinking, drugging, and vandalism.

Despite the virtual jungle in the back yard, this is very much an urban property. We have no illusions about it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Not ours yet

We went on vacation hoping that the lawyers would have ironed
out their various wrinkles but no such luck. The fence around
the greenhouse property and the actual property lines do not
coincide. So we have not yet closed on the greenhouse.

Instead, here is a quote that inspired us:

"Recall that whatever lofty things you might accomplish today,
you will do them only because you first ate something that grew
out of dirt."

--Barbara Kingsolver, "The Good Farmer," Utne Reader,
July-August 2004, p.54

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Vote on a name

We got lots of great name submissions, but could not use them all because this poll is limited to nine choices. Here are the ones we liked best.

What Should We Name It?
Grant Street Greenhouse

Grazing Bison

Winter Greens

New Herbanist

Buffalo Roots

Grant's Edible Plants

Preservation Greenhouse

Zone Five

Smart Growth

Current results

Facade pictures

So here are the pictures I took over a week ago. I gave up trying to use the Blogger-recommended photo-uploading tool called Hello. I sent and resent pictures and they never arrived. Thinking of using Hello? Don't bother. Host your pictures elsewhere.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Signed the contract!

Yesterday we signed the contract. We should close by the end of the month. Then we have a big clean-up party with pizza from John's Italian Village, a classic neighborhood Italian restaurant a block north of the greenhouse. Everyone who enjoys taking their frustrations out on innocent plants will be encouraged to attack the weeds in the back yard. There is broken glass to sweep up and rotted planting tables to tear down.

Last night we went to the Central Library and used the Sanborn maps and other Buffalo atlases to trace the uses of the parcel over time. We are 99% certain that the greenhouse is the first structure ever built there and that it was erected between 1907 and 1915. There didn't appear to be signs of nearby oil tanks or underground storage tanks.

Being a local history librarian, this is research I can do and teach in my sleep. By doing it ourselves, we saved $1500 on a Phase One Environmental Review. What we learned about these Phase One reviews (thanks, Kathleen!) is that they rely almost completely on documentary evidence, such as Sanborn maps and city directories. Geeze, there's a profitable gig for an enterprising librarian.

They don't even test the soil until Phase Two. Well, forget that, it's SuperLibrarian (tm) to the rescue. We can now proceed directly to soil tests. Considering how cavalier everyone was with the exciting new garden chemicals in the mid-20th century, this is the test that matters.

But enough about research. This blog is making me crazy! I spent all yesterday afternoon trying to upload greenhouse pictures. Blogger says you can either host your pictures elsewhere and use IMG SRC tags, or you can download this photo uploading tool called Hello.

Heck, if I wanted to write HTML, I wouldn't have used a blog with easy, pre-existing templates, I'd launch an original website. So I downloaded Hello, selected my photos, and repeatedly sent photos here to Blogger. As you can see, none arrived. Hope to have this figured out by next week, before I yank the whole thing out of frustration and restart it at a more accommodating blog provider.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Watch us grow!

We don't even officially own it yet but does that stop us from launching an online diary of the resurrection of a small, dilapidated urban greenhouse on Buffalo, NY's west side? Heck, no.

Watch for pictures of scary deteriorated things and their replacement, anecdotes about the joys of wrestling with bureaucracy, results of soil tests, and attempts to identify the mystery foliage overtaking the back yard.

The plan so far is to grow organic herbs. Do you live in Buffalo? Are you a professional chef? Stay tuned. We'll have polls about potential crops and what you'd like to have fresh and chemical-free.