I arrived in Charleston, South Carolina from Athens, Georgia in late July 2007. Having just left my own “plantation” of sorts, I knew that I needed to continue this tradition in my new surroundings (or go crazy being holed up in my apartment).
Unfortunately, the economy soon went into the shitter, Bill Gates himself couldn’t get a mortgage, and the thought of buying a house and land seemed like an impossible dream for anyone who didn’t have mommy & daddy’s trust fund money to support them – especially in the snooty, overpriced and overrated Charleston real estate market (where limitless Northern money joyfully meets the greedy corrupt hands of the good-old-boy blue-blooded “landed gentry” real estate developers infesting the neighborhoods of Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, and the Lower Peninsula).
While half-heartedly searching the Charleston area for juicy land deals, I also started reading about urban gardening, community gentrification projects and something I had not previously encountered: “SPIN” (Small-Plot Intensive agriculture). I was amazed to see websites depicting postage-stamp-sized urban gardens, completely self-sufficient, even to the point of paying for themselves from the produce they sold. It reminded me of the German “Kleingarten” movement, where urban dwellers rented or bought tiny plots of land outside the city limits for weekend gardening enjoyment. A friend of mine in Brooklyn, New York, even told me that a few of his neighbors had been raising chickens in the courtyard behind their brownstone!
Quite by accident, I happened upon the quarter acre of land at the corner of Joppa Avenue and Cosmopolitan Street, in the Union Heights subdivision of North Charleston. It had belonged to an old woman who passed away, and her family was apparently not interested in holding onto it. An executor appointed by Charleston County conducted the sale, and it was a fantastic bargain.
Through Spring 2008, the trash was removed, the overgrown vegetation was chopped down, and the land was basically reclaimed from the brink of Armageddon. I built fences and a shed, ran water lines, laid a driveway, and planted all manner of things (including, of course, the bananas) – slowly turning this focal point of urban blight into a ghetto garden paradise. The photo gallery shows some of this transformation.
I’ve decided to document my ongoing work (and some of the surreal neighborhood interactions I have experienced) in the form of a blog. Perhaps you might gain some inspiration, and decide to do something similar (I’d love to hear about it). If nothing else, I hope you find it amusing.