New Week New People

Another week and some progress to report.

Last night (23rd September) Taylor and I met Mami, a very nice young Japanese woman. She seemed taken with our ideas and proposals.  She is skilled in woodwork, and her brother is building his own house. He sounds like someone we should meet as well. Could be that two will become three.  Still trying to get our core skills group together at this point.

Brandon Pitcher, one of our advisors, is getting me the contact details for a lady in Chicago who is the brains behind a rooftop farm on top of a restaurant. Brandon was telling me that it’s the first certified organic rooftop farm in North America.  I think that’s some indication of how new this all is. I look forward to having a dialogue with her.

Brandon is also recommending I email someone called Neal Bennett. I googled the name, wouldn’t we all, and it turns out he’s an environmental scientist with Butler, Fairman and Seufert in Indiana. Sounds high powered and expensive. I would hate to be a burden, but maybe I wouldn’t be. We’re in the same boat after all. Our life support systems are connected.

Additionally, I exchanged e-mails with Flavio Souza over at and he’s now asking around for people who have a roof.  He wrote to me that he knew someone with an unused and unsellable bathtub. Sounds like a fish tank to me.  Problem is that it’s over in someplace called Sagamiko in Kanagawa, which apparently is a fair old distance from downtown Tokyo. So we need to arrange transport. On the other hand we do need to have the roof first or it would be like putting the baby before the bathwater if you’ll pardon the pun.

Like most people he was asking about the weight issue, and this is a highly relevant question to ask. The simple answer is neither Taylor or I know anything about weight limits on structures and so we need to get a structural engineer or architect on the team. It occurs to me that the question is not merely how much weight, but how is it distributed. Wondering if there’s ways to spread the weight of heavy items over a greater area of roof? On that note Marion Stewart over at:

…suggests “Spreading the load over a wide area using wooden slats, brackets and hooks to take the weight of hanging pots or baskets”. This makes sense to me, but it’s just something else I have to research in order to incorporate it into the system. Wooden slats sounds like something that Mami would know how to put together.

Gerry Gillespie over at Zero Waste I nternational Alliance (ZWIA) sent me a note saying he was glad to hear I’d started my own group.  It’s early days yet being just Taylor and me, but as the Joker says in the Dark Knight

“Now, our operation is small, but there’s a lot of potential for “aggressive” expansion. So, which one of you fine gentlemen would like to join our team?”

I’m hoping that I don’t have to use a very sharp broken pool cue to prove my points.

Gerry was telling me there’s a conference with a video uplink happening in November. I need to sign up for that.  ZWIA and another group the Asian Network of Organic Recyclers (ANOR) are fine upstanding organizations, full of people committed to taking better care of the planet.

David Baird, a fellow teacher here in Tokyo, knows someone in the Tokyo Municipal Government. It could be we could talk to him and see about waste streams. People who have to deal with it on a day to day basis would be excellent sources of information on where the waste flows freely and where it needs to be dealt with.  I need to get in contact with David again. Could be we find a waste stream we find roof, if we can convince the waste streamers that we can help.

In Tokyo the other people orbiting around the Taylor-Ian binary star, shedding our light in a very dark and forbidding universe, include Sebastian (a German with a sense of humor, yeah I know) and Micah (an American). They’re orbiting pretty far out at the moment, truly dark satellites, but are both clever and creative people. They’re up for a drink a lot of the time. Taylor and I need to get something started pretty soonish or everyone will think that we’re all talk and no action. I would hate for that to happen.

Yesterday I learned that if you feed biochar to pigs the biochar gets mixed with the manure and so can be applied to soils more easily. I also learned that it cuts down on flatulence in farm animals.  Sounds like a double whammy for Greenhouse Gas Reduction. Now if only people could get me to stop talking about this stuff I might qualify for carbon credits.



  1. Jim said,

    September 25, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Ian, congrats on the blog. Rooftop garden in Tokyo…cool!

    You may want to try a minature barrelponics or urban aquaculture system at first. I personally trend toward urban aquaponics because the system is less complex.

    Nestle the system in a small 3 M X 3 M rooftop greenhouse setting with a southern exposure….you could easily build such a greenhouse out of pvc pipe or metal conduit and plastic sheeting which could all likely be recyled.

    I’d also find a great large sheet of bubble wrap to throw over everything on those cold Tokyo nights.

    I am sure you could set something like this on a small scale quite fast and have it up and operating before cold weather sets in…just to look at the feasibility of what works and what doesn’t (some things won’t) in your microclimate.

    Fungus…what exotic fungus will be included in your biological menagerie?

    I look forward to learning more.

    All for now…

  2. September 25, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Hi Jim,

    Funny you should mention this..

    One thing we’re looking at is Aspergillus Niger, a black mold, since this appears to be connected with the production of Terra Preta. Dr. Bruno Glazer, a scientist studying how terra preta soils regrow themselves is studying this. I’d like to be in a position to help him out.

    Scientists tend not to have too many resources and if we get this going we’ll have hundreds of plant pots to try out this idea or that idea. I have to find out if the earthworm which seemingly stirs the pot in terra preta creation can be imported into Japan from Brazil.

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