Brad Lancaster describes the strip of vegetation beside the sidewalk outside his Tucson, Arizona home as “an orchard and a pharmacy.” The desert ironwood tree has peanut flavored seeds and blooms that make a delicious salad garnish. Creosote is good for athlete’s foot. Chuparosa has a red flower that tastes like cucumber. The barrel cactus’s yellow fruit can be used for chutneys or hair conditioner. Mesquite pods make nutritious flour. And many more. Depending on the season, Lancaster gets 10 to 20 percent of his food from this sidewalk garden, and another in his yard.
Lancaster grew up in the desert outside Tucson. He and his brother often played in the sand until, one day, the suburbs of nearby Tucson engulfed his neighborhood and there was no more desert to play in. Now, he’s trying to integrate a desert playground into the city.
“We’re trying to bring the desert into the urban core. Not a survival desert or desert of scarcity, but a thrival desert of abundance,” he said.
By we, Lancaster means the Dunbar Spring neighborhood, home to about 900 people dispersed over six urban blocks in Tucson. Through rainwater harvesting, Dunbar Spring is reaping sustenance—both caloric and communal—from a landscape that others see as stingy.
Water-harvesting, traffic-calming chicane clean up party - this Saturday, August 10 at 8am. Meet at the intersection of 9th Ave and 1st Street. Bring water, pruning shears, and gloves.
We will work together to spruce up some of our streets' chicanes and circles. Brad Lancaster will show you how to identify the plants we want to keep (native wildflowers, native grasses, and good trees) and the plants we want to take out (weeds, invasive grasses, weed trees). We'll also show you how to prune and replant. We can also help provide new plants where needed.
From the article: "A year before he met Maseko, Lancaster and his brother, Rodd, brought a house in the neighborhood of Dunbar/Spring.They didn’t have a lot of choices.
Dunbar/Spring was a historic, ethnically diverse neighborhood, but one that had fallen on hard times. The first time it rained, water poured through the Lancaster’s roof. When Brad opened the door to take a look outside, it came off its hinges. Depressed, he sat down on the only perch available in the still empty house, the toilet. It fell through the floor.
In partnership with the Watershed Management Group and the Community Food Bank, students and staff from the UofA’s Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) are seeking to better understand how Tucsonans use, and would like to use, the outdoor spaces at their homes and in their neighborhoods. We also seek to better understand Tucsonans' ideas and beliefs about southwestern landscapes and what types of landscapes should be supported in our community.