Maybe Not in Manhattan

But I’m wondering if this might work in some other locales?  Parisians spearheaded an effort to beautify the no parking poles, while greening the city at the same time.  Led by Paule Kingleur of Paris Label, the POTOGREEN project recruited the help of individuals in rehabilitation facilities and 600 Parisian schoolchildren to build and fill the containers with a variety of flowers and other plants.  The care of the greenery is left to local residents, making this a truly collaborative gardening adventure.

Listening to My Garden

Wow.  Just went to my revel music garden and had a listen to my front yard.  I played the links, one right after the other and listened, just to my front yard.  That is what it sounds like.  They all have their own little, and sometimes big, voice.  Summer breeze rounding it all out at the end.  Perfect.

Listening to — I mean been reading The Secret Teachings of Plants.  I’m not influenced by that.  No, not at all.  Ha.

A. Ham

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Pushing up some not so healthy hostas…

I shot Alexander Hamilton’s final resting place earlier this year, and was impressed with the wholesome hostas surrounding him.  These wilting yellowish leaves caught my eye today and, frankly, made me feel better: if the groundskeepers of Trinity Church are having a hard time fighting the heat (or whatever it is that’s causing some cranky vegetation), maybe there’s some green left in my thumb after all.

QUESTION: it’s been posed already (thanks Ralph!) but want to put it out there again .. anyone else having a rough a growing season?  If so, what do you attribute it to?  Is the heat doing us in?  Anyone want to argue global warming’s a myth anymore?  In 100 degree weather, does it matter?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt.

Wild Edibles – Tour Highlights

I missed a Steve Brill/wild edibles tour in Prospect Park today but will try to catch one again in August.  Like most things gardening related, I imagine it requires more than once to get the hang of it and put what you’ve learned to good use.  Just one tour, like many things the first time around, can be fun and kind of thrilling, and leave you with plenty to mull over, but it gets better the more often you do it.  The Wildman, himself, warns that you shouldn’t be putting things in your mouth you aren’t certain of and that if there’s any question, better to leave it alone.  Sound advice, imho.  (I just realized that what precedes this could be misinterpreted by a certain contingent of my readership — if that’s you, get your head out of the gutter and put your hands in the dirt).

Since I missed the tour today, I thought I might finally get around to ticking off my to-do list a post that I’ve been meaning to bring you for awhile.  It’s highlights from the last tour I went on in June.  To anyone who might be considering it, I would highly recommend the tour.  Set aside about four hours and $20.00 for it — the $20.00 is just a suggested donation anyway (although I certainly suggest donating the full amount — it’s money well spent).  In addition to spending several hours wandering through gorgeous nature, meeting several very cool people, eating some yummy wild food, and beginning to learn how to identify that yummy wild food, Steve Brill is pretty entertaining and keeps the tour interesting.   He’s a funnily curmudgeonly type, eager to make kids laugh and adults chuckle with some well-practiced lines.  (One of his jokes did go amusingly awry when, drawing the listener in with an increasingly hushed voice, he delivered the punchline in a booming voice without realizing that just behind him was a baby who quickly stole his thunder by breaking into a wail that only a seriously stressed baby can deliver).  Who wouldn’t love a man who saves the corniest of jokes to ply you with as you’re eating your way through a forest.  (Yes, pun intended — and a nod to the Wildman, since this is exactly the type of groaner you might hear on one of his tours.)

If you’re not up for the stream of one-liners that are tucked into some very useful information the Wildman dispenses on the journey, you can keep your own pace (which is another thing I appreciated about the tour, and which sets it apart from most other tours).  It’s recommended you bring a whistle in the event you get separated from the others; lacking a whistle (and being laughably bad at whistling without one), I brought a harmonica but didn’t end up needing it.  There are some helpful pointers on the website and in his book Identifying and Harvesting Edible & Medicinal Plants, that helpyou prepare for a foraging tour, including, for example, spraying your clothes with insect repellent and wearing white, which repels bees – this is why beekeepers wear white – and makes ticks more visible.  The book, and I’m sure pointers from those who have gone on a tour (see QUESTION below), also help you know what to bring and how to get the most from the tour.  I brought several plastic baggies, a few hard plastic containers, and post-it notes, a pen, a notebook, and my phone for snapping pics of the plants.  I found the hard plastic containers to be pretty useless and wish I would have saved the space.  I did end up using the plastic baggies (I should have brought many more, since I ended up having to store several different plants together and if the post it at the base of them came loose, I didn’t know chickory weed from jewel weed).

The tour is popular.  I shared it with about thirty other people, ranging in age from 6 months up, representing what appeared to be a broad cross-section of Brooklyn’s population.  There were couples, a few single individuals, and a family or two.  The group gathered for a sign-in that took about twenty minutes (a long time, I know, but it involved Wildman doing a roll call, having people sign waivers, and offering for sale and/or autograph his own impressive collection of books that he’s authored and which he, equally impressively, has illustrated).  He is a self-taught both as a botanist and artist, which is especially encouraging since it can seem impossible at the outset to ever be able to master the task of distinguishing an edible plant from a deadly one.  Although he is quick to caution the eager tourists, he nonetheless makes it seem a reachable goal to sustain yourself, if need be, on a diet of wild edibles.  He also offers quick advice on how to prepare each plant he covers, some of which I’m sure are in his cookbook (which I don’t have but someday may, once I’m able to tell the difference between a chickory weed and jewel weed without to the book, and the app (“Wild Edibles”), with its “important disclaimer” that I’m pretty sure I can guess what it says, or the pack of Wild Edible cards that I picked up in the shameless promotion start of the tour (disclaimer – Wildman did say that someone else made the cards).

In addition to the specific plants we reviewed, I picked up a few tidbits that are generally good to know.  In this category:

1.  Birds are flying dinosaurs – berries are brightly colored so birds can find them and help themselves.

2.  Just about all plants have some level of toxin in them.  That toxicity is to ward off predators.  To humans, it’s only dangerous if we eat it in massive quantities that no one ever would.

3.  It’s wise to cook all mushrooms – wild, raw, or not.

Some of the plant varieties we plucked, tasted, and took home include (disclaimer – the links that follow are not from Wildman, except for the one on chickweed, but are included to show some additional sources of info on the topic): quickweed, hedgemustard, mugwort, wild cherry tree, wood sorrel, honewort/wild chervil, chickweed, … more to come …

 

QUESTION: have you ever eaten anything in the “wild” and gotten sick?  What was it?  How old were you, and did you learn your lesson?  Or do you still pop random weeds when you think no one is looking?  Go ahead .. gimme the dirt!

Tonight

Tonight on the streets of Kensington, more people, more moon than usual.  Today, in the doctor’s office in Bay Ridge, reading one of the only remaining magazines, Parenting, readers sent in sweetnesses they’d heard — Mother: goodnight, son.  Son: goodnight, moon.  Goodnight, Leiby.  Rest in peace, beautiful boy.

Everything’s a Blur

After my brief abduction by alien mushroom plant invaders last week, I’ve had quite a bit of catching up to do on household chores and other mundane duties. Although my weekends are typically waaaaay more exciting, Saturday was dedicated to laundry. On my way to pick up more clothespins from Walgreen’s, I ran into a friend in front of her usual spot on Church Avenue. A couple other regulars were gathered there to smoke and look at the day. This person and I hadn’t been in touch lately, mostly just exchanging messages on her medical condition. In one of those exchanges, she shared a bit of meaningless gossip about a mutual friend. She brought it up again Saturday and, to punctuate her point, said, “You shoulda seen the look on your face when I told you that.” I pointed out that we had been on the phone. The truth is that, were it nearly anyone else, I could have replaced “the phone” with “Facebook,” “texting,” “tweeting,” “online,” “emailing,” “messaging,” or fill in the blank with any other sort of cybermunication. The truth is also that nearly anyone else would not have been hanging on the corner having this inane conversation or patronizing the bar behind us for that matter – it’s become a bit of blight in my otherwise pretty cool hood. My friend, like the other regular clientele (and I mean the truly “regular” customers – not those who go to gawk at them), are largely technilliterate. Although it was a welcoming place when I first moved into the neighborhood, it’s known for mistreating its customers and hosting violence. It’s a blue-collar bar where the running joke, surely inspired by the age of its patrons and the attendant physical conditions of the most regular of regulars, used to do with a stool at the end of the bar that they called the dead man’s seat since anyone who sits there dies. And it’s true: anyone who sits there dies. Don’t ask me how I know this stuff. It’s my neighborhood, and I’ve been here awhile.

Back to the blurring … it’s 3:33 a.m. here, and I’ve woken up after my first online dream ever. I try to take note when I dream of someone for the first time after meeting them. It says to me I’ve incorporated something about that person or the relationship, that it’s become part of my consciousness. I can’t quite explain what I mean that this dream was “online,” or even relay the plot to the extent there was any. The dream, simply, somehow concerned itself with online existence. There was nothing fantastical or otherworldly about the dream. It was everyday ho-hum, regular old doing online stuff, but I was existing inside it .. inside “online.” It was not just passive (which is, why, I think it felt different than the few tv dreams I can remember – one, for example, I had when I was about 15 years old and in it I was in a sitcom that was popular at the time). But my activity in the dream was not particularly active either. It wasn’t like I was racing through a cyberworld as on the kids’ show Cyberchase where they have to get the bad guy before he takes over cyberspace. It wasn’t even particular to this blog. I was online, and I seemed to have no existence apart from what I was doing online.

This is, without question, a transitional time. I may have mentioned (or not) that I’m an unlikely blogger. In college, I was the last of my friends to use a computer. (That was, obviously, in an era where there was even a choice). I check the mailbox that hangs next to my front door every day, and every day there is something there I should look at. I have a checkbook, and I use it. I believe in cash, and I use it. I like the feel of a book in my hands, and most pages I view online overwhelm me. But all of that is slowly beginning to change, against my will or not. I worry about my credit card bill getting stolen from my mail. I find there’s not much use for a checkbook anymore except to pay bills or make donations; I don’t remember the last time I stood in a checkout line and wrote out a check (although I have done that in my life and I believe those of us who can say that are dwindling in number). The convenience of someone else keeping track of how I spend my money and spitting back reports of it (a la mint.com) is a temptress who may seduce me soon. As for the almighty book, my Kindle sits in my inbox (physical inbox – I do still have one of those) waiting to be fired up. And as to my self-imposed segregation from cyberspace, as of two months ago, I write a daily blog, am training my eyes to not swirl from the advertisements on every page I view online, and, for the last three years, my work has required at least nine hours a day nearly without interruption in front of a computer. And now I’m dreaming online. My suspicion is any resistance is a hopeless cause; I should probably just float on in with all the other folks. Modern irony: if there’s some cybertastrophe that destroys all that is the internet, those folks in front of the local bar who now seem to be lagging may come out smelling like roses.

I also suspect that my avid gardening this year may have metastasized from my fear of the other side. If there is an opposite of “online” it’s not offline; it’s under the line, in the ground. Although you can bring all the gadgets and advancements you want to gardening, it is at its core setting hands to earth. It’s a perfect antidote to the nine+ hours my fingers spend clacking at the plastic keyboard. I think I’m not alone in this drive to ward off media overload with my gardening. It seems everyone is doing it these days. Then again, gardening is probably no more a reaction to the fast paced internet-dominated world we live in than is any other “back to the land” trend like slow food, home brewing, the DIY craze, or any other such hippy hobby that’s seen a resurgence in popularity lately. Evidence? Just check out all the blogging on that stuff.

That’s it. I’m going back to bed. As for you?

QUESTION: do you remember your dreams? what’s the last one you had? have you ever had a cyberdream? do you have any garden dreams? is your gardening an effort to get off the keyboard and back to the land? is it to figure out how to live off the earth in the event of a cybertastrophe? Go ahead .. gimme the dirt.

Thanks MTA

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This billboard appears at the top of the stairs on the F line at Church Ave. for all the boys and girls to see before they go to school, when they go home early, when their grandma picks them up at the end of the day. The stop is at the corner of Albemarle & McDonald, in front of PS 230. I have complained by calling 311 about other explicit ads here before but was told it’s a private co., not the MTA that selects what advertisements are placed here. Let me point out this is an advertisement FOR A VIDEO GAME! Please don’t tell me that this particular ad displaying nearly-naked slutty-chick schoolgirls half-humping the legs of a thug-gy lookin’ grown dude with a cigar hangin out his mouth appearing at the corner entrance to a GRADE SCHOOL is coinkidink.

QUESTION: what’s a pissed off parent to do when society blames parents for their kids lacking respect and growing up misogynist when kids are subjected, against our will, to this blatant sexploitative pandering? Why is it up to parents limit their kids’ exposure to negative messages from media viewed at home only to walk out the door and get bombarded with this kind of crap? Why won’t the MTA do something about this? Or the school across the street? Or Something? Someone? Anyone? Out there????