It is night.  It is June.  It is late.  It is a Friday night, after 9 p.m. but before 10.  The world is wet.  The moon is uncertain.  It is neither warm, nor cold, no breeze, and not my favorite feeling of when the temperature is the same as your skin.  The weather, reposing in its usual state this month, hesitates before deciding if it wants to get torrential again.  The street feels empty for being a Brooklyn street, mid-June.  Even the children play quietly — those, like mine, from cultures or families to whom it doesn’t matter if they’re out late playing on the street.  There are a couple girls, a boy, a ball.  They’re maybe Bengali.  A mother who stays quiet, standing guard between the children and the street, right at the edge, is near to the tree.  She wears a sari, its bright colors muted by the night.  I take my dog by leash, and walk into the street, wanting to pass by them uninterrupting.  A sole car comes carelessly careening down this one way, lights bright for a quiet Friday night.  There is an opening between me and the boy, who now stands just a little past the perimeter established by the woman of authority and the sole tree.  He turns to me, wedging his way between the back of a car and a lifeless leaning motorcycle.  Facing me full on, he says in a voice taken straight from the throat of Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley, “H-e-l-l-l-o-w.”  I smile, grateful this starless night is interrupted.

Nonstop Rain

The tag line – Gardening in the Age of Armeggedon – was a tongue in cheek response to the prediction that the world was going to end May 21, 2011, which was shortly before I started this blog.  I was writing my way through the end of the world, so to speak – or write.  I continued on that vein with the upcoming supposed Mayan prediction that 2012 would mark the end.  I thought it was fitting for me to author my way through it, given my almost prescient knack for being at the right place at the right time for witnessing what I deemed turn-of-the-page events from living less than a mile from the birth of the white buffalo in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1994 to standing and watching the first tower fall on September 11, 2001, amid other less significant (but still notable) events such as standing just feet from Geraldo Rivera when he got punched in the face at a Klan/anti-Klan rally to unwittingly (and unknowingly till it was too late) sitting next to the inimitable Steve Buscemi, at the old Knitting Factory (the one in Tribeca) for a good hour one night while waiting for my friends to show.   It seems there was one other big one – or maybe it was a little big one – but I’m sure I’ll remember it after I finish this post.

In any event, the whole Armageddon thing was a little wink-wink.  — Does anyone else think of “armadillo” when you hear the word “armageddon”?  Are we on to something there? — And then I just kept writing.  And gardening.  And as I wrote and gardened, I naturally found myself paying closer attention to weather patterns and changes and consistencies in patterns.  I noticed last year, for example, that I got black soldier flies in my compost, but those are rarely seen this far north (Brooklyn).  Same with catching a glimpse of a black widow, who, as I found out, was part of a larger migration of the spider to these parts.  Other occurrences that might not effect me directly (yet) but that I started paying attention to simply as signs of these times are the invasiveness of certain plant and animal species from kudzu in the south, which I saw spreading like a green relief version of the blob across large swathes of Mississippi when I visited a friend there, to Asian carp in the Great Lakes and the Snakehead fish (not so affectionately known as Frankenfish and Fishzilla) in the northeast.  And then there are those damned onions that keep popping up in my front yard.  I have done the ritual hacking at them for the year.  Oddly (or maybe not, considering the inconsistencies and unpredictabilities these last couple gardening years have borne), even the omnipresent and irascible backyard weed that every year I have had to choke back in regular battles till summer’s end has inexplicably nearly gone into hiding, without explanation or adieu.

All of such stuff may be standard fare of gardeners over the ages.  But tonight as I lay in bed listening to the endless rain pound away at my Brooklyn roof and drown my fledgling carrots and beets out back, I thought, nah, probably not.  Probably, and more plausibly, this old Mother earth is really starting to feel our weight on her, especially the well-heeled weight of heavy hitters like Monsanto squishing its stiletto into her soggy soils.  No one company is to blame for the fact that the rain bothers me tonight more than it does most.  But it did flash into my head like a billboard for an upcoming Saturday night fight: Mother Earth v. Monsanto!  And the rain pitter-pattered, incessantly, unendingly, while I turned around, took another sip of water, and tried to will my mind away from the oddness of the rain and into a peaceful slumber.

I ended up here instead.  But it had been awhile since I’d poked my head in.  And time is marching on.  It matters that the gardeners of the world (that, as you know, is anyone who digs their fingers in the dirt with the hope to grow something) be noting these patterns, hiccups, and true deviations.  Monsanto’s not going to do it for us.  At least they’re not going to bring it to our attention if they do.

Meanwhile, I’m back after my longest hiatus yet.  And ready and raring to stare out the window till this weather dries so I can get back in the yard and get that rose bush in the ground, and put the jasmine in a container big enough to give her shelter in warmer indoor weather in the brutal months (unlike the one I had two years ago — when I was simply excited to have a jasmine plant and even more thrilled it was a perennial, all the while not realizing I had some role to play too).  For now, it’s back to my partner who (alarmingly to me given my partner’s usual eye rolling at dire suggstions) admitted that we really do need to have a more thorough preparedness kit in the house.  Not like it’s Armaggeddon or anything – my partner was quick to point out.  “The weather’s just been really weird lately.”  Yes.  It has.

Best Comment on Whether to Plant Herbs in Containers or Ground, Solo or with Company

from http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/herbs/msg051121358635.html

response to a question re whether to plant herbs alone or together, in ground or in containers (obviously I’m trying to make this decision today, and will prob. do a mix of in ground and in planters based on this)…

RE: herbs in containers vs in the ground


I was once told by an old and very experienced horticulturist that ‘God didn’t make pots, and he didn’t make houses, either!’. Which was his way of saying that neither is a natural ‘home’ for plants.

I’ve learned that he was right – up to a point. Herbs WILL grow in pots, as long as you remember that pots are high maintenance.

They need special potting mix, not garden soil which will compact down to rock-hardness very quickly. They need more water, more fertiliser and occasional repotting either to replace dead soil, or to allow the plant to spread a bit more. You see, keeping plants in pots is not unlike keeping a canary in a cage. It doesn’t have the space to spread out as far as it would do in the garden, and that means it will rarely or never get to optimum size, and it will never become truly independent of your care.

Now, my experience is that those multiple-planted pots you see in plant nurseries are very nice for gift-giving, but they are only very temporary arrangements. Plants, like people, like their own space, especially when it’s limited, and they’ll fight for it. One plant will always out-compete another over time – either by its roots choking out the others, or by more successfully accessing the water and nutrients. So it’s something I never recommend.

For a beginner, especially, you need to learn about the individual requirements of all your plants – things like room to move, sunlight, water, fertiliser etc. This is easiest to do if you have one plant per pot.

Another thing is that most beginners are surprised to learn just how BIG most herbs can get! Take a look at this picture (link below), with my rosemary in the background. It has grown considerably since the photo was taken, and gets a regular drastic haircut to keep it to manageable size in my very small garden. My basils get almost as big.

Plants have an effective way of telling you when they’re not happy. They sulk, then they die, just to spite you! Watch them, and listen to them as individuals. One might be perfectly happy in a pot (for a while), while another will hate it. One might be very comfortable on your back porch, while another might really yearn to be out in the garden doing its thing.

You’ve started off wisely by giving them large pots. The babies might look a little lost at first, but you’ll be rewarded in the end by much happier plants. Don’t force friendships between them, however – keep each plant in its own separate housing arrangements! The plant world is a very competitive one, and they fight to the death!


Here is a link that might be useful: rosemary

My California Gold

Guess what I brought back from CA? My cousin, Diane, who looks as great at 50 something as she did in pics from her 20s, has turned me on to kefir. Starting my first batch brewing now…





As her instructions note, the grains will behave differently in a new environment. To give them a kick start, I used bottled mineral water (2 c.), deleted 4 T. of white sugar and 1 T. molasses in it. Added a touch of fleur de sel for more minerality to aid the kefir’s processing of the sugars. I put that in a container, covered it with cheesecloth and will check in on it this time tomorrow.

Hello, kefir adventure!

Fellow revelers, anyone else into this stuff? Why/why not? How do you take yours? Any tips to trade? Go ahead… Gimme the dirt!

You, Me and Black Widow Spider Makes Three (hundred or more)

My partner thinks I got side track distracted. Asked me if looking up black widow spiders was on my to do list. I think it’s become an annual ritual for me, since when I started to enter “how to recognize a bl,” Google filled in the rest with “ack widow spider.” Surprised, it only took a second before I remembered the night my partner was away at a conference and I was desperately scouring the Internet for any images that might be similar to the little thing with a red dot I had caught from my kid’s bed and held captive under a water glass.

But this one was much closer to the real thing. The one from before, I finally concluded it was a harmless-enough spider that had some red markings but was much too small to be a black widow and was described by others with enough proximity to mine that I did not rush Lil Bit to the hospital.

But, as for this one. Also a probably not. But still. Maybe just a maybe not. But still. I only took the pic because the image of the spider there on the porch wall I share with my neighbors was striking. I thought it looked like a shadow and was playing camouflage (not very well) with the other shadows. But as I walked into the house, I realized it looked kind of familiar. Last time, I spent several hours analyzing spider images on the web. Tonight, I had one of those moments – like when you pass someone on the street and only recognize after it’s too late that it was Steve Buscemi. Or something like that. I knew I had seen that spider somewhere before. (No offense, Mr. Buscemi, you’re kinda kinky weird and all, and even have a bit of a spider look about you, but I would never assume you had much in common with a black widow. If you do, I don’t want to know. I like you with just the right amount of weird you have now — no more, no less).

So, although my partner thinks this is not a black widow because it doesn’t have the telltale markings, my renewed online search instructs me that the markings on the female (the more dangerous of the genders, at least twice the size of the male) are typically only on her belly. This particular spider wasn’t flashing me. Side note — c’mon, amazing wonderful Internet — isn’t there some other way to recognize the world’s deadliest spider for pete’s sake? Mcbrooklyn blogger at least points out that if you’re close enough to see the red, you’re closer than you should be. At least the NYT has a post online about how to recognize when you’ve been bitten by a black widow. Running a pic along with that article might help. Being that I couldn’t see this spider’s underbelly, I don’t know if it was or wasn’t a black widow. Apparently there was an influx of the unwanted tourist last summer. And this one was spotted by an old wood log that was deteriorating in the crook between my neighbor’s porch and my front yard — which describes precisely the environment black widows love.

After coming across one article about a woman in the U.K. who almost died by being bitten by a false widow spider, I’ve decided I’m not as fond of spiders as I once was. I used to believe they were a good omen, and even let one remain rent free in the web it wove on my patio door. But now, I’m removing my welcome mat. What’s left of that wooden log that once looked so charming in my yard (yes, I am having one of those what-was-I-thinking moments) is as good as gone. And now I’m scouring the Internet for natural spider repellants. I’ve been on a lemon kick lately (one glass of water with the juice of one lemon gets me halfway to the two glasses that I hear will kick start your metabolism and help you burn fat all day, the lazy way). So I’ve got lots of lemon rind in the fridge and freezer just waiting to be put to use. According to this WikiHow, they’ll make the perfect natural spider repellant. So, take that all you faking me out maybe being deadly predators spiders!

How about you, revelers? Any other sightings? You know how it goes … go ahead, gimme the dirt!



The End is Near

Today is the first day of my last week at work.  I file suspicious activity reports for a large bank.  Some days I feel like Bartleby the Scrivener, writing away with my only window formerly facing a brick wall.  Other days, I feel like one of those dogged and exhausted gumshoes, rooting out crime in a world overshadowed by it, in one of those shows I never watch.  But, today, as I begin to work my last Monday where I’ve spent the past six years of Mondays, I feel, well, not sure what.

I’ve known this day was coming for a solid six weeks.  I’ve known since early last year that it may be on the horizon.  And even before that, there was talk.  The job — a contract position — was supposed to last only six months.  But they liked me, and I liked them, and the work was there, and so it went.  Six years later, it is, ironically, the longest job I’ve had continuously.  For awhile I was considering taking a permanent position at the bank and was in talks but those things move slow.  Before anything was finalized, my unit (I still call it “my”) was moved to a less expensive city.  And so my job is one of many casualties of this still soft economy.  I’ve seen lots of other soldiers fall.  Some packed up and left the city.  I was invited to the less expensive city to keep doing my job, but I guess I have expensive taste.

I had a dream early this morning that I called my boss.  He was on a phone meeting, and he couldn’t hear anything but soft static on my end.  I did him the favor of hanging up.  I then picked up the phone and overhead my sister (who doesn’t work in the field) talking about filing suspicious activity reports in Ireland, and my partner (who also doesn’t do this work) on filing in Austria, and then strangers in small Middle Eastern countries, each conversation drifting off, each one a snippet I was listening in on.  I suspect I’ve been doing this work long enough it will continue to occupy some mind space even once I’m not in the day to day.  Kind of like dreaming in a foreign language when you know you’ve arrived.

It may take a bit to get out of the habit of being there every day.  In these six years, I’ve had an office on 11, 2, 29, back to 11, 7, and now 38.  Some of them had the Bartleby brick wall across from my window (except mine was the back wall of the Stock Exchange).  Others, like 38 now, have open views to all of downtown Manhattan.  From here I’ve watched the Freedom Tower rise from what was Ground Zero’s dirt crater.  Several times a week I catch the sun set, back-lighting Lady Liberty.  To exercise my eyes, I leave my computer and watch boats bobbing in the East River.  My eyes cannot scan at once all the tops of the smaller skyscrapers that pattern a hodgepodge grid extending out from each side of Wall Street at the edge of my building’s footprint.  On the other side of the building, facing west, I pass Trinity Church every day on my two-block walk to the subway that takes me to and from my home in Brooklyn.  I usually am not walking too fast to nod to the grave of Alexander Hamilton, a fellow I feel a particular kinship to, and who watched our weekly meetings for years from his portrait on the conference room wall.  As workplaces usually do, this one has become home to me.

I don’t know where I will work next or where my work will take me.  I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing something else of the world.  For now, I’m taking a break.  And I’m going to work very hard at not thinking about suspicious activity at all.  I think some seeds, a shovel, and newly composted soil will help.

And, as for this week, the beginning of the end, I’m keeping very busy, training others, finishing my work, doing all the little administrative stuff that comes with a job’s end.  And saying good-bye.  You know, the hardest part.

p.s.  After I wrote this this morning, I got an email from someone in the bank who I only recognized by name asking if I used to work on 2.  Suspicious of unexpected queries, I asked the reason.  This person, it turns out, heard I was leaving the bank and wanted to find out if I was the person she remembered, and had gotten to know from occasional conversations struck up in the elevator bank.  It was, indeed, me.  We talked like old friends.  This morning, in writing my post, I did not mention the friends I’ve made at work.  Being a contract worker, I leave without a parting monetary gift.  That comes with the territory of “temporary” work, and is something we know going into it.  It’s balanced with other benefits, some tangible and others not.  I do not mind accepting the friendships as my separation package.  They are among the best things I have.