Brutal Muggy

It’s the kind of day that makes you give up on things.  So many to-dos that I to-didn’t.  Like staking my cuke containers and the tomatoes out back.  Or setting my crowded beets free and giving my carrots some room to grow.  I got halfway to planting a mysterious squash that had appeared unexpectedly among my container sage – and only this by putting my neighbor friend’s kids to work (while we kicked back with coffee & tarts – this is, after all, what parenting is about, right?).  And, on the advice of a very sage fellow reveler, I finally decided I am NOT going to use those Triscuit card seeds.  They kinda freak me out.  Does anyone else think that there is probably something a tad toxic in the gum that holds the cardboard seed card together?  And hasn’t Nabisco confused most its constituents who think someone stole the seed card since it looks just like part of their cracker box?

Yes, it was that kind of day: hot, humid, with too much something in the air, making hay fever go haywire, making a person delirious, and not in the good Prince circa 1983 kind of a way.

There is the good.  I learned that the City is providing seeds and something else I imagine for garden growing in the projects, but only the old folks are doing it.  There is the bad.  There was an armed mugging just a couple blocks down from me in regular daylight (wasn’t broad but it was only 9 pm).  Then there is the ugly.

Like the duck.  This was the kind of day that makes me want to choke the duck.  There is a toy that found its way to my house within the past year.  It is a grubby-looking matted hair whitish-grayish looking duck that my dog sometimes loves and sometimes ignores.  And when you squeeze that duck at just one particularly hard to find spot on its creepy arm-like wing, it sometimes rolls its head and sings, “It ain’t gonna rain no more no more, it ain’t gonna rain no more,,,how in the heck can I wash my neck when it ain’t gonna rain no more?”  The duck seems to move itself.  I put it one place, I find it in another (and this is on days when my dog is being lazy and secluding herself on the cool comfort of the basement floor).  I heard it on level balance that even farmers lately are weirded out by the non-weather “weather” we’ve been having — that they think it’s gonna rain then it doesn’t.  That all signs say go – the animals doing their little scatter or whatever it is dance, the leaves turning upside down, then nothing.  Not a drop.  I took my clothes off the line tonight, put them in a bag, still damp, because I was CERTAIN it was gonna rain (and I, remember, grew up in rural Wisconsin –  I do like to think I know weather).   Several hours later, it still was just doing the threatening cloud looking thing in the sky, and now those clothes are back on the line.  And this duck keeps looking at me ominously, just waiting to sing.

QUESTION:  is the sky falling?  (Cuz if it is I gotta go get my clothes off the line).

Rising Food Prices: Don’t Have a Catniption – Stick That Grocery Bill Where the Sun Don’t Shine

Hi all you fellow revelers,
I had a GREAT time on the wild edibles tour in Prospect Park, Brooklyn on Saturday with Wildman Steve Brill (who, btw, prefers to be called, simply, Wildman … when you have a criminal record concerning eating dandelions, who’s gonna call you anything else?).  That aside, I also met some great folks and fellow gardeners, including Ralph, who posted this comment today.  I’m still working with the Word Press format and trying to figure out, among other things, how to not have all these great comments hidden.  Until then, I thought I’d excerpt some of it here, including some comments on culinary herbs and an inventive way to stick it  da man (and cut your grocery bill by a scallion) …
Ralph ⋅  JUNE 19, 2011 AT 10:10 AM  …. I restarted gardening a few years back starting with containers and slowly reclaimed about a third of my back yard to plant. The rest is just doing it’s own thing for now. Most of what I’ve been able to use from the yard so far is herbs. Basil, mint, scallions/ bunching onions, sage, catnip, arugula, parsley, red clover, and oregano which is still too small to use. About all I’ve used them for is to add into salads. Small strawberries which survived outside through the winter go into salads which give a nice little burst of flavor in your mouth.

The scallions I started from seeds last year came back after being outside all winter. The ones inside grew all winter long on a window sill. A few of the outside ones grew flowers this year and I got some seeds from them. A quick way to get a few growing without the seeds is buy a bunch of organic scallions in the store. Pick a bunch with the largest roots still on that look healthy. Cut the tops off so you have the roots and bulb with about an inch or two of stalk to stick out of the soil when you plant them. You can plant them close together since they grow straight up. Within a couple days you will be able to see the growth, and soon after a new shoot will appear. I use the shoots rather than pulling up the whole thing to use the bulbs. I cut the largest shoots off the ones with the most shoots and they just keep growing back. I believe that like onions they help keep bugs away too. For a dollar or so invested you can have fresh scallions for over a year.

  • Hey, thanks for posting that. There’s a lot of good information in here I’m planning on putting quickly to use. A couple follow up questions: how did you come to find out about catnip? I saw somewhere recently that humans may like it too but I never considered eating kitty food before.  Doesn’t it make them high?  You know that leads me, of course, to the question … how’s the taste on a scale of 1 to 11?  How did you decide to start growing catnip?  Is it a cat magnet? (I have a neighbor cat that likes to saunter through my herbs when my dog is either away on a date (she has a lively social life) or when she’s in the basement being lazy.  I’ve been wondering how to keep the feline away – maybe distract her with some kitty cannabis?).

    Second question: what a great idea for the scallions! Where do you do your grocery shopping? Is there a market (super or green) you’d recommend for this kind of thing?

    Last question/comment: hope you don’t mind I find this useful enough I want to share with more folks — I’m making it my daily comment and inviting some feedback on the above and the following ….

    QUESTION: what other ways do we know of to extend the usefulness of groceries purchased in a supermarket, green market, CSA, or other? In other words, does anyone have more suggestions to add to Ralph’s excellent suggestions for getting the most of your scallions? What are some other ways to keep the grocery list, bill and god-awful end of the day visits short?  Hey, maybe we could use the bill for compost!!  Think that’s soy-based dye they’re using?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!

Just Thinking Bout My Dad

and how when we were little he would lead us in raking leaves, or splitting wood, or some other way he’d show he cared about the earth and everything in it.  thanks Dad.

QUESTION: what memories do you have of you and your pops doing earthy things?

Sitespotting

Recommended for a visit:  Wild Things Rescue Nursery.

I met the gardener, Dawn Foglia, on our recent trip to Saratoga Springs.  Lovely lady, very hard-working, single mom (don’t think she would mind me mentioning that since it was one of the first things I learned), dedicated to helping spread the (good) word about native plants.  I caught her just as they were closing up shop at a local farmers market, and she was off to another event but we had some quick words and immediate camaraderie. I bought some wild ginger from her (looking forward to seeing how it grows next year – this year it’s just getting used to my ground), and just checked out her site, now trying to resist the temptation … my eyes being bigger than my garden.  So many plants, so little … *sigh*…

QUESTION: if you were allowed to grow just one plant (keeping it legal – or not), what would it be and why?

Wildman Steve Brill Makes a Surprise Appearance Here

Hey all, awhile back I mentioned my budding interest in foraging and native plants.  All the better if I can combine them together, right?  So I’ve been reading about edible and medicinal plants, and even dabbling in developing my palate in this latest greatest cuisine craze.  I’m excited to say that I plan to take the foraging tour this weekend.  I reached out to “Wildman” Steve Brill, author of the foraging guide I’m currently reading.  I thought I would post his response, since it’s particularly timely today, in light of breaking news of increasing food prices and food shortages.  Depressing as all that is, kudos to folks who are doing something about it (e.g., G-20 Ag ministers spearheading a movement for greater transparency by country of what’s being produced, what’s about to come up short, and what the heck is going on w/food prices, so that shortages can be caught sooner and the veil gets lifted on what’s really driving price increases) and a nod to more local efforts to increase food production on a local scale.   I encourage you all to join me Saturday in Prospect Park for the foraging tour….

In the meantime, words from the Wildman…[from an email from Steve Brill]

I look forward to seeing you on an upcoming foraging tour. Enjoyed reading your blog too.

Unfortunately, by buying my book from the book industry rather than getting a signed copy from my site, http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/, they got all but 6 cents of your money. Please get other books from me, or check out my app http://tinyurl.com/6zcnuna.

Elderberries have feather-compound leaves while dogwoods have simple leaves, explained in the intro section of the book and the app’s glossary. And you can always post pictures.

Happy Foraging!

“Wildman”

Ew, Gross.

20110612-103021.jpg

Since, here, we are kind of starting to drift off beyond the garden and into talking about trying to live responsibly, loosely speaking, I’ve been thinking lately about sponges. These aren’t real sponges but that’s what we pretend they are. And I know they’re filthy yet we pretend to “clean” our dishes with them. Here is the culprit, in the sink next to the dishwasher that rarely gets used because of my efforts, as I said, to try to live somewhat responsibly. That said, how responsible can it be to wash my dishes with a dirty sponge. Of course I rinse it out and squeeze it before using it each time but still I can almost feel the bacteria seeping through its pseudo-pores. My partner keeps a dish of soapy water next to the sink and uses that instead of wasting loads of water each time we need to clean dished. Even with that, I’m sure there’s bacteria that accumulates there as well. I used to put a drop of bleach in it to ward off the little bastards but now that I’m getting into the living somewhat responsibly, the thought of bleach, the plastic it comes in and all its nasty chemicals makes me shudder.

I’ve been on this earth, let’s just say, awhile now. And one of the things that continues to stump me is ….

QUESTION: what tis the best way to clean dishes (in a way that isn’t really just a foolhardy practice of moving germs around), without using nasty chemicals or wasting water? Also, does dish soap really do any dish or anyone else any good? Is a dish soap that’s marketed as an eco-friendly one either eco-friendly or effective? Go ahead (even though I’m sure there’s plenty already on my dishes) … Gimme the dirt!

What I’m Growing

It occurred to me I hadn’t shared with you what it is I actually put into the ground.  So here goes, by category, only edibles:

TREES/BUSHES:

  • peach tree
  • cherry tree
  • elderberry bushes (almost certain not dogwoods now)
  • Meyer lemon tree (in a container)
VEGETABLES:
  • tomatoes, four plant, purchased at a Saratoga Springs farmers’ market, all heirloom
  • cucumbers, eight plants, don’t remember where I purchased these but I think it may have been Shannon’s
  • pumpkins, from seeds, picked up at a restaurant in New Haven, CT, when we went to see my friend, Bill Demerit, who’s studying theater there.  I planted these and they shot right up.  I now have six plants (confirm).  Unfortunately, these are more the jack-o-lantern variety, but I figure they will give some nice color to the garden late in the season.
  • wild ginger, three plants, purchased from the farmers market in Saratoga Springs from a woman who was the only one with a plethora of native plants
  • carrots, multiple.  These are from seeds, which I didn’t really think would take off, since I’ve had difficulty growing carrots from seeds before but that was straight in the ground.  These are growing in a wooden box (like an apple crate) that I used to have hops from Six-Point brewery growing in (ever want to check out some good looking hops, pay them a visit by going to Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook – on the upstairs terrace, they usually have hops growing there).
  • beets, multiple.  These are also from seeds and, again, I planted more than I need, thinking they might not come up for the same reason – I’ve tried planting them from seed in the ground before with no luck.  In contrast, these little seeds [brand], which I put into the small plastic starter containers you get new plants in [name?] sprung right up.  I now have the dilemma of where to make their seasonal home.
  • jalapeno peppers.  These I picked up in a set of three starter plants from Shannon’s.  I had good luck with these plants last year and wanted to try it again.  I have them in a different location (south-facing upstairs terrace) than my north-facing backyard where they were before.  We’ll see if it matters.  They are in a couple planters with some other hot peppers (another jalapeno and cayenne, I believe) that I tried to maintain indoors over the winter but I’m not sure they’re actually going to produce again since they’ve remained essentially unchanged from last fall when I brought them in.
  • new addition: green beans (these seeds just went in the ground from my very most awesome neighbor friend, who is also growing green beans & sweet peas in a self-watering container)
HERBS:
  • sage
  • thyme (three types)
  • rosemary (not doing so great)
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • mountain mint (got this from the Grand Army Plaza farmers market)
  • (will be growing: basil from the Triscuit box seed card & dill from same)
QUESTION:  what grows in your garden? Who’s happy this season?  Who’s not?

Oh Yes Friday Din Din

Thank you, farmers, real farmers, for bringing me truly really good food to cook and devour. I made dinner tonight (broccoli rabe & white bean penne) to the silky sultry tune of Krystal Warren, beautiful summer breeze traipsing in, and made a magnificent (yes I do say so myself) broccoli rabe w/white bean penne. Taking it easy this Friday night, kicking back with a glass of wine that found its way with a dear friend here last week to celebrate. A little exhausted from the week now behind us, I am nonetheless buzzing w/all I want to catch up with you on, including what Ted Danson has been doing lately with Oceana.org, and what precisely is aquaculture, and how my little rosebush thanked me for clipping its mildewy leaves and presented two happy flowers this morning, and new uses I’ve found for those pesky wild onions, and what’s growing out there in my still-just-a-baby native plant garden, and all these things and more to come, to come. For now, for you … a

QUESTION: what is one of your favorite ways to spend a Friday night in the summer, and ease (or jolt, depending on your fancy & frequency) into a summer weekend? Feel free to illustrate.  Oh, and now an interlude on our featured artist, just for your

LISTENING PLEASURE … (p.s. I just realized how hard it is to find this song online – Krystle Warren’s “I’ve Seen Days” from her album Diary … copyright stuff I’m guessing b/c it was removed from YouTube from what I can tell.  But the song itself is gorgeous.  Sorry I couldn’t find more than the little clip I’m linking you to here.  I saw her years ago at A Gathering of the Tribes in the LES.  Have it on video.  If anyone has news, post here.  A gem, she is indeed.

blogging resumed …

Also, so we can all be planning, what are some events coming up these sweet summer weekends that you are looking forward to? Invite guests! Send links! Let all the revelers jump in the partay. And, as always, … go ahead, gimme the dirt!

Ants on my Peonies

NPR did a piece on memories that resonated with me.  It reports that some of earliest childhood memories are basically wiped out, and considers why that may be.  What came to me immediately is that it is because we have no framework at that age in which to “set” our memories.  Everything is new, and mostly stunning.  (I do remember someone saying if you want to imagine what it’s like to be a young child, just imagine that you are visiting a new country everyday, with all new sights, smells and sounds, and some days it’s several countries in a day).

In other words, memories are stronger that have some association or connection, be it with words, emotions, or the general framework in which we view the world and ourselves in relation to it.  Memories set better once a person has a world view; and very young children have no such world view as yet – bless those little free darlin’s!.  Theirs is a world primarily of experience, and only secondarily of the organizing, compartmentalizing, and identifying patterns in and of the experiences they have.  I think it’s essentially the same reason many people have a hard time remembering their dreams: the dream images/subject are not set in a familiar framework from which we can recall them.  They tend to be random, abstract, separated from our everyday framework, yet still connected enough to “reality” that usually they are remembered in bits and pieces.  This may be the same reason that unusual experiences are easily remembered when those experiences occur when we are adults: we remember them as striking for what they are not – they are not are usual, everyday experiences (or part of our regular framework).

All this reminded me of one of my early, among the earliest, childhood memories.  I am standing outside our house, at the side of the house on Newfield Drive (yes, literally, isn’t that so literal?), staring eye to …  I don’t know what – not quite eye – with this ball of pink, tightly wound, … I have a hard time describing it, realizing only now that it’s a visual I have never tried to put into words … I have looked for this flower years later and believe it to be a peony.  Back then, there were a bunch of them at the side of the house.  It was a flower bush, but I watched only one little about-to-burst bulb.  It was swarming with ants, little busy ants.  They were light orange, each going every which way in no clear pattern, no matter how much I tried to find one.  It was fascinating.  I like the feeling even now just to think about it.  I visited that flower a lot.  I know if I were running a full circle around the house, I could stop, and stare at it.  It was right outside my parents’ bedroom.  I felt like it was mine.  Not mine, as in my owning it but mine as in — there for me to see.

I have a vague recollection of flower petals replacing that tightly wound bud where the ants crawled, but it’s vague at best.  Maybe I lost interest then.  Mostly, I remember those ants crawling.  So busy.  Going nowhere in particular.  I liked that a lot.

I also remember inadvertently being locked out in winter and having to use the bushes and my bottom being really cold.

I think I know why I like summer better.

QUESTION: do you remember the first time you came in contact with the earth, recognizing it as separate from you, and perhaps part of something else?  What is your earliest memory?

Do you remember the first time you saw and/or recognized a plant or other flower? Did you garden as a kid?  Did your parents?  Do you remember it?  Did you like it or was it a chore?

Do you know any particular flower that attracts ants like that?  Are they peonies?

Go ahead … gimme the dirt.