Mouse Time

It’s that time of year, when mice go rooting around for greener pastures indoors.  After doing a couple of quick searches and my own recon, I’ve found the following as a winning combination of non-toxic (at least not the toxic-est of toxics) for keeping the mice at bay.

1) Repel vs. Kill – I go for repel.  It’s better to keep the mice away than just kill them off because where there was one, there will be others.  Mice aren’t like people in this regard.  If we repeatedly see our own kind slain in the same spot repeatedly, we typically will steer clear.  Mice, on the other hand, will just swoop right in where their brethren met their demise.  So, instead of focusing your efforts on a losing battle, I suggest trying to make your abode the least inviting one around.  Send the mice to your neighbors; hopefully they’re doing the same thing and eventually the little creatures will get the hint and check out some other blocks in your hood.

2) How to Repel – Mice do not like the following scents, and will steer clear if you keep these scents fresh and plenty:

a.  Cloves & Cayenne.  I first tried the cayenne, straight out of the shaker and into a small porcelain bowl (more of a ramekin), and set it under the sink near the dog food (which I transferred into an airtight container instead of just a pretty tight container) and the compost scraps (if you can handle keeping them in your freezer, that’s best but it’s pretty valuable real estate so we opt for a plastic container with tight sealing lid placed under the sink – no wonder mice had found their wonderland, right?).  After I had wiped down and bleached this cupboard, and removed or transferred anything that might be seen as trappings of a mouse hotel, I went to the store (Foodtown) and bought my other artillery (see below).  When I came back, the white Ikea fiberboard (nothing but fancy for me) that I had scrubbed spotless was now dotted with a trail of perfectly nuggety mouse turds.  So, cayenne alone does not work.  I then remembered what exactly you are supposed to do if you want to make spice fragrant so I threw some cayenne in a pan, along with the cloves I’d just got at Foodtown (returning the tiny bottle at $4.25 for the bigger bottle at $2.50 as soon as I came across it – lucky for us Thanksgiving is around the corner, and you should be able to find these mouse repelling spices on a tacky rack display at the end of any given aisle at your local grocer).  I put the newly fragrant whole cloves and cayenne in a couple of ramekins and placed each in a corner of the cupboard where the mice were most likely to be making their entrance.  This seemed, or truly has been, a success – at least in combination with a few other efforts listed below.

b.  Bounce Fabric Sheets.  Here is where the mice and I have something in common.  I can’t stand them either but I went to Foodtown yesterday and took advantage of the special (two boxes for $5.00, which means I probably could have gotten just one for $2.50, but now I have one to spare to keep the critters away).  I stuck these in various crevices where I thought mice might be making their way in – between gaps in cupboards and between the stove and underneath the microwave, etc.  I don’t know if it needs to be Bounce per se or the generic will do – just make sure you don’t get anything fragrance free, of course.  I went ahead and got Bounce because I don’t use fabric dryer sheets and if they didn’t work because they’re generic then I’d be SOL because I certainly wouldn’t be using them for anything else.  Buying fabric dryer sheets is, to me, like buying Hallmark cards on one of the many “holidays” Hallmark created.  It’s spending money on a fabricated (yes, intended) problem.  When I got together with my current partner who doesn’t use fabric dryer sheets and never has, I was reminded why I got together with my current partner and followed suit.

c.  Peppermint (maybe).  I haven’t tried this one yet (since my neighborhood is gentrifying but not so gentrified that the nearest grocery store carries Dr. Bronner’s – it doesn’t).  But given my aversion to Bounce and ammonia, this will likely be added to my cache of tricks and treats for the little critters.  Or not.  Just did a quick search and found mixed reviews about the efficacy of peppermint oil – some are saying use oil and not the extract, which is likely a la Dr. Bronner’s.

d.  Ammonia.   Word on the street is that ammonia to mice smells like the pee of their predators.  Mice love the stove top, which really is the creepiest thing to me about them.  I got a Home and Garden Sprayer bought cheap and made by mentally and physically challenged people in Michigan (seriously – they’re by Sprayco in Detroit, MI – support them and you’re supporting real work for the seriously marginalized in a locale that needs the dollars, also it’s a U.S. based family owned company that’s been around since the 1980s and its parent corp. started over 100 years ago – this is the kind of company I like).  I filled it half full with ammonia, the rest with water, and I’m keeping it near the stove to spray frequently and liberally.  Now, back to (or still on) toxicity, I’m really not sure which is more toxic – ammonia or Bounce.  I’m seriously skeptic about what is going in processed/manufactured products — foodstuffs and others — these days.  Yesterday in Foodtown, I couldn’t find good old fashioned steel wool pads, Brillo or otherwise, without them being doused in soap and bragging from box to box about how each had more soap than the other.  Seriously, there were about five different styles, none of them soap free.  (This is a different soap box topic – yes, intended – but I think sabon is way overrated, and the world would be a better place without it – and I’m no hippy dippy, free love, tree hugging, dirty hippy type although I probably admittedly have put my arms around a tree or two when no one was looking).  All of which brings me to my last suggestion…

e.  Steel Wool.  This is a variation on scent/rodent repellant.  It’s a barrier – mice cannot (or at least are not supposed to be able to) chew through steel wool.  If you find that your little critters are chewing through this barrier, you may want to check out whether you’ve got mice or their more notorious cousin with the long tail.  And if that’s your issue, you’ll need to check out a different site, one from a blogger who’s braver than me because if that were the problem, my list would be short and sweet, and consist only of a number for pest control.  Other barriers that should work are aluminum foil (some say if mice step on this and hear it, it freaks them out because they think it’s the sound of another predator – Brooklyn mice are way too wizened for that, I suspect).  Also, aluminum foil ain’t cheap, so it’s not really high on my list of recommendations.

3) And, in case repelling doesn’t work…

Good luck getting rid of the little beasties.  I did set up a couple traps just as back-up.  Animal cruelty?  Maybe.  But I also stomp any indoor centipede I meet, and don’t have the patience to shoo a mosquito or fly out the door.  Since I am just as willing to hurt any other unwanted visitor to my house, I don’t feel too bad about it.

The Storms: Death and Destruction, Help, Hope and Recovery

While counts of the toll the two storms that hit the northeast in recent weeks continue toward a final tally, people of the area busy themselves donating to others still in need, waiting in gas lines, resuming (or trying) semblances of normal in their work and personal lives, while others wait for electricity and struggle to stay warm. 400,865 homes in the eastern U.S. remain without power as of yesterday.  The least fortunate of us trudge the long uphill road of grieving lost loved ones. For those, the pain will last long past the clean up crews and news media. For those, the recovery never really ends. The death toll of victims in the U.S. has reached 120. At last count, it was close to 70 victims in the Caribbean, hitting Haiti (52 fatalities) the hardest.

Flashes of hope of the basic compassion of humanity are present in the vast relief efforts underway. From local long-standing businesses such as Two Boots Brooklyn, organizing food and clothing drives, to the new and innovative Mealku, making sure those who have lost much are receiving home cooked meals. And of course there are so many others lending a hand and organizing volunteers: Red Cross, NYC Mayors office, New York Cares, Congregation Beth Elohim, Occupy Sandy, the Humane Society (leading pet search and rescue efforts), Staten Island Recovers, and of course The Salvation Army. If you are donating, please remember the victims in Haiti, whose suffering is all that much greater given its extremely impoverished state and particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and global warming. Please consider contributing to groups such as Direct Relief and International Medical Corps and Americares.

Most everyone I know is in some way in the trenches, whether by helping a family member or hard hit local business (like Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook – my friend, part owner, was there with a pump before realizing the task ahead was too great — he was able to keep himself safe but the bar/restaurant itself has suffered serious damage). (Please check out this NYT blog post if your small business was affected by the storm).  Others are rolling up their sleeves and coming from our of state to see what help still needs to be done. At Greenwood Cemetery, they’re busy removing the 150 trees that were destroyed during the storm, and restoring many broken monuments. Donations for that restoration are being accepted online.

Please let us know of other disaster relief efforts you are supporting, what people can do to help, and any useful links you may have. In the wake of so much destruction, the helping hands of others is the real source of recovery.



























Keeping It Green

Maybe I was a little harsh.  My last report on my bi-weekly CSA pick up pointed out the meagerness of some of the offerings.  I’ve been noting all summer the harsh effects of climate change (f/k/a global warming) on home gardeners across the country.  According to an email that I received this week, re-posted below, we are not alone.  Larger local growers, as well, have felt the impact of unpredictable weather this season, which has run the gamut from drought to flooding, and has resulted in various pests brought in on the winds of Irene, blight, rot, increased sick days and low worker morale.  I just wanted to take a minute to say that I do try to give a fair and accurate picture of this – my first – CSA experience, but it doesn’t always capture the whole picture.  This is why I have invited others to tell me their stories, share their experiences, suggest additional alternasources, and, now, why I am forwarding the (very thoughtful) message I received a couple days ago from the organizers of my CSA and the farmers who grow some of the pretty awesome food I’ve been eating this summer.

Recently at a farmers market in Fort Greene, I saw signs from GrowNYC calling for donations to help organic/local farmers whose crops were damaged or wiped out by Hurricane Irene.  Their efforts are still underway.  One of their suggestions for how to help, in addition to direct donations, is to commit to eat locally as much as possible in September (the “locavore challenge”).  I’m encouraging all of you/us to continue this commitment through the end of the year, since it will take more than a month’s effort to help the farmers recover losses from a season screwed up by the environmental mess that we’re in.  Please share your stories here and beyond about what you are doing to participate in an extended locavore challenge (if the Occupy Wall Street protesters aim to make it through the winter, so can we).  Updates ahead on ways I’ve been putting my CSA treats to work.  Please pass along your recipes, suggestions, etc., on where/what/how to advance the local-eating agenda.

Here’s the email….

Chris and Eve have sent an update about the difficulties they’ve experienced this growing season, which I’ve shared below. We’ll be sending everyone an end-of-season survey later on, but if you have any feedback to pass on to the farmer before then, feel free to email the core group at


On behalf of the KWT CSA core group

From the farmers:

This has been a challenging last couple of months and although we were not wiped out by the hurricane the amount of rain has been a huge issue affecting the quality of many crops.  Not just with organic growers, as conventional farmers in the northeast are experiencing similar challenges and losses.

Under the circumstance we try to stay optimistic about the situation. All seasons are different and rarely are they void of conditions at some time that will have an impact on quality, quantity or diversity.    Farms in the northeast can be impacted by one or more problems like pests, drought, disease, flooding or other issues  outside of the farmers control.   Other farms even 100 miles away may have a totally different growing experience in a season.

I met with Cornell cooperative extension today to seek professional help (as I do throughout the season) regarding three different crop disease issues  and one pest issue tied directly to the wet weather.  They believed the steps that we had taken were sound and accurate given the tools we have under the national organic standards.  I also learned about the vast damage and loss of  crops in our region to conventional farmers who can use chemicals as a tool.  That didn’t make me feel better; I just wished conditions were better.

In conclusion, we are disappointed that we were struck with tomato blight this year,  that we have received almost double our annual rainfall total (most of which in the last month and a half),  that we were hit with damaging hurricane winds and pests and insects that were transported with winds.  What does this mean for crops:

Cracking and rotting of root crops like sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes and carrots.  Tomato quality and loss due to blight which kills the plant and cracking and rotting due to excessive rain.  This means we have to throw out a lot of produce.  Heavy rain and pooling of water leads to leaf disease on all kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, beans beets and many more.  In extreme cases plant roots can suffocate leading to the plant wilting to the ground.  That has happened to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts.  Seedlings that wilt off or get damaged by heavy winds and pounding rains.  Seeding schedules get thrown off because the ground is too wet to work.  Cultivation and weeding schedules are difficult to maintain.  Farm help doesn’t want to work and morale is affected and sick days increase.

These are some of the issues that are a result of the extreme weather we are experiencing.  We don’t like some of the challenges it has created and we feel grateful that it wasn’t worse for us and our csa members.


QUESTION: And you?  What will you do to keep it green?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!


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.

Couldn’t Armageddon Have Come and Taken Leiby Kletzky’s Killer?

It being a Wednesday, when I typically get a little extra time to garden, I was going to regale you all with my recent successes growing big vegetables and bountiful flowers.  On a day like today, though, in my usually quiet and relatively peaceful corner slice of Kensington, Brooklyn, it feels like nothing can be right or good or wholesome anymore.  Two days ago, apparently on his first walk alone in the world – a walk that was supposed to be a mere three blocks from where he’d spent the day to the home of his loving family, Leiby Kletzky (8 or 9 years old, by different accounts, the only boy in a family of five children) instead got turned around and somehow fell into the hands of what can only be thought to be a psychotic murderer.  The man accused of killing Kletzky is Levi Aron (35 years old today, a divorced and, not that it matters, childless man), who worked as a clerk at Empire Hardware on McDonald Ave. between Cortelyou and Avenue C.  He’s from Memphis originally.  He looks familiar.  They both do.  I’ve probably seen them in the neighborhood before.  Aron doesn’t look like a killer, unless you look closely at his eyes and know what we suspect we know now.  Those who purport to have known him say he was a loner and maybe a little weird but, as these stories always seem to go, he was generally quiet, kept to himself, and no one ever thought he would do something like this.

Leiby’s remains reportedly were found in Aron’s apartment and another location where Aron reportedly disposed of them.  The gruesome details are already available elsewhere.  I don’t know that I could stomach repeating them here.  For those not yet familiar with the story, it is worth recounting some of what preceded Kletzky’s abduction and Aron’s capture, in case there is anything at all that may be learned from this unthinkable tragedy.  According to the articles I’ve read and what I’ve heard in the neighborhood since yesterday about this time when helicopters began buzzing above us, Keltzky was snatched on 18th Ave., near Dahill Rd., in Boro Park, a neighborhood that meets my own neighborhood of Kensington at the end of the block where I live.  According to reports, the boy had just a few blocks to walk from summer day camp at 12th Avenue and 44th St., for the first time on his own after much pleading with his parents and a note from them granting him permission.  It is said he got lost on what was supposed to be the three-block walk home, and Aron, a random stranger on the street, was who he happened to ask for directions.  Surveillance cameras from the surrounding area and records from a dentist’s office where Aron appeared on Monday to pay someone’s bill helped track down the suspected killer.  Although some of the earliest reports of his capture mentioned two other people who were staying with Aron and who were also being held for questioning in connection with the murder, more recent reports have not mentioned them.  As of approximately 4 p.m. today, the two blocks where Aron is said to reside (in an upper level of a house owned by his parents), which is also believed to be the site of Kletky’s murder, were blocked off by police, with various media vans swarming the area, and clusters of Hassidic community members quietly milling about, standing close to each other and their children.

Boro Park is a tight-knit, primarily Hassidic neighborhood.  Although I’ve lived just next door for more than ten years, it’s also inexplicably an easy place in which to get a little lost, or turned around at least.  Looking at a map, the streets seem well-organized and reasonably arranged.  And I’m not one to easily lose my sense of direction but I have, in the same area where Kletzky lived and on the same streets where he found himself turned around.  Boro Park seems to me to be a place out of time.  Traffic is minimal off the main streets, and groups of people walk together, women with children and boys among the men.  I usually see the mothers in pairs, in their wigs and long skirts in the middle of summer, with a gaggle of children around them.  The men stride ahead wearing big hats, and white socks to their knees.  Odd birds, they all seem, from afar .. pleasant enough though never particularly friendly.  I had a friend, years ago, who lived with me for a summer and found himself drawn to their community.  He came from a non-Orthodox Jewish family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and sought to learn more about the faith from them, who he viewed as religious purists.  To my surprise, the Hassids welcomed him in.  He began wearing his yarmulka with pride, and spent evenings with them engaged in their rituals, listening avidly as they spoke in thick accents of what I will never know.  They wanted him to live there with them, and to marry one of their own.  He began singing their songs, and praying, really praying.  He would rock back and forth, “davening.”  But when he said it, it came out like “dovening.”  The name was peculiar and attractive to me … like the noun peace turned into a bird and a prayer in one spiritual swoop.  They never welcomed me in.  I’m not Jewish, and didn’t ever express an interest in being anything more than a person passing through their streets to find some store or location inside, get what I needed, and get out.  His experience, however, helped me understand that what I perceived as their exclusivity was not a slight against me or any of my non-Jewish friends and neighbors.  It’s just their way.

One of the first questions posed by my neighbor friend (a white woman) with young boys of her own was who the killer was — meaning what race/religion.  Was it racially motivated?  Was he Arab or white?  The question struck me as odd.  But, then, talking to another neighbor friend (a white man), he said he had asked his girlfriend (a black woman) the same thing when she told him they’d found the boy (he’s been around longer than I have — he didn’t have to ask whether they found him alive).  Like me, she was surprised by his question … pausing to determine whether there was reason to be offended.  He said that if he was Arab, all hell would break loose here.  Nearly as much as Boro Park – where the boy lived – is a Jewish community, its neighbor, Kensington – where the boy died – is heavily Muslim, with a stark increase in its Pakistani and Bangladeshi residents seen in the past ten years.  One of the 9/11 terrorists drank at the corner bar I’ve mentioned.  When I saw his picture in the paper, he looked familiar to me, and I vaguely recalled seeing him there.  When my religion-seeking Jewish friend called from Wisconsin after 911, he left a message, “Hello, Kensington West Bank?”  Yes, although it really doesn’t matter one shit’s wit to the boy’s family, it is better the killer was also Jewish.  Better to know that madness and tragedy know no distinction in race, creed, or kind.  Better to know that, no matter how safe and sequestered a neighborhood feels, you can’t trust anymore that it is.

As I listen to the helicopters that continue to circle overhead, I’m still astounded by how quickly all this took place.  Kletzky went missing on Monday.  Posters were up all over the neighborhood by yesterday.  The copters were heard so loud it was hard to sleep last night.  Now the articles say that the FBI, the local Hassidic law enforcement (Shomrim — it’s not technically law enforcement but for those of us who live here, effectively, it is), and the New York City police department worked together to capture the suspect.  I’ve heard some grumbling that if it were anyone else, they’d have to wait the requisite 72 hours before a missing persons report could be filed and police would react (but that since it happened in the politically influential Jewish community, the case got special treatment).  Now police commissioner Kelly is saying that the suspect saw the massive search for the boy and panicked, and killed him.  All of this strikes me as a bit absurd.  I hope it’s not true that anyone else would not get the same prompt attention that Keltzky’s family got.  I’m also not sure where the Commissioner is coming from when he basically puts himself into the mind of the killer (or gives credence to what the suspect has said), and suggests that a community’s efforts to locate a missing child led to that child’s death (that he “panicked” because of it).

My condolences to the family.  Please pray for them — that they be able to survive this.  I’m sure it doesn’t matter to what god, goddess, universe, fate or feeling you pray.  If you have that feeling, please do it, since it may be all that we can do.

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 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.

Diggin the Dirt on Flowers

Fellow revelers, help me out with the following question that was posed:

What types of flowers are the readers out there growing? I’ve almost ignored flowers since I started my renewed interest in the garden. I have a few calendulas (pot marigolds) growing in a small pot, and a handful of neglected bulbs in the ground along one fence which keep coming back year after year. Any ideas on some nice flowers to grow?

As for me, in the front yard I have my famous day lilies from Wisconsin alternating with the hostas (which bloom every year now that they’ve matured – this is one of the things that I very much love about hostas, which can otherwise seem kinda bland).  Again behind the front row of flowers/hostas, I have some white small flowers whose name I cannot remember.  I want to say nasturtium but I know that’s not it (anyone who can take a peek at my photo here, and help me out, please do).  The native plant garden is just behind that, with a black-eyed susan that’s now giving me plenty of blooms.  I love having this in my yard.  It reminds me of the Replacements song, I Saw Susan Dancing in the Rain.  I think next year I may grow daisies just b/c of Prince’s song that has the line in it: I’m blinded by the daisies in your yard…

Onto the steps, where I have zinnias, three pots for each of three of my favorite people.  In the backyard I have begonias, and upstairs petunias so I can sing the song, “I’m a lonely little petunia in an onion patch, an onion patch, an onion patch…and all I do is cry .. boohoo boohoo.”

A few days ago I bought some bulbs at Home Depot because they were 75% off, and they looked pretty.  Hard to resist.  I’m planning on keeping them for next spring, though I’m not sure how well they keep (I’m assuming there will be no problem with them but have no experience to go on here).  They’re gladiolas and dutch irises (LOVE the smell of these).  A friend, many moons back, gave me crocus bulbs but it was in my pre-garden days and I never did get them in the ground.  I may get some next year; these would be inspired by the Joni Mitchell song about having crocuses to bring to school tomorrow…

QUESTION: Has anyone else’s garden been inspired by a song? Any recommendations for any particular flowers?  I used to keep marigolds around some of my vegetable plants but haven’t needed them this year.

This Week My Honey”s Lavender

Ah, New York, my sweet.  What’s not to love?

My partner started making ice cream this summer (poor me, right?).  The first stash from the CSA had some lovely lavender that constituted the flowers portion of our pick up.  All I had to do was stick it in the fridge instead of a vase, and the next thing I knew, voila, dessert!  This last visit to the CSA landed me some gorgeous deep purple blueberries now in the icebox waiting for the fairy dairymother to whisk them away.  So many reason to love New York this week.

But with some good news comes some bad.  Heard in the media-stream this week is that grocery stores are pushing back on consumers’ increased use of coupons with greater restrictions on coupon use.  The whole CSA experience, while a wonderful experience, may still not be the best value for folks looking to disrupt their regular food sourcing.  I’m still wanting to do a comparison of the options, from the traditional grocery store to home gardens to farmers markets and foraging.  While I can understand a company’s need to plug the bucket, so to speak, now might not be the best time to kick the consumer where it counts, considering that our flirtation with alternasourcing seems to be deepening into a more serious relationship.  Grocery stores may have even more competition ahead from innovations to their traditional model by store owners starting to think outside the box (Austin is expected to have the first packaging-free grocery store in the near future).

As for me, I will continue to report on my CSA experience, and hope that someone takes me up on my invitation to compare theirs (looking for someone signed up in the City with a different CSA, and someone from outside NY – maybe one of my Madison friends?).  (I am doing the full half-share, which means I pick up a full share – vegetables, fruit, eggs, flowers – every other week @ $550 for 24 weeks, which works out to be about $45.00 every pick-up, but would like to do a comparison with anyone doing a CSA this summer, regardless of what you’re signed up for).  I’m also looking to hear more on another …

QUESTION: how have your food collection and sourcing habits changed?  What percentage of your meals comes from sources other than the traditional grocery store?  Are you getting any staples from your garden?  Of the home gardeners, do many of you can to make your stash last after the season’s over?  How many of you are keeping the garden going indoors over the winter?  What have you got growing indoors after season?  Anyone else out there who’s getting their groceries outside the box?  Of those who forage, would you say that you’ve incorporated the wild edibles onto your every day plate?   With apologies to any skin-thinned freegans, have we got any garbage eaters out there?  Any other urban foraging?  Anything I’m leaving out?   Go ahead …  gimme the dirt!

So Happy Together

Here she is as of this sunny Sunday morning. Aside from the pumpkins stretching out and taking more real estate than I’d anticipated (they’re to the right of the hostas, having been transplanted from the upper corner of the garden where two remain), they all seem pretty happy together. Lining the front fence are my hostas which I thinned from the side.  You can see the border of hostas now on the bottom of the picture.  They’re in bloom, with some tall pretty stand-up flowers that look like they’ve reached up to admire the rest of the garden.  As I mentioned before, these are the oldest plants in the yard.  A neighbor who still lives across the street from me gave them to me when I first moved in more than ten years ago.  They have survived bitter winters, and more than one invasive procedure to fix a main pipe running from my basement to the street. I thinned them out early in the season because they just really look like they wanted to move.  So I put some of them up front.  You can see one just to the left of the yellow day lily, which my sister brought from Wisconsin. The small wall of white flowers that border the hostas and day lilies (which, I’ve just learned in picking the link are so called because each flower lasts only a day, making even more poignant the fact that the first one appeared on the summer solstice – what sage plants have I!).  have a name I can’t remember right now.  Behind them is my little native plant garden, which has ironweed, some others, and the lone yellow black-eyed susan poking out toward the left of the pic.  Surrounding the various native plants are the small ones that are actually Johnny jump ups scattered from seed I planted off to the side but which attracted birds, who gave them a new home.  At least this is what I suspect they are.  Several people have asked me if I’m going to pull them out, assuming they’re weeds because they were so much smaller than the native plants I put in from small plants (not seeds).  I’m hoping they bloom brilliantly, though they might not till next year.  (Note, in grabbing the hyperlink for the johnny jump-ups, I thrilled to learn that they are edible!!!  I just love pretty eatable things.)  Still closer to the house are the pumpkins from the CT restaurant I mentioned in an earlier post, along with the wild ginger from Saratoga Springs, and the couple of container plants – one that my super-neighbor-friend from down the block has for sweetpeas and green beans that are much taller than we anticipated and my own cukes in their own self-watering container (these are where u see the yellow flowers – and also in the other planter box to compare whether the sel-watering type fares better). The rest of the yard closest to the house – which is barely visible from this pic b/c it’s cut off there – is pretty much wild, for whatever that means anymore. I do think I have a tall weed/plant taking over, and have been trying to weigh its usefulness.  I spotted what I thought was the same plant on the Wildman tour of Prospect Park recently, and when I asked our guide, he said it was goldenrod.  I probably won’t mess with it this year but already thinking ahead to next spring.  With that in mind, here’s my …

QUESTION: what is the point of goldenrod?  Is there really any objective, verifiable difference between a weed and a plant?  Is it really just in the eye of the beholder?  Assuming this is a native plant, how does it help the greater ecosystem if it’s just taking up a little spot in my front yard?  If I decide to keep the goldenrod, assuming that’s what it is, how would a native plant activist feel about me moving it out of the way?  Does that disturb the whole notion that we should just leave native plants well enough alone, wherever they happen to reside?  Would moving it be better than pulling it out and feeding it to my compost bin?  Would doing so, in the eyes of the nativist, be a sin?  Help me out here.  I don’t mean to disturb the universe.  So, go ahead … gimme the dirt!

What I Do Right, Wrong and Delusionally

Three Things I’ve Learned I Can Live Without and The Earth Is Better For It:

– my car

– foreign fruit

– blood diamonds

Three Things My Descendants Will Just Have To Hate Me For:

– flushing too much

– my Post-its addiction

– my Kindle resistance

Three Things I Think I Do Right That Probably Just Fucks Things Up

– buying and using Foodtown reusable bags made of polpropylene


– blogging