Saturday, February 28, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I've been sending the broccoli sprouts outside into the cold-frame now by day, inside by night.
Next to the sprouts is a single pot with the "winter-sown" broccoli seeds in it -no activity here.
Also, a 2-liter bottle of tap water to help keep the space a little warmer at night.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I've gotten complacent, I just let it sit like fallen leaves. Unless its a telephone book or newspaper circular flattening some bulb shoots or something of that nature. I used to clean it up regularly, but now only so often. It keeps coming, never ceases no matter the season. But its in winter that I let it be the longest. It mostly blows in (infernal wind!), but I can tell a tossed bottle of beer or drug baggy from the blown trash. Bottles are more common in warm weather.
I live on a short, little-respected block. Two buildings on it, mine and the neighbor's. The neighbor's fronts the intersecting block so that the side of their house becomes a no-man's land of mostly dog-shit, no fault of their own. The opposite corner, mine, stands without entry or sentry and becomes a good place to toss bottles. But the whole garden fills up. I am reminded of Jonathan Letham's Fortress of Solitude:
Friday, February 20, 2009
Reinforcements come in. Now there's at least 10 cops and one guy with a knife (maybe). Everyone's agitated. More cops are coming on to the scene. They're still yelling, "put it down, its over. Where's the tazer?" More spraying of mace. At this point their hands are resting on their guns. A blonde female officer arrives shouting to the man in the least calm manner, "calm down dude, its okay. Put the knife down, dude. Calm down!" Is she the negotiator?
I have two fears: I am going to play a part in a man getting shot to death by the police of the City of New York. I don't want to be a witness to this, yet I can't call the police! The police are Asian, Black, Hispanic, White, male and female. The man with the knife, a black man. I am aware of this despite my agitation. My second fear -in the rain of bullets my 1st floor apartment will be pierced and I will be hit. I leave my office area and go to the kitchen, 25 feet from the focus of the police. Over-reaction?
I put on shoes and head to the front door. By the time I get out to the stoop, the police are wrestling the man on the ground, trying to get him to give up the knife, I think. There are a lot of police now. A lot. I brought my camera because I feel I should somehow record what I am witnessing and at the same time as I sense the police don't want that. An officer (who happens to be my upstairs neighbor's son!) chases a man with a telephoto lens off my stoop, saying "Its private property, get off!" I feel how the agitation of the moment affects your memory, affects your perception. The camera resists that to some degree. How did this photographer know about this - a radio scanner?
Questions pour in. What if he dies? What has he done? Why are they chasing him? Why won't he drop the knife? Does he have a knife? A gun? He is surrounded, he doesn't have a chance. Is this a last stand? Is he mentally disabled? I have no answers, all I see is a sea of blue. I see the humanity in the police, the lack of clear structure, the rattled officers' attempt to keep procedure. "Where is the sergeant," I hear. It is chaos, but everyone knows who's side their on. It is a strategy of overwhelming force, really overwhelming. One man, 40 police. Most could do nothing but watch. Their discomfort, their agitation, they are on edge -those on the front line. So am I, just a witness, a bystander. To their credit, I never see a drawn gun.
I believe they tazer him. They carry him to the intersection. Cops laugh, those on the sidelines, complain of shit on shoes (welcome!). An officer is aggressive and told to calm down as they hold the revived man down on the hood of the police car. Finally the FDNY EMT arrives, then must have sedated the man, placed him on a stretcher, strapped him in, rolled him off to the ambulance.
What happened here? How did this happen in my front yard?
The second wave of police officers arrive at the scene. Notice the placement of some hands
The blonde officer arrives shouting, "calm down" and "dude"
I believe the yellow thing in the female officer's hand is a Taser
After tasering, the officers cuff him, relax a little
Now they carry him to the intersection
At the intersection they hold him on the hood of the car
You get a sense of how many police officers, detectives are present (no bystanders in this shot)
But now, sedated and strapped in a stretcher, only two cart him away.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This Highlighted Archive article from the New York Times Home & Garden Section, "Peter Rabbit Must Die," left me feeling shamed, ashamed of my people -the humans. The article seems to thrill in the confessional talk of killing yard animals -the squirrel, the raccoon, the woodchuck, even birds that chomp the carrots or mow down the tomatoes.
With rhythmic sensibility, the author mentions that killing wild animals may be illegal (as if that seems to matter) or that the reader should indulge in a book by John Hadidian on coexistence with wildlife. But in an article subtitled "Humane Ways to Deal with a Pest Problem", it was the description of the drowning of squirrels in a rain barrel that put me on edge:
"They did, however, as conscientious environmentalists, have a large rain barrel on the roof, which they used to water the garden. Who first came up with the idea of drowning, Ms. Lennig cannot recall, but it was her husband who handled the first executions. The trap, which was long and narrow, fit perfectly in the barrel.
Ms. Lennig has yet to be able to deal with the removal of the corpse, which is then thrown into the garbage. But she and her husband are now so comfortable with this form of pest control that when they visited Ms. Lennig’s in-laws at their lakefront property last year, where squirrels were climbing on the deck and ravaging the planters, they offered to drown them.
“My husband and I said, ‘We’ll take them to the lake,’ ” she says, “but our in-laws were having none of that. We had to get in the car and drive them five miles away. I spent the entire weekend like a soccer mom, driving squirrels around.”Isn’t drowning cruel?
No, Ms. Lennig says. She recalls reading that you lose consciousness and then your heart stops; it’s actually one of the nicer ways to go."
Drowning of squirrels? If a young man did this, people would call the police because it suggests his future as a serial killer -heartless, unable to empathize, no conscience. You know what I am saying here, but somehow in the name of the garden -that's fair, good reason, drown the squirrel. By the way, I once saw a squirrel swim across a lake -not kidding, they can swim.
I have experienced the ravages of squirrels on roses (eats every bud) and tomatoes (one bite, no thank you -next), I've seen the damage of deer and woodchucks. I don't belong to PETA or even the Humane Society, but as a gardener -the kind that I am, suggests that we are not using our brains or hearts if we submit ourselves to drowning of animals that are simply enjoying the things we set out for them. They do not distinguish between nature and culture -that's our pathology!
I live in the City of New York. I got feral cats, rats, birds, and squirrels. I am smarter than them -yes its true. But they have time on their paws. It is my job to outsmart their tenaciousness. Killing is not outsmarting them, its the tantrum of a child, undeveloped. Outsmarting them, that's fun, full of boastful pride.
I am growing vegetables. For the sake of aesthetics I should not build a cage around my vegetables? Build a cage around your vegetables! Put the wire mesh in the ground and all around so that the animals cannot reach your prized tomatoes.
In creating the garden we realize our connectedness to the animals of the world because we see how strongly attracted to that ideal environment we and many animals are. It is a garden for all of us, but only we have the intelligence to build it and protect it. I do not believe that aesthetics, irritations, or petty fears should trump life.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I don't want the wind, don't wish for wind. We were formed in the windless environment of the forest canopy or before that, under the sea. It is unnatural for us primates. Accept it only when it blows our sails, turns our turbines, or blows toward our backs.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
You may have seen Johnny's, or even Martha Stewart hawking a device for making potting soil cubes for seed starting. Its a great tool for someone with tons of seeding to do, but for those of us in the city, with our small spaces -all we need is toilet paper or paper towel tubes.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
With the lid open you can see the interior. I have one pot inside now with a couple of broccoli seeds in it. I am attempting to sprout broccoli outside in the cold-frame and inside the apartment simultaneously.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Check out this post from the Organic Consumer Association on the Ethanol Scam. It can't possibly say it all, but its a nudge.
Monday, February 9, 2009
It operates like this: You pay a one time fee ($600-1000), they come in and install a vegetable garden in your yard. You pay them a weekly maintenance fee ($35+/-), they come by once a week to maintain it. They harvest vegetables and give you some or all of the produce. This is a for profit venture. For people who want home-grown vegetables but are so busy they cannot do it themselves, yet can pay for it.
Anyone willing to do this here in NYC? Call it PSA, Personally Supported Agriculture.
What have been people's experiences with the soil in their backyards? I've been doing research on companies that do soil testing for hydrocarbons (like gasoline, benzene, toluene) or heavy metals (like lead or cadmium). Accurate Building Inspectors, also known as the Ubells of The Guru's of How-To on the Leanoard Lopate Show offer these services. They offer many tests, but the charges are real high.
I had some of these tests done 6 years ago for a landscape job I was doing on 15th Street around Park Slope, yet I don't remember the company name, but I do remember that the results told me little of what the compounds meant to a gardener. I ended up excavating much of the fill that was present and replacing it a hundred cubic yards of compost/soil mix from Nature's Choice in Jersey. We didn't grow any vegetables either.
Apparently, a major metal to be on the look out for is lead. Natural accumulations in soil average 10 parts per million. The EPA considers 300 parts per million to be the upper limit of allowable. With lead, its the children we most worry about as it is absorbed more by their guts than those of adults. Fruit (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.) do not tend to store lead. But the non-fruiting parts of vegetables, and leafy greens do uptake and store lead. The upper level of soil holds the most lead. Therefore, any soil-contacting vegetable (like carrots, turnips, radishes) will have lead on it's surface should there be a problem with lead in your soil.
Where does lead most likely come from in your yard. Two places: Old house paint (old renovation debris stored on site or chipping exterior paint) and car exhaust. Of course, lead has since been removed from these sources, but the problem with lead is that it doesn't migrate through the soil. It stays put, no matter how many years are between your soil and the lead contamination.
The University of Minnesota Extension has a page dedicated to soil lead with some suggestions for remediation. A similar page at Cornell.
But I have friends who simply vegetable garden their urban plots. Best we do is see that the lot was always used for a residence. You can do this via old fire insurance maps of NYC. There can be rather obvious signs of potential problems like dirty fill or construction debris, buried rusty auto parts, or that no plants or weeds are growing there, or even that the soil smells "chemically."
I'd love to hear stories of people's back yards. What are they like? What's your soil like? Do you grow vegetables? Would you pay someone else to do it for you in your own yard?
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Below are pictures of the cold frame I made. I have a table saw at work, so this made the job easier than if I had to make it at home. But cold frames can be made from a variety of things, like stacked bricks or cement blocks with an old glass window on top. If you are making it out of wood, you could just jigsaw (or even hand saw) some plywood into a similar pattern and throw a piece of plexiglass (or even plastic sheeting) on top.
The pattern can be as simple as a rectilinear box, but I sloped mine so I could let more sun into the box and allow rain or snow-melt to run off the lid. Yours could be set onto or into the ground. I will raise mine a few inches with some screw-on wooden legs because I do not want to smash any underlying plants (upcoming bulbs, particularly).
I used scrap wood left from student projects at work. This wood is primed, finger-jointed 5/4 pine. It is 1 and 1/16-inch deep by 5 and 1/4-inch wide. In order to get the height that I wanted, I used a dado to rabbet-joint and glue two pieces together, making for a 10-inch wide board. This gave me a maximum height of 10 inches for the rear plank. The side planks are cut on a diagonal, sloping from 10 inches down to 8 in height. I bevel-cut the top of the rear plank to accommodate the slope of the side planks.
This view points to the inside-bottom of the cold-frame. I rabbet-cut the bottom to accommodate planking that will be the floor. Exterior water will shed without contacting the interior floor planks with this set-up. However, if you set yours on or into the ground, floor planking isn't necessary.
These views show the polycarbonate glazing on the front. I used glazing here to increase the amount of light reaching the plants inside. You can see how it is held tightly within the groove on the front plank. I cut the glazing 1/4 -inch taller between the side planks so that the roof-glazing would make contact with it.
The roof glazing is a sheet of double-walled polycarbonate set into a dado-cut groove in the wooden frame. The rear of the glazing-frame can be seen below resting on the back planking. Out-door hinges will attach the roof glazing frame to the cold-frame.
This is the cold-frame with the roof glazing on. I left the plastic film on the glazing so that I know which side goes out.
This is a close-up of the roof and front panel glazing. The glazing is held snug in the dado-cut grooves in the wooden frame. The roof glazing overshoots the front plank by 1/2 -inch so that rain drips beyond the frame.
For now, I will use a stick to prop open the cold-frame for venting.
The joints will all be set with waterproof wood glue and out-door quality screws. I will paint the cold-frame to protect it from weather and sun damage. If I had made this out of cedar or redwood I would not bother, but this finger-jointed pine is really meant for interior applications. But with a good couple of coats of paint, it should last long enough. I have some old black barbecue paint that I think will do for the outside. The inside I'll paint with glossy white house paint. The idea is to not spend any money, or more than I have to. The polycarbonate cost 30 dollars at Canal Plastics, and that's about what this whole project is worth to me.
I see that I could buy a really nice one at Johnny's for $325 plus shipping. Maybe in better times. I could also add an automatic roof opener (I actually have a couple of these, but they're in Minnesota, I think). These openers are often wax-filled cylinders. The wax expands as it heats up and pushes a bar which opens your roof. The roof needs to be lightweight for this and the polycarbonate fits the bill.
Tom Chrisptopher at Green Perspectives has some good points on the use of a cold-frame. The kind he describes is much larger, and I like his idea of using the removable-pin hinges as a way of connecting the side planks. His point about "managing" the opening and closing of the roof is well taken. I want to experiment to see how it goes, but will get the auto-open cylinder if it becomes too much hassle.