Monday, November 30, 2009

In The Vegetable Garden (The Anachronistic Tune)

The broccoli, venerable, old, begun last fall, over-wintered, over-summered, and now, florets.

And cabbage worms still hanging around to munch on my little broccoli starts.

Each day or so the spider builds a new web. In the mean time, she waits on the yew tree, dreaming of cabbage worms, worms that can fly, getting caught in webs maybe?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Day After The Day After Thanksgiving

Yesterday seemed to comprise of sitting around in three different places: my mom's, the train, then my apartment, while turkey and stuffing slowly made it through my GI. Did a lot of people shop the day after T-day in my youth? I don't know, but it seems to have the quality of law now, a law of economics, or gravity. I was dismayed to see that Sears was advertising on TV a "doorbuster" sale after last year's death of a clerk at a Walmart on Long Island. The news tried to sell the day as people shopping responsibly (stretching their dollar?), but that is the media zeitgeist. I bought nothing, but bagels for breakfast, and even that line extended out its suburban door.

The mad rush of finals is upon us now, which means extended hours at work with anxious students. This weekend is that one chance to get a hold of what I need to do before these next few weeks. Reaganography comes down in a week, I have two classes of moku hanga left, everyone will want to have dinner at least once, gifts will need to be purchased (I'm hoping good woodblock prints will do), the two day drive to Minnetrista, Minnesota (minne=water) leading up to Christmas day. This business must be the reason everyone wants to shop on the day after T-day, get it all done -so much else to do.

So I wonder about all the busy, at just the time of the year when the day is shortest in our northern hemisphere. Is it a way for people to overcome the inevitable downward trend of a million years of shortening days, approach of the cold season, the season of scarcity? Over-ride with manic pursuit until the hammer falls in January, a coming period as uneventful as Thanksgiving to Christmas is busy? It's not obvious, I suppose, how easy it was to bring the birth of Jesus, the idea of salvation, to the doorstep of the season of scarcity and death. And while we seem to have overcome scarcity and death for many in this country, we have with us still the darker days to trigger an instinct to hoard.

For me, the best part of this season draws me out doors, although sometimes only through windows. I found myself in Central Park this past Tuesday, after a meeting. I went in at the southwest corner, Columbus Circle, headed to a large, inset boulder, facing the playground below. Look NNE, at 3:30 to 3:45 pm, when the sun is shining, there is a willow tree, with leaves still, at about 2 or 3 hundred yards away, catching the last rays of sun, glowing yellow. That's much of what I love about this season.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy return of the frog. I am happier when I see parade balloons that come out of pop culture, children's books or even tv shows over the commercial balloons like the energizer bunny. It's hard to listen to the NBC announcers read commercials for these floats. The parade route has changed this year to accommodate what I read is a "no cars on Broadway" rule. I don't fully understand this, except for Herald Square and the hardscaped bicycle lane down Broadway. If this is permanent, the view of Kermit through these buildings is a view of the past.

My wife and brother in law have left for the parade. I stayed behind to get some things together for the trip to mom's. I'm not hungry for the mad rush of food today, but it's nice to see the family together. My wife did make cranberry sauce, the kind I did not grow up with, and I like it very much.

Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday when I was a kid, and my favorite. We would have 25 to thirty people over, beginning around 12 noon. My grandfather Di Maio would come early with the huge (9 inches tall) lasagna, sauce would be simmering on the stove, and pasta pot was up for my uncle Jimmy's need for that too. We'd eat lasagna around 1pm and then the turkey and gaunza around 7:30 pm. It was a 10 hour family affair with lots of cousins, uncles, and aunts.

The family doesn't get together these days quite the way they did then when my grandparents were alive or before my parent's divorce, and me or my siblings didn't have kids so our Thanksgiving crowd is quite a bit smaller. But we do the best we can and are glad we still get together, and sometimes actually have some fun. Hope you do too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Like Alien's Jaw

Just to gross yourself out see the post on the Journals of an Amateur Naturalist.

Come Again

I took this nice weather morning to plant these bulbs that I received, wow, over a month ago. All from Scheepers. In the back, Crocus tommasinanius and Crocus T. 'Lilac Beauty'. Twenty five for $4.75, I think that's a great price for the small pleasures of late winter. Scheepers' website mentions that squirrels don't eat these. Of course, I've had more trouble with my own shovel destroying the crocus, but I think I found evidence of the anti-squirrel qualities of these. I planted them in soil around the stepping stones in the side yard. The next day I went out and saw that the soil was spread all over the stones and what did I see, but one crocus bulb sitting on top, un-gnawed. I think sir squirrel moved on to other more tempting treats.

The front two are species lilies, 'Citronella' and 'Davidii', 5 bulbs each for $9.75 and honestly, I wish I could have given two of each away -no room! The white bulbs on the left are onion, Allium atropurpureum. I really don't like those giant globe allium, so I go for the varieties that have more open habits or the humble umbel forms.

I was planting the bulbs, moving iris and other perennials for the side yard flower garden, come vegetable garden, come again flower garden. Since that corner is kind of messy with the cat feeding and bottle depositing and otherwise garbage-y quality, not to mention the telephone poles that come and go, I put some max sunflowers in the corner to go with the mess. Today, when I am doing this other work, a neighbor says hello and then says 'finally cutting back those flowers, eh.' To which I respond, 'do you not like them?' And so on from there...

I will never cut down a flower in bloom. Just won't, unless, of course, it's for the vase. I certainly wasn't doing what my friendly neighbor was suggesting, and certainly not in November when every day with blooms is an anchorage to warm and temperate times. But I get it, neighbors want plants to stay within their frames- behind the fence, WHAP!! cracks the whip. So I bend, cranking back the poor stems of Helianthus maximilianii with a twine contraption, forcing them into the shade of the Yew tree they so desperately reach from to catch the last bits of low sun, their penchant tropism. Oh ye heliotrope, bend not to your need and will, but to the wants of your animal neighbors! Such as it is, such as it is.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Walk To The Farmers' Market In The Month Of November

My bounty. I got there late and the farmer consistently with the most produce had only pumpkins and parsnips left. The carrots I got at another stand, stunted ones, 2lb, $2. Apples, lots of apples. And cider. I also got porgies, which reminded me of my childhood fishing expeditions.

My street, facing Coney.

Scarlet supreme.

That proud oak on Albemarle.

This maple attracted me. Much is said about the strength of trees planted out in the open, yet their size and symmetry often disguises weakness. This one was probably damaged heavily in the tornado of 07, and now loses limbs in winds many trees could tolerate. A community of trees is quite protective, keeping winds at their tops, their thinner trunks and upright branches more flexible under heavy winds. While the beauty of that proud oak grown in the open is obvious, a more subtle beauty is present in a community of trees, swaying in concert, under the winds.

Red Japanese maple ever more red.

What's this, a blooming azalea on Westminster?

Felt a little strange, but I was compelled to enter a driveway of the residence to get closeups.

Damp, dark trunks and golden leaves.

Fruit loops.

With all the warm colors of autumn, this pale blue-green juniper simply lept at me.

Last Sunday, lifted, the raking low light, the saturation of color, the dampened bark of trees, the scent of carbon decay, the humid air of spring, I wore shorts and a jacket, on sidewalks stained with tannins, viewed grasses colored naturally by the season, sensual completely, emotionally charged connection to the world, in Brooklyn, on the streets, amongst houses and cars and people.

Late November and early December are the most Romantic months. Get out, on a moist day, enter the woods, the park, the shore, give in to it. Beautiful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Rainy Days Are For

A hot cup of coffee and a woodblock print, moku hanga style.

Yes. Yes I Can.

Well look what's coming out of nowhere in the front yard. Feel a bit sad for these seedlings at this time of the year. No chance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


In a couple of weeks its Thanksgiving. I find that the meal, that huge surge of food, does not taste quite as good on that day as it does on others. I'll be visiting my mother on the holiday where I will have this stuffing: we call it, phonetically, gaw-n-za. How to spell it, no one knows. I'll be making it this Sunday, stuffed into a chicken or two for us and some friends.

Last Sunday, we had the opening reception for 'reaganography' in Greenpoint. The opening was a success, on turn out alone, and had one surprise visitor: Leonard Lopate. Now Leonard had a show the following Monday that discussed Reagan's influence on the end of the USSR. I couldn't listen, I had to run to work, but I imagined, briefly that he mentioned the show on his show.

Three years ago, I was a voice on the phone during a segment about Thanksgiving recipes with Ruth Reichl and Leonard. I submitted the gaw-n-za recipe. When I engaged Leonard at the opening I didn't mention the Ruth Reichl segment. Two and a half years prior I met Ruth at The MacDowell Colony, mentioned it, but she couldn't recall the segment. I did, however, mention that there must only be 2 degrees between Leonard and 8 million New Yorkers.

While the recipe has remained the same in my mother's cooking, I've been messing with it. This year, little shifts: the rice is basmati, not carolina long grain, the mushrooms are small portobello, not white, and I added to the beef and pork a little bit of lamb over the Jimmy Dean that somehow made it into the recipe. Other years I've added chestnuts and raisins (as my grandfather would have). I think I would like dried cranberries or other dried fruit (apricot?) with a nut, maybe pine or pecan. My mother wouldn't go for these changes, but in spirit it's the same recipe.

The recipe listed on the WNYC website omits one ingredient that seems to go into all my family's cooking: pecorino romano. Its the salty kick in everything they do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rose, Spider, and Camera

An unaltered photo of Grandma's tea after an accidental flash exposure.

The glowing magic spider after the same.

How it was meant to look -seductive in its own right. I'm hoping that my next camera can process the hot pinks/magentas better than my current Canon A80.

And here the spider I found today when I went to cut some parsley. I noticed a fat thread connected to the climbing hydrangea, which led my eye to the web. I've never seen a large spider like this in this garden. I expect to see these in the woods, under an eave, near the night light. I must remember it is there, tomorrow, when I go to cut some sage.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Not Defeated By The Rains

The 'Sheffield Pink' Chrysanthemums showing all their diversity of color.

Brooding, but beautiful, under the rain drops.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sheffield Madness

I am still not sure if I like the color of these Sheffield 'Pink' chrysanthemums. But they are going crazy right now.

Sheffield with the milkweed seedpods, millefolium yarrow, and salvia elegans leaves.

There is something almost artificial about the apricot-like color. What color is this?

But there is also great variability in the colors. These yellow-tinged petals of the same plant.

The flying, nectar seeking creatures are mad for the Sheffield.

Unknown flies.

Every morning flies, lots of green flies on the flowers.

Bees too.

House flies.

Carpenter bees.


And beetles.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November Blooming

The Monkshood (Aconitum) is blooming now, but never quite lives up to its potential. Its top-heavy and flounders low to the ground and I am too lazy to support it!

Grandma's tea is blooming once again, probably the last time this year.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shadow Farming

This is the vegetable garden now. It gets 20 minutes of sun each day.

The old broccoli looks swell.

Love the pearly droplets on its leaves.

The young broccoli probably won't make it. Saw a cat sitting on it the other night.

Basil is hanging in there.

Oregano and Thyme are doing well.

And parsely quite good as well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tender Is As Tender Does

Salvia elegans did quite well this year, despite its slow start.

I am always amazed at how late it blooms, this years beginning in mid-October.

Technically an annual in our 'zone', it survives the winter in my garden.