Friday, August 31, 2012

Return To Garden

It took me four days to get to the beach farm after our return to NYC on Sunday. When I did, it would have been hard not to be disappointed by the giant eggplants (although beautifully colored), the mildew beaten cucumbers (hardly a leaf in sight), the swollen French beans, or the dropped husks of rotten tomatoes.

So I set to work to get things back in order. Tomatoes were picked, green beans picked or pulled, broccoli cut (horribly full of harlequins and cabbage worms), lettuce, fennel, and brassica seedlings planted, and carrots plucked from the soil.

All in all a good haul. Then I left, unsure when I will be able to return.

The herbs are at their peak. All the flying creatures love the seed fennel. Only the Thai basil is seriously flowering.

Stunning and powerfully-flavored.

And I had tomatoes for dinner. My first this season, just as everyone else begins to tire of them. Black Russian still favored over Black Krim.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shameless Self Promotion

A couple of events I have going on over the next month, this September, that you may want to check out.

The first is GO, on Saturday and Sunday September 8 and 9, from 11 am to 7 pm. Go is a Brooklyn-wide open studio weekend and nomination opportunity for inclusion in a Brooklyn Museum exhibit this winter. Since this open studio is borough-wide, there are probably a couple of thousand studios to visit. Bushwick has the BOS, Gowanus has the GOS, Dumbo has the DAF, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has its BNYarts. Why not go to a new neighborhood and see something different? See the art in your neighborhood and then come to Sunset Park!

Sunset Park has several artist studios to see between 39th Street and 32nd Street (the Chashama space is way way down on 59th Street). We have a bike rack in our building (55 33rd St.) and the D/N/R stop is a short distance away at 36th Street and 4th Ave. We also have a diverse, bustling community upslope (we're on the waterfront) that everyone should visit. Explore Sunset Park's 5th and 8th Avenue for a Chinese lunch or Mexican dinner. See Greenwood Cemetery, just a few short blocks away. Go bowling, make a day of it!

If you register on the GO site, you can nominate up to 3 artists for the Brooklyn Museum exhibit once you have visited at least 5 studios. It's easy, and we'll all have instructions as to how.


I was invited to participate in a project at the Dumbo Arts Festival on Sunday, September 29. Artist Heather Hart is putting together a project called Barter Town (Trading Post X: Tomorrow-morrow Land). I will have a booth where I will be displaying and discussing anything and everything about (yep, you guessed it) garlic!

I have a well-preserved specimen of Allium sativum ophioscorodon var. porcelain, roots to bulbils, that I planted in Minnesota last September. I will have varieties on display, seed stock versus food stock, immature bulbs, bulbils, American elephant garlic and Chinese elephant garlic, and more, and will try to answer any question you may have about garlic. Since this is Barter Town, no money or promises of money may change hands. Nothing will be for sale. You may barter your time, your email (for Hudson Clove updates), or your patience!

Of course, there are lots of other things to see in Dumbo normally, and certainly during the DAF. See the gorgeous glass-shrouded carousel, get chocolate, eat ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge, crap -go to Starbucks.

It's autumn in New York City. Get out and enjoy it. I'll see you there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quoddy Bog

How many of us have explored a bog? The Irish landscape gave us the term we use often, but we barely appreciate its roots. 

A bog like this one requires a boardwalk. There's hardly anyone light enough to avoid getting "bogged." This landscape expressed a surprising shift in scale unseen in other environments. At once you are viewing the trees, shrubs, and moss. Get closer, you see even more.

The dominant colors within the bog are crimson and chartreuse.

Ribs add rigidity to the rather phallic structures of Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea.

Hairs point downward on the interior throat, making it easy to enter, but hard to leave.

An ant investigates at its peril.

The Pitcher, like all pitchers, eventually fills with liquid -in this case, rainwater.

The trapped insect falls into the liquid, where it is digested by enzymes released by the plant.  

Statuesque flower of the Pitcher Plant.


Sundew is another species of insect digesting plant.

There are two varieties of Sundew in the Quoddy bog. This one is known as the Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia

Insects are drawn in by the sparkly, sticky fluid on the tips of hairs. Once there they become trapped and digested. The leaves do not close on the insect like the Venus Fly Trap.

In the areas where rain had ponded on the surface, the other Sundew.

Drosera intermedia, or Spatulate-leaved Sundew.

Which happened to be just about to flower, although just out of reach of my camera phone.

The dead sphagnum layered beneath the surface is several feet deep, is oxygen and nutrient poor, and highly acidic. There is no ground water in this substrate; the bog receives all its water from rain and dew alone. That these plants evolved the ability to ingest nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients from insects is rather incredible.

Other plants making a life for themselves on top of the sphagnum moss include stunted black spruce, ericaceous plants and a rubus species.

There was some blueberry (and cranberry too).

Black Crowberry, or Empetrum nigrum, was abundant (edible fruit, none present).

The rubus-leafed plant to the upper left is called Baked-apple Berry, or Rubus chamaemorus. Yes, these berries are edible and, you guessed it, are said to taste like baked apples.

Up next -peat.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cardinal Matters

I never did post the cardinal flower images from my Carmans River trip last August, so this post from my other blog will do double duty today. Minnesotan wetlands do not get the attention they deserve, certainly not from NewYorkers (how could we know?). I've hardly delved into their living beauty, but in short...

I'm well aware of the disdain (see Garden Rant) and the rhetoric (see Michael Pollan) around native plants, ecosystems, and plants termed 'invasive'. I've tried to understand both positions over the years.

As I look upon this cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, I immediately, emotionally respond to its presence. I wonder if I'm the only one who has noticed this stand amongst the grass and cattails.

On the other hand is purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria. It's pale purple wands are pretty, especially so en masse, which is often how one finds it, but hardly stunning. Is this a learned response? If purple loosestrife was a native plant, would I espouse it's regal nature?

I do not know. What I do know is that seeing cardinal flower marsh-side is rare, yet finding purple loosestrife is becoming exceedingly common in Hennepin County ditches, wetlands, and cloverleaf water basins.

Rex likes the purple loosestrife, he says it's pretty where the marsh is just a wash of green. He believes the loosestrife cannot outcompete the cattails and rushes. But I doubt that, as evidenced by New York State's marshes and wetlands. Those must have once looked like Minnesota's, but now many are nearly a monoculture of purple loosestrife. After bloom in July and August, the wetland becomes a wash of dismal brown, whereas Hennepin County wetlands offer a kaleidoscopic interference of green and gold.

I'm not sure people care all that much. Like Rex said, loosestrife is pretty, and it's spread appears incremental, hardly noticeable. Minnesota government has policy, it is labeled invasive, it is illegal to harbor it on private property (this is where tongues tingle with politi-lingual fascism). Yet maybe, maybe, an appreciation for rarified things in life is an elitist affair. And maybe humanity has a thing for the strong, aggressive, and adaptable.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Time being what it is, several images and a few thoughts are all I can put to post. Enjoy. Visit the northeastern most region of Maine sometime. As raw, wild, yet accessible, as the east coast gets.

Sun to the south east, we begin our hike.

In just a few steps we are in a balsam fir and white spruce forest, moss floor dappled, stunning.

Where the sun made headway, woodland asters were in bloom.

And recent rains had inspired mushrooms to fruit.

Is there no better way to see mushrooms than floating above a mossy carpet?

There were several plots of thick clover cover deep in the woods. It appeared out of place, and I wonder if it has anything to do with this.

Out of the woods, onto the cliffs.

I believe a cranberry flower (crane -berry), cliffside.

A memorial, a mystery, and a severe case of deja vu. We emerged from the forest onto a promontory full of drying grasses and a green, leafy plants in flower. To the north, a little bronze plaque memorializing a woman, who's name escapes me but had a distinctive Slavic sound (ys, zs, cs, and ws), adorned a boulder facing the sea. The flowering plant, again, appeared out of place. It looked like celery! Tear and sniff, too strong for celery, but Lovage? The plaque said that this was the favorite spot of the woman it memorialized. Lovage is a favorite of eastern European cooking. Could she have planted it here? Was it her favorite place, not only for the sea and cliffs, first sunrise in the east, but also because her favorite pot herb was growing rather wildly? I have no idea, but then, a consuming feeling as if I had been in this exact spot before. What is this all about. I had intended to make my way up the coast for years, but never made it past Schoodic Point. Had I encountered a similar cliffside and Lovage growth further down east?

Deaths from ocean spray whipped up by the Groundhog Day Gale of 1976.

While the invasive purple loosestrife was in bloom, so was the fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium.

A spectacular alternative.

Off to the bog, we rested, lounging lengthwise down the planks through a wetland. While there were several benches along the coastline, there were none within the woods.

Old Man's Beard, Treemoss, Usnea spp. -a symbiosos of fungus and alga.

Moss-blanketed forest with emergent Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora.

Again, Indian Pipe, pearlescent white atop green velour.

The sun now toward the west, we left Quoddy Head for Lubec -population 1359, bridge to Canada, and three eateries. Did you know that there are three spices in Maine? Salt, pepper, and fried. Keep it simple, stick to Maine's natural resources -lobster, potatoes, milk, blueberries. Although they do breakfast well, bring your own coffee. 

Next post -the bog.