Thursday, December 31, 2009

New York State Frost Dates

If you are wondering "when is that last or first frost date here in NYC," below are two maps,  courtesy of the wonderful people at Cornell University, of first and last frost dates of the New York State season. These frost dates are "roundabout," so it is always wise to follow the weather when thinking of planting tender plants or deciding whether or not to harvest those last few tomatoes. Any given year we can push or pull these frost dates. Looking at those dates tells me we in NYC are very lucky indeed.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home Land Security

This is my father-in-law's old family house. Built by my great-grandfather-in-law (ha!), it was in the family for three generations, on a farm of cows and chickens, bees and orchards.

But someone else lives in it now, after it was moved to this location, not far from the original property. The original was built by the family, a set of plans ordered from a Sears catalog.

This is a kid's playground placed at the intersection of the subdivision's lanes. See the paddle-shaped sign front and center?

The town named the playground after my father-in-law, a forlorn tribute to his attempt to have this land preserved as a park or his years on the parks commission. Rex was the kind of child to find delight and discovery in a park of woods and wetlands, not ever in need of a manufactured playscape.

Twenty-eight acres of woodlands and farm was converted to about 70 homes. Names relating to the old landscape were retained for road names, like Sugar Mill Lane or Ladyslipper Circle: Rex had a sap house for making maple syrup, and my mother-in-law, Barbara, grew orchids (ladyslippers) amongst other things.

Happy Trails

Last year I built this parks-type sign for the trails Rex built on the property he moved to in a neighboring town. He has an open attitude about his trails, i.e. he lets bow-hunters hunt deer and neighbors hike.

Rex lives on the western portion of the lakes district of Hennepin County, Minnesota. It's the western most extent of the Big Woods, and full of glacially-created lakes and wetlands. Driving around a few summers ago, I noticed that this glacially-sculpted landscape would be an excellent location for a woodland trail. I became aware of an arc formed along an esker traveling roughly north to south, extending a short distance from Rex's property. In Google Earth, I mapped out the rough route you see above and below.

Ideally the trail would follow the arc from his trails all the way to the Dakota Rail Trail south of the Gale Woods Farm. But property being as it is, the trail would have to go around the farm field belonging to one of his neighbors. Afterward, it would follow the eastern side of the esker along Little Long Lake and it's string of smaller lakes all the way to the Dakota RT. Once there, you could walk east to the town of Mound, and Rex could even stroll by his old property on Lake Langdon while on his way to town.

Not far to the north is another rail trail, the Luce Line State Trail. From Rex's current trails, we could strike a trail along Painters Creek all the way to an intersection with the Luce Line. Painters Creek is part of the Minnehaha Watershed, and has been straightened or re-routed in places. A hiker following its course from Lake Minnetonka could potentially follow it all the way to Baker Park. Some of the trail would need to be boardwalk as the creek routes through wetland marshes.

I think my inspiration for this trail is the Long Path, the NJ through NY trail that one could hike from Fort Lee, New Jersey all the way to near Albany. Utilizing many public park trails along the way, the path also traverses private property. Where property owners won't provide trail access, hikers must take the roadways. The NY-NJ Trail Conference works with landowners to keep trails off the roads and advises hikers to respect private landowner's wishes.

Could the landowners, private and public, join to create a trail like this? To be continued...

Go Somewhere Else This Winter...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On a Snowy Sunday Afternoon

Snowflakes are crystal clear.

Each distinct.

Massing on surfaces.

A last dance with art from a period before.

To be torched soon in the burn pit.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cheek By Jowl

On this snowy Saturday, as I had planned, I shopped different neighborhoods by subway and foot to buy the various foods I will bring to my mothers tomorrow, for our Christmas dinner with my family. In a couple of days, my wife and I head out for Minnesota, to be with her family and get a well-earned respite from all the busy-ness.

I have taken it upon myself to be a kind of ambassador from Brooklyn at family gatherings, despite the fact that everyone in my family has immigrant roots in the borough. I'm the kind of ambassador who brings food from my country, and this year it's several kinds dry sausage. I was hoping for the wild-boar cacciatorini at Stinky, but they were out. Disappointed, I bought a dry chorizo instead. Over at Caputo's I picked up a soppressata, and was intent on getting an herbed saucisson, but again -out. So I picked up a regular cacciatorini and a smoked scormozza, which is an aged mozzarella. I went to the other Caputo's, the bakery, to get some bread -essentially for my brother, who sees Brooklyn bread as gifts in and of themselves. He will receive ciabatta and seeded semolina.

I took the G train up to Greenpoint to stop in a little Polish bakery (Jaslowiczanka, 163 Nassau) that sells small babka. I bought four (ridiculous!), two blueberry and two with chocolate glaze. On the way, and because my sister heard Polish, I was admonished to find some kielbasa, smoked, which I could find in my neighborhood, but since I was traveling for babka...I stopped in this very busy place, generically called Meat Market (Podlasie, 121 Nassau), and was overwhelmed by smoked meats, and particularly bacon, which I have only my lack of knowledge of the Polish language to keep me from buying huge quantities! I selected two dry kielbasi by pointing, the cute Polish girl assisting with giggles as she asked the girl at the register how to say my number (for*teen) in English. Maybe on a less busy day I'll go back and risk looking foolish to find out what to call all those lovely looking smoked meats.

All this I will bring to my mom's place, via MTA railroad, in a snowstorm, along with gifts, this Sunday. Next post from the Big Woods of Minnesota.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Its unusual for us here in NYC to have cold air in place when an early winter Nor'easter comes our way. While many have canceled their plans, I am not and hoping our mass transit holds up to some snow! According to this latest radar image, we are about to get a heavy dose.

image courtesy of

Dwarf Japanese Spirea, in autumnal colors, with dry snow.

The winter white spires of Russian Sage, faint spots of aster, and snow.

Knockout Rose, uh, knocked out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


October's pumpkin, too long in the heat, has developed some lovely mold. The center in the shape of a flower -how nice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Been Goosed

As I sit here, I hear a flock of geese heading what sounds to be east, but what do I know of goose navigation. Steer clear of those planes please.

After a rowdy Saturday night (ahem, not so much) with some pals (and too many santas -what's with that frat-ish fad?) from my small (but big) world of art, I came home and brewed a cold. Drats! I still went out on Sunday to print my final sheets of paper for my moku hanga class. I wanted to give a hollar for April Vollmer, who is the artist and teacher who has introduced me to this technique, the same technique used by the Ukiyo-e printmakers of 19th century Japan. Her work is often filled with botanical imagery and she has exhibited her work at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. See some examples of her printmaking here. If you like her work (and are looking for that handmade gift), you can purchase prints here.

As a beginner, my own skill in this technique is limited, but the process is fun and I've long been interested in the Ukiyo-e prints and their depiction of people in the landscape. This print is a segment of a much larger painting in the works of the Ammonoosuc River Valley; the valley compressed in my image between Mount Washington and the Mount Washington Hotel.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Last Stand

This bundle of broccoli 'Calabrese' has been growing in my vegetable garden since autumn 2008! It over-wintered, then over-summered, and this fall finally grew large and put out florets. The other night, knowing the hard freeze was upon us, I seized the moment to snap these off the branches before it was too late. Once inside, I washed them, and ate. Sweet, crunchy, and strongly flavored leaves mixed with mildly flavored florets. I wish I had more.

Last year my parsley didn't succumb to the cold until February. This year, it bit the dust the other night. I think it was the combo of long-standing freezing temps along with the sun at its lowest point which didn't allow that corner of the garden to get the extra heat to stay above freezing. Of course, it being the busiest time of the year, I never did get any freeze sparing devices around that parsley planter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

B&B: Sidewalk Sleepers

On my way to the bus to the train I saw this on the block perpendicular to mine. Two honey locusts, prostrate, some mighty cedar stakes, prostrate. No one on site.
Tree planting in NYC?

We're Too Big To Fail

Weather Underground's blogger Dr. Jeff Masters has been reporting on climate change for years. Here he defends climate change science. Do I seriously doubt that most of you fear that climate change is not real, or that our industrial-scale burning, our love affair with fire, the "eternal flame" is not at least partly the cause of it? Yes, I do. Seriously. Look, none of this will matter when the shit hits the tornado, but at what point does it begin to feel like Ms. P. is overplaying her hand. What interest do she serve other than her love affair with her populist self? Read her Washington Post  OP-ED here. Sarah confuses affecting the climate with affecting the weather. Or at least she feels other people do, so she can use these terms interchangeably.  Maybe I've found my Reagan in her, too young to have been utterly perturbed by that similarly single-minded simpleness that aims to manipulate.

Oh, who cares, right -we'll be dead by then and what's the difference anyhow, cause we'll have moved inland, and besides the people we care about will have the resources to secure a safe and sound future, and who needed those species anyway, what were they good for, and too I could say the same for those people in that country, far away, not so sure where it is, but its flat and it already floods, which makes me think that they should be used to it by now or have built taller houses, and it's their fault for living there anyway, serves them right, yeah that's right -you just got served. Go Team! Besides, if it's true what they say about the warm water shutting off and it getting real cold real fast, we'll be ready, we're from Alaska, and like we say in Alaska, we're from Alaska. But really, though, if it gets warmer, we're up for that too, because then our homes will sell for more because my home state will become real popular with those moving north for the good climate. So climates change, we've dealt with change over a million years and this is no different, so why should I want to stop burning coal and gas and oil. Its God's gift to us, just fulfilling his plan and what if it's God's plan to do ourselves in by way of too much burning of the stuff that he gave us. Its God's will, then, so I accept it and know that in so doing I and everyone I care about will end up in heaven.

If you asked Elvis' glittery jumpsuit what it thought of Elvis, it'd probably say that man there is just fine.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Charlotte, Do You Feel Alright?

Winter is near. No doubt the last days for my garden orb weaver. Assuming her eggs have been laid, I look forward to saying hello to waving baby spiders leaving on the warm updraft next spring. It wasn't until this spider showed up this November that I began remembering how powerful the story Charlotte's Web was to me as a child.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lousy Weather For Us, Last Days For Them




Late Bloomers

Sing Their December Song


because tomorrow

 may be their last day

before a hard freeze.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Pre-Winter Show

Its finally arrived -cold and windy today. Some of the plants will bear it well -me, not so much -that infernal wind.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Much To Do, How About Nothing

It's one of those days, I should be doing all sorts of things... but, instead...

Today, rain tapping on the sill, I'm updating my website in an effort to be more integrationist, not so compartmentalist. Thermos at my side, feet a little cold, I am setting up my art website to include images of some art projects I have made over the last ten years that are not strictly painting. I've made a few with plants (and haven't made many others) that I will place under the plants/projects link on my website. I've also decided, at least for the time being, to integrate nycgarden with my art projects in a limited fashion by linking to it on that same page.

It will be interesting to see what thoughts, if any, the online gardening community has about these projects. The other day I received an email from an artist who landed on nycgarden, who then found my art site. I went on to read through her blog, Bowsprite, which is a fantastic journey through NY harbor with a lot of boat/ship info, hand-drawn maps, watercolors and drawings of boats. The blog becomes an integrated site of words and images, interests and creativity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Til Den, Love, Til Den...

I went to Fort Tilden to take some measurements for a proposal I am putting together for a project that shifts slightly every time I visit, think, or resolve myself to finalizing. This past Sunday was such a lovely day, perfect for the beach, no wind, temps in the 50s, beautiful.

In the lawn.

The weedy jamble of dried browns. Tis a good season for the weeds.

Like bittersweet, probably oriental. See ESPs post at Garden Bytes.

Can't get enough of that late autumn sun and grass infructescence.

The glowing berries of the Northern Bayberry (thanks Marie!).

To the beach!


Beach glass, always picked up, sometimes collected -I recall a beach north of S.F. with unheard of quantities of broken, sand washed glass in every color.

Jelly. This summer I went in and the water was filled with so many 'baby' jellyfish that I felt like I was swimming in an ocean of bubble tea.

There was a time when Long Island's bays were flush with oyster beds (consider the name Oyster Bay).

I think it's important for us to go to our NYC beaches. No, they are not as pristine as some beaches two, or three hours away. By visiting, touching the things that wash in, the sand and the water, we create a sense of ownership and concern to ensure that our garbage is no longer dumped just beyond the horizon, or that sewage overflow is not dumped raw into our harbor, or that those upstream do not leak hazardous wastes into the Hudson.

Deep in thought spurred by the liminal, the lapping waves of water over land, then -a bride and groom.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Bloom

These asters are just opening up.

Last of the Sheffield.

Still going strong, the Salvia elegans.

No bloom but just as cool, the milkweed silk and seeds ready to see the breeze.

Of course, the late and long blooming other asters.

Align Center

The hard to put down Sedum, keeps reblooming since August.

And the effervescent max sunflower, blooming much later in the side yard than in the front.