Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Fast The Rain

Has come. I will head home soon, locked up, ice-bound, until the roads do clear. I am working on a post about our trip to New Ulm, where I saw no gnomes and donned no lederhosen. I am going to make an attempt to work on the post in Word, then cut and paste into the blog so that I do not have to be online to write. Wish me luck, and little in the way of ice.


Yesterday evening, we stopped into Mackenthun's (Mak-en-toons), Minneapolis area's best local food offering. What do they have to offer? One word -meat.

We bought blueberry summer sausage, garlic summer sausage (to add to the the venison summer sausage we already have from the local hunters), cranberry turkey wild rice bratwurst (the best brats I ever had were this summer's blueberry wild rice brats from the same), German sausage, and Mackenthun's original brats.

We are freezing these to bring back to NYC with us. 

Tonight I am making a duck we picked up from the same. It's my first duck and have little idea what to do with it. 


This morning, around 9:30 am, the view from the second story, looking northeast, up-slope.

Last night, after an evening of pizza with my brother-in-law in Minneapolis, we noticed fog under highway lamps racing across the landscape, south to north. The temperatures were well below freezing,  the wind southerly, and the result a rime. Feathery crystals were deposited on the van this morning.

The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine."

`God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus! - 
Why look'st thou so?' -"With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross."

-excerpt of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel T. Coleridge

Monday, December 27, 2010


Well didn't you get some snow. One of the pleasures of being in Minnesota during this time of year is knowing how well snowed we are, here, while the concrete is still quite dry in NYC. Please, clear us a parking spot by the first of January!

New post at Letters.

Ice Henge

The roof slopes less dramatically than they do in other, more robustly precipitative, climates. Aesthetics over practical pursuits, conjoined with coarse asphalt shingles and steady heat loss conspire to ice damming at the eaves. The re-frozen waters, maybe 4 inches tall, hold back the unfrozen; water then climbing back up the pitch to find its way down. I believe this is the first time that I have seen icicles hanging from the vents in the soffit, although I am sure those more familiar with wintry climates could tell me how common it is. 

Home repair mishuginas will tell you that water backing up and behind the wall is winter's most fretted scenario, outside of oops, heater down and all my pipes froze to bursting! There is no perfect roofing solution, although those severely pitched, A-frame homes you see in mountain chalet-town do a wonderful job if you can take the prospect of arriving to an isosceles triangle every night. 

Today it is 19 degrees F, but I add to this that it feels positively warm the last few days. Yesterday, while cleaning the roof of snow (well, my brother-in-law, really, as I am constitutionally incapable of scaling pitched icy roofs), I was only in light wool sweater and jeans. Warm at 19 degrees and I wonder why it is I shiver so much in New York at 37 F!

We're looking at an unusual warming trend in a few days time. It is supposed to rain. I've never seen it rain here during my winter stays. Betsy is concerned, yet I am ignorantly hopeful that it will rain long enough to loosen the grip of those ice dams. Neither of us is positive about the wet everything that will flash freeze that night when it drops from 35 degrees F to five in a matter of hours.

But enough of the weather, although often enough it seems that is all that is going on here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Letters, letters, letters...

A new letter from the big woods, with snow and lighted trees.


We arrived to a good dousing of snow. This, early morning, before sunrise, out bath window.

The view to the southeast, around 9 am, sun low, and diffuse behind low clouds.

Even the sun and the clouds hunker down in winter.

Flora and fauna, inanimate.

Thankful to arrive, we did well, despite the possibilities, a bit of black ice in Indiana. The tree, tall (11 feet), decorated, strong scented. There is no seed in the bird feeder, testament to the weather, Rex's age. The roof has been shoveled off, thanks to an eager brother in law. Spared. I've no winter boots! But must take photos, out there, the darkness merges with the light, a convergence of high contrast and low.  

Okay, off to make Christmas Eve dinner. Not what you would expect -enchiladas, completely random.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What Remains

Asclepias tuberosa

Lilly leaves


Other asters

Last 'New Dawn' frozen


Sunday, December 19, 2010


Talking with my grandmother this morning, Betsy and I learned how much she enjoys a good ham. I looked at Betsy with a smile, maybe because her Dad also enjoys a good ham. The question bubbled to the surface, is this a German thing? In Minnesota, ham is a well-respected meal and common at this time of the year. If you go to the liquor store (err, wine shoppe), there are plastic flags mounted on the shelves that state how well this or that wine tastes alongside ham.  It reads, "Good With Ham."

I've been busy carving a western red cedar plank into a sign for the head of my father-in-law's driveway. Finished this evening, a bit late, and rushed to run several errands for our trip. I was surprised and happy to see our Polish market still open after six on a Sunday. I was now looking for ham, thinking how well it may go with our road trip. Like many Polish markets, they have an extensive selection of slicing hams. The other day I bought two kinds, one spiced on the exterior and stuffed through its center with chopped garlic, and the other in the vein of speck -smokey, translucent, thinly sliced, inexpensive, only 8.99 a pound.  Today, they were out of the garlic ham, but I picked up some of the smokey, speckish ham, a cured pork loin, sliced, and another, peppered ham, sliced. I'll bake some bread. We'll have sandwiches by the road.

Tomorrow I pack my computer and the gig is up. Where we stay there is no internet, but at the coffee shop. If I get a post or two in, they will be at Letters, my blog away from home. 

Merry Christmas.


Now that we have street trees, we have winter shadows.


This morning we are up early to visit my paternal Grandmother, Anna. At 96, she has her wits and most of her mobility, but lives in a nursing home where most have neither. I think, for her, it is akin to being in the low academic track while having the brains for honors. The wheel-chair bound, the gaping mouths, the stupor, she (and I) can hardly take. There is something disturbing in the collection of the frail into one life compartment. It is difficult to walk through that front door -there is just too much.

I credit my grandmother with my introduction to the cultivation of flowers. She was always in the garden, on her knees in her border beds, and I think she was the only person I knew as a child who did such things, who commanded the plants that, under every other circumstance, simply ran free. Her garden was my first.

Roses are her favorite, and had I ample warning of the sale of her house, I would have rescued more of her roses, most 40 or 50 years old, from the garden. Instead I hastily yanked just one, on a cold day in November. From her garden I also received my Eupatorium and iris, but little else.

I am sure that Anna would have difficulty gardening now, thanks to arthritis and some difficulty bending, certainly kneeling. Yet I often wish that the facility could have extensive gardens for her to appreciate. She always had cut flowers in the house, from the garden. Today we will buy her some flowers, for the vase in her room.

Grandma's Tea.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Diversity Ghetto

It is official or semi-official -my neighborhood (which I define broadly -not just a zip) is the most diverse in Brooklyn. Check out the New York Mag story, but even better, see the insane census-based map from the NY Times that is so dense it overpowers my phone line internet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Morning Star

I stopped in at Larry's last night, amidst the selling of Christmas trees and wreaths. I wished him a Merry Christmas and he asked if I bought a tree. No, I said, because we are not here for the holiday, but we did buy a wreath for the door, for the scent. Larry said I should have seen him first, he would have given me one. I told him that it was okay for us to buy a wreath and he said thank you. He then worried about us driving to Minnesota in our old van, imploring us to rent a car. We'll be okay, we've already drove it to Minnesota with no trouble. I shook his large hand, wished him yet again a Merry Christmas.

Early, out the window.

Venus and what are known to the FAA as rotor craft.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Last night I discovered on a local blog (thank goodness for those) that my local deli man, Pepe, died at work of a heart attack. He was 42. I am shocked by this. He was always there, and always a smiling face, and even though I didn't order everyday, or even every week, he always knew what I was there for,  and I know it's a cliche about the man at the counter. Just a few days ago he ribbed me about my roast beef. This is a tragedy for his two children, 5 and 7, and his wife. And no one saw it coming.


I've decided to begin rising earlier than I have been, and consequently, needing my full 8 hours, going to bed earlier. Why stay up to midnight, carousing on the Internet, watching comedy reruns, bad news? Getting up at 5:30 am, heading out to the studio, arriving by 7 am. It has to be that early. I went today harangued by standing room only buses, gobs of school kids, lines at the breakfast counter. Eight aye em is just too late. Then I rushed, ruined lots of hard won progress, left too late and was then a half hour late to work. So, tomorrow I set the alarm for 5:30 am, arrive at the studio by 7 am, leaving me 3 hours to work before I leave for work.

Leaving this winter for Minnesota I feel a minor sense of, I'll call it, negative anticipation. I feel as if we may be running the gauntlet of weather. Now, I am exceptionally adept at reading the weather -at least as presented in graphical form on the Internet. I can anticipate the movement of clouds via satellite images, make future sense of a series of radar graphics, understand the effects the isobars of pressure represent, and spot the hole and shoot for it! Then, I think of Rex, my father in law, who knows little of this Internet, yet can look at the sky, interpret the barometer and hygrometer readings, name clouds and know what they mean relative to multiple other factors, the way any Navy weatherman should, having done so long before satellite images were reality. In fact, he invented a wheel that can forecast the weather based on a selection of factors, but his company at the time, Honeywell, saw no market for it.

But I'm not sure he or his invention would do us any good driving the gauntlet, as predicting weather is generally based on a fixed location, adding movement ramps down probabilities. He will, however, be happy to see us, in one piece, in Minnesota, where his daughter belongs, not the liberal, heathen NYC, that has so many wonders he admires. I am hoping for a visit to New Ulm, the original midwestern German town, from which my wife's family descends, and well known for it's warring past that inspired President Lincoln to say that he "...could not afford to hang men for votes." With that in mind, I may just dance my lederhosen off with a gaggle of giant gnomes.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Flurries blowing around, yeah, that's the spirit. Temperature at my leaky building is 27 degrees F, and I think going down to at most 20 degrees, but more likely somewhere in the teens. I think I hear the wind whoopin' the siding. Oh, yeah, that's the spirit. In Mound, Mn, it's already negative 1.5 degrees F, going down to a cool negative 15. Hmm, where are my gloves?

Winter Is Light

It's going to get cold tonight, early morning, as the high pressure slips down behind the cold front. I'm listening to the first program of Radiogarden as advertised on GardenRant. In listening to this story, I began to hear my gardening stories in my head and then I realize I'm not listening. I allow the humming to suggest my own humming, similar but unique, and wonder how it all harmonizes.

Minneapolis, Minnesota has just received 16 inches of snow. This is a lot of snow for them to receive at once. Incidentally, I have one painting in a show, the white one -Minnesota snow, up at "Gallery 61" at 16 W61st street, 11th floor,  until Jan 18th. By springtime, maybe May, I'll have enough new work to put together a show of my own, maybe in Brooklyn, maybe elsewhere.  

While I am in Minnesota I plan to update my art site with new work and better images and maybe work on a couple of photo books. Did you know that St. Mark's Bookshop sells handmade books by artists? My wife Betsy sold out a series of books she made last spring and is now putting together another edition of a new book. She's pushing for me to put my photos in small book form, where I think they will work best because they need to be a series and my camera's pixel count is quite low by today's standards for printing (it is going on 7 years). One will be B&W Prospect Park images, and the other of the community garden at Ft. Tilden. What I really need to work out is the ICC profiles, and ink types (I read carbon blacks are the way to go) for printing. These handmade books won't be high priced, although I do not know what they will go for yet -depending rather simply on what they cost to produce.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Storm

What do you see in the clouds? Comma, laughing skeleton, winter.

The yin and yang of temperature.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Probability and Pincushion

The day was warm, so it was all the more tolerable to be outside, under the hood, blindly feeling about for the tab that disconnects the harness. A neighbor passes, shouts "not only does he he make gardens, he repairs cars too." A man of many seasons.

I would have rather been in the garden -it hasn't been prepared for winter at all.  Three gray cats lay in the side yard, like sunbathers, satisfied grins, chins up to the sun.

I dug a trench to place the potted perennials into, but not before stepping in cat shit. I emptied the compost bucket, moved the cold frame to a location less desirable for the cats, who like to sit on the lid, depressing it until it pops from its frame. I swept the poor man's patio, a name more apt today than last spring. I emptied unused pots and planters, the last of the vegetable boxes, and placed them where I would prefer the cats not to shit. I didn't prune, or chop, except for the sunflowers, which I broke, so they wouldn't hang over the fence. It is not without hesitation before one sets on removing a good amount of the parts under the hood, with the short days, the rain coming tomorrow, and then the alternate side dancing.

The problem with the van began yesterday morning. Everything was fine until I left the bank, where I was getting new debit cards after someone stole my numbers to buy a few 100 dollar gift cards at a big bath towel store. I swiped on the heater after a few minutes, but nothing came out, nothing, not even a whir. Switch, relay, fuse, module, resistor, fan motor, wires? None of that matters when you are driving through Pennsylvania, through the lake snow states, through the arctic prairie chill of northern Illinois, then Wisconsin, and finally Minnesota.

When I had all the parts out and awoke to the probability that looking alone would not solve the problem, I chose to put everything back so that, heat or not, at least we could drive the van.

That's when "Crystal" appeared, with her gold glitter eyeliner and bleach blond hair. "Whacha doing, fixing your car? What's your name (Joe)? Is this your building (no)? What's wrong with it (I'm sorry, but I have one hour before the sun goes down)? Do you have a few bucks I can borrow?" I've seen her around, never been sure if she's a prostitute or a druggie from our local methadone dispensary, or both. I imagine her and her friends smashing my windows for the tool box, jack, or some other thing.

I got everything back into its place just after the sun dropped below the trees, with nothing solved but the knowledge that I can get to the part that might be the problem and how long it can take to do so in pleasant weather. Tomorrow it will be warm and rainy, and on Monday the cold returns. The probable part will need to be ordered and the trip? Next week.

Pincushion in the morning sun.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I'm very happy to see that the iris is blooming indoors. Did the right thing -cut the stems because of my nagging frosty sense. I waited, waited, waited, because too soon and the buds would not have been developed enough to flower. If you're wondering, scented slightly citrus, less robustly than out of doors in spring.

The others, pincushion or Scabiosa columbaria and 'Sheffield Pink' Mum or Chrysanthemum koreanum, Chrysanthemum x rubellum, or Dendranthema, that have taken to vase life high above the feline.

Oh, one more time.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wack Frost

Tonight, at 8:33 pm, my thermometer reads 29.8 degrees F, and that's up against the building. Tonight, all will be lost. Should it get down to 22 degrees, which is possible being below the 30 degree mark so early and with clear sky, we will remember why it is that we respect winter. This however, is not the story. Tonight, apparently, is a drop in the cold bucket compared to what is about to knock us off our fleece-footed indifference. It is being said that next Tuesday night, and you'll probably forget this by then, we should have temps nearing the single digits, at the very most the teens after a weekend storm which may or may not bring us some white. This is highly unusual for this time of the year, or any really, in NYC, but definitely unusual for pre-solstice.

This has been a stellar year for lake effect snows. Why does this matter, we've no lakes? Well, in less than two weeks, Betsy and I will be headed for Minnesota, where it is already 4.9 degrees F as I write this. Our route, driving with two shivering cats, cuts across the the lake effect zone, creating misery and tension for unseasoned winter drivers like myself. I've an exceptional record when it comes to spotting the break in the storm on satellite, for pushing ahead to miss the bulk of a coming snow storm, but there's no missing those long bands of lake effect, they go on and on and on. From the PA 'Wilds' to somewhere in Indiana, you never know what you're gonna get.

I took one last look at the flowers out there after I put out the recyclables. Smelled the roses. Picked up a potted annual, brought it inside. I thought of cutting the 'New Dawn' buds for the vase, but they're so high up and too thorny for night time acrobatics. Tomorrow morning, bust out the camera for some frosty rose petal pics. It's not all bad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mr. Clean Greens

I spent at least a half hour snipping roots from the greens. I washed them at least 5 times -three before the root snipping, two after. Then, into the spinner for drying, and then the fridge. The last two nights I've eaten greens for dinner. This was weird -tonight I ate orzo with pecorino romano, breaded and fried chicken breast, tossed over the salted and peppered greens. 

Incidently, the garden hasn't frozen yet. The 'New Dawn' rose has two buds about to bloom. Also, the vase of flowers is holding up, and the chrysanthemums, pincushions, borage, and eupatorium are doing well. But the big news is the iris apical bud is about to bloom. Awesome.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beach Farm: Week 18

The snap peas are flowering well now. A decision must be made. 

 I pulled most of the radishes.

The broccoli has been doing well, but there simply isn't enough energy in this low sun to have grown them for harvesting before a serious freeze. I also haven't brought more plastic to fully tent these. Ah, I suppose I'm giving up. Good luck broccoli.

I harvested most of the asian greens and arugula. This is what I left. I started snipping, but then just went with all out pulling.

 The bundle of greens.

 Recent heavy rains made lots of splash up and the wet soil stuck well to the growing roots.

 A bit of buttock.

 On my way to the compost, I spotted this in the field.

 The seed says nothing short of geranium.

This three bin system, instituted by our fearless NPS Ranger Thaddeus, will hardly work. All bins filled. Cannot turn the heap, cannot transfer into the next bin. A compost corral would be way better for the quantity of organic matter we're creating here.

On my way out, decision made. I chopped the snap peas for the greens. I will saute them in butter and garlic with pancetta and serve with pasta -better than waiting for 10 pea pods and then finding everything frozen on my next visit.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cat Flowers

It all started rather simply. I cut the iris stalks this morning, sure that a good frost would do them in. Well, after my return from the studio, I decided why not pull in some sunflowers and chrysanthemums before they succumb? And that's how it all began.

Why stop there? I went back out and picked some pineapple sage, the remaining pincushion flowers, some borage, even some hardy ageratum that hadn't yet fully bloomed.

While I was out there, and even earlier in the day, I thought to myself how I had not found the mantis eggs this year. Well, while I was pulling leaves off the chrysanthemums, nothing but that happened to fall off. I brought it outside and put it on the rose bush.

But, we cannot have nice things. Why? Because beast cat Pinkie will, as soon as you turn away, destroy all your nice things. For this reason, we never have cut flowers in the house, or if we do, they must be put way up on top of the fridge. While I was cutting the stems, she was there waiting for her turn to participate. Even as I write this I caught her on the table, paw to the flowers. If I were to keep this on the table and leave, I would return to find the vase broken on the floor, the flowers spread all around, and, of course, the puddle.

Update: pineapple sage did not care for a few hours in the vase -wilt, wilt, wilt, trash. The borage is mixed, some floppy, some strong. I must admit to really liking cut flowers and if I had a large space would probably have an area just for growing cuts. And since I am dreaming, I would also have a space where the cat don't shine, and the vase unfazed by capricious felinity.

Neighbor's Rose

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flowers This Morning

Are maybe a little rugged looking, but then, who or what isn't in the morning. Of course, the roses are still blooming, and the honeysuckle too, and a thing or two otherwise, but these got in front of the camera.

 Okay, not a flower, but more enjoyable than the ragged coneflower with petals.

 And again, not a flower, but the anticipation.

 Sometimes more blue.

 And others more purple.

Fully expecting freeze tonight. Maybe for an hour, maybe for four hours, anybody's guess.