Monday, May 30, 2011

If You Love Lower Manhattan So Much That You Cannot Leave It...

... And, you insist on eating the latest in foraging, those last chance foods... consider the West Side Highway. In early morning, preferably before the traffic, and eyewitnesses.

Do not look at the roses. They are a distraction, a colorful blur, as you accelerate under yellow, then red, signals. Look amongst the weeds, the disheveled, distasteful zip of floral disfunction that can be the barrier between those that travel north and those who prefer south.

All the best things are over-looked because they lack such formal amplitude, yet they buzz with oscillations, first this, then that, layer upon layer of dissonant fecundity. Step outside, move toward the river, cross three lanes, real casual, enter the barrier and pull exquisite earthiness from the soil. Do not cross against the signal. Clean. Eat.

There are thousands of Wild Garlic, Allium vineale, bulbs from roughly W12th Street up towards the 40s. Two hot spots: W13th-ish and W22nd-ish and West Side Highway. Be safe, thank me later.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bearing Fruit

Around five o'clock this afternoon we were racing to get barbecuing items together for an evening at the beach farm with my father-in-law. He wasn't much aware of the garden on the beach and we thought we should show him before he leaves tomorrow. While there, why not cook some food after snacking on snap peas and broccoli florets, which, by the way, were a complete surprise. But my point is that we were not listening to the radio, and weren't aware that the interview would be broadcast this evening, having first heard of it via Marie, on FB, several hours later!

The snap peas have been bearing fruit, not the least of which is the interview with WNYC. You can read the blog post at Last Chance Foods. Happily I see that they included a link to both this here blog and my art work. Below is the audio of the interview with Amy Eddings.

I discovered a few things about pea pods this season. One is, the 'Sugar Ann' snaps do not always grow true -a few have been fruiting as snow peas. Another is that you must wait for the snaps to truly plump up if you want them sweet as can be. Also, I have one purple-flowered snap out of 25 white-flowered plants, and I see that I can foretell this by observing the purplish leaf axils that only the purple-flowered peas seem to have. If you're eating the greens in a salad, the purple flower sure dresses it up.

Beach Farm Bugs, Plantings

We've had a excess of grubs, and then a flurry of these wasps buzzing around, low to the ground, never quite landing. On my return the next day, it was cool and cloudy, and the wasps were gone. Until I started digging. Then I would find them on the surface of the soil, seemingly stunned, often wanting to dig themselves back in. My instinct is that these wasps are here for the grubs. I thought maybe that they were the adult of the grub, but nixed that idea in favor of feeding or laying eggs on the grubs. And since they appeared to have little interest in us, I was pleased they were around should they take out some grubs.

The camera picked up the hairiness, that I was not able to make see.

Of course, click on the image for much larger hairy wasp.

The grubs that I believe are responsible for some lost plants.

These images are from last Sunday, what seems to have been the last of the cool days of spring if weather forecasts are accurate for the coming days. I hearing 90; I'm sure you've heard it too. Ninety has me concerned for the irrigation is yet to be installed, the peas are in their prime, the tomatoes have just been planted, and the broccoli under the heat-increasing tent. Ninety is too much, too fast, and it well seems that the weather has turned on the heat with a switch. Remember last June, it was well in the 90s and little rain for nearly a month. At least we've had rain.

The arugula and asian greens performed poorly this year. I got them in early, yet they didn't move, then it was coolish and rainy and yet they bolted. The red mesclun has not bolted, but hasn't taken off either. All have tasted good, if now a little bitter or spicy. They will be pulled if the weather heats up as they're saying.

The tomato support system has attracted some beach farm attention, no one being quite sure what I was doing, although one farmer did admire that I was using a tape measure. His garden is also quite orderly. I had one broccoli doing quite well from last year's winter crop. Even though I had to plant the tomatoes, I just pushed one snug up against the broccoli.

A view of the garlic from our neighbor's plot. I will not be able to get this shot this summer as he has planted corn. We're sure he didn't give much thought to planting tall-growing corn on the northern edge of his plot, which will shade part of ours. We decided to place a path on our southern border to mitigate any shade gardening. Otherwise, it shouldn't matter all that much -broccoli will be planted where the garlic is now.

I started some seeds on Wednesday! Foolish as it is, I've planted peppers and eggplant. These plants like warm soil temps for germination, and we'll have that. The question is whether or not they will grow rapidly enough to be planted at the beach farm successfully. I've planted some new seeds -poblano peppers and various basils, but I've also planted some very old seeds, maybe 14 years old. I had some New Mexico Chile, Italian Sweet Peppers (Corno di Toro) and two varieties of heirloom eggplant -all old Shepherd's Seeds. Will they sprout, survive, take off? I love a good experiment. If they don't, I'll find some starts which I intend to plant where the tented broccoli is, sometime before we depart for Minnesota this June.

We have a visitor in town, keeping me from the work. But on the other hand, we attended Carnegie Hall last night to see friend Marouan Benabdallah give his debut recital. But today, I must farm, must roll out the irrigation pipe. I believe in irrigation. And sunscreen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Sea Of Linaria

This caught my eye, as it would yours, no?

Linaria, or sometimes Nuttallanthus, canadensis.

Gracing our sandy expanses down near the beach farm.


Coreopsis Lanceolata -sand coreopsis growing on the path to the Linaria. Yes, that is poison ivy growing in there. Nowhere has more PI than Fort Tilden, so be careful when you decide to go off trail.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trash Mob

I've just returned from the woods in Prospect Park where we, the assembled, disposed of 22 bags of trash comprised mostly of hundreds of condoms, wrappers, wipes, and lubricants. What else can you say about that? The woods was otherwise lovely on this first humid and warm day of the year; the scents of various flowering shrubs aloft in the moist woodland air. Saw some columbine, woodland geranium, coral mushrooms, and another very large mushroom which was all about, but must go unnamed. UPDATEDryad's Saddle or Pheasant's Back, Polyporus squamosus (thank's Marie)Next time we will get to plant, which I am excited about.

Now, after some well-earned lunch, I am off to Red Hook to check out the new Gowanus Nursery and see if they have a palatable variety of vegetables and herbs that I have not been able to start myself. Particularly looking for eggplant, poblano peppers, and a variety of basil beyond the sweet or genovese. I did a wonderful job of raising tomatoes, broccoli, and leeks from seed this season, but somehow missed all the others. If I cannot find what I am looking for at Gowanus, I'll drive on down to Chelsea.

I grew enough tomatoes (black russian, brandywine, bella rosa, orange pixie, sungold cherry, reisenstraube grape, milano plum, and san marzano plum) this year to offer my well-grown extras to several people. After the nursery visit, I'll drop off most of my remaining extras to friends up in Williamsburg, then heading to BAM for my first three D movie -Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On The Work Trail

We went to learn how to move thousand pound quarry stone.

But I am one of those guys, distracted by the greenery all around the trail, who can't put away his camera. Here the garlic mustard, which was profuse and even beautiful at times over that first week of May.

Stone moving a little bit much for this volunteer, she decided to clear the woods of all the garlic mustard.

Poison ivy was everywhere. Its typical red-tinged shiny young leaves in threes.

But then also this specimen, with deeply cut, dull green leaves having confused more than one volunteer.

The trail section as we left it in April.

This in May. The NYNJ Trail Conference trail builders do fine stone work.

There was much new growth near the staircase, including the leafing out of a group of lovely young tulip trees.

And the oaks nearby, likely a red or black oak (pointy leaf serrations).

Celandine -major.

Chelidonium majus, a poppy from Europe that likes roadsides and wastes, much like our road embankment staircase.

My guess is Rubus phoenicolasius, or Wineberry. I remember these from the Muttontown Preserve. Also growing alongside the embankment staircase. Pretty dull in April, now it's full of interesting plants.

This seems to be a trail where animals go to die. Must have something to do with the highway.

This is another segment of the John Muir Trail. A previously boulder strewn incline, now being improved with quarried steps to minimize mountain biking on the trail (yet probably won't stop it).

The water bar we had practiced moving after it was placed and dug in. Water bars move water off the trail so that fast moving water doesn't erode the trail into a deep gully. And finally...

Part of that day's work was "de-berming" a paved hillside path to allow water to move off the path and into the woods. In the course of this work, volunteers scraped and shoveled many plants out of being. Trail builders do not have the resources to take great care with the trail-side plants while doing renovations. Much like any infrastructure work, the heavy lifting gets done without the light touch of plant protection or relocation. Saving plants is an entirely different frame of mind, and would require the knowledge of which plants are worth saving, how to dig them up, and how to place and care for them until they re-establish. It also requires trail work information before it begins. 

I noticed the may apples, a rather obvious species, and decided to spare some. I picked a few out, some missing leaves, and bagged them, poured Poland Spring into the bag, and left them with my things. Of course, it couldn't have been 2 minutes before I was ragged on for stealing park plants by one of the officials. But we're killing them anyway, I argued. The whole affair left us feeling awkward. Of course, we're both right, seems to me that even if I had planted them deeper in the woods, without watering them (who knew if we would get much rain, it being the beginning of a dry week, now we are in a wet one), I suspected they had little chance of surviving. In fact, on our last outing volunteers planted a number of plants in a bad spot (under a maturing pine and in the path of moving quarry stone) and most were dead by the time I returned to the site. Anyhow, I must keep reminding myself not to be a gardener when I am helping with trails.

Many of the may apples were in flower. I transported my three stolen (or saved) may apples to my yard, planting them under the yew tree (my best approximation of woodsy shade) and watered them. Three weeks later I am almost surprised to say that they are still alive. If they like it there, they will spread, and then I will need to share them with Prospect Park. I'll call this take and give.

Remember this tree I posted about two weeks ago? Working on an ID. I still think its a weed tree.

It's now leafing out, much later than many of the other species, like tulip tree and oak, around it. I think I know what it is and I simply have been too busy to dig it out of the books. Update: I think it's a mulberry tree, maybe Morus alba.

Monday Morning Forecasting

I said it to Betsy almost two months ago -we're gonna have a rough weather spring/summer. So far, for the U.S., it's been tough. Bad tornados and flooding rains have been in the news, including last night's devastating Joplin, MO tornado, much like the one in Tuscaloosa a month ago. There was also a deadly tornado a few blocks from my brother in law in North Minneapolis yesterday, but that has not been much in the news.

We have some thunderstorms in our area tonight, and they won't be as bad as those in the midwest, but as the image below shows, mesocyclonic development is already underway. Where the bright blue meets the darker yellows and browns we are visualizing winds moving in opposite directions quite near each other. Whether or not this develops into a ground-touching tornado remains to be seen. This radar image is just west of NYC in central NJ, 8:58 pm.

courtesy of

Update: They're now listing it as a tornado. Newer image below where it is quite obvious.

courtesy of

UPDATE UPDATE: Storm has turned a little southeasterly and is forecast at this moment to hit Brooklyn and or Staten Island in what appears to be 1 hour and 40 minutes. Each white segment is worth 20 minutes, and the arrow points its general direction. It has also been downgraded from a tornadic storm to just a mesocyclone. If it survives the next hour, we should get some good thunder and rain, and some wind too.

courtesy of

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beach Farm Bugs, Rapture

Today we ate our first snap peas, not our last.

The broccoli tent is exploding with growth and I steel myself against taking off the cover.

Inside it's snail heaven, and being heaven, I suppose they need not eat, because they're not.

I reduced the leek rows from four to three, transplanting into the places where we lost leeks.  

When I dug out this leek, out came the grub in the same shovelful. The leek's leaves just fell away. I do not know what these larvae become, other than some form of bug or beetle, but they seem to be wreaking the most damage at the farm. I now blame them for the cut down broccoli and the wilting, cut down young chard. We find these wherever we dig, and I presume the snow cover helped more survive than usual.

I went over to the untended plot and thought about grabbing some asparagus tips, but I noticed these eggs. Click on these photos for much bigger images.

Then I realized there's a lot of reproduction going on.

Name that beetle. Please say asparagus beetle, because it was only on that, in numbers, and the name rings a bell.

We headed to the beach after 5 hours pulling weeds, building tomato trellis, repairing Federal fences, thinking of the rapture. It was all the talk, while everyone worked hard on their plots, sure in their actions, if not in their words.

And a wedding was held on the beach today, happy and hopeful.

And Betsy and I felt thankful that we could spend another day on this earth, rapt as we are with it. And since there will be a tomorrow, I'll plant all these tomatoes at the beach farm.