Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Occidental Philistine

I've noticed recently that I haven't been prompted for any updates on my imac in about a year. I clicked software update and saw that it was empty. I googled it. Wow. Apple isn't writing any more software updates for my computer, not even itunes. Then I tried to watch a video online, and the site prompted me to update my adobe flash. I tried, but adobe said my system wasn't supported anymore. Oh. Cast out, left behind.

I sold my gas-guzzling '77 Ford F250 to buy this imac in 2004 when they were first G-fived and priced high. Intending to get 10 years out of this computer, I've just installed the last OS (10.5.?)  written for the G5 imac, crossing my fingers that the web won't drive this computer over a cliff before its time.

Many of you may be wondering where the hell all those awesome photos I used to publish have gone. Well, my 7 year-old camera, which is 49 in technology years, died about a month or so ago. At first, I replaced it with my wife's 8 year-old (56) camera. But that poor camera couldn't survive the lonely life of a widow, and took its own life just a few weeks after. Occasionally I find myself holding a no name camera that I believe my mother got for free when she bought something, maybe a hamburger. It says it has a 5 megapixel sensor, but that is only true at 72 ppi, which translates into a max printed image of 4 x 6 inches. It blows out the whites, has fixed focus (infinity) and generally sucks.

Although I can be quite wordy, believe me when I say that most of my posts have been built around the pictures. In fact, it was the digital camera that pushed me toward blogging.

And today, I see that Blogger has introduced a new blogger interface, with which I write. On first approach it seems that if they were going for clean, they may have gone too far. Of course, the blog looks the same, and I just may get used to the new interface. What I really want Blogger to come up with is an app for iphone should I get one of those some day, you know, after the money falls off a truck.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Moving On

I had nothing planned for today, so I took a walk in Prospect Park with Betsy after the walk around the neighborhood didn't satisfy. The basic image is asphalt covered in a blanket of small branches and leaves. Cars with whole leaves plastered to their sides like green decals. There are trees down too, but mostly large limbs fallen, especially at the high points, like Lookout Hill or along the road near the baseball fields. We didn't venture too far into the woods because the winds were still blowing. I picked up a large osage orange fruit. They've been shaken from their limbs. 

Should I have been surprised how many babies and toddlers were running around, center of the storm having just passed? 

A NYC news reporter said this morning that dogs were running around without leashes in response to a question about the condition of the streets in lower Manhattan. Then he asked a fireman if the road he was on would be closed because of flooding and the half-bored fireman lazily said it would close itself. The reporter repeated this (incredulous?) and then bid them to be safe. 

This too shall pass.

For The Record Rehash

I believe Irene will have completely essentially passed us by 9 am tomorrow 12 noon this morning. It's been a long 4 days since Irene was hanging around the bahamas, and the path of the storm was pretty clear at that time. The weather folks are making much of the rain, and there will be some moderate flooding, especially north and west as they say on the news. The chances of major salt water flooding is diminishing, except in the most typical areas. If wind is your thing, watch for it tonight, after midnight, to see the thrashing. Also, if your building is significantly tall, the more wind you'll actually get. Expect gusts around 30-60 mph.

 Looks about right on top of us. But little in its wake.

Coordinates: 40.3°N 74.1°W. Watch out Christie, she's riding up the GS Parkway.

Passing over NYC, 8:51 am. Start planning your Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

With Nothing Left To Do...

The jugs of water, the spiral sausages, the laundry, parking the car in just the right place. I decided to entertain myself with a little garden work between the squalls. 

Grandma's tea has grown aggressively this month, reaching above the sill.

It will get whipped, no doubt, but its a tough ol' bird.

 The gaura droops under the weight of rain. Or is it the heavy atmosphere?

All our recent rains have also driven the max sunflower to rocket despite my hard pruning in July. I tied it into a bunch so that it can thrash as a unit. The side yard is a tangle of overgrown and under-performing plants. Almost all of the NEWFS native perennials I bought a year and a half ago have either croaked or underperformed. I suppose it's too hot here for plants raised in the eastern forest of Massachusetts. Meanwhile the blue asiatic dayflower and pinkish-white smartweed are flowering in abundance.

It wasn't until I started picking up the remains of sexual activity in the woods of Prospect Park with the Litter Mob that I understood that the paper towels I find in the side yard garden are the remains of sexual activity on our corner. What delight. As I worked the yard today, I flung each rag onto the sidewalk. Then, one by one, neighborhood ladies (the old school) emerged to hang out, chattin' it up about hurricanes and flowers, flooding streets and lousy gutters, which trees will fall and how my landlord caught one prostitute pooping in the front of our building.

A squall came on and we returned to our buildings. I took a shower.

Tropic Of Beach Farm

 Beach farm skies.

From the dunes, looking north.

From the dunes, looking south.

 From the dunes, looking dumb.

It was inevitable that we would pass handfuls of sightseers, one who announced to us that they just had to see it for themselves. But there isn't much to see at this time. Doesn't look much different than a winter's day, except for those swimmers. After I snapped these quick shots, the park ranger showed up beeping his horn. As we hustled back to the van he announced that we needed a permit to park there! Ha, I thought that was funny. Err, where do I get one of those surge permits. Must be habit.

Hurricane Haul

 It was eight am. No stop, no tolls.

 Tilden was wide open, with just a few characters hustling toward the shore.

But I went for these. The german stripe has been a disappointment this year and there was no way I was going to allow these two fall to the storm. Bad picture, good fruit. I also picked one that had the slightest blush of yellow on the bottom, where the germans start to ripen first. The remaining greens were left to fend for themselves, including a new flush of brandywine and black russians.

These were my second concern. Plums are determinate, meaning they set fruit in one or two flushes. I had hoped flush one had ripened, but I was forced to pick them a pale blush. I left the greens knowing a strong gale may drop them from the vine, much as what seemed the earthquake had done the other day. Truly, a mysterious pile of greens under the bush the morning after the quake.

I hate picking fruit before ripe, and there are camps on the practice of picking, I know. I would have left these another week.

The haul. Several carrots, a pile of semi-red plums, green beans of course, a few eggplants, mysterious and small self-dropping poblanos, parsley, basil, and those two giant striped germans. The basket is always full.

In other beach farm news...It's about to be a tropical storm. We expect some flattening. We expect to pull the green beans after the storm. They will be replaced by surviving broccoli starts.

This is the broccoli I purchased last week in Maine and planted this past Wednesday. I decided not to tent them despite the cabbage moths fluttering around. The gale will whip the tent and the tent will whip the broccoli to tatters. They can flatten and survive better on their own.

The cukes were pulled on Wednesday, and now that the wind is about to blow it appears the right decision. In their place, newly planted snap peas, which have not risen yet, and are hopefully waiting out the storm.

Incidentally, next to the flowering cilantro are all the carrot thinnings I attempted to transplant. While they looked pretty sickly at first, they now appear well-adjusted and healthy.

This one is healthy too thanks to the feast of parsley and carrot tops. It appeared that this swallowtail had just emerged, and was clinging without much movement to the fence post. Good luck little buddy.

The Privilege Is All Mine

On our travels of the last 7 days, we met with several good friends, many of whom had brought up the recent NY Times article about people stealing vegetables and fruit from community gardens. I ended up saying the same thing enough times to think it worth me repeating it here, and do so partly because I am surprised at how much the article goads me.

Sometimes I feel the average NYT garden writer is a dim bulb with the proper connection. I say this because I often wonder what they are thinking. Why is this a story? SeriouslyThis is a story? All the news that's fit to print? Your the New York Times -I want to see stories about people stealing justice, people stealing the security of the masses, but I don't really think that people taking fruit here or there is a story. Unless the writer makes it a story, does some leg work, finds someone who steals fruit to tell the story. Dig into the complex world of community garden haves and haves-not. It is a limited resource. Who gets to garden anyway?

So there is a story, just not what we've seen in print -the set up, the anecdotal evidence, the website with advice, and the shrug. Folks seemed to bring up the article in conversation as if there is a lesson there for gardeners. Maybe they feel it supports their own bias against such communal enterprises. Is the community garden fodder for the touchy debate about private versus public? What of ownership? What of access or agency?

I happen to find that there are those who complain about theft at the community garden and those who don't, or at the least, brush it off. Plant enough for everyone say some. I think you would be less than mammal not to feel the pull of that ever ripe fruit, hanging there, begging to be picked. I feel it. Pick me, it calls, pick me. It's fine, they'll never come and then I'll rot with flies and maggots and wouldn't that be a shame? Pick me.

I've seen the semi-lock down of the Floyd Bennett gardens and the total lock down of countless others. Our garden is generally open. There are those at Tilden who talk of fences and locks, those who have noticed the incredible rise in beach-going visitors this summer. Yet I argue against defense. We are not free when we are fenced in and locked up.

Hmm, but people stole the tomato. They lifted a cucumber. Oh yes, people are bad -at least some other people (right -it's never me, us, but them). So I consider how fortunate I am, that my access to a garden isn't a right, but a privilege in NYC, and no amount of petty pilfering will lead me to give it up. And if the theft became alarmingly wide spread, noticeably wholesale, I would know well to think that something was terribly wrong with the world in which I garden.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Over Reach?

I do find it a shame that both Central Park and Prospect Park are ordered closed tomorrow -Saturday. I also find it a shame that the greenmarkets of Saturday will be not happening. We can well predict the timing of this storm to be at the earliest Saturday evening. Greenmarkets are well wrapped up by 4pm and why not hit the park this Saturday morning before all the weather, if not to at least get a vision of it before it thrashes.

Beaches, well fine, I get it. The high surf, etc. But I will still make an honest attempt to get to the beach farm tomorrow to harvest before it all blows over. Will the Fed be as panicky as Parks?

I tell you, I depend on my rational attitude when it comes to this sort of thing, but all the chitter chatter, all the suggestive hyperbole by governors of mid-atlantic states, makes me anxious. I think what I could use is a little quiet on the emergency preparedness front. But I know it's not me they're talking to; it's an all day convince 'em committee, trying to reach that fart who never listens.

Gone Far Enough

Irene continues to weaken. Wind shear is tearing at the storm as it approaches N. Carolina. The storm hasn't had a true "eye" since yesterday. Now that all the media outlets are in on the show, they cannot back peddle on warnings lest they be responsible for the outcome. I take this storm seriously, as any storm, but let us rationally view all the warnings and orders issued today from various government agencies. The government must order evacuations in our post-Katrina world. It doesn't matter how many times we've sat in our low-lying homes through a variety of tropical storms, without being forced to evacuate. It's what government needs to do. What you need to do is view this coming storm with respect and rationality, and a mind for the dangers this storm truly represents.

Irene will dump lots of rain, causing street flooding all over the area. It will swell rivers, although probably not to historic levels. There will be wind, more constant than we're used to. Certain low-lying areas will see some tidal flooding, particularly the Rockaways and Coney Island. Irene's large size and slow movement have put lots of water in movement, and that will find its way to our shores. The Rockaways are no stranger to tidal flooding -it happens a lot in late fall and winter during Nor' Easters. I believe it's this forecast of tidal flooding that is putting the city to mandatory evacs, even though the actual flooding may be significantly less than the statistical potential of Irene.

I do take exception to NPR announcers' (and whomever else is saying it) use of the phrase "storm of unprecedented, historic proportions." The only thing unprecedented about Irene is the widespread governmental response, the closing of public transportation and mandatory evacuations. Moving the National Guard to Long Island -err that is awfully unprecedented, and certainly lacking proportion. Hurricane Gloria was sure to hit Long Island in 1986, and the guard was not sent in. We had a week without electricity, and they still didn't send the guard in. 

I'm glad they are giving till 5 pm to evacuate the islands because I have major plans to hit the beach farm tomorrow to pick some tomatoes before they are knocked and rotted by this mean ol' Irene.

The Adjustment

Irene will peak over today, then, begin to weaken as a significant portion of the storm goes over land. It is a slow moving storm, which can create more damage, but also weakens it over the long term. The constant churning of the ocean brings up deeper, cooler water, which inhibits the heat engine that a tropical cyclone depends upon. The slower the storm moves, the more cool water is worked to the surface. Additionally, the storm is working towards cooler waters, and that will influence it's strength.

The land will do much to disturb the storm's structure, especially as it is moving fairly slow. My prediction now is that Irene will hit the metro area (that includes Jersey and LI) as a low level hurricane, but quite possibly as a strong tropical storm. Now, what matters most is exactly which direction it moves. To the west of NYC, and we will see more wind and more coastal flooding. To the east and we will see less wind, less coastal flooding (but some!) and more rain flooding. New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, CT, etc. should expect anywhere from 5 to 12 inches of rain depending on the speed of the storm at landfall. Add those quantities of rain to what these areas had two weeks ago, and we have a scenario for some heavy flooding.

Subways were out of service on the morning of August 9, 2007 due to rainfall from one thunderstorm. We should expect the same, or that they will curtail service before it happens. Certain bus routes will be shut down, if not all, by Saturday night. The Gowanus area should expect serious street flooding as happened during that one thunderstorm in 2007. Other areas should expect the same. The Belt Parkway will have closures due to rain/coastal flooding. Certainly other areas will have the same problems. Roadway storm drainage is calculated to handle set volumes due to cost constraints. The price we pay for this is flooded roadways.

Avoid parking your car under large trees and don't sit in them. Large limbs will fall. Trees are not likely snapped at the trunk like they are in tornado winds (which are tightly wound and almost instant), but the winds will thrash the trees until some give way, often due to the water-logged soil. However, canyons of buildings facing the right direction will funnel the wind and increase its potential for local damage.

Power may go out, but not for very long. Cell phone coverage may be intermittent. Piped gas could be affected. Water may need boiling if water mains become inundated with combined sewage overflows, which mix storm runoff with sewage because the system is not designed (cost, age, etc.) for these potential water volumes. This is why we buy bottled water before tropical storms. Storms that are in a category beyond what our infrastructure was designed specifically to handle render our infrastructure useless. This is what we prepare for in a city.

Not because it is the apocalypse. Not because of what happened to New Orleans. This won't be that. Irene is no Katrina. It's simply because we haven't built around the conditions of tropical storms which are rare in NYC, and often overshadowed by Nor' Easters.

Hurricane Bertha took a similar course in 1996. After hitting the Carolinas, it diminished rapidly. Maybe it is 1999's Hurricane Floyd that Irene will emulate, with a path that is uncannily similar to Irene's projected path. Floyd was a lot stronger in its Bahama cycle, but otherwise parallels Irene. Do you remember Floyd? Vaguely? 


Projected path of Irene

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Its Only Hype When Nothing Happens

The newest tracking for Ms. Irene brings the eye of the storm over central New Jersey. This is bad for Cape May, Atlantic City, The Del-Mar-Va. But it is also bad for NYC. Here's why.

The windy side of a hurricane is the east side. The windy side pushes more water, a lot more water. In addition, the currents flow east to west along Long Island's south shore. New York Harbor, in fact, the whole of the NY Bight is a crotch, or a funnel, into which this windy side of the storm can push a whole lot of water, especially during astronomically higher tides. Again, too soon to say, but this can be bad for all of NYC's coastal residents, and possibly no good for the beach farm (shan't I think of myself?). I believe we need an 11 feet over high tide to swamp the beach farm. 

The storm is a little weaker right now, and may only intensify a bit before hitting the Carolinas. If the eye stays over land, then it will weaken significantly during that time, although retaining enough strength to still be a menace to our untested infrastructure (remember how a good amount of rain can shut down our subways?) and coastal areas.

Use this tool for checking your elevation. Just place the black cross-hairs over your street. Then buy a jug of water or two. 

The Probable Storm

I've lived in this region my entire life. I've seen four or so hurricanes, some tropical storms, and my share of long-lasting Nor' Easters. I've also sat on the shore waiting for one highly-touted storm or another, and getting to see little more than gray skies and choppy seas. It's as if the coastline was formed in defense of storms and we live at the apex of that defense. 

That is not to say it is not possible. It is, although NYC tends to be on the soft side of storms (although not the dry side -lookout Jersey) that do hit. The likely paths of these storms are a recurve back out to sea (often hitting Cape Cod, Maine, Nova Scotia) as the systems get pulled into a north-east moving low pressure or pushed off coast by a mid-continental high. These are the likely scenarios. But, and it is early, it seems to me that there are indications that this storm could actually hit our area this weekend, maybe Saturday evening/Sunday morning. Here's why I think it may hit the metro region as a hurricane.

Sea surface temperatures well above eighty degrees F as far north as Delaware. 

 These high surface temperatures keep a storm going strong as it travels north. 

An envelope of moisture, which keeps dry air from entering the storm, and low to moderate wind shear. High wind shear tears at the structure of a storm.

The most common computer models are generally in agreement. The red path, the GFS model, has prominence amongst the weather geeks.

Those models lead to a forecast path like this one, where future uncertainty is depicted as a wider path. Notice how the hurricane is centered on the GFS model's predicted path.

Here we have the paths of similar storms in the month of August over 150 years. This is useful as it generates a sense of historical probability, if not predictability.

Here is this evening's weather map. It shows a weak high pressure over Louisiana, and a low passing over Canada and the Midwest. Normally I would say this low pressure would pull the system out to sea with it as is often the case.

But that low pressure system seems weak and may actually help to pull the system towards the coast as the low pressure lifts further north into Canada.

The Jet Stream looks like this, which is not unusual for August. September is high season for Atlantic coastal hurricanes, but by mid September the jet is dropping lower into the states, and has greater chance of steering the storms -and that is usually out to sea. If the jet stays like this over the next few days, it has less chance of doing just that.

This is a map of storm surges for Brooklyn, some of Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Red indicates the affected land area at high tide from the storm surge of a category 1 hurricane should it hit squarely in our area. The orange, a category 2 storm. Category one and two storms are the most likely based on the history of storms to hit the region. Category 4 and 5 are extremely unlikely because the water temperatures simply cannot sustain that kind of a storm.

It's too early to make an accurate prediction, but my instinct is to watch this storm closely as conditions are as favorable as they could be for the storm to hit Long Island or even NYC. It is a large storm with a larger than average tropical storm force wind field, so one way or the other, NYC will feel the effects of this storm. The beach farm, located on the map, will also feel the effects. Wind blown plants, heavy rains, and possible salt water flooding depending on where the storm goes and its intensity as it does so.

Update 8/25/11 AM: I feel more confident in saying that we should batten down the hatches. Should the storm path bear down us, bring in what is loose. If you have a car, try to get it in a garage, or at best park it away from trees. Tie up your trash pails to railings. Stake garden plants firmly or allow them to lie on the ground. Most will recover. It is hard to imagine this as a leaf-stripping event, but things will fall. Stay inside. Have a hurricane party.

Thanks to for making weather maps accessible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rain Date With Broccoli

We spent the day at the beach farm, alas, no photos. We're still hauling in green beans by the quart, eggplants left and right, and carrot season has descended upon us (fat orange tops poking above the black earth). I've never had luck with carrots before, but I gather some things do get better with age. 

We pulled the cucumbers after harvesting 3 or 4 worthy remnants and planted snap pea seeds in their place. The paste tomatoes are ripening, but are not there yet. The others are producing one here, one there, with the exception of the cherries, which always provide. 

I planted 9 broccoli plants and 6 cauliflower, which I found in Maine of all places. I did get to have a moment with the grower-seller lamenting how impossible it is to find starts in the NYC metro region in August for fall planting, how August in Maine is the best time because of the temps, the blueberries, the lack of bugs, and now is even more so because I know I can find brassica starts for planting in NYC. The way life should be. 

I bought 24 plants. What was I thinking? I planted 15, gave away 6 and housed the rest in their containers, set into the farm soil.

This was our view, and lighting, when we arrived last rainy Monday.

And this our tent about to rise.

And here the two bundles we bought for two fifty each, money placed in the can at the driveway.

The tent, the next morning, bright white fog in place, still raining...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Cleome

On a rainy, rainy day.

We're back, and getting used to it. I'll have some photos from our no-name camera, some better, some worse; but you'll get the picture.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Snake Park

It's actually called Lanape Park. We pass it on the way to the beach farm. From the road all you see is a giant snake and white eggs that spray water. I liked that sense of menace mixed with the absurdity of eggs that spray water, although it seemed a little scary for the little ones. I got my camera working, so we finally decided to stop and take a closer look.

From the road we couldn't see the turtle, the mother of the eggs that happen to be hatching.

Its hard to see, but the mouth has a nozzle that sprays water. Meanwhile the snake is coming for dinner. I still like it better from the road. Something about eggs that spray water tickles me.

Check out these cigars. If the snake didn't scare the kids, maybe these ghostly faces will. Seriously, how did this pass the committee? I understand it is supposed to suggest Native American-ness (spirit poles?), but it ends up being just weird. What exactly were kids supposed to do with it? We couldn't spend too much time figuring it out, as adults aren't allowed in playgrounds in NYC. At least, not unless they are towing a kid themselves, which we weren't, and so we spirited away to the beach farm.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sick Monk

One by one, over the last month, and after incredible spring growth, the Monkshood, Aconitum, has been wilting to death.

It starts like this, and ends like that brown crumpled thing on the left. Any ideas about what it could be? Water is ruled out. Root insect, disease, or competition not ruled out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011