Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Beautiful Day

Fall back on a beautiful day. Crisp air, slight breeze, blue skies, the scent of fallen leaves, and the yellowed and tawny leaves of the beech tree. The beech is the reason I go to High Rock Park on Staten Island, and mushrooms the excuse. Today there simply were no mushrooms, but a few small, pale yellow caps, and a strange, large white wood mushroom that smelled, to me, spicy, verging on anise. Marie took samples. This was our second trip to High Rock, and I was high with hope to find some edible mushrooms. We did find an old, large hen of the woods, and a minute after that, a tick of the woods. Pants into socks, but nothing to eat.

We did see lots of these Striped Wintergreen (or the much more fun Spotted Pipsissewa), Chimaphila maculata down near what I call dead tree pond.

These are the seed capsules of the same plant. Marie says the seeds are as fine as dust.

Moss, always respectable.

So we didn't have much luck with mushrooms, but we did stumble into Pouch Scout Camp, where I was awed by the range of reds of all the oaks surrounding the large pond, known as Ohrbach Lake. It's a little odd, but G. maps does not show a pond in that area in maps or terrain view. But there it was, isolated and beautiful. Save Pouch Camp.

Hungry and unprepared, we ate some Staten Island pizza at a place called Francesca's. Marie had some wine, Vince and I cokes. Military History channel was on the tv, displaying as many dead soldiers as it could muster between our cokes and that last slice. Readers from Staten Island, send us in the right direction for lunch -we were at the mercy of the road to the Verrazano.

I delivered Vince and Marie to their place and off I was to the beach farm to plant some garlic.
Late in the day it was warm, a touch balmy. The air had stilled, and I had some cloving to do at the picnic table with scale, garlic, and notepad. The soil is nothing like my upstate plot, soft and friable, but with small stones and occasional chunks of concrete. The dibber dibbed, and I planted 100 or so cloves, drank my still hot coffee (thank you real thermos), thought about where next year's vegetables would go given the greater space commanded by the garlic. Tomatoes will stay put, and the haricot vert will be in this year's garlic/broccoli bed. Herbs are staying put, as will the pea/cucumber trellis. But where will I experiment with the allium vineale? Still unknown.

I harvested my first ever cauliflower -the one I planted near the compost hole. Grew twice as large and twice as fast as the others. Still, so late in the season, it was not a big head -maybe 6 inches across. Yet it tasted so good, and sweet, that I ate most of it before Betsy got home, leaving just enough for her to taste. So good.

Some broccoli are producing side shoots and I like how they purple. They are also very sweet. I ate all that I picked, which isn't very much as much of broccoli has yet to head up and probably won't so late in the season. There were also many snap peas, some of which I snacked on while planting garlic, but left most because of the early dark that afflicts all outdoor activities at this time of year.

I stood enjoying the warm blanket of air, the white noise of waves in the distance, coffee in hand. How I wished my agricultural practices could all happen right here, at the beach farm. I was reminded of my roots on Long Island, two landscapes at my core -the red oak woods and the beach, and the atmosphere of life near the ocean. Then I thought of our eastern farm lands, changing from potatoes and cabbage to sod, then to grapes, but more often than not -to homes.

I went home, as the moon rose, to make meatballs of lamb and red cipollini onions mixed with diced dry sausage and fennel.


  1. I made meatballs too! Settled on Swedish. Yours look delish.

    Great day, thanks.

  2. You were in Staten Island! Next time for food, For pizza on the island, the two good places to go, both on Victory boulevard, Goodfellas and a Joe and Pats. Both have top notch pizza and Italian food.
    Also, Staten Island has a great german pub with delicious German food called Killmeyers on Arthur Kill Road.


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