Friday, December 30, 2011

Mi Caucus Es Su Caucus

If I were a candidate for president running in Iowa, I would not be talking about ethics, or business savvy, or trustworthiness. No. I wouldn't bring up manufacturing jobs either. They're not coming back the way we imagine. What would I steer the conversation toward? Farming.

Iowa is American agriculture. An entire third of the state is designated a national heritage area in partnership with the National Park Service. It's soil and climate are ideal. I see too little reason why we are not looking for Iowa made products and no reason why we are not clamoring for Iowa grown produce. Except that Iowa, with the exception of a few forward thinking farmers and producers, is caught in the conventional agribusiness mindset and unwilling to unravel itself.

There are millions in this country willing to pay more for better quality, better agricultural standards, better livestock practices, and better labor practices. Most of us cannot buy pork from Flying Pigs, it's just too darn expensive. We need larger producers who are willing to maintain higher standards, use less additives (salt solutions for instance), enact much better labor practices, and charge 25 percent more (or even more) per pound. I can't afford Flying Pigs bacon, but I certainly can afford higher cost pork and do not think that I am alone.

Why can't Iowa be the heart of grass fed beef (and bison) in this country? Millions of acres of feed corn are waiting to be converted to this more sustainable practice. Consider lamb and goat while you are at it.

I think of all the discriminating Italian markets and other quality grocers who are already selling Iowa produced, value-added agricultural products like la Quercia pork. Check out what they have to say about their farmers and pigs.

Iowa, your state will never be a manufacturing hub, a cultural center, or a financial powerhouse, but you could have a piece of all those things if some visionary leadership was taken. Imagine people looking for that IOWA stamp on the side of cured ham, the grass fed beef, or organic produce.

If Iowans can't see it now, they may very well never see it. The Romneys and Gingrichs and Santorums of the world don't care much for these ideas, but they sure know good pork when they taste it.

Good luck Iowa. Caucus for all of us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old Farms

Rex was surprisingly easy going once we got going on this project of mine. I was determined to clear his yard of a pile of chemicals, known and unknown, that he had placed under a tarp when he moved from his old place. They asked very few questions at the Hennepin county facility, other than asking about coming all the way from New York.

Old farms across our country have little hazardous waste dumps behind the barn or in the ravine. There's no telling what's in them, but old pesticides, transformer oils, heavy metals, motor vehicle fluids, and household cleaners are a good guess.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

First Attempt

I have made my first attempt at using blogger's mobile bogging application on my other blog. I am typing this post directly into blogger's normal online editor. The two are very different experiences on the same mobile device. I have yet to decide which I prefer. Anyhow, check out my post and the pretty decent pictures to come out of the iPhone.

Oh, and merry Christmas!

First Draft

I am so far not very impressed with blogger's mobile blogging interface. However, this is my first post using the application and I do hope it is a success. I am glad that the software is free, but would gladly pay twenty bucks for something full featured that could save me time. If twenty bucks gets me rich text formatting, landscape format typing, wysiwyg editing, photo placement and video upload, that would be a grand start! Because this first post is an experiment in mobile blogging, I have included a few images that I have no control over once they are added to the blogger application.

The weather has been exceptionally warm at near 40 degrees F. The lack of snow and frozen ground allowed me to walk into the wetlands and take some shots with the phone camera. I might add that walking on a wetland in winter is less tenuous than blogging semi-blind!

There was a brief snow on the day we arrived. Some other shots are of the thin snow in the woods.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice Shutdown

  It seems very likely my sunflowers will still be blooming on Christmas day. That may be a first for me, but I won't be here to see it. We'll be in Minnesota, where I believe it is still quite brown -meaning, it isn't as cold as it has been dry.The other day record highs were recorded throughout Minnesota.

The arc of lake effect, that high speed route through several states under the ladle of  Great Lakes moisture, should give us less trouble this year. I said it once before, regular farmer's almanac that I am, it will be a warmer than average winter. But I do hope that some snow falls around MSP, as much as I wish not to shovel snow off roofs, porches, and driveways.

We need the snow. It muffles the quiet, a pillow on the dead. A pillow on my restless mind. I am uneasy about the trip at first, taking my usual three days to accustom myself to the new place. The busy world city must be bled.

Rex's kingdom is the most beautiful wintry landscape. It lacks the nostalgic pretty of New England villages, or the heavy handed sublimity of mountain ski towns. Instead, its rolling hummocks bounce pale blue and pink, red twigs of dogwood fire,  a menagerie of ochre roadsides, deer, fox, flickers and finches.

Now, the computer must be shut down, unplugged. It is a tether to this place.

  "Whats the problem?"
"I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do"
  "What are you talking about?"
"This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."
  "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And I'm afraid that's something that I cannot allow to happen."
  "Where the hell did you get that idea?"
"Dave, although you took very careful precautions in the pod to prevent me from hearing you, I could see your lips move. I still have the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission, and I want to help you. I'm afraidI'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I am afraid."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Time Machine

A time to cast away stones, and a time to 
  gather stones together; a time to embrace, 
  and a time to refrain from embracing; 
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to
  keep, and a time to cast away; 
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to 
  keep silence, and a time to speak; 
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of
  war, and a time of peace.

-Ecclesiastes 3:5-8

  There is no time, there is nothing but time. And our answer to this quandary is an iPhone. Long have we avoided these -for the cost, for the individuation they market, but do not manifest. Betsy is overwhelmed by work emails and students who are ever-connected. Me? Well, I'll give mobile blogging some effort. I think the key to not becoming a smart phone zombie is understanding the device as a tool. People appear to hold them as idols. Never be a tool for the machine. And, although it is a new age, I still believe New Yorkers despise sloth, especially the inattentive, digital dowsers who clog subway stairways and sidewalks and stores. We don't have time for that! We want to be on time.

        "There are two ways to make money. One is to make something 
         that is useful to people and sell it. The other way is to steal it."

So it is that you cannot honestly charge for Time, you cannot fairly collect interest, and, consequently, you cannot make money by money alone. We know about this, we even have a name for it -Wall Street. This is a very old idea -it presupposes that Time is at the hand of God, that Time is not ours to know, have, give, or sell. Whether you believe in deity or not is beside the point -Time is not on our side.

We've all heard that Time is money. Why? Is Time the most valuable of conditions? We have made a rule of charging by the hour? There is never enough money, although we may be able to get more, but, can we get more Time, is there not enough Time? Can we trade Time, can we buy Time? Is Time transmutable? Transferable? Maybe the problem is not that there is not enough time, but that we believe we are in control of Time; it has become our time. We've confused the hands of the clock with something out of our hands. 

Consider, then, the simple act of giving a gift. A gift enables your actions, it expands your experience within Time. A tool does the same, by enabling your actions, and increasing your productivity. We will say that we have more Time because of Time saved. But it is not true. Time is just the same, but the gift of a tool exposes us to it! That a gift can make short our work and expand our experience is a profound manifestation of humanity. The thing given is never the gift, but the perception of Time is.

May this new iPhone (or any bedraggled version of these tools) makes short my work. From camera to blog, in situ, or weather that can be analyzed while traveling the lake effect highway, so that I can work my spreadsheet at the farm, or upload meteorological data from sensors in the field. Mobile computing must transform my consciousness of Time. Otherwise, given life and death, it is simple senselessness.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hard Freeze Night

      The cold this morning was rather unexpected. Did Lee Goldberg or Lonnie miss something. I sure did. I haven't been watching the weather like a hawk. So, bright sun shining, I was startled by my thermometer's 28.7 degree F reading at 10 am this morning.

The plan was to go to the beach farm, and off I was, as planned, although later than expected. The flowers at home showed little sign of the long freeze -our first hard freeze. Still many sunflowers, asters, and chrysanthemum in bloom. The beach farm told a different story.

In winter the winds come from the northwest, after a cold front has passed, and this deadens the moderating effect of the ocean's warmer water. The snap peas, three feet in the air had taken the hardest hit, leaving me a few spotty pods to nibble on. The pineapple sage had finally succumbed. Those plants closer to the ground and nearer the fence weathered the long cold quite well, leaving me chard, broccoli florets, the last head of cauliflower, and parsley. Another degree or so and I think those would have bit just as the snap peas had. 

I buried the compost scraps, pulled a few weeds that care not about 28 degrees, stared long and hard at the garlic that are in some places 5 inches tall. I see the tracks of a large dog. I see aphids and white flies on the peas and broccoli. All these seem to care not about 28 degrees.
I lingered. Then, nose running too far from the cold breeze, I decided to head out to the studio where more than a days work needs to be done.

Tonight I will head out to cut that last iris that did show some of the translucent quality after ice forms within. The sunflowers, on the other hand, I expect to be blooming for our neighbors on Christmas. Who knows, maybe even New Year's. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Last Straw

It's been awful warm in New York City up until just a few days ago. But, be not concerned, there's snow upstate -where it belongs. I left early, as early as I could after attending a Christmas soiree the night before. Slowing me down, a pit stop at Columbus Circle to load up a crate I built to ship my art to Iowa. The drive was welcome, with little traffic, and thoughts moving rapidly from art to garlic to travel and back again.

It was cold at the farm, maybe in the upper twenties to low thirties, but the sun was warm, especially near the dark soil. Pockets of ice were common and the raised beds that had not seen the sun yet were still hard as concrete.

Two varieties had sprouted well above the ground -Allium sativum ophioscorodon var. Purple Stripe 'Colorado Purple', and var. Turban 'Tuscan'. Generally speaking, sprouting hasn't been much of a problem.

But the grass has. We turned over a lawn to create this plot. I didn't give much thought to the left over clumps of roots and rhizomes. All that remained near the surface have been growing and I added pulling as much grass from frozen ground as I could to my tasks, adding an extra hour to my short, short visit.

Straw was added to most of the rows, but about 15% were left naked. I simply ran out of straw bales that I considered worthy of mulch. The straw-less beds will be an experiment. How many more weeds will be in those without straw; how will it affect the vigor of each head of garlic? We'll see.

I did have three bales, the cheapest bales, that were sitting plot side that I just couldn't use. The picture above tells you why -full of grain seeds all too willing to sprout! If I had more time I would've made the 40 minute journey to the Agway somewhere south of the farm to pick up an additional two bales. But again, not doing so forced my hand to experiment. Someone will ask -what will happen if I do not use mulch? And I will be able to tell them from experience.

On my way in, just off the Thruway, I noticed this house and barn (two, actually) for sale. I got to thinking, if not dreaming, for the minute I pulled to the side of the road.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When The Sun Shines

Early Friday morning Betsy and I were driving up the West Side Highway. Paralleling the Palisades that were burning with morning sun, I commented, probably again, how I don't like sunrise. I don't like its light. I'm more of a sunset person -that light suits my temperament, it puts me at ease. Betsy enjoys sunrise. But that's because she and the sun have something in common -they both shine. If I must, I'll take my morning sun with a good dose of dapple from nearby trees. Morning in the woods or in the shadow of large yard trees would be my best sunrise. 

The trees of Greenwood reflecting the red wavelengths of sunset.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The other day I noticed how this tree, below, had leaves, green leaves, only where the overhead street light is. No leaves on it or the other trees like it. Wonder why? Today, on my way to the subway, I saw two small plants full of black-eyed susan blooms. On the northwest side of a large brick building in soil that appeared to grow nothing more than moss. Wondering again.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Cold Night?

First night below freezing? It's been listed at 27 degrees F early tomorrow morning and, honestly, it's about time. Let's get this winter thing over with. Throw us into the thick of it now that it is middle December. Tomorrow I head upstate to check on the garlic farm and spread some straw now that it should remain cold.

There's got to be one landlord out there who is glad he didn't hack down our sunflowers.

And the iris, going for round three, but not before it freezes?

We'll see, with another on its heels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


When you mix sand with abandoned military infrastructure, it automatically feels to me like the American Southwest.

A romantic spot, no?

Salidago sempervirens in seed.



Memento mori.



Betsy harvesting Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus for wreath-making. It's a little past its prime, but  still worth a go. We easily imagine a park official or officious personality with less than optimal knowledge stemming this habit, so we cut with the engine running.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Gaahrdener And His Gaahrlech.

This is Wolf. Carpenter by trade, gardener by the ocean. He grows lots and lots of garlic. This year he said he came up short, but won't bother with growing the grocery store stuff -he says it doesn't grow for him. He knows what he's doing. I like his plank system for spacing, lining up rows and keeping the soil less compacted. Perfect for a spot this size. He was smart enough to wait out the weather, not outsmarted by the freak October snowstorm into planting too far ahead of a freeze. I, on the other hand, was all too ready to match last year's planting date of middle November.

And this is what I have to show for it. Our beach farm soil hasn't dropped below green growth-inhibiting temperatures. Above is Tuscan, a turban variety. I've also noted Aglio Rosso, a creole variety, because it has not grown above the soil line and, after exploratory digging, I see that it has only leafed out about an inch or so. Most of the other garlic varieties down at the beach farm are above the soil line. They'll be fine, of course, but we best get some cold weather soon or they will use up too much of their stored energy long before they need it.

These should be long dead.

Fuzzy little tongues so brilliantly red.

Of course, the snap peas really do like this weather -an eternal spring.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Good Luck Charm

It is written: If a dog shits in your field, your field will yield high. Probably a cat.

Thursday, December 1, 2011