Wednesday, October 31, 2012



This is the basement at the studio. A floating door says keep out! I snuck upstairs to do some things, but couldn't take the odor of fuel oil and left after 15 minutes.

I spent half a day in Red Hook to help my cousin out. He lives on Van Brundt. There is a topography to this neighborhood which explains how high the water was at the surge. The Fung Wah bus depot was in one of the worst locations. All their buses here were inundated nearly 6 feet. A black, oily line rides about half way up on everything submerged.

Water being pumped out of basements is laden with fuel oil. The scent is everywhere. Then I realize it's on my shoes. My cousin walked his dog after the surge receded, finding his pup's paws were covered in fuel oil. The news has had little presence in Red Hook, but fortunately the gas company was down there in droves.

I saw a beach farm gardening neighbor who lives in Breezy Point on the news last night. It was a relief. There are so many at Ft. Tilden who live on the coastline. We feel a need to go down there and check on things, but more so a hope to connect with some of our gardening friends. We hope to be able to walk over the bridge without be turned back -it's worth a try. It's also something to do to regain a sense of one's territory. We know authorities do not want people going to their homes to see the damage, but it is an important step in regaining a sense of control.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ugly Day

We fared quite well in Kensington, Brooklyn. If only that was the case for us all. We know there are problems all over the city and region. Sirens blaring all morning. Fire a big concern. Not only did Breezy Point inundate, at least 50 homes burned down in wind driven electrical fires. Rockaway Park may still be burning in places. All subway tunnels flooded. Fourteenth street power station had a major substation explosion. Transformer explosions all night all across the region - many thought it was lightning, but there wasn't much in the way of thunderstorms in our area.

We took a walk around the neighborhood, where most everything seems in order. Except for our new dawn rose, which was in flower again, and fallen over. We knocked it back hard to get it up against the house again, at which time we got caught in one of the hard, cold rain squalls affecting the area.

I spoke with Larry, our local nurseryman. He left Breezy Point yesterday morning. He thinks his house is east of the fires, but he's not sure. He is sure that all of the peninsula had been inundated. I'm wondering about getting out there, but that seems unlikely and even unreasonable at this time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Red Hook Is Under Water

That's news. Photo from my cousin on Van Brundt. Photos I've seen highly suggest that the Beach Farm had been inundated. I hear that Jane's Carousel and the WTC memorial have had inundation. An ugly day for NYC. This is one of those ugly things that a few say is only a matter of time, that everyone else ignores, until it happens. And here it is.

Now's A Good Time To Appreciate The Great Indoors

My last run to the corner store could have been an injury. Missed twice by two different flying objects. And the deli only had one bottle of tonic left (vantage too, :-( ). A car was seriously damaged by a rolling bin caught in the wind stream while I watched in the doorway. We gave chase after it got lodged temporarily on a street sign. The newly built construction fence has danger written all over it. It slammed down while I was passing.

Our winds will be worse than Irene. Mostly because they will be sustained where Irene was gusty. The water will top the piers. Get your last looks now, cause things will start breaking, dropping, flying soon. Fortunately, we've lost lots of trees and weak limbs to so many prior wind storms, but I'm sure some wont be able to stand a sustained 45.

Our Internet is out, so it's only the mobile phone for me. And cooking. Hunker down NY, we've only a couple hours till center landfall. Pressure at my place is 28.85 and falling. The record for NYC is 28.38 in 1914. And while the news is all about the metro area, I would like to point out that the winds and rain are bad inland, like in the mountains of western NY and Pennsylvania.

Update: it's now nearly 6 pm. The meat is in the oven, the wind is still gusting a good 30 or so from the east south east. While the news continues to say the worst is yet to come, I feel pretty good about sitting down to dinner. If you're going outside, I still say don't. There's lots of things not wind tested in our town.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The View From The Farm

It's been breezy since 6:30 this morning when I left for the farm. As I traveled, Hamptonites loaded roads westbound, and the breeze came with gusto. I continued east.

As the morning progressed, winds picked up, shifting from north-north east to east, blowing fine dust, gritting my teeth.

Not one to miss a useful rainfall, and never one to miss an opportunity, I headed back west to buy lime for my plot. I spread it with a cheap, two-wheel device left by my predecessor. Now, when the rain does fall, the pelletized lime will begin to dissolve and sweeten this moderately acid soil.

The winds are more steady now, maybe 20 mph with gusts over 30, as I eat lunch in an empty pizza joint in Montauk. It'll stay this way for awhile. But I'm not too worried about the wind, the frankenstorm.

The lines at the gas stations out here are into the street. The traffic moving west is slow. The jitney crowds amass, thankful the rain hasn't begun to fall. I don't want to minimize the potential impact of any storm. It will be bad for some, particularly those along the water's edge, those under trees, and along flood prone rivers.

But for most of us it will be an inconvenience and for many an excuse to buy bottles upon bottles of water.

Shutting down subways and transit sounds like an emergency, but really it's pragmatism designed to avoid minor emergencies. There will probably be flooding near sea walls, NY harbor's own kick in the crotch effect that is more likely during nor'easters than tropical storms. But this storm, late as it is and given its unusual path, could be considered as such in effect.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy Right Hook

That's my call at this date and time. Not a hurricane, but an extra-tropical storm merged with a trough of low pressure arriving from the west smacking into New Jersey. Either way, I must report, that Sandy is interfering with my ability to secure insurance which is required to sign a lease on any farm land out east. Insurance companies are refusing to sign new policies until two days after the storm. Lucky me.

And, happy birthday Marie. This one's for you.

Lakeside Esplanade

The new lakeside is open for 4 hours each weekend day from Oct. 20 through November. I headed out last weekend during the pinkest of all events -a breast cancer walk-a-thon in Prospect Park.

My approach.

The stone near the drum circle.

No one was around.

Low, dappled light and asters.

Strong bones.

Imagine the ducks here.

For reasons unknown to me, the paved path doesn't move continuously along the waters edge. One must go around an area with trees and shrubs to get to the other side.

Which makes me wonder why this "path is built into the planting behind the wall. Is it because they know people will tramp back here or do they not know?

I am glad they retained the WWI monument. I'm not a fan of the structure, but I'm fond of the statue.

Evocative of the great death and misery of WWI, its deco-gothic figures are haunting in the way few war memorials allow.

On the other side, the "indoor" rink. Minimal, airy, yet hard-edged. An outdoor rink sits beside, but the whole affair sinks back into the landscape. Some will have trouble with its blunt angularity, but the whole building complex, from lakeside, does not overwhelm.

There are lawns.

Construction is nicely executed.

And Abe finally has a place that doesn't feel like a back alley.

And, yes! They finally fixed the stairs that lead to Abe. The easiest job has taken years.
These urns were updated, restored, repaired, recast? However, they're new.

But not these, just down the path.

Turning back, a view toward "Music Island" where music is no longer made.

I imagine this a view of what Prospect Park must've looked like in the 19th century. We are lucky to have it so late in the game.

Between chaos and order there is only maintenance. And what plans has Prospect Park Alliance or Parks for maintaining its new jewel? Some staff who were tying wire to a hole cut in the chain link mounted on the slope of the music grove spoke frankly -there's little chance of this holding up as far as they can tell. 

An obvious point of departure: The nicely detailed fencing is hardly barrier to those eager to head out onto the peninsula.

It beckons, a vanishing point leading your eye to a place all your own. Leap that fence, hangout unmolested by the strollers; drink 40s, smoke, enjoy what nature intended. Let's get the clean up and restore volunteer group ready.

On my way out of the park, I found the swarm of pink had grown. I could see them marching way across the lake as well as before me. I imagined they circled the park entirely. They beat drums, danced, whistled, and carried signs.

And the stone that was painted to resemble the autumn leaves had been turned pink (ish).

And I made my way out of the park, passing through the muck below the lake.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


As the media pumps up the arrival of Sandy the hurricane, stay tuned to weather Frank. It's looking pretty good at this time for a collusion of Sandy and the coming trough of low pressure. But there's still time for anything to happen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three Year Soil

This is the former tomato bed. It is ready for this season's garlic. This soil has really improved and it is hard to imagine the sandy, weedy mess it was only three July back. Last winter I added fishbone meal, dolomitic lime, and biweekly burials of roughly 2 gallons of vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, egg shells, and what else. I stopped adding the scraps in this location around March something. I expect great garlic to grow here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Where The Wild Things Are

They're in my gut and in my back, jumping around, banging their heads, slamming into walls.

Regular readers and friends, you may have noticed that there hasn't been any posts this October about my garlic farming. You may remember that by early October last year I was already on my plot upstate tending to the business of a small garlic farm and posting. Not this year, and there is a good reason: I have yet to secure a place to grow my crop.

Above you see my Crocus sativus, Saffron crocus, that should have been in the ground early this month. They are now sprouting in storage. It makes me sad, but also frustrated and deeply stressed. I have over 25 hundred dollars worth of the best seed garlic money can buy sitting in my studio. Over the last two months I would have been preparing, measuring, sourcing, labeling, and otherwise getting ready for the rush of planting had things gone as expected.

But they haven't and I've been sitting on my hands. I resist the temptation to tell the story because it simply isn't the time for that. All I can say is that I've been ready to get this done and yet there has been foot dragging, and now, at the last minute, a lease was presented with wording that I cannot agree to.

The stress of not working when I know I could and should wears me down. If the organization does not communicate with me an effective solution to our problem over the coming days, I will either need to find tilled land somewhere within driving distance to plant or Hudson Clove will clove no more.

If it comes to that, I will have 150 pounds of a wide variety of seed garlic for sale at my cost.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Final Days At The Beach Farm

Still Speckled Roman tomatoes on the vine. This is a keeper heirloom, with great tasting, juicy sauce tomatoes, indeterminate production, and held its own against Verticillium and Fusarium wilts.

Despite my organized planting of Allium vineale last fall and my exacting harvest of them this summer, new field garlic is still popping up the bed.

One reason field garlic is so hard to extinguish -bulb and roots are more than 5 inches below the surface. I'll leave these to the fields from now on.

The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet was fluttering through the beach farm. Remarkably comfortable with my presence, the Kinglets pulled bugs from the fennel and tomato plants throughout my visit.

The beach farm is now looking meek. The Fed is supposed to have come in this week to begin tearing up the boundaries. I cleaned up mine so they wouldn't have to. They want us to be more organized, but that will be a tough sell to this crowd.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Stepford Seed

Is it just me, or has someone else shuddered at the Baker Creek Seed homesteading nostalgia? The wholesome youth of its proprietors, the relentless use of their own family in marketing images, and the explosive growth of the company into nostalgia-based, thematic retail outlets coalesces into enough discomfort that I shy from buying.

I suppose there is little more American (Americana?) than this strange concoction of business, entertainment, and family. The Times mentioned the weirdness of Baker Creek a few years back, but came around by the end. In fact, I only found myself looking at their website after a link was given to them in the excellent NYTimes story on the vegetables of East New York (no weirdness there). In this article they mention the hybridizing going on in some of these gardens. And isn't that a point worth pondering? I don't see us going forward by selling backwards. In fact, although I grow mostly heirlooms now, I often drop varieties because they do not stand up to disease or are generally unproductive. Hybrids that reap the taste and texture benefits of heirlooms while improving health and vigor of the plant wouldn't be turned away by this gardener.

Finally, don't get me started on banjos, fiddles, and harmonicas at farmers' markets. I like Blue Grass as much as the next, but I don't need it with my cabbage.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Style Sheet

Screen shot, Iphone of Iphone.

On Sunday I used my phone, available light and some white foam core to photograph all the different strains of garlic I will plant this November. Farms conventionally display a quarter, situated adjacent to the garlic, to show the size of their produce. It is useful to understand the size of the strain you buy, but I wanted to do so with a little more playfulness. My studio mate, Matt, offered up his boxes of thread spools. Why not? They're colorful, although not always the same size, they are similarly sized, and even I have an innate sense of their scale since playing with them as a child.

At first I did a number of shots with two bulbs, then a bulb and a clove, but in the end I settled on simple. We also tried some blue-cast gator board as the backdrop. That was electric and so settled on a warmer tone board.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Your Eyes Are Like Limpid Pools Of Chicken Fat

For those out of the loop of that reference -these are the words of Wimpy to his newly dear Olive Oyl. In response to Popeye's anger, Wimpy proposes an eating duel. 

Until recently, I spent a little more on a three liter container of XV olive oil for pan frying and much less on a 17 oz bottle of DeCecco "All Italian Olives" XV olive oil for dipping, salads, flavor. This oil is a consistently fruity xv olive oil. I had always bought this DeCecco oil at one of our local "farms," Golden Farms, where it sold consistently for less, as did their Organic Valley milk (two 1/2 gallons for $7), among others.

For months now, workers at Golden Farms have been picketing along with labor groups in front of the store. Months ago we decided to stop shopping there. It really is our only serious grocer within quick walking distance, but we've gotten used to traveling farther. Honestly, I just wish the owner would resolve the issue so this contentious corner can go back to the place I by Bonne Maman preserves at 2 for $5. Yet I can't understand why the owner isn't fined by the city if he is not paying what the city says he is supposed to pay.

Anyways, we had run down the last of our DeCecco. Months ago, Frank, owner of Caputos on Court Street, had given me a lesson in extra virgin olive oil. I told him then that I wasn't ready, but this past Saturday, I made the leap and bought the two above: one Italian, one Californian.  Frank had asked me if I wanted peppery or fruity, but I ended up picking neither. The Californian is solidly grassy, really, like eating a fresh cut lawn, and the Italian more like green butter. What impressed us was the body of  both oils, that they had body at all, that it didn't act as a liquid so much as a fluid food.

Given how we use these oils (I still bought a 3 liter for frying), they really weren't all that pricey. Roughly 10 bucks for the Californian and $13.50 for the Italian -or maybe the other way around (I hate fluorescent price tags on my shelves and rip them off immediately). The same size as the DeCecco (1/2 liter) but more complex, integrating better with the simplest companions like bread or tomatoes. In fact, I think I just discovered my dinner.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Action Items

Yesterday I was at Weir Farm NHS in Connecticut for some long-range planning. It's very interesting to be a part of how a park will reveal its mysteries. The weather was great, at least until I left, when it rained all the way home.