Friday, January 24, 2014

Garden Stylist Wanted

Err, needed. Check out these pictures of an M train subway ad I found myself looking at this morning. Seriously, I know it's only Astoria, and the starting studio rent is so low at $1800 (cringing), but maybe, just maybe the plants need to look a little more alive for this terrace to feel sexy. Or did you figure, it's only Astoria, so we don't need to try that hard? And while I'm criticizing, next time try a tripod and some ambient lighting.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Everything Thereafter

If you've ever wondered what it is I am painting about in the park, give this a read. Do you paint? Or are you in college looking for a beautiful way to earn summer credits? My one week intensive painting studio course  'Landscape and Meaning' is this summer in Bennington, VT at Art New England -registration is now live.  Your perspective is guaranteed to change. Also, if you haven't checked out the Museum of the City of New York's exhibit Rising Waters, I've got a shot in there, in the 2.0 section. The exhibit, at 103rd and 5th Ave, is up until March 31.

I'm also starting a new page, linked on the top bar that will consolidate my writing on art and issues relevant to art. This will be entirely its own site, all I have to do is come up with a name that is available and just as catchy as NYCGARDEN (wink). School starts today (thank you snow storm) instead of yesterday, a new class to put together, applications to things, craziness in our lab, and a new studio that is still insanely disorganized thanks to our record time in Minnesota. And the apartment is colder than it is outside.

So I like to look at this:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Out Of The Woods

After a nearly four week visit to Minnesota, we've finally made it back to Brooklyn, leaving my father-in-law behind, in his house in the woods. It gets harder every time, for him and for us, to stay and to go. Winter is a hardship, yet it also puts a hold on nature's aggressive reclamation of his works, and its own. The apparent stasis, only more white or less, is an assurance against his decline, putting mortality on the table just long enough to consider your own strategy for facing it.

I've made a few resolutions, not the New Year's type, but a generally longer lasting set of conditions upon which I live. It's a small list, targeted and specific.
  • Grow and eat my own vegetables whenever possible.
  • Buy vegetables at farmers' markets and our local co-op only.
  • Buy only meat that I can be reasonably assured has been humanely raised and slaughtered.
  • I will not drink any more soda, except the soda in my occasional gin and tonic.
  • Only buy organic potatoes
  • No more canned tomatoes

The first one is obvious, what more can be said. I think everyone who can, ought to. I also want to support our local farmers. As I made my rounds at the Grand Army Plaza market today I found too little produce available, especially organic. We've become so accustomed to all vegetables all the time, and I'm okay with that. So I think that we, including our government, need to encourage local farmers to make whatever investments necessary to get more local produce during the winter. Consider the California drought that has the potential to disrupt our food supply, particularly our winter greens. More investment in hoop houses and storage facilities would go a long way to increasing produce availability, particularly on those farms in the southern area of the local radius.

Meat. This has been on my plate a long time, but I cannot look at another image or read another story of disgusting, inhumane slaughter practices. If you haven't seen Food Inc., find it on Netflix streaming. I love pork, but I can't buy chops from pigs slaughtered by crushing them to death a hundred at a time. The label 'organic' is reasonably well understood in terms of feeding and health, but USDA Organic label says nothing of the way the animal has been slaughtered. Since corporations know how valuable the organic label is to the buyer, they have been working to drive the prices down and they do this by applying practices from non-organic production. My point is that USDA Organic isn't enough, but it's a sign post that can lead you in the right direction at the grocery. When possible I would rather buy meat raised locally, even if not strictly organic, as long as I can be reasonably assured that the animal was treated well in life and in death.  Buying the whole animal is the best way to keep the prices down and nobody I know can store the whole animal so that splitting among 4-6 couples seems to be the best practice. If anyone wants to go in on a whole pig with us, send me an email. 

Soda? Sure -I drink it. We were raised on this stuff. I should be 600 pounds. But I am not, and I want to keep it that way. Bloomberg and I can agree on this: we can cut out soda. 

Organic potatoes? I like to eat these whole, and when I do, they are a nearly perfect food. I grew some potatoes this past year on the farm and learned a good amount of what it takes to produce them. If you buy good quality seed potatoes, your biggest problem is going to be Colorado potato beetles. What do they do? They eat all the leaves, removing the capacity for the plant to grab the sun and turn it into tuber. The number one problem of organically grown potatoes is diminished yield due to these pests. Diminished yield drives up the cost to the buyer. Stores don't like high-priced potatoes, especially conventionally grown, so to keep yield up potato growers use lots and lots of chemicals, some systemic (meaning that the whole plant contains the toxins). Yield drives the cost difference between organic and conventional potatoes. Organic growers have little in their arsenal to fight the tenacious potato beetle, so we accept lower yields and higher prices. I refuse to eat systemically treated potatoes any longer and will buy only organic. This was really hard to accept today at the farmers' market because I also love to buy the different varieties that have become staples at the market, yet only the conventional growers had great variety. I didn't buy there, but found organic Yukon Gold at the co-op and organic purple sweet potatoes for $1.99 per pound. If you haven't had these smaller, sweet, intensely colored, eat the whole thing, sweet potatoes, you're missing out.

I've just used my last can of tomatoes. Canned tomatoes? Yes, now I will only purchase glass or BPA-free aseptic packaging (i.e. Pomi) although I'm sure I'll read something negative about the latter type someday soon. Since I've always been disturbed by the hidden chemistry of packaging and products, glass wins. I'll try not to break any.

Despite my new conditions, I lack an unreasonable rigidity. Notice that I am only talking about buying, not eating. When I am at a friend's house, I will not scour his pantry to ensure I am eating organic potatoes. When I am out at a restaurant I will not require inspection of their meats. These things are what I plan to do at home. While the list is small I feel that if I ensure that these conditions are met, the attitude will spread on to other things, organically.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Big Brother

iPhone, meet your new big brother. I have been looking at cameras ever since my old Canon point and shoot croaked. I still have not been able to purchase one for myself, but I picked up the Canon G1X for Betsy. I noticed she was bringing home DSLRs from school for shooting artwork. iPhones work, but they really are poor for documenting something as important as your artwork. The G1X is Canon's foray into small form (not so small), large sensor cameras with fixed lenses. It has a large swivel screen, way bigger than that on her now defunct Canon G2. It has excellent image quality for a fixed zoom lens camera thanks to the large, slightly clipped APS-C sensor. It has all the manual and automatic bells and whistles of a Canon Rebel T4i without the bulk and carry bag of lenses. It's only weakness lay in my camp -no macro to speak of. Thanks to that, poor burst shooting, and lackluster focusing speed, sales have been poor. So much so that Canon dropped the prices nearly $300 from its initial offering a year or so ago. It would be a stellar bargain at $450,  although I found it still a value at the price I paid for it. For those in the small Canon market, the EOS M is also at a remarkably low price point right now and is a stellar bargain. 

New camera models are about to be rolled out and I just may purchase a camera of my own, one that can do macro, and I am leaning toward the biggest, tiny sensor size (1/1.7) with good glass for garden shots. The Canon G1X will serve well for studio shots of new work and Betsy promises that I can borrow it whenever I want. There are many excellent cameras out there right now and with new cameras rolling out there will be a good window of opportunity to pick up the previous model for an exceptional price. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Low

There was a record low of 4° F early this morning in Central Park, NYC. That is cold and I am happy to be in Florida's warmer temperature of 41° today. I'm even happier to not be in our usually rather frigid apartment. 

Despite the record low for the day, this isn't a record low in general. Central Park saw its coldest temperature, an extreme temperature for our zone, on February 9, 1934. That low bottomed out at -15° F.  In fact, cold as it is, today's temperature is perfectly within out winter norms. 

What is unusual are the high amplitude weather shifts (eg. 55° yesterday, 5° today). Studies have shown that extreme weather changes may very well result from global climate warming. Few want to hear about "warming" causing cold days and nights, but one day may we all understand the difference between weather-influencing, climate dynamics and the daily weather. 

Tomorrow we return to Minnesota where the temperatures have been below zero for weeks. None of these temperatures are a big deal for the comfortably heated, and I can attest from experience that -15° will hurt your exposed fingers in less than 5 minutes. There are a lot of suffering people in all the northern tier, people without access to heat, and those on the street who may not know the cold is coming. It is always coldest when we're sleeping. Let's wake up. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Scenes From The Everyday Florida

Snake plant flowering. 


Rain swale

Ferns growing from palms

Friday, January 3, 2014

View Plane

People on FB liked the image below and while I am sure Blogger mobile will compress it poorly and justify left, I still want to show it. Taken somewhere over Iowa, subjected to 100% of pro clarity filter via Camera + app for iPhone.

 It is amazing what we do with our land. 

For good measure, a shot not long before landing at MCO. Orlando. 

Airport Limbo

We rose at 4 am for the 7:30 flight to Florida. Flying standby is usually a good option for us, but apparently not when a snowstorm impacts the northeast. Who knew a storm completely out of our flight path would backlog fliers? Not me, I hardly fly at all. I'd like to get out of here before Sunday, when the temperature and wind combined will bring us near -60°. (Blogger mobile? Hi. Yep, me again. What's up with the different fonts? Looks the same in the editor. You're getting weird on me, Blogger.)

Update: we made it onto a 1:06 flight out of Minneapolis, the third of the day. All thanks to the mom who didn't want to fly separated from her little children. Thanks mom!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Negative Zero

We've been locked in below zero degrees Fahrenheit for nearly two weeks. Last week we had two days above freezing (32°F). When temperatures rise fifty degrees in one day, you're outside getting things done, you're wearing a windbreaker. 

So NYC, you're getting a blizzard tomorrow night? And it's going to get quite cold on Friday? Let me reassure you. When it hits 40° F on Sunday you'll be rockin out to the percussive drip, drip, drip and wondering where the hell you put that windbreaker. 

Enjoy the snow. And for sakes people, find your gloves!