Friday, June 27, 2014

Ahead Of Myself

By the time you read this I will be probably somewhere on the empty highways of coastal Georgia. Before I could leave for this journey to Florida, I needed to harvest as many of the early varieties as possible. Here we have about three dozen Asiatic 'Asian Tempest,' the fiery hot Korean strain that is often extremely fussy to grow.

Until this season, where I have produced more 'Asian Tempest' than any other strain. They held up to early spring better than most of the occasional bolters (I lost nearly all the Turban 'Xian') and then suffered little of the fits and spasms they've had for me over the years. While they grew well, they never get large, most heads rounding about 1.75 inches in diameter.

I brought some eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and basil to fill the blanks post harvest. As long as it rains, at least once while I am away, these should do just fine.

The beauty of planting between the standing garlic is that they act to break the constant onshore winds that tend to leave little starts like these prostrate.

The bulbing fennel beginning to, well, bulb.

The chard, which I started from old, old seed at least two and a half months ago and planted sometime in mid May, has really taken off. One plant has a stem, or is it a root sticking above ground that is easily an inch and a quarter or more in the round. I clipped all the large leaves over a week ago and already they are producing very large leaves.

In one glance, Silverskin garlic to the left, Creole garlic, fennel, cilantro, romaine, flat leaf parsley, tomatoes, and then at the farthest right Artichoke garlic. When the Artichoke comes out, if it hasn't already, there are tomatoes sitting in front of our apartment waiting to be planted.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last Tuesday

This came after, when the friends arrived, yet I put this first because, in some fashion, we are traveling out of sequence. This day was a week ago, the day garlic harvest started in earnest.

I pulled most of the French grey shallots, so healthy and green I questioned my timing. This year, my timing is rattled by a cool spring, new plot, and my greatest offense -traveling right in the middle of harvest season. The garlic you see is a Turban strain known as Xian, and I have very little of it. While the harvested garlic plant has very little odor, the naked shallots are pungent as can be.

The Asiatic strain 'Japanese' was completely harvested last Tuesday. I was comfortable harvesting these even a little early as the Asiatic strains tend to demand it or they lose their skins. However, this last week turned out to be exceptionally dry, and another week in the ground would have probably done no harm and sized them up some. A word about sizing-up garlic by delaying harvest: a day or two isn't going to do much, you really need to wait at least four days, or more if possible to really notice a difference. Keep your eyes on the weather and wait another week if it remains dry and the leaves are still quite green.

Of course, since the temperatures have remained below 85 degrees F (probably less at the beach farm), the lettuce continues to produce. The only issue has been the lack of moisture, and my unwillingness to heavily douse the rows because of their proximity to the garlic.

These heads, Romaine and Iceberg, were pulled last Tuesday, before this past dry week, and currently live, roots and all, in my fridge.

The rig, for gas pipelines, encroaches, and was closest last Tuesday.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Yard Bugs

There are bugs everywhere, and especially where there are flowers. I could spend all day trying to capture these impatient sitters. Below a few captures.

Just seems like another carpenter bee going up the wall.

Until she turns around and lets you know she isn't all bluster -queen has a stinger and an all black head. She was out looking for a new spot to nest.

Everyone digs lady bugs, and some of us don't discriminate -we even dig ladybird beetles that hail from Asia. This one hides out under the lily leaf.

Crawling up the other side are the young ones and we celebrate them because they are voracious eaters of soft-bodied insects like Aphids.

Don't be afraid.

A Metallic Green Bee, or what I like to call Christmas ball bees, possibly Agapostemon virescens. You may have noticed the very same bee, here on a Tradescantia flower, flying over the Evening Primrose in the first photo.

Frank Meuschke

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Prospect Of Shade

Shade, we love it. It is cooling and pleasant to stand beneath the transpirating canopy, but it also completely changes the world beneath it. The Russian Zelkova trees planted by the city four years ago (has it been that long?) are fast growing and have forced the plants formerly in full sun to be on the move or die trying. Some, like the Phlox seem to relocate their young each year to the east, toward the gap in the trees. Others offer a slow decline, like the yarrow and some asters, where others reach, reach, reeaach as the lily, and some simply disappear like our perennial ageratum. We've moved what we can, having only so much sunny space in the side yard.

Not long ago this area baked under full sun in all four seasons.

New Dawn is known to tolerate some shade, but even our hardy specimen has less leaves than in previous years. It has bloomed, although less vigorously, but will need to be moved to a sunnier district in the Autumn. That will be a tough move for a plant with a thorny trunk the size of my arm.

Underneath the New Dawn, the Spirea. It too will need to move on.

Tickseed, Coreopsis, likes the sun and gets some, a couple of hours worth, as it resides in the shrinking gap between two Zelkovas.

As does my grandmother's tea, which has bloomed more than ever before, a feat for a plant in declining sun and over fifty years old.

And we couldn't live without its scent, which is bested only by the iris and maybe our lilies. But we've no place to relocate it for the next season and may just have to relocate ourselves so it may live on.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Long Season

It's been a long and slow June flowering season. Many of the flowers that by now would be fried have held on so that many, much like the flowering trees of spring, are sharing space that don't usually find occasion to do so. Our side yard took a couple of hits this winter, primarily the loss of the corner Chrysanthemum and the weakening of the blue flax to just a couple of stems. It's a challenge to keep the sedum from being smothered by taller plants, yet the dayflower and smartweed continue to sprout in the most unlikely locations. I've lost the New York Ironweed, but the solidago and asters hold on. Only a handful of elephant garlic have made it to flower and those were placed in the sunniest locations. The lilies are shooting up, but will flower later, yet if the temperatures remain below 85 there promises to be a pretty spectacular collection of early, mid, and late June flowers all at once.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Typology Of Scapes

The short-stemmed, rumpled and long-beaked Asiatic (Asian Tempest). 

The double twisting, pretzeling Porcelain (German Hardy).

A variation on the Porcelain (Music).

The three quarter looped Purple Stripe (Chesnok Red).

The corkscrew, double-looping Rocambole (Russian Red). 

And the occasional oddity such as this: the double scaping plant. This Porcelain 'German Hardy' has produced two scapes. But wait, you might say -it was probably a double clove!

But no, say I -they're both coming from inside the same leaf sheath. Only at harvest will the mystery be solved.

There are scapes produced by the Turban and Creole varieties, of which I have no current photos. There are also scapes produced by the Marbled Purple Stripe variety, but they tend to look just like the regular Purple Stripe. And sometimes, just sometimes, an Artichoke or Silverskin will push up a scape of relative insignificance.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Day In New York

Dunce cap or party hat -depends on you.

Starts with the exercise bike. Seventy minutes later, clean up, feed the cat, and bag the garlic scapes. Subwayed to Columbus Circle and then 45 minutes with a subway barber named Nina. Aim for the middle-of-the-block corner deli for a salad and coffee before the 12:30 phone reference interview for a former student. He never called. One peeyem, conference call with Associate Dean and other stakeholders to express concerns and problem solve regarding upcoming fabrication lab expansion. Hightail to the subway, downtown bound -Union Square. On the platform I get an email congratulating me on meeting the enrollment requirement for my summer class Landscape and Meaning at Art New England -it runs! Subway comes, D train to Herald Square, up-ramp transfer to the NQR for Union Square.

Exit among the hoard of Greenmarketeers, then enter the luxuriously cool lobby of 200 Park Avenue South, up eleven flights to the offices of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture to aye, pick up my Carrie Moyer print, bee, drop off my alumni donation, and cee, enjoy the company of the fine women who work there. Textzz-zz. Gotta go! Down, now, back through the refrigerated front lobby, to look for Marie who had come all the way to Union Square from Harlem. Why, in such heat? It was yesterday evening's three variety scape harvest from the remotely urban corner of NYC near the ocean to this on the verge chef, definitely author, forager, gardener, blogger and taste-maker extraordinaire. Hand off complete, we shot the sh#t in the exquisitely cooled foyer of 200 Park Avenue South for ten or fifteen minutes, walked toward the Greenmarket, and then I was off to the New York Studio School to meet an old Skowhegan colleague and painter, get a tour of the facility, meet the people that needed to be met, do my sloppy impersonation of an elevator pitchman, shoot the sh#t once again, and then cross wise to the West Fourth subway station for the ride home, where I now sit typing, but no sooner than it took to photograph the opening elephant garlic in the garden, carry in a muffler and pipe for our van, and throw some onions, sausages, and tomato in a pot that may churn into something that looks like dinner.

What A Stable Stone Gathers

Remember the patio I made spring, 2013 in Fort Greene? The owner just sent me this picture. Looks like it held up well to the freezes of this winter. And moss has begun to grow -just what they wanted.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Storm King

I've been a fan of Storm King Art Center's embellished landscape since I was twenty, a trip inspired by a professor who chased me down after class to tell me all about it. I recall that first visit, an installation by Ursula von Rydingsvard and a team of assistants were actively chainsawing one of her large sculptures. I loved the idea of art made in, of, by or for the landscape.

Above is a sculpture by Barnett Newman, a sculpture that takes advantage of Cor-Ten steel -its red rust inserted here into a haze of lush greenery. You will find the contrast of rust and vegetation again and again at Storm King and most sculpture parks, but rarely done as well as Newman's 'Broken Obelisk.' Its siting lays bare an intimate dialogue between Modernist geometry and formal Wilderness, a contrast more surprising than Houston's Rothko Chapel siting (admittedly, one I have not seen in person), and a work worth experiencing as much as any other at Storm King. Its power resides in its planes concentrated at the point between two pyramidal forms, one darkened in shadow and the other lit by the sun. The work displays exceptional poise, balanced as it is at this point, but its formal grace is interrupted by the jagged, "broken" top plane which roughly mimics the angle of the base pyramid, forging an undecipherable relationship between the grounded pyramid and the precariously balanced, broken obelisk. That uneven, broken edge disturbs the precisely manifested union, threatening to topple the obelisk. The implicit movement creates an experience of inherent kineticism, a monument about to fall.

Andy Goldsworthy's 'Storm King Wall' is as innocuous as any New England dry laid stone wall as it approaches the body of water, but then emerges a serpentine folly on the other side, rising up into the forested hillside.

This playful work heightens an awareness of the frivolity of artistic labor via the urbane interest in a landscape demarcated by hard won assemblages of stones dispatched from difficult fields.

Zhang Huan's disembodied Buddha head, glimpsed while climbing a minor hill, first suggested to this painter my memory of a Philip Guston work, below. A head not fixed, its connection to the earth concealed by lushly growing field plants, but one in motion, rolling uphill. It is a sight both haunting and comic.

Which is the case for many of Huan's pieces and yet their humanity is inescapable despite the sculptures' grotesque distortions. I find myself applauding their perverse acrobatics.

At play here is a sensibility for relic and ruin, sited in landscape, and excited by landscape. Huan's broken monuments suggest ancient religious ideologies breaking under the force of cultural upheaval. This is complicated by placement in a Western landscape where the sculptures become a ruin enhancing the romantic aura of Storm King's Hudson Valley site. The ancient Chinese culture transmogrified by these works is conflated with Western imagery, bridging the destructive aspects of Cultural Revolution with the exertions of Western political, economic, and cultural influence.

In the southern reaches of the five hundred acre campus is one of Storm King's few projects that actually is formed out of the land -Maya Lin's "Storm King Wavefield." Here a sea of grass becomes an illusion of fluid rumpled by the transference of energy through it, a display that would be menacing if its artifice wasn't so apparent. The waves have direction and when seen from below, they subtly evoke the surrounding mountains. Lin's interested in wave forms, although concocted from scientific observations and technological means, generate an abstraction that is most analogous to a raked zen garden. The view from the amphitheater encourages this comparison because it enables you to take in the whole field, much as we view a zen garden as a whole, from the outside. 

But when drainage permits, visitors are given access (we were not) to the field, offering an uncanny experience of a landscape of perpetual, immobile waves. One can travel the length of peak or valley, or tack diagonally, cresting and falling with each "swell" so that we become the motion to a fixity of earthen waves.