Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Brooklyn Bridge Park Forage Walk

I'll be leading a one-hour walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park tomorrow at 5.30pm. We'll scratch and sniff and learn new smells and tastes and talk about how to use these plants in the kitchen, or grow them at home.

Book through the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Tickets are $10 ($5 for members of the Conservancy).


Sunday, September 25, 2016

New York nature

Yes, it exists.

I saw a black and white warbler in Central Park, hunting for bugs in a tree. He was unafraid and sweet to watch.

Bird books say that warblers are widespread but I only ever see them in fall. Last week there was a little yellow one in the garden.

                  Late-flowering boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), is a marker of early autumn.

A feral cat stalked across a path, looking well fed. An orchestra of staccato chipmunks popped from the woods behind him. Outrage. If you see something say something.

It is golden rod (Solidago) season. Many people think this is ragweed. It is not ragweed.

A bird dropped from a branch in the North Woods. Not identified. I was hoping for mushrooms, after a rain shower, but the rain was not enough.

I did see a great northern flicker. They are usually very shy and take off as soon as they hear or see you. I crept, soft-footed.

A day goes by.

Then, Staten Island, with the Frenchman, via a Car2Go. In Conference House Park (where peace was not reached, in 1776) we saw a fly catcher ruby crowned kinglet (see comments), above - busily catching flying insects.

Cranberry viburnums are ripe. Strange and sour taste.

Goldenrod on the water, its roots in the sand.

Staten Island's southern tip, with tiny waves lapping the beach.

And an army of Japanese knotweed inbetween beach and woods. 

I'll return in spring.

We headed to High Rock and Park, and its woods, where we found white tailed deer.

And, to my delight, dinner. Chicken, of the woods, Laetiporous sulphureus (the underside is brilliant yellow). They were very tender - this can be a very tough mushroom.

We'll be back in a few weeks, as our night time tempertures have dipped, and October is in the offing. That means one thing: maitake, hen of the woods, Grifola frondosa

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Purslane power

Salted purslane on sourdough toast for breakfast?

 Garden crop. Tomatillo and purslane gazpacho?

Or purslane pickles?  (Above right are field garlic pickles, too, from spring.)

Read more, and get the gazpacho recipe, at Gardenista: Weeds You can Eat.

On the subject of wild foods: I'll be leading three forage walks in the next few weeks: September 28th is in Brooklyn Bridge Park (book through that link), from 5.30pm - 6.30pm; October 8th is in Central Park's North Woods, 1pm - 3pm; October 15th in Prospect Park, 1pm - 3pm. For the last two, follow the link below.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brooklyn hummingbird

Hummingbirds have been visiting the garden. They appear suddenly, masquerading as moths, and then you focus, and notice. I love them. It has been two years since we have seen them - the last time was in Harlem; last year this time, soon after we moved in,  there was nothing for them to eat in our garden. 

They spend most of their time not at the Nicotiana, but around the jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that I plant just for them. It is a cheap and pleasing indigenous Tall Plant - good for height and late-season flowers.

The Frenchman took these pictures, and is disgusted with them. But with low light and a fast bird, I find them enchanting.


Monday, September 19, 2016

The road

The time: late mid-August
The Place: South Africa

We had driven for hours, leaving the fresh greenery of the winter rainfall coastal regions and its rising spring behind us. We were headed not up the West Coast, famous for its spring flowers, but into the heartland, to the Karoo, and new vistas of dry mountains. It was a gamble, and I worried about the choice - we had so little time away, and for the Frenchman this was his very, very brief holiday in an intensely-pressured and taxing work year. It had to count. 

At last we turned off from the N1, and took Prince Albert Road (above) east towards the small town of Prince Albert, at the foot of the Swartberg. I was driving, and I was tired, but too stubborn proud to relinquish the wheel. As much as I enjoy driving on the open road it can be stressful when there are dozens of huge trucks* to pass at breakneck speed, especially in the beloved Landcruiser, a Turbo V8 who needs ample runway to come up to the requisite speed. Point her up a vertical rock track and she can climb it, she's as strong as anything, but if you sit on a truck's tail and then floor her nothing will happen. She'll ignore you unless she sees a hundred yards or more of  free roadway for her to build up her considerable speed. And this pisses off the cars behind you, hungry to scream north to Gauteng and its smokestack skies. So. Stressful. 

* truck in South Africa = tractor-trailer in the US

I'm digressing. 

So I was tired, and tired of being super-focused. And our destination, the Weltevrede Fig Farm beyond town, was still at least an hour away. Plus there were supplies to buy, first. 

Then the flowers appeared at the side of the road. It's a very good sign when I brake for flowers. It makes Vince smile. Instant tonic, right into the vein. There had been some rain, and an extra allowance, runoff from the tar,  had come to this dry soil. Flowers had germinated fast, as they must in this climate. We stopped, and pulled over, and walked on the side of the road in the clean air.

These are Arctotis leiocarpa, gousblom in Afrikaans. If cows eat them the milk turns bitter. 

Felicia namaquana (I think) on the left. Blou blommetjie - 'blue flower,' in Afrikaans.


I felt better. Flowers were a big bonus. We had come for mountains. 

Soon, we would find them.

[An aside: these were shot on my phone, the Samsung Galaxy S7. I'm in love with its camera.]


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Late-late summer High Line

The grassy, seedy stage of pre-fall, and late-late summer (for regular late summer see that link).

The liatris buds of early July have morphed to seedheads.

Towers continue to rise as development rides on the coat tails of the High Line's success (and plain old real estate-ravenous New York City market forces), hemming in the High Line's previously fully-exposed planting schemes.

You can see the Frenchman's place of work way in the background. I'm not thrilled that he goes there every day, it's way too high profile. Or maybe that's a good thing. Now.

Off-the-grid living appeals more and more. Off-the-grid, apart from super-fast Internet, of course.

Cue cacophonous hyenas.

But back to the High Line. If you are in town, at such a time, do not miss the High Line under a blanket of snow. No crowds, and spookily beautiful.


Lemon curd recipe

For an easy and delicious lemon curd recipe, head next door to 66 Square Feet (the Food).


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