Sunday, October 31, 2010

Prospect Park Wander

It feels like Fall is finally here and to celebrate we wandered around the nooks and crannies of Prospect Park. I'm pretty familiar with the park (especially the running loop) but had never wandered into the deep interior between the Dog Beach and the running Zoo. There is a beautiful hilly bramble that transports you from the mean streets of Brooklyn into the woods of the Catskills.

After the bramble, we headed to the zoo. Despite my love of zoos, I had never been to this one and had heard it was lovely. We stopped by the carousel and the historic house before heading inside where we saw the Sea Lions, petting zoo, and the unnaturally creepy picture of this sheep. If you haven't seen the movie "Black Sheep" I recommend at least reading the summary online.

We finished up with a nice walk through Long Meadow and were treated to a beautiful sunset on the way home.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

WTC Progress

Just in case you were wondering... I can no longer see the Statue of Liberty without leaving my office chair.

Weird Weather

One of my favorite parts of my job is our perch at the south end of Manhattan with a view of the harbor and ocean to the south, the far reaches of NJ to the West, the GW Bridge to the North, and my fair Brooklyn to the east. It does a lot of alleviate my anxiety over working at the World Trade Center. While the view of the City and its surroundings is spectacular, the real beauty is watching the weather roll in.

Except when that weather includes hail storms and giant clouds of fog that envelope the Hudson.

First the giant cloud of fog. Despite my attempts to convince my office mates that it was the "end of days", the fog simply rolled from the harbor, past our building, and into the Village where it broke up and wandered away.

My thoughts went immediately to "The Mist" or some weaponized trash fire from New Jersey. Everyone else in the office just snapped pictures and went back to their work.

Peter got stuck out in the storm and said it sounded like the subway car was under attack. I just thought that someone was throwing baseballs at our windows. The next morning, my tomatoes and coelous were shredded and the street looked like someone put Kermit through the woodchipper. It's hard to take a picture of an undifferentiated mat of green slush but here are some attempts.

Considering that the tornado and the hail storm made targeted attacks on Park Slope (and parts of Queens), I can't help but feel like the Gods Must be Angry. So, in my defense, you can see why I was a bit worried about the cloud of fog.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A beautiful day and a tornado!

Oh. What a beautiful day!

It does appear to be getting a little bit cloudy. La La La!

It does appear to be getting a bit rough out there!

WTF is going on!


This is the part where the giant cranes start swaying, swinging back and forth really close to my window. That building was cleared and locked down tight.

La La La, oh blue sky! looks good. Wait, what did you say? A tornado? Nah, that's just a tornado warning.

Nope. A f%^king tornado ripped up our block this evening, ripping down trees and smashing cars. Other than a lot of water in our open windows and a blown in window (defenestration!!!) all is well in our little happy street.

I haven't been doing much more than working the past few months but I did manager to get out for a nice run along the Hudson. I stare at it all day long and it is so beautiful in the later afternoon that I couldn't resist taking my run after work along the water. You can't tell in the pictures but it was really hot and I used the excuse of taking pictures to stop a lot.

The path that I took is across the Vesey Street Bridge, turned south at the water and then jogged down through Battery Park City until I hit the Ferry Terminal.

This is looking north up the Hudson, West of the WTC site

Looking South, that little thing sticking up is the Statue of Liberty

Battery Park City is built on reclaimed land and was designed for mixed use: housing, businesses, parks, and tourists. It is swarming with tourists, commuters and has a lot of little restaurants and bar tucked into the scenic parks.

The Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The camera phone makes everything in the not so distance seem really tiny. Don't be fooled, the SI Ferries are huge!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Blame Work/WTC Progress

I've heard some grumbling from the peanut gallery that I'm not posting very often. And while that it true, I've been forsaking posting to earn money to pay for my expensive gardening habit. As you may know, I switched jobs back in July and have been pouring my heart, soul, and every ounce of brain power into getting this new venture up and running. It's been very rewarding but have left little time to garden and cook.

So, as a consolation prize, I've been taking pictures out my window at work. You may notice from the pictures that I work at the World Trade Center site and have the most bittersweet view on earth. When I wander around my office I have a 360 view of NYC from 40 stories up. I can see the GWB to Coney Island and spend a lot of time watching the ferries and helicopters stream by. When I look down I see the pit of the World Trade Center. It is an engineering marvel, a construction site the likes of which I've never seen. It is also a mass grave and site of unquantifiable sadness and horror. I thought I would get used to it but I find myself avoiding the windows with the most complete view and positioning my chair as to avoid looking in certain places.

Here is a series of shots (taken from my camera phone) of the progress of WTC1. There is an amazing Flickr feed of the progress for you to check out too!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tree Bed

A year or so ago the City came and took down a dead tree in front of our building leaving our tree bed a bare doggy toilet. Despite efforts to plant some small annuals by the neighbors, it continued to be tempting acreage. The problem was the dogs, the rather large stump that took up most of the surface, and an unknown time frame as to when the City would come and give us a new tree.

I don't begrudge the neighbors letting their dogs go to the bathroom in there, I guess it's kind of like a little vacation, but it was obviously planted and maintained with a fence around it. I knew in order to keep the dogs out, I needed to get a taller fence. I spent much of the summer wandering around hardware stores looking for a solution but most places didn't have anything short enough or attractive enough. (Orange hazard fencing was about as close as I came). I had a fantasy of sharpening one end of some bamboo sticks and creating my own fencing but that seemed like a potential hazard if someone pulled it out. I finally found a very simple solution at the big box hardware store down the street: decorative, thin wire fencing. Light, easy to stick in the group and above knee height to make it hard to jump into.

I should also note that one factor in planting this is teenagers. Our stoop and block are frequented by roving bands of drunk, bored teens and pre-teens. It is not uncommon to find upended plants, beer bottles, and other teen romper room trash to be strewn about our street. For example, over last weekend someone pulled a vacuum out of the trash someone where and went to town on smashing it in front of our building. There is a very good chance that they will destroy it. Knock on wood, kids have been pretty good so far.

Okay, fencing and dogs taken care of. Next the stump and potential new tree. I knew we couldn't take the stump out ourselves. It likely has deep roots that run under the sidewalk and it would take a professional to remove it out and a likely redo on the sidewalk. I'm going to leave that to professionals. I decided to just buy some very large pots and treat the tree bed like a 4' X 8' container garden. If and when the City comes, I can move the pots to someplace else.

Once I figured that out the rest of the thing was very easy. I went down to one of my favorite stores, Liberty Gardens in Red Hook and explained my project. Like a good wine store, a good nursery should be able to just tell you what you should buy. Full sun, full wind, top of the hill, dogs, teens, cars, and trash? Mix of annuals, perennials, evergreens, and flowers? Relatively inexpensive? Needs to all fit in a minicooper?

Check, check, check, and check! Once I purchased the plants and got them home it took me about 90 minutes to get the fencing in, plants and shrubs transferred into larger pots and arranged in the tree bed. I've gotten tons of compliments and thank yous (though I'm sorry I didn't get it done in time for Greenest Block in Brooklyn) and I'm quite sad I hadn't figured it out before.

I'd love to have planted everything in the ground but this was honestly the right amount of time for me to have spent on this. I encourage everyone to container garden their tree beds. Most around our block had the basics of wrought iron fencing up and some dirt. Make sure you don't pick expensive, flashy plants, make the containers as heavy as possible and I highly recommend the thin wire fencing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer's Finally Here!

Summer is finally here! And I get to take two weeks off before starting my new job. That's right, I'm leaving AMNH and beginning a new adventure at the New York Academy of Sciences. If you ask me what I do, I'll probably stammer a bit and mumble something about science education. I'm not inarticulate but my work is fairly difficult to describe and doesn't fit neatly into a few words. My stammering is actually an attempt to be polite because I love what I do and don't want to bore people to death. But, if you're interested, I'll talk you ear off.

This new job can be described pretty succinctly, I'll be starting a K12 outreach initiative for the Academy. Meaning that the Academy does science and would like to positively change K-12 science. That sounds pretty simple, right? I feel extremely lucky that I was able to find a new job in a timely manner given the current market and I can't wait to get started and not blog about it on my gardening/cooking blog.

In other news:

- I have a new niece. She's a baby and is totally adorable. Everyone is very happy and Walter, the dog, seems to enjoy guarding her. Sonny, her brother, is being a great big brother and I'm very pleased that he learned to "pet nice" before the baby came along. In this picture, Walter is both guarding the baby and watching tennis. He's some dog.

- I'm once again enjoying the heck out of the world cup. Last world cup I was writing my dissertation and this one I'm off for a few weeks. I wish I could say that I planned all of this but no, it's just a happy coincidence.

- I still have another week off and hope to do a few neighborhood tours. We took the ferry to Governor's Island last week. While I don't recommend the NYC Beer Festival, I do recommend ferry rides in the Hudson.

- The garden is going great. I had a big haul of basil and have tons of tomatoes on the vine. I added some worms to my window boxes but haven't seen any sign of them. More pics to come on the plants.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I know I have some folks who read this that like sunsets. Here ya go.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A few things I've learned...

I probably write this post after every major planting but I'll write it again because it makes me feel wise. This is my third season of gardening at our apartment and every year I get a little smarter and a little less likely to get pulled in by flashy plants and flowers.

I used to consider what I was doing as container gardening but this year I've decided to rebrand myself as a "window box gardener". The basic principals are the same (a bound and set amount of soil) but there are some very distinctive differences, namely the window boxes are bolted to the sides of our house and are therefore immovable. Aside from some pots down on street level, my windows are my gardening destiny and no matter how rough the conditions, they are there to stay.

On a practical level this means that I've given up on some of them. That's not to say that I don't plant them but I really just put plants in them that require zero maintenance. Three of my front window boxes are quite extreme: full sun, zero rain, high winds, and a lot of pollution from the bus stop. They are also in our bedroom which means I need to wake up the husband to water them in the morning. As you can imagine, I value my marriage more than my window boxes. My first season I planted one box with sedums (hens and chicks), pretty flowers, and some raspberries. Everything but the sedums died. The sedums are still alive and well so I decided to just plant the other two with some more sedums and call it a day.

As a side note, I planted geraniums there last year and they did very well for themselves. The nursery only had a few geraniums so I planted them in one of the other front boxes.

This lesson: If you can't maintain them just buy plants that don't need your attention and call it a day.

My other window boxes are much more accessible, aren't full sun, and do get rain. These are the boxes that I actually garden in and got the full treatment of tomatoes, herbs, and some flowers. I also refreshed the soil with some plant food and turned the soil.

If you haven't gardened on the 4th floor of an apartment building in Brooklyn, you may be under the impression that you won't have any pests. I'm not sure if it's just me or some bad karma on our building but we have plenty of pests, mostly aphids. On the flip side, we also have lots of pollinators who are happy to work their magic. But if I've learned anything it's to not get too attached to plants, they get eaten, squashed by pigeons, fall to their death, and sometimes dry up when you go on vacation. Don't buy expensive plants and try to quash any infestations before they get out of control.

Ditto for the plants that I put at ground level. The first year we were here I didn't plant anything downstairs but last year I put out a few pots and planters. I also spent a lot of money on this little endeavor only to have the neighborhood kids pull them out. I think when this happens you can go one of two ways: shake your fists and decide that the neighborhood doesn't deserve your gifts or just buy cheaper plants. I waffle between these two poles but decided to put out even more plants this year.

So for this lesson: don't get too attached to your plants, do your best to keep them alive, and don't get too bent out of shape and mourn the future when drunk teenagers pull your plants out, you too were young and mischievous once.

Finally, if you're just starting out, buy some geraniums. They're hard to kill, don't need a lot of attention, and look great. Every plant, whether you've spent hours planning your arrangement or it pushes through the cracks in the side walk, makes the city and your neighborhood a bit more livable and we could all use a bit of that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5th Ave Fair

The 5th Ave fair is a real fair, not one of those fake fairs that they have in Manhattan where the same vendors roll out their boring tired stuff week after week. Some of that shows up in Park Slope but much of it is local bars, restaurants, musicians, and shops that turn the sidewalk into their store. They also have small rides, carnival games, and you can drink beer on the street. Our friends always come out in force and we were lucky to have Alex and Cleo with us (both were just months old last year and now they're stealing each other's juice). The best part is that all of the restaurants open stands and you can just buy little things here and there and stuff yourself with everything from pulled pork to margaritas.

As always, a good time was had by all and of course I took some pictures.