This is going to be a weird spring.
For 13 winters something has been growing in my basement.
Now don’t be frightened, especially if you are a potential buyer of my house.
The things that grew were my seedlings. All through the winter. Under grow lights set under timers.
Trays and trays of seedlings growing in plantable peat pots.
Annuals. Perennials. And Herbs.
All legal herbs, that is.
From the tiny seedlings grew the fully grown plants that populated my garden each year.
But this spring, the spring of transition, the only thing I’ve planted has been this:
The only gardening I’ve done is the kind where you weed while kneeling on a gardening pad and watch the bulbs you’ve planted from previous years emerge from the ground.
So, this gardener without a garden needs your help.
Won’t you write to me with your gardening plans – especially if you live in my current town of Rochester, or better yet, if you live in Detroit, tell me what the gardening scene is like in the motor city. Write to me where you find my contact information and I will feature you as a guest blogger right here.
So, get your green thumbs out of the dirt and onto that keyboard and write me!
Happy New Year!
now, if you could hear me say this to you from behind my stuffed nose it would sound more like “Habby Dew Year.”
I have yet to have a healthy day in 2013.
Before I can start on this year’s goals: decluttering and cleaning my home to get it ready to sell, going to the gym at least three times per week, I resolve to get HEALTHY!
That’s why my answer to this photo challenge is this:
This is a bowl of eucalyptus leaves I pulled off a bouquet recently purchased at Trader Joes. I mixed it with some dried lavender from this year’s garden, plus some Kosher salt. I poured boiling water over it and voila! A home spa remedy that will hopefully relieve my misery.
Before I do anything else this year, I resolve to get healthy again!
Unfortunately, there is no snow on the ground – yet – in Western New York.
But there is still evidence of the changing seasons.
Each week, as part of a long-term science project my son must work on for the entire school year, he must take a photo once a week at the exact same time, exact same place.
This photo, taken in late October, still finds my icicle pansies in bloom in my perennial garden, but little else. Soon, hopefully, they will be covered in snow, the garden all but a memory in a mid-winter’s dream.
Now that December is here, this post about wrapping things up in my little spot in the Brighton Community Garden is way overdue. But I must write this final post as a conclusion to the unforgettable experience it has been digging, weeding, watering and reaping alongside my fellow Brighton neighbors.
My neighbors and I have shared watering and weeding responsibilities through a hot dry summer. Our tomato patches bursting with more than one family could possibly consume, we’ve traded beefsteaks for exotic varieties such as the green-striped zebra or tiny yellow jelly bean.
Sue Gardiner-Smith, the manager of the garden, made sure that we kept up with our commitments to clear the common paths of weeds and not let our own plots get too overgrown (that meant taming my wild pumpkin vines!) In return, she gave me carte blanche to take as much Swiss Chard as I could cut from her never-ending crop of the green leafy stuff.
My garden experience ended on Veteran’s Day. The kids had the day off. First, we paid a visit to the brand new Veteran’s Memorial sculpture, just next door to the garden:
Then, we got to work. We pulled out the last of the vegetation, blackened and dead as a result of a hard killing frost that descended over Rochester a night or two before:
We pulled up the fencing and the poles ( the boys had to have a stick fight with them atop the compost heap, of course):
Harvested our last pumpkins and carrots, and finally, chopped down the remains of that sunflower that grew to be about 10 feet tall.
Putting this garden to bed would be the first of many lasts for me in Rochester.
Like clearing out this garden, I’m literally pulling up my roots again. Rochester may not be my hometown, but it is for my kids.
When I cleared the last weeds with my kids, I knew I would never garden here again.
I would not be putting down my $25 deposit to renew my lease on this 10′x10′ piece of land that gave me so much delight. Next spring, this plot will be cared by someone else.
Next spring, I’ll be well on my way to finding our next home, and hopefully our next garden somewhere in Michigan.
Brace yourselves, my dear blog devotees (mom, you already know)
but this blog is about to get a whole lot darker.
And that’s not even because Halloween is coming.
The universe has thrown my family a curve ball and the research facility where my husband works, the whole reason why we were plunked down in Rochester, is closing.
Once again, we are faced with the possibility of becoming
The next few days and weeks will be hard. Getting transplanted has many implications, big and small, on almost every facet of one’s life.
Take my passion for gardening, for example.
For nearly 13 years, I have continually worked in the gardens around my house. I’ve battled invasive creeping ivy; clearing it out to create a shade garden of hosta and ferns and Solomon Seal in my back garden.
I had yews removed to create a perennial garden in one of the only truly sunny spots on our property. Over the years, I’ve planted peony, roses, lavender, and countless other varieties.
After over a decade, the garden is finally looking established.
And now, I guess I’ll have to leave it all behind.
So, faced with the very real possibility of moving. what do I do now with the crocus and tulip bulbs I bought
Before we got the news that has pulled the rug out from my family’s feet?
Do I plant bulbs this fall that I may not get to see bloom in the spring?
I know that as my family faces the monumental “ifs” of moving, the subject of some stupid bulbs may seem – stupid. But at this point of the transplanting game, it’s about all I can handle.
About 11 years ago, in another event that changed EVERYONE’s lives forever, I had similar thoughts about bulbs.
We were all still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In October, the War on Terror had begun with strikes in Afghanistan. There were reports of anthrax being spread through the mail. Remember how everyone was stocking up on bottled water and duct tape in case of a dirty bomb? Or a bio weapon of mass destruction?
No one knew what was coming next.
That fall, I watched and listened to way too many grim reports from the media. It left me in a serious blue funk.
So, I planted bulbs. They gave me hope, they gave me some sense of control of what I could be certain of for the following spring.
So now, in this one miniscule detail in the mountain of details one faces on the prospect of moving, I’ve got two bags of bulbs.
I can plant them for either me, if we stay here, or the new owners of my house.
Or, I can give them away to friends for them to enjoy.
If you knew you wouldn’t be around the same town to see your garden in the spring, what would you do?
Sue Gardner Smith, manager of the Brighton and South Wedge farmers markets, stands with a old abandoned barn along Westfall Road in Brighton. The barn is part of a site proposed as the Brighton Farm and Farmers Market expansion and renovation project. / SHAWN DOWD//staff photographer
Perhaps it is no coincidence that a woman with a surname derived from an old French word meaning “gardener” would become a grass-roots champion of the sustainable and organic food movement in Brighton.
With humble determination, Sue Gardner Smith turned her activism into a career in managing farmers markets — first in the South Wedge neighborhood of the city and now in Brighton.
Gardner Smith was the oldest of seven children growing up on a 70-acre farm in Wayne County that had been in her family for a century. She remembers walking through its cherry orchards with her father and tending to the family garden with her mother and siblings.
Being the oldest in a large family, Gardner Smith developed the nurturing traits of a “mother hen” by cooking meals and caring for her younger siblings. In her early culinary experimentation, some dishes were tastier than others. Even into adulthood, she still gets teased by her siblings at her first attempts in the kitchen.
“When I was nine, I came up with a dish called chipped beef on toast. It was wretched. … I have to say that my cooking and tastes have improved vastly since then,” said Gardner Smith, who now prefers making dishes like ricotta cheese and onions stuffed into Swiss chard leaves she grows at her 10-foot by 10-foot plot in the Brighton community garden, a project also under her charge.
In her experiences of living in cities abroad and in the United States, nothing unites people more than food. She has shopped for fresh produce in the open-air markets and dined in the cafes in the plazas of Brussels. In London, there was the tavern and pub culture, “neutral” places where local neighbors could gather for a meal and a drink at the end of the day.
During her 15 years living in the San Francisco Bay area, she visited restaurants like Chez Panisse and markets such as the Berkeley Bowl, where the air buzzed with a sense of what she called “food energy.”
“It’s not just about eating. It’s how people gather at markets to socialize and catch up with neighbors as they shop. It’s the sounds of local musicians playing among the produce stands. I have long felt that Brighton should have this kind of gathering place, and I’m glad to watch its success,” she said.
Since 2008, the market held each Sunday in the Brighton High School parking lot from May through October is a testament of Brighton’s desire for high-quality and locally grown food. One thing Gardner Smith admits is that from a short-term perspective, eating organic and local is a bit costlier. Also, a recent Stanford University study recently concluded that organic food is no more nutritional than conventionally grown food.
However, she believes these factors will not curb the organic, locavore trend. This is because people are starting to put values on reducing their carbon footprint and the use of harmful pesticides, and developing a direct and trusting relationship between the grower and the producer at local markets.
“The study missed the point and had too narrow a focus. When you buy local and organic, you develop a sense of trust with the farmer, and you are also helping to support the local economy,” she said.
In addition to buying locally produced food, Brighton residents also expressed a desire to get their own hands dirty in avegetable garden of their own. In 2009, the creation of a community garden in Brighton seemed like the next step.
“It seemed like an obvious sister project to the market,” said Gardner Smith, who with a committee helped build a fence and a gate system around 100 10-foot by 10-foot plots on Westfall Road by the historic Groos house. Outside of a few stubborn groundhogs that managed to breach the fence, Brighton residents have enjoyed the bounty of their harvests.
Now that the shorter days and cooler nights of autumn are here, it is time for Gardner Smith and the other Brighton gardeners to put their plots to rest for the winter. But that doesn’t mean that plans for coming years will be put into hibernation.
Her ambitions for future years include using funds from a $250,000 state grant awarded to the town to preserve a farmhouse, a barn and some of the farmland on Westfall Road. The proposed project aims to create a permanent location for the farmers market and an expansion to the community garden with educational opportunities for schoolchildren to learn more about agriculture.
“Not only is my job rewarding, it’s also a lot of fun. I’ve met so many wonderful people in Brighton who are committed to this meaningful work that really has made a difference.”
Indeed, Sue Gardner Smith’s name suits her well.
This post is long overdue, but WordPress put up the perfect photo challenge to (kick me in the pants and get writing) I mean, get me motivated:
What is urban? This is what true urbanism should be. A blend of city and nature on a perfect summer day.
I went to a lot of places over the summer, but my favorite destination, for always, remains:
New York City.
It’s a place where I grew up, and you’d think I would be tired of it already. Seen it all. Been there. Done that.
That’ll never happen. Because there is always something New to discover in New York City. Even for us natives.
For example, in our annual summer visit to New York City, we toured the High Line.
Opened in recent years and built on refurbished elevated rail lines, the High Line lets the visitor walk the thin line between street level and the heights of skyscrapers. It is a strip of gardens, fountains and orchards that blooms right between steel, brick and glass and wooden water towers. It repurposes an older structure that would have otherwise been torn down and instead has been transformed into a public space and one of the best places to snap pictures in all of New York City.
It goes on for about 20 blocks above the West Side’s meat-packing district and there are plans to extend the High Line to more of the old abandoned El.
With fountains, flowers and musical and cultural events, all set in a shining beacon of sustainable public space, to me it’s the best 20 blocks you can walk right now in NYC.
I shot these photos on my dad’s Nikon:
Like any venture in farming or gardening, my garden this year had its successes and failures.
My eggplant plants never made it past seedlings, their leaves turned into lace work by pests.
My cucumbers suffered the same fate, not before offering a few vegetables to pick.
But, there are some vegetables that made it through.
Many people think of October as time for picking pumpkins, but don’t tell that to these two fine specimens:
As I picked them out of my garden, a fellow gardener in a neighboring plot said: Wow, look at that pumpkin! Isn’t it EARLY for pumpkins?
Maybe. Maybe these orange orbs are a bit early to the party, but don’t tell them that, you’ll hurt their feelings.
Then, there are the tomatoes:
Now, I have some mozzarella in my working refrigerator, and some basil in my garden. I’m off to get another loaf of bread so I can make another sandwich.
What are your favorite recipes this time of year? Send them my way and you can guest post on my blog.
This week’s photo challenge was an easy one.
These are sunflowers in my spot in the Brighton Community Garden. Just 10 weeks ago, they were seeds in a packet.
Hiding in all this growth is my youngest child, my baby. I know every parent says this, but I can’t believe how much he’s grown, and how much he will grow and change after his first summer at sleep-away camp.
While gardeners and farmers feel the drought first, it won’t be long until we all feel it. No one, not even your neighbors who keep watering their lawns despite the news that more than 50 percent of the country is facing a drought not seen since the 1950′s is immune.
This summer has been brutal on our water supply. Newspapers and media reports are full of the plight of the farmer as they watch crops wither because most are at the mercy of rainfall for water.
But perhaps this drought is waking us up to appreciate the most precious resource we all take for granted. And it may be time to rethink and apply some extreme agricultural practices as the earth heats up.
In times like these, we can take a lesson from Israel.
Israel is one of the driest countries on the planet. On average, it receives only 19.4 inches of rain annually. Yet, thanks to cutting edge technology, and even more, the stubborn willingness of a people who know that in order to practically live in Israel, you have to believe in miracles, Israel blooms.
This tiny country has learned to efficiently use every drop of water that falls from the sky in the summer or coats the mountains in the north in winter to grow some of the most beautiful produce in the world. Check out this photo of huge greenhouses growing vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers in the Negev Desert. Check out this photo courtesy of Daniel Lawrence’s blog:
Israel not only makes the desert bloom, but it has developed technology and methods that the rest of the world can use to reverse and prevent desertification, as noted in this post from israel21c.org. Israel21c.org is an online magazine that offers topical and timely reports on how Israelis from all walks of life and religion, innovate, improve and add value to the world.
So here are a few tips we can learn from Israel to conserve our water resources not only during times of drought, but for the long haul:
- Stop Watering Your Lawn. Right Now. – You! Yes, you, the suburbanite! Fuggetabout your lawn. (okay, fuggetabout it is technically a Brooklyn/New Jersey and not an Israeli term, but let’s get back on topic) Israelis don’t have silly things like lawns. Lawns are nothing but vanity. I’ll say it again: STOP WATERING YOUR LAWN NOW. Your brown lawn has gone into dormancy and watering your lawn artificially just puts more of a strain on its root system. It will come back soft and green when the rains return.
- Use drip irrigation – Did you know that agriculturalists in Israel invented drip irrigation technology? Instead of wastefully watering your garden through a sprinkler, where most water evaporates into the air, use drip irrigation to deliver the water right to where the plants need it – the roots.
- Save that H2O from your A/C - As shown in the photo above, Israel has developed technologies that draw humidity out of the air for irrigating crops. On a smaller scale, you can do the same by catching water runoff from your central air conditioner (my hose empties into the slop sink) to water plants and vegetables
- Less Wasting Water at Restaurants – When you sit down at a restaurant in Israel, don’t assume that the waitress will automatically fill your glass with endless glasses of water. No way are they just giving water away if it’s not asked for. You have to ask for the water, sometimes twice – in two different languages, until the waitress gives you a glass of water. So, next time you dine out, if you are not going to drink the water, tell your server not to pour, or refill your glass.
- Selective Flushing – Here is a picture of just one type of toilet flush in Israel: The flush mechanism is divided into a big section and a small section. If you are reading my blog, you are indeed a very intelligent person, so I’ll let you figure out what purpose each section serves.
- Shower Shorter, or Shower with a Friend - a drought is a great excuse to share your shower.
- Rejoice in the rain: Finally, instead of getting all bummed out when your ball game or picnic gets rained just be thankful. Think of the farmers who need the rain for their crops and livestock (a.k.a. your food, right down to that box of Cheerios and glass of milk at the breakfast table). Any event, even a wedding, can have a postponement, a change of venue or a rain date. But there is no substitute for the blessing of rain.