Posts Tagged ‘animals’

a weed is a plant out of place

June 15, 2011

Jewelweed, ally against poison ivy.

I love city life. I can step out of my apartment building door and arrive at just about any place I please in as little as 5 minutes, without getting in a car and even without mass transit. For example, there’s a good bodega on my corner with some decent organic products. There’s a delicious ice cream shop about 5o paces away that sells ice cream made from dairy that comes from pasture-raised cows. Up the hill is a museum, and the botanic gardens. And just 2 blocks away is my urban refuge – Prospect Park. I spend much of my time there foraging, wildcrafting tenacious “exotic invasives” (aka, weeds), or just staring at the open sky. But despite all of these spoils, I still long for more. More green, more wilds, more open space.

There’s nothing as restorative as a visit to the country. Just a few miles north of the city there’s this place most city folk call “Upstate” (there’s also the westward land, like rural New Jersey where I’m from). Though real upstate probably doesn’t start technically until you reach the Catskills. And that’s where I found myself last week, and just south of there the weekend before.

wild weed plant ID field trip with Peeka Trenkle

At the end of winter I completed an herbal medicine course with Peeka Trenkle. At that time, very little was growing to ID, so we had to wait for the plants to emerge to have a worthwhile field trip. So Saturday before last, we went traipsing through the woods and fields of Stone Mountain Farm in New Paltz. I’ve been on several plant ID walks, all inspiring and fruitful, and this was no exception. Of the plants I could readily identify there was: plantain (Plantago major & Plantago lanceolata), sassafras, wild geranium/cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), Jack-in-the-pulpit, cleavers (Gallium aparine), jewelweed (Impatiens), burdock (Arctium lappa), violet, Japanese knotweed, mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris – one of my favorites), curly/yellow dock, wild cherry, wild raspberry (Rubus idaeus), viburnum, goldenrod (Solidago sp), red clover (Trifolium pratense), juniper, oak, white pine, wild rose, buttercup, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), and willow. I was grateful to meet some other plant allies which I hadn’t seen growing in person: wild angelica (Angelica atropurpurea), potentilla, greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), monarda, chicory, yellow sweet clover, milkweed, motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) elder (Sambucus nigra), horsetail (Equisetum arvense), and lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).

Some of the allies we encountered, plus some of their benefits…

Lesser stitchwort, so named for its ability to relieve a “stitch” or cramp in one’s side.

Elder, before blossoming. Elder protects us from viruses like cold and flu. I’ve heard her berries also make a good wine.

Motherwort, ally during times of anxiety.

Horsetail, the great re-mineralizer, ally for strengthening bones and teeth.

 

farm stay at Newton Farm Cooperative

In the tiny hamlet of West Kill lies a beautifully diverse place called Newton Farm Cooperative. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who’s part of this cooperative, farming the land part time. During the short time we spent there, we created long days full of small adventures. Weeding, sowing, watering, weeding. (What is a weed but a plant out of place?) I arose earlier than usual with the sun shining in the large window next to my bed, the dewy meadow calling me to explore. Barefoot, I wandered, inspecting weeds that I’d later craft into medicines, transfixed by tiny insects, distracted by red wing blackbird calls and the whooshing wing beats of barn swallows. The two resident roosters and mess of hens completed the symphony of bucolic sounds.

My morning view.

Weedin’ and hoein’.

Barn swallow nest.

Dewy daisy.

Yarrow.

We ate well, harvesting a little bit of radish and lettuce from the farm beds, adding in some weeds – wild thyme and wood sorrel – as seasoning. Dinner was al fresco, by fireside (Meg is a skilled firestarter). Once it truly got dark – something that doesn’t happen in the city, unless there’s a blackout – we could see the stars. I saw a meteor fall (a shooting star) and we watched satellites blink across the sky. And then the fireflies came out, fervently flashing to find their mates.

We harvested gallons of spring water from a roadside spot in Hunter (Justin did the heavy lifting), and went strawberry picking at Greig Farm in Red Hook (Meg picked the reddest berries, and not surprisingly harvested the quickest). On the way back to the farm we dropped into the Mountain Brook Inn for a drink and chat with Lyndon, resident of the area for 28 years. He was full of useful tips for enjoying the area.

Just a few strawberries and a couple of drops of mountain fresh spring water.

Red clover. I harvested some and left much for the bees.

Lovely lettuce.

Flower of Plantago lanceolata.

Something for the bees to build on.

Before we reluctantly left for home, Ron stopped by with his delicious dark chocolate-covered frozen fruit Trop Pops for us to sample. Then Sarah and I walked down to the creek to dip our feet in. Next time, we declared, we’ll come here to sun on the rocks, maybe bring some inner tubes and float around.

In contrast to the plentiful spaciousness around us, the four of us crowded into my jam-packed Prius (which I affectionately call “Turtleboat rollerskate”) full with our bounty of fresh eggs, buckets of strawberries, gallons of Catskill mountain spring water, plus all we brought with us. It was as if we were trying to take back to the city all we could of this country retreat. Taking our time, we savored as much of the countryside as possible before returning to urban life. First, a stop at Grandmere Yvonne’s for her homemade paté, rillette, jams, mustards, and vinegars to take home. I especially enjoyed hearing how the venison paté I was buying was made with a deer that was struck by a car right in front of Yvonne’s home. The cop on the scene butchered the fallen creature, taking half for himself and giving half to Yvonne. Next we scored $1 clothing items at the Tibetan thrift shop in Kingston (the checkout lady says, “this is a dollar, is that alright?”). The last detour was to New Paltz for a picnic lunch of tasty leftovers, afterwards picking up chocolates from The Cheese Plate (where I’d been doing the same thing just the week before after the plant ID trip).

Though our stay was only two and a half days, I returned feeling restored in some deep way. Resting my eyes on the open, living & verdant world versus the cluttered, hard & constructed one in which I live cleared my mind and gave my heart a space to open into. Having just read Stephen Harrod Buhner’s The Secret Teachings of Plants gave me a newfound perspective and helped keep me present to the pulse of life around me. I plan on returning to Newton Farm soon.

 

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green books campaign review

November 10, 2010

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on “green” books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

For the campaign, I chose Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills by Thomas J. Elpel (Hops Press). This book is printed with 100% soy-based inks on 100% recycled paper, bleached without chlorine.

I have a confession. This book was actually my second choice to review for the Green Books Campaign. But when it arrived and I began to peruse its pages, I’m glad that my first choice (Less Is More, which is being reviewed by everydaytrash) was already taken.

I was pleasantly surprised by the personal approach to the writing of Participating in Nature. The writer takes us on a day’s journey, both literally and metaphorically. We start out at sunrise, awakening our senses to the world around us, all through the writer’s observations. He guides us through his experiences and demonstrates shelter building, fire starting, water collecting, edible plant IDing skills and more. The journey naturally ends with sunset.

Being a city girl with dreams of the wilderness, this book was just the thing to entertain my fantasies of roughing it out in “nature.” The funny thing about that is, as the author points out, nature is all around us, even in urban settings. In fact, it’s a big misconception that we are ever separate from nature. It is easy to forget that we and everything in our lives is of the earth when the material items we’re exposed to daily include technological luxuries like computers, televisions, and refrigerators. Their components are so highly processed that the natural sources from which they’re derived are unrecognizable.

“Our modern lives have become so removed from hand-to-mouth survival that we delude ourselves into thinking resources come from the store rather than from nature. We think of ourselves as separate from nature. We think we can draw lines on a map and separate “wilderness” from “non-wilderness,” but there is only one wilderness, one ecosystem, and we are part of it. Like the deer eating grass, or the robin bringing materials back to build a nest, we all must use the resources of the earth for survival. This is true whether we live in an apartment building in the city, or in a wickiup in the woods.”

He goes on to drive home the paradox of our being a part of nature while simultaneously being seen as its destroyer.

“We are similarly admonished for consuming resources at home. We learn that we negatively impact the world from the moment we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed at night. We cause harm every time we drive, or go to work, or entertain ourselves. We learn that we are destroying the planet, and we are told to “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” to slow down the pace of destruction. It may be true that we are destroying the planet, and certainly there is nothing wrong with reducing, reusing, and recycling, but there is something wrong with an ideology that tells us on the one hand that we are part of nature – and on the other hand that we are the bad part! The best we can ever achieve is to be less bad.”

This is where I smiled to myself and was reminded of my permaculture studies. The author touches on several concepts which I learned from permaculture, especially the notion that “attitude matters.” This is further brought to light in the second chapter titled, “Mind.”

“Reality is ordered by our perception of it.”

There is a humility in the tone of the writing in what is essentially a primitive living skills guidebook. Although it is clear the author knows his stuff, there is no air of superiority in this knowledge. He makes it clear that he is continually learning and is sure to let the reader know of certain shortcomings of the guide. Specifically, he attempts to make the guide applicable to most regions of the United States, but only to a point. His most direct experiences are in Montana and he reminds us this when necessary. And although this is the case, I think people in all regions can benefit from this introduction to primitive living skills. The instructions are fairly clear, though of course not as clear as learning from a video or in person. In between the demonstrations, the chapters are peppered with narrative and first-person accounts of interactions with plants, animals, and the elements of nature.

Aside from the entertainment value of the insightful stories the author tells, Participating in Nature serves as a great introduction to survival and primitive living skills. There may be other guides out there that are more definitive (though I haven’t met them yet). But the book satisfied the initial curiosity I had for certain skills like building primitive shelters with on site materials, making cordage from natural fibers, and butchering a roadkill deer. I would love someday to be able to attend a wilderness school to learn firsthand some of the other skills covered in this book such as making a bowdrill and starting a fire with it, creating shelter with a hot coal bed, and fishing by hand. Perhaps I’ll even get a chance to attend the author’s school, Green University. I’m going to try felting wool on my own, based on the instructions in the book.

And speaking of wool… Since the first time I went wilderness camping in high school, I was taught that cotton is the “death cloth” (in camping circumstances that is). So I was surprised to read that the author wears cotton sweatpants and sweatshirts while out in the wild. He does wear layers and insulates the sweatpants with found natural materials like grasses, but what happens when the cotton gets wet? Cotton does not wick away water like wool does, so it stays wet and cold, contributing to hypothermia in some cases. Perhaps the insulating grass provides this wicking barrier. Or maybe the cotton phenomenon is exclusive to the Northeast where we have consistent precipitation throughout the year (unlike Montana). This was one of my only gripes or “huh?” moments while reading the book. The other pertains to the images in the book which were sometimes hard to decipher. They are in black and white and in many cases there is little contrast, making it hard to see what is being demonstrated. Color photos would vastly improve this guide.

These small criticisms aside, I truly enjoyed Participating in Nature. What I respect most about this guide is that it’s based on the direct experiences of the author. It is not a distillation of other guide books, it is not all theory or hearsay. Thomas J. Elpel lived these tales, and continues to teach us the skills he accrues as he learns them. This is evidenced by the number of editions he has put out – this is the sixth edition of the book since 1992. The author has the freedom to revise his books this frequently because he also runs the press that prints it. Learn more about the author, his school, and printing press at his website.

Do you have the urge to learn more about the world around you? Do you want to learn how to survive in the wilderness?

a new f’ing wilderness

February 28, 2010

How do you envision urban wilderness? For me, this question brings to mind so many ideas and visions, of what’s wild and alive in the city today, of what was once wild and living in the city hundreds of years ago before the intensive “settling” by Europeans.

I answered this question on the Urban Wilderness Action Center (UWAC) website and will now be taking part in a UWAC Day put on by Eyebeam (et al) on March 20. Want to help out? Email me at: liz [at] raganella [dot] com

Learn more about the event here.

Below is my submission and a hint at how my action will go down:

The preservation, restoration, or natural succession of wild places in the city

24 Feb 2010 by Liz N, No Comments »

Brooklyn NY

What is Urban Wilderness and how do you envision it? : Wilderness is all around us though we’ve paved over much of it. It fights the asphalt, struggling to succeed. Finds its way through crack and crevice, planting itself in abandoned buildings, untended sidewalks and parking lots. Nature thrives in the edge. In the gravel live tiny microbes, under sidewalks in compacted street tree beds, mycorrhizae are at work on the roots of isolated trees.

Most immediately, there are fragmented patches of remnants of wilderness in the parks in which we find refuge from the urban hardscape. On a rare occasion, alone in Prospect Park on a trail in ‘the woods,’ I am no longer in the city, or not the city of 2010.

Wilderness is where we feel an unnameable pull, a call to our heritage, to the billion-year evolution of our inner flora. Where we feel more human and more part of the planet from which we’ve sprung. It can happen while crossing the street, maybe catching the flight of a bird or its song. Or we can try to make it happen, seeking a piece of earth to claim for an afternoon of reflection.

What type of interventions would love to see to help shape Urban Wilderness? We’re interested in both the practical and the fantastically impractical.: Reclaim riparian buffer zones. Take over the paved over. Dig up the pavement and concrete and build urbanite moss gardens in shady alleys and backyards. Plant trees, shrubs, wetland grasses where the pavement was.

Reconnect the urban forest. Have a ’stream’ of trees continuing from Wave Hill down to Central Park, down Park Avenue. A line of trees connecting all of the city’s parks, relinking the mycelial network that allows them to thrive. Migrating birds will find more sanctuary. Maybe we’ll begin to get a sense of the thickness of birds described by early settlers. The air will be a bit cleaner. A newfound sense of calm will fall upon even the most trafficked city neighborhoods.

How would you practically teach and perform such an intervention? (and Would you be interested in leading it?): To start: Hold public demonstrations of what was once present, before it was paved over, using data from the Mannahatta Project. Create giant posters covering the fronts of buildings with recreations of forest stands. Hang flocks of birds from wires between buildings.

Secondarily, convince city planning and officials that street trees should have continuous tree beds extending the length of city blocks. Dig away the sidewalk between trees and plant low-maintenance grasses and plants.

Optimistically, obtain parcels of land and get to replanting forests and riparian buffer zones. I know there would be many willing participants to dig in. There’s just the small matter of procuring the land. Maybe we could start with the 12,000 acres of vacant land in the city first.

I would love to lead this kind of intervention.

This post was submitted by Liz N.

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Image source: Hoggs Blog

make the call for those who can’t

December 9, 2009

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to wildlife. Please call your Senators at 1-800-217-7379 and ask them to support climate legislation on behalf of those who cannot call themselves.

milkweed and stinky piglets

September 30, 2009

Rainy days have their benefits. The first, most obvious benefit is the replenishment of available water for plant, animal, and human use. The second is that rain keeps people from enjoying outdoor activities. Why is that a benefit? Well, if you’re visiting Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture and want to go on a vegetable tour, you may just be the only one on the tour on account of rain. And being the only ones (bf & I) on the tour last Sunday, we got special attention. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.

We went on a whim, despite the rain and forecast for more of it throughout the day. Looking at the clock, we realized we’d have just enough time to grab a bite from the cafe and go on the two o’clock tour. So up we went, to Pocantico Hills, just north of Tarrytown. It’s lovely up there, just an hour’s drive from Brooklyn, the leaves along the Saw Mill Parkway just starting to change into their autumnal habits. Here are some of the magical things we encountered on our tour of the educational, experimental, sustainable agricultural center:


A tasty lunch at the cafe


What’s on today?


Selling the bounty at the farm market


Asclepias gomphocarpus, a type of milkweed, attracts butterflies


Happy bees on past-peak artichokes in the dooryard garden. These delicious thistles are apparently difficult to grow in the Northeast, but Stone Barns is figuring out how.


Go ahead, try one! Stone Barns encourages sampling


Super-juicy Asian pears growing in the main field are an experiment. A very tasty experiment.


Self-seeding sunflowers take over where the arugula leaves off


Purple brussel sprouts in the field…


…and yummy purple mustard greens in the greenhouse


The expansive greenhouse allows 4-season farming


Seedlings in custom compost are kept warm through water-filled, compost-heated tubes


Hoop houses on tracks also extend the seasons


Four kinds of compost are cultivated at Stone Barns


Berkshire pigs, right home in the forest mud


Hey little piggy


Sorry, we’re too busy to look at your camera


Oh, hello there. These pigs sure are cute, but they were also a little stinky.

Stone Barns is a magical place where everything is grown for a reason, everything is harvested, nothing is sprayed with pesticides or grown in artificial fertilizers. And everything is repurposed, from food scraps to plastic tarps. You can visit Stone Barns for a tour, to volunteer, or to enjoy an 8-course meal at the amazing Blue Hill restaurant.

This Saturday, October 3, is their 6th Annual Harvest Festival. Get your tickets here.

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY
914.366.6200

fresh: the film

September 22, 2009

If you didn’t get your fill from Food, Inc., Fresh looks like it takes the story of sustainable agriculture one step further. Featuring Will Allen (Growing Power), Michael Pollan (the man who needs no introduction), and Joel Salatin (Polyface Farms), Fresh looks at the solutions to the problems of our current food system.

Fresh will be screening at BAM, Tuesday, October 6, 7pm, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Gabrielle Langholtz (Editor of Edible Brooklyn) with the director/producer, Ana Sofia Joanes, plus Reverend Jackson of Brooklyn Rescue Mission, David Shea of Applewood Restaurant, and Letitia James, District 35 – Council Member.

Check out the official site.

mountains, moose, and more mountains

September 14, 2009

Deep breath in… and out. The smell of pine and sagebrush. The feeling of rock and dirt beneath my boots. Sharp mountain peaks, bright midday sun, glimmering glacial lakes. And the sounds: call of the magpie, chirping of chipmunks, gurgling and whooshing of mountain streams, crackling of moose footsteps. This is the experience of a national park. I am grateful to those who had the foresight to preserve these places. I am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to visit them.

Here’s some of what I saw on the latest trip – to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

of course, there are the mountains


Didn’t realize at the time that this was about where Ansel Adams snapped a famous photo, I think he was a bit further upstream.


A forest fire burns at the base of Mount Moran. Fires are most often started by lightning and are closely monitored while they are left to burn. They are beneficial to many plants, such as lodgepole pine.


Mount Moran has a distinctive geologic feature — a basalt (molten rock) intrusion.


Cascade Canyon Trail, an 11-mile hike (or 9 if you take the boat across Jenny Lake both ways, 13 if you skip the boat altogether) with breathtaking views.


Glacial till from the last ice age. We looked for marmots among the rocks, but they happen to be hibernating already.


Part of the park’s “sustainable” menu: elk/bison burgers at Jackson Lake Lodge. They were delicious, and so was the view.


This view inspired JD Rockefeller, Jr. to preserve this place as part of the national park.

families of fauna


Mama and baby moose (called cow and calf, respectively), on the appropriately named Moose-Wilson Road.


Papa moose (or bull), seen on the Cascade Canyon trail.


An elk bull and his harem.


One of 5 or 6 bald eagles we encountered on the trip. They like to hang out by waterways, like the Snake River.


A “least” chipmunk. Tiny and adorable.

pollinators aplenty, and maybe some pests


Butterflies abound.


Bees, too.


This may or may not be an Asian longhorn beetle. If it is, I’m sorry I didn’t report the little bugger (I didn’t know they frequented these parts). I was too busy trying to get this shot as he was perched on my shoulder.

lovely flora


Leafy spurge, I think. One of the wanted weeds.


Thistle or spotted knapweed?


This one’s not a weed, it’s a columbine.


Sagebrush bathed in sun.

adventure!


Hot air balloons launched right near where we are staying (Teton Village).


If we were staying one more day, I think I might have wanted to try paragliding. We watched this guy take off from Rendezvous Mountain.


Weeeeeee!!

off to the wilds of wyoming

September 5, 2009


Bison in Yellowstone, the Tetons neighbor to the North.

Howdy y’all!

I’m off to wrassle some dogies out in the wilds of Wyomin’. Well, okay, not really, but a girl can pretend a little, no?

In reality we are heading to Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole area for some fresh air, nature loving, hiking, rafting, and horseback riding. A lot to fit into a 4-day itinerary! I’ll be back in a week to report on all of our adventures.

Happy Labor Day and enjoy the week!

x L

september in the city – UPDATE!

September 3, 2009

I love September in New York. Dry sunny days, crisp clear nights. A perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. Yes, we do have great outdoors in NYC. Here are some great ways to experience them this month.

I’ve added a couple things I thought you should see:

Queens County Farm BBQ & Campout
This weekend!
September 6 to 7

Here’s your chance to nosh on some tasty chicken BBQ’d by none other than celebrated butcher Tom Mylan while sipping on some local suds courtesy Brooklyn Brewery. And if that’s not enough, there’ll be delish pie, a DJ spinning tunes, camping, and wake-up bloody Marys! Hello?! Why haven’t you bought your ticket yet? Get ’em here.

Central Park Bird Walks
brought to you by the Nature Conservancy
September 3 to October 26

NYC is a big stopping off point for birds migrating south for winter. Learn the ins & outs of bird watching with Kellye Rosenheim in Central Park. Get the full schedule and details.

Reservations are required. Please contact (212) 381-2194 or nycbirdwalks@tnc.org for reservations and cancellations.

Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance Events
September 4 to 26


Waterfront walking tours, kayaking Staten Island, tugboat races, and many more activities are on MWA’s calendar this month. Check it out!

Governors Island Art Fair
brought to you by 4heads
Every weekend, September 5 to 27

Over 150 independent artists and galleries from around the world come together on Governors Island – free ferry to and from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Get the details.

Solar Powered Film Series
brought to you by GreenEdge NYC & Solar One
September 10 to 19

Get your fill of sustainable films in this series of serious documentaries – screenings powered by the sun.

Doors open at 7:00 pm each night at Solar One (23rd St. & FDR Drive)
Films start at 7:45 pm, followed by Q&A

September 10: Addicted to Plastic (trailer)
September 11: Who Killed the Electric Car (trailer)
September 12: Flow (trailer)
September 17: A Sea Change (trailer)
September 18: The Garden (trailer)
September 19: Burning the Sun (world premiere!)

Plus, every night of the series features a segment from Brooklyn filmmaker Michelle Vey’s From Elegance to Earthworms. Get more info.

National Parks Week NYC
September 19 to 27

I’m a big fan of National Parks. I’ve only been to 5 of them (soon to be 6!), but I’ve got my sites set on many more. Luckily, this month, the National Parks are coming to me – and everyone else in this fair city. The National Parks Conservation Association is hosting a full line-up of events all over NYC, including coastal clean-ups in Queens, a tour of Grant’s tomb after dark in Morningside Heights, and screenings of clips from Rick Burn’s latest documentary about the parks in Central Park. There are just too many events to list here, so here’s the full schedule.

i made a new friend

September 3, 2009


His name is Sanford.

Sanford may have been living in our vegetable drawer since Friday. Or maybe Saturday. Or maybe just yesterday. Those are all of the days we visited the farmers market in the past week. I say Friday, because I found Sanford sleeping on the cauliflower which we picked up that day.

I sequestered Sanford in this glass container.

He napped while I cooked.

I like escargot, but I’m glad Sanford didn’t end up in the stir fry.

After dinner, we relocated Sanford to his new home. Prospect Park.

He was reluctant at first, but then made a break for it.

See ya later, Sanford.