Posts Tagged ‘foraging’

support the homestead at seven arrows

June 14, 2012

Last summer, my life was filled with these tiny miracle retreats up in the Catskills. Spending most of my days here in the city, any excursion to expanses of green countryside is welcome and restorative. But what made these trips special was a combination of the company, the work, and the play time. The company: Meg Paska & co. The work: weeding, sowing seeds, harvesting, squishing bugs (okay, maybe that part wasn’t so great). The play: creek wading, strawberry picking, mountain springs seeking, wildcrafting (to me this is play, even though it also benefits my work).

So when Meg told me she’d be setting up a homestead with her man Neil in New Jersey, I started fantasizing about all of the adventures I could have there, too. Of course, this project is so much more than just a good excuse for me to get out of the city. Meg will be creating an educational farm complete with livestock (rabbits, laying hens, goats), beehives, vegetable growing, and mushroom propagation. There will be opportunities for wildcrafting and harvesting from the surrounding woods and waters, too. Nearby swimming beaches, hiking and biking trails are the icing on top. The homestead will be located at Seven Arrows, a yoga retreat center in Locust, NJ. So there’s also yoga and healing retreats, too. This sounds like a place I may visit and never want to leave.

Thing is, in order to realize all of this amazingness, they need our help. The Homestead at Seven Arrows launched a Kickstarter campaign, and it’s an all or nothing affair. The last day to pledge is July 5. They’re just about a quarter of the way to their goal of $20,000. There are some sweet rewards associated with the campaign, aside from knowing your dough will be funding this awesome project.

You can pledge as little as $1 to get your name & web link on their donor page. You can pledge $25 for some lovely pressed wild plants from the area. For $30, you’ll get a Claudia Pearson-designed Buy Local Calendar Towel 24 x 27″ 100% cotton, vibrant illustrations of local vegetables. If you’re rolling in it and really want to splurge, $1,000 will get you a weekend stay at Seven Arrows complete with farm grown meals, morning guided yoga sessions and local libations each night! Plus, you’ll get a care package of veggies, eggs and goat milk! (or a basket of assorted value added goods made from farm produce. And then the top-of-the-line prize is for those with $5K to chip in: a weekend retreat for you and up to 8 friends.

Help make this dreaminess a reality! 

don’t miss these workshops

January 12, 2012

I’m often asked how I got started doing what I do. It’s not always a short answer. When I trace my path back in time, it leads me to several amazing people and ideas. And they’re not all so obviously related to crafting body care products. Here are some of the people I’ve learned from and continue to learn from, the ideas that inspire me, and the practices I aspire to deeply know. I hope that you’ll take the opportunity to get to know them, too.

Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course with Andrew Faust
Starting February 18, 2012.

I’m always excited to introduce folks to the ways of permaculture, especially the way Andrew teaches it. You’ll see the world in a whole new light and learn to define things differently, too – from the corporate oligarchy we are governed by to what “sustainability” really means. Andrew just has a different way of putting things, as you’ll see from the two video links below. A message from Andrew Faust & co., below…

Thinking about joining us but want to know more about our course? You can always visit our website, but to immediately get to the heart of what we’re about watch this video and listen to Andrew Faust talk about the beauty that is permaculture and what you will learn in our PDC. Share it with your friends!

Watch: Learning to Live Well with the Earth

Here is another video of Andrew talking at Occupy Wall Street that has been making it’s way around the internet.

Watch: Occupy the Economy

Our entire teaching team is passionate about teaching Permaculture and sharing the tools for positive solutions. From Bill Young the biodiversity specialist who reforested Fresh Kills to Lisa DePiano cooperative business pioneer creating revenue and relationships between bicycle compost pick-up, CSA’s and restaurants, you will learn dynamic ways to create opportunity and abundance wherever you are.

Our Urban Permaculture focus will feature two excellent field trips: one to the extensive green roof laboratory on Randall’s Island with Dwaine Lee of the Horticultural Society and another visiting the community garden’s of the Lower East Side that have been retrofitted to harvest rainwater and reclaim brownfields with Lars Chellberg and Paula Hewit Amram.

Know that we are constantly striving to make each PDC better than the last by continuing to educate ourselves and stay relevant in this dynamic world. Andrew is a true scholar and brings to each student his solid experience from a life of active learning: from deep nature to concrete jungle, from classic tomes to the newest books and theories on evolution.

Speaking of tomes and books, Andrew has a tumblr blog where he is, amongst other things, writing reviews for the many books he reads that contribute to the material he teaches in our course. 

We hope you can join us!

Here’s to our new bright year!
May we all realize our connections and live with a whole heart.

Beekeeping & Urban Homesteading with Meg Paska

Meg is the best! From bees to bunnies, you’ll learn all the basics of urban homesteading from this super smart lady with lotsa heart.

Online Urban Beekeeping 101- 1/22 (3 sessions):
Learn the ins-and-outs of beekeeping from a city-dweller’s perspective. From honeybee anatomy and behavior to pests and diseases to honey harvesting, we’ll cover a full season of beekeeping from Spring through Winter so that you can feel confident starting your first beehive this year!

Growing Edible Mushrooms at Home- 2/12:
In this workshop, you’ll learn how to turn waste into delicious, meaty mushrooms. We’ll make mushroom logs from tree cuttings, grow oyster mushrooms in espresso grounds and discuss stem butt cultivation with salvaged burlap sacks! Students will take home a mushroom log of their own!

Backyard Homesteading Bootcamp- 4/7 (all day):
In this day long workshop, you’ll learn how to turn your small space into a functioning homestead. Learn gardening, composting, chicken and rabbit basics, beekeeping basics, diy home and body care,* homebrewing and food preservation. (*I’ll be leading this part!)

Workshops with Leda Meredith

One of the biggest catalysts for my journey toward a plant-focused lifestyle was one of Leda’s foraging tours in Prospect Park. Get a full list of Leda’s workshops here; below are some of her personal favorites.

Fermentation Workshop in Park Slope, BK

Saturday 11 February 2012 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Did you know that fermented cabbage has more vitamin C than plain old raw cabbage? That you can ferment root vegetables into tasty beers? Here’s how to turn the ho-hum local storage crops of winter into super-healthy, safe, easy to make fermented foods. We’ll cover fermented veggies like sauerkraut, basic alcohol fermentation, and yogurt – making.

Space is VERY limited (as in at my apt.), so please reserve a spot soon if you’re interested.

Herbs, Herb Gardens, & Herbalism @NYBG

4 Wednesdays January 18 – February 8 2012 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Study the history of herbalism and herb garden design. Take an in-depth look at some of the most historically important herbs, their uses, and cultivation requirements. Ancient as well as contemporary uses of individual herbs are discussed. A visit to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library to view centuries-old herbals completes the class.

Ehtnobotany of Our Native Flora @NYBG

2 Fridays, 27 January & 3 February 2012 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

From spicebush to wild ginger, sassafras to trillium, our region is rich in culinary and medicinal plants largely neglected in contemporary use. Learn the historical use of these plants by native Americans, the Shakers, and other settlers. Plant identification and uses as well as sustainable harvesting techniques will be covered. Dress for the weather.

The Art of Herbal Medicine Making with Robin Rose Bennett

This class is amazingly fun. You’ll get hands-on experience making your very own herbal medicine with plants growing in our bioregion. Robin is so lovely, and has a wealth of herbal healing knowledge.

There is nothing as empowering as making your own medicines. Crafting your own herbal preparations will save you lots of money, and you will feel healthier and happier than ever before. In this class we will work with fresh (and some dried) herbs, making several types of tinctures (with and without alcohol), liniments, oils, infusions, vinegars, syrups, salves, decoctions, poultices, compresses, fomentations, and more! Robin Rose will share some of her favorite recipes and most effective remedies. Herbs are magical, but preparing and using them doesn’t have to be mystifying. Come enjoy a fun, enriching experience, and then do try this at home!

Note: A $15 materials fee is payable to the teacher at the first session.

A WEEKLY COURSE
(6 sessions) Thursdays, April 5–May 17, 8–10pm
No class on April 12.
12WHN28T For CEUs click here
Members: $200 / Nonmembers: $215

 

 

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.

 

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?

raganella’s adventures in nyc

October 19, 2010

When I’m not working on my next workshop idea or helping clients choose (or make) healthier household products, I’m off in the wild. The wild of the city that is. Recently we (my boyfriend & I) experienced a series of local excursions of note all around the city. There is an urban wilderness to be found out there and I’ll be sharing more of my explorations as I experience them. Stay tuned!

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Inwood Hill Park

This 196.4 acre wild park at the uppermost tip of Manhattan holds the last forest (Oak-Beech-Hickory) of its kind on the island, as well as the last salt marsh.

Out to the river, out to the sea

We were amazed by both the unkemptness (in a good way) of the park, as well as its proximity to the Westside Highway (we had to traverse it twice, both times via tunnel). We heard many uncommon (to our ears) bird calls and upon encountering a couple of birders, learned there were kinglets and black-capped chickadees in our midst. NYC boasts a diversity of wildlife way beyond the grey squirrel (and black & albino varieties) and pigeon. Check out this great article by Robert Sullivan to learn more.

Another thing NYC has that might surprise people is some great foraging finds. We spotted a chicken-of-the-woods from the path and without much hesitation (possibly) broke the park rules by hightailing it up the side of a hill to check it out (and grab enough fungi for 4 meals!).

From the woods we could see the salt marsh below. The marsh meets the Spuyten Duyvil (for the most part, the East River) before it heads out to the Hudson. Sea gulls and other wading birds seemingly lounge about, scooping up crustaceans and fish during low tide.

In the visitor center, one of the rangers showed us a flounder and striped bass that were caught in the marsh the day prior. They also had turtles, snakes, and walking sticks, all native to the area.

Marshy marshy marshy

To get to Inwood Hill Park, take the A to Dyckman St (200 St) or 207th St or the 1 to 207th St (10th Ave) and walk west. You can’t miss it!

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Brooklyn Navy Yard

Open House NY (OHNY) is a free annual event that introduces otherwise closed off parts of NYC to residents and tourists alike. Our first OHNY excursion was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

What was once an active port is now home to artists, fabricators, industrial companies, and film set builders.

After checking out an art exhibit, we wandered around a bit (until we got “caught” by security). It’s a bit like wandering through an abandoned town, albeit a bit more maintained.

on the waterfront


Visiting the Brooklyn Navy Yard seems to be a tricky venture. You can visit during Open House events like we did, or if you’re interested in leasing space, you could probably make an appointment to get inside. Otherwise, you can stand outside the gate, staring in longingly. To the south of the visitor’s gates, you can get a glimpse of the decaying old Officer’s Row residences in the yard. A great way to see how nature takes over when we don’t interfere. Directions to the Navy Yard.

Noshing nearby: If you’re peckish and up for a little walk, check out Vinegar Hill House. Delicious!

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Newtown Creek Digester Eggs

After eating a tasty and fitting omelet breakfast at Williamsburg’s Egg, we hightailed it to the Newtown Creek’s digester eggs.

From digesting eggs to digester eggs

If you’ve ever looked across the East River to Brooklyn from the midtown Manhattan side (east), then you’ve seen the giant silver orbs that are the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment facility’s anaerobic digester “eggs.” I didn’t really think of them as beautiful until I got upclose & personal with the eggs at a recent tour (another OHNY event). We actually got to go to the top of the shiny lovelies to learn more about their function from one of the employees.

Here are a few fun facts about the facility & eggs:

  • Each egg (there are 8 of them) weighs 33 million lbs. They were manufactured in Texas, shipped to New Jersey, and piece-by-piece transported over the George Washington Bridge over 4.5 months. The eggs were assembled on site as they received each piece
  • The eggs utilize anaerobic bacteria to digest sewage. Three million cubic feet of methane is one of the byproducts of this anaerobic process. Only 20% of this methane is used to heat the plant. The rest is currently burned off (in carbon filtered cylinders). The facility is in talks with National Grid to channel this methane back into the grid. (Keep your fingers crossed!)

Methane release

  • The facility currently handles 240 million gallons of wastewater per dry day, 500 million gallons on a wet day, and when the facility is fully complete, it will handle 700 million gallons per day at its max
  • Wastewater enters the facility at 150 parts per million of pollutants and leaves at 15 to 20 ppm, an 85% reduction in pollutants (which apparently exceeds the EPA standard)

To learn more about what happens to the water that we flush down the toilet, sink, or shower, check out this fact sheet about wastewater treatment in NYC.

The view from the top

To get to Newtown Creek visitor center – which is open to school groups on Tuesdays & Thursdays and the general public on Fridays & Saturdays – take the G train to Greenpoint Ave. Use the Greenpoint/Manhattan Ave exit. Walk along Greenpoint Avenue one long block east and cross McGuinness Blvd. Continue on Greenpoint Ave to the next traffic light and cross Provost. The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will be on your left. Follow the fence-line and continue walking until you reach the main gate to the plant, at a traffic light on Humboldt St.

I also highly recommend the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, which runs along the East River and includes native plantings and insightful sculpture work.

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Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood has been on my list of places to visit for a while. And on this past super-sunny Sunday, away we went to the famed cemetery. We walked from our apartment (stopping for brunch at the yummy Thistle Hill Tavern on the way) to the gates at 25th St & 5th Ave (a 2.5 mile walk).

The light was intense & dreamy as we made our way around the windy pathways, stopping to admire the graves of people like Louis Comfort Tiffany & William “Boss” Tweed.

My favorite grave marker was that of Peter Cooper (of Cooper Union fame). It’s an amazingly thought-out memorial, including all of Mr. Cooper’s achievements, a poem by Joaquin Miller, as well as his wife Sarah Bedell’s epitaph.

Peter Cooper's amazing epitaph

Patriot, philanthropist, sage

Peace on the dim Plutonian shore

Aside from the interred humans of note, there are some stunning tree specimens throughout the 478-acre cemetery. It’s also home to at least one very large hawk, a growing flock of wild parrots, and it’s a stopping-off point for many migrating birds as well.

Persimmon tree

To get to Green-Wood Cemetery, take the R train to 25th St in Brooklyn. Walk east one block to Green-Wood at 5th Ave and 25th St. (There are also entrances at 9th Ave & 20th St and on Fort Hamilton Ave, though not as grand as the main entrance.)

Watch this space for more city-centric adventures!

foraging find!

November 23, 2009

This past Saturday I had a lovely afternoon of foraging in Prospect Park with friends Leda, Meredith, and Liza. We spent most of the expedition picking garlic mustard and bishop’s elder, and digging up field garlic. But then eagle-eye Meredith spotted the mother lode – oyster mushrooms!

oyster-mushroom

If I had to guess, I’d say it was about 5 pounds (or more) and I had to use my trowel to divvy it up. Each share was at least enough for a dinner for two. It was the first time I’d ever found an edible mushroom – I usually buy them (for a pretty penny) at the farmer’s market.

digital diet digest

August 11, 2009


Aaaah, that felt good. Six straight days of no internet and no email. The best diet I’ve ever been on (well, perhaps the only one).

I get so tangled up in the web these days – emailing, facebooking, tweeting, googling, blogging – it’s easy to forget what life is like without these technological time suckers. I recommend everyone take a week or so away from their computers, turn off the mail function on your Crackberry or iPhone and really just live like we used to – sans digital extensions of our bodies.

Here’s a little rundown of how I spent my week computer-free.

preparation
To prepare I contacted anyone I had set appointments with for the week and made sure they had my phone number. I set up autoresponse on my email to let everyone know where the heck I was all week. I tweeted and posted to facebook (and this blog) my intentions. I cleared out my inbox so as not to completely overwhelm myself upon my return to the ‘puter. I also looked up any addresses I might need for the week so as not to put myself in a spot where I’d have to hop online for any reason.

ditching digital detritus
Apropos to the diet, on Monday I took a friend to an ewaste recycling center in Brooklyn, so that she could recycle her old computers, a VCR, and some other random electronic waste. I had a few batteries, orphaned remote controls, and wires to return as well. Feels good to get that clutter out of the home and into the hands of someone who will use it, rather than just tossing it into the landfill.

reading & writing (not much ‘rithmetic)
Like a step back in time, I reached for my low-tech informational recording implements – books, paper, pens. Oh, old friends, how could I have neglected you for so long? I had forgotten how much I enjoyed writing long hand in a journal, letting thoughts flow through ink. It’s such a different thought process than typing, where you could easily edit yourself by just deleting what you’ve typed. There’s more time to stop, reflect, look around. And there’s also something more personal about seeing my own handwriting for pages on end, recording my thoughts as they come, making little starred notations on things I want to remember, and being able to physically page through to see what I had written the day before. No keyboard, no screen, no clicking, no virtual folders to search through, no software applications to open.

I’ve got a big ol’ pile of books collecting on my coffee table – mainly around the subject of permaculture, as I’m studying for my permaculture design certificate. It was great to not be tempted by email & all of its cohorts so that I could focus on reading.

raspberry picking in the park
On Monday afternoon I headed into the park to check in on some raspberry bushes I came across a few weeks ago. Some of the berries were ripe, some rotten, and still others had a ways to go. There wasn’t much of a harvest, but I had fun nonetheless. Listening to bird calls, the trickling of water on the waterfall trail in Prospect Park, observing sunlight filtering through foliage. And observing patterns in nature. I noticed that in many places where the raspberries grow, so does poison ivy. Luckily, so does its antidote, jewelweed (if you know what to look for!)

Leaves of three, let it be!


My meager berry harvest

I was hoping to have enough berries to can, but alas, it wasn’t so. But we did stock up on peaches to can and we did this on Tuesday night. A messy affair, but a fun process. My favorite part was peeling. An easy way to peel peaches is to throw them in boiling water for about 60 seconds then put them in a cold lemon bath (to prevent further cooking and browning). The skins come right off.

more natural observations
I think my less used senses were heightened during this week. While in the park, I heard a hawk before seeing it land in a tree. On Houston Street near 6th Ave I was surprised by a bird call not too common in those parts. I looked up and saw a cardinal. On both occasions, I looked around a few times to see if anyone else noticed these creatures. And on both occasions not one head was tilted up in its direction.

In Prospect Park, I closed my eyes and listened. I did an inventory of every sound. Lawnmower grumbling, children shrieking, cicadas chirping, sneakers hitting the path, a beagle baying, picnickers chatting, tires humming and construction equipment slamming on the road outside of the park, the wind blowing against my ear. I felt the damp earth beneath me. The twigs and grass I was sitting on, the tiny insects crawling on my legs, the warm sun on my feet, the gentle breeze on my skin. I smelled only fresh cut grass. I think I could taste it, too.


On Sunday, we stumbled upon this huge green (squishy) caterpillar


Turns out he’s a polyphemus moth caterpillar, according to these two park rangers


Prospect Park swan & signets, ducks, and migrating geese

enjoying every bite
Another benefit to staying away from the computer, an often attention-deficit-inducing place, I was able to focus on something as simple as mindful eating. Breathing, chewing slowly, noticing flavors, appreciating where the food came from and how it was benefiting my body. All great things I should do whether or not I’ve been typing the day away or not.


First heirloom tomato sandwich of the season!

On Saturday, on lunch break from permaculture class, I went with a friend to this great raw food joint, SproutCraft. We had the most amazing squash blossoms stuffed with almond mozzarella cheese. I didn’t even know you could make mozzarella with almonds (though I make my own almond milk, and that I only figured out a few months ago). I found this recipe for making almond cheese, but not sure if it’ll come out as mozzarella.


Delicious stuffed squash blossoms at SproutCraft

being the sloth
Usually when I’m walking about in the city, it’s to get somewhere. In those cases, I tend to walk quickly, passing people in front of me, getting impatient when someone is blocking the way, etc. But this week, I didn’t care to go fast. I took my time getting places, not really even thinking about getting anywhere, more enjoying the walk itself. I had heard that sloths have highly developed brains because they move so slowly, carefully calculating each movement – not a bad creature to emulate.


He’s real & alive! My friend Amy took this during her class at the Bronx Zoo

up on the roof
On two occasions I found myself up on the roof, overlooking the tetris-like vista that is NYC. The first was at GreenSpaces, a shared office space in downtown Brooklyn. A friend works in the building and told me about the happy hours they have on Fridays. So I tagged along and enjoyed a few glasses up on their roof.

GreenSpaces veggie garden


Living art in background, edible art in foreground

The second time was during class (ssshhh don’t tell the building manager!). We went to the silvery, bare roof to imagine what was possible from a permaculture design perspective. Veggie gardens, rainwater gravity fed showers, noise barriers to block the constant hum of air conditioners. We all had a different vision, creating possibilities on a blank slate. With a multitude of underutilized roofs in the city, so many opportunities to create abundant landscapes exist.


The view from our ‘classroom’ roof

carfree saturday
I rode my bike to class on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to turn onto Lafayette Street to find no cars (!), only a highway of bicycles and joggers. Imagine if there were streets designated just for pedestrians and bikers? What a healthier, happier, less stressed out city we would have.

Car-free & carefree

now what?
On Sunday, I returned to the technologically driven world to an inbox of over 750 messages. Forcing this deluge of information was partly intentional. I wanted to get a sense of how much information I actually process every week and how I could cut back on it. By having a culmination of a week’s worth of emails, I was able to determine which newsletters I could unsubscribe from, and which information I could actively seek instead of passively receive. I took myself off of all non-essential email lists and instead signed up for RSS feeds in Google Reader. This way I can control my exposure to information more easily. Email is a great communication tool, but it generally takes up too much time. My goal is to strictly limit time spent on email, ultimately getting it down to about 30 minutes a day.

I also laid out a basic structure of how I want to spend my days, giving time to activities like reading (offline), creating (crafts & such), and exploring. I think these are vital to keeping oneself sane, happy, and full of creative energy. Of course I’ll still be blogging, tweeting, and emailing, but I’ll be sure to make time for all of the other great things happening in the world around me.

How do you find balance in this tech-driven world?

leda reads from botany, ballet, and dinner from scratch

May 1, 2009

If you’re curious about eating locally and foraging for food, or maybe you just have a penchant for dance, head on over to the Community Bookstore in Park Slope this coming Tuesday (Cinco de Mayo). Leda Meredith will be reading from her book Botany, Ballet, and Dinner from Scratch.

If you don’t get a chance to catch her there, sign up for one of Leda’s foraging tours in Prospect Park. The next one is on June 20th – prime berry picking season. Get the deets at GreenEdge NYC.

Read about Leda’s adventures on her blog, Leda’s Urban Homestead

Event info
Tuesday, May 5th @ 7:00 pm
Leda Meredith reads from Botany, Ballet, and Dinner from Scratch
@ the Community Bookstore 143 Seventh Avenue Brooklyn btwn Carroll & Garfield
718.783.3075

In August 2007, Leda Meredith stopped eating bananas. And lemons, chocolate, soy sauce, and avocadoes. On the day after her 45 birthday, she started “the 250,” a year-long experiment in eating foods grown within a 250-mile radius of her Brooklyn apartment. Thus began the process of retraining herself—planning every meal ahead, scouring the city for local beans and flour, canning countless jars of tomatoes so she could eat something other than potatoes all winter. Now, over a year later, Leda has emerged unscathed—healthier, she says, and a better cook—from her experiment in eating locally. And as if canning and dehydrating food weren’t enough to keep her busy all winter, she’s also written a book. Botany, Ballet and Dinner from Scratch is the story of Leda—from wild-haired kid to world-traveling professional ballet dancer to experienced botanist and forager—and of the recipes she uses to make saving the environment a delightful culinary adventure.

the wild lunch

April 28, 2009

Last weekend we (my bf and I) ventured out into the wilds of Prospect Park to go a-foraging with Leda Meredith. So far this is our third foraging tour, the first time we’ve searched for wild edibles in Spring. This year, I feel especially aware of the seasonal changes – the sprouting leaves, the blooming flowers, the increasing cacophony of bird song.

A lot of the tour was a review of plants I knew, though in some cases, I didn’t recognize them in their Spring habit. Here are some of the new things I learned:

Every flowering tree with edible fruit has an edible flower. If a tree blooms in Winter then experiences a deep freeze, it won’t fruit that year. This can become a serious problem for farmers (and us) as our climate shifts.

Cherry blossoms in full effect!

There’s a tree we’ve admired every Spring that grows little clusters of tiny pink flowers around its branches. Found out it’s called Redbud (Cercis canadensis) and the little flowers and buds are edible. They taste a little bit like green beans.

Redbud


Close up of Redbud

The last couple of weeks of April are Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) season. The thick stalks can be prepared like rhubarb – they can go sweet, like in a pie, or savory, like in a soup (Leda brought some Japanese Knotweed soup for us to taste). The plant contains reservatrol, the same beneficial substance that’s in red wine.

Japanese Knotweed

The stalk of cattail (Typha) is like hearts of palm (you just have to peel off the harder outer layer). The male cattail produces something similar to baby corn. Cattail pollen is a flour substitute. According to Leda, cattail pollen pancakes are delicious.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flowers are only available for a couple of weeks as well. The whole plant is edible, and it’s the only diuretic that does not deplete potassium. It’s also delicious beer-battered and thrown in a salad.

Fryin’ dandy-lion

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a mild little flowering plant that’s good in salads. Some think that it dissolves fat in the body (still waiting for the clinical trials on that claim!). These were in our salad as well.

Chickweed


Yummy foraged salad!

Check out last year’s foraging adventures