Heat Emergency Declared for New York City

We're prepping for record heat this week. Wednesday, our local forecast is for the actual temperature to hit 102F. The apparent temperature - the temperature humidity index, or THI - will reach 114F. No chance of rain until Thursday, and then, only minimal unless we're lucky enough to catch a thunderstorm. No real relief until Friday, when the high is predicted to be back in the 80s.

For the next two days, at least, I'll be packing a water bottle in my bag and leaving early and coming home late from my air-conditioned office in Manhattan. Today, I'm waiting for it to cool down this evening before I go out and water the garden. Beyond that, the garden will have to fend for itself. It will be too hot to water.

Midnight Photo Blogging: Raccoons in Brooklyn

Oh, yeah. They're here.

I happened to go into the kitchen and heard noise out in the garden. I went out into the tree fort and heard lots of rustling around, sounding like it was along the back fence. I went back inside and got a flashlight to shine down in the yard.

The first one I saw running along the bottom of the reed screen I put up along the back fence. It was so fast, it could have been a cat. I kept hearing noise, so I kept looking. That's when I saw something on the reed screen. With the flashlight, it was clearly a small raccoon.

Now I know why my screen keeps falling down. It's a raccoon ride.

By this time a light was on from our tenants downstairs, and I saw a flash of light from a camera. Grabbed my camera, keys, flashlight and went outside to the backyard. One of our tenants was in the backyard with a camera, and I joined in, using the flashlight to spot them - in the trees, along the phone lines, behind the fence - and take pictures. I only have the flash in my camera, which isn't very powerful. The shot above is the only one in which I got all three of them. [2006.07.31-16:28 EDT: Replaced with photo adjused for brightness.]

They're clearly young, they seem well-fed, and they were having a lot of fun with each other. They didn't seem interested in my compost bins at all. They did seem to like rustling around in the leaves. I know there's lots of earthworms in there, and probably other good eats. Gnawing on phone junction boxes also seems to be a pastime, not one of which I approve.

They were back the following night. There were three, again, but one of them seemed larger than the other two and stayed on the ground. The three photographed above were all about the same size, and all up and down the threes, along, behind, and on the fence and screen, and so on. That time my partner got to see them, which was great fun.

It's been too hot since then to keep a raccoon vigil.

Related posts



Invasive Species News, July 20, 2006, Brooklyn, NY: "Brooklyn" Parrots Taken from the Wild

Monk Parakeet Munching on Young Apples

On his Web site, Brooklyn Parrots, Steve Baldwin reports that Brooklyn's most charismatic potentially invasive species, Myiopsitta monachus, Monk Parakeets, have been poached from at least one, possibly two, locations:
Several residents of Marine Park [a neighborhood in southeastern Brooklyn, adjacent to JFK Airport] have approached me recently, asking what happened to their once-thriving colony of wild parrots. I have been able to verify through a source that these parrots have been stolen by thieves. According to this source, two men, one with a long pole, have been taking live parrots from the pole nests in Marine Park. They work at night, and have been seen by residents. If this is the same operation that has stolen parrots in Midwood [a neighborhood south of me], their MO is to sell the parrots to local pet stores for $25 a piece, where they have value not as pets, but as breeding pairs.
Baldwin goes on to urge people to report suspicious activity to the police, and to ConEd, the power provider for New York City, since the birds commonly nest around transformers.
He continues:
The Monk Parrots of Brooklyn enjoy no special protections under New York State Law. They are classified, along with pigeons and starlings, as birds that can be "taken" at any time, unlike protected species. They are vulnerable to poaching, and because Quakers are legal in New York, there is a ready market for captured birds.
There's a good reason Monk Parakeets are not "protected": they're not native to the United States, let alone Brooklyn. They were introduced, accidentally or deliberately, a few decades ago.

This is an emotional issue. Monk Parakeets are attractive, gregarious (with each other, at least), big, loud birds commonly sold as pets. They've appeared in my backyard, and whenever I see them, I find myself crying out "Parrots!" But make no mistake: Monk Parakeets are a potentially, at least, invasive species. They are reproducing, and spreading, in the wild. Not just in Brooklyn, or the NYC Metropolitan Area, but in over a dozen states.

To get a taste of how emotional this is going to get, read on:
They are considered unworthy [of] protection because they are classified as "introduced." This stigma is equivalent to "illegal alien" in the human world - "introduced" species don't have the same rights, protections, and privileges. When bad things happens to them, society feels free to turn its back. Do the wild parrots of Brooklyn, which have been in the borough for 40 years, have a right not to be captured and sold into captivity? I think so.
Sturnus vulgaris, the European Starling mentioned earlier, was deliberately introduced to this continent by Eugene Schiefflin in the 19th century. His "acclimitization" society wanted to introduce all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. The epicenter for this invasion was in New York City's Central Park. You probably know the rest. They compete with native species for nesting cavities, and have been known to displace the residents of active nests.

Before we get all teary-eyed about the plight of the parrots, we need to understand the impact they've already had, and what will happen as they continue to expand their range. What native species have the parrots already displaced? What species might be able to get re-established, if the parrots were not already here? What ecological niches are they occupying?

I've seen the parrots mobbing and driving off crows, which are twice their size, so I know they can be aggressive towards other birds. I've observed them eating apples from our neighbors' tree, which reaches into our yard. Are there no native fruit-eating birds which could be supported by such bounty? I've never seen them here, but Orioles come to mind. I'd rather see Orioles eating the apples. But that will never happen as long as the parrots are around.

Baldwin also announced that he will be campaigining for protective legislation for the parrots. As much as I am also fond of the little darlings, I will oppose such legislation.



Other's People's Gardens: Greenwich Village, Manhattan, NYC, July 25, 2006

Yesterday afternoon and evening I was in the East and West Village in Manhattan. I was having some fun with my camera phone (phone camera? floor wax? dessert topping? dating myself?).

On East 11th Street (I think) in the West Village (Greenwich Village) was this lush and perfect container garden on the front steps of a townhouse. The photo cannot do it justice. I would have to do some major retouching to recreate the total effect and the subtely of the colors and shades. To get an idea, the steps were not in the sun when I took this picture. The chartreuse sweet potato vine is washed out because my phonecam (ah, that's it!) can't capture the full dynamic range from dark to light. I hope I can get back with my real camera to share it with all of you.


Meta: Deleting Spam Comments from Blogger

Nothing to be proud of, but I just got my first spam comment.

When I frst started this blog, I had full shields on: word verification *and* comment moderation. I've been experimenting with running with them disabled. I disabled moderation because I like the immediacy of people being able to leave their own comments without having to get me involved to "accept" their comments. I disabled the word verification because it's not accessible: vision-impaired readers will find it difficult or impossible to read or view the CAPTCHA graphic.

The first problem I had was finding where the spam comment was placed. The email notification I get from blogger doesn't tell me to which blog entry the comment was added.

The second problem was figuring out how to delete the wretched thing. I found an old post in one of the blogger help groups which suggested that, if I select "Post Comment" I would have the opportunity to delete any comment. That worked, and I was able to delete it permanently.

A long-standing problem is that all of the icons I would usually see - edit, delete, and so on - on the blog entry page are missing. I suspect it's a template problem. I may have to re-generate my template to ge back the correct URLs for the icons, then edit the template to add back my changes.

I've put back the CAPTCHA word verification for now. I don't know if that or the moderation is better, but clearly I need to keep some protections in place.


The Bemidji Statement On Seventh Generation Guardianship

[Updated 2006.10.23 21:51 EDT: Corrected year: 175 years from now is 2181, not 2176.]

The 14th Protecting Mother Earth Conference took place July 6-9, 2006 at the Leech Lake Memorial Pow-Wow Grounds of the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe Nation (Anishinaabe), outside the town of Bemidji, Minnesota. The Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship was released by the Indigenous Environmental Network on July 6, the first day of the conference:

During the winter months of 2005-2006, several handfuls of people from numerous places throughout North America came together at two different locations to create The Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship (Bemidji Statement). ...

[The Statement] is intended for individuals or small groups of individuals to take guardianship responsibility for one piece of the web of life and protect or restore that one piece for this and future generations. Examples of these web pieces could be as broad as the water or the birds or as specific as a certain pond or a certain type of fish. A family may choose to assume guardianship for the area immediately [around] their home, a community may watch over a much larger area, a government or institution may stand guard over all within their jurisdiction. The important thing is that guardians who assume this responsibility learn everything they can about that which they have chosen, they assess and monitor the chosen piece of the web of life, restore it when necessary, and report the status of their responsibilities to other guardians.

From the smallest unit of society to the largest unit of government, we can protect, enhance, and restore the inheritance of the Seventh Generation to come. Consider becoming a Guardian in your community.

- Introduction to the Bemidji Statement by the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The Bemidji Statement itself is not much longer. For me, the most compelling section is the questions it asks:
  • Who guards this web of life that nurtures and sustains us all?
  • Who watches out for the land, the sky, the fire, and the water?
  • Who watches out for our relatives that swim, fly, walk, or crawl?
  • Who watches out for the plants that are rooted in our Mother Earth?
  • Who watches out for the life-giving spirits that reside in the underworld?
  • Who tends the languages of the people and the land?
  • Who tends the children and the families?
  • Who tends the peacekeepers in our communities?
and answers:
  • We tend the relationships.
  • We work to prevent harm.
  • We create the conditions for health and wholeness.
  • We teach the culture and we tell the stories.
  • We have the sacred right and obligation to protect the common wealth of our lands and the common health of our people and all our relations for this generation and seven generations to come. We are the Guardians for the Seventh Generation.
The seventh generation would be my great-grandchildren's great-grandchildren's children. (If I had, or were going to have, any children to begin with.) If a generation occurs within the range of 20-30 years, we're talking 140-210 years. Call it 175 years from now.

It's the year 2176 2181. It's hard for me to imagine anything I can do to stave off or reduce the multiple disasters which we will have caused. The Great Extinction. Global desertification. The Water Wars. The Diaspora Wars. Without intervention, the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere will persist for hundreds of years. If we start working on it now, things may have started cooling down by 2176. But by then every place I have ever lived will have been under water for decades.

My little corner of the earth, my garden, is doomed to be drowned by the rising oceans before the seventh generation sees its first dawn. I want to get to higher ground. Now.

Yet I feel compelled to act as a guardian of my little area of the world, for as long as it, and I, last. Though I have always had, and expect I always will have, a troubled relationship with "community," perhaps there is one I can be part of which will "watch over a much larger area." It is my belief, my hope, that collectively we will create, and find in each other, that community.

In this light, when I re-read the introduction, I find I am already doing much of what is asked of me, what is my responsibility, as guardian:
  • Learn everything [I] can about that which [I] have chosen.
  • Assess and monitor [my] chosen piece of the web of life.
  • Restore it when necessary.
  • Report the status of their responsibilities to other guardians.
Let all gardeners also be guardians of their patch of earth. To my fellow guardian gardeners, this blog is my ongoing report. Here I will share what I know and learn about, the health of, and my attempts at restoration of, my "chosen piece of the web of life."



Web "Resource": Blogthings, or "Your Scholastic Strength is Developing Ideas"

As if I didn't have enough to distract me online, I just discovered BlogThings. It's all those mini-assessments of questionable validity we see everywhere. Questions like:
  • What flower are you? (Daisy. Whatever.)
  • What's your EQ, your Emotional Intelligence Quotient? (107. Disappointingly low.)
  • How abnormal are you? (28%. Whew!)
  • How cynical are you? (40%. Too low.)
  • How open-minded are you? (36%. That's more like it.)
  • What age will you die? (I don't want to know ...)
  • What animal were you in a past life? (Now this one is definitely invalid. No questions, just my birthdate!
  • How boyish or girlish are you? (50/50. BIG surprise!)
  • What's your dosha? (Kapha: "Calm and grounded, you are not prone to mood swings or anger. However, once you do get angry, it takes a lot to cool you down ..." It goes on. Except the part about being "not prone to anger", this one was pretty on the mark! Okay, I have no idea what a "dosha" is ...)
And so on. The list page has 280 entries and suggests that you still might not find what you're looking for. Here's my favorite, "What should you major in?" Right on the money:

Your Scholastic Strength Is Developing Ideas

You can take a spark of inspiration and turn it into a full fledged concept. You are talented at brainstorming, visualizing, organizing, and independent thinking.

You should major in:
  • Natural sciences
  • Computer science
  • Creative writing
  • Math
  • Architecture
  • Journalism

What Should You Major In?


Web Resource: USDA Forest Service, Celebrating Wildflowers

Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuena, Lesser Long-Nosed Bat, the USDA's July 2006 "Pollinator of the Month", visiting Carnegiea gigantea, Saguaro cactus. Each Saguaro flower blooms just one night. The shape of the flower and the muzzle of the bat have co-evolved to adapt to each other. The Lesser Long-Nosed Bat is an endangered species.
Source: Bat Pollination
Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

This past Monday, July 17, the USDA Forest Service launched a new section on their Web site:
Celebrating Wildflowers is a season-long series of events for people of all ages who love our native plants. Activities include wildflower walks, talks, festivals, slide programs, coloring contests, planting events, and seminars that emphasize the values and conservation of native plants. - Home Page

USDA Forest Service botanists and other specialists around the country have contributed to the editing, content, construction, and maintenance of this website. The site is dedicated to the enjoyment of the thousands of wildflowers growing on our national forests and grasslands, and to educating the public about the many values of native plants. - About Us
I haven't had time to but glance over the material. The site is visually attractive and very well organized, encouraging exploration and browsing. For example, the home page provides links to Forest Service Regions, states, and specific National Forests and Grasslands.

(However, the Eastern Region page doesn't list any "Wildflower Viewing Areas" in New York State! Perhaps the explanation is that there is only one National Forest, Finger Lakes, in New York. But still ...)

The menu includes links for both native gardening and invasive plants. There are sections with activities for children and resources for teachers. Language is clear and simple while not "dumbed down."

Props to the Native Plant Conservation Campaign for bringing this to my attention.



Wildlife sighting: Raccoons in Brooklyn.

Sorry, no pics. I did not see them. But our tenants, while eating dinner in the backyard last night, saw two raccoons, which came within about six feet of them. From their description, they sound like juveniles.

To set the stage, here's a photo of the backyard:

The tenants were seated in the Adirondack chairs. The raccoons were at the log in the foreground.

Melanie, a next-door neighbor, has been vindicated. Several months ago, I saw an opposum in our backyard. Right out the back window, nosing around the leaf litter and bags of mulch. And all the neighbors said "Oh, yeah, we've see the opposum." Like there would only ever be one. Where there is one opposum, there be much opposa. In that conversation, Melanie said that she'd seen a raccoon in her backyard. At which the neighbors scoffed "Maybe it was a cat." For none but Melanie had seen a raccoon.

Until last night.

Note the compost bin in the photo above. There is another directly behind where the photographer is standing, against the garage. I think this is what is attracting the raccoons. The tenants were very excited about being able to compost their kitchen scraps, and I've encouraged this. I've let them know what not to compost (meat, bones, fats or oils) and what to compost (vegetable, fruit, coffee grounds, eggshells, and so on). But the bins do not have secure lids; I sometimes even leave them unlidded if they're dried out.

I've never had to contend with raccoons in 25 years of urban gardening. We live one block from Coney Island Avenue: a seven-lane thoroughfare lined, at our latitude, with auto shops, car washes, gas stations, row houses, and Pakistani restaurants. Granted, we also only live four or five blocks from Prospect Park. But raccoons?!

Is this a problem for you suburban and exurban composters? Should I do anything? What do you do?

Related posts



I garden in Clambake Nation. How about you?

The closest I've ever knowingly been to a clambake was seeing photos years ago of an über-bake in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Nonetheless, as best I can determine from this map I live and garden in Clambake Nation. (I think the Cape, Long Island, and NYC are in the little "nose" at the southern end.)

Image: Gary Nabhan and the RAFT project
To document, preserve, and celebrate the incredible diversity of America's edible plants, animals, and food traditions, seven of the most prominent food, agriculture, education and conservation organizations in the United States came together under Slow Food USA in 2005 to launch RAFT, the country's first eco-gastronomic conservation project.
- RAFT: Renewing America's Food Traditions

Gardeners can help preserve the horticultural and cultural treasures of heirloom foods by growing some of them in their own gardens. Choosing open-pollinated varieties of fruits and vegetables over hybrids (eg: "F1" and such) and harvesting your own seed is economical, sustainable, and lets you select those which perform best in your garden year after year. And planting native fruits such as pawpaw, persimmon, and plum also provide food (if you're willing to share), shelter and habitat for native species of birds and other critters.

But I really wish I had the room for some Navajo-Churro sheep. They're so beautiful!


News, June 30, 2006: Mayfly hatch caught on radar

This is very cool. Be sure to follow the link to the NOAA site to view the animated GIF of this.

Large Mayfly Hatch Caught on Radar Friday June 30th

A large mayfly hatch occurred along the Mississippi River Friday evening, June 30th. The hatch began just after sundown, around 9 PM, and continued through the early morning hours. Those with plans outdoors Friday evening on and along the Mississippi River certainly noticed the huge swarm of mayflies, and their attraction to light. Some roads across the Mississippi River in and around La Crosse were covered with bugs, piling into "drifts" on bridges over the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Local businesses with high intensity lighting soon found large piles of dead mayflies accumulating under the lights by midnight. Below is a radar loop from the National Weather Service’s WSR-88D Doppler Radar in La Crosse. Notice the rapid increase in radar echoes along the Mississippi River channel...occurring simultaneously the entire length of the channel. The ambient wind flow was from the south on Friday evening, with the entire swarm of mayflies drifting north with time. The radar loop starts just before 9 PM CDT and ends around 1030 PM CDT.

Props to Unhindered by Talent and Pharyngula for bringing this to my attention.


Garden Ephemera, April 21, 2006: Trees in Spring (a View from the "Tree Fort")

This photo was taken April 21, 2006, from my "tree fort": the back porch off the second floor of our house. The view is looking north along the backs of our neighbor's houses. The tree just leafing out in the foreground is the apple tree growing over the fence from our next door neighbor's back yard. The tree with pink flowers is, I think, a flowering cherry. The tall tree with yellow flowers on the right is a maple. I don't know what the more distant trees are.


Garden Notes: The Bulbs of Spring

I was going to rake and mow the front lawn, but it just started raining. So instead I'm sitting in my tree fort (second floor back porch) and blogging again. Ordinarily a risky prospect, blogging in the rain, but it's a gentle summer shower instead of our usual thunderous downpours, and there's the slightest of breezes instead of the gales. And no hail this time. There's a male cardinal high in the neighbor's dogwood - brilliant red against the dark green summer foliage - cheeping and ruffling his feathers in the rain.

Of course, I'm thinking about February.

The spring bulbs! The spring bulb catalogs! How can I garden in the here and now when I already need to start worrying about how it will all look next year?

A couple of categories of bulbs I'm looking for to plant this fall for next year's gardens:
  • Heirloom/Antique, available before 1905.
  • Variegated foliage (I have a thing for freaks).
  • Native plants.
  • Shady path and border.
  • Cut flowers.

There are a handful of bulb vendors I've come to know and trust:

  • McClure & Zimmerman. My all-time favorite. Great selection. Mainly just a listing of varieties. The catalog has no color photographs, just a scattering of botanical illustrations. I've been ordering from them since pre-Web days; their Web site now provides color photographs. Unfortunately, I've already missed their 10% discount cutoff date of June 30.
  • Van Engelen. The "wholesale" catalog of John Scheepers, they offer the same varieties to retail customers, but with minimum quantities of 25, 50 and more. The best source when you want to consume mass quantities for large drifts, bedding schemes and other instant garden effects. Or team up with neighbors and friends and buy in bulk and divide the spoils amongst yourselves. I like to order from them for large amounts of the smaller bulbs, such as Crocus.
  • Old House Gardens. One of my new favorites. A small, "boutique" outfit specializing in heirloom and antique bulbs. Personalized service. Emphasizes U.S. sources where available. Offers many varieties available from no other source.

So, by researching their catalogs, I've come up with the following wish lists. Mind you, I have not the money, the time, nor the space to plant all of these. We'll see what I end up ordering, and planting.


  • Allium atropurpureum, introduced 1800.
  • Allium sphaerocephalon, introduced 1594.
  • Anemone nemorosa var. Robinsiniana, circa 1870, also suitable for the shady path and border.
  • Canna "Cleopatra", introduced 1895. Some leaves are striped with bronze, so it's one of those freaks I covet. I ordered some from Select Seeds this year, but I don't think it's what I got: I won't know for sure until they bloom, but the foliage shows no hint of bronze. Spring-planted. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Canna "Mme. Caseneuve", introduced 1902. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Crocus angustifolius, Cloth of Gold Crocus, introduced 1587. (Ordered from OHG
  • Dahlia "Kaiser Wilhelm" (Ordered from OHG)
  • Gladiolus byzantinus, aka G. communis var. byzantinus "Cruentus", Byzantine gladiolus, introduced 1629. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Gladiolus dalenii, aka G. psittacinus, G. natalensis, Parrot Glad, introduced 1830. Spring-planted, but hardy to zone 7, so it may winter over here. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Hyacinth "City of Haarlem", primrose-yellow, introduced 1893.
  • Hyacinth "King of the Blues", indigo-blue, introduced 1863.
  • Hyacinth "Lady Derby", rose-pink, introduced 1883.
  • Hyacinth "Marie", dark navy-purple, introduced 1860.
  • Hyacinth "Queen of the Blues", introduced 1870. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Lilium auratum platyphyllum, Gold-band Lily, introduced 1862.
  • Lilium martagon "Album", White Martagon Lily, introduced 1601.
  • Lilium pumilum, Coral Lily, introduced 1844, self-sows, so also suitable for the "wild" garden.
  • Lilium speciosum, introduced 1832.
  • Double Daffodil "Albus Poeticus Plenus, aka "Double Pheasant Eye", introduced pre-1861.
  • Double Daffodil "Double Campernelle", introduced prior to 1900.
  • Daffodil "Golden Spur", introduced 1885.
  • Trumpet Daffodil "King Alfred", introduced 1899.
  • Trumpet Daffodil "W. P. Milner", introduced 1869.
  • Double Late Tulip "Blue Flag", introduced 1750.
  • Tulip "Clara Butt", introduced 1889. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Tulipa clusiana, introduced 1607. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Double Early Tulip "Kreoskop" ("frizzy-head"), introduced 1830.
  • Double Early Tulip "Peach Blossom": Soft rose, honey scented, introduced 1890.
  • Single Late Tulip "Phillipe de Comines": maroon-black, claret, introduced 1891.
  • Single Early Tulip "Prince of Austria", scarlet maturing to almost-orange, fragrant, introduced 1860.
  • Single Early Tulip "Van der Neer", violet-purple, introduced 1860.


  • Multi-flowered Tulip "Antoinette": Pale lemon-yellow with pink edges, finishing salmon-pink, creamy-white margined foliage.
  • Double Late Tulip "Carnaval de Nice": White blooms with swirling deep red stripes, white-edged foliage.
  • Viridflora Tulip "China Town": Phlox pink with carmine-rose accents, moss-green flames, and a canary-yellow base, white-edged foliage.
  • Darwin Hybrid Tulip "Silverstream": Variable, creamy-yellow diffused with rose and red, pink-and-white-margined foliage. I've grown this variety before, and it's lovely.
  • Tulipa praestans "Unicum", flowers orange-red, white-edged foliage. I grew this in the East Village garden. It's very sweet, looking like a Hosta when the foliage first emerges.
  • Lilium superbum, American Turk's cap lily, introduced 1665, so also suitable for heirloom garden. (Ordered from OHG)
  • Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells, pink buds open to blue flowers, ephemeral, dying back for the summer. I don't that this is really a "bulb," but M&Z offers it in their catalog. I grew this in the wildflower section of the East Village garden, and it was always beautiful in the spring.
  • Sanguinaria canadensis, Bloodroot. A native relative of the invasive Celandine. Yet another wildflower I grew in the East Village garden, but, if I recall, in its double-flowered form. It looked like a small white water-lily emerging from the earth just before the leaves. I'd really like to find the double again. Another non-bulb M&Z offering.
  • Cardiocrinum giganteum. Some day, I will have a place to grow this. I need to build my soil up for a few years, I think, before I try and tackle this monster.
  • Frtillaria meleagris var. alba, White-flowering Snake's Head Fritillary. I've grown both the regular species, and this variety. The species is lovely, the white, sublime.
While I've been typing out here on the porch, I've also been visited by Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, and Monk Parakeets. Oh, and so-called "Rock Doves," ie: Pigeons, the rats with wings.

The sun is out now, and it's cooled off deliciously. Time to take the cat out for a walk and rake and mow the front lawn ...


Field Trip, June 8, 2006: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

This past Saturday, my partner and I and a mutual friend visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is just three subway stops from our house.

Descriptions and more photos available on flickr.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Native Flora Garden, Pickly-Pear Cactus in bloom

Lilium canadense, Canada Lily

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Mixed Perennial Border and Palm House

Beetle on Rose, Cranford Rose Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, July 8, 2006

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Lily Pool Terrace, Lotus in bloom

CORRECTION: The insect I off-handedly identified as a "butterfly" on flickr is actually Epargyreus clarus, the Silver-Spotted Skipper. They were quite common the day of our visit. I saw them both in the Mixed Perennial Border, and in the Native Flora Garden.

In response to Black Swamp Girl's comment and question: The Cranford Rose Garden was disappointing. This was definitely past peak rose season. I had wanted to go during June - the peak month - but was unable to get there at that time. Most of the roses were not blooming. In addition to scant bloom, the plants overall were a bit the worse for wear. We had over a week of heavy rain every day until this past weekend. We had pea-sized hail on the 4th of July. So the poor things were not looking their best.

I'm not a fan of "rose gardens" where there's nothing but. Monocultures are rarely a good idea. I do want to have some roses in my mixed borders at home, though. I wanted to research some possibilities during the visit. I just didn't see anything I would have wanted in my garden!

Related Content

Flickr photo set


News, June 29, 2006, Vineyard Haven, MA: New York City Interns Lend Hand to Native Plant Restoration

Students at New York’s High School for Environmental Studies ... are among 31 students and mentors participating this year in The Nature Conservancy’s Internship Program for City Youth. One hundred fifty students from the High School for Environmental Studies and the Brooklyn Academy of Science and Environment have participated in the program since it launched in 1995.
The program provides hands-on experience in conservation work, fostering knowledge about environmental issues and encouraging students to consider conservation-related careers. In addition to completing four 40-hour paid work weeks, students visit area colleges.
The interns are expected to arrive July 10, and will work on projects related to The Nature Conservancy’s native plant nursery until Aug. 1, when they depart to visit three Massachusetts colleges.
Much of the work the New York interns will undertake on Martha’s Vineyard centers on The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to restore native ecosystems in order to bring back species that have declined or disappeared as a result of habitat destruction or degradation.

Event, June 11, Brooklyn: Free Workshop on Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

When: Tuesday, Jul 11, 2006, 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Where: Brooklyn, 274 15th Street, corner of 6th Ave

Note: It's not mentioned in the NYC Parks announcement, but the location is a large, beautiful and active community garden.

Learn new information about improving the conditions in your gardens using sound methods aimed at avoiding the use of chemicals except for when absolutely necessary. Find out how to increase yields with IPM, give plants what they need to be healthy, prevent the causes of diseases, and work with beneficial insects in your gardens. Get advice on how to recognize and assess pest problems as they occur, learn about plant culture, selection, and physical means of control.

Registered GreenThumb gardens will be eligible to receive integrated pest management books.


Meta-Blog Entry: A Garden Outing

meta-blog entry: a blog entry about blogging
Kati, who hails from Ontario, Canada, and writes the Realmud Garden and Spirit Doors blogs, outed me yesterday by using my real name in her blog. As much as I enjoy seeing my name in "print," I was initially startled. I've intentionally not used my real name for this blog, nor in my blogger profile. Nor have I provided any reference in this blog (other than this sentence) to my personal Web site. 

 But it's not something I expected, or needed, to keep "secret." The links, however indirect, are available (again, intentionally) for anyone who wants to pursue them. In this instance, Kati's curiosity was piqued by my feedback about a formatting problem on her blog which prevented me from reading her profile:
[Xris] who writes about gardening at the Flatbush Gardener blog, kindly pointed out that what I set up on my computer, may not look the same on your computer -- hopefully I have fixed that problem! So I had to satisfy my curiosity as to who [Xris] was, of course, and visited his very interesting and informative blog. It seems many of his concerns are similar to mine, particularly as to how we can live (and garden) without making too much of a detrimental impact on the natural world around us. I was also very interested in [Xris'] website. ...
... which led her to my real name. I'm also naturally curious about the other gardening bloggers (blogging gardeners?) I read. Especially so when non-garden interests and information "leak" into the garden space. The Web in general, and blogging in particular, has a huge capacity for supporting dissociation and fragmentation of our lives, both in viewing and publishing. I've noticed several people whose gardening blogs I read, such as Kati, have multiple blogs. 

I've been tempted to do the same. There are risks and benefits to both mono-blogging and multi-blogging. One risk of mono-blogging is turning off readers who don't ascribe to the sentiment of some "off-topic" post. 

I recently unsubscribed to an upstate New York gardener's blog when she posted for July 4 with, to my sensibilities, a most vile graphic which combined the images of a waving U.S. flag, two children (white, naturally) gazing vaguely heavenward (or looking up to "Big Daddy"), and the text "God Bless America" emblazoned across the bottom. I just don't have the stomache for soft-core nationalist pornography when I just want to see pictures of pretty flowers. 

 On the other hand, a risk of multi-blogging - or of cropping the mono-blog a little too close to the stem - is missing opportunities for delineating the deep connections, subtle or glaring, among the multiple dimensions of our lives. I've organized my blogrolls by topic, but some blogs challenge that linear, left-brain approach. 

Looking at my own blog entries, would I categorize my blog as gardening, nature or science? The division is often artificial, and purely for my convenience. Then there are the more personal connections, the real reasons why we (I) garden, and perhaps why we (I) blog. 

I've written about, or hinted at, some of my reasons here, here, and here in this blog. I could list an arm's length of descriptive attributes about myself in my profile which have little (but not nothing) to do with my gardening. 

Gardening is a source of healing for me. Does it inform the reader, or distract, to know something about the journey of recovery which comprises most of my adult life, or the lifetime of emotional darkness which preceded it? 

Gardening is a deeply spiritual act for me. Does the reader understand this, or me, better to know that I'm also an atheist? 

 For now, I'm choosing to continue to keep this blog pruned in a naturalistic style, not sheared to crispy geometry. My gardening does connect me to larger considerations, such as invasive species, biodiversity, global warming ... so I will continue to write about those things here, alongside the photos of the bugs and flowers under my care. 

I believe we must all become - we already are - gardeners of the world. I will act, and write, "as if" my work and words matter. It is my hope that the seeds I plant, the weeds I take, the feelings and thoughts I express, help to heal the world.


When you go, go green

When the topic comes around - more often than you might think - I often joke that when I die, I want to be composted. Seems that others have the same idea in store for me, or someone.
The 93-acre Greensprings Natural Cemetery is the first of its kind in New York and one of just a handful in the United States, where interest in "green" burial is just taking root.
At Greensprings, where a plot costs $500 plus a $350 fee to dig the grave, bodies cannot be embalmed or otherwise chemically preserved. They must be buried in biodegradable caskets without linings or metal ornamentation.

The cemetery suggests locally harvested woods, wicker or cloth shrouds. Concrete or steel burial vaults are not allowed. Nor are standing monuments, upright tombstones or statues.

Only flat, natural fieldstones are permitted as grave markers (they can be engraved). Shrubs or trees are preferred.
- CNN.com - 'Green' burial offers a plot with a view - Jul 2, 2006
I like the "shrubs or trees are preferred" part. Reminds me of the Native American technique of burying a fish beneath the "three sisters": corn, beans and squash.

Surprising to me, this is not something new. Greenspring's links page lists several other "natural" cemeteries across the United States, including South Carolina, Florida (watch that high water table), and California. No markers? No problem, just load up the coordinates into your GPS device.

I joke about being composted, but only half so. My ideal would be cremation with my ashes scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. No reason to take up valuable real estate. Okay, maybe use some of the ashes for a top dressing on the flower beds.

But then the cremation itself would be consuming fossil fuels, or at least releasing sequestered carbon, and contributing to greenhouse warming. Maybe a "natural" burial would be lower impact after all. And if I could help give a good start to a young oak, I could die knowing that my life had been good for something.

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Software Review: Digital Nature Guide

Summary: Not worth the download.
Digital Nature Guide is free software that allows you to make and to view natural history guides.

You can make a field guide for any type of animal or plant. When viewing a guide you can select species on the basis of characters or geographical distribution. A guide can include species texts and other illustrations.
It's a nice idea: I would like to be able to collect the photographs I've taken over the decades and assemble them into a nice field guide, with my own notes on the dates and locations of the photographs, descriptions of the plants (or animals), linsk to other sources, and so on. The software notes that it has a "flash card" feature, which would be nice for me to be able to print off and study with.

However, the software is completely standalone. You can only run it on your own computer. There's no ability that I can find to even print the photographs or text. The "flash card" feature can only run within the program, one species at a time. There's no way to publish or export the information to any other format or make it available to any other program.

You can view a list of species alongside the photographs. But you can sort the list only once. Once you take any other action, the program reverts to its default sorting, which is random as far as I can tell.

The non-standard, non-resizeable windows and frames, inability to zoom in on images, buttons rendered as text boxes ... all of this adds up to a poor and non-intuitive interface, one which does not encourage the sort of exploration and experimentation which a field guide should.

Far better results are available from mashing up combinations of existing public services, such as flickr, technorati, del.icio.us, and so on. It would be more accessible, it would be more shareable, the data at least would be open to further search and transformation, and the interfaces would be ones with which folks are already familiar.

News, July 3, 2006: IUCN Countdown 2010 and Urban Biodiversity

IUCN, the World Conservation Union, reported today:

The turning point will be some time this year: for the first time in human history, more people will live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, an estimated 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. This has far reaching consequences on biodiversity, as city dwellers use natural resources of surrounding and remote regions, and people get further alienated from nature. In this context, urban conservation is an important tool for environmental awareness raising and education.

Countdown 2010, an initiative launched by the IUCN Regional Office for Europe, is presently supporting the development of a pilot project on urban conservation. The cooperation is coordinated by ICLEI, the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives.

At a workshop from 26-28 June 2006 in Rome, hosted by RomaNatura, representatives from five cities met to finalise the development of the pilot project called “Local Action for Biodiversity”. The pilot group, which will eventually include 15 cities, includes Cape Town, Durban, Rome, Tilburg, São Paulo, Los Angeles and Havana. These cities plan to pioneer a global programme on urban biodiversity, as a contribution to the 2010 biodiversity target.

- IUCN, July 3, 2006, Countdown 2010 supports urban conservation

The corresponding ICLEI report is dated June 28, 2006 on their Web site:

ICLEI’s Local Action for Biodiversity Initiative gained momentum this week when biodiversity managers of ICLEI Members met with ICLEI, IUCN, and Countdown 2010 to develop the structure and workplan for the three-year pilot project.

The two day meeting, held from 26-28 June in Rome (Italy), was generously hosted and supported by RomaNatura, the municipal park management organization of the City of Rome.

ICLEI Members that were represented were: Cape Town and Durban (South Africa), Rome (Italy), São Paulo (Brazil) and Tilburg (Netherlands). Short reports were also presented by Los Angeles (USA) and Zagreb (Croatia).

- ICLEI, June 28, 2006, Planning underway on ICLEI’s Biodiversity Initiative

However, I could find nothing regarding "urban conservation" on the IUCN, ICLEI, nor the Countdown 2010 web sites, other than these announcements. There may be more information available from the identified pilot cities themselves. New York City, unfortunately, is not among them.

Urban biodiversity is linked to wider concerns about biodiversity and general conservation efforts:

Urban gardeners can have a huge collective impact on biodiversity. The more I garden "as if" I live in a natural area rather than an artificial one, the more my choices reduce my gardening "footprint," support and develop local diversity, and amplify that local diversity through my neighborhood and beyond.