Monday, March 30, 2009

Children of Autumn

From crew mate Mark Arnosky...

Seeds of Fire
Dripping Down
Falling with Grace
Plunk, Plop, Patter
Resting their beds
green or brown or multicolored

Seeds of Fire
Sinking in
Disappearing in earnest
Down, Down, Down
Fire banked in loam
green or brown or red

Seeds of Fire
Coals now
Waiting, quiet anticipation
Listening, feeling, saving
for the right moment
It's almost upon them

Coals of fire
Time has ripened
strain, push, Break
reach, Drive

Coals of Quiet Fire
ignited by rain
showing their Beauty
up up up
spreading arms wider
All green All new

Unstoppable Green Fire
Dancing Wider, Higher
competition intense
striving for the canopy
winners gain the light
losers receive dark shadows
the latter a placing none wants

A Fire Reborn
Wholly Majestic
Radiating pure strength
Prepared to give
Their children to Autumn
When their Hair
Turns to yellow tipped red
When the Cold Wind Blows
When the Soft Bed Calls.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Web Site

Our new site is up. Please visit, let me know what you think and how we can improve it. Mind's a work in progress!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Might As Well Be Spring

Stacey Kent
from Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair

Rose Prep

It's time to prune your roses! The following is by no means an exhaustive how-to. But ample for ensuring a healthy start to the rose season. Refer to this article throughout the summer when maintenance pruning will encourage new growth and bloom, remove dead wood, improve air circulation and provide a pleasing plant shape. Maintenance pruning should not be done past August.

Do not prune non-recurrent old fashioned or once-blooming roses now...wait 'til after bloom-time. If you prune them now, you'll lose the bloom.

Do not prune newly-planted roses, other than dead wood, and be very conservative when pruning roses that have been in the ground for only a year.

For all other classes of roses:

  • Keep pruners clean, sharp and well-oiled. It's always good practice to dip pruners in alcohol before moving to a new plant.
  • Wear durable gloves and long sleeves! The thorns don't get you, you get them, though it seems otherwise.
  • Remove debris (leaves, etc) from around the plant.
  • Look at the entire plant, but begin pruning by looking first at the base. You'll make better decisions that way. Make cuts at a 45 degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a leaf bud that faces to the outside of the plant. See image below. Too much above leaves an unsightly stub. Too close to the bud means it won't develop.
  • Cuts must be clean, not ragged. Hence sharp pruners!!
  • Remove all dead, diseased wood (branches that look black, shriveled, mottled). The pith (interior) of the branch at the cut should be white...if discolored, prune lower to find white pith.
  • Remove any branches that are thinner than a pencil.
  • Remove sucker growth below the graft.
  • Remove any foliage that remains on the newly-pruned bush. This is important to ensure that any latent infection is not carried forward.
  • Plan to prune 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of the bush. Remember that you'll always wish you'd pruned smaller once the bush hits its stride.
  • Once you're done, step back and look at the plant. If you think it's still too congested at its center, remove more canes so that air will circulate well. If you're pruning a shrub rose,create a desirable shape.
  • Scratch compost (manure, mushroom compost, household compost) into the soil around each rose. I mulch my rose beds with mushroom compost.

Developing technique takes practice, but remember that you're not likely to kill the plant if you make a mistake...and once the weather warms, your roses will grow like crazy anyway.

Earth Hour

Yasmin sent this note, as a reminder to mark your calendar...

On March 28, 2009 at 8:30 p.m., join millions of individuals, governments, businesses, and other organizations around the world in celebrating Earth Hour by turning off your lights for one hour in a symbolic action to bring attention to climate change.

This simple act is intended to deliver a strong message about the need to implement immediate solutions to what is believed to be the greatest threat our human species has ever faced. Switching off lights for one hour will unite us in a commitment to stop climate change.

If every household in New Jersey turned off the lights for one hour, New Jersey would save 500 MW of electricity and $1.8 million in electricity costs. In addition, during that same hour we could avoid emitting 230 metric tons of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to planting 5,815 trees or taking 15,151 cars off the road for one day.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia with 2.2 million homes and businesses shutting off their lights for one hour. In 2008, this event became a global sustainability movement with about 50 million people in 35 countries participating.

Landmarks such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Coliseum and the Times Square billboard all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent every hour.

This year, organizers hope that over 1 billion people in 1,000 cities around the world will participate in this awareness event. Well-known landmarks will dim their lights, including: the world’s tallest hotel building in Dubai - the Burj Dubai, Toronto’s CN Tower, Moscow's Federation Tower, Australia’s Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower and Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and Table Mountain in Cape Town.

In the United States, the National Education Association, representing 3.2 million teachers and education professionals pledged its support, as did the 1.4 million-strong American Federation of Teachers. You can do your part to put Pennsylvania on this map.

We can do this in fun ways by going star watching with our kids, having a candlelight dinner at home with family and friends, throwing a neighborhood block party, or doing something more with your town and local businesses to encourage them to shut off non-essential lighting.

For more information, please visit:

Friday, March 13, 2009


Here's a really cool product for those of us who mourn our freshly-harvested salads when the season says indoor hydroponic system for growing lettuces, cherry tomatoes, chile peppers, herbs, sprouts. No mess of soil. Compact and attractive enough to grace a kitchen counter. Plants grow efficiently on water, air, nutrients and a built-in grow light. Yield occurs in 4 to 5 weeks, and plants keep on producing for many months if you harvest regularly.


There's a page on the site with entertaining, actually, videos of time-lapse growing. Blips. Though I suppose if you want to grow bounty and variety you'd do better to develop a hydroponic space in your home and do it more expansively, this space-saving gizmo might be just enough to satisfy.

The system is available at Primex Garden Center in Glenside, PA.

Hummingbird Hits Window

Years ago, while planting beneath a large window, on a very lovely property, on a peaceful day, a sudden thump broke the peace and a hummingbird dropped to the ground right next to me. I cradled the little thing in my palm...thinking it was dying...and called the crew over to see a stilled hummingbird. In perhaps ten minutes the bird suddenly took flight. It's a snapshot in time that I won't forget.

Thinking often since about all the birds who fly into windowpanes who aren't as fortunate as that little guy, I've wondered what would suit both bird safety and human eye. Some folks attach netting to the exterior window. There are many fairly unimaginatve decals on the market that helpfully interrupt reflections of trees and sky.

I recently came across a resource for delightful ones.

Sweet Nothing offers a number of designs, each available in dozens of colors, your choice. (I suppose that bright reds, blues, oranges and yellows should be avoided, since those are the colors that attract hummingbirds.) Some of them can be combined to create a window mural. The decals are suited to any smooth surface.

Sweet Nothing will also accommodate your custom design. Vinyl decals are shipped with instructions.

The image at the top of this entry is of the elements of four snails, before assembly. Below are a few interior applications.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wild Greens 'n Fiddleheads

The weeds of spring are delicate and delicious...just call them wild greens...and good for you, too! A rich source of Vitamins A and C. A blog entry from The Grist with recipes for what you might otherwise curse.
We had a call yesterday, asking for fiddlehead ferns. Fiddleheads are not a variety of fern...they are the tender, young, unfurled fronds of the fern...and an epicurean delicacy.

Not all varieties are particularly edible and some are toxic; so in our area harvest only Royal, Cinnamon and Ostrich Fern fiddleheads (the most aggressive of ferns, easily identified)....the tighter the better. Be sure not to cut the fronds to the ground, or to harvest more than half of a plant's fronds or there will be no new growth. One and a half to two inches of stem beneath the coil is about right. Remove the papery chaff by rolling in your hands under a running faucet. Wash several times with cold water and pat dry gently. Use soon after harvest, or keep refrigerated for a day or so.

There are many creative recipes out there, but to my taste the simpler is usually the better. Fiddleheads have their own distinct flavor, somewhat like asparagus. Saute or steam lightly to retain their crisp texture and shape and so they don't dry out. Sprinkle with salt, lemon, or vinaigrette. Or eat them uncooked in salads or all by themselves. They are a concentrated source of Vitamins A and C, niacin, iron, potassium and other minerals.

The window is'll find fiddleheads from mid April to early May.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Greenhouse that's Green

Here's a how-to for a green house made of old windows.

Paint With Moss

An article, with recipe, for creating moss patterns where you have moist shade. An old wall, a low-lying spot, anywhere near a drain will work well.

Here's another recipe...
Several clumps of moss
1 container yoghurt or 12 oz buttermilk
1/2 tsp sugar

Put all in a blender, blend. Transfer to a jar and paint onto your surface with a brush. Make sure to mist the area frequently after applying the mixture until it's established. You can also create your pattern indoors on a seed tray containing compost or on the form you'll be using outdoors. Transfer to the outdoors when the moss has established, and continue to mist until it's well-situated.

A great project with kids!

And related fun in very small spaces (click on Secret Worlds).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zap Mama

and half a world away from Hawaii...Brrrlak!

Aloha from Kauai

My favorite of the islands. This promontory on Shipwreck Beach suggests a snake's head. Or is it a turtle?? Lots of giant turtles in those waters.

Perfectly lush in the North, fabulous beaches in the South, largely undeveloped. One can experience the true Hawaii on Kauai.

Pretty bird in Poipu.
Below, into the back roads of Hanalei's pristine rain forest.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Textures of Hawaii

Home from a blink of time on Kauai and Maui! and buzzing on jet lag.