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October 14th, 2011

Barding in the Battery Conservancy Gardens

by Alex Norelli—

I was originally going to go to the New York Botanical garden and see the well-publicized Japanese Maples, but fall hadn’t come around enough yet to ensure a harrowing variety of color. So I decided to head south to a curvy sliver of land between downtown skyscrapers and a view of the statue of liberty, the Battery Conservancy Gardens.

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I heard from a friend that the large swaths of perennials (many native) were something to see…and to add to the old America feel there was even a wild turkey meandering around, the first time I’d see the species in Manhattan.

The little poem that follows resulted from my first experiences with this garden. I made sure to let whatever caught my eye hold onto it, and whatever caught my ear to flow into it longer than usual. The form is a Haibun, which is a section of prose followed by a haiku.

The Talking Garden

The grasses have one thing to say, the asters another, and the air does not speak, I do. And likewise, the wind is silent while amsonia is always about to or to just have spoken, as the sedum, speaking so softly—you can’t help hear the bee.

The anemones graft me to the bottom of the sea, among the humbler corals of blooming happenstance. Maidenhair: the smell of approaching the beach when low tide has left an aromatic path of surrenders,

and I do not blame the dry grass, or the gardener who planted it, or the cloud that swept over it without proffering its rain. Without leaf, reed, or tongue the wind is silent.

Sea oats flicker
and flounce, shivering
in fall’s first air.


ARtist, poet, Gardener  www.AlexNorelliARt.com

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October 13th, 2011

Oh, Deer

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by Paige Puckett—
Yesterday I was sitting at my potter’s wheel in the garage, when two deer in our neighbor’s yard caught our eyes. The young deer had ventured in to the fenced yard on the right, and as we approached them, they realized they were trapped and took turns prancing towards us and then turning back. About this time, we saw there were two other deer in the yard to the left, which backs up to a wooded stream buffer. We didn’t see a buck, but neighbors have spotted him several times.

Several weeks ago I planted two painted lady hibiscus, which over the course of last week were mowed down by what I thought was one pesky doe who was even brave enough to peek in our front window earlier in the summer. And as my son and I stood in the middle of the street in our pajamas looking at a family of four, I knew why Mrs. Doe had been eating so much – beans, sweet potatoes, blackberry, squash and tomato leaves. She had brought her entire family to the table.

I asked my son to grab the camera out of the kitchen so I could keep them corralled. He came back with toy binoculars, so I sprinted to the kitchen to find the camera. As I rejoined him outside, the two fawns in the partially fenced yard were about to cross over to their family, so at a full sprint I charged down the driveway hoping to chase them back and snag a glorious up-close photo.

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No good. They dashed to the left right as that neighbor was stepping off her front steps towards her car. She gave out a little shriek as they lept nearly three feet from her face and she looked up to see me with crazed hair and pajamas running towards her.  I swear if I’d have seen her, I would have warned her. After she caught her breath we had a good laugh.

hibiscus deer damage

I had hoped my buddy Eric who excels in bow and arrow could camp out on our back deck and solve our deer problem, but living in an urban neighborhood there was no telling where the doe would fall and he’d need permission from the neighbors. Well, now that there are babies, these deer have become like pets. Yes, the neighbors get to enjoy their presence, and I feed them.


Paige Puckett and her husband Joe, both in Land and Water Engineering fields, grew up with hands-on experience helping parents and grandparents in vegetable gardens and creating wild adventures in their expansive backyards and nearby creeks at their respective country homes in Tennessee and North Carolina. Now that they have two boys of their own, they try to engage them in the outdoors despite the obvious confines of downtown living in Raleigh, NC. Paige shares their lessons learned, garden projects and photos at her Love Sown blog.

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October 10th, 2011

The Pepper Crop Takes a Pounding

Mario-peace-corps-blog-80by Mario Machado

The heat has broken, shattered while we slept and in a tremendous fashion by a storm that was as fierce as it was brief. The fields surrounding my new home outside Guarambare bear the scars of heavy clouds passing in the night—and yet, the Paraguayan family I am living with and the rest of our Paraguayan friends remain ever so tranquilo.

I awoke at around one in the morning to the sounds of chaos: animals going off one after the other, people outside scrambling and yelling, and all the while a continuous chorus of wind and water and lightning and thunder. I left my room to find my host family huddled under the small awning in the front of the house as rain came down like a sheet in front of our faces. Already several trees had fallen. The uuvas (a small bush that bears delicious fruit) had been uprooted and strewn in shreds across the yard. The television antenna had also been downed by a wind that seemed quite pointed and strong. My host father mumbled something about his peppers being ruined and retired to the house to wait and hopefully sleep out the storm.

The next morning brought some relief as the violent clouds receded on the horizon, surrendering the sky to a gentle morning sun. But the damage had been done. Twenty rows of peppers had been tossed around in the night, leaving the crop in shambles. The net used shelter and shade the peppers had collapsed. The zapallos, zapallitos, tomatoes, mandioc, pesto, and orange trees seemed to be all right, but it was the peppers that represent the biggest cash crop for my host family. This storm had certainly made a point.

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The pepper field after the storm ripped away the shade cloth, toppled some of the support stakes, and snapped the peppers’ brittle stems.

My family is lucky in the sense that my host father is a seasoned farmer and therefore had the foresight to diversify his crops according to price, ease of maintenance, and seasonality. The large-scale loss of the peppers is not crippling to my family, for there are other crops to rely on—however, none of them are currently ready for harvest. The peppers, being the best cash crop but also the crop of highest maintenance needs in the Paraguayan climate, provided a huge source of income for the family at several tens of dollars a week. With that income lost, it’s time to start over and begin replanting. For a poor farmer with limited financial capital, that prospect is daunting but certainly not cause for lengthy deliberation; this afternoon, my host father was already back in the field fixing the netting, salvaging the peppers, and setting the ground for the next round. The realities of farming change drastically when the food you grow represents not only your nourishment but also your livelihood. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

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click the picture to enlarge.

The storm has passed and all will return to normal in due time. The perpetually “tranquilo” Paraguayan outlook will surely iron out any lasting damage as it cradles the simple lifestyles of these beautiful people. One should never idealize the situation of poverty or the challenges it presents to countless real people across the globe, but it does seem—and I have seen this over and over—that the less you have, the happier you are. Peppers or no peppers, we will talk and smile and laugh over dinner tonight. So it goes.

From the other side of the storm,
Mario


Mario Machado is currently studying in Asunción, Paraguay, prior to serving for two years as an agricultural educator with the Peace Corps. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, native and 2011 Penn State graduate spent the summer of 2011 volunteering at the Rodale Institute and the Organic Gardening test garden.

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