Archive for November, 2010

Hunting season for savory white- tailed deer begins Monday in Pennsylvania. While housewives busy themselves with the tasks of shopping in malls and preparing sweet- baked cookies for the approaching Christmas season, men with newly grown facial hair, often referred to as ‘buck beards’, oil their guns while women careful construct bag lunches—turkey sandwiches and chocolate whoopee pies are stuffed in large pockets of insulated hunting coats. In the blustery cold of November in the mountains, the food along with thermoses steaming with coffee creates a little café of sorts in deer stands high up in trees.

All is peaceful in the rolling hills that surround little towns built in valleys. Sparkling holiday icicle lights adorn the edging frames of many homes. Up in the mountains under the canopy of naked grey tree branches in the dark of night, moments after the season’s first snowfall has blanketed the earth, all seems peaceful despite the fact that it is the eve of mass slaughter.

Decorative wind chimes made of metal and stone dance far below on back porches. The animals stir at the sound– blue tunes of a sad waltz. The deer, bedded down in soft down blankets made of freshly fallen oak leaves, turn long, spade- shaped ears in the direction of town and the music of the chimes. The animals notice the lights and through instinct, realize that when day breaks, nature will collide with man again.

Ringing as faint bells above swings that move like rocking chairs on summer evenings, autumn leaves gather on winds of the night and stack like sausages along abandoned black barns where long ago, before the man in orange, there were lives of family farmers whose wives baked in stoves built of heavy metal and fire and the men tended to cattle. Now the times seem silent to the deer—only the wind chimes and the far-away drowning moan of cars and trucks passing to and fro.

The fields are all bare with exception to power lines which cut through the heart of this heavily wooded paradise. Simple lives are lived here by all. Summers of gardening are long gone now—back when the deer helped themselves to the many fields of corn and clover. Tomorrow, in orange, the frost covered brown grasses of summer will be trampled by insulated boots of men, in search of game.

Nestled like a buck on Sunday night; held in the very palm of a grand valley, is the little town of Three Springs. Not long ago there, humming bird feeders made of hand-blow glass caressed morning Spring sunshine. The little birds, not much larger than wasps carried nectar here. Now, in the coldness of November, just the wind and the cold hem the slow stitch of time. Slippery woods for the hunters. This day is important. They eat so much meat.

Large industrial reams of waxy, white freezer- paper will unravel like that of an artist’s medium, preserving the sight of nature– loin, liver and rib. Wooden cutting boards inside cold, cement workshop garages are dusted then wiped white in lard. This is the surface where men with their boys stand elbow- to- elbow, holding razor sharp knives, drinking beer, carving carefully the carcasses of a delicacy that is much leaner and cheaper than beef.

The antlers although not edible, are the prized possessions to the bearded gods of high Appalachia. These people are modern civilization’s great hunter-gatherers.

Here is a link to the short story of the one that got away…

“Sink and Run”

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City backyard gardens are easily depleted of nutrients essential for the development of healthy vegetables. Although chemical fertilizers such as Miracle Grow enable urban farmers to produce in small spaces what corner grocers sell for hundreds of dollars, after nearly a decade of robbing the ground of the treasure of organic matter, one must learn to grow new garden varieties creating cycles that keep fresh the abundance of mother earth.

If home was in a rural setting, it would possible to order an entire truckload of what is necessary to grow 500lb pumpkins, but in Brooklyn, scattering the rot of manure fertilizer in back-yards is out of the question.

Despite the fact that Earth of Bedford-Styuvesant, Brooklyn was exploited long ago, like the ground before the great Dust Bowl, it is possible to produce miracles here. A most robust variety of the moonflower somehow flourished this season.

The first year of gardening on Kosciusko Street in 2002 yielded green and yellow pepper varieties that if being stuffed with hamburger meat, bacon and rice for baking, would require an entire pound of sirloin per pepper. In early July, there were at least one dozen, ripe for picking. They were best if simply washed and eaten fresh.

In year three, a fence went up next door, blocking precious sun rays from westerly, evening skies of purple hues. A grill was lit by the couple next door– a gas one– and God awful bug torches flamed in all hours of the night. The garden suffocated. Gone were the days of five pound tomatoes and peppers that served as an entire meal. Only tall sun flowers would thrive in the half-dark shadows of the lower earth in years five and six, on the far side of Bedford Avenue.

The sunflowers, like corn, are vampires of the soil. Long, fingernail-like roots reached deep down, draining the lot of precious, earthworm-digested, decomposed matter, found just underground.

Remaining in year eight was just a little precious, de-composed energy; enough for just two tomato vines. Of course, strands of sunray- hungry cucumber vines struggled to get up to the light. They were planted in hills of three, in hopes of foot-long fruits like the ones that grew on year one, up a fence, one that was not wooden, but chain-linked; that’s how the sun came through.

Rows of flowers with a name that escapes the gardener never went to blossom or developed flowers in year eight. The flowers were planted with care, with everything else, back in April. All the seed packets were purchased for just pennies at the Home Depot around the corner. Oddly, the flowers that are not of the moon variety, are edible– good in salads is what the package indicated.

Rats are outside again like they were in year one. The city seems infested with them again. The Sanitation Department had the rodents under control for nearly a decade, but like the bedbug, they are seemingly uncontrollable again. The rats are a part of the natural course of nature perhaps; an indication, metaphorically, what’s going on in hidden spaces in the subways where they thrive.

Take the surplus of acorns on the ground this year; to a gardener, a flood of acorns in Fall is a sign that winter will overflow with precipitation. This is a sign that a farmer who pays attention, year after year can see. It is like the black and brown fur of a caterpillar that men of older generations used to predict coming winter weather on a week-to-week basis.

The flowers of the shade did not burst to blossom, but because there has yet to be a frost, there is enough to feed an army outside. The rats are about, so the edible flowers will serve as ornamentation to a wind chime that comes back to life because all the leaves in the tree from which it hangs have fallen and it blows that song of winter in Brooklyn.

In year eight, despite a terrible dry spell, the city garden in the bitter winds of fall, yielded seed pods from what are called “Moonflowers”. They grew here enchantingly, as they open in just a matter of minutes. The seeds of the moonflower are located inside brittle, dark brown pods. They are packed in units of four, and tucked neatly, like little eggs in a carton. These unusual, nocturnal flowers are perfect to grow in a place outside where one spends an evening, after the sun has set. The large white flowers open only after the sun begins to set. Because the flowers are so large, seeds are the size of a pea and will be easy to plant in warm spring soil. These precious flowers, never before grown in this part of Brooklyn, have proven to be far more rewarding than a typical, edible flower variety that demands earth with manure and robust sun!

The vines of the moonflower grow nearly ten feet tall. In the evening, just as the sun dipped below the wooden fence, the moonflowers opened. The blooms were as large as a man’s open hand. Each moonflower lasted for just one night, by morning, the silky tissue of vampire-like pedals melted at the sight of dawn, never to bloom again.

The seeds are white and shaped like eggs. Loved ones who taught this writer to farm will receive these precious seeds for Christmas. The tender seeds will be removed from brown pods and serve as little eggs, all placed carefully inside tiny nests woven from frost-bitten vine that has been dipped in glue and sprinkled with gold glitter.

Attached to these hand-made tree ornaments will be a card filled with twenties for each of the kids, and a little hand-written note; one with directions for sewing the ornament. Surely these will be the most unusual of Christmas tree ornaments; ones that will not be forgotten when it is time to throw out the tree in those weeks just before it starts to turn warm again.

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Skies above are blue like the Atlantic Ocean surrounding Fire Island in August. An Indian Summer encases the isle sold for sixty guilders worth of goods. A string of sixty degree days started just yesterday.

A chilly morning gave way to these cherished times when the thrill of harvest season stretches on and on. By noon, a weak, whitish sun rarely has the daylight-savings time to cast golden rays down the man-made canyons of Manhattan. Suddenly the sun was golden again. A frost-bitten breeze is enough to demand an overcoat, but in this town, fashion is everything in Fall.

A walk from West to East across Fourth Street in the Village leads one through the crazy, modern maze that is the campus of New York University. Construction crews are busy demolishing everything historic in this neighborhood with the exception of tall stone arches that grace Washington Square Park. The infestation of junkies and crack dealers are gone from the park of yesterday; so are the restrooms where it seemed half the city once cruised. Long ago, the irresistible sin of the city vanished– under the iron fists of a city pre-nine-eleven and the post modern world where Mexicans work on construction crews.

Yesterday, dirt was everywhere, encased in Northerly winter winds. Red, brush-burned tanned faces on short, stocky bodies did not turn to glance up from hammering with noisy, air-powered machines.

A blue wool suit– one older than the new pathways being built in New York City’s most public park captures every piece of lint and fuzz in the air, north of Soho. Fresh from the dry cleaners, the decade-old designer suit with the label ‘DAKS—London—New York—Paris’ seems to have a personality of its own and carries the owner to kinder sidewalks where hip college students suck their teeth– not in jealousy, but in lust for the handsome man with salt and pepper hair who passes.

An interview on Broadway; a call back will likely come; to the play that may lead to work; a third audition on an Autumn runway called a job interview; a try-out as a model secretary, on a runway that sure seems like make-believe during this recession.

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