Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter Blooms

I've been away for a week visiting my family for the holidays. I had the best time! Before I left New York, my paperwhites were just starting to bloom, and there were a few buds forming. I was hoping that I wouldn't miss the blooming display while I was gone. I've been waiting all month for these babies to bloom, I planted them as bulbs in early December.
When I came back yesterday, I was greeted to this! Four buds had bursted open. The smell was intoxicating! I just love the smell of paperwhites! It freshens up the entire apartment. These are my favorite winter blooms! It doesn't feel like Christmas without these!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Saving a Tree: I need your help!!

Last year. I didn't celebrate Christmas. I didn't buy a tree. I didn't put up decorations. I didn't even put up lights. You see. Last year, I was going through a separation / divorce. I was depressed. And I didn't feel like celebrating. But this year. I am in a better place. I am newly divorced. I moved to a new apartment. I have a new job. And a new life. And, to my surprise. I am much, much happier than I was a year ago. In my new neighborhood, there are street stands everywhere selling cut Christmas trees. Since I did not celebrate Christmas last year, I really wanted a tree this year. Nothing feels more like Christmas to me than the smell of fresh evergreen in my house. However, now I live in a small 1 bedroom apartment, with room for only a small tree. I stopped by the tree stand a block from my place and asked the sales guy how much the 3 foot tree was. $45 bucks he said. "Forty-five!!, Are you serious?" I yelped! I balked at the price and decided not to buy a tree. In my mind, I refuse to pay that kind of money for a dead tree. I'll save my money and the tree.
If you do buy a Christmas tree in Manhattan / boroughs, the city Parks department again is doing a Mulchfest after the holidays. On January 12th and 13th 2013, trees are collected and mulched and used in gardens and parks throughout the city. So, drop off your holiday tree to a participating park in your neighborhood. Check out the details here.
I was a little bummed about not getting a Christmas tree, but then my friend gave me the best idea. He said, "why don't you decorate your lime tree?" LOL. So that's exactly what I did. Well, I didn't do that much decorating, I hung a few ornaments on the tree to liven it up. It makes me smile every time I look at it.
But... I noticed this week that the leaves have been falling off my tree at a very rapid rate. Every day, it looses 2 or 3 leaves. Is this normal? Should I be worried? There are 6 branches now with no leaves on it. I am sooo beyond worried. I've had this tree for over 4 years, and it's grown so much since I first got it. I don't know what to do to help rescue it. Any advice would be so appreciated. Please help me save my tree. I'm thinking maybe it's not getting enough sunlight? This window faces the back of the building so it doesn't get sun but indirect bright light. Also, on the left where that tall pipe is, it's a standing heat pipe. Old buildings have heat like this. Help. I need your help. Do you have a citrus tree indoors? What should I do?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My New Way to Compost

When I lived in Staten Island, I had two outdoor compost bins and I loved it. I had this fancy one, and this DIY one that I made. However this year, I moved to Manhattan, and not only did I have to give up my amazing backyard and garden, I also had to give up my compost bins. I didn't however, give up on composting. I found out that on Saturdays at the farmer's market 2 blocks away, they collect compostable organic material. I go through a lot of fruit, veggies, coffee, and eggs, so I had to start putting the compost in the freezer since it was starting to attract fruit flies.
When I pulled out all the containers out of the freezer, I realized I collect a LOT of compost in one week's time! Man, I miss my composters. Maybe I should get a worm bin for my apartment. I'm a little nervous about fruit flies in the worm bin. Do you use an indoor worm bin? Does it attract fruit flies?
All the compost goes into the bag and off to the farmer's market!
Here's a photo of the compost collection bin from this Fall.  I was so amazed by how many of my neighbors diligently bring their compost to the farmer's market for collection!! If only everyone in NYC did this, we would save so much government money on carting city garbage to New Jersey. New York City pays by the pound to cart away the garbage since we have already filled all the landfills in our area. The city spends millions to take away our garbage. If only all the residents of New York City were required to compost, we could save so much of the city's budget for sanitation.
A view of the farmer's market and Grow NYC's booth. They oversee the markets and the compost collection, more about composting can be found on their website.
And residents of the neighborhood asking questions about compost collection. I love that there are concerned citizens out there that consider this an important endeavor.
Nothing makes me happier than to see a whole bin of compost! They fill about 2 of these bins every Saturday! The compost is brought to the compost centers throughout the city and the finished compost is used throughout the 5 boroughs in local gardens and farming initiatives.
Vermicomposting can also be profitable. My friend Alex shared this story about the Charlotte Douglas International Airport who practices vermicomposting / worm composting.  "Charlotte Douglas International Airport has deployed an army of 1.9 million worms to eat through its organic waste. The airport has reduced the trash it sends to the landfill by 70 percent." They sort the airport's trash and separate the recyclables out of the garbage and all of the compostable organic material goes into a big tank with earthworms! The earthworms "eat half their body weight in organic material a day".  The worm poop gets used within the gardens around the airport or sold. If only New York City could adapt these worm composting methods! I bet we could save a lot of waste and make money in the process!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I found my mecca

I met up with my friend Gina yesterday for coffee and she surprised me with the coolest gift ever! I had mentioned to my friends and family that I did not want gifts this Christmas, and that instead, I wanted them to make donations instead of buying me a gift.  She bought a donation of honeybees in my name as a gift to rural farmers in need via Oxfam International. The gift is honeybees plus training of beekeeping methods so the farmers can make money from raising bees, harvesting honey and selling it. I just love this gift, because the donation goes directly to help a family in need instead of some charity where you don't know where the money goes. The program teaches the families how to sustain themselves with a farming practice like beekeeping, rather than just give them money, show them how to make money. Here is more info about Oxfam donation gifts, where there are so many amazing things you can donate like gardening tools, a cow, a pig, a garden, and a goat.
On my way home, I saw for the first time a store called Tea and Honey near my neighborhood where they sold tea and honey from around the world. I absolutely loved their  honeycomb style shelves.
One of the coolest parts of this store is that you can taste all the honeys in the store before you buy it. I was so excited! All the honeys were different shades of golden yellow, to ambers, and dark browns. They all had their own unique taste as well.
I ended up buying a jar called Rata honey from New Zealand. I just loved the light taste of this honey. I told my friend Paul who is one of my beekeeping partners and is from New Zealand. He told me this Rata tree is known as New Zealand's Christmas tree, how appropriate that I picked this honey since Christmas is in 9 days! I just loved the bright red flower it has. I can't wait to try this in my tea! Yum.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Aquaponics Excitement

I received an email from Back to the Roots about a Kickstarter campaign they started to fund development for their new product, an indoor Aquaponics garden kit for your house. Last year, I interned at a hyrdroponic farm so learning about aquaponics is a natural next step for me. So what exactly is aquaponics? It's a symbiotic gardening environment where plants are grown in, well...in simple terms, a fish tank. It can be any aquatic animals, snails, shellfish, not just a fish, but essentially, the waste from the aquatic animal become nutrients for the plants, and the plant by the process of filtering out the "waste" cleans the water for the animals. In essence, you never have to clean the tank because the plants take care of that.

I never pledged money for a Kickstarter campaign before. This one I jumped at the chance because I am really passionate about growing my own food, especially in small urban environments.  For a pledge of $50, you not only sponsor a cool project, but you also get your very own aquaponics kit by February of 2013. How cool is that? I pledged my $50, I love to support a cool program like this!
There is only 1 day left to pledge, so if you want one, do it now! Watch the cool video below to find out more about this project!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gardening 101: Part 2

Ok, I am sooooo behind on blog posts. I have been so extremely busy with work and life just gets in the way. I've been meaning to write about Part 2 of my Summer 2012 rewind. Earlier this past summer, I helped my cousin Kathy get her garden up and running. She has a big backyard in Queens and wanted to really grow some veggies this summer. Here is the backstory of me going to her house and planting seedlings and sowing seeds with her.

She was so excited when she saw the seeds start to sprout and so was I! She sent me weekly photos and I loved seeing the progress!
Scallions when they first sprouted.
Then 2 weeks later. How cool do these scallions look?
First signs of lettuce sprouting.
And the lettuce a week later getting bigger! Get ready for lots of salad I told her!
I mentioned to her that she could snip the lettuce leaves and eat them when they are small, like microgreens! They keep growing back! A forever salad!
All summer, she excitedly sent me photos of the plant progress. Like, the start of snow peas.
And the snow peas getting bigger!
And even bigger, and signs of flowering!!
We planted a variety of heirloom tomatoes seedlings that I grew from seed and they were taking off! I was so happy to see that the seedlings were getting larger and stronger!
Every week, I looked forward to getting her photos and garden update. One thing she mentioned to me that she quickly realized was a "chore" was getting up early before work to water the plants! Tell me about it! Next year, maybe I can talk her into a sprinkler system or drip irrigation. :)
More seedling photos.
The pepper seedlings getting larger!
The radishes when they first started sprouting.
The radishes really started to take off too!
It was so fun to see my cousin so excited about gardening, I forgot the feeling of giddiness and joy the first time you start an edible garden. It's so contagious I told her. I think she caught it. The gardening bug. Stay tuned for the results of her labor. The next post will be the harvest photos!
(All photos were taken by my cousin Kathy)

Wearable Plants!

In my email inbox today I received an email from Fab.com and they were featuring one of the cutest products! A mini cactus plant as a necklace pendant!  Can this be any more adorable?  It would be such a cool conversation piece. I totally want one! This would be a great holiday gift for that gardener in your life! And here's the coolest part. It's 2 necklaces for $17! So you can buy one for your gardening friend and keep one for yourself. Now that's my kind of shopping! Check it out here, but hurry, while supplies last!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Coming Out in Droves

I opened my mailbox today and stuffed inside were two seed catalogs. It's December and already I have seed catalogs! I never ordered from either of these two companies so I don't know how good they are. Have you ever tried them? How do you know if they are any good??

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Scrumptious

What's the best thing about Sunday? A lazy Sunday morning breakfast. This morning I decided to make a french toast feast! I went to the farmer's market and picked up some blue and red potatoes to make a yummy hash brown.
I no longer eat meat, especially bacon. I know, I know... What am I thinking? I love bacon. So here was my plate. It was hard to not eat the bacon when it smells so good.  The french toast was satisfyingly good though!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sitting in a Cloud on the Rooftop of the Met

Two weekends ago, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to catch the last weekend of the rooftop exhibit "Cloud City" by artist, Tom├ís Saraceno of Argentina.  From the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website, "Saraceno has created a constellation of large, interconnected modules constructed with transparent and reflective materials for the Museum's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Visitors may enter and walk through these habitat-like, modular structures grouped in a nonlinear configuration. Over the past decade, Saraceno has established a practice of constructing habitable networks based upon complex geometries and interconnectivity that merge art, architecture, and science. The interdisciplinary project "Cloud Cities/Air Port City" is rooted in the artist's investigation of expanding the ways in which we inhabit and experience our environment."

From a distance, the sculpture looks pretty amazing. The juxtaposition of the reflective piece with Central Park and the city skyline in the background was pretty spectacular.
Getting up closer to the piece, it's really cool to see the city through the openings or "windows" of the sculpture.
This piece is so incredible and tall! On the Met's website is a great video of how they use a crane to get the piece on top of the rooftop. It's an amazing feat!
Looking up to the sky from the bottom of the sculpture.
There were lots of visitors to the exhibit since it was the last weekend. I've never seen the rooftop of the museum so crowded before.
Here is the view of Central Park from the rooftop!  So pretty! In a few weeks, the park is even prettier when all the leaves start to change color! Autumn is finally here!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Renegade Craft Fair

This weekend the Renegade Craft Fair will have their holiday market at the Williamsburg Brooklyn waterfront. I have gone to this craft fair in the summer in previous years. I totally love to support artists and crafts people, such as The Weekend Store who makes cool antique jewelry.  They have such creative stuff! I am going to check it out tomorrow, pictures to come!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Girls Are Out!

It was well in the 60s today. So warm! Just 5 days ago... it was snowing! I'm not sure what's up with this weather! I took advantage of the weather and decided to open the hive for an inspection! We've already winterized the hive by sealing up any cracks with duct tape and putting in a mouse guard. It's a little strange to have a hive inspection this late in the season! We are mid-way into November and usually in the Northeast, it would be really too cold to open the hive. When I got to the hive, I saw that there were lots of bees out! The girls were enjoying the warm weather as well!  I installed a new bungee cord on the hive to keep the water container from blowing off the roof. The last storm blew that thing clear off and onto the street!
Incredibly, when I pulled out a frame, I saw that Queen Bella is still laying! There was fresh brood on the frames and babies being born! Wow and wow!!  I am so surprised to see this! Very happy to see that Queen Bella is still alive and productive! I'm already looking forward to next spring to see how well this hive will do in Year 2! Can't wait!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A City Coming Together

It's been two weeks since Hurricane Sandy, and the area is still recovering. Unbelievably, there are still neighborhoods that are without power, heat, or hot water.  I've seen some extraordinary efforts throughout the city of people helping each other out. In my neighborhood, a local resident has organized a donation drive.
I decided to buy some supplies to drop it off. I picked up some winter gloves, batteries, goggles, tooth paste, soap, and socks. It's not much, but every little bit helps if the community comes together and donates.
These are photos of all the many, many donation centers in the Rockaways and Long Beach.  In all this tragedy, this coming together of people of this community to help one another, to help your fellow neighbor, is quite a beautiful sight.

Friday, November 9, 2012

First Snowstorm

Nine days after we had a hurricane, on Wednesday of this week, I left work to this. A Nor'easter! We New Yorkers roll with the punches, but damn! This sure is some weather we are having this month! We are still recovering from the aftermath of the hurricane!
There was at least 4 inches of snow on the ground by the time I got home. I was wearing sneakers, so it made for an interesting and slippery walk home!
I wonder what other weather we will get this week! Tornado? Hail? Raining locusts?
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