Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Circle of Tulips

I've been doing a freelance web design position in Battery Park and in the Bowling Green park there is this gorgeous display of tulips planted in a round circle around the fountain.  There's got to be thousands of tulips blooming and it is gorgeous.  I absolutely love that they are all red, it brings a flush of color into this grey space.
The building behind the tulips is the National Museum of the American Indian.  I've never been to this museum but I should check it out one day since the office is within walking distance to it.  It has free admission. Maybe I should run in there during my lunch break one day.
I wonder what is planted in this space when the tulips stop blooming.  We'll have to wait and see next month!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

If I Win This....

Just about everyone I know is talking about the Mega Millions record high jackpot. Over a half a billion dollars.... Can you imagine winning this much money?  All I keep thinking about is how I would spend it on my dream garden!!
If I win, I am so buying this house. At $5 million dollars, seems like a steal when you have half a billion burning a hole in your wallet! I originally read about this Chelsea apartment on Brooklyn Roof Garden.  Isn't this the most gorgeous roof top garden you have ever seen?  It's almost hard to believe that this is in Manhattan!
While I'm at it, I also want this Victorian Greenhouse!  A girl can dream right?  These gorgeous greenhouses are made by a UK based company called Hartley Botanic.  Except mine would be quadruple the size.  LOL.  It's fun to think about spending a jackpot on all the gardening things I've always wanted!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Home a Bee Would Love

Last Sunday was my last beekeeping class.  Four weeks sure went by quickly.  Class has been really interesting and I learned a lot about taking care of bees.  The next step for us is to put all this knowledge into actual beekeeping!
They saved the best for last.  Norm showed us how to put together / build the Langstroth hive boxes. Here he is showing us how to glue together the sides of the "deep" hive box.  The boards have a dove-tail edge which are glued together.
Once glued, you have to make sure all the angles are squared, and then each side gets nailed.
36 nails go into the entire box.
After the box is built, Norm showed us how to put together the frames.  10 frames go into one deep box.
When the edges of the frame is put together, a wax foundation is inserted into the frame.  I just noticed that in this photo, most of us students were taking photos with our cellphones.  Ahhh technology! hahaha  :) We were all so mesmerized by the building process.
This is a closeup of one of the frames.
After Norm showed us how to make one, he let us students make some too. 
This was a great introductory class, I think all of the students would agree that we learned a lot about the life of the honeybee. After the class was over, I ended up speaking to two of my fellow students and we decided to share a beehive together.  Since we are all newbies, it would be a great team learning experience.  And we can share in the responsibilities of hive checks and honey harvesting.  If you are in NYC, you should contact the New York Beekeeper's Association if you are interested in signing up for future classes.

My Blooming Peach

My peach tree is blooming! 2 1/2 weeks earlier than last year.
I don't know if any of these blooms will get pollinated though.  This week has been on the chillier side at around 50F.  Too cold for honeybees to be visiting the garden.  Everything in the area is in bloom much earlier than expected because of the warm weather we had the last few weeks.  However, it's cold again.  I'll cross my fingers that we actually get some peaches this year.  Even better, some that we can eat, unlike last year's fiasco. Or the year before that was this issue.  For two years straight, I have yet to eat a peach from this tree.  Hopefully this year will be the lucky one!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DIY Hand Salves and Lip Balms

I was at The Hort again last week.  It seems like I'm there every other day!  This time I went for a workshop on how to make your own hand salves and lip balms.
The hand salve and lip balm mixture starts with heating up olive oil and dried herbs and flowers such as lavendar and calendula.  The smell was incredibly good!  You heat it at a very low temperature so that it doesn't burn the oil.  Most importantly, we had to stir the mixture the entire time it was heating up.
In another pot, we melted natural beeswax, shea butter, mango butter, rosehip seed oil, and vitamin E oil.  When everything is mixed together and melted, the last step is to add the scented oil to the mixture.  We used vanilla and rose oil which is an amazing combination.
Here we are testing the finished product.  To test the consistency of the mixture, you put a little dollop of the liquid on a plate and let it cool down.  Once cooled, you can test if it is the right texture.  At this point, you can add more beeswax to make it more solid or add more butters to make it more smooth.
The best part of this workshop was that each of us could take a tin home of what we made.  The Hort gave us these tins to pour the hand salve and lip balms into.  In addition, they gave us a packet of marigold seeds that were collected by inmates of the Riker's Island Greenhouse Program.  The Director of that program Hilda Krus taught this workshop. As Director of the Greenhouse Program on Rikers, she "provides male and female students with class room horticultural training, year round hands-on experience in horticulture and ongoing horticultural therapy, encouraging the men and women to grow new hope and dare to change after their release.   There she grows a wide range of ornamental, aromatic and edible plants on the island, many of which she harvests and uses to teach her students to make botanical hand salves and lip balms."

I immediately tested the lip balm and hand salve and they are fantastic!  I can't wait to try making this at home! 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Sowing Madness has Begun!

I looked at my calendar and realized I was behind on sowing seeds indoors. How did time get away from me? So in the last few days, I have been in a sowing frenzy. All year, I save any kind of food grade plastic container, because I like to recycle items to use for the garden and because I am too cheap to actually buy plastic pots.  I like to use those small pudding snack containers, they work great for sowing seeds.  I planted 52 little "pots".
If I'm lucky, I will have a good germination rate.  Many of the seeds that I am using I bought last year or the previous year.  I'm hoping they all germinate.  As well, I am trying some seeds acquired through seed swaps and also from myself saving seeds from the heirloom tomatoes I grew last year.  Every year, I try something new that I haven't grown before from seed.  This year's new stuff include Ancho peppers and bok choy, seeds given to me by Greenish Thumb, German Chamomile, seeds given to me by Annie's Granny, lemongrass seeds, (seeds I purchased from Urban Farmer) and Sweet pickling peppers, (seeds purchased from Sustainable Seed Co.) Trying out new stuff is always so much fun. I can't wait until the seeds start sprouting!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rewarded by Laziness

Last year, I didn't cleanup the edible garden at all.  I left the plants that were still growing in the ground, for no other reason than pure laziness.  We lucked out with an extremely mild winter. When I went to the garden today, I noticed that many of the plants were still going strong.  They overwintered perfectly fine.  Today, I harvested some broccoli, a carrot, and 2 leeks!  I am never going to cleanup my garden ever again if I can produce results like this!  I never would have thought that I could harvest vegetables in March, especially in New York!  A strange start to the growing season indeed!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Edible Landscapes

Two days ago, I went up to The Hort, (my new favorite place) to see Ivette Soler speak about edible landscapes.  She is the author of the book the The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden.  I haven't read her book, but I am really interested in learning how to transform yards into beautiful edible landscapes.  
She showed us slides of yards to inspire us.  I really loved the concrete pavers on the lawn of this yard.  So beautiful!  She emphasized looking at vegetables and fruit plants not only for their edible value but also  for their aesthetic value.  She encouraged us to buy differently varieties of vegetable plants that could add spots of color such as speckled lettuces, ruby red chards, and silvery sages. She told us to not be afraid to mix in edibles with non-edibles.  Be playful she recommended!  The last two years, I've been really rigid with planting my edibles and ornamental plants separately, but after this lecture, I definitely would like to try combining plants and play on texture, color, and height.
After the lecture, she had a book signing.  It was also an opportunity to meet with her and ask her questions. 
Ever since I joined as a member of The Hort this year, I've been trying to attend as many of their lectures and events.  So far, they have not disappointed!  Last month, I went to the beekeeping lecture they had, and subsequently, I signed up for a beekeeping class! The lectures for me are a point of discussion and inspiration.  After I leave the lectures, my interested is peaked and I definitely want to learn more about the topic at hand.

Currently at The Hort, they had this cute tote bag exhibition featuring tote bags with local school children's art.  The bags highlights the children's favorite vegetables and fruits.  More about the exhibition can be seen here.
From The Hort's website, "Our annual Sprout exhibition celebrates the Hort’s Apple Seed education program in partnership with local schools. This year, over 300 students from Harlem and East Harlem were inspired to create hand-painted tote bags with their favorite fruits and vegetables. From Apples to Zucchini highlights the work of 100 students, ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade. After the exhibition, the children will bring their totes home, encouraging their parents to buy fresh food from their local markets." 
All the bags were beautifully drawn!  What a cool idea!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Dream of Beekeeping

I feel so terrible that I've been so behind on blogging lately. Sometimes life takes over and before you know it, you are so busy that everything gets pushed to the wayside.  The last 3 Sundays, I have been trekking up to the Upper West Side to attend an urban beekeeping class taught by the New York City Beekeeper's Association.  On the first day of the class, I walked into the classroom and was so surprised to see a class FULL of people.  There was not a seat left in the room!! I am so amazed and thrilled that all these people want to learn how to beekeep right here in New York City.  Totally amazing!
The first two weeks of the class were lecture style instruction. The class is taught by a father and son team, Norman and Andrew Cote.  They are 4th generation beekeepers, and Andrew himself stated that he learned how to beekeep at age 10.  Wow.  I originally heard about this class from a lecture I saw Andrew give at The Hort on Urban Beekeeping.  He spoke again about Bees Without Borders, an organization that teaches beekeeping skills to impoverished communities around the world. He went on to tell us that they teach the class for free as volunteers and that all the money (minus the room rental) we paid for the class goes directly to Bees Without Borders.  The money is used towards buying beekeeping supplies that Bees Without Borders donates to these underdeveloped communities in need.  How cool is that? What a nice surprise to hear that the money we spent for the class is going to such a good cause!
Every week, they bring in guest speakers to share their stories about their experiences in urban beekeeping.  This is Sam telling us his adventures in beekeeping in Brooklyn Heights.  He told us that 3 years ago, he sat in the same exact class we were taking.  Now he keeps two active hives.
Last Sunday, it was warm enough for us to actually go up to the rooftop to check out the bees.  Man, were we all excited!  Can you believe this is 2 blocks from Lincoln Center???  Here are the beehives atop the rooftop of York Preparatory, where our class is held. I found this cool video on Youtube where our teacher Andrew is teaching a beekeeping class to the York Prep highschool students.  How cool would it have been to learn this in Highschool?  Lucky kids!! 
Norm gave us a demo on how to start a smoker.  He uses burlap which gives a nice slow controlled burn.  Smoke helps calm and subdue the bees.  So knowing how to use a smoker is a must!
Here he is showing us how to use the smoker on the beehives.

Here he is showing us how to pump the smoker once the burlap is lit.
We were all very excited about checking out the bees, we more or less swarmed Norm.  (Sorry for the pun, I could not resist.)
Here is Andrew showing us how to scrape off wax that collects along the boards.  He is showing us how to use the very useful hive metal tool.
Here is a shot of the father and son team in the same photo.  I'm not sure how long they have been teaching the class, but they are definitely very enthusiastic about it.  You can tell that they really enjoy beekeeping.  BTW, Norm maintains the beehives on Martha Stewart's estate.  Pretty cool huh?
More demonstrations of the hive tool.
Showing us how to inspect hives.
I'm not sure if I'll have my own hives in the city.  I have to give it more thought.  It's quite an expensive hobby.  They recommend two hives to start off with, which when hive supplies and bees are purchased will run about $500.  There is also a problem in New York City, in that it is getting saturated with bee hives ever since the city made it legal to beekeep.  To produce 1 pound of honey, bees need to visit 1 million flowers!!  In an urban environment, there is a concern of lack or foraging space.  For this year, for the time being, I applied to this beekeeping apprenticeship program with Big Apple Apiary.  The problem is however that there are lots of people going after the few apprenticeship slots available.  So... I don't know if I will be lucky enough to get one of the slots.  Therefore, I decided to go to the next NYC Beekeeper's Association meeting to see if maybe I can meet a beekeeper who would be interested in taking me under their wings.  Literally. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

Today is the official first day of spring, and it did not disappoint! It was a whopping 73 degrees today in New York City.  The weather is outstanding, and yet, very scary.  I hope this is not a peek into a very hot NY summer. On my way home from work today, I stopped dead in my tracks from the scent of this beauty!  The Magnolia tree in my neighbor's yard is in FULL bloom!  One month ahead of schedule!
How gorgeous are these?  And the scent is intoxicating!  I absolutely love the smell of magnolias!  And they are so pretty!
This tree was also full of blooms.  I don't know what type of tree this is, but it had lots of white flowers.  Ahh, spring is in the air!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vegetables Growing in a Mild Winter

Yesterday, I took a walk around the garden and to my surprise shock, I saw some vegetables still growing that I had left in the garden. This past autumn, I became so busy that I never cleaned up the garden.  I didn't pull any of the brassicas or other greens, I left everything that was still growing in the ground.  We've been having the most mild winter, where temperatures have been hovering around the 40s and 50s.  Sometimes even going up to the 60s. Therefore, the Fall vegetables have continued to grow.  Check out the broccoli, it finally grew crowns!
The leeks also going strong!  This was my first time growing leeks and I have to say I love it.  The smell of the leeks is incredible!
The kale has continued to send out leaves!  I am so surprised that these plants all survived the two snow storms we had.  There is no sign of frost burn at all!
Even the brussel sprouts are starting to form their heads. I love brussel sprouts, so I definitely am hoping to be able to harvest these babies.
I decided to harvest some leeks and broccoli crowns to use in my dinner. I wish you could smell these leeks.  The smell was so strong, I could smell it two rooms away!!
I pulled out some garlic scape pesto that I had in the freezer and made a penne pesto pasta with the garden leeks and broccoli. I would have never thought that I would be eating this seasonally in mid-winter!  It's pretty cool but scary at the same time.  I live in NY, there is usually snow on the ground this time of year. So the fact that I can walk out to my backyard garden and pull fresh veggies to use for dinner is a little.... strange.

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