Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I am a creature of habit. I mean, who isn't? Coffee in the morning, wine at night, sun in the east, dipping west, witch hazels in February...the usual.

When you become used to something any disturbance in its accepted pattern rattles you. And when I walked past the camellia on Pacific Street yesterday and saw it in bloom behind the scarlet-leafed Japanese maple, my knees went funny. It's supposed to bloom in March. March! It is not a fall camellia.

So we had that October snowstorm. And now this week, at the end of November, the weather is balmy.  The tight round green buds opened.

It's just that...I was looking forward to March, with its April grand finale.

March without the camellia.


What do its owners think?

Talk about signs and portents. It doesn't get much more serious than this.

I may have to leave a note.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2012 Calendar giveaway

Cover Photo: Marc Dalio

Estorbo was a bit late with his drawing for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's 2012 calendar giveaway, whose results I promised for Monday, but here are his 8 choices (he stirred the hat with his paw and closed his eyes before spearing each ballot with a claw):

KarenLR, Carol, BDZler, Jane, Lyn, Donatella, Ellen and Karen. You all left comments on the calendar post, now could you please send me your snail mail addresses?

marieyviljoen at  gmail dot com

For those whom the silly cat did not choose, I am very sorry I don't have more to give away. Two were held back for my mom and mom-in-law. If you would still like to purchase a calender, please visit the BBG's website for details.

Litter Mobbing in the rain

Our morning's Litter Mob (the 15th to date) has already yielded two posts next door. You may choose between:



The White Edition

I must go. The grindstone is calling.

Home again

We are back in the hood, and I'll update the blog, soon. We returned late last night to a spotless apartment, a sleek cat and some very good wine. So we sat down at once, at 11pm,  and drank some. Thank you, John!

But for now, I hear the siren call of the woods in Prospect Park, must pull on my rainboots, pack my camera and head in short sleeves into the unseasonably warm day. Very strange weather... I was sent some interesting pictures of a tree in the woods yesterday by someone who works there, and will report on it if it is still intact.

And if you have nothing better to do, or are avoiding a deadline, there's nothing like a little de-littering to get you motivated. Find us in the woods.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Internet on Amtrack

Liiiiiive from the Adirondack.

We are somewhere north of lunch.

The snow appeared a few hours ago.

We are sitting in the last car, but blogging from the cafe car,which has Wi-Fi.

I love this trip.

Eleven hours on a train are a different country from plane travel.

The lakes are like slate.

Lunch, five hours after breakfast (bacon and egg sandwiches).

There are three sorority-type girls behind me telling each other what they are thankful for. They are eating mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and turkey from deli containers. They have, like, valley girl accents? 

One of them is, like thankful for the mashed potatoes?

My kind of girl.

The lady they have befriended and invited to lunch says she is thankful for the big guardian angel that follows her throughout her life.  

I am thankful for the Fuji apple and cranberry pies I made last night.

I have seen four deer and a million turkeys

We are at the Canadian border, and must leave the cafe car now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Dinner last night with Deb, Jim and John, Estorbo's long weekend cat sitter. Bottles from Dead Horse Bay, with roses. Dinner for more than two people in this apartment is a logistical conjuring act. Prep must be very organized, or you have a sinkful of detritus in full view for the whole evening. As everything is cooked and cleaned and arranged all evidence of its creation must be removed. My kitchen work surface measures about 4 square feet. Which is why a cross country Airstream would be a cinch.

We had our cider and spicebush-cognac cocktails - christened either Bear Talk or Queen Anne's Brassiere, we can't remember which...A Bear Talk is what Jim and Deb were given in bear country, which made them too scared to stay in bear country. But it gave rise to a conversation about The Talk - the sex talk, the stranger talk, the drugs talk. Neither Deb nor I were given those talks. Were you?

Tomorrow we click our way to Montreal, an eleven hour train ride which is far nicer than it sounds. I love trains. The sound, the motion, the way your body jumps when at last you lie down in a bed at the other end - it thinks you're still on board. We may see snow, but the lakes will not be frozen over yet. We will pull over along the way to let the south bound train pass - it is a single, narrow track through the Adirondacks. They are thinking of closing the line.

Our picnic will be packed and our Thanksgiving will be celebrated in the cafe car at a wide table with the country rolling by. We will take coffee for our breakfast, and wine for our lunch. As we leave Penn Station and travel up beside the wide Hudson we will see what is left of the leaves as we sip our thermos espresso and hot milk sleepily. And we will be thankful for cat sitters who drive in pelting rain for many hours to look after a cat they have come to know through this funny thing called a blog, and who know his habits almost as well as we do. And for the fact that we are in each other's company, and that we like each other so much, and that we have no cause for resentment. And for cameras, which will be at our sides. And for things to point them at. And for big projects with uncertain results. And for insulated picnic bags that keep wine cold.  And for flasks that keep coffee hot.

Happy Thanksgiving, adopted land. It's a custom that we should export.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lotus eaters

As we left the Brooklyn Botanic Garden by its southern, Flatbush Avenue exit, we passed this tree. It was perhaps 20 feet tall or more, and covered with what at first appeared to be blue-black fruit. I screeched to a halt. November, fruit. Limited possibilities. The colour was an illusion created by a powdery sheen; underneath they were a deep orange-brown, the shape, distinctly persimmonish. I looked at the name on the tree: Diospyros. A persimmon indeed, but new to me. I can't remember the species name, but 'ebony' was in the common name - a photo on Flickr by Rebecca Bullene, the former BBG website editor, identifies it as Diospyros lotus. Native to eastern Asia and hardy to USDA Zone 5.

So, that's a date plum, one of the oldest cultivated plants, with fruit so sweet that it is credited as the preferred meal of Homer's lotus eaters.

"For nine days I was driven by fierce winds over the teeming sea: but on the tenth we set foot on the shores of the Lotus-eaters, who eat its flowery food. On land we drew water, and my friends ate by the ships. Once we had tasted food and drink, I sent some of the men inland to discover what kind of human beings lived there: selecting two and sending a third as herald. They left at once and came upon the Lotus-eaters, who had no thought of killing my comrades, but gave them lotus to eat. Those who ate the honey-sweet lotus fruit no longer wished to bring back word to us, or sail for home. They wanted to stay with the Lotus-eaters, eating the lotus, forgetting all thoughts of return. I dragged those men back to the shore myself by force, while they wept, and bound them tight in the hollow ships, pushing them under the benches. Then I ordered my men to embark quickly on the fast craft, fearing that others would eat the lotus and forget their homes. They boarded swiftly and took their place on the benches then sitting in their rows struck the grey water with their oars."

Yes, really!

I knew none of this, standing there, but had to taste one. I thought it was like an English toffee, a very soft, fresh one. CS Lewis describes a fruit like this somewhere in his Narnia chronicles. The Magicians' Nephew, I think . Someone drops a toffee in the new place that Aslan is making, where the soil is so new and rich that the toffee bursts into life as a tree. Unexpected pleasures.

Monday, November 21, 2011

BBG Calendar contest

Eek. A picture of me (by Vincent). Crouching in the bluebell woods at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, beside my picture of the woods, taken in May. 

The 2012 BBG calendar is gorgeous.  On Saturday we received goody bags of calendars, and toured the garden looking at each month, in situ. The images are for the most part intimate views of the garden, and a beautifully curated selection. Apparently over 4,000 entries were received, and choosing just 12 could not have been easy.

The winning pictures were taken by cameras ranging from humble point and shoots to some heavy hitters.
Which really proves that expensive equipment does not make you a good photographer, although there's no arguing that excellent lenses will make a good photographer better (insert envious grinding of teeth, here)...

For the most part, it's what you see, and how you see it, that matters.

For the list of photographers and more about the day see Chris Kreussling's post at Flatbush Gardener.

I have eight 2012 calendars to give away - let me know if you'd like one!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Potato gratins

It's Sunday. Certain measures are called for. Bring out the potatoes. Cheap, delicious, filling, comforting. Supper in their own right.

Next door, with variations,  at 66 Square Feet (the Food)

3 Autumns

Henry Street camouflage.

Ocean Avenue, on the east side of Prospect Park.

Native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) on East Drive, in the park. A spidery and unexpected filigree of yellow on the pretty, outstretched branches.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Collapsed apples

Humankind's 4,652, 129th error:

Underrating overbaked apples.

Resistant, sugar and lime-caramelized skin, explosively hot, soft, sweet pulp, sticky, sweet and slightly toasted raisins, a pan-coating syrup, helped along by the knob of butter you tucked into the cavity with pinch of cinnamon.

A scoop of vanilla ice cream, a lick of cream. Or nothing. Just don't burn your tongue.

Mob 14

The Audubon Center on the Lullwater.

Above, the Midwood, where the Litter Mob works.

Osage oranges.

The mosaic of our other finds is at the Prospect Park Litter Mob blog...

And we are having sugar maple tapping thoughts.

Hm. Anyone ever tried?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oyster mushroom stages

BBG 2012 Calendar

These are the bluebell woods of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in November. Not very blue.

They'll be back again in May 2012, but if you'd like a sneak peek before then, you may order the BBG 2012 calendar, where, for the month of May, you will be looking at my image of the glorious bluebell woods!

From the BBG's website:

"Among the Garden’s most passionate visitors are photographers, who capture the beauty each season brings to the Garden’s 52 acres. Their images, taken from unique vantage points, offer perspectives that are at once stunning and unexpected. The 2012 calendar celebrates BBG through their eyes, with a selection of the best visitor-contributed photos from an online competition hosted last year."

An outdoor exhibition of the 12 winning photographs - chosen from over 4,000 submitted - in the calendar kicks off this Saturday with an opening reception of coffee and cake at 10.30am in the Rotunda (Visitors Center). If you are in the hood, come and join us.

Around 11:10 we’ll go on a tour of the photos, led by one of the BBG's garden guides. Each photograph will be in the spot in which it was taken. The tour will last approximately 45 minutes.

The exhibition will last till February 2012, but I'm not so sure about the cake...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oyster mushroom season!

After a swift trip to the East Village to have my hair cut by Izumi, I headed straight to Prospect Park, all ready in my thermal rainboots to look for oyster mushrooms in a steady drizzle. Frank had spotted a nice little nursery on a new (to me) log in the woods on Tuesday during our Litter Mob, and I thought they might about eating size today. The log is high, nowhere near ground level, and safe from cruising litter.

But I went into the park on a different path, new to me, keeping an eye on the unfamiliar woods to either side, just in case.  Lifting my camera to take the first picture in this post, I suddenly stiffened. Too good to be true: way off the path was an entire tree full of oyster mushrooms. Squeal. Talk about safe from harm!

Many were still very small, and the highest ones were beyond reach. Someone else knows about this tree - (see below). Leda? Steve? I wonder when those were cut...

Once I had calmed down I went to work with my little knife. Good thing I wasn't searched on the subway. No, osiffer, really, I belong to Occupy the Woodland and this is purely a recreational knife.

Uh huh?

The cops were out in full force today. Very bored cops, then (apparently the boredom is at an end).

I cut the highest ones - I am tall and others might not be able to reach those; I was able to leave many tiny mushrooms. The other forager might be coming back after a few days to collect them when they have grown.

There were more on a nearby log, nice and hidden behind some really thorny brambles.

And then these. We noticed them during our Mob on Tuesday, and I wanted to ID them, so brought a few home. Very slippery, with hollow stems. Honey mushrooms? I am taking a spore print, and we will see.

*Update: enokis, velvet foot, winter mushrooms! Confirmed by spore print: Flammulina velutipes. Edible.

Below, the nursery I had come to find. Since Tuesday they have quintupled in size. I gathered about a third. 

So exciting. The thrill of the hunt, rewarded. And there was no one else around. The park seemed deserted, but for birds. 

My innocuous mushroom bag.

Oyster mushrooms on the subway.

And in the kitchen.

Guess what's for dinner?

If would like to read more about why this is the best oyster mushroom season, here's my mushrooming story in Edible Brooklyn.