Monday, February 27, 2023


...the big blue of the beginning of Jamaica Bay, just off the tip of Breezy Point, Queens, New York City.

There are dunes, there is a wraparound beach. And on Sunday, there was clear water.

The giant pumpkin is an iron buoy, about four feet across.

The tide had been high, and was receding.

The dune grasses crest hills of sand that are part of the Gateway National Recreation Area - a federal preserve. The  preserve surrounds the gated human community of Breezy Point, where even the residential side roads each have their own barrier of a boom to keep them separate within their separation.

To access the point - whose barrier island mate, framing New York Harbor, is south, in New Jersey, at Sandy Hook - you can either walk along the beach for a couple of miles from a public access area, or drive and park, as long as you have a permit. We have a permit.  This is a birding hotspot. And we did spot hundreds of northern gannets, flocking like a snow shower against the backdrop of Coney Island as they dive-bombed the blue water for fish.

In the quiet dunes there were prints.

A tug left Jamaica Bay, drawing a barge. A cruise ship/floating petri dish sailed from New York Harbor. Thousands of souls, stacked, and ready for paradise.

And the outgoing tide, leaving fields of clam shells exposed.

In a hollow in the dunes were the signs of a gated community's party. A quick, casual, walking inventory counted 80 Bud Light cans. A bottle of Malibu rum, and a lot of hard tea.

Also an epipen and an abandoned toiletry bag containing an asthma inhaler.

We drove back out from this lovely beach, past the boom-sealed roads, the private security force's (sorry: Public Safety)'s headquarters, and wondered, as we have, so many times, about what makes this large country tick.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Choose field garlic

It's field garlic season, where we live, and perhaps where you are, too. This chive-like wild onion (Allium vineale) is a winter-through-spring weed in North America, but a very tasty one. And infinitely more sustainable than ramps (Allium tricoccum).

Eggs deviled, and destined for a picnic. Their yolky stuffing is laced with fresh field garlic, mustard, and mayonnaise.

And a deeply soothing soup. You'll find its recipe in my story about field garlic for Gardenista (and yes, you can substitute chives, or scallion greens).



4 March, Winter Foraging at the NYBG

11 March, Sugar Moon in Inwood Hill Park

20 March, Vernal Equinox Social, Prospect Park

25 March, Bud-Break at Historic Green-Wood

Monday, February 20, 2023

Nkwe Pirelli - a tale told in parts

Meet Nkwe Pirelli, King of String. King of Prrp. King of Peep. And the cat-formerly-known-as-Percy. Also Inky.

It's complicated.

I met him about four weeks ago at my friend Serena's house, where I was delivering duck soup to nourish her new knee after surgery. Last summer I spent some time visiting her two cats - black-and-white Susie, and tabby Tiger - to entertain them while she traveled, and to water her garden during New York's months-long drought. During the soup visit, I thought that the kitty at my feet was Susie, at first glance. Black and white. Then I looked again. About twice Susie's size. "This is Percy," Serena said, "Susie's kitten! He's two!" I sat down, and Percy jumped onto my lap, where he began purring. I made appreciative noises. He made air buns. "You should have him!" said Serena. I ignored her, assuming her pain medication was talking. 

A few days later, still thinking about this confident cat, I suddenly wondered whether she really wanted a home for him. I messaged her. "Don't give him to anyone else!" The Frenchman and I had a Big Talk. I visited then-Percy again. Serena showed me videos of the little black-and-white and also grey kittens that Susie, a feral cat, had reared outside her window, in the street - Serena had fed them, and adopted Susie. She gave me what contact details she could for Patti, a cat rescuer who, she said, had spirited the kittens away for care, and who had also taken Percy for a vet visit (I wanted vet records, and was worried about feline HIV). I wasn't sure where Percy had been in the interim. 

I messaged Patti, who said emphatically that no, she had not spirited away a bundle of kittens, but that she knew Percy, who was in fact not Percy, but Inky. And that she had given Inky into Sassee's care. 

To be continued...


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Radishes - it's time


I love radishes.

They have a remarkable affinity for eggs - high on my list of Loved Things. Also, toast. (Perhaps everything has an affinity for toast?)

They were the first vegetable I ever grew, as a very small person living in Bloemfontein, in the heart of South Africa. So there is that, too. 

In our Cobble Hill days (the terrace of the original 66 square feet size) I raised them on our so-called roof farm - a collection of pots where fava beans, peas, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and raspberries grew. And this year I will sow them again, this time in the windowboxes on our Windsor Terrace...terrace (the neighborhood name makes its Instagram hashtag a cinch - #thewindsorterrace). 

It's been years since I grew and harvested my own radishes, so recently I spoke to two vegetable gardeners - Hemalatha Gokhale and Randi Rhoades - whose work I admire a lot, and listened to their radish-growing wisdom, for a story for Gardenista. You will find it in this link: Radishes: Early, Easy, Delicious.


4 March - my NYBG Foraging Class