A recent chat with our upcoming summer issue’s featured expert, Lee Reich has got me thinking outside the box. Listening to Lee talk about the joys of low maintenance gardening, and how to increase the productivity of your plot, while decreasing the amount of work you put in has made me start to question the old and rigid ways we are taught to garden. Like in straight lines… And perfect squares.
Without a doubt one of the ceaseless draws of gardening is the calculated control you can exert over your space, but does it have to be so impractical? Take the vegetable patch, for example. Everybody likes neat and tidy rows of obedient greens, or the clean, contained angles of a set of raised beds, but if space is a limited resource for you, you’re better off sowing in a circle. A popular design in permaculture, the keyhole garden allows the gardener to access all points of the bed from a single point in the center. This means less soil compaction, less motion on the gardener’s part, and better use of space. If you want, the bed can even be raised to waist height to eliminate kneeling altogether. Especially if you’re an urbanite, this design makes some serious gardening sense!
“Olivier Theyskens is a dreamer, a man whose wandering mind has found inspirations in the world of botany, in the subtle curves of the human form, and in the myths and fairytales of centuries past. The opening story in his magazine NºD is a dramatic, sensual recognition of this fact – diving deep into the Belgian forest to capture the journey of a young girl as she hurries through the hazy, verdant fields.”
My favorite series are the posed flower portraits set in the forests surrounding the Château de la Hulpe, just outside of Brussels. These flower vignettes were created by with Theyskens constant collaborator photographer Julien Claessens for NºD.
“The bouquets of freshly-cut flowers were ‘styled’ by Olivier himself, spewing forth with sickly vibrant citrus yellows and oranges or a barrage of stark white punctuated with deep, royal blue.”
I’d love to find a back issue for my very own. If you have one, let a lady know?
Wilder Quarterly interviews the urban farmer, beekeeper and founder of Hayseed’s Big City Farm Supply, Megan Paska. Paska talks to us about bee-keeping, gives us advice on growing in Brooklyn and speaks to her exciting plans for the future.
By Lena Vazifdar / Photo of Megan shot by Patrick Lamson-Hall. All other photos are from Rory Gunderson.
Blogger, bee keeper, urban farmer, educator and business owner, Megan Paska, is a modern-day polymath. She started Brooklyn Homesteader, a blog about her urban farming experiences a few years ago. “The blog is mostly focused on the bees but there are a few here and there about my garden, my apiaries and my chickens,” she says.
Megan’s love for farming started at an early age, visiting relatives in rural Virginia during summer vacations. “They have about 450 acres outside of Lynchburg and when I was a child they grew tobacco and corn and grain for feed,” she says. “That lifestyle impacted me in a big way. It just seemed ‘right’ and from then on I knew that I wanted to work for myself and that it would involve food, animals and being outdoors.”
Along with her colorful Brooklyn blog, Megan hosts popular educational classes like her backyard homesteader boot camp and beekeeping workshop. Her lifelong love of urban farming also lead her to a new Brooklyn venture, Hayseed Farm Supply, where you can find everything from beekeeping supplies, locally adapted heirloom seeds to books and poetry.
WQ: What is your gardening/growing history?
MP: My grandfather and grandmother always had a vegetable patch with onions and cabbage and tomatoes. My mom liked growing flowers and tomatoes. I think it’s a common story, most people have gardeners in the family. I’ve been gardening for about 10 years, beekeeping for 4, keeping chickens for about 4 and just started raising rabbits this year.
WQ: You recently opened Hayseed Farm Supply. Could you please tell us a bit about the store?
MP: My partners at Brooklyn Grange and I had been talking about providing affordable urban farm supplies to Brooklyn for some time. I had been putting organic, soybean-free chicken feed orders together for about a year and coordinating pick up at Grange. We wanted get the best products for a fair price and figured we couldn’t be alone in that desire so we started putting feelers out for the right situation.
I met the gals from Domestic Construction last year when they started their garden plot and asked them if they’d be keen on hosting an urban farm pop-up shop. They said yes and countless emails and meetings later here we are!
WQ: What do you think are the best things to grow in the Brooklyn climate?
MP: We have a slightly longer growing season than upstate NY because of the atmospheric conditions of the city. There isn’t much you can’t grow here with the exception of maybe long season crops like peanuts. Growing things like corn and wheat is tough just because you’d need a lot of space to get a yield that is worth it. I think a person could keep themselves stocked in greens year round with small garden space.
WQ: Do you have any tips for a novice urban gardener who wants to start their own garden at home?
MP: Start with short season crops like lettuces, radishes and pea shoots. There’s a low rate of failure rate and a low time commitment. If you do manage to fail at that, you still have ample time to try again … and again. They are forgiving crops and a great way to get acquainted with gardening. They are also highly productive in small spaces, making them worth the effort.
In my concerted attempt to be a woman who cooks at home rather than a woman who eats out at a restaurant more often than not, I’m pleased to announce that as of last night, I have moved beyond Mark Bittman’s fabulous book on the basics and into Ian Knauer’s The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food. I’m a new fan of Ian Knauer although the cooking community has loved him for years. He spent 8 years in the test kitchens of Gourmet magazine and the last year, on his family’s Pennsylvania farm laying down the recipes for this book.
Last night, I made his Pennsylvania Dutch-Style Green Beans that sit in this truly delicious dressing made up of milk, vinegar, brown sugar and some other great ingredients. I paired it with some from scratch cornbread (thanks to Bittman again) and I’m feeling pretty much like a champ. I highly recommend you get Knauer’s book. In the mean time, try out this amazing green beans recipe.
1 pound green beans, trimmed and halved
4 slices of bacon
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
- Cook the beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, and drain again.
- Cook the bacon (or meat substitute) in a large heavy skillet, turning, until it is crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain. Reserve the fat in the pan.
- Cook the onion in the bacon fat over medium heat until it is golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Whisk together the milk, brown sugar, cornstarch, mustard and salt, then whisk the milk mixture into the skillet with the onion and cook, stirring, until it comes to a boil. Boil the sauce until it is thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar.
- Place the beans in a serving dish and pour the sauce over the beans. Crumble the bacon. Sprinkle the bacon and egg over the top and serve.
In his most recent episode, he visited urban farmer Jimmy Ng who started The Growing Experience, which provides public housing residents access to community gardens and just as importantly, paid job training for the multi-million dollar “green industry” that has sprung up in the past decade. It’s worth a watch.
Here on the east coast we got the first drenching rain in over a month last night. The only thing that’s been holding steady though spring’s parching drought, strangely enough, is my lawn. But my lawn is no ordinary lawn. When I first moved into this house I gave it an appraising glance, cynical, skeptical- why does it look so scruffy? I’m not one for neatness- I was charmed by my lawn’s bedhead- but the texture of it threw me. Carex pennsylvanica, or Pennslvania sedge, grows in low neat tufts, rather than in seamless verdant sheets. It tolerates deluges, droughts, and guess what? It even blooms. Sure, your average lawn grass does too, but it’s not much to look at. This April my sedge lawn has been a sea of golden, wavering flower heads, underpinned by its indestructible green foliage. What’s more, Pennsylvania sedge grows in shade, and only requires mowing 2-3 times a year. So with climate change happening right here, right now, think about the ways you and your garden can adapt. And for other ideas perhaps more suited to your area (because whoever said all our lawns have to look the same?), go here
I’m happy to be posting this music video from Last Days of 1984 called “River’s Edge.” Directed by Sophie Gateau, the video is a visual delight of still life’s, disassembled flowers, shapes, colors and bouncing boys. Odd little music video, but a lot of fun.
Remember a couple of weeks ago when Celestine posted about her freaky knotweed invasion? She called me up, all curious, and I had to break the bad news to her: THIS PLANT IS SATAN. I even ventured so far as to suggest the unspeakable: “you might want to try herbicide, Celestine.” Thing is, that was before I learned about knotweed pie - strawberry knotweed pie, that is. A few days ago I was delivered a piping piece of this totally tangy, sweet and succulent pie and I am hooked. Not only is it delicious, but with each forkful you’re continuing to fight the good fight, and helping keep these invasive beasties at bay. Get the recipe here.
Remember, there’s a season for this harvest, too. Knotweed shoots should be cut in earliest spring, before the leaves uncurl. The stems will be soft and flexible, like asparagus. Which reminds me, they can be steamed, rolled in salt and butter, and eaten like that, too. Bon appetit.
If you live in a city, chances are you have pollutants in your soil. Decades of human traffic builds up levels of unwanted chemicals and heavy metals, like lead, which eventually make their way into resident garden plants. Luckily, there’s a pretty nifty, green (literally) solution. Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has been show to take up considerable amounts of heavy metals over the course of the growing season, rendering the soil healthier, cleaner, and ultimately more productive. The only catch is you have to dig up and throw out your mullein at the end of the year- poor payback for its help. But then again, another moniker for the plant is indian toilet paper. Maybe you could give those downy leaves one last task before you toss them.
Southern Food Alliances (SFA) is just prolific. I was introduced to the organization last night and am stunned by the dept of their work. I completely understand why the Atlantic Monthly called the SFA “this country’s most intellectually engaged (and probably most engaging) food society.”
The member supported organization resides at the University of Mississippi where they document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. Their output looks like BBQs in Nashville, lectures, assistance to farmers, the collection of oral histories, cookbooks, short films and good ol’ fashioned dinner parties.
The video above takes you to meet the Hardy Family, of Hawkinsville, Georgia who operates a well-known family peanut farm. The SFA has so many other stories worth checking out from peach farmers to an exploration of the Louisiana cochon de lait tradition.
If you’re in the South or lucky enough to be going this summer, make sure you head to one of their href=”http://sfaevents.blogspot.com/” target=”_blank”>events. East some good Southern food and take some photos for us.
With summer almost upon us and spring in full swing, I’ve noticed lots of my friends are planning that first warm weather camping trip. For those campers, foragers and wildercrafters, as well as you nostalgia junkies, I’ve got a treat for you! I’ve stumbled across every issue of Backpacker (nee Backpack) magazine online at Google Books from its very first issue in 1973 all the way through to the early aughts.
Backpacker was founded by William Kemsley, Jr. when he noticed that the boom in backpacking that took place in the late 60s was having an negative impact on the trails he loved.
“It was common to find a long string of gum and candy wrappers strewn along a popular trail, not to mention tissues and cigarette butts. Campsites were beginning to become worn from over-use… Most of the increasing numbers of hikers were on trails for the first time. I became so concerned about the impact of this rapidly increasing trail use that I decided to do something about it. That eventually led to my starting Backpacker
magazine… Don’t many of us go to the trails simply to get away from rules? How, then, to influence new hikers, if not by laws?”
And Backpacker was born – a decades long source of inspiration, knowledge and community for those on the trails. While I am not much of my hiker, my husband is pretty serious going way beyond hike and straight into mountain climb. These terrific Backpack covers from the 70s and 80s have me close to getting my own pair of crampons.
Japanese photographer Araki Nobuyoshi has had a long and controversial career. While best known for his noirish photographs of Tokyo’s sex clubs and brothels, and his stark and intimate erotic portraits, he also photographs flowers, decadently arranged and in various states of decay. As with his other imagery, the lines between romance and pornography, sex and death, the beautiful and grotesque seem deliberately blurred.
The flowers in his photos appear either exploding with biological radiance, their petals showing off evolutionarily flirtatious designs or appearing elsewhere in the same photos in a half-life state of withering decay – a fitting memento mori for the flower arrangement, a traditional and easily trivialized symbol of all things alive and beautiful.
His plant photographs are collected in his book: “Sensual Flowers”. The book can be hard to find, so here is a preview.
We are in the midst of creating the next issue of Wilder. One topic that keeps coming up is the inherent beauty and challenges of growing in arid areas. I’ve become interested in not only the how-to, but the imagery of desert plants and foods.
This newfound curiosity led me to photographer Bernard Plossu. At thirteen, Plossu made his first journey to the African desert with his father. He wrote that this trip was the source of his life long passion: “It was then that I took my first picture and it was then that the idea of becoming a photographer entered my mind.” What luck to be certain so young.
The photograph above is from one of his many journeys across the American West during the late 70s and early 80s. It’s also my favorite although Plossu has also beautifully captured the deserts of Spain for his book Jardin de poussière (Garden of Dust) and Mexico in La Frontera. All sparse, skeletal, hot and perfectly, dutifully dry.
Wild edibles can be found almost anywhere, even in the middle of Manhattan. If you live in New York city and want to learn what edible plants can be found growing around you, sign up for the 2 hour tour guided by foraging expert “Wild Man” Steve Brill on April 28th. Brill is the author of “Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plant in the Wild (and Not –So-Wild Places)” and “The Wild Vegan Cookbook”.
Bring plastic bags for collecting wild edible “shoots, greens, herbs and roots” and paper bags for mushrooms.
Not in New York? Don’t worry there is a “Wild Man” Steve Brill app for IPhone and IPad.
The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Wyoming is holding its annual Quick Draw contest on June 16th and I wish I was going. The contest features “a broad array of masterful artists [who] will have four hours to create a spectacular piece of art” as part of the opening celebration of the museum’s new sculpture trail:
“The Sculpture Trail is a new three quarter-mile outdoor art venue for the National Museum of Wildlife Art, designed by award-winning landscape architect, Walter Hood. Overlooking the National Elk Refuge, the trail will feature nearly 30 permanent and temporary works of art. The design allows for display of works against the Gros Ventre Range backdrop, and a naturally sheltered amphitheater space near the museum entrance. The Sculpture Trail will also connect to a recently constructed Jackson-to-Grand Teton National Park pathway via a new underpass for easy biker and hiker access.
Wyoming is one of the few states I haven’t had the chance to experience. I’ve heard that the Gros Ventre Range (made up of 317,000+ miles and true big game) is something everyone should see.
Finnish architect Marco Casagrande’s Sandworm is what Archdaily marvelously called an “organic structure/space/creature” set on the Wenduine coastline, Belgium. Made of willow, Sandworm was built in 4 weeks in order to create something that Casagrande “describes as “weak architecture” – a human made structure that wishes to become part of nature through flexibility and organic presence.” It’s lovely.
Gotten down in the dirt lately? If you had, you might’ve noticed a couple of things corkscrewing up from the ground. The first is the famous fiddlehead- the juvenile frond of ferns, and a superb asparagus replacement. The second is the foliage of America’s native garlic, otherwise known as the ramp. I’ve seen both these plants sold for their weight in gold in New York City’s Green Market and Whole Foods, while they quietly grow under our noses in woods just a stone’s throw from the city. While the ramp can be stirfried, blended into pesto, or safely chewed on raw, the fiddlehead is another matter. The ostrich fern is delicious steamed and sauteed in butter, but other kinds of ferns? Other kinds of ferns are a different story with nausea, abdominal cramping, and severe migraines on the list of likely side effects. So how good is your fern ID? Might want to stick with Whole Foods on this one.
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