Archive for February, 2010

Eric’s Pet Plant: Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

Every year about this time  I get thinking it would be nice to have a citrus tree in our little greenhouse – a Meyer lemon, perhaps, or a kumquat. Not so much for the fruit, of which we would get not so much, but for the long season of powerfully fragrant blossoms. A mature plant can sweeten the air for months on end

The sweet orange in blossom over at Yale’s Marsh Gardens. Flowers are only 1 to 1.5 inches across

No way of knowing if it was the perfume that inspired Eric to choose his sweet orange as a Pet Plant, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Great Seafood Alert: Maine Shrimp (Pandalus Borealis)

Spicy Messy Coconut Shrimp – Thai(ish) fast food from Maine

Good News! Maine shrimp (Pandalus borealis), is starting to get around. Delicious, affordable, wonder of wonders sustainable, the only thing that has ever been wrong with it is that you pretty much couldn’t get it unless you lived in coastal Maine – or ate in extremely expensive restaurants.

That’s changing. More and more high end fish markets are carrying Maine, aka pink, shrimp, and it’s getting a little easier for those far from the shrimp boats to  miss a few of the middlemen. Port Clyde Fresh Catch, a fishermen’s marketing cooperative, is now selling in Brooklyn, New York and (go figure) Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

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The Way to Blog Brilliantly

Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) *

The way to blog brilliantly has been being demonstrated for a couple of years now by Margaret Roach, over at A Way to Garden. You wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at my efforts, but she has been an ongoing inspiration ever since she started.

As the upgrades here continue I keep thinking I’ll find the right time to say thank you – after I get the new link list up, say, or post the long planned shopping page. But how bogus is that? The time to say thank you is always right now, so Thank You, Margaret, thank you very much.

If you know her, you know why the gratitude picture is of a frog. If you don’t, that’s one more reason to trot over there and have a look.

* I’m saying it’s Hyla versicolor on account of the markings and because it was tiny, about an inch long, max. But it might be a small Green Tree Frog, H. cinerea, not so much because it’s green (the gray ones can also be green) as because it was right there in the garden on a hollyhock leaf instead of hiding where it couldn’t be seen.

Coyote Talk At Catskill Institute on March 4th

I’m happy to tell readers of Bill’s Coyote Post (and everyone else in the area) about a great opportunity to learn more, right from the muzzles of the top experts:

“Wile E. Coyote In Your Backyard: What You Should Know About Canis latrans”

will be presented free and open to the public on Thursday, March 4 at 4:30 p.m., in the Student Lounge in Vanderlyn Hall, SUNY Ulster, Stone Ridge, NY,  sponsored by the Catskill Institute for the Environment (CIE).

The panel will include Dr. Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals at the NYS Museum, who will speak on “New York’s Coyote/Coydog/Coywolf: What is it and how did it get here?;” Dan Bogan, Ph.D. candidate, Cornell University, discussing “Suburban coyote behavioral ecology: Implications for ecology and management;” and Robin Holevinski, Ph.D. candidate at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who will address “Foraging Ecology and Population Status of Eastern Coyotes.”

For information and weather confirmation, call 845-687-5231.

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Eek of the Week: Chia Obama

Spotted before last Christmas, offered in plenty of time for the lucky recipient to have Washington, Lincoln or Obama  – sorry, Texas, no Reagan –  to be in full greenery by Presidents Day. Still not on the clearance counter, however.

According to wikipedia “The Chia Pet was first used on September 8, 1977, and aside from its name, the Chia Pet is not a patented invention. The first Chia Pet was the ram, marketed and distributed in 1982.” They must mean trademarked; you can’t patent a name.

Bust embellishment notwithstanding, chia (salvia hispanica) isn’t an ornamental. It’s a food crop,  native to Central America, where its highly nutritious seeds have been part of the diet for at least 3000 years.

As far as I know, the Aztecs – who were eating a lot of chia when the conquistadores got there – didn’t adorn their terra cotta sculptures with wooly green mats. But they may have been missing an opportunity.  Joseph Enterprises, the company that manufactures the pets, reportedly had 98,000 employes in 2008.

Jeff Koons’  Puppy (1992) has already sucked up all the air in the irony department, so I have nothing else to say except don’t despair. The planting time that revives hope and brings change is just around the corner.

Real Deal Organic Milk – We Did It!

Ok, ok,  the huge throng of us who urged the USDA to please adopt stronger standards for organic milk probably shouldn’t be taking credit. But it’s nice to think our voices were heard, and in any event we can cheer the outcome:  those long-awaited new rules were adopted on February 12.

please pretend these are celebratory fireworks

The Cornucopia Institute, which led one of the largest petition drives, has a good report on what happened and why. The New York Times story is shorter but perfectly adequate if you’re not (yet, just stick with me) a farm policy geek.

This is the shortest version of all. At the heart of the new milk standards is a requirement that all dairy cattle be on pasture for the full length of the local grazing season or at least 120 days. Adios to the oxymoron: factory organic dairy.

I’m planning to write and say thank you, on the theory that pats are deserved and will be appreciated. People who run these agencies seldom get any feedback from the public except demands and complaints. Here’s the contact info. if you’d like to join me.

Eric’s Pet Plant: Geraniums – Pelargonium species

I think he’s getting cabin fever over there in the snows at Yale, and that fed-up-with-winteritis is turning his thoughts to approachable old friends. On the other hand, after two serious touch-me-nots ( Tree Ferns and Cholla cactus) he may simply be thinking “approachable” as in “can be handled without injury.”

Scented leafed geraniums like the plant in the center are not only safe to handle, they're downright pleasant to stroke. Brush your hand against the velvety leaves and you release a cloud of perfume. The leaves are often quite beautiful, too. And that's it. Scented leafed geraniums bloom sparsely when they bloom at all. The flowers in the picture belong to plants from different geranium categories.

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Heath Bar Cookies – The Ultimate Chocolate Toffee Crunch

I swear this has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. If you love someone you will NOT make them these killer cookies, a frighteningly addictive combo of all four basic food groups: sugar, salt, fat and crunch. Plus chocolate.

half candy, half cookie - all good

I got the recipe from my friend Carol (no, not the Wine Colored Dahlia and Barbecued Shrimp Carol, another Carol), who calls them Aunt Emma Lee’s Heath Bar Cookies “The exhaltation of lowly saltine.”

Not sure if that’s Aunt Emma talking or Carol herself, but either way the description is accurate. Only mystery is why the title doesn’t mention “easy” and/or “quick.”

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Our Pal Monsanto Poised to Poison Organic Milk –

sorta. What they’re really about to do is get permission from the USDA to market GE alfalfa that will contaminate organic alfalfa and thus create huge problems for organic dairy farmers. The full story and a petition/comment form asking the USDA to please apply its own standards (sigh) are here (among many other places).

My own – completely unsubstantiated – theory is that individual letters carry a tiny bit more weight than those aggregated by activist organizations, so I wrote directly to the relevant USDA comment page. My letter follows, in case you’re curious, though I’m not sure why I bothered to make any arguments. It’s highly unlikely anyone will actually read them. But somebody will note whether I’m for or against, and that’s why writing matters. Deadline for comments is 2/16.

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Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) in Bloom – or Not – it must be February

This year’s first to flower, a Butterfly (Hippeastrum papilio), opened about a week ago.

Butterfly amaryllis, photographed yesterday

There are 5 more – 2 papilios and 3 Giant Dutch Hybrids – in various stages of budded up. Also, par for the course, we have 4 in healthy-but-not-promising mode; 1 pot of 3 robust papilios that has “wait ‘till summer” written all over it and 6 bulbs that have refused to green up well and will not be with us much longer.

They may be harboring bulb fly or simply be discouraged by last year’s cold dark spring.( It didn’t get warm and bright enough for them to grow until it was almost time for them to stop.) On the good side, they’ve underlined a lesson I probably should have absorbed some time ago.

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