Where’s My Kale?

Leafy greens have rarely let me down in my modest, space/sun challenged little garden in Queens. Lettuces especially perform with gusto. This year I decided to add kale to the mix, planted in its own separate tub. The seedlings were off to a fine start, looking cute and perky. I checked them everyday, until one morning a few weeks ago when I went outside to the garden and the kale was … all gone! Poof. Eradicated. Annihilated. Devoured overnight by a mysterious ravenous pest! Nothing else was touched, only the kale. It was funny though and I laughed about it after my bewilderment passed. It felt like the vegetable gods declared, to paraphrase Seinfeld, “No kale for you!!

But my swiss chard survived the assault unscathed. Yay for swiss chard! Some of my early batch:

I’m no expert gardener by any means. I just wing it most of the time and the results are hit or miss, varying from year to year. I’ve had excellent carrots and so-so scallions, wayward dill and respectable mint. It’s all part of the fun for me. Plant some seeds, water, and see what happens. I’m eagerly awaiting my tomatoes which aren’t ripe yet but the plants are healthy and pest free.

Vegetable Gardens, Mikhail Berkos, 1895:

So Museworthy readers, what’s growing in your gardens? Any kale? 😆

The Brooding Battle

Of all the personal items that were stolen from my house during the burglary last year, I’ve felt the loss of my camera most severely. A Nikon D5000 Digital SLR. Actually, let me correct that. The thief’s stealing of a silver bracelet that had great sentimental value for me (it was a gift my from my ex-boyfriend) was the most emotional loss. The police, by the way, never recovered it or any of my stuff. But the camera, which I loved, is something I miss even more than I thought I would. My other blog, The Salt Marsh, has suffered greatly because of this as it is highly dependent on nature photography. If I can’t take interesting pictures, I can’t post. So I’ve been a little bummed out about this, not to mention the other issues going on these days that never seem to improve no matter how much time passes; family strife, plus the financial strains of living in a pricey, impractical city. I could really use a vacation.

It seems like every year at this exact time – mid-spring with summer just around the corner – I get hit with impulses to make changes in my life and feel mildly tormented (is “mild” torment a thing? haha) about my future. I become consumed with contemplating the direction of my life, the interests I once wanted to pursue but never did, the relationships I wanted to preserve but was unable to, and the experiences I wanted to know but haven’t yet encountered. But surely, I still have time, don’t I? I refuse to think otherwise. And I refuse to fret 24 hrs a day when I am a living, healthy, fortunate individual who still, after 46 years, has options at her disposal.

Sketch of me by Fred Hatt created at Figureworks:

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I am keenly aware that I’m not alone in having these thoughts. Some of my friends are in the same boat and we commiserate often about our frustrations. I suspect it’s natural for those of us in the “mid-life” stage to reflect and reconsider our choices throughout the years, and be eternally grateful for some while regretting others. What can you do? This is life. It’s an old story.

If I sound like I’m being cagey, or withholding “news” of some kind, well that’s somewhat true. While there is no actual “news” I am trying to make it happen. But I don’t want to jinx it. And if it doesn’t happen then I’ll simply try again, and will certainly share any new developments here on Museworthy.

I apologize for the less-than-cheerful blog post! Just needed to vent a little. I’ll try to compensate for the kvetching with some pretty pictures of my early garden plantings and blooming flowers around my house. And if it’s true that the “little things” in life can lift one’s spirits, I”ll tell you that one of these guys is visiting my bird feeder almost every day and it’s pretty awesome. Cheers friends! I’ll see you soon 🙂

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Lilacs Everlasting

In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Tom Cruise’s character learns that his recently deceased wealthy father bequeathed him, in a stingingly worded last will and testament, his prized rosebushes. Not the $3 million inheritance Cruise was hoping for, but rosebushes. And a classic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. Needless to say, Tom Cruise was none too pleased with the arrangement and interpreted the act as a stern father’s final slap in the face from his grave. While he may not be the most subtle actor in the world, it’s amusing to see Cruise exclaim with great frustration, “I got the rose bushes! I definitely got the rose bushes!”. If you’ve seen the movie you know that as the plot line unravels, the family drama and its secrets are revealed which provide answers. The father, of course, had his reasons for doing what he did.

I’m bringing this up because part of me has always related to people who value prized garden plants, who place their worth above money and inanimate possessions. I read a story once about an elderly woman who had moved several times throughout her long life and each time dug up her cherished peony to bring it with her and transplant it at the new home. Peonies, with proper loving care, can live up to 75 years. That’s not a mere “garden plant” anymore, that is a resilient, tried and true friend – as familiar and comforting a friend as many human beings we’ll encounter in life. I totally understand why that woman brought her peony with her. There’s nothing remotely strange or eccentric about it to me at all.

It was still winter when I moved into my house 15 years ago. While my then-husband and I spent the cold weather months buying furniture and installing shelving, I was thinking about the coming spring, and what flowering plants I would put in the only spot on the property that receives full sun: the front right corner of the house. It was a plot of dirt when Jeff and I arrived, but it wouldn’t be for long. Roses were definitely in the running but by the time March arrived, I had decided on lilacs. And I personally picked out the two young lilac bushes at my local garden center. They bloom at the exact same time every spring, as if on a precise calendar encoded in their DNA. That time is now. Here are my beauties yesterday:

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I came home from work the other night, tired, still sore in my left hip from doing a standing pose. The second I opened my car door in the driveway the aroma – that extra potent nighttime wafting of late May blooms – transported me to paradise. After a day of trains and buses and city crowds and drafty studios full of easels and turpenoid containers and charcoal dust, and elbow pokes on the E train and stench-filled corridors of Penn Station, the lilacs delivered me to peace. Before I went inside I strolled over to the lilacs, in the dark with my house keys in my hand, to inhale them at close range. My beauties. My babies for 15 years. At that moment my communion with the lilacs was interrupted by the sound of my neighbor across the street dragging his garbage can to curb. He saw me and waved. The next morning I took a few cuttings for the house.

Jose the landscaper cuts grass and trims bushes for most of us on this block. I happened to be home one day when he and his crew were working precariously close to my lilacs with pruning shears. I bolted out of the house and, in my best broken Spanish, instructed them to not do anything to those bushes. I wasn’t a bitch, I swear! I just made it clear that those bushes are not to be touched. At all. Ever. I am protective of them like a mother toward her children. It’s slightly embarrassing 😉

I probably shouldn’t worry myself about such things, but the thought that someday, maybe decades from now, this house will fall into the hands of strangers who may very well bulldoze this property and dispose of the lilacs makes me sick. Honestly, it throws me into a nervous panic. I may have to draw up a will and bequeath them to a loved one! Or someone who understands, like Amy Lowell. Check out her poem “Lilacs”. New Englanders especially should read it.

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I invite readers to share pics of their prized garden growings, or stories, or memories. Tell me what’s abloom in your garden, or on your fire escape or balcony, or thriving wild where you are.

The Cloisters in Bloom

I just spent a lovely afternoon at The Cloisters with my good friend Fred Hatt. It was a great day of looking at art, taking pictures and enjoying the woodland sanctuary found in the northernmost section of Manhattan island.

For those of you who are gardeners, like me, you know how even the most well-tended plants become ratty and worn looking toward the end of the summer and lose some of their earlier vitality and vigor. Well the gardening team at the Cloisters must know all the horticultural secrets because their perennials, herbs, and flowering shrubs are still looking pretty damn good in mid-August.

If it’s any shade of purple, I will photograph it. My favorite color! Deep purple, light purple, lavender or violet, bring it on 🙂

I love these maidenhair ferns. They look wonderful in pots throughout the garden cafe:

This was my favorite plant of the day. It’s called Fuller’s Teasel. I actually like the thorny stems and prickly “flowers”. This plant is an unapologetic individualist. It knows who it is and proclaims it with confidence. Rock on Teasel!

By the way, I did take pictures of the medieval artwork at The Cloisters – yes, they have ART there too! – but those will come in future posts. Until then, this squirrel critter says, “Thank you for visiting Museworthy. Now give me a nut!”.

Mellow Friday and Garden Plans

Heyyyy everybody! Are you all in TGIF mode? I have the day off today which is good because I can rest my weary artist’s model’s spine. I predict some yoga will take place at some point this afternoon. I need it badly! My back is all out of alignment. Some downward-facing dog will work wonders I’m sure.

I don’t have much else to share at the moment except that I’m trying to make spring gardening plans. I feel the urge to do something different this season although I don’t know what exactly. It’s not like I have five acres of land to work with. I wish! But on the other hand, having limited space forces you to be more creative. Maybe I’ll plant different vegetables and rearrange my containers. My herb section got really out of control last year. Thyme was the culprit. I’m thinking of a small berry patch of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. I’ve had great success with strawberries in the past. I know the birds get to them and have a feast, but if they can just save me enough to have with my cereal perhaps we can share 😀

This redheaded model is ready for spring, holding a lovely vase of daffodils in Spring Flowers by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema:

Honeysuckle on the Hudson

So what is everybody doing on this holiday weekend? Enjoying family, friends, and Mother Earth perhaps? That’s what I’ve been doing so far, all within the boundaries of good ol’ NYC. We’ve got everything here, folks, and “everything” even includes a medieval garden of the highest horticultural standards.

My family and I spent Saturday afternoon at The Cloisters, the uptown branch of the Metropolitan Museum that houses the museum’s impressive medieval art collection. Located in Fort Tryon Park, the Cloisters overlooks the Hudson River. This was the second time in less than a year we’ve all gone up there. I posted last summer about a Cloisters family day. Here’s a picture of one of the many stunning views from the Cloisters’ balcony. I took it earlier in the day when the skies were still overcast. That’s the George Washington Bridge, and that land is New Joy-zee . . . ahem . . . I mean New Jersey 😉

This weekend the Cloisters is holding events and  fun activities for the children, and my niece Olivia enjoyed exploring the castle atmosphere and, most of all, the gardens. Here she is smelling a pretty pink carnation:

The Cloisters gardens are carefully designed and landscaped to replicate an authentic medieval garden, right down to every botanical selection. So you have plants that were prized for their medicinal uses, fragrance, cooking and  magical symbolism.

Check out that beautiful climbing yellow honeysuckle on the right:

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Gorgeous pink roses:

Sunny beds around the border, quince trees providing shade in the center:

Getting a lift to explore the fountain:

Everyone stopped to enjoy these still-young citrus trees. How can you resist them? They are charming and colorful and so cute!

Herbs are abundant in the Cloisters gardens. For centuries, those plants have been valued  for their therapeutic, healing properties. This is Valerian:

Comfrey:

Chives:

Stroll, kneel, and sniff. That’s how you explore an aromatic garden with delicate plants. There’s that honeysuckle again:

I just had to take a picture of these branches of the quince tree:

Something called a Hart’s Tongue Fern. I don’t know anything about it, but I want one for my garden! Great for shady spots, and nice shiny green leaves:

Peering in from behind the ivy:

A nice spot for quiet reflection:

Enjoy the rest of the weekend my dear friends! Love, peace, and happiness to you all. See you soon 🙂

The Fruits of Summer

The other day I ate the first ripe tomato from my garden. I picked it off the plant, took it into my kitchen, and within five minutes it was gobbled up with a piece of whole wheat toast. Delicious!! When you eat a homegrown tomato like that, you realize just how tasteless and crappy the tomatoes are from the grocery store or, heaven forbid, the supermarket. Horrors! I don’t know what those supermarket tomatoes are supposed to be, but they are a sin against nature.

My vegetable plantings don’t exist in the form of well-tended rows over acres of land. (Acres? What are those?) Like most people who live in urban areas, my vegetables hold their own in limited square-footage and free standing buckets. But the plants don’t mind. Give them good soil, sun, water, organic fertilizer, and they will dutifully grow and yield luscious fruit.

In celebration of my sweet and juicy first tomato, I couldn’t resist posting a work from the 16th century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Born in Milan in 1527 to a wealthy family, Arcimboldo’s career started out on the usual route of the times; securing jobs in the royal courts of Vienna and Prague doing the traditional work of painting portraits, designing costumes, palace decorations, stained glass, and tapestries. But Arcimboldo’s personal imagination didn’t begin to soar until he created strange and unique paintings of human heads in the form of fruits, vegetables, and plants.

A reflection of the season’s abundance, here is Arcimboldo’s Summer. I love this painting! Totally weird, but totally awesome:

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It comes as no surprise that Arcimboldo’s bizarre heads were admired centuries later by the Surrealists, such as Salvador Dali, who saw in his work the earliest expressions of the grotesque beauty and peculiar visions they would explore further.

ArtinthePicture has a more complete gallery of Arcimboldo’s heads. Check it out!