The Birds, the Bees…and the Bats: Rooftop Meadow Restores NYC Nature
Rooftop Meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn brings native species back to the city, but not where you might think…
Continuing the quest to find out what “sustainable living” looks like in a big city, I found myself this past Friday at Kingsland Wildflowers, a rooftop meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right next-door to New York City’s wastewater treatment plant. See this surprisingly beautiful facility below:
I was very happy to learn about this project through this giant list of things to do in Brooklyn, which a friend shared with me on Facebook.
Friday was the first “Field Day” of the 2018 Season, an opportunity for community members to explore the roof and learn about the project.
I was particularly fascinated by the history of this site, which I learned from a knowledgeable bird-loving photographer who works for the NYC Audobon Society (go figure) and was at this event to dispense information and take pictures.
According to this man, the Dutch were the first people to settle this area in the 1850s and described it back then as a marshy, shrubby landscape much like the photo above. Today, that marshy environment no longer exists, having been replaced by concrete and buildings over the course of the last 150+ years. Now it looks like this:
I was pleased to learn there is still a prominent waterway that runs through Brookyln and Queens called Newton Creek, which unfortunately was majorly polluted by an oil spill during the 1950s. Due to the buildings and the spill, the creek habitat has suffered and the native species that once inhabited the ecosystem have diminished.
Before it was polluted by the spill, the creek had been an important habitat for native plants and insects and was a stopping point for migratory birds and bats. After the oil spill however…not so much. Guess who was responsible for the spill by the way…. remember the Exon company? Exon Valdez ring any bells? Same company. But we didn’t hear too much about the Newton Creek Spill, did we? Curious.
Today, the Creek is a superfund site, which means the US Government recognized the extreme environmental damage that had occured due to the spill and set up a fund to fix it. That is how the Kingsland Wildflower project is receiving its funding. Exon was sued for damages, and the proceeds of the lawsuit are being used to restore the nature that was damaged by the oil spill. Since space is limited, and people are smart, this project was developed to provide a home for native plants, insects, and animals that once thrived in the Newton Creek environment.
Kingsland Wildflowers is a wonderful project that exists soley to give back to the Earth. The project began a few years ago and is already proving successful. Data is being collected to show the increase of native species both at the creek and on the rooftop. Today, this is one rooftop with about 1/2 acre of space where plants and grasses have been planted. The concept is that the rooftop is replicating what would have existed on the ground if the building were not there. Imagine the good that could be done for the planet if more rooftops were like this in the city. The benefits would be great, species would have a home, maybe bees would start coming back, plus, what a pleasant escape for people it would be, and is. My short visit to Kingsland Wildflowers reminded me of the nature I have been missing while living in a primarily human and concrete environment. I was reminded that there are birds other than pidgeons passing through in their seasonal migration, that there are insects other than bed bugs and flies, and that this whole city used to look so different, that its waterways had so much influence on the ecosystem, that it is an ecosystem today!
Anyway, I could go on and on but I wont. For now I just wanted to share a great project and hope for the future with everyone.
Lots of Love,
Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries
Travelling Junebug Updates: Boredom, Farewell Goat Farm, Hello New York
Well, my Tennessee adventure has come to a close with mixed feelings of relief and a tinge of remorse; yes, remorse.
How can I sanely leave behind that beautiful setting and that peace: tucked away in a mountain hollow–the creek, the goats, the chorus of crickets and starry nights, the wide open spaces–how can I leave all that and replace it with a top bunk in a shared room in Queens with a backyard I cant even go into and no way to grow my own food…a very stark contrast of environment and lifestyle, to say the least. I also feel this way about leaving Santa Cruz, my beautiful hometown by the sea.
But alas, this is what I have chosen to do. All so I can pursue tap dancing. Lets hope this works.
A few days ago I left the goat farm and hopped on a Megabus from Knoxville to NYC. It took about 15 hours, cost me $14 for one ticket…whaaat?! I paid $20ish for a second ticket for my extra bags. And guess what, they DIDN’T lose my bags like Greyhound did! All in all it was a good experience and I give Megabus 2 thumbs way up.
A little about my last bit of time at the farm.
I got very bored for a few days. Bored and restless. Familiar feelings and thoughts circled in my head–thinking forward to life in New York, thinking back to times when I had more fun, more contact with people, more cute guys to flirt with (TSGB)…wanting to leave and not appreciating just BEING, being at the goat farm. I noticed myself getting real irritable and not wanting to talk much with my farm host. I was blaming her for my boredom. UNTIL, I started to realize my feelings couldn’t be her fault, because I had felt that same way before on many of my adventures. So, I did what I normally do with phsychological problems these days…I consulted my moderately qualified counsellor…the internet. And found a video of a sweaty guru talking about boredom that at first I was hesitant to watch but am now glad I did.
My takeaway from that video is that Osho is a very interesting man and, more importantly, that boredom is a beautiful thing. It is a feeling, that when you have it, you can say: “Welcome boredom, you are my friend and I am happy you came to visit me.”
Once you realize you are bored, that the thoughts swimming around in your head are just thoughts and that you can dismiss them, or let them pass, THEN you can realize where you are, realize that you are YOU, just sitting in your kingdom (your body) and just be…be like that. Enjoy just sitting in your palace–your body, baby–just like a king, or Daenerys Targaryen, enjoys sitting in his/her throne. Something like that.
For some reason that idea really helped me get past fretting about my boredom. Something about me that I have been learning over the years is that boredom is among my least favorite feelings, it is uncomfortable! When I feel bored I feel anxious and want to DO something to change it. That is perhaps why I live the life that I do. Because I don’t like to be bored, I move around a lot, seeking out adventure and new experiences. But even on my adventures, I get bored. Sometimes terribly bored. Now however, I am happy that I can welcome the boredom and start to just chill when I feel it. Exciting times ahead.
Also in my boredom internet therapy session, I did some research on the speaker/philosopher Osho and his desire to spread his “cool love” throughout humanity.
I want to spread Oshos cool love too, and I’ll start by sharing his talk on “The Coolness of Love.”
A few more farm updates:
I finished the garden, planting a variety of winter vegetables that I hope will grow.
Here’s a series of photos showing the garden’s makeover:
And Finally…as done as I could be with it…seeds planted and starting to sprout.
I also finished knitting socks and a baby hat and said bye bye to all my new animal friends.
Thats about it to wrap up my farm experience. I will add a post soon about cashmere production.
Thank you for reading and all the best!
Weekend Update – Yarn Store
Just another weekend update from Mountain Hollow Farm over in Tazewell, Tennessee.
This week I spent hours and hours shovelling shit. It was good.
And I finished burning that wood pile…see before and after…(Notice the giant pile of sticks and logs behind the burning pile of wood),
…and now its pretty close to all gone. See?
I also spent many hours shelling beans, picked from the LMU Garden Club in Harrogate, the next town over.
…and made soup beans, nutritious and delicious (click here for recipe)
A note about beans, which I learned from a sort-of strange homesteader girl with a wonky eye: most commercially grown beans (think-canned beans) are artificially ripened by spraying Roundup (or something like that) on the crop, which ultimately kills the plants, but has the benefit of encouraging the plant to make a last-ditch effort at spreading its seed, i.e. ripening the beans. So, the chemicals make the crop ripen all at once, which makes it easier to harvest, since everything ripens at the same time (cost-effective). But, mo’ money, mo’ problems, I say, since the soils and groundwater become contaminated and ain’t no fixin’ that down the line without a pretty penny for clean-up.
Beans grown without chemical additives ripen more slowly, making it more complicated and time-intensive to harvest (more expensive), but I say the trade-offs for human and environmental health much outweigh the extra cost of organically grown beans. Buy organic.
Phew, getting off my soap box meow…
What else, well, the horse started engaging with me more than just eating the hay I bring to her on a daily basis. Its happened two times, where I fake run and then she actually runs and kicks her back legs up…and farts a little bit as she runs off. Its hilarious and I try not to be embarrassed for her since farting is natural.
Also, here is a cute picture of Fiona, an exceptionally friendly 6 month old Cashmere goat, eating watermelon.
That’s all for now folks, sorry I forgot to write about the Yarn Store. More on that later. That, and Poke Berry natural dye.
Thanks for reading!
Happy Sunday, again. Made it through another week, again, with a full moon, woo!
Updates from Mountain Hollow Farm:
The male goats are in “Rut” which to me means smell really bad and are feelin’ frisky. Apparently they do all sorts of gross stuff to make themselves “attractive” to the female goats, who are grazing in a separate pasture for the time being. One thing they do is pee on themselves. If thats not gross enough, they also pee in their own mouths and on their faces…goats are weird, man.
That goat right there is my homie, he’s from California. He’s a cashmere goat. Pretty creepy looking but has valuable fur, so he’s alright. Yup.
Hm, what else? Well, I’ve been learning to knit, which is a perk of working on farm that raises Fiber Goats. The first week I got here, the farm sent out a batch of unprocessed Cashmere to be spun into yarn by an outside company. It looked like this when we sent it out:
These are the goats which the fiber above came from:
The lighter cashmere came from the white goats, and the darker cashmere came from the dark brown goats, which I thought was interesting since the goats are so much darker, but the cashmere comes from their undercoat, which is apparently lighter.
So, my first project was to make felted coasters, which was pretty easy to master but I haven’t finished felting them yet, so I don’t have a picture to show you. My second project was a baby hat, which I made for my dear sailor friend Princess, since she’s having a baby in January. Here’s a picture of that project, which I have since completed an am now moving on to socks, my highest knitting goal while I’m here.
As far as work goes, I have been working on the garden, see below. First I weeded it, which was easy since the weeds weren’t very root-bound, thank stars.
Today I worked on it some more, with the help of the farmers husband, who just got back from a delivery in Texas. (He’s a truck driver and is gone most of the time, much to the displeasure of my hostess).
This is what the garden looks like now, we’re working on the beds.
Other than the garden, I have been working on burning a woodpile, which doesn’t sound very interesting but does require a lot of work, and am almost done with that.
Gotta go, taking advantage of the fire by having a few local homesteaders over and roasting hot-dogs and marshmellers.
Lots of love to everyone still reading this.
Ps. a good substitute for swearing: say “curses”…so good.
History Lesson – Cumberland Gap
Don’t worry, I’ve already turned myself in to the fashion police for wearing those socks with those sandals. In other news, today I went through 3 states: Tennessee, the Volunteer state, Kentucky, and Virginia, which apparently is for lovers, all in about 15 minutes.
The mission was to visit Martin’s Station, an old frontier fort, which was surprisingly fascinating because there were men in funny costumes talking about frontier trades, such as gun making and blacksmithing. I ate it up, especially because the blacksmith was really cute and made me a nail which I will cherish forever. I swoon.
Then, to top it all off, a trio of cherubic fiddlers played some 18th Century Irish and American tunes and shared a little info about music on the frontier, which I also ate right up. Too bad I already missed the annual Indian raid reenactment, sounds like quite a show and I wonder how they’ll deal with the scalpings.
And here’s a not so good photo of the general area I’m staying in. Those are Appalachian Mountains and I was at Pinnacles National Park, which is part of Cumberland Gap, a famous military passage way during the Civil War.
Then, to top everything off, I went into Walmart for the first time in my life and survived.
More to come.
LOL (lots of love, according to my grandma Helene),
Ps. Hi family! Hi Grandma Pat! Grampa, sorry to hear you cut off all the fingers on your left hand today with a table saw. Love you anyway.
Sunday Funday, WWOOF Update
Happy Sunday. We’ve all survived another week. Woo hoo.
Today at Mountain Hollow Farm it was a cheese and goulash making sort of day.
It was a free day, and my farm host Beth and I had been talking about making cheese all week, so we started off by making cheese, Paneer cheese, a soft, simple-to-make kind of cheese.
Here’s the recipe we used
- 1 gallon milk (we used goat milk, of course, fresh, unpasturized, unhomogonized)
- 2 tsp citric acid (or 8tblsp lemon juice) dissolved in 3/4 cups water
- cheese salt to taste
- dried herbs de Provence to taste (1.5 teaspoons)
yeilds – A giant ball of delicious softish/stickyish/melt in your mouth mushyish farmers cheese. Will keep about 10 days in fridge if it lasts that long
- Heat 1 gallon milk in big pot until it comes to a rolling boil, stirring to prevent burning
- Note: a rolling boil means you cant stir away the boiling bubbles
- Note: make sure the pot you’re using is the kind of metal that wont react adversely with the citric acid (cant remember which kind of metal that is, aluminum?)
- Once rolling boil is established, turn down heat to LOW and add the citric acid mixture before all the foam dissappears, stir for 15 seconds and then REMOVE from heat
- Don’t get freaked out by the color change, that is the cheese separating from the whey, which you can feed to your dogs or use in cooking to make biscuits
- Gently stir the couldron, so the cheese curds bunch together
- wait 10 minutes
- ladel out the curds into a cheese cloth, do this over a colander so the whey can continue to drain. catch the whey if you want to use it for something else. apparently its nutritious. If you cant scoop all the curds out, pour the rest over the cheese cloth,
- Note: try not to pour the hot liquid over the cheese you already scooped out because you dont want to have it melt through the cloth…leaving you with less cheese to eat
- wring out the cheese
- add salt and herbs to taste
- let hang for an hour or so, or press to make hard cheese, or just eat it like that. Voilá, delicious!
**I miss you Snickers!**
Goulash was also quite tasty, here’s that recipe:
…meh, I don’t feel like writing it, but follow this link for the delicious recipe. We used more carrots and some turnips and next time I would add some red wine to the broth. We had no caraway seeds but used marjoram and it was fine. YUM.
Ok, if you’re still reading, thank you, here are some other farm updates:
Things I’ve learned/observed:
- Llamas have very small testicles compared to goats
- A horses eyelid can get cut and make it look like the horses eye has fallen out of its socket. Then it can be stitched up, and look like new in just a few short weeks
- Horses and goats eat a lot of hay and drink a lot of water
- Giant dogs who chase cars can get hit by those cars, hurt their paw, and still chase more cars
- Giant dogs are difficult to wash and it is difficult to communicate their largeness in photo
- Ladies who knit make for lovely company
More to come.
All good things,
WWOOF – Mountain Hollow Farm
Today I’ve got some farm updates for you.
No, I’m not a dog, I’m a WWOOFer.
For those of you who don’t know, theres this thing called WWOOF, which stands for “willing workers on organic farms.” It is a world-wide network of farms that accept volunteers in exchange for room and board. It is a great way to live and travel affordably, meet people, experience culture, and learn things, many things!
I started WWOOFing after graduating college because I didn’t know what else to do, first in Hawaii, then Israel, Germany, and now Tennessee. Along the way I have met many interesting people and places, learned a lot about farming and handiwork, and experienced crazy things, like being chased by a camel and accidentally going to Palestine. WWOOF has been a very enriching aspect of my life and I encourage anyone who doesn’t mind working while they’re on vacation to give it a try.
Anywho, this time around I wanted to work on a farm with horses, because I wanted to get to know horses. After searching the WWOOF-USA database, which costs about $20 for a one year membership, I found Mountain Hollow Farm, which not only has horses but also cashmere goats. Since I am the spawn of my mother, who LOVES cashmere clothing, I have developed an affinity for cashmere and thought it would be interesting to visit this farm to satisfy multiple interests: horses, cashemere, and music.
So, here I am, WWOOFing in Tazewell, Tennessee, learning about goats, horses, chickens, guinea hens, giant dogs, a llama, yarn, and knitting. I am about an hour from Knoxville, which hopefully will provide some music connection…I did see there is a Johnny Cash museum in Knoxville and Dolly Parton land isn’t too far away either.
Well, that’s all for now. More about farm life to come.
Cheers and thank you for reading.
Feel free to make comments, suggestions, or ask questions below.
Tennessee Bound – Greyhound Luggage Experience
Made it to Tennessee! And my bag was found!
Greyhound has slightly redeemed itself.
I promised myself that if I got my bag back, I would write a glowing review about greyhound, because there are hardly any success stories online about greyhound returning lost bags, and I wanted the world to know it is possible to get your bag back if it gets lost. So here is a little glimmer of hope for you who is reading this and has lost your luggage. For everyone else, sorry if this is not interesting.
First of all, lets talk in symbols and metaphors. It cant be THAT bad to loose all your “baggage.” If you’ve lost your baggage, that means you don’t have anymore baggage–which is great…if baggage is a symbol for personal problems. Ya feel me?
But it really does suck to lose your luggage.
Having experienced loosing a bag on greyhound, I do have a little advice about checking luggage:
#1 If its greyhound, do everything you can to avoid having to check your bag. If you keep your bag with you, it wont get lost. Period.
Don’t trust or expect the baggage people to do their job (sorry, baggage people). They’re only human, and they make mistakes. Its like when I was a dog-sitter and I lost the dog. It was “my ONE job,” the 20-something son-of-the-people-who-hired me had rebuked. But that really was the risk no one ever thought about when they hired me to dog-sit; I could either do a good job or a bad job, and that time I did a bad job. Woops.
Sometimes people fail. Don’t forget that.
note: the dog ended up coming back, just like my luggage.
#2 This sounds like a no brainer, but its important: If you do check a bag, make sure you have a tag with your contact information on it.
Make it durable, if possible, because those tags can get ripped off or damaged during transit. ALSO, write your contact information on a piece of paper and stick that inside your bag. This is a 2nd line of defense in case the outside tag gets ripped off.
#3 Make sure you get a luggage tag with your final destination written on it and KEEP THE RECEIPT so you can trace you bag if it gets lost.
When I boarded the bus in Santa Cruz, the computer was down so I did not get a tag for my luggage; I didn’t know that was important. For whatever reason, the bus driver did not give me a tag for my bag when he put it under the bus either, something he should have done since there was no way of knowing where that bag was headed if I didn’t claim it. Major human error.
Luckily, when I got to LA to change busses and had to ask where my bag was–it hadn’t been taken off the bus, probably because it didn’t have a tag–and was found still on the bus, the bag handler took it out and filled out a bag tag with my final destination written on it, giving me the receipt half. He didn’t give me the option of holding onto my bag and said when you have a multi-stop trip, the policy is that greyhound will do all the forwarding for you. I didn’t question it, but if I had to go back in time, I would definitely insist on hanging onto my bag.
After a 3 hour delay because the driver was late, I had the idea to go check on my bag, to make sure it was still there. Well, it wasn’t. Shit. I didn’t know if it had been stolen or put on the wrong bus, and no one could tell me anything because you cant trace the bag until it has reached its destination. So I had no choice but to wait until I arrived in Little Rock to report my bag lost–2 days later. I was distraught, but there was nothing anyone could do, so I just tried to stay calm and hope for the best.
I think what may have happened is that during my layover my bag was put on another bus, going who knows where.
To make a long story short, after arriving in Little Rock and finding, not to my surprise but definitely to my dissapointment, that my bag was not there, I called greyhound and reported my bag as lost. They took my information and bag description and gave me a tracer number, explaining that they’d put out a nationwide search to all the stations and would call me when they found it. I spent the next few days calling the Little Rock station to see if my bag had arrived and LA to see if it had been left at that staion by accident. It hadn’t. Days went by and I heard nothing. I tried to push it to the back of my mind and forget about it and asked my grandparents do what they do best and pray on it for me. People were nice and gave me spare clothes, including a very special long pink leopard print skirt, and I started to imagine a future without all that stuff that was in my bag. I would be ok, but I still hoped I’d get my bag back.
Then, on my last day in Missouri, before getting back on the bus for Tennessee, I called the Little Rock station to ask if my bag had turned up and lo and behold, it had. Why hadn’t they called me??????? That irked me, but I was happy to know my bag had been found. They said they’d put it on the next bus to Knoxville, where I was headed.
In the end, my bag eneded up on the very same bus I was on when I arrived in Knoxville. I have no idea how that happened, but I’m happy it did, since if arrived any later it would have been difficult for me to get back to that station to pick it up.
In conclusion, greyhound might lose your bag. Don’t trust them. But if your bag has been lost, do everything you can to report it and track it down. It might turn up.
If you do check your bag, consider paying for insurance through greyhound if you have anything valuable in your bag. They only reimburse you up to $250 for a lost bag. Lame.
That’s all for now. More on Tennessee to come.
All the best,