Under the Vines and Above Our Heads

The poet Mary Oliver once wrote of “the patience of vegetables and saints.”  Yesterday, above the endless activity that is New York, I caught a peek at this patience.  It’s there, in a squash blossom, under the vines and care of Ben Flanner.  This little flower is one of the many saintly jewels growing at the Brooklyn Grange, an 18,000 square foot rooftop farm located in Queens.  (Our guess is right: the name came before the location.)

It is pure inspiration to walk a rooftop farm.  As we look to use our urban space better, as well as shorten the travel distance for our food, I hope the these farms become commonplace.  I also hope that we’ll always keep the feeling of awe that they spark.  The contrast of green leaves fluttering against a backdrop of skyscrapers is striking and lovely all at once.

You may remember Ben from a story last summer about his initial rooftop farm project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  I got curious to see his latest effort — a farm three times the size as last year! — so I stopped by the market at Brooklyn Grange.  It’s open every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the building, among other times and places.

The market trip reminded me of another quote, often said by a friend of mine:  “May you live in interesting times.”  Indeed.  How wonderful that a trip to pick up tomatoes and Swiss chard included these images:

From the Street: First Sign of Grange

A New Way to See the Citicorp Building

The Contrast of City Street and Leafy Green

American Ingenuity

The Subway as Backdrop

Peppers and Visitors

To the Market!

Market Choices in the Lobby on Northern Boulevard

Why, Hello There, New York City

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All the scarecrows I know are good at singing and dancing — and eventually — math equations.  And like a good English noun, their name explains their function.  They scare crows.  Songs, math, and directions back to Kansas are frills.

But Brooklyn always has a different take on the usual.  Recently, from the windows of a friend’s house in Williamsburg, I enjoyed seeing what we’ve come to call The Urban Scarecrow.  Or shall we say, The Scarepige?

These are two beautiful urban backyards where the owners have been planting for decades.  The plastic bags are used to scare away pigeons.  I’m told the birds go after the tomato plants, but as you’ll see in the photo below, the spooky bags have them dining elsewhere.

Happy Monday in another lovely week of summer!

Pigeons Be Gone! (Note: Deer in photo is not real)

This is Harlem

This is Harlem

The crown jewel watches over the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and 155th Street.  She’s surrounded by other lovelies–fine tomato vines and lush collards–but they don’t invite the same attention.  Nobody has anything on this peach tree.

She’s in the William A. Harris Garden, founded from an abandoned lot in 1977 by Mr. Harris, a retired sanitation worker.  According to Danny, a garden volunteer and Mr. Harris’ neighbor, for years he went through their lobby carrying fruits and vegetables.

Danny would ask, “Where did you get those?”

“Down the street in my garden,” Mr. Harris always replied.

“I thought he was crazy, so one day I had to check it out for myself.  And, sure enough, he had this whole thing growing,” Danny explains, gesturing over the lot.

Mr. Harris has bad knees these days, so his daughters take care of the garden.  Lori Harris is directing a big event this Labor Day weekend:  The Annual Peach Cobbler Cook-Off.  The neighborhood is going to find out who’s worthy of their peach tree.

The contest has three simple rules:

1) You have to pick your peaches from the tree tonight.

2) Everyone has to cook his cobbler in the same size pan.

3) You have to get your cobbler to her on time tomorrow to be judged.  Or else you’re out.

What do you win?  “Nothing but the bragging rights,” says Lori.

By the looks of this tree and the taste of one of the peaches, that’s plenty to go on.

Ripe for the Picking

"We'll put our peaches up against Georgia any day," says Lori Harris

A Native of Bracey, Virginia, Mr. Harris Transformed This Old Lot

A native of Bracey, Virginia, Mr. Harris transformed an abandoned lot