Oh October, where did you go?

While October remains in a ragged little dash of days that promise to be covered in pumpkin sales and snow (! – Three Inches Worth – OMG), this week has been all November with its cold and drying winds, a low sky, and the slow beginning of the retail madness that precedes Christmas.

While I have been busy with my job, gardening, biking and the like, I have also been entertaining new topics to write of and having various experiences that will lend themselves to good posts. In the coming weeks there will be stories of apples, hot peppers, raccoons, crowned sparrows, fermentation adventures, crafternoons, squashes and the saffron that sings from some autumn crocuses.

For now I am completely tuckered out and need to rest up for a day of Halloween madness and facepaint. It will be great. I hope that you all have a safe holiday and enjoy getting all gussied up. See you soon! (Like, within a couple of days!)


Amazingly cute photo courtesy of the Telegraph.

Lawless foraging and garbage pail skunks

A northern dusky salamander, found in Manhattan. © Damon Winter/The New York Times

A medley of recent news offerings on urban ecology:

A story from Chicago’s WBBM fleshes out the city’s spike in skunk population. The author writes that the combination of habitat destruction and recent flooding (which forces them out of their burrows) have led to more and more skunks seeking the urban cornucopia and shelter found in alleyway trash cans.

Two July articles from the New York Times describe other curiosities and realities of city life. The first is about prohibiting foraging in the city’s parks. Maria Hernandez, the director of horticulture for the Central Park Conservancy, says that “If people decide that they want to make their salads out of our plants, then we’re not going to have any chipmunks.” On the contrary, when speaking of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspinatum), Leda Meredith, the author of “The Locavore’s Handbook,” suggests that “You’re almost doing the ecosystem in the park a favor by harvesting” it, as plants such as knotweed are invasive (in this case noxious), and choke out the rest of the landscape.

The second New York Times article is about two scientists studying urban evolution in NYC. Excerpt:

White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis. In short, the process of evolution is responding to New York and other cities the way it has responded to countless environmental changes over the past few billion years. Life adapts.

Japanese Knotweed

To the ephemeral joys of basil

While much of last week’s weather was muggy to the point of balminess, the forecast has been speckled with days described by the meteorologist as “good for apple-picking.” While that certainly sounds deliciously gorgeous, it also serves as a reminder that the coming crisp nights and rosy-from-the-wind cheeks won’t do your supply of fresh basil much good. This is the time of year when both big- and small-time growers and gardeners start listening to the radio or checking weather websites more and more often, planning and pondering over when the first frost will come.

Few things are as glum as frost-bitten basil in the field. Why, you may ask? Continue reading

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