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4 posts from August 2011


From Tepuis to Petit Cool-Out

Stained glass Arriving in the Caracas airport was frenetic, but as the day waned so did the frenzy.  We spent the night in the airport near this huge stained glass window to catch a small plane out to the mountains of Merida in the morning (it appeared the airport door was basically propped with a brick for the cleaning crew).

Venezuela has a diverse interior, with urban and rural areas a Michigander would find familiar, but also with shantytowns stacked upon themselves, dense Amazonian rain forest, and a number of other unique eco-systems found nowhere else on earth (including a cave where live some freaky nocturnal birds--not bats--but that's another story.)  References to the traditional inhabitants of the area--like the Yanomami pictured below--appear in contemporary street art.


The stencil shows a young boy with distinctive Yanomami features and piercings.

From the more densely populated north, one can take an extensive bus system to the more densely forested south.  You know you're in the hinterland when there are no more bridges and the bus (along with any other traffic) crams onto a barge to be shuttled across the major tributaries feeding the Orinco and other rivers.  From here and points south, it is not impossible to find a boat to take you into Colombia.  The border is patrolled by Colombian soldiers who mix with local residents and traders along with the occasional traveler or tourist (below).  The following picture shows a full view of the common type of log boat you can see in the corner.


These boats are used to house and haul families and all sorts of commerce up and down the eastern Colombian river systems.  Once you get a little deeper into the jungle, the generally flat, thick forest is punctuated occasionally by a tepui, a huge rock that looks fairly...anomalous.


Those streaks are the remains of rivulets that appeared suddenly during the usual mid-day rain storm.  On some of the tepuis, significant brush survives on the rock thanks to these regular deluges.


Swing north through the Caribbean basin and you're likely to intersect the Lesser Antilles, the small windward isles that include Bequia, a fascinating island with a rich sea-faring, fishing and whaling history.  I found this creative pottery at a ceramics studio on the island worth a look; it playfully nods to the persistent themes of the place.


Further northward is the island of Dominica, where Noel and I helped Jerry build this 'petit cool-out' which served as our digs for our extended stay.

SA400469 .

The view from the petit cool-out, just a few steps from the river.  In the background is Jerry's house.



Harvest Dinner hits Hunter Park, and Big Zoo Party gets even bigger

Thursday, August 18th: Potluck dinner at Hunter Park, 6-8 pm

Bring a dish to pass and meet some new friends.  The event is hosted by The Garden Project of the Greater Lansing Food Bank in collaboration with other local non-profits.  Parking is available via Clifford St., just south of Kalamazoo St. in Lansing.


The Big Zoo Party at the Potter Park Zoo (September 10) takes on extra significance this year as the Zoo has announced it will be the model for a new national public school curriculum integration.  Shorts Brewing Co. and Founders Brewing Co. will both be featured at this 21+ event.  Lots of good food too, some of it local.

You can get tickets or more info here.  A recent Groupon discount coupon on ticket quickly sold out 250 units.


Health Super Stars: Color Coding your Diet

A quick guide to some basic nutrition characteristics of common foods--you'll know the anthocyanins when you see them (hint: they're blue.)


Good for: digestive system, memory function...

Health Superstar: Blueberries

Good for: bones, teeth...
Health Superstar:  Avocado (more local: green apple)

Good for:  heart, vision, immune system...
Health Superstar: Sweet potato

Good for:  circulatory system, liver
Health Superstars: Beets and Cranberries

Noel and I purchased the selection above in Venezuela a few years ago.  Can you name everything?


The stars are aligned and the weather is fine: plant peas.

The purple peas I planted in spring dried out and died off a few weeks ago--these seeds (dried peas) from those scraggly vines are now planted under a snug inch of compost where the onions just came out of the garden.

As July turned into August, there were a few more hot sunny days which were perfect for curing these onions.  When the recent sprinkles kicked in I brought them under cover, and the waxing crescent moon combined with cooler, wetter weather made pea planting a no-brainer.  The rotation of legumes following alliums is a nice genus succession, but these fall crops can go wherever you've got the space.  The row that is now empty where the garlic stood will soon welcome some fall lettuce.  Hard to believe it's that time already!  With the extremes of wet and dry we've been having, watch out for splitting tomatoes; don't stop harvesting!  It seems beets are among the more photogenic of garden veggies, not to mention they grow nearly year-round in almost any soil...


Gabriel Biber

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