Welcome visitors to the garden were 'spotted' on these lemongrass transplants brought inside for the winter.
All photos (c) 2012 Gabriel Biber
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.
These refrigerator pickles are an easy weekend or evening project. Start by filling clean jars with uniformly sized (or sliced) cucumbers, then toss in a few dill tops and garlic cloves. You can also add peppercorns, chile peppers or other spices according to your taste.
Next, just mix up a bowl or pitcher with the following ingredients (makes enough to cover 4 quarts or 1 gallon of pickling cukes):
Stir until salt is dissolved. Pour into jars to cover cucumbers.
Here comes the fun part: set the jars outside in the sun for a few days.
Yep. This is my first go at it, but B-Rad swears by the method and has had success over the years.
According to the maestro, check the developing flavor of the pickles as they relax in the sun, and when they taste how you want just stash the jars in your fridge. Estimated keeping time? About a month.
I'll keep you posted on how these sun pickles come along. You can 'pickle' just about anything, not just cucumbers. Let me know if you've got a favorite pickling procedure.
My neighbor has a well-deserved reputation for quality construction projects. So when he said he and his son were "throwing together" a chicken coop a few months ago, I already knew that his thrown together shelter would end up looking better than any I might build, no matter how carefully. I was right.
The south-facing window on most chicken coops which lets in that precious winter sun also turns the coop into a greenhouse if you're not careful. Make sure to vent as necessary, but there's no substitute for a patch of ground for the birds to roam. Pecking out grain and bugs from the ground give the animals a workout while keeping their food supply diverse. Chickens will eat most anything from the compost bucket (or most anything, period). A healthy diet will result in healthier chickens, which means better eggs and/or meat according to your tastes.
Another friendly household with chickens I know used some nice found branches for accents like door handles for their coop. With local laws lenient on fowl, many city-dwellers in Lansing are finding that with a simple shelter and a little consistent care, keeping chickens is a productive delight.
Don't forget that a little shade goes a long way to make animals comfortable on a hot day. No need for AC in the coop.
This weekend the third annual Scrapfest in Old Town allowed nealry 20 teams to grab a pile of scrap from Friedland Industries and fashion it into any thing they fancied. One of the most popular pieces was the guitar-playing skeleton, but each work of art was a show-stopper. Some highlights:
The tree (above) featured exquisite detail (below).
The table above is completely functional, complete with shelf storage and accessories.
The attention to detail on the pieces prompted many comments. Some were interactive, allowing the observer to play music or otherwise use the piece. The skeleton (above) and bird (below) received some of the highest bids (all pieces are auctioned off via silent auction during Scrapfest).
I first met Kelly working together on a community gardening project, but soon found out she was coach to some friends raised around here. Just a few weeks ago I was starting to get used to seeing Kelly at her regular volunteer session at The Garden Project Resource Center. Then comes the sudden news: Kelly's moving to Haiti to help construct prototype housing! But wait, it gets better...she's blogging about it! Check it out!!!
Her posts are already sparkling, you can read her blog here. As she notes in her background info, "I am ready for a new adventure. I still haven't figured out if I am running from or running to something. Maybe a little of both. I have been offered a job to help build prototype housing in the wake of the quake in Haiti. I am going to be part of a small work crew problem solving, sweating and building two homes...." Oh, and she has multiple degrees and has raised three kids. Go on, girl!
Kelly says other than the blog, she will be "incommunicado;" here's wishing all the best for her.
Kelly's deft but welcoming humor is obvious to anyone who's met her, her skill working with others is enhanced by this natural friendliness. Despite the incredible challenges faced by the people and land of Haiti that have been exponentially exacerbated since the earthquake, we trust Kelly will find a niche
Lettuce is lovin' the rain, and I'm lovin' the lettuce.
A bin full of lettuce, picked about an hour go. Triple rinsed and ready to eat, sell, share...
My garden is mostly lettuce right now, but with all the recent rain and touches of sun, it's been a perfect year for lettuce, so I'm not complaining. Whether snipping outer leaves or cutting a whole plant a few inches above the ground, there are several techniques to harvest your lettuce that encourage more growth and production. Couple that with several sequential, 'staggered' plantings between April and September and you can have fresh (free) salad greens six months out of the year. Just let a few plants flower and go to seed at the end of each planting and either save the seed or let it self-sow.
If plants are flowering before you get a chance to harvest much, try pinching off the flowering stem as low as possible. If your greens are bolting, they're probably either too hot or stressed in some other way. Try placing an object or planting something to give them a few hours of shade each day--6 hours of sun is sufficient for most lettuce. Mulching the soil to help keep it cool is a good idea too, and it will protect your leaves from dirt splashes.
By the way, this romaine from my garden is naturally grown, no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
I think being planted among several other families of plants helped provide a diverse habitat that precluded any particular pest from bothering the greens too much. Oh, and I got lucky.
Suellen Hozman's hot new art show Flesh Tones will open this Sunday, June 5th at Absolute Gallery in Old Town, coinciding with the First Sunday Gallery Walk from noon-5p.m.
Flesh Tones is a photographic and narrative celebration of flesh colors and flesh decorations. According to a description of the show Hozman provided, "The art and educational show Flesh Tones will not differentiate between someone with freckles and someone with alopecia or someone with tattoos and someone with Ichthyosis. Everyone will be next to everyone else. A variety of flesh colors are in the show. Flesh decorations include freckles, tattoos, eczema, birth marks, Neurofibromatosis, Ichthyosis, decorations of time of old age, Nevi and Giant Nevi, Lichen planopilaris, Alopecia, moles, extreme facial hair, extreme body hair, burn and surgical scars, wrinkles, Vitiligo, acne and piercings."
Hozman is a Lansing-based artist with a sensitivity for direct human connection. Flesh Tones uses traditional black-and-white, non-digital photography to celebrate and educate about the diversity of flesh colors and flesh decorations. The artist uses silver gelatin prints and the individual stories of the twenty-nine people in the show to bare our superficial differences and ultimate commonality. (I say 'our' because, yes, I am included as a subject). Most of the people photographed are from the Greater Lansing area. Next to each photograph will be a personal story. Hozman notes that "knowledge has the potential to liberate," and a key goal of the show is to help us be free of fear or stigma associated with differences of the skin.
Another key goal is for a broader, ongoing dialogue to be catalyzed by taking the show 'on the road.' So, if you know of a venue that would like to host a dramatically beautiful art show with an agenda for social humanity, drop a line to Suellen Hozman, suellenyh at yahoo.com.
Local artist Suellen Hozman is
excited for her new show.