Archive for November, 2010

The Bee Defense Force

Cherry and Apple Tree

One of the mandates for MUD is to plant, as exclusively as possible, only heirloom vegetables and companion flowers. This avoidance of GMO and hybrid flowers is brought about by, as I like to call it, the Fast Food nature of these plants. Bees are attracted to the rich colors and spectacular variety of these plants but their nutritional value for them is nil, hence they are Fast Food for bees. In order for a bee to obtain enough nectar to satisfy it, it has to travel further and thus expend more energy. If every bee has to search, lets say, twice the amount of flowers for energy that is a huge loss to the colony. If hybrid and GMO plants were not as popular, this would not be a problem but they are pervasive and at some times during the gardening season, they are the only plants available in local nurseries. Thank goodness for the work that Seed Savers Exchange does in their collection, maintenance, distribution and sharing of seed varieties. Most notable is their collection and donation of seeds to seed vaults. If you become a member you can share in the exchange of rare and local seed varieties from their members catalogue.  They have been the primary source for the vegetables, herbs and flowers grown at MUD.

For pollination of fruits and vegetables at MUD, a neighborhood hive, luckily, is almost next-door. This fortuitous occurrence insured that the few blossoms that the grafted, 5-variety apple tree, still in the bucket it came in, bore fruit. This lovely little tree, lived in the shade, under the parking deck of the big box store that it was purchased from. The lack of light in the spring, it and its companion tree, the 3-variety grafted cherry tree had, made sure that the apple tree was lucky to sprout any blossoms and the cherry tree produced none at all. Hurray for bees, they found the blossoms, even in the chilly air of the spring. The bees would hang onto the gently swaying, black netting of the apartment windows in rays of sunlight to rewarm themselves, they also were very interested in the manure and top soil bags. At first it seemed that the bees were attracted to the bags because of the large colorful printed flowers on them, there were few if any flowers out at this time of spring and I thought they were being fooled by the bright orange and yellow coloration. Weeks later I realized they had been fooling me. They had been sneaking into the uncovered open bags and stealing soil. The bees also loved the plethora of Basil, the gardens best crop, when I didn’t have the time, which was often, to pinch back the nascent flower buds and they bloomed in profusion. In order to keep herbs at peak flavor and production it is best not to let them flower. All the plants energy goes to the flowers and then the seeds rather than the leaves. I had been hopeful that the chickens would consume the abundance of pinched tops but alas, they ignored them.

I hope I am not spoiling any surprise by mentioning this, but I think this idea is so brilliant and the following procedure should only be done if you are an expert. I met a beekeeper at MUD’s Opening Ceremony that, during the year 2000’s predicted millennial computer shut down and the envisioned world wide, crisis of chaos and destruction that it was predicted could result, placed his bee hive, oh so carefully, in the front entranceway of his home. I have not heard of a better way to ward off the unwanted. Who knew what the new millennium would hold, this is preparedness, albeit with a vast potential for losing honey.

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Holiday Big Box

Vegetable Garden Before Winter Reorganization

When starting this project I never thought that I would spend, every, major, holiday, at some point or other in a Lumber & Stuff Big Box store. This weekend it was time to go through the vegetable garden and remove the withered husks of once glorious foliage that brought forth fine vegetables. Sad really, I find it hard to harvest plants. They have worked so hard this year in low light levels, lack of rain and my over watering floods.  I did not realize that the large plant containers I bought, that said they had drainage holes, actually meant that you should drill holes in them. I am sorry sad potato crop and sodden tomatoes, winter squash and raspberry canes, some of you never had a chance.

This foliage composter extravaganza could really have happened at any time in the winter but for one very pressing situation: the chickens outgrew their chicken run months ago and now will not allow their injured flock member back into the run without assault with extreme prejudice. I had to reorganize the space to make room for a new building spree and as always I had to hurry, as I always have had to do this year. The chickens require twice the space they now occupy. It is time to build them a Doublewide Run.

As usual, in starting this new project there were things that I was missing in order to complete the task; thus another Big Box Holiday. I feel kind of like a hardcore building addict in times like these. I know pretty much every shelf of the two major hardware arks near me. I can direct people to the isles of their choice and how the overstock works. Due to this project’s emphasis on maintaining a low carbon footprint, getting on a bus in the pitch dark of night with a bag full of with newly purchased metal tinkly bits of fastening components, leather winter work gloves and four 2 by 3’s seems de rigueur. It’s not even the first time I have done this, this year. I even know the ceiling clearing allowance on my local bus and thank goodness because when it is not busy the bus drivers don’t seem to mind. I never thought this would be happening to me, at a warehouse on a holiday, when I should be snuggling up on the couch, eating salty-sweet snacks with a beverage and watching vacuous TV programming.

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Donut Culture

Malasada's Wild Proofing

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Donut Marathon

Lime ,Cinnamon & Orange Sour Cream Donuts & Chocolate Buttermilk Donuts

Lime, Cinnamon & Orange Sour Cream Donuts

Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Magazine

  • 3 Navel Oranges (Zest from two of them)
  • 2 Tablespoons Lime Zest (from approximately 2 Limes)
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • ¼  Cup (½ Stick) Butter Melted and Cooled
  • 3 ¼ cups Flour (All Purpose Unbleached)
  • 2 Tsp Double-Acting Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Baking Soda
  • ¾ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • -Peanut Oil / Lard or Vegetable Oil for Deep Frying
  • -Icing Sugar for generously powdering donuts after frying.


– Add zests in a large bowl with egg, sour cream and sugar.

– Cut the unzested orange into rough chunks and process in a food

processor until

fine pulp is made. This will be approximately 1cup.

– Add fine processed orange to bowl of zest mixture and add melted butter,

mix until combined.

– Sift flour into bowl along with baking powder, baking soda, salt and


– Stir mixture until just combined.

– With well floured hands, on a floured surface, knead dough lightly about

6 times until it is smooth. It will be soft like the consistency of cookie

dough and lightly sticky.

– Pat the dough out until 1inch thick and cut out with a 2 1/2″- inch donut

cutter. Alternatively, using a well floured rim of a drinking glass that is

2-inches across, carefully cut out rounds and poke these cut outs with a

knife in the center to create a hole. Stretch the center of the dough into 2

½ -inch donuts. Transfer the donuts and holes onto wax paper in

preparation for frying.

– Incorporate the dough scraps into a ball, flatten and repeat making


– In a deep wide pan at least 4 inches deep, stable wok or kettle heat 2

inches of either Peanut Oil, or Vegetable Oil to read 375 degrees on a

deep-fat or candy thermometer.

– Once the fat is at temperature, carefully slide donuts into the oil, frying 3

or 4 at a time. As they rise to the surface turn them over. The donuts

generally will, if they have enough space, flip themselves but it is best to

keep an eye on them to ensure even frying. Fry for 2 – 3 minutes until

center of donut is done when broken open.

– Transfer donuts to paper towels to drain and dredge liberally with sifted

powdered icing sugar.

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Opening Ceremony

Chicken Coop/ Vitrine/ Emergency Shelter (CVES) In Use

Tomorrow is The Museum of Urban Design’s Opening Ceremony.

The vegetable garden is winding down, there might be a frost tonight and I have to protect the Lemon Balm from it, which is easy. I can bring the plants inside as they are grown in buckets with handles. As I was editing this image at 11pm, a boom resounded in Red Hook and the power to the building went out for a moment. Creating a usable emergency shelter, when staff accommodation is powered by electricity and having the power cut off briefly the day before the Opening of MUD is ironic.

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Rainbow Chard Damaged October 11th 2010

It has been a hectic 8 weeks and this is just a rundown of what has been going on. The MUD blog has for the moment become a bit of a visual diary but this will soon change. Blossoming below as an accompaniment to each photo there will be some text, really I promise.

These weeks full of novel like dramas started on September 16th. I was on the B61 bus heading home to my apartment in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn. While looking out the window of the bus, as it turned onto Columbia Street, a most marvelous panoramic vista unfolded ahead. There was the most magnificently luminous, growing, dark purple grey, billowing clouded sky with an acid lime green tinged glowing background. The bus was heading straight into the mother of all storms forming on the waterfront. I, and the woman next to me, sparked up some conversation, as people do, when facing what could be impending doom. She confirmed what I had been thinking, that ahead of us and slightly to the right of the bus’ route, was the formational swirl of a tornado. She had grown up in the Midwest and affirmed that the sky was the correct greenish color. The bus driver, to his credit, forced by the pressures of transit scheduling to keep to a strict timetable in rush hour, slowed, the bus, down. A wall of opaque, bright water slammed into the vehicle making it rock from side to side and diagonally from axle to axle. My seat companion had to exit, just as the deluge had commenced from merely being a water wall, like the force and volume of an upended shipping container of liquid dropped onto the bus from a great height, causing us to feel the hollow impact resonate through our bodies to the added gale force frenetic whipping about of rope-like moisture trails.

The vegetable garden was barely touched from all this moisture and wind. Sure, the few meager tomatoes that had grown were blown into the neighbors yard or dropped to the ground in an unripe, late growing green/ brown, but the Kale bed survived, and the melon and fragile bonsai cucumber vines were untouched. There had only been a large puddle of two large tiles worth of flooding emanating from the back door, which quickly receded. We counted ourselves lucky, having seen what happened to Prospect Park and the surrounding area, with the streets made into rivers of flowing hail with generational trees and hidden wild bee hive tree being felled and ricocheted about. That Saturday I was going on an urban foragers tour of Prospect Park with local legend Wild Man Steve Brill, to find wild foods. Would it be canceled now?

The day of the tour was sunny and warm and the first road we took into the park was cordoned off with brightly fluttering, lemon yellow, emergency tape. All through the park, paths large and small were blocked by fallen giants with their limbs making impermanent majestic green rooms and walls. Trees that were people’s friends and acquaintances had been destroyed. It was a heroes graveyard under the peaceful sky. From one of the fallen monarchs, a Kentucky Coffee tree, I collected 3 kilos worth of pods which will be made into a caffeine free coffee. The inner green goo of the pod is toxic and so are the seeds; they have to be ripe and roasted for hours to be able to be eaten without nasty repercussions. I have had to wait to attempt this and I hope they have not gone moldy as I deal with all the other nuisances. So marks hailstorm number one.

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The Shortened Commute

Chicken Transport Vehicle

Chicken Transport Vehicle

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