Oct 8, 2013

Keep On Blogging...

Hey Guys

i have moved my blog.

it's NEW and IMPROVED.

let me know what you think
i will respond (yes, finally).


Sep 27, 2013

To BLOG or not to BLOG
that is NOT the question

Photo: Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator

About 4 pm at any conference, I have had it.  Enough already I want to say.  I can't absorb another word.  I hung in there, because Amy Stewart was about to speak.  Her topic. "A Botanist Walks Into A Bar:  How to Turn Any Topic Into a Lively and Sharable Story."

Enriching the Gardening Community with New Media
September 22-24, 2013
Hours of listening to well-known bloggers and digital marketers cajole me into thinking that content, clarity, consistency, strategy and most of all Google Analytics were essential elements of any good blog, I was ready for the anti-christ:  Amy Stewart.

Amy responded to the experts with humor. She described her blog, Garden Rant, written by a quartet of women in the following way:.

The Things We Don't Do:
  •     We don't do DIY
  •     We don't avoid politics
  •     We don't avoid profanity
  •     We don't think about what our readers want
  •     We don't look at analytics
  •     We don't know what SEO
  •     We don't talk to each other
  •     We don't have a plan
  •     We don't make money
  • and we embrace controversy.
In the funniest way possible, Amy gave her assessment of what makes a blog worth reading: it tells a good story. What makes a compelling story: suspense, drama, conflict, characters, suspense, comedy and the unexpected.

Listening to Amy was like  drinking a glass of grappa. The warmth goes through your entire body. I temporarily felt better about myself and my blog.  This didn't last long.
Soon it was back to inbound marketing. 
  • I did not know that content was an opportunity to market.  
  • I did not know that creating content creates energy around "my business."  
  • I did not know that creating an editorial calendar was essential.  
  • I did not know that one should always tag images.  
  • I did not know that comments are a measure of a person's engagement with your site.  
  • I did not know to drive traffic is to build a community. 

Does the reader feel they receive value from your site? 
That was another one of those zingers.  It was time for a cup of coffee.

 I did know that in our current digital environment IMAGES are more powerful than words.  In fact, if you've received the New Yorker this week, you can see that the magazine, we all hoped would never change, has changed.  It's more visual.

 One of the most challenging questions asked at this conference: What am I willing to unsubscribe to?

I wasn't going to attend the Garden Bloggers Conference.  I felt disloyal to Garden Writers.  This conference unexpectedly was a kind of therapy.  It was an opportunity to take a good hard look at what I want from my blog.  I clearly fall into the Amy Stewart "column."   You will not find plant of the week, recipes, contests, tips or advertising.  You might find a good story.

Sep 19, 2013

Telling Stories

Thomas Woltz

A good looking dude with a powerful story to tell is a dynamic combo.  Thomas Woltz is a landscape architect that talks about narratives, not projects.  He is interested in relationships that last a lifetime, at least between people and plants. 

On Tuesday night at MetroHort, Woltz began his talk by warning the audience that he was going to tell  stories.  And these stories start by listening to the "voice" of the site; by delving into the what has come before in a landscape and how patterns of alternation can become the gateway to restoration.

Using residential and public projects, Woltz constructed his thoughtful  lecture as he would explore the layers of a site.  He asked questions. What is the ecology of this place?  What are the birds that would benefit from this garden?  What is the web of connectivity that this place has?   His language is rooted in the emotional bonds that people can forge with plants.

Woltz is as much philosopher as he is landscape architect.   When I think about what I find most compelling when talking with someone, it's usually their approach.  Woltz put his cards on the table Tuesday night.  It is a table I would like to sit down at and have a conversation.


Sep 16, 2013

Birds Of A Feather
Hanging Together

I couldn't help myself.  The comparison screamed out at me.  7th century Peru / the color field painting of the 1960's?  The Rothko paintings have so much depth and texture as do the Peruvian hangings made from the feathers of the macaw. 

On the way to Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Met, a dozen of these hangings are on display.  These are just a taste of the 96 hangings discovered in the early 1940's inside 3 ft. high ceramic jars.
Site of the discovery of the feathered hangings, inside the ceramic jars pictured in the photograph.

These feathered offerings are the counterpoint to the large Met show, Interwoven Globe (The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500-1800). Upstairs at Interwoven Globe,  in room after room, one can see dazzling feats of craftsman, from amazing dying techniques to luxurious silk embroidery  Downstairs two simple squares of color convey power and artistry.  Take your pick.  My choice is obvious.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Feathered Hanging

7th-8th century
Wari culture
H 29 x W 83.7/8 in.
Believed to have functioned in some dedicatory
or supplicatory manner.

Sep 10, 2013

Surround SOUND
The Forty Part Motet

Is it possible to write about a sound installation?  A good writer can.  I am not one of those.  The best I can do is to urge anyone living in the New York area to make the effort to go to The Cloisters and listen to Janice Cardiff's piece, The Forty Part Motet in the Fuentiduena Apse.  

Copyright Peter Mauss.
I know it's a trek or so it seems when you think about it.  The #4 bus leaves you at the front door of the museum and the subway stop is just a couple of blocks away.

You might ask, what's the big deal?  I've been to choral performances... and so have I.   The Forty Part Motet was by recorded by Cardiff in England's Salisbury Cathedral in 2001.  Each part is recorded individually. 
Copyright Peter Mauss
When you walk around the Apse at the Cloisters, you see forty individual speakers., You can put your ear as close to the speaker  as you dare.   You can hear the music,  a sigh, a hum, even a sneeze.  The experience of the music is one of SOUND. 
Copyright Peter Mauss
Cardiff said she wanted the listener to "climb inside the music, connecting with the separate voices."  That is exactly what happens.  You feel inside the sound.  It's unnerving and wonderful all at the same time. 
Copyright Peter Mauss
This installation is the first contemporary presentation at The Cloisters. It's part of their seventy-fifth birthday anniversary.  It's a birthday present for anyone who makes the trip.  It is a little like "tripping."

Sep 6, 2013

Or is it?

I try to savor every bite.  I try not to stuff my face.  I try to appreciate the artistry and effort that went into most of what I eat, even if it's an apple.

The question of whether or not FOOD IS ART is not something I have not given much thought to. Thursday night at The New School, a panel attempted to answer that query.  The discussion centered around the word ART.  What is it?  This isn't the first group of people that have tried to parse that word. 

Fabio Parasecoli, Professor and Coordinator of the Food Studies Program at The New School organized the event.  Deliberately or not, he put together a group of people with extremely diverse points of view.  This makes for a good evening.

The anti-ART contingent was represented by Joe Grimm and Lauren Carter Grimm of Grimm Artisanal Ales. They passionately decried the formalism of traditional ART.  They put together a power point presentation composed of the work of early performance artists, as well as those artists, like Felix Gonzalez-Torres.  Torres was known for his mounds of hard candy. Viewers were able to take a piece. 

On the other side, was Michael Laiskonis,  pastry chef at Le Bernardin.  He represented haute cuisine.   Punctuation, texture, balance, color and structure are the metaphors Laiskonis borrowed from the arts, to describe how he thinks as a chef.  He  sketches out a new dessert on paper, before actually putting together any ingredients.  "I do not consider myself an artist." All I could think about was how much I wanted to be at Le Bernardin and taste one of his creations.

I am sure I missed something Thursday night.  My attention was diverted.   I was thinking about Is Food ART?  Are we really talking apples to apples?  Is Ferran Adrias' Parmesan and Porcini Forest Flower  as innovative as  Matisses' Red Room.  Is Rene Redzepis' Radish, Soil and Grass as memorable as James Turrells' Aten Reign?  Is Hestor Blumenthals' Salmon Poached in Liquorice Gel as creative as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper? 

Feeling very old, I had to say NO; it's not the same.

Is Food ART?
Thursday, September 5, 2013
The New School for Public Engagement
Organized by Food Studies Program
SoFAB Center for Food, Law, Policy & Culture
New York University

Professor and Coordinator of the Food Studies Program at The New School, Fabio Parasecoli,
Visual artist and craft brewer, Lauren Carter Grimm and Joe Grimm
Food photographer, Nino Andonis
Le Bernardin pastry chef, Michael Laiskonis
Umami Food and Art Festival Director, Yael Raviv
President and Director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, Liz Williams, moderator

Aug 22, 2013

In and Out

Who loves a chain link fence? Not me.  I know they have a purpose, but I have never seen one to love until today.

Based on a project, Katherine Daniels, did on Randall's Island two years ago, I had an idea that the new chain link fence enclosing the playground on Randall's Island, could be improved by adding a design using fence weave, a construction material.
Lola Odessey Waters and Sheila Odessey working on the fence.
I starting thinking about who would be the perfect person to come up with a concept for the fence design using plastic.  I thought of my sister.  Sheila, has been weaving for 30 years and currently has a business creating handbags by weaving strips made from ordinary plastic bags of every imaginable color.  She was the logical choice to visualize a design  for the fence and execute it with a group of volunteers.
As a family, we baked cakes, painted still lifes and traveled extensively in the United States, but we never "built" anything together.  My father was Mr. Fix-It.  He saw no need for assistance.  On Saturday, my sister, Sheila, my niece Lola, and volunteers from Google wove a fence design conceived by Sheila for Randall's Island Park playground.

It was a transformative moment.  A pedestrian fence became an playful artifice.  The colors of the weave  are a counterpoint to the colors of the play equipment.  I am imagining all the chain link fences on Randall's Island woven with plastic strips. It's a worthy ambition.


Aug 16, 2013

Two ax heads
a string of beads
and a handful of nails

Was this a fair price in 1637 for Governors Island? Who knows.  It is what Wouter Van Twiller, representative of Holland, paid the Native Americans of Manhatas for the island.  Van Twiller was no fool, he purchased the island for this private use and Governors Island became known as Nutten Island until the Dutch got hip and confiscated the island in 1638.
On Wednesday, I took a private tour of West 8's vision for Governor's Island.
Adriaan Geuze of West 8, is supposed to have remarked on viewing Governors Island for first time "It's as flat as a pancake." And so is Holland.
Painters, like Jacob Van Rusidael captured this perfectly in the 17th century.  To addrerss the issue of topographical boringness, West 8 has designed a series of hills, the highest one is to rise 80 ft.

There is nothing like seeing the BEFORE.  A project this big is overwhelming.  Landscape architects from Mathews Nielsen guided us through the site.  

Think of the responsibility of keeping thousands of trees alive in 100 degree weather.  It's a daunting task.  Of course, like all construction projects, this one is a little off schedule.  The trees came, but the areas weren't ready for installation, so the architects  constructed a "nursery" for bare root trees, potted, mulched and added irrigation.  In addition to tagging the trees, they had the nursery label the trees according to their location called petals.  The rows are all colored coded, which correspond to their petal. 

We were able to ask a lot of questions.  For me the practical often surfaces before the aesthetic.  "What is the maintenance plan?" 
"That is a good question.  We don't know yet."

Having learned the hard way.  Maintenance is just as important as design.  Build it and they will come, but if you don't figure before you build it, how to take care of, you find yourself in a real mess.

Governors Island is an amazing addition to New York.  It's a world away from the city, but within spitting distance.  The same can be said of Randall's Island, but with one big difference.  Governors Island has no cars.  And although the expected quiet is disrupted by the helicopter pad close by, it's still unlike any other green space available to New Yorkers.  

The West 8 vision may not be bucolic, but it has a pastoral charm.

Aug 12, 2013

Garden Blogger?


 I am going.  I made up my mind and bought my ticket.  Buyers remorse has just set in.

"Join garden bloggers, new media innovators, and garden and landscape design leaders for the first annual Garden Bloggers Conference – the premier conference and experience for professionals actively using or interested in learning about new media and the garden and landscape design industry. This two-day conference  brings you a unique opportunity to participate in the intersection of gardening with the world of new media including blogging, social media, and more. We invite all our fellow garden bloggers to attend!"

The conference is Monday September 23 and Tuesday September 24 in Atlanta.  All the big names will be there:  Dan Hinkley,  Amy Stewart. Robin Horton, Rochelle Greayer, Felicia Feater, Amy Flurry, Michelle Slatalla, Adam Japko and Steve Aitken.  It's a good line-up.

The question is:  Who is the Garden Writers Conference for? If you to www.gardenwriters.org, the Annual Symposium begins Thursday August 15.  It is filled with tours. a trade how, and a few workshops centered on plants and media.

This year I am opting for the "we can  help you make it" conference.  If you are going to Garden Bloggers or know someone who is going, please send along my work email address;  phyllis.odessey@parks.nyc.gov

Aug 5, 2013

Let's Us Now Praise

Fourth Annual
Northeast USA 
Rice Conference
August 3, 2013
Akaogi Farm
Westminster West, Vermont

To grow rice in the Northeastern US might seem like folly, to some people.  For the 100 people, who attended the Northeast USA Rice Conference, growing rice is a matter of perseverance, dedication and collective knowledge.  Growing rice is about asking the right questions.
We gathered at Akaogi Farm in West Westminster West, Vermont to share ideas, learn from one another and laugh at our mistakes.  Under a tent, sandals kicked off, ages from 16 to 90, we discussed the National Science Foundation grant and Cornell rice research that is behind this conference.  The attendees included a group of refugees from Bhutan, who had come to learn how to grow rice in their adopted city of Burlington, Vermont.

Steve Jobs? Yes!  James Dyson? Yes!  Rice Farmers? YES!  Susan Mc Couch, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University characterized everyone under the big top as innovators.
I rarely think of myself as doing anything innovative.  The more we talked with each other, the more I was convinced that this characterization was accurate.  We've all gone out on a limb.
Takeshi Akaogi

Don Brill of Brill Engineering on the Bicycle Thresher of his own invention

Our three little rice paddies on Randall's Island cannot compete with acres of rice paddies in places like Vermont and New York State.  It is possible to grow rice in New York City.  Inspired by the conference, we intend to add another paddy to our Urban Farm.  This one will be a test paddy, conforming to standards set out by the NSF grant.  Growing different varieties and keeping data related to temperature, water input, stress levels and soil content will be our goal.

If we can grow something as beautiful as this plant, I might not care if it produces any fruit.

Susan McCouth


Aug 1, 2013

You're The Top
You're the Waldorf Astoria

If you live in New York, there is always a view you haven't seen.  If I had to choose a potager with ta  view, it would be the one at the Waldorf.  The garden was the inspiration of David Garcelon, Executive Chef at the Waldorf.  He came to New York from the Fairmont Hotel in Toronto, which has a very large veg garden on its roof.  The gold supports on the beehives, the white containers reminiscent of Chateau de Villandry and green astro turf on the deck scream pretentiousnesses, but it's a showpiece as much as a working garden.

It's easy to be cynical or at least skeptical about this type of venture: a kitchen garden at the top of the Waldorf.  On Tuesday night, I went to the top:  the roof the the Waldorf Astoria, where the Hort Society and New York Beekeepers have partnered with the Waldorf  Hotel to create a kitchen garden filled with herbs, fruit trees and bee hives. 

George Pisenga, Director of Horticulture for Hort Society has exciting plans for the garden.  Doubling the current space, adding a large dining table and holding events that highlight the garden and the bees. Andrew Cote of New York City Beekeepers and Bees Without Borders (http://www.andrewshoney.com/Bees Without Borders)   is packaging the honey gathered from the hives at the Waldorf.  We were treated to a jar.

Chef Garcelon and all the other chefs from the Waldorf use the herbs  from the garden to garnish their dishes.  The fruit produced by the "orchard," they intend to use to make signature cocktails for the Waldorf bars.  Cole Porter's lyrics "You're the top! You're a Waldorf salad" might have to change to "You're a Waldorf cocktail."

We ate delicious lavender cookies at sunset prepared by Chef Garcelon.  A perfect way to watch the sunset over Manhattan.

Jul 28, 2013

125 foot Table

Eunyoung Sebazco, Horticulture Manager and Phyllis Odessey, Director of Horticulture

I goggled farm to fork, farm to table and farm dinner, before I was satisfied that I had covered the topic.  Our decision to hold a farm dinner at our Urban Farm on Randall's Island, coincided with an 8,000 sq. ft. expansion of the farm this year.  We added additional growing space, a mobile kitchen, a gathering space and one more rice paddy.  It was time to "show off" a little.

Setting a table for 125 guests is a daunting task.  I felt a little like Carson in Dowton Abbey.  I resisted the temptation to get out a ruler and line up the glasses, plates and silverware.  Instead we concentrated on the logistics of where to place the bars and how to site the table and kitchen area.  Some people have  a pastoral setting.  At Randall's Island we are surrounded by water and have views of the city skyline.  At the southern end of the island, where the farm dinner took place, is the Hell Gate Strait, the Triborough Bridge and Hell Gate Railroad Bridge.  It's unusual setting, but a great one.

These type of dinners are usually fund raisers.  This was only part of the goal of our farm dinner.  We wanted people to come, who have never been to Randall's Island and are not familiar with the Urban Farm and its programming.  We succeeded.  The dinner was sold out in a couple of days.  We have started planning for next year.  Stay tuned!

I would be remiss if I did not thank some of the people who made the dinner happen.
Chef Mitchell London
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Justin Hamill
Sarah Owens of BK 17 Bakery
Greenport Harbor Brewery
New York Water Taxi