Archive for the ‘plants’ Category
It’s my ninth year of stalking the origins of the Rockefeller Christmas tree using online maps. This year’s Norway Spruce grew up in Flanders, New Jersey. It’s 80 feet tall, 50 feet in diameter, and was still standing strong in Joseph Balku’s yard, wrapped with 10,000 feet of rope and 2,000 feet of cable, after Hurricane Sandy blew through. A couple weeks later, after a careful crane-assisted removal and drive to Manhattan, it was wrapped in five miles of wire with LED lights and topped with the usual Swarovski star for New Yorkers and tourists to enjoy.
It’s been 8 years since I started researching the origins of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and this is the fifth year I’ve located it with aerial photos in online maps. Unfortunately this is the fuzziest online map view I’ve had in those years. I usually find a pretty nice photo of the tree in its original location, but this year’s tree, hailing from Mifflinville, Pennsylvania, hasn’t had a good photo op and so we must admire it instead in its decorated glory. Instead I took a screenshot illustrating its proximity to Interstate 80 where a Rockefeller Christmas Tree scout, driving along, spotted it in March. The owner, Nancy Keller’s late husband had wanted to cut the tree down when they first moved there 30 years ago. Now Mrs. Keller gets to fulfill his old wish and also donate it to a very public and worthy cause. After the holiday season ends the Norway Spruce will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.
Peter Glazebrook outdid himself this year at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show. Not only did he grow the biggest onion, weighing in at 17 pounds, 15.5 ounces, likely a world record, but he also brought in the heaviest cabbage (64lb 2oz), potato (6lb 10.75oz), and tomato (2lb 11.25oz). He had the longest runner bean at 31 inches and cucumber at 32.5 inches. He’s been bringing in his giant veggies and tubers for several years and holds the world’s record for heaviest parsnip, and longest beetroot.
It’s getting onto fall in Seattle which means it’s bulk Zoo Doo time at the Woodland Park Zoo. Interested gardeners can send in a postcard for a drawing to purchase large quantities of Zoo Doo or Bedspread (that contains more chips and sawdust and you can shorten it to “B.S.” on the postcard). There’s a poop line for phone questions. You can fill up one pickup truck with an 8×4 bed for $60. If your needs are more modest, the Zoo has buckets of Zoo Doo in its store anytime.
For a different look at Alcatraz Island and its notorious federal prison, the official tour company for “The Rock” offers a nighttime experience. The night tour differs in several ways from the daytime tours, the most obvious being the potential for creepiness factor in the dusk to dark atmosphere. The amount of people on the island is limited to 400 so it is less crowded than the couple of thousand during the day. The hospital and psych ward are opened to visitors at night. And there’s the lovely, though sometimes foggy, view back to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve only been on the day tour and remember the wonderful birds and flowers that balanced out the stark tales of prison life. Some form of gardens have been on the island since the 1860s when it was a military prison. The plants that could survive on the dry, rocky land lasted past the closure of the prison in 1963. In 2003 a restoration effort began and there are now five garden areas that reflect the history of Alcatraz’s inhabitants.
I wrote about this several years ago, but it’s worth a repeat. The U.S. Forest service rents out fire lookout towers for hikers interested in a room with a view. The S.F. Chronicle rounded up the California locations, including the newly opened Black Mountain Lookout in Plumas National Forest which comes with the bonus of occasional “sudden outrageous, mammoth explosions” when the army explodes excess bombs at a depot nearby. Here’s a list of Pacific Northwest lookouts and cabins available. Search recreation.gov for other locations.
If picking out a Christmas tree at the corner lot or driving out to a tree farm is too tame for you, the U.S. Forest Service issues tree-cutting permits at many national forests. Just a few examples: in New Hampshire and Maine’s White Mountain National Forest a $5 permit, some searching and sawing can get you a balsam fir or a spruce. In the Rocky Mountain Region permits are $10 and you have your pick of several national forests. Seattle area folks can head out to Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest for a noble fir or a silver fir (avoid the hemlocks). It’s a lot tougher getting your tree from the wilderness. Tree hunters are advised to dress warmly and bring a four-wheel-drive vehicle or chains. But no chain saws please. Whether you end up using your hard won evergreen as a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush or something entirely different is up to you.
In what has become an annual sleuthing event for me, I’ve tracked down the original location of the tree now presiding over Rockefeller Center. The 74-foot Norway Spruce grew up in Mahopac, New York and was donated by a New York City firefighter. The Rockefeller Center folks prefer to cut down a tree that is distressed or getting too large for its surroundings, and this one was getting too close to the house. After its service, the branches will be turned into mulch and donated to non-profit organizations, and lumber from the tree will be used to build a house. The New York Times checked in with the owners of trees from previous years to see how they made the decision to donate and if they had any regrets. Some reluctant families are courted with gift baskets and others offer up their tree willingly. Some plant a replacement sapling, some leave the spot empty.
How do you make a corn maze? With a tractor or with weed killer. For the design you can hire Brett Herbst who has designed over 1,800 mazes since 1996. Some maze creators use GPS when they’re cutting the paths, but Herbst’s company says their methods are more accurate.
It’s nearly 3 acres in Yountville, across the street from Thomas Keller’s famous French Laundry where its bounty is put to use. Gardener Tucker Taylor starts by providing seed catalogs to the chefs and eventually informs them of the results in their nightly menu planning meetings. In addition to vegetables, he grows herbs and edible flowers. The chefs are not allowed to repeat the same ingredient in more than one dish of the menu so they appreciate a variety of fresh choices. (Related article: a day/night in the French Laundry kitchen)