Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Litter Mobs

Snowberries - Symphoricarpos albus

The chief instigator might be on break in the southern hemisphere but there will be winter litter mobs and Natural Resources will be able to provide staff back up, so I hope the mobbing may continue!

The dates are: January 10th, January 24th, February 7th. Mobs last from 9am to noon. Surgical gloves are provided, so is hand sanitizer, but bring your own warm or work gloves.

Here are directions.

If you can make it please RSVP in the comments or to littermob  at  gmail  dot  com

Inge, one of our stalwart volunteers, will be sending out email reminders every pre-Mob Sunday.

Feel free to bring a camera to take over the documenting duties. Photos most welcome. So is the written word. The woods in winter. A whole other story.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Litter Mob 16 - Transparency

Mid December and in the woods you see the edges of things. You see through things. You see the shape of things.

Each leaf has fallen and lies frost etched upon another. Suddenly you realize what a small forest this is. In full summer the trees' leaves populate vertical space in so many layers that your immediate circle becomes a tall-walled room and the limits of the woods are not guessed at.

Now, standing on the flat, you can see all the way up to the ridge, through the stripes of tree trunks and the pale lacing of branches. There is no hiding. Consequently, the woods are empty. No pacing men walk to and fro, up and down, round and round. Still, we find evidence of their presence.

They must arrive at night. On a new hill, not cleaned before, we find deer hide shelters of branches and screens of dead leaves. A lot of accumulated trash.

Elizabeth's grabber gingerly pinches an improvised sex toy.

On the flat we find a spilled bag of drill bits, saw blades, screws and anchors. A construction worker's loss by theft, probably.

A piece of wasp nest lies on the leaf litter. 

I find a plant I have not noticed before. Geranium-ish?

*Update: ID'd by Marielle Anzelone of NYC Wildflower Week: Geum canadense, white avens.

Progress: I notice that Ricks' Place's 'Dick's Place' scratchiti has been healed.

We continue raising a fence across the slope to intercept desire lines. Such a lovely phrase for the paths that cause so much damage. Frank and slight Elizabeth haul the heavy roll of fencing. Paulette stabs heavy rebar posts into the steep hill before I begin to pound a dozen into the rocky soil. Elizabeth starts to wire the fence, Frank pulling on the slack. David instructs. John and Jessica come to visit. Jessica talks about the empty sign posts and about addressing the question of better, vandal-proof signage, or removing the abandoned posts altogether. My ears prick up. Progress.

Planes pass low overhead on their final approach to La Guardia. I will fly south, soon. By nightfall, at home for hours already, my body feels run over.

I hope that the Mob will continue through winter, until I rejoin it in mid February. 

Good news: We have inspired a sister Mob in Massachusetts, whose fledgling blog is The Wareham Litter Mob. Linda Redbird, a foraging friend (whose personal blog is Forage Porage) from Facebook is the organizer. If you are in the area and can help, either materially or through physical labour, please do. It is hard to find steady volunteers for this unglamourous work.

Litter Mob 16 Results:

6 bags of trash, 1 toolbag, various underwear, 1 sex toy

Thanks to David K., Elizabeth, Frank, Paulette and David our Leader.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The stories trash tells

Mostly, in the TMI genre.

Too. Much. Information.

Bean casserole? Thanksgiving theme going on here.

Cranberry juice lying beside the beans - I counted 6 cartons.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

White snakeroot

Nothing is in bloom in the last of the November woods, except this: white snakeroot - Ageratina altissima (formerly Eupatorium rugosum). It's easy to be dismissive of this ubiquitous wildflower in summer, when its white fluff pockmarks the paths so steadily that you cease to see it. Now, though, it becomes a solitary, stubborn beauty. You look at it, carefully, and perhaps notice it for the first time.

It was thought to cure snakebite - which begs several questions, as its leaves and roots are poisonous and bitter. Hungry cattle who browse it become ill and may die. Their milk - and meat - carries the toxin, tremetol,  to any human who consumes them, causing milk sickness, which can be fatal. Abraham Lincoln's mother  - Nancy Hanks Lincoln - died of it in 1818 (thanks to Elizabeth Royte, fellow Litter Mobster for that botanical trivia).

Things to learn in the woods. Things to learn.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Litter Mob 15 - the results

There were five of us, but for me it was a very white day. A lot of tissues. They look innocuous but are sometimes the nastiest of all. Notice I don't flip them over for pictures. Gloves, grabbers and hand sanitizer much appreciated. And that's about all I'll say.

Things were curtailed by an early rain shower, which saw me going home on the subway wearing a chic, clear garbage bag, my hair dripping in rats tails. David kindly loaded us up in his truck and dropped us near to where we each needed to be.

Thanks to Inge, Elizabeth, Franck, Frank and David. 

Garbage bags: 7

Oyster mushrooms

Lest I forget what led to the Litter Mob in the first place...mushrooms.

I began to visit the woods regularly to look for mushrooms in late October last year. Time in the woods led to an inevitable acquaintance with its particular flavour of litter. Innocent that I was, I didn't know about cruising, then. I am now an authority.

And after Litter Mobbing in the woods just west of the East Drive every two weeks since May this year, my oyster mushrooming habits have changed considerably. I know too much. I have stepped in too much, picked up too much and smelled too much.

So let's just say I have become very choosy about which mushrooms to pick, and from where.

The mushrooms above, Frank spotted. Right low on the trail, on a bare log. Lightly nibbled. But it's the 'low' that waves a zillion red flags. Move on! Move on!

The mushrooms below? They pass muster. High, not in a trafficked area, and no litter found nearby, ever. Also hard to get to. A snail has obviously visited, and nibbled, but I don't mind sharing with snails.

So there it is. Pleurotus ostreatus. A good dinner in cold weather. Soggy in the hot months.

These woods are a wonderful place for many kinds of fungi, and would be an excellent classroom, where their habitat and various forms could be studied, right in the middle of Brooklyn. Juvenile foragers, wild edible lecturers, locavores and cooks: to arms! Time to person the barricades...

Sigh. So much language, so little time.

Get the kids and the curious in, get the cruisers out.  After today's 15th Litter Mob (curtailed by rain) my tolerance for sex in public parks is at an all time low.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Litter Mob 14 - the results

Tuesday the 15th in the Midwood of Prospect Park and it was delightful to walk through the deep carpet of heavy leaf fall. It had the smoothing, soothing effect that new snow does, making the world appear without blemish.

We found condoms, as usual, some on top of the newly fallen leaves, some beneath. But fewer than before. There were enoki mushrooms (second row down, above: edible Flammulina velutipes - identified later at home after a spore print), oyster mushrooms in places we would not contemplate collecting them, loads and loads of bottles on The Slope near the sex log, drug baggies and more all-purpose litter. Also a blue woollen glove, a trashbagful of wet wipes (thanks, Franck) and osage oranges (Maclura pomifera).

Jessica had charge of us and taught us the useful trick of distinguishing between a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and a Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Two of us spent an hour uprooting the invasive Norway saplings, using weed wrenches, which clamp the base of the sapling before you lever it out. I lost count at 34. The others raked leaves bravely, a Sisyphean task* if I have ever seen one. I didn't quite see the point given the ones that would follow, but was told that leaves become wet, become slippery and that is Not Good. Especially when iced over, I suppose.

* Yeah. I just re-read that. Who am I kidding? Why isn't condom and trash collection Sisyphean? We know more will follow. I take some comfort in the fact that the leaves belong there, while our interruption of the litter cycle may have some effect. Maybe.

Elizabeth vs a stubborn sapling.

My weed wrench. I like weed wrenching.

Thanks to Franck, Frank, Fred, Elizabeth, Inge and Jessica.

6 bags of trash. 5 trillion leaves raked. Dozens of Norway saplings defeated.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy the Woodland!

I quipped in a comment on a New York Times article about the Occupy Wall Street eviction that the movement should take its encampment to the Midwood in Prospect Park. I have never seen as many cleaners in New York City as were photographed in Zucotti Park. It was surreal. If the pretext for evicting protesters is health and hygiene, then the woods are going to be cleaner than they have ever been, after the woodland encampment is broken up.

So, Occupy the Woodland, I say.

Health and hygiene, huh?

Different parts of Prospect Park enjoy different priority levels. If a condom is found by a park inspector in a children's playground the place goes on lockdown and virtual red flags are raised until it has been cleaned. But if 100's of condoms are found on the forest floor, if soiled tissues make up the bulk of one volunteer's bag, if human excrement is stepped in, the woods stay open as usual.

I wear gloves but I get scratched occasionally and now I have had a series of three Hepatitis A and B vaccinations with the last due in one year. There's no vaccine for C. I don't dwell on HIV - the chances of being stuck by a needle are thankfully minimal. We see very few.

Clearly I know about all this, so I'm not saying I should not be working here, oh woe is me. I chose it. It's just that the irony is thundering.

Priorities are revealing. Kids who are marched through here on the mulched paths during their summer camps are marching through a minefield. Yet this woodland presents a far better and more beautiful teaching opportunity than a large rubber mat beneath some climbing frames. The classroom of the great outdoors.  I would love to see a wildflower trail here. I'd like to hear a teacher explain why leaves fall as the leaves are falling. Never seen a real oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) before? This is where to see them. I'd like to see an App that tells a father and daughter, Find your blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) at these coordinates, instead of the other App that tells you behind which tulip tree to find hot sex (it's called Grindr).

I understand the motivation behind the Occupy movement and so I support it. But I do not have time to occupy anything. Working in the woods every two weeks is what I can do, although it's not close to enough.

I'd like to see the woods enjoy as much protection as a playground in the same park would. I would like the last forest in Brooklyn to be deemed worth inspection and worthy of advertisement.  It's been allowed to be invisible for too long.

Thirsty work

Our 14th Litter Mob, and I headed straight for what we call The Slope. Franck went off in the same direction and I could hear his rustling progress off to the south of me. The Slope is the steep bit connecting flat forest with Rick's Place. Home of the Sex Log (just to orient you. It's a reference point). Elizabeth and Frank headed for the flat, and Inge disappeared into the trees.

My bag was so heavy by the time I'd worked my way up just one informal path that I had to drag it back down. Why? Bottles.

St Ides malt liquor is very popular, but there was plenty of diversity:  Budweiser, Coors, Becks and Corona, too. It's the first time I have seen the one above - Arizona Energy Drink "Extreme Performance". Best to come prepared. So to speak.

The bottle above was hidden in hollow in a tree. An informal trash can.

Of course, bottles are carried in bags, and the bags are left behind, too.

There's plenty more to post. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Other forests in NYC: High Rock Park

Here, on Staten Island, is a rustling forest floor, inches deep in new-fallen leaves. These break down slowly and add to the humus layer. In Prospect Park's Midwood this cannot happen in many areas because of the repeated foot traffic caused by cruising activities off-path.

This is gorgeous woodland, especially where beeches are abundant, and well worth a visit. But stick to the east side of Manor Road. I find the western part of the park to be very weedy, with tangles of vines and invasives obscuring the forest floor.

You may find salamanders, mushrooms, striped wintergreen, or spicebush.

You may lie down on a carpet of leaves in a cathedral of trees.

Litter Mob 14, tomorrow!

Hamamelis virginiana in the Midwood, 28 November 2010

We assemble at 9am. As usual, we are greedy for extra hands to help us. If you can, please join us. See directions above.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A shout out from councilmember Brad Lander

While checking sources of traffic to the Litter Mob blog I noticed that New York City councilman Brad Lander's website gave the Litter Mob a nice boost by acknowledging our work in terms of community service, along with nine other members of and organizations within the community.

Brad Lander represents the 39th District, which includes the neighbourhoods of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Borough Park, and Kensington.

Thank you, Councilmember!

All I want for Christmas is a nice trash can, a nice trash can, a nice trash

Friday, November 4, 2011

Prospect Park paintings

Take a ride out to Greenpoint on Sunday - when you have an extra hour in the day - then do a walking tour (see below) on your way to this:

No Globe Exhibitions Presents

seven paintings

New Work by Frank Meuschke
November 6 through December 3, 2011

Opening Reception Sunday, November 6th, 4-7pm

No Globe Exhibition Space
488 Morgan Avenue
3rd Floor
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Entrance and elevator on Division Place

Share your extra hour with us.

Directions by subway or bus:

The G train to Lorimer, transfer to L train to Graham, then hike Graham to Meeker to Morgan.
Or G to Nassau, then hike down Nassau to Morgan, hook right till Division Place.

Or the B62 to McCarren Park, a block to Driggs, then Driggs all the way to the BQE, crossing at Morgan.

Frank says: "Consider taking in the sites (and meats) of Greenpoint by taking the G to Nassau
It is a hike. But the weather should be perfect. Podlasie Meat Market 121 Nassau."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Litter Mob 13

It was a beautiful, beautiful fall day. In shady spots there were a few small patches of snow, but otherwise the weekend of winter had passed and autumn had returned. We found many smaller and a few larger downed branches, victims of Saturday's wet snow. Far more of a mess than post-Irene. And we found relatively few condoms and other cruising accoutrements. Lots of bottles, though. Heavy.

So it was a good day. We filled 6 bags of trash.

Elizabeth stumbled upon a possible crime scene - a backpack with contents, including cellphone, scattered on the forest floor below a high road. We laid them all out to try to piece together the story. There was an ID card, for Medicaid: a young man in his early twenties. An asthma inhaler. The cellphone was missing its SIM (subscriber identity module, who knew...) card and its battery, but we found the latter lying separately on the leaves. Using my phone I called a number written on a sodden piece of paper but the mailbox was full. There were condoms and toiletry items and literature about LGBT support. Had he been robbed? Run from police and dumped the bag? Was he OK? We won't know.

In another part of the woods, far from a path,  Franck found a Chase debit card, expiration 2017. 

The witch hazels (below) have begun to bloom - Hamamelis virginiana, native to the region and always blooming in fall, not late winter.

David showed us how to haul a hanging branch from a tall tree. We sawed small branches and cleared them off the path, and pruned a spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and a witch hazel... 

I managed to slice my thin glove and nick myself. The well-prepared Elizabeth gave me a tissue and a band aid. 

Our next Litter Mob will be on the 15 of November. Get your shots and join us...mwajajajajaja! 

Or just wear better gloves than I do. We are provided with surgical gloves (snap!), but it's best to bring your own work gloves.

Thanks to Elizabeth, Franck and David.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Litter Mob call up

Our next - and 13th - Litter Mob is on Tuesday the 24th the 1st of November at 9am.

[The mob has been postponed by a week thanks to a flu bug.]


Volunteers sought!

The woods should be pretty. Falling leaves, rustling paths, turning colours, well-fed chipmunks.

Maybe even a mushroom.

Pleurotus ostreatus - oyster mushrooms, October 2010

RSVP in comments or to littermob (at) gmail (dot) com

Many thanks to the Kensington Prospect, Windsor Terrace and Ditmas Park blogs for their support!