Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Month: April 2016 (Page 1 of 3)

Advice From A Weed

I see you on hands and knees
Wearing gloves and grunting
Give it up folks
Trying to rid us muggers
Is useless. We are here for good
Mugwort has landed
Go ahead, yank us
I guarantee we’ll be back
Along with cypress spurge,
Black cherry, tall bush clover
We are an army you’ll never defeat
You can’t get all our roots
Pull us out, we survive
Those little bits of roots you miss
We always leave a little bit of us behind
You’ll have to sift every square inch of soil
To evict us.
We’re smarter than you are
Because we have a plan
Grow and spread
And it’s working out real good
You can’t mug us, we’ve mugged you
Our sheer numbers should convince you
Give up it’s, a lost cause

For Don Cimino – farmer at Homecoming Farm

A Sampawams Indian Story

A Neck of land that extended out into the bay was bounded by two streams that flowed down from the hills up north. These two streams ran straight with no meanders. The neck became known for the chief of a small clan of people who called themselves the Sampawams which means walks- straight- as- an- arrow. Living on the neck, the two creeks guided the people to hunting grounds. All they had to do was follow the water and they would never become lost because the stream led them back to their shelter.

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Three Hundred and Sixty – Homecoming Farm

Smack in the center
Of fifty growing beds
I make a slow clockwise turn
Looking and listening.

The remnants of last seasons’ leeks and kale
An open landscape with sky and trees
A water tower where ravens hang
A tall brick building on the west
Small aircraft drone overhead
Granite gravestones just beyond the compost pile
A double line of Norway maples
Beyond that, the Dominican cemetery
The hoop house, tool shed, garlic building
The port a potty, the processing station
The utility shed and distribution tent

What is all this without the people?
Farmer Don, Director Elizabeth
The interns, work/ share holders
In a collaborative symphony
Of grace, friendship, and cooperation
All part of a great turning
Of a world integrated
Alive, relevant, and intelligent
And most of all, one person
A Dominican nun
Who invites us to come home
And we have.

In The Herb Garden – Homecoming Farm

Lots happening in mid July
Perfect timing for insects and herbs
It’s as if they were waiting for this moment
Heat, growth, water, all converge
Who is attracting whom?
Cabbage butterflies congregate in lavender
One thinks food, the other continuity
This frenzy at midday
Essential oil aerosols and manic wasps
On bee balm flower heads
Flies, bees, beetles
It’s a carnival, a feast
A homecoming medicine cabinet

Taking The First Step

There are several smaller steps to be taken before the first step. When I planned a backpacking trip, thinking was the first step. That process included where, when, how, why, and what. After all the preparation, the expectation of shouldering pack and taking the first step finally happens. It’s a step of intention, will power, and hope. There is built-in insurance but still the possibility that anything could happen to spoil the planning and preparation.

Why all the fuss? Many of the hikes are only going to take a few hours. Yet, after the first step, there’s a sense of relief. Just follow the blazes and enjoy nature. It takes a lot of effort to escape the hustle-bustle, the noise, the chaos of daily routines. A sense of satisfaction results with the first step and a sigh of relief. The first step is medicine. Once I step out, a holistic feeling of “this is good for me.” kicks in. I’m on my way to sanity and better health.

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Notes From the Garlic Shed – Homecoming Farm

A heavy downpour forces the harvest to pause. A few remain in the fields but from my point of view, I only see green rows of leafy vegetables. I have moved into the garlic shed to continue work with the Sicilian Red soft neck garlic. Farmer Don asked me to cut the stalks, brush off excess soil, and trim the roots. I had 8 trays to process.

I heard thunder with raindrops pelting on the new metal roof. A sense of isolation felt good. I was alone with my favorite job on the farm in the garlic shed, almost a shrine to me. One clap of thunder that seemed to be right overhead caught my attention. I looked out and saw a yellow jacket at the far end of a row. It was Don bending over, checking the progress of one of the crops. I taste a clove and instantly feel the burn of fresh garlic.

My hands have developed their own intelligence as I handle the bulbs. After a few years of working with garlic, I can process a bulb with hardly a glance. As a result, my hands have become stronger. Overhead, bunches of garlic hang on wires to cover the entire ceiling. What could be worse than having a cloak of garlic surrounding me. It’s a slow process and the 8 trays I have been assigned takes a few hours. And when I look up, I see job security. There’s plenty more bulbs to hold and peel and trim.

At the end of the season in mid November, Don gifted me with a bunch of garlic bulbs that had been scarred when they were dug. This is like getting free medicine. Back home, I skinned all the cloves, put then in olive oil in a jar. I was able to use this garlic until February. Once it was gone, I felt empty.

Manorville Hills Hike

A “Mack” truck greeted me in the parking lot of the Manorville Hills County Park. Mack is Mark’s pet dog, a look alike for the shiny silver ornaments on trucks of the same name. Mark often takes Mack on his walks. “He can keep up for miles” boasts mark.
We headed out on the Paumanok Path following nice, fresh white rectangular blazes. An overcast sky took the glare away producing a soft, intense green shrub layer, and crusty brown barky trunks of pitch pine and gray of oaks.
We stopped at a meadow to check out one of the five benches I made and brought into the park. A path had been mowed to the bench adding to its charm. The flood of light and opening in the forest prompted Mark to comment “This would be a good place for a house.”

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Hawley Lake – Walk

Both Babylon and Islip Towns have cut brush along the eastern and western edges of Hawley’s Lake making it possible to take a half-mile walk. Three problems arise:

1. The noise of traffic on north and southbound Route 231
2. There is no nearby parking. Road crossings are busy.
3. Poison ivy grows in profusion along the chain-link fence on the Islip side.

Starting from the concrete pool below the falls, we will proceed to walk counter-clockwise to the right. The double concrete tunnel carries Sampawams Creek three hundred feet under Montauk Highway.There, sweetwater becomes brackish.

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Estuary – Sampawams Creek: Fresh and Salt Water Meet

While I taught science, I fell in love with the Nissequogue River, a few blocks from where I lived. Eventually I turned my enthusiasm into a book titled THE NISSEQUOGUE: A JOURNEY. As a naturalist, I started the project by exploring. This led to research and interviews, historical information, old maps, etc.

During one of my final teaching years, I had one horrible day in the classroom when everything went wrong. I recall a helpless feeling. During that moment, I imagined myself having a sail boat on the Great South Bay. This has come true and it opened up my curiosity about Sampawams Creek. The result has been a love affair, a David and Goliath story. This creek is an underdog and I love to root for the underdog.

I moved to Babylon Village after marrying Nancy Keating. She owns a home across the street from Sampawams Creek. I can see Southards Boat Yard from an upstairs window. One day, an old 1929 bay boat showed up in the yard. It had sunk in the creek. Mike, the owner, purchased it, rescued it, and restored it. I watched the process with interest While I was sketching the boat, that classroom dream kicked in.

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Interview With Darrel Ford – The Hempstead Plains

What he remembers of his visits to the Hempstead Plains
May 14, 2015

85 year old Darrel Ford, of Babylon Village, recalls his experiences exploring the Hempstead Plains in the 1940’s. He was a young teenager during the early 1940’s:

“There were several horse liveries at the edges. I’d hire a horse and ride for miles. Sometimes the grass was three feet high. I had the feeling that I was out west. There was no Levittown so to me as a young boy the area seemed huge.I was told that there were a lot of cattle before I first visited. I remember prairie warblers, bobolinks, upland plovers, there were hardly any people. I rarely saw another person. There were panoramic views of the sky with no buildings what so ever. I was told that the Indians burned the area and that led to the exclusion of trees and shrubs. The place was untouched by plow. One of the strangest comments I read is: “It ceased to excite the wonder of residents and travelers.”

He recalled black eye-d Susan, wild indigo, blue vervain, blueberries and blackberries, and birds foot violets.

“I used to see smoke in the distance.” It meant that there were brush fires on the plains in the early ‘40’s”

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