Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Month: June 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Wiley and Canadaway Creek: A Discovery Walk

Wiley Creek is hard to find. It lies in a trough about 20 feet deep, is surrounded by thick vegetation, with private homes backing up to it. I wanted to walk the creek to compare it to “my creek” in Babylon and to have fun exploring and discovering.

Japanese knotweed blocked my view while walking along Wiley Creek.  Russel Joy Park is a Fredonia Village recreation area. This park boarders the creek. There are basketball and tennis courts, a ball field, a picnic gazebo, and restrooms. My recreation was of a different sort. I wanted to find a place to descend into the creek and walk its bed as far as possible.

I found a place, barged through Japanese Knotweed and finally reached the creek. Creeks and me go way back. As a boy, I played along Cayuga Creek in Depew, upstate New York. I explored the Nissequogue River in Smithtown, in Suffolk County Long Island and wrote a book about it. Recently, I researched Sampawams Creek, created a Power Point program, and have extensive notes. I am fascinated by creeks.

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Sifting Compost

All our vegetable scraps go into a bucket near the kitchen. When it’s full, I dump it on the compost pile. This compost is called green stuff. Brown stuff is dirt or horse manure. It piles up all year. I turn the pile in early spring, and again in late June. By then, things are heating up in the pile.

Roger, a neighbor, contributes green stuff in the form of cooked grass. He dumps a bucket on a tarp and I wheelbarrow it to the pile. “I’ll have plenty more cooked stuff when I get around to turning it”. He dumps grass clippings with no herbicides or pesticides. In the past, he’s gives me bags of sawdust from his shop. That helps too.

Not much decomposition takes place until the beginning of summer. Our wet May has kept the pile moist. Turning the pile added air. My second turning revealed plenty of worms. Worms indicate that decomposition is under way. Three factors for good breakdown are fungi, bacteria, and green/brown stuff. I set up a screen, the wheelbarrow, a shovel, and rake to sift. I consider sifting compost to be a special event and I look forward to it in early summer. My tomato plants and other vegetables will be top dressed with the sifted compost. I like to eliminate the branches and other stuff that doesn’t pass through the screen.

I shovel three shovels onto the screen and use the flat side of a rake to sift. For me, this is a meditation. It’s like making your own soil. The result is smooth textured, nutrient-rich soil.  A handful of compost feels light and soft. The dirt gets under my fingernails. I consider this a blessing. The nutrients come from banana peels, cantaloupe, celery bottoms, apple sores, orange peels, egg shells, over ripe lettuce, and on and on.

The major elements are all in there…carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, iodine, zinc, sulfur, and phosphorus. There are trace elements as well… boron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and chlorine. My plants love my sifted soil. I will top dress tomatoes, chard, onions, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, and zinnias. Their roots await the bouquet. I am part of a process that takes place world-wide, the cycle of growth and decay.

When I slice the first Cherokee purple tomato and see seeds and pulp and taste a real ripe tomato, my taste buds are dancing. I will not have to buy tomatoes for months. I can almost taste the compost. The worms’ hotel is my compost pile.


Garlic Scapes

On our first work/share day at Homecoming Farm, Don, the farmer, asked me to cut garlic scapes. He showed me how to avoid the woody part which is at the bottom. “I make pesto from the soft part of the scape.” He said. I’ve sautéed scapes but included the woody part and found them not very palatable.

I carried a bucket to the garlic patch, a huge area with some 20,000 garlic bulbs. This was the perfect job for me because, not only do I love anything to do with garlic, but I’d have a chance to see the Ravens.

I battled some big weeds that grew in the path. I felt the stems and could tell where the woody part ended. I could tell by the force of the scissors as well. The scapes are the “flowers” of hard neck garlic plants. Hard neck means that the stalk is stiff. Soft neck garlic have no scapes and can be braded because they don’t have the woody tissue. They appear in late may and by late June, need to be cut. Leaving the scape on the plant causes less energy to seep into the bulb. All garlic growers know this. They want the biggest bulbs possible.

The top of the scape looks like a pointed turban. The scape curls. The top of the scape, if left to mature produces bulbils. Bulbils are tiny cloves. If these are planted, they will grow into tiny garlic plants. It will take 3-4 years for a decent sized garlic bulb to come from a bulbil. Hence, cutting the scape off the plant eliminates the bulbils. New garlic plants come from healthy cloves set in the ground in Late November.

As I cut, I hear and saw ravens. There are four roosting in the Norway maple trees north of the garlic beds. I heard them, saw them fly, circling, being chased by crows, and landing on the ground. Crows just don’t like other black birds and chase them just to get them out of their “territory.” I imitated raven calls and attracted two who flew over my head, checked me out, and bailed out back to the maples. They are intelligent birds.

Near the end of the row of 200 garlic plants, my back felt sore. There are four garlic plants side by side in a 200 foot row and there are ten rows. I covered a half a row. Finally, by bucket full, I escaped the scapes and headed for the pick up tent to get our share.

Deep Ecology

Most of us think food chains and food webs as ecology. Deep Ecology goes beyond that. It includes us. We are part of food chains and webs. Everything impacts other-than-human life as well as all forms of life.  It’s awareness. We are in the Earth, as well as on the Earth. We see ourselves as part of all the biological and physical cycles on the Planet.

A walk on a beach thinking about where you are as well as who we are transforms our relationship with the Universe. We are in the presence of the horizon, water, sky, clouds, footprints, dune, beach, and sand. We are capable of knowing where all this came from. As we watch gulls, feel a cool breeze and keep in mind all of us are subjects related, relevant, and intelligent. W are part of the sun, our shadow, shells, and seaweed, all relatives. This is Deep Ecology. It is seeing ourselves as a part not apart.

Recently, I stopped to admire flower clusters on and elderberry bush.  Tiny 1/8 inch flower, with five white petals, five anthers, and one pistol. Each cluster has about a hundred of these tiny flowers. Each will become a purplish-black fruit, used for jelly, wine, and pies. I remained still and saw tiny native bees flying fast and in angular patterns, landing, and pollinating. Many species of birds will descend upon these fruits and gobble them. Catbirds, robins, and a dozen other birds. Elderberry is part of the flow of energy known as a food chain. First people used elderberry stems to make blow pipes to invigorate their fires. Come fall, the eaves return to the ground and decompose, nourishing the bush for the following season.

Deep ecology is going deep to admire, be in awe, and connected to the whole of nature. Species has it’s own, unique biological and physical connection. Deep Ecologists try to design their living with the natural world in mind. They are aware of the consequences of the impacts humans have on the rest of nature and themselves.

To know something is to love it. To love it is to protect it. To protect it is to be involved in the web of all life on Planet Earth

Vortex –

I discovered something interesting on my walk around Argyle Lake. There on the water surface, a black hole surrounded by counterclockwise swirls. I stopped, hypnotized and curious.

At this point, water drains from the Lake into an auxiliary pond which is two feet lower than the lake. I checked the pond and saw a ribbed plastic pipe with water emptying. The conditions for these phenomena must have been perfect. The water level of the lake was just right. There was a faint hollow sound coming from the hole. My curiosity led me to the dictionary:

“A mass of spinning air, liquid, etc. that pulls things into its center”

I remember the Titanic as it slipped beneath the sea creating huge vortexes. To be caught in a vortex, you might be sucked in and drown.

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Screaming Woman – the poem

If she’s scared
A good scream may help
Don’t hold back
Let it out
Press with the diaphragm
And force with as much power
As you can manage
A good scream can
Scare the crap out of
Whatever you’re afraid of
A blood-curdling high alert
For a mouse, axe murderer,
Spider in the shower stall

Husband says “I got goose bumps
And hair standing straight up
On the back of my neck.
You’ve scared the shit out of me.”

“It’s a defense mechanism” she says
“Honey, if it were an intruder
In the house, then scream your lungs out
Don’t cry wolf over a tiny spider.”

Deck Vacation – Clouds

The only way I can see far is to look up. Buildings on all sides block everything. From my deck, I lounge in a chair and just look up. Those beautiful clouds, a passing parade of white, light grays, and dark grays. Right now the sun is directly above. It appears as a perfect orange-red circle blocked by a cloud. Today is partly cloudy so I have to be careful not to look directly at the sun. It’s a game I play with the clouds.

The patio is my sky theater and my clouds are the thespians. From this orchestra seat I am front row for a spectacular performance. Four clouds are closing in on blue sky for all four directions. It looks like the iris of my eye adjusting to bright light. The clouds are great white barges closing a hole in the sky.

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Manifesto: A Recipe for Climate Change, Global Warming, and Sea Level Rise


More and more “Big Ass” heavy cars, and pickup trucks  are being used for transportation. For women, they feel safer. For men, it’s size that matters. The following guidelines are suggestions for solutions to halt the increase in Earth’s temperature:

Cars can only weigh 1,500 pounds or less

No forms of entertainment will be sold in new cars including, radio, air conditioner, TV’s, and cigarette lighter

When idling in neutral, a computer that comes with the purchase of the car will measure the idle tome. Owners will pay a “idle tax” for exceeding a standard based on previous driving time and distance.

Auto races are prohibited

Crank windows only. The car is not an entertainment center. It is only meant as a mode of transportation.

Gas stations will be closed on weekends.

All car owners have a yearly maximum of 5,000 miles. Above that, a fee will be assigned.

Cost of cars and related fees – tripled in price

Price of gas – tripled

Tolls – quadrupled

Auto mechanics fees – boosted to $400/ hr

Tax break for people who don’t own cars and use public transportation.

Parking fees – quadrupled

$40 toll for crossing any state line

No more TV auto ads

Car rental business is closed

Only one make of car will be available for sale

Auto supply stores, junk yards, tire companies, repair shops will raise their prices by four.




Manorville Hills Spring Hike

To describe our most recent hike in Manorville Hills County Park, a single word will suffice. FRESH.  Moments after we exited the parking lot and headed toward Trail #5.

Early June, no one in the park but Mark and me. Along with sunshine, we entered the renewal of this Pine Barrens Forest. Fresh new ferns, grasses , mosses, blueberry shrubs,  and the oaks. Gypsy moths were at work. There was evidence on the trails. I found pieces of partially chewed leaves, as well as caterpillars because leaves are fresh and tender.

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Homecoming Farm – Startup Day

With a break in the weather a dozen share-holders and volunteers convened on the farm to catch up after several rain delays. Elizabeth provided bagels and juice before we broke up and worked to get the farm ready for harvesting a few weeks from now.

Don, the farmer, suggested various tasks. A mother and her son planted leeks. Several women descended on the two weed-filled herb and flower beds. I pried fennel with a long-handled spade. Fennel is n invasive and aggressive. It’s tap root goes straight down like dandelions.

After an hour, several large piles of weeks needed a trip to the compost pile. I wheel borrowed three loads. Don prepared a bed for planting. This season, Don decided to eliminate grass pathways along the beds. “Insects live there as well as weeds and travel into the beds.”  Behind his roto-tiller, flat,  smooth, velvety, brown, soft soil was to become the home of the roots of one of the dozens of kinds of produce the form will provide.

Soil is the key to growing healthy, organic produce. Lots of compost is applied and worked into it. Just by  thrusting my hand into this fresh soil, full of air, minerals, organic and organic elements, I could tell that any plant put in this soil and watered, is going to grow big and strong.

On my trips to the compost pile, I looked Austrailian Winter Pea cover crop. Don plants cover crops to increase carbon and nitrogen.

Don is particular about the way seedling plugs are planted. He wants the rows straight and the distance between each plant the same. He knows what space the roots of each plant needs. He used a 100 fool long string, measuring tape, and yardstick to plan where each plant will go. Once an entire bed is planted, I imagine a battalion of soldiers marching in place.

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