Thursday, June 21, 2012

Motherless Brooklyn

“Waves, sky, trees, Essrog - I was off the page now, away from the grammar of skyscrapers and pavement.”
― Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn

            This is my first blog post from New York City! It’s going to be a long one, since so much has happened since I got here. Today is the 21st of June, which means I arrived exactly one week ago. I spent my first three nights in Manhattan in the Lower East Side in an apartment, where I rented a room from a very sweet actress/dog-walker from Colorado. I did a few tourist-y things, but mostly spent my time exploring the streets of lower Manhattan. Aside from some great coffee shops and Korean bars, my favorite find was the M’finda Kalunga Community Garden in the Lower East Side. I made a video:

Aptly titled "A North Carolinian's reaction the M'finda Kalunga Community Garden"

Four days ago I came to my more permanent home in Park Slope, Brooklyn to begin my research in earnest. The neighborhoods I’ve seen in Brooklyn (Park Slope, Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Williamsburg) are very different from Manhattan; people are polite and friendly here, right down to saying “good morning” when passing on the street. These neighborhoods are filled with trendy restaurants and bars, hipster boutiques, and organic grocery stores. It’s perfect for local honey!

It's difficult to see, but Park Slope is in blue in the west, Fort Greene is just above it in tan, and Greenpoint is in green all the way up north. Photo credit: Wikipedia

This is a great way to re-purpose old shipping pallets!
My first official bee-related adventure was to the neighborhood of Greenpoint in northern Brooklyn, which is about 30 minutes away by subway. I went to visit Hayseed’s Big City Farm Supply, a pop-up urban farming store and garden, to look for urban beekeeping books and paraphernalia and to meet Meg Paska—she’s a well-known urban farmer and beekeeper and she writes the blog Brooklyn Homesteader, which I find enjoyable and very informative. 

A sign you don't expect to see in New York City.

When I got there at opening time, however, no one was there! I decided to walk 30 minutes to another part of the neighborhood where a deli/grocery store called The Brooklyn Standard was said to have locally produced honey (they did not). I went back to Hayseed’s, and eventually an employee of the garden next door arrived and let me in. We found out Meg wouldn’t be there for an hour or so, and I was already very hot and exhausted after 4 hours of walking around Greenpoint, so I decided to head home, but not before taking some pictures of the garden. It was gorgeous in a recycled sort of way, with old pallets and tires serving as planters, seats, and a small stage where plays and events go on. Unfortunately, the area, India St. and McGuinness Blvd., was populated by mostly auto body shops, and not much street traffic.

La Cacica means woman village leader.
            Earlier today, I traveled to the nearby neighborhood of Fort Greene to meet with John Howe, the retired founder of the NYC Beekeeping Meetup, which now has over 1,400 members. He welcomed me into his home, and I interviewed him for 45 minutes about his experience with Brooklyn beekeeping, which he has been doing for more than a decade. He gave me his take on the evolution of the movement, and lamented the political nature of New York City beekeeping now, which divides apiarists into several factions over debates like for-profit vs. free beekeeping courses, swarm management, and unpaid apprenticeships. Upon John’s suggestion, I also stopped in Greene Grape Provisions on Fulton St. and found La Cacica honey from the Bryant Hill Community Garden in the Bronx!

            This weekend I will really get into the thick of things at farmer’s markets that sell local honey, such as the Union Square Greenmarket and the McGolrick Park Market. On Saturday, I’m thrilled to be going on a hive check with Guillermo Fernandez and several other beekeepers from at their hives at the Battery ParkConservancy in Manhattan.
            I better cut this post off before I write a novel—or rather, an autobiography, because I’m living this!

Thanks for reading! Keep it up!

No comments:

Post a Comment