After Tornado Bruce ripped through Panthy’s Garden in the fall of 2010, the head of my robotic owl S.T.E.V.E. became the focus of a nation-wide head hunt.

His service was short and came with mixed results, but I respected his hustle deeply. When activated, he literally never stopped hooting, which if nothing else, showed real fire.

Flyers went up, tips came streaming in, many a night’s sleep was lost. The streets were littered with BBQ’s, deck furniture and downed trees, but nowhere was the head of my sweet over-hooting owl.

Until I spotted it in my neighbors backyard, staring blankly up at me. Not more than two minutes later I was ringing their buzzer.

"Hi, uh, I’m your neighbor from next door, and I have this owl on my roof. A plastic owl. His head flew off and I’m pretty sure it’s in your backyard. Could you go grab it for me?" Skeptical, she disappeared back into her apartment and returned a few minutes later.

She never opened the wrought iron security door and I don’t blame her. She handed me S.T.E.V.E.’s head through the metal bars. “Thank you!”

Today’s Food “Variety”

Growing heirloom vegetables isn’t just for extremely pretentious gardeners. Well, yes it is. BUT, there’s a good reason to beyond thinking you’re better than everyone else. Hell, you might just save our food supply by growing heirlooms!

If you didn’t know, heirloom varieties have been handed down for generations and are often regionally adapted. They are unusual, unmodified by scientists, and typically tastier than their supermarket counterparts. Most of what I grow in Panthy’s Garden is heirloom. (Which basically means I’m better than you).

Commercially grown crops often come from a handful of genetically modified varieties developed to be pest and disease resistant. Problem is, if some organism figures out a way to take them down… our dependance on so few varieties could cause big problems, like the Frito-Lay factory being shut down, or worse.

You may have seen this out in the internets, it’s a pretty clear case for why we need to continue to grow these babies. Perhaps we can make even more heirlooms? Maybe a Panthy-specific heirloom tomato that makes squirrels explode?

Original from National Geographic:

"As we’ve come to depend on a handful of commercial varieties of fruits and vegetables, thousands of heirloom varieties have disappeared. It’s hard to know exactly how many have been lost over the past century, but a study conducted in 1983 by the Rural Advancement Foundation International gave a clue to the scope of the problem. It compared USDA listings of seed varieties sold by commercial U.S. seed houses in 1903 with those in the U.S. National Seed Storage Laboratory in 1983. The survey, which included 66 crops, found that about 93 percent of the varieties had gone extinct. More up-to-date studies are needed."

So This Happened

So… an 86 year-old man fell on his gardening shears, which then lodged into his eye socket. I know, I know… I’m sorry you had to see this.

Quoted in the Tuscon Sentinel, the doctor used a poor choice of phrasing to describe the injury: 

You wouldn’t believe your eyes. Half of the pruning shears was sticking out and the other half was in his head.” 

It all turned out fine, the gardener got the shears removed from his face and he was able to keep his sight, his life, and presumably the shears. The lesson here? Keep an eye on those shears! Wuh wah. Read the full article.

Rotting on the Vine

I went away for a week. And by “away” I mean I went as far as possible from New York City as I could without leaving North America; a story for another day. Some close pals helped keep Panthy’s watered and plucked and I came back to a living garden, a really nice change from previous vacations.

In addition to the week I was away, there was another week where my garden never heard my footsteps or quietly muttered F words. The clippers sat untouched, my sweet trowel chilled in the bin, waiting to shovel to no avail. It rained and rained and I stayed away, my guilt growing daily.

My original plan was to continue to ignore the garden, hiding my shame like an old dumpling in the composter. I was literally going to sail around Manhattan with my pal and his Albanian buddy. Seriously. But as sailing trips with Albanians often do, it fell through and I had no choice but to face my out-of-control garden. Thanks to the combined savory power of bacon, eggs, and cheese I finally found the strength to deal with it.

It looked pretty bad. My late-season, heat-abused tomatoes had grown super tall and scraggly, losing their lower branches and foliage. I picked what might be the shittiest tomato ever grown. It’s actually remarkable how bad this thing looks, “Money Maker” my ass.

A couple of peppers were buried so deep in the tangle of leaves and branches they’d ripened from green to red and then literally began rotting on the branches. I’m a terrible person and a horrible gardener.

Everywhere I stepped I crushed uneaten ground cherries which I swept into to two giant piles that looked like this:

I moved to each container clipping, cleaning, harvesting; doing the work I should have done daily for the past two weeks. In the end it wasn’t as bad as I thought. As my burly rooftop gardening teacher at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden once said, "Gardens, like children, thrive in a little bit of neglect." I can’t claim the garden thrived but I did pull off all of these goodies:

Once my wife put them in nice bowls, they actually looked pretty damn good, good enough to eat. So that’s just what I did.