Extreme Fire Escape Gardening – Part II

July 11, 2011

This Part II post is a continuation from the Part I post on Extreme Fire Escape Gardening. It’s been about 1 1/2 months since the bulk of the garden was planted and things are growing, well, a bit unevenly:

uneven growth

uneven growth

The cayenne plant pictured above has been a real asshole. He produced two small peppers then proceeded to halt growth and drop all of his leaves apart from one brownish-yellowish thing dangling from one side.  As a contrast, many of the other plants are doing well, as evidence, I present the Thai Chili above. To teach the cayenne pepper a lesson, I ripped it out:

Game Over, I Win

Game Over, I Win.


Since the last blog post on the fire escape garden, there have been some additions & expansions taking place. After a pretty successful dumpster-dive in a skanky nook of Bush Terminal, I scavenged a decorative metal wire thing which I clamped to the fire escape ladder. Inside it, I planted the newest addition: 2 tomato plants bringing the total garden to 50 plants (also includes 2 lychee trees currently being grown in tomato sauce cans from seeds):

tomato plants clamped to fire escape ladder

tomato plants clamped to fire escape ladder

Another modification made to the garden spawned from my father’s debilitative addiction to mitigating what he perceives to be safety threats. Convinced I would fall to my death from the fire escape, during his last visit, he spent an hour or so tying together a rather elaborate safety net out of rope, closing off the large hole leading to the level below. This netting was an excellent addition as it increased the footprint of the garden allowing me to replant some quickly growing plants in bigger containers. For the containers, I walked down to a construction site a couple blocks from my apartment and hit the jackpot: three 5 gallon paint buckets and some 2″x4″ scraps. Unfortunately, one bucket was clearly used as a toilet for the construction crew, so, there was a rather lengthy bucket cleaning process required, the details of which I shall withhold.  After shoving the 2″x4″ into the safety netting and cutting the 5-gallon buckets to size, the garden looked quite a big larger:

Fire escape garden

Fire escape garden

You’ll also notice there is now some sort of trellis thing sitting atop the two dresser drawer pots. It’s actually an IKEA chair I picked up on 40th Street and DORKTURPIDVAARTED to stabilize the growing plants. Working like a charm so far, and proving that IKEA furniture is not 100% useless crap.


Unfortunately, my neighbor below me hasn’t been spending much time on the fire escape, so I haven’t been able to douse him with water. Pity. Instead, he appears to be using his fire escape section for a couple new purposes:

  1. dirty dish staging area – for several weeks I’ve noticed the same half-eaten burritos and sandwiches rotting in the summer sun on these plates (a half-dozen of them complete with utensils).
  2. large stuffed animal storage area – the kind of human-sized stuffed bear that I recall seeing (in my childhood days) being carried around in large plastic bags at Six Flags by dudes with wife-beaters and thick gold chains.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the trash gets taken out and new neighbors are inserted below.


So, for the most part, things are taking off, peppers are coming in quickly and a few things have been harvested:
some of that sweet, sweet booty

some of that sweet, sweet booty

Ok, the harvest has been rather meager thus far, but many of the plants have a dozen or so buds on them and I’m expecting big numbers for the next post. Current harvest is at: 3 Banana Peppers, 1 Thai Chili, 6 Cayenne, 1 Jalapeno, 1 Cherry. Part of the problem I’m noticing is that the plants in the clear pots getting the most sun tend to be the bitchiest. I think this has to do with too much sunlight getting through to the roots. I’m planning to do a little re-potting this week if I can find the right kind of trash to fix the issue. I noticed a new dumpster at a build site over on 43rd, so I think I may go get vertical and see what I can find. The plants in the wooden and opaque plastic pots are doing the best…big dark-green leaves, lots of buds.


So the basil plant has been a pain in the ass here lately. I’ve planted basil numerous times in the past and it always grows like a freakin’ weed. This year I had to pretty much ravage the damn thing just to cook up one pot of pasta sauce. It droops, it has brown spots all over, it’s not growing and my pesto is moving further and further away. I’ve tried threatening the plant and even showed it the lifeless body of the recent cayenne fatality as proof of my ability to execute on my threats.

Just last week though, basil and I had a bit of a breakthrough. When I replanted it in one of the 5-gallon buckets, it’s health started to improve and new shoots popped out of the top. We are in the process of rekindling our relationship, but until I see substantial progress I’ll continue to use the carrot and stick approach.

Join me next week as I’ll be in southern Utah scoping out the polygamist communities attempting to test-drive FLDS as a potential religion to immerse myself in next:

HERE IS THE POLYGAMY POST: https://danielshortell.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/one-wife-two-wives-three-wives-four-five-wives-six-wives-seven-wives-really-more/


I wrote a book called Where’s Unimportant. It’s a literary fiction piece about one man’s failed attempt at the American Dream. For a mere $3 you can buy the ebook at your favorite ebook retailer. Or, for $11 you can buy the paperback on Amazon. Visit me at www.danielshortell.com.

Debut novel - Where's Unimportant

Debut novel - Where's Unimportant

On Restraining Oneself From Punching the Ice Cream Truck Guy in the Nose

March 30, 2011

Spring in New York City can be a magical time. As the painfully cold winter melts underfoot and the parks begin showing their colors, people sprout spontaneously from the sidewalks, pooling together, a reverie of urban rebirth. Fresh air, high spirits and solar-fueled energy hang over the city creating an affable tone seen clearly through the unusual frequency of smiling faces and selfless yielding. Don’t get me wrong here, you are still going to get flipped-off and honked at for not flooring it immediately when the light turns green, but, the vitriol feels less poisonous, a little less caustic. That finger still pops up, but, it’s not quite as angry as that mid-winter finger, rigid and icy-cold, looking like a spear ready to attack. Nope, springtime is in the air and brotherhood leaches through that shedding winter skin of many.

Unfortunately, it’s not all budding roses and smiling faces in Gotham. The warming temperatures not only bring out the frolicking children and lazy-eye parents, but, they also bring out a cadre of annoyances bent on disturbing the relative peace permeating the streets. Depending on your location in the city and the draws specific to that area, you may find yourself at conflict with the aspirations of a hardened few, brazen and determined to fulfill their agenda regardless of the cost to tranquility.

Stroll through Union Square and you are likely to be verbally accosted by crazy, bible-thumping zealots screaming bloody apocalypse to all. Take a late-afternoon walk through Park Slope and you could be bombarded in numerous locations by self-righteous, assertive hipsters hitting you up for donations to save whales or promote veganism. Play the role of tourist and navigate your way through a maze of aggressive street vendors on Canal Street yelling at you to buy their fake colognes or handbags. Or, come to my neighborhood in Sunset Park and be driven mad by some asshole in a Mister Softee ice cream truck who insists on parking directly in front of your building and blasting his shrill, looping 20-second attract track for hours at a time.

It’s painful, relentless and drowns out any other audible noise in the area. It stays with you, and, even when you can’t hear it you think you might be hearing it, so, you mute all other sounds attempting to hear it only to find that it has blithely attached itself to your subconscious brain, only audible in the deep recesses of your mind.

Appeals to reason with the truck operator are futile. Calls to the police are dismissed. Staging a protest is eccentric. Vandalism is a punishable offence, and, so is murder. But, at some point, the Mister Softee jingle consumes you, it corrodes your better parts, causing you to act in completely irrational ways. The following is just one man’s story:


Check out my debut novel, Where’s Unimportant at http://www.danielshortell.com. Buy it, and, even if it sucks, you can use it to beat the shit out of your unfriendly neighborhood ice cream jerk.