Monthly Archives: March 2015

“Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley”

In this beautiful new book by photographer Francesco Mastalia, Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley,

you’ll find over 100 one-of-a-kind ambrotype portraits of the farmers and chefs of the Hudson Valley. Not only are the photos beautiful, but they are of some of the most influential members of the organic movement.

The book includes portraits and interviews with Amy Hepworth, Dan Barber, Zakary Pelaccio, Ken Greene, Steffen Schneider, and many many more. In narrating their own stories, the farmers and chefs share their philosophy about what it means to grow and live organically and sustainably.

Mastalia used the wet-plate collodion process, a technique developed in the 1850s when the art of photography was in its infancy. With the use of a large format wooden camera and brass lens, glass plates are hand coated to produce one-of-a-kind ambrotype images. The amber-toned images remind us of a time when the cultivation of land was a manual process that linked the farmer directly to the soil.

” … for anyone who likes their locally-grown, pesticide-free carrots with a dusting of nostalgia, Organic is tasty indeed.” –


You’re amazing!

I already know you’re amazing, but here are some honest-to-goodness, scientific-y facts about the human body that make us humans even more awe-inspiring.

Did you know …

* There are over 100,000 miles of blood vessels in an adult human? If all your blood vessels were laid out end-to-end, they would go around the Earth four times.


Photo, NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS via Wikimedia Commons

* Your intestinal tract, the system responsible for eating and digesting food, is over 30 feet long. (How in the world does it all fit??)

* Nerve impulses travel back and forth to the brain at speeds up to 250 miles per hour (nearly as fast as the fastest race car on record).

* Humans have the ability to read up to 1,000 words a minute.

* Our eyes are so sensitive that, if our surroundings were completely flat, we could see the flicker of a candle at night from 30 miles away.


Photo by israel Silberberg via Wikimedia Commons

* The adult body is made up of more than 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms. (One question: Who counted?)

* Humans have about the same number of hairs on their bodies as chimpanzees. (Ours are just so fine, you can barely see them, thank goodness.)

* Adult humans have about 2.5 trillion red blood cells in our bodies, but the average red blood cell lives only for about 120 days, so our bone marrow produces about two and a half million new ones every second. That’s like reproducing the entire population of Chicago every second.

* There are more living organisms on the skin of one human being than there are human beings on the Earth.

* Each of our bodies has 230 movable joints.

* Our hearts beat about 30 million times each year and our lungs breathe about 192 million gallons of air a year—all without even thinking about it.

Yep, we’re amazing.

Le Printemps by Pierre Auguste Cot (1873) via Wikimedia Commons



the birds and the …

trinkets? We’ve all heard that some birds, especially crows, are attracted to trinkets. But to hear that a murder of crows (no, not that kind of murder … murder is the term for a group of crows) recognize that trinkets can be a gift of gratitude to us humans … well, that’s a strange bird (or birds, as the case may be)!

Kuznetsova by Repin, 1901

In Seattle, Washington, little 8-year-old Gabi Mann seems to have a flock of admirers, right in her own backyard. It all started when Gabi was just 4 years old, and the neighborhood crows, ever alert, noticed that Gabi tended to drop yummy things to eat. Gabi noticed too, and by the time she started school, she also started sharing bits of her packed lunch with the crows while waiting for the bus. Then, she and her mom started regularly feeding the crows in the backyard. That’s when they began noticing little presents left behind on the feeder … beads, rocks, buttons, and more.


Photo, Lisa Mann

So many presents that they now fill a 32-compartment bead storage box that Gabi treasures.

But the strangest present came recently when Gabi’s mom, Lisa, lost her lens cap while shooting photos of birds in their neighborhood. She found it on the rim of the backyard birdbath. When she checked their “bird cam” to see if it was, indeed, the crows who returned it, she saw that one actually spent time washing it off in the birdbath before laying it carefully on the rim for Gabi to find. Now that’s something to crow about!

Gabi and her mom, Lisa. Photo, Lisa Mann.

Read the whole story here.



Missouri French

Here’s a nugget of geographical trivia that proves romance can be found in the most unexpected places.

First, think of places where people speak French …

France, sure.


Parts of Africa.

The far-flung Polynesian islands?

Photo by Fred via Wikimedia Commons

No denying the romance there.

But I’ll bet you didn’t include Old Mines, Missouri.

It’s true.

Check out the sign beside the door in the photo below.

Photo by Kbh3rd via Wikimedia Commons


That, my friend, is French.

Now, I know what you’re assuming, but it’s not just an attempt by the local Historical Society to fancy up an old log cabin. The sign is actually a reminder of bygone days when enterprising French miners pitched camp in southeastern Missouri and started digging, hoping to find silver among the area’s plentiful lead deposits. Old Mines never yielded much in the way of riches to the French settlers, but their culture and language was indelibly marked upon the region. Shaped by time as well as Creole and Indian influences, the locals’ speech developed a unique dialect that became known as Pawpaw French (after the native fruit-bearing tree).

Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, however, only a handful of Old Mines residents still speak the language, and this fascinating scrap of American heritage is hovering near extinction.

Photo by Kbh3rd via Wikimedia Commons

Take a minute to travel to Old Mines via the video below, and listen to the lilting words of Natalie Villmer, one of the last speakers of this fading tongue, as she explains its history and sings its praises (in Pawpaw, of course).



folding paper

I recently discovered a trailer for an amazing-looking documentary about origami, Between the Folds. I’ve watched a few minutes of it and plan to watch the whole thing the next time I have an hour to spare. In the meantime, I thought I’d share it with you. This isn’t your normal YouTube video about folding paper cranes, and in case you’re wondering if origami can capture your attention for a whole hour, here’s your chance …

Watch the full documentary here.

“Much of the beauty that arises in art
comes from the struggle an artist wages
with his limited medium.”
– Henri Matisse