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Pollinator Gardens and Purchase Grads

Pollinator gardens (photo by Caroline Shadood/WFUV)

Pollinator gardens (photo by Caroline Shadood/WFUV)


In this weekly WFUV feature, our staffers offer up a trio of worthy interests or discoveries that they think you might like too. Overnight and fill-in host Caroline Shadood digs into Meg Duffy's venture as Hand Habits, nurtures gardens that support bees, butterflies, and birds, and wonders what kind of alchemy exists at SUNY Purchase that spawns so many musicians.

Hand Habits
In early 2017 I shared my semi-illegal railroad apartment with a musician named Mega Bog. It was a dreamy time where we laughed often, painted pedals neon colors at the kitchen table over tea, and hosted musicians stopping through unannounced, often members of Big Thief.

I loved this arrangement. I got home from work one day and heard otherworldly guitar sounds coming from the opposite end of the apartment— it was then that I met Meg Duffy, aka Hand Habits. I didn’t discover them the “normal” way, by accident at a show, but with this happenstance behind-the-scenes sort of vibe, plucking at a guitar on my bedroom floor. They apologized and offered to stop playing but I insisted they didn’t.

Months later, I discovered Hand Habits a second time, when their song “All The While” (from Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void), Woodsist, 2017) showed up on my Discover Weekly (don’t judge me). Who is this? Why is this so familiar and so devastatingly beautiful? I put two and two together and the more I learned about Hand Habits the more I loved them; the more I listened, the more intricate the songs became as I discovered lyrical nooks and crannies and weepy slide guitars with every new listen. Meg is an in-demand studio and touring musician, working with The War On Drugs, Weyes Blood, Kevin Morby, Mega Bog (aforementioned roommate) Currently on the road with Aldous Harding, they will hit the road with Sylvan Esso in November and Duffy is also supporting Angel Olsen's European tour in the winter of 2020. In early October, I had the chance to Hand Habits play Brooklyn Steel with Whitney.

But the magic of Hand Habits isn’t some pedigree of big-indie associates: their latest album, Placeholder, came out earlier this year on Saddle Creek. Placeholder meditates on boundaries, existential panic, and toxic relationships, both interpersonal and of the self. They sing with clarity and softness, and on this perfect record, the guitar loops drive each song as hard as the lyrics.

SUNY Purchase Graduates
I would like to talk about the conspiracy of amazing musicians borne of SUNY Purchase. Is anyone else noticing? Is this an inside job? My first jolt of curiosity came when an ex casually humble-bragged that he taught a class with Mitski. “WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL AGAIN?” I demanded. SUNY Purchase, of course.

A more recent time was at Mal Blum’s sold-out Rough Trade show back in July, where I learned that openers Adult Mom also went to Purchase. Somewhere in between I saw a meme about khaki pants as they relate to Porches, who again, studied music at Purchase. Love Fordham, love WFUV, love Muhlenberg College where I just attended my 10-year reunion, but something is in the water up there in Westchester County. I swear this isn’t a way to talk about more than one musician, I’m just really hype that one state school produced Regina Spektor, Mitski, Mal Blum, Porches, Dan Deacon (always thought of him as a Baltimore guy but apparently he went here, too), Suzzy Roche, Mr. Twin Sister, Flash Trading, Sheer Mag — I could keep going. Moby studied philosophy at SUNY Purchase, but we can agree he’s done pretty all right for himself in the music world.

Pollinator Gardens

Despite NY being a “concrete jungle” (insert additional clichés here), there’s a strong pollinator population in this city that helps with biodiversity nationwide. Different types of bees, butterflies, birds, and more can be found throughout all five boroughs. I’ve learned this and then some through my gardening habit, but the more I learn the more I’m excited to see a bee fly by. Wild that I used to run away screaming!

Pollinator gardens are simply gardens that aim to attract pollinating insects and animals. They’re easy to grow and they are natural assistants to whatever little ecosystem you’re trying to cultivate. My pollinator garden includes perennials like echinacea (coneflower), salvia (sage), beebalm, butterfly weed, clematis (Virgin's bower), plus annuals like lavender, sunflower, and starcluster. It’s been magical to watch my garden explode from the number of bees attracted. I saw my first hummingbird last week.

Learn more about pollinator gardens over at my favorite gardening blog Homestead and Chill, or the Highline’s Sustainable Gardens Project, which offers an annual pollinator scholarship.