28 December 2013

sustainable sophia

The Sophia Conference - Near Zero Waste




The Sophia Conference brings together San Diego women to tend our souls every year. We sing, dance, listen to each other, and share beautiful food made with love. Because of the holistic nature of the Institute of Feminine Wisdom, we include Mother Earth in our sisterhood, and keep moving closer to zero waste at these events. With about 75 women in attendance, here's what we were able to capture and (mostly) divert from the landfill:

REDUCE (COMPOST) - About 3 gallons of mostly napkins and tea bags, plus a few food scraps and a nice big stack of uncoated paper dishes to work into the compost bin

REUSE - Two glass gallon jugs

RECYCLE - Two boxes, one paper coffee collar, and 5 recyclable plastic lids

LANDFILL - Veggie plastic spoons, plastic wrap, name tags, 3 black trash bags, 6 wax-lined coffee cups

Thank you to everyone who brought their own mug or water bottle. This allowed us to eliminate the "compostable" corn-based plastic cups from last year, once we learned that they are not recyclable in San Diego (or anywhere else that I know of) and sadly, they will not break down in a backyard compost pile.

Please remember that there is no such place as "away" for us to throw our trash. Modern landfills are lined with layers of absorbent material and sheets of plastic to keep pollutants from leaking into the soil and water. It's like a big Tupperware container buried in the ground. Not good.

We can improve next year by capturing kitchen scraps and trash from behind the scenes and all paper from the registration desk and vendor tables, for a complete snapshot of our waste stream. We can also encourage carpooling and public transit. Please share other ideas for leaving a light environmental footprint.

21 July 2013

edible ecosystem



Creating an edible ecosystem is what permaculture is all about, looking for ways to layer in more life, more food, and fewer tasks for the gardener. When Christopher Shein came to City College this week to introduce his engaging new book "The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture" I was grateful to be there with my friends Dorothea and Ellie.


I was reminded that the leaves and shoots of Chayote squash are edible. First introduced to this idea at a Hanoi restaurant where sauteed pumpkin leaves were on the menu, I had forgotten that these vital fuzzy greens are delicious! Chayote is a vigorous grower that will overrun anything in its path. Trimming is essential, and these tender early parts will soon be on our dinner table.


We talked about climbing Malabar spinach that produces year-round in coastal San Diego. Lucky us, to have the leaves of such a beautiful vine to add to salads. It has a slippery texture and tart flavor more like purslane than spinach. I've only eaten it raw. It may taste more like spinach when steamed.

From the garden at Merritt College in Oakland, Christopher shared seed for collards, chard and the Mimosa tree. I've planted them all. My Aunt Pat had a pink-flowered "silk tree" in her front yard when I was little. It's a nitrogen fixer that improves the soil as it spreads a broad canopy, but lets through enough filtered light that lots of food can grow under the Mimosa shelter. We do need some leafy cover to buffer the bright Southern California sunshine. Now to find the right place for it...

16 July 2013

back to the garden





"We are stardust. We are golden. We are billion year old carbon.
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden."

[Woodstock ~ Joni Mitchell]

11 April 2013

new moon yantra



There's a new moon in Aries and it can super-charge creativity, according to dear ones who are in tune with  these energies.  Last night, Laura Plumb provided glue sticks, colored paper and intention to a circle of women who were invited to create their own Yantra for this season of Spring renewal.

I have to admit, I had never before heard the word "Yantra" but after a little enlightenment on the subject, I like the concept very much.  It's kind of a personal mandala and focus for your meditation.  I gathered the clippings I had in a box for a vision board that never took shape - taken from a letterpress project, a special card, tiny Tibetan prayer flags, magazines.  I resurrected words and images, played fast and loose with the petals and triangles of the Yantra and made a little collage that pleases me.  My muse says to shine.  Just shine, and to keep seeking honesty in any of the infinite ways to express my soul in this life.

Each Yantra was deeply personal and quite beautiful.  The diversity was exciting to see.  I'm feeling alive!

03 April 2013

mission fig watercolor


Sitting in the garden and drawing what I see is very meditative.  Unpacking my new paint set and mixing the colors is where the challenge lies.  Finding the right shades of green and mixing just the right size "puddle" of paint so that the greens will be consistent takes patience.

Next time I'll take a shot at the bright blue pot the Mission fig grows in.

29 March 2013

eucalyptus watercolor


My pen and ink watercolor class is a total delight.  The group is small, the teacher inspires me, and (bonus) it's an easy bike ride to the Park Blvd studio.  I tried a Eucalyptus branch first. Next week we're going to sit in a University Heights coffee shop to sketch what we see.

I hear there's an urban "Sketch Crawl" that meets up every week here in San Diego, based on the work of Danny Gregory - I'm putting it on my list of new things to try this Spring.

21 December 2012

natural christmas

Since I work from home, virtually never go to the mall and rarely watch television, I depend on nature to tell me when December has arrived and it's time to bring a little greenery inside to celebrate the Christmas holiday.  For the most part, I left my flower gardening self back in the Pacific Northwest.  The return of this small cluster of Paperwhites gives me a real sense of renewal, and makes me nostalgic for Sharron and the garden plot we shared at Luscher Farm and for the wonderful people of the Hardy Plant Society.  Sign number one: Narcissus.


When I went to a pruning workshop at Mission Hills Nursery and the talk was all about roses, I almost excused myself, until I learned that a citrus tree wants to be pruned just like a rose bush.  Create a vase shape, let some air circulate in the center, and for citrus, be sure that no branches make contact with the ground, because the last thing you want is to build an insect highway leading up into the tree.  It works!  The hard pruning I did last Spring has tripled the output of this Satsuma.  Sign number two: Tangerines.

And so it is time.  The Black Pine is getting a trim and joining us inside to be decked out in white lights.


The Rosemary gave up a bundle of branches to make a wreath for the front door.  It needed this - looks much more shapely after being pruned.


Today is Winter Solstice 2012 and the beginning of a New Age of compassion some say.  It's no secret that the holiday season has become a frenzied, commercial affair.  I'm ready for more restful times.  Bringing a bit of nature inside, lighting a candle and building a fire get me into the right spirit.  My body wants to retreat into the long nights of Winter, to emerge with fresh eyes and an open heart.  Wishing you peace ~