30 May 2010

daily harvest

The garden is starting to pop, and every day there are some juicy summer vegetables to bring in for dinner! Today it's tomato and green beans, and some tender mesclun for the salad. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

28 May 2010

starts for amanda

Today I visited the adorable Southpark cottage my friend Amanda has just moved into with her husband Seth, to help decide where her new vegetable bed will go. I've potted up some starts for her: heirloom tomato, japanese eggplant, and some herbs and flowers. It's an immense joy to be supporting Mother Earth in this way! My inspiration is coming from San Diego Roots and their Victory Gardens branch. Once the prep work is done, we'll gather the Sophia Circle to install and bless the vegetable garden.

Right outside the front door is a beautiful spot for a south-facing raised bed. There is at least one active gopher in the area, so wire mesh under the bed would be a good idea. We talked about sheet mulching the area including the pathway surrounding the bed. It's easy to reach across two feet of plantings, not so easy to reach in four feet, so we're thinking a nice pathway all the way around the bed makes sense. Being so close to the beach, we can gather kelp to add potash, and we'll layer in some slow-release rock phosphate. She'll be getting plenty of nitrogen from her kitchen compost. Amanda is recycling household water and hanging her clothes on the line, already doing wonderful stewardship for the planet!

Lovely Amanda sent us home with some agapanthus starts. This Lily of the Nile looks like "Peter Pan" and I can't wait to find a perfect spot for him, to enjoy those gorgeous blue globe blooms.

26 May 2010

emma's child

Our final performance in Katie Rodda's acting class was Thursday. Here we are on the Saville Theater stage as Jean and Henry, working through some very challenging adoption details, in a scene from Emma's Child. That's me clutching a teddy bear and Jeff clutching his head. Really, sometimes I'm so unreasonable!

25 May 2010

garden capers

Kentucky Wonder pole beans have always performed well for me. My old tennis partner, Hal, used to say "you can pull up a chair and watch them grow!"

We have crazy nasturtium vines (also known as "indian cress") everywhere, so I'm trying a pickling experiment with the still-green seeds. They'll sit for 24-hours in salt brine (big batch) and another 24-hours in fresh water (small batch), and then into jars with vinegar and garlic and peppercorns. Some say they taste like capers.

Jeff cultivated this mango from seed. We're coaxing it along, in the shade of the brussels sprouts. We don't know yet whether it wants to be a single stem, or if the three branches will develop together. Growing more tropical fruit is the next frontier for us.

17 May 2010

hummingbird blessing

A hummingbird came to visit me in the garden today. He swept in so close to my left ear that I thought he might check it for nectar. He swung around to the right and hovered under the brim of my garden hat and beat his little wings furiously while he looked directly into my face. My heart jumped but I stayed very still, to fully receive his blessing.

The alstromerias were calling just beyond the shelter of my straw hat, and he was off to explore each flower, coming away with golden pollen on his chin.

Wonderful moment.

11 May 2010

seeds for annaka

I'm gathering some Russian Giant sunflower seeds for Annaka today, and a few Cosmos, and Nasturtium seeds too. We have so many of the striped sunflower seeds that I've been planting them in thick rows to harvest for salad sprouts. A few of them will be strategically saved to tower over the garden, but most will be cut young and lively for the kitchen.

Annaka is from the Northwest too. I'm actually from the Pacific Northwest via Northern California, truth be told, but I lived in Portland longer and during some very transformational years, so I feel most rooted there. Anyway, she and I shared the same shipwrecked feeling when we arrived here in Southern California... who will we talk to about seed saving, water gathering, recycling, living organically? It is happening, people! Just this week were three lectures to choose from: Brad Lancaster on Water Harvesting, Van Jones on the Green Collar Economy, and Tom Spanbauer from Portland on "writing dangerously" by accessing the inarticulate speech of the heart. Only loosely related maybe, but for me it's all interconnected. Be the truth, and share the truth.

And now more from the garden... the first tomato (a volunteer) is almost ready!

I sent a fresh red onion home with Rosie after our Mother's Day grill in the garden.

The apples are getting bigger, and the squirrels are not showing much interest in them this year. Yay!

08 May 2010

lovely amaranth

I grow Amaranth because it's beautiful in the garden, and undemanding. Amaranth rivals soy in protein content and provides essential amino acids. My seed is from the organic garden of Paul Maschka.

It was one of the staple foodstuffs of the Incas, and it is known as kiwicha in the Andes today. It was also used by the ancient Aztecs, who called it huautli, and other Native America peoples in Mexico to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a treat called alegría, or "joy" in Spanish.

From Deborah Madison's Local Flavors I learned that tender amaranth leaves can be used in salad. Larger leaves can be steamed like spinach, and the oxalic acid content is much lower, making it a healthier choice for cooking.

01 May 2010

may day!

May Day is all about flowers for me, and new spring growth! May poles and hit-and-run nosegays on your doorstep, and a humble cactus overwhelming you with a gorgeous abundance of blossoms.

You can barely see them, but look close... there are two cilantro seeds emerging... and just this morning... one tiny rosa bianca eggplant. (Upper right-hand corner.)

The peach tree is loaded.

The more I learn about fava beans, the more I love them. In the language of permaculture, they are nitrogen fixers (like all legumes) which means they extract nitrogen from the air and convert it to plant-available form. They're also soil cultivators with deep roots that penetrate, loosen, and aerate the soil. Freed from their pods when young, the beans are a tasty raw snack.

This sunflower planted itself, so it's already towering over the garden beds. Sunflowers attract beneficial insects (like ladybugs) and I just learned from Toby Hemenway that they are nutrient accumulators. They draw nutrients from deep in the soil and concentrate them in their leaves, making them a great addition to the compost bin. I've tucked giant sunflower seeds all over the garden. They can be harvested as sprouts, moved to another spot, or grown to maturity for the birds.

I was first introduced to permaculture concepts by Andy from Oregon Tilth, at Luscher Farm, the Lake Oswego community garden where I used to grow food in Portland. Toby Hemenway (author of Gaia's Garden) is teaching courses on permaculture design in the Pacific Northwest. I'd love to plan six weekends in Portland to participate at PSU. On Toby's recommendation, I'm exploring the upcoming training in Orange County instead. The focus will be more on plant communities for Southern California, and the commute makes more sense, sustainability-wise.

I love so many things about San Diego - the ocean, the cultural diversity, the sunshine that allows us to grow food all year long - but I my heart leaps at the thought of visiting Portland every month.