24 June 2010

fruitful time

Our fig tree survived transplanting beautifully into it's gorgeous new pot. It has 20 figlets showing and no signs of distress. How sweet would it be to have a crop this year?

After a meeting with the California Rare Fruit Growers, and inspired by our friend Mary, we went shopping for blueberries. It's a bit off season but we were confident in choosing Misty, a vigorous grower with low chilling hours needed.

We were a little less confident when we brought Jubilee home. The fruit is ripening and that's fun, but it actually wants cold winters, so I don't know exactly how this relationship will go. Does anyone have coastal SD experience with a blueberry called Jubilee?

Our pomegranate tree has set flowers before and that is worth the price of admission (as they say) but has not yet produced fruit for us. Maybe this is her year! With its abundance of seeds, the fruit has long been a symbol of fertility, bounty, and eternal life.

20 June 2010

garden house call

Tao is Laura's sweet kitty. She was found wandering as a tiny kitten and has found a home with Laura and her family in Point Loma. Tao watched over us as we did some planting last week, after centering ourselves with meditation and a delicious cup of chai.

The Tiki garden has some herbs taking hold and a healthy planting of pumpkins starting to run.

Cosmos are showing their bright faces.

We found some lattice and a few tall stakes, and planted beans and cucumber. Mini White cucumber will make it's way up the lattice. Kentucky Wonder pole beans are planted all around the legs of the big tipi on the North side of the bed. We put in a row of Roq d'Or yellow wax bush beans, between the pumpkins and lettuce... plus an heirloom tomato volunteer from my garden, and a Japanese Ichiban eggplant. (She thinks her vegetarian daughter is going to enjoy the eggplant... I hope she does!) Laura will explore her options for mulching the bed to improve the soil texture and to retain moisture. I've always been a fan of organic mushroom compost as a top dressing.

And here is the radiant Laura, putting in a few Russian Mammoth sunflowers in the corner where she will have a hot tub one day. A busy yoga teacher (and dancer) needs a place to relax and soak away the tension. Thank you Laura, for opening bodies and souls in San Diego. Blessings for an abundant harvest!

18 June 2010

japanese moment

With dewdrops dripping
I wish somehow I could wash
this perishing world


Today this haiku from Basho moved me. It seems that working with the soil, growing a beautiful Japanese eggplant is a way to "wash this perishing world." A concrete action to reconnect and to cultivate a caring mind. Shining purple blossom with proud yellow center, dark stems against lush green... even before the fruit arrives, it is a wonder to behold.

13 June 2010

coconut bliss

Locally grown Meyer Lemon (from Steve's garden) was the first ice cream I made in our new Donvier hand-crank freezer. It's wonderfully simple to operate, and makes just one pint, which seems to be perfect for us. The second experiment was with juicy organic strawberries. I added in strawberry pieces at the end, but they made little frozen chunks and didn't add anything, so I'll blend them all the way next time. And tonight, pure dark chocolate!

I'm using recipes from Wheeler Del Toro's Vegan Scoop and trading out the soy, using organic coconut milk in place of the creamer, my own almond milk in place of the soy milk.

Larry and Luna of Coconut Bliss are my guides. I first met Larry and Luna in Eugene back in 2003 at a Buddhist retreat weekend, when they were part of a sustainable community there. Imagine my surprise when I brought home a pint of Coconut Bliss ice cream from OB People's Co-op and saw their beautiful faces smiling back at me. Luna was the "kitchen goddess" at Lost Valley then and I have never had a more colorful, delicious veg menu on retreat... the beet salad, and walnut-pea pate' on rustic artisan bread were incredible!

09 June 2010

permaculture design

Ah Larry Santoyo, I am so looking forward to sharing ideas with you and the community of So Cal Permaculturists meeting in Orange County for the next six months. (Thank you to Toby Hemenway for the referral.)

Ecological and Economical Design

by Larry Santoyo

Imagine living in a place that is blended into the natural environment. Your home is not only naturally heated and cooled, but is elegant and affordable. Integrated into the surrounding landscape are natural water systems where food is being grown safe from harmful chemicals, and waste is managed for productivity. A place where the neighbors, young and old, routinely help one another. There is less traffic, less pollution and more open spaces. Leisure time becomes abundant and recreational opportunities are close at hand. Also imagine that as a result of its design, this place saves you money, and most importantly, it saves the Earth its precious resources...

Through the simple and practical strategies offered by Permaculture Design, a village lifestyle like this is not a dream. Permaculture (a contraction of the words "permanent and culture"), is a highly developed Art, Science and Philosophy. Permaculture design sciences are used by homeowners, architects, land use planners, landscape designers, farmers and community service organizations.
 Australian ecologist Bill Mollison formulated Permaculture in the mid-seventies. He researched around the world with various cultures and ecosystems until he developed what would become a globally recognized, environmentally benign system of land use - a permanence in culture modeled on natural patterns.

In Nature, total resource efficiency is accomplished by managing waste for productivity and balancing its consumption with contributions from each of the elements in the system. Permaculture Sciences design human eco-systems that model these patterns of multi-function and inter-connections. Regional groups and colleges teach Permaculture Design, and design firms throughout the country are now offering Perma-culture services. Permaculture brings to home owners and design professionals an innovative approach to planning, landscaping, building and retrofitting.

Permaculture groups train designers in simple techniques to "read the patterns of the landscape" and methods that "turn any problems into resources." Permaculture designers consider that every property has a unique pattern of natural characteristics. Proper alignment with these natural patterns is the basis of the permaculture process. Instead of the "one size fits all" approach, Nature is allowed to direct the land use plan. By skillfully using permaculture methods of site analysis and evaluation, elements, such as buildings and roads and practices, such as farming and forestry are established only in areas with optimum conditions - working with nature in an efficient and economical way.
Other basic principles are taught to permaculture designers. One of the most important is relative location or the careful placement of elements within a system. Elements are placed not in isolation, but in relation to the dynamics of the total site. Proper placement is achieved when an element or a practice is designed to interact efficiently with all of the influencing elements. To do this, permaculture designers use simple physics and biology, as well as specific observation skills.
The permaculture designer treats the built environment and the natural environment as a whole. Houses are designed not only for optimum solar advantage but are carefully sited away from sensitive areas. Prime agricultural land and wildlands are protected. Precautions are taken for the predictable threats of fire, flood, wind, and cold air drainage. One of the primary objectives in permaculture is for designers to develop simple biological alternatives to reduce the need for the expensive and resource consuming demands of high technology. Proper shading alone has reduced cooling costs in desert areas by up to 20%.
Permaculture designers also learn to observe and research naturally occurring plant and animal assemblies (called guilds). This information is translated for use in sustainable farming. Perennial fruit trees, shrubs, and vines, together with livestock and animal commercial crops are selected to mimic natural assemblies; each plant and animal benefits the other, providing a permanent and maintenance free resource system.

Comprehensive water and soil conservation planning are integral to any sustainable design. For water conservation and flood controls, permaculture designers use roofs, parking lots, roadways and landscapes for harvesting run-off water. Basin and berm structures (called swales) and cisterns are constructed to collect this run-off and convert flooding problems into helpful resources of drinking water and low cost irrigation.

For economic development, Nature's model of resource efficiency is used again. In this process an inventory is meticulously prepared, examining a community's basic needs and cross referenced with its renewable resources. Needs that are not met by local resources are considered job opportunities for the community. Resources surplus to local needs are available as sustainable commodities for trade, thus creating a stable economy based on real need and renewable resources.
Mixed use zoning is recommended for community land use plans. Designing residential and commercial zones into clusters allows large areas of open and wild space to remain intact. This creates an access by proximity design allowing people to live, shop, work and recreate in the same proximity. Transportation and traffic problems are greatly reduced. Home based businesses can then be linked with other businesses for efficiency. Suburban and urban consumers can also be linked directly with nearby farms and other rural enterprise. Good planning saves money for an entire community. When our basic needs are provided for where we live, we create jobs, conserve natural resources, and enhance our sense of security. When community spirit is raised, economic vitality can be restored.

Reprinted with permission from the author. Larry Santoyo is a permaculture designer and teacher, a business consultant and land use planner. He can be reached through his website at Earthflow Design Works. Courses start in Orange County California in July and in Los Angeles in October 2010

04 June 2010

portland rocks!

My former home still holds a very special place in my heart, because it encourages the very best in me. Portland has been the nurturing nest for my yoga and meditation practices, organic community farming, car-free lifestyle, and cultivating my most compassionate self. Portland is still home to many of my dearest friends.

Portland has some of the best independent and creative minds wandering her streets, like the people at Powells Books, the McMenamin brothers, the folks over at Literary Arts, the Aladdin Theater, and those who make public transportation and cycling work so well in the Rose City. And now, Portland is home to the Vegan Iron Chef competition!

Totally veg foodies are rejoicing! That there are enough people into deeply compassionate eats to support a Vegan Mini-Mall over in Southeast, and to SELL OUT this event is very encouraging indeed. It's being held in the beautifully green Natural Capital Center on the streetcar line and sponsored by Ecotrust, home of the Food and Farms program.

03 June 2010

planting potatoes

In a deep trench layered with seaweed, gypsum and our rich kitchen compost, I planted a row of Yukon Gold potatoes. I cut the sections smallish (watching for at least one eye per chunk) because they'll produce new potatoes faster if they have less "food" from the original potato. This year's potatoes will appear between the seed potato down below and the green growth up above, so it is important to hill up the potato plants with light soil or straw so there's lots of darkened growing space in between. The leaves have to have some sun to do their thing, so it'll be a gradual hilling-up. I saw a brilliant idea for growing a potato crop in a little garden, but I'm going to try it the old-fashioned way.

A lizard playground seemed like a good idea since there were some flagstone pieces lying around.

Because outside of a buggy lettuce patch...

...there's nothing a lizard loves more than a flat rock in the sunshine.

01 June 2010

the solution comes up every day

One day Candy and Jeff went up on the roof to think about the best way to capture rainwater and to see if the solar panels were clean.

We have an array of 20 panels that my husband installed for $15,000. After a $4000 rebate and nearly 10 years of being fully solar-powered, we're feeling pretty happy about our return on investment. We wash them once in awhile and top up the water in the batteries, and send energy back to the grid every month.

On top of the usual computing, heating and lighting, the sun can do cool things like bake cornbread!

It keeps our NoGas electric scooter charged. And with a little bit of water and care, the sun converts solar energy into a garden full of fruit and vegetables. Our fuel.

I'm worried about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the long term fallout of this puncture in the Earth's skin. Solar, wind, water and so many clean energy sources are here for us. As heard at Solfest "The solution comes up every day".