Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tea Jagging

Being a consumer of mass quantities of brew I'm always on the hunt for new and exotic varieties. It was during this quest for nourishing and essential liquids that I came across several references to compost and worm teas. OK, truth be told I was really looking for ideas on how to best apply my worm castings, something I have about a pound of every two to three weeks. Now the worm teas can get quite expensive and I understand why given the amount necessary to make an effective application. That's when I realized that I have compost, and plenty of it. So, since that day I have kept the production line going and the garden is loving it like a hobo at a cigar convention. It couldn't be easier to make and the hardest part is the waiting. The process described below takes about three or four days after which I start it all over again.

The finished tea will have a high content of beneficial organisms and nutrients, will help breakdown toxins, and will increase the growth of the treated plants. The tea can be used a foliar application which wards of pests and diseases. The other application is simply soaking the soil in your garden. And the best part is you can still use the steeped compost as one normally would, essentially doubling the usefulness of your compost. Now, unlike others, I'm not going to say that you'll notice the difference overnight but you will see it within two or three days. For instance, we had a crappy, cold, overcast summer here and our tomato plants didn't produce much, some barely at all. But since the tea has been flowing there has been a marked improvement in the plants, the number and size of fruit, and the flavor. No kidding. Here it is the middle of November and I still have San Marzanos ripening!

Here are two recipes:

Compost Tea from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Compost Tea from Fine Gardening

As with any recipe, you will soon experiment with it and make it your own. For instance, I've taken to adding a handful of worm castings to the compost before steeping. Also, I like to let the water sit with the bubblers in it for 24 hours before adding the compost. I do this as an added precaution to make sure all of the chlorine has been blown off, plus it helps add more oxygen to the water. I have also attached a small rock to each of the bubblers to make sure they stay submerged.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Monday!

Mosley's Farm, Three Rivers....


Monday, November 2, 2009

Beyond the car

Beyond the obvious benefits of our location in regards to gardening we are also lucky enough to be in a great place for bicycling. Yeah, hopping on the cruiser and going for a slow ride to take in the weather is great but I'm talking about a different and no less enjoyable type of bicycling. Practical bicycling - the bike as a primary mode of transportation.

Having lived in Los Angeles for my pretty much my entire life I would not be living here if I had a daily commute from some impossibly far-flung bedroom community to some rat turd of a job in some rat turd of an office. The stress is the first thing that comes to mind but of more importance is the impact to our environment. I'm not speaking about the carbon footprint or C02 emissions type of environment of which we could have thousands of worthwhile discussions. I'm speaking about the environment that one creates to live, work and play in. A quality of life both physical and mental.

I've always loved riding and have been through many phases with it. From mountain biking in the Santa Monica mountains to commuting to Yvette's house in the valley from my old place in downtown to cruising the bike path at the beach. Then, about 3 years ago I heard or read something, I can't remember what/who/where telling about a self-imposed rule: a three mile rule. The rule being that if at all possible he/she would ride a bike (or walk) if the destination was within three miles of home. "Great idea!" I thought and I started to live by this rule the very next day. At that time my mountain bike was in a sad state of neglect as I had been enjoying the slow ride that my beach cruiser offered. The cruiser served me well for the first year or so but the more adventurous I became the more apparent its limitations as a work bike became. So I have since upgraded to and an 8-speed city/commuter bike perfectly suited for my purposes. Fear not though, the cruiser is still in commission and does get its share of quality Fred-butt-time. The transition from driving to riding was not a difficult one nor did I intend it as a political statement. Purely practical. But you would be amazed at the reactions I would and still get from people. Be they strangers, friends, or family some folks seem to think of biking as a novelty best left for children and the poor and nothing more. "Did you ride your bicycle here?" was something I heard a lot and it was usually accompanied by a wry, sarcastic smile. As if my means of transportation has somehow made me less there. The other thing I hear a lot is "Oh, that's sooooo great, I'd love to ride more but (insert excuse consciously or subconsciously meant to justify not doing it)." Mind you, I'm not proselytizing to anyone or passing judgment. I don't even bring it up anymore. It has simply become part of my everyday life, like breathing or walking.

So after three years of living with this simple rule my life hasn't changed much. I still have a car and I do drive it, albeit about 85% less. I'm not the movement poster boy that's going to tell you that you'll lose 20 or 30 pounds, transform the urban environment, and end wars for oil. But I will tell you that if you decide to try something like this you will feel a difference immediately. By simply slowing down a little your neighborhood will open up and show you things you never knew were there. You will have a great excuse to get away from your computer and get outside. You will find yourself looking for reasons to go take a ride. You will notice that you can often get to the store/post office/lunch in about the same time as it would take you to drive and park plus you'll feel great once you get there. Try it. Even if you don't think you're up for it, try it. I think you'll find that you are.

- Fred

Yvette joins me for ride to the nursery.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chris Makes a New Friend

This is the coolest, most hilarious, enchanted creation ever. A perfect gift for someone who can sit still for a long time...

You can buy it HERE for $79.95!!!!
Happy Shopping!!!


Thursday, October 29, 2009


The folks at Timber Press, sent me this wonderful little book to read a few weeks ago. Released just in time for Halloween, Black Plants, 75 Striking Choices For The Garden, showed up in the mail at just the right time.

Truth be told, I hate our backyard. I would love to just start tearing it to pieces, but I can't get a grip on what to do with it. This book has given me some great ideas for a color palate. In the plant world, black is not always black. "Black Plants" can be deep red, burgundy, brown, black, and dark purple. Just thumbing through the pages makes me dream of having these rich dark colors bordering our house! A little creepy? perhaps. Cheery? not so much. For me, this is perfection.

Here are a few of my favorites:

"Black Scallop" bugleweed
Black Hollyhock
Devil's Tongue
Chinese Cobra lily (*Extraordinary!)
Chocolate cosmos
"Karma Chocolate" dahlia
"Sooty" Sweet William (the name alone is worth having the plant!)
Persian fritillary
"Black Peony" Breadseed poppy (for your naughty garden!)
Black Bamboo (screen out your nasty neighbor, ahem)

Black Plants is the first book written by Paul Bonine, who is co-owner of the wholesale nursery Xera Plants, in Oregon. I love his descriptions of some of the more devilish plants - its like reading your favorite scary childhood book: up way past your bedtime, head under the covers, flashlight in hand.

Here are a few excerpts:

Devil's Tongue
(Amorphophallus konjac)

This sinister creature has enormous, thick stems clad in black blotches and stripes that can reach 5 feet in height. The dark brown spadix reaches a height of 3 feet and is surrounded by a glossy, chocolate-colored, rubber-textured, vaselike spathe. This fascinating plant requires patience and woodland conditions with average amounts of water during the winter months.

Vampire's Dracula Orchid
(Dracula vampire)

It is altogether fitting that this orchid is native to one tall, remote, and misty mountain in Peru. Dracula orchids are best known for their bizarre flowers. Three large petals or sepals are veined with black and white lines, each terminating in a long, midnight-black tail. The interior of the flowers is no less sinister with yellow stripes that radiate from a central white to light pink pouch, reminiscent of a small coffin.

Large Wild Ginger
(Asarum maximum)

Vigilance and curiosity are required to discover the glory of this small evergreen woodland perennial whose flowers are tucked unobtrusively at the base of its glossy heart-shaped leaves. Ornate tubular cups have a ring of white fur at the base of each petal and beyond the black throat. Each flower is so neat it's as if it was fashioned out of felt to decorate the brim of a hat. It can reach six inches tall and over time will form colonies.

Voodoo Lily
(Dracunculus vulgaris)

Also known as carrion flower, it first appears as a group of palmate leaves with irregular lobes, but it is the very large flower that steals the show. A rippling spathe with an interior the color of raw meat unfurls in a graceful shield that surrounds the jet black spadix, which can be as long as 30 inches. Pollinated by flies, the freshly opened flower casts a vile, powerful fragrance of rotten flesh, which thankfully disappears in several hours. It is best suited to a location where it may be appreciated but not smelled.

Schunke's Maxillaria
(Maxillaria schunkeana)

This small beauty from the coastal rain forests of Brazil is one of the most truly black orchids, and it blooms for an unusually extended period. Small half-inch flowers are waxy and glossy black with four rounded petals. Thriving in the mossy branches of jungle trees, in bloom it may be seen peering out like many small black eyes.

Bat Flower
(Tacca chantrieri)

What strange twist in evolutionary fate could have caused the formation of such a foreign and unlikely flower? The bat flower or cat's whiskers, as it is known, is not an invention of science fiction but a plant native to the jungles of Thailand. A long black chord of a stem suspends this flower, which is actually a group of flowers, in a rubbery black sepal. Protruding from the side of each flower are long, stringlike cords.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Been Awhile...

I can't believe how the days fly by. Fall is in the air - it's all crisp and different, even here in LA. I have had the most amazing, exhausting season of work - the most intense summer/fall season I have had in several years. I feel horrible that I haven't posted more. When I first became a photographer, it meant spending my time shooting, and printing in the darkroom. We printed with enlargers if something was wrong, it usually just meant that we had to change a lightbulb...not so anymore. Now it's all computers, even though most of my work is still shot on film. Nonetheless, when I am this busy, it means hours and hours and days in front of a screen, and it's taken a toll on the blog. I feel awful, like I've neglected my friend. Things are going to start calming down a bit in the next few weeks though. In the meantime, I have a million posts in my head, waiting to come out.

Garden stuff - we had a disappointing summer. It was really foggy on at the beach this spring. We always have June Gloom, but it lasted until August, which put the kaibosh on our summer harvest. The heat came in late (and the fires came in early, which is a future post!). We are getting a nice bumper crop of tomatoes right now, just as the weather is turning cold. I wonder if they'll lose their sweetness? Hardly any squash, a few peppers - no canning.

We did, however, have a fantastic crop of Concord Grapes. They were AMAZING, and so incredibly easy to grow. Here is a great sorbet recipe I found in the cookbook "The Perfect Scoop". I bought this book over the summer, as I am determined to master ice cream. This sorbet is made with corn syrup. Perhaps I've read too many Michael Pollan books, but I am really against the whole corn syrup thing, but I made it anyway, and it was delicious. A few days after I made the sorbet, I found a recipe in Gourmet for a similar sorbet but using sugar instead, which makes me politically happier. I will post this recipe as well, even though it is untested...

Please note that I am completely devastated about the closing of Gourmet Magazine (they can, for the moment, be found online here, and the November issue will still come out). Doubtless you will hear about this over and over in future posts, as this magazine is of biblical proportions to me. I am so incredibly sad, it is a little ridiculous. Thank you, Ruth Reichl, who is the most wonderful, inspiring editor. Thank you for your grace and courage and especially for the expose on the tomato pickers of Florida. Thank you to all of the writers and the painstaking, worldwide research that changed eating and aspiring to cook into an international adventure. And finally, huge, giant, indescribable thanks to all of the great photographers and art directors who contributed over the years to this magazine - every issue was a piece of heaven to look at, and so visually inspiring to me I cannot begin to describe it. OK Enough. Onto the recipes...

Grape Sorbet, adapted from "The Perfect Scoop"
Makes About 1 Quart

Grapes that are very robust, such as Concord or Muscat, make a fine, flavorful grape sorbet. These grapes are usually at their best in autumn. If you have access to wine grapes, they produce a wonderful sorbet as well. Don't use seedless table grapes, such as Thompson and Red Flame; these make a great snack, but not a very tasty sorbet.

3.5 Pounds Grapes
3 Tablespoons Water
1/4 Cup Light Corn Syrup
1 Tablespoon Vodka

Remove the grapes from the stems and cut them in half if they're large or have thick skins. Place them in a large, nonreactive pot, add the water, and cover. Cook the grapes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the skins have burst and the grapes are soft and cooked through.

Remove from the heat and pass the warm grapes through a food mill fitted with a fine disk, or press through a strainer with a flexible spatula if you wish to remove the grape solids. Stir the corn syrup and vodka into the grape juice.

Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

*We ate this about 4-5 hours after it was made and it was a bit runny. The following day, the texture was better just right...freeze this for at least a day before you eat it.

The Gourmet Magazine Version:

Concord Grape Sorbet, September 2009 Issue

Sorbetto Di Uva
Makes About 1 Quart
Active Time: 10 minutes; Start to finish: 5 3/4 Hours (Includes chilling)

Although Uva means "grape" in Italian, Concords are native to North America. A velvety sorbet brings out their inky, foxy intensity. It will, in fact, swing you right into autumn.

2 Pounds Concord Grapes, stemmed, divided
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar

Equipment: An Ice Cream Maker

Puree half of grapes in a blender until smooth, then force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Repeat with remaining grapes to yield 3 cups puree. Whisk in sugar until dissolved. Chill until very cold, 3-6 hours.
Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up, at least 2 hours.

That's it...happy cooking.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tomato Tart

I feel so badly that I didn't take a photograph of this gorgeous thing, but I do have to share this's a mix of several recipes, all modified to incorporate the ghosts of tomato tarts past, a bunch of things I learned after taking a baking class at Sur La Table with my pal, Michael Ritterbrown, and a lot of trial and error...

You can make the crust the day before and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge until you have to roll it out...


For The Crust:

1 stick (4oz) cold unsalted better, cut into 1/2" pieces
3-4 T cold water (I use a cup of water with ice in it!)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Place cut pieces of butter in a bowl or plate and freeze for 20 minutes. Refrigerate water in a small measuring cup until needed.

Mix the Dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process about 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6-10 times (in 1 second bursts) until the butter and flour mixture looks like oatmeal flakes.

Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and “fluff” it in with a fork, then add another, and another, until 3 Tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 – 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point, but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough. Before bringing the dough together, you need to test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl and add more water, one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately fluffing it in. Test again before adding anymore water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed gently 3-6 times. If it won’t come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add another teaspoon or two of ice water (one at a time), mixing it in as above and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6-7” disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

When dough is cold again, roll it out into a thin circle (enough to fully cover an 9.5” tart pan (I use the fluted ones with removable bottoms), using a floured rolling pin on a floured board. Carefully lift crust and press into the tart pan.

Line the tart shell with parchment or foil, and fill with pie weights (I use dried beans for this!). Make sure the weights reach up the sides to the rim of the pan!

Bake the shell for about 20-30 minutes, in a preheated 375 degree oven, until it starts to look golden. Take shell out of the oven (be sure to hold the pan by the sides and not the bottom!!), and lift out the parchment / foil and weights. Line the bottom of the tart shell with the parmesan shavings, sprinkle with thyme leaves, and return it to the oven for about 10 minutes.

For The Filling:

About 2 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes, halved lengthwise. I like to use different colors and sizes...everything from grape to plum to big old brandywines.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings plus additional for garnish


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a bowl until well coated. Roast tomatoes, cut sides up and in 1 layer, in foil-lined baking pan in middle of oven, about an 1 hour, or until tomatoes start to brown.

After roasting tomatoes for about 20 minutes, move tomatoes in pan to lower third of oven and put pastry on baking sheet on middle rack. Bake pastry and tomatoes separately (see instructions) until pastry is finished, and edges of tomatoes are slightly browned but still appear juicy.

Top shavings with warm tomatoes, cut sides down and in 1 layer, then sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and additional cheese shavings if desired. (Also the olive oil and tomato drippings (yum) left in the roasting pan is great to drizzle on top!)

Let me know how it goes…Happy Cooking!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stuff we're eating

Lunch With Corey, Part One

I was in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming a couple of weeks ago, photographing an amazing wedding. I have never been to that part of the country, and I have to say that I was completely bowled over. It is utterly stunning, and filled with wildlife (we saw herds of buffalo, a moose, a fox, was breathtaking).

I posted a while back about New West KnifeWorks - Corey Milligan, the owner of the company, which is based in Jackson, invited me and my pal Suzi (who helped me shoot the wedding) to lunch at his house. Corey has the most fantastic garden, and I just had to photograph it to show you...

The raised beds are made from recycled horse troughs. In real life, the rebar holds the this version, it functions as trellising...

This is Corey's modernist chicken coop...sad to say, a fox got in about a week before we got more chickens :(

Our Host:

More To Come...our lunch menu with recipes, knife making, and mushroom foraging...
Also, be sure and check out Corey's Blog!

Happy Saturday!


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Favorite Thing #2: Ethel Gloves

From the moment the postman arrives with the package, (and there's no mistaking his arrival every day as Gracie, our German Shepherd's, number-one-self-imposed-job is to greet the mailman by barking at the inside mail slot so loud that it can be heard in Arizona), it's clear that Ethel Gloves are special. They should win design awards for their packaging. Just opening the box is the beginning of a spectacular experience! My favorite part of the packaging (besides the entirety of the packaging), is the little plastic flower shaped nut/bolt that holds the gloves together...I'm keeping that!

But wait, there's more: the gloves themselves are BEAUTIFUL, and again, so cleverly and gorgeously designed to be functional and great looking at the same time. The grippy parts of the gloves on the fingertips are designed to look like vines (LOVE)...the fabric of the gloves is great too, as is the elastic wrist band which grips just enough to not let dirt in, but not too much to be uncomfortable. The materials the gloves are made of protect the hands but allow you to feel what you're doing as well, which I think is really important.

They come in all sorts of fabulous colors too! Also, I LOVE the little buttonholes (see the last photo), so you can hang them on the wall. You can wash 'em too! I don't know if I'll be moving cactuses in them...there's a glove for every job, and you should have a heavy leather pair as well, but for all the everyday things I do, I use this type of glove most of the time, and why not have everything you wear be adorable?

Here's the thing - I always wear garden gloves. I'm not precious about my hands at all - I don't care if they get really dirty, and I cut my nails short and don't wear nail polish. However, I have run into my share of black and brown widow spiders, who nestle into the dark corners of the garden, and inside of watering cans, and everywhere I seem to want to reach but can't see. I have also been scraped, gotten splinters, and all kinds of tiny stickery things in my hands, not to mention grubs. Did I ever tell you that I am completely grossed out by grubs? Digging around in the soil, all of a sudden they'll just pop up into your hand, much like a potato, but far less welcome. UGH. GLOVES, PLEASE.

PS. They make the most perfect gift as well...
PPS. Thank you thank you Mr. Davis for taking the photos of me...


Friday, July 24, 2009

Favorite Things #1

Happy Friday!

I am so excited to be writing this post today. I have stumbled upon the most beautiful knives ever. We are so lucky to have two of them! The company who creates them, New West KnifeWorks, is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It just so happens that I am photographing an incredible wedding in Jackson Hole next week, and I get to have lunch with Corey Milligan, who designs the knives. I hope to be able to photograph their place and put it on the blog.

These knives are spectacular - they are completely gorgeous, perfectly balanced, and cut like nobody's business. We have the requisite Henckles knives at home, and one Wustoff, which up until now I have thought were pretty great, but really, I had no idea what I was missing.

Here they are. They come beautifully packaged in leather sheaths:

The high carbon stainless steel blades are made in Japan by The Hitachi Company, and sent to blacksmiths in Seki, Japan to be ground and hand-finished:

The handles are just amazing. They were, up until this year, created in their shop in Jackson Hole, but recently, they have moved their handle finishing to Seki as well. The knives I am showing here are from the Fusionwood Chef Knives line. The photos simply do not do justice to these knives. They are truly works of art....


Chef 8:

We will also be posting more about these amazing tools on the Meals At Home Blog, in the coming weeks. Celeste and I are going to do some knife skills demos, so be sure and watch for that! Meanwhile, sans any official knife skills, here is Fred putting the knives to the ultimate test: The Cutting Of The Tomato...

Heirloom Black Krim Tomato from the garden (YUM - my favorite of the year!):

Slicing Like BUTTAH!


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Live From The Mar Vista Farmer's Market

It's been a while since my last post...I was ill with pneumonia, which put the brakes on everything, including the garden! Nonetheless, all is well and BTL is back in force!

The Mar Vista Neighborhood Council granted a Farmer's Market booth to the Green Committee, and I am lucky to be representing Beyond The Lawn today to answer questions about home vegetable gardens. With me today is GoSolar, Mar Vista. James and John founded this group with the goal of transforming Mar Vista into a 100% clean electricity community by 2018. They have started a community solar program for residents to organize purchasing / leasing for group solar discounts. There is an event on Saturday, July 25 at 6pm, at 12024 Venice Blvd. to kick off the program with Councilman Bill Rosendahl. Be sure to get there early as our fabulous local restaurant The Curious Palate is providing hors d'oeuvres!!

Also happening this week is the Water Wise Use Expo:

Learn easy ways to save water and money in your own home.

The CD11 Empowerment Congress Environmental Committee invites you to their Wise Water Use Expo. The event is co-hosted by the Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee & Venice Neighborhood Council Environmental Committee.

The event will be held on July 21st at the Mar Vista Recreation Center. Table presentations will begin at 6:00 pm and speaker presentations will be from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

The evening is designed to further awareness of the drought crisis that we face as a community and provide information and tools to embrace water conservation. There will be three guest presenters who will then offer a panel discussion and Q&A.

Water conservation information tables will provide information, give aways and exciting water solution raffle items:

Aqua~Flo has donated a smart sprinkler controller
Ballona Institute has donated a $25 gift certificate for merchandise at the Shallow Water Nature Store in Playa del Rey
EcoRain has donated a Double Tank & Downspout Filter to infiltrate water from the roof via a downspout
Gardenerd has donated a 1-hour vegetable garden consultation
Gary's Greenery has donated 2 one hour home consults on sustainable landscape design
G3LA has donated 2 tickets to their Ocean Friendly Garden
Ironweed Films has donated copies of the films “Running Dry” and “The American Southwest: Are we Running Dry?”
RainBud has donated a rain barrel
Kohler has donated a dual flush toilet and low flow showerheads
L.A. Rainwater Harvesting Program has donated an early adopter rain barrel hook up
Smart Faucet has donated two water saving faucets
Surfrider Foundation has donated an on-site landscape assessment and hands-on help
Sustainable Solutions has donated two Caroma dual flush toilets
Sustainable Works has donated a tote bag filled with eco solutions
Theodore Payne has donated a one year membership which provides a 10% discount as well as books on Theodore Payne and California Wildflowers
TreePeople has donated two tickets for their summer series at S. Mark Taper Foundation Amphitheatre in Coldwater Canyon Park

Guest presenters are:

Ed Begley, Jr. – actor, author and environmental activist. As environmental issues become more pressing, there are two possible responses: forget it and hope that government and corporations will figure it out, or take action yourself. In the “take action yourself” camp, a few individuals are leading the way. One such person in California is Ed Begley, Jr. Environmental lawyer and long-time friend, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. has said “Ed has a greater sense of social obligation than anyone I know. He’s like a West Coast cadet who gets up every morning and says ‘reporting for duty’”.

Kevin O'Donnell of thread collaborative, a sustainable design strategist and presenter for Al Gore’s Climate Project. Kevin was trained by Al Gore to give his An Inconvenient Truth slide show. As a member of the non profit group, The Climate Project, he presents customized versions focused on the relationship between buildings, landscaping and climate change.

Green Gardens Group LA (G3LA) – G3's focus is to change the paradigm of the beautiful Southern California landscape from the water and resource-guzzling gardens of today to the climate- and place- appropriate sustainable ideal of tomorrow. Their organization is devoted to educating homeowners, design professionals, and the local community in the latest eco-restorative landscape techniques and promoting the principles of low-impact development.

The Council District 11 Empowerment Congress was organized by Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to bring together the genius, the energy, and the commitment of our neighborhood leaders. The 11th District is bounded by Mulholland Drive on the north, the Pacific Ocean on the west, Imperial Highway on the south, and (roughly) the 405 Freeway on the east. It encompasses the distinct communities of Brentwood, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palms, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, West LA and Westchester.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Some Great Links!!!!

Have You Read The Omnivore's Dilemma?
If so, do you just not know WHAT TO EAT ANYMORE?
Here's a great website for you that is a resource for grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, poultry, dairy, and wild edibles. It lists farms and markets by region that carry pasture based food:


Eco Friendly, Reusable Dry-Cleaning Bags Anyone?
Our Mar Vista Green Committee is teaming up with some dry cleaners in the area who will allow us to bring our own bags, leave them there, and pick them up later with our clean laundry. Did you know that 350 million pounds of single-use plastic bags end up in landfills every year??? Green Garamento, who sells the bags, will send one free bag to you (you pay the shipping). All the info is on their on "get free bags" in the consumer section of their website to learn more!!!


FYI, here is a dry cleaner in Venice who will accept reusable bags:

Del Mar Natural Cleaners
701 Washington Blvd.
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Cross Street: Oxford St

And, last but not least, journalist Emily Green has started an incredible blog about water conservation in the West. She writes for the Los Angeles Times, and many other newspapers, primarily about dry gardening and urban water usage. Check out this site - it is packed with science and information, and is beautifully written to boot:

Chance of Rain


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase - The Aftermath!

Filmmaker Samantha Lyon came to The Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase Tour and created this wonderful video. Her incredible and brave work can be seen at Videos For Justice. It was an honor to be a part of one of her projects, and to have been included in this Garden Tour.

Samm's mother, Elisa, has created a really wonderful blog for her Westside neighborhood, Reynier Village. Here is the LINK. She said that she was inspired by the community involvement in Mar Vista, and wanted to start bringing people together in her neighborhood as well. It seems as if we are starting micro climates in Los Angeles, a city so huge and so unmanageable that the individual, and the neighborhood, can be lost. It's encouraging to see what people are doing - to see them reach out and grab each others' hands...

Lastly, Sherri Akers, who is the co-chair of the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council Green Committee, and one of the main creators of the Garden Tour, was interviewed on the LA talk radio show "Green 'n' Easy Living". She talks about how the Green Committee came to be, and how the Garden Tour happened. She is joined by Joseph Treves, who reveals how he helped to start our local Sunday Farmer's Market. This is really community at its best. We are so lucky to be a small part of it.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dog Gone

Meet Coleus Cannis, AKA "Piss Off Plant"!

This strongly scented coleus is sold in Europe, where it’s said to be a big hit. Grown in full sun to part shade, this plant is said to keep cats, dogs, bunnies, and raccoons away. You can read about them out on the web HERE. I just saw them at Marina Garden Center last week.

Here's the thing. I'm also reading that coleus plants, as well as the seeds, are poisonous (and mildly hallucinogenic, but that's a whole other story). As much as I love the idea (AND THE NAME!), I care more about the puppies and kitties than about the cat poo I have ranted about in previous posts. Then again, if they can't stand the smell of it, why would they eat it?
I'm just sayin' is all...


PS. THX to for the cool photo!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


A few more from Wade and Alina's garden...the top photo is a beautiful plant, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, or Pride of Barbados (pulcherrima literally means "very pretty"). It's also called a Mexican Bird of Paradise, and is a favorite in Texas. It is a great, very drought tolerant plant that attracts pollinators including butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. It was stunning!

The second photo...well, in one of my dreams my pepper plants would be five feet tall like these, and in my other dream, Fred would wear this hat every single day.

Happy Mother's Day

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Alina, Wade, And Lucie's Garden

We spent some time at our friends Alina, Wade, and Lucie's house in Austin last week, and here are some photos of their veggie beds, which are located in the backyard. Wade likes to garden after dark, and was seen that night among the fireflies, post beer(s), spreading around mulch at about 11pm.

A squirrel made off with all their tomatoes last summer, so this year they've decided to grow them upside down, hanging from the eaves. My favorite thing about the pot, which can be purchased online HERE, is that is says "As Seen On TV" on the side. If it's on TV, you know it's gotta work.


PS. Thx Alina for the tomato photo!!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


We just got back from an amazing trip to Texas...lots of mini road trips through the tiny towns of Hill Country, Amazing BBQ, and much late night fun with good friends. I saw some nice veggie gardens when I was there...this one was right in the middle of someone's front lawn, a little off to the side of the house. The bike was just leaned up against a tree. I love the bamboo tomato cage...

This garden is right around the corner from Jo's Hot Coffee on South Congress (GREAT coffee!), and the lovely Hotel San Jose.

As for the Brid Food sign painted on the fence, your guess is as good as mine.