Monday, November 30, 2009

the attack of the caterpillars

My friend Jackie kindly pointed out the fat green caterpillars happily munching away on my broccoli and brussels sprouts plants.

You can see one of them lazing in the sun on the broccoli leaf, in the lower left hand corner of the picture.

They are sneaky! The green blends in beautifully with the leaves.

How to get rid of them? That is the question.

And thanks to facebook, I got lots of answers!

- Take them to an empty lot (where they will starve)
- Let chickens eat them
- Organic pest control
- Attract some birds
- Make fences around each plant with a plastic bottle - cut off the top in a jagged edge
- Sliced cucumbers around the plants
- Ice cube trays filled with beer placed around the plants
- Companion plants that will repel the butterflies and their eggs

Hmmm... what's your favorite?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

i'm a believer ... raised beds

Until this week, I was not a raised garden bed fan. Seemed like a lot of work and last summer I couldn't tell that much difference between raised bed and in-ground veggies. Well, now I'm convinced!

Here are two photos of broccoli I planted on the exact same day and they receive the same amount of water. These two plants are about two feet apart (note: the Storm Trooper figure is there to scale, not to scare).

This one is in the in-ground bed:
And this one is in the raised bed:
Oh yeah. Thanks to my best friend Denise, we have lots of wood (from her demolished wood fence, she gave it to us for FREE) to create more raised beds in front.

Next summer we'll be swimming in large veggies.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

beginnings of our rose arbor

Scott, the Burning Man Welder, put together this rose arbor for us.

Ryan found the long top metal piece somewhere, had a vision of roses tumbling over it, and brought it home.

Scott welded on leg pieces and some top supports.

Once the roses are trimmed and guided onto the arbor, it'll be a nice entry point into the backyard from the side yard.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

securing the fort

Ryan found a metal gate somewhere.

Then he found Scott the Welder (part of the Burning Man crew that was in our yard in August - that's Scott in action in the photo).

Then we ended up with a gate in front of the driveway. Score!

Our next move in the gate department is getting some kind of solar-operated automatic opener so I don't have to get in and out of the car to open/close it (lazy of me, right?).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

very vegan potluck

One of the reasons we were so happy to buy this house was to have a space to hold events. Last night we hosted a "very vegan" potluck (in the words of Greg Harrison).

About 25 people came together to share amazing vegan food - mashed potatoes, posole, brownies, chocolate cupcakes, rice dishes, cashew dip, fresh salad, chickpea/greens curry. Basically, all our friends rock when it comes to making hearty, tasty vegan food. Lucky us!
And what a fun way to have an eco-friendly meal. Thanks, friends!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

garden yummies

Last night I returned from the awesomely inspiring annual Unitarian Universalist General Assembly to my sweet man, house, and garden. And the garden looks lovely, if I do say so myself. After bring gone a week, I was ready to explore ...
And found lots of veggies waiting to be harvested - beets, red chard, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and beans. And now I'm wondering what I should plant next, it should be things that augment the soil ... I think it's called companion planting. Off to google!

Friday, June 26, 2009

the bees' knees

Bees seem to be an integral piece of an organic garden. We've noticed more bees in the yard this summer than we noticed last summer when we were still looking at the house, before we moved in.

It is possible to be an urban beekeeper, if you want to be more intentional about having bees around to pollinate flowering fruit trees, squash, etc. Check out the Backwards Beekeepers blog - these folks are passionate about helping folks create a bee paradise.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

are you really gonna eat that?

For the past few weeks we've hosted a health and wellness class led by Dr. Matt, Dr. Alona and Chef AJ, from the Exsalus Health and Wellness Center, Matt and Alona do a wonderful presentation on harmful foods that are in people's diets, and what it is about those foods that hurt our bodies (like dairy, meat, oil and refined, processed sugars).
Then Chef AJ comes out and teaches us how to make amazing food without all that stuff. See her waving around that Kale in the pic? She is CRAZY about Kale and makes it taste so good. She even sneaks in whole bags of spinach in chocolate smoothies and I swear - it cannot be detected!

These are amazingly dedicated people with so much passion and knowledge, it's been a real treat and honor to host them at our house the Wednesday nights in June.

Friday, June 19, 2009

beginning bounty of the garden - stir fry salad

The sun finally came out in so Cal, and the garden is starting to burst.

I made this really simple salad, using some of the fresh garden veggies and the leftover dressing from the Kale salad.

In the pic you can see the cherry tomatoes, one bean (there were more, really!), and the zucchini is hiding underneath all those spring greens. I sauteed them quickly and at the end added in the spicy citrus dressing.

I tossed in baked tofu and sesame seeds. We loved it!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

vegan kale & red pepper salad w/ spicy citrus dressing

Summertime finally arrived, and Ryan requested "More salads for lunch, please!"

I'm a vegan who isn't crazy about salads, so I took it as a challenge to find something to make that felt hearty and not like I was just eating a bunch of lettuce.

There's a great salad recipe in the Candle Cafe Cookbook, name of which is the title to this post. Just a few ingredients, but a whole lotta tasty.

I adapted the recipe, making it a little easier for those of us hungry vegans on the go; I used store-bought baked tofu rather than making my own. The rest of it was super easy and quick, and there was enough dressing leftover to use on a dish I prepared the next day. Yum!

Monday, June 15, 2009

quarry girl, how do you do it?

Quarry girl, you are *amazing!*

If you are curious about vegan food in LA, stop reading this and go to There are pics and in-depth reviews about SO many LA vegan restaurants. This is how we found out about the vegan pizzas offered by Cruze pizza in Los Feliz. There is a LONG list of LA vegan restaurants and places that offer a special vegan menu.

Every day I check out the blog, I am impressed, and immediately get really hungry. Happy eating!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

traffic floor finish

We wanted an eco-friendly floor finish for our snazzy reclaimed, remilled douglas fir bedroom floors that we installed. It needed to be readily available, easy to apply, and tough because Ryan and I are constantly moving things around and tracking in dirt from outside. I didn't want anything that would show a bunch of scuff marks.

We found what we needed in Traffic, by BonaKemi. It went on really easily, dried quickly, and so far has stood the test of us. No scratches (yet)! It was around $90.00/gallon, and they recommend applying with a special applicator, which we also purchased.

my crazy yard

honestly, the yard is looking better and better every day. Ryan is making heroic efforts in cleaning it up, and it's greatly appreciated. there are sinks, piles of lumber, a kayak, a scrap metal pile, a dozen really big weird lights ... but it is serving a purpose - the large pile of wood is now my lovely bedroom floor. OK. I'm getting it...a big puzzle piece that's coming together.

Friday, June 12, 2009

reclaimed wood floors

We recently installed reclaimed and remilled douglas fir wood floors (thank you, Craig's List!) in the bedroom. I was Ryan's helper and did a great job (if I do say so myself) cutting wood pieces with Konstantine's amazing compound miter saw.

The gently used insulation we got for free (thanks again, Craig's List!) is peeping up from the floors.

Basically, Ryan knows how to do everything, very well (except partner dance, it's his kryptonite). Every day his amazingness shines through with things he does on the house.

Friday, June 5, 2009


That's my son, doing electrical work. The master bedroom is being renovated, and the electrical outlets needed to be moved. Way to go, Adrian, for learning a useful skill!

The bedroom, part of a 1930s addition to the house, was really wonky when we bought it, with sloping floors and a general feeling of quickly done add-on. We are slowly making it beautiful, and recently put in new wood floors that were reclaimed and remilled. I'll add photos soon.

Monday, May 18, 2009

paul robeson tomato

Ever heard of Paul Robeson? He was a black actor, lawyer, athlete, and social justice activist.

And he has a tomato named after him.

A black tomato.

He was an amazing man, google him.

Will the tomato live up to his name? Time will tell, I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

moving the big pile

Today's the day they are moving the gigantic pile of dirt in the side yard - yippee!!! In the photo you can see the guy driving the bobcat toward the dirt, and Ryan is off to the side, wishing he were the one driving the bobcat.

All the dirt came from underneath the house and was part of the foundation work. This is the 3rd or 4th pile that's been removed, and a lot of it has gone to people to use for fill dirt or in smaller amounts for people who are doing raised garden beds.

Friday, May 1, 2009

finished foundation

Here's a quick pic of our lovely finished foundation. I can feel the house's happiness about having a firm place to rest it's walls.

The yellow asbestos siding was removed from the bottom third of the exterior for the foundation work, and now the original redwood siding is exposed. My hope is we can eventually remove all of it and repaint the house.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Feeling tarty?

Thank you, Veg News, for the coconilla cream tart recipe, featured on page 66 of the May/June issue.

We devoured it pretty much immediately. This was my first foray into tart-making.

My sweet Mawmaw gave me a tart pan over a year ago, and I finally got up the nerve to use it. I think I may be hooked now! Can't wait for more in-season fruit to get tarty with.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

tomatoes, pomegranates, roses

Yippee yay! Today I saw the first actual tomato growing on the vine in our garden! Cutest thing ever!

The pomegranate bushes are going crazy.

And I know they aren't really edible, but the house came with wildly overgrown roses in the front. In early February I hacked away at them until the southwest corner of the yard was pretty well cleaned up, and decided if they came back I'd love them and if that killed them then we'd use the space for growing veggies.

They came back with a vengeance and we have an amazing profusion of hot pink roses in the front, which look like little tissue paper flowers. Alyssum and various kinds of thyme are planted among them. There's a little dwarf Mexican Lime that was already here, too, and I'm doing my best to save it. It did not fare too well while the house sat empty for over a year.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

food forest gardens

Ok, I thought Ryan made up the name "food forest garden," but I see it in common usage on permaculture-type websites. There are a couple of food forest garden permaculture workshops being offered in northern California soon, and northern California ADPSR (architects/designers/planners for social responsibility) recommends the above book for those of us who can't make it up to Petaluma on May 16-17 for the hands-on workshop. Let's get a workshop offered in southern California, like in my back yard.

growing veggies in a minifarm box

We met Conor, mr., at our greywater workshop in February. He creates 4' x 4 ' garden boxes. I knew we wanted to do some raised garden beds, so we ordered a box and here is the sweet beginning of it.

I love the book All New Square Foot Gardening, which promotes the use of raised beds laid out in square foot planting spaces, and you can see the 12"x 12" squares we blocked off. The idea behind square foot gardening is that you can grow more food in healthier soil in a smaller space than traditional row gardening. Each square can hold a certain amount of plants, depending on what is planted (marigolds = 4 to a square, bush beans = 9 to a square, tomato = 1 to a square). Mel, who wrote the book, suggests planting something different in each square, but ... I couldn't do that. I had several tomato plants that were in desperate need of a home. This box has marigolds (for color and pest aversion), two kinds of tomatoes, orange eggplants, hot pepper, nasturtiums, cucumbers, bush beans, and two kinds of lettuce

Once the foundation work is done, we'll install more raised beds along the west wall of the house. Hopefully by the end of summer the above box will be overflowing with good things.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

finding insulation

In the back of that fine looking truck and trailer is our haul of FREE insulation, scored from the house of A Famous Person who is doing a remodel (Ryan won't let me name said person). Ryan found the insulation on Craig's List, which he trolls continuously for bargains.

The insulation is in great shape, is R-30, and it'll go either under the bedroom floor or in the attic. (The house has pretty much zero insulation to date.)

Reusing the insulation keeps it out of the landfill, avoids using energy to produce new insulation, and keeps money in our pockets. Score for everyone!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the concrete pour

Our house was in need of a foundation, and thankfully it is happening this month. This house sat for over 100 years on posts and piers underneath, the walls nestled directly on the earth.

For the past three weeks we've been immersed in the foundation work. Today the concrete guy came and they are pouring the west side of the foundation right now! Exciting!

We are super happy with Tim Ryan Construction, who is doing the foundation work. The team is knowledgeable, upbeat, hardworking and really nice.

They dug a perimeter trench all along the house, and today they are filling it with concrete (see above photo). The foundation will reach all the way up to the edge of the original redwood siding (which was previously covered with asbestos siding, they cut it off at the "skirt" of the siding). Our goal is to eventually get all the asbestos siding off and expose the original redwood siding.

Tomorrow they'll take off the plywood forms and smooth out the concrete, and it will look great. We've already admired the work they've done on the east side of the house.

Monday, April 13, 2009

surprise present

A couple of days ago we found a sweet little gift tied to a bush out front - a praying mantis egg sack! Praying mantis are great in the garden because they eat all sorts of pesky little pests that nibble on garden treats. We have no idea who left it, but thank you so much!

And thanks to wikipedia, I see that praying mantis are named that because of their "prayer-like stance."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Free mulch!

While jogging the other day, Ryan and I came upon a tree trimming operation. Ryan asked them if they would dump all the resulting ground up tree twigs and leaves in our yard and they said, "Sure!" So there it is, the lovely pile of free mulch with Ryan standing proudly at its side. I can't wait to get it into the yard (and out of the driveway).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

greywater system

Back in February we hosted a workshop on installing a greywater system. The Greywater Guerrillas ( trekked down from the Bay Area and taught 17 people how to re-use the greywater coming out from their washing machines. In the afternoon, folks braved the rain, dug trenches, and laid out the pipes for the system so the greywater will reach the fruit trees we have planted in the yard. The greywater guerrillas are super smart women - catch a workshop with them next time they are in town.

all about our house

I thought it would be fun to keep a blog account of the green renovation we are doing to our lovely 1876 house on Elgin Street in Los Angeles, in the historic Garvanza neighborhood.

We have big plans for the house and yard - greywater system, urban food forest, and doing as much of the renovation using salvaged materials in order to have less environmental impact.

Stay tuned!