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!