Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wise Words

Gardening is a humbling experience

Martha Stewart

Monday, March 16, 2009

Worm Castings

If you've been reading this blog you know I'd been on pins and needles waiting for the clearance to attend a gardening class with Tara of Silver Lake Farms a week or so ago. Lucky me made the cut and today was the day.

And oh what a great day it was!

I motored through the quiet morning streets on my way to the Silver Lake Farms beginner's vegetable garden class in of all places - Silver Lake! Although it took me over an hour - the shortest most direct route found on Mapquest to get 15 miles in LA - I didn't mind at all. I was in areas of the city that I only find myself in while skirting them at 60 miles an hour or so on the freeway. It was interesting to take in the neighborhoods as they changed from Asian, to Hispanic, to Armenian - each one having its own quiet way of coming alive on a quiet Sunday morning. I thought about the different foods, and ingredients used to make those foods. Yes, all relating to my much anticipated class.

I meandered down Franklin Blvd until I reached the gorgeous Franklin Bridge. My directions said once over the bridge, look for St. George Street and the famous Franklin Blvd steps. Ah, 'the steps.' Well, I figured I could get down them, I was more worried about getting back up. Although I found comfort in the fact that I had on sensible shoes.

I made my way down the steps and to the community garden. There wasn't a sound in the air. The lesson this morning was being taught on the grounds of the Francias Elysee. Better known to anyone not bilingual as the French/American School. Sitting high up in the clouds overlooking the city I took a moment to wonder why I had to learn French in an all American school in the middle of a hay field. Some kids have all the luck, I guess.

There were only ten of us -all a good bunch. We talked about setting up seedling, great organic seed sources, planting, crop rotation, watering, container gardening and pest control. We meandered in the garden, I discovered that one of my classmates lived just three block from me, and I finally understood the difference between compost and mulch. Then came my 'aha' moment.

You see, I have a thing about worms. I know they're good for the soil and that in turn is good for the plant which is in turn good for me. I get all that on some level. But I could never get past the fact that a worm is a worm is a worm. There've been times while gardening that if I overturned a worm I took that as a sign that it was time for me to put my shovel away and wait till that worm was no longer in my way. Like maybe the next day. I've even had nightmares about worms. Maybe it goes back to my childhood and the crazy, tow-headed boy that lived next door to us. He use to come out into his mothers garden with a paper plate and a spoon, find worms and then just eat them! I kid you not. Looking back I'm sure it was his passive aggressive way of getting out of tending the garden as a chore. He didn't want to pull weeds, his mother didn't want him eating worms. She won. He had to stay out of the yard. Whatever the catalyst for my phobia, it wasn't going away with age.

During the compost talk of course the worm bin came up. I squirmed. No pun intended. But then, from behind the compost bin, Tara pulled out a bag of - you guessed it - worm castings! Yeah! I could buy the worm poop in a bag! For ten bucks I could throw the darn stuff all over the yard and never have to be a worm farmer! Woo hoo! I almost did a flip. Gardening all of a sudden seemed brighter and lighter. And then she dropped the bomb. Interspersed with the castings were eggs. Worm eggs. Yes, so little baby worms would hatch in your garden. Oh well, I guess one moment of euphoria alone was worth the price of admission.

PS. I came home and planted 50 seedlings and saw only two worms. Stay tuned to see what happens.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's No Wonder

When I was growing up my mother's first rule was that we get all our our house chores, homework and all other of life's obstacles to our perceived happiness out of the way before we could have fun.


It just dawned on me that although I'm an adult now - and far enough along in that adulthood that no one checks my I.D. anymore - I still hold that way of life to be true. Well, no wonder I have a bunch of unfinished fun projects sitting around my otherwise clean house!

I'm up at five in the morning, commute 14 hours to and from work each week, get my son to school on time, stop at the grocery on my way home several times so I can make dinner, pick up the madness I left behind in the morning, set the table, clear the table, throw some laundry in the wash (or put it in the dryer) unload the dishwasher so I can load in the dinner dishes, dog my son to get ready for bed, pay a bill or two, tuck my son in, take my bath and get ready for bed myself... and then comes the weekend - the grocery store, the dry cleaners, laundry, house catch up, garden chores, ...and it goes on....gee .where on earth is MY time?

I hear what you're thinking right now; Quit complaining! Your bills are paid, the cat is fed, the bed is made, fresh towels are hung, the laundry is folded, your son will be smart one day, the coats are on their hooks, the pantry is stocked, the car is washed.

But it's 10pm!

I'm going to bed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wise Words

People who love this world, people who pay attention, are gardeners.
People who are invested, people who are aware, they are gardeners regardless of whether of not they have ever picked up a trowel.
Because gardening is not just about digging. Or planting, for that matter. Gardening is about cherishing.

- Terry Hershey, Soul Gardening, p. 159

Im In!

I'm in! I'm in! I'm in! Sunday morning. 11am! Yeah!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Bee

Like trains of
cars on tracks
of plush
I hear the
level bee:
A jar across
the flowers
Their velvet

until the
sweet assault
Their chivalry
While he,
tilts away
to Vanquish
other blooms.

His feet are
shod with
His helmet is
of gold;
His breast, a
single onyx

His labor is a
His idleness a
Oh, for a bee's
Of clovers and
of noon!

- Emily Dickinson

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On Pins and Needles

I'm on pins and needles today. Holding my breath as I wait for a return email from Silver Lake Farms telling me that I'm 'in' the group for private gardening classes the weekend of March 14. Who better to learn the way around my raised beds from than the gardening guru herself, Tara Kolla, Silver Lake Farms founding mother. My head is spinning - breathe already.

My excitement is not unfounded...I discovered Tara and Silver Lake Farms when my own urban garden was in its infancy. Read that as 'all in my head.' I thought it might be a grand idea if I were to actually learn a little bit about growing organic veggies before I took the plunge. I searched for gardening classes in the Los Angeles area via the internet and came up with a rose pruning demonstration at the local Armstrong's Nursery. Not exactly what I had in mind. Smart enough to know that not everyone is born with a green thumb, some of us (hopefully) can learn; I knew I needed to find someone that had experience in organic gardening in an urban setting and was willing to share their knowledge.. My hour long internet search ultimately landed me at the beautiful Silver Lake Farms website. My excitement was dashed however when I saw that all the classes offered that month and the next were full. Sigh.

With the holiday just around the corner I shrugged off the notion of starting an early season crop and rejoiced that at least through the holidays the urgency to get the greenhouse and raised beds built and operational during my vacation had eased. It looked like the gardening gods were showing me that everything takes time. I focused my attention on seed catalogues and how-to books.

It wasn't but a week week later that I found myself at an open house holiday party with my guy up in beautiful Malibu at the home of a very dear friend. We were poured a glass of wine and made our way out onto the balcony that hangs out over the ocean - just feet below us - to watch the sunset. It wasn't long before a young couple joined us. The woman was striking with long dark, wavey hair,olive skin and a great smile. She introduced herself as Tara. She was with very nice looking man. Both had Australian (??) accents. We introduced ourselves and carried on a brief conversation about the beauty of the sunset, the wine and a book my guy had just finished reading called,"Salt." As the other guests floated in and out, our group was separated. In no time, out of the corner of my eye I saw our hostess whisk a new arrival by the arm over toward Tara. I heard her introduce Tara as the woman who 'owns Silver Lake Farms.' Talk about being in the moment. Nothing registered. Tara, Silver Lake Farms. Nothing.

Time passed, we enjoyed visiting with old and new faces until it was time to leave. As we pulled out onto the PCH, I shrieked, "Tara!" "Silver Lake Farms!" "That. Was. Tara. Silver Lake Farms Tara" OMG! My guy thought I had lost my mind. All the way home, I kicked myself for not realizing in the moment that I was talking to the very woman whom I had come to admire through her website and all the work she accomplished. Not to mention that I was totally envious that she was living 'my' perfect life. Thank god she was as nice as I knew she would be!

A few days later I got up the nerve, sent her a note, explained who I was and asked if she could find me a place in the group for her class on organic soil. "Of course!" she replied and I was 'in.' Well, sort of. As the class weekend approached I fell ill and was in bed for the duration. I held onto my spot for as long as I could and then had to let go just in case I was taking a place from someone else just like me...waiting for the email saying 'you're 'in'! Talk about being bummed out.

So now my scheduled has opened up and I've been given a second chance. Of course, my greenhouse is now built, my seedlings are growing (much to my dismay, I admit), the beds are ready to receive them...and I'm ready to learn how to make it all come together successfully. But when that email came last night I jumped on it.

So there you go, that's all I have. It ends here until I get that lucky 'golden ticket' email.

In the meantime, if you're reading this, live in the Los Angeles area and visit the Echo Park, Silver Lake or Hollywood Farmers Markets, do stop by Tara's stall and purchase some of her gorgeous flowers! She's got produce coming soon, too. And OK...Ill make the rush of getting into one her classes even more insane... check out her class schedule, garden design business and Farmers Market schedule at

Maybe I'll see you there!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


10 or 11 medium choggia beets, cleaned and trimmed.
6 T plus 1/2 extra cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
2/3 c water

7 medium carrots with green tops trimmed to one inch
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (stems removed)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (toasted)
3 T good red wine vinegar

1/2 C fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large bulb)
4 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, divided

Hummus (recipe to follow)
Pita or flat bread

Preheat oven to 450. Rub each unpeeled beet with olive oil and place in roasting pan Sprinkle with 1tsp salt. Add 2/3C water to the pan. Cover with foil. Roast until tender, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool.

While beets are in the oven, Peel and cut carrots into thirds crosswise, then quarter lengthwise. Place carrots on baking sheet. Drizzle with 3T olive oil and sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until carrots are tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool.

Using fingers, rub the peel off the beets. Cut each beet into 6 wedges. Put beets in bowl with carrots. Add
the parsley, shallots, 2tsp lemon juice,and 2/3 cumin vinaigrette to bowl, toss to blend.

Transfer 3/4tsp of the toasted cumin seeds to mortar or spice mill, grind fine. Place whole cumin seeds, ground cumin and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk in the 1/2C olive oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

To Serve.

Place dollop of hummus and 1 flatbread or pita on each plate. Spoon the beet carrot mixture alongside serve.

Do Ahead
Beets, carrots and vinaigrette can be made one day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring all to room temperature and whisk vinaigrette before continuing.

Serves Six

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wise Words

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

Dorothy Frances Gurney, " Garden Thoughts"

The Apple Farm ..... Stay Tuned