Flower Ave Garden Project: Gatekeeper

Everyday, little by little, the garden is taking shape. I have a looooong list of little projects to get done, and building an actual gate for the front was top on the list!

Designing the frame for the gate was step one.

gate1 gate2

The next step was tacking on the fencing to close in the frame of the gate.

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I had a little help with the next step. My parents were in town for a few hours with a layover from LAX to Seattle, so I put ’em to work! They were able to get the holes dug for the fence post, and were able to offer TONS of great advice as they are both very experienced builders.

gate7

After the posts were measured and the holes were dug and the parents were dropped back off at the airport, it was off to my home away from home, Home Depot to pick up some concrete.

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I couldn’t have done it without the help from this little guy! He helped me keep everything level as I poured the concrete.

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Coming in to this project, the most experience I had with power tools or construction was hanging a shelf from Ikea. It’s been so fun to learn to build things, it’s empowering! I think the gate came out rather well if I do say so myself ūüėČ

gate3

And to finish up the day, we had another visitor! Janene lives two blocks away, and did a U-turn once she saw the garden. She just retired from teaching at an elementary school for the LAUSD. She told me of some budding programs for school gardens around LA. It was inspiring to hear about others teaching our kids the importance of staying connected to their food system, and what REAL FOOD looks like!

janene

It has been such a wonderful blessing to get to share this garden with others. Everyone who comes here loves the garden for different reasons; and all of these different reasons are all reasons why I started the garden! To educate about farming, to connect people to their food, to stay active, to grow and eat healthy food, to encourage others to do the same, to have a working garden in an urban setting…the list goes on!

‚ÄúI know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.‚ÄĚ

~Henry David Thoreau

Foraging in Santa Barbara, CA

5am wake up calls are made less sucky if it means you get to forage in Santa Barbara all day. Having lived in Santa Barbara for almost 10 years, I have a pretty good lay of the land.

My first foraged item of the day were these beautiful apple succulent tips. These tiny little guys are just as their namesake; crisp, tart, and refreshing!

applesucc  applesucc2

Next up were these wild radish blossoms. Not only pretty, they add a nice spice as a garnish!

radishflower2

There is a sloping hillside on the ranch that I foraged on, it is shaded and cool. Everything that grows in this area is lush and green. I was so excited to find these little fiddle head ferns along the base of the hillside!

fiddlehead

The climate couldn’t have been better, a mild 70 degrees in February. As the light shone through the¬†canopy of trees, I came across a beautiful field of wild nasturtium.

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And adjacent to that was another field, full of wild New Zealand spinach (also known as Tetragonia tetragonioides). This is a beautiful field green, that is tender and crisp.

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Next stop was the top of the hill, overlooking the Pacific. Just a half mile up the road and the climate changed drastically from the shaded hillside. It was much warmer, and there was wild mustard everywhere!

mustard   mustard2

Even my dog Moo was getting in on the foraging action! Except I think he was trying to forage lizards :p

mooforage

We headed back down the hill to the Cherimoya orchards to look for some Santa Barbara snails!

Cerimoya are a beautiful fruit with white, candy-like flesh. They soften as they ripen, just like a banana.

cheri

We also came across these almond blossoms. They smell sweet and almondy, just as you would expect the flower from this tree to be =]

almondblossom

And finally…JACKPOT! We found our Santa Barbara escargot, fed off of organic cherimoya trees. Hopefully these guys will like their new digs in Venice.

snails

My car was packed to the brim with all of my foraged treasures. I’m so excited to share a piece of this beautiful place with diners in LA!…but not excited to get back to the traffic =-/

radishflower traffic

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

~Jawaharlal Nehru

Flower Ave Garden Project: Dammit Janet

This is Janet, and she’s totally awesome:

janet

Janet is a business owner who has a shop up the street from the garden, and goes for regular walks around the neighborhood. She was so excited and curious about the Flower Ave Garden; asking questions about everything I had planted. She was very supportive and encouraging, and told me how Korean cuisine uses amazing vegetables (I totally agree). I gave Janet some sugar snap peas as a thanks for all of the kindness =] Love ya Janet!

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
~Saint Basil

Flower Ave Garden Project: The Cover Up

Ground cover can be a gardeners best friend. It helps keep the soil warm and keeps pests away. And one of the biggest benefits to a culinary gardener is that it can keep the green tops of things like radishes nice and tender. This will make them a beautiful addition to a plate.

 ground cover rad

One perk of being a culinary farmer is that you get hooked up with some seriously yummy food! I dropped off some Red Russian Kale to Chef Fox at Rustic Canyon, and came back with fresh ceviche and tortilla chips! YUM, thanks guys.

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I have been in Venice for about 6 weeks and am settling in nicely =]

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“The world is my country, all mankind are my¬†brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

~Paine

 

Flower Ave Garden Project: Welcome To The Family Alma!

The Flower Ave Garden has a new friend and customer in Chef Ari Taymor at Alma Restaurant located in downtown LA:

http://www.alma-la.com/

food

ari

Chef Taymor is a big advocate for using seasonal local ingredients. Their menu changes daily, and they find value in supporting their local farmers as well as giving back to their community. In fact, the inside of the restaurant has a chalkboard wall that reads “Our Friends” and below it are listed all of the farms they source from:

chalkboard wall

I dined at Alma when I first moved to LA and really enjoyed it. Chef Taymor’s menu features items such as:

Smoked sablefish, celery, apple, caviar

Orecchiette with whey braised pork shoulder, pickled chili, & pearl onion

Aged duck boudin blanc, brussel sprouts, apple, green mustard

If you live in the the LA area I recommend having dinner there!

Alma has in interesting story. It was started via Kickstarter, a website dedicated to crowd-sourcing funds for almost anything you can imagine. They posted a video, and were able to raise the funds to open the restaurant. Alma also has a strong community outreach program started by GM and co-owner Ashleigh Parsons. You can learn more about Alma’s unique story here:

Kickstarting Success: Alma

I’m excited to welcome Chef Taymor and the Alma family into the Flower Ave Garden Project story.

‚ÄúCommunity is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.‚ÄĚ

~Jean Vanier

Flower Ave Garden Project: Our First Volunteer

The Flower Ave Garden had it’s first official volunteer today.

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Ken is a Los Angelian via Montana. Ken heard about the Flower Ave Garden through a mutual friend and contacted me to come check it out.

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It was great to have the help and share some knowledge.

Some companion planting was done in the large bed. Companion planting means to plant two different types of plants together in the same bed. For example, these are carrot seeds mixed with radish seeds:

carrot seeds

It’s a 50/50 mix that is¬†sprinkled¬†in the ground and covered with a light layer of dirt. The radish grow at a faster rate than the carrots and will be ready for harvest sooner. The radish also create good spacing between the carrots. Because space is a factor with urban farming, companion planting is a must.

carrot seeds2

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~Margaret Mead

Flower Ave Garden Project: Signs

I get a lot of questions from neighbors and people passing by who are curious about what I am planting. I thought it would be helpful to put up signs of what is planted in each bed.

Since I could practically be considered an Eagle Scout at this point, I dusted off the old wood-burning kit and gathered some scrap wood left over from building.

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They turned out great and I hope it will help a curious passerby.

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“Words are but the signs of ideas.”

~Samuel Johnson

Flower Ave Garden Project: Mission Accomplished/ Our First Customers/ Winning!

My mission statement for this project was to create a culinary garden in an urban setting to sell to chefs in the LA market…check.first sale

My first customer was Chef Josiah Citrin at Melisse in Santa Monica. Chef Josiah and Chef Ken Takayama (Chef de Cuisine) were the first to teach me about how to truly respect the products one works with. They were first to teach me about seasonality and working with local farmers; I thought it only fitting to bring them my first harvest.

http://melisse.com

/Melisse2Melisse

I was truly grateful for the next set of events. After Chef Josiah purchased some bronze fennel from me, he offered to introduce me to Chef Jeremy Fox who recently took a position in the kitchen at Rustic Canyon, which is right across the street from Melisse. He walked me to the kitchen and told Chef Fox about my history with Melisse and Meadowood, and how I was a new farmer in the area. Chef Fox used to run¬†Michelin¬†rated Ubuntu, the country’s premier¬†vegetarian restaurant located in Napa CA, and¬†was kind enough to purchase some wasabi mustard micros from me.¬†

http://www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com/index.htm

lRustic Canyon2rustic canyon

I am looking forward to developing¬†relationships¬†with these two great chefs in my community. I have accomplished my short term goal of creating this garden to sell to market, now I want to make it sustainable. I’m not 100% sure how that model will look, it is constantly changing and evolving, but days like these make me think it could be a reality.

“Hell! there ain’t no rules around here!¬† We are tryin’ to accomplish somep’n!”

~Albert Einstein

Flower Ave Garden Project: Good Fences Make Good…Trellises!

I’m closing in on the home stretch for completing construction in the front yard of the Flower Ave Garden. I was able to get fencing up around the¬†perimeter of the yard. It will double as the perfect trellis for peas and cucumbers that will be planted soon.

building fence

fence done

I was also able to plant one of the beds with ice lettuce. The scientific name for ice lettuce  is Ficoide glaciale. Native to the southern hemisphere, it has fleshy, lightly acidic leaves that are covered with shimmering silvery dots that give them a frosty appearance. The leaves are crunchy and refreshing in salads, and may also be cooked like spinach

ice lettuce planted1

ice lettuce planted2

Up next, irrigation =]

Flower Ave Garden Project: Fava Beans And A Nice Chianti (fuhfuhfuh)

Ok, so maybe no¬†cannibalism¬†took place, but yesterday was a landmark day for the Flower Ave Garden…I was able, after a lot of blood sweat tears and splinters, to get some things planted!!

We began to fill the beds with soil. The first layer was the soil brought down from the ranch in SB; it contained more sand and will help with drainage.

Beds Half Filled

The second layer is of the native soil. One of the neighbors told me that this area used to be bean fields before being developed into the¬†residential¬†area it is today. That explains why the soil is so rich and fertile! It’s funny because LA is very much an urban city so it’s easy to forget that at one time, before all of the cars and smog and traffic and people, that this land was wide open. I loved to learn that it was old farmland…¬†I’m hoping that this soil remembers its roots and is happy to help grow vegetables again.

SB Venice Soil

After the native soil went in, I topped it off with compost, and blended it all the best I could.

Beds Filled

I usually like to direct sow (which means planting a seed directly in the ground) fava beans, but I needed to get them started and didn’t have the beds out front ready, so I seeded them in pots. You can see the root structure already beginning.

Potted Favas

All of my favas are in the beds, tucked in tight!

Row Of Favas

Rows Of Favas

It makes me have to stop and enjoy this moment. So much planning and groundwork went in to getting the garden to this point and I am so thankful for all of the help I had; there is NO WAY I could have done it alone! I’m looking forward to seeing the changes spring will bring to this quiet little garden…good things on the horizon!

me bed

“What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.”
~Margret Thatcher