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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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
Up next, irrigation =]
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.
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.
After the native soil went in, I topped it off with compost, and blended it all the best I could.
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.
All of my favas are in the beds, tucked in tight!
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!
“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.”
Yet another amazing friend coming through for me…A good friend Tony, a Cheirmoya and avocado farmer and rancher in Santa Barbara, drove down a truck load of his soil blended with donkey manure or “donkey sh*t” as he called it.
It’s beautiful and will be a great addition for my beds. I’ve inoculated it over a few days with some native soil from the original beds at the house to create a healthy microbiotic environment.
I am so thankful for these little gifts that continue to show up along the way and help on this journey.
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
~Henry David Thoreau
All of the raised beds in the front are IN!! It was an intense day, building into the evening just to get everything done. After about 10 hours of sawing and drilling and measuring and leveling, they were finally finished. It was one of those days that had to be ended with a cold beer in a hot shower.
The bottom of each bed is lined with ground covering to prevent weeds. The beds will be filled with soil and soon will be ready to be planted!
The greenhouse is changing every day. My fava bean seeds have sprouted and are looking forward to being planted in their permanent home in the beds out front.
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
~ John F. Kennedy
A lot of it actually! I received my delivery of lumber today. It was pretty comical to watch the forklift snake its way through the back alley to the rear of the house. I wonder how long it took him to get from Home Depot on a forklift?
The drop off went pretty smoothly due largely in part to the back gate that opens to the alley. The carport back here is still a work in progress, but it was nice to have a place to keep the wood dry as we had some light showers that morning.
Next step, constructing the frames for the raised beds. Time to get rid of this wood like a …(insert cold pool joke here)
“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”
The last two days saw some big changes in the front yard of the garden site. I removed all of the existing plants and grated down the hills of dirt.
Before & after
I have to say, I was not able to accomplish this big task alone. The owner of the home had a friend and his daughter visiting from Virginia on vacation. They saw what I was doing and offered to help. They were amazing! SUCH a big help. Mark busted out the chainsaw and, with the help of Julio (another garden helper), they were able to get this giant stump out. And Camille was a pro with the rake!
It is humbling that complete strangers were willing to put in a few hours of hard labor for nothing in return. I think I would still be out there trying to figure out how to get that stump up.
Now that everything is level I can start staking off the borders for the raised bed locations and take measurements for lumber.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”