I’m Kristina - freelance graphic designer, backyard farmer, cookbook reader, project starter, and new mom to a gorgeous little boy.

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Archive for the ‘urban farming’ Category

April 8, 2013

Beginnings in the garden

I do not love spring. I love what it represents, to be sure. I love the new buds forming, the light scented air, the possibility of warmer days and nights, daylight savings time… But generally spring is windy and it tricks you into thinking it’s warm because the sun is out, but really it’s cold. And I find the whole season just slightly irritating.

But the garden is starting to come back to life, after nearly a year of neglect. That little Forrest. His arrival put a few of my hobbies on hold for a while.

This little box under our bedroom window just keeps going. I add new plants in every once in a while. It’s one of my favorites.

Dashie and I have been working on a little sedum garden outside my office door.

These guys are huge. And just about to flower now.

More succulents. They’re everywhere.

Ah the favas. We’ve started harvesting. Yum.

Artichoke plants so grey this photo looks black and white. Can’t wait for the babies to arrive.

Kumquats for days. I think this year I’m going to make marmalade.

Found a broken bird’s egg in front of the back door. Nature isn’t always kind.

Then there’s this little kumquat. I love him so much.

April 25, 2012

Spring in the garden

There hasn’t been much in the way of new activity in the garden yet this year. And I’m thinking I might just need to let go of having a bountiful harvest this summer. At this point, standing in the kitchen is pretty much all I can handle, which makes the thought of weeding and tilling and planting seem laughable. HOWEVER, Dashiell and I are going to give it a go this weekend anyway. (I don’t admit defeat easily.) Brock will be out of town so it’s just me and my little buddy, and one of his favorite activities is digging out back.

I even bought him his own little Melissa & Doug trowel and cultivator/rake-thing this week. He’s going to be super excited. Maybe I should have ordered him a garden cart too?

But despite my lack of effort, we do have some delicious spring things happening out back. One of the benefits of landscaping with edibles!

The mint is luscious and full and taking over the planter by our back door. Need to do something fancy with it before the flowers come.

Berries are flowering right on schedule.

Artichokes just keep coming. I’m thinking I might try pickling a few of the bebes. Though I do love the recipe I use from Sunday Suppers a whole lot. For those of you who are still intimidated by their spiny exterior, here’s how to prepare baby artichokes, which I only discovered last year. It’s so easy!

Fava beans are gorgeous and tall and the beans are just starting to be ready to pick. We’ve had them in pasta and salad so far. I’ve yet to make my favorite fava bean puree, but I think that’s coming next.

Grapes are growing like crazy. I trimmed them back for the first time this winter. Makes a huge difference!

And my neighbor’s loquats are just about ripe. They hang over our side of the fence, which makes them fair game, if you ask me. Also, he’s told me I can have all of them because he never touches one. (Same with his lemons, which is brilliant. Haven’t bought a lemon in like 5 years.) I’m going to try making loquat jam this year. Maybe this recipe? Or this one.

So much of spring is just green, isn’t it? I didn’t manage to get peas in the ground, but I *might* try to plant some this weekend just to see what happens. The weather has been so weird that you never know.

How are everyone else’s gardens doing? I can’t wait to retire so I can spend all day growing things.

February 2, 2012

Weekend and things

I’m really sucking at posting, aren’t I? I want to post more, I do! Maybe soon. How about some photos from the last week for now?

Dashie loves skateboarding with his Uncle Jordan. Or at least loves the wheels on the skateboard.

Really fun day watching Amanda try on wedding dresses with Kendra and Jillian, (the Vera Wang space was pretty great), followed by a delicious ladies lunch at Fig & Olive.

OMG you guys, I’m working on recreating a cold-marinated fennel salad with orange and cilantro. It was nearly the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Will report back.

Our contractor found an envelope of negatives from 1950 in our garage while he was demo-ing to start construction on my new office. (Yay!) They are amazing. Photos of our house when it was freshly built, with the for sale sign out front and everything. I love love love seeing the history of our neighborhood. Plus neat photos of Carol’s family (our landlord and friend). So excited for her to see them.

And the garden update… aside from a few perinneal herbs, it’s fava-only season people. I’ve never grown them before, but I decided to plant all favas for winter/spring. They’re part of the vetch family and are a great natural way to re-nitrogenate the soil before summer. (Um, also I love them.) AS IF I’m going to actually get it together to plant a summer garden this year. Maybe if I can get a few things in the ground by May.

I’m going to admit that our 3rd heatwave of the winter finally wore me down. I’m over cold weather and completely ready for spring and summer. Luckily we’re heading to Mexico for a week on the 17th. Aside from the inevitable bikini time, I’m super excited.

October 18, 2011

What it’s like to have backyard chickens

Jamie emailed me ages ago suggesting that there might be some interest in a post about the real deal with backyard chickens. I thought it was a fabulous idea and then waited months before actually getting it together to do the post. Shocker!

But today is the day. Should you get chickens? Do I like having chickens? Are they a lot of work? It will all be revealed. Maybe.

Having chickens is in general great. I love having fresh eggs, (especially considering how dirty eggs from the supermarket have been proven to be), I love that they eat our kitchen scraps and mulch our garden, and provide hours of entertainment for Dashiell. But they’re farm animals. And they do require some work. And they are loud sometimes, particularly in the morning.

Eggs – one cannot get tired of having fresh eggs! And considering organic eggs at the farmer’s market are like $5.00/dozen it’s pretty satisfying to get them for free. Or “free”, I guess. Since clearly they aren’t really free.

Compost – they’re little composting machines!

Fertilizer – for the veggie garden. We have a nice little ecosystem in our backyard.

Entertainment – They are so super great for kids. And if you get them when they’re little, they can be really tame and tolerate infinite amounts of chasing and poking and picking up.

Education – When our kid(s) are older it will be so amazing for them to grow up knowing that food comes from SOMEWHERE, not just the store. Our neighbors asked their son where eggs came from a few years ago when we’d just gotten our first flock, and he said “the store”. I think he knew that they came from a chicken in theory, but in practice they came from the dairy section. And there’s totally nothing wrong with this, but I love that Dashiell already knows that eggs come from our chickens.

They are loud – This is my number one gripe. We’re usually up anyway, and it’s a little better now that the sun is coming up later, but just because you don’t have a rooster doesn’t mean your chickens won’t announce to the world that morning has come. Every. Morning.

They are messy – If you let them free range, they will scratch everything out of your planters and leave poop all over the backyard. We let them free range all day every day so there’s a lot of cleaning up to do. BUT we’re in the process of building a fence so they’re confined to the back part of the yard where it’s all wild and messy anyway.

You have to clean the coop – Occasionally. The first time we had chickens I cleaned the coop once a week. ONCE A WEEK! What was I thinking??? Because we have an Eglu, the entire thing comes apart so you can really clean it (vs. just being able to rake it out). Which is nice because it doesn’t smell as much. But I’ve become lazy and now clean it once a quarter.

Chicken sitters – When you travel, you have to find someone to feed and water them if you’re gone for more than a weekend or so.

Misc. issues – Like any animals under your care, chickens occasionally have things that come up that need tending to. You might have one that’s mercilessly pecked and has no feathers left on her back. (Been there!). They might get mites. They might get worms. A predator might get into the coop if it’s not secure. Or an eagle might grab one out of the backyard. The list goes on. I’m a fan of the “let nature take it’s course” attitude most of the time, but still it IS one more thing you have to deal with from time to time.

We have a relatively big backyard for LA standards, but it still feels a wee bit too small for chickens, in an ideal world. I mean it’s FINE, but it would be great to have the coop down the hill from the house or something. So you didn’t hear them quite so often.

This is turning out to be kind of an anti-chicken post. I’m so not anti chicken! In general I think they are very low maintenance, and that the benefits totally outweigh the extra work. I’d much rather have chickens than a dog, for example. (Sorry dog people!) You can completely ignore them for days at a time, which is my kind of pet.

If any of you have specific questions, I’d be so happy to answer them. And if you have chickens, I know there are plenty of you out there who do, what are your thoughts?

October 3, 2011

Urban farms of Detroit

Anyone else hear this story about urban farming in Detroit on NPR? It’s pretty inspiring to imagine a city like Detroit dotted with small farms run by entrepreneurial citizens.

Love it.

Why can I never seem to keep up with my garden, when these people are farming ACRES?

August 26, 2011

Of late

I have so many posts to share, I do. But time has not been on my side as of late. So next week. Definitely next week. In the meantime here are some things to prove that I am still here.

Succotash salad from Ms. Goin. I really thought this recipe was going to the one that proved that she is not perfect in the kitchen. But then I tossed the 4 separately prepared parts together with a simple dressing and VOILA! Delicious as usual. (Also the goat cheese was a personal addition, which I think made it even more tasty).

Our neighbors slipped fertilized eggs under their broody hen and look who popped out! Baby chicks are the cutest.

Someone is 18 MONTHS OLD. Am I the only one who can’t believe it?

The ladies of Bash Please threw a delicious little dinner party catered by Heirloom LA and I stole away with these beautiful fresh beans. I’m going to keep them for next summer’s garden.

Salsa verde – Oaxacan style. You guys, I’m now the master of both red and green salsas. OMG they are going to blow your mind when I post the recipes next week.

Hope everyone has a hot hot summer weekend. I can’t believe we’re already at the end of August.

July 28, 2011

Lemon verbena iced tea

I have found my drink of summer, people. After 4 years of growing a wily bush of lemon verbena with the intention of at some point using it, I think I’m on the verge of becoming verbena-obsessed.

See I planted it 4 years ago because I read a recipe somewhere for white peaches in lemon verbena simple syrup (to pour over vanilla ice cream, of course). Funny how you remember such things. But have I made that recipe? No, of course not. In fact, the poor verbena has been largely neglected since planting. But it turns out to be practically a weed that comes back stronger every year, even when in winter it’s just a tiny woody stump.

Yesterday, at the suggestion of our nanny Gloria, I decided to hack off a few branches and pour boiling water over them to make tea. Is this a known thing? It seemed so obvious after the fact. In Mexico they apparently drink this iced tea when it’s really hot out and Gloria wanted to take some to the park for Dashiell. Um, hello hidden gem of Mexico!

You guys, it’s so delicious. It’s sort of gingery and ever so slightly sweet. Not really lemony at all. Just divine, poured over ice after steeping for a few hours.

I think you could mix in a teensy bit of honey when it’s hot too. Or even a few sprigs of mint. I tried it with a lemon wedge, but decided after the fact (and after taking photos) that I prefer it on it’s own.

And the best thing is that you can either grow it yourself with very minimal effort, or because it really must be a weed, buy huge bunches of it at the farmer’s market for only a few dollars. I’ve always seen those bunches and been like “what could one possibly do with so much verbena!”. Make delicious iced tea for the week, to start. I’m just about to go on a verbena binge, I can tell.

So I’ll report back with more ideas.

Starting with that original recipe for peaches in syrup, of course. Also thinking it would make a lovely addition to popsicles and cocktails. But do start with the tea. It’s so so good.

July 18, 2011

Eat Real Fest

Good morning! Look at me, posting on Monday! It’s shaping up to be a good week already. How about a few photos from the Eat Real Fest? It was pretty fun and pretty delicious and a big adventure for all of us. We decided to go carless for the weekend in honor of the 405 closure, so we loaded up the BOB and ran to Culver City for Eat Real. Which was great, though hot. And we lost Dashiell’s moccasins (and only pair of non-croc shoes) on the way.

But then we had to walk 5 miles home after two beers I was completely exhausted by the time we walked in our front door. I’m such an exercise lightweight now! But twas a fun day, all the same.

It was like a very modern country fair with no rides. Sort of. Pigs and baby geese and chickens and everything. Maybe we need a backyard pig?

We ran into the owner of Chaser, who happens to make the kids npr shirt, which was pretty fun. Dashiell was a relatively cooperative model for their upcoming Chaser on the street series.

Anca’s Romanian flatbread was the best thing we tried. OMG you guys. So good. And the little salads (kale + feta and cucumber + olive) were divine. They’re apparently only at the Echo Park farmer’s market on Friday evening at the moment, which is very sad for westsiders, but I srsly urge you to check them out if you live over there. Delicious.

Oh wait, also, Sno Con Amor… very delicious. All natural flavors like beet lemonade, watermelon basil, and walnut. You can find them at the Hollywood farmer’s market on Sundays.

Plus there were all sorts of jams, and salts, and spicy pickles, and tandoori smoked olives, kimchi, and food trucks, and food preserving demos, and music and all sorts of other inspiring, tasty things.

Doesn’t he all of a sudden look like a little boy?? Aye, how the months fly by.

And of course, there’s nothing like drinking summery ale out of a mason jar to really make your Saturday feel well spent.

Hope Eat Real comes back to LA next year!

July 14, 2011

Summer berries

Doesn’t this just embody summer? Eating berries straight from the bramble and running around the yard with all of your clothes off?

We don’t do much, but we have a good time doing it.

Also, if you’re planning to grow berries and would like enough to actually make something with them AND let your child eat them from the bush every evening after dinner, I would recommend covering half your yard with them. Babies will eat as many as you let them. Not that I blame them.

July 13, 2011

The simplest of summer meals

Oh, hello. Is anyone still there? Apologies for sporadic posting! I’m sad when I don’t post too. But this is a delicious little recipe that will hopefully tide you home gardeners over for a few days. I know you’re always looking for ways to use zucchini and basil. And as part of my mission to really eat everything we grow this year, so am I.

The first time I made this, I came up with the “recipe” whilst the water was boiling for the pasta. Srsly. It’s that simple. And it really tastes like summer, at least around these parts. The most important thing is that everything is ready to go before you start cooking the pasta/as the pasta is finishing. Timeliness is of great importance in the dish – as in you want to eat it when it’s super hot and fresh and melty and buttery.

Pasta with zucchini tomatoes and basil

Summer pasta with squash, tomatoes, and burrata
(Quantities and ingredients are loose, kay? It’s really a throw together sort of thing)

Pasta in any shape you like

summer squash cut very thin or preferably with a mandoline
perfectly ripe tomatoes (I used small ones, but that’s because I like small ones)
lots of basil, torn
green beans (if you have them growing too) cut however you prefer them
butter (kind of a lot)
lightly toasted walnuts
salt and pepper

Boil as much pasta as you need in salted water. When the pasta is almost done, add the super thin squash and green beans and cook for just a few minutes. Al dente is better with these veggies. Dump everything into a colander and drain, then transfer to a bowl big enough for tossing together the rest of the ingredients. While the pasta is still piping hot, add a few tablespoons of butter (at least) and mix to coat. Plus a bit of sea salt. Might as well. Then add the sliced tomatoes, torn basil, (and other herbs if you have them!) and walnuts. Add a bit more salt and a few grinds of pepper.


You might need to add a bit more butter or a bit more salt. Then grate a mountain of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the whole mess and toss again. Then, I think this is the best way, serve portions into lovely Heath pasta bowls and add loosely torn pieces of burrata to each serving. Otherwise I fear the burrata may be lost in the shuffle and that’s no good at all. You can also add a bit more parmesean, salt, or pepper just before serving. Just make it taste good!

We had it the other night with leftover cucumber sour cream salad (odd pairing, I admit) and garlic bread á la Brock. He was excited to think that his bread would make it on the blog. Look honey! It did!

Also should share, this doesn’t keep THAT well. I mean it keeps fine, but it’s nowhere near as good the second day so if at all possible just make what you’ll be eating in one sitting.