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

June 24, 2011

Eat Real Festival LA

Have you guys heard of Eat Real Festival? I remember an email for the first one in Oakland a few years ago (following in the footsteps of the wildly delicious Slow Food Nation the year before), but kept deleting the emails each time they came because I figured we wouldn’t be able to go. Until my neighbor David, forwarded the press release for this year’s festival in LA. In Culver City, no less! Which means we are actually going to go! (since it’s only two zip codes away).

eat real festival los angeles 2011

Pickling, jam-making, chicken-keeping, small batch beer, street food… you know, all the borderline cliché stuff that I love. I srsly can’t wait. The only downside is this coincides perfectly with the 405 closure weekend. Which, for those of you who live in LA know, is going to be like a small armageddon for traffic patterns around the city.

Check it out: Eat Real Fest at the Helms Bakery, July 16-17th. Maybe I’ll run into some of you there!

June 23, 2011

Backyard beekeeping + a time of new queens

Last weekend we were down in San Diego for Father’s Day, and it so happened that our few days at my parents’ house coincided with seriously activity in my mom’s bee hive. Her trusty colony made 4 new queens and 4 new swarms/hives around the backyard, which meant that the bee crew was called in to get the population under control. And luckily I was at home, attempting to get some work done on Friday when they showed up. Which meant little work, but lots of watching and photographing.

The main bonus hive was growing in the canopy over the deck and just above my mom’s finch feeder. Pretty amazing, right?

backyard beekeeping swarm

backyard beekeeping

I love the old smoker. Also, do you notice that the guys don’t even wear bee suits or gloves? The bees are mellow. I was standing in the middle of the swarm with my camera and they didn’t even notice me.

backyard beekeeping

Once they deposit the swarm into a box, they search through the colony for the queen. Which they then but in this little plastic vial to transport her… and I assume use to create a new colony later.

backyard beekeeping

backyard beekeeping queen

In just one week, these bees had already made 4 honeycombs + a bunch of honey. Isn’t that wild? They are amazing.

backyard beekeeping honeycombs

backyard beekeeping fresh honey

So I obviously need my own hive to complete my urban farm. But maybe that will be a project for next year. We’d need an anti-Dashiell fence around it for sure.

May 17, 2011

Spring in the garden

We haven’t had a garden update in a long while. Guess why? From about November to March I was growing mostly weeds. Perfect example of things that don’t get done in my life! But I feel pretty good this year considering most of the time I’m barely planting by the middle of May. And this year I’m already harvesting. Mostly lettuce, but you know, it’s something.

This is the first time I’ve actually grown heads of lettuce. It’s so fantastic! The freckles up there are huge, just like in glossy photos of local food propaganda. And I swear I only planted them 2 weeks ago. The problem is that I now have like 10 heads of lettuce that are ready to eat, like now. We eat a lot of salad, but srsly. Not that much.

Also coming in nicely: herbs, wild arugula, berries, kale, peas, 4 kinds of chiles/peppers, summer squash, winter dumpling squash, cucumbers, beans, baby lima beans (on recommendation from Ms. Goin, natch!), grapes, umm. What else? I decided not to plant tomatoes this year. They’re never as good as those from the farmer’s market so I figure why compete with experts, you know?

And I’m desperately trying to grow okra but it’s having a rough time getting past the seedling stage. I’m out there every morning wiping aphids off the new growth with my bare fingers. Any suggestions? Home grown okra sounds so summery. And I want to pickle it.

Who else has been busy in the dirt? I want to see other people’s gardens.

May 5, 2011

how to trim and prepare delicious baby artichokes

I’ll admit, up until last week I was scared to tackle baby artichokes. They seemed so time consuming and complicated and I was certain I’d never get them to taste good. See, we have 4 or 5 massive artichoke plants that pop up every spring and have been largely decorative for the last few years for just this reason. That and also because they’re always full of earwigs and aphids and it seems like such a pain to clean them.

But I’ve been converted. And now I’m kicking myself for watching hundreds of baby artichokes sprout and flower and die on the plants over the last few years. WHAT WAS I THINKING????

Hopefully I can save the rest of you from making the same mistake. I’m telling you, these are divine.

Sauteed baby artichokes
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, obviously

1 dozen smallish artichokes
olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
sea salt and pepper

The only time consuming part of this recipe is the artichoke prep. But really, it’s not that bad. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll breeze right through. Before you start, fill a bowl with filtered water and juice from a few lemons. You’ll drop the prepped artichokes in the lemon water as you finish trimming them, in order to avoid browning before you cook them.

Step 1: cut the top third off of the artichoke.

Step 2: remove the tough outer leaves, until only the softer, pale yellow-green leaves are left. (You can reverse the first two steps, if you prefer). Then trim the stem and bottom of the artichoke.

Step 3: Cut the trimmed artichoke in half and then quarters.

Step 4: remove the fuzzy inner leaves, if there are any.

Repeat with all of your artichokes, dropping them into the lemon water as you go. When you finish trimming, you’re ready to cook them.

Heat 1/4 c of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Add artichokes, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for ten minutes, stirring often until the artichokes are nicely browned and cooked through. And then, behold: a true spring delicacy. The first time I made them, I had to hide them in order to keep myself from eating every last one within 5 minutes.

You can eat these alone, in salad, with cheese, on crusty bread, in pasta, on a sandwich, in an antipasti platter, etc etc etc. They are good no matter what. My mom actually makes them using a simple marinade from Annie Sommerville’s Fields of Greens (also a fantastic vegetarian cookbook), and hers are delicious too.

Don’t be scared. It’s easy, I promise.

April 18, 2011

Backyard chickens, take two

Take three, if you count the set we fostered in the fall. But these are officially ours, as of last Wednesday when they arrived.

Meghan and Jeremy, the super sweet couple who runs Dare 2 Dream Farms, delivered them right into the Eglu. Anyone on the search for a little flock of their own in the LA or SF area should definitely contact them! They have all sorts of breeds, in every age… two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks (ours), on up through six months or so. It’s incredibly perfect, having someone else raise the peepers until they’re ready for the outdoor coop.

I can’t wait to start with teeny chicks one day when our kiddos are older, but at the moment I don’t think our tiny house can handle a baby chicken nursery too.

Guess who’s completely obsessed with his new friends out back?

If it were up to him he’d spend equal parts of the day gazing longingly at his chickens and eating dirt out of the raised beds. Do all babies insist on eating dirt??

Baby legs!

April 15, 2011

Spring and wisteria

Part of me loves spring (longer days! birds chirping! trees blooming!), and part of me despises it because it’s just a big tease with it’s wind and sun and non-summerness. But I always adore our blooming wisteria.

The peak of flowers a few weeks ago:

Growing like crazy now (both the baby and the wisteria):

The pretty detritus:

We’re getting the backyard, and house for that matter, in shape for summer. I guess spring is good for something.

I’ll report back on that soon. Have a fine weekend, all!

January 27, 2011

How to wash super dirty greens

This might be kind of a random post. But I’m betting that there are at least a few of you out there who will be kind of excited about it, just as I was when I figured this out. Which I can’t take any credit for, btw. Years ago I was visiting my friend Laura’s farm in Athens, GA and while we were prepping the harvest for their CSA pickup, I learned this little trick.

This works for any type of greens: lettuces, kale, arugula, etc.

Fill your sink with cold water.
Dump greens into sink.
Swish them around a bit.
Let sit for, I don’t know, 15 minutes? Or longer.
Scoop the greens out of the sink and into a colander.

Behold: the sink bottom is now covered in dirt and your greens are squeaky clean.

When I saw this in action, (using like 1 ton of freshly picked arugula and a large vintage bathtub), I had a major “Ohhhhhhhhh” moment. As in, “So that’s how you do it!” And I’ve never looked back. It works like a charm and I haven’t ground a tooth against a granule of dirt in my salad since.

Some of you probably already do this and are like, um, yeah, DUH. But I bet there are others who are stuck trying to rinse their lettuces by hand, like I was. Try it!

December 2, 2010

We’re a foster family

I have to come clean you guys.

Last year, before Dashiell was born, we gave away the chickens. *cringe* Does that make us super lame poser urban farmer people? Here’s the thing. Ours SUCKED. Like, bad. It wasn’t really their fault. They came from a huge free-range farm in Cayucos, and we brought them home to LA and put them in a little coop. Understandably they were only happy when they were out roaming around. Which we were all for, but not at 5 in the morning when they consistently woke up and demanded to be let out and fed.

Brock insisted that we needed a few months of sleep before the baby came (nice call, husb), so we gave them to a nice lady from craigslist who has a farm and wanted some extra layers.

But a few weeks ago, we took in a little flock temporarily while Clemence and her family move and ready their new yard for their chooks. It’s so nice to have the little ladies out back again! And these hens are perfect angel chickens who barely make a peep and happily peck around the coop day after day. Which is good because I would have been in deep sh*t if they ended up being loud and demanding like our first group. And also affirms my suspicion that if we raise our chicks from babies in their coop, they will be happy and not complain.

Dashiell LOVES them. Loves. He babbles at them incessantly when we’re out back and they’re tame enough that he’s even grabbed a handful of tail feathers a few times. I can’t wait to get our own flock again in the spring.

Side note: Brock compared having a chicken coop in your backyard to having a pickup truck… every time someone moves or buys a piece of furniture they call you to help. And every time someone needs a temporary location for their backyard chickens, they call you to foster them for a few weeks. EXACTLY the same. Exactly.

September 30, 2010

real homegrown tomatoes

A few mornings ago, Dashiell and I were walking back from Peets after a run and I stopped to ask one of our neighbors about her tomatoes. We live in a neighborhood that was for a long time a little Japanese community, where everyone has fruit trees and vegetable gardens in their backyards. One of the older, original residents grows tomatoes in her front planter and I’ve been watching them all summer. She DOESN’T sucker her tomatoes as she goes. And of course I’ve been thinking, well, how can hers be any good???

But then Tuesday she was out there raking up the stems and leaves she’d just removed, now that her plants are huge and bearing fruit. I had to ask. She’s clearly been doing this for decades and must know something the rest of us don’t.

So she says that she pulls off all the extra branches and leaves after the plants have fruited. AND she picks the tomatoes when they’re green and lets them ripen inside the house. She sent me along with a bag full to try.

They were delicious. I had one on a bagel in the morning and for dinner we had caprese (of course) and a raw zucchini salad with tomatoes and pinenuts.

I’m thinking of trying the indoor ripening. Seems like it would take the threat of mealiness out of the equation, since they’re not getting any water while they ripen? I love relying on old pros for advice. And they’re always so eager to share. Next year. Next year my tomatoes will be stupendous.

September 13, 2010

things grown, things eaten

Mixed carrots.

Pretty washed and lined up.

Peas & avocado, roasted sweet potato with a teensie bit of cinnamon and ginger. These would be for the baby, not for us.

Salsa (stored in a nice glass jar!).

Roasted homegrown pasilla chiles for tacos. (Caved and bought corn tortillas. I was desperate and they are made in LA so I felt a little less bad.)

And our tower of sunflowers. I’ve always wondered what the plant looks like that grows cut sunflowers. Apparently it’s a huge cone-like thing? Though this could just be a mutant specific to our yard.

Also, ventured to Waterloo & City for early drinks (it’s right in our ‘hood), I worked on a bunch of stuff for Hitched (our table is going to be tres cute!), and Brock made me do a 10K on Sunday morning. 10Ks used to be a piece of cake, just for the record. It was hard and I was completely wasted for the rest of the day. But as a reward we made banana pancakes slathered in homemade butter and maple syrup. Kind of worth it.

Hope you all had delicious weekends too.