Blogs for July, 2013
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
When I think of gardeners, I imagine zen, friendly folk – taking the time to carefully water, prune, and talk to plants. They compost their food and find the right mix of soil to encourage a tree to grow, hunch over seedlings in a hat and funky colored garden gloves to protect themselves from the sun. But apparently, if you grow your own greens to make your daily menu, you are a REBEL. “To reclaim…control over one’s food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing: indeed, in our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts.”— Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.
In a brave new world where your next burger may have been raised in a petri dish, more and more people are discovering farm to fork restaurants in their neighborhood, and growing gardens to supplement their daily meals.
What is your favorite way to eat fresh foods? Forage, in Silverlake, sources local farms for their delicious lunch and dinner menus. A recent menu gives a mouth-watering example of their always-changing food fare. My first visit was during stone-fruit season, and my green salad was surrounded by juicy peaches in a light balsamic dressing. Many of their growing community share their green lives online, as well. Check out their blogs here.
Wendell Berry, in a conversation with Michael Pollan, said, “Wildness can extend from the wilderness all the way into the city park. … Thoreau said (wildness) is the salvation of the world … it’s also the health of the world. There is a wilderness that we don’t know much about. … It’s underfoot, every square foot of healthy soil. And we have to maintain that wilderness underfoot, in order to keep eating.”
Where is your wilderness in the city? Are you growing a rebellion in your backyard, harvesting peppers, tomatoes, zucchini? Have you ever hosted a community meal with your crop? Do you have a favorite farm to table joint in your neighborhood? I’d love to hear – leave a note in the comment section here, or tell us on Twitter: @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
Photo: Forage menu
Have you thought about growing grapes for your very own vineyard and wine? I was reminded of a dream of another life as my boyfriend and I escaped Los Angeles and drove into central coast wine country. My fantasy features driving an old farm truck through my vineyard, inspecting grapes, a rangy dog, a mutt of indiscriminate origin, grinning next to me. I pour glasses of home-grown wine for friends at my outdoor dinner parties. Apparently my dream is possible on a smaller scale, even sans truck and dog, if I were to grow backyard grapes. Check out the University of California’s site to learn more about growing from vine to wine!
Though I love my life in LaLaLand, I needed the escape, to slow down, roll down the windows, look at wide open landscapes. This last weekend I tried very hard not to over-pack (a problem of always wanting options!), put some summer sweaters and sandals into the City Farm weekender, and the boyfriend and I drove up to Cambria, one of our favorite spots along the central coast. We found a place for sleep and morning coffee via AirBnB, and spent the rest of our weekend sipping local wines, eating fresh food, and catching up with old friends at our annual college reunion.
Before meeting up with our friends and their broods, we drove to Paso Robles, in search of a winery and the viognier we had enjoyed with seafood paella at dinner at Robin’s. We headed inland from Cambria, a gorgeous drive through golden hills dotted with trees, verdant valleys, and hillside vineyards. I didn’t think I could be happier, til on a whim we pulled into SummerWood winery to try a tasting.
We were greeted by the most informed intern I have ever met, a Cal Poly student who walked us through the varietals and growing practices for specific regions. It didn’t take much to convince us that their viognier was the best I’ve tried. If you want to grow your own vine to wine, viognier might not be right for you, as it requires the hot days and cold nights of that particular part of Paso Robles, but I do recommend you drink it while you plant the best varietal for your region. Delicious and light, it has aromas of honeysuckle and flavors of orange, peach, and apricot, with a hint of vanilla.
We bought a few bottles for special occasions as well as some to share with our friends: “mommy juice” for the parents overwhelmed with a weekend of five families of young children. Two of our college friends married in Central Coast and have settled in to a little homestead in Arroyo Grande, a few miles inland from Pismo Beach.
Wendi, who loves to garden and creates her own floral arrangements out of vintage ties, now has space for chickens, barrel gardens (to protect her greens from gophers), and a place to pitch colorful tents, where the offspring of the five families camped out over the weekend, running around the yard, chasing chickens.
Their house is tucked into the valley, where an ocean breeze makes for a lovely, moderate climate. Though it is not often hot enough for tomatoes until the fall, spinach, zucchini, kale, and chard grow wonderfully well there. Wendi’s two wee ones love to snack on snap peas and make fresh zucchini bread. The chicken coop is home to 12 girls, some rescued, some adopted, commanded by two grouchy grande dames that are the most beautiful of the bunch. They all run free most of the time, eating the family’s scraps and creating compost for the garden, as well as laying up to seven eggs a day.
It was a lovely getaway to chilly coastal climes and hot valley hillsides. What’s your favorite way to escape the city in summer? Are you thinking of growing vines to make wine? Check out that University of Caifornia site, or California Vineyards for advice on planting your grapes based on microclimates, soil, and sun. What might work in your yard? Comment below or tell us via Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm.
The Dream Street Foundation provides nationwide camping programs for children with chronic and life threatening illnesses. Children with cancer, blood disorders, and other serious diseases are given the opportunity to enjoy activities they would normally be restricted from due to their illness.
At present, Dream Street operates programs in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Mississippi and New Jersey. Dream Street is completely volunteer operated, including counselors, medical staff and administration. There are no paid salaries within the Dream Street Foundation. Dream Street is a public non-profit corporation. Camping sessions are free of charge to those attending. Dream Street brings the dream of normal childhood activities to reality for these children. It is an environment in which no child sits on the sidelines or has to worry about feeling different.
City Farm spent the week at Dream Street, our foundation that benefits from 10% of your City Farm purchase. Dream Street truly runs to the City Farm core values and beliefs, our very own Patty Grubman as the co-founder 25 years ago; we started our quarterly charitable support program with one dear to our hearts. Words cannot describe the magic that happens at this camp, some have described it as Willy Wonka come to life, heaven on Earth and a place where you can never have too much candy, ice cream or fun. This years camp these is Dreaming through the USA. We’ve been to Hawaii, Nashville, the glitter of Vegas and the big apple of New York!
To learn more about Dream Street, visit their website at dreamstreetfoundation.org. We are so proud to be supporting this organization, and have truly been blessed to have experienced this week here at camp. Please comment and and write in to me if you have experienced a program like Dream Street or have another charity in mind for our next quarterly support.
Born in the 70’s, my early memories include John Denver crooning from the over-played record about country roads taking him home. And though we lived in the city, my mother’s green thumb made our house feel a little more country garden than the busy four-lane thoroughfare outside our tall fence might suggest. Growing green served as much of my mother’s interior decorating, adding color and life to corners, swinging from the ceiling on braided chains, rustling in the breeze from the open windows in summer and fall.
How do you decorate with plants, bringing the outdoors in to your city space? Take a look at Design Sponge’s collection of creative ways to display your flora, from re-purposing goblets and mugs to verdant fern rooms.
An added bonus of growing green inside? Plants that remove harmful toxins from your home. Be sure to befriend these beauties, best know for their detox habits, including the areca palm, known for adding moisture to your air, and the peace lily, which “excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde.” Because really? Who needs formaldehyde in the kitchen? Check out EnglishGardens.com for more ideas of healthy indoor plants and the best light for them to thrive.
Are you a DIY kind of designer? A bike wheel, kitchen cooling rack, or a tree branch are other options Sunset suggests for hanging green in your home. I’d love to know how you decorate with indoor greens: please leave a note in the comments, or tweet a photo to us at @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
A visit to the farmer’s market on Larchmont, just south of Paramount Studios, where movies are filmed and visitors take tours, you’ll find folks pushing babies and being dragged by the family dog at the Larchmont Village Farmer’s Market. Every Sunday, shop is set up, and you can wander through to taste fruits, spreads, & breads, while your toddler discovers her musical genius in the drum circle set up for kids to bang, shake, shimmy, and in general, get their groove on.
Make sure to pack enough totes with you (perhaps one from the City Farm, like this gorgeous Enfants Strap Tote?) to pack home all your finds. Will you leave room for a new, adopted, furry member of the family? There’s often a kitty and dog rescue group on site, tempting you to take home more than just organic fruits and fresh flowers.
Have you been to the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market– where there’s a bounce house and loads of vintage clothes? Or the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, a larger space filled with food, clothes, street musicians, and events (has anyone taken notes from a cooking demo there)? What is your go-to farmer’s market? Tell us here in the comments or on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
Home Grown Jack-o-Lanterns (and Pumpkin Pies)
I love Halloween – the air is crisp, walkways are lit with jack-o-lanterns, adorably costumed kids traipse neighborhoods demanding candy, and adults are allowed to let their freak flags fly – sitting in an office cube dressed as a banana (it’s the last minute costume buys you always regret).
Don’t be last minute this year – it’s never too early to start planning your costume and planting your pumpkins to make your very own, home-grown jack-o-lantern (and pumpkin pies, and pumpkin cheesecake bars, and … the list goes on over at BHG.com). Northerners may be out of luck on this one, but for us in the southern states, the Farmer’s Almanac notes: “pumpkins require a lot of food and a long growing season (generally from 75 to 100 frost-free days) so you need to plant them by late May in northern locations to early July in extremely southern states.”
While the modern day jack-o-lantern is very American, the pumpkin being native to North America, the first jack-o-lantern was carved in Ireland, based on the legend of Stingy Jack and his drink with the devil. Tradition has it that after Jack tricked the devil time and again, Jack’s ghost was banished from both heaven and hell, and was sent off into “the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as ‘Jack of the Lantern, and then, simply ‘Jack O’Lantern.’”
According to History.com, “in Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins … make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.”
Pumpkins are also peculiarly American as they want wide open spaces to flourish, but don’t worry if your outdoor space is too small for your pumpkins to spread their vines – you can also grow pumpkins in big 5 to 10 gallon buckets, or opt for the miniature varieties. I can already see the Pinterest photos of mini-jack-o-lanterns lighting the walkways for wee trick-or-treaters. Check out the Almanac for growing tips, and tweet us photos of your favorite jack-o-lantern or pumpkin recipe: @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.
Photo credit: Playing in the Dirt
What better way to celebrate your freedom this 4th of July than painting a book and turning it into a piece of art? I’m normally not one to champion the defacing of books – except for notes in margins and exclamation points at favorite lines and underlining meaningful passages and dog-earing whole pages. Apart from that, respect the written word! Unless you can turn a thrift store find into this gorgeous wreath.
Grab your glue gun, follow this easy, DIY step-by-step tutorial, and welcome your guests through your door. But first, you have to get them to your wreath-worthy door. Consider ordering these personalized invites from Etsy’s WhirliGigsPartyCo:
Or from SilverLineDesignTeam:
I favor Mason jars for all things drinkable, like this idea from Better Homes & Gardens. Throw in some freshly picked strawberries, mint, or cucumber for added refreshing flavor. With the top & straw, these are like adult sippy cups! Perfect for running around a backyard with a sparkler.
Once your party-goers have a drink in hand and are relaxing in your backyard, they won’t be able to miss grazing from a table of yummy, fresh fruits, caramel corn and hot dogs, decorated with vintage touches like these, as beautifully featured on Lia Griffith’s blog:
And remember, simple touches will bring vintage Americana to your 4th – Coca-Cola in glass bottles buried in a big bucket of ice (try the ones imported from Mexico with real sugar – so delicious), blueberries, red delicious apples, cherries, bright flowers. And don’t forget a sparkler or two for dusk!
How are you celebrating your Fourth? Will you be watching fireworks? At the beach? A lake? A farm? Are you in another country and swapping Independence Day traditions with the locals? Share your DIY ideas and favorite 4th memories with us, here in the comments, or on Twitter: @TheCityFarm. Happy 4th! Enjoy~
(Sparkler photo: House to Home)
And sometimes you find yourself working in Hawaii for five weeks…
Do you feel like you missed your window to plant veggies this year? With July heat about to hit, I feel like planting the seeds to live a different kind of summer. Rather than be overwhelmed by the hot days, following my oscillating fan in slow, lazy, circles, I want to embrace the sun, don a floppy hat, and dig my fingers in the dirt.
I love flowers, and some of my best memories are being sent out to my mom’s garden to cut blooms and greens and create a centerpiece for a party. But more than my love of beautiful foliage, I love to eat. And I haven’t missed my window to grub from my own garden: July is actually a great time to plant many vegetables in all different climates.
Here in L.A., I’m currently without yard or garden, so I’m looking at window boxes and pots for my front stoop. My southern California list includes basil, cilantro, corn, cucumbers, dill, peppers (transplants), summer squash, tomatoes (transplants), and winter squash. All that sounds like a delicious salad foraged from your own garden! (If you live in a different climate, check out your list, here.)
Factoring in what will grow best in pots, as well as my obsession with red, yellow, and orange peppers (fresh and tossed in salads? Stuffed with rice and herbs? Roasted peppers on the grill? Yes, please!) and the price I pay for them at the market, I’m going to start with them.
Homegrown Peppers (yep, there’s a site dedicated JUST to growing peppers at home) notes that your pepper plants will very likely need more frequent watering when being grown in a container, as well as more frequent fertilizing. When to water? When you stick your finger one inch into the soil and it feels dry.
In my search I also discovered Fern’s pepper post on Life on the Balcony. She notes that peppers don’t need much space to flourish, as hers were a bit of an afterthought, and grew like weeds. Her tip? “Once a week I spray their leaves with sea weed extract diluted in water (6 drops in a spray bottle that holds 1 cup of water). After I spray the leaves I pour the rest of the seaweed-water in the dirt around the pepper plants.” Every three weeks she sprinkled a balanced organic fertilizer in the dirt around the plants.
Check out both sites to learn more about staking, caging, and fertilizing needs.
Peppers like the heat, and need about 8 hours of full sun, so mine will live on my front stoop, where the rising sun beams in my front windows and wakes me at 6am. I’ll try to look at it as my wake-up call to care for my new pepper plants. Off to the nursery, who’s with me?
Happy National Gingersnap Day! In honor of this day, I’m spotlighting gingersnap cookies–a heavenly creation of crunch, spice, and chew. Their origin lies in England and Germany, but how did the name come about? Do gingersnaps snap? I’m convinced there is a faint sounding snap when you break them in half. Perhaps they are named for the “snappy” ginger flavor. Either way, these cookies have some enlightening health benefits due to the ginger content (which of course, gives us more reason to eat them at any given time of day)
Fit For Two’s Five Ginger Health Facts:
Thinly Sliced Cucumber boasts delicious gingersnap-raspberry sandwiches that would make a great dessert to bring to 4th of July BBQs, keeping you patriotic with red raspberry filling.
Gingersnap Raspberry Sandwiches
Makes: 2 dozen sandwiches
1. Preheat oven to 375º. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Beat in the maple syrup. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Reduce the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each addition.
4. Place the granulated sugar in shallow bowl. Measure out 1 tablespoon of dough and form into a ball. Roll the dough in the sugar and place on one of the prepared baking sheets. Space each ball about 3-inches apart. Repeat until both sheets are full.
5. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown, rotating the sheets once in the middle of the baking time (the sheet on the bottom switches places with the sheet on the top).
6. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
7. When the cookies are cool, spread half with roughly 2 teaspoons of jam. Place a second cookie on the top and press lightly.
8. Serve and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Thinly Sliced Cucumber