Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Green

When I was a child, time seemed to pass so slowly.   This fall days have melted in to weeks. The garden has served as a timepiece as to where I have been and what I have done.
the beds with Sanford and Son's skateboard ramp in the background

The planning and planting of eight of the ten new garden beds took some time.   I planned as I planted, with a bit of help from John Jeavons book, "How to Grow More Vegetables"- I companion planted my garlic and onions with lettuce and nasturtium; beets and peas, broccoli and cauliflower- and the list goes on.  Since I used seeds, I wasn't certain what the outcome would be.

Every short visit  was a display of some little green bits emerging from the soil.. combined with some strange animal footprints trampling and crushing some of the starts.    

First the lettuce:  Arugula, mesclun, endive, romaine and butter leaf each silky new leaf, sweet and unlike any I've ever consumed before.
Lettuce and Onion

Thinning carrot, beet and other seedlings to add to salads as micro-greens.   Some of them tasted like dirt and were spat out immediately!

 A green only found in nature appears, silvery pea shoots covered in dew.
English Peas

Pretty little carrots all in a row

Carrot, Butter Leaf Lettuce, Nasturtium

Mrs. Havisham still lives in my garden...

Mrs. Havisham lives on
As I begin to rip out dead tomato plants I am halted by beautiful little striped heirloom tomatoes...

Heirloom Tomato
and the last of the summer squash

Butternut Squash

My garden volunteers...somehow not consumed by rabbits?

Patty Pan Squash and Tomato be continued.....

Cheers!  Happy Holidays from Ivarene Farms.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green Thoughts

Angeleno's have been experiencing some very unusual weather- extreme temperatures fade to torrents of rain in just a few days.

I feel like I am doing a dance waiting for the perfect conditions to plant in and unable to predict what will come next.  

Ivarene Farms is in a state of transition sporting 10 fresh redwood beds brimming with steaming hot stinking compost.

 Four old timers are still producing acorn, patty pan,butternut squash and little perfect spikey and very delicious persian cukes.

Guarded by old friends

The purchase of things to come-

Beautiful illustrations of what I hope to consume

Let the wild planting begin!

Then watch and wait for things to come.....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Zoku Love

For Violet's birthday last week we gifted her with the Zoku Frozen Pop Maker.  This is the most ingenious little contraption.  Not unlike a  modern ice cream maker you freeze the bottom for 24 hours then pour in your ingredients and within 9 minutes you are enjoying a lovely ice pop.

The clever innovators of this contraption also created little tools that enable the creation of magnificent works of food art.

She began quite simply by juicing oranges from our tree and pouring them in the mold - then when they were slightly frozen she extracted the middle with a special mini- baster like tool and imbibed them with silk creamer to creating a gorgeous, decadent  creamcycle.

For my frozen pop Millie juiced local lemons and limes from our neighbors tree then we added some sugar, grated ginger and our cucumbers.  A little more sophisticated and just as fun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Urban Sukkot

I learned from my friend Michelle, who is not Jewish, that today marks the beginning of the holiday Sukkot.

I remember this holiday as being one of my favorites when I had to suffer through Saturday mornings at what was ironically referred to as "Sunday School. "

I think what I loved was that for one day we got to go outside and crawl inside a damp, green, earthy smelling structure full of harvest fruits and vegetables. To me we were celebrating the change of seasons.

As I sat cross-legged inside the sukkah with my classmates we would share a snack of apples, sing and tell stories.

What I learned as an adult was that Sukkot was the temporary shelters that the jews lived in durning their exodus from Egypt 3000 years ago.  Each fall this is memorialized as a week long harvest festival.  This year it begins today.

 With so much emphasis on how we live today it is no surprise that an international design competition in has been created around Sukkot.  Aptly named: Sukkah City.

The competition re-imagines the ancient temporary dwelling in an urban setting.  The rules are a contemplative read creating some interesting constraints for the designers.  One stating :The roof cannot be made of food, but can be made of almost anything that grows. While another states A whale may be used to make a sukkah.   (This last one taken from ancient historical texts.)

 Twelve finalists were chosen by a jury of architects,designers and critics.  They will get  to construct their designs in an imaginary village in Union Square.   One of which was chosen to stand as the Peoples' Choice Sukkah of NewYork City.  Next year the festival will expand to cities around the world.

Check out some of the entries and winners

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Seed For Thought

Being an avid gardener I often think of biodiversity and how plants which grow in cold climates have adapted to grow here in Southern California.  When I am planting I try my best to plant a variety of different crops,companion planting where it is beneficial.  

Recently I began to hear stories of a place outside of St. Petersburg Russia,The Pavlovsk Research Station.  The imminent destruction of an institution established in 1926 in order to safeguard crop security is being reported.  It is one of only two botanical repositories on the planet.   Here exists a collection of plants and seeds  which includes more than 5000 samples of European fruit including cherries, apples, plums and it is said over 1000 varieties of strawberries.  

According to the Global Crop Diversity Trust,who has been leading an effort to save the site, the fields are living repositories where about 90 percent of the varieties growing there do not exist anywhere else in the world.  
Scientists have spent their lifetimes protecting and nurturing these plants and seeds, most of which would not survive transplanting due to the specfics of the soil and climate.  During World War II twelve heroic scientists starved to death rather than consume the seeds safe housed in the facility.  

The repository is in it's final days because the Russian government has allowed property developers to buy off chunks of the land to build high rises.  Unless Russian President Medvedev decides to save the land.  Stay tuned for developments... 

This brings to mind a more local story about The South Central Farm  that used to exist on on 41st and Alameda.  Considered one of the largest urban farms in the country, and about the size of a football field, it was an oasis plopped down in the midst of industrial downtown Los Angeles.  

Families depended upon the land for a generation, farming food, herbal medicine and plants for spiritual use.  Some of the plants have been identified by anthropologists as an important tie to where the plants were originally domesticated in the U.S after being brought from Mexico.

I was only able to visit the site once, under very sad circumstances.  In a complicated dispute with a landowner the land was leased for locals to farm in 1985.  And in  a more complicated dispute in 2006, the locals were evicted   They did not go silently. I attended a peaceful vigil while Daryl Hannah and Julia Butterfly Hill held out in a tree.   

Violet was chosen by one of the elders of the farm to help lead a walking vigil.  We silently walked the perimeter of the farm, returning for singing and dancing performed by some of the community members.  

Although the land was bulldozed the farm continues today.  What can you do?
You can purchase vegetables and fruit from them at the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Sundays on Ivar.  
Buy locally, and if you grow vegetables try to save and  share seeds.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Life Gives You Tomatoes....


Make Gazpacho! The most simple summer soup.

We returned from our trip to Oregon to find our garden brimming with 7 different varieties of the beast!

Those that were not devoured by our local raccoon are to be transformed in to this weeks dinners

...And to be gifted to those who arrive first!

This recipe is my mother Eva's recipe.  She would make this on hot summer days.  Using as many fresh ingredients from her garden as was possible. It's delicious!


4 cups tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 T red wine vinegar
1T Olive Oil

Put above ingredients in a Cuisinart or blender and pulse for 5 seconds.

1 Yellow onion
1 Large green pepper
2 Large or 4 medium stalks celery
1 Large peeled cucumber

Add to the tomato,broth,vinegar and oil mixture salt and pepper to taste. 

Chill and top with a spoonful of yoghurt, slice of avocado and a sprig of cilantro.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


The word "stay-cation"has quickly become one of  the most overused catch phrase around.  This morning when  I opened my weekly e-mail from Machine Project I was pleasantly surprised to read the curious words : houseplant vacation.

 photo: Lisa Anne Auerbach

The Hammer Museum is hosting a month long "cultural retreat" for your plant.  Prior to dropping off your houseplant you must agree to the terms of their  release, verbage includes "I will not hold the Hammer responsible if my plant/s gets sick, is overserved, pollinates another plant, disappears in plant napping or otherwise, or if my plants/s enter/s into any other oral or written contracts while on Houseplant Vacation."  One of my other favorite clauses states: "The Hammer has the authority to expose your plant to music, poetry, discussion and other types of performances with the possibility that the art experience will impact and illuminate their life."

 Once you have agreed to the terms, your plant will be taken to a light filled balcony where it will be serenaded by readings, performances and music.  The  plants will also have their portrait taken by photographer Lisa Anne Auerbach.

This innovative and very clever idea is brought to you by the people at Machine Project a community based non profit in Echo Park that operates out of a store front and offers workshops, events and installations.  This year they have been invited to produce a year of programming at the Hammer.

Now to decide which of my lucky little friends get's to go!  I'm not much of a houseplant person but,
what do you think?

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I have always loved cucumbers.  Growing up we ate loads of lemon cukes during the summer.  Yellow, round and slightly barbed we ate them like apples.  Over the last 10 years I have had crops in the hundreds.  Lucky recipients received handfuls upon request.  This year I am growing the family favorite.  Perisan cukes.  Alas, we are still waiting so in the meantime I buy mine at the Hollywood Farmers Market.

 We tend to serve them daily eating them whole, putting them in gaspacho, salsa and salads and as of last night we have found the best place to put them ; in a glass.

Recently while at The Hungry Cat we ordered what we thought would be just another yummy summer beverage.  The first sip told us this was something different, cool, subltle and delicious, this was the drink I had been searching for all summer, the one that would allow me to drink gin again after swearing off it at 18.  

The bartender let us watch as he prepared another, giving us the ingredeints and  the real secret which is  Hendricks Gin.   Handcrafted in Scotland using botanicals such as juniper, coriander and citrus peel  and the  "unexpected  infusion of cucumber and rose petals it is a gin unlike any other I have tasted.
Here is the recipe for one drink:

Juice 1/4 of a large cucumber, skin on.

Make simple syrup: mix one part bartenders superfine sugar to one part boiling water.  Let dissolve.

Measure one jigger Hendricks Gin. 

Fill a shaker with ice, add the one jigger gin, 1/2 jigger cucumber juice, 1/2 jigger simple syrup, 1/2 jigger fresh lime juice.  Shake vigorously.  

Pour and enjoy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Out Damn snails

It has been 2 months since I transformed my winter garden.  Harvesting the last bits of lettuce, kale and misc. other greens in order to get started on several variety's of tomato,  white early corn, six different variety of beans, moon and star watermelon, pattypan squash, persian cucumbers and other delights of summer.

As I begin to till the soil I find some of the decollate snails still surviving from last summer.  These snails are cannibals; they eat garden snails.  

 Not terribly concerned I decide to wait it out before purchasing more.  Convinced they will do their job and keep the bad snails in check.  Alas, they are lazy, anorexic snails, perhaps content to eat just one snail a week and not procreate.  Unlike the abundant population of garden snails I keep finding

Pulling out borage which had taken over one bed, some of the stalks thick as tree trunks.  Discovering little pearls buried in the soil.  Eggs!!!  SNAIL eggs.  I scooped them out and disposed of them in the city green bins...

 Earthy scented, brimming with compost and lovely seeds hand picked carefully, thoughtfully and wisely.    I companion planted beans,corn and strawberries.  Each lovingly spaced, watered and set to sprout.   Melons spaced to stretch out and become perfect sun kissed orbs.

Week one, little green sprouts appear, bursting through the soil.  I am so proud.  I protect them with what I can

Week two the first little leafy bits appear.  Then overnight disappear.  silverly snail trails drunken with my baby shoots trail down the sides of the beds and disappear.  Early morning trips filling bowls full of the buggers and flinging them far off in to the woods.  I cannot bare to kill them... but somehow sending them air-born in to the ivy strewn hillside several hundred feet away seems acceptable.  

Week three- I dissent in to the hallows of Osh to purchase Sluggo... I cannot take the appearance of snails everywhere.  When I get out of my car they are in the trees, mocking me outside the windows two stories up on my house.    Driving me mad!!!

I have purchased a gigantic container of the pesticide and at sunset descend upon every place where the little buggers dwell.  Covering the ground in little aqua colored pellets.

Week four- they seem to have disappeared.    Yet there is still a lace like appearance on all the bean stalks

My gardener is convinced they are still around.  I allow him to pour more sluggo around.  

Week five- Feeling like somewhat of a failure.  Most of one bed has yet to do anything.. Did the birds eat the seeds?  In the past I had always draped my beds with bird netting to prevent the loss of seeds, but after rescuing several lizards trapped in the net, I had decided to forgo the net.  Perhaps a mistake I will regret.

The hot spell has sped the ripening tomatoes to beautiful hues of pink, and burgundy and acid green, we are finally tasting the first bits of summer.

There are a few beans beginning to ripen,  I have now purchased netting and draped them.  I replanted most of the seeds.

 One verdant ink spotted leaf peeping through the webbed netting promise at least one moon and star watermelon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Premature garlic evacution

Being impetuous and sometimes carless I decided to harvest the garlic early, in fact what proved to be about a month too early.  Perhaps this years rain had something to do with this, I remembered harvesting my garlic in May last year and I wanted to use the bed for our summer garden.

Green stalks had just began to turn brown and flop sideways in a convincing manner; a sign from Mother Nature that it was pleading to be plucked out, braided and dried to be turned to delicious savory additions to our daily meals.

Digging carefully around each cluster, feeling anticipatory excitement like finding buried treasures, each one a different shape and hue of violet.

I discovered violet garlic on our trip to Provence last summer it is a milder tasting garlic with a violet hue to be less acidic tasting.

With one foot on the wooden edge of the bed I braced myself and pulled.
Beautiful, aromatic and sadly a bit premature.  

Braided and cleaned of soil I lay the little fragrant clumps out to dry noting their soft and damp quality, convincing myself that they would dry out.  I left them to dry out on a table in the fresh air checking they were not becoming little savory delights for our woodland creatures.

A month later,  the garlic has now dried and is a gigantic stinky clump that will sustain us in to the late Autumn, unless I continue to give them away...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Oceans Day

Ok, I'm a bit behind due to jury duties yesterday. June 8th is/was officially World Oceans Day.  With people like David Rothschild weighing in on

from his journey on the Plastiki; a boat made of 12,000 plastic bottles and powered by wind, solar and water. Rothschild  is the handsome Expedition Leader of the crew of extremely gorgeous young capable  men and women  who are  sailing from San Francisco to Sydney on the Plastiki as a commentary about ocean debris.  (Imagine a Vanity Fair casting by Bruce Weber) His blog is a fun and interesting read.

In the area where the Plastiki will be traveling is a huge garbage patch also known as the Pacific Gyre a huge swirling mass of plastics which is said to be approximately the size of Texas, but I have also read closer to the size of North America. Floating in the Pacific between San Francisco and Hawaii it contains  about 3.5 million tons of trash which includes, shoes, plastic bags, water bottles,toothbrushes and.. oh, the list goes on.   The garbage which comes from  partially from ships, but mostly from land is trapped in the currents of the North Pacifc gyre which creates a vortex and the garbage pretty much remains.

How does this affect us?  The plastics release PCB's and pesticides in to the ocean, fish and seabirds mistake the garbage for food killing them and their offspring, pollutants accumulate in the tissues of marine organisms and make their way up the food chain, eventually making their way in to the foods we consume.

The Gulf Oil spill, which has been front and center in the news since it happened last month has had devastating effects on those living in the gulf. Not only economic impact, but  environmental impacts are just beginning to surface. Just last year the Grey Albatross was removed from the endangered species list, and scientist are now finding the nesting birds covered in oil, unable to relocate their nests, this could seriously impact the babies survival rates.

Sorry for all the terrible news, but..Don't distress!!  There are things you can do.  According to the site Planet Green they give seven actions you can take with out leaving home

This summer when you go to the beach,lake or wherever you are remember to be a good steward of our earth.  Pick up 10 extra pieces of trash when you leave.