Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ivarene Farmer: Vertically Challenged

Ivarene Farmer: Vertically Challenged

Vertically Challenged

 Vertical wall by Patrick Blanc

Vertical wall by Patrick Blanc

Several years back on a trip to San Francisco, we visited a garden oasis on the outskirts of the city called Flora Grubb.  Eager to see some of the vertical gardens she was creating and selling, we poked around but were discouraged by the price.  Her space is beautiful and full of the most modern and innovative pieces in the gardening world.

Patrick Blanc

I noticed on her blog that she had just hosted someone I soon became enamored with- the creator of the Vertical Garden, Patrick Blanc.   Messieure Blanc creates verticle scapes that completely mask entire buildings in vegatative growth.  His work spans the globe and is visable on nearly every continent.  What more can I say, he is my idol.

Flora Grubb sells kits to make your own smaller more manageable version and has also been a pioneer in bringing these scapes in to fashion.

Inspired to create our version, we set out to find a way to do so.  While searching the internet, John happened across some little containers which looked suspiciously like those we had seen at Flora Grubb, yet at a fraction of the price.  Upon further investigation, he found they were discontinued- we suspect they might have been SO like those at Flora Grubb perhaps they had to stop making them.

With John's internet prowess  and determination he soon found 22 of them hiding at an secret location in the valley.  With no time to loose, he quickly purchased them for a song and gifted me a project, which should have been right up my green ally.

John measured, google sketch-uped, stained wood and created frames for the inserts.  I shopped for what I thought would be the most beautiful colors of sedum and succulents- finding different varieties at several locations.

Richmond Burton

 I needed an accomplice,  an artistic director with fantastic color sensibility.  Enter Richmond Burton, close friend, relative, and most of all amazing artist; who has recently located from New York to Los Angeles.

taking root

Over wine, music and progressing darkness we set to work creating colorful scapes draping bits of sedum and inserting bits of soil in the pockets for hours in to the late night.

I promised myself I would nurture and water the pieces as they lay for several weeks rooting and adjusting.

slow death

dying sedum

brown dying sedum

As summer progressed parts turned brown, grasshoppers were shooed away.  I replanted once more- this time a little more hastily.  More brown death discouraged me and I began to ignore the 22 black planters that were taking up most of our patio and crowding our lovely dining area.  Not to mention blocking us from sitting in our beautiful new outdoor patio furniture.  It became the bane of my afternoons.  I continued to water  but shame made me  keep the curtains closed.


simple kids paint brush and spoon

With the weather getting cooler and a new force of life (caffeine) coursing through my veins I was close to finishing.

 I am grateful for the project John gave me.  I am now using a spray bottle, paintbrush and silverware to be more precise.

My Masterpiece

Upon Closer Inspection

One planter hung and new heartier succulents from California Cactus  cascading down the wall.  We are nearly there.  I am feeling  proud and determined to see this through.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The 12 beds of Ivarene Farms

Fava Beans

Spring has been an incredible time of death, birth and beauty.  I travelled to both the Anza Borrego desert and Yosemite and was once again struck by the beauty and power of nature.  Two places within the state of California with such opposing habitats.  Anza Borrego has extreme temperatures and the desert supports such diverse ecosystem.  From sheep to scorpions.

Anza Borrego Desert Ocotillo

Yosemite with it's powerful melting ice and weather,and several inches of snow falling forced us out.  We only were able to camp for two of the five nights we planned.  Still I found it a worthwhile retreat.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Snow and Weather

6am Snowfall at the Campground

Back home,  it has been several months since my last post.  I have not been idle.  The garden is in a beautiful state of maturity.  I am still picking and giving away loads of beets, carrots, onions and greens several times a week.  New summer plantings include several varieties of beans, strawberries, corn, persian cukes, lemon cukes, seven varieties of tomato, radishes, more lettuces including my favorite butter leaf and arugula.

The 12 Beds

 The sunflowers are laden with seeds turning each day to greet the sun and follow it across the sky.  Some, sadly are so heavy the stalks have bent over and they are suffering on their sides, while miraculously others stalks are several inches around and supporting their 12" heads.


Onions are flowering, garlic is beginning to lay down but bulbs are not quite ready to be picked, braided and dried for storage.

Nature mimicking Dr. Seuss

fava beans, chamomile, golden beets, onions and some lettuces share the soil in one bed.

endive, carrots, strawberries consume the next bed.

The garden in transition

I finally rid the brussel sprouts of aphids in time to see them overtaken by snails.  I was encouraged while in a mediation class not to kill anything living, so I feel quite at peace with chucking them on to the roof of the nearest house to live.

Please come get some beets if you are close by...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pie oh Pie!

Spring is here, the fruit tree's are both flowering and still overflowing with fruit.

The exotic scent of jasmin mixed with flowering citrus fills the air day and night.

The now over abundant produce spilling out of the garden beds is obscene.

Each night I'm trying to discover how to prepare the ingredients from the garden for my fussy families palate.

Shepard's Pie has been a saving grace.  This seems to be the perfect vehicle to dump all the different veggies in to.

It is the most superbly simple recipe; basically a pie crust filled with whatever is on hand and topped with mash potatoes.

I have tried different pie crusts, spelt being the most healthy choice, but not the most tasty, most likely because of the lack of lard or some other fat.  Frozen wheat pie crust from Trader Joe's being the one to have on hand in a pinch.  Two come in the box, and so use one and freeze the extra for your next pie.

Here goes:
Take out your frozen pie crust from the freezer, or if you have time there are many easy ones to make.  Follow directions on the box or shell wrapper for oven temperature.

place pie crust in pie dish 

 crimp edges

the ingredients

2-3 medium carrots or you can substitute one carrot for one parsnip
 1/2 cup English peas
 1 small bunch spinach or other green
 5-6 stems broccolini or broccoli rabe
 1 celery stalk
 1 med. shallot  or  1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. chicken tenders salted and peppered

Mashed PotatoTopping:

2 lbs russet potatoes, or Yam's, which make a sweeter topping.  You can also use both together. Or about 4 medium.  Scrubbed.
3/4 stick unsalted butter.
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup whole milk warmed

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce a bit until they simmer.  Cook 20-30- minutes until when pierced with a fork they are tender.

Peel potatoes if you like, otherwise it's quite rustic to leave them on.
Mash with a potato masher or fork until soft, stir in butter until it's well mixed and whisk in milk.
Add salt and mix in until potatoes are at desired consistency.

yam and potato topping still lumpy for a rustic effect


minced garlic and shallot

Mince shallots and garlic and put in small bowl.
peel and cut up carrots/parsnip in to rounds
Shell peas and discard pods, or feed to nearby dog.
chop celery
cut up broccolini in to 2 inch pieces

grilled tenders

Cook chicken tenders on grill or in oven and cut in to small bite size pieces

Heat  a large frying pan over medium and add olive oil.
Just before  the oil begins smoking add:
Carrot, celery and brocollini
When they begin to get soft and a bit brown add:
Garlic and shallot
Mix well
Add greens
Add cut up chicken

Put the delicious compote in to the pie crust and top with mashed potato.

the filling

the topping

Follow directions for the pie crust.  If the potatoes begin to get too brown you can put foil on top until the pie shell is cooked.

Remove from oven and serve!

et voila!  The pie!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Today's Pickin's

Very tired from two nights in the sweltering Anza Borrego desert heat left me parched for fresh vegetables.


The desert was alive with wildflowers and blooming Ocotillo's stretching their blooms up to the sun.

Back home the garden was infested with snails,and aphids and happy ladybugs.  They left me plenty to eat, I don't mind sharing a little bit with them.

I'm too exhausted to write, but here are some of the things I picked this afternoon and will be consuming over the next day or two


Pea pods and pea tendrills

Endive and butter leaf lettuces aka the $15 salad

Snowball Cauliflower

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Green with Envy

The results of combining different vegetables has yielded a delicious and biodiverse garden.
 The bountiful rain we were subjected to in southern California these past months has shifted our garden to spring.
We now reap the benefits.  Hungry?  Come on over and harvest some for yourself...
Just give me a bit of notice..

From one day to the next broccoli has flowered  broccolini to be exact.

Neat little rows of spinach baring different sizes of tender, nutty flavored succulent leafs.

jewel colored nasturtiums bring butterflies, hummingbirds and bee's to the bed they share with onions, carrots, and butter lettuce.

Veiled with bird netting red and gold beets, emerald kale bordered by garlic with  peas towering out towards the southern sky, draping heavy with their load of pods and flowers  scatter spent blossoms in the wind.

And the lettuce keeps on giving to the chamomile, onion, and  curly endive.

The peas stand alone..but not for long.