Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goals, objectives and other list making

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest deficit of this blog is the distinct lack of photos.  I'm terrible at taking them, I'm terrible at uploading them, I'm terrible at posting them.  My goal for July, however, is to post at least one photo with every post regardless of how bad or blurry it is.

I may not succeed 100% but I am going to do my best.

Goals are a theme with me lately. I'm a list person - I have a to do list, a bucket list, a goals list for 2011 and under the 2011 list is a list of little things I will do in the next couple of days to move toward those goals.  It helps keep me on track. Sometimes I still get off track. Wev.

With all those lists, as I was explaining to the Mr. this week, my plate is pretty full until October.  You know, it's only 121 days until Hallowe'en, (you didn't?) which is pretty much the high holiday of my year. In July, I am off to Utah for 4 days, home for a week and a half and then off to Napa for another 4 days. I'll be pretty busy in the interim working on getting my labels made for my jams and all that jazz. Tonight is the Pickle Pop Up in Atwater Village and I have some very cute homemade labels for tonight, but if I plan to be in stores, homemade labels aren't going to cut it.

August, September and October are all about prop making and prepping for the Hallowe'en party of the century. Then, in November, the farm work truly begins.

Here's another list: Sprinklers go in first, the chicken coop gets built and the back 40 gets finished out with raised beds and trees all in time for a gorgeous Southern California winter!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Word Wednesday - Heirloom Skills

Sustainability is defined as the capacity to endure. It sounds like such drudgery when you put it like that!
Graphic by NotMadeinChina

I am loving the concept of "heirloom skills" though.  It sounds like something valuable, something precious and useful. These skills used to be passed down, usually from father to son or mother to daughter. Crocheting, woodworking, how often to water plants, cleaning, baking bread, building barns. Today it's primarily passed vertically from those of our own generation to others.  Previous generations, on our moves out to the big cities put down many of these skills, thrilled to be able to buy conveniently pre-made goods.  I'm not against pre-made.  Sometimes, it's pretty damn handy to have someone else make what you need! But sometimes, what's made is not exactly what you need or it's made by people in horrible working conditions or it's shipped 10,000 miles across the planet using up an enormous amount of resources for us to have a $3 knitted hat.

I was pretty lucky in that I learned crochet from my grandmother starting at about 7 years old and cooking and baking were essential skills to learn in my house growing up. I was taught sewing but I didn't like it at the time and so I stopped until I was about 25. I must say, I regret that.

I wish I had learned other skills like canning, woodworking and planting, but I am slowly teaching myself, mostly through trial and error, though I have to admit that the intertubes are really helpful for learning.  For instance, I picked up about 6 pounds of figs from a friend yesterday who has a fig tree but has no idea what to do with them. I'm not particularly skilled in the fig department either so I went online to discover the type of fig (Desert King) and what one can do with them.  I'm going to try my hand at it this afternoon and we'll see what we get.

I'd never really built anything prior to building my raised beds. That was also mostly trial and error and the next beds I build which will be going in the back 40 are going to be a lot more stable than the first set, though I will give myself some credit; the first set is holding up its fourth planting season in a row!

I love to trade skills with people. You show me how to use a miter saw and I'll show you how to crochet or knit or can figs.

OK, so here's my heirloom skills wish list for right now, if you have a skill to trade or you have a list of your own, add it to the comments and we'll see what we can work out!

  • Woodworking skills - Primarily using a miter saw or learning to turn wood
  • Oxy-acetylene welding
  • Photoshop/graphic design (ok, maybe this isn't heirloom but it's definitely going to be!)
  • Weaving
 What's on your list?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pump up the jam, pump it up!!!!

So, when I realized that julienning orange peel for four hours was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, I discovered that jam making and canning might just be for me.

In the last 6 months, I have canned over 150 jars of jam, marmalade and jellies.  I have had some spectacular successes (see Apricot Jam [OMG] and Loquat Jelly) and some miserable failures (actually just one this year, the Rainier Cherry Vanilla Bean Jam). But now a lovely woman named Piper Goldstein, proprietress of the new Atwater Village Farm, is giving me my first start in the real world, selling jam at the Pickle Pop Up this Thursday night in Atwater Village!!!!

What is Atwater Village Farm, you ask?

It is a brilliant idea!  Piper is a chef with a dream of opening a market that provides both a community environment and an opportunity to purchase fresh, organic local produce at an affordable price.  Piper is collaborating with local farmers and food artisans (that's me!) to provide affordable and sustainable food and knowledge.  She is going to be offering classes on having your own little urban farm and how to use what you produce (or buy from her!).

Atwater Village Farm isn't open yet, but I'm anticipating their opening in the Fall, my favorite season.

How can you be involved? Well, you can go to Kickstarter and donate anything from $1 to $5,000 to help Piper meet her goal. can come out to the Atwater Village Summer Nights on the Boulevard where AVF is hosting the Pickle Pop Up this Thursday night and buy some jam. Preferably from the table of BluestockingFarm!!!! 10% of the proceeds will go directly to the Kickstarter campaign!  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ch Ch Ch Cherry Bomb!!!

This past weekend I got in my car and went driving up Bouquet Canyon, a super fun twisty road headed for Leona Valley where the cherries grow.  I went to a U-Pick farm up there.

Here's something I'd like to figure out before spending my money. When the crazy orchard owner is listening to the radio after you've given him your money, after you've picked and weighed 9 pounds of cherries and you hear the announcer say, and I quote,
"The liberals never learn, even when you teach them something over and over again! It's like McCarthy. We've taught them that he wasn't the evil person that they say he was and yet they still keep referring to McCarthyism as a bad thing...." 
I wish I had known that beforehand. I really hate giving my money to these people. Anyway, I'll try a new farm next time...

Clearly I'm a bad, bad blogger. I always forget to take pictures! 

The farm encourages you to taste as you go, so by the time I was finished picking my bucket, I was stuffed to the gills with cherries.  I also learned a new trick of putting up old CDs in the trees to scare away the birds. Gotta do this with my peaches and pomegranates.
Pretty cherries!

Anyway, I picked 9 pounds of cherries and headed back toward the San Fernando valley for canning and other enjoyment.  Yum!

I like to pick and use fruit within 24 hours.  I feel like it tastes better that way and I know myself. I get busy. If I make the time to harvest, then I also like to make the time to process within 24 hours. When I harvested my loquats, I would get off the ladder and take them straight to the stove. Same with the apricots and the zucchini.  Otherwise, I tend to have rotting fruits and veggies in the fridge which is kind of a pet peeve of the Mr.

So I arrived home and started sorting cherries!

First I pulled out almost all of the Rainiers and made them into a jam with vanilla beans.  Unfortunately, this is where the bomb comes in because while they taste superb, they are totally ruined visually as I didn't follow the directions for powdered pectin to the letter. They are also SUPER JELLED which is not my preferred way to have jam. I like it a bit runny.  Now I know better, but damn it!!!  I'll be giving out some tasty but bubbly-looking and jello-consistency jam. 

Then I picked out all of the bing cherries and tried again.  This time I made the Bing cherry jam with some kirsch and it just looks like a precious ruby.  Absolutely lovely and tasty.  Yay!  Other than caramelizing my entire stovetop, it was a total success!!!

Utah Giants?

Finally, I had some Utah Giants, which were not giant at all.  Actually, they were quite tiny so perhaps the tree was marked wrong but they were absolutely tasty and quite ripe so I picked a bunch.  I had already canned 2 batches of jam so next on my list was some maraschino cherries.

I went out and bought some Luxardo cherry liqueur which was, if nothing else, in a very lovely bottle.  I don't drink.  I just have absolutely no taste for alcohol whatsoever, but the recipe called for liqueur and who am I to argue? It also calls for cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and because I'm crazy like that, I also added some vanilla bean.

First I used the last of the Rainiers.  I know maraschino cherries are supposed to be super red, but I wanted to try this, and so try I did. From some forums I looked at, the cherries are supposed to be much more tasty after a couple of weeks in the juices, so I'm not going to taste them for a couple of days. They have just a hint of redness to them. I like the color. We'll see if I like the taste.
Rainiers in syrup

Next, I started the "Utah Giant" dwarf cherries. Again, the forums suggested that if you want really red maraschino cherries, you either have to use a certain kind of cherry or use some red food coloring.  I wasn't about to do that, so I just hoped for the best.  Well, not quite a bomb, but not really a success either. The simmering in sugar part sucked a bunch of the color from the cherries, so they're not nearly as red as they appear in these photos before the simmering, but I put them up anyway and in a couple of days I'll taste a few to see how they come out.  I'll update you as to whether at least the taste was a success or it was a total failure.

I've had such resounding success with all of my marmalades, jams and jellies so far this year. These cherries certainly taught me a little lesson in patience...and using pectin, which I haven't used this year at all...Oh well. What's next in the harvest?  Tune in to find out!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Los Angeles Events

While I generally am a cranky bitch when it comes to crowds, one of the things I love most about L.A. is the community.  There are cultural and community events every weekend and it's often a tug of war to decide whether to attend a festival, event, meeting, opening, or stay around the farm. Also, we're so diverse here in L.A. from the smell of carne asada wafting from every carniceria to the Greek Festivals that seem to be held every month at some church or the other to the festivals for agriculture, books, countries of origin, religion,  flea markets and films -- we've got it all.

While I can't or won't always attend an event, I often wish I could tell my peeps about upcoming activities.  L.A. Ell used to do this but she isn't anymore, therefore, a prominent feature of Bluestocking Farm, the blog, will be a calendar of events.  I was thinking that I would post events on the sidebar or a new page so that those of you reading from beyond L.A. won't have to be bothered with the goings on of our fair city. Tell me what you think.

For now, here's what's going on this weekend in L.A. and surrounding areas.  Get outside! It's the first weekend of summer!!!

Saturday, June 25
11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Drive on out to the Valley, NoHo in particular for the NoHo Rocking Food Truck Fest and Flea Market featuring Ta Bom, Slap Yo Mama, Komodo, Truck Norris, Da Munch Box, Waffles de Liege, The Greasy Weiner, Sweet E's and more!  You know you'll love it!! And it's for a fundraiser for Hope for PAWS animal rescue!

7:30 p.m. Gates open at Cinespia for a screening of The Warriors at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Grab your picnic dinner and your best leather vest and snuggle up next to a mausoleum for a night of New York youth gang life in the '70s.  DJ is TBA.

Sunday, June 26
10:00 a.m. Kickstands up for the June Oedipus Motorcycle Club ride. The last Sunday of every month, this 53 year old gay motorcycle club rides through the hills around Southern California. This month Ojai and Frazier Park.  It's a long one but it's going to be a beautiful weekend.

11:00 a.m. Backwards Beekeeping meeting at the new Atwater Crossing. Interested in beekeeping? Want to help protect bees? The meeting is fun and Kirk Anderson, founder of Backward Beekeeping is a quote a minute kinda guy.  Love him. Also, if you happen to know of a swarm in your area, they'll come take it away for free and give it to someone who would like to keep bees rather than exterminating it!  Call the Bee Rescue Hotline at (213) 373-1104.

1-3 p.m. Pasadena Food Swap at Orange Grove Park in South Pasadena. Diversify your pantry while meeting your friends and neighbors!

2-4 p.m. Santa Monica Food Swap at Salon Vert in Santa Monica - like a Silent Auction and a Potluck had a baby! 

Know of any other events?  Let me know and I'll add them to the list!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh, how I love thee

Because I am a pusher. Ask my friends, they'll tell you.  I'm a really bad influence. So I'm going to share my obsession. It is a glorious thing. Pinterest. Seriously, I've become completely dependent on it as a repository for all of my ideas and flights of fancy.

On the off chance you haven't yet heard of Pinterest or you think that it is yet one more digital distraction, consider this: you already have the need for Pinterest in your life, you just don't yet know it.

You've been planning a party, a remodel of your bathroom, a new small business proposition and you bookmark this link and that,  you save photos in a file on your laptop or worse, you print them and put them in a folder or pile on your desk. Of course, you have no idea what site it came from or what that source for the perfect party supplies was. The solution? Pinterest!

It's an online inspiration board that links back to where you originally found the item.  Additionally, you can browse other people's pinboards (OPP) for new and brilliant ideas. You can make a board for anything. Your bucket list, your dream garden, all of the beautiful coops and chickens you love.

Check it out.  TODAY!!!!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Home cookin' - zucchini bread

The zucchini season has begun!!!  This is one half of a zucchini. Not kidding. It is 6 inches long. No exaggeration. I didn't check on my zucchini for two days and it went from a normal looking size to this monster. These are some others....

I've been getting some serious zucchs, so what does one do?

Bake zucchini bread!!!

As far as I'm concerned, this is the best recipe for zucchini bread ever. It's both simple and not too terribly sweet and you can add and amend as needed. I do not eat nuts, so there will never be nuts in my recipes. Feel free to add them if you want to RUIN everything (ok, maybe that's a little dramatic...). But really, it's the season!  Bake a loaf!

Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 2 loaves

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsps. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a large bowl or mixer, beat eggs. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.
Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.
Bake loaves for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Super yummy. I'm bringing a loaf to a meeting tomorrow. Hope it's well received!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Carrot Conundrum

In mid March, I planted carrots.  Last year when I planted carrots, some bold squirrel came along, dug them all up and ate the hell out of them. This year, the squirrels oddly left them alone so this week I decided it was time to check on my crop of carrots.  See if they were ready to be made into some yummy treat like a carrot cake, or just a dinner side.  I cleared the dirt off the top of one, just to see what it held and the future looked bright. It was a gorgeous round top of bright orange.  I immediately grabbed onto the base of the leaves and gave it a good yank as if I was pulling out a root from the earth, which I thought I was...

Here is what I got.

I laughed out loud!

My beds are a foot tall and the soil is super soft so it's not as if there wasn't room to grow. Not sure what happened here but it was hilarious!

I thought, maybe that one is a mutant. So I pulled out the rest. 

They're like a bunch of stubby toes!!!  I have no freaking idea what I'm going to do with these. Anyone know a recipe for carrots that are as fat as they are tall?  I have a feeling I'm just going to end up eating them raw with a side of ranch tonight...

Ah, the joys of farming!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Word Wednesday - Sustainability

A trend is afoot called the sustainable living movement. It has noble goals of reducing our use of resources, not buying so much, using less. Less water, less oil, less packaging. I believe in this.  I think there are things that we can do to make ourselves less dependent without suddenly becoming granola-eating, prairie skirt-wearing, kombucha-drinking*, kumbaya-singing dirty hippies (my apologies if you do any of these things!). There is a middle ground.

Kelly Coyne, in the New York Times article profiling her and her husband and their new book railed against "lentils and gloom". I tend to agree. (Note, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen do not know me, I just love their books).

I didn't get into the "sustainability movement" because I felt I was too dependent on oil or because of factory farming or because I read something horrible about chicken McNuggets.  I got into this lifestyle because I grew a tomato and I found that getting my hands dirty made me happy and at the end of a couple of weeks, I could eat a tomato. I liked coming home from my desk job, putting on a pair of work pants and digging out weeds or sitting at the dining room table julienning orange peel for 4 hours in complete silence.  I also didn't jump into everything at once.

I think this is key.  I think if I had tried to plant a huge farm immediately because "zomg we are killing the earth!!!!1!!!  I would have completely burned myself, not to mention bummed myself out. It would have felt like a chore. Who wants to do that?

On the other hand, what I did is far more sustainable in a personal way. I started with zucchini. I'm now up to 10 different crops and working on the rest of the farm. It is becoming more and more enjoyable instead of being a chore. I look forward to coming home and looking for projects to do in the yard.  Some days I'm freaking exhausted though. I get up at 5 a.m. for work and when I get home in the afternoon, there are days that all I want to do is take a nap.  Thankfully, the way I've built this up gradually has allowed me to figure out how to work at my job, work in the garden and then take a nap, if necessary. Soon I'll be adding on more chores, and I'll just fall into bed every night. But I imagine I'll be pretty happy about it.

Last night I came home from work looking forward to my afternoon. I pulled out the peas (done for the season), weeded a bit in the tomatoes, picked some zucchini and spread some straw in the basil. Then I made a zucchini, bacon and gruyere quiche, ate it and fell into bed exhausted and happy.

I'm not doing any of this because of the big, bad industrial food complex, but it has the effect of being good for me and good for the earth. But I'm not getting rid of my car just yet, and let me tell you, she's a damn guzzler.

Hopefully in the next couple of years, I'll be able to get a hybrid.

*Kombucha is not safe for people with immune deficiency. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So what's a bluestocking?

The term was first coined around 1790, in reference to the blue, worsted wool stockings that were considered "casual wear" as opposed to the more formal black silk stockings. It traces to a London literary salon founded circa 1750 and led by Elizabeth Montagu and was used as a derisive word for a woman considered too educated or with a scholarly, literary, or intellectual ability

I've loved this term since the first time I heard it and always identified with it. While it used to be somewhat akin to calling someone a "strident, harpy feminist", which I've certainly been called in its various forms, I'd always hoped to use the term in some way.  

Farming too, has been ridiculed and maligned. While we used to understand that we relied on farming for our very sustenance, most of us have become so far removed from the sources of our food as to believe that everything is picked clean and waxed from a sanitized patch of air. 

Making has always been something appealing to me. Whether it's farming, baking, sewing, crocheting or building.  There is something so wonderfully rewarding about planting a seed and being able to use the results. Starting from scratch and eventually having a finished product. Building beds, hauling straw, amending soil, harvesting vegetables and serving them to the people you love is so satisfying to me.  None of this takes me away from feminism, but closer to it. When reading, learning, studying, I am in my head.  A place I am infinitely comfortable. When planting, digging, making, I am in my body; a place I am lacking familiarity, but I learn with every shovelful.  

The best part about it, is it makes me giddy. I laugh when I accomplish something and you should see how hard I laugh when I screw something up. It's all a journey.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Home cookin'

My grandmother's name is Bubbles.  I'm not kidding. I didn't know until I was nearly a teenager that she had another name. My grandpa's name was Babe. Babe and Bubbles. My grandpa died a few weeks ago and we miss him a bunch.  He was a really good guy.  He loved bowling, playing golf and pool and his grandkids. He was born in Boston, but came to L.A. at 7 months old and grew up with his Orthodox family in the West Adams neighborhood, with 3 brothers they called the little Capones. One day I'll tell stories about the little Capones running around L.A. Needless to say, they got into a heap of trouble.
Grandpa Babe, Grandma Bubbles and mom, June 1946, West Adams, Los Angeles CA.
My grandma also came to L.A. as a baby. They moved to the Edendale area and then all over the place but eventually ended up in the Fairfax neighborhood.  Grandma went to Fairfax High school and grandpa went to Dorsey. Which makes me a 3rd generation Angelena; something I'm pretty proud of.  Anyway, my whole damn family lived in L.A. growing up. Great grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, crazy-ass third cousins removed a couple of times and they all came to family events. If the event was at brunch time, this dish was ALWAYS served.

I'm not sure where my grandma got this recipe originally, only that when I was a very young child in the 1970s I did not like it.  I can't imagine why as it is basically eggs, cheese, butter, some more cheese and Ortega chilies.  Perhaps it was the chilies. I've grown up since then and now I love the hell out of it. It is also super easy to make. Basically you mix all the ingredients and throw it into the oven.

There is some seriously cheesy goodness here.  It couldn't be made vegan by any stretch, but it is very easily made gluten free and you can't tell at all.  I've made it GF before and other than sticking to the pan a bit, it tasted no different. I can't imagine how it would stick to the pan as there's about a ton and a half of butter and cheese, but it did.  I've included the GF measurements in the recipe as well. By the way, this recipe can be modified 8 ways to Sunday. Feel free to make all kinds of substitutes, I'll include some below, hell, mix in some bacon if you're feelin' it.


Chili Egg "Souffle"

10 eggs (or an even dozen if you want)
1/2 cup flour (or GF flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
16 ounces small curd cottage cheese (or regular curd, fat-free, full fat, whatever, it still tastes good)
16 ounces shredded jack cheese (or half jack and half mozzarella or cheddar or whatever you have)
1/2 cup butter (or less if you want, but it doesn't get as crispy on top)
8 ounces diced green Ortega chilis (canned)

1. Beat eggs until a light lemon color. Add everything else. Mix up with a fork or your KitchenAid or whatever you have to mix with.
This is what it looks like going into the oven.

2. Pour into a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish (or two smaller ones). Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or until top is brown and center is firm. Serves about 12 or so.

This is what it looks like hot from the oven for brunch with some cheap champagne.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When we last spoke...

Well, actually, I skipped a bunch of stuff in that first post. I skipped how I rented a sod cutter, cut up all of my grass in preparation for a gorgeous new yard and our sewer line broke to the tune of all of the money we had saved up for the yard and then some.

Then I decided I would put in a new sprinkler system myself and dug trenches through the back yard. It took me a day of really sweaty work to dig one trench. But I kept going for another couple of days only to realize that I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about sprinkler systems. (we looked on Google Earth yesterday and you can see the trenches from looks like freaking half-finished alien crop grids. Awesome.)

At some point in all of this, I realized that the tree in the front yard wasn't a chestnut tree, which seemed sentimental in a Currier and Ives way but is totally useless to me as I don't eat nuts. It was a loquat tree. Lemme tell you, that shit is good.  Loquats are lovely, apricot-like fruit, but they don't really last more than a day off the tree, which is why you never see loquats at the market. So, if I was going to pick the loquats, I was going to have to do something with them.  I bought a ladder. I bought a fruit picker. I flung loquats jai alai-style into every neighbors yard within a block of me.  I eventually PUT. DOWN. THE. FRUIT PICKER.  I started canning.

Throughout it all, the Mr. was, for the most part, exceptionally supportive of my efforts. If he minded the sugar-encrusted walls in the kitchen and the awe-inspiring chasms in the yard, he didn't say so (much). He was also very supportive when I started picking up drills and saws and shovels and hoes (he he), as long as he didn't need to take me to the hospital. Toward which, I might add, I have a propensity. 

Now I have a beautifully planted side yard with 4 gorgeous raised beds producing snap peas, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries and Kentucky beans. The fifth bed is in the main section of the yard where the entertaining patio will eventually live. It accommodates a sizable herb garden with oregano, sage, dill, rosemary, thyme, and basil. Separately, I have 4 pots of mint, each one a different kind, I think it's grapefruit mint, chocolate mint, peppermint and pineapple mint.  I'm going to experi-mint...ha ha.  Finally, there are pomegranate, peach, lemon and lime trees.The lemon and lime are doing poorly.  I can't quite figure out what I'm doing wrong with these, but that's another post.

Sounds good so far; but the farm is FAR from complete. I have that 60' x 24' patch of weed that was once the lawn, which I am turning into the core of the farm. The plans are drawn up, now I just need to start. It all begins with water. I can't really have a farm without it. So we're back to the sprinklers; which, I believe I might actually have to pay someone to install. It just seems like it's too important a job for me to screw up (I'm sorry, use as a learning experience).

I read. I love to read. When I find something I love to do, I read about it. I go to the library and check out books, I find magazines, I spend hours perusing Amazon for the best reviewed books. I started reading and doing, more reading, more doing.  Pros and cons. Horror stories and success stories. I read them all. It started with just a few books and a few raised beds. Then a composter. And another bed. Then a worm bin. Then another composter.  Eventually, I found my way to The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. It's a good book. Funny. Clever. Well-written. They encourage getting backyard chickens.......

More tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


So, early in April I saw a notice somewhere that GOOD Magazine was having an event in Atwater Village to celebrate the kick-off of GOOD L.A. I also learned that there would be something called a "food swap" at that event and you could bring food to swap with other people. Having recently canned about 80 jars of marmalade from my brother's mini orange orchard, I happened to have some swappable items. I brought 6 jars.

I went home with some home-baked sourdough, some other jam and a few things that I probably snacked on in the car on the way home, but ultimately, I came home inspired.

I also came home with a postcard for an event called Artisanal L.A. at the new Santa Monica Place, and Emily Ho, of the Kitchn and the L.A. Food Swap would be having a workshop. I tend not to travel over the hill during the weekend, but this was worth it, and by the end of the workshop, I had committed to a swap in the SFV (San Fernando Valley, for those of you who are not from 'round here).
Made this sign from a scrap of wood in the garage.

This past weekend was the first San Fernando Valley Food Swap, held in my living room and what a HUGE success. We had 20 people signed up and they all showed. We also had a reporter from the Eat Real Festival which is happening in Culver City this July 16-17.  Unfortunately, I'll be in the Napa/Santa Rosa area that weekend and am a little bummed that I can't make it.

I hosted it in my home and while I LOVE opening my home to people, these were primarily complete strangers! It worked out beautifully.  Everyone was very respectful and it felt kind of old-timey. Two people brought their parents and three people brought their kids. Everyone was super nice and easy going. I never felt like anyone was disappointed with the event.

To swap, people brought homemade maraschino cherries, can breads, cookies, muffins, cake pops, marinades, chocolate covered stuff, salsas and more. Also present were homegrown lemons, rosemary, and pink peppers.   Here are some photos of the items!

I still had marmalades from the Great Orange Harvest of 2011 and I had jarred about 24 cans of apricot jam from my sister's tree, not to mention the somewhat-not-as-great Loquat Harvest of 2011, I had already canned more than 120 jars of jam, marmalade and jelly.  I had also already given away about 2/3rds of it, but clearly I had more to swap.
As you can see from the photos, people brought samples of their wares. It was quite fun to go around and taste everything before you sign up. The marinade was delish and the Mr. tasted some before he rode off into the noonday sun and said something about "definitely getting one of those...."

Ultimately, it was a real community event, where people who wouldn't necessarily meet, came, interacted, oohed and aahed over each others offerings and went away, if I may say so, pretty happy.

I'm definitely doing it again. I may make some new guidelines for the next swap though. While I love baked goods, and really, who doesn't, I would like to have a more sustainable swap. I'm not sure how to go about it but I think I'd like to encourage people to bring more home grown/pantry or refrigerator stable items like fruit, eggs, honey, herbs, veggies, marinades, rubs, jams (of course), spices, sauces and such.We'll see...

All photos courtesy of Emily Ho and Gregory Han

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First farm post

Well, here I am again, back on the "blog wagon".  It's been a few years and I've made a bunch of life changes. One of which is that I found out how much I enjoy my little 0.14 acres of land in Burbank.

When the Mr. and I moved to Burbank in 2006, there was a pile of junk on the side of our new garage that was about a foot and a half high. When I cleared it out, it turns out there were these adorable little garden plots. Of course, it wasn't as easy as sinking some seeds and starting to grow.  The soil was compressed beyond comprehension.  I could barely get a shovel into it at all and I finally managed to plant a few things that promptly up and died on me.

Plan B.  I decided I would need to learn a new way of gardening so I went out and bought Square Foot Gardening (Mel doesn't know me and I don't know him, I just really like his book).  I read and read, and then I went to the hardware store and had lumber cut and shoved into my PT Cruiser.  I got out the drill and started drilling things together and the next thing I knew, I had two 8x3 raised beds.  I filled them with Mel's mix and planted some pumpkins and zucchini.  Lo and behold, I got pumpkins and zucchini!  Woo!

With some success on my side, I waited a few months and built another raised bed.  And then another raised bed.  I planted tomatoes.  I got slugs.  I ringed the beds in copper tape. I cut the hell out of my hands with it. I learned to use gloves.  I got tomatoes. I forgot to water.  I killed everything.

Another winter passed and while riding my silly trike through the alley behind our house, I saw an old, broken bookcase.  It looked like a raised bed to me. I persuaded the Mr. to help me drag it home.  He is very afraid when I drag stuff home. But, that very weekend I put on a 4th side and filled it with Mel's mix and planted strawberries.  Hence, begins the story of Bluestocking Farm.

I am really looking forward to writing this story and hope you enjoy it as well.  More tomorrow.