Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Some days are better than others...It was really hot yesterday and the garden seemed to be wilting the moment the sun came up. I did manage to pick a handful of beans and a tomato or two before deciding it was just too hot to be outside.  Shade cloth was up, watering had been done the day before, so I decided to spend the afternoon in front of the computer and doing paperwork. Don't ask me why I decided to do those things instead of, let's say, needlepoint or read a good book.  Like I said, it wasn't one of my better days.

Early in the evening I decided it was time to head out to "tent city" to visit my plants. Maybe not one of my better decisions...apparently birds don't mind the heat.  All the adorable new leaves on my cucumber plants were gone and I wasn't happy.  Note to self - hang more CDs and bird tape tomorrow.

This year, for the first time ever, I've had a problem with rodents. Several large, nearly ripe tomatoes have been eaten lately so I can't say I'm surprised. Interesting that all of the snakes we've been finding lately haven't managed to keep them under control.

Walking past garden beds number 1 and number 2 I noticed a foul order. I'd know that smell anywhere - Eau de Dead Rodent. It was vile and, even worse, the smell was strongest very close to the lettuce bed where I was headed to get something for dinner. I did some searching but couldn't find the source of the smell so, armed with a long stick (to feel around for the rodent remains) I grabbed my lettuce and went back inside. Maybe if I ignore it, it will just go away...

Late last night, unable to keep my eyes open any longer, I dragged myself upstairs to go to sleep. It would be nice if I could just fall into bed and sink into my pillow but that's not my reality.  I've got to coax Daltry and Townsend, my two cats out of my spot. As if that's not enough, I then have to wait for Townsend to lay back down in his favorite position - his rear end in the pit of my arm with his tail swishing across my nose. I grab his tail and pin it down under my arm.  Foolishly, I rest my other hand on top of the sheets.  Daltry feels that any skin is for him to lick with his scratchy tongue so after repeatedly trying to gently shove him away, I bury my other hand under the covers.  Ok, please, can I just go to sleep now?

The phone rings.  Four times.  The portable phone which belongs right next to the bed is no where to be found. I assume that if someone is calling that late at night it must be really important.  Ok, Jewish mother that I am, I assume something is wrong. So, I get up and hunt for the phone. As I carry it back to the bedroom it rings again.  "Hello??"  Someone is laughing, cracking up really on the other end of the phone.  It's my son, calling from his cell. Did I mention that he was sitting outside my house on the patio and he's calling me at midnight from his cell phone? "What's so funny?" I ask, trying not to sound perturbed.  He was sitting on his chair when he notice a very long tail pass by.  There aren't too many lizards out at midnight and mice aren't that big.  At this point, all I can think of is The Princess Bride and the ROUSSes - Rodents of Unusual Size. 
Through his laughter, Andrew confirms that it's a rat, but that the rat seems to like sitting right there with him. Rather than scurrying off to eat something tasty from the garden it turned around and came back to take in the evening on my patio. With my son, who was now standing on the chair, laughing and calling to share the whole encounter with me.

Oy Vey. 

I grab my book and try to read a couple of pages before nodding off but I'm really distracted by a really sour smell. Getting out of bed, I'm crawling around the floor looking for signs of kitty accidents. As I get close to the open window I realize exactly what it is...Skunk! It seems to be right outside my window.

Did I mention how hot it was yesterday? It wasn't exactly a cool evening, either. I had to close the windows, making it less than pleasant upstairs. As much as I hated to do it, I cranked up the air conditioner, pointed portable fans at my face to give me fresh air to breathe and went through the process with Daltry and Townsend one more time, this time settling in to sleep.

Ah yes, just another day in paradise!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Last weekend I drove up north to attend four seminars offered at the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners Boot Camp. It was an incredible day from start to finish.  My first class was all about Integrated Pest Management.  All the classes were interesting and packed with information but I think this one may have been my favorite.  It's fascinating to consider the food chain when thinking about garden pests, from the tiniest green worm to the owl outside my bedroom window.  There is so much to know and there was no way this class could do any more than scratch the surface.   There's just so much we can do to deal with garden pests before we pull out the bottle of spray.  I guarantee you this is a topic I will revisit.

My next class was all about Soil.  There's nothing more important to a successful garden than the quality and health of the soil that we plant in.  While I knew that going in, I still learned more. I left that class with a concise list of six steps to healthy soil along with  a wealth of resources and links to refer to.

Next, I took something a little different - Chicks in the City!  I am strongly considering raising chickens - we use so many eggs here, it's really ridiculous not to!  I just have to work on the logistics before making the commitment. There's a lot to consider for chickens - I always loved doll houses so I have to remind myself there's more than just an adorable chicken coop! I'll keep you posted about what I decide.

My last class was also about Soil, but this time it was specific to soil inoculants and keeping the soil healthy when something goes amiss.

The most impressive thing about the day was the attendance - well over 100 people showed up to spend the entire day, from 9 until 4 in classes about gardening. While the reasons for attending and the motivation for gardening  were as unique as the people attending, these people were all committed to being responsible for what goes into their food and making it a priority to grow their own.

I had to wonder - where are the people like this in Los Angeles? The San Fernando Valley has the perfect climate for growing vegetables and fruit and it's full of families with young children to keep healthy.  I know a lot of people who use words like non-GMO and organic, but where is the community of people taking action and doing more than using a few buzz words?

I left the event energized and excited to get back to my garden. It was a long drive back home and I had plenty of time to consider what I want to do with all that I had learned that day and how I want to share it with all of you.  I love growing and I love teaching.  Here, at my homestead is where it all comes together.This is where that community can take shape. The classes that I offer in gardening and cooking are designed to inspire and encourage people like you to take the steps to a more authentic, healthy and fulfilled  life. For me, growing vegetables, cooking and sharing meals are ways of bringing people together and keeping them connected. Your motivation for growing your own food may be different than mine.  No matter the reasons or where home is, no matter how much space you have, let's bring the bliss back home.