Monthly Archives: September 2013

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GARDEN JOURNAL ** Farewell to Our Coulter Pine Tree

Farewell to our Coulter Pine Tree

Farewell to our Coulter Pine Tree

Sometimes a tree grows in the wrong spot. It’s so pretty no one wants to cut it down, but it’s way too close to the house to be fire safe in mountains known for wild fires and the pine cones are so huge that if one fell on your head it could put you in the hospital. It was time to say good-bye to a beautiful 40 foot pine tree just outside our back door. It was taken down Wednesday by a pro, thank you Brett Hutchinson, arborist and tree lover, for doing a great job.

Good bye Coulter Pine, I’ll miss your shade in the summer and the way snow hung on your limbs in the winter, fortunately we have some of your seedlings sprouting in less threatening areas on the our property.


This principle applies to Water, Materials and  Energy

Rain gutters_Rain Barrels_Compost bin _Solar Hot Water Heater installation_

Rain gutters channeling rainwater into Rain Barrels, Compost Bin and Solar Hot Water Heater installation

Water – 

berms_berm_berm and swale_swale_swales

This berm and swale is designed to collect rainwater runoff from the hillside behind it. The water that is collected irrigates nearby apple trees.

For me, and for many gardeners, water is a key resource. We want to identify where it’s coming from and figure out how to divert it to where it’s needed. If possible we also want to collect and hold water for later use. We don’t want to watch precious water run down our driveways and off our properties!

Water comes in cycles. Sometimes there’s too much, and often, in southern California, there’s too little. I’m always looking for ways to conserve water.

In later posts I’ll go into many different ways to harvest water, from rain gutters channeling water into rain barrels, to the use of grey water (using water from your kitchen sink or clothes washer to water your trees), to building “berms and swales”. More on “berms and swales” later but you can check out the photo of the berm and swale we dug to catch rainfall that pours down the hill behind our house. The water I collect in the swale is held in by the berm on the downhill side. The water seeps into the ground and waters the two heirloom apple trees I have growing nearby.

Conserving water can be done on a very manageable scale by collecting rainwater in small rain barrels to water patio plants, or it can be done on a large scale, such as creating a pond, to water a vegetable garden during the summer!

Identifying and Collecting Materials –

Examples of identifying and collecting materials are the practice of composting both kitchen scraps and shredded paper in compost piles and/or worm bins and cutting down dead trees, storing the wood in summer and using it in the winter in the form of energy to heat your home if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove.

Energy –

For me, one of the most obvious examples for identifying and collecting energy is installing solar panels to generate electricity for our homes. The catch is the cost of a system, one that actually stores energy on site – a system that does not feed excess generated electricity back into the grid – is still cost prohibitive for most people. Solar energy fits the need to identify and collect energy from the sun but we are not yet able to store it economically, even so, installing solar panels certainly feels like a step in the right direction.

After we moved to our property the hot water heater broke and needed replacing so we decided to go with a solar hot water heater. I won’t even mention how long we were without hot water while we did the research to find the best solar hot water heater for our climate and one that was efficient and reliable, but I was up for a gold medal in the “heating water on the stove department” for dishes and baths – really!

Three years later, solar hot water heating has been a success, in collecting and storing energy to heat water. Also, it feels good both environmentally and economically to be off propane, which was the energy source for the old hot water heater. Of course, I almost had heart failure watching my husband and his son install the panel up on our second story roof, but everyone survived and they had a happy male bonding experience (I think).

No matter the size of your home or garden I encourage you to look around and see if there are things you can collect, store, and use later to lessen the need to use outside energy and resources.

One last word of caution based on my own experience – it’s important to find balance with this principle. I’m speaking to those (myself included) who tend to go over-board in the “collecting” department. Be realistic in regards to the space you have to store things in and the time frame in which the collected materials will be used!


GARDEN JOURNAL ** Preserving your harvest: 3 quick ways: Dry it! Ferment it! Freeze it!

3 Quick Ways to Preserve Your Harvest

3 Quick Ways to Preserve Your Harvest

I’m so happy to have all these tomatoes, all these apples and all this basil AND I’m in the middle of getting ready to be on the Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour October 19th and 20th, so I don’t have a lot of time. Here’s my answer . . . 3 quick ways to preserve what I just harvested.

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make “Sun-dried” Tomatoes

For all those great “sun-dried tomato” recipes I keep jars of dehydrated tomatoes on hand all winter. Simply slice the tomatoes, as thin as you can without having them fall apart, and put them on a drying rack. This can be done in the oven on a very low setting, in any type of dehydrator (you can often find the tower type at thrift stores) or invest in the Excalibur 9 tray food dehydrator, my favorite because I have so much to dry these days. Drying times will vary depending on the amount of humidity in the air and on the amount of heat you use (lower is always better keep the healthy enzymes in the tomatoes alive). If you invest in an Excalibur be sure to get the one with the built in the timer, it really comes in handy.

Making Sun-dried tomatoes

Dehydrating Tomatoes

Tomato slices ready to go into the dehydrator

Tomato slices ready to go into the dehydrator

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

I’ve been experimenting with fermenting lately so I thought, since I have all these apples, I would try my hand at making raw apple cider vinegar. It seems pretty basic as long as you get Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar for starter. You can find Bragg’s at health food stores.  Use Bragg’s because it has the live “mother” in it.  The “mother” is the ingredient that gets the fermenting process going successfully. I looked up making apple cider vinegar, and found that recipes varied from mixing ½ Bragg’s with ½ half apple juice (raw apple juice if you can get it) to ¼: ¾ ratio. I compromised on 1/3 Bragg’s:2/3 raw fresh juiced apple juice. I covered the jar with cheese cloth and put it on my hall pantry shelf (a shelf that stays cool and dark most of the time). It supposed to take about 2-3 months to turn into apple cider vinegar. We’ll see how it goes!

Juicing Apples to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Juicing Apples to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make a Quick Basil Pesto

Making Fresh Basil Pesto

Making Fresh Basil Pesto -The glass of red wine is not part of the recipe but it goes well with the pesto once it’s done!

I made pesto with all the basil that needed to be picked now (or it was going to start flowering and go to seed).  The recipe I use is quick, versatile and easy to adapt to what I have on hand.

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts – Pine nuts are traditional and my favorite but they are hard to keep on my pantry shelf because we eat them up so fast around here. My second choice is walnuts and third choice is almonds. They all make tasty pesto.
  • 3 cloves of garlic – I’ve used elephant garlic, hard neck garlic and soft neck garlic. They all work, just keep in mind that some garlic is hotter or stronger than others, be sure you use one that is to your taste.

I put the nuts and garlic in the blender or food processor first to chop them up then I add:

  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves – It works best if you chop up the leaves a bit before tossing them in
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Now pour in 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil– I use organic cold pressed extra virgin oil which is what I keep on the shelf. Again, use what you have to make your pesto.

So at this point you may be asking “where’s the cheese?” If you are vegan you can make pesto without cheese, it tastes great! If you want traditional Basil Pesto then you’ll add Parmesan cheese.

If you’re going to use your pesto within in a week and not freezing it than add 1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese depending on your taste. The Parmesan cheese can be pre-grated or you can buy a chunk and grate it by hand. IF you are freezing the pesto, to be used later into the fall and winter, then don’t add the cheese now. It’s better if you add the cheese after you thaw it out.

I freeze pesto in small containers and thaw it out to put on wraps, mix into zucchini dishes and if I slide off the gluten free diet I have it on pasta.

The original of this recipe can be found in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook

PERMACULTURE ** Design principle #2 – CONNECT

sustainable gardening_permaculture_organic gardening

Y-Star Patty Pan Squash – Connections: produces yummy edible; vegetable, provides lots of leafy bio mass for mulch, seeds and skins go to the chickens, compost pile or worm bin

Permaculture Design Principle #2. Connect

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  – John Muir

In permaculture gardening terms this principle reminds us to place all the elements of our gardens in relationship to each other.

For example:

– Put rain barrels, grey water collection systems, watering hoses, irrigation lines and/or ponds in locations close to where you will need the water. If you don’t do this, you will end up hauling water in buckets, or lugging heavy long lines of hose, all over your property. If this happens you will quickly discover that water is heavy (and so are long lines of hose). I learned this one the hard way!

– Plan pathways strategically so they take up the least amount of space, but are wide enough for what you need. You may only need a simple walking path, or room for wheelbarrow maneuvering or something wide enough to accommodate a truck to load a crop of apples or oranges.

– Place plants in locations where they benefit each other. Flowering plants that attract bees and other pollinators can be located next to fruits and vegetables that need pollination. Plants that can be slashed and left on the ground to provide a water conserving, cooling mulch, can also be grown next to the tree or garden where it will be used.

-A trellis can be built where it will frame a gateway, provide shade over a too sunny corner of your home or be used to screen off a less than beautiful part of your or your neighbor’s yard.

Remember “the number of connections among elements creates a healthy diverse ecosystem, not the number of elements” – Toby Hemenway , Gaia’s Garden – A guide to Home – Scale Permaculture.

Permaculture design and principles can be more than gardening practices; they can become a way of moving through life. As I write I’m looking at the connections between gardening, creating art and blogging. Some of the connections are obvious and some are more subtle. I’m looking at the connections between the three elements and finding ways to create a healthy connected endeavor not just three fragmented activities that seem to be related.

Permaculture_sustainalbe gardening

Examples of Permaculture Design Principle #2 Connect
Trellis with beans growing on it frames the entrance to the garden, rain barrels connected to rain to gutters provide water for patio plants, and pathways wide enough for wheelbarrow manuvering where needed

GARDEN JOURNAL ** It’s time to order garlic for Fall Planting

Order Garlic Bulbs Now! 

It’s almost time to plant garlic! If you haven’t ordered yours you can still get them at:, I just checked. I’ve been buying organic garlic bulbs here for 3 yrs. and have been really happy with the harvest (fyi – I’m not on their payroll). Plant garlic in October or November for a June/July harvest, here in Julian (USDA Zone 7) I plant it in early November. You can get hard neck, soft neck (the kind you can braid) and elephant garlic. They are all good! I’ll be posting some planting tips for garlic next month. One important early tip is to plan ahead and choose a location in your garden that is protected from gophers. Gophers love garlic.

elephant garlic_how to grow garlic_ when to plant garlic

Elephant Garlic harvested in June

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #1 – OBSERVE

This afternoon this wild turkey was just outside the fenced portion of the area I will be gardening in. Turkeys are one of the many critters that want to eat the food I grow!This afternoon this wild turkey was just outside the fenced portion of the area I will be gardening in.

This afternoon this wild turkey was just outside the fenced portion of the area I will be gardening in. Turkeys are one of the many critters that want to eat the food I grow!

The 10 permaculture design principles I’m posting about are applicable to all sizes of gardens from the very smallest to full on farms. I’m revisiting them now because I’m expanding my gardening efforts (again) and it’s good for me to go back and review before I start new projects, otherwise I tend to get carried away with enthusiasm and do things that may or may not work!

Permaculture design principle #1. Observe 

Before starting a project whether it’s big or small, acres and acres or a new patio container garden, take time to observe thoughtfully and carefully – the longer the time taken to observe the better. Observe how each season interacts with your environment or if you just can’t wait (I couldn’t) than observe for as long as your patience (or winter) holds out and then start small (I didn’t) and learn from what works or doesn’t work on a small scale. I’m learning that moving mountains before I understand the lay of the land is counterproductive!

[Side note . . . these principles work great for ANY project whether it’s a garden, a business or a blog. It amazes me how universally applicable these principles are.]

I went out today and spent time on the land where I intend to expand my gardening and orchard growing efforts next spring. I took some took notes and photos of possible locations. I noticed what plants, birds, insects, and mammals are living there now at the end of summer. This first principle is a challenge for me. I want to jump right in and start doing the project. I’m still learning that thoughtful observation is much more rewarding in the long run than thoughtless uninformed action.

I tell myself all this as I realize that I still jump into projects head first without a lot of informed observation like deciding I’ll start doing stained glass windows and then figuring out that it’s a very challenging art form that requires lots of time, tools, materials and yes, patience, or blogging – talk about a steep learning curve! Good thing I have a hard head since I keep landing on it! When I back up and apply the permaculture principles to all my projects I find the results are much more sustainable and rewarding.

Here’s a list of questions I made before I went out today:

  •  Where is the sun? Where do I predict it will be throughout the day? Is the garden in shade in the afternoon or morning? Is it in full sun all day?
  •  How does the water flow and where does it collect? How will I deliver water to this space during the dry summer months? How will I conserve water?
  • What might work best large pots, raised beds, sunken beds, a “hugelkultur” bed? I’ll be talking about hugelkultur and other new (and some very old) ways to garden in later posts?
  •  How much time will realistically be devoted to this new garden?
  •  How often will I be leaving this new garden in the hands of friends, family or neighbors?
  • What kind of soil is in the area to be gardened? Will it need lots of nutrient rich compost and mulching? Can I produce this on my property or will it have to be brought from off site?  Does the soil need to be tested for possible contaminants?  Will I have to do a lot of clearing?
  • Where will paths go? How will I get the harvest out of the garden? Am I leaving room for a wheel barrow or if needed a truck to get to the produce?
  •  What critters will I have to deal with? How will I keep them out of the garden?
  • You could try this with a project you are looking to start. Jot down your answers. Post them here on the blog to share with others. Your observations may spark insights for others. If you have questions please ask. If you want to share gardening adventures please do!

You could try this too with a project you are looking to start. Jot down your answers. Post them here on the blog to share with others. Your observations may spark insights for others. If you have questions please ask. If you want to share gardening adventures please do!

Location shots for possible garden expansion project…

organic gardening, raised bed gardening, permaculture, seed saving, growing heirloom vegetables, herb gardening, planting fruit trees, edible landscaping and water harvesting also garden art, mosaic, stained glass

First possible location for vegetable garden expansion for next years summer garden


Second possible location for vegetable garden expansion for next years summer garden


third possible location for vegetable garden expansion for next years summer garden



PERMACULTURE ** An adventure in lifestyle change…

lawn_irradication,organic gardening, raised bed gardening, permaculture, seed saving, growing heirloom vegetables, herb gardening, planting fruit trees, edible landscaping and water harvesting also garden art, mosaic, stained glass

February 5, 2010 Doing away with the backyard lawn!

Our journey towards living a more sustainable lifestyle started four years ago when my husband and I decided we wanted to live a little more off the grid. I was curious as to how much of our own food we could actually grow and I wanted to experiment with alternative energy. I was looking into solar hot water heaters and using solar panels to supply household electricity, as well as water harvesting techniques.

I was somewhat familiar with organic gardening practices, composting and the idea of using rain barrels but I hadn’t had a much long term success with any of it so I figured, since I was planning on doing something on a larger scale, I should learn a lot more about it. I did a bunch of research and discovered the term “permaculture”. While still living in a one bedroom apartment I started checking out books from the library and reading lots of articles on the internet. I decided that permaculture was the way I wanted to go when we finally found land somewhere. Once we bought our four and half acre property, permaculture design principles gave me a framework to work within that was both practical and in alignment with my wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Without the permaculture design principles I would have been completely overwhelmed. I was about to begin gardening on a large scale, in a four season climate, in the mountains and it turned out that there was a lot of competition from hungry critters for just about everything I grew to eat. I could make lists of things I wish I’d known before and after we purchased land in the back country! I would do it all over again but I would be a lot more prepared and do more than a few things differently right from the beginning. At the very least I would know what questions to ask, questions I never thought of until after we moved.

So in an effort to both remind myself as well as share with others I’m doing a series of posts on 10 permaculture design principles based on what I’ve understood from the book Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. When I use these principles I’m productive in a ways that are more sustainable for myself, others and the planet and I achieve an overall saner existence! I would love to hear from you about your experience  if you have started using these principles and if you haven’t yet I’d like to hear what questions you have. I invite you to subscribe and be part of discussion about what we are all doing to have an environmentally friendly sustainable lifestyle.


PERMACULTURE ** Definition


Calville Blanc d'Hiver Apple Tree Guild- Guilda are a new way to grow fruit trees

Apple Tree Guild –  Fruit Tree Guilds are a different way to grow fruit trees – think of it as companion planting for trees.

Definition of Permaculture:
Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of cultivated ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape, people and appropriate technologies, providing shelter, energy and other needs in a sustainable way. Permaculture is a philosophy and an approach to land use which works with natural rhythms and patterns, weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, water and soil management, and human needs into intricately connected and productive communities.” –  Bill Mollison, founder of Permaculture and Scott Pittman, founder of the Permaculture Institute.





Fall Harvest



Single raspberry

Single raspberry

Red Delicious Apples

Red Delicious Apples

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to mend a hose that’s sprung a leak

Today my hose sprung a leak. I suspect a critter chewed a hole in it. Last month a pack of coyotes chewed my neighbor’s hose into eight pieces to get to the water in it. She’s the one who told me to always have a few hose repair kits on hand! I Used the Gilmour 5/8” hose mender.  It’s quick and easy. I used my garden clippers to cut the hose where the hole was and then followed the directions on the packaging. The only other tool I needed was a screw driver. People often throw away a hose that has a hole in it because they don’t’ realize how easy and fast it is to fix. This hose took me 5 minutes to fix and it’s one more thing I can keep out of the landfill.


How to mend a hose

Instructions on how to repair a garden hose

Tools I used to repair my garden hose


Half way through the garden hose repair job

Garden_hose_repair _job_complete

Garden hose repair job complete





GARDEN JOURNAL ** PHOTOS ** Photography from the Garden

Getting some photographs from the garden ready for the Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour

October 19th and 20th, 2013 Everyone is invited!


Sunflower with two bees


Coral Bee Balm

4 lefts 1 right Garden Gloves

4 lefts 1 right Garden Gloves



julian_grown _heirloom_red_delicious_apple

Julian grown heirloom red delicious apple


Nasturtium Seeds in Julian pie pan


For information regarding the Julian Arts Guild 2013 Studio Tour contact:

Julian Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 1866, 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA  92036
(760) 765-1857












Saved Cilantro Seeds. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander

Saved Cilantro Seeds. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander

End of summer and into Fall is the time for seed saving!

3 reasons to save your own seeds:

1. It’s a planet friendly, sustainable, resourcing saving thing to do. When you save your own seeds to plant next spring you save the paper and ink it takes to package seeds, you save on the fuel it takes to ship and you save the water it takes to grow all the seeds that get shipped every year. It really adds up when you think of how many people order seeds every year.

2. Saving seeds saves money. Good quality organic seeds go up in price every year. Why not harvest what we have in our gardens and save our cash?

3. Saving seeds is FUN! It’s a great activity to do with kids. I keep same handy to work on when I sit down to talk on the phone or watch a movie. The best part is when I get to plant seeds I grew in the spring!

When I started ordering seeds for my garden 3 years ago I only ordered only open-pollinated seeds. When you save seeds from open-pollinated seeds you know the crops you harvest the next summer are going to be the same vegetable you harvested the year before. I avoided all hybrid seeds when I did my initial ordering. Hybrid seeds are produced by artificially cross-pollinating plants. Folks in the agriculture business starting creating hybrids to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, longer shelf life and disease resistance for the mass commercial market. The downside for gardeners in all this is that hybrid seeds do not grow the same plants the next year from saved seeds. Hybrid seeds can revert back to any of the plants that it was initially crossed with when it was created and that’s what makes for inconsistencies in plants grown from hybrid seeds. Farmers who use hybrid seeds have to buy seeds every year from the seed companies that produce hybrid seeds.

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds that have proven their value over a long period of time. The value may be in the flavor, productivity, hardiness or adaptability of the fruit or vegetable produced from the seed. Many heirlooms have been grown, saved and passed down in the same families for generations; some even go back 300 years. As home gardeners and small market farmers we get the benefit of this long development cycle, as only the best producing, most flavorful, most memorable and most dependable varieties have made the selection throughout the years.

All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds but all open-pollinated seeds are not heirloom. Some open pollinated seeds are newer varieties that are bred to be stable in what they produce from seeds saved but they may not be old varieties.

The one thing I ran into in my garden that you may want to watch out for is… When I planted regular green zucchini seeds to close to yellow crook neck squash seeds what I got was my own unintentional hybrid with the help of the pollinators in my garden. I ended up with some very strange half crook neck – half zucchini looking squash. I ate these strange naturally created hybrids but I did not save their seeds! A great book on seed saving (and it tells you how far apart to plant seeds that are in the same family to avoid unintentional hybrids) is Suzanne Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed.

Harvesting cilantro seed

harvesting cilantro seed

green beans drying on the vine

Green beans drying on the vine