Slow Life with Real Food

Eating and living mindfully by the beach

Guillermo, the Handsome Beekeeper

June 30, 2007 was the first night I met Guillermo Payet, founder of LocalHarvest. Before meeting him at the beach house I was vacationing with my family at, I was told that he had just been named one of People magazine's Top 50 Hottest Bachelors and that his home 'was like a museum', to quote my sister's boyfriend. This guy, Guillermo, sounded interesting. Just for kicks, here's the picture from People magazine. Smokin'!

Well, in walks Guillermo, clad in a free paint-splattered green t-shirt from a friend's landscaping company, torn shorts from about 10 years ago, and no shoes. To round out the look, he had one big puffy eye, practically closed shut. Still smokin', you ask? Exceptionally, especially once I found out that swollen eye was from a bee sting (or two). He had been out catching a swarm of bees earlier that day. Why, now knowing that it was a bee sting, did I find myself even more attracted to him?

This is something I have put plenty of thought into, and I've got some ideas. Beekeeping is sexy. It's living dangerously, stealing the liquid gold of the thousands of little furry flying insects willing to protect it with their lives. The mesh masks, those armpit-high gloves, the smoking smoker used to stun those bees into a delirious daze... well, it does the same for me, too.

Evidently Guillermo was aware of this effect on easily-charmed women. He invited myself and my family over to his house the next day for some beekeeping and steaks (they go together, don't you think?). The house was 'like a museum' alright. Like a museum that Indiana Jones would decorate. After a little tour, I quite willingly, helped him tend those bees. While I donned the traditional beekeeping uniform, Guillermo put on his flip-flops and sunglasses. You know, for protection. I used my yogic breathing and slowest movements while brushing off bees from the honey-filled comb on the frames, silently thanking each and every bee for the good stuff they made and also giving gratitude for not stinging me. Guillermo's approach was a little different. He brushed bees off willy-nilly, shooting the smoker at them left and right, stepping on a few that were caught in between his bare foot and flip-flop. Ouch! He made the wise decision to go in the house and exchange those torn shorts and sole-baring shoes for some jeans and slippers.

After a few frames were brushed clean and delivered to safety through the kitchen window, I had already removed no less than three stingers from Guillermo's nose. He either decided that we had collected enough honey, or that he had enough of being stung. I don't remember which. I slowly removed my effective bee gear (I move like molasses, regardless if I am in immenent danger) while Guillermo visited the bathroom, no doubt to tend to those puffy places. A few minutes later he poked his head out sporting a big swollen nose, and asked, "Do I still look handsome?" Yes, dear, you do.


UCSC Strawberry Festival

Whenever University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) Farm and Garden program holds an event, I delight in going. It is an excuse to visit one of the most beautiful and well-run farms I have ever been to. The farm sits on a cliff overlooking Monterey Bay. It is surrounded by redwoods, and the veggie beds run here and there across the gentle slope of the land. It is a haven for young and old, soaking up the sweet sights and flavors, learning, sharing, and growing. There is something heavenly happening on that land, waiting to be experienced. It floods over me and runs through me as soon as my foot crosses the threshold.

Yesterday Joaquin and I ventured out to the farm to enjoy fresh strawberries at their Strawberry Festival. Strawberry shortcake, pretty farm, happy baby, painted faces, lots of dancing... it was a good afternoon, good enough to forget about the strawberry stains on those brand new clothes.



Class at Love Apple Farm: Vegetable Bed Design and Construction

When beginning a garden, it is helpful to have the guidance of a professional. This helps to avoid some seriously costly mistakes, as smart as you think you may be. My spring garden is lovely, thanks to my Early Spring Vegetable Class teacher, Cynthia Sandberg and her oh-so-helpful blog, In fact, my food is growing so well and I am enjoying it so much, that I decided I need more veggie beds so I can grow more, more, more! So, I signed myself up for Cynthia's Vegetable Bed Design and Construction class...


...and found myself astounded at what can be used to grow vegetables in.

 Did you know it was possible to grow potatoes in a stack of tires (a.k.a. the 'redneck' bed)? You can make beds out of staggered-and-stacked cinderblocks or a jack-hammered concrete path, or even bales of straw (the 'edible' bed, depending on who is in your garden). There is the standard redwood bed or even a bed with no border at all. The options are endless, and even cheap.



Topics included which direction to build your beds (North-South), how to convert your lawn into a garden, how to grow on concrete (believe me, it can be done), what to do about a steep slope, how big your beds should be, what to make your paths out of, and what to fill those beds with. Phew!

We actually built a bed in class, out of redwood, just so we know that it can be done. In fact, I think confidence is what I take away most from Cynthia's classes - that I, too, can build my own beds, garden and grow food for my family.

This summer, though, my bed construction work will be done drawing up future plans. My pregnant belly and active son are making it obvious that it can't all happen right now (maybe I can convince Cynthia to offer a Gardening While Pregnant Class?). For the time being, I will grow my veggies in containers. Which means that I will need to take a Vegetable Container Gardening Class... stay tuned.


Sights of Spring

The 3rd week of May is a little late to be announcing spring, but it's a perfect way to welcome myself (and readers out there) back to the blogging world. Life has been busy these past few months, and there is much to report about - the progress of our wonderful garden, classes at the farm, LocalHarvest news, Joaquin's favorite foods (salami? olives? sushi? the boy has taste!), happy chickens and swarming bees, the start of this year's farmers' market... lots and lots to report about. But, I'll ease back into it by sharing some pictures of our joyful weekend still celebrating spring.

This is but a tiny snapshot of our bloomin' garden. See those pretty little lilac flowers popping up between the bricks? Oh, those are just weeds (hallelujah, California!):


Joaquin, 11 months old now, munching on a red, ripe strawberry from the garden and sporting his spring flair, for which he won 'Best Original Costume' for at the May Fair. I won't deny that I am a proud mama:


Pregnant me (7 months along now!) and Guillermo in fairy wings (?!?) dancing around the Maypole:


It feels so good to be back! 


An Early Spring Vegetable Gardening Class at Love Apple Farm

I just finished clearing half of my front yard to make room for the new veggies I plan to plant this early spring. My inspiration for getting this hard work done? Cynthia Sandberg, of Love Apple Farm.
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A Great Ham

Recently we bought a pork leg roast (about 4lb.) from TLC Ranch and made a yummy ham. I thought it might be a nice recipe to share after the holidays. We brined the ham, applied a dry-rub of spices, and slow-roasted it over mesquite charcoal and hickory chips. The result? delicious!

Have fun shopping for your pork leg roast from your local farm!

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Table Talk

Want a great way to get a healthy dinnertime conversation started? Play the 'Table Talk' game!

It's not a game really, more than it is about being aware of where your food comes from. To play is quite simple. Make something to eat, eat it, and talk about it. Talk about where it comes from (the garden, the farmers' market, the neighbor's garden, Ecuador, the pond down the street, the community garden, the CSA box, a LocalHarvest farm near you, Italy, etc). Make a ritual out of it. Pick apart your ingredients. Talk, talk, talk! This is a wonderful way to include the whole family (kids, if you got 'em). Maybe the baby helped pick the strawberries...include the baby! Empty nest? Talk to your fish (no, not the one you are eating)!  [Read More]


It's 3:30 in the morning, I just got my five month old back to sleep after an hour of him fussing, and for some odd reason I feel like it's the perfect time to write my entry about why I am thankful for LocalHarvest. By the way, the picture of baby Joaquin is for those curious readers who are wondering what he looks like these days. Although I am incredibly thankful for him, he is not what I am writing about.  [Read More]

TLC Ranch

First things first, we forgot the diaper bag.

Moving on...

Guillermo, Joaquin, and I were invited to tour TLC Ranch and afterwards enjoy a tasty meal with owners Jim Dunlop and Rebecca Thistlewaite.  [Read More]

How to Raise a Hen

Okay, this isn't really a how-to blog entry on the farming of a chicken. Sorry to disappoint you, but it is instead a mere pearl in a string of realizations that I have had since getting into the farm/foodie world.

It was about this time last year that we began planning our Bike2Barn tour last year, which began my newfound hobby of farm-hopping. I am in the beginning stages of transforming into a full fledged farm fan ('fan' being short for 'fanatical'), so I consider myself lucky to have a beginners' mind, and enjoy the high of excitement and enthusiasm before I might become jaded.  [Read More]

My Friend Doug's Really Good Fish Tacos

Here's a recipe to help you test your 'buy local' skills. We were able to buy at the farmers' market, grow, or raise pretty much everything (except the pineapple and mango, but both can be substituted or omitted). It's a 'one dish' meal, perfect for a crowd (most of it can be made well ahead of time), and really fun to make! And if that doesn't convince you, they are delicious and nutritious!
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Farewell to Pipi

We now have three backyard chickens here at home.  Until very recently, we had four. Pipi (pronounced pee-pee) is no longer with us, and good riddance! You might think of us as cold-hearted and uncaring for saying so, but we are really just bad farmers. We didn't choose for Pipi to leave us, she did. She is a murderess chicken, and slightly neurotic. Sure, she's an A-class layer, and her eggs are tasty and purdy, red-shelled and freckled, with a deep golden yolk. She's a great looking, healthy Rhode Island Red hen with a beautiful full comb and rusty-colored feathers. But, she's mean! Pipi was attacking our dear Prima, our golden chicken, aiming for the back of her neck and out for the kill. Our peaceful little team of chickens was in a state of terror, so the terrorist, Pipi, had to go.  [Read More]

LA to Fallbrook - McManigle Grove

We're sitting at an old diner in Blythe, close to the Colorado river, which we are soon to cross on our way to Tucson, Arizona. We said goodbye to Doug Adair at Pato's Dream Date Gardens this morning, and headed towards the Chocolate Mountains in the morning cool. We haven't blogged in a few days, partly because of difficulty finding an Internet connection, and partly because we found a couple of farms where we felt very comfortable and welcome, just at the time when we felt like slowing down and taking a little bit of a break.  [Read More]

Pato's Dream Date Gardens

Where do I even begin? I guess the beginning is always a good place...

We drove down, down, down the Vallecito Mountains, entering the hot, dry weather of the Anza-Borrego desert. The ride was spectacular, with amazing vistas on the way down the windy, curvy one-lane road. If we could have talked to each other about it on the road, we would have commented on the lunar landscape, the changing temperature, the vastness of the Salton Sea, the sweat rolling down our backs. Instead, we looked ahead, and I daydreamed away to the tune of whatever was playing on my IPod.  [Read More]

Beck Grove

What luck we had! We called Helene and Robert Beck, searching intently for their farm, Beck Grove, at which we intended to drop in on an unannounced visit, and caught them just as they were leaving for a movie. One of the first things out of Helene's mouth was: "Where are you?, What are you doing tonight??".  My immediate thought was: "Could she be offering us a place to stay? Oh, please, oh, please."  [Read More]
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