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! 

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