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Public Service Announcement: Low Impact Development

Public Service Announcement (PSA):

Without Low Impact Development (LID), lawns can no longer exist. Native gardens become ecological liabilities: less permeable surface than lawns and enablers: of dust /air pollution, vermin population increases, flood, erosion, and wildfires.

With LID, harvesting thousands of gallons of rainwater can be enabled on your property as DYI project(s) or through a LID contractor.

With a rare consecutive year of La Nina (drought conditions in the Southwestern USA), the water situation looks dire. The silver lining is that we should be seeing more normal weather patterns next year. However, we need to act in order to not get ourselves in this situation again.

For those able to make the necessary modifications to their land/property, please adopt and implement Low Impact Development (LID) designs. Agencies tasked with LID are primarily concerned with storm-water management. LID designs divert rainwater from storm drains through infiltration and tanks. The secondary effect of LID is the restoration of the hydrological cycle. This restoration in effect allows for the storage of rainwater in the earth. Millions of gallons of precious rainwater is otherwise lost to the ocean. When water is stored in the ground, our plants can survive on natural rainfall and will only need supplemental water during the hot months. Furthermore, rainwater infiltration flushes accumulated salts from our soil.

LID and permaculture principles both mimic natural systems. The biggest difference is that LID design specifications have industry/regional standardization. With this standardization LID may be implemented at scale. With LID, harvesting thousands of gallons of rainwater can be enabled on your property as DYI project(s) or through a LID contractor. See your local municipality for region specific LID guidelines/requirements. For the Los Angeles area, the City of Los Angeles LID handbooks are a great place to start. Look for these at the following link or at the City of Los Angeles Sanitization department. https://lacitysan.org/san/faces/home/portal/s-lsh-wwd/s-lsh-wwd-wp/s-lsh-wwd-wp-lid/s-lsh-wwd-wp-lid-ld?_adf.ctrl-state=siquvmi6c_5&_afrLoop=7676140078240805#!

Restoring the hydrological cycle is crucial. Without this restoration, lawns can no longer exist. Native gardens become ecological liabilities: less permeable surface than lawns and enablers: of dust /air pollution, vermin population increases, flood, erosion, and wildfires. Without this restoration we will collectively continue to use more water than available– a threat to home gardens.

Our Never Enough Dirt gardens thrives because we capture and infiltrate every rain event. Furthermore, our soil is comprised of a signification percentage of native clay, a water and nutrient retaining medium. One of the simplest yet most impactful action every arid climate gardener can take is to incorporate more native clay into their garden. Start with a 30% incorporation of clay to the soil mix. Afterward, adjust watering and amendment schedules accordingly.

Further reading:
What is the hydrological cycle, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/hydrological-cycle

An even rarer third La Nina has been forecasted for Fall of 2022. Hopefully this 3rd event does not extend beyond 2022, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01668-1

What We Grow & How We Grow — Our Kitchen Garden

As a stay-at-home dad my focus is on mentoring my young kids (7 & 5 years old.) How I interact with them is how I interact with our garden. With time as the necessary component, I practice what I call, “Harmonious Communication.” This type of communication is a culmination of many principles; with “Nonviolent Communication” principles playing a large part. In addition to, a deep understanding of the principles and mechanisms that drive the natural world enables us to do more with less effort and resources. The natural world is a machine with many moving parts. All these parts interact with one another moving in opposing directions (cause and effect) to generate the propulsion that moves towards a harmonious state.

One understood principle is that pests and diseases are an indicator of a cause and effect loop. Our gardens are planted with this understanding. As a result, I spend time to foster robust and resilient plants; as opposed to spending time to treat them. This is achieved by understanding what nature’s purpose is for a certain pest or disease and putting that to work. The opposite is to act on the problem without knowing that it will exacerbate it. This is liken to removing the natural feedback back effect and replacing it with human driven effort.

It is also very important to note that all growing styles are relevant. Which style a gardener chooses will be dependent on their set of circumstances and the amount of time they have. These tours are for garden enthusiasts; to enjoy seeing what we grow and to understand some of the mechanics of how our garden grows.

Video caption: Hello, I am Brian. About 8 years ago I became a stay at home dad. I went from an after work and weekend gardener to a food producer for our family. About a year ago, I put my energy on succession planting. To date, our garden provides us with the bulk of our produce. Our climate does most of the growing. My job is to ensure: -that there is a constant supply of food for our soil. -that I understand the needs of individual types of plants and to match up them up with those conditions. -that is a constant stream of new plants to take the place of harvested plants. To bring everything together, I take a multidimensional skills and knowledge based approach. There is a blend of many disciplines from farm management to holistic practices. Results are a steady supply of variety and garden to table produce.

Succession Growing, An Illustration

Growing beds with one type of vegetable for one large harvest has been a traditional gardening practice for the longest time. Succession planting for smaller yields and variety, on the other hand, is an impactful re-imagination of this traditional gardening practice. There are many reasons why single harvest methods of growing is the most popular method. Above all, the reason it persists is because this practice is relatively easy to grasp, manage, and execute. Climate is another influencer of how food is grown. Southern California’s climate allows for year-round growing. This means that many types of crops can be grown throughout the year; versus having to grow our fill for the year in a short amount of time.

Video caption: A variety of fresh (garden to table) vegetables are perhaps the greatest perks of growing a garden. Succession planting is key to this perk. In this video, we see an example of succession planting in action. This is a skill that takes time, patience, and discipline to develop. The key take away is that it is possible.

Crazy About Citrus

Collecting citrus is a hobby of mine. Blood oranges are one category that I enjoy curating.

The Plants Not Often Seen

As someone who has a fascination for the natural world, I am also very interesting it non food plants. They are not often seen or highlighted on my social media content but they do exist. Look for them in the background!

FROM THE GARDEN: Huitlacoche Quesadilla

In our garden we happily found huitlacoche (a fungus that took over development of an ear of corn). With it, we prepared in a quesadilla. So as to get a good gauge of this delicacy, we used minimal ingredients. In our tasting, we found the dark pasty part of the huitlacoche to have a nutty taste that is mild. Its texture is a very fine grain. When crushed between teeth, it has a tiny pop that is nice. The white membrane that encases the dark paste is airy and snappy with a fresh corn taste.

Huitlacoche has long been a delicacy in Mexico. In fact, corn truffle as it is also known also dates back to Aztec culture. What makes this a delicacy is rarity. The conditions that allow for this fungus to grow has to be particular. Rainy and weather is usually the key. Up until recently, in western cultures finding fungus in a corn patch was disheartening. Farmers and growers would call it corn smut.

Somewhere along the way, the secret got out. Corn fungus is tasty, unique, and contains amino acids that the body does not produce. The kinds of goodies that help fight infection among other things. Suddenly there was not corn smut to be found. Rather, there were harvests of huitlacoche and corn truffle.

FROM THE GARDEN: Oaxacan Green Tamale

Green tamale made with ‘Oaxacan Green’ dent corn. The red sauce includes paprika pepper that we grew and both dried and smoked. We were able to wrap a couple of tamale using the husk from the ‘Seneca Red Stalker’ corn. The husk has a dark red pigment and one can suspect that it contains lovely antioxidant compounds called, “anthocyanins.” In the steaming process, some of the compounds have infused with our tamale; giving it an even more interesting color.
When you unwrap a tamale, you unwrap much more than a delicious treat. As an outsider, you get to immerse yourself in cultures that date as far back as 5000 BC. This is a food that was developed in Mesoamerica long ago. The process precluded by breeding grass into the corn we know of today. Then came the development of the #nixtamalization of corn. Nutrition, food supply stability, abundance, and ease of preparation is the stuff that allows a civilizations to advance and thrive.
Following this long ago developed process, we turn our corn into masa by adding calcium hydroxide to a water solution, boiling our corn and allowing it to rest overnight. Nixtamalization increases the concentration of good things like calcium and niacin. It also reduces toxin as well as improve flavor and aroma. Lastly, it breaks the dried corn down so as to reduce the amount of labor required to prepare it. This is significant in its own right because it allows corn to be stored and used in the off season or years of scarcity.
From our 10 ears of corn, we were able to grind and turn it into about 4 pounds of masa. Which turned into about two dozen tamale.
This being Christmas time, we are reminded of how tamale is a festive food for many Mexican households. This is a time when many come together to take part in the process of making tamale together with family.
With that we have unwrapped a little bit of history, culture, and science. Please share if you have more to add.
Video recorded 2018, December 19 & 20.
Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

2018 July 17 — Garden Update (Mini Watermelon + Corn Harvest)

One of the things we are doing this year is experimenting to see how early we can start our plants. We started many plants a month earlier than usual. In February we sowed plants like tomatoes, corn, and watermelon. Sweet corn usually requires warmed to sweeten up so we started with non sweet varieties first like ‘Strawberry Popcorn’ and ‘Seneca Red Stalker.’ Since these varieties are flint corn we had to wait until the plants dried before harvesting them. With them dried and the ‘Roma’ tomatoes ramping down in production, we took this time to clear and transition the beds to plant something else.

With the space, my son and I sowed seeds and are hoping to see 20 strong ‘Oaxacan Green’ dent corn plants.

As for the watermelon:
The ‘Klondike Blue Ribbon’ could have used a few more days to develop its exquisite crispy texture. Nonetheless, the flavor and sweetness was present. On the second tasting of a ‘Sweet Siberian,’ we find that the flesh is rather smooth and just sweet. Once again, the typical watermelon flavor is either non-existent or rather subtle.

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Music: Dan Lebowitz, “Jeremiah’s Song”

2018 Tomato Growing: Ep 7 (First Taste) Druzba + Kellogg’s Breakfast

A couple of varieties new to our garden. This is our first tasting. These tastings are very subjective. Good tasting or not so great, I encourage you to grow and judge for yourselves.

Note on the Druzba: They taste much better fully fully ripe. Very ripe ‘Druzba’ has sweeter taste and flesh is not grainy.

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Music: Dan Lebowitz, “Tipetoe Out the Back”

FROM THE GARDEN: Crab Ceviche

Today we prepare crab ceviche with ingredients we harvest from the garden; and direct to our dish.

Ingredients (to be adjusted according to your taste)
1 lb imitation crab
4-5 limes
1 bunch cilantro
1 medium to large red onion
1 1/2 lbs of ripe Roma tomatoes
1 Serrano pepper
1/2 cucumber (optional)
1 teaspoon salt

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Cumbia No Frills Faster by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100275
Artist: http://incompetech.com/

2018 Tomato Growing: Ep6 Black Vernissage, Weissbehaarte, Roma, San Marzano, Sun Gold, & More

A look at and tasting of tomatoes we are growing for the first time:
‘Black Vernissage,’ ‘Weissbehaarte,’ ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Sun Gold,’ and ‘Sun Cherry Extra Sweet.’ ‘Roma’ is one we have grown for at least 8 years.

0:09 Harvest Montage
3:51 Harvest Overview
5:30 ‘Black Vernissage’
9:30 ‘Weissbehaarte’ (Special thanks to @realhensofoc for the seeds)
11:53 ‘Sun Gold’ (hybrid)
12:47 ‘Sun Cherry Extra Sweet’ (hybrid)
15:53 ‘San Marzano’
16:28 ‘Roma’

Music: Chris Haugen, “Ibiza Dream”
Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA