Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Free Compost!

The Learning Garden received a fresh load of compost this morning.  It is free to all schools and non-profits - for individuals, we ask for a donation to help keep our gates open.  It is entirely voluntary, we would rather you have the compost and garden than not, but if you are comfortable giving a donation of any size, we are comfortable in accepting it.

Note that this compost will move quickly and I have already asked the city to keep another load on tap for us - schools all over the westside are coming into session and there are seven or eight school gardens using our compost site as their primary pick up.  Also note that everyone should ask before taking the woodchips in this same area - we can the compost on cal, but the woodchip supply is a little less certain and we will need lots of woodchips to get ready for the coming school year ourselves.  

We are here 10 to 5 everyday except Monday.  


Monday, August 23, 2010

Upcoming Events in The Learning Garden

August 28th Henry Jun Wah Lee, L.Ac will hold a lecture: Introduction to Chinese Taoist Face Reading: Understanding and Using Your Deepest Gifts and Transforming Your Greatest Challenges Your face is a mirror that records your past, reflects your present and forecasts your future. Each feature, shape, line, wrinkle, mole and marking tells a story about who you are. It reveals your life’s deepest gifts and greatest challenges. To know Chinese Face Reading is to know your true nature and the nature of those around you. It can help you find your soul mate, identify the ideal business partner or employee, build stronger teams, and strengthen relationships. More importantly, it can help you recognize your own innate strengths and weaknesses so you can leverage them effectively to live a more powerful and fulfilled life. In this 90 minute lecture, Lee will introduce the nearly three thousand year old practice of Chinese Taoist Face Reading. You’ll gain insights about your own true nature — your unique gifts and challenges — and learn powerful tools for utilizing Chinese Face Reading to improve your life. RSVP: Please RSVP by calling 323-540-4180. Space is limited. Admission: $20, of which $5 will be donated to benefit the Learning Garden.

September 11th – 9-Noon – The Annual Pepperdine Day of Service in the Garden, preparing the Venice High School beds for the fall term. Come out, get sweaty and do good work in the Garden

September 25th – 11:30 to 1:30 Our Time Bank Monthly Meeting and Potluck Our Time Bank is a community of people living and working in the Culver City, Palms and Mar Vista area who support each other.  For every hour you help another member, you gain a Timebank Hour. Come out and see why a local economy based on the exchange of time rather than money is a way to create a more meaningful life.
September 25th – 2:00 to 5:00 PESTO DAY Returns! For a mere $10 admission you get to eat a plate of pasta with Italian Sausage, salad, genuine Italian bread and a drink. You may also purchase jars of pesto to take home and enjoy or give as gifts and enjoy – it freezes magnificently and can be a healthful and inspiring addition to meals throughout the long cold California winter.
October 3rd – 1:00 to 5:00 PM UCLA Extension class 'Modern Backyard Food Production' starts in The Learning Garden and runs for the next couple of months. This elective course in Extension's Gardening and Horticulture Certificated Program brings students into the world of really local food where the 'back forty' really is square feet and not acres. Not only does the course cover vegetables but includes raising chickens and herding honey bees. Homegrown and homemade food is featured weekly! Contact UCLA Extension for registration details.
Also in October – Victory Garden Circle Master Gardener volunteers will organize and lead low-cost Victory Garden Circles and teach the basics of gardening. These classes of instruction and hands-on activities will introduce gardeners to the basics of growing your own food. You can attend one or all, but by attending all four classes, participants will become UC-certified Victory Gardeners. Contact the Gardenmaster for details.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Seed Library of Los Angeles; SLOLA

Vegetable seeds tightly closed in jars to keep them more viable are all from The Learning Garden's growing over the past couple of years. These very seeds could be the beginning of a seed library for the Los Angeles area.

The Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) has been brewing for some time – and it's not quite soup yet – there are hurdles still to cross. But it is closer to reality because The Learning Garden has taken on the challenge of making it happen.

A seed library works very similar to a book library or a tool library. The main difference – and the real nut of the difficulty in making it viable – is that seeds are living entities having a life expiration that puts a whole new urgency into the program.

Once you have joined a seed library – you check out seeds from them just like you would a book. You plant the seeds and grow out your crop, at the end of the season, you return fresh seeds, from your crop, to the library. The library benefits from being able to offer the next person fresh seed and you benefit from having free seeds. It's a win/win and it keeps Monsanto out of your garden and denies them profit from feeding your family.

The Learning Garden, more than any other local entity is the perfect place for a seed library because of the wealth of variety we alone can bring to the table. We have vegetables, California Natives and medicinal plants from which we can store and provide seed – our own inventory of seed is massive giving us the lead in this field. We also have space to be able to grow out seed that needs to be refreshed.

The challenges of making this work are, as follows:
  1. We need volunteers to run the seed library – catalog and inventory the supplies and to run the 'open' days
  2. We need a database complicated enough to thoroughly track the seed and insuring viability for those checking out the seed but simple enough to be used by volunteers – I have experience with Access and it is certainly complicated enough, not so much usable. Friends suggest File Maker Pro, but I have never used it and don't have the cash to get it, making that a moot point.
  3. We need to create a space just for the library to store seeds and have available to them. That, I think can be managed by the Garden by rearranging some of the space in my office and we can turn part of that over to a seed storage space.

So, at this time, I'm looking for some folks willing to devote some of their time to start and run a seed library and some way to log the seeds and the persons who have joined. AND I'd like to learn who is interested in joining a seed library and checking out seeds. At this point, I'm considering a nominal $10 membership fee, which I think should net someone life time membership (your life or my life or the life of the seeds?) – other than the start up costs, I can't see a seed bank costing a great deal to run. I've got an ancient computer around here, if I can get a database program on it to run, that solves that end of the equation. Perhaps there will need to be a fine if you don't bring back the seeds on time, like an overdue book.

Let me know – and I'll keep you posted as we move forward.


Friday, August 13, 2010

A Hatful of Beans!

Just a day late from the first anniversary of The Learning Garden (Almost) Daily, I've picked a few beans - a whole hatful, it turns out! Set against the leaves of the plants themselves, there's quite a bit of yummy here!

These are my favorite yellow bean, Pencil Pod and they've been picked at their peak of goodness.  I hope to supplement these with a few other beans from a famers' market and make my delicious pickled basil beans! 

Pencil Pod is a good variety for anyone's use, but they are especially suited to canning and pickling.  They tend to be very straight and that makes getting them in a jar a  *drum roll, please* snap.  Curvey beans need not apply - getting a jar tightly packed with wiggly beans takes more than twice as long and is less than half as satisfying.  They never seem to come out with nearly the same appeal and the beans are never tightly packed which makes keeping them under the brine solution almost impossible - you'll end up with tips that just aren't appetizing.  

You will be able to find my recipe for pickled beans in my forthcoming book and that's the only way unless you know my secret.  But this one tidbit alone will make the book worth its price - guaranteed.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Growing Organic Food and Summertime Garden To Do’s

The Learning Garden was 'on the air!'  This last Saturday, Gardenmaster David King was on the Cindy Dole show talking about August in the garden and some of our upcoming events in The Learning Garden.  You too can surf on over to Cindy Dole's website and hear the whole shebang!

I'm going to - I was so excited to be on the air, I'm not sure what I said!