Me and my fabulous son, Max

Me and my  fabulous son, Max
Powerscourt, Ireland

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congratulations to Me...a Certified Victory Gardner!

Handbook for the Grow LA Victory Gardening Course

I have grown some of my own food for as long as I can remember.  My parents had a garden as did my grandparents before them.  I guess that being from the South, it's just expected that in the summer, you at least plant some tomatoes.

San Diego no effort garden of snap peas, tomatillos, tomatoes

When we moved to our property last year, we had a huge wake up call when trying to grow.  In San Diego, things just grew.  Here in the West Antelope Valley, we had to contend with many new conditions:  the on-going drought, exceptionally low humidity, the wind and the critters. Oh what critters we have:  jackrabbits, ground squirrels, gophers, birds, coyotes...and they're all hungry!

When I found out about the UC Cooperative Extension's Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative I was happy to see that they offered local classes.  I signed up for Master Gardener Susie Bowman's 4 week class held in the community garden at the Lutheran Church of the Master in Lancaster.  Finally I could round out my life long gardener's knowledge with local expertise!

We started by talking about what grows well in our climate in the Antelope Valley.
We talked about seeds, resources, and then got right to business...the garden!  Since it was Fall, we cleaned out some of the spent summer crops in the raised beds.  Then we planted some established starts that hold up to Fall & Winter growing:  artichokes, broccoli, garlic and onions.  I love that we got some hands on experience and were able to ask questions as we went.

Master Gardener Susie Bowman working in the raised beds

Irrigation and timer supplied by community gardener

We had homework for the next class.  We were asked to bring in a soil sample from our home garden.  So our second class focused heavily on soil.  Our instructor, Susie, brought in her "pet" worms and did a unit on vermicomposting.  It was fascinating.  The surprising part was the compost didn't have a foul smells of fresh soil.

Jar of soil with alam and water added---shake!
Soil from my garden
Now for the fun part.  We did a soil composition test with the dirt we brought in from our home gardens.  We added water and 2 tablespoons of alum and shook it all up.  An hour later the soil separated into layers of sand, clay and organic matter.  Fascinating stuff!

The other members of the class were also a wealth of knowledge.  The following class we all (without prior discussion!) brought in unique things we have grown and saved seed to share with the rest of the group.  Next year I am looking forward to growing Fairy Tale Eggplants from Tamara Coombs Antelope Acres garden!

Our last class was a blast.  It was titled, "Preserving the Harvest" and included another Master Gardner who is also a Master Food Preserver, Nancee Siebert. 

Tamara, Nancee and Susie getting the supplies ready
This was a full day of all types of preserving.  We started with fresh kale in the food dehydrator and made kale chips.  What a pleasant surprise....very tasty.  Our next task was to grate and bag zucchini to preserve in 2 cup servings the freezer.

Tamara added pectin and now stirring tomato jam
The more technical but rewarding part of the class was pressure canning and canning by water bath methods of preserving.   Most of us had canned before, but having a Master Food Preserver lead the class was really helpful!  Nancee pointed out some bad habits that some of us had picked up along the way.  Now we are confident that we can safely preserve our harvest!

Pressure canned green beans and tomatoes
The practice of patience when preserving food cannot be overstated.  We pressure canned fresh tomatoes and green beans.  Following each step and not taking short cuts really produced some beautiful canned foods.

Preserving the harvest with Nancee Siebert

We used the hot water bath method of preserving to make Cowboy Candy (candied jalapenos), Tomato Jam, cold pack tomatoes.  Although it was a lot of work, many hands make the task go quickly!

Nancee, Susie & me with the bounty of the day!
The best part of the day is that we got to take home canned tomatoes (2 ways), green beans, tomato jam, cowboy candy and frozen zucchini.  We ate all the kale chips...haha!

So overall, the Victory Garden class was a fantastic experience!  I learned a lot, met some great new people and have a new sense of community.  Although the class I took was comprised of more experienced gardeners, people of all experience levels and abilities would benefit from taking this class.  I highly recommend it!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Corn--The Transition from Gardener to Farmer?

 We have a lot of land that we are not using right now.

Last year I tried a large garden in our already fenced side yard, with not so great results.  We did not have any animals to deter the wildlife so everything that I planted was eaten by either a jackrabbit or a ground squirrel.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it...a small adult rabbit ran and jumped through the chain link fence!  That is an opening that is around 2 inches square!

For as long as I can remember, we have always grown some of our own food, so I wasn't going to be discouraged!  We got a few kittens and then added some raised beds so we could at least grown something to harvest!

Late Summer 2013--added raised beds
So these were some quick and easy beds put together by my fabulous husband, Larry.  They are untreated cedar fence posts and green, plastic construction fencing attached with a stable gun.  They worked, but not really utilizing all the space we have!

This year we decided to go bigger.  Because we live on acreage, Larry could fulfil his lifelong dream of owing a tractor.  I have to say, it makes work in the garden a lot easier.  We decided to carve out a good sized space East of the existing corral.  We have also added two enormous puppies to our family to help deter the wildlife.

Spring 2014--created a large garden area

Enclosed Garden area with 5 rolls of construction fence
Larry prepped the soil and we added composted horse manure and worked it in.
We enclosed the garden area with more of the green construction fencing and planted!  I have tried several times to grow corn. When we lived in San Diego, I would try just about every year with no luck.  Living here in the West Antelope Valley we get plenty of sunlight, so with my trusty Earthway Garden Seeder I direct seeded six 50' rows of corn. 

Con seedlings about a week after planting

Corn is progressing nicely

Mature Corn!!

A typical mid-Summer harvest--corn, jalapeno and yellow squash

We planted an organic, heirloom variety of corn called Double Standard.  The early ears we got were fairly good, but starchier than what you buy at the grocery.  I think my pallet has become accustomed to a sweeter variety of corn as more hybrid varieties of corn are sold today.

Initially I had planned to can the majority of the corn we did not eat from fresh.  We had a very busy few weeks in late August so  we did not get the corn picked soon enough.  On to plan B!

We let the corn dry on the stalk for another few weeks in the garden.  We then picked it and brought it inside to fully dry.  After it was dry, it was fairly easy to remove the dried kernels from the cobs.  As I was researching, I found several mechanized methods for removing the kernels, but I found it pretty easy to do by hand wearing gardening gloves.

Dried Corn, about a bushel

Dried corn removed from the cobs

Our harvest, preserved as dried corn
 So all in, we have three and a half quarts of dried corn, so just shy of a gallon.  I will most likely grind this up and use it to make things like corn bread and polenta.  As for next year, I'm really not sure if I'll try to grow corn again.  I'll see how I feel in the Spring!

Now the real question is, does growing corn in long rows with the help of a tractor make you a farmer?  What is the line between gardener and farmer?

Cheers for now~

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Visit to Historic Fort Tejon

Avenue A--Los Angeles County on the left, Kern County on the Right

One blustery day shortly after we moved to the West Antelope Valley, we took a little road trip to Historic Fort Tejon, one of the many fabulous California State Parks , located about half an hour Northwest of us.    We started down Avenue A, which is the dirt road that runs along Los Angeles County on the South and Kern County on the North.

Rural Northern Los Angeles County

Along our route, we saw many Joshua trees and the Tehachipi mountains to the North.  It's hard to imagine, but about half of Los Angeles County is rural.  Where we live, in the Northern most part, we have views of wilderness for as far as the eye can see.

Max & Larry

Once we hit Gorman Post Road, it was a short decent into Lebec and Historic Fort Tejon.  It's a fun little State Park packed with history.  Click on the link for more info!

Picnic Area

We first visited Fort Tejon as a stop on the way from our old home in San Diego on the way to Northern California.  It is right off interstate 5 and a great place to stretch your legs and run around!

Cannon at Fort Tejon

 They have a great picnic area....and they even have a CANNON!

Max on the steps of the jail
They also have a stockade!!

Commander's House--Max & Larry

 There are several original and replica buildings on the grounds.  I really enjoy walking through and imagining what it must have been like.  There is a home that the commander and his family lived in complete with living, dining and sleeping areas.

My Max and me in front of the adobe brick house.

There is a museum with uniforms and weaponry from the civil war era.  This was the outpost for the Dragoons and was operational for about 10 years from 1854-1864.  Most days you can spot some guys in uniforms participating in historical reenactments.

Tejon Pass on the other side of the hill
 This is a fun little stop to make if you are driving over the grapevine on Interstate 5 and want to take a break.  I have not even begun to cover what is here, so stop by and take a look for yourself!


Thursday, August 28, 2014


From the Marti Lindsey--Garden Lady

Back in June, we planted potatoes in some regular 2 gallon pots at the preschool.  These weren't seed potatoes, just potatoes from my pantry that had started to grow eyes.  Although it is not recommended to use regular potatoes from the grocery store, my philosophy has always been that if they were growing in my pantry, that they would certainly grow in the garden!

Washing the potatoes

First we placed the pots on a small table so my tiny friends could see what they were doing.  We then dug until we found potatoes.  Because they were grown in fairly small pots, most of the potatoes were fairly small.  After the potatoes were dug out of the pots, they went to the orange washing station to be cleaned.

Tuesday's Harvest!
Out of 4 pots, we harvested 28 potatoes!!  The students had planted other vegetables throughout the summer and there were also several tomatoes and beans ready to pick.


We got the potatoes inside and gave them an additional wash.  The larger ones were cut into bit sized pieces and the smaller ones were left whole.  We steamed them with some season salt and pepper and served them with lunch.  The kids loved them!!  We will most definitely be growing potatoes again.

Marti--The Garden Lady

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Old Friends & New

Today I started a new adventure as a Garden Coach at a local preschool.  I made lots of tiny friends today, thanks to an old friend, Jeana.  Jeana used to work with me many, many moons ago when I was a District Manager at Kindercare.  Jeana's new school has a preschool program along with an LA Up Program, both with amazing, dedicated teachers, but not much time for gardening.  Enter Marti Lindsey--The Garden Lady.

All of the kids were excited and eager to help!  What kid doesn't love to play in the dirt, right?  

We started off by removing some of the compacted soil in the existing garden boxes.  The kids filled a 20 gallon tub, one shovel full at a time!

We added Kellogg's Organic Soil to amend the old soil in the beds.  Then the kids started planting!  Today we started an elevated raised bed with herbs and three regular raised beds.  One bed is all strawberries, which was very exciting for the kids.  The other beds will house a variety of vegetables including beans, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

I am excited to make new friends and share my love of growing with the kids!  Here's what's growing at our place right now:
Radishes, Carrots, Turnips & Golden Beets

Peas & Purple Cauliflower

I'm so excited to go back next week and do more work with the kids!  Until then, keep on growing!

Marti Lindsey--The Garden Lady

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


So much has been happening at our new house that I've been remiss about blogging.  Back in June we came closer than I'd like to losing everything to the Powerhouse Fire.  Living in Southern California, you hear about brush fires from Summer through Fall.  Smoke in the air is not uncommon.  Living in California for over 30 years, this is the first time I've been personally affected by a fire.

Fire from Kitchen early Sat., June 1, 2013
The fire began the end of May in the remote area of the Angeles National Forrest, South of us.  We were not overly concerned because there are several lakes, a large reservoir and the California Aqueduct between us and where the fire originated.  We began to see the fire on Saturday.

We soon discovered that the Los Angeles media sources were about 8-12 hours behind on news and not a reliable source of what was happening real time.  Through our friend Kimberly Thorpe, we discovered the facebook page of AV Fire News, which was invaluable in tracking the fire and giving us up to the minute information. Below are updates over several hours and illustrate how fast and accurate the info was. 

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: New Road Closure - Ave D (Hwy 138) closed in both directions between 110th St W. & 190th St. W due to smoke making driving conditions unsafe.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: 2 fires burning on the north side of the aqueduct. One is 3 acres and holding. The second is an unknown size and moving north. LASD evacuated an approx. 5 mile radius northwest and south of 160th St west and Ave H to Hwy 138.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: Lancaster Road is closed between Munz Ranch Road and 170th St West.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: The fire has crossed Lancaster Road and is well established in the Poppy Reserves.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: Fire is now 25,000+ acres.  New Evacuations: LASD evacuated everything from 170th St West to 185th St West, from Lancaster Road to Ave D (Hwy 138).

Evacuations expanded: LASD evacuating everything from 170th St West to 190th St West, from Lancaster Road to Ave D (Hwy 138). Fire is just east of 190th St West at this time.  This is exactly where we live!!

Traffic Control requested for Ave D. Avoid Ave D (Hwy 138)

Saturday, June 1

This picture was taken from our back porch looking South on Saturday night.  We watched for hours as the fire planes and helicopters knocked the approaching fire back to the other side of the ridge, about 5 miles from our house.  The firefighters are truly amazing!

Sunday, June 2

This picture was taken looking South from our back porch on Sunday morning.  The fire did not appear to be a threat at this point as the winds were blowing from the West.

Sunday, June 2

We began to worry when we started to see flames again mid-day on Sunday.  We were reassured because the fire was on the other side of Lakes Hughes & Elizabeth, the Fairmont Reservoir and the California Aquaduct.

Sunday, June 2
 On Sunday afternoon, the wind shifted and began to come from the South, where the fire was burning.  Although we hadn't heard anything about evacuating, there was an eerie quality that could not be ignored.  When the power went out, we decided to get ready to evacuate.

Sunday Afternoon, June 2
Smoke blowing towards our house on Sunday afternoon shortly before we evacuated.

Under the green lid in box

Kittens, fish & Max ready to roll...along with Super Grover.

Evacuation is a strange thing.  Your mind is super clear and frazzled that the same time.  I brought our passports & other important documents.  Larry packed up the computers and some work documents.  I then packed a bag with some flashlights, binoculars and a change of clothes for Max.  After we left, I asked myself, why not take more stuff with us?  There are plenty of things we could have used.  Snacks?  Drinks?  Clothing and such?

The answer is clear.  We look what was most important...Max (our kid), Bubba-Wubba, Dixie & Trixie (the kittens), Dottie (the fish), Larry (husband) and me.  Everything else seemed inconsequential.

Driving away from the house felt wrong but we knew it was the right thing to do.  On the way out, we saw our neighbors, who are still building and have not moved in yet.  Since we are all on well systems, they were pumping their two 5000 gallon water tanks to make sure the firefighters had access to the water if needed.  They had seen the Sheriffs on their way in and let us know that it was only a matter of time before we would be asked to evacuate. 

I had heard somewhere to leave your house unlocked, so we did.

So the weird thing is...what now?  You've left your house, so now where do you go?  We were thinking positively.  We were hoping the wind would shift back to it's usual direction (from the West) and that the fire would be diverted and we could return home.  So with a kid, 3 kittens, and a fish, we headed to the closest McDonalds, about 25 miles West, in Gorman.

Hwy 138 at 210th Street, Sunday, June 2
So we went to McDonalds in Gorman and decided to head back towards our house to see what was going on.  We got a bad feeling when we saw the smoke blowing towards us as we drove down Hwy 138.  Our house is well beyond where the smoke was.

Our house is still standing, center of picture
We stopped at the Wee Vill Market on Hwy 138, about a mile North of our house.  What a relief to actually see that our house was still there!  We went inside and found a gathering of several neighbors.  We introduced ourselves, figured out where everyone lived and compared notes about the fire and evacuation.  We should have come here right away!

Max's first day of riding--Mr. Dave, white shirt in background

In a "what a small world" moment, we met Dave, Max's soon to be Horseback Riding Instructor.  Max went in and sat down at our usual spot.  However, there was already a guy sitting there eating.  I asked Max to move and the gentleman said Max was fine.  We introduced ourselves and began chatting.  Dave then asked if Max likes horses.  I told him yes, actually we were starting lessons on Tuesday.  It turns out that Dave was going to be leading Max's group at Saddle Up, a theraputic riding school for kids with special needs.

So after speaking to one of the Sheriffs at the Wee Vill, we decided that we needed a more long term plan.  My brother and his amazing wife, Kim offered us a place to stay, so it was off to Hermosa Beach with our fish & three kittens in tow!  I have to say that once we got there and had some pizza, I slept like a rock.  

On Monday, we watched the TV news and got no information whatsoever!  We monitored the AV Fire news site.  At around noon, I decided to give the Wee Vill market a call.  I'm so glad I did.  They let me know that the area was reopened to residents with ID.  So we packed up our pets and headed back home!

So for about 4-5 days after we returned, we had to show ID to get in and out of the area.  Ironically, when we returned from being evacuated on Monday, there was a UPS package waiting for us on the steps!

South at Top-North at Bottom of Map, our house located bottom center

Picture taken from AV Fire Site--Carmine's Horses
These two pictures were borrowed form our favorite AV Fire News site.  The top is a map showing the progress of the fire.  Our house is located between the fingers of the fire on the bottom center of the photo.

The second picture is of our neighbor, Carmine's horses around Lancaster Rd. & 190th Street.  I spoke with Carmine after the fire and he said that he had come to get the horses, but the firefighters had already cut the fences.  He wasn't mad.  He knew they were trying to do the right thing.  His entire horse facility was burned to the ground.  He put things into perspective when he told me that he was grateful that the firefighters had saved his trees.  He has a 10 acre peach orchard on the other side of Lancaster Road, directly across the street from his horse facility that was lost.

Here are some images I took of the Powerhouse fire the day after we returned:

Looking South down 180th Street at Avenue E (our Street)  Notice the burned hills.

Same view but closer, 180th street at Lancaster Road.  Notice the burned areas.
Looking from Lancaster Road at 180th North towards our house.
Fire burned right up to our mailbox farm on Lancaster Road and 190th Street

Phone lines still down on Lancaster Road near our mailbox

Here is a facebook post after we returned to our home.  I think it sums things up well!
Feeling so grateful! Thanks to the firefighters who stopped the fire less than a mile from our house. Thanks to the site AV Fire News for the invaluable information. Thanks to the random strangers rescuing pets and horses. Thanks to SCE for getting our power back on in the middle of an active fire. Thanks to the sheriffs for making sure we're safe and no unsavory characters enter our the area. Thanks to our local gathering place, the Weeville Market for providing the best info and a spot for neighbors to come together. Thanks to my family for putting up with us (kid, fish, 3 new kittens) while evacuated. This has really made me realize how fortunate I am!

Thanks for reading.  I hope none of you ever have to go through this.