Saturday, January 23, 2010

Recipe 3: Chard Frittata

Mama made her first frittata! Totally out of order in the book, but the chard has been growing out of control lately, and with the four inches of rain we got this week the problem was going to get worse before it got better, so it was time to implement permaculture principle number 3 and "obtain a yield."

And the frittata turned out to be utterly gorgeous. The side profile of a slice of fritatta is yellow egg marbled with green frittata, and it's a work of art. Didn't have any onions or paprika, but the eggs, salt, pepper, chard and garlic worked just without them. There was a tad too much oil left on top at the end of the process, I think because I baked it instead of flipping it in the pan, but all in all, a happy success.

Proof of victory? Andrew thought it was delicious and had two slices!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Greening the Desert: Further Reading

• The original Greening the Desert video, as published on YouTube, which is based on work done by the amazing Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Institute of Australia in the early 2000s.

• Here is an elaborate textual report on the original Greening the Desert site by Mohammed Ayesh, who is described as "a Jordanian agricultural engineer who has long been involved in the project."

"Permaculture under salinity and drought conditions," By Mohammed Ayesh, (MSc in Soil & Irrigation), Water & Environment Researcher, 17 December 2007

• And here is the followup project to Greening the Desert, which will be funded and controlled entirely by the permaculture team themselves. This video is called

Greening the Desert II: Greening the Middle East and it's published by permaculturalist Craig Mackintosh on Vimeo.

More Rainwater Harvesting Videos

Brad Lancaster explains rainwater harvesting with help from a muffin tin and sponges. (Inspired!)

Three-part video where Brad Lancaster explains the principles of rainwater harvesting.

Rainwater Harvesting

This is an El Niño year, so we're getting drenched with rain here in Southern California, and I've been thinking a lot about rainwater harvesting. I've seen very clearly that the areas of my yard that have the most mulch or compost absorb water much better than areas without added organic matter. In those patches, the water pools and puddles fast and deep; in the areas that have added organic matter, the water soaks right into the landscape.

I dug a swale to help irrigate one dry patch where I want to place more raspberries this year, and I'll definitely add more organic matter. I have one rain barrel and several 5-gallon buckets collecting water from this week's storms. I'm looking into purchasing some ollas as well, for use in drier parts of the raised beds.

Long-term, I would like to rip out our concrete driveway. The driveway's surface area is a very large part of our home's square footage. It's an eyesore, but it's also preventing us from retaining as much rainwater as possible on the property.

Meanwhile, here is a lovely video from India encouraging rainwater harvesting.

Friday, January 15, 2010


1. Read Farm City, the wonderful true story of an Oakland hippie's adventures raising turkeys, bee, chickens, rabbits and pigs in the middle of a crappy rundown part of the ghetto.

2. Then watch this video. Read the book first though, because as always, the book is better than the movie and if you have to use your imagination to visualize Ghost Town Farm you'll imagine a much more beautiful place than exists in reality.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010





Permaculture Video Series: Global Gardener with Bill Mollison

I thought I'd "bookmarked" these on Bill Mollison's Wikipedia entry, but apparently not. So in the interests of saving the entire sequence for posterity (or at least for my further procrastination), here is the whole Global Gardener series. The section about the use of swales during the Dust Bowl was particularly fascinating to me. Also, banana circles!

Part 1: In the Tropics

Watch Global Gardener (Bill Mollison, Permaculture) 1 - In the tropics.avi in Educational  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Part 2: Dry Lands

Watch Global Gardener (Bill Mollison, Permaculture) 2 - Dry lands.avi in Educational  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Part 3: Temperate

Segment 1:

Segment 2:

Segment 3:

Segment 4:

Part 4: Urban

Watch Global Gardener (Bill Mollison, Permaculture) 4 - Urban.avi in Educational  |  View More Free Videos Online at
I Want My Brain Back

In as much as I would like to someday get my body back, I'm finding that what I really want after this baby is born is my brain back. Please. Last night I had to ask Andrew to help me use the microwave. "It won't turn on! I think it's broken! Or I'm broken!" It turned out to be me, not the microwave. And this morning, I stood helplessly in the elevator for a while, waiting until someone else boarded with a keycard because I was certain I had lost my keycard and was therefore unable to use the elevator. When I got to my desk, the keycard was revealed to be...on my keychain, same as ever. By the time I deliver this baby I will be fully stupid.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Recipe 2: Salsa verde

I'm giving myself a D- on this assignment and making myself redo the work tomorrow (or whenever), in punishment for poor preparation and research, even though it turned out sort of good in the end.

The first thing about salsa verde is that I've decided to just call it green sauce because where I come from salsa goes with guacamole and tortilla chips and every time I read the word salsa verde I got annoyed and resentful, and being angry at your food is never a good idea. (Why yes I did read Water for Chocolate, thank you for asking.)

Anyway, the first cock-up was spending $9.98 for basil, tarragon and dill at Pavilions in a hail-mary pass attempt to obtain the tender herb on which green sauce is based. Well, it's none of them, although basil and tarragon can be supplements; the main deal is parsley. Not that Pavilions had fresh parsley anyway. And no I had no one of this stuff in my garden; it's all dead of wintery. I did, however, make the cashier happy by buying dill. He got to smell it and it made him smile. It made me smile, too.

Anyway, back at the ranch, I did Alice's thing of laying out all the ingredients ahead of time so I could see them, I propped up the cookbook behind my brand-new butcher-block cutting board (I am on expensive but probably worthwhile anti-plastic rampage), and set about making green sauce.

The good news is that I had the sense to start preparing the non-tender ingredients first. Parsley (or whatever) was listed first on the ingredients list but if I'd chopped it first, it would have turned black in the time in took me to prep everything else. (Lemon zest stresses me out. I fear pith.)

Things were chopped and cleaned and measured and it all looked lovely, but what I failed to taken into account is that coarsely chopping parsley and coarsely chopping basil (the herb I decided to use in lieu of the missing parsley) gets you two very different-sized results. Basil big, parsley small, blah.

Barreling forward, I mixed it all together as ordered by Alice, but there was no chance in heck that the ginormous basil pieces were going to really integrate with the rest of the goodies. I set it aside to let the flavors marry, again as ordered by Alice, but at that stage in the game I declared the overall project a total failure.

So I made potato pancakes out of the Good Housekeeping cookbook instead.

I grew potatoes for the first time this year, and I've been saving them for a special occasion, but I just discovered they've mostly all sprouted, so they're off to the compost heap where they might just grow into potatoes again. I could replant them, to be sure, but growing potatoes is this whole meshuguna and if they don't grow in the compost pile (which they very well might), I'm happy to let them be worm food.

The red ones all were pretty unsprouty, though (apparently the reds were what are known as good "keepers"), so they got assigned to potato-pancake duty. (Is it a duty or is it an honor?) Naturally, of course, I decide to supplement my meager homegrown potato supply with one from the store, and when I get to shredding that one, halfway through the potato-shredding project, I discover that one is green.

Yes, green. As in, never ever eat a green potato as it is evil and poisonous and has been lying in wait to kill you. For an optimistic few minutes I thought I could pick out the green bits but that was a lost cause and it's not worth risking the baby's health, so...compost pile.

I made do with what I had left, plus some homegrown garlic (no onions in the house) and homegrown rosemary-thyme, and by god, these pancakes are pretty good if I do say so myself.

As a happy postscript, I stuck my finger in the green sauce while waiting for the potato pancakes to cook up, and that too was pretty darn good. It would be overselling it to say it was supermegadelicious (™ Top Chef Gail), but I totally get green sauce now, if for no other reason than capers make everything amazing. So...not a total wash.

Still, I have no idea what one does with green sauce once it exists or what it's supposed to look like (mine looks ridiculous, like green-leaf soup in an olive-oil broth), so after I do remedial homework, I will tackle it again soon.

Next up: Green sauce (this time with new, more regionally appropriate branding), and then after that aolii, aoili, aioli, which I'm going to have to learn to spell before I can cook it properly.