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Showing posts from 2016

UCSC Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture

Back in September, I submitted an application to the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program. This six-month certificate program provides hands-on training in organic gardening and small-scale farming, and it's celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. The program is part of the legacy of Alan Chadwick and takes place on the 30-acre Farm and 3-acre Garden on the UCSC campus. I am ecstatic to share that I was selected to participate in this amazing program, which starts in April--only a little less than 4 months from now!

About the Program
According to the CASFS website, "The six-month Apprenticeship offers instruction and daily work experience in organic gardening and farming, focusing on ecological interactions amongst plants, soils, climate, insects, and pathogens. It also fosters an analysis of the political, economic, and cultural roots of our current food system and provides space to explore how…

Adventures at 20mph on an Elby electric bicycle!

As most of you know, I ride my bike to work every day. Well, technically I bike for about 40 minutes a day before, between, and after two public bus rides totaling 1.5 hours. The buses get me over the hill to the coastal oasis of Santa Cruz and then up a big hill to UCSC. The first, hour-long trip is simply infeasible to bike in the mornings (okay yes there are some people who do it, but they are super heroes). But the second bus trip I take with my bike, the thirty minute one, is not impossible to bike. In fact, I've biked it more times than I can count over the past three years, but it is hard and sweaty and painful for average humans and doing that first thing in the morning takes mustering up some serious energy. So, I just take the bus.

But the other day, I pedaled up the hill to campus without barely breaking a sweat. I glided up it, enjoying the view and smiling. There was no pain. And I was going about 14 miles an hour while doing so. How is this possible? I was riding an

Raised bed gardening update

Two months ago, I shared photos and instructions about how we built a raised bed in our backyard. Since then, I've planted numerous seeds and transplants into the bed, including pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, sunflowers, watermelon, basil, and jalepeño peppers. We installed drip irrigation throughout the bed and draped some irrigation tubing into potted plants surrounding the bed, such as bell pepper, mint, strawberries, and another cucumber plant. It's turned into a lush urban jungle of plants out there, and I figured that those who don't follow my Facebook page would be curious to see what's been growing on!

Note: You can click on the photos for a larger view.

This was the bed shortly after planting seeds. I had a lot of other plants in pots around the edges.


I transplanted a few tomato plants that I purchased at different nurseries. Two of the plants are heirloom. This is what the raised bed looked like in July, right before we left for a two week r…

The inspiring motivation of community engagement

I'm filled to the brim with inspiration this afternoon after a delightful chat over coffee with my friend Cain at a cool little coffee shop in downtown San Jose called Social Policy (part of the Bellano "family of coffee lovers"). (If you live in SJ, you may have seen Cain cranking down the street on his red cargo bike hauling huge boxes of awesome stuff for Cowgirl Bike Courier!) We discussed an upcoming bike/art event he is planning, a bike-to-farms ride that I'm planning, San Jose bicycle news and issues, Viva Calle SJ promotion, and more. Last evening, I also connected with friends at my house to plan our bike-to-farms ride. We had a potluck feast of homemade, vegetarian yumminess, and then we identified next steps for turning our vision into a reality. And the night before last, I attended a bike coalition meeting where I saw plans for putting bidirectional contraflow lanes around the SJSU campus and heard the good news that the Willow Glen Road Diet has overall…

Building a raised bed

A couple of weeks ago, we moved into our new place just down the way from our previous rental. We've been settling in, still sometimes discovering unpacked boxes hidden in our closets, and this weekend we turned our attention to the backyard.

When we moved, we brought almost all of our plants from the previous place with us since most of them were in pots. Seeing all of the plants in a big pile made me realize how many plants I really have! It took multiple car trips to get them to the new place, and when we unloaded them, we set them on some cement along the side of the house. I rearranged them over the last couple weeks and have been watering them, but because they're on cement, they dry out much more quickly than when the plants were sitting on dirt previously. I put some of them on plant saucers or greenhouse trays, but I wanted a solution that included dirt, and I also wanted to be able to grow corn and pumpkins. What to do?


Before we moved in, we had asked the landlord h…

Mapping History #2: San Jose, The Garden City

This post is part of an ongoing series called "Mapping History." Get the backstory here.

My first entry in this series focused on one quote about the "most desirable" part of Santa Clara Valley according to the author of Santa Clara County California, published in 1887 by the Santa Clara County Board of Trade. In this second entry, I've pulled out some more of the quotes that demonstrate the significance of agriculture in this region as the basis for its rapid growth at the time the book was written.

Before I share the quotes, I want to explain that this book opens with a discussion of the geologic history of the region and then goes into its climate and soil as a foundation for why agriculture is so lucrative here. From the beginning, nearly the entire book focuses on the ideal climate of the valley and the fact that almost anything can be grown. Agricultural productivity is the main argument throughout the book for why easterners should move here and purchase …

Mapping History Project: Intro & Entry #1

Maps fascinate me. Anyone who's ever used a map knows that it's basic function is to show us the geographical and spatial relationships between physical places, which provides us with useful knowledge for getting from one place to another. In today's modern world of smartphones and computers, most people interact with maps in a very different way than people have for millennia. We can type in or tell Siri our destination and starting point and then be told--without even looking at the map ourselves--how to utilize the streetscape of our world to get to our destination in the most direct route. This is useful, sure, but we miss something when we let Siri tell us the way, and that something is the very thing about maps that fascinates me most.

When we pull out a paper map or zoom out on Google Maps to view more than just where the GPS reminds us we are at that moment, we can learn so much about a place through its spatial organization. Culture, history, natural features, pol…

Joel Salatin on Soil, Earth Worms, & Why We Need Farmers

This evening I attended a talk by Joel Salatin at the Santa Cruz Rio Theatre. I had heard of Joel Salatin through the Mother Earth News magazine, which I’ve been reading thanks to Green Guy’s step-mom and dad who have been passing their read copies along to us. Salatin works for PolyFace Farm in Virginia, where he not only grows food and raises animals (among many other things), but in his words, approaches his farmland, plants, and animals as one would a lover—caressing, caring for, and loving them so that they will be happy and thrive. He made a point to explain that he’s a romantic, a poet, and that even to use the word sunlight is too scientific for his liking. He prefers sunbeams, and I have to agree.

Joel Salatin (Image source)
Thus, in addition to being a stellar farmer, he’s funny and poetic, and he had the audience laughing and smiling throughout the evening. But within and between his jokes, which featured many imitations, funny faces, and metaphors, Salatin told a story …

Garden & Other Updates from February & March

I've been so busy trying new things and experiencing life that I haven't posted here since early February! Today, I'll share about the garden and some other odds and ends from the past two months.
It's been raining a lot here in California thanks to El Niño. Above is the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz, full of water gushing toward the bay. This is a very welcome sight to us all in California, but we have to remember that one wet season does not solve a years-long drought on its own.
The nasturtiums in my yard have been enjoying the rainy weather and have grown numerous beautiful yellow and orange flowers. In fact, the nasturtiums have somewhat taken over the garden!
I got a bike trailer back in December, and I finally used it recently to go to the garden store. Now I can transport soil and heavy items up to 100 pounds without using a car! It's amazing how light items feel when they're in a bike trailer versus on the bike rack and especially when compared to h…