Vegetable Garden, Week 2

IMG_1561The herb section at Sperling Nursery

I just got off the phone with Nancy, who agreed to let me pick up a bag of horse manure from her farm tomorrow at 3:30.

Horse. Manure.

To think I could have simply purchased some from one of the kind gentlemen who has come calling in recent years

But I digress. This sorry (well, it is free, so there’s that) state of affairs is all due to the helpful worker at Sperling Nursery in Calabasas who convinced me to try a cockamamie sounding method of gardening that I had not ever considered before.

Cardboard.

I told him that my dirt patch is made of clay so I was thinking of building a raised bed. In truth, I was dreading that process, because of course I want to skip all the work and just have vegetables. But that’s called grocery shopping, and it’s what I’m trying to avoid, so work I must.

Richard suggested I place cardboard over my dirt, which worms just love – they come up through the soil, eat the glue and decompose the cardboard, and put nitrogen into the dirt and loosen up the clay. In a month, he said, I would have nice rich vegetable-friendly soil. I didn’t even have to wait that long, he said! I could cut holes in the cardboard and plant some legumes, which will leave behind nitrogen-rich roots after they are harvested (harvested! that sounds so farmlike!). I could also plant some hardy others, like kale and rosemary.

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So I did. That was that. I spent less than $10 on seedlings and took them home. I pulled the large boxes from Christmas shipments out of the garage and cut them open and laid them on the ground. I cut circles and used a Dora, the Explorer plastic trowel to hack shallow holes in the ground for the seedlings. I even discovered a papery clump of daffodil bulbs, one just starting to push out new shoots, and relocated them to the perimeter of the space.

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IMG_1569My son hunted for earthworms under the old bricks and seeded the cardboard holes with them!

I wanted to get the plants into the ground before the rains came, and they soon did. The rain started Thursday night and continued through Saturday. Plenty of water to welcome my new kale, rosemary, and fava beans. (The chianti bush comes next.)

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Richard advised that I get some manure and mix it with topsoil to spread upon the cardboard to enrich the soil and weigh the cardboard down so it doesn’t blow away.

And so off to the horse farm I will go. But I’ll make my husband actually deal with the manure. Gardening is gross, y’all.

Sip, Ride, Eat – Pedalers Fork Opens April 22

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Saddle up, cyclists, coffee lovers, and foodies – there’s a new joint opening Monday in Calabasas that you’re going to want to visit. You may not want to leave.

Located on Calabasas Road across from the Leonis Adobe in “Old Town” Calabasas, Pedalers Fork is a coffee shop, bike shop, farm-to-table restaurant, and bar, with a patio next to a creek (did you even know there is a creek there?) and an epic bike rack in the back. It’s the brain child of Robbie Schaeffer, who is an avid cyclist and wanted a place where he could meet his cycling pals early in the morning for a cuppa joe, then hang out after their ride for a delicious meal and/or beer, likely both. He teamed up with restaurateur Tim Rettele, who happened to be visiting Calabasas in search of an appropriate place to lay his beloved family dog to rest (did you know there is a pet cemetery there?!) and spotted the vacant building, and the rest is history.

Last week I attended a media preview dinner at Pedalers Fork. I actually walked around gasping in delight because the place is breathtaking. It’s airy, aesthetically pleasing, filled with eye-catching details and reclaimed materials. The creekside location and the patio made me instantly envision a future meetup.

It was a glorious, sunlit evening, and the cocktails, designed by noted LA-area mixologist Aidan Demarest, were flowing nicely. Based on my personal preferences, he selected for me the Cabacito – basically a margarita made with fresh grapefruit, which was delicious.

IMG_8216Menu choices for the evening included a baby kale Caesar salad with almond tofu Caesar dressing (delicious and incredibly garlicky), picturesque steamed mussels, braised beef with roasted Asian pear, and apple berry cobbler with almond milk sorbet. PF’s sommelier poured wines with our meal, and there was a pinot noir in there whose name I cannot recall but whose taste I will remember forever.

Knowing that everything on our plates was locally grown or sourced and obtained by special Pedalers Fork food procurement vans so that it could be as freshly served as possibly made the meal extra delicious, at least to me. We capped off the evening with coffee drinks from the coffee shop, and a pound of Kickstand Blend Ten Speed Coffee was in our gift bags, and is now on my kitchen counter waiting to start off my morning tomorrow.

I say it all the time, but it bears repeating: we live in a beautiful area. I’m delighted by Pedalers Fork opening a business here that blends in, takes advantage of local services, respects the town and the natural beauty surrounding it, and provides a gathering place for locals and a destination for visitors. I can’t wait to go back.

Pedalers Fork
23504 Calabasas Rd
Calabasas, California 91302
(818) 225-8231

More photos from the press dinner:

Easter Traditions, Our Way

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Our family has forged ahead through the years with our own special take on holiday traditions – some that we invented, some that we carry forward from our childhoods. Here’s how Easter works at our house.

Friday

Mom hauls out the box of Easter gear from the garage and hopes there’s enough stuff to last another year. Then she heads to Cost Plus and CVS to get treats and candy to fill the plastic eggs and the Easter baskets.

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Saturday

This year we added the EGGstravaganza Egg Hunt festival at Grape Arbor Park in Calabasas. (Did you know that the neighborhood north of the Lost Hills exit is Calabasas?  Huh. I thought it was Agoura. Color me updated.)

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This is no simple egg hunt, dear friends. It is a full on holiday fair, with snow cones, games, prizes, a petting zoo, and photo ops with the Easter Bunny. The egg “hunt” was done in timed sections: little kids started earlier, then each higher age group got subsequent times. It wasn’t exactly a hunt, though, because the plastic eggs were just dumped out on the baseball field. Once the announcer called “Go!” it was basically a crowd of kids bulldozing their way from one end of the field toward the other. Then each kid had to trade his eggs in for a box of goodies. It was well handled and not too crowded, and we attended with another family who conveniently live in that neighborhood and let us park in their driveway.

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Later in the day we did our traditional egg dyeing activity, with the old school PAAS kit, vinegar, and plastic cups. My mother used her old chipped mugs, so this isn’t exactly spot on, but look how pretty.

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Sunday

This is when we get up early to sneak downstairs and hide eggs in the backyard before the kids wake up. Well, our older son has a cold so he was up coughing like crazy at 5AM. We got him settled back down and guess who didn’t want to go back to sleep for an hour? Mom and Dad. So we poked around in the darkness hiding all the eggs, then drank coffee and rested on the couch. The boys didn’t get up until 7:30! Usually there is a big fight between them about who got more eggs, but this year they helped each other. It was cute.

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When they came inside they found their Easter baskets – plain baskets with a bit of Easter grass, a plush toy that comes back every year (one kid gets a bunny, one gets a lamb) a chocolate animal, a toy, and some assorted other candies. Not a big deal. No Easter presents. We keep it real here. It’s not Christmas.

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After breakfast we headed to church at St. Jude’s, where there is major overflow on Christmas and Easter, so we had to attend the overflow mass in the hall. Both kids acted like they were about to fall asleep, so we actually made one of them go back to bed when we got home! Which was good, because for me, the rest of the day was all about gumbo.

Grandma Bettie’s Holiday Gumbo

Many years ago before we had kids, we realized that Easter was the only holiday for which nobody in town invited us to a celebration. Since we don’t have other family here, we enjoy visiting friends for Thanksgiving, 4th of July, etc., but come Easter, we were just home alone. Since I had always wanted to try making my husband’s mother’s gumbo, I tackled that project on an Easter Sunday, and thus a new tradition was born.

I’ll admit that the first few years did not yield the most delicious gumbo. The basis of most Cajun stewed meals is a roux – a mixture of oil and flour with bell pepper, celery, and onion. It has to be cooked just right or the rest of the dish will be terrible. And it has to be cooked in a cast iron skilled. Don’t ask – it just has to.

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It has taken years but I must say, this year I nailed it. Got the roux just right on the first try, and the yummy smell of the gumbo – which eventually had chicken, smoked sausage, and shrimp added to it – filled the house for hours. Bonus – the kids actually ate some of the meat!

The Week After Easter

Oh who am I kidding? Mom eats most of the leftover candy, and that stuff is gone by Tuesday.

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What are some Easter traditions that you carry forward from your childhood? What are some that you invented for your kids?