Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lightning triathletic Garden Jazz

There's thunder and lighting outside, so hopefully I can compose and complete before the power goes out.

The Triathletes!
Sunday at 7am, I cycled on down to Cabrillo boulevard to catch the second half of the sprint triathalon for two reasons: Roy Hunter and Danny Briere. A third reason occured to me as I cycled along the empty streets of Santa Barbara and onto the bike path to witness the glorious hues of a Santa Barbara Sunday. The Arlington West volunteers were setting up the white crosses that represent the fallen American soldiers of the Iraq War. There was beauty within this sadness as well. Soon, I could not cycle on the bike path because it was filled with numbered men and women, huffing their way to the finish line. I steered my bike to the worn strip of yellow grass where those with an affinity for non paved surfaces walk between the palm trees. From there, I saw the man, Roy Hunter, jogging on the path in a meditative state.

I broke his reveree by calling out "whoo hoo Roy! Go Hunter!" I beat him on my bike to the finish line (he was headed out, not in) and there I also saw Danny Briere cross the finish line and after catching his breath, was embraced by his family. I gave both athletes a bouquet from my garden. I couldn't picture either of these men accepting flowers, so instead, I made two bouquets of chard from the garden. Roy got my humor. Danny was gracious, as you are with street people ranting to themselves as they look at you sideways. But isn't fresh chard what every man wants?

Jazz Greats
Monday night, we dropped baby E off with friends and headed to the Lobero to see the great Dave Brubeck quartet. Dave Brubeck made me laugh, cry and gaze on with wonder. Approaching his mid 80s, Brubeck is witty, his fingers still dance, and he knows how to work an audience. His sax player was so incredible that I actually took my sax to work today to play on my lunch break. We had the honor of going back stage where I met both of these inspirational men. Dave Brubeck is a walking aura of light and happiness. what an evening!

The Garden
Please see the picture posted!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Slow Food Revolution, Mystery Creatures and Food Sheds

On Thursday, I made it down to the public library to watch a film about the Slow Food Revolution. It sounds funny, but this revolution is one revolution in which I want to partake. The movement originated in Italy, after McD's started the process of opening a franchise in the historic Spanish Steps district in rome.

I have a very fond memory of the Spanish Steps. In 1998, I spent three weeks in Italy, and on my last night there, I perused the Spanish Steps area, looking in beautiful boutiques, surrounded by well dressed ladies and gentlemen. I wore a fashionably (at the time) short skirt and a pretty summer blouse. I was slightly tan from three weeks of July sun, and I had a sense of cultural understanding, in the 'just an inkling' of the tip of the iceberg sort of way of the beautiful Italian culture. An impeccably dressed older gentleman approached me. He had shopping bags in his arms baring names of stores I hadn't dared to enter due to the "you'll never make enough money in your life to purchase even one of our shoes" ambiance. He stopped me and asked me in Italian for directions. I smiled for just a heartbeat, aware of the bittersweet of life. This exquisite gentlemen had mistaken me, an American on her first trip abroad, for an Italian. I knew that once I opened my lips, it would be all over. And, as I stumbled in Italian to say I do not speak Italian, the gentle smile fluctuated on his face for just a moment as he excused himself and went on his way. I think this last passage could serve Wikipedia as an example of "I digress."

But anyway, I bet he too, would not want a McDonald's in the treasured Spanish Steps area. So these Italians decided that if there was a fast food philosophy, then there should be a slow food philosophy to counteract it. What started out as a joke has turned into an international movement! I recommend the Slow Food Revolution film for inspiration. It shows the spirit of integrity, international community and an appreciation of the good things in life, like food, Itallian men who can turn the most simple topics into an analogy of lovemaking, and time to dilly dally, digress and be.

After the movie, representatives from the four groups who sponsored the film got up and spoke. One was from the Food Shed, a program that encourages neighborhoods to get together and share the fruits and vegetables of their labors with one another in a simple trade system.

I attended a food shed earlier today and dropped off chard, mint and basil from my garden. In return, I met a kind, earth minded group of individuals who spoke of Permaculture, communal living in Isla Vista, conditions that pear trees need to grow, etc. My triple green contribution was exchanged for an orange, a grapefruit, three pears, and two heirloom tomatoes. Queen Whackamole showed up on her electric bike and I was the happy recipient of two home baked loaves of bread, made by the Queen in her solar oven. I'd say that was enough to make my day adventurous and prosperous!

And what does all this have to do with a mystery creature? As my family dined outside at dusk, a hummingbird on qualudes hovered into the garden to visit the tomato plants. Yet it moved more slowly than any hummingbird I've seen, but still had the ability to hover in place. Then, it moved about in a drug induced bat like pattern. It looked furry, black and white, had a beak like a hummingbird and had beady, glowing eyes. We'd ruled out bat and hummingbird. We watched in utter fascination, wondering if a Malaysian insect had made its way to Southern California in a petroleum gobbling fruit shipment.

After dinner was eaten joyfully beneath an almost full moon, the baby put to bed and the husband off to his computer, I went online to see what I could find. And, it appears, we have seen a Hummingbird Moth!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Apartment with a Garden & How do beets grow?

I've dabbled in herb boxes outside of my window, but interest in and space for a garden have never coincided until now. Our west side apartment has a backyard that consists of a concrete slab, a view of the neighbors moss covered trailor over a dilapidated metal fence, a hearty lemon tree out the kitchen window and an L of hard earth covered in weeds and yellow grass. There's not much we can do about the view, but since we moved in this past April, we've converted the L shaped patch of dirt from ghetto yard into an experimental garden.

It took months, because as we've learned, any well intended extracurricular activities take a few extra months when you have a baby. After spending about 30 minutes with a book from the library on Organic Gardening, and about the same amount of time perusing online gardening sites, conferring with the neighbors about their not so civil wars with the gophers in the hood, we decided to dig a hole the size of a shallow swimming pool in which to lay wire mesh, aka chicken wire, to protect the precious starter plants (too late in the season for seeds) we'd purchased at Terra Sol nursery in Goleta. The pool garden project took a month in and of itself. Lots of measuring, several trips to the Home Improvement Center, and lots of digging. Beneath that patch of dry we discovered Native American fossils. Just kidding! We did come across some bolts, pieces of broken pots (the kind you get in the nursery, not see in the museum) and a few bones (as in the kind you throw to your dog). But the most common thing in the dirt was an abundance of happy earth worms! Our ambitions were no so far afield as I'd thought!

Next, artist and ecovillage minded friend and art teacher Bill came over and helped me re-fill the swimming pool hole with the mound of dirt that had made a small mountain in our backyard. The sky was turning orange by the time we started measuring spaces for the rows and taking the 2-4 inch plants from their little containers and planting them at distances that seemed appropriate in neat little rows. We ordered a pizza as we finished up and ate beneath the stars, tired and covered in dirt as we looked out at the perfect garden.

Here are some things I've learned.

One. Read more before you plant.

Two. Pumpkin plants should have gone on the far side of the garden next to the patch of undeveloped yard (the rest of the L), as their vines have spread the entire length of my 17x10 foot garden, shading the strawberries, pushing their way through the tomato plants, burying the tomatillo and artichoke beneath their broad leaves.

Three. Water the garden in the morning. Watering at night, although it may let the water settle in, can lead to mildew on the leaves--I've had to cut back half of the pumpkin and zucchini leaves due to mold.

Four. I have no idea how beets are supposed to grow! I hear the lovely red and green leaves on top are edible, but I had NO IDEA that the beets rest above ground. In fact, did I plant them correctly? Are these beets supposed to be roots beneath the soil? I don't know!

Five. I believe the planting rules (e.g. months to start, etc) have a bit more flexibility in Southern California than say, Appalachia.

Six. Mint is a veritable water hog and the rabbit of herbs! It has taken OVER the half barrel where I planted several other herbs, now completley hidden by the mint. Mojitos, anyone?

That's it! Pictures coming soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Noelle goes independent

On August 2nd, I wrote a little diddy about independence. Or, rather, I wrote a food article on Barcliff & Bair for the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the published story, go to

Thanks to George, who provided the opportunity to submit a piece, and to Shelley Shoemaker for agreeing to share her story. In other news, I learned an important lesson--email has serious limitations as a method of communicating sensitive information. Face to face communication is the way to go. I already knew this, but sometimes it takes a little 80s style head banging to let the lesson sink into every pore.

In other news, Jonathan & Delilah have a due date of September 12th, and BOY (or Girl?) is that just around the corner! So, be expecting cute baby pics of someone besides baby Ezra to be appearing on this blog.

On September 6th, Sarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big House" will be speaking at the Marjorie Luke Theatre in Santa Barbara at 7pm. Cohort Michelle says she's an excellent speaker, and since I won't be able to attend the upcoming green conference in SF (, now's the time to see her in person, right here in our backyard.

Speaking of the backyard, the garden has a serious sun addiction, and we have a real live vegetables at our fingertips!

That's about it for this update.