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24 February 2015

Defunct Blog

Because of the obtuse way that Google handles accounts which made it impossible for me to re-register the domain name, which is now priced out of my price range (for an operation that makes me no money), this blog is largely defunct.  

I'll spare you the gory details, but I needed a user name and a password to get a  user name and a password and lacking those, I was not allowed to renew the domain name.  There is no phone to call or email address to seek redress from Google.  Once in that trap, I was stuck

Please hop on over to and find the same wonderful content with updated posts.  At this stage of the game, I don't see much of a reason to keep up with this one.


28 August 2013

Help create a GMO-Free Zone in L.A.

The campaign to create a GMO-Free Zone in Los Angeles is on!

Here's how you can help:

1. Circulate petitions.  The letter is directed to members of Los Angeles City Council.  Sign it, and ask your friends and neighbors to sign.  Full voters-registration contact information is necessary to make the signatures count.  We are especially seeking signatures from areas of the City of Los Angeles that are not in West LA.

2. Volunteer.  SeedFreedomLA is coordinating people to go to farmers markets and community gardens in specific areas of the city, to collect signatures on the petition.  If you can help do this, please contact us.

3. Return the petitions.  Petitions are being collected by one of our coalition members, the Environmental Change-Makers.  All signatures need to be turned in by October 15, 2013 in order to count for the current effort.  You can mail or deliver the original copies (with original signatures) to:
Environmental Change-Makers, 6700 West 83rd, Los Angeles, CA 90045.


23 April 2013

The Seed Library Of Los Angeles and A Local Seedshed

The idea of a 'seedshed' first came to my attention via Cris Franco, founder of the Rio Salado Seedshed Library in Phoenix. It was easy to grasp the significance of a 'seedshed' and quickly see that SLOLA's seed library model was in direct contrast to a seedshed.
Cris Franco at her seed library -
Rio Salado Seed Shed Seed Library in Pheonix, AZ
The term 'seedshed' takes it's cue from a 'watershed.' You also see the concept showing up these days in the term, 'foodshed.' They all come from the concept of trying to define what is local and what's not. A watershed denotes a commonality in water resources. Water draining the same direction, along a given slope, is a watershed. There is commonality therefore a case can be made that water conditions within a watershed are similar and consequently 'local.' Seeds grown in common weather, rainfall and soil would comprise a given seedshed and therefore be local to one another.

In contrast, the Seed Library Of Los Angeles embraces the entire greater Los Angeles area and a quick glimpse at the Sunset Western Garden Guide's Zone map shows we cover several seedsheds with some fairly different seedsheds included. Never mind that they are only a few miles apart, conditions from one to the other can be different enough to not allow for local adaptability which is a hallmark of being a seed saving gardener.

I'm sure Sunset would have a cow if I reprinted the LA map here, but the book is ubiquitous enough you can find it at a library or pick up a copy locally or on Amazon. Their website has this representation, although before you go there, please be advised the pop-up ads are more than just annoying.  Even though Sunset is primarily concerned with growing ornamentals, the book is a valuable resource for all west coast gardeners if only for the information it gives on the 24 zones delineated along the west coast.

Los Angeles, running between Zones 18 to 24, with each zone constituting what Cris would consider it's own seedshed. Zones 18 and 19 are interior climates, having less ocean influence, while Zones 20 and 21 are influenced by the ocean as well as the interior climate. Zone 22 is the cold winter portion of our area, while zone 23 is the thermal belt of the coast. Then there is Zone 24, in which the actual library itself is located, which Sunset defines as almost completely dominated by the ocean.

Each one of these zones, then, is its own seedshed and should save seeds for itself; in fact, there are probably different seedsheds within some of the larger areas of the zones. Zone 24 extends along the coast North past Santa Barbara and south beyond San Diego. While there is a lot of commonality between Santa Barbara and San Diego, I don't know if we can put them in the same seedshed. Zone 23 around Whittier might have a lot in common with Zone 23 at the Pacific Palisades, but I can handily see they might comprise different seedsheds.

I see a lot of diversity in these areas and a lot of compromising of seedsheds. But SLOLA has an answer and already we are moving to implement a system of 'branch libraries' under the SLOLA umbrella. The San Fernando Valley Branch of SLOLA will open this Friday (on International Seed Day, by the way) and will begin to steward seeds that will be most at home in their 18, 19 and 21 zones. Their initial inventory will be the same as the original library, but over time will diverge and each library's inventory will take on different characteristics, adapting to the different climate and soils. The two will not be totally dissimilar, but will diverge somewhat over time. Seeds, left to their own devices, will always be local to the place they are grown over time. This is one of the ways that open pollinated seeds and not nationally produced hybrids adapt and are therefore better for the grower. Remember, seeds are local and many of the open pollinated heirloom seeds are local to the east coast or the mid-western states and therefore are often a disappointment to Los Angeles gardeners. If we want a local tomato, it will be up to us to grow it!

The two inventories provide a duplication we have always wanted. It has never been our intent to store all our seeds at one location – any disaster could wipe out our entire stock of seed, setting SLOLA back years. So having two inventories near each other is a valuable asset. Of course, we hope to do more – Long Beach and Eagle Rock have both expressed interest in having a branch and we hope to accomplish that this year or next.

On International Seed Day, residents of the Valley can gather to inaugurate their own library. The first meeting of the San Fernando Valley branch of the Seed Library Of Los Angeles will take place on Friday, April 26th, at 1 pm at the Sepulveda Garden Center, 16633 Magnolia Blvd, Encino, CA 91436.

No need to RSVP. Just come on out and take home a seed to steward into a truly local seed to feed your family and the families of those warmer Sunset Zones!


20 December 2012


A Monarch butterfly larva feeds on a plant with adult lady bugs
in the background.
I can't believe I've been tapped to speak about insect control at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market on December 30th

 I often get calls about which insecticide should be used on which insect and I always wonder about the folks who ask me these questions because they obviously don't know me that well; if they did they would also know I haven't used an insecticide in over eight years! 

 I am convinced we have to spray insecticides, because we have sprayed insecticides to begin with. Mind you, when I became the Gardenmaster at the Learning Garden, I did not embrace the restriction of no insecticides, and tried to skirt the rules, but as the garden thrived without insecticidal use, I began to have courage no insecticide use was possible. It's now my personal rule:  no pesticides.

When we spray, even with the most benign insecticides, we probably kill more 'good insects' than bad. With aphids on your plants, all other things being equal, a lady bug or another beneficial species has probably already laid eggs near-by so the larvae, when they hatch out, can feed on those 'bad bugs.' Spraying probably kills the good guys faster than the bad. 

 If you are using 'organic' insecticides, you are using the WORST insecticides because they are non-specific insecticides – meaning they kill whatever they touch. They are 'better insecticides' only in that they don't persist in the garden, but make no mistake, they are lethal to insects of all kinds as long as they are wet. (Point of fact, California law regulates when you can spray insecticides to early morning and early evening. If you ignore my pleas and spray anyway, please ONLY spray in the evening when honey bees have returned to their hives so you at least will not kill them! We already have a crises in honey bee populations, please do not make it worse.)

Something I didn't realize until recently became the coup de grâce in my anti-insecticide stance: all these poisons go into the ground – when you spray, you spray to cover the plant and the stuff you spray goes 'drip-drip-drip' into the soil. What does it do to the critters in the soil? I don’t know but I'll bet you a cup of coffee it isn't pretty. I'm striving to have a LOT of critters in my soil because that is the way to real fertility (we do not use any fertilizers in our garden either). It is my bet that if pesticides don't actually kill of the beneficial soil organisms, they at the very least impact them in a negative manner and diminish their productivity.

 Lately I've come to see that mostly insects only attack weak plants – the exception to this is that insects will also attack seedlings even if they are grown optimally. To deal with that, I use a barrier between the harmful insects and the plants until the plants are big enough to fend for themselves

There are those plants the insects 'get' and there seems to be no way to save them. I have come to feel that this is natures way of removing a given plant's genetic make up from the pool – for some reason this plant was not thriving and nature has decided, in her inscrutable manner, to remove this plant before it can replicate. So be it! I can yank it and afford more room for a plant that doesn't need to be sprayed.

Remember, pristine produce, like what you see on the shelf of the supermarket, is an artificial creature placed before you in the interest of divorcing you from reality. Real food often has evidence that it is good to eat; it's approved by other species. This stuff we have come to think of as 'normal' comes to our table with a tremendous price tag on the environment and the other critters on this planet.

So when you use pesticides – especially organic pesticides – you are left with dead soil critters that make your soil more fertile and you've killed off the beneficial insects.  At the Learning Garden, our plants may have hole or two, or show other evidence of being nibbled. It's good. It shows we are organic and it proves we are committed to a world without gratuitous violence to other species. In ten years, I have lost two crops to insects. One was my own fault for trying to get muskmelons to grow in an area with too much shade. They succumbed in short order. The next time I lost a crop, it was a lot harder to take: flat after flat of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale, something like 8 or 9 flats in all, were mowed down just after coming out of the ground by the cabbage looper. This is the white moth you see aimlessly flying thither and yon on a lazy, uninspired flight. Often considered a white 'butterfly,' this creature lays eggs near a cabbage family seedling and the hatchling 'worm' proceeds to defoliate the little seedlings  to the point they cannot survive (mind you once the plants are larger, these larvae can munch all they want and it will not kill the plant so I have no concern by then).

If there is only a small infestation, comb the plans for this larval, little green worm which you have my permission to squash in your fingers or fling to the ground to be stepped on. In this, you're are only killing the target insect. Mind you, I'm not in favor of letting all bugs live! It's just we kill far too many of the wrong species.

While at the same time, a few feet away, an adult Monarch rests on
a California Matiliha Poppy
To bear me out, the one acre garden at Venice High School, The Learning Garden, doesn't lose a lot of plants to pests – yet we do not spray ANY pesticides, organic or otherwise. On the other hand, bees, wasps, butterflies and a hosts of other critters live in our garden and make their home here. This is as it should be, no? Spraying for aphids would impact our butterfly populations and frankly, I am so buoyed by the multitude of Monarchs gracefully fluttering through our garden that I would give up considerably more than a few poisons to keep them here.

So don't ask me what I would spray on your insects. I wouldn't spray a thing.  


24 November 2012

A Chance to Derail GMO Corn In Mexico!

(Reuters) - A top Mexican government official said Thursday that the long-awaited but highly controversial approval of genetically modified (GM) corn fields on a commercial scale will drag into next year.
Only one ear of corn showing considerable diversity!

El Presidente Felipe Calderon was scheduled to approve a commercial scale planting of Genetically Engineered corn in Mexico, but now it appears he will leave office without giving the project his blessing. Incoming President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, will be inaugurated on December 1st and his aides have indicated the approval is not expected for up to five months after that date.

This presents us, the anti-GMO forces, with a small slice of time to derail this approval. Mind you, I don't know if anything of the kind is in the realm of possibility, but I do know this has got to be our goal. This task, whether or not it is possible, has got to be the focus of everyone who harbors doubts about the veracity of human meddling in the DNA of our food. Mexico is home to the birth of corn, which means it is also home to a diversity of corn that is not possible to fathom; we do not know what there is to loose.

The government of Mexico is undoubtedly being offered economic bonuses to make this happen. But they should be wary: It is the Devil's bargain. For a few pesos, the amount of money is not relevant, Nieto can sell the pride of his county into a new, and more deadly, colonialism that will bankrupt the economy and throw the pride and dignity of Mexico onto a dung heap from which it may take another hundreds of years from which to recover.

Look at the business plan of genetically modified food production. You buy the seeds (or, as a drug dealer might suggest, “the first one is free...”) and plant them. You have to also buy the inputs necessary to make that crop produce. Look who sells the inputs! Whether the farmer gets a crop or not, he (or she) must invest in new seed next year and all the attending inputs. Mexico is betting these seeds, with all the fertilizers and pesticides, will produce enough food to make the bargain profitable. It doesn't.

A fifteen year study done by the US Department of Agriculture, itself practically a branch office for Monsanto, showed that genetically engineered corn did NOT out-produce the GM corn to any real degree. So, all of those inputs and their expense, were for naught. And this is the scenario President-elect Nieto considers throwing his county's farmers into. We also know the number of Indian farmers that have committed suicide after making this Devil's deal with GM cotton. The first bad harvest, the wife takes off her jewelry to sell for fertilizers and pesticides. The second year, with no jewelry left, the families go into debt and it's a debt many cannot recover from. Is this not just a chemical process of subjugation that imitates the slavery of colonialism?

But the stakes are so much higher than that. If countries were assigned wealth according to their genetic resources, Mexico would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Corn, one of the most important food crops of our world, has it's origin in Mexico. Nikolai Vavilov identified Mexico as one of the most important centers of origin of food because of the tremendous diversity of corn. This diversity is threatened by the introduction of genetically engineered corn.

When Monsanto was asking for FDA approval for their unproven product, the genetically altered corn, they stated in their application that corn pollen was viable for five miles. This figure is important because it lets one know how far away from the genetically engineered product a farmer must be if that farmer wishes to have none of the altered genes in his corn.

The figure, like so much of what Monsanto claims, was a lie. Research since then has demonstrated that corn pollen can be viable up to twenty miles from the source, or, four times as far as Monsanto had reported. Mind you, this figure represents ideal conditions, but until we can predict conditions in the future with pinpoint accuracy, this is the figure we have to have and use.

With the diversity of corn throughout Mexico, we cannot allow genetically modified pollen to spread through those fields! The DNA of every cell of the Monsanto (and allied corporations) corn plant, is modified, or engineered and therefore the pollen's DNA is also altered and whatever qualities has been engineered into the altered corn, will become manifest in the corn of Mexico. Imagine the so-called terminator gene being let loose in Mexico! Thousands of years of corn breeding could be terminated if that pollen was let loose.

It would be far worse than all the Spanish conquistadoras combined.

It would be a scar on Mexico's soul that nothing could ever heal.

It would be the Rape Of Mexico.

We cannot sit idly by and allow this to happen.


20 November 2012

Honest Food

Ms. Honeybee pollinating a broccoli plant.
We need MORE nature, not less, in
our gardens and our farms!

Over the past decade, I've taken to calling organic and non-GMO food, 'clean food.' I've used 'clean' as my adjective of choice for seeds, plants, varieties and food, using it to mean this food that is not the product of industrial agriculture and the multi-national corporations that support chemicals and laboratory experiments on the DNA of plants destined to become food.

Having lost a fight to industrial agriculture with Proposition 37 going down to a narrow defeat, and having seen BIG AG at work, I am now calling organic and non-GMO food, 'honest' in addition to clean.

I've not been a part of a proposition campaign before, but I do keep up on politics. I can say without reservation, I was totally blown away by the amount of lying and the dirty tricks played by the 'No' campaign! It was disgusting and the lack of enforcement against them was appalling. The final straw for me was the other day hearing a 'No' operative explain on NPR that 'people just used their good sense to defeat a poorly written law...' I could have driven off the road in disgust, because, of course, that is the truth stood firmly on its head.

There was not one whit of truth in anything they said in their $43 million campaign – and the remarkable thing, in the end, was that they lied so much and it was still so close! I do not have to reiterate each one of their lies, that has been done amply elsewhere, but there was nothing in their entire arsenal that was honest: from the Stanford professor (he wasn't) to the study that said it would increase our food bill (they paid for the study to be done to show that and the history of other countries requiring labeling disproved that by historical fact vs the so-called study's 'findings'); nothing they said was true. Which brings us to wonder why they didn't lie to us about how wonderful GMO crops are? You will note, they did not say a single word about why we even needed GMOs.... like that was a foregone conclusion.

Now, after absorbing the sting of defeat (I do not like to loose!), I have been reflecting on the history of GMOs in the US food supply and, guess what? I can't find an honest representation in anything Big Ag says and wants us to believe as far as GMO's are concerned. Nothing they are doing can be backed up by science or common sense.

  • Feed the world.... Not by lowering the number of species we depend on for food! That is the way of starvation!
  • Help farmers.... Not by lowering the number of varieties available to plant. This is another starvation trap waiting to be sprung on us... This is run up to the Irish Potato Famine game being played out in America today.
  • Feed the world, Part II... Not by ridding the world of its seed heritage and attempting to replace it with patented seeds owned by multi-national corporations that don't have allegiance to even one country; only to profit.
  • Help farmers Part II.... Not by making farmers totally dependent on seeds from a company that has no skin in the game, see above.
  • Save the ecosphere... Not by polluting the ecosphere with all kinds of poisons! What does all this herbicide do to the critters in the soil (which are the real source of fertility, not chemicals)? No one knows because no one's bothered to study it.
  • Save the ecosphere Part II... Not by killing off so many insects that pollination is imperiled by a lack of insects.
  • Feed the world Part III... The world already produces enough food for 12 billion humans, with only 7 billion on the planet. Most of the starvation in the world comes from a lack of political will to change it.
  • Our products are harmless.... Are they? We don't know that. Only now are tests being performed that will determine the veracity of this statement. And when the tests are performed, they will face scrutiny from professional scientists that are getting Big Ag grant money. Like the NPR program I heard recently about the French researcher whose work showed 80% death rate of rats fed GMOs after two years. They cut over to an American researcher who stated the study was 'flawed science' because the Frenchman used a rat that was susceptible to tumors and cancer. If the story had ended there, all listening would have come away thinking 'silly Frenchman...' but NPR went back to the French scientist and asked him, “Why those rats?” He said, “I was replicating the Monsanto study used to get FDA approval. I used the same rats they used, but I ran my study two years while Monsanto's study ran 60 days.” (Emphasis mine)  Remember, Monsanto called Agent Orange safe too.
  • They increase yields.... Ah. Except, even the US Department of Agriculture, which is practically just a different address for Monsanto, did a 15 year study that stated, “there is no appreciable increase in yield” over the length of the study. In other words, all this hype about GMO plants is all for naught.
  • No till agriculture is good for the environment.... Not if you count a loss of top soil as bad for the environment! Current agriculture practices of spraying the sweet bejesus out of the soil has not produced a viable method of controlling weeds and retaining top soil.
  • We will control the weeds without labor costs.... Not for very long you won't. And this is one of the things that really toasts my bagel: No one in agriculture, big or little, chemical or organic should have believed this one at all. If you spray One Thing for a bug, in a few years, the bug becomes resistant to your One Thing, I don't care what it is. It was a matter of time before the weeds would be impervious to Round Up. I am shocked that Round Up Version 8 wasn't waiting in the wings. Apparently, it wasn't, which makes me think that Monsanto really didn't have a clue about what they were doing. Nature evolves. Maybe they were believing the anti-Darwin factions in the mid-west. But even if you believe in Creationism for the past, you have to admit that evolution is alive and well in the garden and the farm. Nature abhors monoculture and repetitiveness. Do the same thing long enough and nature finds a way to disrupt it. American agriculture is on the verge of a horrendous collapse because of it's disregard for the laws of Nature. You can lie to us, but you can't lie to Nature.

Companies pushing GMO agriculture have nothing to show for an almost 20 year run at this. They have no outside documentation to prove ANY of their claims. None. To the contrary, multiple sources are beginning to take issue with almost everything said about GMOs.

Here's the problem: if GMOs are allowed to proliferate, their pollen spreads to non-GMO plants, inserting itself into the environment in ways that are not understood (because no one bothered to research them) and may wreck considerable havoc with our world in the future. They may not, but from the track record of Monsanto and Big Ag, I am not reassured.

Honest food, our real food, can be corrupted. We, as consumers, as eaters, as bearers of children and as custodians of the earth and the future (comes with the territory, you don't get to opt in or opt out), have got to stand up for good, clean and honest food. Our next fight with Big Ag looms and we know now that they will lie to anyone and everyone from the start to the end.

Our next round is to get Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County declared GMO free zones: no GMO organisms can be grown in the county or the city. This will help us ensure that the plants grown here are not contaminated with the genetically altered genes and will allow us to save seeds from the past that are the key to survival in the future. They are not GMO, they are not controlled by some malevolent corporation, nor can they be.  And it will send a message to those companies that they have just begun to dig into their profits to defend against an informed populace that is mad as hell and getting madder.

More on that ahead.

I wish you and yours a joyous and resplendent Thanksgiving and hope you will enjoy the whole day with loved ones and not be seduced into the madness of Black Friday or even Gray Thursday. The tradition of Thanksgiving is to look at what we have with gratitude and humility that we should be so blessed. I wish you the peace of that gratitude and humility.


02 October 2012

Ah, October: What To Do In YOUR Garden!

NEXT CLASS: OCTOBER 6, 10:00 AM at the Learning Garden! 

David King, Gardenmaster of The Learning Garden, teaches Growing Food in Southern California the first Saturday of every month, except on those days that fall on a holiday.  Having over 40 years of growing food organically under his belt, metaphorically speaking you understand, his lectures are full of information you would have to read book after book to learn and tidbits and hints that aren't in ANY book!  

The classes used to be called "What To Do And When To Do It,"  but are now titled the same as the soon-to-be-released book:  "Growing Food In Southern California."  Every month the basics are covered and the month ahead is considered for the actions you need to take to keep your gardens producing the food your mouth is watering for.  If you have any questions about the class, you can post a reply here and you'll get a prompt response.

Growing Food in Southern California 
  with David King

Ollas from El Traspatio
Sample curriculum from July, 2012:

The newest technology is drip irrigation; the oldest is called an 'olla' – pronounces OYE-ya.  
Variations of ollas are found in many ancient cultures and there is a move to put them back into gardens today.
It is most important to have water at the roots of plants – spraying water into the air to fall on the soil, is not very efficient. A lot of that water can be blown away from your plants (on to the neighbors!) and a lot evaporates off into the air. But there are other ways to to water that are better. All these other ways involve putting the water close to the root zone. The two ways to do this include some of the newest technology and some of the oldest technology. 

1st Saturday of Every Month, 10AM - 12PM
The Learning Garden at Venice High
Venice Blvd and Walgrove Ave, Venice, CA 90291

Grow Food classes are hands-on mini-workshops where you experience first-hand what the plants and soil are doing, and what you can do to maximize their production in the coming month.  

Emphasis on sustainable, organic practices, including: water conservation, beneficial pest management, soil maintenance, seed saving, and more.

Individual classes are $20, or buy a package of 6 for $100; save $20!
Classes are held at The Learning Garden, a bustling, year-round educational center located on the campus of historic Venice High School, less than 2 miles from the beach. 

David King, Gardenmaster at The Learning Garden, has been growing food and teaching others how to do so in the Southern California climate for more than 20 years. He is a vocal advocate for food sustainable, organic practices in food production.

One Class or a Series

The Calendar of Events At The Learning Garden