In My Garden: Artichokes!

In 2014, I had some extra space in my garden along the fence so I decided to try planting artichokes.  Artichokes are a perennial, like asparagus, that come up year after year once planted. Each year they sprout additional plants that can be transplanted to add to your collection, so don't buy too many to start with because over time you will have a good-sized crop. Also, the more heads you cut, the more heads the plants will produce, so don't be afraid to harvest your artichokes. Unfortunately this is not a drought-tolerant plant, you will need to water them at least once a week on the coast and probably more if you live inland where it's hotter.

The first year might be lean, but after five years I have a very good yield already. The artichoke plants have multiplied and the artichokes themselves have gotten much bigger. Some of the hearts are easily three inches in diameter! We steam about eight at a time, and have artichokes and a big green salad for dinner. They are very filling. They are also a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are high in antioxidants. 

The only downside to planting artichokes is that you won't enjoy the ones from the grocery store anymore, the flavors of artichokes fresh from the garden just can't be beat. 


A Santa Barbara Kitchen, in the English style

This beautiful home in Santa Barbara along the ocean cliffs and facing the Channel Islands is an inspiration of how a remodel should be done. That is to say, take your time and do it right and get what you want. My clients owned the home for many years along with other homes and decided this is where they wanted to retire. Santa Barbara has a great climate year round and the home is on an incredible location, sitting on a gentle bluff with the Pacific ocean as their backyard. 

The house is decidedly English, filled with antiques collected over the years. So we designed the kitchen accordingly, with various elements reflecting the spectrum of their antiques. The kitchen is also designed for someone who enjoys cooking and really uses the space, as my clients do, with different pull-outs, counter space, and storage where it's needed most.

The majority of the kitchen is painted with a very durable conversion varnish that is glazed, with a clear top coat to give depth to the finish, and hand-carved elements (not applied) in solid maple. The island is made of solid curly maple with curved doors and drawers and carved feet with an aniline dye that brings out the natural beauty of the grain and a clear conversion varnish finish. The corner cabinet is solid cherry with special moulding details, carved feet and leaded glass upper panels. We also made the pantry door with leaded glass. 

All in all, this kitchen is very unique and functional. It fits the uniqueness of the home and the people who live in it. 


In My Garden: Fruit Trees

It's been unusually warm in my Southern California backyard and my fruit trees seem to thrive in the extra heat, especially my cherimoyas and tangerines. I usually hand pollinate my cherimoya trees to get a good crop of fruit because we don't have the right insects here that normally pollinate the cherimoyas in their native habitat. But this year I was too busy and only got out a couple of times and thought I would be lucky to get a dozen fruit. To date I have picked 40-50 fruit and there's probably that much still on the trees, waiting to get large enough to harvest. I have two of the best tasting cherimoya trees that I think there are, if you like really sweet fruit. Also this year my tangerine tree is producing a ridiculous amount of fruit, and all those tangerines are really sweet and juicy. Only in Southern California are we lucky to be getting incredible fruit November through February when fruit trees in other parts of the country are dormant.


Live Edge Coffee Table

I have done numerous projects for this client including built-in cabinets, mantles, coffee tables, light fixtures, children's furniture, desks, glass work, and art pieces, just to name a few. Her style is mostly a blend of traditional, contemporary, Asian, and Arts and Crafts, where the details of the wood, metal, glass and hardware blend with the fabrics, carpet, and other furniture in the home. Never too much or too little, so as to create a balance and harmony. So when she asked if I had ever done anything with live edge wood (the natural edge of the wood before it is milled into lumber) I was a little surprised, as it is not her usual design style, but I shouldn't have been. She appreciates beautiful natural materials, and live edge wood is a way of bringing a little bit of the natural world into one's home. 

I have made a number of furniture pieces using natural elements in the materials. So I was definitely up for the challenge of designing and creating a live edge coffee table that would compliment and fit with the mix of styles in her home and not stand out as an out-of-place piece of furniture. I did my usual research, looking at literally hundreds of pieces of wood to find the right size, shape, and color. I finally found a gorgeous live edge slab of Claro Walnut and my client approved it. After receiving the piece I proceeded to design and layout how I would use it. The one slab made the top and the base. When I put the finish on it, the real beauty of the wood came out. I delivered it and the table was enthusiastically received by my client. I even got several calls afterwards to let me know how well it fit into her home and how much she loved it. That's one of the best things about my work, pleasing my clients!


In My Garden: Jalapeño Peppers

Have I ever said Laura and I like it hot? Well, I'm speaking of food here! Over the years we have become accustomed to a little heat and spice in our food so I purchased jalapeño seeds from and planted three seeds in 4" x 4" pots which I kept in my greenhouse. When the plants were about 6" tall I planted them in the raised beds in the greenhouse. All three plants grew very well there and when they were about 18" tall they started flowering and producing fruit (peppers are considered a fruit even when they aren't sweet). 

When the fruit was mature Laura started picking the peppers and using them in her cooking. To our surprise some of the peppers were very hot and others had almost no heat, so we started separating them and making note of the different fruit from each plant to see if the plants were different or if some fruit on each plant was hot while others weren't, or some other reason.

What we found was one plant produces very hot peppers and the other two very mild peppers. So I removed the two mild jalapeño plants and kept the hot one and after three years it is still going strong and producing wonderful, hot and spicy jalapeño peppers. Laura uses them in everything from rice and bean dishes to pesto, soup, red sauces, enchiladas, and tofu stir-fries. You name it, she cooks with it. She even dries them in our dehydrator, since our small plant has grown into a small tree and produces more than we can use when they are fresh. Once dried, they are ground in our coffee grinder and saved in spice jars. The morning after she makes the jalapeño powder our coffee is spicy hot from grinding the coffee beans in the same grinder. Delicious! 

Below are a few photo's of drying the jalapeños. Remember to wear gloves when handling them.