The Joy of Winter Gardening


A bounty of winter goodness in our backyard.


One of our favorite aspects of living in Los Angeles is our ability to garden all year round. Although the sun dips barely above the horizon and the hours of daylight shrink from October through March, there’s still enough sunlight to grow certain vegetables all the way through to spring. In fact, you don’t even need to live in the Southwestern United States if you are fairly handy and can construct a decent greenhouse. We, however, are fortunate in that we live in an area of constant sunshine and, though the more sun-needy vegetables won’t grow (well), we still manage to keep a steady supply of fresh greens in our diets during the fall and winter months. Continue reading

Why We Became Minimalists

Our minimalist bedroom.

Our minimalist bedroom.

What do we get from a minimalist philosophy? Practically nothing.

And that’s the point – to evolve from overabundance to desired scarcity. The freedom from excess and shallow desires to a lifestyle which values time over everything else. Most of all, the emergence from stress to peace.

In 2011, we were served with a foreclosure notice on our home with seemingly no way out. Years of trying to finance our mother’s care as she struggled with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, coupled with a crippling recession, had finally taken its toll on our once successful business and forced us to face the fact we could sustain running in deficit no more. A year prior to the foreclosure notice we had entered Chase Bank’s mortgage modification program only to be turned down after numerous delays, lost paperwork, pointless phone calls, and endless demands for financial data. Exhausted, we prepared to walk away from our home after 15 years and rebuild our lives from square one. I’d be disingenuous if I said we weren’t to blame for our dire circumstances; the descent into financial chaos was foreseeable and preventable and yet we deluded ourselves into thinking we’d jump the chasm of debt we created and scramble over the financial hump if we could just, if we could just, if we could just… Continue reading

Minimalism Update: Finances

Created with Nokia Smart Cam In January of this year (2014), I initiated the plan to minimalize our household. This undertaking was prompted by the hideous filth I encountered while retrieving an item under our bed and subsequently inspired by two books I’d read on recommendation from a good friend (Minimalism: Live A Meaningful Life, by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, and The Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life, by Leo Babauta). In the ten months between initiation and today, I’ve emptied our property of over half its possessions, including furniture, paperwork, clothing, technology, tools, paperwork, photographs, redundant household cleaning products, and just about any other category I can’t think of off the top of my head. The results have been, as I predicted, profound. Order has emerged from chaos, organization from anarchy, workflow from confusion, prosperity from debt, and cleanliness from filth have been only a few of the most obvious benefits. Continue reading

Minimalism Update: Bedroom Makeover and Technology Purge

Created with Nokia Smart Cam



In furthering my mission to minimalize our home, I turned my attention once again to our bedroom and decided to part with my wooden office desk, which I don’t really use much anymore due to the portability of my technology and my desire to work in a room other than our bedroom (the only room it fits into comfortably). After trying to sell it on Craigslist without much luck, I found a friend who wanted it for his new apartment, and who showed his gratitude by bringing over a first class meal to share when he picked it up. In place of the desk setup sits a comfy chair that we can snuggle on with a view of our backyard, along with a second chair (out of view) that Kealii likes to sit on after school each day to catch us up on what’s going on in his life. The final items to go will be our dresser and wooden bed frame (pictured). Created with Nokia Smart CamWe are installing shelving into our closet to hold the clothes currently in our dresser and we’ve both wanted to get rid of the bed frame for years; it’s far too bulky for the dimensions of our room and we’ve broken and/or sprained our toes smashing into it on way too many occasions. Buh-bye! Once those last pieces are gone, we will pull up the white – I use the term “white” loosely – carpet that we had installed 17 years ago and replace it with hardwood to match the rest of the house. The room will also be repainted, with the walls getting a much-needed patching from dozens of pictures being hung and moved in our decade and a half in residence. Continue reading

Resource: Growing Your Greens

John Kohler is passionate about organic gardening, and this description may be a bit lacking. In fact, John is downright obsessed with finding ways to improve his crop yields in his Las Vegas urban farm (he was actually raided by police thinking he was growing marijuana) and his zeal jumps forth from his videos with conviction normally associated with the most ardent religious preachers. That said, we find almost every topic he covers relevant, even if his videos are a bit on the lengthy side, and John will eventually win you over with his sheer earnestness and honesty. Whether you want to start your first container garden, re-mineralize your soil, eliminate pests, or learn the benefits of different types of produce and how to properly compost, this is the resource to visit. So if you have a gardening question, visit him – now!

To visit Growing Your Greens, click here.

A Midsummer Day’s Dream

raised garden bed

Alicia seeds a garden box with carrot seeds before planting other vegetables in-between the rows.

By Ian Denchasy

After a very successful spring and summer planting season, it was time to revisit the “farm” in Our Urban Farm, cleaning out our various planter boxes, moving them to maximum exposure spots throughout our property, and finally dealing with the old backyard lawn we had allowed to die off over the past few months. It was a hard weekend worth of effort, but there’s just something magical about putting in a solid few hours of manual labor that will eventually pay in vegetable currency. Continue reading

This Dream Home Only Cost Them $22,000. Just Wait Til You Go Inside…Wow!

In our quest to minimalize, we are always looking at the future of our living arrangements. As it stands (and once our son moves away to college in three years), we plan to move into our back apartment unit, renting out our main house to effectively eliminate our mortgage and give us the flexibility to travel and live a more stress-free existence. This article on Distractify has us rethinking things…

It only cost the Morrisons $22,000 to build their dream home.


Continue reading

See How One Couple Squeezes An Entire Farm Onto Their Small Los Angeles Property

By Carolyn Silveira (via Upworthy)

Erik and Kelly decided they’d rather grow their own artichokes than have to work at crummy jobs in order to buy them at the store. So naturally, they turned their urban house into a mini-farm.

I loved this home tour because it’s also a radical reminder of what “home economics” really means. Learn why they actually hate the idea of “self-sufficiency” at 2:00, hear about a time when everyone in L.A. had chickens at 6:00, and check out their exotic milk-crate toilet at 11:00.

Sadness In A Miracle

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Since my last post on our ongoing care situation with Anita Dong-Miller (my mother-in-law), a few radical changes have taken place, some good, some not so good, and even a few downright heartbreaking. To recap, we brought Anita home in November of 2013 to live out her final months in our care as she struggles with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Now well into our fifth month of providing round-the-clock diaper changing, administration of medications, feeding, bathing, and exercise, Anita’s radical mood swings finally became too much to handle, resulting in a reduction of said meds and entry into hospice care. Continue reading

How to Grow Green Beans Even If You Have A Brown Thumb (via

green beans seedling pole beans         CC BY 3.0 Richard Stephenson

Whether you call them string beans, snap beans, or haricots verts, green beans are a great addition to any backyard garden, and because they’re easy to grow and harvest, they can be a good gateway crop for beginning gardeners. Green beans come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and two distinctly different growing habits, so they can be grown to suit just about any garden space in most climates. And in addition to being a tasty garden treat, green beans can improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen with their roots. Continue reading