Garden Reveal!

Our backyard remodel has been a major undertaking. Way bigger than we would have anticipated. It has taken so much longer than we had planned, and there are still a lot of last details left to finish. When I made over our front yard two years ago, everything went a lot faster since I didn’t have a child to take care of, and I didn’t have my mobility and pain problems. Those two new factors have made this project infinitely slower. I know a lot of people have been curious to see a reveal, so I wanted to post pictures of the progress so far. 🙂

I hated the ugly retaining walls that go throughout our backyard, and I have been trying to convince my husband to let me paint them some bright colors ever since we moved in. Finally, I looked for some examples on Pinterest that were close enough to what I had in mind that helped me convince him that I should paint. E’s garden is so much more fun now that it is colorful. 🙂 I have a really exciting project in mind for the planter above his garden…I can’t wait to get that installed too!

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I haven’t finished painting this area, but that will come soon enough. The table was an antique store find and actually came with four different chairs, but I wanted the set because I thought the chairs would be perfect around our firepit. The table was cute too, and got paired with four chairs that were a great thrift store find at $2 each!

The pink flowers in the top planter are one of the few that I did not plant (along with the roses that they are mixed in with). They were there from a previous owner, and are amazing. They are super low-maintenance, need almost no water, and reseed themselves each year. They are called a bunch of different names, but you can find them at Home Depot under the name Red Valerian. In the bottom row, I have our dwarf almond tree and kumquat tree, which I planted when we moved in. In between those, I planted more low water plants, lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies.

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This is the pergola that my husband built at our old house! We actually had our small wedding reception under this pergola in our old backyard, so it is extra special. (We had two wedding days…the ceremony day that was moved up when we found out my grandma was dying and our originally planned date). The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced after the move, so my dad made these new ones for us! They still need to be painted but look great.

The pergola used to be our patio dining area at our old house, but now it is a play zone. 🙂 Underneath the pergola is the artificial grass my husband installed (more info on that in a later post), and a nice play area for the little guy and his friends. Things are a little more put away than usual today since we are expecting rain, but this is where his bounce house/ball pit normally sits, and his trains are put away from the train table. We actually found the train table for free on Craigslist, but it needed some legs, which was an easy fix for my husband! It is one of E’s favorite things. 🙂 I will post pictures of his bounce house/ball pit when I blog about his birthday party, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.
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This is the part of the garden where all the work really took place…I am going to post some wide angle overview pictures here and then go into more detail about all of the various projects and areas within the next few days!

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Our to-do list for this project still includes installing new raised beds for veggies, completing the irrigation system (I am hand watering for now…not too bad since most of the plants have low water requirements), installing the shade fabric system that will be drawn or retracted over the entire garden, lighting, sound system, waterfall, and adding more decomposed granite as walkway.

We originally were going to put in pavers, stepping stones, bricks or gravel, but then I realized that the decomposed granite that we put down as an underlayer is much easier for me to walk on! I like how it looks and it is super cheap (you can often even find it for free!), and we just need a bit more to thicken it up.

Lots more details coming in the next few days!

Los Angeles Residents – Adopt a Fruit Tree for Free!

We were at The Home Depot yesterday getting some supplies for our backyard project, and I noticed this flyer for free fruit tree adoption days! It is part of the city of Los Angeles’ Million Trees project, where the city has a goal of getting a million trees planted. We already have over 20 trees planted on our lot that is just under a quarter acre, so we definitely don’t have any room for more trees (and I would definitely say I feel I have done my part for planting trees!), but I wanted to share this in case anyone else would like to add some trees to their home!

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I am very proud to say that we live in a city that encourages its residents to plant trees! I would love to see friends who live outside of the city of Los Angeles write to their cities and counties, encouraging them to hold their own Million Trees projects. If you become the Lorax in your area, be sure to write to me and let me know…I’ll write about you on my blog! 🙂

Garden Updates & How We Celebrated Our Anniversary

First, I am going to start this post with a few exciting seasonal updates with our garden.

The first is…I finally pruned our grape vines! They were already existing when we bought the house, and in desperate need of pruning. I estimate that it has been at least 3-4 years since they were last pruned. When we bought the house, we were in escrow during the time they should have been pruned. I was already sneaking in earth worms and compost…pruning things before the house was officially ours might have been a bit strange. 🙂 Then last year, they got ignored again while everything was chaos with my pregnancy bed rest. I was pretty happy to finally be able to get rid of some of the excess growth. We wanted to replace the fence that they grow on, but I have a feeling that will have to wait until next year since we are in the middle of a major project in the back, and the new leaves have already started coming in.

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The first of this season’s grape leaves!
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I finally was able to prune our mature peach tree as well! Also below, all of our citrus has been sprouting blossoms like crazy ever since I fed them with a bunch of my homemade compost. 🙂
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This is one that I am very excited about…we are going to be getting our first home grown cherries! I planted two dwarf cherry trees, and it took a lot of research to find out which varieties of cherry trees will actually produce fruit here in Southern California. Since we don’t get very cold in the winter, most varieties of cherries won’t produce fruit here. Our neighbor paid his landscaper to plant some cherry trees in their yard a few years back, and the landscaper keeps making excuses why the trees haven’t produced any fruit. I bet our neighbor that my trees would make fruit before his ever do (since his are the wrong type for producing fruit in this climate). I’m going to be so proud when these little cherries are ready to pick. 🙂
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Since our backyard and normal vegetable area is about to undergo a huge makeover, I planted a bunch of lettuces in one of our wine barrels. Time for some salads! 🙂BY0A9753

I also planted a ton of nasturtiums in flower pots since I love the way they look and I also love using the flowers in salads. I just think it is so beautiful when new life springs up out of the dirt.
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Finally, I get to the backyard project! Recently, we debated doing an addition to our house, to enlarge the bedrooms a bit. Our bedrooms are all pretty tiny. When all of the estimates told us we would probably have to spend somewhere in the $200,000 range just to add on an additional 500 square feet of living space, we decided it was not a project we plan to pursue. Our bedrooms are small and cozy and that is fine. We recently watched Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and liked the way the genie had his bottle decorated anyway! Our bedrooms feel a bit like a genie bottle at times since they are so small, but it does not make sense to spend so much just to make them a bit bigger. It definitely would not increase the value of the house that much. Instead of adding onto the bedrooms, we decided to create our dream backyard and our ideal outdoor living space. We could have gotten a house with bigger bedrooms elsewhere, but part of why we picked this house was because the weather is nice here (5 miles from the ocean) and we have a lot of outdoor space.

Originally, we planned to start on this project sooner, but the recent rain storm here in Southern California delayed our start a bit. Our three year wedding anniversary was on Tuesday, and we decided that we wanted to celebrate our anniversary by really digging into this project, literally. 🙂 We are both really excited about what we have planned for this area. It is all going to be grass free, with drought resistant plants. There are going to be a bunch of different shaded seating areas for entertaining. To start, my husband rented a sod cutter to remove all of the old grass (it was mostly dead and weeds anyway).
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Then we went on a treasure hunt for a bunch of garden accents. There are still a bunch of things that we are looking for, but we are really excited about some of the things we have found so far!
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E likes these hand painted planters that I found. 🙂
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We are trying to get this yard finished up in time for E to have a birthday party. I apologize for those who know me…we may be a bit M.I.A. for the next few weeks while we work on all of this. I am going to be blogging our progress though as the project continues! Coming up soon, I will also be writing about my first experience with wine tasting! 🙂

Weekly Dose of Baby E

I skipped last week, so technically this is a double dose. E and I have been working hard on our garden, preparing everything for spring. He has been a good little helper (for the most part). It is really cute to see him studying everything I am doing in the garden. I even caught him a couple of times putting little bits of dirt into flower pots, just like he saw me doing. 🙂 I can’t wait until he can actually help me!

Below: he was sleeping while I worked on pruning our grape vines. When I heard him wake up via the baby monitor, I brought him outside with me. He was a little sleepy and confused but still happy.

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Below: teasing his “sister” Stella (our toy poodle), who was being camera shy that day.
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I am trying to teach him to be gentle with the plants. He was being gentle with my nasturtiums. I cannot say that he was this gentle with some of my succulents unfortunately. BY0A1608

Below: I love this little patch of wild weeds in our backyard but my husband hates them. Apparently they are getting ripped up soon and replaced with artificial grass (part of a huge backyard makeover project that we are starting this weekend…SO EXCITED!).
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Hello, Spring!

Spring seems to have arrived early at our house this year! Even though we are in Los Angeles, which allegedly has no seasons, we still get a good feel for the seasons here by watching our plants and fruit trees change throughout the year. When we first bought this house almost two years ago, it seemed like everything came out of winter hibernation around April or May.  Last year, everything started growing just when we got home from the hospital, after E was born (that was early April). We were pretty surprised to see blossoms on one of our cherry trees already in February! The weather has been so warm that I feel like all of the plants are a bit confused.

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My winter potted plants by our front door have a lot of ornamental kale, which we absolutely love. Unfortunately, it looks like they will be bolting and going to seed soon. 😦

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One of my favorite winter flowers, my pink breath of heaven bushes are in full bloom for now.BY0A1568

Below: more of my winter potted arrangements by our front door and the first blossoms ever on our baby almond tree!

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Our Summer Fruit Harvest: Not a Bumper Crop Year

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If you have been following my blog for a while, since I was just on Tumblr and before I started this WordPress blog, you may remember how we had quite a large selection of summer fruit that I was able to grow and harvest last year. I worked really hard all spring prepping our garden for the summer season, and it definitely paid off. This year, things were quite different.

Since I was laid up all spring, I was not able to put the same prep work into our garden this year. As a result, the production rate significantly declined on all of our fruit trees and vines. The photo above shows pretty much our entire summer harvest (with the exception of a few berries that I have eaten as they have gotten ripe). It is pretty disappointing.

The first problem with the garden this year started with the peaches. The local birds attacked all the peaches on the baby tree in the backyard, so we still have not had a chance to sample the peaches from that tree yet. The peaches on the mature tree in our front yard are absolutely amazing, and I was really looking forward to them. When I got really sick a little over a month ago, the peaches were just about due to start getting ripe. When we got back from the hospital, all I wanted for some reason was one of those peaches. When my husband went to get one, he noticed that they were all gone. Someone or something had taken every last peach on the tree while we were at the hospital. My money is on someone since animals know better than to take unripe fruit, and all of the peaches were definitely not ripe at the same time.

The raspberries, blackberries and apples all produced a bit of fruit, but way low quantities in comparison to last year. The good thing is there is always time to improve for next year!

Last year we had this same problem, and I totally wish I had the chance to take some preventative measures this time, but I got overwhelmed by the whole new-mom thing. Something eats almost all of our grapes. We have 5 or 6 individual grape vine plants, and the basket above was our entire harvest for the season. I’m not sure if it is the squirrel, birds or the raccoons, but someone gets them before we have a chance. I’m definitely going to try putting netting over them next year.

The most disappointing problem of all this year was with our fig tree. We have a huge, mature fig tree in our backyard. Last year I canned as much fig preserves as I could, but a lot of them definitely went to waste since canning out in the patio with the barbeque was a huge pain (our kitchen was still in the middle of being remodeled last year at this time). I was really looking forward to trying out a whole bunch of things with the figs now that we have a kitchen. Last week, I saw that the majority of the figs were ready to be picked. I put it on my to-do list for the week, and planned to get started preserving them and trying out some new recipes. The day I went out to pick them, I discovered that every last fig had been eaten by a swarm of enormous beetles. I was so disappointed, especially since I had just seen tons of them on the tree the day before. I am 100% committed to organic gardening, so I don’t want to use a pesticide next year to prevent this from happening again, but I don’t quite know what to do to prevent that from happening again. Maybe I should harvest the figs just before they are ripe? Anyone have any tips on growing figs organically?

Homemade Protein & Fiber Snack Bars Recipe with Juicing Leftovers

Homemade Protein & Fiber Snack Bars with Juicing Leftovers - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Like yesterday’s post (seen here), I wanted to find some uses for the leftover vegetable and fruit pulp when I use my juicer. This is the second recipe that I created to put that fiber goodness to use! They taste about 1000 times better than they sound and look, I promise! Even my mom who hates vegetables loves these bars. 🙂 They have a slightly sweet (but not too sweet), nutty taste. You would never even realize that they are full of fiber!

Ingredients:
3 cups of vegetable/fruit fiber pulp leftover from juicing (I use a mix of carrot, beet, apple, and ginger)
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup honey
1/4 unsalted, unsweetened almond butter
1 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pulse oats lightly in food processor 6 times. Add oats in with juicing leftovers in large mixing bowl.
3. Pulse almonds lightly in food processor, about 5 times, and add to mixing bowl.
4. Add honey, almond butter and sesame seeds to mixing bowl, and mix everything together with stand or hand mixer.
5. Once well combined, take dough out of mixing bowl and spread out on cookie sheet. I line my cookie sheet with a Silpat to prevent sticking and burning.
6. Once evenly spread across a half sheet size cookie sheet, I cut the dough into 12 bars and spread them apart slightly.
7. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through.
8. Cool on wire rack, and store in airtight container.