Designing A Garden For The Future

 We finally have begun working on the new garden 
here in Santa Barbara
Once again rocks seem to pop up out of nowhere....do big rocks make more baby rocks?...
sure looks that way 

The rocks we excavated in Ojai were granite 
and here in Santa Barbara they are sandstone 
so they are a bit lighter and easier to move....
at least I think they are but I actually haven't picked any of these big boys up!

And just as we did in Ojai all the rocks we dig up 
will be re-used in the landscape in some way.

 It's actually pretty fun and creative to re-use what you have
 and re-think the possibilities.

 The yard will be enclosed by low walls 
and have a series of small garden rooms and stone landings
 The far west end of the lot will be a kitchen garden for vegetable's and herbs 
as well a seasonal cutting bed.  I have always wanted a cutting bed just for bulbs and specific seasonal flowers for arrangements so I'll give it a try here.  The beds will have special low volume netafim drip tubing and smart irrigation solutions for water conservation 
 We made a decision to completely eliminate all sod, plants and garden elements that could be 
"water hogs"
from the design.  
I really love a beautiful green lawn but the drought here in California is very severe.  

It seemed selfish and a bit short sighted to not use this opportunity to really re-think how a California garden can look with limited water.

Creating a garden for the future that can be sustained 
is where garden design is heading. 

 Most landscape architects are very focused on water use and most of the larger landscape companies have been tasked to design and build parks and urban gardens with a focus on water conservation. 

 Almost all new developments have reclaimed water plans in place and pools, ponds and huge swaths of sod are going to be a challenge to be built in the very near future.  

Also many growers here in California have developed hybrid trees and plants that are not only beautiful 
but can live happily with very little water.

So I guess this garden will take a little more thought on my part 
but I think I will feel better in the end knowing we got it right.
so....that said...the simple goal is:
 to have a great yard that requires limited water, 
 is relatively easy to care for....but...still looks awesome!

 The low garden walls will be bright white stucco with a rough hand troweled finish 
to match the old stucco on the house from the 1920's
 There is a lot of creative masonry going on here.  I had a long talk with the boulders and told them that they would either have to be blown up !....or they can stay, be nice and become part of the wall...I guess they're staying.

 Masonry work is hard work...seriously hard.  
It's dirty and hot and just about everything involved is heavy.
Many of the larger stones will be cut here on site 
and used for raised beds, columns and hard scape features
The stone is cut first with a wet saw and then shaped 
with a hammer and chisel to the size and shape needed

The stone above was cut and shaped into a cap for the entry columns.
The masons we have hired are really talented and such hard workers.  It is really interesting watching them and they take great pride in what they do.  

 As usual, the inside of the house will be neglected finished last 
but that gives us more time to make good decisions about the renovation possibilities 

 Millie seems to find the best spots for a nap...
either right in a hot dry patch of dirt or under a shady tree

both spots sound pretty darn good...especially if your a dog or a gardener!




Classic Garden Style

I think it's official
Spring is here 
 Time to dream about our garden plans 
 Lovely antique urns and bright summer lawns
 Beautiful gravel pathways 
 A spot for birds and frogs
 A place to nurture the small seedlings 
 To take us on a walk under shady vines
 A spot to sit and think
 To gather and grow
 To make friends and share a laugh or two
 A spot to relax 
 To smell the scent of roses
To gather beautiful cuttings for a vase
 Old things are at home in a garden
 Our garden tools are cleaned and stored 
in a rustic shed
 And the colors and textures of the garden 
are there for us to enjoy
 A garden is a simple thing really and can be as wonderful 
as anything you can dream about
Enjoy your weekend and welcome Spring into your garden

All photography by Christian Sarramon
from the book
written by
Ines Heugel


A Chefs Modern Farmhouse

 Many of you know that I am a huge fan of the Modern Farmhouse esthetic.
I wrote a post a while ago about the subject here and it has been viewed over 20,000 times.

 Clearly it is a style or perhaps a lifestyle that resonates with so many.
 It's a dream for some and a reality for others but the Modern Farmhouse look
has become the darling of Pinterest, with bloggers and decorators
and of course retailers are on the bandwagon

  I thought I would share another version of the Modern Farmhouse,
a conundrum of styles and ideas
created and lived in by a chef
in rural North Carolina

 I must confess that I am not a big television watcher but I happen to love PBS and many of the other interesting cable stations that have incredibly well written 
and creative passionate stories.

A Chefs Life is just that.

The series takes us along on the rather private and very interesting journey of Chef Vivian Howard, her husband Ben and their family.....once New Yorkers, 
they now reside in a very rural, middle of nowhere place:
Deep Run, North Carolina
Vivian and her husband were persuaded by her parents to move back to North Carolina 
by dangling an organic carrot of  sorts...
financial support 
to assist them in opening their own restaurant 
and a plot of land to build a home
Their restaurant is called aptly called The Chef & The Farmer 
and that is essentially at the core of her cooking 

Her relationship with local Famers 
and her ability to utilize the most basic of ingredients 
to create dishes fit for the cover of any 
top notch Food magazine is the story line here
She readily embraces the ingredients of her childhood 
and the regional specialities with such glee and focus 
that she makes the lowly sweet potato 
seem like a gift from the gods....
and perhaps if we were to try her recipe for Candied sweet potatoes with pecan bacon syrup .....
we would all agree 

Corn is just one of the more important vegetables grown in this region.
 as is wheat and rice
 oysters and of course shrimp
and all things pork 
including the rather odd and mouth watering (at least when it's done)
pork cracklin'
No regional item is off limits and in a couple of episodes we learn about Tom Thumb.
Yes my friends.... Vivian creates a sausage encased in the appendix of a pig 
and serves it at a James Beard dinner in NYC....
courage, confidence and the heart of a chef 
are at work here
Most of her cooking is much prettier that the Tom Thumb
 but she feels the need to share all of North Carolina's specialties
with her diners as well as others who love southern cooking.

She creates dishes that could be described as
"the new normal" such as her pimped up grits!

As basic as many of her dishes sound they are in fact quite complex, 
 layered with flavor elements and require hours of preparation to get the desired end result. 

You will see when you watch the series how much time she spends just creating a new dish 
and working with her young staff

At some point after the opening or the restaurant 
she and Ben started a family and have twins...
so I'm assuming that's why the Farmhouse was necessary

 They had lived in her childhood home for many years before building the house
 and the need for her own kitchen, 
bedrooms for her children and privacy for her and Ben
jump started the process

The house sits on a parcel of her parents vast acreage and was the topic of much discussion by the locals while it was being built

Some thought it looked like a spaceship 
and others a Doctors office

It actually looks like neither, but embraces midcentury modern vernacular 
that is probably rather foreign to most 
in eastern North Carolina
The back of the house with the massive fireplace is just beautiful 

The kitchen is open, quite simple and streamlined and the floors are all concrete....perfect for kids, family dogs and lots of cooking

At first I wasn't a fan of the blue tile but after looking at the entire house
I think it's a fabulous choice

The floating open shelves are just the norm for a chef
so they are probably more functional for Vivian as opposed to trendy
A collection of butter bean shucking pans lines the stairwell

I love it...minimal, modern and full of memories all at the same time

The collections are so cute and personal here.... you can't help wondering if these owls have a special meaning to Vivian
In one episode she visits a neighbor to cook little apple tarts
and admires her vast....(vast is an understatement)
collection of salt and pepper shakers

So as I have always suspected
collections are important and have special meaning to just about everyone...including your's truly!
beautiful bathtub!

Ben is also an avid painter and his work hangs 
throughout the house and at the restaurant

The relationship between Vivian and Ben is interesting.  He is clearly a creative, just as she is.
What is equally interesting is how he seems to have embraced the rural life so easily, almost more that she has at times.
He's from Chicago so he's not going home, he's finding home.

She on the other had is returning home,
to a place she vowed never to return.

The house is a lovely mix of colors and casual furnishings 
and the architecture is really striking

Vivian is now a co-producer and writer of the series which is wonderful for her, however she often complains about being seriously stressed out
so all of the added duties she has taken on is interesting to me.

I think her worries are the usual for all working moms and she feels truly exhausted and torn
(aren't we all) by the constant tug-of-war between family, work, success and marriage

It is hard to say no to any of it
and we all struggle with that.

Vivian also seems at times to be rather shy, which is interesting for someone being filmed for a television series
but her personality encompasses that strength of character 
that we read about in so many Southern women:
vulnerable, feisty, beautiful and hard working

And this is a story worth telling and worth watching to say the least... 
especially if you love to cook 
and enjoy the beauty of the local harvest 
as I have for the last few years

 Often I have written about my love of food and how anyone can learn to create a great meal 

Vivian is the master of that concept

find it here on PBS
  read more of her story 
 in a wonderful article written by Daniel Wallace 
for Garden and Gun

It's A Chef's Life Y'all

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