Forage, bake, eat

Solar and mental reflections while LA Eco-village kids bake with the sun

Collecting the mulberry blizzard on tarps makes harvesting easier. Why aren’t more people harvesting?
Reflectors direct the sun’s heat into this cork-insulated oven. (Made in Portugal using renewable cork). It gets hotter than boiling water, so only adults should put food in & take it out.
This collapsible reflecting cooker uses heat proof bowls to create an oven. It’s better for cooking than baking. Why is solar cooker use mainly a science project? Where resources are scarce, many people use a variety of solar cookers – from $5 Kyoto boxes to Solar Cookers International’s projects to cook food, sterilize water and reduce fossil fuel use. Now that many people are working from home, why hasn’t solar cooking caught on? While I try to choose fast cooking recipes to fit into a 90 min. demonstration, when I’m cooking on my own time, I usually food – especially beans & lentils – in the oven in the morning and come take them out at sundown, a little dry, but not burned!
Pulling stems & cores from mulberries.
Kids take turns to prep, add and mix ingredients, (see end of post for recipe).
Muffins at the edge of the oven were a little gooey. Next time, rotate the pan 1/2 way through baking.

To accommodate a wide variety of dietary preferences & needs I bake gluten free, vegan food for demonstrations. Here’s one of many that I have adopted from Rhian

I substituted mulberries in Rhian’s Blueberry Muffins   


▢60 g (¼ cup) coconut oil (or sub olive or vegetable oil)

▢200 ml (⅘ cup) unsweetened almond milk (or any other plant-based milk)

▢2 tablespoons lemon juice *

▢8 tablespoons maple syrup (or sub any other sweetener) ( i used 4 Tbsp)

▢1 teaspoon vanilla extract

▢Pinch salt

▢150 g (1 ¼ cup) ground almonds (almond meal) **

▢150 g (1 ¼ cup) gluten-free flour blend (or sub plain flour if not gluten-free)

▢2 heaped teaspoons baking powder (ensure gluten-free if necessary)

▢¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

▢100 g (1 cup) fresh blueberries ( i subtituted mulberries)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). I preheated sun oven for 1/2 hr.

Place the coconut oil in a large bowl and melt over a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave (skip this step if using any other oil). (We melted it in sun oven)

Once melted, add the milk to the same bowl along with the lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and ground almonds.

Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

Mix well, adding a tiny splash more milk if it’s looking too dry. (Mulberries were wetter than blueberries so no extra liquid was used).

Add the fresh blueberries (mulberries) and fold in gently, to make sure you don’t crush them. (Mulberries crush!)

Transfer the mixture between muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean. (about 90 min. in sun oven on clear, sunny, hot day).

Tastes best when fresh, but keeps covered in the fridge for up to a few days.

Why build a worm bin?

During our Eco-village Garden Exploration May 21, I plan to include vermicomposting by demonstrating DIY worm bins. (Eventbrite is helping us with the ticket hustle:

Why demonstrate a few puny worms munching on food scraps when we’re going to show off our 3 bin hot composting system?

Because building a DIY worm bin from discarded material aligns with 3 of our Core Values:

  • Celebrate and include joy in all our endeavors. I feel a rush of joy when resources “magically” appear after I envision a project. And I enjoy the magical transmutation of food scraps into rich humus.
  • Take responsibility for each other and the planet through local environmental and social action.
    • It doesn’t get much more local than plunking your food waste into your own worm bin
    • a DIY worm bin is pretty cheap, and
    • easier to fit into small spaces – indoors or out – than a large composting system.
  • Learn from nature and live ecologically. (Worms help us) gain a better appreciation of the intricate balance and interdependencies in nature…inviting us to tread more gently upon the Earth, says Mary Applehof, Worms Eat My Garbage.
Gather discarded material
Worm Buffet
Worm bin covered with shade cloth in shade of orange & papaya trees
Worm bin on blocks = instant sun shade for Taurine, LA Eco-village hardworking cat.

Cycles. Converting waste to a nutrient rich resource is just one of the natural cycles we’ll consider during our garden exploration, May 21. Please get tickets at Eventbrite

Cycle of life in the April garden

Cycles are one of the themes of a walk-about tour through Eco-village gardens, lead by Sage and me on May 21. Event tickets available through May 19.

Blossoming trees in their prime

Fejoa (Pineapple guava) blossoms behind Terraces
Pomegranate blossoms in front of Terraces
Persimmon blossoms along Terrace right-of-way
California Primroses by 117 front gate

Bounty at the end of plant life cycles

While Sunflower seed heads look raggedy at the end of their season,
birds and squirrels feast on them.
Nasturtiums often harbor aphids at the end of their season so I harvest them when they start to die back.

Pickled, nasturtium seeds taste like capers.

  • 1 pint Nasturtium seeds – let them dry a few days
  • 1 pint white vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves (from bay bushes in front of Terraces)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • Peppercorns (optional)

Boil vinegar, bay leaves, salt & pepper. (This year I boiled vinegar in sun oven). Cool. Pack seeds into clean pint jar & pour cooled vinegar mixture over them. Store several weeks before using them.

Pizza topping: combined with crushed garlic and oil.

Nettles – the plant you love to hate!

Nettle seeds drop off dried plant

If you’re not dressed for success – long sleeves, socks, long pants and gloves – you may be painfully introduced to nettles. I try to keep them pruned from paths, and let them grow in less traveled areas. Young plants are among the earliest greens to emerge and I enjoy adding them to soups, so I let them re-seed themselves. They can be used to make fertilizer and they help composted material break down. Chickens and other birds are said to deworm themselves by eating nettle seeds. Fibers from nettle plants are used for making rope and are spun into a silky fiber. (Who knows when we may need to harvest nettle fibers?).

Shameless Commerce Division

Sage & Springer, Solar cooker and Garden guides, invite you to explore the water-wise, integrated vegetable and flower gardens, with over fifty fruit trees in our eco-village urban oasis. We’ll demonstrate various composting methods and offer optional composting participation. When the walk-about concludes, we invite you to socialize with us over a solar baked snack and garden-herb tea. Eventbrite tickets

Sweet potato slips gift (try saying that 3 times!)

I usually select a few of last season’s sweet potatoes to grow “slips” for the next season’s planting, but the ones I selected this year haven’t sprouted. I was on the verge of buying slips when I noticed sweet potato leaves in two areas of the garden, so I dug really deep and retrieved pieces of last year’s crop that had sprouted. I carefully cut off slips that had a few root hairs and re-buried the potato to see if the rest of the sprouts would develop roots. I harvested 10 slips and planted them. Sweet potatoes grow very well here and I usually harvest 2-5 lbs / plant. Spaced a foot apart and with the foliage staked, they lend themselves well to the practice of vertical growing that conserves space in our urban gardens – and, exposes them to more sunlight in the partially shady areas that I steward.

If you live near-by and want to help plant some, please come to our Solar cooker demo/ LA Eco-village garden walk about on Sat.April 23. Tickets available at

Wind harvests mulberries

Mulberries from the damn mulberry tree in front of the terraces.

Rumor has it – and purple tongues confirm – that the kids are enjoying the harvest. Sage and I baked mulberry muffins (vegan, gluten free) in the sun oven. We plan to serve them at the above Solar cooker demonstration.

Backstory to caption: Mulberry roots broke through plumbing pipes and invaded neighboring gardens. Adding insult to injury, mulberry foliage shades those gardens, so many residents are unhappy with it. An arborist from TreeCare,LA recently advised us about strategies for coping with it. We’re waiting for the implementation costs of said strategies. Stay tuned to see if we’ll have mulberry muffins in 2023!

What’s solar cooking this week?

Sage and I were heat-wave opportunists last weekend as we took advantage of 90-100℉ days to try new solar cooked recipes for future Solar Cooking Demonstrations at the Eco-village. We want to use foods in season as often as possible so we hustled to harvest 8 “end of season citrons” from our aka lemon tree. Combining them with last season’s poppy seeds, we made 16 Lemon Poppyseed mini-muffins and had enough batter to also make a loaf. This recipe called for almond flour which was easy to make in a mini-food processor.

I have been delighted to land on Rhian’s Recipes in my search for new vegan, gluten free recipes. Rhian’s recipes are very easy to follow and have lots of useful tips and information.

Carol puts lemon-poppyseed muffins into pre-heated SunTaste oven (250℉) where they baked for 75 min. Temp reached 275℉. After 1 hour, I opened the oven briefly to let steam, then re-sealed it to let muffins brown for additional 15 min.
Lemon poppyseed loaf baked in Global sun oven, 275 – 300 ℉ for 90 min.
Other meals this week included garlic-roasted chicken thighs on a bed of freshly harvested lemon grass. I’ve also been making lemon-grass tea. It’s calming and helps relax muscles after hours of gardening.
Sage requested buckwheat, so I combined pre-soaked buckwheat groats, millet and freshly harvested leeks and cooked them in the reflector solar cooker.

Mulberries are beginning to ripen on the Terrace tree, so this evening, Sage & I spread tarps to catch them. Look out for Mulberry muffins next – hopefully on April 23 – our next solar cooking/ garden walkabout.

In spite of daylight savings time, food is ready for solar cooking demo.

Apple-chip, poppyseed upside-down, vegan, gluten-free cornbread baking in solar oven

Dang! I thought DST returned in April, so when the clocks sprung forward last weekend, I realized that I’d have to adjust our solar cooking demonstration plans by cooking some of the food in advance.

Can you see the steam rising out of this cornbread?

No worries. I’ll just demonstrate using the sun to save energy by toasting the cornbread, heating the lentils and cooking the whole grains. We’ll also save time by letting everything heat and cook while we walk about the gardens and work on the compost!

In preparation for this event on Sunday, March 20, Sage and I counted the fruiting shrubs and trees: 26 varieties on the Urban Soil properties! Plus macadamia nuts along the public walkway. While we’ve planted some of these in recent years, we continue to reap the harvest made possible by Eco-villagers who lived here before Sage and I moved in.

Weather permitting, we intend to do this sun-cooking demo/ garden walk-about monthly, so let us know if you’re interested in future events.

Freesias! I wish you could smell them.

There was a greenhouse near where I used to live in northeast CT. It was an occupational therapy training site. Every year they grew freesias to sell at the beginning of February, and the fragrance enveloped everyone who walked in. You couldn’t arrive much past the moment they bloomed if you expected to buy some because they sold quickly to sensory deprived people facing a few more months of eastern winter. (We had a saying: 30 days hath September, April May and November, all the rest have 31 – except February – which has 60!)

I planted the little freesia bulbs last fall and wondered if they could push their way through our hard-packed clay soil. Hazzah! they did – and I’m very pleased to have them back in my life. If you’re walking through 117 front gate, say howdy to them & give ‘em a sniff.

Fossil-Free Solar Cooked meals at Los Angeles Eco-Village

Thanksgiving, November 25, 2021

Butternut Squash from garden and rice for Thanksgiving (2021) prepared in solar cookers in next photo.
Cork insulated solar oven from Portugal Collapsible solar reflector

Hartley and I conceived this impromptu Thanksgiving potluck the morning of and we had these meals ready to eat by 12:30. I was eager to test the newly acquired SunTaste solar oven from Portugal.

It was partly overcast and chilly that day, so those are very impressive solar cooking times.

February ’22 -Gotta’ practice cooking food in 90 min. or less for the launch of our Solar Cooker Demonstrations beginning March 20, 2022

Lentils – presoaked overnight – took too long in the round pot but cooked in 90 min. in the small roasting pan.

Grains in 90 min. or less:

Rice (pre-soaked)

Quinoa, Millet, Amaranth

Polenta with corn, coconut and okras

Gluten free foccacia – it’s more of a steamed bread and flavor of garlic topping seemed enhanced.

Beans – I’ve cooked them in the Global Sun Oven but mostly left them there all day. Will try again when sun is stronger to see if they will cook in 90 min.

8 year old Eddie learned to bake cornbread in Global Solar Oven.

Now it’s your turn! Want to see how simple it is to cook without fossil fuels? We’ll demonstrate each of the Solar cookers pictured in this blog beginning Sunday, March 20, 2022, 9:30 – 11:30 – and, if El Sol cooperates, we’ll eat what we cook, so bring your eating wares! Want to know how to sign up? Stay tuned – we’re working on it.

What didn’t work – pasta!

When asked about cooking pasta in a solar oven, the owner of Global Sun Ovens says I only made it once! I agree.
Fortunately, the chickens love that gluey pasta. (they also eat grubs!!!)

Job Opportunity here in LA Eco-Village

Excited to let you all know that we have an opening for a new resident manager for our 45 unit Urban Soil-Tierra Urbana limited equity housing co-op. You get to live and work in LAEV plus health benefits and a salary of $24 to $28K depending on qualifications.

Send us a letter about yourself and a resume. Check out the full job description and where to send your info here:

Oh, and deadline for applications is August 6, 2021 or until filled. Please spread the word.

Jimmy Lizama on the Los Angeles Times, a Covid tour of Downtown L.A.

(Photo by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

This article by Thomas Curwen is called Coronavirus has turned once-bustling downtown L.A. into a ghost town. Can it recover? And it’s structured by following Jimmy as he works as a bike messenger and taking detours into other business and downtown residents. It’s a slice of the life we are living in the middle of a pandemic.

HOT compost system – now what?

Let’s resume  this cliff hanger from the previous post

Words can’t begin to praise Kurt and Nils for how skillfully and amicably they work together. Their creation is so beautiful I don’t want to get it dirty!

Soak the earth-floor of each bin.

Finished compost left in the old hot compost system was spread on the bottom of each section and soaked to create moist conditions for composting critters.

Sort garden waste into green and brown piles, max. 1/4″ diameter & 18″ long.

Let greens dry before adding to compost because there’s enough green from kitchen scraps to make a 2:1 ratio of green to brown.

Add a layer of reedy stems – breathing tubes – if you have them.

Layer dry – brown – leaves & stems

Collect vegetarian food scraps

Add food scraps & spread them out.

Cover with another brown layer, rinse out the food bucket & add water around the pile.

If you made a mess when you added garden waste, please sweep it.

Now you have composting bragging rights.  When we left off composting last year, we were processing at least 2000 lbs – 1 ton – of food scraps per year.   We have more people living here now, so I bet our numbers increase.

Hot Compost System

On one of summer’s hottest days, several of us die-hard composters made a pilgramage to Cottonwood Urban Farm , one of LA Compost’s regional compost hubs.  On our arrival, Elliot Kuhn pulled himself away from unloading and deploying a truckload of food scraps to give us a tour of the composting systems.  Several volunteers continued his work while he explained the features of their system that made it possible to safely compost in an urban setting.

I came away with compost-system-envy and hope that we could resume composting after last years rat invasion forced us to put all our food scraps into the city’s green bins.  As luck would have it,  eco-villager Kyla  suggested that we build a system based on the model that LA Compost built at her urban work site.  A group of us met to assess the plans she had, select a site and ask community for approval.

Our enthusiastic plans were interrupted for a few months by the  COVID19 outbreak that forced projects onto back-burners while we established protocols to safely shelter at home.

Eco-villager Kurt, and Kyla’s friend, Nils – who was temporarily off work – committed to the COVID social distance/ mask wearing protocols while building the system.  Nils launched the action with a comprehensive materials list.

component parts

Assemble the frame

Challenges as they assemble frame.  In addition to wearing mask & working 6 feet apart for COVID precautions, they are being attacked by the thorny bougainvillea, which I had trimmed to accommodate shorter people – like me.

Attach rat resistent hardware cloth to back, sides & bottom.

Move it to it’s new home site.

Add slats to facilitate turning and unloading compost.

Words can’t begin to praise Kurt and Nils for how skillfully and amicably they work. Their creation is so beautiful I don’t want to get it dirty!

In the next post, you’ll see that the thought of sending more food scraps to an outside composting site is a strong motivator for me, and as Kyla says, the food will add a new patina to the wood!

results of garden work party 12/15/ 18

participants: kurt, sam, irma carol

applied tanglefoot to all fruit trees: the initial application several months ago has worn off or attracted so much dirt it needed to be re-applied.  We’ve observed much smaller aphid infestations since the initial application has reduced the  ability of ants to protect the aphids & increased the possibility for natural aphid predators (ladybugs) to control the aphids with out being bitten by ants.

cleaned out greywater outlets for 105 & 106 and discovered that 104 has been disconnected.  Most of the outlets were buries & required considerable excavation to find the.

there is a proposal to make higher covers for the outlets to they are a few inches above ground level for outlets that are not in pathways.

scheduled garden work parties are 3rd sat. of each month with spontaneous acts of gardening in between.

meetings happen when there’s something needs discussion.

New Intersection Repair Street Mural

L.A. Eco-Village’s new intersection repair mural – finished mural photos: Joe LintonThanks to the hard work of lots of local residents and many people in town for Bike!Bike!, last weekend the community repainted the L.A. Eco-Village street mural at the intersection of Bimini Place and White House Place.

The street painting is inspired by a group called City Repair from Portland Oregon. They do intersection repair murals as part of to make crossroads places where people come together.

Eco-Village has done earlier intersection repair murals three times: in 2011 and 2009 and circa 2006. The mural gradually wears away and after a half-dozen years needs repainting. Lately  the city has resurfaced the local streets, erasing worn murals.

Continue reading

Jimmy Lizama on Voyage L.A.


Jimmy is a powerhouse. Voyage L.A. did an interview with him recently, you can read the whole thing here, but I’m going to leave you with my favorite quote:

My legs are pumping, face in my wind, the sun shining down upon rays of pure joy and adrenalin. 10 minutes later I’m at Hollywood and Wilcox and wouldn’t you know it: a third fucking bus and I was 10 minutes early. I had just taken the bicycle red pill.

Job Opportunity in L.A. Eco-Village: Resident Co-op Apt. Manager

Our dear apartment managers of the past several years, John and Sandy Maliga, are retiring and moving north to be closer to grandchildren. What a treat it has been to have this team with us for almost five years, and I’m happy for them to be closer to family.

Entrance to main building in L.A. Eco-Village

And so we are searching for a Resident Manager for our 45 unit Urban Soil-Tierra Urbana Limited Equity Housing Cooperative right here in the Los Angeles Eco-Village.

If you, or someone  or some bodies, you know might be interested and qualified in joining our Management Team in our intensely urban intentional community, please see our Job Description and required and desired qualifications here    And submit your letter and resume to:

Also, please help us spread the word.

Note that our public tour schedule of LAEV can be found here:

UPDATE: the position has been fulfilled. Thanks for your help!