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@alge_ram @llamasvalley Writing and reading is Alge's life. She's a mom of three: a boy, a girl, and a lifestyle magazine, Llamas' Valley. Her roots grow in a beautiful little Nordic country called Lithuania.

sweetmiscellany.com @courtlynnewest Courtney is a former archaeologist navigating the world as a yoga teacher, photographer, and plant-based chef in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

@jjessjjones Jess is the culture curator at a digital marketing agency in Atlanta. She likes champagne, baking, boardgames, and all things that sparkle.

caseyjoylister.com @pinch_dash_glug Casey lives on the west coast of Australia, in a little beach house with a sprawling veggie garden, her boyfriend, some friends and her dog, Maple. She loves cooking healthy vegetarian meals, writing, photography, and an assortment of other creative pursuits.

jacalynbeales.com @jacalynbeales Jacalyn Beales is a Canadian-based freelance writer & content creator with a passion for sustainable living and a love for the great outdoors. When she's not busy crafting cool content, you can find her hitting the trail and exploring nature.

alittlebaker.com @jessicabose @littlebakerjess Jessica is a baker, blogger, and highly caffeinated barista with an affinity for exploring the grand outdoors, growing her own food, and making friends with the dogs of Los Angeles.

ohhoneyblog.com @kayleighkosmas Kayleigh is a Portland, Oregon-raised gal with a love of doing things from scratch. When she's not cooking, crafting or gardening, you can find her traveling with her husband or curled up with her cat.

kelseycole.com @klc33 @wastenot

garrettswenson.com

Kelsey and Garrett live in Seattle, Washington, in a small apartment with many jars of fermenting things hidden around their kitchen. When they’re not experimenting in the kitchen, Garrett is a filmmaker and Kelsey is a graphic designer.

lysachen.com @girlinaflowershop      @mercyfuldm Lysa is a writer and floral designer living and working in the Garden State. Flourishing whenever she has a new project in hand, Lysa is driven by a curiosity and enthusiasm for learning all crafts, including knitting, silversmithing and making soap.

coutellerie.pl @coutellerie.pl Marianna is an art historian by education, a food lover, chef and photographer by passion. Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, she is a traveler hungry for all kinds of local flavors.


Words & Photos by Jessica Bose  alittlebaker.com

When 80% of my diet consists of fruits and vegetables, I find myself running into a lot of questions about whether I eat all organic, or if I get my bunch of purple carrots and dino-kale from farmers markets or the beloved produce section at Whole Foods. Truth be told, I buy a large portion of my produce from a variety of sources, but I take the most pride in the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that I grow right outside my home in Los Angeles. Before you picture a garden bed of vegetables centered within a luxuriously landscaped backyard garnished with flowerbeds of bloomed perennials and a ridiculous cast stone water fountain out of a photo of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, I should fill you in on some details. My home is a small two-bedroom apartment on the third story of a complex in Northeast LA. My backyard is essentially a parking lot and my front porch is 100% concrete. However, I do have a little balcony, which serves as the perfect spot for my garden. Having a small garden on the balcony of my apartment makes way for three important things:

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Taking care of plants provides great satisfaction. Making a five-minute watering and trimming routine before I leave the apartment in the morning has become a daily meditation period for me.

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If I ever find myself in a bare-fridge kind of situation, I can simply waltz outside in my slippers and pick a few stems of chard, some basil leaves, a tomato, and a pepper for a simple salad without spending a dime or even leaving my house.

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Growing my own food allows me to have optimum control over the amount of pesticides used for my food. I choose my soil, plant my own seeds, and use natural pest control methods to keep my food safe and reduce my personal footprint on the surrounding environment.

You don’t need to have a large backyard to grow your own food. You’d be surprised how much you can strategically grow in a small space! It’s entirely possible to maintain a fair number of herbs, fruits, and vegetables in that so-called impossible New York City micro-apartment of yours.

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The first step to starting an edible garden in your space is determining which location is best for your plants to thrive. Most edible plants require plenty of sunlight, so be sure to choose the sunniest spot in your home, whether it be a stoop, balcony, or your front porch.

Before you go out and buy seeds or a full-grown plant, be sure to take time for research. Does the plant you want require full sunlight? Does it need to be watered everyday? What kind of soil does it thrive in? When is it in season? Can it survive inside or does it need to be outside? These are all important questions to ask the web.

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I believe “having a green thumb� is a myth, but being attentive to your plants needs is definitely a reality. Owning a plant may not require the attention it takes to own a pet, but its life does depend on your knowledge and responsibility. The more you know about your plants, the easier it will be to care for them and keep them alive and happy.

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Railing gardens are similar to window gardens (to the right) but instead of being perched on a windowsill, they are hung over a balcony rail. Much like window gardens, over-the-rail planters are similar to box planters, so it is important to consider which herbs and vegetables thrive best together in a box planter. Materials measuring tape railing planter potting soil seeds or small, sprouted plants

Installation 1. Check the strength of the rail you wish to hang a planter on and measure it’s width. 2. Purchase a railing planter with brackets that fit the width of the rail. 3. Fill the planter with soil and plant seeds or small plants. 4. Secure the brackets of the railing planter on the rail of a balcony, porch, or deck.

Vertical gardening provides the perfect amount of space to store growing plants alongside a wall. This type of garden can be achieved using a trellis, tiered plant stands, a repurposed rack, ladder, and more. Vertical gardening allows you the perfect amount of space to store a variety of potted plants that need more space or their own pot such as mint, radishes, onions, and tomatoes. I currently use a plant stand from Ikea as a platform for my outdoor balcony garden. Stacking plants vertically comes with one catch, which is ensuring that they receive proper sunlight despite being stacked. If you happen to choose a stacked platform, such as a bookshelf, then use it to grow plants that thrive in partial shade such as parsley, thyme, leafy greens, garlic, leeks, and peas.

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Window box gardens are great for apartments with minimal outdoor space. If you have a window that isn’t obstructed by an overhang and gets adequate light, why not install a window box garden? Window box gardens are planted in small containers, so it’s important to take note of how much depth and breadth the plant needs. I’ve found great success with planting similar herbs like rosemary, oregano, and lavender together in small planters. Leafy greens such as kale and chard do great together with minimal space, as do strawberries and sweet peppers. Most of us who dwell in small spaces are renters, so the directions below are renter-friendly and drill-free. Materials planter box with pilot holes measuring tape 2 D-ring hooks metal vinyl sliding hangers potting soil seeds or small, sprouted plants

Installation 1. Install two D-rings spaced evenly on the backside of a box planter where the pilot holes are. 2. Measure the distance between the D-rings on the planter so you know how far apart to space the vinyl sliding hooks. 3. Snap the top end of the vinyl sliding hook under a panel and attach the hooks. 4. Fill the planter with soil and plant seeds or small plants. 5. Slip the D-rings over the hooks to hang the planter.

Believe me, if I can maintain a happy and healthy garden with a busy schedule, so can you. There is no limit to small space gardening. With a little time, persistence, creativity, and love, you can experience the gratification of growing your own food in your small (not so impossible after all) space. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/attach-flower-boxesdrilling-holes-26046.html http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/the-crisper-whisperers-edible-gardenwindow-box-herbs-vegetables.html r

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Words by Alge Ramanauskiene Photos by Joana Burn Photography


On the shore of Nikaja river, in a small village of Lithuania, there is a three hundred year old water mill of Šlyninka. Stasys Sutkauskis and his wife Regina Veselienė give their love and affection to bring back the respect and symbolic meaning towards one of the main gastronomic elements – the grain. Every morning while stirring the bread dough you can feel that there is so much more than just a handful of flour and water. There's a lot of sincerity, hard work, and smiles at the end of the day. "I never really missed the big city life, not even one day," the miller Stasys assures me when we stand in the middle of the oldest, and the only one still functioning, water mill of Lithuania. Twelve years ago he used to live an ordinary businessman’s life in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. The decision to leave the city was the best one of his life, he confirms. The air is brisk; the cold morning by the river is covered in fog and mystery. The miller smiles while looking into my sleepy eyes. His day began a few hours ago, at five in the morning to be precise. He woke up and started his daily exercise. An hour of handiwork kneading the thirty kilos of bread dough is definitely not something just  anybody could bear. It will take another four hours for the

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dough to rise before it will end up in the oven. Before we taste the rye bread I’m eager to experience what it takes for a slice of flavorful dark bread to end up in my mouth. And the road is long, covered in flour and sweat. Soon the first farmers with big sacks full of yellowish grain will arrive. The water mill will start playing its noisy music and in just a few minutes the ground will be covered in white powder. "There is no chance for me to lose weight as I’m sniffing flour all day long," the miller giggles. The authentic water mill of Šlyninka has not stopped working for one day since Stasys and his wife Regina moved in here. A life of a mill is full of mystery. They say that once you visit a mill you stay or you never come back. Statys and Regina came and never wanted to leave. "We left our house in Vilnius for our children and came here. We gathered a community of local people; they work in the mill, bake bread and grind the grain," Stasys tells me. "The city is full of energy and vibe, it’s nice while you’re young. But with the reserves of the energy decreasing, you long for another way of living that is slow and full of true joy. The people that would come to this place visiting the mill realize there is no need for rushing, all you need to do is enjoy the pause.”

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The mill used to belong to the miller’s wife’s family. After the father passed Regina’s mother refused to leave the mill. And so the family decided to start a new life chapter to keep the mill working. Stasys, former engineer and economist, had never visited a mill in his life before they moved in here. He had to learn to get to know the mill and its mysterious spirits, to get used to the new way of living. "I learned some from the former miller, and some by fixing the old mill’s gear. It helped me realize how it all works. The rest comes step by step confronting all the different nuances day after day," says Statys. "The first year you learn how to perfectly clean the mill from flour leftovers. And when you’re a real master at that you already know how the rest of the process works." The miller draws a handful of yellow-ish coarse whole grain flour from a large white cloth sack and offers me to taste it. And then he opens another sack of snow-white wheat flour powder. You’d find it labeled as 'first category' flour on a supermarket shelf. The coarse one is considered to be of 'second category'. Although the fine white flour is only appropriate for cakes and pastries, it doesn’t contain any valuable elements, says the miller. "It really is one of the poorest flours. For many years people used to consume the white wheat flour although it only makes us swell. Luckily today people rediscover the whole grain flour which is rich in bran," Stasys tells me. "The quality of the flour depends on how much bran it contains – the more bran, the higher the quality. I’d say, the whole grain rye bread should be sold in farmacies rather than supermarkets. This sweet and sour bread perfectly balances the acidity. It contains no yeast nor sugars. It is the most natural bread." The highly evaluated bran is the hard outer layer of cereal grain. When bran is removed from grains, the grain loses a portion of its nutritional value. Bran is rich in dietary minerals, proteins, and vitamins. The grain that comes to Šlynininka mill is grown in ecological farms. (No exceptions!) Two times per month the miller visits the city. You won’t find his flour in supermarkets. Instead you may call him a personal miller – Stasys has his clients, a few restaurants and kindergartens that call him when they run out of flour and the miller is always ready to bring a sack of his best product. It’s not his goal to sell out of the flour. He’s not interested in getting rich and famous. Instead he

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loves direct conversations and sharing his knowledge. He keeps telling us funny stories about the witty mysterious spirits living inside the mill and the riches of the past millers. "There is this joke that a priest’s hostess, a butcher’s dog, and a millers pig will never starve to death," Stasys giggles showing me a wall of the mill covered in banknotes. Pretty seriously he says it’s the remains of the former miller’s wealth. "Once a farmer brought two sacks of grain. After the grind the miller gave him three sacks of flour. He happily put them on the balance and saw that two kilos are actually missing. The miller gave him a broom and said: 'Go outside, wait for a few hours till the flour settles down on the ground and then go sweep it and take your two kilos.' The farmer shook his head – there is no way he’d sweat for the two kilos. And so two kilos after two kilos the miller got rich. He actually was so wealthy he wouldn’t know what to do with the money, so he simply glued them on the wall." Stories are stories. But Stasys says it’s time to grind the grain. After the flour is poured in sacks he would brew the dough with caraway and leave it until the evening. Later on, the leaven will be soaked and left warmly covered overnight. The miller will wake up usually at five to do his exercise and his helpers will be ready to place the bread loaf in the oven. The loaf is wrapped in maple leaves that are rich in vitamin C and dusted with sweet flag – it gives a particular taste and aroma. After three hours the crust is crisp and brownish. The bread is ready. But it will take another day for it to rest until it will be ready to taste. There is this old custom to give the first slice to the eldest miller’s daugther. It is believed this would help her find her true love.  When we’re ready to leave with sacks full of flour and sincerity in our hands Stasys remembers a story from his childhood. When he was a kid he used to play with friends by the railroad. There was this one game they loved playing in particular. When the kids heard a train nearing they put some little rocks on the rail and the train grinded them into stone flour... Today he keeps asking himself: wasn’t that an early sign of the future that awaited him? r

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Words & Photos by Kayleigh Kosmas  ohhoneyblog.com Ceramic and clay planters are plentiful in shops come spring time, the natural companions to young houseplants for sale. Their price tags, though, can make indoor greenery a hefty investment. Plant pots are easy to make at home from air dry clay, an easy-to-shape medium that hardens without need for a kiln and comes at a few dollars per pound of clay. Air dry clay is easy to embellish with acrylic and spray paints, and can be given an organic look by incorporating textured materials into the clay itself. The resulting pots make for budget-friendly and one-of-a-kind vessels perfect for showcasing your thriving houseplants. Air dry clay is an intuitive material to shape and embellish, but keep in mind some guidelines to make the plant pots durable and give them a polished, faux-ceramic look:

Be sure to use clay that indicates that no baking is required. The thicker the walls of a pot, the more durable it will be. Clay thinner than a 1/4" will be especially prone to cracking and crumbling and should not be handled until completely dry. Creases and cracks in wet clay can be smoothed with a little water for a uniform finish. If clay becomes so warm that fingerprints are visible, try freezing the clay for 15 minutes before smoothing marks out with water. The insides and bottoms of the pots should be coated with a clear acrylic seal once they are completely dry to make them water resistant. Drainage and hanging holes should be created while the clay is still wet. No mistake is permanent when it comes to shaping clay – just roll the clay back into a ball and start again!


Start with a 1-lb. piece of clay. Roll the clay into a smooth ball and, using your palms, roll it into a thick cylinder with a flat top and bottom. Use your thumbs to make impressions on top of the cylinder, creating a pot with thick walls that rests flat on the work surface. The walls of the pot should be uniformly thick, and at least 3/4� wide. Place the pot in the freezer until it is very firm and cold, about an hour. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut facets into the sides of the pot. Cut the facets in a variety of sizes so they overlap, until the entire pot has been cut. If the pot begins to soften so the facets don’t hold clean edges, freeze the pot for another 20 minutes before continuing. Use a skewer to make a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.


A speckled clay look can be created by kneading black pepper into clay. Roll out a piece of clay and grind a generous amount of pepper on to clay. Roll the clay into a ball, then roll it out again and add some more pepper. Repeat until the clay is as speckled as you like. Allow the clay to cool until it is no longer warm and elastic. Roll the clay into a smooth ball, then use your thumbs to create a large impression in the middle of the ball, and pinch the clay into a uniform pot. Flatten the top of the pot, creating a clean edge. Use a skewer to create a drainage hole and four hanging holes, then tie sturdy string through the holes once the pot is thoroughly dry.


Contrasting clay colors can be kneaded together to create a marbled effect. Shape a ball of white clay and a ball of terracotta clay half the size of the white ball. Roll the balls into long strips, twist them together, roll out the clay and repeat until the rolled out clay is as marbled as you want. Cut out three identical rectangles, then cut one of them a bit shorter. Cut a circle into the short piece and use a skewer to poke two hanging holes at either end of the clay. Carefully stand the pieces up and attach them using a small amount of water to seal the edges together. r


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Words & Recipes by Jess Jones Photos by Jess Smith Winchester Desserts have always felt like home. I'm from Georgia and Southern hospitality is in my blood. My mother worked 12-hour shifts at the hospital growing up and, though my brother and I might have had boxed meals for dinner, that woman always, ALWAYS, had a homemade cake on the counter.  So to me, cakes felt like happiness and hopefulness; happy to come home to cake after school, hopeful that Mom wouldn't be home yet so you could sneak two pieces as an afternoon snack instead of just one. I moved to Philadelphia at 18 for a boy.  Having never been far from middle Georgia, I found myself brave and curious, yet terribly alone. I eventually made friends the best way I knew how: baking the coolest, most elaborate things I could for potluck dinners thrown by bands and vagabonds and anyone else who had migrated to the city and needed friends. Most of the folks were vegan, so I substituted vegan ingredients for the ingredients my mother had used. (10 years ago, this meant A LOT trial and error.) During this time in life, baking simply meant acceptance.    I found myself in Atlanta at the age of 22, a bit beat down and abandoned — but still vegan.  I'd lost love and religion and was struggling at knowing where to go from there. An adorable cupcake shop was hiring for a vegan baker. I applied with 3 different types of cupcakes in tow. I got the job and found my new calling. I made new friends by taking cupcakes everywhere I went, shows and club openings included. Before long, I’d earned the nickname "Cupcake" around the city. Unfortunately being a cupcake fairy didn't pay the bills and I had to move on. I started telling myself that I wasn't good enough at baking and needed to hang it up. I didn't bake much for a few years after that. 

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To be frank, since my early 20's I've had more ups and downs than I could count if I tried, and despite fighting it, I still didn't quite know where I fit in. A year or so previously, I'd left a super comfortable job in IT staffing to pursue what I thought was my dream job in advertising. Due to lack of training and what some might call "growing pains," that job all but chewed me up and spit me out. Agency boot camp, if you will. That's when I started making vegan macarons. Something cute and adorable in a world of frustration and not feeling good enough or like everyone I was working with hated me. I think that's also when I realized I'd been fighting something for a really long time. I've always been the shake it off and power through type — I guess I can probably blame that on that aforementioned Southern blood — but I don't think I ever understood what depression was. It was always something I heard about negatively and I was far from "negative." I used to own the nickname "Cupcake," for crying out loud. I had always thought, "Wow, if people are that depressed, why don't they just change? Move somewhere, do something new?” I was inevitably let go from the agency job. I felt broken, so I reacted the only way I knew how: to change everything. I completely shut down but convinced myself that everything was fine. I backed off from important friendships that made me feel like I wasn't good enough or that I was used. I decided maybe I should think about ending things with my boyfriend of five and a half years. But I noticed something weird. As I contemplated lifealtering decisions, as reality crumbled before my eyes, all I actually wanted to think about was what flavor macaron I was going to make that weekend and how I was going to style it in natural light on a Sunday morning. I found another job two weeks later.

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If the advertising agency had broken me, then this new agency amplified it. They were wonderful. Brilliant people to look up to, they reveled in perfection and I was thrilled to be part of their elite club. They used words and had ideas that I had to Google twice before daring to step into a meeting. But that's just it: I wasn't good enough and I knew it. Depression magnified it. The cracks to my core just got deeper and deeper until I couldn't look anyone in the eye anymore. I was an imposter. I convinced myself I had faked every bit of myself in the initial interview where they loved me so much. I was unable to keep up, and with a staff of less than 10 people, it showed. All I could think of all day was how unhappy I was... but also, how did fondant actually work? Was it vegan? With the near constant doubt in myself, baking turned into the only thing I could rely on again.   After days and days of YouTube tutorials, I built up the courage to try fondant, thinking surely this was just another thing I would fail at, but I was actually a natural. It was perfect. I even marbled the fondant on my first try. It was something beautiful and creative and enticing and I had made it.  My boyfriend (the same boyfriend, whom at this point I had realized was the love of my life) looked at it with pride, and people from the building we live in commented how lovely it was on Facebook, so I brought them slices and made them happy. This was probably the first time I'd felt truly happy in months. Worthy of breathing. And all because of a plain Jane vanilla cake with fondant. I wasn't even upset when I was let go from my job. It was more of a relief to all of us. I made them a cake the next day and we still keep in touch quite often. I had already been secretly interviewing at other places for weeks. I was aware of the depression and its effect on me, and like always, my solution was a huge change.

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I remember having an amazing interview for a nearentry level job at a digital marketing agency because that's all the responsibility I felt like I could take in my weirdo state. Two weeks later they emailed me back to let me know that the full-time position I had interviewed for had actually turned into a part-time position. I didn't have any other offers and at this point all I really wanted to do was make cakes anyway, so I took it. A part time position as an office manager making nearly half what I'd been making...at 30. And I totally didn't care. I got out early and had Fridays off. I *perfected* the vegan vanilla cake and slowly moved on to more elaborate things like steeping lavender for frosting, and naked cakes with succulents —  which is honestly what saved my sanity. I was good at something. Really good, actually. Mastering the basics turned out to be the foundation I needed to bake amazing things and become a person I was proud of. I started loving myself again, and allowing others to love me, too. Now I don't want to make it sound like baking cured my depression all on its own — at this point I'd gotten some professional help  — but I think figuring out what truly made me happy was the key. Baking was always the thing that helped me see light when I when all I could feel was darkness. I’ve now gone full-time at the agency and it’s slowly turned into my dream job. There has to be some irony in there somewhere that I literally only took the job so that I could make more cakes.  I'm sharing my recipe for a basic vanilla cake with basic vanilla frosting. It's my home base and honestly probably saved my life. Metaphorically speaking, I feel like we should all find our home base to go back to when life gets overwhelming. Start simply with what you already know, even if that means going back a little. Perfect it, and grow from there.

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Ingredients 2 cups soymilk 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 1 cup (195g) vegan butter 1 1/3 cups sugar 3 cups flour 1 tbsp baking powder 3/4 tsp salt 2 tbsp vanilla Instructions 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8" pans or three 6" pans (I prefer the 6” pans because tiny cakes are adorable.)  2. Combine soymilk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to curdle.  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until it is well mixed and fluffy. 4. In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  5. Add vanilla to the milk mixture. 6. Add half the flour mixture and half the soymilk mixture to the butter/sugar mixturemix until well blended. (Definitely scrape the sides of the bowl and the bottom to make sure you got everything!) Then add the rest of the flour and soymilk. Again, mix until well blended.  7. Pour into pans in equal parts. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients 3 tbsp vegan butter 4-5 tbsp soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk) 2 tsp vanilla 4 cups powdered sugar Instructions 1. Mix together vegan butter, soy milk and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl. 2. Add powdered sugar slowly. Using your electric mixer gradually increase speed until perfectly smooth. 3. If it's too thick, add a bit more soy milk, if it's too thin, add more powdered sugar. r

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Words, Recipes & Photos by Casey Lister caseyjoylister.com

As a child of the nineties, it would be reasonable to assume that I’ve had plenty of practice at keeping things alive. Sea monkeys were everywhere throughout my formative years, Tamagotchis were plentiful. And yet, I somehow missed the boat. I don’t even remember having a Tamagotchi, and if I had sea monkeys at some point, they definitely didn’t hang around long. Not to mention that the fish in my brother’s fish tank kept making suicidal leaps for freedom, our dogs managed to escape every other weekend, and we once caught a mouse in a humane mouse trap, only to have it snapped up by some kind of predatory seagull just minutes after ‘liberating it into the wild.' Keeping living things living was not my forte. Now, though, it’s different. I am the proud owner of a four-year-old dog and a sprawling veggie patch, and both are the grateful recipients of regular food, water and one-sided conversations. But it wasn't always this way. It’s no mean feat getting these little bundles of self-replicating cells that we call ‘lifeforms’ to keep self-replicating, it takes practice keeping things alive. So many of my friends claim not to have green thumbs and have given up on gardening, telling stories of dried up cacti, dead begonias and fruitless tomato bushes. It’s such a shame that after these early pitfalls people decide they’re not cut out for the job, because the pleasure of watching a tiny seed turn into a sprout (which turns into a bush, which starts to grow tasty little morsels that you can actually pick off and eat) is one of the simplest pleasures in life. So this is for any of you out there who have lost faith in your green thumbs.

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This first recommendation might seem a bit obvious, but I think it’s important to mention nonetheless. If you have a finite amount of space/money/time to allocate towards your garden, make sure you only select things you really love to eat. I had a big patch of artichoke plants in a corner of the garden, and every summer they’d produce more artichokes than I knew what to do with. I like artichokes, but I didn’t love them enough to eat them for every single meal two months running, and watching them slowly turn to inedible flowers totally stressed me out. I gave half of them away and put a bunch of sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) in their place. You can’t eat those I admit, but they sure do smell nice!

I’ve heard so many stories of people starting their gardening careers with the biggest, most elaborate plans, only to find one month in that they don’t have the time, inclination or money to keep everything they’ve bought alive. It’s much better to start small, and work out exactly what kind of garden you’re able to manage. Then you can gradually add new plants to your burgeoning patch. This also helps you learn what each individual plant needs, instead of trying to take on a crash course and work out how to tend to the specific requirements of a heap of different plants at once. In a similar vein, start with plants that are hardy and most likely to survive. You don’t want to get disheartened too early on. Case in point: my lovely boyfriend, upon moving in with me, bought an Azalea plant to put in our garden. Now, in the hot, dry west Australian climate, Azaleas are not an easy thing to grow. Not for us at least. We watched the little thing wither away and I tried desperately to convince him that he’d done nothing to bring on its demise, while convincing myself that it would be irrational and quite insane to worry that our dying Azalea was in any way metaphorical of the future of our relationship. Too. Much. Stress. We learnt our lesson, we abandoned the Azalea and bought two rose bushes instead. As it happened, his red rose started blooming on Valentine’s Day, and although I’m mildly embarrassed at attributing that kind of significance to a flower on a cheesy Hallmark holiday, you can’t deny it does make a rather nicer metaphor for love than a brittle, dying Azalea.

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If you want to get your plants off to a good start, make sure you’re putting them in rich soil. Plants will still grow in depleted or sandy soil, but the vegetables won’t taste nearly as good, the plants won’t grow as strong, and the soil won’t absorb water as easily, so it may not get down to the roots where it’s needed. Good soil is one of the most important things to have in your garden if you want your plants to flourish. Frustratingly, plants extract nutrients from the soil as they grow, so these need to be added back in after each growing season. You can get nutrients back into the soil by buying bags of soil improver, or by planting ‘nitrogen-fixing’ plants, like peas, beans and Lupins, which put nitrogen back into the soil as they grow.

This might sound a little wishy-washy and new-age, but the best way to know what works in your garden is to listen to your plants. Ok, don’t actually listen to them. But if you plant a bunch of hydrangeas and they end up with burnt, brittle leaves, that’s telling you something valuable about your garden: the sun is too hot and severe, and hydrangeas won’t work. If you plant a crop of tomatoes and the fruit is tasteless, it’s telling you that your soil doesn’t have enough nutrients for them to get nice and flavorsome. If you put a flowering plant under a tree and it refuses to flower, it might mean the area is too shaded and the plant wants more sun. Your garden provides the best clues for knowing what works and what doesn’t. Because everyone’s garden is different, depending on climate and the type of soil, it’s hard to say exactly what will work for you. Bearing that in mind, I’ll end this little spiel with my list of beginner plants that I’ve found to be resilient, productive and easy to grow. These will all work fine in pots as well. They like full sun and some water every day. I hope they work for you too!

CHickpea magazine #23 whole


arugula, beetroot, blueberries, cape gooseberries, chilies, cos lettuce, tomatoes, zucchinis

borage, lavender, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, sweet peas (these need something to climb up). borage and nasturtiums produce edible flowers. add them to salads to make your food look extra pretty.

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basil, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme

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This salad is a great way to show off your summer harvest! Because the goal is to put in as much of your garden produce as possible, the quantities may vary a little, but that’s part of its beauty! It would go beautifully with some fried tofu. Serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a light main.

Salad 4 cups of a combination of the following: lettuce leaves (use a mixture if you can, such as cos or iceberg) arugula leaves, nasturtium leaves (and flowers if you’ve got them!), beetroot leaves, baby spinach leaves and baby silver beet leaves. 1/2 cup of the following herbs: basil, Thai basil, purple basil, parsley, roughly chopped or torn 2-3 big zucchinis cut into strands (‘zoodles’) using a spiralizer (you’ll want enough to make about 3 cups) 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

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Pickled Beetroot 2 beetroots, sliced very thinly (use a mandoline if you have one) 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1/4 cup white vinegar 1/4 cup rice vinegar 1 tsp grated ginger Dressing 1 tbsp grated onion 2 garlic cloves, crushed 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp sesame oil 3 tbsp rice vinegar 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp mirin 1/4 tsp black pepper 1 tsp sesame seeds (plus a little extra to scatter on at the end)

Instructions 1. Combine your sliced beetroot, garlic, white vinegar, rice vinegar and ginger in a bowl. Stir to make sure that the all beetroot has been covered in the other flavors. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. 2. Whisk all your salad dressing ingredients together. 3. Put your salad leaves, herbs, Zoodles and cherry tomatoes together in a big bowl. Pour over the salad dressing, and give everything a toss to combine. 4. Serve the salad into bowls, top with the sliced beetroot, and scatter over some sesame seeds before serving.

CHickpea magazine #23 whole


CHickpea magazine #23 whole

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