About lesliedinaberg

When she's not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine, Leslie Dinaberg writes feature articles, columns and grocery lists.

Unraveling the Kinks in the Local Food Chain to Build and Sustain a Resilient Food System

This story was published on cecsb.org on May 13, 2020.

Like a heat map, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to areas of strain, places where we need to pay greater attention. One of the most noticeable of these is the food system.

This week, two of the founding members of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network — Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and Sigrid Wright, CEO of the Community Environmental Council — sat down with food writer Leslie Dinaberg to discuss how COVID-19 is sending shock waves through a fragile global food system, and why this is a particularly good time to build a healthy, sustainable and decentralized food system. They draw on the guiding framework of an action plan published in 2016 and developed in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Orfalea Foundation, and more than 200 community members.

Leslie Dinaberg: A few years ago when you were developing the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, your intention was to “future proof” the local food system, though presumably, you weren’t anticipating that a pandemic would test it so brutally. What are you thinking now?

Sigrid Wright: We’ve had other disasters that have had a ripple effect through the food system, but the COVID 19 pandemic is sending reverberations through the system unlike anything most of us have experienced in our lifetime, in part because it’s global, and in part because it’s both a public health crisis and an economic crisis. This is a good time to be talking about why we want to build a healthy, sustainable and decentralized food system, because the global system has a lot of fragility to it.

Erik Talkin: The food system now is so hyper-organized and so dependent on every little link of the chain from here to China and back, that one break in that chain creates a lot of problems. The Foodbank has seen a 60% decrease in the amount of food that we get donated because grocery stores are selling out of food that would normally be provided to us. At the same time, our donations from the agricultural community, primarily the Santa Maria Valley, are up by 50% from this same month last year.

So that’s an indication that local growers have products available. Obviously they have their own problems with food distribution, as there are no schools or hotels operating, but we have a system in place that has allowed excess food to be effectively used. People are reading in the New York Times and elsewhere about milk being poured away and crops being plowed under, but that’s not happening really significantly in California.

LD: Are there any supply chains that are likely to be disrupted so that you won’t be able to access certain products a few months from now?

ET: Yes, there already have been disruptions in that the supply chain is overheated and unable to respond to requests. The Foodbank spent a quarter of a million dollars a couple of weeks ago on food that we haven’t received yet, because it’s slow in coming and our order is not as big as other orders.

Overall, in theory, there’s enough food in the country, but in terms of specific foods, we are already unable to get everything we would like.

SW: The modern food system is designed for speed and convenience. It’s highly efficient and certain aspects of it are really compacted, particularly around meat processing. From what I’m hearing, I would expect to see shortages of meat within the next few months.

This relates to Santa Barbara County because although we’ve traditionally been a cattle region and still do raise a lot of cattle here, we no longer have processing facilities. The same is true of fisheries. We have access to a good amount of animal protein on the Central Coast, but everything has to be shipped out, processed, and shipped back. That was one of the many issues that surfaced with the Food Action Plan: how do we decentralize some of those processing facilities so they are local?

LD: What have you learned about Santa Barbara’s food resilience in the past couple months that you didn’t anticipate?

SW: On the production side, pretty much every small farmer and fisherman is having to think on their feet and make some drastic adjustments to their business models as people are shopping less at farmers markets, and as schools and restaurants stop their orders. They’re having to go direct-to-consumer, often in inventive ways, whether that be a pop-up farmstand or more community supported agriculture boxes. Managing those new market routes is like picking up a second job: the first one being food production, the second being the delivery and marketing through different channels.

I’m also really concerned for our local restaurants. After the Thomas Fire, many businesses were barely hanging on or were just starting to recover, and now they’ve gotten hit again. We may lose a lot of local capacity, both on the producer end with farmers and fishermen and then on the consumer end with restaurants. That to me is a sadness. I personally am not ready for a future in which I get most of my food from Amazon.

ET: There haven’t been the types of runs and shortages over the last few weeks that theoretically could have happened, but I think we are still at the beginning of this crisis. People are afraid to go out and stand in line to get food. Toward the end of the summer, once the economic impacts have really cut deep — with people who are working but have large debts, and people who are still out of work — we’ll have a huge need for additional food for the community. That food can’t all be produced here, but has to be purchased or donated within the state and nationally.

LD: Is there a government entity to help with that?

ET: There’s a national emergency food program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that is designed to pay local distributors to put together food boxes and make those available to either Foodbanks or to be distributed directly. So we’re having to go out to all of these people and say, “Do you want to be involved in this program? You get paid to provide this food, you get paid to truck it to a particular location.” But it’s a hugely complex 17-page application. Companies like Jordano’s, which is probably our largest local direct food distributor, don’t want to be involved because there’s not enough money in it for them.

The government, in a way, is trying to respond to this issue of food being dumped by offering incentives further down the chain than previous incentives. But there’s not the time or the organization or the planning to make them successful in anything more than the very short term.

SW: The Santa Barbara County Food Action Network, which was spearheaded by CEC and the Foodbank to implement the Food Action Plan, is looking at how we deal with all of this locally. One solution is to create a food hub, so that those who have products have a central vehicle for getting information out about them.

LD: Let’s talk about how this situation is affecting labor. According to the Food Action Plan, the agricultural sector is Santa Barbara County’s primary economic driver, and nearly 20,000 residents work in food and beverage stores or service locations. What are you seeing?

SW: It’s a bitter irony that people who work in the food system — in the fields or grocery stores for example —are deemed as essential workers, and yet they are not being protected as essential workers.

In our region we are really seeing this with farm workers who just don’t have the proper protection and are often having to work shoulder to shoulder. We saw similar inequities in other crises like the Thomas Fire, where it wasn’t until groups like CAUSE and MICOP got involved when farm workers had access to the N-95 masks that everyone else already had. We need the public to strongly advocate for protection for our farm workers, our seasonal workers, our grocery workers, so that they have safe conditions.

ET: It should be a requirement for the employers to do that. Even at the Foodbank — we have very stringent rules and we’ve been wearing masks and gloves for weeks — people just can’t help congregating together in tiny spaces and I’m constantly chasing away people. (Laughs) I’ve been doing that for years, but now I have an excuse to break up the party.

LD: What are you seeing at the home level? Food waste is certainly top of mind right now because no one wants to go out and buy food any more than they have to.

ET: At the most basic level of individuals, people are being forced to reckon with having to provide for their own nutritional health and to sit down and make something to eat, which wasn’t necessarily the case in the past. This may be an opportunity for people to increase food literacy and their understanding about how to take care of themselves and be healthy with food.

SW: We’re clearly seeing a shift in shopping and eating patterns as more people are cooking at home. I know the news media are using the word “hoarding,” but I don’t love that language. What I’m seeing is that people are trying to do a couple weeks of shopping at one time to reduce their exposure. It’s good people are shifting their behavior, but that caused some of the slowdown that Erik referred to.

Again, it’s not that the supply chain has a shortage of food, although there may be some gaps in things that we may not have access to when and how we want it. I think we’ve gotten quite spoiled, frankly, because we’ve built a food system that was designed around getting things fast and conveniently. To really be resilient you need some amount of redundancy and things that are less consolidated.

LD: When you are providing food from the Foodbank, how many days worth of food are people picking up at one time?

ET: We typically give out bags of groceries that are about 30 pounds. We’ve begun to switch to boxes which are slightly bigger, so there’s a variety of dry goods, canned goods, fresh produce, fresh meat, but it’s not your total dietary or meal requirements for that period of time. The food that we provide is supposed to be a supplement to the other food you’re getting. It is possible to go to more than one place if your need is greater.

We see the need for that type of food increasing dramatically and there’s been a real kind of blockage with the USDA food. There’s definitely problems with the emergency food distribution network, as well.

LD: Beyond the critical need for emergency feeding, at this moment is there anything else that stands out from the Food Action Plan?

ET: I think people’s understanding of the need to have more fully developed local networks for both distribution and availability of food is important.

We talked earlier about the need for local processing for seafood and meat, but that’s also a need for agricultural products. For example, if facilities were available we could make spaghetti sauces and other things out of produce before it goes bad. There’s a lot of potential there, but it requires an investor. It may be something we have to think about in more of a tri-county way.

LD: That feels like such a great way to use some of those kitchens that aren’t being used right now.

SW: One of the projects of the Food Action Network was to map out sites that could serve as community kitchens. In good times they might be used to make the value-added products that Erik was talking about. If farmers had a bumper crop of tomatoes, they could hand that off to a caterer to go in for a couple of weeks and make tomato sauce, for example. In bad times like now, community kitchens could be used to help with disaster feeding.

LD: This is obviously an excellent opportunity for us to illustrate the importance of protecting the local food system. What are some things that individuals can do right now?

ET: Continuing to utilize local farmers markets, purchasing from smaller local stores to enable those stores to be able to weather the current situation, and keeping away from chain stores. I think that restaurants will be gradually opening up in a more limited fashion, so just make sure that you’re supporting local restaurants, even with a kind of take out environment that we have at the moment.

SW: At the moment there are still some strengths in the local food system, and there is some scrappiness. We are a community that does seem to care about this kind of stuff.

One of the outcomes of all of this is that people are actually talking about things like the food system, either using that phrase or having a great awareness. Hopefully that will have a positive effect. But protecting the local food system will mean that we will have to step in as individuals and really support it.

ET: Every generation needs something to wake it up a little, so I guess this is it.

Originally published on cecsb.org on May 13, 2020.

The Original Garden Wise Guy

From Santa Barbara Independent, May 14-21, 2020.

Landscape Architect and TV Host Billy Goodnick

“Nobody ever says it’s too easy to take care of my garden,” laughed landscape

architect Billy Goodnick, host of City TV’s popular Garden Wise series.

His approach to working with clients is straightforward. “I’m a service provider,” he said. “My attitude is not that you’ve hired some high-end person and you’re lucky to have me. I try to design as egolessly as possible. If I step over the bounds and they need to rein me in, that’s fine because I’m just there to provide a service. I know about this stuff, and they don’t.”

After working for City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation for more than 20 years, Goodnick learned that “most park planting is about getting the most cluck for your buck out of the site.” He applies that same philosophy to working with clients and teaching classes for home gardeners, which he does around the country. “I always start with a slide that says we have three goals: Make it beautiful, make it useful, make it sustainable — and those are the three touchstones for me.”

A natural entertainer and raconteur, Goodnick began his career as a musician and still performs as the drummer for King Bee. His sense of humor is evident from his lecture titles: Life After Lawns; How to Kill Your Lawn Without Using Napalm; Gone with the Wind: What to do with Your Drought-Stricken Lawn; and Crimes Against Horticulture: When Bad Taste Meets Power Tools.

“I have a monstrous ego, and I like to see people nodding and laughing because it’s edutainment,” said Goodnick. “Somebody once said, ‘You could charge a two-drink minimum for your lectures.’”

After some initial conversations with clients, Goodnick uses a website called PlantMaster to provide a big list of plants that meet their criteria. “You’re stocking the pantry,” he tells them. “You don’t know what the meal is — you just went to Whole Foods with a $500 gift card and threw everything into the basket that you like. I’ll figure out how to turn it into a meal.”

It really comes down to what the customer likes and what will work with the site. Though he recognizes most clients don’t have Oprah’s budget, he does ask them to pretend they won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes in the beginning. “Let’s design as if money is no object, and let’s explore all of the different things that could happen here,” he explained. “There may be a great idea, without being too terribly constrained at first, that we can simplify or downsize to make it less expensive later.”

He sees his role as a problem solver, and he is happy when gardens are being used as designed a year or so later. He’s also satisfied when plant choices succeed. “There’s that whole biological side of landscape architecture and not mixing it with other plants that want twice as much water and spacing them properly so you don’t end up with plants colliding into each other,” he explained. “I’m trying to make it easy on them, make it fit their lifestyle, and also be drop-dead gorgeous.”

See billygoodnick.com and waterwisesb.org/gardenwise.wwsb.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Is an ADU for You?

From Santa Barbara Independent, May 14-21, 2020. Photo by Jim Bartsch.

Allen Construction’s Ryan Cullinen Discusses Granny-Flat Rules

With people spending more time working and schooling at home these days, adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is definitely something to consider. The process got even easier in 2020, when new California laws went into effect to allow small second residential units on single-family lots and on multifamily zoned lots.

“We are seeing a trend of more new home projects, including ADUs, as part of their master plan,” explained Ryan Cullinen, director of pre-construction at Allen Construction, which has several such projects in the works. “We have not seen any dramatic changes in demand recently, although I expect a larger demand for home offices and general home refreshing now that so many are spending more time than ever in their homes.” He explained that the standard ADU can either be detached, attached, or repurposed existing space in the home and can be up to 1,200 square feet in size.

“Most units are being designed for family or rental units with an end goal of retirement living,” he said. “I find many longtime homeowners who decide to build an ADU treat it as the miniature version of the dream house they wish they had. This is often because they plan to retire into it or have other family members live in it. When you have limited space, it forces creativity to be able to accomplish the needs you take for granted in your larger house.”

Originally known as “granny flats,” today’s accessory dwelling units take different structural forms. They can be garage conversions, units placed over the garage, stand-alone units, attic or basement conversions, or units otherwise attached to the main house. They are allowed to have full kitchens and bathrooms and will not be required to have a utility hookup separate from that of the main house. They can be rented, and most likely will be, but cannot be sold separately from the main dwelling.

The first step is to identify if it’s feasible to build an ADU within your zoning restrictions and whether the investment makes sense for you. “An architect or planning specialist can verify your zoning restrictions and help play out a concept to get preliminary pricing,” said Cullinen. “You can understand costs by speaking with a contractor who has a résumé building multiple different types of ADUs.”

ADUs do still need to go through Santa Barbara’s design review and permitting process. “There are many nuances to what your structure will be required to have, such as fire sprinklers, set-back requirements, and off-street parking,” said Cullinen. “The best thing you can do to expedite the process is get a professional with experience involved early. This limits your chances of any delays from incomplete submittals and keeps the building departments happy when they are very busy.”

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Solarizing Made Simpler

Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent May 14, 2020.

CEC Makes Sun Power Easy and More Affordable

As everyone shelters in place, our home energy use is going through the roof. Why not use that roof to harness the power of the sun to create energy?

If the nuts and bolts of researching, purchasing, and installing a solar panel system seem overwhelming, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) offers a group purchasing model to help homeowners install solar electricity through a streamlined and hassle-free process, at a discounted price.

As of March, CEC programs have served almost 800 homes, according to April Price, the organization’s renewable energy program senior manager. The programs run for a limited time to make sure that the recommended vendors and products are fully vetted.

“In this ever-changing market, we want to make sure that we’re working with companies that are currently doing well financially and offering solid services and products,” Price explained. “Every time we run one of these programs, we will negotiate a discounted price. A local committee reviews the vendor applications, and each time we run a program, we come at it with a clean slate to determine who we’re going to partner with.”

This summer, CEC will run a Solarize Ventura and a Solarize Santa Barbara program for residential customers and is also relaunching the Solarize Nonprofit program, which helps nonprofit organizations install photovoltaic solar systems, free of charge.

Pairing your solar power with energy storage is becoming a trend and is an option that is also available through the CEC programs. “There are two reasons why people consider pairing their solar with energy storage,” Price said. “The most straightforward one is you want to have power when the electricity goes in the event of a public safety shutoff or for any other reason. The second is there’s a definite financial savings for most customers that pair their solar and storage.”

If installing solar is on your wish list, the federal tax credit available for residential solar systems provides a great incentive to do it sooner rather than later. Systems installed before the end of 2020 have a 26 percent tax credit, which goes down to 22 percent in 2021 and disappears in 2022.

 See cecsb.org/go-solar.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Creative Inspiration for Home Improvements

Where Santa Barbara’s Pros Go to Find Their Muse

If sheltering in place has made you eager to do some home improvements, but your creative fire needs some kindling, we’re here to help. From architects and interior designers to landscape experts and event planning pros, we asked a variety of creative professionals what they do to get inspired.

Penny Bianchi

McCormick Interiors, MCCORMICKINTERIORS.COM

What inspires you? Each house I do, I take a lot of inspiration from whatever the architecture is. Almost all of the houses have some kind of architectural theme,and I always work with that instead of fighting it. I stay away from trends.

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? Casa del Herrero is amazing; it’s like the original owners just walked out the front door. Lotusland also is very inspiring, the exterior of the house with all that landscaping. I also love the landscape at El Encanto.

What about online inspiration? Pinterest has been an enormous boon. I keep so many pamphlets and papers and idea files, and they organize them for you,and it’s right at your fingertips. Some blogs are very, very helpful and inspirational,too. I love Velvet & Linen, from Brooke Giannetti of giannettihome.com. [Brooke and her husband, architect Steve Giannetti, have a store, Giannetti Home, in downtown Santa Barbara.]

Merryl Brown

Merryl Brown Events, MERRYLBROWNEVENTS.COM

Where do you go for inspiration? Lotusland is the place that some of my best ideas have come to me. There really is something so magical and spiritual about that place. Almost every time that I see movies at the Riviera,I leave with a new idea. I always keep a pad of paper with me.

Nature is huge. Being away from electronics is huge. Putting on music and sometimes putting on new music and just sitting quietly and closing your eyes and listening to it is such a good thing.

Books for me are probably really one of the most important pieces, just having beautiful books and a nice big table where I can sit and look through them.

Going to the farmers’market, just walking around and looking at the colors and looking at people, how people are dressed and listening to all of the different sounds. I find inspiration in the funniest places, you just never know, so it’s important that you’re not just doing research in books and online but also by getting out in the world and looking around.

Billy Goodnick

Billy Goodnick Landscape Design, BILLYGOODNICK.COM

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? I enjoy visits to Terra Sol for their great collections of succulents (including over 50 varieties of agaves and aloes) and Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria for plant combos. [Goodnick also likes to bring his adult-education classes to this versatile place, which has 11 garden vignettes with an around-the-world sampling of plants that thrive in our coastal environment.]

Margie Grace

Grace Design Associates, GRACEDESIGNASSOCIATES.COM

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? You have to clear a space. You can’t be thinking about the grocery list;you have got to clear your head. For me, it’s always a walk on the beach. I can tell when my head’s getting clear because I start observing things on a minute scale.

I will hit the used architectural salvage places or nurseries. Sometimes just a single great urn is the key to a garden that is just such a great thing. You can put four trees on the corners, gravelon the floor and a beautiful object in the middle —but it’s about that thing. It’s like finding an amazing piece of jewelry,and the surroundings are the little black dress.

I feel the same way when I find an extraordinary tree. Plants are not like otherthings we build with. They are ever-changing and each one is the only of each of these living things. When you find a really great specimen is usually when you’re not looking —it finds you. It’s kind of like dating:When you’re not looking,it shows up.

Isa Hendry Eaton

Isa Bird Landscape Design, ISABIRD.COM

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? Lotusland offers one of the finest examples of how drought-tolerant plants can look lush, glamorous,and architectural. It also teaches one of the most importantprinciples of plant design: masses of one type of plant grouped together create a much stronger design than mixed hodgepodge varieties. On the opposite end of the design spectrum, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden offers a stunning example of how to designa natural look with our local native plants.

Are there any movies that are great examples of design? Clients ask me all the time to reproduce the vegetable garden in It’s Complicated. It’s also one of my favorite movies,and the French-style potager garden is mouth-wateringly gorgeous (even if it’s too-perfect, Hollywood unrealistic).

Any online inspiration? I am a Pinterest garden junkie but am careful to avoid it when I first start a project so I can create a strong original point-of-view and thenuse online images to help inspire some of the details. Gardenista.com and Garden Design Magazine online are also great garden sources.

Tammy Hughes

Emerald Eye Designs

What inspires you? Style inspiration can come in so many forms depending on the architecture that I’m working with. Most often for me, finding a strong architectural piece or two launches the avalanche of ideas. From that point, I can’t stop the wheels from turning in my head until the entire project is visualized down to hardware, plumbing fixtures,and paint colors. It’s a very exhilarating process that will often keep me up at night, in the best possible way.

Where in Santa Barbara inspires you? I always feel like a better person after a visit to Lotusland or Casa del Herrero. Sometimes just driving past a George Washington Smith house or a Lutah Riggs house is enough of a thrill to make me do a double take and slow down for a closer look at the subtle detailing that lends itself to the perfect scale and proportion of that ageless architecture.

What about digital inspiration? Belgian Pearls (belgianpearls.be) was one of the first design blogs that I followed and remains one of my favorites. The understated Flemish designs stand the test of time and are so exquisitely layered in their simplicity.

Laurie Romano

Arcadia Studio, ARCADIASTUDIO.COM

What inspires you? Things that inspire me are nature, which I know is a vast topic. The natural beauty of landforms, flora,and fauna. I am also inspired by my observations, photographs,and other renowned landscape architects and architects and artists.

Any Santa Barbara spots? Cathedral Peak, Lizard’s Mouth, and Shoreline Park are always inspiring.

How about movies, TV shows, or books? The movie The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces and all kinds of books by architects/landscape architects worldwide.

What about digital inspiration? I use Google as a search engine: type in topic you want to study. Landscape Architecture Magazine, The Dirt, and Landezine are also go-to’s.

Jeff Shelton

Jeff Shelton Architecture, JEFFSHELTONARCHITECT.COM

What inspires you? Everything inspires me;that is one of my problems. It’s hard to focus when I want to go in every direction. Nature of course is the basis of all ideas: balance, strength, rhythms, mystery, beauty, and joy. But people screwing things up also inspires me. Just when I feel worn out and exhausted, I see some terrible design somewhere, and my inspiration comes back.

Any Santa Barbara places? I am inspired by living on this narrow stripof land between the cold Pacific Ocean and 4,000-foot Santa Ynez Mountains, covered with chaparral, where the fog rolls in during the summer and the air is dry and clear in the winter so we can see the islands.

Digital inspirations? No, I don’t need or want any additional inspiration. I look at succulents or throw the Frisbee for inspiration.

Caroline Thompson

Cabana Home, CABANAHOME.COM

What inspires you? Walks! Whether in nature or a bustling city, I can find interesting colors, patterns, textures, shapes, or a reminder of something that adds an entire new layer of inspiration.

Any Santa Barbara spots? Lately, walking has not only been an exercise but a meditation. There is so much to take in along the way —neighborhoods with trees budding and flowers blooming. All the senses are engaged. The beach with tides going out and in, bringing shells and frosted sea glass to the shore and showing kiwi-colored moss on the rocks. The sand changes color in seconds as the water covers and uncovers it.

Barry Winick

Winick Architects, WINICKARCHITECTS.COM

What inspires you? Expansive, celestial spaces; sculptural forms; and materials with textural qualities.

Any Santa Barbara places? The great arch of the County Courthouse view toward the sunken garden, the Chapel at St. Anthony’s, the high ridge of East Camino Cielo where you can view the Santa Ynez Range looking north and peering over Santa Barbara out to the Channel Islands when looking south. The Playground up on West Camino Cielo is amazing, with these gigantic boulders strewn all around the ground, and you can go there and just perch and kind of be mesmerized looking off to the west.

What else? Probably the biggest, most impactful cultural performance that I have attended in the last few years was David Byrne’s American UtopiaTour at Santa Barbara Bowl. I was inspired by the modernity, elegance,and expansiveness of the stage, along with impeccable choreography and lighting.

Thinking of the pandemic, are there any different things that are inspiring that you didn’t think of before? Maybe I’m breaking the rules,but I still ride my bike, solo; I don’t ride with friends. For me,getting out into nature has been really great. But I’m getting out solo, so that’s been a different experience. Normally if I were riding my bike,I would be riding with a bike buddy. Now it’s a little bit more meditative and introspective in these same places.

Josh Blumer

AB Design Studio; ABDESIGNSTUDIOINC.COM

What inspires you? I am inspired by people doing exactly what it is they were always meant to be doing. There is nothing more inspiring than a human being who is filled with gratitude and pulsing with passion!

Any Santa Barbara spots? I love watching the Santa Barbara foothills ignite with color and depth in the late afternoon and evenings. The position of the mountains in the east-west orientation allows the ridges, fingers,and valleys along the entirety of thefoothills to come alive with depth as the late-evening sun reveals their absolutely mesmerizing beauty.

Any digital inspirations? I really enjoy following #simonstalenhag Simon Stalenhagon Instagram. Simon’s digital paintings are full of detail and imagination; they make me dream about other worlds and endless possibilities. I also follow WSL (World Surf League) on Instagram. I seem to need to look at their feed about once every hour! I wish I was surfing right now.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020.

Stay at Home and Garden

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR DESIGN EDITION WHEN HOME MEANS MORE THAN EVER

Welcome to the Santa Barbara Independent’s annual Home and Garden special issue.

With all due respect to the very serious health and economic issues facing us right now, finding the joy and beauty in everyday life is also so important —maybe now more than ever, when our worlds have become so much more insular.

As Alice Walker wrote, “Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”

We hope you’ll find some restoration and inspiration in these pages. From practical stories about solar panels and ADUs to garden advice from experts and creative musings from some of our town’s top architects and designers, there’s a whole lot here to help light your creative spark or just inspire you to dream about a new project.

Enjoy!

Advice to Grow By

Santa Barbara’s Master Gardeners Keep Calm and Garden On

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer Discuss Small Garden Style

Premier Party Planner’s Home Entertaining Tips

Dishing With Merryl Brown, Event Designer Extraordinaire

Solarizing Made Simpler

CEC Makes Sun Power Easy and More Affordable

Is an ADU for You?

Allen Construction’s Ryan Cullinen Discusses Granny-Flat Rules

The Original Garden Wise Guy

Landscape Architect and TV Host Billy Goodnick

Creative Inspiration for Home Improvements

Where Santa Barbara’s Pros Go to Find Their Muse

A Monthly Guide to Mastering Your Garden

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara

2020 H&G

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This special section of the Santa Barbara Independent (May 14-21, 2020) contained the following stories. Click on each one to read it, or view the entire section here, with additional web exclusive content here.

A Monthly Guide to Mastering Your Garden

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent in May 2020.

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara

Spring has sprung, and with social distancing restrictions in place, most of us have a lot more time to putter in the garden. Here are some guidelines on what to plant when from the UC Master Gardener Program, with an emphasis on edibles to help avoid extra trips to the market.

May

Almost any warm-season edible can be planted now, with the exception of peas and lettuce. Plant seeds or starts of beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melon, peppers, tomatoes, and squash. Basil plants can go in now, as well as just about any other kind of herb, such as lavender, marjoram, rosemary and thyme, all of which originate in southern France, so they thrive in Santa Barbara’s similar climate. Avocado, banana, cherimoya, mango, and strawberry guava trees can be planted now, and spring (through May) is also a great time to plant citrus.

June

If this month offers our typical “June gloom” weather, these gray, often overcast days allow gardeners to make a last planting of warm-season crops. This includes transplants of cucumber, eggplant, pepper, and tomatoes, as well as seeds of beans, beets, carrots, summer squash, and zucchini. Herbs such as basil, chervil, chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and tarragon also grow well.

July/August

You can still plant beans (for drying) and corn; also tomatoes (especially dwarf varieties), eggplant, peppers, chard, cucumbers, green onions, kale, and summer and winter squash. Tip: Transplant in the late afternoon or early evening, water well, and mulch around plants. Provide temporary shade as needed from the harsh midday sun. From late July into August, sow seeds of carrots and cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). Keep soil moist and shaded until seedlings emerge; gradually increase sun exposure over a week. It’s also a good time to plant basil, dill, summer savory, and heat-loving Mediterranean natives such as lavender and rosemary. Plant kumquat, lemon, lime, orange, avocado, cherimoya, and mango (depending on where you live; mangoes love heat and don’t like fog).

Harvest ripe crops regularly (at least every other day) to encourage further production. Dispose of any fruit that falls to the ground to eliminate a food source for vertebrate pests such as squirrels and rats. Most dropped fruit can be composted, except for citrus, which should especially be avoided in worm bins.

September

September is the best time of year to plant anything and everything in Santa Barbara County. This includes seedlings of beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, green onions, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce and salad mixes, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sugar snap peas, chives, cilantro, lavender, lemon grass, parsley, rosemary, winter savory, salad burnet, and turnips. Artichoke and strawberry plants can also go in, as well as onion sets.

California natives do not need water, as they are still “resting” and awaiting winter rains. Use of mulch in planted beds can be helpful to slow moisture loss due to evaporation, but be sure to keep mulch well away from plant stems and trunks.

October

Fall is the time for transplants of artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and strawberries; and sow seeds of leafy greens, beets, carrots, celery, chard, garlic, leeks, onions, peas, radish, and turnips.

This is a great month to plant California natives: island bush snapdragon, ceanothus, California poppy, Dana Point buckwheat, Douglas iris, Matilija poppy bush, sages, toyon, and others. Visit the nursery at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden during their fall plant sale for a wide selection of native plants best suited for our area.

November

Artichokes, beets, carrots, leafy greens, onion sets, parsnips, peas, radishes, Swiss chard, and turnips grow well this month. Strawberries are best planted during the first half of this month, before temperatures drop.

Herbs such as chives. marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme grow well in November, too. They may not look their best until next spring, but planting them this early allows them to become established with the onset of winter rains.

December/January

Bare-root roses should be planted in December, when nursery selection is at its best. They are generally less expensive than container-grown specimens, they require less care, and they are easier to handle and plant. Plant them the same day they are purchased for best results.

February

February is usually our rainiest month. It’s best to stay out of your garden when the soil is wet. If necessary, lay down pieces of plywood to walk on instead of directly on soggy ground. Tip: Take your houseplants outdoors during the rain for a nice, deep, cleansing soak.

Sow seeds of beets, celery, carrots, chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. Plant garlic, onions, and shallots. If you want to grow unusual varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, start seeds indoors now. Artichoke and asparagus crowns, as well as rhubarb rhizomes, can be dug and transplanted.

March

You can still transplant artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and rhubarb. At month’s end, seedlings of early-variety tomatoes can be planted. Continue sowing seeds of lettuce, peas, radish, and spinach. Plant starts of chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. March is a good month to select and plant citrus as well as bare-root stone fruit such as cherry, apricot, and peach.

April

Sow or transplant beets, carrots, celery, kale, kohlrabi, and rhubarb. On the coast, continue planting chard, leeks, radishes, and spinach. Transplant early varieties of beans, cucumber, and tomatoes. This may be the last month to transplant artichokes, asparagus, and cole (or brassica) crops like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Just about any kind of herb can be planted now. Lavender, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme originated in southern France, so they thrive in Santa Barbara’s similar Mediterranean climate.

Find more extensive monthly planting guides, at tinyurl.com/master-your-garden.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020.

Premier Party Planner’s Home Entertaining Tips

From Santa Barbara Independent, May 14-21, 2020. Photo by Megan Sorel Photography.

Dishing With Merryl Brown, Event Designer Extraordinaire

While wow-worthy fundraising events may be in our rearview mirror for a while, anyone who’s ever attended the Pacific Pride Foundation’s Royal Ball, the Community Environmental Council’s Green Gala, or the Bellosguardo Foundation’s inaugural Great Gatsby–themed soirée knows what a thoughtful, creative touch that Merryl Brown and her team bring to every event.

While we’re all so eager to have our friends and family once again able to join us in our humble abodes, here is some entertaining advice from the expert.

How do you plan a small house party? I sit and I think about who is coming and who I want to be there and who will interact well with whom. Then I think about the flow of the party and what it’s going to feel like.

It starts with the invitation: What’s it going to tell you? How are you supposed to dress? Is it going to be a dinner? Are you going to get cocktails and hors d’oeuvres? You want to convey the theme and really give a sense of the party — without giving too much away.

Make sure everything is spotless in your home, that the bathrooms have a candle lit and that everything is clean and tidy. Make lots of space on your counter if you’re having a caterer. I’m a big believer in that it’s really hard for people to cook, make food, and be able to entertain their guests simultaneously.

If you want to cook, then have some extra help in the house. You can always enlist people who can take some of the burden off of you, so you aren’t stressed. That’s probably the single most important thing: The host or hostess really leads the mood. If a person is really stressed out when they’re entertaining, I think it really kills the mood of the party.

And when the party starts? It’s important to have a bar that people can get to right away and get their drinks. I think it’s really fun to have a couple of fun, interesting drinks and create a drink menu that you can put on your bar. Get interesting glassware and have interesting things that you can put in the drinks: edible flowers and interesting ice cubes where you invent something inside of them, glowing straws, or metal straws. There’s all different kinds of things that you can use to make your drinks look and feel great — and it becomes a point of conversation. You want to make sure to give that to people, particularly people that don’t know each other.

You can also have a person with a tray passing drinks if you have a bigger party, to take pressure off the bar. My favorite way to entertain is to traypass hors d’oeuvres and keep everything really neat and tidy (so people aren’t sharing germs). If you go online, there’s a million different recipes.

If you are limited in your budget, you can have custom cocktail napkins done very reasonably. Have some little quote or some funny little saying, or some sort of image. I did a memorial one time, and there were lyrics from a song that the person loved on the napkin, and it was meaningful.

What if I don’t have a bar? You can create a bar. You can take a six-foot table and put a linen on it; you can get some PVC and you can cut four pieces exactly the same size, and you raise that table up a little bit so that the front bar’s a little higher; you put another six-foot table behind it. And then you display your bottles; you display your artifacts; you make some cool things. Everybody should have a hot-glue gun — what you can do with a hot-glue gun is a beautiful thing. You can find fun stuff [Michaels, Art From Scrap, and Art Essentials are her go-to places] and make cool things that are in the theme of the party.

You have to get creative and have fun with it, and don’t be so nervous that it’s not going to be good enough. When you make an effort and you have fun with it and are not all nervous and stressed about it, people are psyched. They just want to have a nice time and they want to have a new experience and they want to be a part of something meaningful.

I think people really want to connect. The more that you give people things to connect about, to talk about, the more fun people are going to have.

What about the tablescapes? I try to layer things. For example, if you’re setting the table, it’s not just about the china and the linens and the glassware and the flatware and the floral. Those things are part of it, but there has to be something more, those little lovely surprises that make things pop. Have the beautiful calligraphed menu tucked into the napkin and this beautiful flower, and then they lift the napkin up and there’s a lovely little fortune or some little surprise, some little special poem or whatever it is.

What’s your most critical piece of advice? The single most important thing when you do an event is just to do it with love, infuse it with love.

I can’t wait to go to your coronavirus containment party. I want to throw that party. You’re going to have to come with your own hand-painted mask and your own gloves that you created yourself. We’ll all carry a six-foot scepter pointed out, so that everybody is six feet away from you, and then it’s a dance party in a great big space where everybody is far apart. And there’s no buffet at all; everybody gets their own individual food when they walk in the door.

See you there!

See merrylbrownevents.com.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer Discuss Small Garden Style

Gardens are magical in any season, but during this seemingly endless season of COVID-19’s “sheltering in place” restrictions, there’s never been a better time to have a garden to escape to in Santa Barbara.

No matter how much space you have to work with, authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton (a landscape designer) and Jennifer Blaise Kramer (a lifestyle writer) have collaborated on a book that’s here to help. Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers is an excellent resource to help you create a design framework to bring your garden dreams to life.

“It’s all about being really encouraging, really accessible no matter what size space you have,” said Eaton. “Even if you’re doing just a couple containers by your front door or your porch, everyone deserves to have a little garden in their home, and why not make it something that really feels like you and bring your individual aesthetic?”

A key component of the book is helping you figure out what your individual aesthetic is. There’s a really fun quiz that kick-starts the book with a series of questions that help you define your style. Are you a Clean Minimalist who starts your morning routine with black coffee and a cold shower? Or is your style more Bold Eclectic, with a black leather Eames lounge chair as your favorite place to relax at home? Perhaps Organic Modern is more your vibe if your ideal mode of transportation is hiking shoes, as you head for the mountains. Or is it a Jeep Wagoneer with wood paneling that reflects your New Traditional style?

“Then we walk you through these different gardens,” said Eaton, acknowledging that many have crossover styles. “We take you through the design framework behind how to put a container together, how to design an outdoor room, so you can understand the design theory behind doing a really dramatic container.”

By the time you’re at the nursery picking plants, the vast choices are not so overwhelming.

“It’s like a little mini design school for the reader,” said Eaton.

The authors embarked on the project when they wouldn’t find another garden-meets-design book. “We wanted this to feel like a design book for your outdoors,” said Kramer. Her own garden was designed by Eaton, who focuses on layering. “But not just in a pot and not just in a garden,” said Kramer. “It’s the whole look, it’s the whole room, and it’s thinking about your outdoor space just like you would your indoor space.”

Their goal was to make the book be “fun and beautiful and inspirational, but also very practical and useful,” said Eaton. “A container is a miniature garden; it’s the best place to start. There’s a little bit of trial and error. Read the book, then go to the nursery on Saturday morning and try it out — you don’t have to start designing the entire garden; you can start with a couple of containers. Now’s a great time to plant!”

Small Garden Style can be purchased at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.) or amazon.com.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Advice to Grow By

Santa Barbara’s Master Gardeners Keep Calm and Garden On

Working to cultivate home gardeners who want to learn about soil, sustainable landscaping, plant and tree care, and growing their own fruits and vegetables, the UC Master Gardeners of Santa Barbara County are 163 trained and 74 currently active volunteers trained to share their knowledge with the community.

They come from all walks of life.

“My class had students just out of UCSB and retirees in their seventies,” said Master Gardener Amy Mayfield. “We all loved our crash course in all things related to plants from top professors from UC Davis and Riverside.” Once they’ve gained some garden knowledge, helping others is a key component of the Master Gardener program. “Volunteering in our community is a great connection to people and plants,” said Mayfield. “My go-to place to volunteer is the community helpline because every question makes me use my brain and research skills to find an answer. I love helping at Harry Potter night at the Public Library, too.”

While the group is currently observing physical distancing, they are also “encouraging the public to prioritize mental and physical health by gardening, and volunteers are still standing by to answer questions through helplines,” said Danica Taber, the Master Gardener Program Coordinator. Volunteers are available to help by phone ([805] 893-3485) or email (anrmgsb@ucanr.edu), and Taber suggested submitting photos along with questions.

“Pictures of the problem and details about your plant’s history and environment, like watering and fertilizing schedules, daily sun exposure, and location on your property, are helpful.”

Not all problems are easy to solve: Earlier this year, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s ponytail palms (which are more closely related to yuccas than palms) turned black at the tops. “The problem? Sprinklers in the field behind them would hit them with water on windy days,” said Taber. “This was not an obvious diagnosis to make for the zoo horticultural staff, because sprinklers weren’t aiming at the ponytail palms, and wind is an invisible, irregular force.”

The program, which is part of the UCSB Extension Program and is for anyone interested in a thriving garden, is designed to “empower home gardeners to help themselves by sharing knowledge and resources that are important for their particular gardening challenges,” said Taber.

Currently in the process of adapting to providing online education, the Master Gardeners offer intensive, practical courses on horticulture, soil and plant nutrition, pests and diseases and their control, plant management, and diagnosis of plant problems, as well as various public outreach events.

Said Mayfield, “It’s the best bang for your buck if you like people, plants, and knowledge!”

For more information, see cesantabarbara.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener . For a complete list of what to plant now, see independent.com/hg2020.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.