Random Thoughts

Converting the Black Thumb

Beginning my new life as a micro farmer

July 1, 2010, was the beginning of what would become My New Life. I moved into a new house in the middle of coastal suburbia, a hidden gem just minutes from uncrowded surf spots and amazing sunsets over the water.

I had spent the last eight years living in a concrete loft downtown, so this new environment — in all its shades of blue and green (from the paint trim to the terraced gardens to the ocean views), its sounds (we traded sirens and party-goers for songbirds and foghorns), and its smells (salty breezes in place of diesel fumes) — was pure paradise. In an often-overlooked part of Los Angeles, of all places.

When house-hunting originally, all I’d wanted was a “normal” house with a backyard for my pugs. And by backyard, I would’ve settled for a square patch of lawn with just enough room for a couple of chairs and a grill. This is LA, y’all… where sprawling front lawns often outsize their rear counterparts.

But what I suddenly found myself in was a nearly 10,000-square-foot lot on a sloping hill with thriving vegetable beds and plenty of space to create a small-scale urban homestead. Given the state of the economy, the looming invasion of GMOs in our food supply, and the exorbitant prices at Whole Foods, the prospect of growing our own organic fruits and vegetables was fascinating and very exciting… if not a little daunting.

My only experience with gardening was potted herbs on a windowsill or fire escape. Most of them barely survived, but that didn’t stop me from making a trip to Home Depot’s nursery to replace yet another wilting plant. I liked to believe that my enthusiasm made up for my lack of green thumb, though!

So here I am, on my little micro farm by the sea, not really knowing what I’m doing but determined to grow something — anything? — to feed us at least one meal this winter. I just hope everything won’t turn brown the moment I take over the backyard.

Let the garden projects begin!

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Cary Bradley
    May 1, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I thought I’d started at the beginning of your sojourn when I found you a few years ago, going back through in order, but this one escaped me! So fun to have the back story. Just about to take your first video tour and clicked attached link in story, and here is your start on the farmette! So fun to read. I’d grown up the child of a man who’d be Southern California gardening since the 60s (his folks came west in the 20s), so know lots, but when he died, I lost my sounding board of experience and local wisdom. Miss him! Fun to know you just started in 2010. Living now in coastal New England, I am also grateful for my start in beautiful forgiving Southern California. Able to grow all kinds of new exotic fruits and veg (thank you Sunset mag!), as well as draw on the experience of family for old trieds and trues, we were fortunate. Excited to see you embrace what was left for you, and turn it into your own paradise. Thanks for your story!

    • Linda from Garden Betty
      May 18, 2017 at 6:38 am

      Thank you, Cary, for being here and sharing your kind comments all these years!


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