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California Homestead: Early Spring – A 2021 Permaculture Update

Reading Time: 5 minutes

California state’s 2020 stay-at-home orders had us shift our plans from travel to working on an at-home permaculture effort.

In 2021 our focus is ongoing care and maintenance of what we began last year. We will highlight our thoughts from ideation to production, our observations, learnings and photos as the year progresses.

Meyer Lemons

Last year we documented our journey around planting 60+ Meyer Lemon trees across the property. We spent time thinking through soil, sunlight, watering and what ongoing maintenance looked like.

In the past three months, lemon growth has exploded and we’ve harvested enough fruits to create two new batches of Limoncello to share with friends and family. We’re learning about when to pick the lemons, what our ideal tart and sweet level looks like and the type of alcohol we most enjoy with the Limoncello. If you haven’t already, check out our post from last year documenting the creation of our first batch of Limoncello.

Haas Avocado Tree

During our travels in Chilean desert, we met a agriturismo owner who spent his days hybridizing different fruit varietals on his farm. He had many avocados trees on his property that were decades old, and shared his learnings from his experiences nurturing these plants over the years.

He inspired us to purchase an avocado tree for our own property. Admittedly, we were unsure whether it would survive or not given the California evening chill that is unsupportive of plants that thrive in more climates with more humidity. After making some adjustments around sunlight, we’d found that our tree is happy to hang out with its Mandarian Orange and Meyer Lemon companions, lapping up the California sun.


The Geraniums scattered throughout the property continue to be a source of enduring color that provide needed pops of green during the winter months.

Planter overhaul

A major effort early this year was to bring the same serenity from the backyard area up to the front yard area. We felt the lack of cohesity between the two areas created a disjointed effect. In order to remedy this feeling, we designed a space where humans, flora and fauna alike could enjoy the space. We spend our early afternoons surrounded by the soothing sounds of the fountain’s water, and find contentment in the hum of the bees, chirps of birds and the hovering hummingbird as it feeds and zooms past our heads to say its daily hello.

Apricot Tree

We took an existing apricot tree under our wing and worked on providing it the nourishment it needs to produce a second harvest of delicious apricots. Our apricot sorbet recipe is something we’d like to replicate this year. We have our eye on apricot jam, an apricot galette and brown butter apricot with brioche and ice cream (swoon!).

Mandarin Orange Tree

For the past few years the Mandarin Orange has languished. We tuned our attention to towards its care this year, and after a single season, it produced a few oranges, albeit dry. Our goal this year is to bring the fruit to edible quality and use it in recipes like a Sicilian Orange Cake, Apple and Orange Blossom Tart with Honey Labneh and a Moroccan Orange Blossom and Cardamom Yogurt Cake.

Artichoke growth

This year’s surprise was the amount of growth we saw around the artichokes. We planted them in last year without having done too much research around what to expect in terms of growth. In January they exploded in size, having quadrupled in the chillier winter months. We’re interested in tasting them and hope that our efforts to deeply till the soil gave the vegetable a chance to flourish. We have not decided if we will continue to grow artichokes after this season or if they were an experiment.

Pomegranate Trees

We take pride in our resuscitation efforts of the decades-old pomegranates on the property. Though pomegranates are a hardy tree, their bark was brittle and their fruits dried when we first got our hands on them. Our pomegranate juice recipe and history of the pomegranate was a hit post and we’re excited to

Ladybugs (Coccinellidae)

We released 150 lady bugs into our garden this year. We’re hoping that this infusion of natural biological control will aid in keeping pests at bay. We learned that lady bugs must be released during the cooler temperatures (early morning, evening) to avoid them flying away from the garden.

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