We had a dream...

We wanted to see if we could eat almost entirely from our own land. Here's what we learned about the joys, and realities, of the locavore life

One-block feast chickens
Photo: E. Spencer Toy

On a late-summer evening, in the middle of the garden, a group of us are having dinner. The cucumbers come from vines sprawled a few feet away. The eggs inside the little baked squashes are courtesy of the six hens clucking at the garden’s far end. The tomatoes were picked an hour ago. Everything we’re eating tonight, from the wine in our glasses to the honey in the sorbet, we made or grew ourselves, right here.

We’re longtime fans of the local eating movement, which champions getting food grown as close as possible to where you live. About a year ago, we took this to its logical conclusion: Instead of a 100-mile or 50-mile diet, how about a one-block diet? We’d raise everything at Sunset, in a backyard-size plot, for a late-summer feast (and a lot of cooking beyond).

First, we dreamed up the menu; then we planted fruits and vegetables. We needed fat for cooking, but what to use? The giant old olive trees on our property held the answer in their branches. A group of staffers, dubbed Team Olive, started investigating how to press our olives for oil.

As for what to drink, a pair of grapevines in the garden gave us the idea. Team Wine drove into the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, picked 500 pounds of Syrah grapes, and crushed them in a Sunset parking lot. Meanwhile, our head gardener, Rick LaFrentz, led Team Beer in making a summery wheat brew.

We needed protein. Enter Team Cheese (using milk from a Bay Area dairy) and Team Chicken (focusing on eggs, not meat). Finally, we needed a natural sweetener for dessert: honey. Plus, its hardworking producers would pollinate our garden. Team Bee was born.

We began our project knowing how to garden and cook. But as for winemaking, beekeeping, saltmaking, and the rest of it, we were completely untrained. We tackled these time-honored crafts with beginner’s gusto, and learned that we really could do it all. And so can you. 

Next: We raised chickens


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