what you do matters

Sometimes you get the shell of a popcorn kernel stuck in your tooth and it hurts a little but mostly just annoys you until you can take a moment to floss it away. I have one of those kernels stuck in my brain. Recently I had a conversation with someone in my life who tends to lean toward the ignorant. I’d say to the right, but it isn’t so much to the right as it is to the empty and meaningless arguments of certain so-called ‘news’ programs.

This current annoying kernel involves personal responsibility. He believes that it doesn’t matter what he does, what any one of us does, as none of us has any effect on the bigger picture or the world at large. So when he tosses his old batteries and fluorescent lamps into the landfill it’s okay. And if he chooses not to do his part to reduce, re-use and recycle, that’s okay too. Someone else will fix it.

People that choose to believe they play no part in the good and bad around them are frustrating to say the least. Lucky for the rest of us there are plenty of good people doing good things for the good of all. When I think about the people who are doing their part to better their own corner or maybe even the whole world, it’s like mental floss to that annoying little kernel.

Our School at Blair Grocery

We are headed back to New Orleans to introduce our music loving son to the city. And to the fighting spirit that infuses so many of its people. People like Nat Turner, a transplant from New York, who has been working nearly a decade to create a self sufficient food, learning and youth empowerment community in the lower ninth ward. Whatever you may think about the lower ninth ward and whether or not it should be re-built, there are people who live there, people without much money, who need to eat. And people whose children need to learn. Nat Turner has fought the system and even his own staff to turn what was once a grocery store under water into a place to feed the body, nourish the soul and teach the heart. And squeeze some math, english and social studies in along the way.

food security

But this is really only the beginning. Modeling food security is at least one of Turner’s end games. We are a country rich in resources but very poor at sharing them equally, or sometimes even at all. At OSBG, Turner is not gardening for fun or to teach his students to plant their own little back garden. He is teaching them to garden for production, to sell what they grow and to live on what they sell. One of the teachings he shared with me several years ago was that you can make a better living selling tomatoes than selling crack. Once you add together the cost of attorneys, downtime while you’re in jail, and whatever cost is involved in purchasing drugs to sell, tomatoes are a more lucrative product. So teaching kids to grow tomatoes creates a better opportunity than what the guy down the street might be offering. If this can work in the lower ninth, it could work somewhere else.

changing the world

Recently, filmmaker Ian Midgley introduced Turner and OSBG to a man, Dr. Marcin Jakubowski, who makes large equipment and shares his designs online. For free. OSBG could use some farm equipment. Jakubowski needed some help pushing his ideas forward and out into the world. The duo could be a powerful force. So Midgley made a movie about the two of them called Reversing the Mississippi. As the movie trailer says…‘If one person can make a difference, can two people change the world?

what you do matters

Every one of us creates an impact…like a pebble dropped into a pond. The ripples are strongest closest to where the pebble falls, but they extend far beyond. To believe otherwise is just plain laziness. I may not be able to single handedly fix the whole world, but I can make my little piece of it a little better. So can you.

Next month I’ll be digging in the dirt at Our School at Blair Grocery with Turner, my son and my husband. They always need extra hands on the ground. Drop in if you’re in the neighborhood…but call first!

Keep in touch,


home: my prefab story

Welcome to my new garden office! Overall I’m very pleased to have such a sweet place to work, but the process was not what I expected when I ordered ‘prefab’. It’s been a long ‘5 day’ build getting the office completed and has been fraught with incorrect shipments, missing parts and not always quality workmanship. I did learn a lot and offer my newfound knowledge to anyone contemplating this process for themselves.

research your manufacturer

The photographs are great, but they won’t show you the details or explain the process. Interview people who have purchased from this manufacturer and look at several of their installations (if they are available locally…if this is a big project then travel to see installations). Talk with at least 3 previous customers and ask questions both about the quality of the finished product and about how the process went. Did everything arrive as expected and on time? Did installation take longer than expected and if so, why? What will be delivered from the manufacturer and what will be purchased locally? What parts of the building are built in the factory and what is built on site? How well did the installation team communicate with the customer? Was scheduling spelled out and adhered to? How were problems handled?


A large out-building or a residence will of course require a permit. If you are looking at a smaller out building, don’t be sold by the prefab company on a ‘permit free’ sized building. Talk to your local building department and tell them what you are planning….in detail. Find out whether a permit will be required, what type of permit(s) will be required, and what the submission requirements are in your jurisdiction. DO NOT rely on information you find on your building department’s website. Permitting could affect timing as well as the design of your building. If you are not versed in pulling building permits this may also require the help of a local designer or architect. This extra time and expense must be considered as part of your building cost. My 120′ outbuilding with electricity required a full submission (meaning I had to draw a full set of plans and drop them off at the building department for full review) and required several weeks and incurred significant permitting fees.


Understand the design of your building before you purchase. Ask for the manufacturer’s standard construction details and review them, or have someone you know who is versed in construction review them. If the manufacturer can’t provide construction details for walls, roof, millwork, etc. and specification sheets for doors, windows, lighting, hardware and other accessories, don’t make your down payment until they can provide these standard details and specifications. At this point in the process the manufacturer won’t be able to provide details specific to your project, but they can and should be able to provide you with whatever is standard. If you want something customized, discuss in detail the customization and find out how it will be handled. Is this something that will be done in the factory? Will it be customized in the field? Who will be responsible to oversee the customization and how is it communicated?


Most of the prefab manufacturers tout their ‘green’ products. Find out what they mean by green and how much they really know about building sustainably. Much of this process is hidden from the consumer so you must rely on the manufacturer’s disclosures. Although the manufacturer I went with bragged (mostly appropriately) about their ‘green’ product, I realized early on that their knowledge of sustainable construction was limited. I wanted my building sited to use to best advantage passive solar principles, something that confounded the manufacturer until the building was constructed and they saw the wisdom of the siting. In order to accomplish this I had to flip the design of the building and relocate the door to what they considered the back of the building. Don’t presume that the manufacturer knows a great deal about sustainability beyond the products that they integrate. If this is important to you, ask questions to determine how much the manufacturer knows. You may want the help of a local designer or architect who has specific knowledge in sustainable practices to be involved.

site preparation

If you are responsible to prepare the site, understand what options exist and the costs involved. Is a slab required? What size? Will your building be set on sleds? Hire a general contractor if necessary to get the work done. If a building permit is required, site preparation will be part of the building permit and details will be required of the manufacturer. This information will be required early in the process. Schedule the work to be done in time for delivery (I know….I probably don’t need to say this).

5/8/14 update:  Don’t you hate it when you wake in the middle of the night remembering something really important but too tired to do anything about it? Yup, last night. Power! Your outbuilding will likely require power, possibly a data line, maybe plumbing. It is critical that you understand what the building itself requires to function and also what you need to perform whatever tasks you plan for the interior (and exterior possibly). This information will go into your drawing set (if permitting is required), and at the very least will need to be communicated to your general contractor as part of site preparation.


Once your order is placed, ask for a schedule to include expected delivery and length of installation. Keep in touch with your factory or sales contact to verify that the project is progressing as expected through the factory and find out what is expected of you at the site. Get the installer’s name and contact information. Ask to be contacted by the installer and schedule a pre-meeting (by phone is fine) so that you understand the process.


Expect to spend more time than you expect to spend on the site during construction. There will be questions as with any construction project, but if all of the prior steps were followed they should be minimized. You will need to have an area cleared for storage of the un-built building. Plan for that ahead of time. The installers will need power to run their tools. Pets and children will need to be managed and kept safely away. Hopefully all the parts and pieces will be delivered correctly and on time. If not, your installer should be able to correct the problems. Just in case, make sure you have the name of the person that you can contact to follow up. If you are responsible to provide any finishes or accessories (I provided my own light fixtures and flooring), have it on site when the building arrives. Review the work that’s been done every evening and if you see something that doesn’t look right, say something immediately. Work should not continue until you are satisfied. Be very stubborn on this point! And hopefully, if they promise you a 5 day build, you will have a 5 day build (I’m past one month and still waiting for a few items to be finished). But better is should take longer and be done right than meet schedule and be poorly built.

I hope you find this information helpful.  Feel free to pass it on, ask questions, send me pictures of your prefab….,
LeslieOLightingOpad Sales

found art

San Francisco is full of museums and galleries and concert halls and theaters. But if you look around you’ll find even more art on street corners and in back alleys. If you enjoy treasure hunts, you just might like what you find on the street more than what you’ll find inside. Check out these bits and pieces of my favorite discoveries in SF.

mural by Max Ehrman, photo courtesy oduwaerts/

mural by Max Ehrman, photo courtesy oduwaerts/

Clarion Alley, Mission District

Clarion Alley has provided a local canvas for the last 20 years. Art is ever changing in a neighborhood filled with shops and awesome restaurants. Make an afternoon of it…and thank the people of CAMP for their good works in the local art scene.

The Presidio

British Artist Andy Goldsworthy, in conjunction with The Presidio Trust and For-site Foundation, creates art in place and he has graced the Presidio with three of his unique installations over the course of the last several years.

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

16th Avenue steps

Several years ago the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association and their fiscal sponsor, The San Francisco Parks Trust, worked with locals to create this beautiful mosaic stairway. Visit it at Moraga and 16th Avenue.

photo courtesy

photo courtesy 7×

Hotel Zetta public stairwell

The Hotel Zetta opened early 2013 on 5th Street next to the Westfield Shopping Center. It’s young and hip and has a very cool stairwell by a prominent (now) local artist, Jonathan Matas.

photo courtesy

photo courtesy 7×

Golden Fire Hydrant

When the great fire of 1906 followed the earthquake, much of the city burned as fire hydrants ran dry. This little hydrant at the corner of Church and 20th saved the Mission District. As reward it is repainted gold once a year at 5:12 am on April 6th, the time that the earthquake hit.

photo courtesy T.

photo courtesy T.

Fort Mason Community Garden

The Fort Mason Community Garden is made up of 125 plots most of which are 20′ x 5′. There is a 7-8 year waiting list for a plot. No pesticides are allowed and each gardener must plant at least two seasons per year. These are some serious gardeners growing both flowers and edibles. And yes, gardens, in my opinion, are art.

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

The Wave Organ

Created by Peter Richards and George Gonzales in conjunction with The Exploratorium, this 1986 musical sculpture is worth a little walk out onto the Marina jetty. Just check the tides first because they create the music.

Enjoy my little tryst through San Francisco. Let me know if you discover other little gems you’d like to share. Have a great week! And don’t forget about Dining Out for Life tomorrow.

a feast in the field

my weekly produce box from Capay Farm

my weekly produce box from Capay Farm

weekly produce

I love getting my weekly box from the good people at Capay Farms.  It’s like a present every Tuesday. Sometimes I get something new….something I’ve never tried before, like kiwi berries. Party in my mouth people! So when I received an email from Farm Fresh to You last Friday about a party in their field I turned on my best ‘please please honey’ smile.  How could Steve say no when I was looking at him with such pathetic beggary? So yes, we are going.  Let me know if you are going as well….this will be our first time and we’d love to go with friends!

photos from last year's event courtesy

photos from last year’s event

farm fresh2

outstanding in the field

Outstanding in the Field throws those awesome parties that you see in magazines where there is a very long table in the middle of a field or farm with people yakking it up and drinking wine and eating food that you are just certain they picked off the trees moments before. And everyone is all smiling and happy. Well I’ve been to the farm that provides my weekly produce and I know how beautiful it is, and how lovely are the farmers that own and work those fields. A group of brothers who are carrying on their mother’s legacy of growing and sharing her organic produce. So attend if you can…I’d love to sit with you…

ps…and by the way, this is NOT a sponsored post. I truly love getting my produce from Capay Farm. Every week they send me a discount code to share. If you want to try them out use code 6164 and mention my name. Farm Fresh to You (Capay Farm’s delivery program) will give you $10 off your first box. Or stop by their booth at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. That’s where I met them!

Happy Monday….keep in touch,

Farm City, Novella Carpenter

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

“I took a deep breath and plunged the little yellow seeds into the ground that was not mine.  I snaked the hose around from our backyard and sprinkled water onto the bare patch of soil.  Lana and I stood and watched the water soak in.  What I was doing reminded me a little of shoplifting, except instead of taking, I was leaving something.  But I was worried.  Couldn’t these plants be used as evidence against me?”
~Novella Carpenter, Farm City
I know….Novella Carpenter wrote this book years ago. And I’m finally reading it now. With my ridiculously destroyed back garden (see my facebook page for the reason behind that!), I am ripe for a new start. On top of the mess, we are having a drought in California, so unless it feeds my family, I’m not watering it. Eventually the grass will die, which won’t break my heart.  Then I will follow Novella’s lead and plant food which I will water very carefully so as not to waste a drop. Who knows where this will lead?