About

The original 66 Square Feet, Cobble Hill

Hello, I am Marie Viljoen. Writer, forager, gardener, and cook. And maybe a few other things, too. I could never decide.

Here is the story of how this blog came to be and what its name means, then and now:

Once upon a time I had a very small terrace, in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. It was exactly 66 square feet in size. It inspired this blog and my subsequent cookbook, 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life. It was a wonderful little space, and even the New York Times liked it. I lived there first with a big black cat, and later with the Frenchman, my husband, who left his country and home for me and the cat. Yes, it was very romantic. Since then, there have been three more New York gardens:

Harlem 

When we moved to Harlem I added a (Plus) to the 66 Square Feet title.  Because the terrace was bigger. (Follow the link for all the Harlem terrace posts.)

Despite the pleasure of transforming that space (which was also featured in the New York Times, and a book), and learning semi-shade gardening, our stay was not very long: we lost Don Estorbo, there. And our resident landlord was a drummer whose advertised soundproof studio did not exist. Instead, he built one below us while we were in residence. Life was loud. 

1st Place

We moved back to Brooklyn, to the neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, coincidentally just a few blocks south of our original tiny apartment and terrace. There was a spacious backyard which I coaxed from weed jungle to garden. In summer we watched fireflies dance, and a pair of possums that visited in the evenings. We ate supper at a long wooden table and endured hordes of summer mosquitoes. You don't know mosquitoes until you have lived with a Brooklyn backyard. 

It's hashtag on Instagram is #1stPlaceBK and in all posts tagged 1st Place.


It was a fantastic, inspiring laboratory and helped me write the wild plant cultivation tips for my second book, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine.

After three years we moved again. I threw a plant adoption party that found homes for most of my 1st Place collection. The rest came along with us.

The Windsor Terrace

Which bings us to now: We had learned a lot about apartment hunting by that time, and knew what to look for, even if it seemed far-fetched: a top-floor (for privacy, and for no one stomping above us); bright natural light - for sanity and for the citrus trees; a new renovation - no mice, no leaks; essential outdoor space; and no scary neighbors. As much sky as New York City could offer and a decent landlord would be nice, too. 

Impossibly, we lucked out. Big time. This terrace is #thewindsorterrace on Instagram and The Windsor Terrace tag, here - named after our neighborhood. 

I grow all kinds of edible plants and stuff our windowboxes with a revolving menu of herbs, leaves, and annuals. Our citrus tree flock moves in and out in late fall and spring. There are no mosquitoes. (They hate heights.)

And so the small-space gardening adventure continues.

(When I am not writing and reading and recipe testing and gardening - or washing the dishes - I am walking in the woods and wild places.)

18 comments:

  1. Made me so happy to read about the happy end to your moving adventures! We are at the stage of waiting for the life as we knew it ( with gardening, outdoor food and drinks parties) to end at the end of this month with no plan yet as to where we will end up. Thank you, Jesse Elgart, for being the kick in the ass to force us into changes which we avoid at all costs when possible...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so sorry to hear that! What happened? Good luck...

      Delete
  2. Love your blog. I also live in Carroll Gardens and have 2 gardens I tend to....one in the front of my condo building facing south and one my own garden facing north...both bring their challenges. I lived in California for awhile and tried planting all my favorite plants here in Brooklyn. Some survive beautifully, Just Joey (my favorite rose), The Butterfly Bush, Borage, Rose Campion, Large Poppies -but some do not do well...White Japanese Anemonies and Gaura - do not flourish in my gardens. I love the Old English Garden mixed with Prairie Style look....and work hard to maintain it. I also love your photos of flowers growing "wherever". Keep up the great work...and hope to bump into you one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      Where is your condo garden? Maybe I can see it from the street? I also have borage this year :-)

      Delete
  3. Hello Marie - it's been awhile since I have checked in with your blog and I am so happy for you to be back in Brooklyn! Your new garden looks fantastic. I so admire you. To think you can actually grow edible stuff in good ole Brooklyn (my family was from there) - I will keep up better now that it is summer. Happy Green things!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Marie your blog is an ongoing inspiration. Look forward to following your adventures in housing, foraging, and gardening. Mine is postage stamp sized. My neighbor, whose house is attached has generously extended the use of his garden and I am in the process of removing monstrous clumps of crabgrass and other weeds, hopeful?y in time for fall planting. In surrounded by neighbors won grow only food crops. I have lots of flowers and herbs in addition to veggies. I believe I am one of many faithful readers who rarely comment, but miss you when you're absent. Keep blogging please.
    Clara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Clara - thank you :-)

      Good luck with that weeding. A lot of work, I know, and then there will be the weed babies.

      I'd love to blog daily, and maybe I can write very short posts more often, but with my work commitments it's difficult.

      Delete
  5. Just found you thru Gardenista. I am an New Yorker transplanted ( & thriving! ) in California. I am a avid gardener to say the least. Your gardens are a testament to the true spirit of real gardeners everywhere. Where it is bare, make it bountiful & beautiful. My newly restored 1886 farmhouse has a kitchen that opens to the yard too. I have always dreamed of that simple set up - perfect for picking & watching the birds & bees. Thank you for sharing...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Marie, would you talk about pots and planters some time? Your photos are full of those lovely red clay pots. You've inspired me to take up gardening on my apartment balcony and i'm trying out GrowJourney now. But I find many pots get too hot in the southern sun and bake the plants. Any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great to hear you beginning to garden on your terrace! You could try 'layering' the pots so that a big pot has a slightly lower pot in front of it, which has a slightly lower pot in front of it....right down to quite a small pot. So all the plants in turn a shade for the base of the pot behind. I usually grow annuals in very smallest pots, with crops or climbers or shrubs in the big pots.

      Where are you located?

      Delete
  7. Hi Marie,
    My question is not relevant to anything you have written, I think, but I thought you were the one to ask: I love drinking digestive bitters after a meal and I was thinking I would like to make my own! Do you happen to have any recipes or suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.
    Thanks so much
    Inga Byleckie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Inga - I do make bitters, though I am not sure of what exactly their medicinal qualities would be. It is a long though not difficult process, and the best I can do for now is refer you to an article I wrote about vermouth, where I use the leftover infusions to make bitters

      http://www.ediblemanhattan.com/recipes/how-to-make-vermouth-with-foraged-ingredients-recipe/

      Delete
  8. Re: your persimmons on Instagram: out here in flyover country we put them in the freezer overnight, if they haven't already been subjected to an overnight frost.

    ReplyDelete
  9. When you say moving "west" it covers a lot of ground ;-) A few years ago I would have suggest the Seattle area, but now the prices have surged and its becoming hard to find affordable housing although with Amazon and other Tech companies the economy is booming. Still I would recommend the Pacific NW...Vancouver, BC to Willamette Valley gives you laid back people, a mostly liberal vibe and good growing weather. Whatever you two decide I hope you find your own piece of land to grow your magnificent gardens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was last fall. Nothing laid back in the Pacific NW now. Avoid at all costs. (We escaped the Willamette Valley.)

      Delete
  10. Marie, Here: "On this terrace I grow all kinds of edibles..." - the link in "this terrace" is broken.

    I just read through your sidebar quotes and as a fellow quote lover am impressed by your eclectic collection, from which I will save a few for my own collections. Thank you for sharing them!

    ReplyDelete

Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.