The original 66 Square Feet, Cobble Hill

Hello! I am Marie Viljoen, a writer, forager and gardener. And maybe a few other things, too.

When I am not writing and reading and recipe testing and gardening (or washing the dishes), I am walking in the woods. To join me, sign up for a wild foods walk, or get in touch to arrange a private walk or class, or simply to be included on my mailing list.

But here is the backstory:

66 Square Feet was the exact size of my first, tiny terrace in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn - above.  It inspired this blog and my subsequent cookbook, 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life. It was adorable and inspiring, and even the New York Times liked it.

After 10 years the rent was suddenly raised by a third, and we - woman, Frenchman, Estorbo-the-cat, and all the plants - moved to Harlem, to a high-ceilinged parlor floor apartment with a terrace about triple the size:


So I added a (Plus) to the 66 Square Feet title. You can read all the Harlem terrace posts in that link.

Despite the pleasure of transforming that terrace (which was also featured in the New York Times, and a book), and learning semi-shade gardening, our stay was not a very happy one: we were very sad to lose 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, inbetween drumming sets. Life was loud. But we made a new friend - our lovely upstairs neighbor, the charming and classy Wolfgang, better known to some as wowe.

We moved back to Brooklyn, to the neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, coincidentally just a few blocks south of our original tiny apartment and terrace: 

1st Place

There we lived on the ground floor of a townhouse, with friendly neighbors beside and behind, and a spacious backyard which I transformed from weed jungle to garden. In summer we watched fireflies dance, and a pair of possums visit in the evenings. And endured hordes of mosquitoes. You don't know mosquitoes until you have lived on the ground floor in Brooklyn. 

It was a fantastic, inspiring laboratory and helped me write the wild plant cultivation tips Forage, Harvest, Feast.

You can find the #1stPlaceBK garden's progress in all posts tagged 1st Place, or on Instagram, using the hashtag.

Then we moved again! I know!

In 2018 our lease was not renewed, after three years. We don't know why. Was it the asbestos in the basement? Or the unbalanced, tyre-slashing tenants above us? Or neither? It's a mystery. But it was a real blow. Still, I threw a plant adoption party.

Windsor Terrace

We now knew a lot about apartment hunting, what to look for, and what to try and avoid!

After an exhaustive search for a: bright, newly-renovated, top-floor apartment with outdoor space and no scary neighbors (not an easy shopping list to fulfill) we decamped to a beautiful top floor in the neighborhood of Windsor Terrace, (or South Slope, depending on the map you're looking at), very close to Prospect Park.

The plant party found homes for most of my 1st Place collection, and we brought with us my beloved Thai lime trees and other sub tropical edibles, plus some hardy shrubs that will enjoy our more exposed terrace (the subtropicals come indoors indoors into the sunny rooms in winter). Our terrace is small (about 110 square feet) but very private - something I missed at 1st Place, where we lived in a fishbowl, surrounded by rows of windows. Now, it's all sky. Songbirds visited in fall, and we can braai without fear of smoking anyone out.

We have been there over a year and have signed a new, two-year lease. We are happy.


  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...

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

  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.

    1. Thank you!

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

  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!!

  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.

    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.

  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...

  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?

    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?

  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

    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


  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.

  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.

  10. It’s very useful for me and I am very much impressed with your meaningful thoughts,..thanks for sharing!
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