Monday, December 29, 2008

A Little but a Lot of Local

This week I had no left over produce from the Farmer's Market and all I had to give away was the little amount of harvest I was able to pick out of three gardens right now that are within a block of the stand.. I think next week will be the same. A little bit of arugula, some salad mix, some Speckles butterhead lettuces, a few cape gooseberry fruits, a few chili peppers, a handful of greens, and a couple of Florence fennel or finocchio bulbs. Later in the day Jose and Minda came by with a couple of nice daikon roots from Potrero de Sol garden. I also gave away more honey and olives, and we shelled walnuts from our tree and gave them out.. There wasn't much bread either, mostly a big basket of raisin rolls.

I must admit besides arugula I am pretty impressed with growing broccoli plants this year, because of their ability to keep sending out side shoots (though our few plants are about dead). Also, yesterday Max came by after the farm stand was over carrying a big bunch of tree collard greens he harvested from the All in Common Garden that he was taking to the friary where he lives. I am growing some tree collards right now that I just started this year and they are all growing rather slowly (being in pretty much shade). My oldest plant in my backyard doesn't have many leaves and it wouldn't be worth harvesting. I should plant a bunch of them in the permaculture garden where they get more sun.

I have heard a story from a friend about seeing an abandoned house in the Capay Valley near Davis that had orange trees on the property and another house that wasn't abandoned that seemed to have a tree loaded with oranges that wasn't getting picked. I wonder if it would be worth driving east to check out gleaning oranges there.

Though there wasn't a lot of produce, it was a beautiful somewhat sunny winter day and there were quite a number of people who showed up. There might have been more talk than food. Sara Miles came by who is involved with Saint Gregory's Church on Potrero Hill near the 18th and Rhode Island garden. We talked about a plan that is being discussed to get a lot of Episcopal Churches to grow food for their food pantries. I am very excited about this and the possibility of working with them somehow. I think that the churches that are interested in growing food need to be visited and see what would be appropriate for their space. I told Sara that I think the Churches should be planting fruit trees if they have the space and grow them small and closely planted. She also wants to contact people in the churches to see if they have fruit trees in their backyards that could use picking ad make a database of trees that could be gleaned. Caleb a wonderful volunteer who was helping out at the table talked to her also and is interested in setting up a gleaning project in the city. I think Sara is going to coordinate a meeting of people that may be interested in this project.

I also enjoyed talking to some of our other local neighbors. It was great having Sara around who could talk in Spanish to people and I was able to somewhat follow the conversations. One guy was talking about his father who sounded like he had a great garden. He was talking about a tree that his father grows that had a fruit he didn't know the name for in English. He called it Nispero and I figured out it was loquat. Here is a link to a youtube video of a loquat fruit unpeeling I also heard a lot of stories from another man whose son helped us shell walnuts, about grwoing food in El Salvador. The man seemed to be really hip about growing food organically and using natural remedies and herbs for medicine. He said that now the young people there don't want to be farmers though and he said there were a lot of empty fields.

Last Friday we had a well attended 18th and Rhode Island work day. I brought more seedlings and we planted them all around (the other seedlings are growing though very slowly). The fava beans are coming up and also the clover has sprouted. The garlic too is growing. The crew of four or five people pulled ivy up with the goal of seeing where we are going to plant our avocado grove and as a first step towards mulching the area.

Like I probably said before, I ordered trees and I just spoke to Jim in Southern California who is generously picking them up (plus making the rounds to some other nurseries to get some more hard to get plants and trees). Tentatively we are planing a tree planting on Saturday January 10th which will be partly a hands on workshop.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Growing Revolution in Our Gardens

I just finished reading an inspiring book called Where our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov'v Quest to End Famine by Gary Nahan. I liked this book partly because it is somewhat of a biography and a glimpse of history that I love to read. This book covers so much more though, including a real world view of climate change on our planet, a glimpse into how other people and cultures grow and eat food, what corporations are doing to our food supply, etc.

More than anything I have read, it clearly highlights the debate about how to deal with the issues of hunger and food insecurity in the world and in our local communities. This is something I have thought a lot about and why I started the Free Farm Stand. On the one side are the people who believe in the technology intensive "modern" approach to agriculture versus Gary's approach which is to support local and traditional agriculture that fosters small scale diversity and isn't aiming for mass maximum production values. The world can seem pretty depressing while reading his book, but there does seem to be hope nestled in between the pages and he presents a lot of examples of evidence of a growing movement of people's efforts to turn things around.

Yesterday was the solstice and the days now will be lengthening. Now is a good time for us all to gather up our spent energies during the last year and get inspired again to plant new seeds come spring. We the people are the ones that have to make the changes that are needed in this world (that is what I always come back to, especially after reading inspiring books). I just ordered 18 trees to plant at our new garden on Potrero Hill and I can't tell you how exciting that is to me. Planting fruit trees is one of the best votes for hope one can make. I was thinking that we should have at least one hands-on workshop on tree planting in January and also one on grafting.

We had another cold and rainy day at the Free Farm Stand. I got no leftover produce from the fancy farmer's market, though I still had small bags of Brussel sprouts and radish left from last week (and I will be out next Sunday, but I really am not expecting to have much right after Christmas).

My surprise was that the combination of the three gardens I work in produced an ok amount of food to give away. I bought a scale recently and this week I weighed some of the produce I harvested. I picked a total of two pounds of baby greens from the gardens. With the exception of Treat Commons, the places where I am growing food are pretty shady. I would love to learn what others are growing now and it would be great if serious city growers could get together and exchange notes on what grows best for them and in what conditions (shade, sun, a little sun, etc).

My big discovery this week is to realize that arugula is a great plant to grow in a shady spot in the garden. It is so easy to grow. In a lot of shade the plants don't get very big, but I did manage to harvest quite a lot. And in full sun where we grew some too, I got so much bigger plants and the yield was terrific. Arugula is in the cabbage family and is nutritionally good to eat and I think we can throw some not only in our salads, but throw the small greens on foods that we cook, like in the end in soups or on pizza right out of the oven, or in tofu scrambles. The same with baby greens or baby stir fry mix, just throw it in with our salads or cooked dishes at the very end.

So our table, despite the lack of huge amounts of farmer's market produce had a nice display and variety of more locally grown food. Besides the baby greens and salad mix, I harvested almost the last of the hot peppers from the sunniest garden. And I also had basil from the African Blue basil plant (it 's flavor is not as strong a basil flavor as regular basil). This is an amazing perennial plant that is still growing very well in the full sun. I plan to make some cuttings to propagate it, because it is a hybrid and doesn't produce seed. I cut up a giant pumpkin I found on the sidewalk last week and tried to give it away. Some people took it. Myself I am not a big pumpkin eater and this pumpkin was very orange inside and was probably loaded with vitamins and minerals, but it was rather bland tasting at least raw. Good to throw in a soup perhaps. But twenty pounds of food in the start of winter is something not to turn away from. I was talking to Greg a neighbor at the stand and he came back later with a friend and brought some Meyer lemons from his backyard which was really great.

To cheer things up a bit, I put on my Santa's hat and gave away gift wrapped jars of honey from our bees and olives from the tree down the street. Cynthia processed most of the ones I gave out using just salt and water. I can't believe she hand slit each olive. For the ones I processed I used lye which is faster though the final taste may be slightly different. And some sad news is that Jamie the bread girl lost her job at the bakery. She showed up to get some produce. I am now picking up the bread and if anyone wants to take that project on please contact me (it needs picking up at 7pm on Saturday night and a vehicle or a big bike cart is needed…I have a medium size bike cart that would be available and another cart that needs rebuilding).

I didn't make it to the last work Friday workday at 18th St. and Rhode Island, though others showed up and pulled ivy and built stone retaining walls. We are trying to determine now if anyone wants to come out after Christmas this Friday to work. I will probably show up to visit the garden in any case and see how things are doing. Last week there was some frost on the berms that David photographed with his telephone camera. No real damage was done to anything is what I heard.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter for Sure

The days have gotten really short and the air is cold and we have gotten some rain finally. For me it is hard to spend time in the gardens and I prefer to sit indoors and look out my window at the garden than to spend time gardening right now. We have to have faith that spring will come and all the excitement it brings. But it is true we have to eat and what do we have stored up that we harvested this summer? If we were in the country maybe we would have something, a root cellar filled with vegetables or jars of homemade jam or pickles. All I have are some olives that I picked late in the year and some honey. We need to get our act together here in the city if we want to eat more local.

I can't believe we set up the Free Farm Stand yesterday in the cold and rainy outdoors. Some people may have missed us because we moved the stand to the sidewalk on 23rd, partly because the garden was too muddy and wet and partly because I am sure no one would have known we were there. I had only a small amount of produce that I harvested from the secret garden, some broccoli and greens from the failed kohlrabi plants (they didn't grow and form bulbs). There was some lettuce there but I didn't get around to harvesting it nor did I harvest the stir fry mix that is in my backyard. I am growing sprouts and sunflower greens again just to feel like I am growing some of my own food. So the stand was mostly unsold produce from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. I don't understand how we wound up having some grapes this time of year. We also had lots of Brussel sprouts, various herbs, various greens, leeks, and carrots. And lots of Acme bread.

I was surprised how many people came by and that we gave away all our produce. Because of our being on the sidewalk we got some new people too. I plan to continue setting up throughout the winter, but in January sometime I want to take 2 weeks off to slow down and breathe and evaluate how we are doing. Because it was so cold and rainy I didn't take a lot of photos, but here they are, including some recent shots of 18th and Rhode Island.

Last Friday I was at 18th and Rhode Island garden and helped pull up ivy with four others. The weather was ok, there was a little sun at the beginning and then it clouded up. The berms are greening up with the clover and fava beans coming up, the garlic too is peeking through the chips and the arugula lawn is growing. The seedlings we stuck in the grown are growing larger too.

I pray that everyone stays warm and healthy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bare root season

It is the time to think about purchasing fruit trees and other fruiting plants because now is when they are available more cheaply. You get them without any soil around their roots instead of coming in a container (bare root) and put them right into the ground. The last few days I have been refining my list of fruit trees for two sites that we are planning to plant within a month or so. One is maybe a bit of a long shot, which is to expand the small urban orchard that is in Treat Commons out into the park (Parque Niños Unidos). We need to get permission from Recreation and Park and I am not sure how long it will take or what kind of bureaucracy we will face. At the permaculture farm on 18th and Rhode Island I think it is a little more straight forward. A few of us have been trying to figure out what trees we want to grow there and where we want to put them, then we have to get the trees. It has been fun to spend almost a whole day thinking about varieties of fruit trees and trying to design a high density plan for fruit trees in a public park.

One thought that has come up in my mind is that we as consumers are so controlled by the corporations and even the farmers who grow food for us to eat. They decide what kinds of apples we can chose to buy or avocados or potatoes. A lot of times it is based on how easy it is to ship (you don't see a lot of mulberries for sale) or what foods people are used to (maybe based on marketing). People now want Haas avocados even if they have to come from Chile because they don't make fruit year round here. We are really limited in choice when we buy food and the only way we will be able to have more choice in what flavors we taste will be if we grow food and share it among ourselves. Some fruits we may have to go to other neighbor's trees to graze because they are hard to transport even to a free farm stand. Just running the farm stand I am learning more about local varieties of fruit. For example, I have learned l lot about figs this year from people bringing me samples of figs from their trees and also by picking them. This week we had two varieties of figs that two different people brought from their trees. Brown Turkey figs grown on Capp St. and Black Mission figs grown in Visitacion Valley.

I dream of finally learning to graft avocado seedlings and other fruit trees and giving them away at the Free Farm Stand. We need to establish some mother trees of different cultivars that we can collect scion wood and use to graft the seedlings.

Talking about fruit trees. Jo picked some wonderful fruit that she called Asian pears somewhere in Pacifica that looked delicious. I only tasted one that was slightly under ripe, but the fruit was in perfect shape and I can't believe they are so late in the season. I want to get grafting wood from that tree for sure, and it would help if we knew positively that it was an Asian pear. From my tasting one it seemed like an Asian pear. Besides the figs that both Marcus and Sarah brought, Christy came up with a couple of pumpkins from Corona Heights Community Garden and more Cape Gooseberries. Rory pointed out that these berries when dried are what they sell as Inca berries. I got more feijoas (pineapple guavas) from my friend in Noe Valley and Stephanie brought some from Southern California (she actually drove down here with two plants and a banana tree and found some fruit at the nursery that she brought for us to taste). The small rounder ones from the nursery were somewhat sweeter which would make sense). A woman brought some rosemary from her garden and some Haichiya persimmons from her grandmother's tree in Millbrae. I really wanted some food at the stand that I grew (while our garden sits in shade and things grow so slowly). So I ordered more sprouting seed and grew sunflower greens and clover/brassica mix sprouts. Do people know that San Francisco is home to the ultimate sprout seed selling business, Sprout People, a family run internet business ( How local can we get, though they have to get their seeds shipped to them. I am not so much pro business, but they really help people a lot with free sprout growing advice on their web site. Growing sprouts is so empowering! People love the sprouts and I need to put out a how to flyer to encourage people to try growing sprouts themselves. I just don't have time to do all the wonderful things I can think of doing!

We also had carrots, salad mix, lettuce, bok choy, and turnips from the ferry building.

We had a lot of great volunteers helping set up and run the stand. And we had at least two Spanish speakers that really make a lot of people more familiar with the scene. Recently while collecting horse manure I was talking with two new friends that go to San Francisco State about another component of the Free Farm Stand that I would like to get off the ground eventually. They have a lot of students who want to volunteer to do some work related to gardening and improving our environment.

I want to have one day a week, maybe Saturdays, that the Free Farm Stand helps Mission neighbors put in gardens in their backyard (or plant a fruit tree or some berries). And if they have some surplus they can bring some to the Free Farm Stand or share it with friends. I was talking to Blair at the fabulous end of the year open house party for Garden for the Environment and The San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance. This was a night for networking with other garden folks and I started talking to Blair who is involved with the Victory Garden Project. With some grant money they are putting in 15 backyard Victory Gardens in the city. He said there were 1000 people that applied. I thought that if we had a core group of volunteers we could possibly contact some of those people who applied for a garden in the Mission and offer to help them put in a garden of some sort. There seems to be a lot of people that want to help out and this would be the perfect way.

I also learned some news about the Project Homeless Connect Garden. The site is that was donated to project is where the old Glidden paint factory was and has verified levels of contaminants that exceed hazardous waste levels for human health exposure. It is actually the road between the two buildings of the old factory and is one of the original streets now classified as a "unaccepted roadway". It is big (.8 acres). I also heard that it may belong to the Port Authority. So it sounds like the garden will have to be built in containers. Blair thought that if the city were to remove 8 inches of soil on the whole lot, using permaculture techniques and bio remediation it could possibly be cleaned up within a year. I think more research could be done also about planting fruit trees in the soil and whether the contaminants would wind up in the fruit.
Well I guess after thinking about that site, the 18th and Rhode Island land sounds like paradise. Last week I think we finished planting all the fava beans (I was only there on Friday without a camera) and we sprinkled granite rock dust everywhere for minerals. I am not sure what is next to do there, deal with the ivy for sure and I am trying to move forward with getting trees planted soon. The seedlings are growing larger every day!

Monday, December 1, 2008

King Cole

It is hard for me to believe I am able to grow anything in the gardens where I am working that are in so much shade right now. For this week's farm stand I harvested some lettuce and mixed greens from my backyard to make a lettuce mix. And the Secret Garden had some kale, broccoli, and chard that I picked. The Cole family rules! Over in Treat Commons where there is a lot of sun, the baby greens and the lettuce grew much bigger and I was able to harvest enough to make my salad mixed look great. In total I had one big bowl full of salad mix all from the three gardens. I also harvested a number of yellow wax peppers and some Rocoto peppers, a few snap peas (I am not impressed with the dwarf snap peas I grew, Sugar Ann variety, that grew well but the peas were pretty small compared with the standard tall variety Sugar Snap and not so productive). Sheryl from church gave me the last cherry tomatoes from her garden in Berkeley, yellow, red, and dark reddish black kinds with different shapes too. I had some left over tomatillos from last week from Marcus's children's garden at the botanical garden in the Golden Gate Park. The ferry Building Farmer's Market supplied us again with most of our produce: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, many kinds of greens including mustard, collards, kale, bok choy, and chard. We also had some winter squash, turnips, and various herbs like cilantro and parsley. And there was a lot of bread too. Ellen came by with a few bunches of grapes from the farmers market where she works.

This is the man who pushes one of those ice cream carts

who has been coming regularly to shop

our latest gardener convert

Update on the Food Forest Garden on Potrero Hill

The weather has been crazy warm as we enter the month of December and I am excited that I have the opportunity to work with the San Francisco Permaculture Guild in creating an experimental garden to grow food for projects like the Free Farm Stand. The guild is having its 1st Wednesday of the month meeting at the Red Victorian Peace Café (1665 Haight St. near Cole) this Wednesday the Dec. 3). It starts it starts 6:30-7pm. That is where a lot of talk about that project goes on and other projects as well and if you like the meeting aspect of permaculture, I would encourage you to attend. On Fridays and Saturdays we are having a workday at the 18th and Rhode Island site. The work day on Friday starts at 10am and goes until about 3pm or longer and Saturdays it starts at 10:30-11am. is a website dedicated to the project and the last update was nice in that it included what is going on astrologically which I rarely cover here. Not that I don't believe in it. After ready David's explanations of the heavenly influences on us now, I think it is all true. It is a glorious time right now and getting connected with the earth underneath our feet and the activity above our heads is such a great thing for us to all to do. Especially during this season when the days are shorter and it seems more dark, cold and dreary.

The garden got its first write up in the Potrero View newspaper in the December issue that can be picked up in Potrero Hill stores and coffee shops. The article is online and you can read it here at . Newspapers often don't do a great job covering something, but I thought they did a good job with this. There is an interesting interview with the doctor who has offered his empty lot for this project and an explanation of the plan for the space. By the way, we were thinking up some new names for the 18th and Rhode Island garden (it is little cumbersome writing that all the time). One night I had a stream of names come to me in a sort of dream, including (do) No Harm Farm or No Til Hill, Bermed Out Farm, and Potrero Urban Food Farm (PUFF), but some more serious permaculturists among us thought those names wouldn't do. Maybe it will be the Potrero Urban Farm Project (PUFP) so we won't be associated with pot or dragons. I guess we are still searching for good names if any permaculture poets are out there.

We had our first planting on Saturday and we got a lot planted. I brought seedlings for chard, lettuce, and some kale, and seeds to plant a mostly lettuce lawn. Then a lot of fava beans and red clover was planted everywhere. It is a major first step and we will see how things grow in compost and wood chips. I have been gardening for about 28 years, but have never grown a garden exactly like this. It is also exciting because the site gets so much sun and a lot of space! I have just sent off a letter asking a wholesale nursery for a donation of trees, but soon we might order some as well. Flash! Stephanie just emailed me and said she on the way back from San Diego she picked up some 2 Pineapple guava plants and a Dwarf Banana from Exotica Nursery! How she got them in her small car is a miracle.

garlic and lettuce lawn planted

I am also working with a few others on planting fruit trees in the park where we have our farm stand. Can we really imagine a San Francisco that has fruit and gardens growing food in our parks? Talking about creating more sustainable cities, the farm stand was featured in an radio show put out by the National Radio Project . The program was called Food For Thought ( Someone yesterday told me the heard it on KPFK. I am not really impressed with the interview with me, it seemed edited too much. I mainly agreed to the interview to talk about a possible alternative to "My Farm" style of local food production (the urban Community Supported Agriculture model). The interview with Kevin is really great and unfortunately the vacant lot we are currently transforming wasn't a reality then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mister Thankful

I love this time of year, not just because I am a Scorpio. But because this is really the last big harvest time and it really is a season of thankfulness culminating in Thanksgiving Day. I get annoyed when people call it Turkey Day, because that is so much what it is not about. I was talking to a fellow gardener in the morning yesterday and I was telling her that I am always feeling grateful and that it must come from being a gardener for so long. We talked about the Free Farm Stand and she likes it because it brings people closer to the source of their food and thus closer to the people who grew it, and closer to the land and earth where it grew, and ultimately closer to the power of creation. That being in touch with that source of everything can't help us all feel a little bit thankful. That is why we celebrate the harvest. The farm stand is a spiritual celebration perhaps in disguise and a weekly chance to feel thankful (thankful for the food that grows, thankful for the farmers who share their leftover produce with us, thankful for all angels that pop into my life like the volunteers who help run the stand or pot up seedlings to give away, thankful for all the neighbors that come and get food and feed their families healthy food, thankful for those gardeners who share their extra garden bounty with us, thankful for people who bring their stories to share, thankful for friends new and old, thankful for the ability to be kind). And gardening and growing food and flowers gives us gardeners the excuse for being a bit crazy, talking to our plants, praying for rain or a good crop, keeping in touch with the plant fairies, and knowing that we are all blessed. A woman brought some herbs to the stand yesterday and I was admiring her t-shirt. It said " Radical Transformation", and it showed graphically the stages of a seed sprouting. That miracle of a seed coming alive is what it all about. I am Mister Thankful!

So yesterday I guess I was feeling kind of heady. I also enjoyed meeting a woman named Grace who had two children Generosity and Clarity. And another appropriate thing happened yesterday. I met Autumn who came by later in the day and played her violin while people picked up produce and bread.

I am getting very little from the gardens right now. I forgot to pick some wax peppers that were in Treat Commons and my backyard will have some mixed greens soon. But the farmers market saved the day again with loads of greens of all kinds (kale, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, and stir fry mix). I also had a lot of organic celery. A woman who works at Marin Roots came by with a box of the most beautiful organic chard. She said her boyfriend who I met (he was an angel too and had the Om symbol sewed on his funky cool designer shirt) carried the box on his bike that he amazingly rode to the stand .

The chard was nice because Sara had written and printed out out a nice leaflet in Spanish explaining how to grow swiss chard on one side and how to cook it on the other side.

Marcus showed up with a two containers of tomatillos from a garden in a children's playground in Golden Gate Park (I need to ask him more about the location). He said the kids husked a lot of them and they looked pretty shiny in the sun. I also met his mother and his grandmother, and the mother is a gardener too.

Christy gave me some beautiful garlic that her sister in law grew in Marin and I got some pineapple guavas from a woman who grows them in Noe Valley that works with me at Martin de Porres on Tuesdays. I also got a bag of them from a man named Luke who sells them at the Alemany and Civic Center markets. He came to help at the 18th and Rhode Island garden and I enjoyed working with him a lot. Corrine came by with the only lettuce we had that I think she grew at her plot in White Crane Springs Community Garden. I also had a small amount of the yellow currant tomatoes. I met a woman named Winter who called me who was moving to New York and was looking for someone to take her plants that were on her South of Market roof. I took all the plants and a couple of tomato plants had fruit on them which I harvested.

I picked olives from a neighbors tree with a new helper named Samantha and was lucky they didn't have the larvae from a olive fly in them. I met another man who went around to a lot of olive tres in the city and they all had larvae in them he said. I gave some away at the stand to people who said they would process them and eventually we will have some cured olives to give away. Our Mediterranean climate is so unique and it was pointed out to me there are only a handful of places in the world where we get this weather. And with the weather comes this season of figs, persimmons, olives, pineapple guava, and pomegranates (I haven't seen pomegranates growing here though I have rooted one and had another one growing in a pot that hasn't fruited yet).

We also had a huge amount of bread and at the end of the day I just had some tomatillos left (all the other produce was completely gone and the bread too). On the way home I gave some tomatillos to a woman with two kids who I recognized who was going to put the fruit in her smoothies that she makes. Ok.

Sheryl from church took home the funky apples and made delicious apple sauce which we gave away. I especially love sharing it with the kids.

18th and Rhode Island report

Friday we had the best workday ever! We had fifteen people come by to help us move about thirty yards of chips and a thousand pounds of cardboard. And it is nice we take a break to eat lunch together and we get to know each other. The whole site is now almost finished being sheet mulched and the berms done (we had another workday on Saturday and a lot more of the mulch was moved off of the street where it was dropped…though we didn't finish). We have canceled the next Friday workday though Saturday starting around 11 we hopefully will be doing something there, maybe planting.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spare Change

A farm stand friend sent me an email that said Obama is asking for your input...It read "share with us [the Office of the President –Elect at] your concerns and hopes]. I thought wow, do we got some spare change available? Are we really entering another time in history like the sixties perhaps that we can imagine anything in our heads and go out and try to make it happen? Like the crazy idea of starting a Free Farm Stand and creating a neighborhood where there are gardens everywhere and no vacant lots growing weeds and collecting trash. And neighbors helping each other growing food and sharing it with each other and all the ignored fruit trees hidden in backyards getting picked.

Or how about this wild dream, a wild foods CSA? I met a man named Iso at the stand yesterday from a company he is trying to start called Forage (a wild foods co-operative). Yes you can dream up anything and try to make a go of it. He was hitting up the stand for any food that might be available for a dinner he is organizing to get local forages together (foraging the free farm stand I guess). I would just encourage Iso to step aside from the business model and make Forage a free thing, sharing the abundance of this earth freely rather than look at it as something to sell or barter and make a business around it.

Our November weather was so gorgeous and warm at the farm stand yesterday and the week before too (maybe this is global warming?). It seemed to bring a lot of people outside into the park. The farm stand was bustling with people not only getting food, but a lot of people wanting to help out in some way. Volunteers were shelling walnuts, running the stand, potting up baby seedlings, and talking to people with questions. And then some of them later in the day ran over to the All in Common Garden down the street to help out there! I can't say how appreciative I am of all the help I have gotten recently and especially some of the helpers who have been coming regularly and during the week as well. We still need Spanish speakers to show up regularly to help explain things, like how to cook the greens we are giving out, to answer garden or plant questions, or to find out what people need to start their own garden.

The produce coming out of the gardens I am working in is coming to a trickle. I was able to harvest some kale and chard, a few hot peppers, and a few tomatoes, mostly green. It must be true with other gardeners, because I am getting less produce from them also. A woman at church Sheryl gave me a handful of tomatoes from her garden in Berkeley and she knew the name of all the varieties. She said the Black Prince tomato was a good one. Later in the day a friend came to the stand and then left and brought back some tomatoes from his garden, mostly green ones. I told a woman who was there about them because I knew she liked green tomatoes, she likes to fry them up. One sad thing is that I got a lot of pineapple guavas from a woman who brought them to Martin de Porres where I volunteer. I took what others didn't want to bring to the stand, but I forgot to bring them. A neighbor Fred brought over a big box of Eureka lemons, some that were gigantic.

I got a lot of different kind of greens from the Ferry Building Farmers market, mustard, kale, dandelion greens, and tatsoi. Also I scored a box of Hachiya persimmons and various winter squashes.

One other nice thing that happened at the stand is that Jamie who rescues the bread and brings it to the stand had the day off and came by. She told everyone what all the different kinds of bread were...there were so many I am not sure if I will remember them all.

A Fig Tree Story and a Fruit Picking Report

Last week at the farm stand Gina told me that I could come over to her house the next week to pick figs that were ripening on her tree. Thy wanted to help, so we decided to pick on Thursday. Thy and I carried the 14' aluminum orchard ladder about a couple of blocks away from my backyard. When Gina opened the gate to her back yard and I saw the fig tree and the green figs on the tree I immediately felt a connection with it. Like I was meeting someone I had known already.

Years ago a neighbor named Tony, an older Italian guy gave me a fig tree that he liked a lot, he said it was a Genoa fig and that he grew it too. Tony gardened at the Potrero de Sol Community Garden and he was one of my garden teachers. He really had gardening in his blood and was fun to talk to. I knew he also lived nearby and I may even walked by his house sometime. Anyway, as Tony got older his family got concerned about his health and safety and he wound up moving back to Italy. My fig tree has never produced very good figs and unfortunately I never talked to him about why, they get big and soft, but are not sweet and nor flavorful.

When I saw the tree in Gina's backyard I recognized it as being the same kind of fig that I was growing and after questioning Gina about it, I figured out that this was the tree that Tony had planted and this was his former home. I felt his vibe coming out of the tree communicating to me! It turns out though that his figs were really delicious and had a beautiful red color inside, where my fig is white or light amber inside with little sweetness.

On left my fig, in basket Gina's fig, Black Jack fig grown in Now Valley

Unfortunately the tree was in a pretty shady spot at that time and a lot of the figs were covered with the white/grey fuzz of mold on them.

We picked a lot of figs though, some were ripe and others were firmer.

Gina said they would ripen. I added the ripe ones to a fruit salad I was making for a bunch of people because I knew they wouldn't last until Sunday. And as it turns out some of the figs rotted by Saturday, though we still had a lot to give out at the stand.

On Saturday Brother Max and I went apple picking in Noe Valley. Thanks to Cynthia who turned me on to an ad posted on a parents group email, I connected with a couple that had an apple tree loaded with apples in their backyard. They had more than they could eat or deal with. This time when I saw the tree I made no psychic connection, but felt an excitement seeing how many apples there were. I soon realized I underestimated how many empty crates we would need. There were apples all over the ground and the woman said they had fallen about a week ago.

Picking apples with a view

We spent about an hour or so first just picking up all the apples on the ground, separating the perfect ones, the ones for sauce, and the ones for compost. We were surprised how most of the apples on the ground were in pretty good shape. And they tasted good, I am guessing that they are Jonathan apples but I am not sure. In about two hours we had a lot of apples. I need to get a scale so we can document how much food we are collecting each week. Besides the figs and apples we gave away, I made apple sauce and gave some away at the stand, and again it was very popular. As I was closing up I still had some apples and a woman came over and got some and then came back for more to make some sauce with. She said her son hardly ever eats apples, but loves these and has eaten a couple already.

One thing I have learned from picking fruit trees for the free farm stand is that most of the trees need pruning. I am in a dilemma because I somewhat feel a responsibility to help take care of the trees I have picked. But that is a lot of work and right now not only do I not have all the equipment to make it possible to prune the trees, I am not sure if I have the skills (like getting to the top of really tall trees). And it would be a lot of work and a big time commitment. Even if I had a crew of volunteers, just organizing a a pruning event would take time to figure things out (including dealing with the pruned branches). I wonder what other gleaning or fruit picking groups do?

Free Farm Stand gets a donation

I just got an anonymous donation of $3,000 to support the Free Farm Stand. I want to sometime form a non-profit group, but for now I am working with a friend who runs a non-profit group called CORE that will be my fiscal sponsor. I don't have any immediate plans to spend the money, but there are two connected projects I am working on that could possibly use some funds. One project that I am working on with some people is to extend the mini-orchard in Treat Commons Community Garden into the park (Parque Niños Unidos). I just heard that Jared Blumenfeld the interim Park and Recreation director is interested in creating more sustainable parks and now would be the ideal time to contact him about this idea. I would love to purchase trees soon since it is bare root season in less than a month. If anyone wants to help make this idea of an edible park move forward please contact me soon.

Permaculture Forest Garden report

Last Friday was a good workday at 18th Street and Rhode Island. We had two more loads of chips and composted chips dropped on the sidewalk and we brought in one more bale of cardboard. A number of volunteers showed up and we got more sheet mulching done, plus another berm built, plus we raised the level of the other berms. We also had a meeting and talked about the goal of building a "forest garden" (according to Wikipedia, "a food production and land management system based on replicating woodland ecosystems, but substituting trees (such as fruit or nut trees), bushes, shrubs, herbs and vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. By exploiting the premise of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow on multiple levels in the same area, as do the plants in a forest. "After the meeting I am a little more comfortable with what we are doing, mainly because we will be planting lots of fruit trees (and again maybe some money can go into purchasing trees soon for this). I must admit I still want to do some farming the more conventional, organic, double dig way, but will continue to work on this project since I am learning more about Permaculture and the food will go to projects like the Free Farm Stand. A lot of neighbors came by and one woman with her child wound up making it to the farm stand on Sunday and wants to get involved. We still have wood chips on the sidewalk that we have to move and perhaps next Friday we will start planting. Check out the website for more information (link on the right side of this page).

Misc. photos from Thy

I love these photos so much that I just got from Thy I am posting a lot.

the pumpkins were grown in a couple of local gardens

Whenever I open the garden gate at Treat Commons I get a lot of helpers

Walnuts from my backyard that we gave away

about a month ago

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photos from the Free Farm Stand Side Show

A beautiful table full of local produce
Beautiful VolunteersChild laborCamilla and her brotherNice hands and nice radishesA bag of local applesGranny Smith apple
The plant standThe Cooking Demo