Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lots of Local

Apples, plums, lemons, and tomatoes

There was lots of locally grown produce on Sunday. I could tell people who came that " these tomatoes came from Treat Ave. your neighbor Dave grew them and put them in used strawberry baskets. " Some apples and huge lemons came from around the corner on Folsom St. from Olga's backyard. Other apples came from two other people. The plums that everyone loves are from the Secret Garden on Harrison St. around the corner of 23rd St.. The lettuce and the kale come from that garden too, the kids who worked in the garden with Robert , Corrine, and I this summer grew it. Some of the tomatoes came from Treat Commons and my backyard nearby and a lot of the salad mix was from Treat Commons. Others came from a garden in San Mateo that Sigrid who also brought along with more of her green beans. The beets, stir fry greens, turnips, basil, herbs, and bok choy was unsold organic produce from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market or the Now Valley Farmer's Market and was probably the food that came from furthest away (at the most 100 miles). It is collected and redistributed by Food Runners. For some reason they often have a lot of beets they don't sell so we gave away about 30-40lbs of them! I think that leftover organic produce from the fancy farmer' market is great to give away and is a form of city gleaning, but I still hope we mostly can grow and share a lot of our own home grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It is the freshest and tastiest. A friend came with some organic carrots that looked like they were dumpster dived or sitting in a refrigerator too long, and I was reluctant to put them on the table, even after he clean them up. If I don't know exactly where they came from I am a bit concerned. They looked sad, tasteless and were probably low on nutrition, but he didn't have a garden and he really wanted to bring something to share, so I let the handful of them sit there with the more regal produce. And it turned out they were all given away.

Local honey

I brought some small jars of honey (I still have more to bottle but ran out of 2,4 or 8 ounce glass jars if anyone has some we can sure use them…baby food jars are the best). A great surprise is that Eli, a beekeeper I met at the San Francisco Beekeeper's Association, came by with some honey from his five hives in his backyard at 20th and Dolores St. And he brought some homemade plum jam. He likes to cook down fruit and bottle it, so he took half the plums I brought to make into more jam and some of the apples to make applesauce. So soon we will have more canned fruit, hooray. I forgot to ask him how he sweetens it.

We talked about organizing a plum picking day at the Secret Garden and then he would make more jam. If anyone wants to help make this happen please let me know.

Everlasting Flowers

Earlier in the week Jo brought the most beautiful blue statice flowers she grew in the Candlestick Point Community Garden (she also brought apples). I love everlasting flowers and like the fact that everlasting flowers retain their form and color after they dry. It was much fun to give them away.

Slow Food Weekend coming up

As I have written about before, there is a lot of excitement in the air about growing local foods and eating organic. The Slow Foods Nation big event is coming up this weekend and I am feeling pretty alienated from what is going on: A food tasting pavilion that is not only expensive to go to, but offers little for vegans, a high price speaker series with all the foodie/ecology big names and stars, and an expensive I am sure marketplace with vendors approved by the Slow Food Nation staff for their commitment to using good, clean, and fair production practices ($50 a pound chocolate).

There are going to be free talks and events all three days at the Soapbox (http://slowfoodnation.org/events/the-main-event/marketplace/soap-box/ for schedule). At 2:300 on Saturday Serge Labesque a Sonoma area beekeeper is speaking and I hear he is a great teacher.

There is a also list of Slow Journeys that also require you to fork over a good chunk of change to see places like wine vineyards, cheesemaking farms,a gourmet mushroom facility, some organic farms, and an olive oil ranch. There is one free Slow Journey to Alemany Farm (no bus ride included), the hip San Francisco farm that "provides green jobs for low-income communities, while sowing the seeds of economic and environmental justice." You have to bring your own potluck lunch to that journey and you can stick around and volunteer at their workday.

So the Free Farm Stand will not be represented at the Slow Food big to do and there won't be a Slow Journey to the Farm Stand on Sunday. I know I am all for local food and slowing down, but I am not on the big Slow Food Nation radar (though I have spoken to many of the people involved). Maybe I am too on the fringe with my crazy idea of giving food away. I don't think the idea is taken seriously. It could be a good thing actually and maybe what we need is similarly minded gardeners to unite and work together: those who like the idea of forming a network of neighbors helping each other to grow food and sharing it with each other, and giving away the surplus. Right now there is so much gardening that can be done and all that is needed is a group of committed people to put in a minimum of work every week. In some ways this is already starting to happen. On Tuesday afternoons from 1-3pm I meet up with a few people in Treat Commons and we work together. I am hoping to make Saturdays a regular work day at the Secret Garden for now, maybe at another garden in the future.

The Victory Garden in front of city hall is still one of the best parts of the Slow Food show and I think it will be taken down after labor day (hopefully moved to a permanent location). For anyone interesting in growing food and flowers, it is really worth seeing just to see how close you can plant vegetables and flowers. Things are growing so well there and I love it that the food is being given to the Food Bank. I especially liked seeing the three sisters and how well they are growing together.

Blog zine?

Someone suggested that I print up my blog postings every week and hand them out at the stand for those who come and don't go online to read it. I am thinking about this, maybe publishing a shortened version, and wonder if there is anyone out there that could translate a copy of it in Spanish every week. I could also use artists that might illustrate the zine. Please contact me if these ideas inspire you to get involved.

Shooting on 23rd and Treat

I learned from a neighbor who came to the stand that the night before a young man was shot and killed on the corner of 23rd Street and Treat Ave. The neighbor who told me about it had witnessed the previous shooting of someone right outside his door on Treat Ave, a few months ago I believe. He heard the shots and ran out to help and saw a man bleeding on the doorstep. This kind of violence makes me feel powerless and I am not sure what I can do to help the situation out. All the good vibes at the farm stand may or may not have an effect in the long run, but right now it's a whole world I am not a part of, though it is in my neighborhood. I send out a prayer for peace and love to the young mans family and for all of us that are touched by this senseless violence.

My bike cart filled with seedlings grown at Green Gulch Farm for the Victory Garden. They generously gave me their extras to give away and plant!

Justin's homemade bike cart. Justin got some seedlings from the Free Farm Stand for his new backyard garden. The property owner behind his backyard is letting him garden in his unused backyard which has more sun, so he hops over the fence and is planting lots of greens.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Growing Gratefulness

I am writing this blog a day late because yesterday I spent the day extracting honey (see below). But for a few days I have known about what I wanted to share with people and have been anxious to get it down in writing. I can't remember what day it was last week that I had d an amazing experience that is hard to describe. This wasn't a dream but was real. I put my experience into this poem:

I stumbled across a field of gratefulness growing in the garden

as I fell into it I harvested bushels of the stuff

I am especially grateful for all the wonderful friends I have both old and new really too numerous to name

I am grateful for all the beautiful people I meet that do such great things

or who create more magic in the world

I am grateful for Angie in my life

I am grateful for all the places I have to garden in right now

I am grateful for the scarlet runner beans that keep pumping out the sweet green beans for the free farm stand, what a loyal friend!

I am grateful for the sun and the soil

I am grateful for the bees

I am grateful for difficult people in my life that challenge me

to lay down my ego

I am grateful to all my teachers

I am grateful for bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, worms, and bugs

I am grateful for roots

and trees of all kinds

especially fruit and nut trees

I could go on about my harvest of gratefulness

it seems the more I think about what I am grateful for

the more things pop up in mind

today I kept thinking about other things I am grateful for

an unlimited bounty indeed!

Highlights of last week


The previous Sunday I went to the graduation party for the students who took the permaculture class and went to see the projects that everyone has been working on. It turned out I spent a lot of time talking to and meeting new people and I didn't get to see much of the projects. I did get to see the design for the project of adding trees and food plants to the park where the Free Farm Stand is located and it is really exciting to see a dream that has been in my mind for a long time going slowly forward. While there Kat who helped teach the class invited me to come up to Marin on Friday to take the class on the Soil Food Web and making compost tea. She said I could get in free and that perhaps I could get a ride with Diana who might be going up.

So it all worked out and Diana and I drove up on Friday. I got a chance to meet the sweetest man around name Caleb Summers who runs a business called Soil and Life (http://www.soilandlife.com/). His knowledge of gardening and soil is extensive and I was really impressed by how much he knew. I was a bit familiar already with brewing compost tea and the idea of the Soil Food Web, but his talk made things so much more understandable for me. His excitement and passion about what he calls "bio-agriculture" was contagious and I left the workshop wanting to go home and making my own brewer. I now look at the garden with eyes focused not only on the plants, but on the critters (he calls it biology) that live in the soil and help make our plants grow healthy.

It was also nice to meet Diana who it turns out lived in a couple of communes in the seventies and was familiar with the newspaper I help put out with my fellow communards called Kaliflower. She shared with me some wonderful stories involving people we both knew.


I always question myself when I think about giving up a day of gardening to do something else. I love to be in the garden more than anything and it sets me back a day when I do that. I decided to go to the Community Day at the Victory Garden across from city hall anyway. There was a Sustainable Resource Fair there and I thought I would get the word out about the Free Farm Stand. The garden had grown a lot since I had last seen it and it is totally worth the visit downtown to just see it grow. I finally got to meet John Bella (with the Victory Garden project) who helped start this garden Actually I didn't talk to him much, but he told me they had just harvested 100 pounds of produce that I assume went to the San Francisco Food Bank. I actually thought the event was not too exciting and I started feeling like I should have stayed home and gardened rather than sit at my table and give away plants and talk about the farm stand. I didn't get too many people visiting my table nor that many people curious about the free farm stand (maybe people just don't what a free farm stand is and aren't interested enough to ask). Part of the idea of me going down there was to see who I would meet and "network". I did meet some people that I enjoyed talking to, including an interesting woman who was involved in a local mushroom education program that among other things inoculates gardens with mushrooms (she didn't have a card but the name of the group was something like Sporios). I also met a woman named Lena who is an "Agrarian Arts Coordinator" of Slow Foods Nation. I was glad to meet her because she has collected songs and dance related to agriculture (I think at their event there will be some dancing going on). I have been wanting to organize an event for children and adults where we sing to our plants in the garden. If anyone wants to help make this happen please contact me.

It turns out the best part of me hanging out there was meeting Rebecca who was one of the first people to visit me at my table. She is a gardener in the Tenderloin and was asking me a lot of garden questions. On Monday she was in my neighborhood checking and gardens and called me. I invited over to help us with our honey extraction and she came by and was a lot of fun to work with and get to know. And then on Tuesday she came by to help me in Treat Commons and in the Secret Garden. Another person I am grateful for meeting.


I was lucky that I didn't have to go to church on Sunday morning (it was canceled so church people could fellowship with other church members). I needed the morning to harvest food from the three gardens because I didn't get any food harvested on Saturday. I picked a lot of lettuce, kale, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, and plums from the Secret Garden. I picked tomatoes, green beans, baby greens for a salad, chard, kale, and flowers from my backyard. At Treat Commons I picked scarlet runner beans, tomatoes, baby lettuce from my "lettuce lawn" that Ruben inspired me to plant, yellow zucchinis, and flowers. While I was there a man name Josh came by that wanted to interview me about the garden and the Free Farm Stand. He was making a radio documentary about urban farming and had just visited MyFarm, a San Francisco business run by this guy Trevor: He designs and plants organic gardens in people's backyards and charges a weekly fee to maintain and harvest the vegetables. "MyFarm installation costs $600 to $1,000, and maintenance costs $20 to $35 per week, depending on the garden's size, and includes weeding, harvesting and composting. Those who opt to have larger gardens installed pay a smaller weekly fee and provide food to customers who, eventually, will be able to order a weekly vegetable delivery collected from MyFarm backyards." I have heard that their business is booming and they are having a hard time hiring enough people to keep up. I agreed to be interviewed because I wanted to present to radio listeners another possible way of getting people to eat local. I must admit I was somewhat unsure about dealing with the media again, especially after Angie showed me a copy of 7 X7 with an article in it about Alemany Farm. The article and photo of my friend Jason who is the part time manager of the farm really turned me off. I am not sure why, partly because of it seemed superficial and slick (the magazine itself is itself a turn-off in it's glossy hipness http://www.7x7sf.com/features/cover/25761489.html). I really don't want to see myself inflated like that since this Free Farm Stand is not about me but the project itself and all the characters that play a part of it.

So Josh came over to my house after I finished harvesting to see my backyard garden and watch the whole operation of me loading the food on my bike cart and hauling stuff to the Free Farm Stand in the park garden.

The knock on my door

While I was starting to get the bike cart, my door bell rang (it could have been a knock I don't remember) and I opened the door and two of my most favorite and beautiful women gardeners where standing there with their arms laden with baskets of garden produce and flowers. I was truly shot right up to heaven and the wind of gratefulness blew me away. This is one of the things about the Free Farm Stand that just gets me so excited, when out of the blue people demonstrate the best side of human nature, to do something not only beautiful but helpful, with a touch of class to boot. It is sweetness sublime. Caitlyn and Brooke who garden in a backyard on Guerrero whom I have written about before, stayed the whole morning and some of the afternoon, helping me set up the farm stand, arranging the table beautifully. I am glad Josh the radio interviewer got a chance to record all this and see how magical the universe can be sometimes.

The Free Farm Stand

Besides Caitlyn and Brooke showing up, a whole lot of other neighbors and friends came by and made the Free Farm Stand a lot of fun this week. Leslie from City Slicker Farm in West Oaklandbrought surplus cucumbers from People's Grocery in West Oakland too. I enjoy just seeing her and talking about what is up with her and City Slicker Farm. Josh brought the prettiest yellow and most round and large lemons from his friend Nicole's backyard in West Oakland (I am thinking it might be a good place to live if you are into farming). The neighbor that has a CSA drop off at her house came by with melons, garlic, and potatoes that were not picked up and they went pretty fast. I ran out of bags towards the end and will really need some next week. I am not sure how to get people to bring their own bags. I think it is harder to get plastic bags these days in San Francisco which is an interesting problem for groups like us that depend on used bags to give food away.

Setting up the stand

ready to open
the stand is open and in the background
a friend drops off tomatoes and green beans

from her San Mateo Garden

I learn the word ejote


On Monday some friends showed up to help us extract honey and it went smoothly. On Saturday I put the bee escape on the hive which is a one way door that allows the bees that are in the top boxes of the hive where the honey is to leave but not come back in. Since our last honey extraction at the end of May (about 2 ½ months ago) we have had two medium supers or boxes on top of the brood boxes (each box filled with honey approximately 2 gals or 24 lbs.). Three or four weeks ago I looked in the boxes and saw that they were full so I added an empty box on top to give the bees more room. On Saturday I discovered they had filled that box with honey too so there must have been a big honey flow.

We wound up harvesting about 6 gallons of honey. I just don't understand all the beekeepers in the bee club we are in that have more than one hive (some have five or six). Not only is it a lot of work to extract the honey, but what do they do with it all? Like I have said in a previous post, I have been a vegan for over twenty years so maybe I have a different perspective on beekeeping. I am not interested in honey production as much as just loving to live with bees in my backyard. It seems animals and gardens go together. I would like to live with more animals like with chickens or ducks, but I don't feel comfortable killing them when they get old. When I give away honey I want to remind people that honey is a special gift to be respectful of. Bees can teach us to be humble and to respect all living creatures. We can learn to curb our tendency to get greedy when we taste something so sweet and delicious.

the bee escape (one way door)

the bees were really crowded and had built burr comb on top of the frames. Bryon carefully scraping it off trying not to squish bees
a healthy frame of bees, pollen, brood, and honey
honey harvest

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Weekly Free Farm Stand Report

Freeing the Greening

There is a lot of excitement in the air these days about growing and eating local and organic food. And also there is a buzz about green this and that, and sustainable is a word that comes up all the time. My project the free farm stand is popular I guess because it is part of this excitement, it is something that is real rather than just talk, in the sense that I am showing up each Sunday with what I have grown to share with my neighbors. I have been thinking a lot about this "green localvore movement" and where it is going right now.

My friend Deb showed up from Los Angeles. She moved from a monastery in Murphy's near Yosemite where she was silent all the time, to the Silverlake neighborhood in L.A. She has started a successful green consulting business and now does a lot of talking to people about how to go green and make their lives more sustainable. She even offers people therapy for people having trouble adjusting to their new life styles. I was also happy to learn that she has helped start a garden in a woman's shelter down there. Deb is a beautiful angel .

I must admit I like all the attention the free farm stand is getting, but I hope people connect with one of the ideas that I am trying to promote, which is to get away from the business model of doing things. It is about the crazy notion that there is more to life than making a living. That it can be totally wonderful to be a helpful person in the world in whatever way we can. For me one of those things is gardening and sharing my enthusiasm for growing food and flowers with others, turning others onto the idea of slowing down a bit and spending time with dirt and trees. And giving away any extra stuff, be it the too many things I collect or the extra food I grow does bring me joy.

I sometimes feel though that I am in a minority, that a lot of people don't get it, that there is this pressure on me to get realistic. That the important thing we need to do is figure out is how to make a just and living wage out of the work we like do (rather than first figuring out what we have a passion for and doing it and then figuring out how to pay the rent). It is a philosophy I understand, but personally have never been aligned with in my heart.

Last Thursday I attended the funeral for Sister Pat and it was such a sweet service. Here is a woman that gave her whole life to serving others and trying to make the world more peaceful (working in Catholic Worker soup kitchens, going to prison for protesting nuclear weapons, fighting the death penalty, starting a methadone clinic). At the service, the church was packed and people expressed how much their lives were touched by her. This is more the world I feel a part of. I would like to see the merging of the Slow Food Movement, the grow your own, eat local, go green and sustainable crowd with the Catholic Worker world of working with the poor and disenfranchised, living in voluntary poverty, and basically doing things for free as a service. I must admit I am not living in voluntary poverty myself and maybe that is going a bit far (how about voluntary simplicity instead?).

Another close friend Tamar whose heart I am intertwined with was also in town briefly and we got a chance to meet for dinner and talk. Some how the topic of Wendy Johnson's new book came up Gardening at the Dragon's Gate. She is one of the founders of Green Gulch Farm run by the Zen Center(Tamar is really grounded by years of meditating, something on my to do list). I was telling her I would love to read the book some day, because Green Gulch Farm is so spectacular in many ways. Anyway, the day she left, the book showed up on my kitchen table with the sweetest note from her and it reminded me how precious our friendships can be. We should cultivate them like we do our plants. I started reading this book and it really blows me away how much it resonates with my own thoughts as a gardener. Here is a passage I want to share:

She says that "gardening is all about picking and choosing and following your passion. Some very basic principles inform how I garden…My seventh principle is generosity with the harvest. In the biblical book of Leviticus, one of the laws of Jewish life was not to cut the corners of the fields after the main harvest, but to leave them standing so there would be food to gleaned by the hungry, the lonely, and the stranger. I treasure this old admonition to share the bounty of the garden with all beings; it reminds me not to cut corners and to garden wholeheartedly for the benefit of both the visible and the invisible hungry world."

I need to draw a cartoon about this.

More plums and green beans and a lot of kale

That is this week's farm stand in a nutshell. Scarlet runner beans rule! I think they are the tastiest beans around and I like that are perennials and they are so ornamental. I picked a lot of them for the farm stand this week (over a pound!) and it seems the more I pick the more they produce.

Painted Lady Scarlet Runner Bean plants with red and white flowers (usually the flowers are all red)

My new Bernal Heights friend with her garden in San Mateo showed up with the biggest pile of purple beans ever, plus tomatoes (all cherry tomatoes of different shapes and colors) and a few chilies The yellow plum lady showed up with three more bags of plums and she said that was the last of them. I brought almost a five gallon bucket of plums from the Secret Garden (I got help this week picking them which was why we had so many). They are getting sweeter and a little tastier. And at the end of the day we were all out of plums and I could have given out more.

I got a lot of dino kale indirectly from the Ferry Building farmer's market, actually more than I could give away. Antonio wrote the blog last week and said the word for kale could be col rizado (I tried that out with one person who still didn't understand what it is). I also got a lot of chard which all went.

The woman with the three apple trees showed up with some more green Fuji apples and Christy brought a few red apples from the apple tree in Corona Heights Park (which is in the city park there with some other fruit trees like a fig and two lemon trees). Right after the last apples were given away Elokin and Ami who live down the street showed up with some Asian pears which was really exciting to me. It wasn't just that I like giving away fruit and that people really like the fruit the most (and good organic fruit is so expensive), but it is the first Asian pear I have eaten that was grown in my neighborhood. I have to find out the variety name if they know it. They also brought some greens which were pretty.

A couple of other people showed up with things from their gardens. Ann Marie showed up with mizuna, oregano, and Vietnamese cilantro (that was super popular) and Lyz from Potrero Hill brought some collards. Check out these beautiful orange habenero chili peppers that another friend brought that were very popular.

New projects coming up

I attended the permaculture guild meeting that happens the first Wednesday of the month right now at the Red Vic Café. A couple of students of the permaculture class that just ended presented a short description of their designs for two new projects that are being developed. One is a new garden at 18th and Rhode Island and the other is a rooftop garden on top of the Chronicle building. Both of those projects will grow food for the free farm stand. I put my name on the list being circulated for people that want to be involved in some way. I think what is needed now is at least one person who is really passionate about each of the projects and can make it happen by hook or by crook. Also, I have offered to help with two other projects. One is the planting of fruit trees and edible plants in Parque Niños Unidos . I keep using the word exciting, but these things do make me feel hopeful that good things can happen here if we put the energy into them. Friends of the Urban Forrest was at the meeting too, seeking to work with the guild in encouraging the planting of fruit trees in people's front yards, and then starting a fruit gleaning project, complete with a database of fruit trees in the city. So I put my name on her list too. Also, a super local permaculture website is being designed by David and he wants to work with others in the guild on this and work also with Friends of the Urban Forest on their tree database.

It is obvious that the Free Farm Stand as a project can use more help if we expand into more gardens. I am therefore still looking for an intern to teach people how to grow a lot of food and give it away.

The Secret Garden

On Saturday four people showed up to work in the Secret Garden and we got a lot done. The plums keep falling and we picked them off the pathway and put them in our new compost pile. I pruned some branches that were hanging over the planting beds so they get more light. We picked five gallons of plums it seems and a few loquats. Tom and Heidi showed up, both experienced gardeners and prepared a bed for planting, adding old manure and turning it in. Today a woman named Jenny just showed up to enquire about Treat Commons and helped me plant kohlrabi seedlings in the bed they prepared and I prepared another bed earlier and planted lettuce mix and arugula with her. She is a new gardener for the city and drives a lawn mower and mows the city golf course dodging golf balls and getting grossed out by gofers who piss on the golf course. She pointed out that homeless people get busted for this all the time but not the golfers. She is glad to have the job, but is not excited by the turf work. I told her things will change one day and she'll be pruning fruit trees in city parks instead of her stupid turf work. I want to get the Secret Garden in top shape and will be trying to get consistent help maintaining it.

Frida Kahlo and Luther Burbank

I went to see the Frida Kahlo show at SFMOMA and really enjoyed it. The museum is free on the first Tuesday of the month and half off admission on Thursday nights (the show is $5). I love her painting of Luther Burbank, one of my garden heroes. She was for sure a person connected with the earth and nature, and her life and paintings are so inspiring. When at the museum, I found out they are building a 14, 400 ft million dollar rooftop garden on their building. But it doesn't look like they will be growing any food from what I saw.

Honey extraction again

The bees in our backyard are working their butts off and have produced probably another five gallons of honey. So I have put in a request for the extractor and plan to do the honey thing on Monday August 18th. If anyone wants to learn more about bees and beekeeping and can help out at the same time please contact me.

I love the new beautiful people who show up every week...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Season of Pleasing

Summer is Rockin

For all those keeping track of how things are going with the stand in terms of what we are giving away, let me tell you the last two weeks have been totally exciting. As soon as I got to the garden to set up, my friend Greg came by with the most beautiful arrangement of baby lettuces that her grew in his tiny, somewhat shady garden down the street. Then out of the blue a woman who lives in Bernal Heights showed up with a lot of produce. She grew it in a garden in San Mateo in friend's yard there. She brought a lot of purple string beans, some tomatoes and chili peppers, and a few zucchini. I picked a number of green scarlet runner beans from Treat Commons, a few green beans from my backyard and carrots, and a few zucchini from Treat Commons and the Secret Garden, and a handful of tomatoes from all the gardens I work in. I also continue to grow sprouts and sunflower greens, partly to inspire people to grow them in their own kitchens. The selection looked great so I captured it with these snapshots:

I forgot the woman's name, but she stuck around to help me set up and the display was very summery and impressive. Beth with the yellow plums from last week came again with three bags full (they were very tasty), another woman brought green apples from her three trees (they may have been picked a little early), I brought probably the last of the loquats from the Secret Garden (I had to climb the 14 ft orchard ladder to get them), and small plums from there too, salad mix from the Secret Garden and my backyard, garlic from San Bruno Jail Garden Projects, some beets from the Ferry Building Farmers Market, and kale from my backyard and Treat Commons. We also had a few flowers to share, some sunflowers and bachelor's buttons.

Here is me trying to give away kale at the end of the day. I asked everyone what the name for kale is in Spanish and no one really knew. Vanya suggested I say " como espinaca o acelgas pero mas duro". Maybe there isn't a word in Spanish for kale. Anyway, kale isn't as popular as other vegetables at our stand, but at the end I had only one bunch left. Some people like it and I am thinking of handing out a recipe for my favorite way of cooking it. It is still one of my favorite things to grow.

Plums and a way to cook stone fruit

San Francisco must have a lot of plum trees growing here. They are easy to grow, are low chill (means will grow without a lot of cold winters), and are pest free it seems. I think we need to grow more plums here if we want a lot of fruit, but we need to grow varieties that are tasty. Luther Burbank had it right going with the Japanese plum, and I love his Santa Rosa variety and the Satsuma plum. I have also tasted some other great plums like the Elephant Heart kind. I like the cross between the plum and apricot where the plum is dominate called Pluots. The Dave Wilson hybrid Dandy and Flavor Grenade are fantastic.

Here is my plum story for the week. I have been picking these small cherry size plums in the Secret Garden for weeks now. They are at best ok and people seem to like them. There are millions of them now. I was thinking that I need a real plum tree with bigger tastier plums. I wrote last week about a plum tree in our neighborhood that my friend George told me about. I decided to give them a week more on the tree, because they were not quite ripe and they were not too flavorful or sweet. I hooked my ladder onto my small bike cart (so proud of my eco-friendly efforts) and happily rode down the street to pick my new found tree. When I got to Juri Commons where the tree was overhanging from a neighboring yard I discovered the fruit had mostly all fallen onto the ground or some was picked. The tree still had about a half bucket of fruit on it which I picked, but it was still not very sweet nor tasty, though definitely ripe. So much for that. I must admit while picking the tree I was sort of expecting someone seeing me reaching over the fence into the neighbors yard and stealing their fruit. Maybe I should ask next time.

What is funny is that I put the half bucket of these plums on the table with the yellow plums that were very tasty, and the ok small cherry plums. A man came by who didn't speak English who wanted some plums. I tried to get him to take the yellow plums, but he chose the ones that looked more familiar to him, the ripe, flavorless plums from the Juri Commons tree.

Allegra is a new friend that has a recipe for cooking excess fruit, especially stone fruit like plums that she wanted me to share with people on my blog. I am posting this with some comments. First, I think it isn't worth cooking fruit down for sauce if it doesn't have much flavor to begin with. I have made a delicious sauce with small a little larger than cherry size plums that were tasty, but I added sugar to make them less tart. The problem with cooking stone fruit is you have to get rid of the pit which is labor intensive. And how does she peel the plum skin?

This is very easy, delicious and economical!

Cooked Stone Fruit - Easy and Delicious!

Carefully wash extra ripe or bruised fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums)
I suggest peeling plums, the skin is quite acid especially when cooked. All the other fruit can be cooked with skins left on. Discard pits of all fruit before cooking.

Cut off portions that are starting to spoil (dark, mushy parts)

Cut fruit in chunks or slices - slices will cook faster than chunks

In large saucepan, add small amount of water - enough to cover the bottom of pan (about 1/8th inch depending on size of pan. This will keep fruit from scorching pan.

As the fruit cooks it will render its own juice).

Over LOW heat, add fruit to saucepan or large pot, simmer covered for about 10 - 15 minutes. No need to add any sugar, the fruit is naturally sweet.

You may add a small amount of ground cinnamon or ground cardamom for added zest. I find that the fruit has its own unique, natural flavor.

Make sure the fruit does not boil heavily or cook too long unless you want fruit that is very mushy (think apple sauce consistency).

Either way you can eat this wonderful fruit compote warm, chilled or you can freeze it. Use yogurt cups or other heavy plastic cartons

(no glass as it could break when it freezes) to freeze in batches to be enjoyed long after the summer season... when you are "craving" those tastes of Summer!

The Secret Garden

Robert has finished his summer program of art and gardening with kids and the garden is looking pretty good with the work he did getting in some new double dug beds. With the seedlings we got from the Victory Garden across from city hall and the ones I grew, most of the beds are planted. I have already begun harvesting lettuce and kale for the farm stand. In the next week or so I want to organize some work brigades to do some pruning of the plum trees overhanging and shading the beds, replanting at least one of the raised beds, and cleaning up the composting area. I can use some help and will have a big work day on Saturday in the afternoon. Early in the week I will also work there, probably Tuesday morning, maybe Wednesday afternoon, or Friday. If anyone is interested please contact me for exact days and times. I am somewhat flexible with days and hours I can work.

A prayer for Sister Pat

This isn't really about the Free Farm Stand, but a beautiful and intense experience I had last week. I learned last Wednesday that a woman I had worked with for many years at Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen had collapsed suddenly while walking on Valencia Street and was in the hospital unconscious on life support. I learned that she didn't want to be on life support and later in the afternoon she was going to be taken off the machine. When I got to the hospital all her friends from Martin's and the nuns from the order she was a member of were there. I walked in the room where she was in bed and everyone was singing and many crying, including myself. It was such an emotional scene, both sweet and powerful. I can't really put it in words. She obviously was a wonderful person that affected so many lives and was much loved. She seemed to have a very peaceful transition and I think we all were glad that she suffered so very little in her leaving this world behind.

I just learned that another person I know has pancreatic cancer and is going to begin chemotherapy. Life can seem at times so short. Let's pray that we can appreciate life and all its mysteries and miracles. That we stay connected with our hearts to our friends and families, and that we may use our time here in positive ways.


I forgot to mention the neighbor who lives across the street who brought a shopping bag full of organic melons ( watermelons and honeydews). Her house I think is a drop off point for a CSA (I can explain what a CSA is another time if people don't know...Terra Firma was the CSA) and she had a bunch leftover that people didn't pick up. They were given away in a blink of an eye. I had thought of snagging one for myself, but no chance.