Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fruity Times

Peaches

The high point of my week collecting food for the stand was going over to David's house across from McLaren Park in the Portola neighborhood. I never heard of this neighborhood before, though I had been in McLaren Park a number of times and liked it a lot. Christy joined me and we took the monster van that was big enough to haul the 14ft' orchard ladder and could also carry fruit and a load of manure that we planned to pick up after picking peaches. That's right it was peach picking time and David, who is in our local permaculture guild, sent me an email telling me he had five peach trees loaded with peaches in all stages of ripeness. I love good peaches and I knew that they grow well here. A friend on Treat Ave. has a tree that he grew from a pit that he planted and one year it made so many peaches it broke a large branch on the tree. And this year I saw it and it was still producing peaches that taste delicious.

To say the least I was pretty excited with the idea of giving out peaches at the farm stand, maybe a step up from apples and plums. On our way there we got a bit lost and wound up driving past the collapsing greenhouses I had heard about from David and another friend. On Woolsey St. and Hamilton there is a whole block of these sad structures with a big fence surrounding them and a no trespassing sign (I heard from a friend who ignores those signs and hops fences easily, that there are two peach trees in there one loaded with huge peaches, mostly rotting on the ground. And David said he has seen 16' rose bushes growing there).

By the time I got to David's house I was all pumped up. McLaren Park was literally right across the street and I knew this was a cool neighborhood (it was actually cool in terms of foggy, but David said it is usually very warm). David's landlord I believe is part of the family that owns the block of land with the greenhouses and actually owns all the homes on his block. His house was pretty exciting to see also, with the shell of a wooden greenhouse on the side of his house and in the backyard too. All the windows panes are missing and there are little fragments of glass everywhere in the soil. David's downstairs neighbor from Mexico keeps chickens and grows chayote squash and David has been doing lots of great stuff, besides cleaning things up, like installing a great rain water catchment system. David said this neighborhood was a rose growing hub at one time.

Before I go on, I want to say that it is truly sad to see a neighborhood that was once farmland, gardens, and greenhouses lose it's heritage to development. I think an effort should be made to return some of the farmland and gardens and greenhouses back to this neighborhood, and maybe we can get the city to help.

There are five peach trees on the property in need of lots of care. He has been letting neighbors pick the fruit, but there is quite a lot and like he said in different stages of ripeness. I am glad we brought the big ladder because I could get to the riper fruit at the tops of the trees. Christy and I picked over a rectangle size milk crate full of peaches. There will be more to pick in the future when they ripen.

We also saw a couple of neighbors with fruit trees in their backyard with fruit on the ground and I am not sure if the trees are getting picked or not (I would guess not). Apples (green with red stripes that taste yummy), Asian pears, figs, and lemons. When we were leaving we walked across the street to look at an apple tree growing in the park (it was mostly picked) and there was also quite a wonderful patch of wild blackberries with fruit that was ripe and tasty. We started picking them for the stand but stopped figuring they wouldn't keep until Sunday, and I wanted to get some manure from a place nearby (that is another interesting story!).

Apples, lemons, plums, and pears

I picked more apples from my friends garden on Folsom (and lemons too). I picked up some pears from Martin de Porres , who had bags and bags of them from man who picks them from his tree and drops them off every year to that soup kitchen. On Saturday Mike who lives in the neighborhood came by the Secret Garden where 3 of us were working and picked some more plums. I think if we want more of them we should bring a tarp and get maybe four people to hold it and then shake the trees over the tarp.

Around the time I was closing up the stand Jo brought more apples from Candlestick Point and a neighbor brought more of her beautiful Eureka lemons.

Gleaning is in the news: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/us/14harvest.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&sq=gleaning&st=cse&scp=10. The article highlights local gleaners in the Bay Area, including North Berkeley Harvest. They are "part of a small but expanding movement of backyard urban gleaners…who voluntarily harvest surplus fruit and donate it to food banks, centers for the elderly and other nonprofit organizations". I love this, especially where food goes to people in need. This is the Free Farm Stand philosophy in a nutshell, to get fresh organic produce to Americans "who can't afford the two cups of fruit a day recommended by the government."

So this time of year is really special. Already just today I learned of two apple trees that can probably be harvested blocks from here. One friend told me of an apple tree hanging over Balmy alley with apples on it. I went there and sure enough I saw the tree. There were still apples on it and I was lucky to find one on the ground. It was the best and sweetest apple I have tasted so far. They should be picked right away, but a tall ladder is needed which I can loan out to someone interested in picking them. I also got an email from someone who said basically that she likes what we are doing. She said "1 apple from Safeway was $1.05 and I had to put it back". She told me about an apple tree on Bartlett St. that I need to check out. And then there is an orange tree on 24th St. that needs investigation. Today a friend that had a stroke a while back asked me to help her pick her apple and pear trees that are loaded with fruit. And my backyard has a large English walnut tree dropping tons of walnuts and they take a lot of work to process them, but taste great.

Any gleaners out there???

Trying to keep up with vegetable growing

I picked almost the last of the kale from the Secret Garden and this time it was very popular and I had no trouble giving it away. It is still the best bang for the buck in terms of growing lots of nutrition in a small place and it is very reliable. I also had lettuce, tomatoes, and chilies from several gardens and purple beans that came from a neighbor (who also brought tomatoes and chilies). It has been hard keeping up with planting and growing a lot of vegetables, and part of that is not having enough space to grow a lot more food and part of that is needing more help, especially if I could find someone whom I can train to take on more responsibilities.

Checking out the sunflower greens

Any wannabe interns out there?

Work days and news about the Secret Garden

Tuesday work day at Treat Commons is going well and so have the work days at the Secret garden, but I can't always be there on Saturday. The Secret Garden is going through some changes; I just heard that Robert has been hired to care take the garden and there is a meeting being held to develop a vision and long-term plan for the garden (Good Samaritan is taking over the management of the garden and contracted with the executive director of Occidental Arts and Ecology to design and facilitate the planning process for the Garden's future). I don't know where this will lead.

I would like to find time to schedule a work day for my backyard too where I grow a lot of the food for the Free Farm Stand.

Honey and Bread

I brought more honey to share thanks to a gardener at Treat Commons who gave us a lot of baby food jars. I still have more hooney to put in jars. One of the sweetest things happened on Sunday. A woman with a baby stroller who has been coming regularly brought by a big brown shopping bag full of clean baby food jars. And talking about honey, I learned when that hot spell happened about a week ago or so, there was a honey flow on and our bees filled up another box with honey (that is maybe 3 gallons in a couple of weeks!). I also learned that a neighbor just extracted honey and got about 6 gallons too. Where are all the flowers for this honey? What I have learned is that one worker bee visits five million flowers to make one pint of honey.

I was showing this boy the honeycomb in the jar of honey


Jamie came by with more of the wonderful organic bread from Acme and it is a big hit. I especially like their whole grain breads.

Bread and cosmos






3 comments:

Kate said...

I don't know a thing about urban agriculture, but if you guys need a Free Farm Photographer, I'd love to offer my services (for free, of course)!

http://flickr.com/photos/katedollarhyde

Jess L. said...

What times do you need help? I don't know how much someone like me who works until 5 in the evening could really help.

-jess

Jonno! said...

I'd love to volunteer my time to help you guys out, while also learning useful skills that will help me in my future garden. What times are you looking for? I get off at 3pm daily and I would absolutely LOVE to fill that time afterwards with exactly the kind of stuff you're doing.