Monday, June 30, 2008

A Celebratory Week

Pride Week

It was Pride week last week and it felt like a celebratory and special time. The sky and air was smoky all week from local brush fires and one morning I walked to the top of Bernal Hill and the sun was suspended in the sky like a bright orange ball.

The Free Farm Stand got in the media twice. There was an article in last Tuesdays Chronicle ( about some new local business that will plant a garden for you for $600 to $1,000, and then maintain it for you for $20 to $35 per week. Then you get the food and maybe food from other local gardens. At the end of the article they listed other sources of urban agricultural resources and they mentioned the Free Farm Stand without my knowing about it. I found out about the article when I opened my email mailbox and had gotten fourteen messages, many in response to the article. One woman wrote and said there was an empty lot across the street from her that I should look into, which I will.

There was also a nice article about the stand in the online newsletter of San Francisco Park Trust (the Real Dirt) that you can read at the end of this post. You can also go to their website and join them to get their newsletter (

Gardening with Kids

Earlier in the week I planned with Robert to garden with some of the twenty-five kids he works with at the Secret Garden. He got a grant from the Mexican Museum to do art and gardening with different age groups of kids in the neighborhood. In the morning he works with the younger kids and in the afternoon the teens. I invited a woman named Corinne who had contacted me early in the week as result of the Chronicle article to come help and that is one of the best things I did this week. She is real wonderful and has experience not only as a gardener, and a teacher's aide in an elementary school, she has also helped manage a farm stand as I learned later!
We mainly planted a bunch of seeds in tofu containers and their small hands were ideal for holding and planting tiny seeds.

Jake pointed out that our glasses look the same and they are both pushed down on our nose!

A Fruity Thing

I saw a sign at the Dyke March on Saturday night that said A Fruity Thing. That is what I have been thinking of writing about. Something in praise of fruits of all kinds, especially fruits that grow on trees. Before I went to the march I was in the Secret Garden picking some green onions and a few greens. I also started picking plums to see if they were ripe. There are literally thousands of small plums the size of large cherries on the trees in the Secret Garden and they are just starting to ripen. Unfortunately I am leaving town for ten days and I won't be able to pick more of them, but maybe we can get some volunteers to continue picking some for the farm stand. Contact me if you may be interested and I may be able to organize it. Then I noticed the loquats on the neighbors huge tree and I saw that the loquat in the Secret Garden had huge fruit hanging over the fence into the neighbor's yard. So I got the small ladder that was in the garden and I started picking the fruit, wondering if I should ask the neighbor if I could pick them. It was remarkable that the birds hadn't gotten to this fruit like they have in my backyard. A neighbor came out and I asked if it was ck to harvest the fruit and she seemed to say yes, but she really didn't speak English. I was so excited by the fruit and it was really delicious. There is plenty more to pick too, I harvested maybe five pounds of plums for the farm stand.

Fruit trees rule and all gardens should at least one. Fruits trees are a true gift from God/Goddess and I feel so blessed to be able to pick fruit and share it with my neighbors. Especially trees that are neglected and the fruit rots on the ground. I have been picking lemons from a neighbors tree for over a month now and it still has giant fruit on it. I love climbing in fruit trees and being in the branches and picking fruit up high away from the earth. But I must admit that the fruit trees in Treat Commons that I have been
espaliering or growing flat against a trellis are much easier to pick and don't create so much shade. Large fruit trees are truly glorious when they are laden with fruit free for the picking. I would someday like to prune those trees so we have both garden and trees living together in balanced harmony.

It is funny I was just thinking about the victory garden going to be planted in front of city hall July 12th (see side bar) and I remember working with some friends years ago trying to save the olive trees that were planted there in four groves. The powers that be didn't like the homeless that lived in the groves, so they wanted to cut the olive trees down, so we fought them and won. Years later they did remove some of the trees where they built a playground, but they were supposedly moved to Bernal Heights somewhere. Too bad we can't plant some fruit trees in front of city hall. And I guess too bad the victory garden won't be a permanent thing at least right now.

Father and daughter in front of apricot tree planted at Treat Commons

Apple tree pruned flat and short and grafted with different kinds of apples

The Julian Food Pantry

This is not quite farm stand related but I need to share this. I might have mentioned my new friend Lauren started a new food pantry on Saturdays in the Mission. She is hip and wants to give away the healthiest food she can get and digs local organic produce like me, and would love to give more of it away and support local growers. I started growing some seedlings to give to her program to distribute to some of her clients. This Saturday I forgot to bring the seedlings early when they are setting up, but I got there when they were just opening.

It is a really beautiful space in a church and the people were all sitting in the garden courtyard waiting. I heard they were serving tea to those waiting. Anyway as soon as I walked in I felt an enormous holy spirit present, this tremendous energy that hit me like whoosh! I must admit I have an addiction to serving food to the masses and these kind of things get me excited. The Free Farm Stand is beautiful in it's small organic way now, but I sometimes miss feeding large numbers of people. Sara came by at the end of the farm stand yesterday and told me that her program is already grown to 200 people I think in two weeks! I wonder if they can keep it wonderful and sweet.

My point in sharing this experience is that the Julian Pantry is really a class act and I felt that the people that are running it are so lucky to be able to serve those in need and to be around all that spiritual energy and light. Whenever we get a chance to be with the poor or hungry and share the excess it is such a great experience. As wonderful as being in a tree picking fruit or harvesting rows of kale to give away. I feel lucky myself to have that kind of work to do.

A Great Day at the Free Farm Stand

I had a lot of good produce to share on the table and a number of people showed up to help me set up and run the stand. Corinne came early and harvested lettuce and carrots in Treat Commons.
Christiane and Ali who are taking the urban permaculture design course came by to talk to me about designing an orchard and edible landscape outside the garden and in the park (the plan is to come up with a design for the first edible park in the city). Christiane came early to help me set up. Leslie an intern at City Slicker Farm came by too. I have been emailing her about how their intern program works) and she shared with me some more information on how things work there in West Oakland. I am very inspired by that project and it is one of the programs that inspired me to start a farm stand here. She also brought me a bunch of seed. Jerry came by from the Western Addition. I met him at the Big One and he is working with Ella Hill Hutch Community Center and trying to get a garden planted there. Nancy my friend that used to come to a pantry I helped run dropped by. She looked great considering she begins chemotherapy for cancer soon and just went through a major surgery. She also helped set up the stand by picking flowers and other things. I also met a man named Leif who among other things, told me about a woman who is doing a similar project to ours in Oakland (check out her a lot less wordy blog than mine

Corinne just wrote me and said she was really excited to work at the farm stand and wants to continue in the future. Hooray! She said her favorite part was meeting the man who got a tomato plant from the stand and he reported that it is growing tall. We had sunflower sprouts that I grew, round zucchinis, beets, basil, purslane, and parsley left over from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, carrots, lettuce, BokChoy (from Rubens's super productive bed in Treat Commons), salad mix, flowers, loquats, plums, and herbs.

A number of people were very interested in getting epazote which we have growing in the garden. It has a lot of different names including Mexican Tea and it has pungent leaves that is put in beans to prevent farting. It also has medicinal uses and I am not sure why people wanted it...for flatulence, flavor, or healing?

Here are a bunch of photos from this week:

Everyone seemed to look so beautiful who came to the Free Farm Stand this week. It is all about celebrating diversity!

Article from The Real Dirt

Every Sunday for just over a month now, Tree has been giving away fresh organic produce. What's the catch? None. The Free Farm Stand takes place every Sunday in the Treat Commons Community Garden where Tree is the Garden Coordinator. He and local volunteers tend much of the garden and give the surplus away to local neighbors. The food production doesn't just stop at Treat Commons. Local gardeners sprinkled throughout the city have been bringing their surplus to the Free Farm Stand every week to share their harvests. Neighbors are offering up their fruit trees for Tree to harvest and bring to the stand as well. Tree even grows starters and seedlings for people to take home and plant. The vision is that when neighbors harvest they will share some of their bounty with the Free Farm Stand.

People aren't just sharing food at the Free Farm Stand, they are building community. One of Tree's favorite parts of the farm stand is that it provides a space for neighbors to meet and interact.

The Free Farm Stand may be relatively new, but Tree's vision and efforts to bring quality food to those who can't afford it is old news. Tree has been greening and feeding San Francisco for over 30 years and he has no plans to stop. Tree's philosophy has always been that all people should have access to high quality, healthy food and that has led him to head food programs and pantries throughout the years. To ensure that quality was always at the highest level, Tree ate only what he offered at the pantries. In light of recent food shortages and oil prices, Tree decided to challenge himself to discover just how much food he could grow and give in the city. So far the Farm Stand is fueled by Tree's backyard, neighbor contributions and the Treat Commons space, but Tree has plans for expansion that may soon come to fruition. "Gardening by nature makes you optimistic" Tree says. Maybe that is because gardening gives you a powerful tool to help fight large problems like hunger, and oil dependency right in your own back yard.

The Free Farm Stand is always in need of volunteers (especially bilingual volunteers).

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Mellow Farm Stand

Today I am not going to write much about yesterday's Free Farm Stand. I am anxious to get out into the garden and work. I will say it was a nice mellow day and it didn't seem as busy as last week, though a good number of people came by and I did give away all the produce. I often don't know what I am going to have to harvest and give out from week to week, and similarly I never know who is going to show up. I was pleasantly surprised and happy that a number of friends came by, some whom I hadn't seen in a while. I am glad my friend Tony from the east bay came by. He speaks some Spanish and like I have said before it makes a huge difference having people that can explain what is going on. His impression is that a lot of people are pretty shy about taking food, that it is a really unfamiliar experience for them...a table with beautiful fresh produce all for free. But once he started talking to people they got more comfortable and took stuff. And it is great to turn people onto foods they are not familiar with like the sunflower greens. Maria my elderly neighbor who used to come and help at the Comida del Arte Pantry I helped run a number of years ago showed up (I ran into her on the street and told her about this project and told her to come by). I think she thought it was funny that I was telling her all the food on the table is local and organic. She said in El Salvador all the food is organic, unlike here. I wonder if that is true. She offered to bring a number of things to share including her hot sauce that she makes (I think it is vegan).

The Big One Event

I went to the Big One event on Saturday in Golden Gate Park. It was a two day event (I don't know how it went Sunday). There were more speakers that I wanted to hear speak on Sunday than on Saturday, but I met a lot of great people anyway. It was sort of the ultimate networking event. I made contact with the Slow Food Nation people, Jonathan with the Biodiesel Sustainable Road Show, and a whole lot more people that were all doing such great and inspiring work. I do feel that San Francisco may be in for another beautiful cycle of time where hope and good things bloom again.

One of the best things that happened is that I have some new leads to follow up in terms of getting a place to start a Free Farm Stand Farm. We will see where things go. Yes it was great to meet people that have similar goals and who want to work with each other is some way.

The Intern Idea

I like the way City Slicker Farm in West Oakland has interns that help run their program. I am thinking of trying to find an intern or apprentice that would help grow food for the farm stand and to learn urban farming at the same time. A friend who I saw at the Big One thought it was a good idea and said I have something to teach (I am not sure if he said what I have to teach, and I don't know if I really am or can be a teacher, but I have been growing food for a while, and would be excited to share what I love so much, i.e. urban farming)

Two Photos

The table always looks great and people enjoyed the dried poppy heads...especially the kids when I shook out the poppy seed from the heads and explained to them that you can eat the seed.

I especially like all the kids that come by the farm stand. They are so curious and I am surprised how much they are interested in eating vegetables or at least trying out some of the things on the table they may not be familiar with.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Free Farm Stand on YouTube

This was produced by a reporter for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and is on their online version this week ( I am a little worried that people might think I am trying to be famous or that I might act like a big shot by agreeing to be interviewed. I just thought that if anyone watches this video and gets inspired to join us in growing and sharing food together, that would be great. The more food we all are growing, the more food we can share with others, and the more local organic food and flowers we can make available to those people that can't afford it. And it would be awesome if this video or blog inspires anyone to help us locate land in the Mission where we might start a small urban mini-farm. Vacant lots, churches or hospitals with land, schools with gardens not being used during summer vacation, abandoned or neglected gardens. Or to encourage a movement to pick and glean fruit in the city (with owners permission first). The blackberries are ripening on Bernal Hill!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Busy Farm Stand

This week the stand was pretty busy, a lot of people came by. Most people that showed up were new, though we now have one or two regulars. One woman showed up pretty late and I was totally out of food.

Chard vs. Kale

I sometimes have the most wonderful meditative insights while simply working quietly in the garden. The other day, the Saturday before the last farm stand, I was thinking about a topic of discussion I have heard come up a lot, what are your favorite kind of greens to eat or grow?. I had just picked the most beautiful bouquet of swiss chard, the variety Bright Lights, that has a rainbow of colors (sometimes it is called Rainbow Chard). I have always been a kale kind of guy, I just love kale in so many ways (it grows well, relatively few insects bother it, it is nutritious because it is in the brassica family (once called the Crucifer family, meaning the cross family, because of their cross like seedling leaves). This family of plants that battles cancer with its armament of anti-oxidants, plus it has all the dark green leafy vitamins and minerals (but reading the latest Michael Pollan book In Denfense of Food I shouldn't get hung up with the nutritional aspects of these fabulous plants). Kale is not that popular yet at the free farm stand though, maybe because it isn’t a familiar food among Latinos. I don't even know the word for kale in Spanish. On the other hand, people like Chard more and I would love to grow a lot of it. Chard though is susceptible to leafminer and you basically can’t grow it except in the late fall and early winter (August and September or even later). Pam Pierce my garden guru writes about the leafminer on her blog
/more-on-the-cha.html. As an experiment, a month ago I tried planting some chard, a variety I haven’t tried before called Perpetual Chard and so far it has been hit hard by that pesky leafminer and it looks rather sad.

Anyway, I was standing in the garden with the most beautiful two bunches of chard. They were survivors and had somehow avoided leafminer damage. Their beauty was something that left me in transfixed and I felt had to share this with the world. I tried to capture this experience digitally and below is my poor attempt:

I didn’t see who wound up getting the chard at the farm stand, but I hoped they enjoyed the beauty as well as taste.

Daydreaming Urban Farmer

I feel like I am slipping into more craziness every day. More daydreaming as I read seed catalogs. I am trying to order more lettuce mix seed and then I look at the cover of the seed catalog and see a woman harvesting beautiful lettuces standing in rows of lettuces that go on forever. Rows and rows of colorful happy lettuces with the blue sky and sun shining down on a farm somewhere probably in Maine (that is where the seed company is located). I day dream of cities having farms that I can work on, how joyous that could be. I am reminded that I am an urban farmer and that urban farmers don’t have farms (except there is the fabulous four acre Alemany Farm). I remember maybe 10 or 15 years ago there used to be a couple of commercial farms in the city which I visited, unfortunately they aren't here any more. Urban Farmers have at best mini-farms and gardens. Urban farmers like me may have to be mobile and go from garden to garden, and harvest a little here and a little there. It sort of works. And Free Farm Stands have to depend on Grace (we all do any way) and other gardeners and gleaners sharing their bounty.

More on the topic of urban farming

At the free farm stand this week a woman came by who is trying to find a neighborhood to live in. She had been investigating places to garden and checking out community gardens. She sort of complained that many gardens she investigated had waiting lists to get a plot, but that it looked like a lot of the plots looked like they were not really being used or cared for. I know about that from being the coordinator of our community garden. It seems people like the idea of gardening more than they have the time to garden (or make the time). I just hope that I can inspire people to spend some time gardening. It may be a selfish thing; I love the idea of hanging over a fence and chatting with a neighbor about gardens (I don’t do this yet with our my neighbors, though they let me pick their lemon tree and their kids came over when we were extracting honey). I dig it when I can work with someone in their garden or mine and have a good time talking and working. Last week I got a chance to work with Christy in the Corona Heights Garden where she has a plot, helping her get their compost bins in better shape. It was fun and sweaty.

Farming on roofs and edible parks?

Today I joined a bunch of Permaculture Guild people to do a site analysis of the Chronicle roof garden. A few students taking the ongoing urban permaculture class are going to redesign the garden on the roof on top of the Chronicle building downtown as their project. One idea is that the garden could perhaps grow food for the Free Farm Stand. I have never taken a permaculture class and was interested how permies as they are called approach gardening. I found the experience fun and educational. It seemed like the permaculture approach was a bit heavy on the scientific and technical approach, though I appreciate where they are coming from. Knowing the lay of the land and such. Maybe we should have all sat on the roof and meditated on what the space was saying to us all. There were two fruit trees that looked pretty happy in their pots, and they were for sure winking or smiling at me when I looked at them. I didn't share this with the group. I felt a bit disoriented up there and imagined myself traveling up the elevator with a wheelbarrow of manure. Turns out there were two roofs with the possibility of being gardened. The other roof was much higher up and was a larger space. It really felt surreal is all I can say.

Kevin told me some good news earlier, that there were some students that want to design the neglected space in the park where the farm stand is located. The idea is to expand the food growing area outside the community garden into the park (edible parks!). This has been one of my fantasies for a long time and I hope having a good design will help convince the city to try it out.

What was on the table this week

I wonder if some people are curious what we have to give out each week. I work at Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen on Tuesdays and go through the boxes of donated produce they get from the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturdays. It is interesting that I am harvesting some of the same things that the farmers outside the city are growing and harvesting now. This week the kitchen had extra beets and small onions that they couldn’t use so I brought some to the stand and added them to the few onions and beets that I harvested from Treat Commons. Christy brought rhubarb from Corona Heights and some big heads of lettuce, chamomile and rosemary. I pulled up a lot of baby carrots from Treat Commons. My backyard and the Secret Garden are really slim pickings now..somehow I managed to harvest some lettuces and salad mix, and some greens from all the gardens. I am still picking lemons from a neighbor’s tree. The table looked really good despite it being a challenge to find produce to harvest and give away.

Two photos from last week

The man in the middle shared with me his recipe for nopales...I haven't tried it yet.

Mark takes beautiful photographs!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Show Goes On

Another shady performance

The Free Farm Stand is really a bit of theater, it’s a good show. It is even under a tent and generates a kind of carnival excitement. The truth is, I am a wannbe farmer in the city, limited to whatever land I have to grow my rows of food on. Right now it is mostly my backyard and some space in Treat Commons community garden that I work in and the Secret Garden, another community garden of sorts. Treat Commons is very sunny and the fruits and vegetables really grow fast and well there. I love trees in the garden, especially fruit bearing trees. The fruit trees that are in Treat Commons are trained into growing flat against a south facing fence, so they don’t take up a lot of space and don’t shade the garden beds. That is what I am excited about is high density fruit growing in cities. But my backyard and the Secret Garden are shady because of a lot of old trees there, some that are ornamental and some that are fruit or nut bearing. And the Secret Garden has a lot of plum trees that have been neglected and need pruning badly, and I hear the fruit they over produce is small. So what I can grow right now is pretty limited and my dream of driving a tractor down the street to a small sunny farm in a once vacant lot, my front or back forty, is just not happening right now.

What is needed besides more sunny land to grow food and flowers on is a Sun Liberation Front. A group of tree climbers, athletic, stretchy & strong men and women who are up to the challenge of pruning some large and overgrown and neglected trees in peoples backyards. I have the chainsaw and hand saws and pruners (and an orchard ladder). Contact me if this seems up your alley.

Looking for Land

Some good news about our land search. At the permaculture guild meeting last week we learned of two possible gardening spots that look like like they will open up in the future. One vacant lot is on Potrero Hill and owned by a doctor who contacted Kevin because of the write up of him in the Chronicle about farming on vacant lots ( It is a corner lot that has been sitting vacant for 17 years, and the doctor is open to it being used for food growing. Then there is a garden on the roof of the Chronicle building that it looks like we will be able to use for the Free Farm Stand. I have also sent out another letter to a landlord of a vacant lot on the corner of 15th and Dolores St. There used to be a garden there, what happened to it?


The Free Farm Stand is such a pot luck kind of affair. At this point I don’t know exactly what I am going to have to harvest to bring to the stand to share and I don’t always know what others will bring. This week Molly who gardens at Treat Commons told me she was going to bring Nopales or cactus (you can eat the leaves or paddles as they are called). She cut off the spines of the cactus and cut them up and put them in bags. It was beautiful! Here are some pictures of Sara holding the last bag of Nopales and a close up shot:

They were very popular and were given away pretty quickly. I asked two people how to prepare them and they both had the same information and similar recipes. Basically boiling the cut up despined cactus in salted water (maybe with onions and garlic in the water too). Then after about ten minutes you pour off the water and rinse well. Put them in a bowl with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and onions, and salt. A cactus salad. I haven't tried it yet. I learned that Nopales are very nutritional and especially good for diabetics. There is a lot of information on Nopales on the web, how to take off the spines (even videos on youtube), recipes, and nutritional content. I thought this blog entry on Nopales was interesting and informative with a good link to the nutritional value of them (and it is a vegan site): Look under the entry for May 8, 2007 for Nopales or read their whole blog for a lot of interesting vegan talk.


A woman who came last week from the group of people who just moved into the neighborhood brought a bunch of extra oregano and Hyssop from their CSA. That always just makes my day, people who go out of their way to do a small but powerful thing. It’s great. So I got the opportunity to taste hyssop which I never have tasted before. It has a pretty strong taste and is somewhat bitter. Maybe it is better for medicine than cooking with it (it is a medicinal herb). I like that it is a mint and that it is a plant that is found in the Bible (apparently it was used to protect Jews from the Angel of Death by mixing it with blood and putting it on doorways). I have always liked to grow Bible plants just because I think they make the garden more sacred. I also feel that way about magic plants, like certain poppies or salvias, that it is fun to grow plants like them in our gardens. Unfortunately the powers that be have determined that some magic plants are illegal and they want to censor what we grow. But everyone that comes into our community garden now loves the purple poppies for their power and beauty, and that is the way it should be.

Secret Garden

Starting June 22- August 1 Robert got a grant from the Mexican Museum to do gardening and art in the Secret Garden with kids. I don't know too much about it, but I am for now not doing much in that garden except watering what is planted. He may want the whole space for his program so I am waiting to learn how it will develop.

I am doing a lot of gardening in my backyard and Treat Commons and can always use help, especially if someone wants to be an apprentice and learn gardening. Also, I will be out of town July 2-13 so the farm stand will have to close for two weeks unless I can find help to cover for me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Free Salad Bar,albahaca, water, and more

Free Salad Bar

As I was washing the salad mix Saturday night, I was thinking I should have called this project the Free Salad Bar. If I can provide people every week with the fixings for a locally grown organic healthy salad I am doing good, really good. Anything else is extra exciting and wonderful! Some lettuce or salad mix, baby greens, a few edible flowers, maybe some herbs, and some home grown sprouts or baby sunflower greens and there you have the basics of a nutritious meal right out of the garden.

Ye of Little Faith

That is me plain and simple. The Free Farm Stand is helping me cultivate faith and grow hope. So again it seems to me the gardens are pretty sparse these days. Things are growing slowly and I am behind in planting with all this blogging on my part and other distractions of trying to do a big project. So once again I was in my corner worrying about what I was going to have to harvest. I repeated my mantra that things will work out. And they did and this week’s free farm stand was a big successes, I am truly amazed! First off, I heaved a big sigh when I heard that the MVS House (Mennonite Volunteer Service House with five volunteers) had grown too much lettuce and baby greens and was going to bring some over for the stand. Then I picked fava beans, a few green onions and some kale from the Secret garden, mint, kale, pansy and nasturtium flowers for the salad, a few leeks and carrots from Treat Commons. From my backyard, I was able to find some more lettuce and kale to harvest. I picked big funny mutant lemons from my neighbor again. Then Lyz brought some arugula, lettuce, mint, and parsley from her garden on Potrero Hill. And a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time showed up with a couple of Meyer lemons (I am not sure how she heard about this). Christy came through again with produce from Corona Heights garden (a couple of artichokes and some rhubarb from her bed and extra lettuce from Dave’s bed). And Margaret who I just met yesterday on the Neighborhood Empowerment Network tour (NEN… more about this later) came by as she said she would with extra oranges from her tree. All the amounts of stuff people brought were small, but put all together and it was impressive. And I had enough to give out food to at least fifteen or more people. I was too busy to count. And a lot of seedlings were given away on the free plant table outside the gate to the garden.


That is the new word I learned a today. I still could use help with someone who can speak Spanish being at the stand, I think it would improve things a lot. Anyway, this morning I was helping at Martin de Porres soup kitchen and they got a big bag of organic basil donated from the Embarcadero Farmers market on Saturday. They didn’t think it would be used, so they said I could have it for the stand. Whoopee! It was really beautiful fresh basil, all types, lemon basil, regular basil, and Thai basil. People were happy. And I asked a woman in my poor Spanish what the word of this vegetable is, and she didn’t know, but her friend did. Albahaca. When others came to the stand I was able to show off as I offered them basil.

Feeling less alone

When I got to the stand a number of neighbors showed up and helped me set up. A few of them just moved into the neighborhood and live together. Here is a group picture just before we opened:


I have been thinking about water recently. It started when a friend who lives in Oakland came over two weeks ago and mentioned that water rationing began there. Then I was interviewed by another friend who is making a film about water and wanted me to talk about my digging a well with the people I lived with in 1975 during the drought we had in San Francisco then. But things really hit home when a third friend brought over a bunch of nice seedlings for the Free Farm Stand, tomatoes, flowers, and some other things. She had gotten them from the edible school yard in Berkeley. She said they were giving them away because of watering rationing there. She is down to two showers a week and mulches her in Oakland garden and waters carefully at the base of each plant. She is supposed to cut her water use by 19%. I have started getting worried that it may happen here and have started saving non-soapy kitchen water in a plastic barrel I got from Urban Ore and watering the garden with it. Too bad they don’t give you a break on water use if you are growing food. What I need now is a deep stainless steel sink with a drain board to wash all the vegetables and sprouts I am growing and harvesting that I can put in the garden, so the water goes right to the plants.

NEN Clean and Green Summit

Saturday I had signed up to attend the NEN Clean and Green Summit at Cesar Chavez School, right across the street from the Treat Commons Community Garden. On Friday I was asked last minute if I would be a host for the neighborhood tour that was part of the summit and talk about Treat Commons and the Free Farm stand. I said ok and spent the whole day talking really fast (being given 10 minutes to talk about the garden and the stand and show people around). I got to put in my pitch about planting nut trees on sidewalks and fruit trees in parks, among other things. And I met a lot of great people, including Margaret who came by today and not only brought oranges, but watered the garden.

One of the best things at the summit sounded like the talk on rain water catchment that my wife Angie attended. She thought both women who did the workshop did a great job in explaining how it can be done rather simply. She and Dave (who lives next to the Secret garden) think we should collect rain water for that garden.


I forgot to mention that I gave away some of the honey we took from the bees (I had brought about 20 4oz jars). I still need help putting the rest in jars. I must admit I still have mixed feelings about being a bee keeper. I became a vegan probably 30 years ago because I thought it is best to do as little harm and violence to other creatures as possible. So if we don’t need to eat animals then don’t. Being a bee keeper it is impossible not to harm bees every time you open the hive. I try to be gentle and am organic in my practices with the bees, but still I wind up squishing bees or killing bees. And then there is the question of whether you are stealing the honey from the bees or whether they make more than they need. If you have a hive and you don’t take their honey, the bees won’t have a place to store more honey so they will divide and half will take off and swarm. In cities you ideally don’t want that to happen.

Bees though are wonderful to have in a garden just to watch and see them work. They pollinate our crops and trees and as we know they are in great danger now. There is also the issue of trying to have our own sources of local food. I am definitely not into raising my own meat (which takes probably feeding them grain which needs to be grown else where on land that could be used for food for humans). I don’t think I could learn butchering, though I do kill rats and mice and snails and aphids.

The bottom line I guess is that I feel comfortable raising bees right now and am willing to take on the karma of beekeeping. The problem with having bee hives is they make so much honey and so my solution is to share it with others.

An interesting and beautiful story

One of the best parts of the Free Farm Stand is how it is becoming a place where people can meet and talk. A place to meet new people or connect with neighbors, ask questions and learn something new. Today I enjoyed seeing a friend that lives near me who came by towards the end and we chatted. She told me about a Jewish Synagogue that she recently visited who owns a chunk of land in Colma in a cemetery where they grow food and give it to the San Francisco Food Bank.

One more photo