Monday, March 30, 2009

Hecka Sweet Oranges and People

Towards the end of April of this month we will have the 1st year anniversary of the opening of the Free Farm Stand and I am starting to look back and evaluate how things have gone so far. I want to see what I have learned and if there are any changes I should be making in what I am doing.

This Saturday I had a mini-realization that I can't always count of getting free left over produce from the farmers market (this week there was very little for some reason and there will be little next week too). I was wondering as the economy gets worse, will there be less free food to hand out? I was starting to get a little anxious like I did when I first started the stand that I wouldn't have much to give out to all the people showing up these days. Then I thought in reality I can only grow so much food (unless I somehow manifest a small farm in the city...see the end of this article) and other people will only have small amounts of extra produce from their gardens that they can contribute. I reminded myself that I am not trying to run a food program exactly, but to be part of the movement of people encouraging local food growing and sharing (though I must admit I have that tendency to want to do serve large numbers of hungry people). One thing I am able to produce a lot of (though it takes some work) are vegetable starts or seedlings. Thinking this I went into greenhouse day dreaming mode. More on where that led me later on.

The Free Farm Stand was pretty good this week despite the lack of huge amounts of farmer's market booty. There was definitely a lot of people and a great feeling of community. It was such a sunny day everyone was out in the park and the garden got a lot of visitors and helpers. Especially the kids were really into watering the plants. There was lots of chit chat everywhere. One woman who spoke only Spanish requested some chayote leaves to cook with. Rebekah was around and spoke to her in Spanish and got the recipe how to use the leaves for a kind of mush she makes with them. Here is the recipe:

Chile Atol....( a thick kind of porridge spiced with chiles)

Boil whole ears of corn until tender

In a separate bowl mix corn flour with water gently stir it into simmering corn stirring constantly so it doesn't stick.

Meanwhile in a blender mix together

4 or 5 tender chayote or flor de calabaza leaves

5 or 6 epazote leaves(she says to not use too many because they can have an overpowering flavor)

1-3 green serrano chiles(depending on how much spice you like)


pour this into the porridge mixture and simmer awhile constantly stirring.

I have a new friend and garden apprentice I mentioned before, a ten year old boy name Zeus who came and helped potting up seedlings to give away. He is filled with millions of questions and I had a hard time answering them all. He is so enthusiastic about gardening and it is very wonderful to see. His family gave us two bird houses they had built and some carrot seed.

The table had some beautiful chard and greens from mostly the secret garden and a handful of herbs, some red celery stalks, and a handful of snap peas. Nosrat brought by a huge amount of herbs from his garden including fresh sage. It is nice to use fresh herbs in our cooking and for a lot of us it is simple laziness that we open jars to get our flavor instead of picking it from a kitchen garden, either from a backyard, community garden, or windowsill.

There was a lot of baby romaine and radicchio from the farmer's market. I must admit I have a prejudice against radicchio and if anyone out there that can turn me around on this with some fabulous way of using it I would love it (I am not much into bitters I guess). We also had a lot of bread that people like.

I was most excited by the fruit on the table. We had 33lbs of navel oranges picked from a local tree that was hecka sweet and juicy. It was the first big harvest of the year by SF Glean (see web site link on the sidebar, though the site doesn't have a lot of information on it now). Jonathan took the list of fruit trees that needed researching and lucked out in meeting the owner of the trees. He got permission to harvest the trees and we might get more in a the following weeks.

Margaret (also on the gleaning team) came by with some beautiful lemons she picked from Holy Innocents Church and a little sign that explained where they came from which was a nice touch. Steve brought not only lots of chard seeds from his dad's garden in Sonoma County, but also a bag of big Meyer lemons.

I tried this week to put more attention into the plant giveaway table. We had a lot of tomato seedlings to give away plus cilantro and chives, plus a few miscellaneous plants like rhubarb and hummingbird sage. A friend brought over a collection of the healthiest looking tomato starts she had grown to share and the varieties were ones that I didn't have. Our helpers talked to everyone that took plants to make sure they know how to grow it and to told them about the different we had varieties and other related information. We also put in a word about donating any surplus they grow to the stand. If we can get it together for next week we would like to have a flier in English and Spanish how to take care of the plant and grow it. We will start with tomatoes.

There was so much happening this weekend with many gardening events everywhere across town. On Friday we had a good workday at 18th and Rhode Island. Our small crew built two trellises for tomatoes and planted 12 kinds of cherry tomatoes, mostly heirlooms. We also built one more potato tower. After that, Page and I went to the Secret Garden and planted three more towers. The potatoes are starting to grow in many of the towers we have planted (I think we have about 14 towers now planted in different places). On Saturday I heard the PDC class planted more stuff on the hill.

On Friday evening I got an email from my friend Jonathan who was one of the people who started CELL space who has started cleaning up the vacant lot next to CELL on Florida and is resurrecting the garden that was there a few years ago. His project is called the Esperanza Sustainability Center and he seems to want to do everything you have ever heard of there in terms of sustainability, including a community garden (not divided into plots but to give to the food to those who garden and maybe to sell some to local restaurants), a nursery for "Propagation of edible fruit trees, native trees, medicinals and other plant starts for Urban Dissemination" (including constructing a quick dome greenhouse), workshops, and a performance stage. I went there on Saturday and there was a big 20yd pile of Bay View Greenwaste Management fine woodchip compost piled on the sidewalk. Sound familiar? It was sheet mulching day and I went off to help get a bale of cardboard from Whole Foods (while there the FARM project people that I wrote about last week was there doing the same thing (stuffing cardboard into their van for sheet mulching). When we got back, there were a whole lot of new people that I have never met ready to move cardboard and mulch. Two volunteers went off with me to pick up a load of horse manure and when I got back the place was hopping with energy and sweat. I stuck around for a while shoveling wood chips and then I took off to check out the sight at Hooper Street where the CCA students were sheet mulching the long strip of land next to their college building.

I found the scene pretty inspiring and like I wrote to Robyn one of the organizers, to see a wasted piece of land being transformed like that is so inspiring to me. They actually got permission from DPW to do what they were doing.

I just got word of a man in San Jose that has access to an acre of land in the middle of downtown that is flood plain and can't be built on. He wants to grow food to give away, convinced we will have 18-22% unemployment soon. His project is a week old and says he needs all the help he can get. I wish san Jose was a little closer to the city.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It’s All Good to the Core

What a beautiful day it turned out to be at the Free Farm Stand, and I was thinking it was going to rain. It was another day that we were loaded up with beautiful vegetables and bread. I must admit I was feeling pretty good about myself that I had grown so much lettuce mix in both gardens (Treat Commons and the Secret Garden). I didn't weigh the mix, but it was probably over 2lbs. I also felt good that I harvested a lot of lettuces that were growing in between the fava beans planted at 18th and Rhode island. I just discovered them by accident before I left on Friday. What happened is that I noticed one of the red chard plants started to grow bigger and it was being shaded by the fava beans so I decided to cut the fava beans growing around the chard. That is when I saw all these lettuces and other chard plants growing hidden among the fava bean plants.

I won't write a lot about the Free Farm Stand this week. The table was filled with mostly wonderful vegetables left over from the farmers markets on Saturday. There were a few boxes of the most beautiful artichokes. I keep thinking when will people start growing artichokes in their newly created sidewalk gardens (and or potato towers). Caleb brought a beautiful basket of arugula and bouquets of herbs that his friend grew and they assembled. This to me is what the stand is all about, small class act gestures of sharing by friends and neighbors. And Caleb was there to give his gift away in person and could talk to everyone about it. These actions turn the world around and make my heart soar! Talk about class acts. A friend from church gave me a box of lemon and orange marmalade from her trees in the east bay that she made too much of (it is easy since our trees are so productive). It also was wonderful, from the wrapping of the jam box with a bright red Japanese cloth, the labeling of the jars, to the delicious taste of the marmalade. I gave people a taste on bread and people loved it (I also gave jars of it away). This is a great example of what to do with oranges that may be too sour to eat, like the tree down the street that I heard about that needs gleaning, but the owner says they don't taste good. We should give him a taste of her marmalade. I also brought a jar of carob powder and pods from a local tree that I helped plant years ago, and gave people a taste of that. More on the carob pods below. I picked a few lemons from my neighbor's tree and kept thinking there must be more lemons ready to pick now somewhere. Sam came later in the day just when we were running low on produce and brought some miscellaneous vegetables that a friend grew. I was busy giving out food because we were a bit short on volunteers and I wasn't able to set up the "garden advice and plant give away table", but later when it slowed down I was able to bring out some seedlings.

I actually started writing this blog entry early Sunday morning before the Free Farm Stand opened just to catch up on all that has happened this past week. I remember friends of mine saying something like that when the hot issue of the day gets written up in Time magazine it time to move on to new things. At that time it was communal living we were talking about. Now it is local food and going beyond eating organic which is now a weakened concept, and the focus is on sustainable local agriculture.

This week all the big papers have spread the news about the Obama family digging up some lawn at the White House and planting a vegetable garden. This is a victory for us local food activists and gardeners who have been involved in signing petitions to the Washington elites to get them to do this,, and to push Washington to adopt a more sane agriculture policy. This morning I learned from a fabulous article in the New York Times (called Is a Food Revolution in Season? that "In mid-February, Tom Vilsack, the new secretary of agriculture, took a jackhammer to a patch of pavement outside his headquarters to create his own organic "people's garden."

All this is good and exciting as local organic sustainable food because moves slowly from being the hip thing on the block to more mainstream, just like tofu can be found in supermarkets across the country. But our job as pioneers is to move on to the next revolution and to remain real. We have to get beyond the talk and move into quiet bold action. We have to continue to work for the poor and disenfranchised and make sure our heads don't get swollen with all this attention on what we are doing. We don't need super stars of the local food movement (I write this largely for myself: thinking about yesterday when a friend of mine was filming a documentary for a class he is taking at City College. I gave him the go ahead, hoping that he learns how to capture the real news that was happening at the stand, which wasn't all about me). We need make to meaningful changes in the communities we live in on a fruit tree roots level. We need to create art and write poems that shake the walls of the current ways we do things, and what a better time to do it than when the system seems to be sinking.

Yesterday I swung by the 18th and Rhode Island site where the new PDC course was taking place (Permaculture Design Course). It was real encouraging to see so many people who joined this class and have an interest in learning how to build sustainable cities. There seemed to be about 25 people there in the slight drizzle learning about sheet mulching. And it was funny to see that I knew a lot of these people and have worked with them in connection to the Free Farm Stand. People are paying $500-$600 to commit to 100 hours of time learning permaculture with an urban focus, which the teachers who started the class say is really fair and half the price of other similar classes (which it is). The teachers say are not trying to make money, but to get more permaculture designers working in San Francisco to make a better city.

My dream and I know Kevin (one of the teachers of the course) shares this vision that eventually these classes will be free. I would say why not now? I would like to see the classes being more like the sharing of skills like the Free Skool movement in Santa Cruz. I know there are costs and such that need to be met, but if we are designers of a new society can't we come up with a different design than the current capitalist model? John Lennon said "I may be a dreamer, but I am not the only one." I also share David and Kevin's goal of getting more trained people with the skills to transform our neighborhoods into more sustainable places to live, which includes growing more gardens and fruit trees that feed us. The question or challenge is how to get these people that are enthusiastic that are taking these courses to continue the work after the classes are over. I am still working on trying to get fruit trees planted in my park which was a PDC project from last year.

The other day I was writing to my friend Nicole and I think I was being a bit too critical of some people I was working with. She pointed out to me a slightly different perspective to things, that people were just trying to do the best they could and saw things differently than me. I appreciated her saying that to me as I need to be reminded not to be so judgmental all the time. "It is all good" is my current mantra right now.

On Friday we had a small turnout, but everyone who came by was really helpful and we got a lot done. We planted more strawberries first. Then we finished the potato tower we started last week and worked on two more. We finished building one more tower using the lasagna layering method and started one where we will cover the potato plant as it grows. I brought some old wet straw that we used and mixed it in with a little bit of soil and a lot of composted woodchips and clippings and a smaller amount of older manure (also we added some cut up green fava bean stalks and leaves.). On Saturday apparently one of the potato towers started leaning over and Ryan pushed it back up an stabilized it. Maybe we didn't level the ground enough or perhaps it is unstable because it is sitting on a hill of sheet mulch which is somewhat springy.

Two types of potato towers

On Friday night I attended a local Forage Feast that was free (kind of like a forage pot luck). It was a sweet event and I enjoyed seeing friends and meeting some new people. I brought a camera, but I think I got a bit too tipsy on the nettle beer or was it the honey wine, and didn't get into being the role of an investigative journalist. There were some great vegan dishes that people made, including some great bread stuffing made with local herbs, some kind of ollalaberry crisp made with some local (foraged?) ingredients, a great creamy nettle dip, and an artistic and surprisingly flavorful miner's lettuce salad…just the handsome round miner's lettuce leaves in a light vinaigrette. Just seeing the salad made me want to eat it and this was before I got high. The nettle beer was subtle and delicious, made with nettle teas, sugar, and bread yeast (I was told you can also use champagne yeast). There were also some nice teas and lemon aid made with local ingredients. One exception, the rosemary tea with mint that I had high hopes for because of all the rosemary around, was a bit too intense for me.

I brought carob pods from down the street and some homemade carob powder. I also made some little sweet balls out of dried chestnuts from also down the street (boiled and ground up), walnuts from my back yard, and carob powder. I told people at the Free Farm Stand that I would explain to people how I made the powder from the pods here. I got my information on how to do this from the internet with my own modifications.

First I made sure all the pods were clean and free from dirt or not rotted, I pulled some out that I had collected that looked a bit funky. The pods are pretty tough and leathery and have seeds in them that you need to remove (I read that the seeds could be ground up and used to make a vegetable gum). To make it easy to remove the seeds I used a pressure cooker and steam cooked the pods for about six minutes. Then it was not too hard to take a sharp pointed knife and cut the pods lengthwise to open them and remove the tiny black seeds. Then I partially chopped up the pods with a coffee grinder (a food processor would also work). I turned on the oven to the lowest temperature (around 200- 250 degrees) and slightly roasted the pods for about ten to fifteen minutes. I ground up the roasted pods in the coffee grinder and sifted the ground up pods with a very fine mesh strainer. It doesn't come out quite like powder, but is pretty fine.

The pods can be eaten raw but that is sort of a chore because they are so chewy. Besides the local sustainable agriculture movement going on, foraging has become a popular thing too. I am not sure if picking a tree that I planted counts as true foraging, but it is nice to eat the things growing around us if they taste ok and especially f they are nutritional. It is a bit of work though with carob pods.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Farmers No Food

This week's blog title comes from a bumper sticker someone gave us this Sunday. It comes from a group in the Midwest that is "Fighting to keep family farms on their land". I was thinking that all the foreclosures happening everywhere are like the family farms disappearing. My friend Christian came by and told me he is working with Homes not Jails again and that they plan on squatting some of these foreclosed properties. Apparently it is easier than ever now finding the properties, there are lists online and you can even see the inside of the house. Maybe they describe the outside land around the house too and whether it has fruit trees or any landscaping. Some of these squatters should consider "Digger style" digging up the vacant lawns and yards around these foreclosed houses, and planting gardens and fruit trees. Bring back the family farms to our cities and suburbs.

Of all the gardening activities I have been involved with this past week, I think I have enjoyed working most in my backyard garden, propagating plants and slowly getting the garden in shape, ready for a spring planting. It feels meditative just being an urban farmer in my back forty and slowing down a bit…not that I have quite done that yet. Do other people feel like I do that there is so much going on these days around local food growing and other "green" activities? I get so sucked into it and have a hard time not wanting to get involved in it all. Then I get overwhelmed and have a hard time staying grounded.

Thy took so many beautiful photos of the great spread of vegetables on the table this week. I would prefer it if it was all food that we grew ourselves as neighbors, but it is free, fresh, pretty much local within a 100 miles, and organically, sustainably grown. It is a bit harder to capture photos of the colorful people that come every week, we don't want to make people feel uncomfortable or feel like they are going to a camera shoot. I think the group of people that show up every week is truly what makes the event wonderful...a place where neighbors can gather and hang out with their community.

We really did have lovely produce this week…artichokes, leeks, shelling peas, so many greens, especially chard (3 cases), carrots, turnips, herbs, young garlic. From our gardens I harvested 2 1/2lbs of baby lettuce and 2 1/2lbs of greens including a big bunch of Oriental spinach. It's wild that I can now guess what the farmer's market will have when I harvest what we have been growing…it is the same kind of vegetables. Like right now the chard growing in our gardens is so handsome and perfect, free of all signs of leaf miner damage. I also found one Jalapeño pepper on a plant that has become perennial. Three people came by with Meyer lemons they harvested. That was a special treat. It was a busy cloudy day and as usual when we were ready to go home there was very little left but a sack of turnips and some rosemary.

During part of the Free Farm Stand I took off to go to a meeting in the park with people who are interested in SF Glean, the new fruit harvesting project we have started. Some new people came who were not at the first meeting and we talked about the project and came up with some next steps we can take to move the project forward. And on the plant table we had flyers on the table to alert us of any fruit trees in the neighborhood that may need picking. We also gave away strawberries and cilantro and edible chrysanthemum starts.

Like I said there are so may many garden related activities happening now and I keep meeting new people that inspire me in different ways. Zeus is a young boy about 10 I am guessing who started coming to the farm stand last week who loves to garden. I have met a number of kids recently who love gardening too, but Zeus is super enthusiastic and now I have met his whole family, his dad, sister, and mom. He has been really helpful, last week planting strawberries and this week potting up seedlings and putting them on the plant give-away table. I love sharing with him little things about plants and he just soaks it all up.

On Tuesday the kids from the Jamestown Center came by Treat Commons and they learned about transplanting seedlings. We made paper pots and transplanted tomato seedlings into them. We now have over 200 tomato seedlings that need to grow a few weeks before we can give them away. And we still have a lot more seedlings that need potting up. We need more six packs, small 2" or cup size pots, or trays to put seedlings in.

The Friday workday at 18th and Rhode Island was very productive. We put in more strawberries, some comfrey was planted and other seedlings, and we got a real good lesson in building potato towers from Kevin. We built the tower using the all at once or lasagna layering method. Kevin taught us some things about growing potatoes in towers that resonated with what I already knew about growing potatoes in the ground or from my observation of them volunteering in my garden. In particular they like to grow in soil that has a lot of not completely finished compost in it, made of partially composted leaves or straw. He thinks that for towers you need a fluffier material with more air spaces to make the layers less dense and to prevent compacting do to the weight of the piles. I have been using just composted wood chips which are black and rich, but perhaps too dense. On Friday we didn't have all the ideal materials to fill the tower we started, so this week I am going to bring some rotted straw and mix it in with the composted chips and plant material. We used all the fava bean plants that we cut down when we planted the strawberries and some rotted manure because that is what we had. Here is how we made the layers: Sprinkle a couple of inches of fine potting soil on the ground (lay down cardboard if doing it on concrete). Put nine potatoes on top of the soil (we cut the big sprouting ones and usually we would let them heal first before planting them).The small whole sprouting ones we just laid down on the soil. On top of that we put some chopped up fava bean leaves and plants (ideally they would be partially composted). A minimum of 5"-6" of mulch goes on top of that (we used some composted mulch and manure and soil that we used for planting the strawberries…on one layer we used just manure that was lightweight with a lot of composted sawdust and straw bedding material in it instead of mulch). Then we repeated those layers.

Kevin and I share the same crazy dream of seeing these towers of potatoes planted on sidewalks that have had their concrete pulled up (maybe his vision is to see them just sitting on the concrete sidewalks, but I like the water going into the soil). Anyone out there who wants to try this on their sidewalk?

I also met Robyn at the site when I first got there in the morning. She is a student at the California College of the Arts at Eighth St.and 16th St. She is part of a group of students that have formed a group called FARM (The Future Action Reclamation Mob) who are planning on dealing with the toxic strip of land outside their school. It is a long 66ft by about 8ft long strip of mostly shady land they want to tackle.

They plan to detoxify the soil which is high in lead and build raised beds and plant food for the hungry. They are going to use permaculture techniques and they are not getting permission from the city to do this, using non-violent direct actions instead. Their web site is Depending on how much sun they actually get maybe they should be planting potato towers. Anyway I was tickled to meet her and I just love these people that want to make our world a little more just and beautiful. I think they are having an action Saturday March 28 if you want to join them in their fun.

I just got an email from my friend Joanna with whom I gardened with over a year ago at the All in Common Community Garden. She has been farming last year in Nevada City and wrote a beautiful article in Poor Magazine ( about her experience there as an intern. But it is also a rallying call for us all to take up farming and to grow food in our backyards . Here are a couple of snippets that I love "Every person, child, mother, father, sister should have the opportunity to experience life on a farm. The daily routine; getting up with the sun, feeding the chickens, watering the plants, playing in the dirt, weeding, and weeding, the repetition, and meditation. Shoveling compost, preparing beds, transplanting and fertilizing. Watching as seeds germinate and take root...In the Bay Area, with so much talk about local foods and green products we have to actually start living in a radically different way. As Frank Cook says, it's not about food miles, but food feet. We have to eat from our backyards. Let's celebrate the seasons, the harvests and moon cycles. Demand that all communities have farmer's markets- farm stands, and gardens. What's the point in elitist style clubs that only talk about organics for the people who can afford it. Every home needs a space to grow herbs and roots, tomatoes, and lettuce. The sidewalks could be turned into a farm." I can see that not everyone may want to live on a farm; some of us may be called to beautify the planet in other ways, like with art and music. We need that nourishment just as much. But I agree with Joanna that we can all still plant something somewhere and take care of it. That we need that connectedness to the soil.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pastures of Plenty

This past Sunday was the first Free Farm Stand we have had with no rain in several weeks and the park was filled with people enjoying the sun. We had so much food (more than I could fit on my wagon), so I had to make two trips moving it to the park from my house. By 2:30pm we had given out almost all the produce and bread, and by the time we were all packed up and ready to leave there was absolutely nothing left (a couple came and took what little there was, and they seemed to really appreciate the small bag of greens and the few small pumpkins we had left).

The day was extra busy and crowded with the garden work day happening at the same time. Kids were planting strawberries and adults were weeding and distributing mulch throughout the garden.

On Friday we had a great turnout for our workday at 18th and Rhode Island garden. I was a bit concerned that we were not going to move all the mulch we had gotten from Bay View Green Waste Management (20 cubic yards!). I was wrong to worry because it was all spread out at the end of the day. Here is how we sheet mulched the entire rocky hill: We had 9 energetic volunteers who showed up. They moved two tons of cardboard and spread it over the remaining bare earth where ivy, oxalis, and fennel grew. The cardboard was watered down. There was a pile of mushroom blocks from Far West Fungi in the garden when I arrived. The blocks were crumbled up and then spread over the cardboard and mulch. The mushrooms will help break down the mulch. We also had some aged horse manure that was spread at the same time over the cardboard. Then the mulch, ground up wood chips and brush that has been ground up really fine, was dumped on top of the cardboard.

This Friday we will be ready to build and plant potato towers and some sunchokes. We also have more strawberries to plant and carrots.

Tuesday we were rained out and I didn't get to garden with the Jamestown kids in the Secret Garden. On Saturday there was a small cleanup day there and we got rid of a lot of garbage and took down the play structure to make room for more planting. This Tuesday we will plant a lettuce lawn and some kale and other greens, and maybe another potato tower.

My big goal this week is to pot up all the tomato seedlings we have started and hopefully plant more seeds. I love growing seedlings. We have the goal of helping our neighbors start their own gardens if they have room and seeing more food being grown everywhere there is sunny space to plant. We are promoting the idea of sharing the surplus produce and eventually having our neighborhood being a true Pasture of Plenty as Woody Guthrie wrote in a song. A neighborhood that is known for the food it grows, isn't that a trippy idea? The famous Mission grown tomato or apricot… Propagating lots of seedlings (and other edible plants) and distributing them for free is part of the dream. Recently someone sent me a link for a interesting project in Portland that has a similar vision, though they charge for their services, a CSA growing starts rather than food. What we need are some people to help me grow starts to give away at the Free Farm Stand and to neighbors that are planting gardens. I can teach people the basics of planting and growing starts, and what I need are people with some sunny space to put a cold frame or shelf (or greenhouse) and some motherly care to grow the starts until they are ready to give out.

Along this same train of thought, I recently rejoined the Seed Savers Exchange ( and their newest catalog arrived in the mail. I now have access to seeds of thousands of heirloom vegetables. I am excited just reading about all the different kales we can try growing or tomatoes and then we can save the seed for the ones we like. I also got a copy of a book that Kevin highly recommended called Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants by Stephen Facciola. It says in the introduction of this book that “There are approximately fifteen thousand plants recorded in literature as having been used as food by man. One hundred and fifty or more of these have been cultivated on a commercial scale…Yet today, most of the world is fed by approximately twenty crops…” The author is making the point that we should be utilize more of the food crops available. Kevin told me the other day he is excited because he finally found a source for a perennial broccoli he has been looking for forever and he wants to share some seed with me when he gets it. This is really what makes growing our own food so much fun and valuable. And it all starts with some form of propagation, planting seeds and growing starts or grafting or rooting cuttings.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Invisible Gardener

There is an invisible gardener tending his/her garden which we are all a part of. I am so excited right now with the love that is planted in this garden and that with a little tending and care is growing so abundantly. And this crop is available to all to harvest for free.

To speak more plainly this is almost like the summer of love cycling around again. What is cool is I keep meeting people whose hearts and ideals are very beautiful and they are doing such great work to make their dreams come true.

Jonathan is one man that I have just become friends with who really blows me away. He works at the Pe'ah Garden in Colma ( Here is what their website says: By growing food for those in need at our cemetery in Colma, Congregation Emanu-El members perform the mitzvah of feeding the hungry. "Our garden name, Pe'ah (corners), derives from Leviticus 19, which commands us to not harvest the corners of the field but to leave them for the poor and the stranger…Our harvest is donated to the San Francisco Food Bank." He recently has gotten involved with SFglean and has already hit the streets, flyers in hand, looking for neglected fruit trees that need picking. I actually got the title of this blog from the movie he made about their garden project.

The Free Farm Stand this week was also a love fest in the rain. Three people came up to me to tell me how much they appreciated the produce, that it made a big difference in their lives. I also got a number of sincere hugs from people that felt the same joy I was feeling. It was raining, not hard, during the entire farm stand, but I swear there was an incredible sunshine from most everyone that came by. I can't really explain it, but I think I felt so blessed to have such a great crew of friends to work with and people to serve.

The produce on the table was doing its part to send out a bunch of vegetable love to those who came by. I had the biggest amount of salad mix that I picked from two gardens (the Secret Garden and Treat Commons). Three people from San Francisco State helped me cut the salad mix and some greens and we were all impressed with how much food we got from such a small space. The lettuce lawns are producing a lot of salad right now. We also had more fava bean leaves from 18th and Rhode Island. I tried stir frying some with olive oil and garlic and they are a lot like spinach…maybe a bit fibrous or chewy. But very tasty. Steve and his friend (I am having a senior moment and am forgetting her name) from Potrero del Sol brought some various herbs from their garden plot and more tree collard cuttings for me to root. Tom came down from Santa Rosa with two crates full of the most beautiful Meyer lemons. The farmer's market leftovers included young onions, turnips, arugula, cilantro, stir fry mix, fennel, radicchio, small Savoy cabbages, leeks, small cauliflower, and various herbs. We had a lot of bread too and almost all the food was given away.

On Tuesday night Jenny and I went over to San Francisco State and talked to the Eco Students club about the Free Farm Stand. I wound up getting a list of 14 students that want to volunteer sometime with the stand. Then the fun started on Friday when we had a great work day at 18th and Rhode Island. I enjoyed working with everyone who showed up. We got the "ivy hill" shaped and ready to sheet mulch next Friday. We also, cleaned up our storage area and now have various piles of manure, compost, mulch, and soil all stacked up under a tarp. Things are looking good. We also planted two varieties of short day or June bearing strawberries (Camarosa and Chandler).

'ivy hill" ready for sheet mulching next Friday workday

organic materials for making potato towers

some of the great crew on Friday

On Saturday I had three people who helped me plant seeds. The cold frame is full and I am ready to pot up seedlings to make room for the new seeds that will sprout soon.

SF Glean has a redesigned web page ( and yesterday Page and Margaret walked around our neighborhood with flyers and looked for fruit trees that needed harvesting. Another project to get excited about.