Monday, June 22, 2009

Planet of the Apricots

Early Saturday morning six of us packed into our van with ladders, pole pickers, buckets, a tarp, picking bags, shallow cardboard boxes, and a cooler and a box of food. We were headed to the church of 100 apricot trees in Winters near Davis (about 73 miles from San Francisco). We were invited there to participate in a day of fruit picking and picnicking. I imagined that we were traveling on the Sabbath to the church of apricot trees, because I know what a graceful experience it would be.

When we got there we were all immediately hit with a wave of awe and excitement. There were others there already picking the trees, friends of the sisters whose parents own the property. We had all been invited to pick as much as we can use, including a man who inherited two pigs (under the agreement that he wouldn't eat them) who was getting all the smashed apricots off the ground. He mixes the rotting fruit with grains and some other waste product to make fermented buckets of food for his pigs that love it. They eat the slop and then flop down in drunken bliss.

Picking so many trees for a number of hours was truly a religious experience and it makes one not only feel grateful but it is a direct connection to the power of creation. All that magic and beauty in a simple red orange yellow fruit warmed by a hot sun! The sweet taste of the apricots was also divine. As was the warmth and generosity of the people we met. In our own way we were all high and drunk with the vibe the trees were singing out. Man we've got to be planting more fruit trees everywhere, especially in the city, so we don't have to drive to get that high we got to feed the masses with more than grasses.

At some point we took a break and had a lovely picnic under a large oak. Sharing food together is another holy act and being outside on a somewhat hot day under the shade of a tree with friends was great. Lauren with Produce to the People and her friend Sarah showed up and joined us. Then we all went back to picking, actually shaking and catching (at that point we figured out that shaking the small trees and having four of us holding a tarp worked better than hand picking…it also was a more communal activity like praying together rather than by oneself. I guess they both are good.

When we got back to the city I weighed the fruit and we had collected approximately 428 pounds of apricots, some that went to Martin de Porres and the rest mostly to the stand. Another magical thing that happened is that we saved a lot of the soft fruit that was on the ground for jam. A woman at our church that has made jam for the stand in the past agreed to make jam Sunday and took 30lbs of apricots home with her to do just that.

It turned out that we didn't get a lot of left-overs from the farmer's market. I had some produce I picked from my backyard, Treat Commons, and Rhode Island garden. It was the apricots that made the day exciting. Besides apricots, we had beautiful carrots from Treat Commons (Purple Haze and a fat orange kind...thinning the carrots is the secret to successful carrot growing), oregano, marjoram, mint, chard, kale, flowers from Treat Common and also African Blue Basil. A woman came by with a bag of beautiful lemons, another brought some purple plums, and Erin brought plums that she helped pick on Saturday. A couple of people brought rosemary. Rosemary and oregano are both herbs that we seem to have no problem getting a lot of because they grow so well in our Mediterranean climate. I also should mentioned that I still could really use someone to come and take photos at the Free Farm Stand. This week I totally spaced out in taking pictures of the produce, which was so beautiful on the super local table. The photos here were taken after a lot of the produce was gone and I finally found the camera.

This week was the first time I actually noticed a line of people forming to get produce. I must admit I started getting a little scared that the Free Farm Stand was going to have the feeling of a bread line vs. a community gathering of neighbors sharing their surplus home grown. I did notice around 2 or 2:30pm there was no line and it seemed less busy. We also didn't have a lot of bread at the get go so we limited the number of loaves a person could take to two. That seemed to cause some tension at times, especially when a Russian couple came and took five loaves and wanted more and he didn't understand English. I am thinking next week moving the bread table away from the produce section and also possibly move the plant table too. Maybe this will help mellow the scene. Also I wonder if the crowds are due to all the publicity I have been getting. With the digital age it doesn't even matter if you give an interview, word of mouth is not what it used to be with the internet.

Talk about links on line, there is a link for the Free Farm Stand on my friend Christy's online journal What If? Journal of Radical Possibilities ( When I first met Christy she told me she once published a journal that had an article about the Diggers in it and she gave me a copy (at that time it was in real ink). I enjoyed reading it and now she is putting What If? online and is looking for "wonderful sources of information on transformative projects going on here locally (and elsewhere!)." In this issue she explores permaculture.

Recently I have been reading a lot of email discussions about the idea of people living together like we did in the sixties and seventies. The idea of intentional communities, service ashrams, gift economy villages. I agree that is what is needed now more than ever. I lived in a communal household for 24 years where we shared income and were pretty communal and it was the greatest experience ever. I wrote previously of an Urban Kibbutz or a urban communal house of hospitality and farm located in the middle of the city. That is the dream I will put out in the universe today. Did everyone enjoy the summer solstice?


Antoi said...

Hi Tree, I really look forward to reading your posts. They are so alive, giving and optimistic. I've been out of work for months, so your comment about communal living has had me thinking about this alot lately. My typical thoughts have been "I've worked so hard to finally have my own place in the city, (albeit a small studio), I'd never give it up," but since I've had an unemployed friend couch-surfing with me, it's reminded me of how important community, friendship and interaction is important in our lives.

Sorry this is so long, but just wanted to thank you for your work, blog, etc... I need to revisit the farm stand very soon. :)

Dolores said...

Wow, the energy of that orchard comes alive as I read your blog. What a wonderful world!