Monday, October 26, 2009

Squash Appreciation Day

Now is the season to enjoy winter squash, planted in the spring, grown in the summer, harvested in the fall. The table at the Free Farm Stand was heaped high with winter squashes (and some of the last summer zucchini), some grown at 18th and Rhode Island garden and some grown by my friend Tom in Santa Rosa. We should sing an ode to winter squash because they are so wonderful!

We should strive to be like winter squash
they are a humble vegetable
like the lowly pumpkin squash magically transformed into
a high class carriage to take Cinderella to the ball
they are rock steady and patient
as they grow sometimes to large proportions
they are one of the three sisters
whose righteousness comforts and nourishes us
they feed us their fleshy insides and also their blossoms and seeds
they can be who they want to be and choose to be different
in sizes and shapes and colors
though their sexual expression is dependent on our friends the bees
the luffa squash scratch our itchy backs like good friends do
the gourd can play sweet music and is a multi-talented artist
Winter Squashes, Pumpkin, Hubbard, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Golden Nugget, Buttercup, Kobacha, and Turban
we love you all and think you de vine

Besides the squash we had more apples from the gleaning trip two weeks ago and others brought fruit too. Christina got some grapefruit from San Jose, Pam came by with apples, and so did Lauren who also had local figs, and lemons came from some local anonymous harvester. It just goes to show that one can keep their eyes open and find fruit growing everywhere that potentially could be harvested. Someone told me they saw pomegranates growing on Dolores St. near 20th St. that I would like to check out. Towards the end Clara came by with a lovely basket of vegetables from the Secret Garden, including some delicious figs that were finally ripe. When we were almost out of apples, someone came by with organic apples from Whole Foods, all with their organic label on each apple. They disappeared pretty quickly. Also, Danny showed up with a baguette and a loaf of sour dough he baked (he is the guy from Sour Flour who is into baking bread and giving it away). I talked to him about making a whole grain loaf and he is working on it. We also had stacks of super ripe organic dry farmed tomatoes left over from the farmer's market. A lot were given away but many were to damaged and too hard for people to take home. I haven't come up with a way for people to process soft tomatoes like that…they would make delicious sauce, but then it would be needed to can the sauce once it was made. That would take jars and equipment and then how do you distribute it and get your expensive jars back?

There was a lot happening in the park including a Healthy Family Days event that we were actually a part of. The organizer of that event served free healthy food in the clubhouse that we invited everyone to go to. They were serving among other things a vegan squash soup made by the Sexy Soup Lady and everyone said it was very tasty. I also hosted two bicycle tours to the stand. The Homo Homestead tour was fantastic and I enjoyed meeting them all. Joolie who organized it brought us a big bag of greens and herbs that she had grown in her nearby garden. The Garden City tour that is part of a workshop on how to get land in the city to grow a garden in came by while we were closing up shop. I spoke to them about the history of the park and garden and the current work we are doing feeding those with compromised budgets and promoting food growing.
Below are photos from 18th and Rhode Island on Friday, mostly pictures of some of the harvest. I forgot to mention that we had our largest harvest yet of potatoes, 9 pounds that we gave away on Sunday. They were mostly small in size, but looked great.

This coming Saturday the 31st, even though it is Halloween, I am planning on having a garden work day cleaning up and planting my backyard garden that has been pretty much neglected for a while. That will be from 10am-2:30pm with lunch being served around noon. We will be weeding, pruning, bottling honey if we have time, and planting. Then on the following Saturday Nov. 7th we will be extracting honey.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Meditation

I believe we can transform ourselves and our world by deepening our relationship with nature and the eternal power of creation. A seed contains hope. We can begin by planting just one seed or one garden. The seeds I have been thinking about at this moment are fava beans. I am doing some late research into trying to obtain some different varieties of this plant this year. The huge book Cornucopia II, A Source Book of Edible Plants is really wonderful and lists fava bean varieties like “The Sutton” that is a short growing kind whose pods can be eaten whole even when mature. If anyone wants to check out this book they may come over to my house to read it, I don’t think it is at the library, but it is probably at the fabulous library in the Arboretum. I haven’t quite gotten into the winter time seed catalog reading, garden day dreaming mode yet, that will come in a couple of months. Someone reminded me that I should not only spend time doing but being.

I have a lot of garlic that needs a winter home to grow prefers some daily sun to grow well in (I ordered way too much). On our Friday workday at the Permaculture Garden we planted a lot of this garlic, several different kinds. The rain will help them come up. I have already started planting sugar snap peas, lettuce, and broccoli. I put a big pumpkin on the super local table, this one was the biggest one we grew on Potrero Hill, what I now consider the banana belt of San Francisco. We gave out more apples that came from Apple Hill near Placerville and this week they were beautiful red ones as well as the yellow green Golden Delicious type. Lauren brought boxes of soft but handsome brown pears from gleaning two weeks ago. I harvested nine pounds of sunchokes from the Esperanza garden and the last of the tomatoes from the other gardens. My friend and neighbor came by with over a pound of gorgeous Rocoto peppers…I originally gave him the seeds for these and I don’t know how many plants he has, but the peppers really looked good and I am sure they were very popular. The Farmer’s Markets are selling more greens and that means we are starting to get more of their left-over’s. Some farmers are packing it up for the winter. Green Gulch Farm had their last day this Saturday and we won’t be getting more starts or greens from them for a while (hopefully I will make a new connection with them in the spring). This is what fall season is about here and I am enjoying it as the weather starts to cool down and feel crispy.

I am also feeling a bit reflective and joyful. I must admit I amazed at the way this project has grown this year and how it has generated a lot of excitement. I heard from one of regular volunteers who goes to USF on Masonic that they have opened their own Free Farm Stand for the students and also for the neighbors, a part of their garden project:

Our stand has also drawn such a large crowd and line, but so far we have continued to have enough produce for everyone. I am actually not going out of my way to collect more produce though my heart is often tugged in that direction. I really like encouraging local food growing. There still are places for people to garden if they want. I know of two backyards that need attention (besides my own). Also, I am still looking for a space to put a green house so we can grow seedlings and trees to give away to neighbors and schools, churches, and shelters.

Someone left this article from the Examiner in my mail box that got me totally excited: . The mayor is ordering city departments to pay a 13% surcharge on city employee’s travel that will go to planting fruit trees throughout the city to increase local food production. The Dept. of the Environment will oversee the fund. It all sounds nice when you read about it, but my sense is that from the start this effort is plagued by bureaucracy. The estimate is that the average cost per tree will be $200. Why so high when bare root trees are only about $30 at the most? Most of all why can’t I get anyone in the city to help me plant the fruit trees I have already collected and have money for in the park where we host the farm stand? They want me to put up a costly fence which in my opinion is not necessary. Again I feel like if we want real change we have to make it ourselves, we can’t count on government to do the right thing. If we want to engage in the political way of bringing about change it means spending a lot of time trying to make our voices heard and gathering a lot of attention.

Here is an example of where our city government is messing up and we should probably speak out about it. On Wednesday October 21 at 2pm in room 416 at City Hall the Building Inspection Committee will be voting on whether to require a permit for single source greywater. In other words discouraging people to recycle their washing machine water by having to jump through a bunch of hoops and pay fees. One can attend this meeting or at least send an email voicing your concerns to Ann Aherne: (she'll make sure every commissioner gets a copy). You can write the same to Steve Panelli, Chief Plumbing Inspector, at:

I ran into a friend of mine named Susan at the recent bee club meeting. She told me she just opened a small specialty nursery featuring edibles, herbs, grasses, and native plants. It is chemical free and is supposed to be an alternative to most standard nurseries. Although I am not a big fan of businesses, I would like to support her effort because the city needs a good nursery that features edibles and she seems open to carrying things that may be unusual if she can get them. I haven’t been by there yet, but we should all check it out, especially people in this neighborhood:

Independent Nature

1504 Church St at 27th

415 6421708

open 11 to 6 daily except Tuesdays

News flash! I just learned in an email from my friend Leif that he and Nicole Lobue are guest chefs this Thursday at Mission Street Food and the profits will go to the Free Farm Stand. I didn't know this was will probably be great food if you don't care about the meat being served or that there isn't anything vegan on the menu.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Glorious Gleaning Galore

I remarked to someone yesterday that the line of tables of produce and boxes of fruit and tomatoes was almost as long as the line of people going down the sidewalk. I still believe small is beautiful, but I haven't yet figured out in my lifetime how to keep projects small. Our project continues to be personal and friendly and non-institutional, but we just have a lot of people coming and we happen to have a lot of produce some weeks. Actually it is really wonderful that one thing we are doing is making a lot of connections with people and as a result hooking up with a lot of resources for food that might otherwise be wasted.

We were off the charts this week in pounds of produce because of all the gleaning that happened, the amount of surplus food collected from organic farmers, and the big harvests from local gardens. I do think the harvest season is the winding down and in the ideal world we would be canning and storing all the summer bounty. Below is a chart of the amount of just the super local food that we either grew or picked this year:

On Wednesday two friends drove down to Davis together to meet another friend who lives down there to glean tomatoes on a farm somehow connected with the University. They had a big field of organic Roma tomatoes that the machines picked and there were a lot along the edges that were not picked. There was also a huge pile of tomatoes that was the dump pile of tomatoes that were slightly blemished or damaged. In three hours the three people picked over 500lbs of tomatoes and brought back to San Francisco (taking both from the dump pile and the picking them). My friend Gary who drove down there said there were a lot left that they didn't pick if anyone wants to go down again. One person made four gallons of tomato sauce that she gave me that I thought about canning and bringing to the stand, but I decided to give it to my friend who was making chili at Martin de Porres Sunday morning. The rest of the tomatoes I brought to the stand and a lot of them were given away, but people choose the more perfect tomatoes and a lot of the blemished ones were left over. I don't think they will be taken if I give them to the Food Bank so I might compost them or try to sort through them and make some more tomato sauce. If anyone reading this wants to cook down some tomatoes contact me soon. The lesson is that we can only give away so much produce if it is slightly blemished and like all wholesalers the produce we collect has to be in somewhat good shape if we are going to store it for any length of time.

Besides the tomato extravaganza, we also had approximately 800lbs of apples and maybe 100 lbs of pears from last week's pear picking. Three gleaning groups went up to pick apples on a piece of land in Placerville, a place known as Apple Hill. Besides all the apples brought back from two groups of gleaners, I have another fifteen boxes of apples brought today. We only gave away some of the apples and the rest will be stored for next week and some will be delivered to the Julian Pantry and other food programs.

Besides all the apples we brought from outside the city, there were apples neighbors brought from two or three more local trees (some that we picked last year) and then three others brought apples to share. Page brought a lot of produce from his Stanford garden and we had a record harvest again from Esperanza garden. The highlight of that harvest was the huge trombone squash and the eggplant (I love growing hot weather vegetables!). We also had vegetables from a local gardener who dropped off a bag of beautiful vegetables from her garden (and apples). I thought the different colors of cherry tomatoes was very impressive, especially the ones that Steve brought from his father's garden in Sebastopol. Did I mention the 20 or more boxes of organic strawberries that came from Veritable Vegetables, the big organic vegetable distributor in San Francisco?

On Saturday I participated in a garden work party at Lisa's backyard. About eight people showed up and we cleaned up her yard, making a huge pile of woody plants and invasive vines and a pile of leaves and weeds. There already was a planting bed in the backyard that we put manure in and then some people planted it with some vegetables starts I brought. It was a great day and everyone seemed to enjoy how it went. Lisa made lunch for everyone and I brought some strawberries for dessert.

I couldn't make it to the Sunday garden work day on Dolores St. but I heard it worked out well. The two garden anchors and Aliza were there and two other showed up. They cleared away a tree that had been cut down and made an archway to the garden. They also got some plans together for the garden.

Another great connection that was made is that Ania contacted me about these two new garden sites wanting to know if she could install grey water systems there. She just graduated from a class at OAEC on grey water and wants to practice what she learned. So she and her friend came out and talked to Lisa and Alisa and took measurements. It looks like Lisa place may work out.

Every week it seems I meet some new person doing something great or learn of something going on that excites me. At the end of the Farm Stand as we were closing up a man named Danny came by with a warm loaf of fresh bread that he had just baked. He blew my socks off telling me he likes to bake bread and give it away for free. He also likes to train people to bake bread. Being a baker myself who rarely bakes anymore it really turned me on with what he was doing right now. His bread was very tasty, a chewy sourdough. You can't beat fresh baked bread right out of the oven. Another amazing thing is that he just started baking five months ago and he will be celebrating in November baking and giving away a 1000 loaves. I suggested he bring some loaves to the Free Farm Stand next Sunday and he might do that. His website and blog is fun to check out too:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hello and goodbye harvest moon!

One thing I have been thinking about recently, especially when I am schlepping so many boxes of produce around, is how much abundance there is, at least in my world. Last night I shared with some friends a large kabocha squash that came from the garden on 18th and Rhode Island and it was so delicious. We baked it with some oil and it had a special earthy sweetness that made me feel like I just tasted the fall season. Wonderful things are in abundance everywhere and this blog is really one extended gratefulness prayer for : the beautiful people that help run the Free Farm Stand, the Cinderella Pumpkins that Tom grew and shared with us yesterday (if anyone got one tell me how it tasted), the amazing pears that Lauren and friends picked on Saturday, for produce neighbors brought, for the left-over produce from the Farmer's Market, the pounds of producel from the Permaculture Garden, for the people that come to the stand and help make it a sweet scene, for the Green Gulch donated seedlings and greens that are grown with so much mindfulness and care, for the sweet amaranth seed spread that Sara harvested, made and brought to share with the bread, for so much plenty.

I decided this week to count the number of people in line just when we started letting people shop. We had 45 people in a line that snaked out onto the sidewalk and my guess is that we had at least over a hundred people getting produce yesterday. Although I write about abundance, seasons change and we actually had less produce that we have had in the past. I know next week is Green Gulch's last day at the market and then they stop coming to the market during winter. Our city gardens will be growing less soon and I imagine the same is true of local farmers who come to the market (thus less leftovers for us bottom feeders). Saying all this we still had plenty of produce to share.

I was especially jazzed that Lauren and her roommates went up to Clearlake to glean pears and that she showed up with boxes of red and yellow pears. They were tasty andthe red ones were especially a work of art. Here is what she wrote me just now about the trip:

" Ed (the pear guy) said he had 8 acres of land and there were about 700-800 trees, half, the red and Bartlett, had been picked before we got there, but we still gleaned through there and got probably around 300 lbs of fruit (and there was still more). The half that hadn't been harvested yet were Bosc, which we also picked around 300 lbs. of (I haven't weighed it all yet) were not as ripe (I'm going to bring them next week to the farm stand). The trees were pretty low, although some we couldn't reach the tops of without a ladder, but since there were so many we didn't use ladders anyway, we just picked the lower fruit. We didn't make even a small dent in the amount of trees or fruit that there was. He said we were more than welcome to come back again after they had harvested the rest of the Bosc and glean what they didn't pick. He bought the land a year or two ago I think, and is working on getting certified organic, so the trees haven't been sprayed since 2007. Currently he's breaking even by selling them to a brandy maker. Not sure what his plans are after they go organic."

There were also some boxes of apples that I think Jay came by with from the apple tree in Golden Gate Park (I missed the apple festival held around the lone apple tree there). At least two people brought by lemons to share from trees in their backyard and I just saw a photo of someone with a basket of plums that they must have brought. Nave brought some pears and apples from his parents place in Sebstapol. I was especially tickled that Chris (?) brought by a bucket of lettuces that were grown in the garden next to the California College of the Arts with seedlings they got from the stand.

This is going to be an abundant week for fruitful garden and gleaning work. This Wednesday there are friends of mine going up to Davis to help glean 500 pounds of extra tomatoes from the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility. Here is what the email I got says:

"the field have already been harvested with a machine harvester but more than 500 pounds is still left intact on the vines at the edges of the fields. A group of pre-school and elementary school kids with the Green Moms of Davis will be coming to help pick as well so come help inculcate them about gleaning! Gleaners are welcome to keep the tomatoes they pick and all left-overs will be donated to the food-bank."

If anyone wants to drive up there and pick I can send you more information.

This weekend, both Saturday and Sunday there are two different garden work parties happening. Two women want help putting in gardens in their backyards and want to share some of their surplus produce at the stand eventually. So here is the information:

The first work party is on Saturday October 10 from 10am-3pm at Lisa's backyard 1422 Guerrero Street between 26th and Cesar Chavez St. The Garden Anchor is Catherine ( and for more info you can email her or Tree (

The next work party is Sunday October 11th from 11pm-3pm at Aliza's backyard which is located behind the green door to the right of 529 Dolores near the Dolores Café on 18th St. The Garden Anchors are Jess ( 707-9717 and Rachel (

Things to bring and what is needed

*Vehicle to pick up stuff not suitable for bike cart
* mulch, manure, cardboard
* Someone to fix bicycle cart for moving tools, etc.
* Bring gloves, trowels, and clippers if you have them

* Someone on Sunday that knows how to use a chain saw…a big tree that was cut down needs to be cut up. We have a chain saw.
*Snacks and refreshments to share

I know of two more backyards in the Mission whose owners want gardens to grow food. This is a great opportunity for people who want to garden to have a place to do that and to give back to the community at the same time.

If anyone is interested in getting out of the city and going to Gold Country (Placer County) next Friday or Saturday I am helping to organize an apple picking trip up there. Again contact me for more information.