In a darkness
And the mysteries
Sometimes a wind blows
And the mysteries of love
The first photo is of a peach tree that was left behind in the garden, abandoned, waiting to get the ax literally, and not watered since the developers closed the garden (that was originally built as part of Project Homeless Connect for the homeless). It was loaded with peaches. What an act of non-violent defiance! I thought the tree was telling us fuck development I will keep producing fruit no matter what. What an act and gift of resilience and love, if only humans could always show that spirit of faith and courage.
The other picture was a bowl of peaches that were collected from the tree by fruit activists climbing the fence and harvesting the ones that could be reached (word has it if they haven’t fallen off the tree there are more peaches higher up). Like the line in the Woody Guthrie song “this Land is Your Land”, on one side the sign it said private property but on the other side it said nothing. I was told the peaches were sweet and delicious.
There are a lot of fruit trees in the city like this that we don’t know about and then they get discovered. Sometimes I hear about one in my neighborhood. This happened recently with a loquat tree that I had been told about that was visible from the street and loaded with fruit and not getting picked. Luckliy one of our volunteers saw it and knocked on the owners door to see if she could pick the tree and give the fruit away at the Free Farm Stand. The owner of the tree was more than happy to oblige her and even came out to help pick the tree. We gave away 36 pounds of fruit the next day from that tree and there is more on it. I really miss the organization Produce to the People that used to glean fruit in the city and give us a ton of it to share at our stand. As we enter fruit season I keep thinking we need some volunteers to form a phone tree that can go out on short notice to collect fruit that needs picking. Also at the Free Farm Stand this week we had lots of left over soft stone fruit and in the future I need help processing it all. Just like we need a list of people to call when we have fruit that needs harvesting, we need a soft fruit hotline to connect soft fruit with people who can process it in some way.
I reported a while back that the former Free Farm land was still undeveloped and there was still kale and mustard and flowers growing there (and some was harvested),. Just yesterday I got an email confirming rumors I heard that development of that property is going ahead: http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2015/05/from-the-flames-of-saint-paulus-these-condos-could-rise.html. Not to dwell on the negative too much, but not only will market rate condos be built versus affordable housing, it is the standard modern unimaginative architecture being built. And I can’t see how they can claim that they are building a house of worship under these condos, the space and design wouldn’t inspire me to seek the solace of the divine there, though I suppose the divine is everywhere.
And here is an article about the buildings on Turk St. that have been vacant for years behind the former Free Farm site and were occupied a number of times by protesters want the buildings to serve the community. Seems like they are being remodeled into a school: http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2014/07/auspicious-plans-occupiers-something.html. With all this development little is being done to make some space for wild habitat (though it looks like a roof top garden is planed to go on top of the condos). I remember the wonderful hummers and hawks that visited our farm.
In fact in the Eastbay hills there are plans to clearcut the land: http://www.saveeastbayhills.org/take-action.html. “Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and East Bay Regional Parks District General Manager Robert Doyle have received federal funding for an environmentally catastrophic plan to destroy Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, Monterey Cypress, and Acacia forests on the public lands and parks of the East Bay . Starting in August, over 100,000 trees and as many as 400,000 in the East Bay hills will be clear cut and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals made by Monsanto and Dow will be dumped on their stumps. Costing nearly $6 million, this plan will radically transform the character and appearance of the hills while causing great animal suffering, including the decimation of habitat vital to several endangered species.”
And lets not forget the Gill track land being developed and the efforts to stop it http://occupythefarm.org/. The previous efforts to protect some of the land were successful and now there is a Gill tract Community Farm https://gilltractfarm.wordpress.com/
Here are some other musings:
I ran into a person I know on the street who is what I called damaged goods. Very friendly to me and always offering to help me do anything, yet is an alcoholic and has a past history of stealing from his friends and in general messing up all the time. He introduced me to a friend of his who also seems to have a hard life and probably lives on the street. He said this friend often sweeps the sidewalk (this is across the street where I live with a million plus home is and a recent homeless encampment has grown including a funky sidewalk lean-to attached to the chain link fence surrounding of the abandoned super market). At that moment I realized that yes the divine is in everyone and that I need to try harder to see it in my friend.
I am excited to meet and make some new friends on June 9th at the All in Common Garden at 10am until noon (we will be doing some garden work and sharing lunch and conversation…all welcome but please RSVP first). There are 14 people from Japan visiting the bay area on a “Life Transforming California permaculture tour” to check out projects based based in gift ecology (aka gift economy). “Gift Ecology – the ecosystem based on trust and mutual support, the world of abundance with gift and love. A difference of paradigm from out exchange and scarcity based economic system.” Here is a blog about their project: http://livingpermaculture.blogspot.com/2015/03/hello-im-currently-touring-around-japan.html. With all the negativity I have been sharing above, I think this tour and the conversations it will brew will inspire hope and excitement.
Here are some photos from previous weeks of Free Farm Stand /All in Common Garden excitement and glory
My favorite new vegetable Spigarello broccoli. “It is an heirloom variety considered to be the parent of broccoli rabe. The name Spigarello is actually a purposed American corruption of the plant’s given name, Spigariello. Its real name is Cima di Rapa, which translates to “turnip top” but is also loosely translated to broccoli rabe. – See more at: http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Broccoli_Spigarello_4117.php#sthash.YVIUhdao.dpuf
Seedlings in new greenhouse…most of these have now been planted or given away
The seedling table has been really full these past weeks thanks to Alemany Farm and Hannah and the Urban Ag Program and some from our greenhouse
Windsong and friend harvested some local loquats. I love the colorful handmade picker attached to a rake
Zack sharing some of his garden surplus at the Stand. He recently sent out an email message hoping to get some help in his garden
I love the beauty of artichokes and think more should be planted everywhere especially on sidewalk gardens
We get the best volunteers, you should join our crew
Daikon radishes have been a plenty!
I have been in hibernation from writing recently, thinking I haven’t much to say and on top of that being busy finishing the greenhouse at All in Common Garden and planting seedlings (we gave away our first tray of Patio Star zucchini a week ago at the Free Farm Stand).
The Free Farm Stand and the All in Common Garden are experiments in providing an antidote to the poisonous and sad world out there. We get sick from too much news these days about police shooting innocent humans, hate groups, violence and wars, anger, mistrust, people going hungry, people camping on the streets, or getting evicted, not to mention the destruction of our environment.
We at the Free Farm stand and in the garden are experimenting with making a love potion that gives one hope and helps one see the beauty and abundance that is everywhere yet often hidden. We happen to live in a world with a market economy based on continual consumption and economic growth. It has led us to the situation today which is a real mess. So instead of creating a successful non-profit with paid staff, that that has an annual budget of one million dollars a year, that none the less does great work that is sustainable and seems friendly, we are dong something else. In our corner of the neighborhood we are tinkering with building a free system or these days known as a gift system. We are a pretty funky non-profit organization and just barely getting the work done each week with no paid staff nor salaries. We spend more time trying to walk the talk than chasing after grants and such. we depend on social capital and gifts in kind., We absolutely love our small but mighty community of volunteers, who donate their time to run the show. We say if you don’t like what is going down create the world you would like to see. Don’t create another hip business or become a landlord, buy if you must but don’t sell, don’t get sucked into capitalism sitting in the room like a Cheshire Cat with a big smile saying pet me, you will like me once you get hooked.. To quote Charles Einsenstein (http://www.alternet.org/story/153624/can_gift_exchange_fix_the_problems_of_capitalism_and_rebuild_our_lost_community)
“Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today’s market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. ..”
Let’s experiment building a community based on true sharing and generosity and compassion for others. If you don’t want to start your own experiment help us with ours. we are trying to gather a core team of volunteers. We need schlepers and harvesters, and hands and hearts that want to learn to plant and sow. We also occasionally need the use of a pickup truck to get manure and mulch. Contact us if you are ready to dive into the world of service
I also need to say something I read in an email from the Institute of Urban Homesteading. The article in their newsletter was titled “Unsung Heros of the Urban Farm Beastiary” and goes on and on about the benefits of eating your home grown rabbits. One of them is “This does require looking your dinner in the eye, and learning to kill…” She goes on: “There is a sentimentalism about rabbits because they are cute…And while rabbits dispatch is never my favorite chore, I am proud that I can do it efficiently, with minimal suffering. I am proud to be an omnivore that does not buy all my meat in a package, pre-killed and pre-cut to disguise the truth of what is really going on. I know exactly how my rabbits lived and how they died, and can ensure a quality of both unparalleled in any commercial operation. This is healthy for the animals and healthy for me, my body and my spirit.” And then there is the sixth reason she love rabbits: “6. Rabbits can help us relearn what it means to look our dinner in the eye.”
I don’t usually preach too much about going vegan to people (not even to my wife), though I would like to see people for moral reasons move in that direction. I think we all need to help reduce the violence and suffering in the world and that includes other animals besides humans.
The question I ask is if bunnies are cute and we put aside our sentimentalism aside to eat them, why not eat other pets? Why not put our sentimentalism aside and take dogs and cats that are without homes or fail to be adopted and are killed every day in “animal shelters” and eat them? Or run a program saying that when people are tired of their pets and they can’t find a home for them offer to cook them in your food truck as a gourmet homegrown business? Why stop with animals in terms of losing our sentimentality…how about eating people that are caged up in jail for life? It would save tax-payers tons of money and be less demanding of our valuable resources and thus very sustainable. I am serious, where do we draw the line in terms of curbing our violence and how much suffering can we cause to another animal and it is ok? I guess I draw the line at eating plants and squashing snails (or putting them in a snail jail….I also at times have lived with bees in my garden).
I go with the idea ‘The world shall be built with kindness’ from Psalms. Our dear friend Pancho says “if you want to be a rebel be kind”. Let kindness grow on trees and share this gift with every living creature. Boycott classes on animal husbandry!
My other annoyance is with the urban homesteading movement in general. Don’t get me wrong I am all for learning some vegan homesteading skills. But I can’t seem to get it out of my mind that urban homesteading is cool if you have a homestead or home. Can you be a renter and really create an urban homestead? How can you feel at home these days in San Francisco unless you can afford a condo or a home? Will there be a new generation of homeless urban homesteaders? And how do you do homesteading when you have to work day and night to pay the rent. I don’t have to work and I find it hard to squeeze some time in to can all the soft fruit that comes around.
Both the Free Farm Stand and the All in Common Garden are doing great. We have been harvesting hundreds of pounds of vegetables from Alemany Farm every Friday (over 300 pounds three weeks in a row which also included lettuce from a patch grown by Downtown High School students…way to go!). Oh the stone fruit has started showing up and people who like to make jam or smoothies get on our network of people who can take soft fruit and process it on short notice.
Here are some photos from a couple of past farm stands, the garden and from a volunteer trip to Alcatraz to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit (it was a fantastic trip going over there and hanging out with our fabulous volunteers!).
Freddie who often makes the delicious vegan volunteer lunch on garden
workdays goes home with her basket full
Margaret often comes by with a small bag of produce
from her church garden in Diamond Heights. I love it!
We have been getting lots of seedlings from Alemany Farm
Loquats from Alemany Farm and from a neighbor and
surplus lettuce from the All in Common Garden
on the rock with our volunteer crew
Ai Weiwei art
Last Friday I was driving to Alemany Farm to volunteer there, mostly to harvest produce for the Free Farm Stand on Sunday. I was feeling pretty good, the sun was out, the greenhouse at the All in Common Garden was almost done, and I had started looking at what seeds I saved since the Free Farm closed last year. It was like visiting old friends, opening up what was left of my seed collection, having given away almost all the seed from that wonderful project. I got excited thinking about what I might like to plant in the new digs. A song from the sixties came on the radio and I recognized it, me being an old hippie, but I couldn’t think of the name of the band.
“It’s the time of the season
When love runs high
In this time, give it to me easy…
It’s the time of the season for loving”
At that moment I started getting nostalgic for that summer of love and thought I should go home and vape and chill out, forget going to the farm and laboring outdoors. I chose to do the right thing and harvest vegetables. I am glad I did, we brought home 256 pounds of veggies, mostly greens…like chard, kale, Asian mustard greens, lettuce, and cabbage. It is the season of harvesting! We also scored a lot of seedlings to give away at the stand and to plant (we gave all the seedlings away on Sunday, they were very popular). Spending a few hours harvesting vegetables and fruit is an excellent way to tap into an appreciation of where your food comes from and I highly recommend it like a yoga practice. It is a way of connecting to the divine. Join me some Friday at noon until 3 or 4pm to help us harvest and see what it is like. Also, Alemany Farm is an interesting place to visit, a mixture of farm and wildlife next to a noisy freeway and the projects.
Johnny and Pax with lettuce
It turned out that the other day I was in the All in Common Garden and we had a visitor named Miles. We were talking about the 60’s and he used to work at the radio station KSAN FM which was a pretty famous rock station at that time. He knew the name of the band for the song that was stuck in my head (the Zombies). That is why I love the work I do both at the Stand and in the Garden, I meet so many interesting and beautiful people. And then talking about getting high I read the most remarkable article in the New York Times the other day: Can Washington’s Gift Economy in Marijuana Work?
“…In Washington, D.C., it’s now legal to possess marijuana, to grow it, to smoke it and to give it away. But you’re not allowed to trade in it. You can give your neighbor up to an ounce, but if he gives you money or even bakes you a pie in exchange, that’s illegal.
The District of Columbia has legalized marijuana — but is trying not to create a market in marijuana. It’s aiming for a gift economy,”
Some of us dreamers have been advocating for a Free system for everything forever. If the Rand Corporation is coming up with this idea you know the times they are changing.
Here is another thought about the hand of the almighty touching us. I have been working hard with so many different volunteers finishing building the greenhouse. The last thing I have been working on is installing a sink. When I was home I decided to open a young coconut that had been sitting in our refrigerator for about a month. I cracked off the top and poured the most delicious water into a glass. I thought nature has us beat when it comes to supplying me with a cup of water that I don’t need plumbing for. How wonderful and precious is that miracle of the coconut and those miracles are around us everywhere. In these difficult and sad times we are in, these things cheer me up and are my source for hope. More than ever we must continue to focus on the divine and the mysterious and the glorious workings of the universe.
Below is a poster for a workshop we are having at the All in Common Garden about composting Saturday April 11th. We will explore the magic of soil and compost and show you how to make some of your own of this good stuff.
We continue to need volunteers both at the Free Farm Stand on Sundays starting at noon and at the All in Common Garden (mainly on Saturday 9am until 3pm and Tuesdays 1-3pm). It is a fun way to meet people and learn about growing flowers and food and giving it away in a beautiful fashion.