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 (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/22/HOEIV3PM1.DTL). 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): http://tomorrowaustin.wordpress.com/2007/05/. 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.
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.