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Apples, plums, lemons, and tomatoes

There was lots of locally grown produce on Sunday. I could tell people who came that ” these tomatoes came from Treat Ave. your neighbor Dave grew them and put them in used strawberry baskets. ” Some apples and huge lemons came from around the corner on Folsom St. from Olga’s backyard. Other apples came from two other people. The plums that everyone loves are from the Secret Garden on Harrison St. around the corner of 23rd St.. The lettuce and the kale come from that garden too, the kids who worked in the garden with Robert , Corrine, and I this summer grew it. Some of the tomatoes came from Treat Commons and my backyard nearby and a lot of the salad mix was from Treat Commons. Others came from a garden in San Mateo that Sigrid who also brought along with more of her green beans. The beets, stir fry greens, turnips, basil, herbs, and bok choy was unsold organic produce from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market or the Now Valley Farmer’s Market and was probably the food that came from furthest away (at the most 100 miles). It is collected and redistributed by Food Runners. For some reason they often have a lot of beets they don’t sell so we gave away about 30-40lbs of them! I think that leftover organic produce from the fancy farmer’ market is great to give away and is a form of city gleaning, but I still hope we mostly can grow and share a lot of our own home grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It is the freshest and tastiest. A friend came with some organic carrots that looked like they were dumpster dived or sitting in a refrigerator too long, and I was reluctant to put them on the table, even after he clean them up. If I don’t know exactly where they came from I am a bit concerned. They looked sad, tasteless and were probably low on nutrition, but he didn’t have a garden and he really wanted to bring something to share, so I let the handful of them sit there with the more regal produce. And it turned out they were all given away.

Local honey

I brought some small jars of honey (I still have more to bottle but ran out of 2,4 or 8 ounce glass jars if anyone has some we can sure use them…baby food jars are the best). A great surprise is that Eli, a beekeeper I met at the San Francisco Beekeeper’s Association, came by with some honey from his five hives in his backyard at 20th and Dolores St. And he brought some homemade plum jam. He likes to cook down fruit and bottle it, so he took half the plums I brought to make into more jam and some of the apples to make applesauce. So soon we will have more canned fruit, hooray. I forgot to ask him how he sweetens it.

We talked about organizing a plum picking day at the Secret Garden and then he would make more jam. If anyone wants to help make this happen please let me know.

Everlasting Flowers

Earlier in the week Jo brought the most beautiful blue statice flowers she grew in the Candlestick Point Community Garden (she also brought apples). I love everlasting flowers and like the fact that everlasting flowers retain their form and color after they dry. It was much fun to give them away.

Slow Food Weekend coming up

As I have written about before, there is a lot of excitement in the air about growing local foods and eating organic. The Slow Foods Nation big event is coming up this weekend and I am feeling pretty alienated from what is going on: A food tasting pavilion that is not only expensive to go to, but offers little for vegans, a high price speaker series with all the foodie/ecology big names and stars, and an expensive I am sure marketplace with vendors approved by the Slow Food Nation staff for their commitment to using good, clean, and fair production practices ($50 a pound chocolate).

There are going to be free talks and events all three days at the Soapbox (http://slowfoodnation.org/events/the-main-event/marketplace/soap-box/ for schedule). At 2:300 on Saturday Serge Labesque a Sonoma area beekeeper is speaking and I hear he is a great teacher.

There is a also list of Slow Journeys that also require you to fork over a good chunk of change to see places like wine vineyards, cheesemaking farms,a gourmet mushroom facility, some organic farms, and an olive oil ranch. There is one free Slow Journey to Alemany Farm (no bus ride included), the hip San Francisco farm that “provides green jobs for low-income communities, while sowing the seeds of economic and environmental justice.” You have to bring your own potluck lunch to that journey and you can stick around and volunteer at their workday.

So the Free Farm Stand will not be represented at the Slow Food big to do and there won’t be a Slow Journey to the Farm Stand on Sunday. I know I am all for local food and slowing down, but I am not on the big Slow Food Nation radar (though I have spoken to many of the people involved). Maybe I am too on the fringe with my crazy idea of giving food away. I don’t think the idea is taken seriously. It could be a good thing actually and maybe what we need is similarly minded gardeners to unite and work together: those who like the idea of forming a network of neighbors helping each other to grow food and sharing it with each other, and giving away the surplus. Right now there is so much gardening that can be done and all that is needed is a group of committed people to put in a minimum of work every week. In some ways this is already starting to happen. On Tuesday afternoons from 1-3pm I meet up with a few people in Treat Commons and we work together. I am hoping to make Saturdays a regular work day at the Secret Garden for now, maybe at another garden in the future.

The Victory Garden in front of city hall is still one of the best parts of the Slow Food show and I think it will be taken down after labor day (hopefully moved to a permanent location). For anyone interesting in growing food and flowers, it is really worth seeing just to see how close you can plant vegetables and flowers. Things are growing so well there and I love it that the food is being given to the Food Bank. I especially liked seeing the three sisters and how well they are growing together.

Blog zine?

Someone suggested that I print up my blog postings every week and hand them out at the stand for those who come and don’t go online to read it. I am thinking about this, maybe publishing a shortened version, and wonder if there is anyone out there that could translate a copy of it in Spanish every week. I could also use artists that might illustrate the zine. Please contact me if these ideas inspire you to get involved.

Shooting on 23rd and Treat

I learned from a neighbor who came to the stand that the night before a young man was shot and killed on the corner of 23rd Street and Treat Ave. The neighbor who told me about it had witnessed the previous shooting of someone right outside his door on Treat Ave, a few months ago I believe. He heard the shots and ran out to help and saw a man bleeding on the doorstep. This kind of violence makes me feel powerless and I am not sure what I can do to help the situation out. All the good vibes at the farm stand may or may not have an effect in the long run, but right now it’s a whole world I am not a part of, though it is in my neighborhood. I send out a prayer for peace and love to the young mans family and for all of us that are touched by this senseless violence.

My bike cart filled with seedlings grown at Green Gulch Farm for the Victory Garden. They generously gave me their extras to give away and plant!

Justin’s homemade bike cart. Justin got some seedlings from the Free Farm Stand for his new backyard garden. The property owner behind his backyard is letting him garden in his unused backyard which has more sun, so he hops over the fence and is planting lots of greens.



I am writing this blog a day late because yesterday I spent the day extracting honey (see below). But for a few days I have known about what I wanted to share with people and have been anxious to get it down in writing. I can’t remember what day it was last week that I had d an amazing experience that is hard to describe. This wasn’t a dream but was real. I put my experience into this poem:

I stumbled across a field of gratefulness growing in the garden

as I fell into it I harvested bushels of the stuff

I am especially grateful for all the wonderful friends I have both old and new really too numerous to name

I am grateful for all the beautiful people I meet that do such great things

or who create more magic in the world

I am grateful for Angie in my life

I am grateful for all the places I have to garden in right now

I am grateful for the scarlet runner beans that keep pumping out the sweet green beans for the free farm stand, what a loyal friend!

I am grateful for the sun and the soil

I am grateful for the bees

I am grateful for difficult people in my life that challenge me

to lay down my ego

I am grateful to all my teachers

I am grateful for bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, worms, and bugs

I am grateful for roots

and trees of all kinds

especially fruit and nut trees

I could go on about my harvest of gratefulness

it seems the more I think about what I am grateful for

the more things pop up in mind

today I kept thinking about other things I am grateful for

an unlimited bounty indeed!

Highlights of last week

Friday

The previous Sunday I went to the graduation party for the students who took the permaculture class and went to see the projects that everyone has been working on. It turned out I spent a lot of time talking to and meeting new people and I didn’t get to see much of the projects. I did get to see the design for the project of adding trees and food plants to the park where the Free Farm Stand is located and it is really exciting to see a dream that has been in my mind for a long time going slowly forward. While there Kat who helped teach the class invited me to come up to Marin on Friday to take the class on the Soil Food Web and making compost tea. She said I could get in free and that perhaps I could get a ride with Diana who might be going up.

So it all worked out and Diana and I drove up on Friday. I got a chance to meet the sweetest man around name Caleb Summers who runs a business called Soil and Life (http://www.soilandlife.com/). His knowledge of gardening and soil is extensive and I was really impressed by how much he knew. I was a bit familiar already with brewing compost tea and the idea of the Soil Food Web, but his talk made things so much more understandable for me. His excitement and passion about what he calls “bio-agriculture” was contagious and I left the workshop wanting to go home and making my own brewer. I now look at the garden with eyes focused not only on the plants, but on the critters (he calls it biology) that live in the soil and help make our plants grow healthy.

It was also nice to meet Diana who it turns out lived in a couple of communes in the seventies and was familiar with the newspaper I help put out with my fellow communards called Kaliflower. She shared with me some wonderful stories involving people we both knew.

Saturday

I always question myself when I think about giving up a day of gardening to do something else. I love to be in the garden more than anything and it sets me back a day when I do that. I decided to go to the Community Day at the Victory Garden across from city hall anyway. There was a Sustainable Resource Fair there and I thought I would get the word out about the Free Farm Stand. The garden had grown a lot since I had last seen it and it is totally worth the visit downtown to just see it grow. I finally got to meet John Bella (with the Victory Garden project) who helped start this garden Actually I didn’t talk to him much, but he told me they had just harvested 100 pounds of produce that I assume went to the San Francisco Food Bank. I actually thought the event was not too exciting and I started feeling like I should have stayed home and gardened rather than sit at my table and give away plants and talk about the farm stand. I didn’t get too many people visiting my table nor that many people curious about the free farm stand (maybe people just don’t what a free farm stand is and aren’t interested enough to ask). Part of the idea of me going down there was to see who I would meet and “network”. I did meet some people that I enjoyed talking to, including an interesting woman who was involved in a local mushroom education program that among other things inoculates gardens with mushrooms (she didn’t have a card but the name of the group was something like Sporios). I also met a woman named Lena who is an “Agrarian Arts Coordinator” of Slow Foods Nation. I was glad to meet her because she has collected songs and dance related to agriculture (I think at their event there will be some dancing going on). I have been wanting to organize an event for children and adults where we sing to our plants in the garden. If anyone wants to help make this happen please contact me.

It turns out the best part of me hanging out there was meeting Rebecca who was one of the first people to visit me at my table. She is a gardener in the Tenderloin and was asking me a lot of garden questions. On Monday she was in my neighborhood checking and gardens and called me. I invited over to help us with our honey extraction and she came by and was a lot of fun to work with and get to know. And then on Tuesday she came by to help me in Treat Commons and in the Secret Garden. Another person I am grateful for meeting.

Sunday

I was lucky that I didn’t have to go to church on Sunday morning (it was canceled so church people could fellowship with other church members). I needed the morning to harvest food from the three gardens because I didn’t get any food harvested on Saturday. I picked a lot of lettuce, kale, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, and plums from the Secret Garden. I picked tomatoes, green beans, baby greens for a salad, chard, kale, and flowers from my backyard. At Treat Commons I picked scarlet runner beans, tomatoes, baby lettuce from my “lettuce lawn” that Ruben inspired me to plant, yellow zucchinis, and flowers. While I was there a man name Josh came by that wanted to interview me about the garden and the Free Farm Stand. He was making a radio documentary about urban farming and had just visited MyFarm, a San Francisco business run by this guy Trevor: He designs and plants organic gardens in people’s backyards and charges a weekly fee to maintain and harvest the vegetables. “MyFarm installation costs $600 to $1,000, and maintenance costs $20 to $35 per week, depending on the garden’s size, and includes weeding, harvesting and composting. Those who opt to have larger gardens installed pay a smaller weekly fee and provide food to customers who, eventually, will be able to order a weekly vegetable delivery collected from MyFarm backyards.” I have heard that their business is booming and they are having a hard time hiring enough people to keep up. I agreed to be interviewed because I wanted to present to radio listeners another possible way of getting people to eat local. I must admit I was somewhat unsure about dealing with the media again, especially after Angie showed me a copy of 7 X7 with an article in it about Alemany Farm. The article and photo of my friend Jason who is the part time manager of the farm really turned me off. I am not sure why, partly because of it seemed superficial and slick (the magazine itself is itself a turn-off in it’s glossy hipness http://www.7x7sf.com/features/cover/25761489.html). I really don’t want to see myself inflated like that since this Free Farm Stand is not about me but the project itself and all the characters that play a part of it.

So Josh came over to my house after I finished harvesting to see my backyard garden and watch the whole operation of me loading the food on my bike cart and hauling stuff to the Free Farm Stand in the park garden.

The knock on my door

While I was starting to get the bike cart, my door bell rang (it could have been a knock I don’t remember) and I opened the door and two of my most favorite and beautiful women gardeners where standing there with their arms laden with baskets of garden produce and flowers. I was truly shot right up to heaven and the wind of gratefulness blew me away. This is one of the things about the Free Farm Stand that just gets me so excited, when out of the blue people demonstrate the best side of human nature, to do something not only beautiful but helpful, with a touch of class to boot. It is sweetness sublime. Caitlyn and Brooke who garden in a backyard on Guerrero whom I have written about before, stayed the whole morning and some of the afternoon, helping me set up the farm stand, arranging the table beautifully. I am glad Josh the radio interviewer got a chance to record all this and see how magical the universe can be sometimes.

The Free Farm Stand

Besides Caitlyn and Brooke showing up, a whole lot of other neighbors and friends came by and made the Free Farm Stand a lot of fun this week. Leslie from City Slicker Farm in West Oaklandbrought surplus cucumbers from People’s Grocery in West Oakland too. I enjoy just seeing her and talking about what is up with her and City Slicker Farm. Josh brought the prettiest yellow and most round and large lemons from his friend Nicole’s backyard in West Oakland (I am thinking it might be a good place to live if you are into farming). The neighbor that has a CSA drop off at her house came by with melons, garlic, and potatoes that were not picked up and they went pretty fast. I ran out of bags towards the end and will really need some next week. I am not sure how to get people to bring their own bags. I think it is harder to get plastic bags these days in San Francisco which is an interesting problem for groups like us that depend on used bags to give food away.

Setting up the stand

ready to open
the stand is open and in the background
a friend drops off tomatoes and green beans

from her San Mateo Garden

I learn the word ejote
pepinos

Honeymania

On Monday some friends showed up to help us extract honey and it went smoothly. On Saturday I put the bee escape on the hive which is a one way door that allows the bees that are in the top boxes of the hive where the honey is to leave but not come back in. Since our last honey extraction at the end of May (about 2 ½ months ago) we have had two medium supers or boxes on top of the brood boxes (each box filled with honey approximately 2 gals or 24 lbs.). Three or four weeks ago I looked in the boxes and saw that they were full so I added an empty box on top to give the bees more room. On Saturday I discovered they had filled that box with honey too so there must have been a big honey flow.

We wound up harvesting about 6 gallons of honey. I just don’t understand all the beekeepers in the bee club we are in that have more than one hive (some have five or six). Not only is it a lot of work to extract the honey, but what do they do with it all? Like I have said in a previous post, I have been a vegan for over twenty years so maybe I have a different perspective on beekeeping. I am not interested in honey production as much as just loving to live with bees in my backyard. It seems animals and gardens go together. I would like to live with more animals like with chickens or ducks, but I don’t feel comfortable killing them when they get old. When I give away honey I want to remind people that honey is a special gift to be respectful of. Bees can teach us to be humble and to respect all living creatures. We can learn to curb our tendency to get greedy when we taste something so sweet and delicious.

the bee escape (one way door)

the bees were really crowded and had built burr comb on top of the frames. Bryon carefully scraping it off trying not to squish bees
a healthy frame of bees, pollen, brood, and honey
honey harvest