Freeing the Greening
There is a lot of excitement in the air these days about growing and eating local and organic food. And also there is a buzz about green this and that, and sustainable is a word that comes up all the time. My project the free farm stand is popular I guess because it is part of this excitement, it is something that is real rather than just talk, in the sense that I am showing up each Sunday with what I have grown to share with my neighbors. I have been thinking a lot about this “green localvore movement” and where it is going right now.
My friend Deb showed up from Los Angeles. She moved from a monastery in Murphy’s near Yosemite where she was silent all the time, to the Silverlake neighborhood in L.A. She has started a successful green consulting business and now does a lot of talking to people about how to go green and make their lives more sustainable. She even offers people therapy for people having trouble adjusting to their new life styles. I was also happy to learn that she has helped start a garden in a woman’s shelter down there. Deb is a beautiful angel .
I must admit I like all the attention the free farm stand is getting, but I hope people connect with one of the ideas that I am trying to promote, which is to get away from the business model of doing things. It is about the crazy notion that there is more to life than making a living. That it can be totally wonderful to be a helpful person in the world in whatever way we can. For me one of those things is gardening and sharing my enthusiasm for growing food and flowers with others, turning others onto the idea of slowing down a bit and spending time with dirt and trees. And giving away any extra stuff, be it the too many things I collect or the extra food I grow does bring me joy.
I sometimes feel though that I am in a minority, that a lot of people don’t get it, that there is this pressure on me to get realistic. That the important thing we need to do is figure out is how to make a just and living wage out of the work we like do (rather than first figuring out what we have a passion for and doing it and then figuring out how to pay the rent). It is a philosophy I understand, but personally have never been aligned with in my heart.
Last Thursday I attended the funeral for Sister Pat and it was such a sweet service. Here is a woman that gave her whole life to serving others and trying to make the world more peaceful (working in Catholic Worker soup kitchens, going to prison for protesting nuclear weapons, fighting the death penalty, starting a methadone clinic). At the service, the church was packed and people expressed how much their lives were touched by her. This is more the world I feel a part of. I would like to see the merging of the Slow Food Movement, the grow your own, eat local, go green and sustainable crowd with the Catholic Worker world of working with the poor and disenfranchised, living in voluntary poverty, and basically doing things for free as a service. I must admit I am not living in voluntary poverty myself and maybe that is going a bit far (how about voluntary simplicity instead?).
Another close friend Tamar whose heart I am intertwined with was also in town briefly and we got a chance to meet for dinner and talk. Some how the topic of Wendy Johnson’s new book came up Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate. She is one of the founders of Green Gulch Farm run by the Zen Center(Tamar is really grounded by years of meditating, something on my to do list). I was telling her I would love to read the book some day, because Green Gulch Farm is so spectacular in many ways. Anyway, the day she left, the book showed up on my kitchen table with the sweetest note from her and it reminded me how precious our friendships can be. We should cultivate them like we do our plants. I started reading this book and it really blows me away how much it resonates with my own thoughts as a gardener. Here is a passage I want to share:
She says that “gardening is all about picking and choosing and following your passion. Some very basic principles inform how I garden…My seventh principle is generosity with the harvest. In the biblical book of Leviticus, one of the laws of Jewish life was not to cut the corners of the fields after the main harvest, but to leave them standing so there would be food to gleaned by the hungry, the lonely, and the stranger. I treasure this old admonition to share the bounty of the garden with all beings; it reminds me not to cut corners and to garden wholeheartedly for the benefit of both the visible and the invisible hungry world.”
I need to draw a cartoon about this.
More plums and green beans and a lot of kale
That is this week’s farm stand in a nutshell. Scarlet runner beans rule! I think they are the tastiest beans around and I like that are perennials and they are so ornamental. I picked a lot of them for the farm stand this week (over a pound!) and it seems the more I pick the more they produce.
Painted Lady Scarlet Runner Bean plants with red and white flowers (usually the flowers are all red)
My new Bernal Heights friend with her garden in San Mateo showed up with the biggest pile of purple beans ever, plus tomatoes (all cherry tomatoes of different shapes and colors) and a few chilies The yellow plum lady showed up with three more bags of plums and she said that was the last of them. I brought almost a five gallon bucket of plums from the Secret Garden (I got help this week picking them which was why we had so many). They are getting sweeter and a little tastier. And at the end of the day we were all out of plums and I could have given out more.
I got a lot of dino kale indirectly from the Ferry Building farmer’s market, actually more than I could give away. Antonio wrote the blog last week and said the word for kale could be col rizado (I tried that out with one person who still didn’t understand what it is). I also got a lot of chard which all went.
The woman with the three apple trees showed up with some more green Fuji apples and Christy brought a few red apples from the apple tree in Corona Heights Park (which is in the city park there with some other fruit trees like a fig and two lemon trees). Right after the last apples were given away Elokin and Ami who live down the street showed up with some Asian pears which was really exciting to me. It wasn’t just that I like giving away fruit and that people really like the fruit the most (and good organic fruit is so expensive), but it is the first Asian pear I have eaten that was grown in my neighborhood. I have to find out the variety name if they know it. They also brought some greens which were pretty.
A couple of other people showed up with things from their gardens. Ann Marie showed up with mizuna, oregano, and Vietnamese cilantro (that was super popular) and Lyz from Potrero Hill brought some collards. Check out these beautiful orange habenero chili peppers that another friend brought that were very popular.
New projects coming up
I attended the permaculture guild meeting that happens the first Wednesday of the month right now at the Red Vic Café. A couple of students of the permaculture class that just ended presented a short description of their designs for two new projects that are being developed. One is a new garden at 18th and Rhode Island and the other is a rooftop garden on top of the Chronicle building. Both of those projects will grow food for the free farm stand. I put my name on the list being circulated for people that want to be involved in some way. I think what is needed now is at least one person who is really passionate about each of the projects and can make it happen by hook or by crook. Also, I have offered to help with two other projects. One is the planting of fruit trees and edible plants in Parque Niños Unidos . I keep using the word exciting, but these things do make me feel hopeful that good things can happen here if we put the energy into them. Friends of the Urban Forrest was at the meeting too, seeking to work with the guild in encouraging the planting of fruit trees in people’s front yards, and then starting a fruit gleaning project, complete with a database of fruit trees in the city. So I put my name on her list too. Also, a super local permaculture website is being designed by David and he wants to work with others in the guild on this and work also with Friends of the Urban Forest on their tree database.
It is obvious that the Free Farm Stand as a project can use more help if we expand into more gardens. I am therefore still looking for an intern to teach people how to grow a lot of food and give it away.
The Secret Garden
On Saturday four people showed up to work in the Secret Garden and we got a lot done. The plums keep falling and we picked them off the pathway and put them in our new compost pile. I pruned some branches that were hanging over the planting beds so they get more light. We picked five gallons of plums it seems and a few loquats. Tom and Heidi showed up, both experienced gardeners and prepared a bed for planting, adding old manure and turning it in. Today a woman named Jenny just showed up to enquire about Treat Commons and helped me plant kohlrabi seedlings in the bed they prepared and I prepared another bed earlier and planted lettuce mix and arugula with her. She is a new gardener for the city and drives a lawn mower and mows the city golf course dodging golf balls and getting grossed out by gofers who piss on the golf course. She pointed out that homeless people get busted for this all the time but not the golfers. She is glad to have the job, but is not excited by the turf work. I told her things will change one day and she’ll be pruning fruit trees in city parks instead of her stupid turf work. I want to get the Secret Garden in top shape and will be trying to get consistent help maintaining it.
Frida Kahlo and Luther Burbank
I went to see the Frida Kahlo show at SFMOMA and really enjoyed it. The museum is free on the first Tuesday of the month and half off admission on Thursday nights (the show is $5). I love her painting of Luther Burbank, one of my garden heroes. She was for sure a person connected with the earth and nature, and her life and paintings are so inspiring. When at the museum, I found out they are building a 14, 400 ft million dollar rooftop garden on their building. But it doesn’t look like they will be growing any food from what I saw.
Honey extraction again
The bees in our backyard are working their butts off and have produced probably another five gallons of honey. So I have put in a request for the extractor and plan to do the honey thing on Monday August 18th. If anyone wants to learn more about bees and beekeeping and can help out at the same time please contact me.
I love the new beautiful people who show up every week…