This week I had no left over produce from the Farmer’s Market and all I had to give away was the little amount of harvest I was able to pick out of three gardens right now that are within a block of the stand.. I think next week will be the same. A little bit of arugula, some salad mix, some Speckles butterhead lettuces, a few cape gooseberry fruits, a few chili peppers, a handful of greens, and a couple of Florence fennel or finocchio bulbs. Later in the day Jose and Minda came by with a couple of nice daikon roots from Potrero de Sol garden. I also gave away more honey and olives, and we shelled walnuts from our tree and gave them out.. There wasn’t much bread either, mostly a big basket of raisin rolls.

I must admit besides arugula I am pretty impressed with growing broccoli plants this year, because of their ability to keep sending out side shoots (though our few plants are about dead). Also, yesterday Max came by after the farm stand was over carrying a big bunch of tree collard greens he harvested from the All in Common Garden that he was taking to the friary where he lives. I am growing some tree collards right now that I just started this year and they are all growing rather slowly (being in pretty much shade). My oldest plant in my backyard doesn’t have many leaves and it wouldn’t be worth harvesting. I should plant a bunch of them in the permaculture garden where they get more sun.

I have heard a story from a friend about seeing an abandoned house in the Capay Valley near Davis that had orange trees on the property and another house that wasn’t abandoned that seemed to have a tree loaded with oranges that wasn’t getting picked. I wonder if it would be worth driving east to check out gleaning oranges there.

Though there wasn’t a lot of produce, it was a beautiful somewhat sunny winter day and there were quite a number of people who showed up. There might have been more talk than food. Sara Miles came by who is involved with Saint Gregory’s Church on Potrero Hill near the 18th and Rhode Island garden. We talked about a plan that is being discussed to get a lot of Episcopal Churches to grow food for their food pantries. I am very excited about this and the possibility of working with them somehow. I think that the churches that are interested in growing food need to be visited and see what would be appropriate for their space. I told Sara that I think the Churches should be planting fruit trees if they have the space and grow them small and closely planted. She also wants to contact people in the churches to see if they have fruit trees in their backyards that could use picking ad make a database of trees that could be gleaned. Caleb a wonderful volunteer who was helping out at the table talked to her also and is interested in setting up a gleaning project in the city. I think Sara is going to coordinate a meeting of people that may be interested in this project.

I also enjoyed talking to some of our other local neighbors. It was great having Sara around who could talk in Spanish to people and I was able to somewhat follow the conversations. One guy was talking about his father who sounded like he had a great garden. He was talking about a tree that his father grows that had a fruit he didn’t know the name for in English. He called it Nispero and I figured out it was loquat. Here is a link to a youtube video of a loquat fruit unpeeling I also heard a lot of stories from another man whose son helped us shell walnuts, about grwoing food in El Salvador. The man seemed to be really hip about growing food organically and using natural remedies and herbs for medicine. He said that now the young people there don’t want to be farmers though and he said there were a lot of empty fields.

Last Friday we had a well attended 18th and Rhode Island work day. I brought more seedlings and we planted them all around (the other seedlings are growing though very slowly). The fava beans are coming up and also the clover has sprouted. The garlic too is growing. The crew of four or five people pulled ivy up with the goal of seeing where we are going to plant our avocado grove and as a first step towards mulching the area.

Like I probably said before, I ordered trees and I just spoke to Jim in Southern California who is generously picking them up (plus making the rounds to some other nurseries to get some more hard to get plants and trees). Tentatively we are planing a tree planting on Saturday January 10th which will be partly a hands on workshop.

I just finished reading an inspiring book called Where our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’v Quest to End Famine by Gary Nahan. I liked this book partly because it is somewhat of a biography and a glimpse of history that I love to read. This book covers so much more though, including a real world view of climate change on our planet, a glimpse into how other people and cultures grow and eat food, what corporations are doing to our food supply, etc.

More than anything I have read, it clearly highlights the debate about how to deal with the issues of hunger and food insecurity in the world and in our local communities. This is something I have thought a lot about and why I started the Free Farm Stand. On the one side are the people who believe in the technology intensive “modern” approach to agriculture versus Gary’s approach which is to support local and traditional agriculture that fosters small scale diversity and isn’t aiming for mass maximum production values. The world can seem pretty depressing while reading his book, but there does seem to be hope nestled in between the pages and he presents a lot of examples of evidence of a growing movement of people’s efforts to turn things around.

Yesterday was the solstice and the days now will be lengthening. Now is a good time for us all to gather up our spent energies during the last year and get inspired again to plant new seeds come spring. We the people are the ones that have to make the changes that are needed in this world (that is what I always come back to, especially after reading inspiring books). I just ordered 18 trees to plant at our new garden on Potrero Hill and I can’t tell you how exciting that is to me. Planting fruit trees is one of the best votes for hope one can make. I was thinking that we should have at least one hands-on workshop on tree planting in January and also one on grafting.

We had another cold and rainy day at the Free Farm Stand. I got no leftover produce from the fancy farmer’s market, though I still had small bags of Brussel sprouts and radish left from last week (and I will be out next Sunday, but I really am not expecting to have much right after Christmas).

My surprise was that the combination of the three gardens I work in produced an ok amount of food to give away. I bought a scale recently and this week I weighed some of the produce I harvested. I picked a total of two pounds of baby greens from the gardens. With the exception of Treat Commons, the places where I am growing food are pretty shady. I would love to learn what others are growing now and it would be great if serious city growers could get together and exchange notes on what grows best for them and in what conditions (shade, sun, a little sun, etc).

My big discovery this week is to realize that arugula is a great plant to grow in a shady spot in the garden. It is so easy to grow. In a lot of shade the plants don’t get very big, but I did manage to harvest quite a lot. And in full sun where we grew some too, I got so much bigger plants and the yield was terrific. Arugula is in the cabbage family and is nutritionally good to eat and I think we can throw some not only in our salads, but throw the small greens on foods that we cook, like in the end in soups or on pizza right out of the oven, or in tofu scrambles. The same with baby greens or baby stir fry mix, just throw it in with our salads or cooked dishes at the very end.

So our table, despite the lack of huge amounts of farmer’s market produce had a nice display and variety of more locally grown food. Besides the baby greens and salad mix, I harvested almost the last of the hot peppers from the sunniest garden. And I also had basil from the African Blue basil plant (it ‘s flavor is not as strong a basil flavor as regular basil). This is an amazing perennial plant that is still growing very well in the full sun. I plan to make some cuttings to propagate it, because it is a hybrid and doesn’t produce seed. I cut up a giant pumpkin I found on the sidewalk last week and tried to give it away. Some people took it. Myself I am not a big pumpkin eater and this pumpkin was very orange inside and was probably loaded with vitamins and minerals, but it was rather bland tasting at least raw. Good to throw in a soup perhaps. But twenty pounds of food in the start of winter is something not to turn away from. I was talking to Greg a neighbor at the stand and he came back later with a friend and brought some Meyer lemons from his backyard which was really great.

To cheer things up a bit, I put on my Santa’s hat and gave away gift wrapped jars of honey from our bees and olives from the tree down the street. Cynthia processed most of the ones I gave out using just salt and water. I can’t believe she hand slit each olive. For the ones I processed I used lye which is faster though the final taste may be slightly different. And some sad news is that Jamie the bread girl lost her job at the bakery. She showed up to get some produce. I am now picking up the bread and if anyone wants to take that project on please contact me (it needs picking up at 7pm on Saturday night and a vehicle or a big bike cart is needed…I have a medium size bike cart that would be available and another cart that needs rebuilding).

I didn’t make it to the last work Friday workday at 18th St. and Rhode Island, though others showed up and pulled ivy and built stone retaining walls. We are trying to determine now if anyone wants to come out after Christmas this Friday to work. I will probably show up to visit the garden in any case and see how things are doing. Last week there was some frost on the berms that David photographed with his telephone camera. No real damage was done to anything is what I heard.