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The long planned visit of the Daisy Girl Scout troop to the Free Farm Stand finally happened yesterday and it was a real blast. Eight giggly, enthusiastic 5-6 year olds girls made the Free Farm Stand a lot of fun and I think everyone enjoyed their help and presence. The day started out as a big question mark in terms of weather, they postponed an earlier visit because of rain, and the clouds had disappeared just before I got to the park and it seemed like it was going to warm up. But then when the girls started arriving it clouded up and got chilly. Later at some point soon after, the sun burst out and it warmed up the rest of the day. It was truly fabulous outside which brought out the crowds. Because the garden was a bit muddy we set up the stand in the park which turned out to give people more room to hang out.

The girls had a lot to do because we had gotten so much produce from the farmers market that needed sorting out. Someday I hope that we grow more food in our neighborhood (especially this time of the year), but now the free local organic produce from the bigger farmers outside the city overshadows everything. Before we started I talked to the kids about farmers and where our food comes from, and how we are trying to make good healthy locally grown food without sprays available to everyone, whether they have enough money to buy that kind of produce or not. I also talked about seasons and what grows this time of year. So our table was loaded with cool season vegetables, lots of greens, broccoli, broccoli raab or rapini, Brussel sprouts, celery, cabbage, and salad mix. I actually harvested some of the same things. The Secret Garden gave me 2 pounds of baby lettuce and arugula, and a pound of kale and broccoli side shoots. I also harvested a handful of snap peas and a handful of Cape Gooseberries that are so popular. I also had some grapes from the farmers market. Where are those grown this time of year?

Zoey came by with some beautiful salad mix she had grown in her garden. I met Zoey at a seed exchange event last year at the Pocket Seed Library (http://www.pocketseedlibrary.blogspot.com/) that she helped start. I took a photo of her salad and she knows the names of all the colorful salad greens in her mix. It is so much fun to meet up with another avid gardener in a garden and talk plants. And her being a true artist with a great eye made it even more exciting to see what attracted her attention (like the tree collards with their beautiful purple and green leaves right now).
And Fred came by with a bag of miner’s lettuce from his garden. I love introducing local wild foods to the neighbors who come to the stand and miners lettuce is really good in salads and you don’t even have to plant it in most gardens that have been cultivated for a while.
This week we actually counted how many people came to the stand with a counter and we had over fifty people. Most of the food was given away and we had no bread left over either.
There are so many garden and local food things happening right now in the city. And the Mission is becoming more of a hipster place. Some of the projects have their feet in the smiling social justice capitalist waters. At the same time they seem to be pushing good causes. Mission Pie is an example and now there is Mission Street Food (donating all proceeds to charity like Newman’s Own and with the goal “to employ charity as a viable marketing strategy”). A friend Leif sent me the menu he is cooking for it this week (they have guest chefs). It says it all:

chickweed, chicory, cress, chioggas, pecorino ginepro, blood orange, rosemary-filbert vinaigrette
Tartine walnut levain with chevre, apple, meyer lemon, wild arugala, pine nut, honey, olio nuovo, Murray River salt
deep fried yuba package with maitake, matsutake, mustard greens, leek, miso, yuzu, matcha salt
roasted cauliflower with tahini, Recchiuti chocolate 85%, piment d’Espelette
bucatini e cavolo nero: caramelized alliums, fried sage, dried cherries, toasted almonds, capers, olives, chiles and brown butter
Humphrey Slocombe maple walnut ice cream [the newest hip business in our neighborhood] with rosemary shortbread and olio nuovo .

A new friend Craig has a vegan taco wagon (http://sunnyvibrations.com/ though the site right now just has a picture of his truck on it) and he wants to serve good healthy vegan food like Café Gratitude but with more reasonable prices and he wants to include a social justice component to it too. He was interested in me getting involved. I have actually always been attracted to serving free meals and before I started the Free Farm Stand I thought about opening a free vegan soup kitchen that served locally grown food. Another dream in my pocket.

The question I always ask is how do you not become a hipster project that only serves a small circle of cool people? The Free Farm Stand itself has this problem and I hope we continue to serve a lot of our neighbors that are poor and without a lot of money to buy organic food. But because what we are doing is so exciting I guess we pull in people that want to be part of the happening scene. I hope we can just get more people that can make some time to garden somewhere. I even appreciate people that just bring bags to give away produce in.

The 18th and Rhode Island work day was rained out last week. I hope this week we can get back in the garden and work on the place more. I can’t wait for the rest of the trees to arrive.
Talking about trees I just got this email sent to me while typing:

Due to the San Francisco General Hospital rebuild seven mature Magnolia trees are to be removed from in front of San Francisco General to create temporary road ways for the rebuild. These trees will be replaced by 48″ box trees (?). To protest the removal you could write a letter to DPW-Bureau of Forestry 2323 Cesar Chavez SF CA 94124 or fax to 695-2147. The dead line to protest is February 12, 2009.
During the construction of City College on Valencia St. the neighborhood was able to stop the city from removing the trees in front of the site. The construction was able to continue without any delays and the trees were saved a win- win situation for everyone.
Magnolia trees are slow growing and took years for them to reach maturity. They provide a uniformed look on Potrero Ave with beautiful large white flowers during the summer. Please help save these trees.

This is so pathetic and I plan on writing DPW for sure. I was recently reading the web site of Tree People in Los Angeles and was so inspired by the work they are doing in L.A. my hometown. They have a program where they give fruit trees to people to plant and also another program where they give fruit trees in containers to people who don’t have dirt to plant them in. Why is our city so clueless about the importance of planting trees and instead of always thinking of reasons they need to be cut down, why don’t they incorporate the planting of more trees (especially fruit trees) in any new construction they undertake?

On a happier note, we started rooting the tree branches I got last week (a couple of friends responded to my last post and showed up to help). We also grafted some white sapotes. This Wednesday I am going to try grafting some avocado seedlings. We will see in a number of months of how well we did. We don’t have to wait around for the city or until some big group starts distributing and planting fruit trees everywhere. Once we learn the propagation skills for trees we can do it ourselves.

And to end on another positive wave length, there is a new gleaning project forming in the city (we had our first meeting). Anyone interested can go to http://sfglean.org/ and join the Google email discussion group there and get updated on the project. All the food that is harvested from local trees will go to food pantries and programs like the Free Farm Stand.


Yesterday was a glorious crisp sunny winter day with global warming or something thrown in. So temperatures were up there in the mid sixties, perfect Farm Stand weather. I am feeling a bit guilty enjoying this warm dry winter, because I know the garden needs rain; we all need rain, and some of our fruit trees need a period of cold weather to make abundant fruit.

I harvested a handful of yellow cherry tomatoes from the small garden at 18th and Rhode Island St. With a big white reflective wall, that garden gets the heat and the tomato plant is still growing and has ripening tomatoes this late in the year. This is the garden neighbors had started before we started the big permaculture garden on the vacant lot. There is a fence around it and no one is working in it at the moment and I am just harvesting what I can through the wire fence. Kevin and Fred harvested various things from the Chronicle rooftop garden: lemons and various herbs. Rosemary, lemon grass, bay leaves, French sorrel, kaffir lime leaves, and Vietnamese cilantro. Christy brought more things from her garden on Corona Heights: Cape Gooseberries, and carrots and she also dropped off some extra CSA produce that she couldn’t use (apples, pears, and kale). I brought some lettuce mix and arugula from my backyard and Caleb brought arugula from a friend’s garden. I also grew more sunflower greens and I forgot to bring the clover sprout mix that I had in a big jar.

We also had a lot of produce from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market including, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, oregano, and many different kinds of greens: mustard, spinach, kale, chard, and collards. The leftover Acme bread supply continued to be unreliable and we had only two bags of bread, mostly rolls.

By the end of the day all the food was given away except for some herbs.


California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) scion wood exchange

This was one of the highlights of my week, going to the meeting of the CRFG on Saturday where people from all over come to exchange dormant branches of fruit trees used to graft or splice onto other trees or rootstocks. We graft trees for different reasons, to add a different variety of some fruit to a tree we are growing, like if we want to add a late bearing apple branch to a tree with early ripening apples. Or if we want to have more than one kind of plum on one tree you have to graft the tree to have that. There are other reasons to graft besides those too.

I believe we are living at a unique time in history when things are rapidly changing in every way. The political changes at the top are significant, but the changes we can make in our own lives are what are most important of all. So we need to learn certain skills and gain knowledge about things that are always on the verge of being lost. How to grow our own food is part of what we all need to learn and grafting trees and plant propagation is a part of that. We need to learn these things if for no other reason than to bring us closer in touch with the power of life and creation. I feel lucky to meet the true masters in this field and be able to learn from them directly, since I don’t learn from books as easily. That is why these meetings are so fun and educational for me.

I came away with a big bag filled with propagating wood. I learned at the meeting that four Mediterranean trees propagate easily by sticking branches in some fast draining rooting medium like perilite, especially with bottom heat: figs, olives, grapes, and pomegranates. Mulberries should also be almost as easy to grow that way too. I have had good luck with pomegranates so I want to try more. So I collected mostly branches that I am going to try rooting and some wood that I am going to try grafting onto seedlings I have. If anyone wants to join me in the fun please contact me. I have some time onWednesday, Thursday, and Saturday to work on this. My goal is to learn how to propagate trees and give them away at the farm stand. A do it yourself way to reforest the city with fruit trees.

18th and Rhode Island workday

The Friday workdays on the hill continued and a few people showed up. We potted up seedlings and did some work on the “ivy rock” mound…widening the path between the fence and the mound. I think we will have work to do every Friday and I plan to continue going there every week. At the end of the month we should be getting more trees to plant.

The Secret Garden and the Jamestown kids

On Tuesday Nicole and her kids helped me shovel extra soil into bags from the sidewalk tree planting project. We took some of the soil to the Secret Garden where the kids got to see how things were growing. They really got into raking leaves and making a huge leaf pile. I haven’t seen pure joy in a while where the kids loved falling and diving into the leaves. What a simple and beautiful fun thing to do, jump into a pile of fresh fallen leaves. Something so simple and wonderful, but how easy is it in the city for kids to get the chance to do that? I wish I had the camera with me that day, several girls looked so beautiful with the leaves all stuck in their long hair.