On Friday morning I loaded up the van to drive to the tree planting workshop. I had 13 fruit trees, two wheel barrels, a lot of shovels and picks, a pot of chili, and some other tools and things. I was feeling under the weather with a cold that had come back that week and was really feeling tired and drained of energy. As soon as I took off down the street things started picking up with my energy level. This is what I love about San Francisco and what keeps me inspired these days. A lot of neighbors I know were into the second week of putting in sidewalk gardens. I was told 4,000 sq feet of sidewalk were dug up in front of 23 residences in this neighborhood, I think the largest event of this kind in the city. I will write more about this later, but it was awesome seeing people everywhere starting to put some soil down and starting to plant. Then crossing over the freeway on 23rd St. I saw a group of people hanging a banner over the bridge there, and I am sure it was something to do with Palestine and speaking out against the horror going on there now. My friend Tom who I saw helping hang the banner is married to a Palestinian woman and my heart goes out to all the people suffering in her country right now. My heart really goes out to all people who have to live in the terror of a war zone. But it is really great that we have people taking the time to speak out against war and injustice, just like last week I was happy that people were protesting the policeman who shot a black man in the back while he was face down in a Bart station. There is so much going on now and it is so great that we can get involved in any way we can that works towards making a better world. It was also nice when on Saturday at the second day of the tree planting, someone told me they had to leave a little early so they could go help with the Glide rooftop garden. Right on! Also, I want to say that we’ve got to make time to make beautiful art, draw cartoons, and write inspiring songs (this is especially written for me). The world needs as much beauty that we can plant and grow right now.

The Free Farm Stand

The weather the last few days has been amazingly beautiful and sunny. At the 18th and Rhode Island garden there are still a handful yellow cherry tomatoes growing on a huge overgrown plant, and I could only reach a few through the fence to pick for the farm stand. And I wanted to save those for seed. The Secret Garden right now needs a lot of work and it looks weedy, but like a true friend it keeps growing tasty baby salad greens and the perpetual chard is really perpetual, I keep picking leaves off of it and also I picked some tasty leaves off the Tuscan Kale. In my backyard garden that is very shady I was able to keep picking baby lettuce mix and arugula. I have white sapotes on the tree, but they don’t seem to be ripening yet. I also grew almost two pounds of sunflower greens and a gallon jar full of red clover/broccoli sprouts. Now almost everyone that come to the stand wants them which is so fabulous, but I think I need to have a mini workshop sometime to show people how they can do it themselves. Also, maybe what is needed is a kit to help people get started. I also harvested baby salad mix from Treat Commons, some arugula and baby mustard greens (mostly mizuna), and some tine red chili peppers that came from a bush that like a Christmas tree with tiny chili ornaments. Josh tried the last one left, he just popped it in his mouth, and he said it was definitely hot as his face turned red (he was surprised).

My new friend Page showed up with some navel oranges and lemons that he gleaned from a garden where works in Stanford in Palo Alto. I haven’t tasted the lemon I saved for myself (he said were really sour), but the orange was great. Navel oranges are really a gift of the gods and to have them this time of the year is super exciting. They went really fast and I had to limit everyone to two each. I must have had over ten people come within the first half hour I opened.

And Jo left some bay leaves and rosemary by my door that she saved from a pruning project she was involved with at I believe City College. The bay leaves were really popular and also the rosemary, though people can only use so much of those herbs and I had some left over.

I got produce once again from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, mainly a lot of small cabbages and a lot of greens ( a lot of mustard greens, some kale, and bok choy leaves), and a few radishes. We also got a good supply of bread that is super popular.

Because of the nice day there was a big turn out and because we were a bit short staffed we kept busy serving everyone. I unfortunately didn’t get to talk to people as much as I would have liked and I didn’t really have seedlings to give out.

18th and Rhode Island work days

The Friday and Saturday tree planting day and workshop came off really well. A lot of people showed up and I was told by a number of people they had a good day and learned a lot. I talked about how to choose varieties of fruit trees to plant in your backyard or garden and David and Kevin talked about the design of the garden and high density fruit growing. Both David and Kevin are amazing teachers and I feel lucky to get to learn from them. The 18th and Rhode Island site should have more photos and the notes from the workshop soon. David Cody is doing a great job with that website and I really liked the last set of photos he posted of the creatures we have found at the site. It is amazing that even on vacant and seemingly barren lots how much life there is. The best thing is that we planted 13 of the trees we ordered (more will be shipped out at the end of the month). The trees I purchased with some of the money that was donated to the Free Farm Stand. Also, thanks to David Glober’s efforts some neighbors are sponsoring trees and one came out on Saturday to help plant the tree he adopted and donated $30 towards. The idea was to get neighbors more involved in the garden by adopting a tree and if they wanted to they could put in some money to help defray the cost so that money could be spent on more great things.

It was truly a fun day (even though I Friday I was pretty beat) and I feel so lucky to be part of a fruit tree planting. It was pretty dramatic (as you look at the photos) when I cut the trees down to knee height, but that is the plan to keep the tree growing not more than 7 feet high and planted two or three to a hole. When the information gets posted to the 18th and Rhode Island site there are links there to YouTube videos and photos of high density fruit tree plantings that are very inspiring. I have a past record of growing trees that are monstrously tall that are so hard to pick and I am now changing my ways at least for growing fruit trees in our backyards and urban gardens. Get back to me in five years and we will see how things are working out. This is all a learning experience.

Sidewalk Gardens in My Neighborhood

I just want to say I am totally excited to see sidewalks being torn up all over my neighborhood and gardens being planted.I have dreamed about this for years. It is so good just for the fact that it diverts rain water back into the ground rather than into the old sewer. I think it is a beginning to see gardens everywhere and making this a real green city to soften our souls.I have some ideas for the next sidewalk garden planting if it happens. I would like to see people use something other than river rocks which I presume are mined from rivers at some ecological cost and heavy use of gas. I still would like to see fine wood chips (the kind that we used on our berms) being tried out since it is a waste material and would decompose into the soil. I am not convinced that they would fill the sewers and gutters with wood chips or cause a problem that way. I would also like to see more diversity of plants being put in the ground, and people experimenting with more wildlife attractant species and maybe even try out some edible plants. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that on 22nd street is a bird habitat garden, on Florida is a wildflower garden or a cut flower garden, and down on Harrison is a cardoon and artichoke planting. Or how about a mushroom garden? These may be crazy ideas I admit.

Fun people I met this week

During the week the networking or building of connections continued as I met a number of wonderful people. I met Siobhan through Eli the fabulous beekeeper and jam maker (Eli where are you by the way?). She was here for a short visit from Chicago where she is getting some kind of degree I think in design and is studying Urban Agriculture (I am not the best note taker because of my weak memory). I enjoyed talking to her not only about the projects related to gardening, but the field of shoes (working for Keds). I think there was a character in the wonderful book by Vikram Seth called A Suitable Boy who designed shoes. Apparently Siobhan got out of that line of work because she didn’t like the industry and that nothing in a shoe is recyclable and that the shoes all come from China (including the terrible labor conditions there). She tried to design a shoe with old cloth, but there wasn’t enough of a regular supply of material for the shoe company to manufacturer them. Anyway she turned me onto a lot of great things happening in Chicago with gardens and such (telling me about the most green man in that city named Ken Dunn who sounds pretty far out in what he is doing) and told me about the places she visited out here including Pie Ranch and the People’s Grocery farm in Sunol. She also showed up at both work days and helped us plant trees ,and then she also got to talk to David about the Homeless Connect Garden he is working on. I thought they should talk since they are both designers (she is designing a window box made out of cloth with a plastic liner for people that are renters in apartment buildings).

Trevor who started MyFarm came by to help with one of his gardeners and Saturday another MyFarm gardener came by to help and learn about planting fruit trees. I was amazed to learn that he has seventy gardens now and business sounds like it is booming. Even though I am not a big fan of growing local food as a business (I think people have to make some time in their life to be in their garden), I respect what he is doing and that he has seventy people eating more locally. They even are limiting their business to using only bicycles and shying away from gas autos. I learned from Max who came by on Saturday that they are mostly only growing cover crops this winter and that they are not giving out boxes of produce at this time. It made me feel better that I am still trying to grow food in all my gardens (though in my backyard I have turned to growing mostly fava beans) and that it may be crazy but worth trying. And a lot is growing especially in the sunny spots.

I met a number of other great people at the tree plantings and who I will probably stay in touch with and it seems that there is no shortage of people these days wanting to get their hands dirty and grow food.

New Years Wish

It is a good time of year to make wishes (I don’t know about resolutions) and there are four things that I hope to see take hold this coming year. Maybe this is wishing for too much.One is that I really want to see our Free Farm Stand be bi-lingual every week. I get people who speak Spanish that help for a while, but I need someone who will make a longer term commitment.. This week at the Farm Stand was an example of when I would have really liked to have been able to speak Spanish. When people ask for miel, I would like to explain to people that I only have one bee hive and that the bees only make honey at certain times of the year, and did you bring your jar back to me, etc. Our when I was handing out oranges and I only could give two to each person I wanted to explain to people that we are sharing the surplus that people bring to share and sometimes there isn’t much, so we have to all share what there is with everyone as much as possible. I am seriously thinking about taking off for six months and going somewhere to learn more Spanish if someone doesn’t come along.

Two is that I would love to expand the cultural and educational component of the Free Farm Stand and put on events related to what we are doing. Music, dance, puppet shows, film showings, celebrations would be fun to host at our weekly event. I would like an event where kids and adults sing to our apple tree and pour cider over it and ask it to produce abundantly this year.

Three is about the gleaning component to the Free Farm Stand. Fresh, organic tasty fruit is so expensive and the most desirable food at the Free Farm Stand. Enough interest has been generated (in the short time we have been around) in searching out the fruit trees in our neighborhoods and finding trees that need picking and maintenance. I call it gleaning. So I really hope that with all this interest that has been building, maybe this year we can see the formation of a fruit gleaning project that collects fruit and distributes it to people in need like low income people and those on tight budgets that come to the stand or go to food pantries.

A fourth wish I have is to see the Free Farm Stand help in the formation of a group of volunteers that helps puts gardens in people’s backyards for free and offers a mentor with the gardens they install. Sort of what City Slickers Farm does in West Oakland. My idea is that if someone who gets help putting in a garden winds up with any surplus that they will share it at the stand. Of course, I have a special interest in installing fruiting trees (especially avocados) and other perennial food plants in gardens around here.

I must add another wish is that I hope to see us plant fruit trees in Parque Niños Unidos. This may be the craziest wish of all, just the idea of planting fruit trees in public spaces, but it is all right to be crazy and I love fruit trees!

Here is a wish list from Kevin that he reaad at the Permaculture meeting on the first Wednesday inour new meeting space in the Gazebo. (It is a wonderful space). I thought his wish list was so beautiful I asked him if I could post it here:

SF Permaculture Guild Visioning:

  1. SF Food/Foot Path – pathway from Bay to Ocean Beach of permeable sidewalk landscaping projects all planted with edibles
  2. Garden Wheel backyard program like the permaculture guild in the East Bay does. Once a month a group of people (~30) meets at one home to infuse a lot of energy (or start) the garden.
  3. Gleaning database and calendar with at least 200 entries and at least 40 volunteers
  4. Permaculture park designs – emphasizing water catchment, mixed use and edible landscaping for every park in SF.
  5. Open Center for Alternative Technology at Hunter’s Point Shipyard
  6. Bioregional data assessment – per Geoff Lawton model
  7. Comprehensive plant lists of N-fixers (and other support species), fruit trees, medicinals, per region of SF
  8. Seed library – contribute to Pocket Seed Library or GFE or other or all the above combined with vegetable breeding program for long-term permi-cultivars appropriate to each region and soil type in SF.
  9. Local Exchange Trading Systems – community currency
  10. Database of permaculture sites open to tours in SF
  11. Community Land Trust partnership
  12. First backyard defencing initiative (urban micro farm) in the Sunset
  13. Successful urban aquaculture experiments
  14. Harvest exchange/party
  15. A couple of well-placed guerilla garden efforts
  16. Seasonal recipe book emphasizing perennials with ALL ingredients (including spices and sauces, etc.) being local
  17. 2nd permitted greywater system (1st appropriate tech.) in SF
  18. 1st permitted composting toilet in SF

Commercial cardboard shredder located in SF for shared use

What a nice way to end a blog is with some dreams thrown in at the end.


After today’s mellow farm stand I was standing around talking with friends. Someone was saying she didn’t understand how things like airplanes can fly and another friend was explaining Bernoulli’s equation and the force of uplift. I think the force is actually called lift. Anyway all the time they were talking I was in my crazy fashion thinking that what this world needs now is a big uplift from the weight of heaviness dragging us all down. How can one feel good about the wars going on everywhere, and the suffering of the innocent people caught in between is hard to ignore. Fortunately most of the time I find the Free Farm Stand uplifting and myself flying. I guess to fly we have to have a careful balance of forces. Good work to do, good challenges to face, good support from friends and strangers, and a connection with the all mighty, the power of creation.

Today I knew again I would have no surplus produce from the farmer’s market so it was going to be another really local affair. I quickly learned that there wouldn’t be any bread either. Fortunately the Secret Garden is still producing lettuce and arugula and some broccoli and greens. I harvested less than a pound of lettuce and arugula and less than a pound of greens and broccoli. I was also able to harvest some greens from my backyard (mostly arugula). There is actually a neglected garden on the site of the permaculture garden and I was able to reach over the short fence and pick almost a pound of mustard greens and found a handful of yellow cherry tomatoes peeking through the wire mesh. I also brought some more walnuts from our tree and a friend brought some beautiful walnuts from Nevada City (they tasted different). I also brought about ten more jars of honey. Later in the day Christy came by with some surplus produce from the Corona Heights community garden, 1 ½ lbs of carrots that were delicious and less than a pound of baby kale. She also brought more Cape Gooseberries or ground cherries. Then at the end of the day Sheryl came by with two small baskets of the most handsome cherry tomatoes that she grew in Berkeley. She harvested them yellow two weeks ago and set them out by a sunny window to ripen more. There were really perfect and tasted great. Tomatoes in January hooray and amazing! If we had our act together we could probably grow a lot more tomatoes all the way into December…next year.

Going into the New Year I am jazzed by all the attention growing local food is attracting. I met with some wonderful folks who are starting to plant gardens in local Episcopal churches to give away at food pantries and other food programs. They have already started by putting in a garden at Holy Innocents Church in the Mission. I just heard from a friend who works with a non-profit called anewamerica that is serving low income immigrants and refugees in the Bay Area. I guess they want to put gardens in day care centers among other things and are looking for volunteer permaculture designers to give them some design help. If they start serving healthy food in day care centers that would be great, though I might lose some of my source for free baby food jars. And in my neighborhood within a ten block radius of lower 24th Street area of the Mission a bunch of neighbors got together and got a big grant to tear up the sidewalks in front of 23 houses and put in gardens or permeable landscaping. They started last weekend and next weekend too they will be doing the actually planting I think and say they can use help. I wonder if anyone is looking into planting anything edible like the artichokes I saw on a Dolores Street sidewalk.

The workday at 18th and Rhode Island was canceled because of rain. It really didn’t rain hard, but it was cold and wet, and I personally whimped out. But on Saturday I made it over there and met up with Kevin and David G. We put stakes where the trees are going to be planted. I learned how at least one permaculture designer approached the situation of where to plant trees and I was impressed with the thought that went into it. We have plans to plant 22 fruit trees. Most of the bare root trees are at my house and we have two dates set to have tree planting/workshops Friday January 10th and Saturday January 11th (the dates will be bumped to the next weekend in case of rain). On Saturday we also dug a test hole and poured water in it and measured how long it took 2 gallons of water to drain (3 hours and 21 minutes). That seems to be barely ok and I guess we aren’t going to have to worry about drainage since we are going to plant trees sort of on a mound, especially the avocados.

The project of planting fruit trees in our park where we put up the stand is still alive and kicking. Unfortunately Park and Recreation changed the scheduled bike ride of Jared the interim supposedly cool director and I missed his visit (he came a week earlier). I am now on his list to get 15 minutes of his time to pitch my idea to him (my proposal calls for the creation of a Fruit and Recreation Park), though I don’t have a date set yet. I have a proposal and just got a generous donation of $205 to buy trees for the project. I know it is a crazy idea putting fruit trees where the public can pick them. Just today I noticed someone had picked the unripe passion fruit in our community garden and thrown it on the ground after figuring out it tasted sour. But Jim just came back from Southern California and told me about a cool edible park he accidentally ran into while on a walk or skateboard ride. Jenny told me too of an edible park she just visited during the holidays in Irvine. So we have to catch up with our southern conservatives down there in Orange Country that may have it wrong about gay marriage, but have it right about growing fruits and nuts in public places.

And thinking about trees I must say that I see a lot of leaves right now on sidewalks that are just getting pushed into the gutter to be swept up by our city streetsweepers. What a waste of useable “browns” for our compost piles. Think how much a tree works to make those leaves and what a miracle it really is. If I had the time I would collect as many as possible and add them to compost piles around town.