Orchard Love

I started writing this blog on a notepad (no computer) while sitting on the bench under a tree in the Permaculture Garden at 18th and Rhode Island. I was there for the “Eat-In” or potluck in support of healthy school lunches (Slow Food. USA came up with the idea of having these national events everywhere today including one at Civic Center and one in Dolores Park). I was feeling pretty slowed down after a hectic weekend of apple picking, soup kitchen cooking, farm standing, and applesauce making. Then as soon as I started writing people I knew started showing up and I got involved in the “Eat-In”. More on that later.

Last week a friend whom I trust a lot and reads my blog sent me a note saying that in my last blog I didn’t write from my heart (he said it seemed like I was just writing for housewives). Someone then told me what is wrong with writing for housewives? But now I am nervous because I thought I always write from my heart, and I agree I don’t want to just write fluff, but want to talk about things that are important to share with everyone. Here are some random thoughts before I give a short update on Free Farm Stand happenings.

One is that on Sunday afternoon I had an experience that felt so good. I had the chance to be reminded that I still love an old friend whom I am pretty upset and disappointed with. It is good to know that love can live in ones heart and surface at unexpected times, making you feel warm and tingly for a short while.

I have been thinking of all the things on my long to do list. At the Permaculture Guild meeting I attended last Wednesday I joined a small group meeting about volunteers. Various people talked about the successes and challenges they have getting volunteer help. There were a number of approaches groups have for working with volunteers and for a while I was thinking I need to move in a more mainstream approach to getting volunteer help. Some of the people at the meeting had me thinking I should write out job descriptions for all the things I need help for, like I should publish internship applications. I actually started writing some job descriptions up. Then I even went so far as to thinking that my non-profit should start hiring people, like a lot of non-profits do. Following that line of thinking and where that would lead, I realized this is not where I am at.

Actually I don’t know where I am at; I am running the Free Farm Stand by the skin of my teeth. But I will never have a main stream approach to what I do. I would like to figure out a way to train others to do some of the things I do, like Pancho called it, to be anchors. I come out of living in a commune living situation for years and that is the best way I know of getting things done: by living, working, praying, meditating, serving the poor and disinfranchised with an intentional community or family. How do we grow something like that?

I also started going crazy starting to work on a challenging grant application for a Challenge Grant from the city to get our community garden and our fruit orchard expanded. This week at the Farm Stand I may have met an angel who offered to do the work needed for free, meaning I won’t need that grant. I have also been thinking about money more than I should. And I have had many conversations in the last week about economics with various people, about how to get money to support the work all of us are doing. I am still in the minority of people wanting to just do things for free, but I have to admit I have been thinking about the idea of holding a benefit to raise money vs. writing grants.

I really feel the Free Farm Stand is running on auto-pilot these days. At least on Sundays when I go there we (a lot of great volunteers) set up and I zone out. Things are going pretty smoothly. It was interesting this week because we had less food from the farmer’s market (and may have less next week too). I heard there were fewer vendors at the markets perhaps because of the Labor Day holiday or the Bay Bridge being closed. So it was a great thing to remind us all that we have got to be learning how to grow more of our own food. We also have to be making it more of a priority in our cities to leave more space open for sky and air, and places to plant beautiful food forests and gardens.

If there was a highlight to the stand this week it was all the apples and peaches we had to give away (though the honey dew melons and 2 eggplants from Esperanza were up there on the excitement level for me). Erin picked apples and peaches on Wednesday and I picked an apple tree on Saturday. By now everyone must know how much I love fruit trees and planting them in the city. Just this one old tree I picked is a great example of how much fruit we can get from one fully mature tree: Betsy and I picked 217 lbs of apples and we didn’t get them all. This number also includes apples that I picked off the ground, a lot of which went into apple sauce. On weeks that we get a lot of fruit from gleaning our pounds of local produce skyrockets. This week we added 430lbs of local produce! Again the universe is telling us something…plant more fruit trees!

Of course when I was picking the apples high up on a ladder I could see all the neighbor’s yards nearby. Right next door there was an apple tree with branches loaded with red apples laying on the roof of a funky shed that some neighbors were living in. I was pinch hitting in terms of picking apples that day, Erin’s car had broken down and Lauren was out of town, so it was just me and my friend Betsy picking the apples, and I had been there almost two hours. I didn’t get all the apples on her tree, let alone picking more from a neighbor’s tree. It is really a shame to see this good fruit not getting picked. I know there are a lot of people who say they want to help pick fruit. But often it seems that because of the logistics involved in arranging with someone to pick their tree we still need a group of gleaners that can help pick fruit at a late moment’s notice.

Talk about food going to waste, I often hear reports of community garden plots with produce not getting picked. Here is another project I am hatching up that I would love to come to fruition: I met a woman from a community garden that will put signs up at all the gardens suggesting that if they have extra produce there are groups like the Free Farm Stand that will put their produce to good use. We need people perhaps to pick up the produce and take it somewhere, like to the Free Farm Stand or the Julian Pantry on Saturday. I even have bike carts that could be used for this project.

This week I am going to look at a potential garden space in the Mission and we might have an opportunity to help someone get into the fun of growing food and sharing the surplus. We may need gardeners in the future for this new garden. And there are other gardens to work in too.

About the Eat-In/potluck. The event was well attended and I enjoyed meeting neighbors and new visitors to the garden, as well as running into some friends I haven’t seen in a while; it seemed just the right number of people drifted in and out. And I love all the kids that turned up with their parents. Serving healthy lunches in schools is one political issue that I can really get behind. I heard recently that it was Reagan who got rid of all the school cafeterias. I actually heard that few schools even have them anymore, they were simantles? Actually I am not too in favor of schools as we know it, but if we do have schools we should try to make them less like jails serving jail food.

There were a few a few vegan dishes that people brought which was nice for us vegans in the crowd (I realized too late that the kobacha squash dish I ate had clarified butter in it). One of the best dishes was a raw squash salad that David made with the unknown squash from the garden. These are the massively overgrown squashes that we have been giving out at the stand, cut up into reasonable size pieces. He sliced the squash really thin, added rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, some pumpkin seeds, chocolate mint from the garden, and I think that is it. It was really yummy. Jeremy brought some juice that rocked with apples (of course), celery, beets, and ginger.I also enjoyed the apples and plums that Jim brought from Clear Lake. I wonder what the other Eat-Ins were like.

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