More Shine than Rain

It is hard to believe this is January with this glorious warm weather, though we are about ready to  get out and do some rain dances. Taking a break and slowing down was nice and I actually got out of the city. Among other things I looked up a friend in Sebastapol whom I haven’t seen in years. Yeti is one of the most wonderful farmer/gardeners I know who still goes barefoot everywhere, lives on very little money, eats right now mostly nuts and apples he gleans, and care takes a number of pieces of land in that area.   The work he did with land I visited that his intern was leasing  in Sebastapol was phenomenal, how gentle he cultivated it (all by hand with beautiful hand tools) and the growing beds were the ultimate in the art of farming. My photographs didn’t capture the  beauty of the space nor did it capture the blackness and feel of the soil he has grown over the years there.

all the beds were so uniform and I felt like I wanted to lay down in one
one of his compost piles with a roof on it built…

after they rot they become part of the new bed

The place he is living on now, Morning Star Ranch has a pretty famous history, which is documented at the digger archives online: and also here

Here is a brief selection from those sites:

“North of San Francisco, across the mythic Golden Gate inlet, lay the rolling hills of Marin and Sonoma counties, golden in summer, verdant in winter. For many of the Haight’s denizens, suffering burnout, ennui or police heat, the siren call of the North drew their embattled souls to the land of the red-tailed hawk and live oak shrub. Morningstar was the first refuge with an open land policy. Founded by Lou Gottlieb, a former member of the folk-singing trio Limeliters, Morningstar was known as the “digger farm” in the Haight, supplying apples and other organic fruits and vegetables to the Free Food programs.”

“During the late ‘sixties, two open-door communal ranches existed in Sonoma County, California. Nothing quite like them had ever existed before, and people came from all over the country to live there. Together they rediscovered a tribal, neo-primitive way of life which consumed less energy and offered more freedom than our regulated, consumption-oriented Great Society could give. It was a magical five years until the Sonoma County authorities discovered they could use the health and buildings codes in a punitive manner to bulldoze the houses, expel the inhabitants and close down both communities. Their names were Morning Star and Wheeler’s Ranches.”

After Lou Gottlieb died the land went to his three children as I understand it and I think they want to sell it, though I think reaching consensus with them is not easy…maybe there is one of the kids that wants to retain the spirit of the once free land. In any case, my friend Yeti is living there as the caretaker and the place needs a lot of care, there is no electricity anymore nor water, and Yeti says it needs probably $25,000 worth of infrastructure repairs. In the meantime the asking price is apparently really high and who know if anyone is really putting in the effort to preserve the land for non-profit purpose. Anyone with lots of money want to rescue the place?

I am constantly reminded of this issue of private property and how in my opinion it really sucks. But fortunately there are beautiful people like Yeti who demonstrate an example of how we can treat land in a none possessive way.

Getting back to the weather, it has been ideal for workdays at the Free Farm and the Free Farm Stand. Check out this week’s blog entry for lots of sunny farm photos and men with bare chests in the beginning of January. We had quite a crowd too at the Free Farm Stand, though not much produce to share. We actually had a good amount of produce from the Free Farm because we hadn’t harvested in a couple of weeks, including a lot of sald mix. We harvested more Yacón root  which  is always exciting and Robert bought 12 pounds more of Sunchokes that he harvested from the garden he runs in Berkeley. I think of the plants as sisters. I also brought some lettuce and calendula flowers seedlings and most of them were taken.

so sunny our volunteers got creative with head gear

I guess there is some hardwiring in me that just loves giving away food and I keep repeating the mantra that the Free Farm Stand is more than just giving away local organic produce. It is hard for me when neighbors come to the Stand hoping to get some good produce and we have so little. I was handing out the tickets and reminding people that this is a seasonal project.  I collected two interesting online articles during the break that reflect some of the things I have been thinking about when it comes to addressing hunger in our neighborhood during the winter season when there is less growing. The first “Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals” from the New York Times . It reminded me the importance of not only growing own produce, especially here in San Francisco, where we can grow greens in the winter, but saving some of the surplus summer produce like tomatoes and drying or canning them. I feel pretty good that at the height of the summer at our Free Farm Stand, I saved a lot of soft tomatoes that “shoppers” passed up on and I made lots of tomato sauce for the winter. I also think our gardens can be growing more winter squash that can be saved and eaten during the winter, so we don’t have to be getting food from Mexican deserts.

The other article from the Daily Mail, the title saying it all  “Carrots in the car park. Radishes on the roundabout. The deliciously eccentric story of the town growing ALL its own veg”.  A shorter version of this story is in Natural News and I like their title too: “ British town grows all of its own vegetables, witnesses improved civic life and reduced crime as a result “.

I am ready to move in this direction, how about one neighborhood growing all it’s own vegetables, are we ready for that? Or growing all our own fruit?  Coming up is the fruit grower’s event of the year and the Free Farm Stand will be there  (anyone want to come along with me?):

2012 Year of the Heirloom Fruit’Golden Gate Chapter Scion Exchange

WHEN:  Saturday, January 21, 2012
 12 noon to 3:00 PM  WHERE: Laney College Student Center Bldg,  900 Fallon Street
, Oakland (1 block from Lake Merritt BART station)


Find the best varieties for growing your own fruit; discover local favorites and near-forgotten heirlooms

• Hundreds of varieties of budwood for grafting: apple, pear, quince, plum, peach, nectarine, apricot, cherry, and more

• Cuttings to root: grape, fig, pomegranate, kiwi fruit, mulberry, and more

• Rootstocks and grafting supplies 
 • Grafting class and demo at 12:15 and 1:00

• Custom and assisted grafting of your selected variety onto a rootstock 
 • Plant drawing; silent auction

• Questions answered, secrets revealed, beginners welcome

• Bring your list of desired varieties, plastic bags, a pen, and tape to label the scions you take home

• $4 donation suggested (no one refused for lack of funds)

for more information see the Golden Gate CRFG Scion Exchange webpage, here:

including a list of all the Northern California CRFG Scion Exchanges,

Making the Best of the Scion Exchange – What to Bring, How to Choose Varieties, What to do with the Scions, and more.

Here are a few videos that will get you ready for the exchange:

Because I am feeling so grateful these days for all the wonderful volunteer help and all the people that contribute to make the Free Farm Stand and Fee Farm a success, and to celebrate our 5th year of running the stand and entering our 3rd year of the Free Farm, we will be having a dinner party on Saturday January 28th at St. Mark’s Church on O’Farrell St near the Free Farm.  Soon I hope to have more information and a flier, but I wanted to get the word out. We have at least one band lined up and are looking for more and for others that may want to help out in some way. Please contact me if you plan to come so we know how many to cook for and also if you wish to help. I think there will also be an interfaith ceremony at the Free Farm before the party and dinner and  if you want to help participate  let me know too. And I have some bands and musicians lining up to play.

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