I have been in hibernation from writing recently, thinking I haven’t much to say and on top of that being busy finishing the greenhouse at All in Common Garden and planting seedlings (we gave away our first tray of Patio Star zucchini a week ago at the  Free Farm Stand).

The Free Farm Stand and the All in Common Garden  are experiments in providing an antidote to the poisonous and sad world out there. We get sick from too much news these days about police shooting innocent humans, hate groups, violence and wars, anger, mistrust, people going hungry, people camping on the streets,  or getting evicted, not to mention the destruction of our environment.

We at the Free Farm stand and in the garden are experimenting with  making a love potion that gives one hope and helps one see the beauty and abundance that is everywhere yet often hidden.  We happen to live in a world with a market economy based on  continual consumption and economic growth. It has led us to the situation today which is a real mess. So instead of creating a successful non-profit with paid staff, that that has an annual budget of one million dollars a year, that none the less does great work that is sustainable and seems friendly, we are dong something else. In our corner of the neighborhood we are tinkering with building a free system  or these days known as a gift system.  We are a pretty funky non-profit organization  and just barely getting the work done each week with no paid staff  nor  salaries. We spend more time trying to walk the talk than chasing after grants and such. we depend on social capital and gifts in kind., We absolutely love our small but mighty community of volunteers, who donate their time to run the show. We say if you don’t like what is going down create the world you would like to see. Don’t create another hip business or become a landlord, buy if you must but don’t sell,  don’t get sucked  into capitalism sitting in the room like a Cheshire Cat with a big smile saying pet me, you will like me once you get hooked.. To quote Charles Einsenstein  (http://www.alternet.org/story/153624/can_gift_exchange_fix_the_problems_of_capitalism_and_rebuild_our_lost_community)

“Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today’s market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. ..”

Let’s experiment building a community based on true sharing and generosity and compassion for others. If you don’t want to start your own experiment help us with ours. we are trying to gather a core team of volunteers. We need schlepers and harvesters, and hands and hearts that want to learn to plant and sow. We also occasionally need the use of a pickup truck to get manure and mulch. Contact us if you are ready to dive into the world of service

I also need to say something I read in an email from the Institute of Urban Homesteading. The article in their newsletter  was titled “Unsung Heros of the Urban Farm Beastiary” and goes on and on about the benefits of eating your home grown rabbits.  One of them is “This does require looking your dinner in the eye, and learning to kill…” She goes on: “There is a sentimentalism about rabbits because they are cute…And while rabbits dispatch is never my favorite chore,  I am proud that I can do it efficiently, with minimal suffering.  I am proud to be an omnivore  that does not buy all my meat in a package, pre-killed and pre-cut to disguise the truth of what is really going on. I know exactly how my rabbits lived and how they died, and can ensure a quality of both unparalleled in any commercial operation.  This is healthy for the animals and healthy for me, my body and my spirit.” And then there is the sixth reason she love rabbits: “6. Rabbits can help us relearn what it means to look our dinner in the eye.”

I don’t usually preach too much about going vegan to people (not even to my wife), though I would like to see people for moral reasons move in that direction. I think we all need to help reduce the violence and suffering in the world and that includes other animals  besides humans.

The question I ask is if bunnies are cute and we put aside our sentimentalism aside to eat them, why not eat other pets? Why not put our sentimentalism aside and take dogs and cats that are without homes or fail to be adopted and are killed every day in “animal shelters” and eat them? Or run a program saying that when people are tired of their pets and they can’t find a home for them offer to cook them in your food truck as a gourmet homegrown business? Why stop with animals in terms of losing our sentimentality…how about eating people that are caged up in jail for life? It would save tax-payers tons of money and be less demanding of our valuable resources and thus very sustainable. I am serious, where do we draw the line in terms of curbing our violence and how much suffering can we cause to another animal and it is ok? I guess I draw the line at eating plants and squashing snails (or putting them in a snail jail….I also at times have lived with bees in my garden).

I go with the idea ‘The world shall be built with kindness’  from Psalms. Our dear friend Pancho  says “if  you want to be a rebel be kind”. Let kindness grow on trees and share this gift with every living creature. Boycott classes on animal husbandry!

My other annoyance is with the urban homesteading movement in general. Don’t get me wrong I am all for learning some vegan homesteading skills. But I can’t seem to get it out of my mind that urban homesteading is cool if you have a homestead or home. Can you be a renter and really create an urban homestead?  How can you feel at home these days in San Francisco unless  you can afford a condo or a home? Will there be a new generation of homeless urban homesteaders? And how do you do homesteading when you have to work day and night to pay the rent. I don’t have to work and I find it hard to squeeze some time in to can all the soft fruit that comes around.

Both the Free Farm Stand and the All in Common Garden are doing great. We have been harvesting hundreds of pounds of vegetables from Alemany Farm every Friday (over 300 pounds three weeks in a row which also included lettuce from a patch grown by Downtown High School students…way to go!).  Oh the stone fruit has started showing up and people who like to make jam or smoothies  get on our network of people who can take soft fruit and process it on short notice.

Here are some photos from a couple of past farm stands, the garden and from a volunteer trip to Alcatraz to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit (it was a fantastic trip going over there and hanging out with our fabulous volunteers!).

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Freddie who often makes the delicious vegan volunteer lunch on garden

workdays goes home with her basket full

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Margaret often comes by with a small bag of produce

from her church garden in Diamond Heights. I love it!

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We have been getting lots of seedlings from Alemany Farm

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Loquats from Alemany Farm and from a neighbor and

surplus lettuce from the All in Common Garden

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on the rock with our volunteer crew

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Ai Weiwei art