Grunt Work

Grunt work

Most of my life I have been a  happy grunt. I have done my share of grunt work, schleping boxes of produce, sacks of potatoes or onions, or bread, shoveling shit or woodchips, and digging like a human hori-hori. It is like I have two extra appendages, a wheelbarrow or a hand truck. I have been doing this work like cooking at soup kitchens or gardening, or running a free farm stand, because I have needed something to do in life, to keep busy. Otherwise I would go more insane than I am.

Grunt work is good work like any yoga. Academic researchers come around or reporters, or just friendly passerbys, wanting to know more about the Free Farm Stand or the garden and ask why (like why do I this work) or want to know more what is going on, or think what we are doing is so far out or that I am so great. I do think that the Free Farm Stand and the gardens I work in are special and beautiful, but behind it all is just plain ole grunt work and I keep to my self made schedule and am happiest when I keep busy. I notice that there others who enjoy grunt work too, and as I get older I am really grateful for all the help I get. Grunt work can be hard at times but it is best when done with a group. Group grunt work is what bees do best. Besides appreciating the help, I am especially in love with all our volunteers who lend a hand and a back and think they are all beautiful each in their different ways.

If we want a better world in the future, I am convinced there will be a need for more  grunt work. I also think there will need to be more art that brings out our hope, our dreams, our inspiration. Art work is also a different kind of grunt work. I would like to do more but often lack the discipline. It is easier for me to fill our van with hot horse manure than to sit still and convince the muse to help me draw or write. It is a distracting world we live in, especially in these big cities. Grunt work helps keep me from getting distracted. I don’t pay attention to the news while I am admiring the flowers or on my knees weeding.

It has been great that others are running the Free Farm Stand on Sundays. I can channel my grunt work from moving around boxes of fruits and vegetable to moving around wood chips and making compost in the garden where I am on Sundays, a block from the Stand.

On Fridays I do some farm work which has to be like a category five of grunt work. Harvesting produce at Alemany Farm for me is very back bending kind of tiring and I am glad for the invention of the large hat with brim on our hotter days here.

This kind of grunt work can be so rewarding and exciting and always brings me great joy knowing that we are giving away the fresh produce we harvest to people in need.

Love work can be a kind of grunt work too. Recently I have been going through some challenges on that level. What I am learning is that if you love someone deeply and you care for them that is all you can do. You can’t rescue them or change them. You can be there to love them and always depend on prayer for help. Prayer is focusing your love, which is the life-force connecting us all and flowing through everything, on the person you love so that person is bathed in light and love.

This writing isn’t my typical blog post writing where I mostly write about the Stand or the garden, singing the praises of vegetables and wonderful neighbors and volunteers whom we meet every week. So I feel I am going out on a limb here getting a little more personal than usual. Since I have taken the risk, I want to share a website that I found myself reading lately and enjoying the message: I learned  about Brian George and his writing from this article online:

Turns out he has almost the same birthday as me and started his garden about the same time we started ours, the All in Common Garden. I liked what he wrote about  quartz the rock and what he says here reminds me to get away from the screen and do some grunt work: “Explain to me why so many folks on a free will planet spend much of their time and potentially creative consciousness glued to news which is entirely fabricated, orchestrated and choreographed to confuse and distract us?  We were designed to create our own reality and NOT be imitators of beings with no doubt excellent minds but NO HEART..”

Hope Growing on Trees

I haven’t written anything for this blog for a long while, because I was praying for a positive message that would bubble to the surface of my heart. Recently I watched an inspiring  video of Valarie Kaur speaking. She asked the question about the seemingly  dark times we are in, “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” Later she said  like a midwife”s  advice to giving birth “breathe and then push”. That was good but I needed something off of the screen to move me.

Today the inspiration hit when I visited the 18th and Rhode Island garden on Potrero Hill.  I worked with David Cody and Kevin Bayuk and others in 2008 transforming the vacant land into a permaculture garden. The owner of the lot allowed us to develop his empty lot into a garden to grow food in and at the same time I was just starting the Free Farm Stand and needing places to grow food for the Stand. I didn’t know much about permaculture and this was a great chance to learn about it and at the same time also get a chance to plant fruit trees.

The first workday nine years ago


Bringing in large amounts of mostly wood chips from Bayview Greenwaste Management and 1000 lb. bales of cardboard from Whole Foods Market down the sreet


A lot of work and great volunteers…the number one resource…social capital not dollar sign capital

Berms of wood chips

Planting trees

Today 2017

White Sapote…see the fruit?

I just got some scion wood from this Lamb Haas avocado

The story is I find hope in hard work and trees. We need to keep on working hard to create the beautiful world we want and to continue planting trees, especially fruit trees, to feed our soul and belly. I felt that rush of hope when I visited the garden today and spent some quiet time with the trees and the soil. Coming home I looked across the street and felt that hope again… they are even planting trees in the parking lot across the street from me in the new grocery store and leaving some space for dirt versus car space. Though they may not be planting anything edible and the store is mostly canned food, the landscaping is a move in the right direction.

Hats off to the blessings of nature! Hats off to hard work to make a better world!

I am in the All in Common Garden right now on Sundays instead of at the Free Farm Stand. Please drop by  and see what is going on or to get down and dirty. Our awesome volunteers are keeping the food and magic going at the Stand. The rains have been good. Alemany Farm, where we harvest a lot of our produce is very wet and things are growing, though this is the slow season for vegetables and fruit.  We still need helpers of all kinds so please get in touch.

And a special blessing and prayer for one of our sweetest and hardest working of our volunteers Donaji Lona and her family. Her beautiful and special son Chuy has cancer again and they are all going through this difficulty and challenge once more (see here).

We Need Volunteers!

Join the Free Farm Stand family and help us share the wealth of urban farms and gardens.  We need folks to:
1. Set up, serve, and clean up at the Stand.
2. Drive our van to pick up produce.
3. Harvest gorgeous vegetables.
4. Garden.
5. Pack the van and unload the van.

Interested in regularly volunteering?
Contact Laura: [email protected]

In 2017, we’re moving to a new system. Let’s say that you want to volunteer twice a month at the Stand. You’ll get to choose which Sundays you’ll regularly volunteer, for example, every 1st and 2nd Sunday each month. And you’ll be part of the teams that volunteer on those specific Sundays.

Make getting to know your neighbors your New Year’s resolution and join us.

We look forward to serving with you!

Barbara May one of our long time volunteer cartoonists

 need-volunteer-help ffs-group-photo

Note from Tree:

Next year  I am going to experiment  being in the All in Common Garden on Sundays instead of at the Stand and to see if I can back away a little. The problem is I just love our project and all our fabulous hard working volunteers and guests who come to “shop” and it is habit forming going to the Stand every week.

After the sad news from our recent national election, I hope more people wake up and realize that the political and economic system we have doesn’t work. We all need to start dropping out of the current culture of buying and selling everything, and create communities based on sharing and generosity. That is what the Free Farm Stand is really about.  I hope you join our family and movement.

Here are two recent photos:

We are still harvesting large amounts of produce on Fridays from Alemany Farm. It has been mostly greens and some sunchokes. Also not pictured are the boxes of fresh gleaned greens from Green Gulch Farm that are so great, brought into the city by a volunteer whom I met at Alemany Farm on Friday when we harvest there.


The hecka local produce from our neighborhood, mostly from our garden, has been beautiful and goes fast:  avocados, persimmons, passion fruit, chayotes, hot peppers,and pineapple guavas.fall-produce-from-ffs