Yearly Archives: 2008

Swing on by: Friday

Howdy.

The farm gate will be open on Friday, from 3-6pm. Stop on by! I’m hoping to see some of the folks from the conference and make some new friends, and see some old pals.

The farm is at 28th street and MLK in Oakland. Look for the bright mural on the abandoned building–the farm is behind the green fence on the corner. I’ll be weeding in the garden.

Freaky vegetables

What do you do if someone invites you to Mondavi’s Taste3 conference? You go.

There’s the food. The wine. The big ol’ schwag bag. There’s a mulberry tree at Copia that, right now, is raining down dark juicy berries. No one seems to be picking them! There’s a great thrift store in Napa. But even better than the fine wine, the lobster dinner at Mumm where everyone got their nice clothes dirty with butter and lobster drippings; the complimentary coffee, tea, chocolate and shoes–there were some of the most eloquent, poetic, funny, slightly mad people who really care about what they’re doing. Dan Barber gave a talk about why he won’t use foie gras anymore (not for the usual reasons). A photographer named Laura Letinsky, who takes haunting photos of…leftovers, gave a presentation that got my slow-moving brain thumping. Jennifer 8 Lee confirmed my love of Chinese food as the all-American food. It was great. And then I returned hom, back to the vegetables in my garden.

Finally, the cabbage, which has been so slow growing, are starting to form heads. The first to be ready is this Melissa. Crinkly. Somewhat addled with slugs and a few earwigs. Delicious when grated with apples from the tree (the Anna apples are now ready), tossed with rice wine vinegar and walnuts.

The zucchini is out of control, as usual, but early this year on account of the pig manure. This is the vine of the Ronde de Nice zuchini, a round zucchini that volunteered out of the porcine poo
pile. I’ve harvested about a thousand of these small guys with their blossoms still attached. This vine looked weird, though. Thicker. There were flower buds coming off the vine. Not normal. I followed it to its trailing end. My heart stopped. It became a club footed monster. The vine thickened to almost 6 inches thick, like some crawling prickly pear cactus. And at this monstrous terminus was an almost vaginal cluster of flowers and fruit all riddled together.

I gasped. I have never seen this before. There were *so* many fruit in one space. A gold mine of zucchini. Was it the pig shit? Is it some mutation caused by extra fertile soil? Something deeply wrong with my eco-system? I don’t know. I harvested a few of the zucs for dinner, and when I carried them into the house, I couldn’t help think that the zucchini plant reminded me a bit of Taste3–a many headed vine, a delectable banquet, a marvelous freak show that makes for some fond summer memories.

Scattered acres

Just flew in from Seattle yesterday. I abandoned the farm to spend six days with my family up north. It was my mom’s un-65th birthday and un-retirement party (her real birthday is june 15; she’s retiring at 66). My sister and I threw her a Bastille day party featuring Sally Jackson cheeses, Salumi salami, bbq-ed oysters, and grilled Toulouse-style sausages. Also, there was a Cajun band. Riana made some yummy quiche with morels and a mind-blowing sour cherry dessert.

But the farm, right, how can I leave that for almost a week? In the end, it all worked out. My friend N came by every day and fed the goats and rabbits and chickens, I left Orla out with Bebe to keep her milked out, and I deeply watered the garden the night before I left.

After six days of absence, I thought upon my return, the goats would come running, the rabbits would clap their hairy paws together, the chickens would cuddle up. Actually, they barely noticed me when I walked through the gate. The only critter on the farm that’s ecstatic I’m back is Kousin the cat, who slept at my side all night.

Having a break made me realize how much work GhostTown Farm actually is. So many animals to care for, weeds to pull, vegetables to water, turds to clean up. But these chores, this care-taking is what gets me up in the morning, sets the rhythm for my day, makes me feel necessary and useful. It’s also nice to realize that I can leave for a few days and it’s not a disaster.

While in Seattle I picked up a copy of Common Grounds magazine, which has a very good article about the urban farming movement. The writer interviewed me, too, but the best idea came from an urban farmer in Chicago named Nance Klehm who described her “farm” as a scattered acre–a combo of rooftop gardens, a backyard, and other people’s backyards. I like this concept.

Taken to the next level, if you add up all the land devoted to urban homesteads, hobby farms like mine, community gardens, and backyard chicken runs, finally add up to many acres. When I say that I’m an urban “farmer”, I’m depending on other urban farmers, too. That its only with them that our backyards and squatted gardens add up to something significant. Scattered, but not insignificant.

Sick hippie

Been sick all week with a head cold which turned into fever with chills. I’ve had to stay in bed and the farm has been neglected. The goat shed needs mucking out, the garden watered, the rabbit cages are begging for a cleaning, the buffet of yummy greens that go to all the animals has been halted and boring processed feed will have to do. The worst thing is my sinuses are so plugged up, I can’t smell anything. Hence, I can’t taste anything. Is this a life worth living? Amid these frustrating developments on a sweat-inducing break from the bed to check my email, I learned that I had been crowned Best Hippie 2008 by the East Bay’s locally owned free weekly.
You guys!!
A few years ago, maybe even a year ago, I would have scoffed at the word ‘hippie’ being used to describe me. Hippies! that’s my parents! I would say. I don’t listen to the Dead, I listen to the Dead Boys. But, if you think about it, I *have* been milking goats, making cheese and planting chard–all tell-tale signs of hippiedom. So I’ve learned to live with the moniker, and wonder why there isn’t a better word to describe my urban homesteading tendencies in a way that doesn’t reek of patcholi or come wrapped in tie-dye. Anyone got a better term?

While we contemplate that, a sauerkraut instructional.

Get some nice heads, tight ones. Half the cabbages, then chop into thin strips. Add the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt. A TB of salt per cup of cabbage is the rule of thumb. Once sprinkled with salt, pound the cabbage so that it starts to release some water. I use a pestle from a mortar and pestle that my roommate left behind. Add this point you can add caraway or coriander seeds. Once the cabbage strips look a bit wilted, pack them tightly into a large jar. Pack them tightly into the jar using your fist to press down all the cabbage. Weigh down with a bag filled with water or a rock, or as pictured, a glass bottle of water. This isn’t shown, but you should also drape a cheesecloth or piece of fabric to keep out flies and such. After an hour or so, the cabbage should be submerged under its own juices. Let sit 2-3 days on the counter. Taste after a few days and see if you like it, when tastes right, remove the weight, and put the jar in the fridge to enjoy. Happy lacto-fermenting! As a sidenote, I make a jar of this a week for the goats. It’s good for their bowels’ flora, as it is for ours.

My rides

There’s probably nothing more uncool than driving a car. It makes me sweaty, in a bad way. It turns me into a robot. I can’t admire other drivers’ footwear or fashion. I’m not enjoying the sun, the breeze, the hellos from other people on bikes or on foot. Nope, there I am, a big dumb-ass steering a big machine around the city.

This weekend we had blow out party for my friend Willow. She’s going on a sabbatical. I roasted three pigger loins all day long in an low oven after marinating them with various rubs and brines. Then we hung up some decorations, and wheeled out the juice making shopping cart. That’s right. A shopping cart that makes juice (sorry, no photo). In Caracas, Venezuela I first encountered this miracle machine. It involves filling a shopping cart with oranges, then mounting a juicer where the toddler would normally sit while you shopped for lentils. And a place to cut the oranges (and grapefruits). When you want juice, you reach into the cart, cut an orange, then squeeze. It’s totally mobile, and if these hit on, will provide the greater Oakland area with plenty of Vitamin C. Can’t you imagine a fleet of shopping carts filled with citrus, not aluminum cans? But first I had to get the oranges. Which meant driving (I thought) to the Friday farmer’s market. I circled a five block radius for 20 minutes. I got sweaty. I even wanted to yell. I felt competitive and I think I even cut someone off. Just for some oranges! In the time it took me to find a parking space I could have ridden there and back on my bike at least two times, which would have been enough to get the six bags of oranges (3 bags per trip is what I think the bike can handle). So back to my car=uncool principle.

And yet, Orla needs some alfalfa. And it comes in big bales. Big American bales (please notice the coloring on this bale.) That’s why, just like the country song, I love my truck. It gets around 35 miles per gallon and can haul at least four bales (I haven’t tried stacking them yet–fear of unleashing hay onto the highway). It’s rusty and white and matches our other car (across the street from this). I drive for the goats, because I love them. But I’m wondering how many bales I could fit into that shopping cart….

Farm Tour Friday

Howdy!

Remember, tomorrow from 10-2 is the Ghosttown Farm and Garden Tour. Pet a goat! Help me move “stuff ” in the garden! Cuddle with baby bunnies! Trim an echium! Gaze at baby geese.