Category Archives: product review

Gearing Up For Spring

This is a miracle: I have planted all my tomatoes already. I think it’s the first time I’ve finally realized that I live in California, and as such, I can plant stuff early early early. I tucked them under floating row cover to keep them warm during the chilly nights. I snagged some Early Girls from Kassenhoff Growers that I plan to dry-farm.
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Planted three San Marzanos for canning, and two Sungolds for cherry tomatoes. I’m hoping to later get two starts of my personal favorite tomato: the amazing Paul Robeson, which I’ll probably get from Daniel at Spiral Gardens in South Berkeley.

Yesterday I also planted radishes, and added another super to my very healthy beehive. I feel so lucky to have access to my big-ass garden: Franny has taken to wandering out there in the morning to do some digging and dirt-eating.

Even if you don’t have access to a garden–for whatever reason no land, no green thumb, no time–there is something you can do this upcoming spring to ensure you’ll have a steady stream of delicious vegetables: sign up for a CSA! A CSA is an acronym for Community Supported/or Sustained Agriculture. Basically you find a farm that you believe in, promise to pay for a weekly box vegetables for a season, and then get ready for a beautiful onslaught of produce every week. CSA works great for the farmer, who god knows, needs a steady stream capital to buy seeds and property taxes and infrastructure. The consumer not only gets a share of the produce, they get the satisfaction of supporting a farmer.

If I didn’t have a garden, I would subscribe to Live Power Community Farm‘s CSA box. Live Power is a unique, amazing, draft-horse powered 40-acre farm up in Covelo. I’ve spent a few weekends there and I can say without a doubt, the produce is the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. I distinctly remember biting into one of their green gage plums, and almost crying it was so tasty. Live Power is a biodynamic farm–which goes well beyond organic standards. Gloria and Stephen are the farmers, and you’ll never meet cooler people. The care that goes into their land is palatable. You should see their compost piles. Incredible. And, the only way you are going to get Live Power produce is by subscribing to their CSA share–they don’t sell at farmer’s markets. Know that you’ll be embarking on joining a community, too. It’s not just a drop off of produce–in fact, twice a season, you’ll help pack the boxes and get to meet all the other members. It’s a great supportive community. I’m actually starting to feel jealous… So, sign up by emailing their membership coordinator: jeaner.27 at gmail dot com! They serve Marin, SF, and the East Bay. You’ll need to sign up by March 30; their season runs from May 18-December 7.

Reminder: Garden day is on for Thursday, if it’s not raining. 3-6-ish, at 2727 MLK. I rented a concrete cutter from the tool lending library so if anyone has power tool skills or aggression toward pavement, please please join us!

Poo Wrangler

Howdy there, sorry about the lag. I’ve been, er, chasing poo. Animal turds, just to clarify. I feel like a spend half my morning scooping manure. Then I work in the garden–trying to get it in shape for the Feb 27 gala (u r invited: 11am-2pm at the farm: snacks and ribbon cutting)! The sunny, climate change weather keeps prodding me to get all my beds laid out and seeded even though really it’s too early for that.

But back to the poo. I had the pleasure of going to the ranch where they make Pt. Reyes Blue, and, to make the cheese, they have 350 milk cows. The location is  stunning out there in West Marin. Of course I was there to cover the shit story–which is a compost company that is recycling the cow poo into black gold for your garden. Watch for it in the Chronicle, in the garden section.

Back to my animals’ turds, though. I don’t have a tool called a Separator like they have at the Giacomini’s ranch. Instead, I just lay down some wood shavings (scrounged from Wooden Window off of San Pablo–love them!) let the animals void, then scoop it up. But then what to do? At first, this winter (that’s when the shit really hit the fan because I built up my rabbit operation) I would lay the turds and bedding into berms and let it rest. Now these berms are mostly broken down and ready to be planted into. But the poo keeps flying. And I can’t make more piles of bedding and poo (no more room, rodent problems if the pile gets too big). What to do? I went to Dublin, Ca.

Because Dublin is where my tumbler compost hook up (thanks craigslist) lives. In the garage of their home, an adorable family builds these here contraptions:

This is where the angels and rays of sunlight  come in.

Note that it’s made of plastic–recycled from sturdy olive containers. Note that a rat might have a hard time chewing on it, or getting into that screw on lid. Note that it tumbles around, so I don’t have to pitchfork it around all day long. The family is building them to make college money for their son. It’s really sweet. (We might start selling them at the Oasis–stay tuned if you want to buy one in the East Bay. If you want my tumbler guy’s email, just post a comment with your email and I’ll forward it to him.)

So far I’ve bought two, and all the farm turds from one week fit in one of these babies. It takes a month for them to break down, so I need to buy two more and then I can start the rotation. I can even–gasp–start food scrap recycling again.

Ok, gotta go to Arkansas now….I’ll be speaking at the University of the Ozarks. Can’t wait!

Tools of the Trade

I’m frantically cleaning the house and getting the garden in order. Especially after the storm, which knocked down my prized purple Italian fava beans (nooooo…). I actually mopped the floor of the milking room.

Maybe it’s the full moon, maybe it’s the eclipse, but probably it’s genetic. My mom told me she always cleans the house before she goes on vacation. That’s right, I’m going on vacation! Driving to Baja. I want to return to a nice tidy house, so I started cleaning, even though I’m not a tidy person.

It might be vanity, too, as I will have a couple people coming over to milk Bebe and feed the rabbits. How horrified would they be if they had to, as I do everyday, storm through a flurry of flies when they walk through the kitchen. I don’t know why I have so many of them inside my house, but it got so bad they were landing on me and Bill when we ate dinner. That’s just gross. I have fly tape. I started to hunt them with a heavy envelop from Geico. The couple of flies I killed with these methods were a drop in the bucket. They kept coming back!! Desperate, I went to the 24 hour Oakland Longs (AKA CVS). As I perused the aisles, I contemplated poisons and sprays, then I found it, the tool that would change my life! It looks like a tennis racquet, but with metal strings. You just add two batteries and suddenly, you are a fly assassin. I usually would never buy a plastic thing like this–I’m sure it’ll break immediately and probably won’t work. But I was desperate, remember? So I went home, added batteries, and started swing. It helps that I played tennis in high school. Flies started dying by the dozens. All I had to do was get them to touch the tennis racquet strings, and blammo–dead! And they don’t just die, they sizzle and burn. There’s an electric spark. It’s very very satisfying. I have lost the package, so I can’t tell you the name of the product. But if you have flies: get the electric tennis racquet.

My second tool of the trade in the Henry Milker. Henry called me and asked if I’d like to try out his milker. I said I don’t do product endorsements unless I love something, but go ahead and send her over. He did, and I tried it out. It’s basically a Mighty-Vac connected to tubing and some Mason jar lids. It was just okay. It did milk my goat, but it wasn’t any faster than I do it by hand, so I put it away.

Then I tried to go on vacation. Tried because I do have a goat in milk, I’m not very organized, and most people don’t want to deal with my cranky goat. Enter the Henry Milker. Many people don’t have the hand stamina to milk a goat; and with my goat, she’s got pretty small teats so it’s an extra challenge. But almost anyone can hook her up to the Henry Milker and get the milk out within 15 minutes. Thank god for the Henry Milker!!!

Ok, with that, I’m out of here. See you in 2011–may your holidays be bright, your critters content, and your gardens fertile.