Category Archives: random thoughts

Duck report

One of my ducks started another nest of eggs, near the busy MLK street side of my garden. She pulled out a bunch of soft downy feathers and settled in right next to the chain link fence. I thought: good luck with that. Periodically eggs would roll from the nest under the fence to the sidewalk. I watched a few passersby pause, look at this greenish egg rolling around with the ubiquitous Dorito bags, and then gently push the egg back into the nest.

So it’s through a community effort that these ducklings finally hatched.

They are certainly adorable. But then they grow up. What’s a girl to do that has a pending permit from the City of Oakland that says: “No slaughtering or butchering of animals allowed?”

With previous hatches, I had been lucky and bartered with people–they got ducklings, I got some produce. But a few duckies did stick around and they grew up, and I had some big ducks on my hands. I figured it would be pretty easy to find a slaughterhouse. Nope. One place I called said they don’t process ducks, just chickens. Another said they had a 100 duck minimum. Finally I found a place in Manteca that would process my measly 8 ducks. Manteca is an hour’s drive away. To process 8 ducks, it would cost $80 ($10/duck). The paradox that I could buy a cooked duck from Chinatown for less than $10 was not lost on me. Still, I went. I didn’t have many other options.

The trip to Manteca was actually kind of fun because my friend D came along, and of course so did Billy and baby Francis. The slaughterhouse was a real mom and pop affair, not the nightmare PETA video places that I imagine when I think slaughterhouse. They did an outstanding, quick, clean job with the ducks. Much faster than I would, and less painful–my fingers really get weary trying to get all those pin feathers. Although $10/duck seemed high, I realized that if someone had walked up to me and said, “i’ll do that for $10,” I do believe I would have gladly handed them the duck.

The money’s spent, the fuel burned, I’m not mad about it. But I do wonder how this Oakland no slaughter law will work for someone with no car and no cash.

We’ll see how this batch of ducklings turn out. I’ve made a couple barters with folks to trade ducklings for things like eggs or tomatoes. Contact me (novella.carpenter@gmail.com) if you want to do this with this hatch…

Ducklings

Oh ghod, wouldn’t you know that when I’m hoping to wind down the farm, the ducks are hatching out another plan.

Every year, I give the teachers at Washington Elementary some fertile duck eggs. It’s a really cool class project, where they hatch out the ducklings and the kids learn about science and life. This year, two separate classes did the project. Of the 10 eggs total given, 5 hatched. One of the teachers was really brave and conducted an autopsy on one of the unhatched eggs. I heard the smell was incredible. The kids sat far, far away. Teach’ figured out the eggs had gestated for 14 days, then stopped developing.

The five that kept developing and eventually hatched out imprinted on the school kids. But with school letting out, they had to leave the classroom. So now the ducklings are back at my place. Yes, Virginia, I am going to eat them. I only have so much space…Don’t worry City of Oakland, I’m taking them up to a USDA slaughterhouse….

Actually, my plan is to get rid of the ducks entirely. Which is why I was chagrined when my neighbor came up to me yesterday and said, “The ducklings hatched!” I thought he was talking about the school ducklings, and nodded my head. “I counted 13,” he said. Oh god. I ran back to the duck area and checked, yep, one of the sneaky girls hatched out a whole nest of them. Lucky number 13. Sometimes, nature has other plans. Anyone want to trade (something, anything) for some Muscovey ducklings?

End of the Season

It’s May–harvest time. Months ago I planted carrots, garlic, potatoes, peas, fava beans. Now it’s time to pull them out and cover up the beds for the fallow season. I know it’s weird–just as everyone is planting out their tomato starts and cuc seeds for a summer garden explosion, I’m reining her in. Believe me, I wish I could have a big summer garden. But I’ve taken over paying the water bill now–and it’s huge.

How did a renter get stuck with the water bill? My landlord for our apartment, which also has the hose bib I use to water the garden, has gone missing in action, and EBMUD turned off our water. I turned it back on and put the bill in my name. So far, every two months the garden uses about $75 worth of water–a lot, especially when it’s been raining and I haven’t had to water much. Imagine the July bill!

So, just like last year, I’m going to give the garden a summer break. Yesterday, I harvested all the fava beans. And I just started pulling up the first of the carrots.


By June, when the rains have ceased, I’ll harvest the rest of the carrots, the potatoes, let the garlic dry up and then yank it. By July the only thing I’ll need to water are the fruit trees. I’ll cover everything with mulch or burlap bags.


I am dry farming a few early girl tomatoes and some russet potatoes. By the duck drinking area, I’ll probably pop in one cucumber plant which will drink up all that spilt water. I’ll be going to the farmer’s market for everything else–glad to support them, while I take a wee break and try to finish my next book….

Urban Farm Garage Sale April 1

Wellies, bee observation box, rabbit cages, metal nesting boxes.

That’s a little sampling of the items I’ll be selling at tomorrow’s farm stand. I’ll also have greens, tshirts, and books for sale. The storm is supposed to blow over by Sunday.

What: Ghosttown Farmstand
When: April 1, 12-2
Where: corner of 28th street and MLK, Oakland
What else: if you drive, park on MLK not 28th street

One in, one out

excuse the brevity of this post: I’m recovering from giving birth. Believe me, I look at my goat Bebe with new respect; birth ain’t easy. We are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. She’s healthy and happy and loves to eat.

So having a baby around is making me realize I need to pare down my goat herd. Namely I need to find a new home for Ginger. Let me know if you’re interested in buying her–$100–she’d make a great grazer or pet. She’s two years old and had twins last year. She’s not a great milker but is beautiful. Email me with questions and to see photos. Serious inquiries only, from people with goat experience only.

Taking the Summer Off

Hey everyone;

Sorry I’ve been gone so long from the blog. To be honest, the blog isn’t a fun thing for me anymore. Not only do I know that the City of Oakland employees regularly read it, there are the haters so I get upset even reading the comments. For these reasons, I think I’ll retire the blog or just post events once I get my CUP. Just to clarify for the last time: I didn’t get busted for having a business, I got in trouble for growing food and raising livestock in a commercially zoned lot. By the rules now, you can grow and keep livestock at your place of residence, but you can’t keep livestock on a lot without a house on it. That’s why I applied for a CUP. Oakland changed the rules so you can grow vegetables legally on a lot now (when I got in trouble it was illegal).

But that’s not why I’m writing (and that’s why I loathe keeping this blog now–having to constantly defend myself; I’m a lover, not a fighter). I’m writing to say something good has come out of this whole thing with the City.

I figured out that I really shouldn’t grow vegetables during the summer.

Because I’ll had to wait for my CUP for a couple months, I didn’t plant any summer crops save for a few tomatoes, beans, and carrots. Bill looked outside and said, “there’s not much growing out there,” and I said, “I need a break.” I realized that I’m exhausted. Plus, the water bill is huge in the summer. Then I suddenly realized the logic: we can grow year-round here in the Bay Area, which is great, but then you don’t ever get a break. How jealous I am of those East Coasters who get to sit on their asses all winter long and read seed catalogs. So here’s the new plan: Summers Off! I’ll get to travel and take camping trips. I’ll just keep the trees alive by periodic deep watering, and cover crop the rest of the beds. But what about the tomatoes? The summer cucumbers? I will gladly support my local farmers at the farmer’s market. I love it when a plan comes together.

Have a great summer, see you in the fall. For those of you hoping to visit, sorry, no tours until I get my CUP.