Category Archives: travel

Spring Events

Howdy and happy spring. Did you know it’s really not just spring, but halfway thru spring? Either way, the winds knocked over my pea trellises, and the rain has beaten up my fava beans. The ducks and chickens are destroying my carefully made beds. Nature is against me! But I can’t complain, this rain means more salad mix, plumper radishes, better germination for my carrots–I hope.

So, sorry about the canceled farm stand. I want to schedule another one but it’s getting crazy around here. Here’s where I’ll be in the next few days and weeks:

March 26 Hayward Main Library, 2pm. Hayward chose Farm City as their community read!

March 28 Salt Lake City, Westminster College, 7pm public talk

March 31 Alameda Public Library, 7pm. Alameda chose Farm City as their community read!

April 1 San Francisco’s Booksmith, 1644 Haight Street 6:30pm. I’ll be there doing the Bookswap! Buy tickets here. I’ll be dressed as a donkey.

April 3, Urban Farm Tour, Biofuel Oasis 9:30-2pm. I’ll be guiding the tour with Serena Barlett, to buy tickets, go here.

April 6, Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo 5pm-7pm. Farm City is Cuesta’s book of the year! Woot!

April 7, SLO, Steynberg Gallery, 11-1:30pm.

April 13, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, 7pm

April 17, Teaching Raising Chickens class at the Biofuel Oasis, 2pm-5pm.

April 19, Minnesota, M State-Moorhead, 4pm free public lecture

April 28, Seattle, Washington Hall, part of the Essential Arts Art and Agriculture program, 7pm

May 14 Hayward Ochoa Garden. Remember how Farm City was chosen as Hayward’s community read? The librarians and Hayward Public schools are working together to do a garden work day on May 14, 10am-1pm. I’ll be there, hoe-ing.

See ya!

Portland Weekend

Hello Oregonians! I’ll be up there this weekend, for an urban farming bicycle rodeo. Saturday will be the big day, with canning demos, jam and pie contests, and hands-on chicken classes. I for one am excited about home cheesemaking at 2:45pm. I’m going to give a little talk and reading, then the fun begins. Hope you can make it–I’m bringing GhostTown t-shirts to sell!

Tickets for the event are $5 and get you access to the free workshops. I think some of the proceeds go to support Zeneger Urban Farm and a community bike group. Yay, I can’t wait to experience just a little Northwest summer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010
10 am – 4 pm
714 N Fremont St (Grand Central Bakery)
Portland, OR 97227

Food Roadtrip

Ok, I didn’t take my camera on my roadtrip. What can I say? I’m a slacker blogger. I just didn’t want to have to chronicle everything and think, “that would be a good blog post.” I wanted to relax and let shit happen. Which it did. I’m writing a new book and all the juicy details will spill around, um, 2014.

Luckily, Bill bought a camera in Chicago and so he got some photos of Chicago, which we went to mainly to eat. We went to the Ukrainian Village and enjoyed a bunch of crazy stuff (for us), including meat balls in a dill cream sauce, pickled fish, a pickled apple which bobbed around with friends in a vat of sugary vinegar (gotta try making those at home), beet and horseradish spread, and the most amazing sauerkraut that was pickling in a big vat. Somehow we didn’t get a shot of the vat of pickled herring from Iceland, which smelled to high heaven, so this has to suffice.

We also ate pizza, sliced in the square-cut style that I really love.

Up to that point, we had been stopping at the numerous roadside produce stands that we encountered in most of the small towns along small roads. I was so excited to see people growing their own food. Some people didn’t even man the stands, they just had a stand with an umbrella and a money jar. Genius. The produce was amazing, as you might expect in the middle of August. Sweet corn, cantalopes, cucs, tomatoes. Because we were driving, I’d sliced up cucs and tomatoes and onions,  throw them in a tupperware with vinegar and olive oil and they would marinate. Then I would fork bits into Bill and my mouth while we hurtled down the highway.

Detroit. I have a lot to say about Detroit, because I’ve always imagined it as a mythical city filled with urban farms. And it does have a bunch of them. We could only stay for two days, so we barely scratched the surface. I loved the vegetable garden at Earthworks Urban Farm, where they pump out produce and honey for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and train people how to grow their own food. They even had a bike repair shop. Note drying garlic.

Then we went to the alternative high school featured in Grown in Detroit, called the Catherine Ferguson Academy, where, my heart swelled, they have goats!

The deal is they have a curriculum for pregnant teens and young mothers that involves raising chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, bees, a horse, and fruit trees in the name of science and self-empowerment. I hadn’t heard of the movie, but the leader of the school, a fellow named Paul, sounds incredible. Like they feed the goats by growing alfalfa on six blocks of abandoned land, which Paul cuts himself. Whoa!

They also had a “musuem” of ways to keep bees. It included a stump, a skep, top bar, Lang, and a strange octogonal shaped hive. Here’s the skep:

After Detroit (see Patrick Couch’s excellent blog for more about the Detroit scene), we headed to West Virginia for Bill’s family reunion. There I consumed about 20 pounds of the best-tasting tomatoes I have ever had. West Virginny definitely has something over California in that regard. We also ate amazing home-made canned green beans, pickled sweet beets, canned venison, and cousin Barb’s zucchini lasagna.

The trip was pretty much over for me, I flew home, and you know–I was mighty proud (and I’ll admit it, surprised) that there is good food all across our great land. Bill continued on, hitting some amazing joints along Highway 61. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might even do another road trip.

Of course, now that I’m back, after neglecting my poor garden, it looks like hell. Still, I harvested some apples and have some greens and honey, so come on by Tuesday Sept 7, 5-7pm to pick up some supplies and say howdy. I have a new goat, too, who might want to meet you.

665 28th street (at 28th street and MLK)

This Tuesday, Sept 7, 5pm-7pm

Back in the Saddle

My butt is so glad not to be on a cross country roadtrip anymore.

My heart is feeling otherwise. I think it’s hard to get back and have work-work to do when I would rather:

1. Clean up the dead-ish garden after being inspired by the amazing urban farms I saw in Detroit (more on that later) and the rural farms in West Virginia.

2. Rearrange my apartment which somehow now seems tiny and horribly cluttered after living in a car and cooking on the same cast iron pan for the last three weeks.

3. Take a bath.

But I have deadlines and obligations. Some of which are very cool. Like…

1. Doing an auctioned item as a fundraiser for La Cocina. I’ve pledged to do an urban farming house-call, followed by a dumpling eating contest. Auction ends August 26!! Click here for details.

2. The Eat Real Festival this weekend where I’ll be peddling produce with Abeni and Nicole Lobue will be serving that produce chopped, cooked, dressed, and anoited. This goes down Saturday, August 28 10:30-5, in Jack London Square where the Borders used to be. Sunday, Abeni and I will be teaching a chicken cull and rooster processing class. Yes, killing and cleaning. Here’s the link to buy a ticket. Three of my oldest girls are going down.

3. Back to work at the Biofuel Oasis, which, since I’ve been gone has acquired bunch of cool new urban homesteading wares like kraut crocks, organic cheese cloth, and cover crop seeds. Of course I’ll spend all the money I make there buying the cool new stuff. I’ll be teaching a goat/cheesemaking class on Sunday, October 17.

Anyway, it’s good to be back. And damn, it’s so hot my tomatoes might just ripen….

Lessons from the Road

I think I gained 10 pounds on book tour. It was just gross. I mean, I ordered room service so many times. It’s just sick. What wasn’t sick was I got to meet so many kick ass urban farmers! Of course I can’t get most of the images off my camera to show you, but eventually I will and you’ll be as impressed as I was. Here’s the break-down:

Boston. Ok, I was too jet lagged to find the Food Project, but I swear I will find them and see their farm some day.

Philadelphia. Greensgrow’s farm manager, Ryan, picked me up from the airport and gave me a whirlwind tour of the Philly Farm Scene. Mill Creek Farm was an oasis of lush, with almost two acres in production, beehives, a composting toilet, solar panels, and a cob oven. They sell to CSA members and have a produce stand. Then I saw a high school garden that is funded through a nutrition program. Then onto Greensgrown. It has been on my blogroll for awhile, but I had no idea what they’re up to. What I discovered was: they’re up to a lot. They are a plant nursery, an apiary, a CSA curator (meaning they bring together all kinds of farms to set up a nice CSA box of meat, eggs, milk, butter, and vegetables), an education center, and a farm. They have lots of poly houses growing beans and tomatoes, chard and strawberries. They also have the coolest cool room, using a Cool Bot, which is a hacked AC unit. They also make their own biodiesel and they have methanol recovery. I mean, what don’t they do? It honestly made me feel like a slacker. Also I found out the following: philadelphia still has cowboys with horses in the city. If I didn’t love Oakland, I’d move to Philly…

Or, Baltimore. I heart Baltimore so much. I got to stay in my friend’s warehouse near downtown. She only pays $400 for an enormous room and studio and shared space. And the people of Baltimore were so amazing. They laughed their asses off at my jokes during my reading, and I found out there is hardly any urban farming going on there, despite the fact there’s tons of vacant land. I did meet this one farmer guy and a really nice lady who are working on starting farms in abandoned areas. I’m telling you, I’m in love with Baltimore. Finally, this is crazy, there’s this: erected this photo in the window of the freaking public library:

These were my hosts: my friend Emily, Judy from Enoch Pratt Library, and Linda from Baltimore Green Works. Now that poster is just scary big, right?

Then off I scampered to Salt Lake City. There I discovered the most amazing urban “gardener” named David Bell, Jill Bell and Celia Bell (David’s sis-in-law). David was a total breath of fresh air. I was blown away by the amount of land in production and how much they’ve accomplished down there. I enjoyed their irrigation methods (ditch), their poly houses which had big green tomatoes, and their attitude that they’re just doing large scale backyard gardening. Love that, and it made me rethink my farmer pretensions. I mean, what’s so bad about being a gardener anyway? Here’s David, and his soil block maker (has anyone used these?). I’m pretty excited to get one because you don’t have to use plastic trays and six packs, which I loathe. David was just putting the blocks on recycled metal bread trays. Celia is a total bad-ass, but I only got to meet her for a second, she keeps goats and chickens and a huge garden in the ghetto of SLC (i had no idea they existed).

Now I’m home, head swirling with all these new ideas and new people and urban farm–I mean gardening–love.

If you’re keen to hang out, here’s where I’ll be:

Wednesday, June 16 @ 7pm Green Arcade Books in SF on Market next to Zuni Cafe (not that I’ve eaten there).

Sunday, June 20, 9:30-12:30 teaching a Goat Class! To sign up, go to www.biofueloasis.com. If goats aren’t your thing, Nishanga Bliss (!) is teaching a fermentation class later that same day.

Left my animals

Did you read that book, The World Without Us? It’s about what would happen if humans disappeared off the face of the earth. Cities would rust, sewer systems would explode, parks would go wild. I’ve been thinking about what would happen if I disappeared–the bunnies would click on their lix-it bottles, the goats would quietly go feral, the bees would swarm over and over again. Knowing this, when I booked my trip to the East Coast, I began ferrying animals here and there. Which always gives me a heart attack.

Last Tuesday I took Bebe and Ginger the goats to a gorgeous goat farm in Vacaville called Castle Rock. I popped them into a big dog crate and drove north. The scenery was gorgeous–green rolling hills, a farm with a bunch of white geese, old crumbling barns. My friends S and J came along because they were interested in goat breeding. Yep, Ginger and Bebe are getting knocked up. We released them out into the pack, and Bebe immediately began head butting everyone. Ginger puffed up. Establishing their rank in the herd. I think they’ll have a nice vacation. I mean, there are six bucks to choose from. The owner, Sarah, and I decided to hook Bebe up with a young buck named Harvey; and Ginger up with a dark and handsome Guy Noir. They’ll stay up there for about two weeks. For days after dropping them off, I thought I could hear them shifting around on the back porch, or nickering at night, begging for some oats. Just my imagination.

Thursday I packed up all the rabbits, and relocated them to San Lorenzo. It must have made a funny sight, several cages stack up in my truck, with black and white rabbits hopping around. They seem happy with the new cages that we built at LaBrie Farm. I bought a whole watering system but couldn’t figure out how to keep it from dripping, so they’re all using bottle waterers until I can get back to fix it. The deck at my house is totally abandoned looking now. I’m not sure what to do with the new space. I was thinking about doing a deep clean, and building a cheese cave out there. It’s a constant 50 degrees no matter what season. Would definitely have to mouse-proof that.

Saturday morning I planted every seedling that I had started. Green bean seedlings had been languishing on top of the duck car, in the garden there were some sad looking tomato starts, basil, and cauliflower, in the laundry room rampicante zuchinis and cucumbers. All planted and deeply watered in before our dawn flight to New York.

I’m in New York still. I heard it rained in Oakland, so I’m imagining the green little ones speckled with moisture and loving it; the goats out in the peaceful fields getting it on; the bunnies snuggled up in the barn in San Lorenzo. Yep, I’m homesick.

I’m reading in the DC area April 29, 7pm at the Arlington Public Library.