Category Archives: visitors

So Sweet!

NOTE: does anyone know laura hulse? she left something at the farm.

You guys are the best.

I finally shambled off to bed at 10, totally exhausted; I told Bill to put out the campfire when the last of our guests were ready to go home. I woke up this morning to a totally cleaned up garden–and boxes of amazing goodies like a big jar of preserved lemons, pots of yummy jams and chutneys, the best salsa ever (who made that?), fresh Italian plums, Meyer lemons, some distiller’s grains (for the goats!), a cool zine, two (!) bags of coffee, duck prosciutto, bottles of wine, champagne, eggplants and peppers, and the following poem from my neighbor Demetrius:

“I would be remiss if I did not create a new poem for you on this wonderful date, the day you brought this community close by having us trade our ghosts for goats/

Like a beautiful song, natural, a capella, our wonderous farm lady lovely Novella”

Aw! He’s referring to the “Goat Town” t-shirts, which flew off the dirty tables like hotcakes (I have three left, all fairly big sizes).

I had no idea there would be so many people! Based on the number of questionaire cards filled out, there were probably about 500 people over the course of the day. By far, the most popular event was the chicken slaughter workshop. Samin and I were so lucky that someone brought two roosters to cull, so we were able to divide the class in half to allow more people could see. Sorry to those of you who missed it. There will be others.

One thing that made me really happy was that the neighbors came out in droves, despite the heat! Moses stopped by (wearing all black with a straw cowboy hat!); Grandma made peach cobbler (and we raised $100 for her daughter’s college fund); my neighbor D came over and helped serve hibiscus tea and cobbler: G told people where to park their bikes; and I met tons of people who live within a 10 block radius.

Sorry I was so swamped–I wasn’t able to talk to anyone in depth. I learned that next year (or spring), I should have a shade structure and perhaps have docents who can give people guided tours. This morning, I read the informational cards people filled out and was moved by everyone’s enthusiasm and desire to change the way we eat, and start growing our own food. Today I’m braising the chicken Samin butchered, peeking in at the Eat Real Fest, and opening up many of the jars of goodness you all brought–thank you for sharing!

If you filled out a card, I’ll add you to my email list and let you know about upcoming classes and events at Goat Town Farm–of course, I’ll post stuff here, too.

Reminder: Saturday, August 29 and some tips

Hey everyone!

Just a reminder about the farm tour this Saturday, August 29th. Based on recent conversations and comments, I think it’s going to be a totally packed farm on Saturday. To that end, I’d like to suggest a couple things:

-Ride bikes if possible. We won’t have bike valet parking (I wish!) but there’s a good place to park them against the fence in the playfield and on various street signs. If you do drive, don’t park on 28th Street. It’s a dead-end and I don’t want my neighbors to get mad. Best thing is to park on MLK, better to bike.

-Though I had fantasies of cooking fried rabbit soaked in goat buttermilk, that’s just not going to happen, so I thought: potluck! If you are a farmer/gardener, please bring something from your homestead to share. Make a little label telling us where it’s from, how you grew it, etc. Then we can all learn from each other. There is a grill, so we can cook stuff, too.

-Bring water. I’m trying to find one of those construction crew water dispensers, but it might not pan out. So best thing is to bring a water bottle.

-GhostTown schwag. If you’re interested, I’ll be selling copies of my book, t-shirts (Goat Town), and small plates of goat cheese/tomato/olives. There’s a good chance my neighbor, aka Grandma, is going to make peach cobbler, too.

-Volunteers. I might need 2 or 3 volunteers to act as docents (directing people where to park their bikes, signing people in, etc). Let me know if you can help–just email me at novellacarpenter at gmail.com.

Yay! Can’t wait to see you.

Open Farm Tour, Food, and Demos: August 29

FYI: no need to RSVP!

I’m really excited about the Eat Real Festival to be held in Oakland August 28-30. There’s going to be sustainably-raised meat taco trucks, dinners held at restaurants that feature produce from urban farms like City Slicker and People’s Grocery, ice cream cones and a beer garden.

A lot of people have emailed me to say they’re coming to town for the festival and they’d like a tour of Ghosttown Farm. So I figured, hell, let’s make a whole day of it, with demonstrations, tours, bookselling, and a campfire where I burn all the wood and branches that have accumulated on the property. And it’ll be a good excuse for me to clean-up the damn place. And you can all laugh at my pink and red house (thank you my landlord).

Here’s the schedule:

10am

Chicken Slaughter Workshop

Many people who keep chickens recognize that one day they will need to cull a member of their flock. In this demo we will show best practices for killing the bird humanely, how to pluck, clean, and rest the bird for the dinner table. Chef Samin Nosrat will then demonstrate how to butcher a chicken quickly and efficiently into eight pieces and make a rich stock with its carcass. The class will also include a cooking demonstration with tips on how to season, roast, braise and grill so that you can extract maximum flavor from your backyard bird, as well as recipes for using all the offal, heads and feet so that none of your bird goes to waste.

Noon

Farm Tour and book signing

I will give a tour of the farmlette, telling the story of GhostTown Farm, which has played host to turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigs. It now features rabbits, chickens, bees, and goats. I can sign copies of Farm City and books will be for sale.

1pm

Farm Snacks

Just-picked food from the garden will be plated up and served a la carte in the garden. Items will depend on what’s ripe in the garden but most likely will include heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, homegrown eggs, goat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and local honey. Donations are encouraged.

3pm

Goat How-to

Many city people are becoming more interested in goat husbandry. I’ll explain how I raise my goats, the trials and tribulations of goat ownership, and give a hands-on demonstration of how to milk a Nigerian Dwarf goat, and a demo of how to trim hooves.

5pm

Farm Tour, II

Same thing, different time.

7pm-10pm

Open Grill

Bring something from your farmstead (or the store) to drink and grill. We’ll have a campfire and a bbq set up for whatever you want to cook. Mostly, though, we’ll just relax and meet each other, and talk about the day’s events with a big smile.

Here it is in a nutshell:

what: GhostTown Farm Tour, Food and Demo

where: 665 28th street, oakland, ca (at mlk)

when: Saturday, August 29, 10am-10pm, see sked above for exact times

how much: free, but donations gladly accepted

Farm Tour: Sunday, Feb 15 CANCELED

Sorry!! But it’s mudsville here. I’ll resked for March…

Okay peps, because of popular demand, let’s do a farm tour Sunday, Feburary 15 at 10am. Maybe we’ll do some grafting and seed sowing…

GT Farm is at 665 28th street, at MLK in oaklandia. Rain cancels!

And in other news, my friend Heather is selling her awesome house in Gainsville, Florida. There is already a chicken coop and fruit trees. Check it out: http://gainesville.craigslist.org/reb/1006372691.html

Tanning hides

Sorry most of my posts lately have been all about events and actions, not necessarily deep thoughts about urban farming or poetic day in the life portraits of GhostTown Farm, but I’m feeling more action-y lately, so bear with me. Soon I’ll pull up the rocking chair and tell you some yarns. For now, here’s another potentially amazing upcoming event–please let me know if you are interested!

Though the wonderful auspices of UC Berkeley’s student group, SAFE, there’s a movement afoot to host a hide tanning workshop at GhostTown Farm. How appropriate.┬áBut this isn’t going to be some quickie session like the turkey-killing class, this involves a tw0-day commitment. And potentially camping in our lot. Or sleeping with the goats in the goat house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

1. The class will be taught by Tamara Wilder, an absolute authority on primitive skills. Her business is called Paleotechnics, for Christ’s sake.

2. Remember how I said I have a million bunny hides in my freezer? Tamara said we can tan those. Each of the class attendees can have one of my million pelts to learn how to tan!

3. Remember my cool friend Jim who has goats? He said we can use on of his goat hides to practice tanning. For when we get bored of the rabbit.

3. There’s only room for 16 people

4. Tamara’s going to show up with all her tools (things like scrapping beams) and we 16 are giving her $100 EACH to take the class, which I said, spans two days.

5. This is not for the faint of heart. I’m imagining lots of dangling meat parts and stinky goo. And rubbing.

6. This will all go down either on April 11/12 or April 18/19. Do let me know which dates work best for you! But remember–it’s $100 and will span two days! If people want to stay the night or pitch a tent, I’m sure we can figure something out. There will be farm chores in the morning!

7. I am so excited to learn how to tan a hide!!

UPDATE 8. Please RSVP to agrofoodecology@gmail.com with subject line ‘Tanning’ and the best weekend for you (April 11 or April 18) so that they can pick the weekend with the most interest.

Teaching turkey

In 2005 I killed my first Thanksgiving turkey.

Since then I’ve killed quite a few more, written articles about it, even took part in a turkey harvesting photo shoot (I’ll never do that again, though I loved the photographer, when he asked me to step to the left just before I cut the turkey’s throat, I realized art and practice sometimes shouldn’t meet…) My experience raising a turkey takes up a whole section of my memoir about urban farming. Turkeys–because they are part of Thanksgiving and our American heritage– make great metaphors.

This year was very special in that I got to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the last three years with some students. Did you know there’s an urban agriculture class at Berkeley? Lucky undergrads get to grow their own vegetables, learn about international urban ag, and visit local farms. I gave a lecture/presentation to the class one day and then had them come out for visits over the past two weekends.

The first weekend, my friend J graciously offered us three roosters. The neighbors had complained and she called me out of desperation: “can you kill these roosters?” she asked. I walked her through how to do it herself. She listened patiently and then asked again: “can you kill them?” I forget how hard it is the first time.

So she brought the handsome fellows over and the class, with my help, dispatched them. We used the loper method, which I think is fast and humane. Of course we burned a little incense and said our thanks to the birds. The students were great. None of them had ever killed an animal before (on purpose at least) but most of them ate meat and so they wanted to face it. One of the most curious and best entrail cleaner was a vegan! He wants to become a veterianarian, so this was like a lab for him. Awesome. While I showed the students how to kill, pluck, and clean a rooster, I thought of all the people before me who shared this knowledge with me. It felt great to share in an experience I find very anxiety-producing yet full of life and love at the same time.

J took one plucked and cleaned rooster home and gave me the other two. I braised mine. Delicious in a rooster pot pie made with a wee bit of leftover lard in the pie crusts.

The next weekend, just yesterday in fact, it was time to say goodbye to Archie 2 and Edith. The class came out again (different students this time) to assist. Killing a turkey is a bigger deal than the roosters. They’re big. They’re full of life-force. Their feathers are so large, their bodies are so warm. The males have some special parts like the beard and the snood which add some level of mystery to the birds. I hadn’t realized how fat Archie #2 had gotten. He must have weighed 25 pounds! Edith was much smaller, only a bit bigger than the roosters from the previous weekend.

The students gathered in the garden. I had set up workstations: the plucking table, the cleaning table, the dipping area. We stood near the killing area, which featured a pair of enormous lopers, incense, and a bucket. I retrieved Edith from the backyard first. We burned incense and I described her life, which was going on two years. She never did hatch out any baby turkey poults, and for that I was sad. But she had a good run, enjoyed bossing the chickens and Archie around. But now it was time for her to go. I gave her a kiss, then a student loped her head off. It’s nice to have someone around who didn’t *know* the turkey. We plucked her and cleaned her entrails. Her gizzard was happy and full of rocks and grains. She ate well, that’s for sure.

Next came Archie#2. Enormous. My arms ached carrying him from the backyard to the front. We usually have heritage breeds but Archie looked to be just a Standard White. He had grown so so fast. After some kind words (but not too many, he was heavy!) the Berkeley instructor held the turkey’s feet, I hugged the turkey’s wings, and a student loped the head off. As the life-force drained out of the turkey, I accidentally let go of his wings which caused (I later found out) a horrible jolt to the groin of the instructor. Oops! It’s dangerous out here on GhostTown Farm, I reckon. Sorry N! The plucking and cleaning proceeded as normal. Archie had a gizzard the size of a softball and a crop the size of a football. No wonder the chickens are always hungry competing with that guy!

The students lingered in the garden after all was said and done. It was a sunny late November day. The bees were out, the greens were so bright. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the moment, when things felt so real. I felt a little proud that I could show someone something I knew how to do. That finally, I have some knowledge that can be passed on, remembered, used, and hear stories about where that knowldege led other people once they knew too.

I brined Archie and Edith. I think I’m going to deep-fry Archie. Edith, as her age dictates, will be braised.

Late afternoon addition: Can’t find anyone to deep fry the turkey. So I’m turning to Chef Edwards and he will be smoking the turkeys all day long tomorrow!