First Farm Stand of 2014, March 22

Ok people, it’s GhostTown Farm Stand time again.
gtfarmstand
That means I’ll be setting up my little table, putting out my chalkboard sign, and selling some vegetables. This month there will be: radishes, cilantro, and head lettuces, fava beans, arugula, herb bunches, tomato starts, succulents, books, and a few t-shirts for sale. Sorry no honey yet. Stop on by!!
Where: 2727 Martin Luther King at MLK and 28th Street (look for the abandoned building)
When: Saturday, March 22, 3pm-6pm
Thank you Jillian Piccirilli for the photo of the chalkboard sign….

Mushroom Inoculation

I think this isn’t going to work. But that’s never stopped me before.
innoculationtools
I was ordering rootstock and strawberries from Raintree Nursery, saw these lion’s mane mushroom dowels, and just couldn’t resist. If you’ve never had lion’s mane ‘shrooms, imagine a sea sponge-shaped object that tastes like meaty forest, and there ya go. I didn’t know they were “domesticated” so I splurged and spent $18 on 50 dowels inoculated with the mushroom. When the rootstock and strawberries and mushrooms arrived, I promptly potted up the trees and planted the strawberries. The mushrooms sat around for awhile. I found the instructions daunting. I had to find some big pine logs or stumps and a drill before the whole process could happen. Luckily Billy had a drill at his shop, and brought it home. A few days later, I encountered some big logs at my favorite log dump off area on Hearst in Berkeley (that frontage road west of the fancy 4th street shopping area).
drillinglog
After I drilled what seemed like 50 holes, I tapped the little dowels in…tap
with a hammer, then sealed them with wax. I melted some beeswax I had lying around the house, and just daubed that onto the filled holes. I guess you have to do that because other spores can get in and take over the log instead of the lion’s mane spawn. Of course I dropped the hot pan of wax and ruined my kitchen floor first. innoculated
Here they are, all inoculated. Now I just wait. The instructions said it’ll probably be a year before anything happens. In the meantime, I think I’m going to put these guys under my outdoor produce washing sink so they keep good and wet this summer. Fingers crossed, but not holding my breath.

Thanks Marin!

Who would have guessed that my foul-mouthed, grungy memoir, Farm City, first published way back in 2009, would be chosen as One Book, One Marin for 2014? Not me. Not my mama. But somehow it has happened.

novellapluslibrarians

Here’s me and a bunch of librarians and a couple of booksellers at the launch event for OBOM, at Book Passage in Corte Madera last week. I didn’t know what a big deal it was until I got to the store, which was packed, and saw this massive wall of Farm City at the front of the store.

walloffarmcity
That’s Joe, a high school teacher who is starting an urban farm at Redwood High, just down the street from Book Passage. They already have a garden, but the school is going full-out with chickens and other projects. I can’t wait to see that grow.

The premise of One Book, One Marin is to have everyone in your community read a book together; but from that book comes an opportunity to branch out and learn more. In the case of Marin and Farm City (which I sometimes misspell Fart Cimy, the librarians and everyone else involved put together a great list of events and workshops: urban beekeeping, food and social justice, raising goats and rabbits with K. Ruby from the Institute of Urban Homesteading. Check out these free events–it’s an amazing list. I’m so proud to be a part of this.

My next Marin event will be at the Pt. Reyes Library, March 8 at 3pm…hope to see you there!

Food community

First off: GO RAIN!!! I love this deluge.

So, you can call me Professor Carpenter now. I’m teaching two classes at University of San Francisco this semester, and sometimes the students do call me professor, and I don’t hear them because that can’t be me, right? I don’t have a Ph.D, so normally it would be hard to get a gig teaching at the college level, but USF took a chance on me, and I am so grateful.

I’ve talked about the writing class–called Tapping the Apocalypse–here on this blog already, but the other class is called Community Garden Outreach, and you know what? It kicks ass. Basically I just coordinate helping the students build community.

Everyone talks about building community as an ideal and these days, universities are figuring out that students need, want, crave, to learn how to actually do that. Our mode is to use food to engage the students and community outside the classroom. The first step is to tell the students that they will be sourcing/harvesting/gleaning enough food to feed 60 people at a free community dinner. Students then scampered to farmer’s markets at the end of the day and asked for donations, they harvested food from the student garden, they went to Rainbow Grocery Food Co-op to collect the fixings for a vegetarian meal. It’s amazing how gracious everyone was, especially the farmers at the markets.

Then we met at St. Cyprian’s church near campus to cook up the food in their kitchen. Nothing makes friendships faster than cooking together in a big group. After some gentle food safety and basic beautiful food rules from chef Jessica Theroux, it was showtime. “Go! We gotta feed 60 people tonight!” I yelled (my role was to be Gorden Ramsey, if you can imagine that.)

classphoto

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. Did they really know how to make pasta for a large group? Would the soup suck? Would the salad be soggy? Would anyone come to the dinner? By 6pm, it was clear the students had made an amazing meal–crostini with herbs from the garden, potato/rutabaga soup, an amazingly beautiful green salad, pasta with greens and broccoli.
CGOplate

And then the people came: old and young, rich and poor, food snobs, vegans, freegans, students, faculty members, clergy members. It was truly amazing. They ate all the food up. They talked. They hugged. People met each other, and socialized, and loved being part of something like this dinner. It made me wonder, what if we did this in all our communities, in our neighborhoods? Cooked dinner together, then ate as a group? Go here to see more photos.

I didn’t get to sit down and eat–too busy and nervous–but during clean up, one of the students gave me a bag of the pasta to eat on the bus ride home to Oakland. I snarfed half of it down–delicious with its sauce of olive oil, green onion, and broccoli. Then I saved the rest to eat with Frannie and Billy; they were going to be amazed. I can’t wait for the rest of dinners. If you want to come, the next dinner will be at St. Cyprian’s Church in San Francisco on Turk at Lyon; March 6, from 6-8pm. Mark your calendars, it’s really fun.

Oh, and I just wanted to say how honored I am to be working with Melinda Stone, David Silver, and Rachel Lee, who blazed the trail of this class. All photos by Sam Wilder.

Grafting fruit trees

Went to the California Rare Fruit Growers scion exchange in Berkeley this weekend, went to the exchange in San Jose the weekend before that, and now I’m deeply excited to be going to the exchange up in Santa Rosa this Saturday.
Yup, I’ve become a scion groupie.
scions
Some wise woman at a CRFG told me that I should definitely go to all the scion exchanges to get a feel for how the different chapters operate. And she was right: the Santa Clara chapter scion exchange, held in San Jose at the awesome Prusch Park, was lovely, airy, convivial. There was even a six acre urban farm right there! I bought the most delicious cabbage from them.
veggielution
The Berkeley (Golden Gate chapter) event was a full-on scrum of lovely weirdos, anarchists, urban farmers, and a couple old timers. There was a permaculture table and community groups like City Slicker Farms tabling. I ran into way too many friends (I was supposed to be volunteering) and bought the best cara cara oranges I have ever tasted. People were also giving away plants and limes. I rode home with a huge grin on my face.
I also scored some apple rootstock.
rootstock
These beauties will be the rootstock for the Make an Apple class at Ghosttown Farm. Which reminds me: there are still slots left in the class on February 16!! Please email me if you are interested, novellacarpenter at gmail. It’s going to be great, taught by Bethalynn Black, who is a total plant genius. I’ll have lots of different scions to choose from; so you can make the following apple trees: mutsu, pink lady, honeycrisp, king david, pink pearl.
I hear the Santa Rosa exchange is all about apples, so I’m hoping to scoop up some unusuals, and of course, the mighty Gravenstein. The exchange will take place January 25th, at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Building, 1351 Maple Avenue, just across the street from the county fairgrounds. Doors open at 9 a.m. (free) for CRFG members.
See you there!

What I Learned This Year

I stopped writing in my journal a few years ago (2014 New Year’s Resolution: Write in your journal!), and so I can’t remember what happened, even events from a few weeks past. Even epic events are forgotten quickly. It makes me sad, but I guess that’s one downside to living in the moment. Still, I did shoot some photos, and I’ve been closing out the year by uploading them on my computer. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Go slow, fava beans are worth it.
favabeaner

2. You can go back home again. My sister with morel mushrooms she picked on the ranch where we were born.
rianamorel

3. Make these walnut cookies that Rosetta Costantino wrote about in her new Southern Italian Dessert cookbook. The book is gorgeous, and even I can remember the recipe because it only has three ingredients. A egg. One cup of sugar. 2.5 cups of walnuts. I couldn’t help myself and sprinkled salt and fennel pollen over some fresh from the oven.

walnutcookies

4. Grow pumpkins, like these sugar pies, which were prolific and one roasted made a great pumpkin pie. As for the rest, kabocha “jade” was the best of the batch (not pictured here).
bestpumpkins

5. You can do a vegetarian Thanksgiving. I wasn’t up for raising a turkey this year, so we did Indian inspired dishes. It was delish. Next year, though, I think we are going to get turkey legs and smoke the hell out of them, Texas style.
vegthanksgiving

6. Conserva, sun dried tomato paste, is divine. Learn how to make it at my tomato processing class this August!
conserva

7. Plant a tree–or 8 of them. The citrus hedge I jackhammered a place for in the garden, was well worth it. They are doing great despite the frost and dry weather. We even have two tangelos on one of the youngest trees.
newlyplantedcitrus

8. Forgive. It’s hard, but once you let that past go, you are free.
meandgeorge

9. Finally, love them while they are here. We miss you Phil Druker.
novellaandphilfran

Happy New Year to Everyone; I can’t wait for 2014!!