Farm Tour: June 13

Oh goodness. I’ve been in deep dormancy for the past three months, only now just feeling like peeking my head up and checking in on the blog. Here’s the report:
-The two bee hives are doing extremely well. They are heavy with honey and lots of signs of new hatchlings.
-I expanded the chicken run. The girls were not getting enough exercise, so I opened up the back area for them. In addition to weed control, they are now eating dead bees, disturbing ant habitat, and probably eating codling moth larvae under the apple trees. Their eggs have turned a much darker orange color.
-I have been eating way too much broccoli. Got a little crazy with the planting and now we have to eat it every night for dinner. Good problem to have.
-Planted the last fruit tree in our mini-orchard a few weeks ago. I read about the new Zaiger’s NectaPlum in Sunset magazine and had to buy it. Only 300 chill hours!!
-Finally, finally, replaced the yucky, disappointing sour orange (supposed to taste like a Seville but it never did) with a Bearss lime–to recreate the one that died a few years ago.
-Gearing up for a couple turkeys. Getting poults in May, raising them til T-day.
And, I’m going to be part of the Institute of Urban Homesteading’s Urban Farm Tour 2015. June 13, mark your calendars, and check in soon to buy tickets. It’s such a fun event, and I can’t wait to show off the trees, the turkeys, and maybe a drip irrigation system if I ever get that off the ground.

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

First class of 2015!! Because I’m teaching full-time at University of San Francisco, I’m not teaching regular classes at GhostTown Farm any longer. Such a bummer–but I can only do so much…However, the lovely, talented Ann Ralph of Berkeley Hort fame will be teaching a class at my place. It’s a pruning class and she will be going over all the aspects of growing fruit trees in backyards. She’s a big advocate of keeping trees small and manageable. Since we have over 30 trees on the farmlette right now, this is the perfect classroom to learn winter pruning by actually pruning my trees (please, don’t f- them up!!).

More details here; the GT Farm class is February 1!!!

East Harvest Pruning: Winter Workshop – $40
http://www.littlefruittree.com

Saturday, January 17, Oakland, 10:30 am -12:30 pm
Sunday, January 18, Berkeley, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Saturday, January 31, San Pablo,10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Sunday, February 1, GT Farm Oakland, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Sunday, February 8, Berkeley, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Preregistration is required.
Contact littlefruitree@gmail.com or (209) 296-5797

“I loved your workshop! The information, the clarity of your teaching style…all of it!”

Timed pruning offers a simple and revolutionary approach to fruit tree care: winter prune for shape and summer prune to keep trees small and easy. This hands-on class teaches the simple logic of pruning. You’ll learn the benefits of creating short trees, how to engage in the pruning conversation, make aesthetic decisions, and trust your judgment. The class includes information about seasonal fruit tree routines and pest and disease control with ample time for questions.

Instructor Ann Ralph’s book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree, about using pruning to fruit trees at people-appropriate heights, is newly available from Storey Publishing. She managed the fruit tree department at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery for ten years.

Fruit Tastings

Wolfskill. I kept hearing about this mythical USDA germplasm reserve that sometimes hosts fruit tastings of the specimens that grow there. Someone told me they once went and wandered through a fig orchard, plucking ripe fruit as they walked, tasting the mind-blowing varieties. I somehow missed the invite to the stone fruit tasting (must’ve been in July or August) at Wolfskill but managed to make it to the persimmon and pomegranate tasting this October.
In a word: WOW.
The location is up in the Capay Valley, near the town of Winters. It’s hard to find, the signs are subtle. For a reason: fruit nerds might swoop in constantly to taste the 100 plus varieties of fruit growing on the more than 150 acre plot of land. I know I would. But about three times a year, they swing open the gates and allow the public to come taste. persimmonspeoplewolfskill
The grounds are lovely, bursting with fruit at every turn (gentle reminders not to pick grapes or olives were posted). Instead of traipsing through the orchards willy-nilly, the good people at Wolfskill had harvested the fruit for us, and arranged it in a decorative but functional manner. The fruits were all labeled and we were given a tasting sheet. Fruit geeks (recognizable by their pith helmets) and families milled around the long tables, sampling.
The persimmons: I dunno. Persimmons are weird. I loved them when I first tried them after moving to California, but these days I feel like they are just a leetle bit bland. I do adore dried persimmons, though.
persimmonswolfskill
I can really get excited about pomegranates, though. I have a Wonderful growing at my place, and the shrub makes the most delicious, juicy fruit. The only problem with poms is the staining color.
pomswolfskill
So, imagine my delight when I saw the white (ok, yellow, really) pom there at Wolfskill. Only problem? It was kinda bland. The good news was this most delectable pink, non-staining variety called, myagkosenyannyi rozovyt. It tastes just as complex and rich as Wonderful but it is pink. The poms from Wolfskill are mostly from a former Soviet botanist named Gregory Levin–hence the long-ass name. Read his memoir, Pomegranate Road, if you want the skinny on his life as a pom collector. Now the trick is to get a hold of some of the myagkosenyannyi rozovyt germplasm (aka a cutting). Because it’s a research orchard, you can only get cuttings if you are affiliated with a research institution (GhostTown Farm Laboratories?). I’m trying to work my USF credentials to get a few stems, though–wish me luck. If I’m successful, I’ll have a few myagkosenyannyi rozovyts to harvest in the next few years.
Photos all by Leilani Buddenhagen

Charlie Cart

Oh no, I’m in love with this little cutie: ffe40ec520f90de86513f977a4020060_large

It’s a classroom kitchen on wheels! With an oven! I just saw the prototype at the Edible Schoolyard and almost swooned. I need one. Not for my house, but for teachin’. This semester I’m teaching at California College of the Arts and boy we could use a kitchen in the classroom. So far my class has threshed wheat, made sauerkraut, eaten bugs (some of us), poached eggs, and made quesadillas. We’ve improvised with desks as cutting boards and a Korean stove to cook stuff, but this Charlie Cart would have made things a lot easier. I can see how it could be used on urban farms, at schools, and by local food not bombs chapters. Check out their kickstarter campaign, and please donate if you can!

http://bit.ly/charliecart

Let the Sheet Mulching Begin

F-ing bermuda grass. I’ve been battling it and battling it. Ever since this blog began, and it still hasn’t gone away. It’s a rhizome-creeping nightmare. I swear the ants are helping it take over the world somehow. I think of weeds like bermuda grass and bindweed kinda like herpes. You’ll never get rid of them–you just have to learn how to reduce the outbreaks.
So, here’s my latest strategy with the devil grass:
1. Remove as much of the weed from the area–pick axing is necessary to get the giant roots out.
In times past, I would stop right there. But this year I’m taking it further.
2. Obtain cardboard. My sister used to be a breakdancer in the 1980s and she and her crew would pull out the cardboard on the livingroom floor and do some crazy spins on their heads and backs. I remember getting excited when we’d find a big fridge box that we could spread out. Well, the 80s are back for me because I am collecting sh-t tons of ‘board, mostly liquor store Doritos boxes (which seems strangely poetic). Then I spread them over the offending outbreak area.
mulchdump
3. Stack like 3 feet of wood chips over the cardboard. I’m lucky I got a free 18 square yard wood chip delivery from Ponderosa tree service. 18 square yards, btw, is bigger than a VW Rabbit. It’s served as a very fun place for children to climb and then play rock star. It makes me think they someone doing a music festival could actually have a completely solid yet biodegradable stage if they got a few of these loads in tandem.
sheetmulch
The chips are a mix of pine chips, leaves and bark, some branches. It’s rotting down and eventually the b-grass will return but I’ll be able to pull it out a lot more easily. The best thing about it? Smells like Christmas!!
Gardeners in Oakland or Berkeley can get free woodchips from Ponderosa Tree Service, you just have to have space for a giant delivery truck to drop the load, and you can’t be too picky about what kinda wood chips you get.

Left My Soul in Europe

I am so jetlegged. I’ve heard it’s because my soul hasn’t caught up with my physical body. Might be that I took a 2.9 year old with me to Italy/France. I was there in Italy to take part in a conference put on by an Italian magazine called Internationale. They paid for me to go and put me up in a hotel, and paid for all my food. Yum. Still dreaming of this slipper like pasta filled with the local winter squash, Violina, I think was the variety. Forgot to take seeds home with me. (Good thing, I was searched at customs and for once didn’t have any contraband cheese on my person).

Also got to hang with my sister, flew over to Toulouse and stayed at their awesome house/farmstead.
It was quality sister time: we went mushroom picking, gardened together, and she fed me obscene amounts of food.

Glad to be back home, doing my thing, though. Which, btw, will involve a reading with LitQuake Thursday, Oct 16, at the Lake Chalet in Oakland 6-8pm.
And October 17th I’ll be at the Oakland Museum of California, at 7pm in the Natural history display of a Tule Elk. Here’s the link for that event.
Finally, October 18, I’ll be in Hayward for this:
California Reads: A visit with bestselling author Novella Carpenter, discussing her new memoir Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild – Saturday, October 18, 2:00 pm @ Hayward Main Library. Find complete California Reads schedule at: http://hayward-ca.gov/veterans

Ciao!!