Archive | November, 2007

Urban farming in NOLA

28 Nov


Bill and I are in love with New Orleans. We even talk about spending the winters there when we get old and achy.
Here’s why:
We arrived as night fell. We stayed with our good friends Amy and Kai and their new baby Arlo Diego. The baby is adorable! The next day we went to Mothers, an old-fashioned homecooking restaurant. The bread pudding. The oyster po’ boy. Well.
We drove around and looked at some of the community gardens. Contrary to what I had heard, the urban farming scene was not huge. One farm was just some collards and a painted fence. There was a phone number on the fence, so I dialed. In about five minutes I was on the phone with Macon Fry the Garden Guy. He said to come on over and check out his garden, and if we wanted, we could stay the night at his place. We drove up and saw a barefoot man in his garden near Xaivier University. The space was huge and lovely. I helped him transplant some dino kale. Then we followed him to his house on the Mississippi. A series of 6 shacks along the bank of the river. There was a goat on the front porch, a rabbit on the back. So these were our people!
Dying to cook, I made some polenta and cooked down some of our canned tomatoes with olive oil. Macon’s girlfriend made lentil soup. They called what I made grits and a red sauce. Then we sat around and talked about farming, favorite breeds of lettuce and seed libraries. The next day Macon gave us a bunch of donated seeds that wouldn’t grow in New Orleans. They have it tough there–it’s too hot to grow anything in the summer, so fall and winter is their main season.
Then we went to East New Orleans, out by the swamps and checked out an urban farm run by Catholic Vietnamese folks. They’re right next to the canals and were growing lots of gourd squash and greens.
What I loved about NOLA was that mish-mash of different communities, all doing the same project (farming), but bringing different elements to how to do things. It’s kind of what we have here in Oakland (minus the po’ boys)–and I love it.

Biodiesel on the road

25 Nov


I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find biodiesel in the south.
At first it was smooth sailing. We fueled up at a rather anonymous gas station called the Go Go Mart in Tucson. Then we scored at a station in Austin. In Lousiana, we were led on a biodiesel treasure hunt in the town of Broussard, finally getting a tankful of virgin soy (boo) at an apocalyptic industrial zone fueling station. From then on it was all B20. That’s 80% petro diesel. It really sucks, because it’s warm in the south, no need to blend the biodiesel.
In Florida we had to beg for B20, and finally got so disgusted we bought a bunch of corn oil outside of Gainsville. Like 30 1-liter containers. Bill said, “Somehow, with diesel at $3.50 a gallon, spending $5 a gallon on corn oil seems cheap.” In North Carolina we got some B50, and a good thing because it was snowing by the time we left (biod gels at freezing temps).
In Mississipi, we stopped at a gas station with a home-made sign that said “Bio-Diesel”. I knocked on the door, interrupting the elderly owners’s lunch. “Do you have biodiesel?” I asked.
“Nope. The petroleum industry has stopped biodiesel in Mississip,” the gray-haired lady said. Then she went back to eating her greens. Damn. New Mexico was the same, even though the Bill Richardson is trying to promote biodiesel. The highest blend was B20 in Santa Fe. We bought oil again in Las Vegas, NM. Finally we got biodiesel in Phoenix–enough to get home.
Next road trip story: Urban farming in New Orleans.

There and Back Again

23 Nov


The best thanksgiving gift of all: pulling up to our house last night!
After 24 days of almost continuous driving, socializing with friends and family, and really trying to find the real food culture of America, I’m thankful to be back in my own house, where as my father says, I can fart between my own sheets.
Our housesitter did a wonderful job, the animals are all healthy and fat, the garden is lush with lettuce and greens, even tomatoes still. But it froze last night, so another frost and they’ll be finished. The turkeys are huge!
Over the next few days, I’ll post about things we saw and did on the trip. This is a photo of a truly great taco cart in Tucson, Arizona. The house specialty was goat tacos. Mercy.
What did I eat for Thanksgiving? A hotdog from Circle K in the Southern California desert.

Hiatus

18 Nov

I haven’t checked my email or blog in what feels like weeks. We were holed up in North Carolina, near Asheville, at a place called Celo. It’s an intentional community, where our friend Bob lives and farms. I loved being out of touch, and plan to blog about our adventures when I get back. So hold tight. There’s something weird, something too meta about blogging all the time. It makes having a real, genuine experience difficult because I’m always thinking, ‘that’s going to be a great post.’ Look for photos and details in a week or so….

Name game

8 Nov

Lots to write about New Orleans. But it’ll have to wait.
All this driving I’ve been thinking about how our farm needs a name. I’ve got a couple ideas, but wanted to get input from you all. I was thinking BottomFeeder Farm or GhostTown Gardens or Seize the Dirt Farm, but I’d love to open it up for a dialogue.

Texas Report

6 Nov

Texas is hard.
Like it’s so hot, even in November.
Driving through the lone star state, the time/space continuum expanded–or contracted–and we seemed to be in the same place yet hours had passed. Like the Blair Witch Project. Then suddenly, we were in Austin. Land of rivers and trees and my dear friend Leilani and everything was better. I’m riding a bike again. I feel like a new woman. Leilani lives about 5 miles from downtown, in East Austin, so it’s a haul, but lovely to see. I went to the Saturday urban farm stand at Boggy Creek Farm (sorry, still no card reader and now the digital camera appears to be kaput), one of the nation’s first urban farms. They folks who started it are getting old and gray, yet are still so enthusiastic about their farm and providing Austin with some much needed greenery–kales, radicchio, arugula, and chard. Coming from the Bay Area this might seem ho-hum, but compared to the grocery stores in Texas, these greens were a revelation. Funny too, because then I went to the Austin Farmer’s market and was disappointed. All the “real” farmers had was okra, turnips, and meat. Maybe the urban farmers were more in touch with what the urban people wanted? I can only speculate.

Food refugees

1 Nov

Um. We packed like idiots, just throwing whatever into the car. In terms of food that meant: 8 jars of tomatoes, 6 packets of Italian pasta, honey, tea, 20 pink lady apples, peaches, pistachios, dried figs, olive oil, then, at the last minute (thank god!), we veered into Eccolo and grabbed three salamis. We’ll find food on the road. Actually, no. We forgot polenta, the dried peaches I made, pickles, almond butter. So much. And Bill forgot his underwear. At least we can buy underwear. Walk into a store in Bishop, CA or Sells, AZ and you’re going to find processed food, pale veggies, and sad meat. In Bishop we asked for some local beef (there are beef cows everywhere!) but the counter guy glumly told us the meat they sell comes from the Iowa feedlot. “We can’t sell our stuff.” Meanwhile, someone packed some deliciously red elk meat behind him. Sigh. The only up side is the Mexican influence–we bought great corn tortillas, and Oaxacan cheese last night for dinner. Now I know why everyone wants to tell Alice Waters to stuff it. She should really come out here to the real America and see how bad it is.
p.s. sorry no photos yet, i forgot my flash card reader.