Monthly Archives: December 2007

Olive OCD

The bumper olive crop (in the city and rural areas like Davis, CA) forces me to go back again and again. We’ve gone two weekends in a row now. Everytime we drive away from the picking spot (the best in Davis so far is on Russell Road, near the bike path) I look longingly at the olives still on the dang trees. Last weekend Willow, Traci, Gordie, Bill, and I went up together with buckets and rose wine, ate at RedRum Burgers and then picked olives for hours in the icy wind. Back at the farm, I hoisted more pillow cases into the rafters with their heavy load of olives and salt. Another batch of small ones I decided to brine cure. I added 1000 grams of Kosher Diamond brand salt to 10L of water (enough to make an egg float). Every day I stir them, and every week I’ll change the brine water. Essentially, I realized we’re working out the tannins and fermenting the little babies. Speaking of fermentation, Wild Fermentation author Sandor Katz was in the Bay Area this past weekend, hosting a workshop at SOL in East Oakland. He’s such a fount of cultural knowledge. If he’s visiting your area, do go see him.

Grape stumps

So anyway, we made it back to California, had a hot dog for Thanksgiving, drove through the Central Valley, and spotted these bulldozed up grape vines. Bill pulled over and we gathered as many as we could to stuff into our trunk. Happy days being back in California, reunited with my farm animals, and the garden–and now the dream of eating grape vine smoked pork!
A lot of people ask–what did you learn on your roadtrip? I had hoped to see lots of inspiring urban farms and gardens, but what I saw were really great people starting urban farming projects. I feel like we’re on the cusp of a new way of living. That soon it will be entirely unextraordinary to have backyard chickens and bees. That more collectives will come together and raise meat animals together. That this will all be done under the radar and by backyard tinkers and dreamers.
I also figured out (duh) that every region in the U.S. has a unique food culture. Coming from California, I always assume everyone wants to eat a just picked salad. But that’s just our way of eating, and trying to put that food culture somewhere like Texas or New Orleans just doesn’t make any sense. I’m convinced that every region in the States has a food culture, it might just be buried, and someone will eventually dig it up and celebrate their regional food stuffs.
In June, Bill and I are headed up the west coast to check out the scene there. I’m hoping to see Jim Fullmer’s biodynamic farm, Heather Flores urban garden in Eugene, the egg collective in Portland, Nat’s digs–if you have any other ideas, let me know!
P.S. I wrote an article that appeared in SFGate yesterday, about a yoga couple and their money issues. It’s light and sweet–like holiday candy!

On the road cookery

We ripped through Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In Amarillo we actually witnessed a shit storm. This didn’t involve giant turds hitting our car, it meant billions of microscopic cow poo particles filled the air near the feedlot and swirled into our car, eclipsed the sun, and smelled really bad. Swearing off beef, we came to the town of Tucumcari, NM. We stayed at the Golden Palomino, one of those great route 66 neon hotels. Just around the corner was the town’s feed store. I went in and immediately fell in love with a pair of cowgirl boots. They’re the real deal, the lady explained the strip of leather across the top of the foot is for “greater stirrup control”. For the urban cowgirl, that means greater bicycle pedal control (that is until I really lose my mind and get a horse). Sold. She was so excited I bought them, she gave me…some meat. Raised in Tucumcari but processed in Amarillo. The home of the shit storm. What to do? I’m not one to reject free food, so I put on my new boots and accepted the free beef.
The other problem wasn’t moral, but practical. Our camp stove was out of fuel. Having only vaguely heard of Manifold Destiny: A Cookbook, we wrapped the meat in aluminum foil, and tried to figure out where to put the meat. Then we drove with dreams of a grilled steak for dinner. But then we forgot about the meat. Only after driving for two more days did we remember. We’ll never know how the shit storm meat tasted, I threw it out into the woods for the cougars.

Asheville, NC

Almost done recapping our roadtrip!
After spending time in Oviedo with Bill’s parents, we headed north to North Carolina. The trees were just beginning to change from yellow to red. It was f-ing beautiful. Outside of Asheville lives our friend Bob. He and his honey stay on the land at Celo Intentional Community. It’s been going strong for something like 60 years, a hippie community before there were hippies. Of course that means they have a lot of meetings. In fact, one of the roads in the village was called Meeting House Road. Sigh. But the land is lovely, lovely. Bob lives in a round, hand-made house constructed out of cord wood and plaster. It has a very homey, warm feeling. Glad the woodstove churned out the heat because we did get some snow flurries. Bob took us for a tour of the farms, the best was a greenhouse warmed by the manure of the chicken house. We also toured a nearby goat cheese farm–I need some goats pronto!

Gainsville Florida

Sorry about the distractions. Here’s another segment of our urban farming trip report.

Here’s Heather and Pavel near fig trees, hibiscus in Gainsville. Pavel took a master gardening course and is pretty into gardening. He helps with the Edible Plant Project and instigates community gardens. We took one tour of an abandoned blueberry farm will soon become a farm for an organic ag group. As we walked around the amazingly lush, overgrown area, I couldn’t help but imagine myself there growing huge fields of organic pineapples, bananas, papayas, tropical edible vines, mangoes. Tropical fruit–I know nothing about its cultivation, but I do love to eat it. For manure input, I think it would be a swell idea to have goats or flocks of guinea fowl.

Manny responds

I logged onto the glowing computer and found a comment on my blog from Manny Howard, NY mag’s urban farmer. Remember, I was all in a huff about his experiment and was very…ungenerous? I’ve gotten over it and would like to apologize for making fun of how he holds a chicken, and other below-the-belt remarks. Since most of you probably don’t read comments from months ago (I only discovered it myself because I couldn’t remember the code for a link, and went back to that post), here it is. (Riana, don’t get mad.) I should also mention, I don’t know if this is truly from Manny or a poseur.

Novella Carpenter,

Sorry for the delay replying to your post. Sorry about my book deal, too. There is no justice in the world. Calcium deficiency, huh? Yeah, once I got a minute, I researched the problem. You shoulda seen me crushing 20 lbs. of oyster shells with a 4 lb. sledge using only 3 of 4 working fingers. (Yup, that’s right, I could have purchased those shells by the sack, but, as I am certain you already know, crushed oyster shells are hard to come by in the 5 boroughs and the nearest Agway is quite a haul. However, I am sure you’d agree, better to do the work yourself, if at all possible–hard, painful work is intoxicating, is it not?
As with all things Divine, I don’t know about the twister being retribution from an angry and vengeful God (see comments from shrill, scold Riana Lagarde, below), but the thought that the Unmoved Mover had darkened the sky above The Farm had occurred to me: 139 years without a tornado IS an awfully long time. God or no God, at least I was not the author of THAT disaster.
You can imagine my relief, it was so great that it momentarily pierced my growing conviction that no good could come of the project and karmic payback was in the offing–by late July I was given to fantasies of the arrival of Animal Control. In waking dreams an elite unite would sweep through The Farm, taeser me senseless, zip-tie my limbs as I lay twitching on the driveway. The XO pausing briefly to pin a ticket to my filthy work shirt, before the unit pulled away from the curb with ‘my’ livestock safe in their unmarked, white Dodge Sprinter vans.
As re. the kit box proportions, careful reader, even I could tell that the directions I had followed would cause disaster, though, tragically, not until after the fact. Guilt about my gestational oversight and the panic caused by the ‘sudden’ appearance of so many kits temporarily blinded this fool. I worked mightily to remedy the error. But, as with so many of my efforts, projects and plans this summer, the work was all in vain.

Please assure C(h)ristine, the dog (mine, not hers) is quite well.

Either by accident or with grim determination, I am so very tired of killing.
Now, regarding this rumble between urban farmers…

November 26, 2007 9:03 AM

Manny: let’s rumble! I guess we don’t have to kill or pluck anything. We can do a radish sowing (judged ten days later on accuracy and percent germination) or perhaps a mail-order seed catalog scavenger hunt?

Biodynamic MoJo

Hey, my article in Mother Jones is out on the racks. Go to Mother Jones so you can read it online.