Monthly Archives: September 2009

Coming to a Town Near You: Update

So, I’m heading out on vacation in a few hours. Billy and I are flying to Florida, then I’ll go over to France. I’ll be back in the urban farming saddle September 29. We were lucky to find a housesitter and our downstairs neighbors will make sure the goats get fed and watered. We also have a mighty milking list with all my kind friends who are going to squeeze Bebe’s teats while I’m gone. Whew, what a relief. It’s so hard to tear myself away but I really really need to rest.

When I come back, I’m glad to report that this October and November, I’ll be visiting many cities to promote my book Farm City. Dates in italics are not yet filled, and I have put requests for places I want to go, so drop a line, and we’ll see if I can spread out a little more. I might want to sleep on your couch or goat shed…

October 5, Corte Madera, CA, Reading, Book Passages book store, 7pm

October 8, Madison, Wisconsin, Reading, Wisconsin Book Festival, A Room of One’s Own, at 307 W. Johnson Street, 5:30.

October 9, Chicago: visit with urban farmers!

October 10, Chicago: visit with urban farmers!

October 17, San Francisco, Reading, LitQuake at 18 Reasons, time TBA

October 18, Berkeley, CA, Chicken 101 class, Biofuel Oasis, 1441 Ashby Ave, 10-1pm (must pre-register)

October 19, Moscow, ID,  Reading, University of Idaho, Administration Building Auditorium, 7pm

October 20 & 21, Spokane, WA

October 24, Kansas City, Reading, Bad Seed Kitchen

October 25, Kansas City, Complete Chicken class, TBA 10am-1pm

October 31, Austin, Texas, The Complete Turkey class, 10-2, venue TBA

November 1, Austin, Texas, Austin Book Festival panelist, details TBA

November 10, New York, NY; Horticultural Society of New York, 6pm
148 West 37th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY, Telephone: 212.757.0915

November 11, Brooklyn, NY, Vox Pop Cafe, details TBA

November 12, Providence, RI, details TBA

November 13, Boston, Mass, details TBA

November 14, Portland, Maine, details TBA

November 15 & 16, NYC chicken and rabbit processing classes with Samin, details TBA

November 21, Sacramento, CA, The Complete Chicken/Reading, details TBA

December 5, Berkeley, CA The Pasta Shop, 4th Street, 1-3pm

December 6, Lafayette, CA, Mt. Diablo Nursery, 10-12

Thank you everyone who helped organize this, especially Hamida!

And then there were three

I started this week with six goats and now there are three.

Yesterday Moses came over with his friend and whole family and we sent Eyore/Pretty Boy “back home” as Moses put it. Moses is the owner of a liquor store a block from my house. He’s was a goat farmer in his country, Yemen, and so my goat’s death was swift and painless, facing east, and filled with prayer and respect. Still, it was really intense and sad, and I must admit that killing my little goat made me seriously question the wisdom of eating meat.

My friend who raises pigs and treats them like her children until slaughter time confessed to me that she’s going to get out of the pig business. It just breaks her heart. So all you vegetarians:  don’t think that just because I raise meat animals, I’m a remorseless meat eater. In fact, because I am so close to it, I almost begin to feel resentful of meat eaters who blithely eat lamb and never have to think of the fact that a little cuddle-butt had its throat slit so you can vaguely enjoy a gyro.


After Moses left, taking his share of the meat and all of the offall (!), I went out to the garden and processed the goat hide. It’s really beautiful and soft, black and white, and so I want to save it. I stretched it out between some boards and scrapped the fat and meat off it. In a few days, Tamara Wilder is coming to teach a class at my farm about animal processing, so I hope to get tips from her about how to braintan the hide so becomes soft and supple. She is a wise woman, and will be demonstrating in the class humane ways to kill animals, and respect them by using all of their parts.

That night I went to do a reading at Mrs. Dalloways Books. I found myself getting choked up while reading the section in my book, Farm City, about killing my Thanksgiving turkey. I actually had to go through my thought experiment again to re-teach myself how I came to justify eating meat. The biggest one is simply economic: farm animals reach an age when they become a strain on the budget of a farm–it’s either eat them or lose money feeding them. Since, as we’ve learned (ahem) that a farm is defined as producing food not feeding pets, I had to make the decision to harvest the male goat.

Then I remember that keeping animals is a way of life for me, and many other people. I like being around farm animals, I raise and breed my dairy goats, and they will occasionally have male offspring that I can’t keep. From these males, then, their meat will sustain my life. That is why I’m so glad Moses–fount of goat farmerly knowledge–comes over to help. And because I know the whole story of meat: joyous birth, happy goat playing, naps in the sun, I often choose not to eat very much of it.

The other two goats that left the farm–Orla and his daughter Milky Way–didn’t “go home”. They went over to 18th Street, at my new friend A’s house. I’m so excited to have a fellow goat farmer only ten blocks from my place. We have plans to share buck service and milking and going on feed runs. Orlie and MW seemed very relaxed about the journey over to their new digs. Before long they were eating and pooping and seemed to be settling in. I’m always amazed how adaptable goats can be.


I milked Bebe this morning, letting her know that I was sorry about her son’s departure. She stared forward, chewed her cud and let down six cups of creamy milk, more than usual, because this time I got her son’s share too. And for that, I was thankful.

Class Info________________________

For those of you who might be interested in taking the animal processing class: Tamara coming to GT farm this upcoming Sunday, Sept 13. The class will focus on how to humanely kill a chicken, a rabbit, and how to use all of the meat, bone, fur and feathers from these animals, as a way to truly respect and thank them. Each participant will get to process their own animals. It will be truly empowering. Class will start 10am and last the whole day, and costs $100 which includes all materials, and you will go home with the animals you processed.

Here’s the agenda:

10-11am: Introduction and check in, things to think about, etc….

11am -1pm: Rabbit killing and processing

1-2pm: LUNCH (cooking hearts & livers) cook pre-killed rabbit in some way

1pm: put fat on to render

2pm: pour off fat into containers

2-2:30 construct racks and string up rabbit skins to dry.  Demo of stages of tanning.

2:30-3:30 killing, plucking & processing chickens

3:30-4:00 finishing up and farewells

There are a few slots left: email me at novellacarpenter at gmail dot com if you’d like to sign up.


People often ask me about urban farms in the Bay Area. I’ve become like a robot and recite all the well-known ones: City Slicker Farms, People’s Grocery, and SOL (sustaining ourselves locally–not shit outta luck) in the East Bay; Alemany in SF. I’ve repeatedly forgotten to mention Ardenwood! It’s a 205 acre urban farm right off I-880, at the Newark exit in Fremont. I guess it’s really a suburban farm. But I did want to see it!

Now, I must admit that I almost never go to Fremont even though I hear there’s really good Indian food there. I hate driving on I-880 ever since Bill got in a car accident there and no one stopped to see if he had been injured–bastards! But when Dan from Bay Nature Magazine (where I was an intern a few years back) suggested that we go together and learn about threshing wheat and pet some pigs, and that he would drive, I was game. I had heard rumours of sheep shearing and canning workshops, so I wanted to see if this place would be the ultimate resource for urbanites who wanted to learn how to farm.

When we drove up, we saw signs for the farm, and were reminded that it is part of the East Bay Regional Park District. Dan told me they get 160,000 visitors every year, a similar number as other hotspots like Chabot Science Center and the Oakland Museum. In the fields, which were flat and long, there were rows and rows of crops like corn, pumpkins, squash, broccoli. It was the biggest sub-urban farm I’ve ever seen! As we drove closer to the houses and barn areas, the place suddenly started to take on a historic quality. I spotted a draft horse and a blacksmith’s shop, a granary, and a Victorian house with peacocks pecking out front.


The ranger, Ira Bletz, took us for a tour. First stop was the impressive fields. Most of these are maintained by an organic farmer named Doug Perry, but the Park plants wheat, corn, pumpkins, and potatoes for educational purposes. School kids visit and help harvest wheat (they learn how difficult it is without modern machines), and at the annual Harvest Fest (Oct 10-11), they have a corn harvest, sending everyone out into the fields to pick cobs to take home.


We got to meet their two pigs, the handful of chickens, three turkeys, a few goats and sheep who inhabit the farm. My head swam with how much potential the place had! If one was motivated, they could have at least three dairy cows–they could have a milking coop and make cheese; or they could bred meat goats (which are so popular now); or they could raise rabbits for restaurants (the ones they have are rescue bunnies from a shelter); or teach canning classes. All of these things would be a huge hit with the local foodie people.


I know why, though, they aren’t doing anything like I fantasized: people. You would need at least 5 people working full time on the farm to get all that work done, and products sold. These people would have to live on the farm to make it truly come to life. What was missing was the stuff of everyday life: the compost from a day of eating going to the pigs; the milk buckets and dairy paraphernalia; a curing ham or side of bacon that would have given it a more f0od connection. But if you were living and working on a farm, you wouldn’t have time to deal with visitors, you wouldn’t have the bandwidth to talk with groups of 4th graders. So here’s an idea: all you people who live in the Fremont area and know how to farm or want to set up a dairy cow co-op or start rearing milk goats, give Ira a call. If you want to teach a cheese-making class or a bacon curing workshop, call Ira. I’m willing to bet they would work with you. Because really, it takes all of our input–and effort–to create a more sustainable way of life.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are already wonderful things about the farm. The corncrib area is really cool and features an old machine that pulls off the corn kernels; the old outdoor kitchen is inspiring, the heirloom veggie garden has potential, and the blacksmith shop is functional. It is a great place to take kids 10 or younger to have their first experience petting a goat or a pig. The Harvest Fest is a really big deal, and it is a great opportunity for everyone to learn about harvesting food and make a connection to the land.


For the second part of our tour, we went to Doug Perry’s veggie growing operation. Doug is the real deal, a hard-working farmer who grows 55 acres of veggies on the park land, where he sells his crops to Berkeley Bowl and a local veg distributor. He’s figured out his crop: broccoli and cauliflower, and grows a shit ton of it. Doug didn’t paint any romantic portrait of farming; he explained that it is hard work, a living, but that it prevents him from spending time with his children. He doesn’t have too much time to take school kids out for tours and leaves most of that up to Ira.

As Dan and I drove away, we stopped at the produce stand and bought some cauliflower. While I was slow-cooking the marvelous white veggie, it struck me that Perry Farms and Ardenwood are like the Yin and Yang of farming–Perry does the growing, Ardenwood does the educating, and perhaps they do balance each other out.

You should go to the Harvest Fest and score some free corn!

Oct 10 and 11

34600 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, Ca 94555


Here’s an article from Bay Nature all about growing food on public land.