Monthly Archives: June 2010

Open Farm Tour: July 5

Howdy y’all. Just wanted to make it more official: there will be an open farm day July 5, 10am-1pm. The address is 665 28th street, at MLK. If you can, please ride your bike or BART/walk. If you can’t, park on Martin Luther King, not 28th Street (it’s a short street). Note that this won’t be a full-on tour. That is, I won’t be leading tours into the backyard where the animals are, but I will bring the goats out on the hour (10am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1pm). I’ll set up a duck pen in the garden so people can see them, likewise with the rabbits. The bees will be buzzing and I plan to have signage so people can do a self-guided tour around the garden. There will not be a bathroom, so plan accordingly. It’s important to note that this is my home, so I’m trying to set up some boundaries–please don’t just drop by my house/farm except on tour days like this one.

I’ll be selling books, greens, and the t-shirts/western shirts with the new design. Yay!

Also: today, Wednesday, I’ll be at the Pop-up General Store selling GT salad greens, arugula, and preserved lemons. It’s in that big red building–Grace Street Catering, 49th and MLK, 5pm-7pm.

Happy Summer Solstice

Ahh, it’s officially summer again. Just like a new year, the summer solstice always makes me want to write lists of things and projects to do. For some reason, every summer I forget that it’ll be over soon and that the rains will come and so I should do as much as possible now. Here’s my list o’things to do before the days shorten and I lose my momentum.

1. New t-shirt design. How lucky I am that a woman who buys chicken feed from us at the Biofuel Oasis is also a talented artist! We struck up a conversation and came up with a barter: she makes me a logo for Ghost Town Farm, I give her stuff from the farm. Here’s the new design, which will be on t-shirts and for sale soon. Thank you Miriam Stahl, you rock star.

2. Finally build that cob oven. When I posted about the cob oven in January, lo and behold, a talented potter called me up and offered to help build it. We’ve had a couple of consultations, and I’m just building the urbanite (broken concrete) foundation. The end of next week, we’ll be mixing up the cob and making the oven. Thanks to the fire marshall’s visit, I’ve place the oven Very Far Away From the House. If you’re reading Victor–it’s all good.

3. Build an outdoor rabbit area in the backyard. I’ve realized that I had a lot of unused space in the backyard. Namely, a back fence that could have an elevated rabbit run. That way the chickens could sift through the bunny droppings.

4. Have a big tour on July 5. I’m helping with an Outstanding in the Field dinner on July 5, partnering with my soul sister, Nicole LoBue, to bring some urban ag snacks to the table. The event is happening at a winery in Berkeley, but people will be coming by GhosttownFarm for tours. In the interest of stacking functions, I’m going to open up the farm that day to everyone. I’ll be busy in the next weeks making signage and a donation jar. Open Farm day, July 5, 10-2.

5. Buy a new milk goat. I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be buying a doe from Castle Rock Nigerians. I really want a herd of three goats in my backyard, and it looks like that dream in coming true in the next few weeks. And like I told people who took my goat class this weekend, it is a good idea to buy really good breeding stock–something I didn’t do and am now correcting after two years of sub-par goats (cover your eyes, Bebe, I still love you). Thanks Sarah!

6. Go camping/learning about wild food. I realized this spring at the Buckeye Gathering of Primitive Skills, that I don’t get out into nature as much as I should, and I’ve been craving it. So I’m going to make it a point to find camping spots that I can ride my bike/take BART to this summer. Bill and I have always talked about hiking that green belt that runs along the East Bay, and maybe this July it will happen. I met a new cool herbalist, Tellur Fenner, at Buckeye who leads urban herbal walks, so I’m excited to learn more about that. He lives just around the block, and brings classes to my garden and assures me that wild radish is delicious.

Whew, I’m going to stop there. I’m sure more projects will present themselves as the long hot days of summer continue. Happy solstice, now what are your plans?

Lessons from the Road

I think I gained 10 pounds on book tour. It was just gross. I mean, I ordered room service so many times. It’s just sick. What wasn’t sick was I got to meet so many kick ass urban farmers! Of course I can’t get most of the images off my camera to show you, but eventually I will and you’ll be as impressed as I was. Here’s the break-down:

Boston. Ok, I was too jet lagged to find the Food Project, but I swear I will find them and see their farm some day.

Philadelphia. Greensgrow’s farm manager, Ryan, picked me up from the airport and gave me a whirlwind tour of the Philly Farm Scene. Mill Creek Farm was an oasis of lush, with almost two acres in production, beehives, a composting toilet, solar panels, and a cob oven. They sell to CSA members and have a produce stand. Then I saw a high school garden that is funded through a nutrition program. Then onto Greensgrown. It has been on my blogroll for awhile, but I had no idea what they’re up to. What I discovered was: they’re up to a lot. They are a plant nursery, an apiary, a CSA curator (meaning they bring together all kinds of farms to set up a nice CSA box of meat, eggs, milk, butter, and vegetables), an education center, and a farm. They have lots of poly houses growing beans and tomatoes, chard and strawberries. They also have the coolest cool room, using a Cool Bot, which is a hacked AC unit. They also make their own biodiesel and they have methanol recovery. I mean, what don’t they do? It honestly made me feel like a slacker. Also I found out the following: philadelphia still has cowboys with horses in the city. If I didn’t love Oakland, I’d move to Philly…

Or, Baltimore. I heart Baltimore so much. I got to stay in my friend’s warehouse near downtown. She only pays $400 for an enormous room and studio and shared space. And the people of Baltimore were so amazing. They laughed their asses off at my jokes during my reading, and I found out there is hardly any urban farming going on there, despite the fact there’s tons of vacant land. I did meet this one farmer guy and a really nice lady who are working on starting farms in abandoned areas. I’m telling you, I’m in love with Baltimore. Finally, this is crazy, there’s this: erected this photo in the window of the freaking public library:

These were my hosts: my friend Emily, Judy from Enoch Pratt Library, and Linda from Baltimore Green Works. Now that poster is just scary big, right?

Then off I scampered to Salt Lake City. There I discovered the most amazing urban “gardener” named David Bell, Jill Bell and Celia Bell (David’s sis-in-law). David was a total breath of fresh air. I was blown away by the amount of land in production and how much they’ve accomplished down there. I enjoyed their irrigation methods (ditch), their poly houses which had big green tomatoes, and their attitude that they’re just doing large scale backyard gardening. Love that, and it made me rethink my farmer pretensions. I mean, what’s so bad about being a gardener anyway? Here’s David, and his soil block maker (has anyone used these?). I’m pretty excited to get one because you don’t have to use plastic trays and six packs, which I loathe. David was just putting the blocks on recycled metal bread trays. Celia is a total bad-ass, but I only got to meet her for a second, she keeps goats and chickens and a huge garden in the ghetto of SLC (i had no idea they existed).

Now I’m home, head swirling with all these new ideas and new people and urban farm–I mean gardening–love.

If you’re keen to hang out, here’s where I’ll be:

Wednesday, June 16 @ 7pm Green Arcade Books in SF on Market next to Zuni Cafe (not that I’ve eaten there).

Sunday, June 20, 9:30-12:30 teaching a Goat Class! To sign up, go to If goats aren’t your thing, Nishanga Bliss (!) is teaching a fermentation class later that same day.

Splitting the Hive

Before leaving for my wee paperback book tour, I had a long list of crap to do. Things like: do laundry, pack, get alfalfa, put out water for the critters, and requeen my hive split. I’ve always been a bee-haver, not a bee-keeper, but this year my colony looked especially strong and so I decided to do something hands-on. I wanted to get another hive, but hadn’t heard about any swarms, so I decided to do what’s called a split. You take some of the brood, eggs, and honey from the main colony and put it into a new empty hive. Some people just allow the bees to make their own queen, but this will take 21 days. So I got a hold of a queen rearing operation up in Vacaville.

The guys said he’d pop an Italian queen in the mail for me. I was so surprised when she arrived in this simple envelop.

Inside, there she was, in a small box with her attendants. There’s a candy cap at the bottom of the box. I put the box into the queenless hive, which had been queenless for about three days. The idea is they would slowly eat the candy off the bottom of the box and release the queen. Before I took off for Boston, I peeked in and saw the queen was still in the box, even after three full days. So I suited up, got a pair of tweezers out, and went into the hive to get her out.

It was pretty anti-climatic: a few bees went into the opening of the little box, came out, rubbed their antennae, and seemed to be talking to each other. Then out the queen walked. She wandered around, checking out the place. None of the other bees seemed to notice her, so I’m worried. Shouldn’t they be psyched? She wasn’t as big as other queens I’ve seen, and she has a blue dot on her thorax. I hope she works out. Then I put the lid back on and went inside to pack.

Now I’m in Boston, here’s where I’ll be for the next few days:

Boston, June 7, 7pm at Porter Square Book

Philadelphia, June 8, Free Library, 7:30

Baltimore, June 9, Enoch Free Library (with Baltimore Green Works) 7pm

Salt Lake City, June 10, SLC Main Public Library 7pm

When I get back, I’ll see if the new queen is laying!