Clearing It Out

A few months ago I finally got my permit from the City of Oakland. It came in the form of a letter. And with that, a chapter closed. A messy, annoying chapter.

Today I finally had the time to return the yellow placard that’s been up in front of the gate for the last year. One of the inspectors told me I’d get a $50 deposit back if I brought in the City of Oakland permit application sign. So this morning, I cut it down from the zip-ties that had been holding it, glad to finally be rid of the thing (it confused people–some who thought the lot was owned by the city; others who thought it was ok to call me on the phone number provided just to say “hi.”). I rode my bike to the City Hall’s planning Department with the sign balanced in one hand.

For those of you who don’t know the whole story of the permit, here’s the recap: May 2011 the City of Oakland came to me and said I needed a permit for crop and livestock raising activities on my commercial lot. The permit would cost almost $3000 (one time fee). People who read this blog sent me the money via paypal, the mail, and in the farmstand tip jar–which, BTW, is fucking amazing! thank you all who helped save Ghosttown Farm! If I didn’t send you a postcard thank you, know that I meant to but I got real busy. Upon submitting the fee, I had to jump through a lot of hoops, and figure out how to defend my right to farm. Luckily, I was aided by the genius legal council of Janelle Orsi and Philip Heiselmann. They cut through the legalese for me, and explained, step by step, what I should do. I’m eternally grateful to them. If you need a good lawyer, I’ll give you their contact info.

While waiting for the permit, I got pregnant and all the plants died, and I could barely remember to feed the rabbits (but I did, you nosy NOBS people, I still did). I shifted my priorities–having a child meant having a farmstand that makes $5 profit doesn’t really make sense to me anymore (as fun as it was). I realized I don’t have time for livestock (except for bees), and sold or gave all the critters away. I also discovered that I don’t think it’s cute when I see a man shooting up in the garden (which just happened last week). And so, I’m locking the gates to the farm, which have been open and free since 2003 on October 1, 2012.

What’s the plan? The farm is turning into an orchard. With the help of Molly Bolt, we will be planting all the trees that have been in containers, so that the land will have over 25 fruit trees growing there, adding oxygen and sweet smells to the air. Eventually, once Francis is older, the trees will start producing fruit–maybe enough to sell, maybe not. I’ve learned so much from that little parcel of land, and it’s not over yet. Though the gate will be locked, I’ll still be posting about various happenings…stay tuned for a post about making cheese with cardoon flowers…

At the permit office, I handed the lady at the desk the big yellow placard. A spider crawled out of the middle of the sign, wondering where the hell it was. She whisked it away and sent me to the cashiers desk. The woman there told me–oh, you don’t get a refund because you never paid it. I just shrugged and laughed to myself: it’s the perfect way to end that process.

If you’d like to take a class with Molly that is in conjunction with the orchard plant at GT Farm, please email me–my name at the big G–and I’ll give you details.

Willow and I will be at the Dublin and Fremont Public Libraries Sept 22. Fremont 12-1:30; Dublin 3:30-5pm–come on by if you live round there…

10 responses to “Clearing It Out

  1. Christina VanDyke

    Hi there! Sorry to hear about the farm closing but, being a mother, I definitely understand changing priorities. I was really hoping I could email you privately but this might be ok too… I just wanted to say that my son is now living in Oakland, of course he’s a great kid…he’s 24 and he spent several summers working on an organic farm up here in North Idaho as well as a tree farm here. He’s working as a waiter right now so he’s not really looking for a job but I know he misses the farm life and so I was just wondering if you need any help with the conversion to an orchard I think he would be interested in helping. I don’t want to leave his number here but is there a way that people get in touch with you to volunteer?Thanks,

  2. We take our food sources for granted. Don’t diss the spiders and other creepy crawlers. Support your local seed savers, there is a reason why they are here.

  3. Now that you haven’t gotten your refund, you should consider submitting a grant proposal to the city of Oakland requesting funding for an urban orchard. . . . Just kidding. Good luck with the new plan.

  4. Best wishes Novella…looking forward to updates and pictures of the evolution of Ghost Town Farm!

  5. Just a quick note of support. I can totally hang with spiders; iv drug users, not so much. Sorry you had to lock your gates, but the orchard sounds like a good long-term move. Thanks again for “Farm City”. I was clearing things out and considered giving it to a friend…..Then I started reading it again and realized “This is too good to pass on!” Thanks again.

  6. Hey there Novella,

    I just recently moved in a scant couple dozen yards up from the farm a few weeks ago and wanted to drop you a line. As soon as a dear friend of mine found out what my new address was she immediately informed me that I had had HAD to read your book ASAP and before even three days had passed I found a package at my door containing her well-worn, dog-eared and highlighter-marked copy of Farm City awaiting me. I literally just finished the final words of the book a few moments ago and I wanted to thank you for providing such an entertaining, thought-provoking and heart-felt account of some very local history.

    Over the past week or two as I leisurely worked my way through its pages I swung by the lot a few times to peek in and imagine some of the events I had just been reading about near the soil itself. I noticed the placard missing on one of my visits and I’m very happy to hear the good news and future plans for the space.

    I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed spending some time with your words and wish you all the best!

    Thank you,
    Zane M

  7. I am regular reader, how are you everybody?
    This paragraph posted at this site is actually pleasant.

  8. I bought your book “Farm City” at a used book sale today. I was so excited to think that you live near me and have what sounds like a huge farm. I live near Grand and Market and have three trees, six chickens, and three large garden beds. I wanted to see the farm and find a way to learn from you. I’ll admit I’m disappointed you’re locking down the farm, but, under the circumstances, I understand. I’m a mother of three teenage girls and I teach 5th/6th grade so I do get it. But if you ever want help on your property or give classes or anything like that, I’m definitely interested!

  9. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz reply as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. cheers

  10. Pingback: *Farm City*, by Novella Carpenter | Cook on the Bias

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