Category Archives: Biofuel Oasis

How Novella Got Her Chickens (Groove) Back

I got my first hens in 1998. I was living in Seattle at the time, Beacon Hill, in a house we called the Hen House. Not because we had chickens. Bill and I found the remnants of an old Chinese restaurant sign, written in that funny chopsticks font, on a street corner. Being hoarders, we took the sign home and hung it on our porch awning. The word in chopstick font, cut off in the “N” area was HEN. Then I got chickens. Maybe it was a sign from the universe.

Anyway, I didn’t know anything. I remember feeding them cornmeal. Only later did I figure out they will lay more eggs if you feed them actual chicken food, specially formulated. I also built a very questionable chicken coop. This type of construction would continue until I finally figured out that carpenters/builders are worth their weight in gold, and make things look beautiful–and can make a fully functional (ie predator proof) coop.

Since that first flock, I’ve had several more, but none feel quite as special as my current flock. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was so sick and tired, I couldn’t do anything. Including shutting the chicken coop up at night. I lost that flock to predators–raccoons? oppossoms? I don’t know. But there were feathers everywhere, and I had to face the facts: my life as a mom wasn’t going to be as easy as it was when I was single and able to do everything on the farm that needed doing.

Fast forward two years, and I have a new flock of hens. Here they are.

Some came from a friend who raised them from chicks, some came from Dare 2 Dream Farm, which sells chicks and chickens, coops, and cool t-shirts. The pullets we got from Dare 2 Dream started laying a few weeks ago! Here’s the nest o’eggs.


Note that the dark brown one is a wooden egg, which fools the girls into thinking no one (no one!) is taking their eggs. Sneaky. Post-baby (I have a toddler now, I’m told), the chickens feel so right, so good. They are easy to care for (just some feeding and cleaning). Putting them to bed, shutting their door, is part of our bedtime ritual now. Frannie says, Goodnight chickens, and helps shut the door. I know, it’s sick how sweet that is. And…eggs.


We like ours poached. Served on a small rickety table. We eat them in our pajamas. They are the Best Eggs Ever.

If you have any chicken questions, and you live in the Bay Area, I’ll be at the Biofuel Oasis’s Harvest Festival at 3pm on September 21. The BFO is having lots of fun events that day, like a honey tasting and kombucha making class. Here are the details.

Upcoming Events and Farm Tour

Well hello! Thanks for everyone who came out to Willow and my first live demonstration promoting the Essential Urban Farmer. We showed people how to build this sub-irrigation planter with repurposed plastic buckets.

the white pvc pipe connects to the water reservoir below. I can’t wait to grow a tomato plant in it this summer.

We will be doing another talk on UCBerkeley’s campus this Monday, March 19 at Barrows Hall, 6:30pm. We’ll do a powerpoint presentation, there might be silk screening of aprons!

Next, March 24, I’ll be tabling at what sounds like an amazing conference, called the Economics of Happiness.

Then, April 1, it’s open farm day!!! I’ll be selling greens, t-shirts, and copies of the Essential Urban Farmer. Come on by! 11am-2pm. Corner of MLK and 28th street.

Bitch is Back

Hello Everyone!

Had such a nice summer off, but since it’s September 1, I figured I should decide: to blog or not to blog?

After a lot of discussion with friends and advisers, and bathtub sessions where I weighed the evil internet on one hand and the brilliance of connectivity on the other, I’ve decided to return. I think I’ll stop mentioning illegal things that I’ve been up to (so many) what with the man watching and all. So expect a bit tamer blog, ok?

I’ll catch up on what’s been going on at the farm this summer, slowly trickling it out over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I wanted to give a heads up for a couple of things:
-Classes have resumed at the Biofuel Oasis, my place of work. Because I wanted a break, I’m not teaching any classes, but we’ve replaced me with some all-stars (and probably better teachers than me) like Alexis from Soul Food Farms teaching a chicken class, Esperanza teaching rabbits, and Kitty teaching goats. Sign up now at the Biofuel Oasis website.

-My new book is coming out December 27 (hmm, right around the baby coming)! Willow Rosenthal and I have been slaving on this giant how-to book for the past three years or something. It’s called The Essential Urban Farmer. It’s got everything a budding or experienced urban farmer might want to know about growing veggies and fruit, securing land, and raising livestock in the city.

-Farm Stand Open in October…Maybe. We’ll see. But I’m hoping to finally get my use permit and get back to the once a month farm stand featuring greens and honey, carrots and apples. I’m also excited that my dear dear friend L is back in town after a long hiatus in dusty Texas, and we are scheming to sell cut flowers as well as all the glorious veg.

Finally, big news. Are you sitting down? I’m pregnant! Yup, that’s what happens when I take a break. Baby is due on Christmas. Billy and I are so excited. Human livestock. Wait, is that illegal?

That’s it for now, more soon–I gotta re-enter slowly….

Urban Farm Tour and more…

It’s the year of the tour. A fellow urban farmer, k ruby from the institute of urban homesteading is doing an urban homestead tour in June; the Bay Friendly garden tour is featuring lots of places with chickens, bees, ducks, and goats on their tour; and the Biofuel Oasis is having our first Urban Farm Tour on Sunday, April 3rd, 9:30-2pm. It’s going to be really fun–the tour group will meet at the Biofuel Oasis then board the biodiesel powered Mexican School Bus for a few hours of urban farming pleasure. We will stop and see a small CSA, a youth run organization, a goat farm, and end at my place to behold my new predator proof chicken coop from heaven. Along the way you’ll get to sample farm produce, ask the farmer questions, and learn about best practices for growing food in the cities. Tickets are limited, $40/each. Sign up here, and I’ll see you on the bus!

Als0–thanks to everyone who came to my Farmstand this Sunday, it was great to meet all you cool people, and we did raise some cash to pay for some of the farm expenses. The next Ghosttown Farm pop up farmstand will be Wednesday, March 23, 4-7pm. Please let me know if you are an urban farmer with produce to sell. I’m looking for urban east bay people who want to sell honey, eggs, fruit, or vegetables. No jams or processed items at this time. Send me an email with your specifics: novellacarpenter at gmail

Happy March!

End of the Year Look Back: 2010

I just read my goals for 2010 and I’m pretty psyched that I managed to get two things done: the cob oven built and the property purchased. I had actually forgotten about my pledge to buy some property for my high density orchard dream in 2010–who could have guessed it would have been our squat lot?

I noticed, too, that I didn’t do a lot of the things on my list of things to do. Like tan all those rabbit hides in the freezer. Like to not grow vegetables during the hot summer months. I also didn’t go foraging much, even though people were nice and offered to show me their secret spots, etc. And I also didn’t get serious about my finances (again).

That’s life, though, you do what you can. In that spirit, here’s my look back on 2010, and plans for 2011.


I ended up increasing my rabbit flock, what with the San Lorenzo farm and all. Now they’re at my place, in really nice Bass cages, and I’m so happy how they are thriving and reproducing.

The dairy goats were a disappointment on one hand because they kidded all males. On the up side, Ginger has a really nice udder for a first freshener. I’m hoping it’ll get huge after her second kidding. My goal is more milk production, and I’ve realized that I just have to grow my own champs. Bebe is giving up six cups of milk per milking, a new record for her, and a tripling of her intial production when I first bought her almost three years ago. Yay Bebe!! Photo by Morgen Van Vorst.

The bees gave quite a few gallons of honey this year, enough that I could sell some of it at my pop up farmstand. My split didn’t work, I realize now because I didn’t put the new hive far enough away from the old one. Duh. Good to make dumb mistakes, in order to learn.

Next year with the animals, I’m looking forward to my Muscovy ducks successfully hatching out babies (they sat on a clutch of eggs for two months, nothing hatched though there were embryos in there). I’d like to add one more milker to the farm, most likely by birth. And one more beehive at the farm.


My triamble squash were small this year. The clear winner in terms of production was the trombocino/rampicante zucchini. Not only did I get million little zukes, I also let a few of them go and they made gorgeous, sort of phallic winter squash. Great color, and delicious eating. I’ll def grow this squash again (but only one).

I learned to love rapini, which is a great weed, and turned others onto it at my farmstand. I also learned how to cook borage leaves. The garden definitely thrived with the new French Intensive Bed layout. I also learned how to use floating row cover and shade cloth–two essential tools for the new stupid weather conditions caused by global climate change. I got a little better about starting enough seedlings on prop tables so I can do on-going plantings throughout the year.

Next year’s garden goals are to do more continuous production, higher sales, better staking and garden infrastructure, espaliered fruit tree fence, build a greenhouse, get the compost under control, and wack back all that ugly stuff that I don’t like.  Oh–and slowly pick axe the concrete, one bed at a time. I guess I can use the urbanite to build the walls for the outdoor kitchen?


Really happy to finish, with Willow Rosenthal, the Essential Urban Farmer. It’s due out in 2012. Also glad to be working on my next book, Gone Feral, for the next year.


My mom’s a teacher, I never thought I would be. But there I was, teaching animal husbandry classes at the BFO. I’ll be teaching more in 2011, including cheesemaking, goat, rabbit, and chicken raising. See for a list. As I get the outdoor kitchen built, I’m looking forward to teaching hands-on classes at my place. I’m also hoping to have more kids come to the farm to learn about urban farming.

Those are my highlights. What are your plans for the upcoming year? What was a success/lesson that you learned at your place?

Winner: naming contest

OK everyone–i love everyone who submitted! Thank you for taking the time to do the brainstorm. It seemed like quite a few of you like the Farm Garage, and that’s probably what we’ll go with when we officially launch in the spring (we are open and selling chicken feed, founts, feeders, and beekeeping supplies Monday-Saturday, 11-7pm).

However, I need to get that poster to one lucky namer. I loved so many like Urbane Grain, The New Reliance Supply Co, and Metropolitan Feed and Fuel. However, there can only be one winner (only one poster) and that person is: B, with her hilarious, unPC name:  ‘Hos With Hoes. You’d be like, “honey, will you stop off at Hos and pick up some kelp meal?”

Let’s do that again soon, as soon as I have some more schwag to share!

Congrats B!