Category Archives: Biofuel Oasis

Exciting things happening

I am so high on almost spring!

Couple of things I wanted to get the word out about:

1. classes at the Biofuel Oasis urban farming store are going strong. i’m teaching a goat class may 9th, that isn’t quite full yet. if you’ve been thinking about raising goats, sign up for this class! there’s also classes about rainwater harveting, greywater, beekeeping, and chicken raising.

2. the sf garden show, usually an over-the-top horticulture event, is getting into food crops. this year it’s being held in san mateo (not cow palace) from March 24-28. Here are my picks for food gardening events: Pam Pierce, doyenne of the dirt, Wed March 24 at 3:30; Rosalind Creasy, edible landscaping godmother, appears March 25, 1pm; and a fellow urban farmer Bill Thoness is talking about heirloom vegetables, Friday March 26, 3:30. here’s a link for the full seminar schedule.

3. i’m ramping up garden production and have a new business model. though i’m still going to feed my hungry neighbors, i need to find a way to pay for seeds and alfalfa, rootstock and floating row cover. so i’ve hatched a plan to have a Pop Up Farm Stand!  here’s the general idea: every week, on say, a wednesday or thursday, i’ll post on-line what’s available to buy. this list will include fava beans, salad green mixes, milk (pet food only), rabbit meat, herbs, beets, seedlings, and grafted fruit trees. i might even dabble in selling some products like preserved lemons, dried tea blends, and cheese (aged and fresh). i’ll also have books and t-shirts for sale. on Friday i’ll open up the farm for a few hours for people to come by and get what they want, on a first come, first served basis. i’d love to hear what you think of the idea, and what you’d like me to grow or raise.

Talking chicken, bees, and biod

As some of you know, I’m lucky to be involved with the most bad-ass group of women, the biodevas of the Biofuel Oasis. We’ve been slinging biod in Berkeley, CA since 2003, and now our dreams of becoming an urban farming headquarters is coming true.

Many years ago, we all talked about how we really wanted to diversify and sell something in addition to biodiesel. Healthy versions of gas station snacks didn’t seem radical enough. But urban farming supplies did. It fits into the whole model of DIY empowerment, of questioning where everything comes from, and learning new things. We’re now selling rabbit feed, chick starter, beekeeping supplies, and straw bales. And although we were a bit timid at first, it’s becoming clear that people really do want these things in an urban setting. We sold out of our beekeeping supplies within a month! We have new customers every day who want to buy high-quality, local, organic animal feeds and grains. It’s so fun.

And now we’re taking it to the next level: classes.  The first one, Backyard Chickens 101, will be held July 26, 10-1 and will be taught by yours truly. I’m going to cover coop building, nutrition, city ordinances, chick care, health, and troubleshooting. We’re also bringing egg-y snacks! The class costs $25, but if that’s too expensive, we were blessed with a Rainbow Grocery Coop grant to offer scholarships–just call the Oasis (510.665.5509) and ask about signing up for the scholarship. Otherwise, you can sign up herechickensinthehouse.

The following month Jennifer Radtke is teaching a beekeeping class, and then a biodiesel home-brew class. Check it out, and take food production into your own hands.

Goat Babies

It’s been a whirlwind week what with the new Biofuel Oasis opening up shop and both goats giving birth within a few days of each other.

novellabfoLast Tuesday Bebe came running out of the goat area looking crazy. Extra crazy. And then she started making the deep bleating noises that mean only one thing. I, exhausted from a marathon BFO construction weekend, ran around the house looking for all kinds of thing that I had now lost: iodine, washcloths, towels, beet pulp, molasses. Knowing Bebe, a pro with 4 births under her belt already, would be popping soon. She lay down and got back up for about an hour then started the real pushing. She yelled her head off, and I was reminded that birth is not fun and should not be a priority for me.

Finally, we saw a head poking out. A stuck-ish head and one hoof. Because normal position is two hooves and a nose. I couldn’t help myself, I broke the bag of fluid so I could talk to the head. It was a beautiful black and white La Mancha eared-head. “Ahhh,” it nickered. I cleaned off my hands and gently pushed the hoof back, and fished around for the second one. I couldn’t reach it. So, after another minute, and some intense bleating and pushing on Bebe’s part, and some gentle tugging on mine, Bebe finally got the thing out. These kids were huge compared to the straight Nigerian Dwarf kids.


Then out came the second one without issue. Bebe is the greatest mom ever, and she cleaned them off, made low mumbling noises and eagerly licked them while they nursed. Her udder is *enormous*. I breathed a sigh of relief–birth is very dramatic and scary, not unlike a death.

So, Bebe’s are: Eyore, a black and white speckled sweet boy. and Hedwig, a earless black and white girl who also has a weird extra thing on her vagina. These sexes are not ideal. I felt kind of sad the rest of the day. Yes, the birth went well, Bebe was healthy, and as cute as they are, these are not keeper goats if you’re in it for the milk.


That was Tuesday.

Friday, on the day of the grand opening of the BFO at 11am, Orla ran up to me at 9am with a quizzical expression and grunted. At least I could find everything I needed because the gear from Tuesday’s birth was still on the washing machine. I figured her labor might be short like Bebe’s. Around 1pm, with no signs of movement and lots of heavy breathing, I called Cotati Large Animal Veterinary. The nice lady vet talked me down when I confessed that Orla was having her first birth, she was slightly fat, and that I lived in downtown Oakland: “Has her water burst?” No. “Is she bleeding?” No. “Call me if her water breaks and there’s no progress.” It’s just so nice to talk to an expert (must remember to send a thank you card).


By 1:30, Orla was pushing and yeeeellling. I crouched next to her, offered her molasses water, and tried to facilitate the pushing by making dramatic facial expressions. Then, out squirted a spindly yellow thing. Dead. I thought. Because how can something look so skeletal and yellow and be alive? But then she coughed and I wiped her off. Orla, meanwhile, had one of those distant stares. She didn’t know this was her baby. I thought. I pulled on her collar–check out your baby! But she would have none of that. Bill came out to see the baby–an adorable blonde with blue eyes–and so did Bebe who couldn’t refuse the sound of a mewling kid. “There’s another one in there,” he said.

“No, she’s just fat,” I said. And stupid, I thought. I worried that she was like a neglectful teen mom. Visions of me doing 3 am bottle feedings flashed in my mind. Then another baby slide out. Twins! I couldn’t believe it because usually first timers have only one kid. After that one was out, Orla’s motherly instincts kicked in and she started cleaning up her girls.Both girls. Both blue-eyed. It was 3pm, I headed to the new Oasis. A good day to be born.


Veggie Oil

Hello. Of course you know you can power your diesel car with vegetable oil. But the details, for many people, become a little hazy. To that point, the lovely Moe B and myself will be co-teaching a class about all the ins and out about using veggie oil instead of that stinky dino-diesel.
If you’re interested, details are below:
Veggie Oil 101
Thinking about converting your vehicle to run on straight vegetable oil? This class covers basic theory, veg oil collection, issues, and explains the different types of conversions available. Also, local conversion kit installers will talk about their kits. Taking this class is a great way to educate yourself about SVO options.
Sunday March 1st 11 a.m- 3p.m.
Cost: $40
To enroll please email: with the subject heading: March 1st class.