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Thanks Marin!

19 Feb

Who would have guessed that my foul-mouthed, grungy memoir, Farm City, first published way back in 2009, would be chosen as One Book, One Marin for 2014? Not me. Not my mama. But somehow it has happened.

novellapluslibrarians

Here’s me and a bunch of librarians and a couple of booksellers at the launch event for OBOM, at Book Passage in Corte Madera last week. I didn’t know what a big deal it was until I got to the store, which was packed, and saw this massive wall of Farm City at the front of the store.

walloffarmcity
That’s Joe, a high school teacher who is starting an urban farm at Redwood High, just down the street from Book Passage. They already have a garden, but the school is going full-out with chickens and other projects. I can’t wait to see that grow.

The premise of One Book, One Marin is to have everyone in your community read a book together; but from that book comes an opportunity to branch out and learn more. In the case of Marin and Farm City (which I sometimes misspell Fart Cimy, the librarians and everyone else involved put together a great list of events and workshops: urban beekeeping, food and social justice, raising goats and rabbits with K. Ruby from the Institute of Urban Homesteading. Check out these free events–it’s an amazing list. I’m so proud to be a part of this.

My next Marin event will be at the Pt. Reyes Library, March 8 at 3pm…hope to see you there!

SF Reading/Presentation

29 Mar

The garden is really, really coming together. Yesterday my neighbor and I jack-hammered up a bunch of concrete. Last week I tried to use a concrete cutter, to no avail. The concrete on the lot, we discovered, is 6 inches thick and is very old, very limey. It’s a nightmare. But that jackhammer, that jackhammer went through the concrete like butter. I need to add compost and gypsum before planting the trees. Can’t wait.

Anyway, I’ll be doing a reading and presentation April 1 in San Francisco! I’ll have some slides to show how the garden is getting transformed, in addition to the back story. So, come on over to the Presidio!

USF Presidio Campus 112 – Classroom
Monday, April 01, 2013
5:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Asking for Help

5 Apr

Update: Thanks to everyone who donated so far, I’m up to over $1,000 from mostly small donations $5-20. You guys rule!

It’s really hard for me to ask for help. I’m used to doing things myself, helping other people, and figuring out some jankity way to make things work out. Welp, the time has come for me to admit that I can’t figure this out by myself, and I don’t have an extra $2500 floating around. Last night Bill and I were at Berkeley Bowl and I asked him, “Am I really in trouble? or am I just being whiney?” Bill said, “Of course, this is total BS! We pay property taxes on that lot, and spent our last pennies to buy it so we can have a farm and now they say you can’t have the farm? Do you know how much money we’re spending so you can have some chickens or ducks?”

It’s true, this is stupid. Why am I even trying? Why not just move to the country and do whatever I want? Why be so deviant, why not just go buy my food at the grocery store and shut the fuck up?

I’ll tell you why: I love Oakland. I love the people who live here, and I love my neighborhood. It is like freaking sesame street walking down the damn street with everyone saying hi and helping each other out. I even don’t mind the city–they are just doing their job. And, at the same time, I love keeping animals and growing vegetables. I adore my goats and my egg laying chickens, and my meat ducks. That’s what my book Farm City is all about–figuring out how to live in the city and raise my own healthy, delicious food. What was surprising to me was when Farm City came out and people got so excited about urban farming for themselves. This enthusiasm and excitement has been a by-product of the farm–or should I say a value added product?–and makes me realize that I can’t stop and just walk away. Your words of support keep me doing what I’m doing.

When we saved our money and finally bought the lot after squatting for so many years, I felt like I could finally relax and build on what we started. That’s still what I want to do: make a teaching space, a hub for other urban farmers to sell their extra produce and honey, and a demonstration for best practices for urban farming. But these troubles from the city and the animal rights activists rabbit nazis and people who think what I’m doing is Weird, are really kicking my ass. It’s eating up all my time and energy, and I’m running out of money.

I know lots of people have sent offers of help my set up various systems to raise money, sorry I didn’t get back to you yet. I was trying to figure out how to do it myself. So, check it out, there’s a paypal button on the right sidebar of this blog (I’m a technophobe to the core–thanks Marg and Daniel for your help). Feel free to give, and know that I’ll use the money to fight the urban farming fight. Note that these donations are not tax deductible. They’re gifts to a private entity.

Spring Events

23 Mar

Howdy and happy spring. Did you know it’s really not just spring, but halfway thru spring? Either way, the winds knocked over my pea trellises, and the rain has beaten up my fava beans. The ducks and chickens are destroying my carefully made beds. Nature is against me! But I can’t complain, this rain means more salad mix, plumper radishes, better germination for my carrots–I hope.

So, sorry about the canceled farm stand. I want to schedule another one but it’s getting crazy around here. Here’s where I’ll be in the next few days and weeks:

March 26 Hayward Main Library, 2pm. Hayward chose Farm City as their community read!

March 28 Salt Lake City, Westminster College, 7pm public talk

March 31 Alameda Public Library, 7pm. Alameda chose Farm City as their community read!

April 1 San Francisco’s Booksmith, 1644 Haight Street 6:30pm. I’ll be there doing the Bookswap! Buy tickets here. I’ll be dressed as a donkey.

April 3, Urban Farm Tour, Biofuel Oasis 9:30-2pm. I’ll be guiding the tour with Serena Barlett, to buy tickets, go here.

April 6, Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo 5pm-7pm. Farm City is Cuesta’s book of the year! Woot!

April 7, SLO, Steynberg Gallery, 11-1:30pm.

April 13, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, 7pm

April 17, Teaching Raising Chickens class at the Biofuel Oasis, 2pm-5pm.

April 19, Minnesota, M State-Moorhead, 4pm free public lecture

April 28, Seattle, Washington Hall, part of the Essential Arts Art and Agriculture program, 7pm

May 14 Hayward Ochoa Garden. Remember how Farm City was chosen as Hayward’s community read? The librarians and Hayward Public schools are working together to do a garden work day on May 14, 10am-1pm. I’ll be there, hoe-ing.

See ya!

Party on the 28th

18 Jul

Just when things were getting good around here, I “have” to go on vacation. Billy and I are pulling up stakes in early August and taking a crazy cross-country road trip. Of course this causes much consternation on the farm, so I have to find a place to board the goats, set up the ducks, and chickens. The bees, well, they don’t care if I’m around or not.

The garden is another thing to worry about. Last time I left for that long, many plants died. So I’ve decided to just harvest everything, pull up all the rows and beds and plant a cover crop just before I go. So there’s going to be a big mid-summer harvest party at my place July 28, 5-8pm. I figure I should make it a fundraiser for my trip, too. We’ll be going to Detroit to check out the urban farm scene (dream of mine) but as you know, biodiesel is expensive. Accordingly, I’ll be selling some items to pay for “gas” money: t-shirts, preserved lemons, greens, radishes, pickles, and books. My new friend Becky of Local 123 coffee shop will be on hand making salads using produce from the garden, iced tisanes (mint/verbena/elderflower) and we might even serve some hot stuff out of the cob oven. Please feel free to stop by:

July 28, 5pm-8pm

665 28th street, oaklandia (ride bikes or park on MLK, please)

If you can’t wait–I’ll be at Samin’s Pop-up General store this Wednesday, July 21 at 47th and MLK.

And finally, I’ll be at the North Berkeley Library (1170 Alameda at Hopkins)  reading and discussing Farm City on July 22 at 6:30. Come on by!

Manny Howard Update

7 Jul

Remember awhile back when I was all pissed off about Manny Howard, the urban farmer in Brooklyn? I just reread my post, and man, I was being such a bitch. I think I was scared that his book would come out and Farm City would look derivative, and I worried that he was mocking something–growing food in cities–that I hold near to my heart. My fears retreated once Farm City was published and I started getting letters from readers and fellow urban farmers who were so supportive. It’s great to get email from people who are now raising chickens or keeping bees, or growing some food, partially inspired by Farm City and the urban farming movement. I suppose I was pissed at Manny for telling people “no you can’t,” when I know they can–I’ve even seen some kick-ass farms in New York, where Manny lives!

Now I just watched his appearance on the Colbert Show, and I felt sorry for him–not that he was on Colbert, that is a sure-fire way to sell a lot of books! But that he seemed so beaten down and defeated by the whole experience. When he talks about killing (in self-defense) a rabbit then discovering she was pregnant, it made me feel bad for him and her. I did glance through his book, My Empire of Dirt, and it definitely had some funny moments, and he’s a good writer. Anyway, what I’ve learned, almost three years later, is that a book lives on–it can inspire, it can horrify, and it becomes a reflection of who you were. It’s pretty humbling, and it’s hard because you’re ultimately revealing so much about yourself. Anyway, Manny, if you’re out there, I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for being such a bitch back in 2007.

And when are we doing that rumble? I’ll be in NYC September 25ish. Get your scythe out.

Lessons from the Road

15 Jun

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 www.biofueloasis.com. If goats aren’t your thing, Nishanga Bliss (!) is teaching a fermentation class later that same day.