Category Archives: fruit trees

Grapes

My sister, Riana, has been doing a fun thing all month on her flickr site. Every day in August, she has been preparing something for the Fall/Winter. We both have (and love) Nikki McClure calendars. If you haven’t seen them, they are really beautiful, paper-cut images along with one word that defines the month. The words are weird, almost prescient, because they always seem to sum up the core meaning of a month. Last month the theme was DELIGHT, and man, July was delightful. August’s word is PREPARE, and there is an illustration of some kids working on some projects.

Like my sis, I’m squirreling foodstuffs away like crazy. Confiting San Marzano tomatoes, freezing Early Girls, drying kale chips (BTW, the Gundruk made last post got really gnarly. I think I let it go in the jar for too long. Or maybe I got it right but it might be an acquired taste.). The latest is freezing grapes. A volunteer came from Queens, NY (Thanks Jac!), and we got to talking about grapes. Should I juice them? Make raisins? Jac said, busy cutting off mildewy pumpkin leaves: freeze them.

Frannie helped. It’s really messy. grapes

Freezing them actually intensifies their flavor. I have two gallon freezer bags full of them. They taste just like summer. Back to squirreling….

Rain day

Hello…Raindrops keep falling on my head…Today’s work day is canceled. Let’s try again next Thursday. The newly installed citrus trees are loving this precipitation…citrus

Frosty Limes

Brrrr, it’s cold here.
limeonice

This is one of my limes at a friend’s house in Maine.

But it’s feeling very cold here in Oakland even. Frost warnings at night. What’s a citrus farmer supposed to do? Wrap my trees, that’s what. Whenever I hear the temps will be in the low 30s, I drape the citrus trees with floating row cover aka Agribon aka Remay. This acts like a jacket for the tree–the spun poly fibers raise the temperature around the tree by almost 5 degrees.

Now, the other thing to do is to spray the plant with water. To us mammals, this sounds like an insane survival strategy. To understand how it works note that water has three phases: ice, water, and stream. To get ice to melt takes energy, just like it takes energy to make water boil. When water is going through a phase change, energy is given off. As water freezes into ice, heat is actually given off. A hydrated plant then, will be a warmer plant. If you love ’em, cover ’em.

Speaking of fruit, the Golden Gate chapter of the scion exchange is happening this weekend! Saturday, 12-3 at Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley by the Ashby BART. http://www.crfg.org/chapters/golden_gate/scionex.htm. If you’ve never been, get ready for a fruit-seeking thrill like no other.

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.

And!
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…

The Giving Tree

I planted a Bearass, I mean Bearss (he he), lime when I first started squatting on 28th street. The lime went from a little stick to this towering green monster of fruit.

Some of my neighbors pick the branches and leaves to make a cold remedy, some kids like to use them to throw at each other, others like to hide behind the tree and piss. I like to pick the limes–and WASH them very well–and make lime sherbet (recipe at the end). The fruit is big and juicy, and ripe when it turns yellow (but it’s actually fine when green too).

Like everything on my farmlette, the tree is not pristine, it needs to be pruned way back, and a swarm of Argentinian ants have made it their favorite place to farm an insect called scale, so the branches are coated with hard-bodied parasites which suck from the lifeblood of the tree. Somehow, the tree keeps alive, and thriving. I must have harvested 50 pounds of fruit so far and it’s still flush with fruit.

Thanks to the power and stamina of this tree, it’s become a tradition for me to send the fruit to friends and family for the holidaze. This year some of the limes will be more special than others, because I ran across a new magazine called Lucky Peach. It’s a brainy food magazine with hipster appeal. The writing is hilarious and they often have fun things like this quarter’s Fruit Stickers.


The sticker on the lime reads, “The Fruit That Likes the Knife”.

The pomegranate, picked by moi, is headed to my mom. The sticker, if you can’t read it says, “Hand-picked by Poor People.” Other favorites include, “Actually Pretty Tasty” and “This Plum Is Not Gluten Free” (that one’ll have to wait til next summer.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks Lime Tree! Thanks Lucky Peach. Happy Holidaze to you all.

Lime Sherbet
It’s not sorbet, cuz it has milk. This is good to bring to follow a Hannakah brisket, Xmas Goose, or Solstice Nutria
(obviously, triple this)
1 1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 water
1 cup sugar
Rind finely sawed up from 1 lime
1 cup milk
1 TB vodka
Blend the lime juice, water and sugar together. Throw in the lime rind and vodka. Chill to 38 degrees. Mix chilled lime solution with milk and pour into your ice cream maker. You don’t have an ice cream maker? You’re screwed. No, no, you might be able to put it in the freezer and stir every few minutes and it might be ok. But I’ve never tried that. This is not a food blog.

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.

Animals

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.

Garden

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?

Writing

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.

Teaching

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 http://www.biofueloasis.com 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?