Category Archives: random thoughts

Yes Today

Yup workday today, 3-5pm at 663 28th street.
It will be a lettuce pulling massacre, and greens harvest day. Might fire up the outdoor stove and make kale chips.

Camarillo Calling…

Hello. Anyone out there living in the Santa Barbara area? If so, come on over to Camarillo, where I’ll be doing two events at the main library this weekend. The gracious librarians and patrons chose my book Farm City as their one book, one city read. I’m so excited. The whole family is loading up the car as I type this. Here are the details:

Saturday, 2:30, Main Library, Camarillo. I’ll be moderating (and chiming in) a panel discussion: “In Search of Good Food” with local food folks and urban farmers.

Sunday, 2:00, Main Library, Camarillo. I’ll be reading from Farm City and doing a slideshow!

Here’s the address for the main library.
4101 Las Posas Road
Camarillo CA 93010
The library is located at 4101 Las Posas Road, Camarillo. If you are coming from the 101, take the Lewis exit and continue north until you reach Las Posas. Right on Las Posas. Library is about one block on right.

See you there!

Gearing Up For Spring

This is a miracle: I have planted all my tomatoes already. I think it’s the first time I’ve finally realized that I live in California, and as such, I can plant stuff early early early. I tucked them under floating row cover to keep them warm during the chilly nights. I snagged some Early Girls from Kassenhoff Growers that I plan to dry-farm.
photo
Planted three San Marzanos for canning, and two Sungolds for cherry tomatoes. I’m hoping to later get two starts of my personal favorite tomato: the amazing Paul Robeson, which I’ll probably get from Daniel at Spiral Gardens in South Berkeley.

Yesterday I also planted radishes, and added another super to my very healthy beehive. I feel so lucky to have access to my big-ass garden: Franny has taken to wandering out there in the morning to do some digging and dirt-eating.

Even if you don’t have access to a garden–for whatever reason no land, no green thumb, no time–there is something you can do this upcoming spring to ensure you’ll have a steady stream of delicious vegetables: sign up for a CSA! A CSA is an acronym for Community Supported/or Sustained Agriculture. Basically you find a farm that you believe in, promise to pay for a weekly box vegetables for a season, and then get ready for a beautiful onslaught of produce every week. CSA works great for the farmer, who god knows, needs a steady stream capital to buy seeds and property taxes and infrastructure. The consumer not only gets a share of the produce, they get the satisfaction of supporting a farmer.

If I didn’t have a garden, I would subscribe to Live Power Community Farm‘s CSA box. Live Power is a unique, amazing, draft-horse powered 40-acre farm up in Covelo. I’ve spent a few weekends there and I can say without a doubt, the produce is the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. I distinctly remember biting into one of their green gage plums, and almost crying it was so tasty. Live Power is a biodynamic farm–which goes well beyond organic standards. Gloria and Stephen are the farmers, and you’ll never meet cooler people. The care that goes into their land is palatable. You should see their compost piles. Incredible. And, the only way you are going to get Live Power produce is by subscribing to their CSA share–they don’t sell at farmer’s markets. Know that you’ll be embarking on joining a community, too. It’s not just a drop off of produce–in fact, twice a season, you’ll help pack the boxes and get to meet all the other members. It’s a great supportive community. I’m actually starting to feel jealous… So, sign up by emailing their membership coordinator: jeaner.27 at gmail dot com! They serve Marin, SF, and the East Bay. You’ll need to sign up by March 30; their season runs from May 18-December 7.

Reminder: Garden day is on for Thursday, if it’s not raining. 3-6-ish, at 2727 MLK. I rented a concrete cutter from the tool lending library so if anyone has power tool skills or aggression toward pavement, please please join us!

Stumptown

I’m newly discovering boundaries. In the garden. Before I liked to just make big berms, toss some seeds in, and call it a garden bed. But then I noticed people seemed to not know it was a garden bed and would stand there, on top of the lettuce. Of course you can’t blame anyone–how would they know? So, I’ve been dabbling with different border materials. One rule: they must be free.

The first came about because I had a bunch of these cinder blocks around. I think I found them on a corner a few years back. So far they are making a good border. Obviously they are sturdy. I like that I can plant into the little holes–herbs only, though, because I think once summer hits these blocks will get hella hot and dry. There’s something very Soviet era about this garden bed. Not sure I love it.

blocks

Then there’s this totally jankity bed.
urbanitebed

One of my volunteers delicately mentioned that she wouldn’t want to use these slabs of concrete as edging. “Why not?” I asked, so proud of my stacking abilities. “It looks a little…messy.” Now that I look at the photos, she is absolutely right. I am not smitten with this material. But, have I mentioned that it is free?

Finally, my fav: stumps. This too is pretty messy looking. But a woodsy mess as opposed to a rubble mess.
woodbed

Here’s the car that loaded all the stumps. I nearly destroyed the leaf springs or something like that. You can find more stumps and logs at Hearst and 4th in Berkeley, near Import Tile, where the day laborers wait. And maybe you’ll see me too. I don’t think I’m done yet.
stumpcar

Remember: Farm Work Day Tomorrow, March 14, 3-6pm. At 2727 Martin Luther King. Bring a friend, and get ready to work it baby.

Rain cancels

Ok, see you in the garden tomorrow, 3-5pm. Rain cancels, though, which it will likely do.

Duck report

One of my ducks started another nest of eggs, near the busy MLK street side of my garden. She pulled out a bunch of soft downy feathers and settled in right next to the chain link fence. I thought: good luck with that. Periodically eggs would roll from the nest under the fence to the sidewalk. I watched a few passersby pause, look at this greenish egg rolling around with the ubiquitous Dorito bags, and then gently push the egg back into the nest.

So it’s through a community effort that these ducklings finally hatched.

They are certainly adorable. But then they grow up. What’s a girl to do that has a pending permit from the City of Oakland that says: “No slaughtering or butchering of animals allowed?”

With previous hatches, I had been lucky and bartered with people–they got ducklings, I got some produce. But a few duckies did stick around and they grew up, and I had some big ducks on my hands. I figured it would be pretty easy to find a slaughterhouse. Nope. One place I called said they don’t process ducks, just chickens. Another said they had a 100 duck minimum. Finally I found a place in Manteca that would process my measly 8 ducks. Manteca is an hour’s drive away. To process 8 ducks, it would cost $80 ($10/duck). The paradox that I could buy a cooked duck from Chinatown for less than $10 was not lost on me. Still, I went. I didn’t have many other options.

The trip to Manteca was actually kind of fun because my friend D came along, and of course so did Billy and baby Francis. The slaughterhouse was a real mom and pop affair, not the nightmare PETA video places that I imagine when I think slaughterhouse. They did an outstanding, quick, clean job with the ducks. Much faster than I would, and less painful–my fingers really get weary trying to get all those pin feathers. Although $10/duck seemed high, I realized that if someone had walked up to me and said, “i’ll do that for $10,” I do believe I would have gladly handed them the duck.

The money’s spent, the fuel burned, I’m not mad about it. But I do wonder how this Oakland no slaughter law will work for someone with no car and no cash.

We’ll see how this batch of ducklings turn out. I’ve made a couple barters with folks to trade ducklings for things like eggs or tomatoes. Contact me (novella.carpenter@gmail.com) if you want to do this with this hatch…