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.
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!
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.
Then there’s this totally jankity bed.
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.
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.
Remember: Farm Work Day Tomorrow, March 14, 3-6pm. At 2727 Martin Luther King. Bring a friend, and get ready to work it baby.
Ok, see you in the garden tomorrow, 3-5pm. Rain cancels, though, which it will likely do.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to do this with this hatch…
Oh ghod, wouldn’t you know that when I’m hoping to wind down the farm, the ducks are hatching out another plan.
Every year, I give the teachers at Washington Elementary some fertile duck eggs. It’s a really cool class project, where they hatch out the ducklings and the kids learn about science and life. This year, two separate classes did the project. Of the 10 eggs total given, 5 hatched. One of the teachers was really brave and conducted an autopsy on one of the unhatched eggs. I heard the smell was incredible. The kids sat far, far away. Teach’ figured out the eggs had gestated for 14 days, then stopped developing.
The five that kept developing and eventually hatched out imprinted on the school kids. But with school letting out, they had to leave the classroom. So now the ducklings are back at my place. Yes, Virginia, I am going to eat them. I only have so much space…Don’t worry City of Oakland, I’m taking them up to a USDA slaughterhouse….
Actually, my plan is to get rid of the ducks entirely. Which is why I was chagrined when my neighbor came up to me yesterday and said, “The ducklings hatched!” I thought he was talking about the school ducklings, and nodded my head. “I counted 13,” he said. Oh god. I ran back to the duck area and checked, yep, one of the sneaky girls hatched out a whole nest of them. Lucky number 13. Sometimes, nature has other plans. Anyone want to trade (something, anything) for some Muscovey ducklings?
It’s May–harvest time. Months ago I planted carrots, garlic, potatoes, peas, fava beans. Now it’s time to pull them out and cover up the beds for the fallow season. I know it’s weird–just as everyone is planting out their tomato starts and cuc seeds for a summer garden explosion, I’m reining her in. Believe me, I wish I could have a big summer garden. But I’ve taken over paying the water bill now–and it’s huge.
How did a renter get stuck with the water bill? My landlord for our apartment, which also has the hose bib I use to water the garden, has gone missing in action, and EBMUD turned off our water. I turned it back on and put the bill in my name. So far, every two months the garden uses about $75 worth of water–a lot, especially when it’s been raining and I haven’t had to water much. Imagine the July bill!
So, just like last year, I’m going to give the garden a summer break. Yesterday, I harvested all the fava beans. And I just started pulling up the first of the carrots.
By June, when the rains have ceased, I’ll harvest the rest of the carrots, the potatoes, let the garlic dry up and then yank it. By July the only thing I’ll need to water are the fruit trees. I’ll cover everything with mulch or burlap bags.
I am dry farming a few early girl tomatoes and some russet potatoes. By the duck drinking area, I’ll probably pop in one cucumber plant which will drink up all that spilt water. I’ll be going to the farmer’s market for everything else–glad to support them, while I take a wee break and try to finish my next book….