Category Archives: random thoughts

Urban Farm Garage Sale April 1

Wellies, bee observation box, rabbit cages, metal nesting boxes.

That’s a little sampling of the items I’ll be selling at tomorrow’s farm stand. I’ll also have greens, tshirts, and books for sale. The storm is supposed to blow over by Sunday.

What: Ghosttown Farmstand
When: April 1, 12-2
Where: corner of 28th street and MLK, Oakland
What else: if you drive, park on MLK not 28th street

One in, one out

excuse the brevity of this post: I’m recovering from giving birth. Believe me, I look at my goat Bebe with new respect; birth ain’t easy. We are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. She’s healthy and happy and loves to eat.

So having a baby around is making me realize I need to pare down my goat herd. Namely I need to find a new home for Ginger. Let me know if you’re interested in buying her–$100–she’d make a great grazer or pet. She’s two years old and had twins last year. She’s not a great milker but is beautiful. Email me with questions and to see photos. Serious inquiries only, from people with goat experience only.

Taking the Summer Off

Hey everyone;

Sorry I’ve been gone so long from the blog. To be honest, the blog isn’t a fun thing for me anymore. Not only do I know that the City of Oakland employees regularly read it, there are the haters so I get upset even reading the comments. For these reasons, I think I’ll retire the blog or just post events once I get my CUP. Just to clarify for the last time: I didn’t get busted for having a business, I got in trouble for growing food and raising livestock in a commercially zoned lot. By the rules now, you can grow and keep livestock at your place of residence, but you can’t keep livestock on a lot without a house on it. That’s why I applied for a CUP. Oakland changed the rules so you can grow vegetables legally on a lot now (when I got in trouble it was illegal).

But that’s not why I’m writing (and that’s why I loathe keeping this blog now–having to constantly defend myself; I’m a lover, not a fighter). I’m writing to say something good has come out of this whole thing with the City.

I figured out that I really shouldn’t grow vegetables during the summer.

Because I’ll had to wait for my CUP for a couple months, I didn’t plant any summer crops save for a few tomatoes, beans, and carrots. Bill looked outside and said, “there’s not much growing out there,” and I said, “I need a break.” I realized that I’m exhausted. Plus, the water bill is huge in the summer. Then I suddenly realized the logic: we can grow year-round here in the Bay Area, which is great, but then you don’t ever get a break. How jealous I am of those East Coasters who get to sit on their asses all winter long and read seed catalogs. So here’s the new plan: Summers Off! I’ll get to travel and take camping trips. I’ll just keep the trees alive by periodic deep watering, and cover crop the rest of the beds. But what about the tomatoes? The summer cucumbers? I will gladly support my local farmers at the farmer’s market. I love it when a plan comes together.

Have a great summer, see you in the fall. For those of you hoping to visit, sorry, no tours until I get my CUP.

Donations count

I can’t believe how nice you all are.
I feel like I’ve been spare-changing my friends. Or just being a bar-fly at the local watering hole, blubbering.
Thanks to you all who donated, thought about donating, wanted to donate but haven’t yet, or wanted to donate but can’t. I haven’t quite figured out PayPal will interact with my bank (I’m slow), but it looks like we’ve reached the $2500 goal in pledges. This is so rad, I had no idea you’d all spring for me–thank you, thank you.
Ok, gotta go pack for my talk at Western Kentucky.

Poo Wrangler

Howdy there, sorry about the lag. I’ve been, er, chasing poo. Animal turds, just to clarify. I feel like a spend half my morning scooping manure. Then I work in the garden–trying to get it in shape for the Feb 27 gala (u r invited: 11am-2pm at the farm: snacks and ribbon cutting)! The sunny, climate change weather keeps prodding me to get all my beds laid out and seeded even though really it’s too early for that.

But back to the poo. I had the pleasure of going to the ranch where they make Pt. Reyes Blue, and, to make the cheese, they have 350 milk cows. The location is  stunning out there in West Marin. Of course I was there to cover the shit story–which is a compost company that is recycling the cow poo into black gold for your garden. Watch for it in the Chronicle, in the garden section.

Back to my animals’ turds, though. I don’t have a tool called a Separator like they have at the Giacomini’s ranch. Instead, I just lay down some wood shavings (scrounged from Wooden Window off of San Pablo–love them!) let the animals void, then scoop it up. But then what to do? At first, this winter (that’s when the shit really hit the fan because I built up my rabbit operation) I would lay the turds and bedding into berms and let it rest. Now these berms are mostly broken down and ready to be planted into. But the poo keeps flying. And I can’t make more piles of bedding and poo (no more room, rodent problems if the pile gets too big). What to do? I went to Dublin, Ca.

Because Dublin is where my tumbler compost hook up (thanks craigslist) lives. In the garage of their home, an adorable family builds these here contraptions:

This is where the angels and rays of sunlight  come in.

Note that it’s made of plastic–recycled from sturdy olive containers. Note that a rat might have a hard time chewing on it, or getting into that screw on lid. Note that it tumbles around, so I don’t have to pitchfork it around all day long. The family is building them to make college money for their son. It’s really sweet. (We might start selling them at the Oasis–stay tuned if you want to buy one in the East Bay. If you want my tumbler guy’s email, just post a comment with your email and I’ll forward it to him.)

So far I’ve bought two, and all the farm turds from one week fit in one of these babies. It takes a month for them to break down, so I need to buy two more and then I can start the rotation. I can even–gasp–start food scrap recycling again.

Ok, gotta go to Arkansas now….I’ll be speaking at the University of the Ozarks. Can’t wait!

Me and Joan Gussow

I planted asparagus yesterday. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years at Ghosttown, but as a squat farmer, I hesitated, and hesitated, and hesitated. It takes three years before you get a sizeable harvest, and so I figured it would be folly to plant any asparagus. Looking back on it, if I had planted crowns when I started, we’d have had five harvests under our belts. Oh well.

In the perfect timing department, the crowns came in the mail the same day I got the property tax bill (shit!) as a sweet reminder of the pleasures and pain of land ownership. I bought green California Davis asparagus crowns from Peaceful Valley; and then a lovely fan (Stan!) sent me some gorgeous, huge, crowns for the purple asparagus that he grows up in Arbuckle.

Coincidently, I’m reading Joan Gussow’s book Growing, Older and just got to the part where she talks about planting asparagus, and what a pain in the butt it is, having to dig a two foot deep trench in the garden, soak the crowns in water, then shore them up with good compost. Joan’s 80 years old and has been growing a huge garden and writing about nutrition for over 20 years. She wrote This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader over ten years ago, and has been called the matriarch of the organic movement. In fact, if you read some of her essays, you’ll see that she coined some phrases that other people have coopted for themselves, like “our national eating disorder.”

About asparagus Gussow talks about losing her beds from chronic flooding of her river-front property. Instead of giving up, she decided, in her eighties, that she would start again by planting some asparagus from seed–now that will take a long time to produce! She writes, “…if Nature is willing, I might have, one day, short of my nineties, an actual bed of asparagus.” If an eighty-year old is planting asparagus, you should too. Don’t delay, plant some asparagus today.

The exciting thing is: Joan’s coming to San Francisco! I’m the lucky little devil who gets to interview her on-stage at the Commonwealth Club. Yay! Here are the details:

Commonwealth Club
95 Market St # 2, San Francisco CA 94105-2885
January 25, 2011, 5:30 pm


Another thing not to hesitate about? The scion exchange! My plan is to bench graft a bunch of apple rootstock so I can make a Belgium fence with heirloom varieties! Should take about ten years…The scion exchange is in El Sobrante this year, Saturday January 22, 12-3 at 4555 Hilltop Drive. See ya there!

Wednesday Pop-Up

Hey there, this Wednesday is the last GT Farm Urban Farmer’s Market of 2010. There will be a handful of vendors selling goodies like honey, eggs, jams and produce. I’ll have bunchs of the famous black curly mustard, rapini, chard; jars of fig jam, and guava goo; and t-shirts for sale. We’re starting early–3pm and only going until 6pm because of the horrid darkness. Hope to see you there.

When: Wednesday, Nov 17. Starts at 3pm-goes to 6pm. I’m going to close the gate at 6 o’clock exactly (it’s pitch black by then) so plan to arrive before 6pm.

Where: Lot next to 665 28th street, at MLK

What: Urban Farmers Market/holiday gift buying/food hoarding for T-day

If you’re an urban farmer and you want to bring stuff to sell, please email me first! novellacarpenter at gmail