Category Archives: random thoughts


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?

End of the Season

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….

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!