What I Learned This Year

I stopped writing in my journal a few years ago (2014 New Year’s Resolution: Write in your journal!), and so I can’t remember what happened, even events from a few weeks past. Even epic events are forgotten quickly. It makes me sad, but I guess that’s one downside to living in the moment. Still, I did shoot some photos, and I’ve been closing out the year by uploading them on my computer. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Go slow, fava beans are worth it.
favabeaner

2. You can go back home again. My sister with morel mushrooms she picked on the ranch where we were born.
rianamorel

3. Make these walnut cookies that Rosetta Costantino wrote about in her new Southern Italian Dessert cookbook. The book is gorgeous, and even I can remember the recipe because it only has three ingredients. A egg. One cup of sugar. 2.5 cups of walnuts. I couldn’t help myself and sprinkled salt and fennel pollen over some fresh from the oven.

walnutcookies

4. Grow pumpkins, like these sugar pies, which were prolific and one roasted made a great pumpkin pie. As for the rest, kabocha “jade” was the best of the batch (not pictured here).
bestpumpkins

5. You can do a vegetarian Thanksgiving. I wasn’t up for raising a turkey this year, so we did Indian inspired dishes. It was delish. Next year, though, I think we are going to get turkey legs and smoke the hell out of them, Texas style.
vegthanksgiving

6. Conserva, sun dried tomato paste, is divine. Learn how to make it at my tomato processing class this August!
conserva

7. Plant a tree–or 8 of them. The citrus hedge I jackhammered a place for in the garden, was well worth it. They are doing great despite the frost and dry weather. We even have two tangelos on one of the youngest trees.
newlyplantedcitrus

8. Forgive. It’s hard, but once you let that past go, you are free.
meandgeorge

9. Finally, love them while they are here. We miss you Phil Druker.
novellaandphilfran

Happy New Year to Everyone; I can’t wait for 2014!!

Announcing…2014 Calendar of Events

As promised, here’s a list of classes at GhostTown Farm for 2014. If you want to sign up for a class, email me at novellacarpenter at gmail. It will be first come, first served. I’ll reply to your email to join the class with details on how to pay. Classes will cost $40, they last about two hours, and are limited to 10 people. All classes will be held outdoors at GhostTown Farm at 28th Street and MLK, Oaklandia.

February 16: Make an Apple Tree. 12-2pm
Grafting scion wood onto a vigorous rootstock is the cheapest way to make a fruit tree. This class will show you how to do just that. Disease-free apple compatible rootstock will be provided, as well as scion wood from various heirloom variety apple trees. Everyone will go home with a grafted tree in a pot. If you want to collect your own scion wood, go to the scion exchange in Berkeley at the Ed Roberts Campus, just across from the Ashby BART, on January 18 from 12-3; or another scion exchange to collect your own scion wood. The class will also include a tour of the farm which has about 25 fruit trees in various stages of development. $40.

March 22: Seed Propagation. 12-2pm
Starting vegetables from seed is the best way to save money on your farm. We will cover which containers work best, how to sterilize them, how to make your own potting soil mixes, basic botany and biology of seed starting, where to order seeds–all so you can get a jump on your summer garden. Taught by Willow Rosenthal. Everyone goes home with a tray of freshly sown seeds. $40
This class will be followed by a plant sale, open to the public, free.

April 26: Urban Chickens 12-2
Raising chickens for eggs is fun and easy. Hens are favorites of children, and they provide the farm with fresh eggs and much-needed manure. Come check out the chicken coop at GhostTown Farm and see how to save money on animal bedding, how to compost chicken manure, how to build a predator proof coop, and basic chicken handling and health. Finally, we will end the day with a poached egg demonstration. We will also hold a best-egg tasting, so bring any eggs for our panel of judges to taste. $40.

May: Farm Stand. Exact date and time TBD

June 14: Farm Stand and Book Release Party. 12-2
To celebrate the publication of my latest book, Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild; we will be having a book release party with foraged snacks and wildly fermented beverages. I’ll be there selling produce and doing a reading from the book. Free.

July: No events

August 23: Tomato Processing Class
One of the easiest plants to grow, tomatoes make great fresh eating. But they are also fabulous roasted, dehydrated, turned into ketchup, made into tomato juice, or canned whole. This class will start with a tasting of various tomato products, then segue into actually processing the beautiful fruits for your pantry. Everyone will go home with a quart jar of home-canned tomatoes. $40

Pomegranate explosions

They started to explode on the shrub/tree I planted years ago. My first good crop of Wonderful Pomegranates. I had thought: they’ll never ripen here.
pomagranates
I thought they needed heat. Dry heat. Which we don’t have much of here in Oakland. But ripen they did.

We ate them raw. Frannie is allowed to eat them outside only because they are so messy and juicy. They are one of her favorite snacks, partially because of the work they involve, digging the seeds out, pulling off the pith and membranes; partially because (I think) of that incredible crunch, the explosion of fresh juice in the mouth.
franpom

Until now, there’s nothing left.
peels

Besides snacking on them, I sometimes threw them into salads, like massaged kale salad, to add a bright sweetness. Some people recommend cooking with poms, like Ken Albala. I had never heard of Ken before, but I found myself in Idaho of all places, at the Bookpeople in Moscow, Idaho, and the owner highly highly recommended his book, The Lost Art of Real Cooking, and its companion, The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home. The books are instruction manuals for how to make all sorts of crazy stuff like a koji rice mold and rag rugs; and stuff that you wished you made but haven’t yet like corn tortillas (nixtamalizing your own corn, of course), olla podrida (look it up!), and marmalade.

I’ve never met Ken or his co-author, Rosanna Nafziger, but they are totally my people! Ken lives in Stockton where he teaches food history at the University of the Pacific. I think he must have some pomegranates growing in his garden because in the Hearth and Home book, there’s a recipe for pomegranate molasses that sounds out of this world. Basically you just cook the pomegranate seeds with some sugar and vanilla for a million hours on low. The result is that gummy blood-like sludge that tastes like heaven.

Sadly, Frannie and I ate all the poms fresh. Next year I’m hoping the pomegranate tree will have biggered itself and I’ll have enough to try the recipe…But if you find yourself with an overabundance, give it a shot. Any other good pom recipes out there?

Tapping the Apocalypse

The garden is not going to sleep, though it really should. Like a wily toddler, it’s trying to convince me to just stay up just a little longer. It does that by continuing to produce tomatoes. To ripen a few more figs. The pumpkin plants were even making new flowers. But there is a moment when you have to be mean, and just pull everything up, force the garden to focus on the rooted things like leeks and garlic; and greens planted long ago like kale and broccoli and salad mixes. The bees are even in the game, out in huge numbers during these sunny days. I’m betting December will be the month when the garden quits needling, gets sleepy, and finally falls asleep.

Here’s a photo from the last farmstand–thanks to everyone who came!
honeytasting
My plans this winter include writing a new syllabus for a writing class I’m teaching at University of San Francisco. It’s called Tapping the Apocalypse. Here’s the class description, if you know of someone who’s going to USF:
ENV390
Urban agriculture tends to take hold first in places that can be defined as apocalyptic. These damaged zones, in cities like Oakland or Detroit, have suffered from years of poverty and neglect, and are now hosting some of the most vibrant–and urgent–urban farms. This class will begin with an examination of how agriculture came about in the first place and how industrial agriculture (creating an apocalyptic landscape of its own) came to dominate our food system. The class will then delve into the revival of small scale farms and urban farms, questioning what forces came to pass that allowed this turning point to occur. We will take field trips to urban farms and meet guest speakers who work on the ground. Students will create a food experiment loosely based around an apocalyptic or catastrophic event. We will also write personal essays based around a turning point in our lives where everything changed, when an old self was destroyed, allowing a new self to germinate.

We will probably read Rebecca Solnit’s Paradise Built in Hell; excerpts of Octavia Butler’s The Seed Sower. Not The Road. Let me know if any of you have suggestions for other great apocalyptic literature.

I’ve actually been thinking it might make sense for me to teach this class at my farmlette in the Fall. Let me know if there are any interested students!

Back Safe and Sound, Tour October 19

Hi, thanks to everyone for your warm wishes, comments, and emails. I flew up to Idaho, stayed a week, and did what I could to make sure my dad is okay. Like everything, it will be a process. I was blown away at the kindness of the people in Orofino, my birthplace. Everyone–bank tellers, people on the street, waitresses, bartenders, retirement home operators, and neighbors–went out of their way to help me and my dad. It was humbling and quite miraculous.

So…about that tour. I know it’s last minute, but let’s reschedule the tour for October 19, this Saturday. 10am-1pm. We’ll extract honey, do tours on the hour, and I’ll be selling produce (tomatoes!) and books. My neighbor has some cute succulents to sell as well. See you Saturday.

When: October 19, 10am-1pm
Where: 2727 Martin Luther King Jr Way, entrance on 28th street
What: Last pop up farm stand of the year

Oh no family emergency

Sorry everyone, have to cancel Friday and Saturday’s open farm. My dad is sick and I am flying to Idaho tomorrow.