Harvest Exchange

I've been spending my extra time at the community garden. Not that I have a plot or am helping anyone with theirs; I just like being there; in the garden. It's alive. And full of owls, at least one bat and a parade of happy dogs.

I keep taking pictures. Of the borage, the bees in the borage, the yellow lupine that appeared one day when the day before I know it wasn't there. The gnarly quince tree holds a special fascination as do the volunteer plants on the steep side of a fallen tree.

I wish I could take a picture of the way the trumpet lillies smell, warm and heavy but the fence gets in the way.

Last night we ate green beans growing beneath a persimmon tree on the public side of the fence. The sun was setting and we leaned on a warm brick wall. I marveled at a handsome plant of zucchini, Findhorn sized cabbages and a row of tomato plants. Then I picked a couple more beans.

There was a harvest exchange at the garden on Saturday. The first. I missed it. I don't have anything to exchange. Well, maybe some mint, one serrano pepper. I could prune the rose geranium. But it doesn't matter. I'm so excited a harvest exchange is happening. And they're happening all over Marin.

Just knowing makes me happy. Like being in the garden.

Haiku Friday

Sage and wild mint
escaped the fenced garden plots
and ate half the moon.

Farm City: The Education Of An Urban Farmer

I finished the perfect summer read, Farm City, by Novella Carpenter. The trouble is I finished it on the first day of summer. Now what do I do? I don't think anything is going to beat this book.

Farm City is a memoir but it's also bits and parts of how to, or how not to make a garden in the ghetto; on squatted land with an eventual farm yard of animals. The story reads like a novel. The characters are naturally characters; I fell in love with everyone. Except the prostitute looking butcher - there has to be someone not to like.

Novella is quirky, smart, driven and she has a seriously good heart. She made me laugh a lot and look at my neighborhood with new eyes. There's a deserted house nearby with a sunny front yard that would be a perfect urban garden. The idea had never crossed my mind before. That's what this book does. Novella finds possibility and assistance in places generally looked away from. All is not pretty on the urban farm. Even when I was laughing.

To start with she's farming in Oakland, not Mayberry. A homeless man watches over the garden and offers constant advice. She hauls in free horse manure, forages from local dumpsters to feed the animals. She meets the neighborhood in the garden, invited and not. Even with the weeds and fish heads, I have to admit though, it sounded like fun.

The cute guy is nearly done with Farm City. He laughs out loud too. Stays up too late reading. "Where are you now?" I hungrily ask him. He tells me and we talk about it. It's almost like getting to read the book again.

Which is what I'm going to do - read the book again. That is unless I find an empty lot I can garden.

Favorite Farmers' Market

My favorite farmers' market, Pt. Reyes, opens on Saturday. It's a handful of a market, one aisle, a few prepared food vendors, a baker and a honey woman; but it's the best handful of a market around. It's a seasonal, all organic market running through November 7.

One of my favorite farms, Wild Blue Farm is only at this market. Their radishes are like dessert; their blue potatoes miniature works of modern art. But maybe I'm over romanticizing; it's been six months since they've been at our table.

My other favorite thing about the Pt. Reyes market, which can't be overstated, are the ginger scones from the Brickmaiden Bakery. They arrive warm, mid-morning and sell out nearly immediately. I've paced the one street town in anticipation of them. This year I may bring a chair, set it up and simply wait.

What's your favorite market? Have you voted for it yet in the America's Favorite Farmers' Market Contest? The market with the most votes wins $5,000.

Vote here.

Haiku Friday

Walking down the road
corn fields taller than stop signs.
Tractor drivers wave.

Food Inc.

I have a crush on Eric Schlosser. I know he's not a movie star or even a farmer but he's got a way of talking about farm workers rights and corn that makes me soft inside. And then when he says, "Monsanto," and his hand flexes into a fist; what can I say?

I'm his.

I saw Food, Inc.. Not only does the movie star Eric Schlosser but Michael Pollan was there too. And so was Joel Salatin. They're the three stooges of the know-your-food movement. And I mean that with the utmost respect. These guys were awesome, but they're funny too.

The movie was everything a sustainable food girl could want and yet it was a taste of how food makes its way to the plate. There was a vignette on factory farmed animals, on the treatment of farm workers, of the growing rates of diabetes as a result of cheap food. There was a vignette on GMO's, on government subsidies, on the source of ingredients in food. The movie stayed succinct but could have taken off in any direction for hours.And I would have stayed for all of it.

There were a couple of times I covered my eyes, a couple of times I covered my heart. And a few times my own fist flexed into a fist and I wanted to punch the air and yell, "Yeah. Tell 'em. Way to go!" And then I would get all googley eyed when Eric Schlosser returned to the screen.

The most surprising information was related to the treatment of the migrant farm workers. Forget about how we treat the animals we eat, or the pesticides and fertilizers being flushed into our water ways. Forget about the destruction of top soil and the inability of farmers to save seeds because a patented GMO seed has blown onto their property. Forget about all of that and there are the human beings that handle the food. I wanted to cover my eyes, my heart and ears all at the same time.

The movie is not doom and gloom however. The Stoneyfield Farms guy is one happy dude. And the guys from Walmart? Complete comedic relief. Sure, there are challenges. When hasn't there been? But Food, Inc. is hopeful for the mere fact that it was made. That it's being distributed to major markets. That's it's been reviewed and talked about and linked all over the place.

A friend told me a year and a half ago that the sustainable food movement would never go mainstream. "It's just a trend," this friend said. This movie is not however a trend. It's ambitious, it's smart and hopefully it will whet the appetite for mainstream to start lifting the veil between kitchen tables and food producers everywhere. Hopefully it will raise the momentum of people voting with their forks for fair food that is considerate of all beings.

But mainstream better stay away from Eric Schlosser. He's mine!

Haiku Friday

The meadow trail ends
on the north end of the bridge;
far from the parked car.

Dr. Earth

The first gift the cute guy gave me was a small box of four rocks he'd collected on a road trip. He wrapped the box with a remnant of ribbon and I carried the rocks in various pockets for years. Twig nests, a worm bin and garden stones have followed but in the last few weeks he's outdone himself.

First he cut and surprised with me an armload of green cattails, five feet tall, that are curling and turning, drying their flat green leaves in a fat glass vase. They are the perfect back drop for the new library book of poetry, Red Bird by Mary Oliver, her voice familiar and strong. And I love that as much as I love the weathering weeds in the corner of the room.

Then the cute guy uncovered an abandoned wasps nest made of tissuey layers of mud in forty shades of gray. It didn't make it home in one piece but he gifted me with what remained of the hidden hive. The cone shaped walls are still in the center of the kitchen table.

The last gift is the one I can't stop talking about. He bought dirt for the pots on the back deck. Not just nursery dirt on sale either. He bought Dr. Earth potting soil. I'd never heard of it and thought he might have gotten take for a ride when he told me the price. But now, now I'm a recruit. Dr. Earth is the best potting soil I've ever had. I mixed it 60/40 with the old dirt, planted tomatillos, peppers and a black cherry tomato. And every day the plants grow an inch. In every direction.

And every day I tell the cute guy what an amazing find he made. "I don't know how you'll ever top this," I tell him tucking chubby stems of leaves into their growing cages.

But I know he will.

Haiku Friday

Reading on the bus
I look up at the first stop.
The weeds have been mown.

The Takeout Queen

I have intelligent friends. The Takeout Queen is high on the list; educated, traveled, driven. A top shelf friend. But sometimes, well, sometimes she surprises me.

"I brought plastic to go containers," she says. "I need to get rid of them. They keep stacking up."

"I'll use a couple," someone replies.

"Take more. I have too many."

"Do you reuse them?" I ask.

"Yeah, I brought them so people could use them."

"I mean do you take them back to the store and reuse them." There's a pause. A pinkening of cheeks. She starts to say something. A half smile appears.

"I can do that?"

"Of course," I tell her. "Just act like you do it all the time."

"Oh." Her smile is on both sides of her red face. "I never thought of that."

She turns around. "Don't take all of the containers," she says into the kitchen. "I want to reuse them at the store."

That's my friend, I think, and I'm smiling too.