Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Gift

Wow, we have a rad group of volunteers at The Free Farm! Again, we have two postings to share this weekend—thanks to photographer Kris reporting on the inclusion of our labyrinth in the World-wide Labyrinth Locator, and Stanford intern Tim reporting on yesterday’s workday . . . . or, as Tim calls it:

The Gift

This Saturday’s workday was not a workday. It was a Gift from the Uni-verse (“uni” means “one” and “verse” means “song” – we are all singing one song in this Uni-verse). It was an opportunity to build community in the shared urban space we call the Free Farm and to co-create the shared values of abundance, generosity, simplicity, love, gratitude, and peace on the wonderful planet we call home.

With Pancho directing the play, the actors, a beautiful group of 20 or so volunteers, played, “not worked,” their roles to perfection – harvesting 52 pounds of zucchini and over 100 pounds of yummy produce (or as brother Tom might say “Oishi!” meaning delicious in Japanese), building a new set of stairs from recycled materials, watering the lovely beds and isolated pots, transplanting hothouse seedlings into those beds, containing the incredible growth of the Sweet Millions cherry tomato plants in the hothouses, washing the produce for the 1pm farm stand, helping to share produce at the 1pm Farm Stand, the welcoming visitors through our open doors, cultivating the compost with a “radiculous” amount of radicchio, sharing the tasty vegan lunch of chili, gnocchi, and quinoa, and appreciating the Gift that is.

The reason I say we played all of the above roles rather than worked is that work often implies that we are acting for some sort of achieved purpose or result. Playing, however, implies that we are being, rather just doing (we are called human beings after all)– that the truth of our inspired actions encompasses our being together in an interconnectedness and oneness that far outweighs our individual goals. We were playing in the flow of this abundance, with inspired action not for an end cause, but just to enjoy this Gift of life with a playful demeanor, as a child might swim for fun in a river whose current gently pulls the child along.
In construction: Damon and Kate building a new set of stairs leading from the lower area with the hothouse, toolshed, and office to the shared lunch space. Just as the Farm is always under construction, we are constantly in construction too, renovating ourselves to become more loving and happy people!
This week’s incredible harvest of summer squash and zucchini!
Brittany, Jennifer, and Susannah weighing the produce!
Tom, Pancho, and Rafael washing the produce
Lovely lavender!
The lunch of loving deliciousness!
Weekly Farm Standers picking up their produce!
Laila, her mom and little sister, and me getting ready to water some pole beans
Completed steps! These stairs were still a bit shaky when we tried walking on them, but that’s good! They remind us to tread lightly on the Earth. May we take these new steps to do so.

All of this above is the Gift. Thank you for letting me share it with you.

In love and gratitude,


(Photos above by Kris; Photos below by Wandering Veggie)

Kris arrives with lunch & her camera!
Joyce greets volunteers/visitors with inspiring T-shirt that reads, "It only takes one person to make the difference. Be the one!"

(Note: Tree reported on our July 24th SF ReFresh event at

Public Service Announcements:

Tues., Aug. 2, 2011, 10 am-4:30 pm Conservatory of Flowers: Free Admission Day 100 John F Kennedy Drive, SF 94118
Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins

Tues., Aug. 2, 2011, 7-8:30 pm “Food Stamped” screening
Bernal Heights Public Library, 300 Cortland, SF
GreenStacks and Bernal Outdoor Cinema present Food Stamped, an informative and humorous documentary film following a couple as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget. Through their adventures, they consult with members of U.S.Congress, food justice organizations, nutrition experts, and people living on food stamps to take a deep look at America's broken food system. (62 minutes)

Wed., Aug. 3, 2011 at 7-9 pm SF Permaculture Guild meeting with Penny Livingston-Stark
The "Gazebo" at CPMC Davies Campus, Castro between 14th & Duboce, SF
Meet the founder of the Permaculture Institute of Northern California and the Regenerative Design Institute (

Sat., Aug. 6, 2011, 10 am–3 pm, SF Botanical Garden Society’s Summer Gardening Fair
SF Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Park, (near 9th Ave. & Lincoln Way), SF
Gardens thrive in the summer, even in San Francisco! Come learn more about plants and gardening from representatives of local horticultural and conservation organizations. Meet experts from the local horticultural community; Marvel at summer fuchsia & begonias; Experience butterflies up close; See the inside of a beehive. Enter at the Main Gate of San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park, near 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way. (Be sure to come to The Free Farm, too, for hands-on gardening practice!)

Sun., Aug. 7, 2011, 11 am–5 pm, Oakland Museum: Free First Sunday
A Walk in the Wild: Continuing John Muir's Journey
Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St. (510) 238-2200
Explore the legacy of John Muir's life and how he continues to influence our relationship with the natural world in this special exhibition presenting both a historical and a contemporary lens on the natural environment of California. Spotlighting the life of the radical environmentalist as well as eight Modern Day Muirs, A Walk in the Wild: Continuing John Muir's Journey highlights Californians currently involved in environmental research and activism—including a Yosemite National Park geologist, a bighorn-sheep biologist, and an Oakland tree-planter/activist. Through interactive, multisensory displays and digital mash-ups, visitors will experience a simulation of Muir's exploration behind Yosemite Falls, his trek from Yosemite to Mount Whitney, and even his night spent in a hollow giant sequoia observing the forest burning around him. Told through OMCA's collections of art, history, and natural science, interactive digital technology, and select loans—journals, manuscripts, and original drawings—the exhibition is a tribute to Muir’s legacy and to the importance of continued environmental stewardship.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Free Farm Labyrinth

Our multi-talented free farmer, chili quinoa chef and photographer extraordinaire Kris submitted our lovely labyrinth to the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator, an online database of labyrinths around the world. At this time, our labyrinth (ID #4526) is the latest (installed May 2010) of 13 listed for San Francisco! Situated in a peaceful corner near our colorful murals, it’s a welcoming spot for meditation and taking your breath away by the sheer beauty of nature!

Kris sent her stunning (as always) photos with this wonderful write-up:

The Classical style labyrinth was modeled after the Grace Cathedral labyrinth in San Francisco's Nob Hill by Rev. Meghan Rohrer. The Free Farm labyrinth is about one quarter of the size of the Grace Cathedral labyrinth and is different in that our labyrinth is made of plants and bricks. Our bricks are recycled from the foundation of the original St. Paulus Cathedral that burned in 1995. The Free Farm labyrinth is listed on the Worldwide labyrinth locator at
We use the labyrinth to meditate and ponder our existence without having to go far. One can walk the labyrinth as if walking on a pilgrimage without having to leave The Free Farm. There is pleasure in taking in the positive energy of the labyrinth as you walk into the center and returning the positive energy as you walk out of the center; creating a harmonic balance of positivity; or you can just enjoy the pretty flowers :).


Smiling sunflower :-)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Imagine: Sharing all the world

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
“Imagine” lyrics by John Lennon

Sharing food under the law

Law Slaw dinner was a collaborative salad with attendees bringing salad toppings to share!

Salad sculpture by Patricia Algara

Last Wednesday, I attended “Law Slaw: Feed Your Community, Learn About the Law” presented by Sharing attorney Janelle Orsi and her team at Sustainable Economies Law Center ( in Berkeley. I first met Janelle at the 2009 Green Festival in SF, where she was promoting her new book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Build Community (includes Sharing Food chapter). I collected a stack of her business/gift cards, which provide sustainable living tips (download at

This food law workshop was accessible as a series of lively and informative 5-minute presentations on 15 legal topics relating to farms and food enterprises. Janelle’s presentation on “Money Soup: A Legal Guide to Bartering, Giving and Getting Stuff Without Dollars” ( reinforced my belief that money can make life more complex because then one has to deal with a slew of ever-changing, man-made laws—especially relating to tax and labor (which, incidentally, was how I earned money billing out time because individuals and businesses usually don’t want to deal with these technical, high-maintenance issues themselves).

As Janelle explains: “Giving and receiving gifts is the simplest way to get started in the informal economy, because true gifts are largely unregulated and untaxed.” (Note: Federal tax code allows for annual and lifetime gift exclusions.) Says Janelle ( : “Feeding people is a particularly good way to get it started, because sharing a meal builds connections among people. Don’t ask people to pay you back, but do encourage them to pay it forward!” Hey, this is what we already do at The Free Farm!

Sharing skills

At yesterday’s workday, it was so cool to meet Heather who shared her great photos with us last week . . . and again yesterday! While working with Damon on building the terrace, he mentioned he had some close-up shots of our resident hawk so I invited him to share them as well. Kris shared her photos, too! This reminds me of parties that give each guest a one-time use camera to take shots, which often turn out better than ones by the official photographer.

Volunteering at The Free Farm involves more than gardening (planting, composting, watering, harvesting, etc.). We’re also involved in designing, constructing, painting (check out our new sign by Tree’s friend Jet!), plumbing, electrical wiring, greeting (we’ve enjoyed an increase in the number of volunteers since Joyce took on this role!), preparing lunch, eating, smiling, laughing, photographing, blogging about it all, etc. – anything to maintain and enhance The Free Farm!

George from St. Paulus visits Tree. Jordan & Leah are from The Happiness Institute

Damon picks up 50 lbs of bricks with one hand (show-off!) when I had to carry with both hands

Smoothing out bricks for terrace staircase

Byron & Heather harvest potatoes

Tim tosses "hot" potato

Byron & Tree fix sprinkler system in greenhouse

New sprinkler system on opposite side

Sharing inspiration
Britt’s blog posting last week included a photo of our purple tree collards that she described as sukuma wiki – which is Swahili for “stretch the week” and refers to a popular Kenyan dish of sautéed greens with onions and tomatoes—humble, delicious and nutritious food intended to stretch meals to last the week! I remember eating sukuma wiki almost daily when I was in Kenya. I’m now trying to adapt it for an SRO cooking project.

When I invited Tim (our other Stanford intern) to blog, he mentioned that he was leaving next month for a conservation study trip to Tanzania. (Hey, I spent a summer volunteering in sustainable agriculture in Tanzania, including working with Maasai who lost their lands to wildlife conservation!) Tim told me how he has been inspired by his sister who works in international development. I told Tim how I’d spend my 25 days of annual paid time-off (or negotiate unpaid leave for longer trips), as an international development volunteer with NGOs that included homestays just to immerse myself in how most of the world’s population lives with little or no money. (And yes, I deducted my volunteer travel expenses as allowed by law.)

Living with little or no money reminds us that money is really just a means of exchange. ( Money can interfere with the opportunity to deepen relationships: Tanzanians speak of ujamaa (familyhood), Kenyans speak of harambee (all pull together), and we Free Farmers speak of building community and sharing food! Come visit/volunteer to see our informal, gift sharing economy in action. Tim will be blogging next week so let's give him something to write about :-)!

Tim, Britt & Steven at produce stand
Carrying future Free Farmers :-)

Public Service Announcements

Thurs., July 28, 2011, 12-1 pm
Sharing Resources with Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) Timebank
Crocker Galleria, 50 Post St., SF
The Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) believes in creating community resiliency through the informal economy, to provide a different kind of security based on relationships, trust, caring, and reciprocity. Many other countries have large informal economies that help people meet their basic needs through local connections, as did the United States long ago.
A timebank is like a local community bank that keeps track of time instead of US dollars. For every hour you spend doing something for someone else who is a member of the timebank, you earn one hour to use to have someone do something for you.
Join BACE Board Member, Seth Mazow, at the Green Zebra Environmental Action Center for an interactive presentation and discussion about how to participate in an alternative way to share resources. We'll also discuss the connections between sharing, localizing economies and environmental sustainability.

Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables
Taxing junk food and making healthy food more affordable would save millions of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.
USDA’s New MyPlate Icon At Odds With Federal Subsidies for Meat, Dairy

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Photo sharing

A trio of our multi-talented volunteers sent these totally awesome photos of our workday at The Free Farm:

Damon got up close to take this precious photo of our resident hawk

Heather took more great photos this Saturday

Kris took these wonderful photos Have a nice day :-)!