Saturday, February 25, 2012

Love is all around

Tree hosts monthly Eating Meetings attended by The Free Farm’s core group of regular volunteers. These meetings are an opportunity to reflect and engage in long-term planning, which now includes the prospect of losing our growing space in a few years so anything constructed should be portable. Last Thursday, our Eating Meeting was filled with our hopes, wishes and plans to make our remaining time at The Free Farm really worthwhile . . . and afterwards, I just felt like twirling around and tossing my tie-dye hat in the air because we’re gonna make it after all (like Mary Tyler Moore’s theme song)!

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it's you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it

Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don't you take it
You're gonna make it after all
You're gonna make it after all
“Love is all around” lyrics by Sonny Curtis

My three wishes: growing permaculture food forest (no longer feasible, but see, cultivating “wild” medicinal herbs and incorporating universal design principles to make edible gardening more accessible to persons of all abilities.

The Free Farm to be saved by endangered rodent?

In addition to expanding our gardening activities, including improving our documentation (labeling, mapping, adding more details in our seed propagation and planting logs), our discussion included the following:

1. Page plans to document wildlife found in The Free Farm: flycatchers, peregrine falcons, hawks, hummingbirds, etc. Tree mentioned that one volunteer recognized a mouse on site that may be of an endangered species. Beekeeper Pam noted The Free Farm might be saved by that mouse because land development is not allowed within 5,000 feet of an endangered species’ habitat. If we can confirm this, we agreed to do all we can to maintain an endangered mouse habitat!
2. Beekeeper Pam plans to purchase plant dye seeds and schedule dye workshops—indulging my inner hippie for psychedelic tie-dyes!
3. Margaret plans to respond to a request by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (where we held our Volunteer Appreciation Party last month) for our assistance in working with seniors in their garden.
4. After Page completes the railing project, we plan to construct a garden bed table top near our entrance on relatively flat ground to make The Free Farm’s edible gardening activities more accessible to the seniors who visit our produce stand. If we build it, they will come!
5. Tree wants to obtain more seeds to give away seedlings so people can grow their own.
6. Tree mentioned that he’s received many requests from groups who want to volunteer at The Free Farm. Several school groups will join us during spring break next month, but he’s also had to turn away other groups. While it’s wonderful to host groups interested in urban farming, Tree noted that we need more workday leaders to accommodate requests to visit outside of our usual Wednesday and Saturday workdays.
7. To do all this and more, we are looking for volunteers to take on coordinator roles and/or join our grant writing team! If interested, please contact We really appreciate your support!

Meet some of our cool volunteers
We enjoyed another warm, dry, sunny winter day at The Free Farm – but the guys kept their shirts on so no beefcake photos today (hehe). Thanks to our greeter Joyce, our volunteers now wear name tags so we don’t strain the brain remembering names :-). Seated are Nao, Monisha, Paul and Ro sorting perennial leek bulbs by size: harvesting larger ones, and transplanting smaller ones to continue growing. Standing are first-time visitors Janet and Mary from SF Vegetarian Society, and Janet's neighbors Amelia and Rosalyn from nearby Saint Francis Square Cooperative. Though I expected Mary’s visit as we’re both involved in planning garden bed table top, I was pleasantly surprised by Janet’s visit because she usually works on Saturdays as the gardening librarian at SF Main Library. Janet explained that she was able to take the morning off so she and her neighbors could check out The Free Farm for inspiration in growing their own community garden!Academy of Art student filmmakers are shooting a documentary about The Free Farm for entry in an Eco Film Festival. My hands were in potting soil for most of the day so I couldn’t take as many photos, like Big Picture High School adviser Tomas stopped by with the update that Ezekiel is wrapping up his internship at The Free Farm and he was visiting briefly to videotape an interview. They hope to share completed video with us so stay tuned!

Janet inspects worm poop
Returning volunteer Amy brought over Adam, whom I met after I won a rainwater barrel through Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN at two years ago. I offered the barrel to my dear landlord, who pays directly for our water usage but he declined. (The Free Farm didn’t have a roof to capture rainwater back then.) When I mentioned to NEN’s Daniel that I decided to donate the barrel to SF Permaculture Guild for a public workshop, he suggested that I blog about it and got me in touch with Adam who was working on NENtv. Well, after the barrel was delivered to Hayes Valley Farm (which is scheduled to lose its space in June), my Guild contacts postponed workshop dates and then ended up installing the barrel—unbeknownst to me and Adam, so we had nothing to blog and film. But I kept running into Adam, who does amazing community building in Inner Sunset District by organizing street fair, farmer’s market, parklet, etc. And yes, Adam’s also known as the guy who avoided getting into a car (not even carpooling) for a year; check out his blog at
Tree wants to focus on seedlings so we are partnering with Alemany Farm volunteers to help us while we provide access to our greenhouse so we can speed up germination. Here Tree gives out seed packets to sowing team: Kom, Alexia, Zoe and Jason of Alemany Farm ( Mary and I later joined them to plant varieties of tomato and brassica. Jason’s so cool because he’s a Getup grad, who visited my Getup class as part of a panel discussion on food security. As editor of Earth Island Journal, Jason recently published an insightful article about how rising gas prices may have contributed to housing meltdown at

Washing arugula for our lunch salad
Workday leader Alen serves up lunchI brought my latest gluten-free GOMBBS (Dr. Fuhrman’s acronym for top cancer prevention foods: Greens + Onions + Mushrooms + Beans + Berries + Seeds) creation: an adaptation of Dan Dan noodles!
1. Cook 1 lb. brown rice pasta.
2. Blanch 6 oz. wood ear Mushrooms. Drain and chop to bits.
3. Mix dressing ingredients: ½ cup unsalted peanut (Bean) butter + ¼ cup Bragg’s liquid aminos + 1 Tbsp sesame oil + Tbsp minced garlic + 1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice + 1 Tbsp honey + 1 Tbsp water + ? rice vinegar + ? shaoxing rice wine (crunchy peanut butter got stuck in my blender so I kept adding unknown quantities of vinegar + wine to dilute dressing mix enough so blender could do its job)
4. Toss dressing into pasta, mushrooms, 1 cup chopped red-purple cabbage and chopped bunch of Green Onions.
5. Garnish with goji Berries + black sesame Seeds (whatever quantity as desired).

Busy beekeeper Pam arrived with beeswax + jars of honey from our beehives! (Just behind Pam is Sander, who volunteers at both The Free Farm and Alemany Farm.)Trained as a veterinary nurse, Pam raised silkworms before becoming a self-taught beekeeper. Her landlord wasn’t very responsive to her request to maintain beehives in her building’s rooftop, but The Free Farm welcomed Pam and her bees. Super talented DIY Pam is an award-winning book artist ( & If you came to our Volunteer Appreciation Party, we gave The Free Farm Congregation memento printed on Pam's hand-made paper! (

Pam adds landing rocks so bees won’t drown while trying to drink water
Pam, Damon and Joyce are local volunteers from the neighborhood

Brittany and Rachel from Stanford Glean

Sunset District residents Adam, Amy and Mary make Vitamin D
While clasping Alen’s palm, Joyce revealed that she was a professional palm reader when she wasn’t teaching English.

Back to work after wine + dine
Alexia, Jason and Zoe mix water into potting mix
Potting mix includes red lava rocks!Mary joined sowing team with Kom, Jason and AlexiaStanley and Pam at produce stand. One visitor told me that she was taking our organic greens to feed her rabbit—whether as pet or food source, who knows? Maybe if I catch her next time, I’ll ask!Transplanting perennial leekNao arrived in SF a month ago to study photography at SF Art Institute. She has been photographing at The Free Farm and plans to contribute photos to our blog!

Thanks for all that you do and see you next week!

Public Service Announcements:

Mon., Feb. 27, 2012, 7 pm TransitionSF Meeting: Why Label Genetically Engineered Foods?
The "Gazebo" at CPMC Davies Campus, 45 Castro St. between 14th & Duboce, SF 94114
Frank Plughoff and Liz Kroboth - Label GMOs SF coordinators - will be presenting at the February TransitionSF meeting to explain what genetically engineered foods are, what health and environmental concerns have come up around GE foods, and how the ballot initiative is addressing this issue. Please let us know if you want to help us gather signatures from attendees. Directions: From the Duboce Street entrance of California Pacifica Medical Center, follow the driveway in and curve around the building on your left onto a large patio area. The Gazebo is the glass-walled structure in front of you.,

Wed., Feb. 29, 2012, 7-8 pm The Art and Language of Flowers
Richmond Branch Library, 351 – 9th Ave. between Geary & Clement, SF
Join local florist and owner of Columbine Design, Kathleen Dooley, for a flower arranging demonstration. Learn about the meaning of flowers and how to convey messages with colors, shapes and flower types that go beyond what's written on the card. We will also talk about different cultural meanings of flowers and colors and have time to discuss our own favorite flowers.

Thurs., Mar. 1, 2012, 6-8 pm “Truck Farm” Presentation
Pacific Energy Center, 851 Howard St. at 4th St, SF
Presentation of "Truck Farm", a unique project that transformed an old pick-up truck into a traveling 20-member CSA enterprise. Using green-roof technology, lightweight soil and heirloom seeds, filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis transformed granddad's '86 Dodge half-ton into a farm on wheels. They planted between the wheel wells with arugula and tomatoes, parked the truck on a Brooklyn street, and waited for sun and rain to work their charms. When the first sprouts came up, Truck Farm ( was born. Subscribers received deliveries of produce, arriving via the mobile farm itself. Come and hear from the folks who made this happen. 6:30pm to 8pm (light refreshments at 6pm). Register online.

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