Monday, December 17, 2012

Hawks and Fungus Among Us

Things are growing slowly at the Free Farm with less day light and cooler weather. In the greenhouse we are not planting as many starts, but last Saturday we planted many trays of lettuce, an experiment in growing trays of baby lettuce greens.

We had a nice turn out of volunteers last week, including a group of teens from Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC... ETC  "opens the beauty and challenge of the great outdoors to people with disabilities and disadvantaged youth. Every year, more than 2,000 people join ETC to raft whitewater rivers, ski alpine meadows, kayak the waters of the Golden Gate and Tomales Bay, and build leadership skills. "  They also have visits to farms and last year they stumbled upon us and volunteered then.

We also had some other visitors, members of our congregation I like to think.
Early in the morning I was checking out all the mushrooms of different kinds at the farm (I would love it if we could find someone to helps us identify these beautiful creatures).

As I was looking on the ground at mushrooms someone from the sidewalk above asked me if that was m bird. I didn't know what he was talking about, but I looked behind me and up to see one of long term members of our church without walls, Mr. or Mrs. Red Tail Hawk :

Soon it took off headed for the flagpole and it opened it's huge wingspan right in front of me.
Here are some photos of the garden on 18th and Rhode Island that I worked at when it first got going. I visited there on Interdependence Day (12-12-12)

White Sapote tree

with fruit!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hallelujah I'm a Farm!

On Saturday we had ten volunteers show up, which was a big jump in the numbers coming lately. Maybe because the weather was crisp and sunny, unlike previous workdays when it rained some of the time. The first thing I saw when I went to the gate to unlock it was our one of congregation, the hawk (I am not sure which kind he or she is) swooping down to the labyrinth to catch something (maybe a rodent). 
the tree white dahlia was in glorious bloom
the mushroom coming out of the log so spectacular and amazing
some unknown being put this sign on our fence
I checked out their website
I am trying to figure out the name of this fig
maybe Black Jack?
some are finally getting ripe now in December
 and they taste delicious

The Free Farm is wonderful right now is all I can say and we are getting a lot of greens and lettuce to harvest and to give away. The only challenge is everything is growing so there is a lot of weeding to do and deadheading and getting the garden back in shape after a long season of great production. We also have most of the farm planted though we have more fava bean seeds to get in the ground. 

This Wednesday workday is a special one. 2/12/12 Interdependence Day Celebration is happening around the world and below is a listing of events around the city:  We will be doing a lot of weeding and some work in our greenhouse, hopefully planting lettuce to grow on trays inside.

Also I wanted to let people know about a rally on Tuesday tomorrow to protest the eviction of Kezar Gardens and Recycling Center. The Free Farm support all gardening and recycling efforts in the city and especially like to see gardens torn up (even in this case the garden is taken out to put a new one doesn't make sense). Here is the info:

RALLY: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, NOON, CITY HALL STEPS Sponsored by: Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council

Bring your support to the steps of City Hall this Tuesday and demand that Mayor Lee take responsibility for the negative impacts set to occur once Haight Ashbury Recycling center is evicted. *We need people, signs, and voices* to be heard to achieve the following goals. - Retain HANC recycling and Kezar Gardens Center within the Convenience Zone it serves - Issue a Hold on Eviction until a Task Force can determine best course of action for all parties - Prevent Small Business from Footing the Bill for NIMBY politics - Preserve the sustainable economic model: recycling = green jobs + native plants + community gardens in one space - Preserve 51 community garden beds and their 100 gardeners - Create a task force to find a suitable location to house this important ecology center - Reinstate the citizen advisory board to advise Recreation and Park on plans to build a new garden with taxpayer money. We gather to call attention to a mounting crisis for San Francisco small businesses, consumers and gardens alike. The system for taking back bottles and cans for California Redemption Value (CRV) is broken and may be on the verge of collapse. The California State Bottle bill requires small markets in the City to accept recycling (bottles and cans) in store if there is no supermarket or recycling center nearby. Stores of any size may opt out of this requirement by paying a $100 a day in lieu fee. While this may not be much for a large grocery store, smaller establishments will be hard pressed to pay it. *Impacts on Small Grocers [or Markets] and Beverage Stores* - All small stores that sell beverage containers with a CRV deposit must also take those containers back - If there is a recycling center nearby or a larger grocery store with recycling services, the store becomes exempt. - When HANC recycling and Kezar Gardens closes, there will be no recycling in the area - Big Business (Whole Foods) will afford the fee and small business will have to pay up or accept recycling in their stores. - The fee is $100/day and up to $36K per year. *Need for Recycling Centers* - The Small Business Commission is holding hearings to discuss the shortage of recycling in the city now - Suspending recycling services in the area will have a negative impact on recycling rates-50% of recycling in SF goes through a recycling center - Without a local recycling center, all small businesses will pay high fees or have to accept recycling in store The existing recycling centers in SF are well utilized but dwindling in numbers. Numbering 30 in 1990, now there are only 21. Statewide, there is one recycling center for every 18,000 residents while there is only one for every 38,000 San Franciscans. Recycling centers in the City receive half of all CRV bottles and cans recycled. Of the 21 recycling centers in the City, only about 12 are conveniently located at neighborhood supermarkets or nearby. The rest are hard to get to or only consist of reverse vending machines that slowly receive bottles and cans one at a time. As a result long lines are the norm at most City recycling centers. The City’s eviction of HANC sets a terrible example for supermarkets. HANC has served the Inner Richmond, Inner Sunset and Haight-Ashbury Bottle Bill requirements since the law went into effect in 1987. Other recycling centers are rumored for shut down in the near future, following the lead of the City. The HANC eviction will have a domino effect leaving thousands of San Franciscans and hundreds of stores without a place to recycle. The Mayor needs to address this crisis now by placing the HANC eviction on hold while a task force is appointed to develop and implement solutions.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Green

I have been feeling a little lonely these days at the Free Farm as we seem to have less volunteers these days. Though some of  the loss of volunteers recently has been the weather. I am hoping that we pick up some more consistent volunteers that can help lead others that come and want to help. As you may now, we applied for a grant to help us put on a year long course in Urban Food Production  that will help us train people to farm. Even if we do not get the grant I am thinking about how to pull off such a free course.

One of the best things about the farm is that one can work in the greenhouse or hothouse even if it is raining (having some waterproof shoes or boots would be good in the greenhouse because it gets pretty wet on the floor when it rains a lot).

Damon our wonderful neighbor who is also a great volunteer, gave me his used fisherman rain gear and last week I had a blast working on the farm and harvesting greens in the rain. His outfit really works well!

John our hero, who is one of the key people at Alemany Farm, has been so helpful getting our greenhouse up to speed, and as a result we have been turning out tons of seedlings that get planted everywhere and I feel really proud that we have been able to help so many gardeners in the city get free seedlings. I am crossing our fingers that John will be back next year, I guess it depends if his farm can get a greenhouse set up at Alemany. That would be best for them, though there might be political issues involved. We are now slowing down our seedling production for now and I want to start growing trays of greens and lettuce in the greenhouse, and maybe even some sunflower greens.

Here are some pictures of the farm today.  Again I can't say enough about how good I feel about our work at the Free Farm. Our crew is fantastic though a bit small at times and we have a lot of work to do to become a mightier group. Though we have accomplished a lot, and we have now grown over 8,000 pounds of produce!

 our fig tree,  an unknown variety, maybe Black Jack, 
has a few figs that miraculously ripened and they were so sweet and delicious
 tree dahlia flowering in December

 greens happy and growing well
keeping lettuce under cover because of the birds that have 
been eating the leaves
the hoja santa is taking off and  I gave away
some leaves at the Stand on Sunday. Here is a link about the plant
Stand said it was very rare and it was very popular

Here are just a few of the large number of photos Patricia took at the farm a while back (actually only a few weeks ago still in sunny November):

 harvested the beets last Saturday
 harvested now planted with fava beans
 David one of our best volunteers
 our laybrinth
 Gustavo harvesting kale
 Joyce greeter extraordinaire
red leaf lettuce gone to free market