Monday, January 28, 2013

Digger Farm

The Free Farm has been hoppin' with activity recently, despite it being winter time. The weather has been pretty fantastic.  On Wednesday I got to the  Free Farm early because I really wanted to plant the bare root strawberry plants that we got free. Once I got there I realized that the project was much bigger than I thought if I were to do it right.  Not only did I want to plant the new strawberries, but the old ones needed to be taken up...they loose their vigor  after 2-3 years and the way they were planted in the first place  made the hard to harvest. After thinking about the design of the new strawberry bed I came up with the idea of making a hugelkultur bed. Almost everyone I tell them about the hugelkultur idea  they say "what?".  I heard about the idea from a man named David Mudge whom I met last year at the 2012 scion wood exchange  and is involved with the who is  Martinez Permaculture Center across the bay. Looking it up online I got the basic idea of creating a raised bed with very wood material that eventually breaks down into compost. I was eager to get rid of our pile of woody materials (though we didn't have any real logs), so my idea was to use it in a hugelkultur bed: Bury it part way, add some vegetable scraps, fresh green weeds, and manure. Then put the dirt back on the pile and then on top of that add compost and then plant the strawberries. I wasn't sure how many volunteers would show up I jumped right in  It turned out a good number of people showed up, more than we have had in a while and a group of people got the job done by the end of the day (short of  actually planting the strawberries).  On Saturday again I started early, terracing the area around the raised bed we built on Wednesday. A young man showed up to help which was really great. He actually came by on Wednesday as I was opening the gate. He said he had been sleeping in the parking lot next door where the boarded up buildings were that the Occupiers occupied for a while and that he stashed his sleeping bag and a bag of clothes in the greenhouse so they wouldn't get wet (it looked like it may rain).
Here are some photos of the project:
Besides planting the strawberries on Saturday, we had our Tu B"shvat tree planting. Thanks to Congregation Emanu-El who paid for the trees and Friends of the Urban Forest working with the Department of the Environment, we put 8 trees in the ground. We had one of the largest turn-outs in a year...about 30 people showed up to help out. It was a real blast! We planted three apple trees, two Asian Pears, two plum trees, and a male and female Sea Berry.
 we cut the trees after they were planted to about
 knee high to keep them growing less tall
 how cool it is to have kids planting trees!

 this one is going to be growing flat against the wall

Our seed order arrived and I can't wait to start planting! In the coming weeks we will be planting peppers, tomatoes, basil, squash, kale, and lettuce, plus other things too. We also have potatoes to put in the ground, and trees to graft (hopefully we will do some grafting next week). It's going to be a great year so please come out some work day and join us.

Our blog over at , this week I share the  inspiration that I got from the Diggers of San Francisco (who turned me on to the 1649 Diggers of England). When we first started the farm we were thinking of names and one that came up was the Digger Farm. I still like that name and though I don't like plowing and digging up our vegetable beds too much, and I continue to be inspired by Ruth Stout who promoted the no dig garden method and Masanobu Fukuoka and his One Straw Revolution. But like this week, once in a while all the shovels come out of the shed and us Free Farmers have to dig...dig holes for trees and dig to redo a strawberry bed. So "You Diggers all stand up for glory. Stand up now." (from the song World Turned Upside Down by Leon Rosselson.)

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