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Who would have guessed that spending six hours standing in the sun could be so much fun? Yesterday, my yard was on the Bay Friendly Garden Tour. With help from greeters Fred, Gina and Holly (a big thank you to my fellow Master Gardener trainees!) we hosted over 450 visitors. From 10 am to 4 pm, I was in my backyard talking to people about growing food. I was also listening to them and their ideas, learning about things like organicponicos in Cuba, how to train my young grapes to provide a visual screen from the neighbors yard and how to protect my deck where I’m installing a new planter. Even though I’m mostly between winter and summer annual crops right now, people were very interested in my perennial vegetables, fruit trees and berries. My favorite visitors of the day were the three well-behaved toddlers who found my snap pea bush sprawling out over my mulched walkway, all of whom were willing to sample a little bit of fresh garden produce.

(Click on photos to see a larger image.) (more…)

ag1_fourPeoplePisgahView_lKevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams improbably plows up his corn field to build a baseball diamond when he hears a voice say “Build it and he will come.” Robert White’s story is just the opposite and equally improbable — but true. When Robert¬† became possessed with the idea of growing food, he’d never done it before. But he went ahead anyway, starting with taking over an existing baseball diamond in Asheville NC and turning it into an urban farm. When I visited there in April, (more…)

One of my friends decided last year to host a monthly potluck, to gather friends together during difficult times. We have met several times now, with good food and good conversation the result.

Our latest dinner was a few days ago, with good food and amazing conversation that spun from topic to topic. (more…)

The true meaning of Labor Day (lest we forget) is to honor labor. For me, that means appreciating the fruits of my labor in my garden. It is truly a labor of love and gives me great pleasure. Nature is bountiful and, combined with my somewhat haphazard planning and my steady stream of evening and weekend labor, yields a beautiful and tasty result. This weekend I am sharing these results, the fruits of my labors, with friends and family.

Today included turning one of my compost piles, watering and some pruning. It also included walking through the garden delighting in and picking the young and tender string beans, the tomatoes that are (finally) ripening, the steady output of cape gooseberries, the old and new squash and melons that I am trying this year and my first full harvest of apples.¬† Sharing these will be a pleasure, too, so I’ve been enjoying putting together gift bags of tomatoes, squash, cape gooseberries and apples.

May your own labors be as joyful and productive.

One of my new experiments this year is cape gooseberries. This is a follow-on to ground cherries (a very closely related crop) last year, which were delicious, but small. This year I’m growing both, but my crops, while rife with berries, haven’t ripened yet. Tonight I joined a neighborhood walking group as we toured the neighborhood, stopping in at about a half-dozen block parties, all part of National Night Out Against Crime.

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[WARNING: Long post. It's long because it's important. The myths surrounding industrial agriculture's "cheap food" are widespread, and this post addresses those myths by responding to a "cheap food" blog post at Freakonomics.]

Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book Freakonomics, recently wrote in his blog about trying to make orange sherbet with his children (Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores?). Apparently, he wasn’t very good at it, spending far more than is reasonable for ingredients and making a product that wasn’t very good. This isn’t surprising, of course, for a first effort. What is surprising is that he used his first-time-effort failure to introduce an argument that eating locally produced food is inefficient due to lack of scale and specialization. In the process he exhibits an appalling ignorance of the locavore (local food) movement and industrial agriculture, plus he makes egregious rhetorical leaps. Let’s take a look. (more…)

[Pictures still to come, once I receive them from the person who loaned me her camera!]

Saturday I visited a cohousing community in Nevada City. A few years ago I drove by the development when it was under construction and it didn’t look very appealing. Now, however, with plants and people in place, the development has turned into a community, and was very appealing. Our visit was on a monthly workday, so there were lots of people about, mostly in teams of two or three, working on various projects. After an introductory talk, our hosts asked if there were any questions. My hand popped up and I asked about gardening. I was promised a visit to both their garden and chicken pen. (more…)

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