June 2009

This website is partly about my education as an urban farmer. But I want to recommend to you a new book by another urban farmer who has had time to develop her farm and her farming knowledge much further than I have. Coincidently, Novella Carpenter also farms in Oakland, where I live. I heard her speak a year ago and found her talk to be not only hilarious, but filled with learning experiences. As I’ve advised elsewhere in this blog, farming is about learning. There is a lot to learn and the best way to do this is by experimenting, by trying things to see what works and what doesn’t. In Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella describes her experiences doing just that, experimenting–particularly with different kinds of livestock–in the heart of a major city. I’m sure she also touches on two key issues for urban farmers, access to land and water.

I expect the book is as funny and informative as her talk was. A New York Times reviewer found it so. You can decide for yourself by reading the first chapter. Even though I haven’t read this book yet–I plan to write a review of it soon–I recommend it wholeheartedly.

peppersFlowers_lAs readers of this site know, it is dedicated in part to my dearly departed dog, Pepper. She is buried in my back yard, where I planted flowers on her grave. I now have a profusion of beautiful flowers growing there. I like to think that Pepper is still providing me natural beauty by helping these flowers to grow.

Some of you may be a bit squeamish about this–Yuck, he’s talking about his dog decomposing!–but I’m not squeamish at all. This is nature’s way, to recycle organic nutrients into other living things. This is part of the beauty of nature and nothing to be squeamish about, but something to celebrate, just as I celebrate the joy that Pepper brought me for years while she was living and now, still, that she is not.

blackRasperryPint_lMy black raspberry is producing now. The berries keep getting bigger and better every year. Perhaps that’s the advantage of a perennial–every year the root system gets bigger and I get more and better berries. This year’s berries are melt-in-your-mouth sweet and juicy. The berry quality seems to come, too, from my learning to be patient, waiting just a few extra days for the berries to be ripe instead of picking them just a little too early. This is part of the art of being a farmer, knowing when to harvest. It’s one of the hardest things for me to learn. That and being patient.

This year also promises to be a record-setting level of production. Last year I set a record of 24 pints of berries from my vine. (more…)