Monday, May 5, 2008

planting seeds

well...back again for more urban farming. the winter was good to us with very little effort on our part: loads of kale, chard, lettuce, spinach, collards, broccoli rabe, and LOTS of black aphids. a little protein...

the seeds for our summer veg sprouted in our greenhouse/laundry room back in march. The seedlings have all been planted and are adjusting to their life in more soil.

by the end of summer, we're hoping to have loads of tomatoes, zucchini, beans, peas, salad greens, cucumbers, summer squash...and last but not least, a few laying hens! we just downloaded plans for the playhouse coop which M will build and undoubtedly modify with his own personal creative spin.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

pickled beans and a full moon

Finally made some dilly was hard to resist the urge to consume them immediately! The cayenne and garlic have settled to the bottom, so every week or so I turn them upside down to keep the spice infusing the beans. New Year's day bloody mary's here we come!

Zucchini still abounds, as do figs. It's the second round of fruit for the fig tree, a gift for the harvest moon. We celebrated autumn tonight by eating the last of summer and the first of fall: romano beans, purple cherokee tomatoes, delicata squash and asian pears for dessert.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007


The need to preserve the season's bounty is beginning to overwhelm me! When August hits, I realize Labor Day is just around the corner and I start to think about canning. It's my selfish way of holding on to the luciousness of summer. If I can force myself to wait until December to open the jars, I am rewarded with color that reminds me of sunny days and late sunsets...and eating food straight from the earth, warmed by the sun. The sensory memory that is preserved in those jars makes the time-consuming task of canning entirely worthwhile. On a cold and rainy winter's evening, there is nothing better than a taste of the past, and a reminder of what's to come.

Here is my friend Catherine's tried-and-true family recipe for Dilly Beans. Although I can eat these straight from the jar, they're also the perfect accompaniment to a New Year's Day Bloody Mary!


2 pounds green beans
1 teaspoon red pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 large heads dill -- in flower
2 cups water
1/2 cup salt
2 cups vinegar [cider}

Stem beans and pack uniformly in hot, sterilized jars.
To each pint add 1/4 t. red pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill.
Heat together water, salt and vinegar.
Bring to a boil and pour over beans.
Seal at once. Process in boiling water bath 5 minutes.

Makes 4 pints.

**I like to add a small Thai bird chile to my jars for added color and heat.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

comfort me with food trades

Ok, so I borrowed a little bit from the title of one of my favorite books, but it's true! This food trading business gives me comfort. Our bounty is more well-rounded, our family diet is more varied, and no one gets sick of any one fruit or veg. More food choice, more comfort.

We now have loads of Meyer lemons (our tree is in it's infancy and still not producing) and first-of-the season Granny Smith apples from our friend in Oakland. Thanks to my dear husband, we didn't even have to trade food; just a little advice on deck building. The apples are a bit tart to eat out of hand...but perfect with a little cinnamon and sugar, softened up by a dash of heat. The ubiquitous Bay Area fog makes me want to bake. Tarte Tatin, anyone?

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Monday, July 23, 2007

edible schoolyard

I took the kids to the Edible Schoolyard today. It's a place I've always wanted to visit and I finally decided that today was the day! I can't say how happy I am that I finally got to see exactly what the place looks like.

I felt like I was walking in my dream garden, on a much larger scale. There were edible plantings of all kinds: corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, amaranth...a gorgeous bounty of summer fruits and veggies, with a few surprises thrown in, like cape gooseberries. There were many fruiting trees, including apples, pears, and figs. Where we spent most of our time, though, was at the chicken coop.

We sat outside, in the shade, just watching. We used to have chickens years ago, when we lived in Bolinas. Sitting there today, watching the lively pack of hens, I realized how much I actually missed having them around. We've talked about getting chickens again, but still have not put forth the effort in making a home for them in our garden. We got sidetracked by the idea of beekeeping, among other things! At any rate, being at the Edible Schoolyard aroused my desire for chickens yet again. Without them, an urban farm is not complete! I'm hoping by this time next year, I'll be happily scrambling eggs hatched by my own feathered friends and teaching my kids the joys of poultry husbandry.

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Friday, July 20, 2007


I've become a fruit trader this week. I am not overwhelmed by any one fruit or veg, but I feel the need to diversify my portfolio. Miss Clara across the street brought me about 5 pounds of peaches from her tree. I don't think she gave me the pick of the litter, as most of them were looking a little haggard, but still, great for pancakes this morning and hopefully some pie on Sunday. I didn't want to send her home empty handed, so I asked her if she wanted any plums in return. She was happy to take some off my hands.

I don't have a plum tree, but my friend Sara does. She lives a mere two blocks away and is sick of eating her Santa Rosa plums. Last week, I traded her some of my figs and zucchini and came home with WAY too many plums. She made sure to give me the warning about eating too many plums. In her house, they call it the "cha-cha's".

So, cha-cha's aside, our fruit portfolio is looking pretty good. Still have oranges from our friend next door, plums from two blocks away, peaches from across the street, and figs in our backyard. I wonder if my other neighbor will want to trade for some of her raspberries? So far, no money spent and a heck of a lot of fruit! If only I could stop the flies from coming...

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

city in the in the back

We're midway through the summer and the 5 pounds of figs that I harvested from our tree yesterday inspired me to document the amazing joy, satisfaction and true rewards we receive from growing our own food.

(thank you, also, to my inspiring rapscallion friends R & B)

Our family has the privilege of living in this San Francisco Bay Area food mecca, where sourcing food grown within 100 miles of home is much easier than in other parts of the world. Like way too many people in our little slice of California coastline, we consider ourselves foodies. We pride ourselves on knowing about the best restaurants, the best food-related anything. Sure we want the freshest, most beautiful produce, the insider information on underground speakeasy restaurants, the latest microbrews. But now that we're all grown up...No. Never. Ever.

But seriously, now that we have kids and our kids are eating, we want them to aspire to their foodie a major way. What we really want is to teach our kids about where their food comes from and how to grow it. You might call it sustainability in its purest form.

So here we are, growing food in this urban jungle, surrounded by houses and concrete, drug dealers, police cars, ambulance sirens, booming stereos, domestic violence, exhaust and crime. We've got it all..with organic produce...and somehow the food and the kids don't mind...they just keep growing!

Our "farm" is really not a farm at all. It's the backyard of our plus-sized city lot, which is just beginning to take shape with raised planting beds filled with organic soil. (props to the husband and his handy green-builder skills!) We inherited two 30++ year-old fruit trees with the property: a beautiful Black Mission Fig that nearly spans the width of our yard, as well as a Yellow Bartlett Pear. I started all of our veggies and herbs from little seeds back in April and in just three short months we are now beginning to enjoy (and eat!) the fruits (and veggies) of our labor.

and so it begins...

today's harvest:

one giant bunch of red chard
one pound of haricot verts green beans
one prize-winning giant cocozelle zucchini
seven not-so-giant cocozelle zucchini
one big handful of arugula
two handfuls of basil
two cucumbers*
one pound of figs

*the cucumbers never made it in the house because little E can't get enough of them...he crunches them down to the stem and makes no apology for the lack of sharing.

adventures with zucchini to follow...

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