Sunday, March 9, 2008

Urbaculture

Hey there,

I went into Grants Pass yesterday, a beautiful drive thru the Williams valley, with lots farms, country stores, wooded hills, etc. I visited Arbel and Yonatan Shemesh; Arbel's sister Sharon is my oldest friends, and one my closest friends as well. I've known Arbel since I was six, although she's alot older than me so we never really saw each other much, as she was pretty much out of the house when I became friends with Sharon. Anyway, we got a chance to check out the Grants Pass farmer's market, which is close to her home in the old part of town; not a lot of produce yet, which is not surprising -- people were mostly selling plant starts, bread and other value-added products like jams, etc. Afterwards we returned to the Shemesh house and talked gardening. They have asked me to put in a vegetable/herb garden with them, and so we had a long talk, sitting in the sunny backyard, about how to do that. This is a wonderful opportunity for me because I've long been interested in doing edible/permaculture landscaping for people, with the aspiration that city folks can access food as locally as possible as well as hopefully learning themselves how to grow it. A few months ago I read an article in Orion magazine about two women in Portland, OR who have started a business called "Your Backyard Farmer." (www.yourbackyardfarmer.com) They set up and maintain vegetable gardens in people's backyards, and every week during the harvest season they pick a box of vegetables for you and set it on your back porch. usually there's enough to feed their clients and their clients' neighbors, extended family, etc. Anyway, I am really enthralled by this idea. I also read an article about a guy in Santa Cruz, CA who does edible landscaping for people, and part of his service is that he hooks his clients up with a local herbalist, who gives them a health diagnosis and prescribes herbs, which are then planted in the clients' gardens as well. I love this idea too. Anyway, I would love to set up a business where I am setting up vegetable/fruit and medicinal herb gardens in people's backyards, so that everyone can have a stronger connection to their food, to plants and nature in general.

It's a trek for me to get to Grants Pass (an hour each way) and the other big towns, Ashland and Medford, aren't much closer, so I'm unsure if it's really a practical thing to do if I stick around here long-term, but I think this scenario with Arbel and Yonatan is perfect for now -- a test case, a chance for me to give it a try and see how I like it, with friends who are flexible and enthused about growing their own food. They get a CSA box every week already from a local organic farm, "Fry Family Farm," so mostly I'll be planting culinary herbs and a few vegetables that they eat a ton of, like dark leafy greens (kale, collards, etc.), cabbage (they love sauerkraut and make it all the time), lettuce, etc. It's a good challenge for me.

.....Today I helped Ryan and Eden out with finishing up their strawbale cottage in the morning; they're putting down a floor, which involves laying gravel down, sprinkling it with a tiny bit of pulverized clay (to help it stick together), spraying it with water and then running a tamping machine over it; then laying down black plastic as a vapor barrier and repeating the process. I just helped them with one of the layers; they have several more layers to come, and the final surface is gonna be cob -- some mixture of clay, sand and straw, I would guess. One of the guys that's been working on the house started applying the orangey plaster on the outside of the house. With the red roof it looks pretty good.

After lunch I went out to the field with Matt and planted a ton of "everbearing" strawberries. The soil is so soft and crumbly, it was a pleasure to work with, and I worked in my bare feet in the surprisingly hot sun all afternoon. I'm pretty beat, but it was great to talk with Matt, pick his brain about farming, get a greater sense of his overall vision and squat there, planting strawberries together. Tomorrow there are more strawberries to plant, including another variety called "Chandler," as well as golden raspberries. I've never seen or heard of them before, but apparently they're delicious. He's got a bunch of varieties of berries and fruit trees that are gorgeous, delicious and not present in the regional markets here, so he's hoping he'll create a niche for the farm that way. Apparently his plan is to grow mostly culinary herbs and fruit, with a few veggies thrown in there as well.

OK, that's it for today. Peace out.

1 comment:

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