I hope you are all doing well! Another week has gone by where I feel like I have been exposed to some great knowledge. I am in a constant state of awe as I work with the Earth and run around the farm with dirt underneath my fingernails. It is truly amazing to see the fruit of our labor…no pun intended 🙂 Farm work is hard work, but I can feel myself getting stronger each day, both mentally and physically. I am always looking for opportunities to practice gratitude, and every time I work on the farm, I feel that I am given that opportunity.
On Wednesday we had a crazy but fun time harvesting for the CSA boxes and helping film for the Brush With Bamboo company that Manju and Ro founded. It was great to see the farm and the work we do there be featured. I also loaded up on some more Zapotes from the breakfast set-up 🙂
Friday was a busy day as well. We added more compost to a couple of the rows as they were looking a little too narrow. They were broadened to 30 inches with nutrient rich soil. We then planted kale seeds in these new rows. We also learned about irrigation on the farm, as well as the water system in our local areas. Our farm uses both drip tape and thicker tubing which are 20 psi and 50 psi respectively. Something I found quite interesting is that water can be easily recycled by using more efficient methods of restoration. It was also interesting to learn that much of our water sources are owned by different parties. Water that you think is “free” is actually often times patrolled by others starting deep within the ground. I realized a lot of the technicalities we face at the farm as well as in our personal lives go further than the surface.
The things we discuss during Friday’s classroom sessions really make me overanalyze the everyday things I had never really thought about. I can feel my head still spinning…
Another amazing week on the farm. The chickens and zucchini were both very glossy. I spend my monday and friday afternoons basking in the afterglow of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and interacting with vigorous plants. I read that the microbes in dirt are antidepressants and seeing how happy I am when I’m covered in it, I believe!
Our beekeeper tried to move a hive into the bee box this week, but the bees abandoned house. Apparently that’s something that happens a lot, she said. The hot weather probably didn’t help either. I wonder if it would help to get the bee box some shade. Here’s a photo of the beeswax they left behind. Isn’t it beautiful?
Another thing I’ve noticed about farming is how little we use our arms in everyday city life! We walk around all day like little Tyrannosaurus Rexes. Typing, maybe digging around a bit in our purses for our keys or changing a lightbulb is the extent of our daily use. Our elbows are pinned to our sides most of the day – not so on the farm. I’ve got ropy arm muscles developing. It’s tiring just to hold them out straight to do harvesting for minutes at a time (try it, you’ll see), much less all the shoveling and compost spreading and such. It’s been a revelation to use them all day, to see what arms are really there for.
At class we talked about irrigation, which was mind-blowing. We talked about the various routes water can take once it falls on the ground and how to best utilize it. It was most of the info from the Understanding the California Drought video, but in more detail and more farming specific. The most exciting part for me was when we talked about greenifying the desert. It’s such an exciting idea, to be able to take desert land and turn it into a productive oasis. I sort of don’t want to get the word out, because I’d love to buy some desert land I can actually afford, and greenify that mammerjammer. Except also, I want to tell everyone. Early forays into telling everyone indicate that most people’s eyes glaze over when you talk in detail about how to greenify a desert, anyway, so it’s sort of a moot point. But if you are one of the chosen few who would like to learn more, check out Geoff Lawton’s videos on youtube.
Second week at the farm! I was glad to start my week off with a farm day. I took a week off between the test week and official start of my internship so I was happy to get back to the dirt. And I sure did get dirty. Monday started off with a huge compost delivery so we spent time both on Monday and Wednesday reshaping a couple beds and planting seeds. Reshaping involves giving the rows a little makeover. Over time the rows start flattening out and we needed to take off the top layer of mulch, then dig in the space right between the row and the pathway between them returning soil to the top of the row. Then flattening the top of the row out and adding new compost on top. Monday we planted daikon radishes and cilantro in the newly reshaped beds and then added some additional zucchini seeds into already established zucchini rows. I was on chicken guard duty for a while because it seems nothing is so enticing to chickens then reshaped rows with newly strewn seeds. One little red hen wouldn’t take no for an answer and they all were returned to their tractor before they could destroy our hard work.
My big ah-ha moment this week came from Rishi describing irrigation systems. The rows all have drip lines with emitters every four inches or so (I may be off on that number). Which works great for plants with established root systems. The water drips down onto the soil in one spot but underneath the soil, the water spreads out in a triangle. So while it may look like the soil is only getting wet in a very small patch from above, actually under the ground the water is seeping into a much larger area watering roots that are spread away from the emitter. This works wonderfully for plants that already have good root systems but works terribly for seed starting. Especially seeds like lettuce, cilantro and the daikon we were planting whose seeds are very close to the surface. So he laid down a line that had small overhead sprinklers that would cover the entire top of the row until those plants are established. With the drought I’ve come to think all overhead sprinklers are bad. But if you’re thoughtful in your watering, and consider your purpose when you choose your irrigation, it is still an useful type of irrigation.
Wednesday found us harvesting and prepping the CSA boxes. Above is a lovely eggplant medley and CSA boxes all in a row. Harvesting didn’t take up much time (I worked on the water spinach, long beans, eggplant and some sunflowers) so Rishi set a couple of us to work removing bean plants that were on their last legs, reshaping that bed and planting peas. Because the soil we were adding back onto the bed from the path was very heavy with wood chips, Rishi added ground up chicken feathers, or “feather meal,” to the row. Feather meal is a rich nitrogen fertilizer (13-0-0) that will help compensate for the nitrogen that will be tied up by microorganisms breaking down the wood chips. It also is longer lasting then a fast release of say blood meal. Learning new things every day.
Hey Everyone, hope you’re enjoying the fall heat and the super moon/eclipse tonight!
For the blog today I wanted to recap the experience I’ve had with the bees at Sarvodaya (and elsewhere) this week. It’s been busy and really fun for me. I have been some kind of beekeeper for the last two years, with my own hive at my house for less than a year. I read a ton of books and belong to an organic beekeeping group in LA called HoneyLove (honeylove.org). There’s an intense amount to learn but like I’m experiencing with farming most of it comes down to understanding patterns and observing carefully.
SO, this Monday I finally peeked in the hive at Sarvodaya. It was gross! It seems that the wax from the last hive was left in there and it got totally decimated by wax moths. Now I know every creature has it’s benefits to the ecosystem and there’s no real benefit to classifying things as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but wax moths are nasty. They create this thick, dark gray web all over the frames with cocoons and larvae squirming around (see photo, sorry to do this to you if you’re squeamish about nightmarish bugs). Anyway, it was overrun so I had an idea–chickens! They love eating creepies. I put the frames in their coops and hoped for the best.
Later Monday I got a text from a beekeeping hotline. I have my name on a list to do bee rescues in LA and somehow they knew that Sarvodaya needed a new hive at that particular moment! Good timing. I called the person who had requested a beekeeper and she told me that there was a swarm in outside her house in a bush. She did not want to exterminate the bees but was having trouble finding someone to come get them. I said I’d love to come!
Swarms are bees without established homes. They have left wherever they were living for one of many reasons (they outgrew it, it was destroyed somehow, etc) and are on the hunt for a new place, ideally one with a defensible entrance and good forage nearby. As a swarm they are waiting somewhere, like the bush in this instance, surrounding the queen in a big ball to protect her while scout bees go off and try to find a good place while everybody else just hangs (literally) tight. They are not defending a home so they’re really, really easygoing at this point. Swarms are some of the easiest bees to handle (not that I’d recommend it if you don’t know what you’re doing!).
I went to the address with my suit, a cardboard box with a screened hole that I had made, and clippers. I cut the branches that were in my way, put the box in the bush under the ball of bees, and gently shook a large chunk of the bees into the box. The queen must have been in the group that fell into the box (which is the point) so all remaining bees outside the box began to crawl in towards her. Bees communicate in large part by pheromones and the smell of the queen is a big part of how they know where home is. Once all the bees were in the box I put the top on, taped it up, and put it in my car. Then I had a box of about 15,000 bees on my porch all night marked, “Bees–don’t open” with a smiley face :). Nobody did 🙂
On Wednesday I took the box o’ bees to Sarvodaya. Those gems of chickens had comPLETELY cleaned the nasty moth frames, yum. I put the hive back together and stuffed a bunch of straw in the entrance so that the girls wouldn’t come flooding out and would have to get a little acclimated to their new home as they cleaned out the door. Then I dumped them into the hive and closed it up. They had a little bit of wax from comb they had started to build in the bush so they could start re-forming it into the cells of their new place.
Friday I went to check on them and they were all gone. Swarms are sometimes not content with where we humans decide to put them! Even though everything should point to them being happy at Sarvodaya with it’s perfectly organic forage in close proximity, a nice clean box, water–for some reason they could not stay. It happens, and I’ll keep on the lookout for a new hive for the farm. It’s always good to remember that we beekeepers are not at all in charge of these wild animals.
Until next week,
This week’s CSA Box includes:
– Serrano peppers – from our friends at Huerta del Valle, an organic community garden and farm in Ontario, CA
– purple carrots – from our friends at Huerta del Valle, an organic community garden and farm in Ontario, CA
– sapote – These are really ripe and ready to eat.
– winter squash – From The Growing Home
– nopal – Handle with care since some thorns may still be present. Instructions are included in this link.
We wanted to share some tips with you in case your greens get wilted. One thing that you can do is fill a bowl or small tub with 1 to 2 inches of water and put the green bunches with the stems down into the water. Cut the stems a little at the bottom before putting them in the water. Leave the greens in the water overnight and they should be rehydrated by the morning. Wrap the greens in a towel and store in the fridge.
Also, the best way to store your thai basil so that they keep longer is to cut the stems a little and place them in a glass filled with about an inch of water. Cover the leaves loosely with a bag and keep them in the refrigerator. Replace the water inside when it gets cloudy. This works great with cilantro and parsley as well.
Please feel free to share your recipes with us and also any storing tips you may have. 🙂
The nopal is rich in Vitamin B6, copper, iron, fiber, riboflavin, Vitamin A, C, K, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and calcium. The nopal is known to aid in digestion and weight loss. It can help prevent skin, lung, and oral cancer. It is effective in maintaining blood sugar levels. It is also beneficial in building and maintaining strong bones.
The nopal can be cooked and used in salsas, salads, or omelets. They can be a great nutritional addition to any recipe. Before using them in your recipes they should be peeled and prepared properly. Here is a short video that explains the process:
This is a great “salad” that can be used as a salsa on tacos, meat, chicken, fish, shrimp, eggs, quesadillas, or enchiladas. In this recipe, she boils the nopal first and skims the slime off as it is released from the nopal. Pictures are included in this recipe:
Purple carrots not only contain the Vitamin A and beta-carotene that orange carrots have, but they are also rich in anthocyanins, which are the same antioxidant compounds that are present in blueberries. Purple carrots are considered a super food because of its high concentration of antioxidants. They can improve memory, enhance your vision, protect against heart attacks, act as an anti-flammatory, and also help with weight control.
Purple carrots are sweet whether they are raw or cooked. It can be tossed with a white cabbage and orange carrots for a colorful coleslaw. They can be roasted in the oven with some olive oil and thyme for a nice side dish.
If you like garlic you can add it in with the rosemary. Grate or press the garlic and put it in the olive oil so that it is infused with garlic. Toss the carrots with the infused garlic olive oil and a little salt and some rosemary and follow the directions for roasting.
This week at the farm was an exciting one for me in terms of new experiences with fruit. I was thrilled to finally try a White zapote, as well as a Miracle Berry thanks to Manju and Tony as I have heard many good things about both. The zapote tasted like a mixture of pear, vanilla, and a little bit of white chocolate. It definitely didn’t disappoint in flavor. The Miracle Berry was everything I had hoped it would be! I ate an entire half of a lemon after ingesting it, and didn’t cringe from the sourness of it at all. I later found out that this was due to a substance called miraculin found in the berry that turns sour tastes into sweet ones.
In terms of work, I helped wash off the aphids (which are tiny little sap-sucking insects) on the long beans growing along the fence, so that it wouldn’t be covered and destroyed by them come harvest time. I also helped trim the unnecessary growth and dead stems. I learned proper ways of harvesting Rampicante squash among other vegetables. The focus of this week’s discussion was proper harvesting techniques and basic plant anatomy, which I found very helpful for future references. I learned that there are three loosely termed plant “varieties”, which are annuals, biennials, and perennials, as well as trees. Much of the foods we grow in California are annuals, which are easier to work with in small spaces, since yield is greater and quicker even though the root system is weaker and much less long lasting. A field of just Perennials, which take longer to flourish, would not do too well in a space that needs to be utilized considering efficient production. After this, Manju then proceeded to walk us around the farm and show us harvesting techniques and uses for lemongrass, water spinach, yam leaves, thai basil, and much more.
Can I also just throw out that being at the farm twice a week is a bit of a meditative experience? Sometimes when I’m doing a repetitive motion, especially while harvesting, I like to focus on my breathing, the warmth of the sun, and the sounds of the chickens and birds around me. I can definitely see how being amongst our plant friends can be medicinal to our psyche just by being around them and working with them 🙂
I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!
Hi there! I am thrilled to say I am an intern at Sarvodaya Farms. Although this is my first official week as an intern, I have been volunteering on the farm since earlier this month. I came across Rishi and Manju after a quick google search of “learn urban farming los angeles”. After checking out their website and some of their videos online, I realized that the work they are doing in Pomona is exactly the work I was looking for.
Originally from Athens, Georgia, I’ve now lived in both New York City and Los Angeles following my passion for acting. This dream of mine has given me opportunities that I never imagined possible. It’s broaden my horizons more than I could’ve dreamed and introduced me to wonderful (and not so wonderful) people. After four and a half fun filled years in LA, my husband and I have decided to return to our roots and the land of our hometown. This December we will be making our way back to Athens where we plan to settle down and have a family. I’m looking forward to creating a life for ourselves there and with the booming film industry in the Southeast I’ll still be able to perform.
With this change in perspective, I’ve realized what is important to me at this point in my life. My great grandparents were farmers in a rural town in Georgia, so I like to think I inherited my love of getting my hands dirty in the soil, passion for hard work, and love of the land from them. Other than acting, I am passionate about good food and good people. I am interested in building a business back home where I can take the skills I learn from Rishi and Manju and share them with others. My dream is to build a creative center that brings people together through the arts, food, and permaculture.
I have learned so much in these last three weeks!!!! Everyday I come home with total excitement and share with my husband all the fascinating things I’ve learned. My peak interests at the moment are learning more about grey water recycling, drip irrigation, and compost. Lynn Fang, our compost extraordinaire, has taught me so much. Here’s some of her tips: Compost requires two things from the get go: brown (carbon based material i.e. horse bedding) as well as green (nitrogen based material i.e. once living as in food scrapes). These materials need to start in a 2 to 1 ratio. First the temperature should rise to 130-160 degrees Farenheit at it’s peak, then cool to the outdoor ambient temperature. Once this happens (after about 6 months) you know your compost is ready! If the temperature never gets high enough, experiment with introducing more carbon or more nitrogen to the mix. Turn your pile every week. As you turn it, give it a good hose down every few inches to keep lots of moisture in the mix.
We have six small pond ecosystems on the farm. I wasn’t even aware of them, but Manju introduced me to their small, but mighty life diversity and it’s incredible. In a pond the size of a barrel, there is an abundance of life. There is plant life in the form of Water Hyacinths, water snails that eat the algae and live off of the hyacinths, and finally mosquito fish, which I think are super cool coming from the South where mosquitoes are rampant! The mosquito fish eat the mosquito larva on the water’s surface. We do have to be careful when adding water to the pond, because too much city water will introduce too much chlorine thus killing the water snails.
I’m learning so much about harvesting. In the last three weeks, I’ve harvested eggplant, okra, long beans, tomatoes, rompicante squash, peppers, and zucchini. Watch out, ants love the long beans and okra!! You know the long beans are ripe for the picking once they get to the width of a pencil. That’s when they are going to be their sweetest. Peppers are ready once they begin changing color.
Thank you Manju, Rishi, and my fellow interns for a wonderful experience on the farm so far. Stop on by! Everyone’s so friendly.
Hi Everybody, this is Katie again.
This is my second blog post and I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to write in general on this blog…today I came up with portraits of plants. I want to learn specifics of lots of different plants and I like knowing names, preferences, and stories of plants I see often and/or use, so researching them for the blog will help me get going. I’m starting with a native Californian today and one that has come up in my life a few times by different people in the recent past. It’s commonly called Datura.
Datura grows wild all over California–including in the empty lot next to Sarvodaya. Manju pointed at it through the fence on my first day and reminded me that I wanted to learn more about it. Datura is generally a low, ankle to knee-high plant that can spread up to 2 meters with sometimes woody stalks and giant, showy white or purple trumpet flowers. It’s certainly eye-catching but living in California I feel like I see it so much of the time in forgotten areas (along highways, in abandoned lots) that I sort of stopped looking at it.
Datura is actually a genus of 9 species from the family Solanaceae, or nightshades. It is, like many nightshades, poisonous most of the time. It is classified as a dicot, has alternating leaves and acts like a perennial in California. Datura grows in every continent except Antarctica. Several websites I looked at stated that it requires fertile soil and lots of water–but obviously ours native to Southern CA have naturalized to not need these things since they seem to choose the least hospitable places to live and seem very drought tolerant. Leaves are about a hand length, elliptical, hairy and grey-green. The fruits are spiky and round and the seeds are tan and sort of ear/kidney shaped. The Dr. Seuss crazy flowers point upright and often have 5 or so points coming off the edges.
So back to that poison, huh? Datura seems most known (from people I’ve talked to and on the internet) as a powerful hallucinogenic plant that has a rich and weird history of such use in the Americas, Europe and India. Datura when taken as a drug seems to provoke bizarre, erratic behavior an often complete amnesia in the taker and is very poisonous the rest of the time so don’t take it duh. Datura wrightii, a common species in our area has sacred associations with the Chumash and Tongva tribes and puberty ceremonies. Overall, Datura seems to me to have a strong mystery that is not to be messed with or taken lightly. It’s always amazing to me to remember that the weeds we see in the margins are often deeply powerful medicines.
The first image here is a painting by Georgia O’Keefe, next is a painting (I’m sorry I don’t know the artist) from the Heirloom Seed Expo, and finally a photo from the internet.
Here are some websites I looked at: