July 2016

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Grasshoppers galore. Next week I think I’ll try feeding them to the chickens. Apparently they love them!

I kept a keen eye on the okra this week to see how my soap bath had effected the plant, and to see how many aphids were present compared to last week. So as a recap, Manju sprayed the plant with the soapy water either two Friday’s ago or two Monday’s ago. Then I came in on the following Wednesday and the aphids seemed almost unphased; there was so many. Now I am pleased because although it has been over a week since the last soaping, the aphids are reduced by 50%+!!! However, there are ants now on the undersides of the leaves. Ants have a symbiotIc relationship with aphids where they will protect them against predators in order to collect the sweet fluid the aphids secrete for food. So now the ants are coming in, and this could help the existing aphid population thrive. Another thing that I have realized is that some of the leaves on the plant are browning which could be due to the soap. So for now, I think we will continue with the soapy water since it has killed a lot of the aphid population, but it would be a good idea to try to give the plants some help in between these soapy baths to prevent the dying leaves. The other day Faye was spraying the ground of this area with sea concentrate to add minerals to the soil which would help the plants grow. I think this could be the solution needed to these problems, but only time tells.

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Okra flower

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Tomato hornworm that shortly after became chicken food

“Patience may be a virtue for mankind, but for a gardner, it’s essential”

David King, SLOLA

 

Okay, today I’m going to make this simple.

You’re spoiled.

That’s right, you flip a light switch and voila, lights come on. You push a button at the gas station & fuel comes out & goes into your car. You HAVE a car, or at least you drive one. And when you push the magic pedal on the floor with your foot, it takes you places. You HAVE a foot. Two! You have a television & you watch it. And fill in the blanks with the rest of them, because even IF you don’t drive or watch tv, you have a cell phone or go to the movies or whatever. Like I said, fill in the blanks.

You know my favorite thing about the farm?  It’s nothing like the farms I grew up working on, but this part is the same – there are life lessons just begging to be learned; deep, meaningful, life-changing lessons.

This week on the farm, amidst persistent solar system problems, on the hottest day so far, I was reminded of one of those lessons.

I don’t like small talk, & I’m kind of bothered by the automatic responses we have to each other.

“How are you today?”

“Fine, thanks.”

But my buddy Barry is funny. Barry often has a different answer; an answer that makes me think.

“How are you today Barry?”

“Well, 99% of the world population woke up this morning & shit in a ditch, so I guess I’m doing pretty good.”

Speaking of filling in the blanks, you have a toilet and if you’re healthy, you use it every day.

Now look, I’m with you here. I have all those things too. But spoiled doesn’t mean having them. Spoiled means taking them for granted; not being very very grateful for them.

If you’re okay with all this, with you’re pampered spoiled state, or if you’re perfect, stop reading now. Please. Save your time, these words are lost on you. But if you realize there’s at least a kernel of truth here, read on, because I’m about to tell you how to change your life.

Remember that scene in Cast Away, where the main character, played by Tom Hanks, finds a quiet moment alone at his reunion party and notices the ice cubes in his glass? He hadn’t even SEEN ice in over four years. That’s the secret.

When my son Jared was younger, we did something. We decided to live without electricity for a weekend (I wish so much we had made this a tradition). No tv. No video games. No lights. No refrigerated food. No washer and dryer, no cell phone, no phone at all, no alarm clock, no email, no internet. Hardly a damned thing actually. As a side note, how messed up is life when the absence of a luxury that’s been commonplace barely 85 years leads to a statement like “Hardly a damned thing…” ?

But to the point, because life has a way of very quickly returning to level when you shake things up like this. Spend a day, just a day, without being able to flip the light switch and you’ll experience what a complete inconvenience it is to hold a candle everywhere you go, and more to the point, you discover what a peaceful thing it is to follow Earth’s time. Spend a couple days without the phone ringing or answering emails and you’ll discover how wonderful it is in your own head, and how many ideas are trying to get out through you. And spend a weekend like this, barely two and a half days, and you’ll find a new level of gratitude (this, this is one of my favorite things about the farm, because we simply cannot be part of this and view food with the disregard that is commonplace today).

So, here’s my proposal. Pick a weekend, soon, and turn off the electricity. Or at least stop using it. Unplug all your non-essential appliances. Fine, keep your fridge running so you don’t ruin your food, but unplug your clocks, your computers, your tv and your internet router. Turn off your phone. If you’re a psychotic nutbag or if you’re a therapist and you’re afraid one of your psychotic nutbags will need a 911 moment with you, keep it on but tell everyone in your life it’s for EMERGENCIES ONLY. Then start your weekend and watch in amazement how challenging it might be, but how quickly you return to humanity.

When Monday comes, I promise you this: at least with respect to electricity, you’ll no longer be spoiled and you’ll have a renewed sense of gratitude.

And just in case you think I’m writing this because I’m so well off I “don’t know what it’s like”, think again. I’ve been poor. Poor enough to actually know what it’s like to wonder if I’d have a next meal. Poor enough to smell my pets cooking on the kitchen stove (that’s right, my pets). So take a breath and hear what life, not me, is saying.

If you actually try this, you’re welcome.

MrPPRampicante

Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

This week I have some EXTREMELY exciting news to share with you. We have been working on something in secret for a while now, and didn’t really tell anyone because we didn’t want to jinx it. After many weeks of progress, however, I am ready to share this very, very secret secret with you……

We are buying the farm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes you read that right! I think I have to say it again. We are buying the farm!!!!!!!!!!! After being at our Pomona Farm for almost exactly 2 years now, we have grown very attached to it. The farm has become such a beautiful space that is loved by so many people, that we could not bare to risk it being sold off to a “developer” or used for other such nefarious purposes. Starting on August 8th, we will be the official owners of 1196 S San Antonio Ave, including the 1927 house that sits at the front of the property. I know you are now salivating (as I am) at the possibilities of .63 acres of land being taken care of by such jungle-minded people as myself and The Growing Club’s staff, and I can ensure you we will not let you down. We are already making a variety of plans to turn this property into The Growing Home 17.0, and it is very much a possibility due to all the support you all have given us! From the depths of the forests in our hearts, we all want to thank you for believing in our mission and liking our delicious produce. Our future is surely full of magic, tomatoes, and organic unicorns.

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Cammi packing the cherry tomatoes

Cammi packing the cherry tomatoes

Kelsey showing off our beautiful cabbages.

Kelsey showing off our beautiful cabbages.

Haleemah poses mid-harvest

Haleemah poses mid-harvest

Farmer Trainee Journal Entries

Want to see the farm through the eyes of our Farmer Trainees? Read their weekly blog posts below.

This week’s Journal Excerpt comes from Farmer Trainee Kelsey (I just found these first two lines so funny!):

So anyway!! The C-A-R-N-A-G-E!!

I found myself yellow up to my forearms with aphid guts this week. Many of the okra leaves are literally covered in aphids, and although they have not seemed to damage the plant very much yet, we know it is coming. I saw a handful of lady bugs scattered on the plant as well (they eat aphids), but there are not nearly enough to control this aphid problem so now we are going to make it a habit to wash the okra leaves before we harvest.

This week’s CSA Box

(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)

NOTE: We are trying to get around to update vegetables descriptions. In the mean time, for items without a provided description, feel free to Google uses and recipes.

Vegetables:
– 1-2 zuchinno rampicante or zuchinni
– 1 bag eggplant*
– 1 bunch moringa (recipes in the link) *
– 1 bag sweet peppers peppers
– 1 lb cherry tomatoes
– 1 lb New Girl tomatoes
– 2-3 Suyo Long cucumbers
– 1 bunch kale*
– 1 bunch Egyptian green onion**

Herbs:
– 1 bunch garlic chives*
– 1 bunch basil

Fruit:
– 1 lb pluots, mixed varieties
– 1 lb oranges*

*LARGE VEGGIE BOX ONLY
**SMALL VEGGIE BOX ONLY

Storage Instructions

Leafy Vegetables
In case your greens are wilted by the time you pickup your box, please follow these instructions:

– Fill a small bowl or tub with 1 inch of water
– Cut a 1/2 inch of the bottoms of the stems of your leafy greens
– Place greens, with stems down, into the bowl of water
– Leave the greens in the bowl overnight and by morning they should be rehydrated

Wrap your rehydrated greens in a towel and store the in the fridge. Summer greens like water spinach, moringa, and yam leaves don’t last long either way, so eat those as soon as you can.

Herbs
The best way to store your herbs 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 basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and many other herbs.

Please feel free to share your recipes with us and also any storing tips you may have. 🙂

seeds

“Control seed and you control life itself.”   Dr. Vandana Shiva

This past Wednesday David King and Laura – sorry I don’t recall her last name, from the Seed Library of Los Angeles, came to the farm to teach a class on seed saving. As soon as Rishi let us know they would be coming to teach a class, I was pretty excited. I knew the class would be interesting – but WOW! I thoroughly enjoyed the class and asked tons of questions and would have asked a thousand more.

David and Laura made seed saving sound even more exciting than you might even think possible! I mean really – saving seeds? How much fun can it be? Well when you listen to Laura and how she explained that she accidentally created her own hybrid – crossing a large mild green pepper with a cayenne – it was – well fun! She is giving out pepper seeds to friends not knowing whether they would get a mild green pepper, a big spicy green pepper or possibly just a regular cayenne.

Ultimately you can create your own variety of plant. For instance David lives near the beach, so anything he grows there will probably having some difficulty growing in the Inland Empire. But the library can give you seeds and with proper instruction, you can through a few seasons modify a variety that will love the hotter temperatures – how fun would that be?!

Okay.  So that is  a bit of an oversimplification – but any of you gardeners out there that want to contribute your efforts to creating a seed library specific to your region it is worth learning more.

You can learn more at the Seed Library of Los Angeles at www.slola.org

For more information about seed saving, exchanges and seed freedom- here are a couple more sites

www.seedalliance.org

www.seedsavers.org

www.vandanashiva.org/

Rishi said that he is going to have David and Laura visit the farm and teach a class again sometime in the future. If you have the opportunity – attend!

 

 

Beetle

Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.

Actually this little guy wasn’t dead at all. With a slight nudge, he spread his wings and rejoined his fellow figeaters in the sky. The farm is positively abuzz with these noisy, supersized critters. All part of the variety of summer.

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Bed of okra, hundreds of aphids, and my diluted soap mixture

Oh the carnage!!

This week was the first week we were able to harvest the okra. I have never personally tried okra, but the name and sight of it are familiar and remind me of my grandmother.

“mmmmm I love me some fried okra” she’d say, and it would always strike me as silly because she would unintentionally sound different, and suddenly develop a slight southern drawl whenever she would say that. It’d always make me chuckle because she was born and raised here in the west.

So anyway!! The C-A-R-N-A-G-E!!

I found myself  yellow up to my forearms with aphid guts this week. Many of the okra leaves are literally covered in aphids, and although they have not seemed to damage the plant very much yet, we know it is coming. I saw a handful of lady bugs scattered on the plant as well (they eat aphids), but there are not nearly enough to control this aphid problem so now we are going to make it a habit to wash the okra leaves before we harvest.

Pictured above is a container filled with 4 ounces of soap, and 16 ounces of water. This was connected to a hose and I sprayed this onto the okra leaves to try to get rid of the aphids. I got a system going where I would gently pull my hand from the stem of an okra leaf to the tip of the leaf as I sprayed it with the soapy water. This helped me to physically remove many of the aphids from the leaf, but it also helped to make sure the whole leaf was coated in the soapy solution. It was also kind of gross because I would feel all the little aphids roll and squish in my hand. I learned that when you do this, you do not have to be extremely thorough in getting all of the aphids off the leaves because the soap softens, then dissolves the aphids outer shell which later leaves them to die. An important tip for this kind of pest control is that you use biodegradable soap to protect the plants, the environment, and water supply.

As of now, we have done this two different times, so we are not sure how effective this is going to be. So I will have to track the progress to see if we have any success getting rid of the aphids, and to see if the soap negatively affects the plants themselves.

 

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Our finished product!

On Friday, LA Compost founder, Mike, and one of his interns, Billy, came to teach us how to make a beautiful vermicomposting bench. Essentially, you can eat your apple ON the bench and throw the core away IN the bench! The worms inside the bench slurp up the goods and produce beneficial excrete called castings (note: beneficial for soil…not so sure what it does to humans).

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The inside area is divided by a screen which allows the worms to move freely between the two sections. The idea is to feed the worms on one side of the screen while the castings are harvested from the other side, and then repeat the process. And the entire production of the 5’ x 2’ bench was complete in less than a few hours!

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I was completely blown away at the finished product but was even more impressed by our teamwork to get the project done. I’ve started my own journey towards becoming a Master Wood Sander.

I am so thankful to Mike for sharing his knowledge with us and for introducing to us a simple but beautifully designed way of recycling our food waste while resting our butts.

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The bench deserved farming models.

 

 

Before and After: The Collective Journey of the Su-Yo Long Cucumbers

Before and After: The Collective Journey of the Su-Yo Long Cucumbers

It’s one thing to walk into the food jungle of Sarvodaya and see the life that is already in existence just waiting to be observed, praised, and consumed. It’s a whole other experience to clean a row, prep the soil, dig in the footings for the trellises, set the irrigation lines, plant the seeds, and watch as the seedlings make their entrance into the world. Wow. I was a part of the process of bringing those cute little green things into existence. They are my babies.

This is how I feel about the Su-Yo Long Cucumbers that Cammi, Pablo, and I planted on 6/6/2016. And now look at them. My babies have grown so quickly.

 

Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

Another week passes by at our beautiful farms here in the Pomona Valley. Our main farm in Pomona is growing beautifully, with many of our plants reaching up high into the sky on our new trellis systems and making the farm look like a beautiful jungle of food.  We are harvesting record quantities of produce and being in the farm surrounded by our native sunflowers is truly a blessing. On Monday, I went to visit The Growing Commons to check in on the new garden. The Commons is growing beautifully as well, as all of the trees have put on deep green foliage (some figs have event started to fruit) and the CA native understory has begun flowering. One of our Farmer Trainees, Tyler, told me last week he has been stopping at the Commons every week to have breakfast before he comes to the farm, and I was so(ooooo) happy to hear that. These gardens are for everyone to enjoy and I’m so grateful that people are finding time to be with them. At home, the most exciting news from The Growing Home is that our Dragonfruit plants are finally putting on a decent fruit set. I’ve counted 18 flowers and buds so far, and I’m holding out for more! I doubt the dragonfruit will make it into the CSA this year though, as they will most likely end up in my belly. If you can hold out for next year, I may reconsider at that time. Ha!

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

This week I thought I’d share some photos of the gardens at The Growing Home. Though the spotlight has moved away from our original ecological garden, it remains a dynamic and beautiful space that we are so happy to call home.

Mama papaya tree sprouts a new branch already loaded with fruit.

Mama papaya tree sprouts a new branch already loaded with fruit.

The backyard veggie jungle. Currently harvesting tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumber.

The backyard veggie jungle. Currently harvesting tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumber.

Dragonfruit about to bloom! We're so excited.

Dragonfruit about to bloom! We’re so excited.

Farmer Trainee Journal Entries

Want to see the farm through the eyes of our Farmer Trainees? Read their weekly blog posts below.

This week’s Journal Excerpt comes from Farmer Trainee Haleemah:

Whether prepping beds, planting, or harvesting, you are actively participating in the building of something that will feed and fuel people. Similar to childbirth (without the pain of course), I liken farming to co-creation.  Sowing seeds is literally about bringing something into being that does not currently exist.

This week’s CSA Box

(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)

NOTE: We are trying to get around to update vegetables descriptions. In the mean time, for items without a provided description, feel free to Google uses and recipes.

Vegetables:
– 1-2 zuchinno rampicante*
– 1 bag eggplant*
– 2 zucchini
– 1 bunch moringa (recipes in the link)
– 1 bunch water spinach OR yam leaves
– 1 basket mini bell peppers
– 1 basket cherry tomatoes
– 1 lb New Girl tomatoes

Herbs:
– 1 bunch garlic chives*
– 1 bunch Egyptian green onion

Fruit:
– 1 basket grapes*
– 1 lb oranges

*LARGE VEGGIE BOX ONLY
**SMALL VEGGIE BOX ONLY

Storage Instructions

Leafy Vegetables
In case your greens are wilted by the time you pickup your box, please follow these instructions:

– Fill a small bowl or tub with 1 inch of water
– Cut a 1/2 inch of the bottoms of the stems of your leafy greens
– Place greens, with stems down, into the bowl of water
– Leave the greens in the bowl overnight and by morning they should be rehydrated

Wrap your rehydrated greens in a towel and store the in the fridge. Summer greens like water spinach, moringa, and yam leaves don’t last long either way, so eat those as soon as you can.

Herbs
The best way to store your herbs 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 basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and many other herbs.

Please feel free to share your recipes with us and also any storing tips you may have. 🙂