September 2016

fig-beetle

So there have been plenty of posts regarding the infamous fig beetles that were so abundant at the farm this year.  Even I have commented on them and one thing that for me that has come as a side benefit from working at the farm is that I am no longer afraid of them. I have had at least three fig beetles fly in my house and fly around the laundry room – even banging up against the washing and drying machine.  I was able to pick them up and throw them back outside. Usually with a “stupid beetle” uttered during the toss.  Knowing next year they may eat my grapes, I should probably have disposed of them in a more “permanent” manner, but I didn’t. Even when people know the beetles don’t sting or bite, they are still afraid of the noise they make or maybe it is just there overall bugness. Like cockroaches. They don’t sting or bite, but they freak me the heck out still!

So the farm and my laundry porch were not the only place the beetles were visiting this year. There is a restaurant in downtown Upland called Molly’s.  It is a nice family restaurant that has both indoor and outdoor dining and where unfortunately the beetles were in great abundance as well.  On the weekends my daughter and I like going to Molly’s for breakfast.  However, one morning my daughter wouldn’t give back her menu because she was using it as protection against the many beetles.  

On a more recent visit, the beetles were frightening a poor woman at a nearby table. The beetles were flying and the woman hit it and then she shrieked, saw the beetle had landed next to her foot – of course on its back, legs wiggling – which made her shriek again.  Now the woman is out of her chair and standing relatively close to me, still freaking out and sort of …. well groaning I guess hand over her mouth.  An elderly man at her table, maybe her father, does nothing. The other woman at her table, probably her mother, although not shrieking is obviously disgusted and covering her eyes. It was quite humorous really. Anyway the woman tried twice to go back to her chair, beetle still on its back – legs grasping for something to turn itself over on and she is still freaking out. She couldn’t even kick the thing out of the way.

So I tell my daughter, I am going to go rescue this woman. She’s like REALLY? I walk past the still freaking out woman, who won’t return to her table, with a father that I think is equally freaked out. I tell her I am not afraid of it – which then she gasped even more and gave me a look like – you gotta be kidding me and I pick the beetle up. Ok. So now some more loud gasping from both her and her mother – maybe some others in the restaurant as well and  then a ”I can’t believe you just did that” and “Oh, my God!”. Then I throw the beetle and the father yells – “Look! It’s flying!”  Well, yeah, that’s what they do.

She thanked me profusely.  I went back to my table and we all finished our breakfasts in relative calm. I was a hero for about 10 minutes. The benefits of working at the farm – no longer afraid of fig beetles and can rescue people when necessary. Now where is my cape?

backyard

Last year when I really began learning about sustainable garden principles, one of the first things I did was to eliminate my garden boxes. And inspired by one of the Growing Club meetings I attended where we sheet mulched Carolyn’s yard, I decided to level the soil a bit, covered it with cardboard and minimal amounts of compost, fallen leaves and grass trimmings. It was VERY minimal in comparison to what was done in Carolyn’s yard – but I had to start somewhere.    My soil was so dry and just didn’t have any structure or life at all – it was gray – no worms – in was quite sad.

So after mulching the best I could, I just started planting – whatever. I didn’t care too much what. Just get something in the ground and start repairing the soil and more importantly learning firsthand about the plants and what they need.

Well I think I might have overdone things a bit. I now have corn, beans, tomatoes, butternut squash, onions, a small orange tree and blueberry bushes in a relatively small space.  And potatoes – did I mention potatoes? They are coming up everywhere now. I planted them so long ago. They grew for a very short time and then I thought they had died. Same with the garlic – it grew – had some green onion looking sprouts come up and then I thought it died as well. No so! They are coming up beautifully now and I know they are my garlic because they are evenly spaced – not like leftover random onions coming up.  And since I can no longer pick a dandelion – knowing what it is doing for my soil and how healthy they are to eat – they now form a sort of cover crop under all of it.

I shake my head and think – what the heck did I do? I guess I was a bit overzealous?! It makes me smile though and now I can make one heck of a soup just from one corner of my property.

My daughter is now a part of my madness and we have already planted a papaya, an orange tree, a lime tree and we have two apple trees and a pomegranate ready to be planted – not to mention all the other vegetables.

I think I shall call it free style gardening : )

Ever have one of those feelings that you have been at a place before but you really haven’t —well that is exactly what I felt my first week at the farm! Complete deja-vu signaling I was at the right place at the right time.  I think I have been dreaming of this farm for many many many years now!   Here I am finally and warmly welcomed by interns, Rishi, Manju, chickens, quails, cats, bees, insects, bugs, flies, manure, and more!

I am a new intern with a true passion to understand ourselves through nature.  I have never farmed or really gardened before but feel the calling now.  Maybe life has gotten so turned upside down now with GMOs, non-stop screens, packaged food called food, accelerated rates of diseases, modern stress, etc… that this somehow will make everything make more sense.  So many moments this week on the farm, I felt I learned something over again.  First, the weather on the farm this week was such a rollercoaster of extreme hot (102 degrees) and cool— (for Southern California—85 degrees) bringing on all sort of feelings and emotions reminding me that outside elements can effect us, not to ignore them but work with them just as these plants do.

Just one of the *many* things I have been thinking about from my time on the farm this week…  I had the pleasure of planting lovely seedlings of pac choy (not bok choy I was told) and swiss chard.  Beautiful fragile things that at first seemed too delicate to handle without destroying them but they proved to be stronger then their thin roots projected.   Some of the seedlings had sturdy webs of roots and others not so much.  The hardy roots were pretty sure to grow into sturdy plants.  How important to make our roots strong!  With this we are pretty sure to grow into our securest selves.  But of course even weak roots can develop and fight to mature into the wonderful creatures they are suppose to become but it just may take more energy.  Looking to make my own strong roots from these teaching here on the farm!

Here is one picture before my dreaded ‘your memory is full’ signal went off preventing me from taking a million more photos…! So grateful for all this!  More to come!

Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

This week I feel like I’ve finally been able to settle back into the farming routine after being distracted by the home renovations for several weeks. There are still some renovations going on, but I have been able to catch up on a lot of farm work and bring my focus back to the our farmer trainees and the plant beings in the fields. Our new class of farmer trainees is being trained by the outgoing class, many of whom will finish their time on the farm this week. Although many of the trainees in our graduating class came in with very limited gardening experience, we have seem these trainees grow over the past 4 months, and I am confident that they have gained a strong footing in gardening to guide them in their future projects. Our new class is starting off to on a good foot as well. We’ve made a number of adjustments to the program for this session, and will be introducing much more structure to the training program with this class, including a stronger curriculum along with research assignments, prepared handouts, and guest teachers. We are hoping these additions will bring more focus to the program and create a more enriching experience.

In the field, this week has a been a struggle. I’m realizing more and more how dangerous the increasingly unstable weather is. Last Friday, we transplanted several hundred starts of pac choi, yukina, and kale into fields, expecting the temperature to stay cooler at least for a few days. The 100 degree+ weather over the weekend literally killed those plans, and we lost about 40% of those transplants. Not fun. I see more of a detrimental effect when the weather is cool at night and swings to a scorch by midday. The plants (and the farmers) seem to perform the worse during these temperature swings. Weeks like this really frighten me because I understand how fragile our entire agricultural system is. We are able to withstand these swings much better than others since our soil is so rich, but industrial farms won’t be able to respond these beatings well. Hopefully the weather stabilizes a bit as we move into winter and we can usher forth the bountiful greens of winter better.

CSA members will notice these weather fluctuations in the boxes, as we rely on sturdier plants such as nopales, moringa, yam leaves, and amaranth for the remainder of the “famine” season. Thankfully, we have such diversity to draw on during these more difficult times.

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.

Ingrid and the watering team make sure the seedlings are germinating.

Ingrid and the watering team make sure the seedlings are germinating.

Picking bush beans that have been so prolific recently

Picking bush beans that have been so prolific recently

Playing hide and seek in the yard long beans. Look at that beautiful trellis!

Playing hide and seek in the yard long beans. Look at that beautiful trellis!

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 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 Zucchino Rampicante or Zucchini or butternut squash
– 1 bag eggplant
– 1 bunch amaranth
– 1 bunch yard long beans
– 1 bunch bush beans
– 1 box baby swiss chard*
– 1 bunch water spinach*
– 1 bunch moringa pods + moringa flowers*
– 1 bunch yam leaves**

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

Fruit:
– 1.5 lbs pomegranate **
– 3 lbs pomegranate *

*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. 🙂

 

Are you stressed about money?

If you are, if you wish you had more of it, if you feel like it’s a battle, this might help.

money-trees

Isn’t it funny how the farm spends only what it has? There is no credit line at the bank, far as I’ve ever heard. I’ll bet if Rishi needs new irrigation pipe, he buys it with money he has. Same with seeds and all the rest. And if I’m right about this, he will struggle now and reap much bigger and much more rewarding success later.

Two things prompted me to write this, and this farm is one of them. The other is I’ve heard, nearly every day I’ve been on the farm, that someone was at least a little stressed about money. Near as I can tell, there are two reasons for this money stress – not with people on the farm, with ALL of us.

First, lack of employment. Second, lack of management.

I’m not a genius, I’m not a millionaire yet, and there’s really nothing so special about me. But guess what? I’m not stressed about money or employment. Want to know why? Just a few more paragraphs and you’ll know, and you’ll have something you can think about, and use.

As far as employment, here’s a thought: First, be willing to do ANYTHING. Then, identify the things that people need, the things that businesses need, the things that are missing, and cultivate the skills that will allow you to fill one or some of those needs. I’m talking practical skills here – what do you know how to build? What do you know how to fix? What can you sell? Heck, CAN you sell? These are things that may not line up with your dreams, that may not line up with your life’s purpose, that may not line up with your philosophies even, but they are the skills that will pay you the quickest. Do them while you make longer-term plans, and for God’s sake, don’t give up on or let go of those long-term plans which hopefully are driven by your dreams and philosophies. Just use the shorter-term, practical skills to live while you continue to work on the things that are important to you. Just about the worst thing we can do is wait for our dream job or some other awesome opportunity to find us, because so so often, those things are waiting behind a dirty unpleasant door we don’t want to open.  I was 42 before I came full circle and re-admitted to myself, or re-discovered if you like, my purpose. Three years later, I can tell you with no hesitation, that I’m thankful for the thing that’s paying the bills while I work toward that bigger goal. Whether you’re 22 or 42, paying the bills makes achieving what’s important to you SO much easier. And amazing to me, the skills I’ve learned while doing the thing I was never meant to do (my current career), are TOTALLY helping me toward my dream.  Man, do I have a massive advantage from doing work I never loved.  From picking strawberries when I was a kid, to digging sh*t when I was a teenager, to butchering turkeys when I was in college, to the career I have now that pays well but leaves me dissatisfied, those jobs gave me something that my dream job never ever ever could.

shitshoveling

I have a wonderful friend who’s making really fun strides toward her dream of working in community farming, but she’s paying her rent and feeding her family by driving a car. Like I said, the practical skills you can identify that match up with real-world practical needs are what pay the bills. Thank God for people who don’t want to or can’t drive themselves around everywhere. And there are a thousand things like that that any of us can do if we’re willing. I knew a guy when I first got out of school who made $75k a year. You’ll never guess how, and that’s the genius of it. He installed peep-holes in the front doors of new homes. Turns out, in his area of Arizona, new home builders were saving a few bucks a house by not buying doors with the peep-hole already in them, and he saw an opportunity based on a real-world need. He went door to door drilling holes and putting in those lenses, and his price was low enough that he had a very high success rate (75k=$15 profit per house X 20 houses per day X 250 work days per year). And this was back when $75k wasn’t just an okay living, it was a pretty darned good living. He’s not much different than the kid that showed up on my porch last week and sold me a new address painted on my curb. He was interesting enough for me to stop and take the time to get to know him a little. He was 17, had problems with schizophrenia, and had dropped out of school when he fled his home because of his abusive dad, and he had some other serious problems I’ll not mention here. But I took the time to get to know him because he had a tenacity I don’t often see in people, and he was a great salesman – actually in tune with me more than what he wanted to sell me! When I mentioned “How to Win Friends And Influence People” (best sales book I’ve ever read and it’s increased my profits and opportunities tremendously), he smiled and said I was the third person that had mentioned that book to him that week and he was going to use my money to go buy a copy. The point is, opportunity is laying right in front of us, just waiting for the dwindling few of us willing to bend over and do the less-than-dream-type work to pick it up.

Ok, the next one was lack of management. A couple weeks ago Noy and I were moving that house-sized pile of horse manure and he mentioned an excellent book I had forgotten about – “The Millionaire Next Door”. You know what kind of car the average American millionaire drives? An American car. I think the book mentioned the Ford Taurus as a popular one. My girlfriend mentioned a man she knows who is in the Forbes Top 150 list, and he drives a Ford Focus. It’s a very sad crack-up to me that if you see a guy on the freeway driving a new little tiny economy car, and another guy driving a beautiful new, big, luxurious Mercedes, they’re probably playing the same game. The game is called Mortgaging My Future. The word mortgage is interesting. It has Latin roots and is made of two separate words; mort meaning DEATH, and gage meaning PLEDGE. You want to know why a person buys a house for $300k on a 30 year note at a ridiculously low interest rate of 5% and ends up paying almost $600k for it? Because when he signs the note, he’s just signed a “PLEDGE TO THE DEATH”. Now, we can debate, all we want, the validity of how people in this country buy houses, but what about those two car guys on the freeway? They’ve done the same kind of bank-slave math on their car (or their tv or their couch or their fridge, or you name it). The average American millionaire pays cash for their USED car. That’s right, used. And you know how they have that cash? It’s not, for most of them, because Daddy willed it to them, it’s because they lived with less in their beginning. Why? Because they’ve educated themselves about how the system uses money against people, and they’ve learned to MANAGE their money instead of letting their need for immediate gratification and their desire to define themselves with stuff MANAGE THEM. The book Noy mentioned is a very good one. If you want a hands-on, EXCELLENT program that will teach you what you need to know and give you a precise map for how to get to financial peace, look up Financial Peace University. Seriously, it’s predecessor literally changed my life. I can barely remember the last time I stressed about money, and that stress left me before I had a chance to save much, because of a clear path and some simple truths that normally escape us.

So, in case you’re asking what this has to do with my or your experience on the farm, it has EVERYTHING to do with the farm. Sure, Rishi just bought the house, and hats off to him for taking the leap to do that and secure his farm, and help some people out in a meaningful way. But before the house, do you think he mortgaged every new farm implement he could get his debt-laden hands on? No. Nothing I’ve ever heard about his farm has that history. Do you want to have a farm like that some day? I sure as heck do. But even if you don’t, you want something, and the lessons, if we learn and practice them, impact EVERY part of our lives. They impact the money-related parts for sure, but they also affect our relationships (eg, the most common point of disagreement in partnerships and marriages is money), our mental and emotional peace, and our everyday happiness.

So, if you want or need a job, be willing to scrub toilets or dig ditches or pick strawberries or whatever, then develop a skill, even if it’s a skill you dislike (eg, people have businesses, very profitable businesses, changing lightbulbs, but you’d better be a lightbulb expert with lightbulb SKILLS if you want that job) and use it to pay your bills, live your life, and develop your dream. Remember while you’re in this phase, life is not your microwave and it has no quick-cook button – you’re cooking a delicious once-in-a-lifetime kind of roast here, not nuking a carcinogenic hot dog. And if you want to manage your money instead of your money and debt and desires managing you, for God’s sake, look up that program. Let go of your notions, practice what they preach, and let this be your success – it works.

Man, I’m so gonna miss you people, I love all of you. Good luck.

edison-opportunity rockefeller-struggle

 

Long cayenne peppers: don’t harvest until super red!

I was super synced with this week’s lecture for some reason. Wednesday morning, Faye and I were working in the kitchen area, she was washing and bundling greens, while I washed harvest bins at the sink. And I somehow started sharing things that would be shared (an hour later) in the water lecture by Rishi. It is depressing to know that in CA, 75% of water consumed is by Big Ag, yet historically the “initiatives” to reduce water consumption have been towards rebates on home appliances which is about 4.5% of the use. But I’m truly grateful for the model at The Growing Home and at Sarvodaya Farms.

Often times, I think about the farm and how disconnected the immediate community from Pomona is to it. It is challenging (perhaps I’ll post more about this in another entry). But, what I see happening here and what I value is that this organization is bringing the people who own their homes and have the language, the resources, connections, and land to do their part in healing our ecosystem. That is, changing their landscape so that water infiltrates the ground and recharges the groundwater basin (instead of running off, carrying trash and pollutants, killing creatures, and making us and our bodies of water more and more sick). This is important work. I hope the movement to heal our ecosystem through connecting our yards with healthy soil, plants, perennials, etc continues. And hope to share what I am learning so that this movement is accessible to all, especially those with small children, language barriers, lack of money and land.

This was my first week back on the farm since my Mexico trip. It was nice to return to the farm and harvest plants that I had never seen prior. The suyo cucumbers and amaranth were new to me and to the farm (for the season). I learned about their harvest.

Gopher traps were set incorrectly this week.. OOPS. I wouldn’t know that way was incorrect until a few weeks later when I’d overhear someone talk about how the peanut butter was meant to be put on the traps. Until this day, I have never been on official gopher duty as my listed “chore.”

This week’s Wednesdsay lecture was about chickens. It was interesting material, I just wish I didn’t have a bird phobia. I often wonder if I might be able to raise chickens someday if I started with one chick and worked on our bond. Manju led the presentation and promised us a printed handout on chickens. I would love this on the chance that my dreams of overcoming part of my fear could come true.

The soil mix for planting peppers, zucchini, and dino kale was 2 scoops of Lynn’s compost, 2 scoops perlite, 2 scoops coco fiber, 2 scoops recycled soil, and 1 scoop vermiculite. We planted these in cell trays.

Something particularly special about the compost this week was that we had soooo much fruit waste from the farmer’s market, that we dug up a huge hole in one of the swales and we buried it there. It was a pool of rotting fruit in its wine-smelling juice. Yum.

Hi Everyone!

My name is Cindy Soto and I am one of the new incoming interns.

img_9783

A little bit about myself:

It all started when I took an Environmental Science class at my community college a few years back. My eyes opened up so much thanks to Professor Ling, at Pasadena City College. From there I made some changes within my lifestyle, and I started to be involved in things like sustainability clubs for e.g., and also became a lover of the outdoors (I’m always planning camping trips when I can). Years later after that class, I ended up with a job on campus at CSUN in which I was in charge of our Compost facility and Food Garden on campus. Where I learned about compost, a bit of urban gardening and managing it.

After graduating, I wasn’t sure what direction to head in life, specifically how could I help fight climate change and also be a part of creating change, and not just sit there and do nothing about it. There are many avenues that I thought about, but the one that really got to me was getting involved with organic sustainable gardening/farming because that is one way I can get others to think about how we treat land and food. So my last my job on campus is what really lead me into this direction, and wanting to learn more about growing food and soil.

The knowledge I gain with internship is what I hope to spread to others, especially kids because I believe that if we want people to care about food and the our Mother Earth, they need to know this when they are young so they grow up appreciating it. I also hope to have a farm one day!

With lots of Love,

Cindy Soto

Anywhere is a good place to begin.

For those who I’ve yet to encounter, or those who I have encountered but have yet to properly introduce myself to;
Hello, I’m Brooke.
I’ve always had difficulty summing up the self into a handful, (or so), of words.
Selves are such complex, intricate creatures. Wouldn’t you say?
Well, let’s make the attempt then, shall we?
I have no background in farming or gardening beyond helping my grandma peel pea pods as a child. Nor did I have any knowledge of, or interest in, growing food for the majority of my life.
I grew up in the agricultural mecca of the country, yet lived my life confined to fast food, processed crap, and hardly any fruit, veggies, or other living foods.
Luckily, through a curious domino effect of circumstance, direct creation, and pure fortune, I have encountered many catalysts that have aided in entirely changing my perception of existence.
Including food, amongst an endless list of other things.
Let me spare you an excessively long story and cut to the chase.
For the last six years I have been working for, and managing, Sweet Tree Farms.
Which is a contributor to a large amount of compost that has, and is, given to Sarvodaya on a weekly basis.
My involvement and exposure to the farmers market life has been the most expansive, life changing, experience that I have thus far encountered.
From the way I interact with food and the Earth, to the way in which I interact with plants, insects, other humans/animals/creatures of all kinds. But most importantly, the way in which I interact with myself.
I have been so many me(s), it really is quite incredible.
How ever evolving everything is.

I have a knack for rambling, so please excuse me.
I absolutely adore working farmers markets.
It was through my work, and my lovely coworker Elinor, that I first heard of Sarvodaya. For some time now I have been eager to gain some hands on experience, and knowledge, about agriculture. I have no formal education on any relatable subjects. I seem to be influenced by a force that feels as though it exists both within and besides me.
We’ll call that force a higher, more in-tuned version of self.
Or maybe “deeper self” is a more appropriate phrase.

This force moved through me pretty fiercely when Elinor first explained to me what Sarvodaya was, including the fact that they offered an internship.
And when I say moved through me, I mean that it literally caused my lungs to expand further, and my heart to beat stronger. Along with a moment of vertigo, and an overwhelmingly giddy feeling that warmed my chest, ears, and face.
Let’s just say, I felt strongly that I was meant to encounter this.
And now that my first week is over, I still feel that strange, powerful force.
I aspire for a lot of things, to say the least. With this experience, I aspire to give my two favorite gifts to give, to all who would like to receive:
1. Food. Feeding others is AMAZING. Nothing feels so rewarding then to nurture any other creature, our lovely Gaia included.
2. Knowledge. Because what’s the point in knowing anything if you don’t intend to share?

I just want to share. That is for sure.
I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded in relevantly introducing myself, but I’ll end with two things.
First, last week Manju showed me how one rids plants of aphids via water pressure.
I took my sweet time and developed and intimate friendship with the long beans.
After inspecting leaves tenderly, and protecting her from any malicious little creature, I think it’s safe to say that we’re bonded for life.
And secondly, Elinor and I have successfully developed a mnemonic device for the compost process.
M-Maybe= Mulch
F-Friday= Fruit
M-More= Manure
W-Will= Water
C-Come= Compost!

We threw the “Compost!” in for the sake of excitement.
I’m working on one for the soil creating process next.
I’ll be sure to keep you guys updated. (;
Until then,
Cheers.

Hey Everyone!

I’m Cecile, a new intern. It’s so nice to be part of the farm for a few months to come!

I thought I’d share this little (very very amateur) video that I made for a school project a few years ago, as in a way it resumes well why I’m doing this internship and why I’m interested in farming: https://vimeo.com/184275882

I look forward to these four months of learning and sharing!

Best to you all!