” The use of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult” -Wendell Berry
The time has arrived, dear readers, to venture again into our own version of the wilderness to explore things more intimately, more vividly, more extremely. As we might have mentioned before, 2/3 rds of the Amyitis crew have decided to temporarily leave our beloved city of San Francisco to re-vision our path in agriculture. While the adventure of Amyitis has been an education in itself, we see the value in revisiting some more classical types of experiential education. For better or for worse, we hope to bring back a new insight to our practices here in the city by taking an intensive peek at green thumbs the world over.
After my recent journey into permaculture with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody (who begin their winter PDC next week) my inspiration drove me to dive more deeply into the world of holistic thinking and design. Permaculture had its origins in Australia out of necessity in the 1970’s. Brackish soils and paralyzing drought were some of the issues dooming Australian farmers and landowners everywhere. A, then, slow-moving idea (or more accurately a group of ideas) called permaculture housed a group of time-tested, environmentally conscious, and highly productive strategies and techniques under one set of clear principles. Nearly 40 years later, permaculture has now become a fast growing and ever-more widely accepted design strategy having communities, courses and certifications available globally. One of these communities is the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia run by Geoff and Nadia Lawton. Designers using permaculture’s design lense strive to create and encourage systems that are beyond sustainable; regenerative. People like Geoff have spent a lifetime training them. I have decided to spend 10 weeks on Geoff’s farm to learn to see through this lense a bit more and gain a mastery of some of the more popular techniques made famous by permies. I hope to return empowered and inspired to see Amyitis through to its next phase.
Katie Conry has taken advantage of her work situation to explore S. E. Asia and beyond willingly working on organic farms in places like India, Malaysia, and Nepal. I feel encouraged and inspired that Katie’s interest in food has driven her forward both in the world of the blogosphere and into the garden. I trust Katie will also come back inspired and ready to apply her energy with a new lense. We wish her well and await her safe return.
Eben Bell will be here to take care of your Amyitis queries, comments, and collaborations. Look for him at the Free Farm Stand on Sundays in the Mission, or perhaps you local Mission street corner. Keep posted as Katie and I will be sending posts from the Southern Hemisphere.
Until then, Happy Gardening!
Hoping to spend tomorrow discussing sustainable & safe food systems? Well, you have *two* intriguing events to choose from December 1st 2009.
The first promises some controversy. Our friends at Slow Food SF are organizing a panel discussion featuring panelists from both sides of the food movement aisle.
The Slow Food SF Eat In, September 2009
Starting at 6:45pm at the S.F. Public Library’s Koret Auditorium (100 Larkin & Grove) the panel will feature Douglas Gayeton (author of the book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town), Sarah Rich, Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, farmer Casey Havre, chef Michelle Fuerst, and Slow Food SF’s very own Dava Guthmiller. After this spirited debate Slow Food will be hosting a book signing/exception/reception at 18 Reasons in the Mission. (Via Mary Ladd & SFoodie)
Looking to learn more about Permaculture in the Mission tomorrow? Look no further! December 1st 7-9pm Movie Night @ The Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street) will be showing the Geoff Lawton film, Introduction to Permaculture Design (What I’m sure will be) a spirited Q & A will follow the screening with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody answering your questions. Given David Stockhausen’s recent and very positive experience with Permaculture this event is too tempting for us to pass up. Hope to see you there!
Posted in Food Movement, Food Safety, local food, mission district
Tagged 18 Reasons, California, Casy Havre, Dava Guthmiller, David Cody, David Stockhausen, Douglas Gayeton, edible landscaping, Food Movement, Geoff Lawton, Kevin Bayuk, Mary Ladd, Michelle Fuerst, mission district, permaculture, permaculture sf, Sam Mogannam, SF Public Library, SFoodie, slow food, Slow Food SF
“One doesn’t have a sense of humor. It has you” -Larry Gelbart
I don’t know who it was that said “show yourself to the world, and the world will show itself to you”. In fact, maybe it was me that said that after all….err maybe not. At any rate, this week we at Amyitis found some truth and humor to that sentiment. In this case, it wasn’t so much me who was putting myself out there as our new Amyitis team member Katie Conry. As you may remember, Katie recently joined Amyitis to spread the digital-word by helping us develop our web presence. Well, as it turns out, she’s on fire! Within a week or two we’ve seen a huge spike in blog traffic due to Katie’s management and enterprise. Last week, Katie thought it would be fun to submit a photo of me to The Huffington Post‘s “Hot Farmer” contest as a good way to reconnect with Amyitis’s fanbase and network with the farming community at large. The results that we’ve seen are both flattering and well….hilarious.
Amyitis Gardens and its apparently not-so-humble founder, yours truly, quickly found himself at #1 on the Huffington Post contest after a preliminary email blast explained the competition to our fans and supporters. Before the email I found myself at #4. Needless to say, I am flattered and amazed (especially since I didn’t think said photo exploited my best traits, my personality ;-)).
What does this mean, you ask? Well, besides having a little fun with a farmer’s ego while simultaneously exploiting terrible puns with words ‘hoes’, ‘growing’, and ‘dirty’, it could really mean a lot for Amyitis. If we win the contest, we get the chance to be guest bloggers on huffingtonpost.com plus the added benefit of increasing our web presence and fan base. We are aiming to create an Amyitis community through this blog and our farms. On a serious note, this is a really silly way to promote our burgeoning network of small farmers nation wide. Amyitis doesn’t believe in real competition within the farming community. We strive to connect and support others that are helping move our nation to a new and continually evolving food consciousness. By participating with this competition you are helping to advertise a food movement that is doing just that. We might as well have fun doing it, no? So, what are you waiting for? Stroke my ego and vote ’10’ for David Stockhausen. Your support for the food movement is just a click away.
Apparently Ready Made Magazine thinks it’s quite a bit of fun too. They have mentioned the contest and consequently Amyitis Gardens on their website at ReadyMade.Com. Why not see how far we can take this?
p.s. You may now notice the “share” widget on the top right side of the page (and at the bottom of every post). Share Amyitis with your friends on Facebook & Twitter.
The backyard season is a fickle one. Season length can vary by a number of weeks depending on the yard’s orientation to not only the sun but to the surrounding built environment and city location. Such variances are fun exciting and challenges to play with when planning a seasonal harvest strategy. But, death and taxes being inevitable as they are, it seems all good things come to an end. And no matter how much longer one backyard season is compared to another, Autumn happens.
I am grateful for the harvest season and its assured feeling of powering down. The end of the growing season provides its own sorts of great dramatic endings. Like any good music or film wrap-up, the harvest compiles its own “greatest hits” and usually goes out with a celebrated and dramatic bang. As the photo demonstrates above, our late season tomatoes came in an explosion. The September heat gave way to a great wave of super-ripe and super-sweet black princes, green zebras and pink Brandywine. They were all featured in The Corner’s heirloom salad along with Timothy Holt and Naomi Brilliant’s Roshambo Farm tomatoes. The harvest season also puts a skip into my step. While I love to work, this winding down allows for some great protracted thinking and experimenting that the busy growing season usually doesn’t allow for….. and naturally, some much needed time off!!Alongside the tomato harvest I found one of our main connoisseurs, the tomato horn worm. While I am grateful that he likes our tomatoes, he’s not our ideal paying customer. I have some research to do about how he got in there in the first place. I’d seen his relatives on farms back in Vermont, but never before in a back yard. It’s too bad they are not good eating. I might have had me a snack.
In other news, our worm bin is fully thriving with all of the scraps from our harvesting. Here, volunteer Natalie Kilmer cuts our scraps into smaller pieces for the little buggers; more surface area = faster composting.
To prepare for the rain (that is falling in buckets as I write this) that comes here every winter we’ve started sowing some cover crops in our newly emptied spaces. Fava beans, vetch and rye will coat some of our bare ground. Cover crop provides much needed nitrogen fixation and erosion prevention over the winter months. Intensive veggies might not do well during the winter but the cover crops will give us something back while we wait. We’ve also begun experimenting with remineralization with local rock-dust, a bi-product of quarries. And also in anticipation of rain, we’ve buried our inoculated logs from last winter. With any luck, the new moisture brought on by winter will induce fruiting. I’d love to see some shiitake at The Corner over the fall. Cross your fingers for us.
Lastly but never least-ly we’re happy to announce the addition of a new member to the Amyitis Team. Katie Conry has joined up with Eben and I to help manage our web presence. Keep popping back to our blog and see the exciting changes she’s bringing to the blog. We’re delighted to have her as part of the team. I think, dear readers, you will be too.
Herb spiral flowing off a circular garden theme
Amyitis recently installed a private educational garden for a client in the NOPA area this past week. The homeowner was keen to have us try to create as much space as we could for vegetable cultivation. Her adolescent daughter is inspired and anxious to start producing food there. The inspiration comes from her school program which offers a bit of garden education as part of their regular curriculum.
Their backyard space is relaxing and elegant. The space was ornamentally landscaped at one time for sitting around a gas fire pit and enjoying the sound of the swaying bushes all around. Amyitis saw the potential to keep that type of tranquility and yet produce a good amount of food at the same time. The backyard is a circular “room” sandwiched between the main house and a renter’s in-law apartment. We decided to work with the circle theme by adding a raised swale made from sheet mulch. This sheet mulch technique allowed us to increase the amount of planting surface by mounding. It also allowed us to re-use materials and garden “refuse” harvested from the site during prep. I was inspired to start using some permaculture techniques that I have been learning through the San Francisco Permaculture Guild’s fall design training. Sheet mulching was one of the first lessons we learned. The photos below demonstrate the process a bit.
First Layer of finely chopped organic matter
A layer of cardboard provides a weed barrier
a layer of mulch is added to the cardboard layer
The top layer is covered with soil and watered in
To add more gardening space to the small backyard, we built a raised bed in contour with the set of stairs running from the back yard to the exit. Since the whole yard is sloped toward these stairs, some rainwater should run from the main garden to this small bed in heavy rainfall events. We designed the bed for ergonomic ease as well. Because gardening often can have you hunched over or kneeling, placing the bed on the stairs allowed for multiple points of entry to the bed for planting and maintenance.
We were excited with the results of this project and for the opportunity to add some permaculture ideas into our list of skills. In the future this garden should be ready to produce a great deal of food for its residents. We’ll keep you posted.
After a once in a lifetime travel experience in Australia and New Zealand, my mother paid me a visit on her way back through the states to PA. While it is always nice for me to have a visit with my parents, this one has held some really special events. During her stay, my mother has seen Amyitis in full swing during our busy harvest season and tasted the fruits of our labor at The Corner.
Before I set her to work we had an extraordinary evening meal at The Corner. Since its opening, The Corner has strived to be the next up-and-coming locavore’s playground. Offering fresh Amyitis veggies from Mission District back yards, local wines, cheeses, and charcuterie, the menu aims to please a diverse range of locally tuned palates. Its beautifully and simply designed space feels hip but yet unpretentious at the same time. Now with new NYC chef (and Grammercy Tavern alum) Alex Jackson, the place has gone from the culinary runway to gastronomic hyperspace. While most of it has been a team effort, it is obvious that the star player here is Chef Alex.
Alex Jackson is the type of chef who wants to know your name and make you the best meal you’ve ever had. He doesn’t appear to care if you know your confit from coulis but he might make you a sample of both to try. He wears a smile and a collected cool unseen in many busy kitchens. We were lucky enough to have the chef’s menu on Wednesday night. Our biggest favorites were the Panchetta Potato Salad, the Braised Pork Cheek with Roast Peaches and Tallegio, and the Confit of Tuna. And if those menu peeks aren’t enough to drive you in there, it is important to note that their wine list is impressive and diverse enough to work up any appetite.
I am extremely grateful to have my mother visiting here to see such a great sample of what we have to offer here in this great city. More importantly, I am beyond grateful to have Amyitis Gardens be a part of the experience that makes this city great.
This week Amyitis Gardens participated with thousands of Americans across the country in the “Time For Lunch Eat-In” hosted by Slow Food USA. The Eat-In was and event in several city locations aimed at raise awareness about food in our school systems. The pot-luck style event had local vendors, businesses, and individuals bring something to eat and share over swapped stories and gastro-gabbing. It was great to see all of the families and business that came to support such an important issue. While the event had a pretty good turn out, more people there would have been a plus as there were opportunities to make some political noise. On each table there were pens, paper provided and mailing addresses to many government policy makers thus allowing participants to make their views known by mailing a letter. It is important to remember that every letter counts.
In addition to several speakers from slow food there were some great food related activities at the event such as a planting demo provided by Sloat Gardens and sushi rolling instructions for kids provided by local sushi chefs. Eatwell Farm was there giving away samples of their new lacto-fermented soda called Eatwell Soda and Amyitis was there representing our support for food consciousness and awareness by encouraging people to farm their yard. People must have liked our Lemony Kale Salad because there wasn’t a shred left at the end of meal! Here are some pics from the event. Go to www.slowfoodusa.org to become a member and show your support.