Saturday, March 28, 2009

Very Cool Seed Farm

These guys grow all thier own seed, biodynamically and organically. They are also nearby in Oregon. Wild Garden Seed -

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hi all-
This link takes you to a flyer for a class on April 11th at Marin Art & Garden Center that's all about soil.  Not only is it a great class, but taking it qualifies you for a $25 Biostack Composter (that's a $100 savings!!).  These are great for those of us who don't have room for a beautiful 5'x5' open compost pile.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

PIle Building Day, March 24

Row of potential

The resulting pile being

Pile it on

Blood, sweat and manure

The New AgriDharma

Partners in the New AgriDharma

Partners! Welcome to the New AgriDharma. At last we are becoming clearer as to our purpose and our work-in-progress. Why is this so much fun? What makes this on-the-fly, under-funded, thrown together-at-the-last minute class so charismatic, so invigorating, so important to all of us? Let’s check it out.

Kat Marando, our partner in our class and my dear friend, said yesterday that what she misses in life is that mission impossible, that perhaps our forefathers felt as they built the farms and ranches moving west across America. (For a minute, lets lay aside the injustices and dark side of the mission, for which we will forever carry with us, and reawake to the mystical “purpose” of building a new life amidst the blessings and richness of the “dream” of a new land and a free life.) The challenge, the dangers, the heartache, the glory of being yourself and making your own life from the land, being sure of yourself and yours, amidst the power and apparent fickleness of Nature, becoming essentially one with your destiny.

Perhaps those years and circumstances are already written in the book of Time. But the now faint footprints of that energy and commitment still stir up dust in our memories. We all have it. Your heart stories of where you come from all echo this restlessness in our hearts. We all feel a silent but surrender-less (not really a word) pull to the land and her alluring possibilities of filling the gaps in our lives.

Partners! It could be that we are sitting on a fault line! With spades in hand and mountains of manure, with open land, open minds and open hearts, are we poised to actually do something?! Could our Indian Valley Farm be a rally cry to begin to reclaim America? Are we more than extra credit? Are we, AgriDharma?

AgriBusiness, is the art of making profit (more is better) from the earth. It involves skillful manipulation and short-term total control of nature, no matter what the long term horrific side-effects may be. Byzantine economic formulae underpin agribusiness, bleeding outward into all aspects of a material-valued belief system. Commodity futures, shareholder profits, strange, undecipherable networks of cloudy financing all drive food production for personal gain. But you guys know all this.

What about food for people? Our precious bodies are built with food. Our short lives are fueled with the fullness of the earth’s bounty. We forget so quickly, the cornerstones of physical life, taking too much for granted. We forget the true value of the food we eat in relation to us, our Earth and the “fullness thereof.” Is this really something that should be called a “commodity,” to fill peoples pockets with profits, to manipulate and control from remote boardrooms and faceless decision makers? Isn’t good food from the good Earth, essentially “holy?”

Let’s look at the new AgriDharma. Agri; farming or growing food. Dharma; the right way. Okay, these are loose literal translations. AgriDharma means the righteous, right way to grow food for all, in accordance with the values of the righteous human heart.

My spiritual teacher once told me that human souls work at their very best when they work from the heart, instead of the pocketbook, for a cause larger than ourselves, without harm to ourselves or the Earth, without selfish calculation or contracts. With joy and enthusiasm for the benefit of all. Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it. Maybe if we tried it, all else would be given to us as a side effect?

Maybe this is the new frontier that my dear sister Kat is longing for. It certainly feels like a frontier here at Indian Valley Farm, when we look at the two acres to be planted with no tractor, only the tools donated from St. Anthony Farm, through the channeling of our partner Liza. We have few precious hours per week to come together in AgriDharma on the fault line of change. What we do, and learn here together, is the cornerstone of this organic farming program. I am convinced (don’t ask me how) that it is also the cornerstone of something quite outside ourselves and significantly bigger than we can see. Perhaps we are balancing on the fault line of a new frontier.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

Mary Oliver

Class #3: We're famous!

Well some of us are. Others of us missed our chance at fame (boo hoo) because we were hidden away in the greenhouse transplanting seedlings.  Shucks!  Fortunately the class was not a complete loss.  We did learn a few things about Soil Chemistry and some of us (the ones in the greenhouse anyway) were highly productive.

One or two things about soil....

Remember "Adama": earth, soil, blood.

Soil has physical properties (class 2) and chemical properties.  Physical properties are always stable, chemical properties are always changing.

As with all things, healthy soil is a matter of balance: light/dark, wet/dry.

Soil is the bridge between the mineral world and the organic world.

You can test soil by "pinging" it.

Remember: 25% air, 25% water, 45% minerals, 5% organic matter.

If your soil is too sandy (doesn't hold water or nutrients) or too clay (holds too much water and nutrients that are too tightly bound to be accessible to plants) you can improve it by adding ORGANIC MATTER (compost).

Have as little bare soil as possible (mulch).

Soil texture (composition) is fixed, soil structure (how soil behaves) is mutable.

Wondering if your soil is alive? Add peroxide. If it bubbles, you've got bacteria, yey!

Atkinson called NPK "death itself": it's not about individual ingredients, it's about the wholistic composition!

Elements are building blocks, they can't be broken down any further.

You need a balance (there's that word again) of positive (alkaline/sweet) and negative (acidic/sour).

CATIONS: potassium, magnesium, calcium: metallic, durable, lasting
ANIONS: nitrogen, sulfur, carbon, phosphate: soft, mutable.

Nitrogen makes protein, carbon makes carbs.

MACRO nutrients (need large amounts)
primary= NPK
secondary=calcium, magnesium, sulfur

MICRO nutrients (just as important but only need trace amounts: KELP is best source)
boron, chlorine, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc

Feed soil, not plants.  Keeps the nutrients cycling.

pH tests how soil performs (potential of hydrogen)
low = acidic
high= alkaline

According to the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening:
"organic matter is the great equalizer, a storehouse of nutrients that improves tilth and structure, improves water holding capacity, improves nitrogen fixation and makes other nutrients available" AKA "it oils the wheel"

Rice straw (no seeds) makes great mulch.

Wow! Did you get all that?!

Wendy's a 6 kind of gal

Michael Pollan's letter to the future president that perhaps motivated Michelle to start planting at the White House.

Front page of the IJ- we were the big news of the weekend!  

I'm pretty sure my husband is more impressed by my taking a "farm class" now.  With any luck my expansion plan for growing more edibles in my garden will also gain some legitimacy with him from all this great publicity:)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Here is a link to a guide of pesticide heavy fruits and veggies all of which can be avoided if we just grow our own or buy from a local farmer who uses sustainable growing practices!

Monday, March 16, 2009

This link lists all Renee's Garden seeds and how long it takes the veggies to mature from seed to harvest. There are lots that take under 60 days...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March 11 class. How to make your beds.

March 11. Making our beds.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to plant a seedling AKA class number 2...

Okay, I've been gardening for seven years now, with some level of success I must say, but I honestly cringed when I heard Steve shout (with affection?), "Who the heck planted this? This is totally wrong!!"  "Was it me?" I thought. "Oh God, I hope it wasn't me." Oh well, maybe it was. Live and learn.  And I learned:
I will never, ever, plant two seedlings together (okay, that might have been me, but they were really, really stuck together), 
I will never, ever try to cram roots into a too shallow hole,  
I will bury my seedling up to the crown so the tender white part is not vulnerable,
I will always plant strawberries on a volcano in a deep hole, 
I will always water around the circumference of a newly planted seedling two times (not once), I will control the water so that it does not splatter the underside of the leaves confusing the stomata while the plant is still traumatized from being transplanted, 
I will plant seeds by scattering them onto a prepared row and gently cover them with soil first with the tines and then with the back of a rake.

I know I learned more than that (oh yeah, all that soil texture vs. structure, sand vs. silt vs. clay, etc.) but my brain is a little full right now.  For now I'll just ponder over the lives of the people that were living here 4,000 years ago, over the bears and elk that roamed freely, over the sounds of native people singing and dancing to celebrate the gift of huckleberries and of not being eaten by the bear.  I will try to experience living in the present and to remember to RESPECT, HONOR and show GRATITUDE for all living things knowing that if I do, they in turn will take care of me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

3/4 Class Notes

-Alan Chadwick: started UCSC gardens in 60’s, then Green Gulch-where he died and is buried.
-Not obeying teachers, but do listen to them.
-More people in prison than farming in US
-In Genium everything is species. In general everything is specific.
-Don’t grow crops, grow soil. Then don’t grow soil, grow farmers.
-In a garden everything is a relationship, a living system, need whole systems awareness. Link into the system, and you can taste the difference.
-Watch the wild, things grow places for a reason, then mimic this.
-Plants vs. stage props. Non-natives are just stage props.
-Soil is a living organism, like skin.
-Compost and cover crops, all the fertilizer you need.
-Photosynthesis: carbon and nitrogen out of the air and into sugar. Carbon sequestration by definition.
-Never have bare ground, should always be covered.
-Use edges for protection. Bugs hit that first.
-Bee’s go for one flower at a time, all or nothing.
-Need beneficials, need to feed the pollinators, so have some flowers.
-10 to 1 good insects to bad.
-Have a place for people in the garden so they are attracted to hang out. They should walk in and get overwhelmed/lost/in awe.
-Get random sometimes, random planting.
-Diversity is insurance
-No cultivar has come from the wild since industrial rev.

4 big steps to creating a healthy farm:
1) Cultivate the ground. Move it around, big stuff, tractors, reshape, etc.
2) Building fertility (life-death-life, death builds fertility). Build up existing content depth
3) Propagate plants.
4) Irrigation (tending the garden, weeding, pruning, mulching, pest management)

-Water was a god to ancient people. Overwatering is a problem. It rains so that it can dry out, it drys out so that it can rain.
-Spring and Fall equinoxes best times to open the ground and plant.

Homework: bring soil, write about your history/what brought you here, read about history of local ag.,

Friday, March 6, 2009

First Class day March 4, 2001

First Groundbreaking

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day One

Today College of Marin's IVC Campus was abuzz as the students of COM's inaugural Organic Farming class met for the first time.  One student summed up the enthusiasm in the room perfectly, "I'm so excited, I can't stop smiling."

That the class was taught by renowned local gardeners Steve Squirt (Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator for UC Davis Cooperative Extension) and Wendy Johnson (Green Gulch Farm, author of Gardening at the Dragon's Gate) was inspiring enough, but our classmates were inspiring too: a 16 year veteran of St. Anthony's garden (which sadly just shut its "doors"), a representative from MALT and from Marin Organics, several graduates of Environmental Forum of Marin's Sustainable Earth Training Program, current participants in the Regenerative Design Institute's Permaculture Program, the list goes on...

Getting to know each other was great, hearing from Wendy and seeing from Steve (nice slide show!) was also great but I think the highlight for all of us was turning the soil of our new garden for the first time and planting our first row of lettuce seedlings!  We took a photo of that scene, our classmates and the blank canvas behind us, and I know we were all anticipating the photo we would take in the future, the canvas not so blank, and the experience and knowledge we will have gained between now and then.