Archive for the ‘Joan Gussow’ tag
As I promised last month I attended this evening the talk called ‘Growing Food and Wisdom’ given by Novella Carpenter and Joan Gussow. This fascinating talk was held at The Commonwealth Club of California at their San Francisco office on Market Street.
Using the audience microphone I got to ask Carpenter where to start on my urban homestead household I’m now forming. Both Carpenter and Gussow gave detailed answers. Carpenter said to lay down a thick bed of animal manure based compost… several inches thick, before I begin planting. Gussow recommended not digging up everything in the yard, but advised just cutting it back down to the ground. Then she advised mulching with cardboard or commercial mulch and then digging through the mulch to do plantings in the essentially unturned soil. She said it would not be good to turn over the entire garden, as she said that would encourage lots of weeds to grow and cause a lot of needless work.
I am going to ask an audience microphone question at each event I attend at the Commonwealth Club from now on, as an amazing thing happened after the presentation. A nice woman started asking me about my urban homestead plans, and we got to talking. It turns out she’s looking to move and said she’d like to see the place to possibly move in herself. She has raised chickens and studied permaculture, and by her presence at tonight’s talk, it’s clear she has her heart in the right place for the crazy experiment I’m about to embark on. I hope she contacts me, as it seemed like a good fit. I have 2 remaining rooms, so there’s still hope if you’re interested in trying the urban farming life in the middle of a big, cosmopolitan city.
After the talk I introduced myself to Carpenter and told her of my desire to raise miniature dairy goats for milk. She said to start with chickens, as she said goats take more work. She pitched the goat raising class she teaches, which she said is full for now but will have slots next year, which is about when I predict I’ll be ready for goats. I am going to really try to get the aquaponics system and the chickens going this year, and that’s probably enough to get us started on the road to food self-sufficiency. I’m thrilled I will be able to take a class in goat raising from Carpenter herself for just $30. Sounds like the deal of next year.
I met some of Carpenter’s friends as well, including a nice woman who attends a writers workshop with her. It was inspiring to see Carpenter’s friends greet her, as I could tell they are extremely fond of her. In Farm City, one gathers she has great friends, and I confirmed that impression tonight.
I read Carpenter’s book Farm City last year, and it’s one of my favorite books. It was so heart warming and funny and inspiring. I told her that Farm City and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma are the two books that last year changed my life to my current super healthy eating habits, which I credit with my particularly good physical health and height appropriate weight. I weighed 25 pounds more a year ago than I do today, which was not overweight, but getting there. It turns out Carpenter and Pollan both studied together in college.
Farm City details Carpenter’s life in a gritty section of Oakland, California where she squatted her urban farm on a vacant lot behind her modest 2 bedroom apartment. The book ends with the lot being sold to a developer of condominiums, so her future was uncertain. Tonight I learned that the developer abandoned her development plans due to the real estate market collapse of 2008 and later decided she wanted Carpenter to own the lot. Carpenter told the developer she has little money, but the developer offered her a super low price to be paid in installments, and Carpenter now owns her city farm. She’s now having the concrete pad removed so she can get at the ‘real’ dirt below. The video excerpt I show below tells this lovely outcome much more colorfully than I’ve done here. I’ve decided to no longer post full videos of talks, as I feel it’s wrong to do so without explicit permission, and so far I’m scared to ask. Should I be scared to ask? I think it’s OK to post snippets, which will be how I handle talks I shoot video of going forward. This means I’m not going to post the rest of the Tim Ferriss video I promised when I wrote about his Commonwealth Club talk earlier this month.I’m sorry about this, but I’ve been feeling guilty. Some full length videos of high profile Commonwealth Club events are available on YouTube.com. I suggest that all Commonwealth Club events be captured on video and posted to YouTube. I think that this would help recruit members and increase attendance, as it’s so much more rewarding to attend than to watch online, primarily because you get to meet the speakers and shake their hands.
I introduced myself to Gussow as well, and I will soon read her latest book, entitled ‘Growing, Older.’ Yes, there is a comma between the two words in the title. She’s been advocating growing ones own food inside cities for decades, and she had many enchanting stories to tell, including how her friends and neighbors rebuilt her bowl shaped garden prone to becoming a lake over a dozen times per year due to it being on the Hudson River in Manhattan. The Hudson floods over a dozen times per year, which I did not know before this evening. Now the depression has been filled in with dozens of cubic yards of soil, so when the river floods, the water runs off quickly and doesn’t collect and stagnate, like before. Gussow is a teacher and advocate for green living, and I found her to be a wonderful presenter, with a warm and affectionate manner.
I had such a wonderful time this evening. I feel like I made some new friends and validated my plans to start a Carpenter style oasis in Forest Knolls, my hidden gem of a neighborhood in San Francisco.