Despite being old news, it is pretty HUGE news, so I’m counting on a little forgiveness for my not blogging in ages.
I bought a house: a 1945 bungalow in East Oakland.
And more than that, along with my cute 2-bedroom “cosmetic fixer,” I bought a nearly 5,000 square foot lot.
But it’s been hard to remember that part of the deal over the last four months, while I’ve been caught up in painting, finding and installing light fixtures, running back and forth to the Oakland Tool Lending Library, and doing late-night internet research on everything from how to install a new toilet flush handle to how to safely remove the lead paint shedding off my kitchen wall.
A 5,000 square foot lot. Really, you see, I bought a piece of future urban farmland that just happened to have a great house sitting on it too. And now that the housewarming is over — meaning things inside are tidier, if not actually finished — I can move from the dreaming phase to the doing phase in my garden.
But I only have so much space (or reader attention span?) in one post, so I’ll stick to sharing just the dreams with you today…
Dream #1: Front Yard Veggies
I have no idea what the neighbors will think of this idea, except that I know from my neighborhood listserv that many in the area do plenty of edible gardening. One neighbor — who’s been here 45 years — warned against putting anything edible (or more so, throwable and squishable) in my front yard. At least without a fence. (There was a story of a pomegranate tree they cut down because of the fruits’ tendency to be hurled at the house…)
But my front yard gets the most sun. And I do NOT want to mow any grass (or buy a lawn mower, for that matter). Even more so, I like the idea of showcasing — Rosalind Creasy style — that edible gardening can be beautiful, functional, and community-forming.
There will be no veggie rows. And, probably, no tomatoes (my big front window seems the most likely target). But artichokes? Eggplant? Asparagus? Edibles that don’t necessarily LOOK like edibles? Blueberry foundation plants? I think so.
Though the more I think about it, the more I’m willing to consider building a fence one of these weekends… Oakland, my dear Rosalind, is no Los Altos.
Dream #2: Backyard Chickens
Actually, this one is already in the works! To celebrate my 26th birthday, I gifted myself three baby chicks. After two weeks in a borrowed brooder, they’re getting bigger by the day! The next step is building the coop — I’m hoping to build that and a compost bin mostly out of wood salvaged from the huge shed some of my guy friends demolished a few weeks back. (Thank you Steve and Brendon!)
Dream #3: Mostly Edible Landscaping
So the tomatoes can’t go in the front yard. Lucky for me, I have plenty of space out back for the “ugly” (corn, wheat), squishy (tomatoes, peaches), too tempting (peppers, strawberries), and shade-loving (lettuce, herbs) veggies.
I’m dreaming about: Kiwis and grapes on arbors or a patio pergola. Blueberry and Nanking cherry foundation plantings. Finally planting my peach, orange, and cherry trees, while the fig and olive grace the patio in pots. A backyard hammock, picnic table, cob oven, and fire pit for full enjoyment of said edibles. Ah, the ideas… and more coming, with the help of my good friends Katrina and Ashley of Ashtree Designs!
I have online shopping carts full of future plants waiting for a credit card number at Raintree Nursery and Seeds of Change, and I’ve been scoping out Evergreen and Broadway Terrace nurseries locally. I’m ready.
Dream #4: Wood-fired hot tub
Ok, so it’s not edible. But it sounds amazing. And somewhat sustainable, if you discount the fact that there’ll be smoke (I’ll be able to grill on the heater, so at least they’re dual-purpose greenhouse gases, right?)
I acquired half of a huge (2-3 person) industrial storage tank a while back, from a woman in West Oakland offering rabbit manure compost on CraigsList, and I dream of magically turning it into something like the Dutchtub, which I saw at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show earlier this year.
Dream #5: Monthly Dinner Parties
So far, the hardest part of being a homeowner is that I’ve lost a huge part of my social life. I live farther away from downtown, and can no longer walk to a bar, restaurant, or the weekly farmers market. And I spend my weekends working on the house, rather than going out with friends. So I’m hoping to bring the party to me! And, after reading about all my edible landscaping plans, you probably realize as well as I do how big a harvest I’m going to have…
As for my progress so far?
To summarize: There are 36 stalks of corn growing in the backyard. Gertrude, Virginia, and Sylvia, my lovely lady egg layers, are getting bigger every day. The front lawn is officially torn out as of last weekend (because Steve is an effing rock star), and PDF plans for a 3-bin composting system are pulled up on my laptop, ready to be used this weekend.
Oh, and I am finally — FINALLY — back to Urbivore, with 5,000 square feet of inspiration in front of me, and a long list of ideas for continued posts on food politics, DIY ideas, interviews with urban farmers, and more: the real meat of the blog.