It's quite literally been a long row to hoe but we did it folks!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, November 5, 2014 11:21 PM

"The Oakland City Council just unanimously affirmed our right to grow and share food throughout the city. No more costly permits or onerous processes to start community gardens. Just passion, commitment, and a willingness to reconnect with the earth and each other."   
     - Aaron Lehmer-Chang, Oakland Food Policy Council
Below is the text to my public comment at the City Council meeting this evening.  I may have stumbled on a word here or there, but my goal was to highlight the long road we've traveled and give thanks to everyone involved in getting us to this victory.  After the meeting there were lots of high fives, hugs, and handshakes.  I think we should all celebrate by raising a toast to our right to grow our own food.  Personally I think Bloody Mary's are appropriate - Tomato juice, vodka (potatoes), a nice crisp stick of celery.... Mmmmm!

Good Evening - 
My name is Kitty Sharkey and I am an Urban Homesteader living in East Oakland.  As I look around the chamber tonight, I don't just see a lot of citizens.  What I DO see are a lot of hard working people.  Many of us here have spent the better part of the past four years working to get to this point. 
I'd like to acknowledge all of those involved, from our Elected Officials and their Staff to the Planning Department, the Oakland Food Policy Council, those involved in Community Gardens, Urban Homesteaders, and Activists alike.  Although we haven't always seen eye to eye, we've stuck with it.  We've voiced our opinions and fought for our convictions.  And we've ALL made compromises in order to present this proposal to you tonight. 
If this proposal FINALLY makes it through this process and is adopted, it will be a monumental leap for the City of Oakland.  By removing the legal and financial barrier of a Conditional Use Permit for Community Gardens, not only will it beautify our city by revitalizing neighborhoods and turning vacant, blighted, and abandoned properties into green spaces, but it will also open opportunities for employment and empowerment.  It can help provide residents with a sustainable source of additional income.  And it will help to insure the availability of healthy and nutritous food to all residents of Oakland, regardless of socioeconomic status. 
I strongly urge you to pass this proposal as presented. 
Thank you.

Contra Costa Times - Community farms get boost from planning panel

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, October 30, 2014 6:56 PM


"The adoption of the proposal will be a huge step forward in ensuring the availability of wholesome and nutritious food throughout our community regardless of socio-economic status."
This quote is from a public appearance at the Oakland Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 17th. I didn't even know there was a reporter in the audience. 


Privately, the night was all about Esperanza's shoes!  Nice, eh???

Cliff Note Clarification - Urban Agricultural Proposal goes to City Council November 5th.

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Monday, October 27, 2014 6:52 AM


If you live in Oakland and believe it is your right to grow your own food, then please plan on attending the Oakland City Council meeting on November 5th, 2014.  We need your support!

There seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around about the proposed changes to the Urban Agriculture regulations.  So I'm going to attempt to summarize what these changes mean for those of us who are interested in growing our own food.  The proposed changes ARE about removing the Conditional Use Permit requirements.  They are NOT about changing the laws concerning livestock. I hope the summary below helps to clarify the proposed changes and dispel some of the rumors and misinformation going around.

It is important to focus on what the proposed changes ARE, and not to get tangled up in debates over topics that ARE NOT part of the proposed revisions!!!

COMMUNITY GARDENS

  • NOTE:  Your own backyard IS NOT considered a community garden!  See separate section below.
  • Community gardens are intended for growing food for your own personal consumption and/or donation (i.e. NOT a business).
  • The definition would change from "more than 1 person" to "1 or more persons". 
  • There is language prohibiting the use of large mechanized farm equipment.
  • LIMITED SEASONAL SALES would be permitted up to four times per calendar year.
  • Under the CURRENT REGULATIONS a C.U.P is required for ALL Community Gardens.
  • The BIG CHANGE - Under the PROPOSED REGULATIONS,  Community Gardens would be permitted BY RIGHT throughout most of the city WITHOUT A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT.  The exceptions are in heavily industrialized zones and public parks.  
  • Growing plant based crops and having up to three bee hives would be permitted WITHOUT a C.U.P.
  • Any livestock in a NEW community garden (chickens, more bee hives, etc) WOULD REQUIRE a C.U.P.  
  • Please note that this regulation concerning livestock IS NOT A CHANGE in the policy as the current regulations require a C.U.P for ALL Community Gardens regardless of whether or not livestock is involved.
  • These rules would apply to NEW community gardens
  • Existing community gardens are grandfathered in AS IS.  Note that livestock is permitted because a C.U.P is already in place.

LIMITED AGRICULTURE

  • This is the designation used for gardens that are a business (i.e. SALES) 
  • Plant based crops are permitted.
  • Livestock IS NOT permitted.
  • A Conditional Use Permit is NOT REQUIRED FOR MOST AREAS in the city.
EXTENSIVE AGRICULTURE

  • This is the designation used for gardens that are a business (i.e. SALES) 
  • Plant based crops AND LIVESTOCK are permitted.
  • A Conditional Use Permit is REQUIRED.
HOME OCCUPATION PERMIT
  • Changes to the language to include small scale bee keeping of up to three hives for the purposes of honey collection, pollination, and raising bees for sale.
YOUR OWN BACKYARD / PERSONAL CONSUMPTION - NO PERMITS REQUIRED!!!
  • There are NO CHANGES to any regulations regarding growing/raising food for your own personal consumption at a privately owned residence. 
  • Existing regulations regarding the raising of livestock on your own property and for your own personal consumption ARE NOT CHANGING!
  • Details of the existing Oakland Municipal Code in regards to livestock can be found IN THIS POST from way back when this whole process started.
  • The Oakland Planning Department has INFORMALLY INTERPRETED the current Municipal Code as prohibiting the slaughter of livestock unless it is performed in a licensed facility.  This is still a point of debate for some residents BOTH FOR AND AGAINST the processing of meat for personal consumption on private property.
  • The proposed changes DO NOT ADDRESS THIS CONTROVERSY!
  • If in doubt, there are USDA Custom Exempt processing facilities available relatively locally that are licensed to process meat for personal consumption.  You can search the online database HERE for locations.  Enter CDFA as the inspection agency.
  • Note that the SALE of meat or dairy products is strictly regulated by State and Federal law unless it is processed / produced in a USDA licensed and inspected facility.
  • For additional information concerning livestock slaughter and meat processing requirements in California, check out the user friendly chart at THIS LINK.
  • Once again for emphasis - There are NO CHANGES to any regulations regarding growing/raising food for your own personal consumption at your own private residence.

We've PASSED the first hurdle - WOOHOO!!!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, September 17, 2014 11:47 PM


Tonight, the Oakland Planning Commission passed the updated Urban Agricultural proposal including the recommendations put forth by the Oakland Food Policy Council to lift the conditional use permit requirement in commercial and transit zones.  I believe the Open Space recommendation was not included.  Am I correct Esperanza?  

The highlight of the evening for me?  When the Chairperson opened the meeting by saying something like "The rumor that we were there to discuss animal slaughter Is false.  We will not be talking about animal slaughter tonight.  If that's what you came here to discuss you can go home now."

Of course the two animal rights activists that did show up did their best to slip it in.  And although it was tempting to rise to the attack, cooler heads prevailed.  Let it go, Kitty... just let it go...

There were only a few dicey moments when the commissioners considering striking out the reference to animals and livestock in the community garden definition.  But that idea was quickly dismissed once they were informed that this language was NOT a change to the existing code and that striking it would affect various existing operations in the city.

Now the process moves on to consideration by the Community Economic Development Committee of the City Council.  So stay tuned for info concerning the public comment options available for addressing this committee.  

NOW IS THE TIME to write to your council members and express your support for this proposal.  Again, remember to keep it positive and focused on support for this proposed update.  Keep it sweet and simple folks, and avoid mentioning any controversy over raising animals.  It's been a long hard road to get here.  Lets get this thing passed as is ASAP!

Kudos to Esperanza, Aaron, and the entire team over at the Oakland Food Policy Council.  We are lucky to have such a strong woman leading the charge for our right to grow our own food. Whereas I have at times felt too burnt out to fight, Esperanza has been a steady focused guiding light.  Congratulations to her and her team on this historic achievement!!!

Open Letter to the Oakland Planning Commission

Posted by Kitty Sharkey 4:19 PM

Dear Commissioner

I would like to express my support for the updated proposal to amend the city’s Agricultural regulations that will be discussed during your meeting this evening, September 17th.  For the most part, I agree with this proposed plan and the revised definitions of Community Gardens under 17.10.140 Essential service civic activities along with the newly designated definitions 17.10.610 Limited agricultural activities and 17.10.615 Extensive agricultural activities.  I would like the changes recommended by the Oakland Food Policy Council to be adopted into the proposal before it goes to the Community Economic Development Committee of the City Council for their consideration on October 14th.

As an urban homesteader, I have been living in Oakland and raising my own food for 7 or 8 years.  Here at Havenscourt Homestead, my small plot of land in East Oakland, I am able to produce approximately 65% of my own produce and 95% of my own eggs, dairy, and meat products.  I do this for my own personal consumption only, and do not currently participate in any sales of agricultural products.  I do have a home occupation permit that allows me to sell the products of my garden, but I have yet to make use of this option.  I tend to share any excess produce with my neighbors.  I practice urban farming openly and am quite proud of my achievements.  My homestead has been featured on the Urban Farm Tour organized by the Institute of Urban Homesteading.  It has been featured twice on the Bay Friendly Garden Tourorganized by StopWaste.org.  And it was featured in the book Backyard Roots by local photographer Lori Eanes.  One of my goats, Sammy, is even a movie star.  He appears in the independent film I Believe in Unicorns that is currently winning awards at film festivals around the globe.

I have had visits from Animal Control and Vector Control, both of which gave me an A+ for my homesteading activities.  My animals are in excellent condition and well cared for.  My composting, manure management, and vector control processes keep everyone (animals and neighbors alike) happy and healthy.  I do not have a problem with excessive flies, unpleasant odors, excessive noise, rats, or mice.  I also don’t have any issues with the local urban wildlife as I have taken appropriate measures to insure they are not attracted to my homestead.  My neighbors support my lifestyle and the neighborhood kids always love it when I take a goat or two for a walk around the block.  I have set up a small parklet on the parking strip in front of my house that includes seating, fruit trees, and a Free Little Library.  My activities have contributed to my neighborhood community in numerous positive ways.  To my knowledge, my urban agricultural activities have had no negative affects upon my neighbors or the neighborhood. 

Several people from the Oakland Planning Department, including Heather Klein, visited my homestead several years ago.  After that visit, I was invited to participate on the Planning Departments  Technical Advisory Group on Urban Agricultural.  Unfortunately, after the first draft was circulated a couple of years ago it appeared that the Planning Department must have decided to disband the TAG as I received no more notifications of meetings or further drafts.  I was very surprised to receive notification that the updated proposal was going to be presented and voted upon by the Planning Commission this evening.  Interested parties on all sides of this issue were given approximately 30 hours in which to review the 305 page document and all the attachments including the revised definitions noted in sections 17.10.140, 17.10.610 and 17.10.615.  I do not believe this to be adequate advance notification in order to allow citizens with an vested interest in urban agriculture to circulate, review, discuss, and come to conclusions (pro or con) to this updated proposal.  I can only hope that the Planning Commission was given a copy of the proposal in a more timely manner.

As a resident of Oakland, I believe it is my right to raise my own food on my own property whether that be fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, or meat as long as I abide by the existing laws concerning animal control, vector control, noise, etc.  This updated proposal will permit these activities outright in most areas of the city without the burden of unnecessary, time consuming, and expensive Conditional Use Permits or Home Occupation Permits.  If adopted, it will bring Oakland into compliance with current state law regarding home food production and sale.  Finally, adoption of this proposal will be a huge step forward in insuring the availability of wholesome and nutritious food throughout our community regardless of socio-economic status.

I strongly encourage you to support and pass this updated proposal as well as the minor edits recommended by the Oakland Food Policy Council.

Sincerely,

Kitty Sharkey
 

Talking points for the Planning Commission tonight

Posted by Kitty Sharkey 10:50 AM

If you can attend Planning Commission meeting tonight it is critical that we all remain focused, positive, and supportive! There will be folks there who want to take the right to grow/raise our own food away from us.  We do not want to be lured into negativity and public confrontation by this very vocal minority.

Find me to get a sticker tag which will help identify supporters and bring prepared talking points!  The Planning Commission is mostly in support of these changes. Oakland Food Policy Council and Council member Kaplan's office are recommending further changes. The overall tone of the OFPC organization is supportive toward the proposal.  These folks have been working hard for the past several years to insure our right to grow and raise our own food here in Oakland.

In your talking points, be sure to thank the Planning Commission for taking this historic step in supporting the right to produce food within Oakland.  Show support for the removal of certain conditional use permit requirements as recommended by the OFPC and Council member Kaplan.  But most of all, make it personal.  Tell them a little bit about yourself and your homesteading activities.  This proposal will allow you to continue growing your own fruits and vegetables and even sale your excess.  It will also allow you to continue (or start) raising livestock for eggs, milk, and meat for your own personal consumption (NOT sale) without the need for any special permits.  I for one will be happy to no longer feel like I must constantly defend my right to raise my own food on my own property.
Whether or not you can make the meeting tonight, Please take a moment to write a letter of support to all members of the Planning Commission. 

Oakland City Planning Commissioners -

These folks need to hear from us!!!!

URGENT CRITICAL MEETING – ATTN: OAKLAND HOMESTEADING PEEPS

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, September 16, 2014 3:53 PM


Tomorrow, September 17th at 6 PM, , the Oakland Planning Commission will be discussing significant and positive changes to Oakland’s urban agriculture regulations. We really need people to attend and demonstrate how important this topic is to all of us.  If these policy changes go through it will be a HUGE WIN for the urban agriculture and homesteading movement in Oakland. 


According to the Proposed Regulations, growing and selling on site in our own yards would no longer require a home occupation permit but would be permitted outright.  This would also apply to multi-unit dwellings, high rise apartments etc.  In addition, keeping up to three hives and selling honey is also permitted.  That right folks - NO SPECIAL PERMITS REQUIRED (i.e. Home Occupation Permit, Conditional Use Permit).   With a few limitations based upon zoning (open space, transit zones, certain downtown and industrial areas, estuary zones, etc.), homesteading activities including livestock raising would be permitted outright as long as you comply with the existing codes for noise, vector, no sale of meat/dairy, etc.  If I’m reading the proposal correctly this is a HUGE VICTORY for those of us that choose to raise our own food. 

PLEASE plan on attending this critical meeting and showing your support for all the hard work by folks like Esperanza Pallana and the Oakland Food Policy Council for helping to ensure our RIGHT to grow and raise our own food.  It's been a long road to get to this point and the rest of the nation has been keeping a close eye on our city with regards to urban agriculture regulation.  I have been involved in the process on and off over the past several years and have witnessed the pendulum swing between extremes in all directions.  After scanning the large document and reviewing the three classifications linked to below, I am doing a happy dance!

·  Community Gardens: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/oak049164
·  Limited Agriculture: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/oak049166
·  Extensive Agriculture: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/oak049165

If you attend, please be sure to comment POSITIVELY on the proposed update to the Urban Agricultural Regulations and also recommend the lifting of the restrictions on Open Space and Transit Oriented Zones as put forth by the Oakland Food Policy Council.

Meeting Time:  6 PM
Meeting location:  Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Hearing Room No. 1, Oakland, CA 94612.

***  HAPPY DANCE ***

Why add a pig to my urban homestead?

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Monday, August 25, 2014 10:20 PM


In early June, I got a text from my friend Maya over at Soul Flower Farm on a Thursday evening.  A friend of hers had to move that weekend and was looking for a new home for her 8 month old pot-bellied pig.  She wanted to know if I knew anyone who might want him.  At this point, her friend didn't even care if it ended up in the freezer.  It just needed to go right away.  *sigh*

Pigs.  They are so cute!  And they do make great family pets.  But so many people don't realize how intelligent they are, or how big they get, or how much care they need, or the training involved, or... or... or...  I have a friend that works with a pig rescue group that told me the other day she sees 100's of pigs a month cross through her e-mail looking for good homes.  A pig should NOT be an impulse acquisition.  Period.

But back to this little fella who was desperately in need of a new home pronto.  I have actually been considering getting a pig for a long time.  No, not for food.  If I want to put some pork in the freezer, I'll go to the county fair and buy one from a 4-H kid.  I know they are well cared for, the money goes to a good cause, AND it's tax deductible to boot.  So when this opportunity dropped into my lap, I decided to give it a try.  I said I'd bring him home and test it out.  If it didn't work out, I would try to re-home him.  If that didn't work, then he might just end up in the freezer.  But that would be a last resort.

So I picked him up and brought him home.  Although I consider the pen he was in to be inadequate, it was not extremely bad and the young girl who's pet he was had actually socialized him decently.  He was friendly.  But he was also scared.  Getting him into a crate in the car proved to be a matter of picking the 45 lb pig up while he screamed bloody murder.  Did you know that a pig's squeal can range from 110 - 115 decibels?  Um.. my right ear sure does...

Luckily I had prepared a separate pen for him so that he could settle in without having to deal with all the other critters.  It didn't take him long.  I spent a lot of time with him and he seemed to be reassured by my presence.  I hoped he would soon forget that I was the mean lady that yanked him away from his home and family, stuffed him in a crate, and drove away with him.

He spent the first night here rooting around for worms.  Lots of worms.  Lots of bugs.  Lots and lots of protein.  Although he wasn't drastically underweight, it was obvious he was protein starved.  They had been raising him on veggie and table scraps.  I immediately switched him to an active adult mini-pig ration specifically designed for his needs.

Between the food, three times the space, and all the extra attention, I won the little guy over.  He LOVES belly rubs!  He came with the name Mr. Oink, which I couldn't stand.  Ridiculous name given to him by a 12 year old.  But it's bad luck to change a livestock animals name, so I shortened it to M.O. or rather just Mo and let it stand.  Just between you and me, I sometimes call him Mo Bacon :)
He settled in quite nicely and started to gain some confidence.  Meanwhile, I revisited all the reference materials I had on pigs and spent much more time online doing research.  Luckily I know a couple of pig owners, and my good friend Ally who has a lot of experience with Pot Belly pigs proved to be an amazing resource.  I think her value came with the reassurances rather than actual detailed information.  But she did point me in the right direction with several good links.

When I first released Mo to run around the barnyard supervised, Snowberry, my herd queen, immediately gave him a very forceful head butt resulting in a double barrel roll.  Little Mo got up and gave her a look that said "OK, I get it.  You're the boss."  My other animals basically accepted him without a second thought.  They are so mellow!

Fast forward about a month.  Lulu was the first of my does to have kids - quads.  And in the barnyard, we reached cuteness overload.  It was official.  I wasn't going to find a new home for Mo.  He was mine.

So back to the title of this post.  Why did I want a pig?  Was it for meat?  No.  Was it for the cuteness factor?  No, although I'll tell you it does make the decision easier.  Was it because I'm all about rescuing unwanted livestock.  Um... NO.  Definitely not.  I do help to re-home some from time to time.  But I have specific limits on how many animals I can and do maintain based upon space requirements as well as time, labor, and expense requirements.  I may only be an urban homesteader, but I have farm cred folks.  I've put in my time.  Yes, it's immensely satisfying but it's also not cheap and it's a hell of a lot of work.  If you don't believe me, I can direct you to a number of other homesteaders that will back me up on that point.  This lifestyle isn't for everyone, and it is not the idyllic utopia it might seem based upon what homestead bloggers choose to post about.  It's rewarding, but it's hard work!

Nope.  I wanted a pig specifically for one reason and one reason only.  Actually, it can be summed up in two words.  The Snout!

Huh?

When I moved in here, the soil was hard pan clay.  Sticky, mucky, stick to your shoes and everything else clay.  I have done a lot to improve it since I've been here, especially with the help of all that wonderful manure I've gotten from my animals.  My veggie and flower gardens do great!  But there is also a drawback.  All that raw material - hay, poop, deep litter - needs to be harvested.  It needs scooped, raked, and shoveled out of the yard and barn.  It then needs to be deposited into the compost bins so the various micro/macro organisms can work their magic.  And that, my dear readers, is a LOT of hard labor.

As you may or may not know, I had spinal surgery a few years ago and foot surgery about 9 months ago.  I have spent the better part of the last 3 or 4 years on and off of disability.  So I'm not exactly able to handle all that hard labor any more.  I can rake and scoop the loose material no problem.  But the hard packed partially composted deep litter in the barn requires hiring someone or bartering for the labor.  And I've also built up an 8" or 10" layer of beautiful top soil above that awful clay.  And therein lies the problem.

That extra depth of topsoil make it hard or sometimes impossible to open and close various gates and doors.  I am constantly trying to keep the area in front of the barn door dug out and the loose hay in front of the entry gate is a twice daily challenge.  So what's a girl to do when she's broke and partially disabled?

Enter the pig and that amazing snout!  Yes, I now own an environmentally friendly rototiller.  It's a compact model, appropriate to the size of the job and my needs.  I get great "mileage" and performance powered by bio-fuel.  And it's "exhaust" is biodegradable.  Add the fact that it's user friendly with little required maintenance, and what more could an urban farmer want?

Here's a short clip of Mo in action.  Watch that powerhouse GO!!!
video
Once Mo finishes rototilling an area the chickens move in to scratch through his handy work and break it into nice fine loose material.  And THAT is something I can easily scoop up and haul around.  This is exactly why I have considered getting a pig for the past few years!  It's all about the SNOUT!

Mo has been a part of my life now for a couple of months and yes, I am in love.  He's sweet, smart, and well behaved.  We've been working on clicker training over the past few weeks.  I wanted to wait until he was fully comfortable and confident in his surroundings before trying to get him into a harness and walking.
After just three short training sessions, Mo was sporting his harness like it was an awesome fashion accessory.  After that, it was time to start training him to walk on a lead.  And how long do you think it took him to get the idea?
video
Two.  Count them.  Once in the garden and then we ventured out into the front yard.  A pocket full of grapes and the clicker and Mo was walking down the sidewalk.  This video is of his first foray into the world outside.  He did quite well.  Since then, we have been back out front for several short walks around the yard.  Nothing too stressful or too far.  Pigs require constant reassurance when they aren't sure of a situation.  Luckily, I was smart enough to spend a couple months bonding with him before beginning these new experiences.  He looks to me when he gets nervous, and I've come to recognize the tell tell signs that he's unsure of something before he gets scared and tries to bolt.

I am so proud of his progress, both in training and in health.  He is now up to 58 lbs which is a much healthier weight for his age and build.  And although I had been thinking of a pig for a long time, I was no where near buying one.  So Mo is just a case of the right place at the right time, AND knowing the right people.  Thanks go to Maya for thinking of me when she heard about him.  Maybe she'll want to  borrow him to rototill her beds when the harvest is over.  In fact, I might consider bartering that snout out to my homesteading friends now and again.  Either way, this boy is now earning his keep.

Me?  I'm a happy homesteader who is wishing you a wonderful harvest!  And please please PLEASE can we get some rain around here?

Po-TAY-Toe, Po-TAH-Toe

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Saturday, July 12, 2014 3:11 PM


This year I grew potatoes in grow bags on my front walkway.  I wanted to compare the results between the nursery grow bags and my home made version.  The store bought ones produced a slightly higher yield.  I'm guessing it might have to do with the darker color.  But my up cycled feed bags still did pretty dang good.  At $20 for 2 grow bags, I could afford to buy another pound of seed potatoes and bagged soil to plant 3 more feed bags.  IF I had the space to do this, I'd probably come out ahead in the long run.  And I'd be up cycling a waste product to boot.  Pretty nice!

I planted 1 lb of All Blue Organic Seed Potatoes, placing 3 in each bag.  Overall, my yield was 8:1, which is pretty good.  Ideal conditions should yield around 10 or 12:1, but who has ideal conditions in the city?  I think my yield would have been a little higher if I had been more consistent with my watering.  But I'm definitely pleased with the results.



I'm going to use several of the smaller ones as seed potatoes to replant in fresh soil a little later in the season.  It's actually possible to grow 2 crops a year by planting in the spring and the fall.  And the bags are easy to move around if required due to weather issues.

So why bother with all this for 8 pounds of potatoes?  Why not just go buy a bag of organic potatoes at the store?  Well, it's fun for one.  I mean, come on...  These are BLUE potatoes!  Also, it's challenging to see what and how much I can grow here on my small homestead.  It's more nutritious.  And there is no comparison to the flavor of fresh homegrown produce.  No, I didn't grow enough potatoes to last me through the winter.  But that wasn't my goal.  What I did want to do was increase my yield over previous years where I've tried various growing methods.  I'm very pleased with the results.  I think I'll be sticking with the grow bags.

Creating Community - Parklet completed at Havenscourt Homestead

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Friday, February 21, 2014 9:33 AM

So, what exactly IS a Parklet anyway?  According to Wikipedia,
"A parklet is a small space serving as an extension of the sidewalk to provide amenities and green space for people using the street."
"Parklets are intended for people.  Parklets offer a place to stop, to sit, and to rest while taking in the activities of the street."
"Parklets are designed to provide a public place for passersby to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the city around them, in places where either current urban parks are lacking or where the existing sidewalk width is not large enough to accommodate vibrant street life activities."
The Parklet at Havenscourt Homestead is located on the parking strip between the sidewalk and the street.  It includes seating, drought tolerant native and wild flowers, fruit trees, and a pumpkin patch.  But the heart of the space is the Little Free Library.

I have had a vision for this space in my head for a long time.  But I haven't been able to complete it due to my current disability limitations.  But all that changed when Kristin moved in to be my live-in assistant post foot surgery.  She was eager to help with projects around the homestead, is quite strong considering her small size, and knows her way around a tool box.  And so the transition began.

It all started with a bench I saw sitting at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.  It consisted of two pieces of stump with a long board screwed into it.  The board was completely split and beginning to rot so basically the bench was useless.  But I knew that I had a perfect length of 2' x 10' lumber at home left over from building a raised bed for my asparagus.  So we picked it up and brought it home.  Since installing the bench, it has become quite a popular spot to sit and visit with neighbors.

Next came the half wine barrels.  A fellow homesteader was re-landscaping her yard, so she posted them for free on bahh, the Bay Area Homesteader Hookup listserv started by Ruby at the Institute of Urban Homesteading here in Oakland.  FYI, this is an AWESOME resource.  To join, simply send an e-mail to bahh-subscribe@lists.riseup.net with the subject "Subscribe".

But back to the barrels.  We picked up several of them and brought them home.  Unfortunately about half of them completely fell apart and are now destined to become firewood.  But enough of them were in decent condition, so we placed four of them in the parking strip.  I cut a big hole in the bottom of each and then Kristin filled them with compost and potting soil.  We planted four EZ-Pick fruit trees:  Apricot, Nectarine, Cherry, and Peach.  Why the big hole in the bottom of the barrels?  Because the wine barrels are really for aesthetics only.  The hole will allow the tap roots of these trees to grow deep into the soil below.  When the wine barrels start to deteriorate too much, I'll just build wooden planter boxes around them.

I had several large pumpkins in storage that I had received last fall from Nicole at Farm Curious.  So I checked in with my neighbor Gail to see if she would mind me planting a pumpkin patch for the kids on the small section of parking strip between my property and her big sycamore tree.  She was delighted with the idea.  I cut the tops and bottoms off the pumpkins, and Kristin randomly placed them in the designated space.  We filled them with rich soil and waited to see if any of the seeds inside would germinate.  I did this once before with great results.  Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that any of the seeds are sprouting.  So I'm just going to buy a packet of seeds and plant them inside the existing shells.  As the "pumpkin pots" decompose, they will provide nutrition for the growing plant.  And next fall, the kids in the neighborhood will be able to come harvest their Halloween pumpkins from the parklet.
And this brings us to the Little Free Library.  Other than the metal roof, the acrylic doors, and some trim pieces, the entire library is built from reclaimed materials.  The main component is a cabinet purchased from the local ReStore run by Habitat for Humanity for a whopping $5.00.  The sliding doors came from Tap Plastics in San Leandro.  The posts, supports, and siding were all left over from previous projects.  And my neighbor and fellow homesteader Tina provided the laminate flooring squares that were left over from her chicken coup remodel.  Kristin did most of the construction and really enjoyed explaining to passersby what she was building.  No, it was not a birdhouse!  Even Kristin's boyfriend Jon helped out by digging the post holes and helping Kristin install the metal roof.

Late yesterday afternoon, we finally finished it.  We filled it up with books from the local St. Vincent de Paul and several others donated by friends.  Special thanks to Tina for providing several children's books in Spanish.  As Kristin and I were getting ready to attach the sign, a couple of young boys from up the street came riding up on their bicycles.  They had been by several times during the construction and were anxious to see it complete.
And so within seconds of completion, we had our first patrons.  And boy oh boy, did they have fun.  Between the books and the sidewalk chalk, they were probably here for half an hour or more.
Just look at the smile on this boys face!  He was completely engaged from the moment he opened this book which contains interactive pop up panels.

We sat on the bench and read a book about a farm together.
Kristin and the boys played several rounds of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Everyone had a great time!

I am really looking forward to watching the neighborhood embrace and enjoy this new addition.  Thanks to all my friends in the homesteading community who unwittingly contributed to this project in one way or another.  You have all made this possible.  I love my neighborhood and am so happy to be able to give a little something back to those living here.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
        - Cicero

TEMPORARILY OUT OF ORDER

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Saturday, January 18, 2014 7:01 PM

Stupid Google+ interface with Blogger seems to have resulted in all of my images disappearing.  This will take some time to fix.  More time than I have right now.  So hang tight.

WOOHOO!!! I can WALK again! Well, sort of...

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, January 9, 2014 5:12 PM


Since my cast was removed on December 29th, I've still been getting around the house using my knee scooter.  Several times a day, I have been practicing putting about 25% of my weight on my right foot using a scale.  I've also been flexing and pointing my foot (up and down ONLY, no side to side or twisting)  to work on range of motion, and wiggling my toes to help with circulation.  I've been careful but diligent, even though sometimes it's been painful.  But all that work has paid off.

Yesterday I went to my first physical therapy appointment since my cast removal.  After an initial evaluation to check my progress and under the watchful supervision of my PT Jamie, (drum roll please) I took my first steps in two months!!!.  Using a walker and only putting about 25% of my weight on my right foot, I managed to walk about 25 - 30 feet down the hall, around the corner, and back again.  It was physically challenging and painful at times.  And I was exhausted when I got home.  But it was an exciting milestone in my recovery.

In addition to my existing exercises, my homework for the next week and a half is to repeat this walking exercise 3 or 4 times a day.  I need to start slowly for short distances at first until I feel a little more stable.  I'm thinking bathroom runs...er.. walks are a good place to start.  And I should only be trying this inside for now and be careful not to over do it.  So no trips out to visit with the critters or into the garden without my scooter for now.  But that's okay.  I can deal with that.

I just walked from the front of my house down the hallway and back.  This is probably about the same distance as I traveled yesterday.  But it wasn't as exhausting as before.  I think yesterday I was tense with anticipation and yes, more than a little bit of fear.  Today?  I'm thrilled.

Woohoo!!!  I'll actually be able to get up tomorrow morning and celebrate my 50th birthday by WALKING from my bedroom to the bathroom!  Oh, the joys of celebrating the little things in life that we all take for granted...