Monday, December 15, 2008

Plug Spurned!

I guess you could say that sometimes when I sit with my finger on the trigger, ready to make hasty Internet purchases, I can be a little hair-brained.  In this case I had shiitake for brains. Or at least, shiitake on the brain.  Admittedly, the excitement of an Internet deal is often hard for me to squelch.  And in the case of mushrooms (one of my favorite foods) nary can I turn away from the bright LCD screen begging for me to add another item to my virtual shopping cart.  Often times, in these situations, the finger click is followed by the synapse fire.

I had written a couple of weeks ago, hinting at my lust for fungal fare, and mentioned the possibility of growing some shiitake plug spawn.  Plug spawn are small wooden dowels inoculated with spores of whichever mushroom you fancy.  The plugs are about 1/2" in diameter and roughly 1" long.  They are meant to be "plugged" into holes around 2" deep in fresh hardwood logs.  Fresh in our terms means cut no more than 5 months ago.  The reason we need fresh wood is because older wood has had more time to sell its fresh heartwood to the highest bidder, i.e. another fungus.  We don't want to go eating any mushrooms of course without knowing exactly what they are.  And if our shiitake plugs were to mingle with a less than edible sort of mushroom, we'd be deep in the pits of wonderland or worse.  Being in California, I thought that the possibility of finding freshly cut oak logs would be no big deal. Easily done.  Just a phone call, right?  Wrong.  

As it happens fresh oak that has not been promptly chipped, shredded, split, cured, or turned into a piece of flooring is rather hard to come by.  In fact it has been rather consuming to find just what we need at all not to mention without driving all over kingdom come to fetch it.  To add to the frustration of finding the wood, plug spawn are living organisms with a 30 day time limit.  On top of this is the onset of the holiday season and holiday shopping madness.  In short, this has been less than the good time I'd first imagined.  Had I known then what I know now I would have simply continued to grow them from sawdust bags, saving plug spawn dreams for a day when I was huddled in my woodland yurt amidst acres of hardwood trees.   I am unsure just how many times I will have remind myself to always do my research before I let myself be reeled in by the flashy lure of a sale sign.

Alas, we have yet to give up and are still on the hunt for fresh wood.  Like vampire Ents we will not rest until we plug our spawn!  If any of our readership knows of a reliable source of any fresh hardwood please send them to us or us to them.  Any little bit helps.  

Link of the week:
In case you too are interested in growing gourmet mushrooms but want to do it in a much easier and faster way you can usually get bags of impregnated sawdust that produce great results but far less of them.  Before, I'd mentioned Fungi Perfecti, a Washington based company started by one of my personal heroes Paul Stamets.  For a more local source of equally great products go to Far West Fungi .  They are a Bay Area based operation with a store front in the Ferry Building downtown San Francisco as well as market stalls at various farmer's markets and an online store to buy kits and produce.  They all are very helpful and informative.  I buy the bulk of our mushrooms from them every week at the Heart of the City farmer's market in the Civic Center on Wednesdays and Sundays.  Check em out!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wild Leeks

Last Friday, David and I broke ground, so to speak, at our newest garden in the Mission. Conveniently located within a few blocks of our first garden and the restaurants we supply, this space so far has been a dream. It is beautifully sunny, with easy access to water and supplies, and generous homeowners who kindly shared stories and delicious coffee as we went about our first day of work. 
The condition that we found the yard in on our first day was also uplifting. The realtors put down sod just before the house was sold, but then neglected to water it in between owners. So the grass died in the hot sun, leaving behind large strips of soil that effectively kept any weeds at bay and were very easy to remove and carted off to the compost pile. (We thought that we could salvage the grass but unfortunately discovered that it was a little too far gone.)
Perhaps most thrilling, was what we discovered sprouting up all around the graying patches of sod. What looked like sprouts of some particularly invasive grass that I was initially imagining battling all summer, turned out to be ramps; sweet and tender wild leeks. David and I were thrilled- in the northeast, where we are both from, these only appear but once a year, in the early spring, and are gathered in shady groves or along streams, or purchased for a hefty price at the farmers market. The yard was covered in them and, upon our discovery, we started walking gingerly around them, trying not to crush their greens. We harvested a few pounds, which is quite a lot considering their individual weight. We delivered most of them to Weird Fish for a dinner special, and brought the rest to our house for our own dinner. We sauteed them with King Trumpet mushrooms and white wine and served them over some locally made fresh pasta. It was quite a seasonal treat!

Look for them in the coming weeks in Weird Fish specials.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks Thanks Thanks

Thanksgiving: the seasonal holiday to end all seasonal holidays; the feast to fatten us for the long winter to come; the hard earned fruit of so many strenuous days of field work and labor, is upon us again.  And despite its associations with some less-than-enchanting traditional American habits of over consumption, excessive TV watching, and heavy drinking, it none the less remains my most favored holiday.  Not only is it my favorite because of its focus on humility and gratitude for bounty both gastronomic and familial, but for its unapologetic plunge into the copious delights of eating.  To put it otherwise, the Dionysian indulgence in a hedonistic love affair with that which sustains us. After all, this is a blog dedicated to creating local and sustainable FOOD!  In essence this is a journal about food itself.  And with all of the politics associated with each and everything that goes in and around our bodies, it is important the we remember that we are talking about food; tastes, smells, nutrients, vitamins, art; that from which all else is built upon.  What better thing to celebrate?  A celebration of food where careful thought and great pride is expressed to each component is elemental in the human experience. 

Through our relationship with Weird Fish and Boogaloos we are trying to create more awareness of seasonality.  By keeping a seasonal menu we can keep things local, fresh and interesting (something that fine dining has known for years).  Thanksgiving expresses the finest that the season has to offer. Traditional elements of a Thanksgiving meal (turkey, cranberries, potatoes, apples, onions, beans, and corn) reveal a true cross-section of seasonal foods from coast to coast.  This is a time to truly revel in the freshness and flavors of autumn.  Remember to support your local butcher and your local farmers when possible.  

This holiday is one of those times that drive my imagination back through our collective consciousness to a primal scene in a time when humans' knowledge of their fate was indivisible from the fate of their crops.  I am reminded of a time when people knew their food.  While we are no less linked now that we were then, there is a vast separation of those simple yet vital relationships.  We thank everyone who is here to help close that gap.  
We send out a deep thank you to those that pioneer and evolve this food movement, to those that support and read this blog, to those who support our gardens, and to those that unfearingly are mending a tired system by creatively reviving time tested traditions.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Link of the week:
This week I was lucky enough to be given a mention in the SF Chronicle regarding the garden project.  Although it was only a brief mention about the gardens, it is good to know that ears are open to what is happening in the Mission.  This is a prime time to get involved with what we are doing.  Please take part by spreading the word about Amyitis (, if you know Mission District people that may be interested in joining our project. Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Food not lawns

We're happy to announce another garden in the Mission!!
 As word begins to spread about and what we are trying to do, Mission residents are hopping on board.  On Monday we officially gained generous access to another garden.  Although small we're confident that we'll be able to make a great use of this space.  In addition to being generally beautiful it already has some apple trees that can be restored to health.  The residents were excited and eager to support us and participate with our project.  We share their enthusiasm and they have our deepest gratitude for their generosity.  
Early next week we'll start in on transforming this space into a super garden.  First we'll be taking a stab at the sod to get at the earth below.  It is good for us that it is mostly dead. This should make removal a bit easier.  After we get down and dirty with the sod, we'll have to send away that soil to ensure that it is healthy to grow in.  After that I'd like to invest in some perennial herbs to start planting back there so they get a good head start for spring.  In the mean time, I'll be drawing up some plans of what the space might end up looking like.  My initial guess is that it will be a good space for growing peppers, squash and tomatoes in summer.  Next week I should be able to post more pics of our progress.  

Fungus among us:

It seems that we've got some fungal friends popping up at our other garden.  The combination of the recent rains and the full shade we've been getting back there has encouraged some growth of some pretty great looking mushrooms that look to me like they might be Agaricus Californicus. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera on me when I discovered them so I don't have a photo.  If in fact they are Agaricus Californicus they are mildly poisonous and should not be eaten.  However, the good news is that it seems as though the garden will be a great habitat for some cultivated culinary mushrooms.  I plan to experiment with oyster and shitake mushrooms back there in the coming weeks.  We'll keep you updated as to how that pans out.  

Link of the week:

This week I thought that I would mention Local Foods Wheel.
The local foods wheel is a really creative way to have consumers be conscious of what they are eating.  It is 12" illustrated cardboard chart that informs Bay Area eaters what is in season when.  I think this is a great idea.  It is a really creative way to teach people to alter their palates with regards to seasonality.  Eating seasonally has many benefits that we know of not to mention many that, I am sure, await discovery.  Stay local, stay seasonal with the local foods wheel.  Check it out.  

Be well, 


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fatal Harvest

Wow! We had such a great harvest this week.  The onions and tat soi looked better than ever.  Sadly though, this may be one of the last for the remainder of the year.  Leave it to nature to keep teaching you lessons.  I believe that we have heard the call of Mother Nature to retreat and go back to drawing boards.  As an native East-coaster the idea of a California winter at one time was a laughable idea.  But now I see that, although subtle, the seasons here command humility as well.  In fact, the wintertime excites me.  It is far easier to make phone calls and sit in front of a computer when it is dumping rain. I am actually grateful for the respite to a degree.  

This week I finally got our volunteer Joel Scott to let me take his photo for the blog.  We're really pumped that he's so enthusiastic and eager to get his hands dirty.  His help during this week's harvest was invaluable as city farming proves to be more and more consuming.  An extra set of hands is almost always welcome.  I hope that he continues to stay around when it is time to prune the trees.  There are several overgrown shrubs and one tree in our garden that needs some careful attention.  (anyone out there a good arborist? we could use help with our pruning) We have a bougainvillea that has dominated the back 16Th of the space.  It is time for a trim.  Although beautiful, its pedals coat our lettuce beds.  Luckily it seems it doesn't really care when you prune it.  So I imagine we'll be doing that pretty soon.  

In other news we have maybe secured at least one more garden for Amyitis.  We'll keep you updated about things as they move along with it.  Hopefully we'll be able to start work there in the coming weeks.  

Link of the week
This week I had to spread the word about one of my favorite companies.  Although I generally don't love the idea of advertising for a company, this one for sure gets my seal of approval.  For those of you unfamiliar with Paul Stamets, he's a brilliant mycologist out of Northern Washington.  In addition to growing mushrooms and running a retail operation called Fungi Perfecti he's also a world renown researcher, speaker, author, and environmental activist.  Talk about busy!! He may be one of the more brilliant scientists I have ever heard and therefore I am excited to promote his wares.  Go to and check it out for yourself.  This week Paul will be here in SF speaking at the SF Green Fest.  Be sure not to miss him this Saturday November 15th.  His knowledge, wisdom, and motivation are contagious.  



p.s. we're still looking for back yards, rooftops, porches, and any potential growing space here in the mission.  Spread the word!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fall Back

 What's new:
As fall time truly sets in around the Bay area and rains begin to fall we're seeing the big changes we were expecting at the garden.  The end of a season is exciting.  It paves way for new ideas and fills us with inspiration.  It provides opportunity for improvement by forcing us indoors to reflect on the season.  
In the case of Amyitis, it provides opportunity for us to think about expansion.  We've had such a great response to our call for more space.  Marcia at gave us a shout out that has produced some amazing results.  Already we've had a large group of people excited about sharing their space.  So, thankfully, as our garden grows more and more dormant over the winter we'll be free to plant and prepare more gardens for next season.  For now, I will be going from space to space to see what we can grow there.  Our 22ND street garden has shown us that it receives amazing summertime light but the surrounding houses block a lot of light in fall.  As the sun drops toward the horizon, in a city especially, all spaces will have these kinds of issues.  Our task this winter is predict what will do best in each space.  I now know that our 22ND street garden will be great for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and salad in summer and then continue to produce great looking salad all the way through November.  We'll still have to see about what will grow (if anything) over the winter.  I've planted a lot of salad mix and head lettuce with hopes that it will survive the low light times that lay ahead.  I am also experimenting with growing some culinary mushrooms in some of the shady areas around the yard.  Anyone with sawdust or wood chips out there? Come find us.  

Veggies in Action:
We've had a fun time with our veggies.  Every time we bring them to Weird Fish we are so excited to see them in action.  It is pure satisfaction to look at a plate with something you grew 5 city blocks away looking back up at you in such a beautiful display.  If I might wax poetically for a second, greens may be some of the most elegant food to eat.  They really tie any dish together and can easily become the focal point.  We had some fun with some of our 22ND street mizuna at a party we threw for a friend's birthday.  Above are some pictures of what we prepared for the event.  We topped some crackers with pureed steamed beets we'd gotten at Rainbow with some local chevre.  We then set them atop a sprig of our mizuna and topped it off with a thin slice of scallion.  Delicious!! The result was a slightly sweet, lightly cheesy, spicy little bite.  They were really easy to make and a hit at the party.  

Link of the week: 
A blog follower turned us on to this really cool link about someone named Fritz Haeg who has started a project called Edible Estates.  It looks very similar to what we are doing.  Here is the link Edible Estates.  As we've said before, we are so inspired by anyone doing this work.  The whole reason for doing this work is that it needs to be done for us to truly move to be more sustainable as a culture.  If we are to create cultural and environmental change it needs to start with ourselves.  We're excited to hear about anyone doing something similar to what we are doing.  Keep it up!! Support it!! Get involved!!!



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Space Hunter

It is becoming more and more clear to me and Jessie that we simply need more space.  After all, more space= more food.  While being eternally grateful for the space we were given, it is simply not enough to really make the kind of dent we're hoping to make in the restaurant alloy.  With that now said, I do know that there is a way to make this happen without becoming a full scale farm.  With our garden project we intend not to sustain a restaurant entirely, but merely HELP to sustain a restaurant.  I have yet to be convinced that we need to move to the sticks.  All around me, in this city, there are spaces.  There are unused spaces that need food, and lots of food.  What if we all changed the way we thought about usable space? What about tearing up that inedible sod for a little arugula? I am sure that there are many San Franciscans with un- or underused spaces.  All we really need is a little more than we've got to really make things cook!  
So now we're putting out our feelers and looking for space.  We ideally would like to find people that have unused space that they would be comfortable donating.  I mean landscaping anyone?  Not to mention front row seats to the ever-expanding food sustainability movement.  In exchange for the space, the donors would have a weekly share of veggies and potentially some deals at the restaurants we serve.  Now that is community! a direct link between producers, farmers, and restaurants. 
So help us out.  We need all the community we can get.  IF you have space you'd donate, or know of space that is up for grabs, email us (email).  

Fighting with Phood!!!
And now a word from our sponsors.  Phood Fight Inc. is a company started by Peter Hood of Weird Fish, St, Francis Fountain, and Boogaloos.  The  Amyitis garden was initially funded by Phillip Bellber and Carolyn Blair but now Phood Fight is the company helping us to keep things going.  In a way Phood Fight manages the way these restaurants use their products.  We intend to insure that our restaurants are using the greenest and most sustainable solutions to restaurant materials and food.  Look at it as Green Management if you will.  We'll keep you posted on how it moves along.

I have decided to  add a link of the week.  We'll post links that we like related to local food related resources.  

This week we liked  Tablehopper is a really cool website for Bay area foodies, farmers and restaurateurs alike.  Check it out and find a new place to grub!!



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A little help from my friends

Now back from my epic journey, I have once again plunged into the garden with about as much abandon as I can muster.  Thanks to Jessie, the garden looks and feels lush and vibrant.  The rows that she planted are thriving in a prosperous fashion and are delicious.  Weird Fish, (18th and Mission) started by former Boogaloos Manager Timothy Holt and Boogaloos G.M. Peter Hood, has been buying the veggies from the garden wholesale as a way to cover our costs.  There is still some experimentation required to get the financial kinks worked through.  Getting costs covered during a start-up year for a garden is tough.  There are many little expenses, even when we are using a lot of recycled and found material for construction.  I'd say though that we are off to a good start.  The real challenge will be our first winter here in the garden.  Not knowing how much we'll be able to produce may lead us to be even more creative.  Only time will tell.  

It is becoming clear to me as this project grows how much we need community support.  Even with a small garden, we need all the hands we can get.  Holding down day jobs and producing food for restaurants is a tall order.  There never seems like enough hours in the day.  Luckily, we have the interest of some potential volunteers.  Each week we'll be welcoming the help of local volunteers to help with things like weeding and maintenance.  Boogaloos employee Joel Scott came out to help us this week with his pickup truck.  He helped me move organic debris and trash from the space as well as collect some wooden pallets.  We'll be using the wood from the pallets to build a compost bin.  Hopefully we'll use red worms to most efficiently compost the organic refuse.  More on that later. 

Go on down to Weird Fish to sample this week's harvest; Baby salad greens with Arugula and Mizuna, wild green onions, Baby Tat Soi and Baby Russian Kale.

Wish us luck


Saturday, September 13, 2008

The vision

The very tiny community that has already grown up around this garden project has been really exciting. I'm amazed at the number of conversations I've had with people about what we are doing, considering that the garden is in someone's backyard- not exactly a very high profile spot. More exciting still, is how interested those people have been, and how willing to help. I have a growing list of volunteers- I only wish that we had a bigger space so that we could put all this energy to good use! From the tenants of the building, to the business owners downstairs, to the neighbor whose fence isn't too tall to see over, to the employees of the restaurants to complete strangers that engage me in conversation as I walk down the busy city street with armloads of salad greens, or shovels and compost- everyone has been really enthusiastic. And that has just been filling me with such joy lately.

The only thing that hasn't been bringing me joy in regards to this garden is the way the lettuce is growing, or in this case, not growing. I think that the seeds we have are not quite right for this climate but unfortunately, as things go with gardening, problems usually take a few weeks (at least) to identify and then attempt to rectify. So, the salad mix is heavier on the arugula and baby kale than I would ideally have it, but thankfully, those are some of nicest I've ever grown.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Harvest!
Today was an exciting day. I got up early to go harvest before the strong September sun wilted all the tender baby greens. Luckily,  the yard stays pretty shady throughout the morning, so I had ample time. I had been anxious that we wouldn't be able to harvest enough at once from our small space to make it usable for a busy restaurant. But the dense planting was deceiving and in the end, I delivered 5 large, and full, bags! Hooray! And, I must say- they were beautiful greens. The insects haven't found us yet- one of the benefits of growing food amongst a whole lot of pavement. So, I was thrilled and skipped down the street with my delivery. From farm to table in under 5 minutes- not too bad.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Things are really looking up here at Amyitis. We've been having a hot spell in the city and the plants are cruising right along. I'm looking forward to the first harvest in the coming week or so and hoping that I can pull enough from this little patch to be able to bring a substantial amount to the restaurant next week. I'm wondering if I should have just planted the whole space at once- I'll just have to wait and see as this experiment goes on.
I've been juggling jobs and whatnot as Dave is now navigating the islands of B.C. on his bicycle- with grasses and weeds starting to sprout in this reconditioned soil (they weren't there when we started. Their ability to lie dormant until the conditions are right just amazes me) I've been quite busy. But it felt great, as I stood in the garden today, to look around and see things coming along. 

Friday, August 22, 2008

what's the big deal??

I thought it was about time to mention some of our motivation for constructing and cultivating a garden like Amyitis.  I hope that as people become interested in the project that they simultaneously become familiar with our intentions, our inspiration, and what has educated us.  With any luck, our work here may become an inspiration to others wanting to make a conscious change in their community and our environment.  
It has become clear to me that the earth that we live on will continue to develop and change as an organism regardless of how we treat it.  However, if we are to sustain animal and plant life for ourselves, change needs to happen continually anywhere it can take hold.  In other words, the earth would be just fine without us, but we would not be fine without it.  While, as a culture, we often look for set-it-and-forget-it solutions, it has become clear that fostering these imperative environmental and social changes requires constant experimentation, communication, and creativity.  In the simplest of terms, there are no blanket solutions to global issues.  We must treat diverse issues with diverse solutions, drawing upon local resources to create local responses.  Organic farms that still use techniques like mono cropping  are no more sustainable simply because they hold the title "organic".  The greatest change can happen in the smallest of ways, little by little, locally.  Our hope with Amyitis is to participate in this local change.  
Will something like Amyitis really help?  Are restaurants really able to be environmentally sustainable enterprises?  We can only hope so.  There is always the chance that we may find out that a deeper reorganizing of the way that we live is necessary for us to thrive.  For now, we hope that Amyitis and other farms, gardens, co-ops, community centers, and restaurants begin these changes one step at a time, creating a wave of change over time.  If we are able to inspire others with our work, real change has a chance.  
  What are the benefits of small, local farms and gardens? There are almost too many to mention. While there is a rapidly growing catalog of reference material describing the benefits of actions like Amyitis, there are also a few simple reasons.  
  1. We are becoming a community resource.  By having Amyitis attached to a local restaurant we are becoming a source of information for the community.  
  2. We have control over what we produce and what goes into it.  We don't use petrochemicals or chemical fertilizers.
  3. We are beginning to invite volunteers to help us, making Amyitis an educational tool.   
  4. We have created new green space.
  5. We have taken a small step towards sustaining ourselves.
We would like to encourage all of our readers to do their homework.  There are so many books and magazines dedicated to educating all of us around how to best change our world for the better.  Here are a couple places to start:

"The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. The Penguin Press.
"Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets. Ten Speed Press
"The Fatal Harvest Reader" Edited by Andrew Kimbrell. Island Press.
"Toolbox for Sustainable City Living" Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew. South End Press.
"The New Organic Grower" Eliot Coleman. Chelsea Green Publishing.

We also encourage your comments as readers of this blog.  We want to hear about things that have worked for you or your community.  We are in the process of learning how to create the best solutions with the environment we have.  Use this blog as a forum for sharing information about creating this change!!

Jessie will be doing most of the new posts for the next month as I am off touring the west coast on my bicycle.  You can follow that blog at and watch us as we ride through some of the U.S.'s most majestic terrain.  



Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Well, the first few weeks of gardening here have been somewhat challenging- a learning experience, I suppose.  I am accustomed to planting into soil that has been worked by other hands before mine. Soil with organic matter and nutrients and the possibility of getting a shovel into it. At least a digging fork. Well, it took a little more work than that. But after hours of pick axes, a rented roto-tiller, and many, many pounds of organic compost and soil amendments, David and I thought that we had everything in shape. 
So, in the beds that David laid out we planted our first seeds. We are growing mostly salad greens, as they produce a fairly large quantity in a short span of time, and from them we could get the most from this piece of land. In went a variety of lettuce seeds, and lots of mustards to make the salad mix more interesting; mustards like red russian kale, arugula, tatsoi, and mizuna. Taking turns watering every day, we quickly got discouraged. Almost nothing came up! I have been farming and gardening for years and that has never happened to me. At first we couldn't figure out what we had done and entertained all sorts of ideas of what had gone wrong- bad seeds, damaged in shipping, too sunny, not sunny enough? But slowly David and I started to put the pieces of this puzzle together.  
We remembered that when we started this garden a few weeks before, there hadn't really been any signs of life at all. No weeds, even- just blackberries and a few tufts of Bermuda grass.  That was a flag to me at the beginning, though I hadn't thought of it too much after we began working the soil. And then one day, after watering for nearly an hour, I stuck my hand into the dirt and realized that the soil just half an inch below the surface was still bone dry. It was a strange experience. The water wasn't running off into the walkway that runs alongside the beds- so it was certainly going somewhere.  Later that evening, we deduced that given the compaction of the soil, any rain that had fallen on it in the past year (few years?) had simply run off its solid surface. As this is California in August, the last rain to have landed here was well over 6 months ago! In the end, it was a very simple matter of buying an overhead sprinkler and watering it for a couple of hours a day for a few consecutive days. I was slightly frustrated that such a simple conclusion took a few days to come to- but thats why I say that this is an experiment with a great learning curve. Never before have I started with land that no one had really been actively working. I'm learning a lot.
Anyway, what an amazing change the consistent overhead watering has made. Seeds that we had long given up on have sprouted, the soil feels healthier, is retaining moisture and looks dark and rich. Things are sprouting up everywhere and I'm trying to keep up with planting new things and thinking about a garden plan for the next month and a half when David is away on a long journey on his bicycle.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


After working out the plans for the garden and ordering the seed, the search was on for how to make the garden fit the design we had made, and on the cheap.  Thanks to Internet posts and classified ad. sites like craigslist, finding used, salvaged, cheap or free items is easier than it has ever been.  For a small scale development project like this, a site like craigslist can provide almost anything you need to fit your budget provided you have the time to go around and get it.  So far we've been able to balance our time and the resources provided to us to search around the web for deals.  I found a yard sale post for some pre-owned flagstone about an hour south in San Jose.  I was lucky enough to able to borrow Pete's van to go down and grab it with Omar, a coworker of mine at Boogaloos.  The downside to searching high and low for bargains is that one may end up wasting a great deal of time searching for the perfect fit at the loss of productive work hours at the site.  When first arriving at the "yard sale" I was skeptical that we'd driven all the way down there for                                                                           nothing.  The seller was unable to provide a great description over the phone.  I really didn't know what to expect.  I suppose I half expected a pile of stone ready for hauling, but when we arrived it was something slightly different.  The stones were still embedded in the ground around her yard forming a rough pathway to her porch.  But, they were "for sale", so away we dug.  Scraping away clumps of mud slugs and ants from the undersides of the flagstone added an interesting twist to the purchase.  With the help of the seller's neighbor (she wasn't even there- we only talked by phone) we piled the stones in the van and named our price.  $70 for the load (about a half pallet in all) seemed like a good enough deal.  They were thick stones that looked as though they would clean up well. There looked as though there were enough small ones to fill out the plans I had drawn.  Stone yards and landscaping centers charge ¢.15 to ¢.50 per pound for flagstone.  Our plundering saved us a good deal of cash.  Not to mention that they were nicely worn unique pieces of stone. Once laid out and cleaned, the stones looked great and were perfect for the design we'd thought up.  For $70 or $80 dollars and a 4 hours, we now had a finished pathway  and mini-patio that made for easy access beds and a garden worth looking at.    Beds made, its is time for some planting.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Introducing Amyitis

If you've been to San Francisco in the last 5 years, chances are good that you've been to the Mission District. Over the past 10 years the Sunny Mission district has undergone huge changes that have made it a burgeoning hot spot for city tourists and locals alike. The Mission is increasingly becoming the freshest reference point for popular and alternative youth culture, music, art, and cuisine. And, with the growth of the district in full effect, some of the cornerstone businesses responsible for that growth are starting to ask "how do we do this consciously"? After all, in an age where energy and resources are at a premium, these questions are becoming not only imperative to ask, but also imperative to answer. Amyitis gardens are a response that we came up with to start to think outside of the box truck.

The ideas of city farming and urban gardening for a restaurants are by no means new ideas. It is not uncommon for high-end food establishments to source locally or even from there own gardens. Urban restaurant gardens are sprouting up here in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland as well as places like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The High-end pioneers of this gardening movement have created a necessary awareness of the need for this type of food reform but the next frontier is making it accessible and affordable for owners and patrons alike. In cities, clean gardening space that can produce enough for a restaurant is often at a premium. Amyitis is being created from the lucky confluence of the ability, space, and resources to make something like this happen and, with any luck, make it affordable.

The Space
Owners of Boogaloos Restaurant (22ND and Valencia) Phillip Bellber and Carolyn Blair entrusted the use of the back yard one of their residential properties for the creation of Amyitis to me (David Stockhausen) and my partner Jessie Alberts. In cooperation with the buildings tenants, the relatively unused back yard space underwent the 1st phase of transformation to becoming a food producing garden. After having the dry lifeless soil tested for harmful pathogens or heavy metals we began rehabbing the soil and drawing up a plan. We first had to remove a lot of volunteer blackberries and Bermuda grass from the yard. The tenants had already removed a dead tree from the center of the yard and a days work from Phillip's son Sam got a lot of the bulk of the weeds out. Once a lot of the weeds and invasive grasses had been extracted we the had to break up the hard packed soil with a pick axe and hoe before we brought in the roto-tiller. Next (sorry neighbors for the smell) we brought in a couple yards of loam and blood meal fertilizer to begin to bring life to the soil.

It was a bit late by the time we had found out about the space. I had been talking at the restaurant about my background as an organic farmer in Vermont ad-nauseum for the past year and a half after I moved to San Francisco. Unaware that Phillip and Carolyn had the space, I would often push for us at Boogaloos to get a little greener and source things more consciously. One day late in May of 2008 A bell went off for Phillip I suppose, and he offered me the space. Jessie having been a farmer herself (and now working across the street in a neighboring cafe) I naturally insisted upon her involvement with the project. Phillip's excitement and enthusiasm was welcomed and was the right push to get us moving right away. With the peak growing season in California midway through already, starting a garden this late in the season considerably limited the variety what we ideally wanted to plant. We decided to stick to small baby greens such as baby salad, arugula, radish, kale and chard and some yellow squash, haricot beans, and specialty scallions for a start. Leafy greens are a good way to get started. They grow relatively quickly and produce a lot because you don't have to harvest the whole plant. With successive plantings we speculated we could get a consistent flow of good greens throughout the fall and winter seasons here in San Francisco. With seeds ordered it was time to start building beds.