Wouldn't it be cool to live love life together?

dream and discuss the___(allogamy)______idea here

Notes from the Brainstorm on May 13th, 2011 May 23, 2011

In attendance: Clara, Phil, Lily, Ilyse

What follows are the rough notes from the whiteboard with some minor fleshing out. They are definitely NOT exhaustive, so comment away and add MORE FLESH!!

Found this by googling "happy farm." It was like the only picture that wasn't of Farmville.

Mission Statement Brainstorm:

-awesome people necessary

-chill house, chill people, chill space


-own mindspace

-place to have a career

-community of people

-Life as Art

-mundane as art, day to day life as art

-sharing resources

-especially occasional use stuff

-mutual reliance

-sharing work

-community interface

-still have privacy

-public/space vs. private space

-perhaps a system where there are times of the year that are private, or parts of the property that are designated as public/priate spaces

-beautiful place, safe, ease, people

-commitment, flexibility, empowerment

-hoard of children in the woods

-life I’m not ashamed of!


-how outward facing do we want it?

-naturally built


-trees and flowing water

-somewhere between rural and urban

-creating IC neighborhood

-“I look around and I don’t see anything I want to join, so I want to make it!”

-sister communities

-founding a nation


-how much food are we going to grow?

-integrating gardening practice into daily life

-clear communication in expectations and responsibilities

-globally-recognized institute

-of living, of exploring, of community

-open spaces and sprawling property with paths, sculptures/sculptural structures, and sites for gathering, meditation, exploration


Flower Clock July 15, 2010

Filed under: Art,Energy,Examples,Garden,Vision — serif @ 9:27 am

In 1751 Carl Linneaus designed a clock that was made entirely of living flowers that open and close at predictable times. The clock garden was accurate to within 30mins.


“FARMS: Food, Art, Relationships, & Food — Sustainably!” May 17, 2010

I stumbled upon this website today called Farmer Jane that spotlights women making changes in the food system. The one they are featuring this week is Molly Rockamann, who at 28 is in charge of EarthDance farms in Missouri: “The mission of EarthDance is to grow and inspire locals FARMS–Food, Art, Relationships, & Food–Sustainably!”

Here’s a snippet of the article/interview that speaks to one my particular agendas:

“…I have dreams of our farm (and other farms) being not only a center of food production but also of art and music production. We’ve started to show our artistic side in small ways, like doing a community mural painting to install on the farm, and hosting a small outdoor concert there. Eventually I’d like to create an artist-in-residence and musician-in-residence program, where in exchange for living on the farm (and eating our veggies) they’d host free workshops for the youth in the neighborhood and contribute a lasting piece of art to the farmscape. I’d also love to re-construct an old barn on the property and use the space to host concerts, workshops, and barn dances! Once we’ve really built a solid foundation for the organization in Ferguson, where we’re currently farming and running an apprenticeship program, I want to help start organic farming training centers/cultural celebration centers in other parts of the world.”



Extension office May 8, 2010

Contacting your local extension office can lead to lots of information specific to the ecosystems in your county. Also- for those who wish to learn about gardening they have links and info concerning the master gardener program. Following is a link for the San Francisco County Extension Office:


On a completely different note, I have been touring different properties in the Shenandoah mountain area (a subset of the Appalachians). Criteria have included walking access to water (such as lakes or rivers), being an hour or less driving distance from my current location, and roughly one acreage of property. For future reference, a 3 bedroom two story house can be purchased for 70 grand and plain lots on the smaller side for as little as 5 thousand!

Wells seem like an interesting concept that I haven’t though to much about however, they typically require permission from the local health department.


Californiaaaah: Golden Nectar and Beyond April 25, 2010

Let me just say this up front: I can’t believe how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful, beautiful state. Well, actually, that’s misleading. I haven’t really ventured further south than Castroville (artichokes!), or further north than Mendocino (Laurences!), but what I have seen has never failed to awe me. What is more breathtaking than the California coast? What? Maybe it is the fact that I grew up in Michigan, whose lakes though they are “Great” are a far, far cry from ocean, and whose terrain though gloriously abundant with trees is a bit topographically challenged. Vistas and views were not something I really knew existed for folks in their everydays; I thought they were relegated to special trips and rewards at the end of long hikes or just something they had in Europe. So, naturally, there is no part of rambling around Highway One and Sonoma county that is not breathtakingly gorgeous and stimulating, and our farm/coast tour was just that. The fact that there are so many farms and happy, grazing animals, the fact that people really LIVE here and work the land, and the fact that it is SO CLOSE to our  current residence is both deeply reassuring and something that makes me question why I live in an urban center.

So, Golden Nectar. Phil gave a wonderfully extensive overview of the place, so I would like to offer just a few more impressions of it. I love the fact that this “farm” is first and foremost a home. They were lucky enough to stumble into a couple of acres that were already fairly established, with an already-fruiting orchard, the infrastructure for vines and grapes, and a gorgeous A-frameish house (not so good with technical architecture terms) with a giant trellised patio (from which there is a beautiful view, of course). This brings a lot of questions to mind about the type of land you want to start out with. It is wonderfully romantic to start from scratch, be the master of your own destiny, relinquich the status quo of the built environment and create something truly new and unique. Especially when your intentions to set out on your own land in the first place is to see what a life looks like when it starts as close to zero as possible. But a place like Golden Nectar shows that this is something that would take more time, money, and effort than we may have, and could very realistically have way worse results.  Just because you built it yourself doesn’t mean it’s good, right? And if you move somewhere with already fruiting trees, well, you have fruit right away. At least for Golden Nectar, they seem to have hit the jackpot, and this layout is perfectly suited for their needs. There is enough space to grow a little bit of everything (and I mean everything), enough space to recreate, enough space for other guests and friends to come stay and work for varying stints of time, and enough room for DUCKS AND CHICKENS.  Wait, that warrants its own paragraph.

We all knew that chickens were fabulous. I personally love to cluck at them (with them?)  and chase them around. Ana (to whom Golden Nectar belongs) even referred to their little pen as Chicken TV, because you can sit around and watch those silly beauties all day, and man, do they have some splendid varieties. BUT DUCKS. I mean, I knew you could keep ducks, but I did not know they were SO AMAZING. Ana has three big, beautiful, she-ducks. They have a teeny coop that you keep them in at night, and then they lay their egg (every day!) at around 9AM or so, and you let them out. Yes, you let them out at 9AM. They roam around their WHOLE property all day, and then it is easy to round them up into their coop in the evening because that is when/where you feed them. And these three ducks happened to be the sweetest little ducks ever. They wandered around in a troop to every spot in the garden, here and there, all day. They even hang out with the chickens, because some of them were raised together! These ducks are also very communicative, and shake their little tails in unison whenever you quack at them. (The chickens were into bock-bocking as well, but no tail shaking.) And get this: the ducks don’t fly away! Ana has her chickens’ wings clipped, or at least one of their wings clipped so they fly in a circle and don’t get anywhere. But the ducks, who are actually migratory animals and quite adept at flying are so gosh-darned happy that they DON”T LEAVE.

We could also call this post “Holy Shit, I Really Love Farm Ducks.”

Golden Nectar was such a warm, inviting, and amazing place, the perfect synergy of home and farm. The layout with the garden and farm surrounding the house makes for an environment for really living in and sharing, not just production. They definitely do have a quite a yield every year and sell a lot of it at farmer’s markets. But this seems to be because it is such an abundant space; this is not a “commercial farm” in the traditional sense. It is a space for sharing. I know Ana mentioned having workshops out there, at the very least natural building workshops, which is how their strawbale guest house and earthen oven were produced. A place like this is so wonderful that you can’t keep it to yourself, and it is illuminating even to walk around in, which is why it is so amazing of Ana to open up Golden Nectar to the “public” for tours and such. This is an important aspect of intentional community, which branches to the importance of the physical space you choose to inhabit. You become an example of a way to live, and having an inviting, open space means you can share that example with others. Just how you relate to those others and the world is up to you; it can range anywhere from inviting spectators to watch your life fishbowl style to inviting collaborators and worktraders to washing your guests’ feet spiritual-style to just having open land that is free for people to wander around in. The relationship between your community and the world at large is essential in determining your vision and mission statement, even if (especially if) you decide to completely remove yourself from “society.” I like the idea of inviting and allowing for a wide spectrum of visitors, members, and friends, a non-exclusive invitation that treats all of us humans as would-be collaborators, teachers, and students.

I’ve got more to say, but Lord knows this is getting long. Suffice it to say that I feel like a lucky duck myself for living here and loving you guys. Quack quack.


Golden Nectar Farm April 16, 2010

Filed under: Animals,Architecture,Food,Garden — indorfpf @ 6:33 pm

Went to Golden Nectar Farm this past Wednesday (http://www.goldennectar.com/about.html). The experience was great. Trip started with a tour of the place, then progressed to doing some farmwork, and ended with a splendid lunch and meeting of the neighbors.

Was introduced to yomes* which are hybrids between yurts and dome-like structures. Would be nice to check out how these compare to yurts in terms of cost, space, etc. She showed an example of her henmobile which she uses to move her chicken flock around so that their droppings will be spread to where it is needed and so that they don’t irrevocably tear up any one part of the property. She had a strawbale building built over 2-2.5 years by volunteers from a local farming college. It had a living roof than was held in by pond liner… this material kept the moisture from the living roof from invading the strawbale ceiling. When choosing plants for a living roof stick to succulents and other plants that do not need a lot of nutrients or a lot of soil depth. Ana’s soil depth for her living roof is less than one inch. There was also an outdoor cob kitchen with a pizza oven. Principles of energy conservation with the oven was interesting. When starting it up you plan ahead what you will make all day, pizzas first, then breads, then roasts, etc. *Would be interesting to research cob vs. strawbale construction. Her house was ready built when she bought the property. She added solar panels to her roof which dials down her electricity costs to 300 dollars a year. When she reshingled her roof, she used shingles made from melted down vinyl which otherwise would stay in a junkyard for time indefinite. *Solar technology is also interesting as it has been applied to such things as cookers, dehydrators, and beeswax molders. Also had a playground with attached 2nd floor playhouse. Big shed made from poles and tarp is planned to be turned into a barn eventually.

She has a dozen or so hens and three ducks. While male poultry are useful for propagating the animals their aggression makes them more annoying to handle and worrisome to have around children. The necessary outdoor water for the ducks is supplied through a working fountain and a small pond no larger than a living room carpet. Chickens are of varying breeds and have no trouble cohabitating. They generally lay one egg each a day and stay enclosed by fence and coop. Their instinct to roost in trees is inhibited by clipping their flight feather on one of their wings. *I do not recall how often ducks lay eggs. They require no clipping and are allowed to roam the land as they see fit.

The backyard is split into several sections. Nestling right next to the house is the kitchen garden which supplies readily edible food that is easily accessed. Along the connected fenceline is the receiving/storage station (for such things as mulch, manure, straw), beehive area (seems to be homemade, standard type beehive), worm bin, and plant nursery. Nursery is used both to replenish annual plant crop and to create commodities. Interesting note: the nursery used to be a greenhouse but for whatever reason was taken down. In its place still-processing compost is placed in garden boxes and pots are placed above. The heat generated from the compost serves to heat the baby plants. Specifically in this case Ana used grape vines which prefer warmer temperatures below and cooler temperatures above.

The bulk of the backyard was split among the orchard, the protected veggies, the vine area and the secret garden. The secret garden is where the pond is located and has several rows that are more or less lying fallow as there is a mint infestation. Fava beans were planted as tiller crops. Side note- all of the fava plant can be consumed and doing so while working is highly enjoyable. “Tilling” is a several stage process. First the plants are cut using a weed whacker and left where they lay (assuming there is no weed infestation otherwise that must be addressed first). Next clippers are used to cut them into pieces about 4 inches in length. A layer of straw is placed on top. Manure crests the whole operation. Also in the secret garden is one example of Ana’s specialty compost pile that requires no turning. *Unfortunately I do not recall the details regarding this low maintenance concept.

The vine area is called so as it is inhabited by similar constructs as are prevalent on wine land. Kiwis grow here and possibly grapes.

The protected veggie area is named after the netting that surrounds both the vertical perimeter and the top. The veggies here are numerous. This is also where the berries grow. The netting serves as physical protection from birds and presumably wild mammals.

Another type of preventive aid is the use of shimmery pieces of foil-like material that is wrapped around orchard branches. In addition to being a deterrent to birds, it can be quite pleasing to the eye and a healthy addition to one’s artistic visions (made me think of those Tibetan and Native American prayer flags which I find neat). The orchard was also part of the property when it was purchased and was revitalized and morphed by Ana. Fruit trees that were not doing so well were taken out and replaced. Groups of same fruit trees were diversified into different breeds. Much use of grafting.

Grafting is freaking cool! You slice off a thin branch of the parasitic plant. You find a larger stump on the mother tree and make a deep cut down the diameter of the stump. Then the branch is placed within the cut, between the bark and the trunk. Try to graft several times in multiple areas as some grafts may not take. If you are lucky, all new growth from that stump will be the same variety as the branch graft! Doing this can turn old trunk stumps into new flowering trees, can produce trees that have multiple breeds of a fruit to help cross-pollinate, or you can make a monster franken-tree that has all kinds of fruit growing on it! Freaking neat! Also apparently, farmers hold grafting conferences where they give and trade away grafts from their trees. This makes pruning season a lot more fun and interesting! P.S. Ana also prunes the tops of all her trees every year so that the fruit produced is all easily reached by hand.

The day ended with a hand picked lunch which was absolutely delectable and a meet and greet with some neighbors and friends who stopped by with some food and stories to tell. Absolutely amazing. I will never forget it!



Notes: San Mateo Beekeeper’s Guild March 27, 2010

Filed under: Food,Garden — indorfpf @ 4:03 pm

Let me just preface by giving my thanks to the San Mateo Beekeeper’s Guild for their free introductory lesson and for inviting us to it. The transcription of my notes to blog will be with minimal editing, so it may be a bit haphazard.

Bees need three things to survive: nectar, pollen, water. They communicate mainly through use of pheromones (can be blocked using smoke) and the “waggle dance” which mainly serves to help drones communicate location of resource pile. Type of resources heavily affects flavor of honey.

Uses for bees include their ability to pollinate yards, produce honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen. Honey can be used as food or for folk remedies. Beeswax can be melted, strained, and molded into candles, beauty products, soap. It is mainly harvested in the growth phase of the honeycomb. Propolis is a sticky substance produced by bees that serves as a type of glue connecting comb to some foundation. It has some folk remedy application, such as an antiseptic. Royal jelly is a chemical that when applied to bee larvae will produce a new queen. Practical uses research? Pollen can be eaten. Keep in mind that beekeeping can be combined with beer brewing to make MEAD which is absolutely delicious.

HIVE ACTIVITY. Bees do not leave the hive when the outside temperature is below 50 degrees. Keep this in mind when choosing location for future farm. Brood chamber is the lower part of a standard beehive and contains the queen and food that will not be harvested but left for the bees so that they can be self sustaining. Lowest, highest bee populations- Around winter solstice bee pop can be around 10000 and skyrocket to 80000 during the summer months (may be particular to San Mateo weather). If the weather gets too hot the wax in the beehive will melt = BAD. Swarm is natural reaction of hives when it becomes too overpopulated. This results first in extra pop of bees swarming around hive. These bees particularly aggressive. After a time swarm may result in a splitting of a hive. Splitting a hive means that another queen is produced and sent off to start a new hive elsewhere, with spare bee pop in accompaniment. Splitting can be used to start a hive naturally from a wild hive as opposed to ordering bees in the mail. Time of year also affects type of honey production. Mid-March or spring honey produces a lighter honey and mid july produces summer honey which is darker.

ARTIFICIAL HIVE CONSTRUCTION. Generally pretty boring stuff. Research “California hive”. Make sure if bought separately that your parts are interchangeable. Consists of frame, foundation, boxes, bottom board, queen excluder, cover. Also optional stuff like pollen collector. Foundation can be made of natural wax or plastic (more effective). Make boxes out of water resistance glue (such as gorilla glue or tight bond) and nails.

Bees will have to make honeycomb prior to making honey. Takes about 3 weeks to due. Therefore, drawn comb, or comb that is still good and can be reused is highly prized. Comb does go bad when it turns blackish. Can feed bees if you so like by attaching a jar to the top of hive with 1 part sugar 1 part water. Only truly necessary at beginning or end of bee season when resources are scarce?

Do not paint inside of box. Outside latex works well. White works well for super hot temperature zones. Hive can weigh up to 200 pounds. Good idea to put on top of cinder blocks for easier access.

PLACEMENT. Place hive where it: has access to morning sun, where you can get to it, in inconspicuous places, where there is no wind like in a valley.

TOP BAR HIVE. A top bar hive, also called a Kenyan or Tanzanian hive, is built slightly different. In a sentence, the structure and upkeep are much simpler, but the amount and efficiency of resources gathered are lowered. In the typical hive the different compartments are physically separate and organized in a top down fashion. Kenyan hives start with a basic box with the open end facing up… the perimeter of the top serves as a foundation for strips or bars of wood to rest upon. Each piece of wood provides a starting point for the bees to construct comb while the width of the wood separates each strip enough so that the bees do not interweave the strips of comb together. The front third of the box serves as the brood chamber while the latter two thirds serve as harvest-able honey producing comb. Rule: leave at least half of the honey as food for the bees. Centrifugal force are not necesary. Honey can be harvested by sticking a whole strip of comb into a strainer, all within a bucket. Gravity over a week with pull it into the bucket. A wet towel overhead will keep bees from trying to retake the stolen wax and honey.

There are two entrances to a regular hive, one serves as an entrance and one serves as an exit. Air circulation is controlled by the bees to also follow this plan in order to help keep the hive cool and not melt the wax. This is useful when using a smoker as it should be placed by the entrance and not the exit.

Bees do not fly at night, so any work done on the hive should be attempted during the day. Opening hive also cools the inside of hive. Remember: when temperature goes below 50 degrees all the bees head back home.

Black comb occurs more frequently the nearer to the brood chamber you are. Caused by movement of bees. When there is more than sufficient nectar for the bees, the comb on the top layer will take a whitish hue. Research good plants and flowers to put around hive to flavor honey.

3/8 – 5/16 = “bee space”

You can tell what kind of bees by looking at the cells. Queens pupae hang off the bottom of the comb, are larger. Worker pupae fill the regular cell and cap off the top. Drone pupae are bigger than worker pupae and appear slightly raised in comparison to rest of the comb.

A bee escape attachment serves much like a queen excluder except it allows bees to place honey in one section but does not allow them to go back.