This past fall I visited my new urban farming friend, Esperanza, at her pad in the Grand Lake neighborhood of Oakland. She has a blog, Pluck and Feather, and is currently working on a website called Farm Food Connect, an urban farm directory. It's kind of like the Yellow Pages of the movement. She's still trying to find backers for the project through Kickstarter, so if you can throw down a little for this great resource I'm sure it would be greatly appreciated.
As for her farm, what a gorgeous plot!
Every inch seemed to be packed with green things growing.
And what envy I had of her Day of the Dead marigolds!
It doesn't look it, but it really is in the city. See.
And here Esperanza is talking to a maintenance guy over the fence. When you farm in the city, you're always rubbing elbows with people in the neighborhood.
Aside from lush green veggie beds, Esperanza is currently raising bees, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits for meat. This is Anabelle, her breeding doe who isn't known to be very friendly. Though, once I presented myself to her in rabbit language, nose to nose, we were instant buddies. Sometimes you just have to know how to talk to the bunnies.
Here's one of the lovely laying hens.
The turkey poults were quite a scrawny sight and had no indication of being ready for the winter holidays. That's because Esperanza raises her turkeys for the spring holidays, which is traditional in Mexican culture.
Speaking of culture, I think Esperanza and I spent most of our time discussing genealogy, Mexican heritage (my hubby's ancestors were from Sonora and Durango), and second generation immigrants rather than urban farming. It was a lovely visit topped off with some homemade scones, lemon curd, and proper chai. And not that Oregon Chai crap, which I don't even know how they can market as chai because it doesn't taste anything like it's supposed to. Esperanza's husband is Indian so she knows how to make the real deal. I went home with a full belly and a delicious, if not raging, caffeine high.
My next stop was to Kitty Sharkey's Oakland farm, Havenscourt Homestead. Wow, I have to admit that I am pretty envious of the amount of space she has for her goats. Kitty has four Nigerian Dwarfs, three sweet girls and one wether. As well as producing milk, she is training them to be therapy animals. Look at this pretty lady. Isn't she a beaut?
Her goats have some pretty adorable quirks. Nali, the herd queen, likes to rub up against your butt when you're laying in the hammock.
Did you notice her jewelry (wattles)?
Kitty's goats are a dream on the milk stand and she insisted that I give it a go with Nali so that I could know what it was like to milk a goat without taking a beating (Kitty is well aware of my milking issues as she was the first on the scene to help with Lucy's bad behaviors). And what a dream she was to squeeze! So easy that even my seven year old could do it like a pro in less than five minutes.
Kitty was also an excellent instructor.
Goats aren't the only creatures roaming around Havenscourt. There are a couple beehives on the roof of the garage,
a whole mess of chickens - this is one of the bantams,
some quail, soon-to-be meat rabbits, and painfully cute ducklings.
And even then she still has room for a veggie garden.
Kitty loaned me her bander to castrate Fred, but I guess we won't be needing that. If Fred could see the thick green rubber bands that could have potentially been wrapped around his manhood until it shriveled up into a floppy, leathery sack, I'm sure he would breath a sigh of relief. Kitty assures me it's not that bad.
You can find Kitty at Novella Carpenter's pop up farm stand selling her goat cheeses. Get there early as she sells out quick.