Thursday, October 8, 2009

Phase Two

Okay, so I haven't gotten eggs yet, but I think we can safely say that phase one of project food, namely acquiring and establishing a flock of chickens, is complete. They are cute, and plumping up by the day...a fact that has not escaped the notice of the neighborhood predators. Thankfully, the flock is snug in Chicken-Itza, which, like its namesake, is very sturdily made. The big black stray cat found this out the hard way when she charged, head-first into the hardware cloth.  She staggered around for a few seconds, but then reclaimed her dignity.  You could almost see the word bubble form over her head:  "I meant to do that." 

I'm told that one of the three Grove Street Cooper's Hawks also tried the fortifications today, alighting on top of the run despite the fact that our neighbor was less than four feet away at the time.  Adrian charged the bird, but not before the hungry hawk discovered that the tender, tasty morsels were beyond her raptor reach. 

Haven't seen any raccoons yet, but they will come, I have no doubt. 

So, while Wild Kingdom has been playing out in the back yard, phase two of project food has taken place in the front. 

Let me back up. Remember when I hired and subsequently fired the backyardfood project to transform my ornamental yard into a food mecca?  Well, in August I found another outfit that did backyard food consulting.  But unlike the first outfit, they had a tangible web presence; you can check them out yourself on 

Anyway, after my initial consult with Dana and Michael, I was optimistic. Dana is a chef-turned-farmer, and Michael is a general contractor-turned-farm-creator. Seems like a great marriage of skills to me. As they were booked solid, I reserved the first available slot, which was almost two months away.  And why, you may ask, given my verbosity, is this the first you've heard about this?  Well, to tell you the truth, I didn't tell you guys about Dana and Michael because I'm still chagrined by the backyard food project debacle. I hated the idea that the same thing might happen, with myurbanfarm and I might have to fire them too. Far better, I decided to tell you guys about the fait accompli!

And so now you know. While I've been toiling away, serving my community on a criminal jury, Dana and Michael have been toiling away in my yard.  The first thing that they did, back at our initial consultation, was redirect my winter planting focus away from my backyard, to the front. This makes sense. Even in summer the backyard is part-to-full shade.  The front yard, by contrast, is full-to-part sun.  So if I have any hope of a winter crop, it has to be in front. 

I was a little nervous, because the front yard is so public...but I took a chance anyway.  And this time, the chance paid off.  

I made a diagram of which plants I loved and had to keep, and which ones were eligible for removal.  On Tuesday, while I listened to testimony, my two agents of transformation tore down part of my rotting redwood retaining wall, replacing it with beautiful stone drystack. They installed stair access, and stepping stones so that one could access all planting areas without needing to step on the soil for any reason.  On Wednesday, they tilled my soil, amended it, and set up my irrigation so that every spot got adequate water, but nothing got drowned.

When I arrived home at 4 o'clock yesterday, they were just finishing the hard parts. The structure of the yard was beautiful, prepared, and ready to plant.  Together, we planted the seedlings I'd been nurturing, and direct-sowed several new crops.  So they did all the intensive labor, and I got to do the fun part.  It was decadent, but so worth it!

In the spring, Dana and Michael will come back for phase 3.  They'll help me prepare for, and plant my summer crops.  They'll also plant the side of my house with easy producers, like raspberries, blackberries, and even blueberries, as well as build a couple of backyard raised beds for my summer greens.  

Next post, I promise pictures. Until then, send your good seed-sprouting juju my way!