Wednesday, June 22, 2011



So what do you picture when you think of heaven? Harp music and halos? Blissed out angels lounging around on clouds? How about a group of dirty, sweaty people greeting a truckload of horse manure with glee?

I volunteered at the Free Farm for the first time a few weeks ago and had a blast. I was a little worried ahead of time because I’m in terrible physical shape and I wasn’t sure I could do much of the work. My gardening experience mostly consists of killing any plants unfortunate enough to come under my care.

When I arrived, the greeter for the day wasn’t there yet, so I just wandered in, found Tree and introduced myself. He put me to work emptying some pots for reuse, then watering. That I can handle. Then I tried to push a wheelbarrow half full of dirt up the hill. I got some momentum and made a good start, but had to stop to rest half way up. Bad move. Before I knew it, the wheelbarrow was pushing me back down the hill. Another of the volunteers was quick to help me though, so I was saved the embarrassment of being flattened.

Once I made it up near the gate I weeded, raked, shoveled dirt, and added dirt to some empty pots. I had no trouble finding someone to help when I needed it, or to give me anther task or to chat with. I noticed how good the soil felt on my hands. There are so many textures and scents to take in, along with an abundance of color. A real feast for the senses.

Then the pickup truck arrived with a load of manure. I have never seen a group of people so excited about truck bed full of dung. My fellow workers cheered, literally. There is something wonderful about that. The site needs a lot of fertilizer to grow all the wonderful produce and flowers that come out of it. I pitched in pitching it down the hill and found myself thinking, I’m having great time shoveling manure, who knew?

We gathered for a delicious vegan lunch around noon then worked some more. After lunch some of us set up the Farm Stand. Herbs, lemons, chard, lettuce, tomatoes etc., free for anyone who wanted to take some.

I’ll admit that the next day I was a little sore. I had some of the chard I’d taken home for lunch and started to wonder if this is what heaven might look like: people volunteering to grow something good to eat, taking pleasure in the whole of the work, and outright delight in a load of fertilizer, supporting and helping each other, and then giving the fruits of their labor away to whomever asks for it.

If you’d like to come experience a little slice of heaven yourself, just come by the Free Farm at Eddy and Gough here in the City any time between 10 a.m. and 2p.m. and pitch in. You can stay the whole time or just part of the day. There’ll be someone there to show you what to do and give you a hand and a free lunch if you’re there around noon. Or just come by around 1:00 and pick up some fresh produce.

Drop me a line at or give me a call at 415-673-3572 for more information or to arrange to bring a group. I’d also love to talk to you if you have any horse manure you’d like hauled away.

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