Free Winter Crop Starts for the Taking

If you need to get your winter crops in…

We’ve got lots of seedlings looking for homes in your plot. Take a look under the clochets (hoop houses) that Elizabeth and Shawn made at the seed planting party. There you’ll find Red Kale, Italian Kale, Chinese Kale, Broccoli Rab, and Mizuna, free for the planting.

Look underneath the Cloches

Bring a spoon, scoop ’em out, and plant them in your plot. We’ll be reseeding the flats throughout the Winter months, so please help yourself.


Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

Kubocha at the Farmers Market

Folks, we just made this soup tonight with Kobocha Squash from Carl’s organic Woodleaf Farm, and I can tell, you this is the best vegetarian soup I have ever eaten. Period. We used a blender to smooth out the texture at the end… and yes, we found ourselves licking everything the soup touched. Please try it (can be made with any winter squash) and let us know what you think.

Diners– Choose Your Squashes

Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

2 1/2 – 3 lbs winter squash
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for coating the squash
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
12 whole sage leaves, plus 2T chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
Chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and freshly milled pepper
2 cups water, or stock
1/2 cup Fontina, Pecorino, or Ricotta Salata, diced into small cubes

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Half the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the squash with olive oil, place garlic in the cavities, and place squash cut sides down on a baking dish. Bake until tender when pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes (60 minutes for large squash).

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and somewhat darker, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel and transfer the oil to a wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium high heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the squash flesh into the pot and pour in any juice that has accumulated in the baking dish. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and into the pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, add more water. Salt to taste.

Consistency: Different types of squash yield different textures. If you want a smoother or “creamy” texture, puree with a blender or food processor and return to low heat briefly before serving.

Serving: To serve, ladle into soup bowls and drop in the cheese cubes. Garnish with fried sage leaves and fresh ground pepper.

Squash Soup Tureen

Alternate serving suggestion: scoop out a large squash, reserving the cut out top. Ladle the soup into the squash “tureen,” cover with the top, and serve at the table.

Visionary Builds Tool Shed for “Cheaper Than Dirt” from The Berkeley Daily Planet

Link: Visionary Builds Tool Shed for “Cheaper Than Dirt” from The Berkeley Daily Planet.

Visionary builds tool shed for ‘cheaper than dirt’

By Tracy Chocholousek Special to the Daily Planet
Tuesday June 05, 2001

Four years ago Jim Cisney had a vision for the Northside Community Art Garden.

The garden, located along side the BART tracks on Northside Street, needed a tool shed, and he was interested in building a non-traditional structure.

“I was looking for something that was in my budget. I figured there’s nothing cheaper than dirt,” he said.

With the design and commitment of Berkeley architect John Fordice and the volunteer efforts of nearly 100 community members, including Cisney, a sustainable earth wall building called Troth was presented to the community Sunday at a dedication ceremony and potluck.

“What started as a dream became an obsession,” Fordice said. “Without the inspiration and energy of all those who came to help over the past three and one half years, this building would not have been possible.”

The name Troth comes from the word betrothal. Fordice chose the name to represent humanity’s faithfulness and commitment to the earth.

“It is dedicated to the spirit that we can do things in a way that is giving of ourselves to what the world really needs, rather than what we need,” Fordice said.

The tool shed was Fordice’s first successful large-scale cob construction. Cob is a mixture of earth, clay-bearing soil, sand and straw that when mixed together creates a natural cement. It makes up the walls of the dedicated structure at Northside Community Art Garden.

As an architect, Fordice says that although he enjoys his profession, it can be restrictive. This project provided a way for him to integrate art and eco-technology with his knowledge of architecture.

In 1995 he attended a workshop on building with cob in Oregon. Since then he has worked on a few small projects and is scheduled to construct a cob greenhouse at Malcolm X Elementary School in south Berkeley.

“Troth is the first full building that I was able to complete from the ground up,” Fordice said. “I want this to be accessible to everybody, but ultimately I want it to be accessible to me.”

Fordice said his goal is to make a living building with cob.

Atop the building’s sod roof, pink flowers bloom. Like welcoming, outstretched arms, two cob benches extend from the sides between which French doors swing open as the entrance into the shed.

And though the cob building does serve a purpose for the garden, many people see it as much more than just an ordinary tool shed.

“John has introduced cob into contemporary construction. Troth proves that shelter can be created out of the very earth upon which we stand,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio. “I have a hard time calling this a tool shed because to me it’s a work of art.”

Maio presented Fordice with two proclamations from the city, one in recognition of Fordice’s commitment to Troth and the other in honor of his role in “ rebirthing the art of cob construction.”

The dedication program included an extensive thank you list of contributors. In addition to dirt, numerous materials and contributions from the community were needed to fund the project that took about three years to complete. Raw materials and resources were donated by dozens of local and bay area businesses, the city and dedicated members of the Northside garden.

“I think Jim (Cisney)’s vision was that we all come together as a community in a big party. It was kind of a much longer haul than we expected,” said Eileen Theimer, project coordinator.

What was initially anticipated to take a few months, stretched into a few years due in part to poor weather conditions on the weekends. It took half a year to get a third of the mud wall up according to Theimer.

“This was a tremendous amount of work. Frankly, most of the gardeners got burned out. It was very demanding in terms of time and energy,” Cisney said.

But the hard work did not go unappreciated. About 200 people attended the dedication ceremony and brought food to participate in the potluck.

“The turnout was twice our expectations,” said Community Garden Commons Facilitator Karl Linn.

The Northside Community Art Garden is one of three gardens contained within the greater HopPer [now Westbrae] Commons. Along with Northside, the Karl Linn Garden and the Peralta Garden are all located within walking distance of one another at the cross-streets Hopkins and Peralta. Open to the public, the gardens provide a community space that can be reserved for various functions and used for gardening, relaxation, workshops, celebrations and neighborhood meetings.

Originally the property of BART, the city is currently leasing the land upon which the gardens exist.

“I’ve watched this land be transformed from a ratty lot into this magical garden,” said Laura Paradise. Paradise lives within walking distance of the garden and plans to hold a yoga class and poetry reading there next month.

More than 75 people hold annual memberships and share planter boxes throughout the three gardens. An annual membership is $15 per person.

“What makes this place unique is that people feel free to express themselves creatively, to feel acknowledged and supported in their creativity,” Linn said.

To volunteer, become a member, contribute art or plan an event contact Herb Weber, HopPer [now Westbrae] Commons Association coordinator, at 351-3075.

Pumpkin Harvest Party

Jane's Graphic Design Invitation to the Neighborhood

The “Pumpkin Harvest Party” took place on a beautiful sunny day on Oct. 16, 2011 at the garden. It provided an opportunity for the neighbors on Northside and Neilson street to come together with the members of the garden and celebrate the summer’s harvest.

Pumpkins in a Blue Wheelbarrow


"Scarerat" Out Standing in His Field

Face of the "Scarerat"

Detail of the "Scarerat"

The main attraction was of course our pumpkin patch with our new garden mascot…   “The Scarerat.”  The kids had fun sitting in the patch and getting there photo’s taken by their parents. They were then invited to harvest a pumpkin to take home.

Neil in Pumpkin Patch

Other activities for the kids included hay filled wheel barrow rides around the garden, bobbing for tiny red apples, and potato sack races. In the midst of all this activity, adults enjoyed sitting at our picnic table or on the hay bales, meeting and chatting with others from the neighborhood.

Marty Giving a Wheelbarrow Ride to Neighborhood Children

Neighborhood Children Bobbing for Apples

Everyone enjoyed tastes from the garden which included Jane’s crispy kale chips, Robin’s tomato basil goat cheese tart, pickled green beans, and pumpkin muffins (see recipe section).

All together the garden hosted to over 30 people, with some neighbors claiming they had never been inside the garden before. Overall comments were very appreciative and positive. Neighbors indicated their satisfaction with attending an event in their own neighborhood– not having to drive to one– and most of all, for having a chance to meet their neighboring community.

The event’s organizers felt this was an important function for the garden, and have expressed their desire to repeat it annually, with the additional help and input of the neighborhood.

Credit and Gratitude go to:

The Northside Garden Membership for allowing the pumpkins to be grown in the communal space.

Robin Sebourn (garden member & neighbor) planted and tended to the pumpkins, delivered fliers to neighbors, provided most of the food, drink, table decorations, hay bales, “Scarerat” supplies, apples and potato sacks.

Shawn Lovell (garden member & neighbor) drove with Robin to pick up the straw bales, created the “Scarerat” with Robin, provided the decorative archway entrance to the garden and gave countless wheelbarrow rides.

Jane Hambelton (garden member & neighbor) designed and paid for the flier, and made her crispy kale chips and Meyer lemon water.

Marty Mashlakian (garden member & neighbor) set up the party, provided music, and gave countless wheelbarrow rides.

Spicy Pickled Green Beans

Beans in the Jar

Yields 4 pint jars of pickled beans:


3 to 4 lb. young green beans
4 long thin Red chiles (fresh or dried)
4 lg Garlic cloves
1 tb Peppercorns( white, black, green or a mixture)
1/4 c loosely packed fresh dill sprigs, or 4 tb dried dill weed
2 1/2 c Water
2 1/2 c White wine vinegar
1/4 c Salt

4 1-pint mason jars with lids


Trim and remove string from the beans. Rinse well and set aside. Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water. When jars are cool enough to handle, vertically pack jars with beans until snug. Insert chiles and garlic cloves, preferably around the outside for visibility (both for decorative reasons and also as an alert that they are spicy). Divide peppercorns and dill among jars.

Separately, bring the water, vinegar and salt to boil in a non-reactive sauce pan. Ladle the hot brine over the beans, leaving about 1/2 inch head space. Wipe jar-edge clean and screw on sterilized lid and band according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Process sealed jars in boiling water bath for 12 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely at room temperature away from drafts. Check lids to make sure proper seal has been attained. To allow flavors to develop, store for at least one month before opening.

This recipe yields 4 pints