City Farm SLO

Third Annual Sheep Shearing Shindig@City Farm SLO

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

Gambol of the Lambs

Friday, May 17th, 2024

Sheep and Schubert

Lambs born Mother’s Day 2014.  Franz Schubert born 1797

Mother’s Day

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

I was looking forward to the regular Sunday Creek Freak work party at the Restoration and Enhancement project.  In addition to the four steady College Corps Fellows–including Kennedy, whom I’d seen in a fine performance of a bizarre play at the Spanos theatre the night before, plus grandson Lucas–two new volunteers had signed up.

Late in the previous week the unfinished tasks of moving tree trunks into position together with Josh and his Skid Steer and starting the contracted maintenance program of weeding the plantings, along with testing the irrigation system, were completed.

 

Earlier in the week the first field trip along the creek project led by Creek Lands Conservation took place, involving 60 fifth graders bussed in for three hours.

 

I’d been anxiously working toward these outcomes for months.

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College Corps Showcase at City Farm SLO

Friday, January 19th, 2024
Flyer layout

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Prefumo Creek Restoration and Enhancement Project

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

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11:2Prefumo Creek Restoration and Enhancement Project copy

2nd Annual Sheep Shearing Shindig May 6 2023

Saturday, May 6th, 2023

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Halloween 2022

Monday, November 7th, 2022

On Friday the 28, Jan and I visited the Reis Family Mortuary on Nipomo Street to complete the pre-arrangements for “immediate burial” in the gravesites we purchased last June in the SLO Cemetery. This is the bottom of the line selection. It includes transport and storage of the remains until the grave is dug, delivery to the cemetery, cotton shroud, cardboard box and death certificate for $1845 each, in keeping with our choice of green burial.  One option we added was permission to have a witness at the interment for an additional $250. Had we gone with the mortuary affiliated with the cemetery, the price would have been $3250.

The mortuary is located near the center of town in an attractive neo-colonial building.

LisaMae, the amiable Salesperson, made the lengthy process of filling out forms, upbeat and casual.  As it concluded, we were greeted by a gentleman in jeans and suspenders with a missing lower tooth, who introduced himself as Kirk, the son of the former owner. Though we both felt heavily in need of afternoon naps, Kirk insisted we tour  the museum his father had created. He led us down two flights of stairs, not into a dark crypt but  a riotous display of memorabilia–newspaper front pages going back to the 1930’s glued to the walls, collections of hash pipes, dolls, model trains, and bumper stickers–stored in three rooms connected by vault-like refrigeration doors, relics of the dairy operation which had occupied the site in the early 20th century.

Over the weekend, Jan’s brother stayed with us, two weeks after the memorial in Long Beach for his wife, who died recently after a year’s ordeal with brain cancer. I drove him to the RR Station at 5:00 am on the 31st and then went to the farm to tend the new lambs.  I came back home with a pumpkin and felt an unexpected need creeping over me to do something for the holiday. I emailed friends living nearby with an invitation to stop by for a drink while trick-or-treating with their kids and  set to work carving the pumpkin with the saw on my Leatherman, stuffing a warty squash in the hole for a nose.

As the afternoon darkened, I felt an urge to visit our burial plots just across the freeway. Since I expected she’d never been there, I invited my co-worker, K., to join me for a Halloween excursion. Hesitantly she agreed.

On the way, I delivered what had become my spiel about the place: its location between Central Coast Brewery and the Sunset Drive-In adjacent to a littered hobo highway, its use extending back to the Civil War, its inclusion of many SLO City notables, its Jewish and Muslim sections. We parked on Elks Lane and walked down the main thoroughfare toward the bizarre Dorn pyramid. I pointed out the sites close to it that Jan and I had purchased in January.

At the top of the serpentine outcrop on which it perched, I recounted the tale of  the husband who built it as a memorial for his wife and daughter after they died in childbirth with the intention of eventually joining them but soon afterward moved to San Francisco, started a new family and never returned.  I recollected being there 30 years earlier with students in my Shakespeare class who had chosen it for the location to video their performance of the tomb scene in Romeo and Juliet.

Walking back to the car, I declared that this place felt comfortable to me because at my age death seemed  a natural and sometimes welcome prospect rather than the tragedy of dying young.  I’ve had the time to live out my opportunities and choices.

On the return drive, K. was quiet. I worried that my pressuring her to go there might have awakened the pain I remembered in her voice when she spoke about her father, who died when she was a teenager.

Back at Citrus Court the setting sun put on a florescent pink lightshow. I set the jack o’lantern onto the transformer in the front yard, moved up the slider bench for a ringside seat and poured wine for Jan and me.  As the streetlights came on, the Court awakened with costumed revelers.  First were our immediate neighbors, dressed as ’70s hippies, carrying their 2 year old, severely autistic child, who made an instant of smiling eye-contact, then turned away.  Then a group of costumed young couples and children paraded by carrying their own drinks. Other families, including a laughing grandma in a wheelchair, stopped to say hello.  Older kids dressed as media characters I couldn’t recognize, filled both sidewalks. The joyful street life recalled trick-or-treating in the poor New York district we lived in until I was eight.

Next morning at the Farm I was greeted by Miss J., the Waldorf outdoor school’s teacher. She asked me to look at the altar she’d created inside their little geodesic dome to observe November 1, Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead.

Her bright display of flowers and food, colored cutouts, and photographs of departed family members brought a shock of recognition. I’d forgotten that this was the holiday of jolly mourning, the mood which  stirred me into activity yesterday afternoon.  I’d forgotten that in the corner of my study I kept such an altar year-round on an antique washstand containing the ashes of my parents.

The 1950’s wedding portrait of Miss Jewel’s grandmother and and grandfather completed the epiphany:  combining festivity and grief, we find a bit of what’s beyond our grasp.

Postscript

Thanksgiving Day morning November 24.

Getting up early after a wakeful night, I look for something to do before it gets light enough for my holiday farm chores and randomly browse this blog.  Noticing “Lund Retreat 2007,” an unremembered occasion, I open the 7-entry set, and take some pleasure in the prose and the awakened reminiscence of that autumnal solo excursion to the place which, fifteen years ago, I still regarded as my true home.  The third entry is dated October 31 and chronicles a visit to the Uhlman’s house, where Ronnie said she assumed I knew the answer to her question about the proper Jewish ritual for unveiling a gravestone the first year after interment.  Slightly shamed I told her I had no idea and changed the subject.

Back at Knoll House I happily answered Jan’s phone call.  She mentioned she’d been grieving for Henry on this Jahrzeit of his death in 1995.  With a flash it came back: Halloween in the nursing home, the staff in costume, the arrival of the mortuary attendant who identified himself as “Neptune,” and all that followed– an event recorded twelve years earlier so as not to be forgotten, but nevertheless forgotten on that very day.

Reading that as the light comes up this morning, there’s another flash.  The memory that was lost a few weeks ago, despite the mysterious impulse and visit to the cemetery and contemplation at the shrine behind me and despite the next day’s surprise recollection–that purpose of the Jahrzeit was still unrealized…until now.

Sheep Shearing Shindig City Farm SLO 2022

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

7. Steven's Still 2

Lund Retreat/Transitions 2021

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

The “Atmospheric river” is still flowing.  The drum solo of rain on the roof hasn’t stopped since arrival here yesterday morning.

 

Before departure from the South Terminal, the agent announced that unless the pilot found a hole in the clouds to allow visibility the flight would go back without landing.  But the young captain with delicate wrists and blond hair flowing over her epaulets brought us in smoothly to the cinder block shack of an airport that hasn’t been improved at least since our arrival here in 1970.

IMG_1473I haven’t yet stopped loving this weather.  The compensation for drought in SLO, the heightened coziness of the wood fire, friendly cats and house’s silence, the 14 hour night and half-light of day inviting intermittent sleep, the absence of stimulation and obligation permit words to flow from thoughts and thoughts to flow from words.

This trip has been intended as a retreat to allow processing of recent events that are taking on the appearance of a life transition. “Retreat” has several associations with this place: its mythic remoteness at the end of the road and the time and expense it takes to get here, the initial retreat from war and society that brought us here from New York in 1970, the  summers of 1996 and 1997 holed up to start and finish my book, “Shakespeare and the Bible,”and the writing and meditation retreat on Cortez Island I attended in 2010.

Meditating hasn’t yet happened here, but this journaling may better serve my purposes.

Life transitions are times when the future seems undetermined, subject to the vagaries of chance and choice, when the present holds promise and danger, when the past reopens.  This one was brought on my long-anticipated retirement from the position of Executive Director of City Farm SLO.  The result of the successful accomplishments of our two young staff members, Kayla and Shane, whose salaries were financed by generous new supporters, it became clear that finally the organization could survive and thrive without me.

At the advice of a canny professional fund-raiser, a campaign was planned to mark the changeover in leadership with a public celebration targeting people of means and influence.  The admission price was $50 along with discreet requests for additional donations. Using a well-tried method for non-profits to generate support and money, the theme was to be a tribute to my past dedication. Kayla focused publicity on her photo of me tending our sheep that recalled the literary archetype of the old shepherd I’d explored 40 years ago in my doctoral dissertation. I sent personalized invitations to all the friends and relatives for whom Jan and I had addresses. (more…)

This Changes Everything

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Dear Larry

Your visit to City Farm SLO yesterday and commitment of funds to enable us to “Think Big” marks a momentous occasion.  This changes everything.

Along with that, your bringing along Jerry  to help with farm issues and our discussions of specific strategies signals more support than the essential contribution of real money.

Your offer has already released a cascade of pent-up dreams and impending tasks. It allows for the kind of long-term planning we’ve needed for years that’s been hampered by our limited and unpredictable finances.

On the other hand, for me it highlights a need for caution and deliberation. We now face a myriad of decisions that need to balance need, opportunity and constraint. Before our Board meeting on Tuesday, I will propose a process to formulate goals, means, procedures, schedules and budgets that includes City Farm’s diverse stakeholders.

Our discussions yesterday already produced a first pass at such a plan:

·      Proceed immediately with development of entry  area to build a cooler and wash/packing station for use of all tenants

·      Begin beautification program to include elimination of all eyesores and add designed signage, fence upgrades, and landscaping improvements and maintenance.

·      Begin engagement with other urban educational farms, (e.g. Coastal Roots Farm, https://www.farmbasededucation.org/members, https://fairviewgardens.org/, https://soilborn.org/

·      Step up efforts to engage the school district in long term predictable scheduling and funding of our  educational programs .  I mentioned that I expect Jen (https://www.jenerator.me/ and httpss://steamaheadcamp.com) to join in that effort.

Since our meeting at the farm, one model has already emerged: the back and forth among several players about the infrastructure and design of the well/pump area.  I hope that within the week we can to move on that so as to have tangible evidence of where we are going in place by the Fall, but it’s also important to keep entertaining alternatives.

I believe “thinking big” at City Farm warrants a name that gives notice that we are embarking on a program to more fully realize the potential of the land entrusted to us, for example,   “Harvest 2022” or  “City Farm Growth Initiative.” I’m not satisfied with either of those and hope you and the Board will come up with others.

In partnership,

Steven