Another Urban Homesteader

I started off my blog about slugs, and I want to write about potato towers, growing shelling beans, composting toilets, dealing with rats and chickens, and all kinds of other topics. But today I felt called to write about my gardening background and some of my current personal dilemmas in the realm of urban homesteading.

Basket of zucchini by Sequoiah Wachenheim

My interest in growing food and flowers began when I was about 6 years old.  I grew up in Lafayette, CA on a few acres of land with a milking goat, 4 horses, chickens, and organic vegetables for home consumption.  There was an area near the barn that had been left to seed with whatever random annual flowers felt like showing up.  I decided I wanted to grow cherry tomatoes and popcorn, and so I did.

My two crops did well and after drying the cobs of corn in the kitchen, I rubbed them together to loosen the kernels and poured them into jars for the rest of the year.  I remember the delight of tending the plants and having them flourish.  Most of all, I remember my grandmother saying that my tomatoes were the best she had ever had — and I think she meant it.

Fruits. by Sequoiah Wachenheim

When I left home at 18 years old, I lived in Belgium for year and was absolutely horrified to find that they had only 3 vegetables readily available in the winter:  endives, potatoes, and lettuce.  So when I moved to Santa Cruz a year later to attend UCSC, I started planting gardens and fell in love with fresh produce.  For the next 4 years, I planted a garden everywhere I ever lived, which was about 7 or 8 different places.  I usually didn’t even stay long enough to eat any of the harvest, but what seemed important at the time was creating the garden out of the weeds or the empty lot…

Then I traveled for a few years in India, Nepal, Turkey, Israel, and Indonesia.  This was when I first began to study permaculture and I was extremely interested in what crops were being grown in which conditions.  I was amazed by the steep rice terraces of Bali, the bananas magically being grown in the foothills of the Himalayas, and the eggplant in Turkey…I even planted some seeds in India just for the heck of it.

After finishing my BA and dropping out of a master’s program, I decided to study landscape design and construction and permaculture at Merritt College in Oakland, CA.  Somehow, I became known as an ornamental garden designer.  I don’t know how it happened, but I have been mainly working in ornamental gardens for 14 years.  I still love beautiful ornamental gardens, but I am starting to find a thriving cabbage plant infinitely more beautiful than a rare South African succulent that most horticulturalists would kill for.   I am finding fulfillment in the simple beauty of my morning rounds of the garden with my cup of coffee in one hand, the pruning sheers on my belt and my harvest basket in the other.  This feeds a deep place in my spirit and also feeds 8 people a week in my dance community.

But now what?  I have bees, chickens, amazing compost, grey‐water systems, rainwater catchment systems, all the vegetables and fruits and herbs one can grow in Berkeley and now???  I am feeling called to share the knowledge, and am waiting to see how that will play out.