Monthly Archives: September 2014

Introducing Spoon Farm


Is it a garden, or a farm? Who cares either way?

We used to think of what we have here as a garden, because it’s tiny—less than a quarter acre—and decidedly suburban. But lately, our thinking has begun to change. It’s not just the fact that so much of what we eat comes from this scrap of land we cultivate, or that we’ve moved beyond veggies, to include chickens and bees. There’s also power in naming, and in the identities we choose.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that the USDA defines a farm as ‘any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year.’ Whether or not we sell it, we are certainly producing (and consuming!) well over $1,000 in agricultural products every year. More on this next year, when I hope to finally buckle down and track the dollar value of our production.

Other definitions of ‘farm’ are even more inclusive, ranging from ‘a tract of land devoted to agricultural purposes,’ to ‘a plot of land devoted to the raising of animals, especially domestic livestock.’

Check, check, and check.

So it’s a farm, this place where we sweat and grumble and search for moments to pause and enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our labor, and the unselfconscious beauty of flora and fauna minding their own business. It’s pleasing to stand looking out at what right now is the ramshackle, top-heavy, last burst of summer crops and to say, this is Spoon Farm.

We sold honey for the first time a few months ago at the San Mateo County Fair and came up with our name then. Kelly made a first round of labels, and on a whim recently, I made a farm website. Check it out at!

Late summer veggies.

Late summer veggies.



Winter babies ready in the greenhouse.

Winter babies ready in the greenhouse.

Seed Exchange and Little Free Library Four Months In



When we ‘opened’ the little curbside library and seed exchange in April, I had no idea how wildly popular it would be. New books come in and out of the library every day now. Some days there are 20 new books on the shelves. Some days there are boxes of books on the stoop. People leave delightful little notes of thanks, while others wave us down in the garden to tell us how happy they are to stop by the library regularly in search of interesting new reads.

Children come with their parents and nannies. Young professionals stop by on their walk to the train station. Older adults and their caregivers visit from the care home across the street. Churchgoers from the variety of neighborhood churches and the meditation center stop by. Partygoers from the rented hall also across the street check the library out. High school students leave notes on the torn edge of a Scantron, or write poems on post-its.

The seed exchange, too, sees turnover. There are donated seed packets and baby food jars of seeds with accompanying write-ups on planting and care instructions. There are baggies of bulbs. Occasionally, some kind and tidy souls take it upon themselves to organize the books or seeds.

It turns out that opening a community book and seed exchange in your front yard makes a lot of people suddenly assume that you’re a good human being. We live in a neighborhood with lots of foot traffic, but we have never before been approached by so many friendly folks.

At the end of a hard day, peeking in at the new books and friendly notes makes me so very happy. Likewise, seeing how respectful our neighbors and broader community have been is a small step toward restoring and bolstering my faith in basic human goodness. To date, there hasn’t been a single incident of vandalism. No one has so much as left the cabinet door open.

In fact, people are so conscientious abut bringing books back–and dropping off lots of new ones–that there’s rather a ridiculous degree of overflow. I’ve had to devote an entire indoor bookshelf to housing overflow books waiting for their turn outside. And though I add as many new books to the library as I can cram inside, the indoor bookshelf gets more and more crowded every week.

I asked Kelly recently if I should get another bookshelf for overflow, or add another library cabinet at the curb. She looked at me like I'm crazy.

I asked Kelly recently if I should get another bookshelf for overflow, or add another library cabinet at the curb. She looked at me like I’m crazy.

Learning our anonymous neighbors’ taste in reading is also a delight. Who knew there was such diversity in taste? Who knew that we are surrounded by so many readers, and so many readers of real, paper books?

I have to think that we live in a particularly prime spot for a little library and seed exchange because of all the foot traffic. I also think that the slightly larger size of our cabinet has been helpful for offering space for a wider variety of books at a single time. All that said, I would recommend curbside libraries and or seed exchanges to anyone, regardless of your neighborhood, or the size of the box you choose to put out.

Watching the daily turnover and catching glimpses of passersby with their heads deep in the cabinet has quickly become one of the highlights of my daily life and makes me feel closer and more connected with my community. Here’s to the next four months!

Kelly is in the process of transforming the front yard garden into a wonderland for pollinators.

Kelly is in the process of transforming the front yard garden into a wonderland for pollinators.