Current Newsletter



Hi Everyone
Seems like time is flying  like the wind in 2018.  It promises to be a busy full year for all of us, but I hope you still have some time to take some of the  delicious classes we have prepared for you this Spring.  The classes are up online.  The mild winter means spring is here early for the entire West Coast so it is already time to start our spring gardening.  See our monthly gardening tips below.

Top: Sheep feeding on the winter field
Bottom: A shanty town of sheep shelters.  The one on the right cost only $100 and took an hour to assemble

Win a Free Class! ~ Yelp Raffle Review
We want to know how we are doing?  Write a review about your experience in our classes or on our tours between now and March 1 and be entered in our raffle to win a free class!  Go to the following link and write your honest review. Everyone who reviews between now and March 1 will be entered in a drawing to win a free class.  The odds to win are usually really high and either way you help us out greatly!

February in the Garden
It is already Spring in the East Bay and time to get seeds going in flats and cool weather starts in the ground. Seeds can be started indoors or outdoors in February and will get a little boost if you give them a seedling heat matt and dome.  For indoor seed starting, a light will also be necessary.  It should be height adjustable and should start out close to the soil—3-4” above it and move up as the seedlings sprout.  The heat matt should stay on 24 hours a day, but the light can be set to be on 12-14 hours.   You can sprout your seeds in a flat or 6 packs, or directly into 4” pots.  Keep them evenly watered and make sure they have at least 2 sets of leaves before transplanting them to their permanent home in the garden.

Spring is unfortunately also often a time for slugs and snails, waiting to gobble up your tender new seedlings.  If you are installing new raised beds, it is always a great idea to staple copper mesh around the edges as the slimies don’t like to cross it.  In the garden the best prevention is to handpick slugs and snails off plants at night.  A concerted effort every other night for 2 weeks can knock the population down and interrupt spring breeding.  Lastly, crumbled egg shells around the plants can also be an effective deterrent. 

Finally it is also time to start weeding out all the oxalis, cress, pigweed, filaree  and other weeds that have sprung up from the winter rains.  Get them now before they flower and seed! Weeding gets a bad name as far as work in the garden goes, but put on your headphones, listen to some tunes and get it done.  There is nothing like the feeling and look of a well weeded garden. 

February Gardening:  Seed your flats and weed, weed, weed!

News From the North
In early January, eighteen more sheep arrived, raising our count to 32, and we are expecting our first lambs any minute now.  The mild winter has allowed for lots of projects to be set in motion.  We completed our first big fencing project, fencing off about a half acre to create out “home pasture” which consists of 6 smaller fields, connected by gates, so that we can sort sheep into breeding groups, or quarantine sick animals.  Right now we have the pregnant ones separated so we can feed them better and hopefully have them lamb in a dry shelter. The project required setting 28 wooden posts, 35 T posts and hanging 6 gates.  I think I can finally say I am a real homesteader ( :   Next we are working on a small but sturdy cow corrall, so we can catch and pen our two Dexters, who may calve anyday now.  We are also getting more fruit into the ground. We filled in our existing orchard, interplanting between existing trees  and are working on fencing off an area of pasture  for the cider orchard (mostly traditonal english cider varieties and a few perry pears).  Also in the works  is 120 row feet of berries, so I have  been in the shop preparing my berry trellis posts out of utility grade cedar.  Then…on to fruit tree pruning…. So much to do!

Learning Curve: Fencing. Lots of hard woork digging holes, setting posts and getting the fencing stretched tight.

Seeking Teaching Sites
Continuing to teach nomad style in the Bay Area and seeking sites for the following classes.  Hosts and their housemates can attend free.  If you are interested, please tell me where you are located and send a description and photos of the site/space you have available.  Thank you!!
Saturday March 3  10am-5pm Two classes: Dormant Season Fruit Grafting and Backyard Orchard:  Fruit Tree Pruning  This would best be at a garden that has a number of fruit trees we can look at and prune.
Sunday April 2 10am-3pm The Real Dirt: Intro to Organic Gardening  This would be best at a garden that is already in progress, with some composting systems in place
Tuesday April 4 6:30-9:30pm Cheesemaking 101: Ricotta, Feta and Mozzarella
Sunday May 20 10am-12pm  Pollinator Paradise: An Introduction to Pollination Ecology  this would be great in a garden that has lots of flowers
Sunday May 20 2pm-6pm Canning Extravaganza: Jam, Pickles and Tomatoes

Spring Season 2018  March 3-June 9
The Spring schedule is up and classes are open for registration!  Please keep your eyes out for a few late breaking additions, which we hope to add later this month.  Find the Spring Calendar here.

Puppy life on the farm: Our youngest members snuggle under the hay feeder on a cold afternoon.

Puppy life on the farm: Piper gets a ride



Hello Homesteaders and All
Happy New Year!  We hope the new year brings health and happiness, including opportunities for growing and gardening and learning new things!

New Residents:  Munchkin Maia on the left and Goose & Gander on the right.


Winter Cheesemaking Intensive
Saturday, January 27 noon-5pm and Sunday, January 28, 10am-1pm 2016
Cost: $175-225 sliding scale includes supplies
If you have been thinking about taking this course now is the time!!  Our signature two-day cheesemaking primer includes a dozen dairy transformation projects, information on cheesemaking theory and equipment and a fun party atmosphere as we create a scrumptious feast each day from our cheesy creations.
More info

Bare Root: Selection & Planting of Your Urban Orchard
Sunday January 28,  2:30-5pm
Cost: $40-80 sliding scale
Enjoy fresh sun ripened fruit from your own backyard 10 months out of the year!  This course will lead you through selection, planting & general care of fruit trees and berries.  We’ll talk about best varieties for the Bay Area, site selection, planting techniques and tips for maximizing fruit production in small spaces.
More Info

Spontaneous Fermentation
Thank you to everyone who came out to our 2017 Winter Open House—it was a really grand event this year, thanks to our lovely hosts at the Hillegass House.  If you bought a bottle of Plum wine from me, I expect it has popped it s cork by now.  Sorry!  I had stopped fermentation and added a bit more sweetener and I guess the yeast critters were not fully inactive.   Wine is still drinkable—just put the cork back in and refrigerate.  Remind me next year and I will give you a discount on another bottle.

Spring 2018
We hope to have the 2018 Spring Calendar online by early February, with Classes starting around the beginning of March and running through the end of June.  Remember if you want to propose a class to do so ASAP by January 15 at the very latest.

Seeking Faculty
IUH has two faculty positions open for 2018.
Position #1 Urban Livestock Specialist.
Requirements: Have their own urban farm central to Berkeley/Oakland suitable for holding classes of up to 15 people. Experience with a variety of livestock including goats, chickens, rabbits, quail and ducks.  Some teaching experience.  Good People skills.  Good admin skills:  responsive to emails within 24 hours, good at keeping records and papers.
Position #2  Urban Sustainability Specialist:  Have their own sustainable household or have access to a sustainable household with features such as greywater, rainwater catchment, solar energy, creative re-use, natural building etc. Some teaching experience.  Good People skills.  Good admin skills:  responsive to emails within 24 hours, good at keeping records and papers.
Both positions would require you to develop and teach your own curriculum. 2-5 classes per season.  Also required 3-5 hours a month of  admin support, mostly promotion & outreach.
Pay is 65% of tuition from your classes—usually comes out to $75-100 per class hour, sometimes a little less sometimes a little more.

News From the North
December was a time of building and design…looking for spots to expand our orchard, put up berry trellises and expand our sheep operation.  After finishing our easy up sheep shelter in November we worked on a more complex greenhouse design, 8 x 12 constructed of rough cut cedar, PVC and greenhouse plastic.  It has raised beds on 3 sides and the option to put in a shelf for seed flats.  As well 4 windows, two for venting, one for a fan and on automatic openers.  We have dubbed her “Growing Pains Palace.”  In December we also butchered our bull and the 3 2017 boy lambs.  It feels good to have the freezers stocked, including lots of scraps and bones for our dogs. Next up will be developing our animal handling facilities as the arrival of 20 more sheep from California is imminent.  In addition we have been enjoying a relatively dry winter thus far and cosy fires in the fireplace.

Just completed except for some small finishing touches, a mini greenhouse  with raised beds inside to extend the gardening season and help with seed starting

January in the Garden
It’s getting to be pruning time.  Fruit trees should wait until just before budding out for best disease resistance, but roses and other perennials can be pruned in January on any day when it will not rain for the next 3 days.  This gives times for the cuts to dry out and start to heal over.  Prune roses down to about 3 feet in a bowl shape, leaving 4-6 of the strongest upright, outward growing canes.   Make your cuts at a slight angle just above an outward facing bud.  Keep a few of the stronger canes you have cut to propagate new roses.  Here’s how.  Cut sturdy lengths of 2017 growth with at least 5 nodes.  A node is a spot in the stem where a leaf or stem might grow. There is usually a ring around the stem with a small protrusion—pre-curser to a leaf or new stem.  These are also the sites that will spring roots if they sit under the soil.  clip off stems and leaves so all you have is a stick.  Plant the sticks with the lower 3 nodes covered in a loamy potting soil and press the soil firmly around the propagation sticks.  Water thoroughly.  These can sit in the shade and should never be allowed to dry out,  Sometimes it can take many months for them to propagate—we usually leave ours for a year.  

Roses after pruning and rose and madrone propagations for 2018.

Update on Pasture Raised Lamb & Beef
Thanks to those who responded last month.  We sold out of lamb instantly to local friends, but expect to have many more whole lambs for purchase next Autumn. We do have a limited number of 10 pound shares of beef available for $100 each.  The beef is delicious and tender from our Mini-Jersey bull. You get 6 pounds of lean ground beef and 4 pounds of steak.  Pay now to reserve, pick up in North Oakland, end of January.  Please respond soon if interested to receive payment instructions.  It won’t last.

Still harvesting carrots in January!

Local resource, as many burlap bags as you want from a local roastery. Mulch, mulch, mulch!

Ready to roll to sonoma county for the first shearing job of the year and sheep pick up.


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