The Lost Volunteer

One week into my uncertain, jobless period and things are going well. I’m without a plan and have no way of predicting what the future holds. I’m still grinding my teeth at night and am at a loss as to what I have passion for. In the meantime, all I can do is volunteer for lots of different things, talk to people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and see what happens. I won’t find my true calling by sticking to routine or sitting under a tree and thinking.

Last Friday was the end of work. The first step after that was to volunteer for habitat restoration in the Presidio. I’ve gone three times in the past week and loved it. It’s great to be outside, learn about plants, get my hands dirty, and help to make a difference in one of my favorite places. During weeding, planting, or the task at hand, I’ve had a variety of interesting conversations with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

No matter how confused and glum I am, working outside seems to fix it. That’s a good sign.

Weeding in the Presidio near Battery Caulfield Road, what was once a Nike missile silo and landfill is now going back to nature.

Somewhere in this dune landscape are invasive plants just waiting to be plucked.

Our fearless leader approaches a yellow jacket nest to mark it with a red flag, the international symbol for yellow jacket stump nests.

A fort or hobo house near the dunes.

Sacks of weeds during our snack break. Not pictured: snacking.

The lovely clouds over a jobless sunrise in San Francisco.

Another view of the clouds over Twin Peaks radio tower.

Fat man, skinny arrow, bad aim.

A group of youth from San Francisco State practice archery in Golden Gate Park.

On Thursday, I went for an afternoon of gardening at Hayes Vally Farm, an urban garden built on what used to be an exit ramp for the central freeway. The garden is big, disorganized, beautiful and temporary. It’s currently under lease from the city, but what will happen to this lot is left for both developers and the neighborhood to decide.

Volunteering there was a loose experience. I ended up building part of a retaining wall made from reclaimed pavement. Despite not knowing what I was doing, I led a group of people. That’s the benefit of getting there early.

Hauling blocks of stone in a barrow, I couldn’t help but chuckle over how this was the real-world version of my current digital time-sink: Minecraft.

For the rest of the afternoon, I shoveled and inhaled mulch.

The sign to Hayes Valley Farm.

Barrows and mulch.

Flags and crops.

The crappy reclaimed pavement retaining wall I helped repair.

Bitch gotta eat.

Fruit trees in pots on the remains of the old exit ramp to the earthquake damaged central freeway.


Looking towards the entrance of the farm.

This weekend, J and I volunteered in the Presidio. Our goal, dig out invasive and hearty Kikuyu grass from near the native plant areas. This grass has deep, interconnected rhizomes. And like the sheep sorrel from last Saturday, if you miss any of the roots the plant grows back.

On Sunday, we made pumpkin pancakes and banana bread for breakfast. And despite the rain, we went on a walk on the Land’s End trail. I was enthusiastic to nibble on wild fennel, spicy nasturtium, and the last of the blackberries.

Natural gas pump.

Dust barracks.

Under the overpass which is slated to become a tunnel by 2014. Then, I will be over the underpass.

Digging up Kikuyu grass in Crissy Field.

Tools of destruction.


The cottony seeds of coyote brush.

Spreading seeds onto the grass-free edge.

Collecting driftwood from inside the fence. From the shrubbery, Bushtits watched nervously.


European Starlings searching for seed by our lunch hill.

My first batch of banana bread.

Our new, old typewriter.

My new, old horny knife.

Growing garlic and avocado.


A pumpkin vandal strikes the Richmond.

Old cars in a line.

Nothing mini about this minivan’s accident.

Stairs up the end of California and into Lands End.

Invasive, marrow-leafed ice plant.

Old curbs become new steps on the Lands End trail.

Mossy branches.

Wild, edible nasturtium along the trail.

Nasturtium flowers.

Unidentified tall pink flowers Pink lady flowers (thanks SB!).

A trail amongst wild fennel, blackberries, and dog pee.

Like water off a fern’s back.

Flowers and the ocean.

“Chunk Rock” and hillside.

My life is evenly divided between hours of computer and hours of the natural world. Everything is confusing, but full of possibility.



The pink flowers are pink ladies. They smell DELICIOUS. Like candy.

I love starlings.


come down and go camping. not this week, though, it’s raining like crazy.


I’m ready and willing. Check your inbox Jon and let’s organize this event of a lifetime!

The Creeper:

Is it bad that when I type in your URL I want to type “NikDaum.Calm”? Also are you out of the ad business for realsies? is it for perminiteslies or temorariliesies?

The Creeper

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October 17th, 2010. Categories / San Francisco

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