Denver Urban Homesteading, situated at the corner of Santa Fe and Second Avenue, is a liminal space with
industrial buildings to the west and the Baker neighborhood with its old brick bungalows to the east. And its farmers market and “re-skilling” classes make it cutting edge in another way. Founders James and Irina Bertini are a big part of Denver’s DIY urban farming culture, which promotes permaculture, beekeeping, and worm composting in order to enrich community and build self-sufficiency.
When you walk in the door, pasta and produce confront you. Which way to go? I headed right, into a large room with old windows letting in as much of the cloudy light as they could. Booths marched along the walls, with another rectangle of tables in the middle providing space for food and soap vendors. Today there was no one serving lunch.
At the booth for Mini Moos, purveyors of goat milk and cheese out of Cañon City, I enjoyed some plain and chocolate goat’s milk. They’re a little short on cheese now, especially the chèvre, because fourteen does gave birth to triplets (or maybe he said quartuplets), and the kids need the milk. I had heard that goat milk has a stronger taste when the males mix with the females, but the vendor said that taste comes from the males’ habit of spraying the females in the face with urine to bring them into heat. If you don’t clean the does’ bags before you milk them, some of the urine “flavors” the milk. I didn’t really want to know that, but I enjoyed chatting about goat farming. That’s the beauty of DUH—you can walk in, buy food, and walk out, but you always have the opportunity to befriend the farmers.
The time of year and the gathering snowstorm made for a low-key market, but I still managed to acquire handmade soap, a grain-free lemon Ninja Cookie with chia seeds, two chocolate truffles, rye bread, tomatoes, lamb chops, and some dirty duck eggs from Turkey Tracks Ranch. Washing eggs, as we do in the United States, removes a layer of protection that keeps them from spoiling. So you can have lovely clean eggs in the refrigerator or eggs speckled with dirt (and other things) on the counter. Or even out on a table in the street, as I learned from friends in the Philippines.
After I had surveyed the tables, I ventured into the Art of Life Gallery, which in 2014 moved into the space on the west end of the building that the Bertinis had been using for classes. Art of Life now has a lot more room for their large, eclectic collection, which is priced from a few hundred up to ten thousand dollars. Michael Omar gave me an extended tour and introduced me to Ken Knudson, who runs a printing, design, and framing business and manages the gallery. They hold openings on First Fridays, as well as workshops.