Food and gratitude!

No food post on Wednesday, but I wanted to do this update anyway- sort of a combination of food and gratitude. Always a good idea to combine those two, in my opinion.

Here’s a peek at our little homestead last summer via Google Maps. Cool, eh? Anyway, This year it helps to have more of a bird’s-eye view. I see how I overlooked things in planning the garden before because I just didn’t have the whole picture. 

Initially (when we bought the house in Feb ’09), I planned out this great mandala shaped vegetable garden… it was lovely. But that’s clearly not what could happen- leaves filled in on the 5 maple trees around the house, and we saw exactly where our vegetable beds needed to go. This picture was taken later in the afternoon, because the south side of the garden does get full sun through the day. So the vegetable garden went in, in that neat little diagonal, and then I again planned for a long perennial herb/flower bed against the fence on the west side of the yard. You remember? Well, in February when I was planning it, that area got plenty of light… then the wisteria took over, it was only partial sun in the sunniest parts, and I just. wasn’t. paying. attention. 

This year? This year I’m listening. This year I’m planning as usual, but I’m being a little quieter, a little more attentive. I’m new at this, and I come from a culture that teaches us that humans have to force everything around us into what we want it to be. Well, I must recognize my limitations and work to do better each year. This year, I’m going to remember that the trees fill in with leaves, that wind and insects and fungi and water and soil… they all play their part. I don’t want to force, I want to facilitate. Human influence is so amazing and unique on this planet. We mold and bend things and learn how things work to the degree that things that were once magical are now our reality. But we so quickly become thoughtless and destructive when we stop listening- to our instincts, to our environment, to our own needs and the needs of others… We can’t forget that we really don’t know it all, and perhaps we aren’t meant to.

I love this song when I’m feeling this way.

So. Plans. I’m moving that perennial herb/flower bed. It instead will land right on the west side of the house where there is more sun between those two big trees. We’ll also trim branches between each of the trees to just open up those openings a little more… because, I do want a good sized herb bed, and I also want a little asparagus patch in the middle of the yard there. Under the trees we’ll be utilizing their shade for our outside dining area (which we were going to center at the back of the house), and also a little seating area/fire pit right by the wisteria. I’ll also be going to the local native plant nursery, and finding species that will do well in a rain garden between our house and our neighbor’s (they had the idea, and I thought it was awesome!), and also to fill in space throughout our yard.

I really can’t wait. So so grateful for the ability to grow things for my family and to learn about the land -even if it is mostly in the context of my little 1/10 acre backyard. It’s something. I’m also really grateful for growing pains. I always feel them. From my childhood, they would wake me from sleep and my dear mother would try to help rub them away so I could rest. I’ve always grown in such spurts. It’s often uncomfortable, but I now recognize the ultimate purpose of that pain- taking me somewhere I need to go. I feel growing pains in several areas of my life- spiritually, in my relationships, in motherhood, and even physically lately (I’m exercising more this week!). I’m not always comfortable, but I am so grateful to have faith in the process.

Anyway. Let’s talk about food, yes? I missed Wednesday’s regular post, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Here’s what we’re growing in the garden this year. I’m focused on heirloom varieties, and I hope to actually save some seed this year. And also to learn more about how to save seed for some of the more difficult varieties. Anyway, here’s the list:

-beautiful variety of tomatoes
-a variety of root veggies: carrots, radishes, beets, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, potatoes, onions, garlic 
-a mix of lettuces
-eggplant (both the long Asian variety and an Italian one)
-both sweet and spicy peppers
-greens: collards, chard, spinach, and kale
-summer squash: zucchini, yellow squash
-winter squash: acorn, butternut, delicata, Australian butter, and pie pumpkins
-luffa gourd
-birdhouse gourds
-beans: bush beans and pole beans
-potatoes: a variety yet to be determined
-snap peas! Although I am allergic to peas, I can eat the shoots (the plant part), and Vera and Jeff and our neighbors can certainly enjoy them as well. I just realized that I didn’t want to miss out on one of the earliest veggies, even if I can only really enjoy them vicariously through those around me. Just as good, really!

As with every year, I’m challenging myself to try new things, and I’m strategizing for the harvest. I’m doing both pole beans and bush beans, because I figure the pole beans we’ll eat fresh throughout the whole season, and the bush beans will ripen more in spurts and we’ll store those. I’m taking on more root vegetables, and I hope to store them well and to do better with succession planting. I’m also trying to grow winter squash again. Last year I decided not to because I figured they took up too much space and I could just buy them from local farmers to store. Well, that’s true, but we got so much food from our garden last year, and we didn’t even utilize all the space… It’s still amazing to me the amount of food we still have to go through, especially considering all the bare areas in the garden after I got too pregnant to plant anything (or I was too busy having a new baby to bother with a fall planting). So, I thought I’d give them a shot again, and challenge myself to really use the space efficiently (things are definitely going to be vertical this year!).

Other new things are the addition of a bunch of perennials- both edible and not. I’m installing a more permanent herb bed (which will also include some spaces for annual herbs), and I’m also planting a little asparagus patch, and possibly more fruiting things once I get a chance to really survey the yard and explore possibilities for espalier. I’ll also be working on some container gardening in the front yard with shade-tolerant stuff… I’m hoping to get some edibles in there, but if not I’ll be happy just to fill in the space a little. I have done enough research to know that it might be tough to get much to grow under those maples. So, containers and lots of mulch it is.

The other big food thing that we’ll be doing very soon is tapping these maple trees of ours, and also some at Jeff’s parent’s house. We’ll be making our own maple syrup this year! It’ll be our first harvest. I’m collecting containers and ordering these little spouts for it. It’s just one more thing that we can do for ourselves. Oh, and the glory that is real maple syrup… It’s my favorite sweet thing, by far. Give me real maple sugar candy… you’ll find me rolling my eyes and moaning over the thing. Delicious… candy from the heavens, I tell you! Anyway, I’ll be sure to keep you all in the loop on this project!

Anyway, on this gray and snowy day I look forward to sharing pictures of all of these plans in action… so soon! Do any of you have plans for the spring? What are you challenging yourself to try this year?


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