Homestead Food 3

So I said I was going to do this every Friday or Sunday.   You might notice that today is Tuesday.   Friday it got put off because a friend wanted to come, but the friend ended up not able to come.  It got put off on Sunday because I just did not want to do it.  And that is a good thing in a way.   The goal of this is to make me sort of understand what it would be like if this was my only food supply, and on Sunday I got a bit of an idea about that.  I ended up having a salad from the garden that day but instead of a full garden/local/community meal I had steak and mashed potatoes.  Because I wanted it and because it is so easy to go to the store and get anything I want.   Had the food in my yard been the only food supply I would have been very unhappy.

There is so little to eat right now, so very little variation.  On Sunday when I put it off I got this crazy idea in my head of doing it Monday and it would be better.  Then on Monday I went out for tacos, about a mile away.  So today I said enough stalling.

The Ingredients:

Omelette:

  • Eggs (Gift from Erik)
  • Salt (Gift from Lori)
  • Chard (Garden)
  • Oil (Exempt)
  • Sauteed Onion (Garden)

Grits:

  • Local Grits (Farmer’s Market, single bought item)
  • Water (Tap)
  • Salt (Gift from Lori)
  • Butter (Exempt)

Peach Chutney (Exempt, canned by us)

  • Local Peaches (picked and processed by us)
  • Raisins
  • Some other fruits (I don’t remember what)
  • A ridiculous amount of vinegar

I did not want eggs and chard again. Temper Tantrum Did Not Want.  This is very similar to what we had last week, but switched around a bit.  When I look out in the garden there are unripe strawberries, little tomato plants, small peaches, tiny blackberries, and 2-inch high corn.  I want those things to be ready and I want to eat them.  I want foods that I like better, like squash, green beans, and black eyed peas.  It is also a little annoying that I can’t just throw in some French bread or beef broth whenever I want.   I have some pretty strong food insecurity issues because of a very poor childhood, and having to eat only what I have is really making me have to deal with those issues.

Knowing I was going to have to eat eggs and chard today has made me so motivated to work harder.  I know I could not do anything about the dinner tonight, but I am sure going to try to have a better one this weekend or next week.  The last few days I have done lots of planting, weeding, and transplanting.

I am also thinking about community more.  I am actually thinking about people I want to invite to dinner;  not just Erik, who did not join us tonight because he fears grits.    I am thinking about joining some meetup groups and actually going to their meetings.  I am thinking about how to be nice to the friends and family I do have so they will please bring me food.  I am thinking about how I can help the people around me survive, and how they can help me survive.  Yes I know that sounds very dramatic.  I am a rather dramatic person.

Another upside to my annoyance at today’s dinner is that I know that my pleasure with each new food as it becomes ready to eat will be even greater than normal.  My mouth is watering thinking about how amazing some fresh strawberries would be right now.  I could deal with more eggs and chard if I could just have a bowl of berries to go with it.

Now with all of that drama out of the way, the meal was actually pretty good.   The egg part of the omelette was delicious and the chard was OK at the beginning.  By the end the chard tasted a bit too bitter to me, and I did not want to keep taking bites of it.  The grits tasted like grits and butter, so there is nothing wrong with that.  The peach chutney was better than I remember it being.  The peach flavor was very bright and fresh; the pepper was just right, giving only a hint of spice, and the vinegar was not quite as overpowering as I remembered it.  The chutney matched well with the omelette.

Garden Update

It officially became spring a few days ago, but my garden had decided it was spring weeks ago. This is the best garden I have ever had this early in the year. I love that I am able to be home right now so that I can work on it everyday. I have so many pictures that I want to share with you that instead of doing a standard post I have made a gallery with captions. You can look at them all at once like you are now or you can click on the first one and use the arrows to see them all.

I can’t explain the joy I get from my garden. It is sort of like feeling proud and powerful, because my years of research, experimentation and manual labor is what you see here. I plan it, plant it and care for it. So just like my stories this 1 acre piece of land is a reality I created, it is about as close as I get to art. If I had done nothing it would just be a plain yard full of scratchy yellowish grass.

I also feel sort of in awe and little when I look at it, because the seeds and elements really do most of the work. Seeds are freaking amazing. The way a little tiny uninteresting thing can grow into food or beautiful flowers. If you have never gardened you really should give it a try. Just a few pots on the patio and you will see what I am talking about. I will refrain form getting all spiritual here. :-)

My garden makes me feel this weird urge to share too. I am not much of a people person and there are many things in my life that I get great pleasure from that I don’t want other people to join me in. I like to dance alone and read great books without a book club. I sometimes write things I don’t want anyone to read, I knit for myself, hoop for myself and now I even sing for myself. I guess the way I used to feel about singing is the thing most like the sharing feeling I get in my garden. When I feel this huge surge of ecstatic joy I want other people to feel it too. This feeling is much to good for me to keep all to myself.

I also feel peace. Very few actives are as calming as sitting in the sun surrounded by my garden. I am thinking of building a yoga area between the house and the garden beds. There is plenty of room, but I don’t know if my neighbors could handle yet another weird thing from me right now.

Food Challenge 1

We made our first dinner tonight for our food challenge.  See the last post for details.

These are all the ingredients:

 Salad – three type of lettuce (garden), carrots (garden), Hawaiian salt (gift -Lori)

Main dish – cowpeas (garden, preserved), onion (garden), oregano (garden), thyme (garden), butter (oil exemption), smoked salt (gift -Lori)

Dessert – organic Greek yogurt (single store- bought item exemption), strawberry jam (local, canned by us), blueberry peach syrup (local, canned by us)

Drink – mint (garden), honey (exemption)

We both had fun with it.  We ate at the table and talked instead of watching TV, which was novel. The lettuce was crunchy. The carrots, though small, were super sweet and delicious. Mint tea was refreshing.   The beans were surprisingly good, seeing that they are over a year old, and the salt gave them a hint of smokiness which gave the illusion of meat flavor.  You can’t go wrong with strawberry preserves and Greek yogurt.

Dried beans are amazing. This year we are going to try to put away a lot more beans.  And lots of other things as well.  I am regretting not canning any tomatoes this past year. It would be nice to get a pressure cooker and can things other than jam, tomatoes or pickles.

It was odd to have such a simple meal.  Our dinners are pretty complex on average, with lots of ingredients and several different dishes cooking at once. It was a little weird without pasta or potatoes.   I love carbohydrates, so I miss them anytime they are absent.   I should really try harder to grow potatoes this year.

This meal was also way more healthy than we normally eat.  Much lower fat than normal, since the only fat was less than a tablespoon of butter and the full fat yogurt.  So many different veggies too; I bet we got lots of vitamins and minerals.

For the next one, I hope someone wants to join us.  This would be much more fun with friends, and there would be more food!   I don’t have any worries about next week”s since we have a different sort of dried beans, but after that it will pretty much just be salad.   Next month the salad will start getting better, since radishes and celery should be coming up any day now.

Having this much good fresh and preserved food at the beginning of March makes me feel pretty good about the work we have done in the last few years, and it encourages me to try harder for the future.

Homesteading/Community Food Experiment

We have decided to start a new food challenge.  For one meal a week, we will have a meal of food that we grow or food that I can legitimately say comes from our “people”.

I guess I need to describe this idea first.  I don’t live in an actual community.  I live in a neighborhood, and I give food to my neighbors when they come over to see what crazy thing I am doing.  Last night I let neighborhood kids pet my chickens and I gave them each a carrot.  It is always Halloween at my house. But we are not a community.  I don’t help them with their tasks. They don’t bring me food or offer to help with my tasks.  I don’t know most of their names.  I try to interact like I did yesterday.  But it is sort of hard because we don’t have much in common, most of them don’t want to interact, and I have social interaction issues.

But there is a small group of people who I consider my community.  Close friends that I care about, who I would be happy to help with planting, harvesting or burying the body.   Most of these people are in the Atlanta area, but not all of them.

So here are the rules:

Baseline – All of the major components of the meal have to be from our yard or be grown, raised, or made by people we are friends with.

Examples:

-Anything that is growing in our yard right now.

-Any of our own harvest we have preserved.  We have pickles, dried cowpeas, sunflower seeds, and dried beans.

-Pork from Issa (http://lovelivegrow.com/) and Joshua.  We ordered a pig from them. It will be several months before this part gets added in.  Any other food we buy from actual friends is good too.  I need to make friends with someone who has a milk cow. :-)

-The eggs our chickens will make, or eggs given to us by a friend.  *cough, cough..Erik*

-Herbs in our yard

-A simple thing a friend grows, processes, or makes and then GIVES to us (not like buying the pork, it has to be a gift).  This could be a loaf of bread –even if it has more outside ingredients than we would be allowed ourselves.   I am trying to simulate what it would be like to be mostly self sufficient in a community.   People in that community could give us things that we don’t have the ability to create.   But this can’t be something like a friend brings us a whole meal, or taking us out to dinner.  It has to be a reasonable farming community item.  Something they could have grown or made themselves.  Examples could be bread, muffins, wine, mead, meats they cured themselves, foods they have grown or raised.

Exceptions:

-Salt. We have no ability to create our own salt.  I guess we could go to the ocean and try to figure it out.  But for now salt from the store is allowed.  I am thinking I will only use salt Lori gave me for Yule, as that would fit with the idea more.

-Oils. At present we don’t grow any oil crops.  We could, and I plan to in the future. But for now olive oil, butter, coconut oil, etc. are all allowed.

-Things we harvested and preserved from local sources.   We have strawberry and blueberry jam from fruit we picked ourselves but did not grow.  We also have peach salsa, peach chutney and some pie filling. But we can’t just go buy something from a farmer’s market.

-Honey. This one is only for now.  Once we have bees, then we will only be allowed our own honey.  But right now I can use local honey or honey my stepfather gives me (He has bees in middle GA. He is kind of like my people, sort of.)

– In each meal there can be one ingredient that does not fit the rules.  Like I could use chicken broth if I want to make a soup.  Or I could add a store-bought meat to something, or local grits.   Whatever the extra ingredient is, it must be explained.  It also should be as local and/or as cruelty-free as possible.   This is one ingredient, not one item.  So for example I can’t bake my normal bread.  The bread I like to make is flour, butter, yeast, milk, eggs and salt.  So that is three ingredients I don’t have – flour, yeast and milk – four if I have to buy eggs.  But if a friend gave me a starter (like sourdough),  then the only thing I would need would be flour for some breads.

I am going to try to make this meal happen around the same time each week. And then post a picture and explanation of the meal.  Any friend who wants to donate is also invited to eat with us.

 

The world I am hoping to weave here is one where I sit down with friends over a meal wrought with our work.   We laugh, talk, and learn a little about each other.   I want to grow a tighter community with people who are passionate about this. I’ll be grateful for the gifts my friends give me and feel good for what I give them.  Eating together is an ancient and beautiful ritual that has been lost in our fast-paced world.  We have so little connection with where our food comes from and there is so much food.  I remember food meaning more to me when I was a child living in pretty serious poverty in coal country.  The venison my father hunted,our garden, the maple syrup we harvested and made all felt so important.

I’m hoping this fosters a sense of urgency about my homestead.  Sometimes I don’t work as hard as I should. Seeds get in late, weeds grow, and bugs run wild.  Food has been lost because I just left it sitting.  A few sparse meals will help. I also think this will increase my own sense of accomplishment about what I do.  The fact that I think I can do this means I must have confidence in my homesteading.

Chicken Tractor

My chicks have been outside during the day since Saturday.  They love having more space to play, being able to stretch their wings and do their weird hop-fly thing.  They are really enjoying all the new foods.  They have no idea that this is work not play!

They are eating the compost crops I put down a few months ago.  The plan is they will mow down all the crops, killing them but leaving the roots intact to help the soil texture.  While they eat they will poo adding more nutrients, and they will mix everything up with their scratching.  Hopefully they will also eat some insects that I don’t want.

The structure is my own design.  I am very proud of it.  Woodworking is something that has always intimidated me.  It seemed expensive, complicated and scary.  So anytime I have needed something made I have asked Jeff, Erik or other friends help me.   But this time I wanted something done right away and I did not want to wait for anyone else.  So I just did it.  I mostly used scrap wood from the garage, thought I did buy a few 1 x 4s and  1 x 2s.  I only used tools I had (miter saw, screw driver, staple gun and a hammer).   It is not fancy, but it is pretty sturdy and will do the job I needed.  Puck (my husband, the guy in the super man pants) helped me put together some of it, but he knows less about woodwork then I do.  So we both learned new skills.

Of course once they were outside Donnie (the black Maine Coon) had to come out too, so he could keep an eye on them.  When I am outside he sits right beside their pen, and when I am inside he stays in the window looking out at them.  His interest in the chicks is so odd.  Last week the leghorn got out of the pen inside while I was giving them water. She ran away from me and hide behind Donnie.  They have almost no fear of him and he seem to have no urge to eat them.

At night I bring the chicks back inside, because I don’t trust this structure to keep them safe and it is not quite warm enough.  The hen house will be done this week and then they will be out of the house full time.  About 8 weeks from babies to living in their own apartment.  They grow up so fast.

Spring….I think…maybe

In Georgia there is a thin line between the weird unpredictable winter and blistering summer.  It is hard to actually call it a season, because it does not last nearly long enough to get that title.   The weather bounces back and forth across the line for a few months.  This year, January had days that got up to 70 degrees; last year Atlanta (yes, pretty much the whole city) shut down for a week of ice and snow.  I stayed locked up in my house eating french toast for 7 days.   Two weeks ago it got down to 21 degrees; today was the mid to high 70s.   I’ve decided to call it spring and hope for the best.  Granted, two years ago it snowed on the 1st of April, so I can’t guarantee anything.  But I figure I will go ahead and do my spring planting and other activities, because the gain I could receive in terms of harvest greatly outweighs the cost of a few seeds.   If it did frost again, the peach blossoms would die, but I have no power over that.   I think I might cry if that happened; summer tastes like peaches.

I did a lot of planting in the winter this year.  The plan was that hardy plants could go ahead and get started under a leaf cover, and I would be saved having to try to start seeds inside.  I am horrible at indoor seed starting.  Almost all my inside seedlings died last year due to fungus gnats.  A few of the winter plants got so big I harvested and ate them already (cabbages, chard).  But most are still small.   But it is a heck of a head start over where I was last year.

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I spent today removing leaf cover from the carrots and lettuce.  You should know I already did this once.  I was sure 3 weeks ago that while freezing might happen there was no chance it would drop below around 28 degrees.  Lettuce and carrots would have been just fine at 28, but 21 no way!  So I had a mad cat scramble to put the leaves back on.  At least I got the carrots thinned out the first time.  The lettuce got thinned today.  I took all the small plants that were being choked out and moved them to the back of the bed.  I find this method of broadcasting lots of seeds and then moving, eating, or composting the smaller plants to be much less work than starting seeds one at a time in a flat or pots.   As Scrooge McDuck says, “Work smarter, not harder”.

On some tasks I am really behind.  I only got around to putting compost crops in one bed.  And over the winter I let the weeds get really out of hand.  I spent most of my day weeding, but happily it is almost all done!  That which is left is only about an hour of work that I can do tomorrow.  It was getting dark and we found a snake, so it was time to go inside.

I got one more bed seeded with compost crops, which seems a little silly at this point.  The beds should be for food right now, not rye grass and clover, but the front bed was in really bad shape, so it could use it.   I am only going to let the compost crops grow a few weeks before I let the chickens attack them. I am really interested to see the chickens working in the garden.  I might take them outside tomorrow if I can make a safe enclosure for them.  I hope they enjoy the weeding more than I do.

There is a lot of work to be done over the next few weeks; ordering seeds, planting, hopefully getting time to build a few beds in the back yard.   This is the time of year that is all work and almost no harvest, aside from the never-ending salad (oh, that reminds me, I need to plant radishes tomorrow).

 However, I did have a nice little surprise in the front bed.  I found a wee lucky potato.  

Winter Garden

Today I just want to post a few pictures of my winter garden.  Last winter I started experimenting with four season gardening, but I only planted a few things.  This year I have a whole bunch more.

  These are peas with lettuce in the background.   I had peas for a while this spring and harvested quite a few, but for a very short time.  By the time we got to May it was already too hot for them.  This is one of my favorite crops.  They are easy to plant, easy to grow, have pretty white flowers and make a weird squeaky sound when you touch them.   There are lots and lots of flowers right now, so I should have a crop of peas to eat in the next few weeks if this amazing weather holds.  Even if not, as long as it does not get too cold these plants should be ok.

This picture is of chard, onions and carrots. All  are from seed.  The odd part is the onion seeds were planted last spring.  Not sure why they decided to just hang around and wait until now, but that is OK.  They need to do whatever works for them.  I put some compost and lime on the chard yesterday.  This is my first time using an additive for a specific plant.   I normally work under a system of everyone gets dirt and compost and the strong survive.  But I really want chard to be big and delicious for New Years, because those are my greens of choice.   The carrots have nice tops but the carrot part is tiny because the soil here has too much nitrogen.   I don’t have a good plan on how to deal with this.  Each year my soil will get better, so where do I put the plants like carrots and sweet potatoes that grow best in bad soil?  

 This is the only time I have had success at brassicas, which I have up until now planted in the spring.  These had a few bug problems early on, as you can tell from the outer leaves.  But the first frost mostly fixed that. It killed the moths and the cabbage worms, but from time to time I still see these ashy gray aphids.   Since then they have been growing like crazy.  I am actually amazed at how big they are.   Had I realized this, I might have planted them further apart.  There are 6 plants in a 3×4 area.   I am going to harvest the one in the front for dinner tonight.  Mmmmm corned beef and cabbage.   The flavor of the outer leaves is a little spicy and bitter, different than cabbage normally is, but I like it.

The last picture is of my artichoke patch, all finished and sincere.  These were planted last spring, but pretty much left to their own devices.  With having a job and the big garden in the front, I never got around to even watering them.  Somehow they were still alive when I was raking a few weeks ago, so I decided to build a special area around them so I could not forget them again. The fence is the wattle I was building in the last post, and the border is $20 of landscaping timbers.  The plants are noticeably bigger just in the last few weeks.

Building A Wattle Fence

It is the middle of  December and the weather is perfect for being outside.  I wanted to do something and also felt crafty. I made a long list of projects, but before most of them could be done I had to clear a bunch of ivy where we will be putting in a chicken run.  So since all the ivy had to go anyway, I thought I should do something with it, and that is what prompted this project.

 A wattle fence is made by weaving flexible branches or vines between posts, like making a giant basket. The posts can be very small like the ones I used for this, or much bigger.  The weaving material needs to be small and pliable enough to work with.  Saplings are great for this; many people use willow and it is supposed to be just about the best thing you can use. I don’t have any willow, but I would love to try it some time.  When I buy land for my farm one of the first things I will plant is willow.

This is an old practice.  If you have a hatchet and enough material, you can build fences, walls, or even houses using these techniques.  When building a house use wattle and daub. Daub is a mud type stuff put all over the wattle.  You should look it up, they can be neat.  Wattle can be pretty or rustic, and can last a long time.

The first step is to cut down some branches. I chose to cut them each 4 feet long.  You can clean off all the smaller branches on each or leave them for the weaving; I chose to clean them because I find that easier.  I left some forks and lots of little nodes to set the weaving on.

Once I had as many as I thought I would need, I made the ends sharp with the hatchet. Hitting things with a hatchet is fun; if you have never done it before you should.  After that I pushed them in to the ground and then hit them with a hatchet, so were really small at the top.  At this point I realized they would have been better a little thicker; I worry about them falling over. But they are what I have, so I carried on.  

Once the posts were in the ground I started gathering the weaving material and weaving it on.  This is the part that took a long time.  Sometimes the ivy would break while being pulled out, as it was such a tangled mess.  Some of this was here before we moved in, and we have not done much to keep it under control.  I took off the leaves and roots of each piece to make them easier to work with.  Some pieces were very long, as much as 8 or 9 feet,  some that I used were as small as 3.  It was pretty much random.  If I liked a piece I used it.  If not, I put it in the leaf pile.   This part took several hours of work over the course of a few days.   The hardest part is joining a new piece to an old piece; sometimes that can be really annoying, but before too long I had the hang of it.   As you can imagine, it  gets pretty complex.  I went around the fence 3 times on each level, wrapping, braiding and weaving the ivy.

This picture is of a first pass, but you can see the finished ones underneath.

This is fun alone or with friends.  It is much faster and easier when you have help, because often 3 or 4 hands are needed to make it work right.  The structure is all done now, if a bit wobbly, and I am happy with the results.

 If you don’t like old fashioned or rustic, it might not be your thing, but if you like free then it certainly is.  There is more I can do here if  I want.  I can weave the other direction, making it sort of chain link.  Or I can go diagonally from post to post, making a diamond pattern.  Or I can decorate it, which is what I am doing.  So far I have added on some ivy with leaves, and I am going to put on bows and maybe some white holiday lights.

Last Harvest

Today might be the last big harvest.

Leaves are dying and a frost is expected this week.   I still have dozens of tomatoes and pepper on the plants and I have not decided how to deal with that.  I could pick them all green and let them turn red inside over the next few weeks.  I could try covering the plants with blankets and hope for the best.  I have heard that pulling the plants up and then hanging them upside down can allow the tomatoes to grow a bit more and ripen better, but I don’t think that is practical.  Some of the plants are about 6 feet tall and about half as wide.  I can’t imagine being able to move them and hang them with out damage.

The Garden is over. Sure I have several winter crops that should do fine with a light frost; carrots,  cabbage, peas, lettuce and lots of herbs.  But those don’t feel quite the same.  The high point of the garden is red ripe tomatoes, beans that make loud cracking noises when you break them, big messy bunches of wild flowers, and a canopy of sunflowers (they got cut down months ago, so I am over that lose).   Gone are the things I have to climb under to harvest, the plants that I can hide behind if I don’t want to be engaged by my neighbors.   I guess it all makes sense, winter is the time to pull in, stay close to home and rest.  And given how hard my little piece of perfect worked this year it deserves the break.

Joy in a Suburban Homestead

The time I spend working on my garden is precious.  From planning to harvest, each stage gives me new pleasure and challenges.   Every year I experiment with new varieties and placement,  new structures and supports.

One of my favorite changes this year is the bean tunnel.   It is made of livestock panel and some metal fence posts.   The idea is for the beans to climb up it, making this pretty covered tunnel that I can hide in.  Having a small yard in a dense neighborhood means very little of my yard has the private solitary feel that I like from a garden, and also almost no shade.  The bean tunnel is an attempt at making private space, no matter how small.   So far I love it.  The beans are growing exactly like they should with almost no help from me.   The ones climbing are mostly rattlesnake (Bountiful Gardens seeds), a very tender purple spotted bean with great flavor.  We grew it last year and liked it, so we decided to do it again.

On the ground you will see black weed block.   This is also new this year.  My front yard was all grass when we moved in.  And no matter how hard you try, grass is resilient.   I think I work harder killing all my grass than anyone in my neighborhood does keeping theirs a creepy green color all year long.  This year Erik had the idea to hoe up the first few inches of grass, staple down weed block and then cover with something.  The something you see here under the tunnel is rubber mulch.  I got it because it is recycled, rather pretty, lasts forever and nothing is going to grow in it.  The downside is that is sucks to walk on with bare feet.  The other option I tried, which you can see to the left, is sand.  Feels great on the feet, and not likely to get things growing in it.  But it will wash away over time.

Specially trained attack tomatoes

Speaking of structures, a new one is called for with these tomatoes.  They have bent this support and are about to take it down.  Tomorrow I am going to take some more livestock panel and make something to put around them that might be a little more sound. While I am at it, all the other tomato plants which are still pretty small might as well get the same treatment.  Lots of volunteer tomatoes this year, there is a one under the sunflowers that looks to be a roma of some type.

I am using the biointensive method, with increasing success.   My lettuce and radish area is just about perfect – almost no space at all between these plants.  That means no weeds, no mulch, and great water retention.  The idea is to make a mini-ecosystem  under a group of plants. I have found that growing close makes for much healthier plants, and that some plants like radishes will not even grow if too far away from others of their kind.   I need to eat all of this very soon.  With the super high temperatures (mid-90s everyday this week) lettuce is about to bolt, which will not be good eats.

Companion planting is fun, sort of like a game.   For the last few years I have been trying to get nasturtium and squash both growing at the same time, with no luck.  I killed every nasturtium I planted.   Which was sad, because I thought they would be pretty.  And they are!  This year they are finally working.  I have three plants living, one each red, yellow and orange.  Which is odd, because the seed package shows red, and I have always heard they are red.  I am happy they come in more than one color.  I like surprises like that.   I hope having the nasturtium helps with squash bugs.  Summer squash is one of my favorite foods when fresh.  Last year was a real disappointment for squash.  Between squash bugs, mexican bettles (tricksy bastards) and not enough water, we got maybe 2 meals worth of squash all season.

          Here are the two great friends- yellow squash and nasturtium. The leaves of the nasturtium are almost as pretty as the flowers.  This plant looks like it either came from the past and was a favorite of dinosaurs, or else from an alien world. No, I don’t know why I feel that way, I just do.  I have an active imagination.  Oh, fun thing about my squash.  I planted the seeds of several kinds at random, so until they have fruit I don’t know what they are.  This one is yellow straight neck. One of the others is getting its first fruit and it looks  like it might be a pattypan of some kind.

Sometimes I look at my tiny yard and I long for the future, when I will have a real farm with all the garden space I could ever want, with chickens and cows, and an evil mule.  But most of the time I am happy with what I have.  I am learning each plant’s likes, dislikes and needs on an intimate basis. Each plant is special. With a small garden I can take the time to care for them one at a time.   Also, a suburban homestead is a nice step.  A 5-acre plot might overwhelm me.  I might run around like crazy planting things at random, wanting to use it all, and making a big mess.   With my small plot I have to really think about how I am going to use every foot.   Until I started this garden I always thought of growing my own food as efficient, self-sufficient and utilitarian.  Having a garden in the front yard as taught me that a garden can also be a beautiful work of art.