Yesterday morning, we dressed early in anticipation of our boots crossing the first frosty crunch of the year. They did not. By the light of a flashlight the night before I plucked all the tomatoes green, yellow, red, or otherwise and peppers the same, just in case. All that remains is the flowers, winter squash, some straggler carrots and onions, and our new batch of lettuce-y greens.
And look, we are not the only ones who think our flowers have something special. They are officially world champions.
But it turns out up here on this hill we get to stretch out summer right until the very end. The equinox is upon us very soon, and with it comes the overwhelming last hurrah from mother nature. My absolute favorite. She is decked out in gold and purple like its her coronation, and her costumes do not cease to amaze. We are storing up her sights in the root cellars of our soul; Saving these sweet, crunchy moments for the coldest of days which are surely upon us.
enjoy your weekend. breathe deeply in this autumn air.
Our CSA’s ginormous bags of greens combined with the eternally delicious stash of lettuce from our own garden, has equalled to some truly crunchy and satisfying meals. Greens go in smoothies (good enough for green lantern!), on eggs, in eggs, sautéed, and my personal favorite: Ground up to a delicious paste and spread on pizza. While Rowan isn’t as easily convinced that sautéed beet greens are the best thing since sliced bread, Miles is quite excited to stuff his little mouth with anything green, be it spicy, crunchy, or as earthy as can be. And truth be told, on the long wagon ride back from the CSA farm (it is uphill both ways if you didn’t know), I have caught Rowan happily, absent-mindedly, munching on everything from fennel tops to dinosaur Kale. It makes my heart soar.
Last night after knocking the towering mason jar of fennel tops over for the millionth time in my refrigerators side door, I felt it was time to use those silky fronds. So I plopped them in the food processor with a dozen garlic scapes, a handful of basil, a touch of mint, some freshly toasted pecans and a very generous pour (or two or three) of olive oil. Salt, pepper and a fine grating of romano and oh yes I was feeling pizza for supper. It’s only right when you create something so impossibly green to devour it with the ever sought after fresh mozzarella and some goat cheese, mountains of caramelized onions, and sautéed, crispy early zucchini and summer squash. Toppings of an early summer harvest, you just can’t beat em.
(please ignore my oblong, misshapen pizza, I truly would benefit from purchasing a pizza peel or a box of cornmeal at the very least…)
The placement of this garden was an important decision for me. Not just for sunlight hours, (we have a six acre field that surely would get more), or soil quality but because of sheer location to the house. I knew that a garden that made me stray too far would go untended. In the past my only real vegetable garden was a community garden spot a few blocks away from my house in Flagstaff. And while I surely did visit it often, it sometimes went a few days without a caring hand. Not the case here. Tucked in right next to our house, it is most definitely my most favorite place to be. Surrounded by this spectacular fence made from the timber on our land by the hands of the most amazing man I know, watching the food that will nourish us (with some hope!) all season long, this is something I truly can’t get enough of.
This week with the completion of the fence behind us, I began in earnest filling in the gaps that I think may be growing in our garden. Side alleys were filled with bush bean seeds and more cucumbers were placed by the gardens edge. Another few rows of carrots were woven into the mix and I sowed black radishes, red top turnips and blood-red beets. More slobolt lettuce was scattered in by my biggest boy, and some eggplant and brocoli starts we picked out at last weeks farmers market were interspersed among my slow-growing sweet peas. The dahlia tubers that I planted on the outside of the fence are starting to show their deep purple stalks. I also purchased some hyssop to place in with the herbs making the herb garden look a little brighter and bigger with the new addition. All the squash beetles seem to be being kept at bay (for now) by the white fabric and diligent picking and are growing strongly know. We have been tasting lettuce and onion tops and scallions and radish greens and the regular, anticipating that first home-grown meal.
In other news… the perennial gardens has been a place of much thought and discussion. Behind our little hops contraption lies an untended raspberry patch I would love to clean up. Right now its over run by comfrey and sedum, only the latter being something I would like to keep (there is SO much comfrey!). This may turn into a project for next year for my energy level is dying off, and fast! Besides, all the advice my mama has given me has pointed to waiting. “The first year,” she says, “Just watch. Mark things if you can, and take lots of notes.” This is a good plan I shall stick by.
And whew, just now and I was typing this, I took a quick break to run (as fast as my giant belly would allow) towards the sound of the mystery egg laying location as Dark Red announced her job was finished. I searched and searched these garden beds, for that is where her fluffy proud self emerged from, and finally, FINALLY found five gorgeous large brown eggs. Oh how I had missed those occasional double yolkers.
Yes, the garden is full of intrigue this time of year and we are loving every moment of it!
Oh remember my dreamy post just last week about the promising sprouts and budding shrubbery everywhere I turned at our new abode? Well, very quickly, just as I suspected, the garden bed I saved for last changed my opinions on this whole mess. A realization came to me upon unearthing dozens of tree sized logs laid across the bed, some actual rugs, a layer of black plastic, a layer of ashy dust and much to my dismay the reason the previous owners moved out.
It was the weed. The knotweed.
Oh Japanese knotweed with your orange roots so fragile and always breaking, with your pink sweet potato tubers plumping themselves several feet under the earth, your stalky bamboo stalks taking up the majority of our burn pile, how I loathe you. At points I was thigh deep in the soil standing beside massive clumps of the stuff, scraping away carefully, feeling like an archeologist trying to sweep the soil off of every single root and bulb. The boys joined in pointing out the familiar and undeniable tiny pink buds in every corner of the bed, plunging their little spades into the ground in efforts to rid our garden of such a nuisance. While surely Round-up would be an easy solution, I can assure you I will not go there. I will battle-fight (In the words of Miles and Rowan) this pest until its gone. I am honest to goodness going to ask my neighbor, whom has an excavator, what he charges. When the job it complete I will watch the whole thing go up in a funeral pyre. It seems it’s the only way.
There were brighter points in the garden yesterday, I promise. We frolicked with a friend, bird watched, took a walk to the stream, and left out a few colorful strands of yarn for the birds to build their nests. Of course, this tree we dangled those fibers from was in the calm of the front yard, where we could try to forget the disaster occurring just around the corner.
And today I will dig.
Of all the things to experience in our new house, my favorite as of yet is seeing the much discussed (by the previous owner quite apologetically I may add) untended garden I inherited begin to sprout up. Mind you, it has taken some serious clearing, but once I rake and prune and examine; there it is. Everywhere. And I mean everywhere. The more I rake, the more I uncover and these beds grow and grow right before my eyes. Giant shrubs with tiny buds, endless fields of bulbs, prickly roses and sleek pointed leaves that are all beginning to open their eyes and shake off the dust from a very, very long winter. I would estimate I am halfway done with the massive cleaning that has been in progress since the snow began to melt. With one stubborn patch of the frozen white stuff still left, wild rose growing out of it like an octopus coming up to the surface, this task is becoming to feel manageable finally. And soon, this somewhat tamed perrenial garden will dazzle us all season.
The following photos all credited to the sweet little boy pictured above, my Miles Henry. He went on a camera walk yesterday to take pictures of beautiful things. While he didn’t capture the same things I would have, his story just tells something different. For now these photos will suffice and I will be back with some that follow my experience soon.
My first thoughts in seeing this house and upon viewing the massive garden notes left for prospective buyers, were met with much concern knowing I do love flowers but my heart was set on a vegetable garden. Knowing that the landscape can be altered when it comes to sinking plants into the earth, I just set aside this concern. But now that the time is actually here and the vision of deep purple bearded irises, fragrant peonies, lilac and lavender, bundles of andromeda and lupine all around us is truly intoxicating and addicting. I can’t wait to show up at my friends doorsteps with armfuls of color to hand to them just because my garden is spilling over with beauty to share. It thrills me to imagine pruning and arranging this massive overgrown beast of a garden. I feel much like a little girl playing in my mom’s garden constantly asking her to relay the foreign sounding flower names to me, over and over again.
Having this garden makes me feel even closer to her in a way. My mom uses every free moment of the warm months to either work in her garden or walk through it, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand depending on the hour, just admiring it and occasionally deadheading a flower here or pulling out some pesky japanese knotweed there. Passer-byers are awed at the gargantuan towers of exotics and natives all mixed together to create one of the most bold and inspiring gardens around. Sometimes people make special trips just to see what she is growing. And now with my fingers in the dirt and legs lined with scratches I am beginning to see the reason she does it; Just to watch things grow.
Happy Earth Day! Go out and marvel in Mother Earth’s beauty. It really is something to behold.