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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Little Patch of Earth

I remember thinking how beautiful the radish flowers are with their lovely lilacs and stark whites as I watched them get taller and wilder till they finally went to seed.

Over the years, considering what it has offered in terms of intangible lessons and returns, I'd emphatically say it is well worth it. Home-Gardening, I mean.

Knowing how plants grow, where our food comes from, how to care for the earth, composting, recycling, plant diseases, interdependence of nature's creatures, soil nutrition, harvesting, bugs and their role in the garden and suchlike are, at some level, hands-on for the kids, allowing me to learn a lot in the process as well.

Many simple and surprising recipes have come out of the home-garden harvest.

One of the lasting lessons for the kids has been composting. Organic waste goes into the compost bin in the kitchen, which dutifully gets emptied into the Earth Machine in the backyard. Og at 3 now knows banana peel doesn't go in the trash, we put it for composting in our home.

If harvesting the weed-like oregano and mint and fennel and rosemary and lavender from the garden gives me pleasure, it makes me ecstatic to get the squashes and green beans and eggplants and chards and lettuce and onions and tomatoes and radishes and potatoes and peas from the home garden.

Ana likes to to help with the harvesting. Please get me 20 green beans and 8 mint leaves, Ana, I call from the kitchen and she chimes OK, Mama from the backyard, searching around for a basket. Og likes to pick what little raspberries and chards he can find and munch on them as he wanders around the backyard, looking around for worms and ladybugs.

We still need to buy vegetables from the markets - it is not like we are self-sufficient with a teeny patch of backyard garden. That isn't the goal at all.

With nothing other than passion to support my fantasy of a thriving backyard mini-farm, and no stamina or in-depth knowledge to sustain the vegetable gardening year-round, even if the weather permits, which it doesn't where I live, I make the most of the few months from April to September, knowing that a greenhouse is out of my limits for now. No cute duck ponds, native flora and fauna coexisting in our backyard. Yet.

It is possible that this passion might get put in the back-burner as kids grow older and my reserves of energy seem better utlilized elsewhere... but for now, I am glad to be invited to an impromptu picnic by Ana where she prepares her truly original delicacy: Garden-fresh Raspberry Stuffed with Red Currants.

My indoor plant dreams are somewhat throttled by the Chew-Anything-Green policy our kitties have adopted since kittenhood. Even if they have pots of their kitty grass all over the house they seem to take pleasure in chewing up the money plant and peace lily leaves and puking them out all over the house. Of course, what am I if I cannot outsmart a kitty with hanging pots?

Garden 2006 started with peas and strawberries and rhubarb in Spring, as usual. Then, it was mostly eggplants (many varieties), winter squashes, bell peppers, chilies, tomatoes, my favorites.

Garden 2007 was mostly the same as 2006, with a variety of lettuce and some onions and potatoes. And the grapevine finally establishing and bearing fruit.

Garden 2008 didn't see much of me at planting season, what with Oggie's arrival and all. Little girl Ana was a big help that year. D tried many varieties of tomatoes and peppers and sqaushes which are easy to grow, plus cauliflower. That was fun for us all to watch the cauliflower grow. Cleaning and using it was a bit tedious but c'est la vie with organic gardening. Oh, and Scallop Squash - my favorite summer squash - we had a bunch of it that year.

Garden 2009 is a slight bit of a blur for me as I was in India that whole summer. D said he planted corn and tomatoes and squashes as usual. That was the year we had a bounty of grapes, pears and plums - I remember coming back from India and enjoying the fruits.

Garden 2010 had the staples again - peas, onions, radishes, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, chilies, spinach, lettuce, rainbow chards... as does Garden 2011.

This year looks like a couple of our squashes cross-pollinated or something - a weird butternut- squash shaped thin-skinned summer squash has sprung up which neither D nor I remember planting. It is still growing so we'll have to wait to see what it turns into.

The usual perennials like rhubarb, mint, fennel, rosemary and such come up despite my neglect, but, planting the annuals each year has been quite a learning experience for us all.

We let the radishes and onions go to seed and saved the seeds from last year for planting this year.

We let the fennel go to seed even though it is a perennial, and collected the wonderful fennel seeds. I toast them and save them for soothing the tummy and freshening the breath after meals.

Seed Saving and Organic Gardening. Romantic and possibly Affected as they sound, seems to be a way of life for many today.

When Ana declares, I am going to have a large farm and a house in it, with sheep and ducks and chicken, and adds, You and Papa can come and stay with me, Mama; Og too if he wants, it feels like if nothing else, all that sweat and weeding at least served to impress one young mind. Possibly two. Three, including me, who was a city girl growing up with potted indoor plants for the most part.

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At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Reva said...

More pics of the garden pls :) And I can totally relate to the satisfaction you get from making a fresh meal out of veggies from the garden. This is the first year we did a full-fledged veggie patch. And we've enjoyed the onions, tomatoes, zucchini, okra, one lone brinjal, carrots, beets and beans. I am eagerly waiting for the potatoes, peppers and more brinjals. We also enjoyed cherries and an abundant yield of plums, thanks to the previous owners! I have to ask you some questions on composting (will send an email soon) and hopefully we'll get to that next year.
And Ana's idea of raspberries stuffed with currants is sheer genius! :)

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Reva:: How wonderful! I am glad you share the passion.

And thanks to the prev owners we are enjoying the pears and plums too :)

The year Ana was born we planted a Jonagold apple tree and now it is bearing fruit - we get only about a dozen smallish ones each year - but they seem like the most precious of all...

I'd love to learn from your experience too, so, yes, emailing sounds good.


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