Precious Fruit

Two balls dangle in our yard. We watch and wait. They are precious fruit. (What homegrown fruit isn’t?) Precious because we nurture them and precious because they are rare. The peach tree literally has one peach on it. It will taste so good! But that seed — that’s the golden ticket! One bud endured the late freeze to become a flower successfully pollinated to become this precious fruit. Friday morning I say to Brian, “Remind me to check that peach. We don’t want something to beat us to it.” Less than an hour later we walk outside and eagerly approach the tree. Panic seeps through my optimistic whisper: “I don’t see it.” Maybe I’m looking in the wrong spot? “It was right here. I just took a picture of it on Monday.” It is gone. There is no sign of it on the ground, like when the birds or squirrels devoured last summer’s bounty.

One ball dangles in our yard. We watch and wait. It is the first time the passion vine has bore fruit. Not just this vine, but all the vines before, grown in all the yards before this one.

To be continued…

Ramping Up

Every week we get a bag of food from Kam’s Kookery & Guilford Garden. It’s called a CSA, for “community-supported agriculture,” but it’s easier to refer to it as our “veggie bag.” CSA customers commit to the veggies in advance, and given the nature of farming, receive a fluctuating variety and amount of produce every week (or every other week, as the case may be).

I had a couple of things in mind to try with this week’s bounty. My friend Hailey shared her experience of making pastrami-cured beets, which I was excited to make as soon as I learned we’d receive beets. We got turnips too, so to make it worth the effort I combined them. They’re delicious! Here’s the recipe Hailey and I used. I didn’t have any powdered garlic, and they still turned out delicious. At last! I didn’t wait until the turnips were sad and wrinkly before finally putting them to use!

A head of cabbage also came in the bag, so I started a batch of sauerkraut, adding bits of leftover turnips and beets for color and crunch. If you’ve never made sauerkraut before, there’s ample guidance online and in books you can get at the library. I decided to check with one of my favorite bloggers, the Zero Waste Chef, to see how she does it. I took her advice to let the salted veggies sit for an hour or so after I mixed and massaged them with salt. This ensured the cabbage released enough water so that I could easily submerge the veggies in the resulting brine, something that has taken a lot of pounding and squeezing in the past. After I filled the large jar, I decided to add some minced serrano peppers that we had in the freezer, so a small batch will have a bit of heat.

The veggie bag also had onions, zucchini, crookneck squash, sungold tomatoes, new potatoes, cucumbers, and Swiss chard. I love this time of year! This morning I flipped through How to Cook Everything Fast (thanks, Anne!) to see what I could make with some chicken thighs and squash: Provencal chicken for supper!

Weeknight Roadtrip

One of the more memorable books we’ve read with our daughter is Blueberries for Sal, so I’ve had “kerplink! kerplank! kerplunk!” in my head since yesterday afternoon when we decided to head 100 miles east to Uncle Buck’s Berry Farm.

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I was a little unsure about dragging my family on weeknight road trip, but all my self-doubt was assuaged once we arrived at the farm. We saw killdeer and wildflowers and holes in the ground that house eggs, as my daughter explained. The birdsong and our giddy outbursts (“This is so fun!” “What a good idea!” “Yummy!” “Is that a bird?!”) were the soundtrack as we picked from plants loaded with blueberries, just as as Uncle Buck had promised. It was somewhat chilly (!!!) and so overcast that we didn’t need to bother with sunscreen or hats, all things that increased the enjoyment of my hot-natured daughter and husband.

Buck’s family has farmed this acreage along Lavender Street for almost 100 years. The land the orchard occupies once was part of a larger soybean and peanut farm, but now the 5.5-acre berry patch is in its fourth year as a pick-your-own operation with 7,000 blueberry and blackberry plants. You can also find Uncle Buck and his berries at the Okmulgee Farmers’ Market.

After we got our fill of blueberries (both in our bellies and bowls), we had a picnic supper nestled between rows of blackberries and wildflowers.

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Happy Berm Day

A year ago the city installed a sidewalk on our street (March 28, 2016, to be exact), and we asked them to not spread the dirt and lay sod after the work was done. We wanted to keep the “berm” created by the displaced soil. At first it was a lot of work to remove big rocks and create a somewhat uniform mound, so we wondered if we made the right decision. And it continues to take effort to (attempt to) fend off the bermuda and crab grasses. Would we do it again? Unequivocally, yes. If entertainment value alone were the only metric: yes, yes, yes. The berm has given us so much:

  • Food for humans and other animals: culinary and medicinal herbs, eggplant, okra, winter peas, sunflower seeds, nectar, and more to come.
  • Community: We are playing or working out there often, so we get to wave to drivers or chat with walkers. The berm is a conversation piece. Some people clearly are baffled and others are inspired. Either way, we eagerly share our experiences, challenges, and future plans. Also, we were flush with cowpeas and now winter peas, so we share with our neighbors.
  • Activity: The berm hums with life. The berm provides opportunities for wonderment and movement with purpose — both are a joy to share with our daughter.
  • Beauty: Flowers! See photos and plant varieties below. I sought out advice for seeds that might have a fighting chance against the invasive grasses. The best performer was cowpeas: They thrived all summer and fall and they’re pretty, edible nitrogen fixers.
  • Buffer: Our house is situated on a curve and the berm gives me a sense of security when we’re playing in the front yard and a car takes the bend too fast. I feel less exposed in general, but even more so when the mammoth sunflowers are up and we have a “living fence.”
What we planted in the spring:
“bee feed” mix*
borage*
Oriental scarlet poppy
assorted sunflowers
echinacea
brown cottonseeds
Heliopsis helianthoides
okra
anise hyssop
milkweed
dill
calendula mix*
red marietta marigold*
Michels cowpea*
butterfly weed
purple prairie clover
What we planted in the fall:
Austrian winterpeas*
golden sweetpeas
Windsor fava beans
crimson clover

*Most successful

To save money, we planted a lot of seeds and just a few transplants (eggplant, sage, rosemary, hibiscus). We’re hoping that many plants will readily re-seed this spring and we’ll plant seeds I saved at the end of the season.