Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How My Garden Grows

by Zinta Aistars
Copyright 2013

Guinnez awaits me on deck

It's how Guinnez and I start every day: we head outside at Z Acres to wander the grounds and see what's new, what's growing, what catches our eye. With his increasing age, my old chow pup is starting to tag along at a slower pace, but whenever I look around, there he is, nearby, ever faithful.

In this growing season, my first path is almost always toward the garden. I've doubled last summer's garden, little by little turning over new ground with an old pitchfork. I've also added a second, smaller garden, with plenty of room to increase that one, too, next summer. The goal is to eventually grow enough to feed me during summer and fall, but also enough to preserve for the cold season. I don't think I will quite get there this growing season, but I'm getting closer!

I've been eating all organic, mostly local and heirloom, for about five or six years now, and it's been a wonderful food journey. I've discovered new and delicious flavors, expanded my culinary expertise, and enjoyed the health benefits.

Best of all, I now live on a 10-acre farm where I can grow more of my own vegetables and fruits. I love getting my hands in this rich earth, and I love watching the growing results. Weather has been ideal this spring, with a nice mix of sunshine and rain and reasonable temperatures. My garden is responding. Earlier this spring, I planted kale, tomatoes, spinach, peas, cabbage, beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, bell peppers, Swiss chard, lettuces and greens, kohlrabi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leeks, squashes and zucchini, cucumbers, basil, dill and pumpkin. I'm planning to still add beans and rhubarb and herbs.

As I walk through sections of my garden, I take a look at what's coming up. Green peppers are doing well.

I see my first tomato blossom, looking a little soppy after last night's rain. I do love tomatoes! And I have about 16 heirloom varieties growing in my garden this summer.

I was never a big salad fan ... until I started growing my own lettuces and greens. What a flavor difference! I have an assortment coming up, and with those tomatoes and homemade salad dressing, it will be a tasty meal.

A friend recently brought me a pumpkin plant as a gift to add to my garden. Thank you! I love making a pumpkin cheesecake, or pumpkin pie, or pumpkin soup ...

Two different types of kale grow in my garden, and this vitamin-rich vegetable has fast become one of my favorites. It's so versatile. I toss kale into sauces and soups, add it into all kinds of dishes. One of my recent favorites is a greens pie with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, ricotta cheese, eggs, spices. It's a healthy meal sans meat.

Kohlrabi is one of those veggies that I didn't eat .... until I became a fan of farmers markets and bought a share in a CSA that introduced me to all kinds of vegetables  I wasn't eating. I do now! There is so much variety available once you go organic.

Bok choy is great in much more than just Chinese dishes. I love its crispy, light flavor, and I add it to a lot of dishes now, too.

Yeah, beets. Not a fan. Working on it. They really are so very good for you, and so I am learning to make them in new ways. Roasted beets very nearly have me converted, quite good, and I do like them in borscht. Marinated, maybe. I'm also discovering ways to use the greens of the plant.

Oh, but berries! I love berries, all kinds, and last fall, when another gardening friend offered me some strawberry plants, I was only too happy to take them off her hands. I have a little greenhouse, so I kept the plants in there over the cold season, then planted them this spring. I'm still going to go strawberry picking at my friend Shirley's for some serious berry quantity (I plan to be jamming!), but these little plants give me a start on a strawberry patch of my own.

When I want a bounty of berries, I can do a twirl in my garden and see blackberry bushes nearly surrounding the acreage. A few raspberries, too, but it's blackberries that will soon have me buried in berries. They were a sweet surprise last summer, but this summer, I'm prepared. I have canning jars waiting for all the jams I will be making for myself and friends, and I plan to freeze berries, too. There will be pies, oh many pies, and cobblers and crisps.

After wandering through the garden, Guinnez and I stroll to the flower beds and the back field to enjoy wildflowers and check out a few naturally growing herbs.

The fruit of one of my smaller fruit trees has me puzzled. They almost look like tiny  olives, don't they? Since last spring there was a hard frost that ruined all fruit on the trees, I never did get to see what grows on some of these trees. I am watching this year.

A few of my favorite bleeding hearts are still in bloom in my flower bed.

My barn is getting a beautiful green cover of ivy.

I love watching the greening trees enclose the little red farmhouse as if in a green embrace. It keeps the house surprisingly cool during hot summer days.

Guinnez takes off up the path that leads to our Cottage on the Hill, an artist's retreat I offer to creative friends but also use as a home office for myself. Guinnez knows I keep dog biscuits up there, so he never winds the uphill climb through the woods.

Guinnez settles in to rest inside the cottage and waits for me to bring the biscuits out from the cupboard.

Please? Can I have a biscuit now, please?

Guinnez surveys the woods from the deck of the cottage before we head down the path to the big old apple tree. This tree, too, had no fruit last year due to the hard frost. This year, it is heavy with fruit. I'm thinking apple pies, chutneys, applesauce ...

Gradually, I'm learning about foraging, about herbs and teas. I'm fascinated to learn about the medicinal herbs I have growing right here in my own back field. One of these is mullein. I pick a few of the velvety soft leaves to dry for teas, and it can also be used to make natural cough syrups, with antibiotic qualities.

About a year and a half into my life at Z Acres, I love my corner of paradise more than ever. It's a wonderful place to live and work, to entertain friends, to just get away from the nonsense of the supposedly civilized world. It's my forever Home.

1 comment:

  1. Love the peony! That is something we can't grow here in Florida, nor the apples, daffodils, and many other of the lovely things you have growing there so bountifully! We have other beauties to behold, and I am still discovering more and more in our neck of the woods as well. I hope to get into some more serious gardening when I retire. Right now I just don't have the time or energy, but I can dream and scheme for the future! What you have done is such an encouragement to are living my dream! Thank you for sharing it with us!