Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bountiful ... and free

Seeing as I just finished a large, beautiful bowl of garden-bounty salad, I figured it's high time to put in an appearance here. Yes, we've been working hard in the yard, transforming it from a pretty typical urban backyard---neglected lawn, half-hearted attempt at welcoming social spaces---into this:

and then this:

and now this:

Back in the (proverbial) salad days, when I had more money than time, I’d hire someone to come out and advise, design, do the digging, swing the hammer. The yard reflected that, too, I think: it was pleasant enough but half-hearted and impersonal; it failed to lure us outside, to invite us to take part.

These days there’s more time than money, but we’re rockin’ the yard. Kevin and I can both swing a shovel, and it’s amazing what you can find for free. Our first veggie seeds came from Seeds of Change, picked up free at Full Belly Farm’s Hoes Down, and we planted them in containers given us by a friend.

In addition to free horse manure from local stables, we picked up a truckload of free, gorgeous topsoil from Annie’s Annuals.

Included as a bonus was a treasure trove of plantlings that apparently didn’t pass muster with them; we’ve replanted some and are anxious to see what they are.

We'll use as much rainwater as we can on our food plants, caught in four 275-gallon recycled, food-grade plastic totes, and gray water from baths and laundry on the rest.

Having a carpenter for a partner helps, too: lumber for the chicken coop--to--be comes from Kevin's stash of salvaged wood; the cement slabs that make up the garden beds are the remains of a client’s patio; and a reclaimed old window forms the front of our seed-starting space.

Then there’s the free bounty that, simply, surrounds us: Fewer than 10 forays netted us a good 30 lbs of fresh mushrooms---mostly oysters but also Boletus edulis (porcini), winter chanterelles, honey mushrooms, black trumpets, cauliflower, and candy caps (for cookies)---last winter.

We’ll inoculate the fresh-cut oak logs we picked up recently and hopefully have our own supply of oysters, lion’s mane, and shiitake mushrooms for seasons to come.

We salvaged a trash bag--size bunch of perfect bagels from Noah’s; we harvested pineapple guavas and persimmons from Santa Cruz friends and neighbors and turned them into chutney and pulp. The wall of raspberries along the house we transplanted from among a neighbor’s volunteer shoots.

Kevin promises that my little pineapple guava bush will fruit---for the first time ever---under his loving care; it’s already sprouting new growth like crazy, and standing next to it smelling the exploding wisteria, it’s impossible to doubt him.

Even the mature apricot tree, transplanted just 8 weeks ago to a sunny, well-fed corner spot, is setting fruit. The apple, persimmon, and pluot trees will surely be next. The dwarf Meyer lemon, my steadfast, oldest garden friend, looks like a kid about to burst with a really, really juicy secret.

Aside from the garden, the baby chicks are becoming gawky teenagers.

In a few months their coop and yard will line the back fence and we'll add eggs to our harvest. With some luck they'll be joined by prolific bees, and honey will round out our store of foraged huckleberries, blackberries, and all those other reminders of summer that make winter a little sweeter.

This yard, though, is ours. It begs us outside to see what’s happening. It inspires us to walk in the world with our eyes open for additions that will improve it. It promises to feed our spirits as well as our bodies.


Kristin said...

It seems you have all done 5 years worth of work in a month. Just kidding. What you've described is lovely. The whole point of a backyard is using it and now you have a reason to. I can't believe your mushroom harvest and I want to know details about how you will use the oak logs for more mushrooms. I'm eager to hear more...

patricia said...

So you "don't blog" according to your email to AOHL, and now this! Your backyard is truly impressive. You're doing everything so well! Are the white hoops for putting up netting if you need it? I often have birds pulling out my seedlings--especially peas--and it would be great to have a framework like that in place.

And porcini! You found local porcini? Fresh porcini are one of my absolute favorites. The best pizza I've ever eaten was in a little nothing town in Tuscany--the pizza was smothered in fresh porcini, and I swear I can still remember just how it tasted.

Keep blogging! I'm looking forward to watching your garden grow.

Susan said...

This was very inspiring. I am trying to garden without changing my yard very much. I can see that this approach would be much more effective. I am amazed at the free truckload of topsoil.

Denise said...

Kristin, look for a post about inoculating logs for mushrooms to come. patricia, we covered the hoops with heavy-duty plastic to protect the seedlings when the temperature plunged, but they'd work equally well with bird netting, I'm sure. And yep, local porcini, the few chased by the many, I'm afraid. But they're out there, and whether we find them or not, the hunt itself is the best part! I can almost taste your Tuscan pizza, too---mmmm. We ate some fresh but dried most; you wouldn't believe the aroma when you open that jar. Susan, first knitting, then tearing out the lawn ... you're on a slippery slope. Go for it!

Ktrion said...

I'm coming to this thread very late, but just wanted to mention that the "pineapple guava"--we have one in our front yard that we thought was an ornamental. Our neighbor told us it would bear fruit and it's now one of our favorite fruits ever! very yummy! we've had lots of flowers: i should go look for fruit...