Friday, July 05, 2013

Out Back

We had a long, cold, deep winter this year. A blanket of snow sometimes 2, 3, 4 feet deep covered everything in sight, and for months straight. The monochrome landscape had me dreaming of my garden, and as soon as the soil warmed enough, and the threat of a major frost subsided, we planted the hell out of our backyard. You know, to say "Take that, snow! And don't come back till November." So far, so good.
On a warm, bright mid-May day, my husband tilled our elevated bed so I could get in there. I bought starts from the local nursery, Rockin' E, which also happens to be where I pick up our CSA share (I'm sure you care.). I planted Brussels sprouts, two varieties of broccoli, red onions, celery, peppers galore (Anaheim, Big Bertha, orange bells, jalapeno, poblano, and Purple Beauty), San Marzano and Roma tomatoes, acorn squash, straightneck squash, zucchini, bush beans (Royal burgundy and Blue Lake), peas, and pumpkins. And that was just in the garden. I also potted basil (Italian, cinnamon, and lemon), Italian parsley, dill, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, chives, mint, and English thyme.
 The garden one month ago. Growing, but sparse and kind of sad.
The garden last week. Healthy and full. Quite a difference!
I've read so much about a decline in pollinators, and after a Memorial weekend visit to Capitol Reef National Park, which is full of historic fruit orchards but is suffering from a severe lack of bees, I was inspired to create a little mason bee house. Capitol Reef has man-made mason bee houses hanging from nearly every fruit tree in the park, each intended to encourage bees to nest and pollinate and keep the orchards viable. I made mine from a log from our cabin, and a 5/16" drill bit. I haven't noticed too much mason bee activity, but thanks in part to the bee- and butterfly-attracting perennials I've planted in the backyard, we've got pollinators a-plenty.
I harvested my first produce last Friday (on the left), and again this past Monday (on the right). I've been cutting herbs several times a week since I potted them, and to keep up with how much I'm using, I've had to plant additional Italian basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley seeds. It's a dream having fresh herbs to use in our meals. I have loved marching outside with kitchen shears and coming back with a handful of this or that. I'm going to be so sad when they die back in the fall. I'll be dehydrating and freezing like a fool, just to preserve that fresh flavor!
I've got another small head of broccoli to harvest over the weekend, a few onions maybe, and a handful of beans, but the unbearable heat wave (102-107˚!) that rolled through all of last week sort of slowed my garden down. It much prefers mid to upper 90s, which is what is forecasted for the next week, so I should have more beans, more squash, and maybe an orange bell!

Between our garden, our CSA, and the Salt Lake Farmers Market, we are eating extremely fresh and local, and that makes this girl incredibly happy. It's been a joy coming up with new recipes and perusing places like foodgawker for ideas. Cooking and gardening have become my two favorite hobbies lately. I actually enjoy meal planning, grocery shopping, all the prep work, and even working in a hot kitchen. Maybe I should have gone into the restaurant business. Or catering. Something.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some weeding to do...

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