Making Garden Plans: Reading Homegrown Harvest

homegrownharvest

I’ve been reading a new book! This gardening book, as opposed to a lot of others I’ve looked at, seems geared to be a reference guide for a home gardener, not something to be read cover-to-cover. Using the seasonal sections and the guidelines for each kind of plant, kind of gardening space, and kind of climate, you can isolate small pockets of advice on your particular goals and start planning!

For instance, my area of the country is right at the edge of USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and 6, so I look for the advice that the book offers to mid-temperate and cold-winter areas, often splitting the difference since I’m so close to being in cold-winter but not quite. I know I want tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, strawberries, squash, basil, cilantro, and a mess of other things in my garden, so I look for those foods or the families in which they are grown (herbs, rather than basil and cilantro specifically) and get advice on when to plant, how to plant, how hardily they will grow, cautions about thinning them out or hardening them off in the new warm days of May and June, etc. It’s making planning much easier, because when I tried to “plan” last year, I just got overwhelmed by the individual needs of each kind of plant.

This way, I’m creating some week-by-week checklists, which will make my time commitment to gardening much less haphazard but also will hopefully yield better crops! Reading about them now, I am lucky that as many of my plants survived last year as they did; I didn’t follow almost any of the guidelines! What’s nice is that I can take what I learned from experience and the advice given here to make less work for myself but hopefully yield better results, with more delicious fruits and veggies for the rest of the year. I recommend this book!

 

Eating Local, and Preparations

I’ve been reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and Barbara Kingsolver’s one-year challenge (I am clearly a fan of the one-year challenge…) to eat things grown close to her is so compelling. As I listened on the way to the grocery store before my dinner party last weekend, I longed for April, when our local farmer’s market would fill up again and I would start purchasing squashes and beans, bundles of green onions, piles of peppers, and anything else I could gather from people who lived close to me.

It was also a bit of a wake-up call as for my lazy shopping habits: I took care to bring my durable shopping bags into the store (from reading my flagrant substitutions in recipes, you can imagine I forget these often), but I also grabbed peppers and kale without putting them in bags, rather just setting them atop one of my own bags… I’m gonna clean them anyway. It’s hardly virtue incarnate, but as Kingsolver smartly points out, it’s everyone making small changes that can change an industry.

That day Husband was out and about, helping a relative to move to a new apartment, so I was alone with the house and the kitchen. I put on my audiobook and threw together the pork chops and the triple peanut butter cookies – the pork chops were dreamy easy and the cookies made me feel like, with sunshine and this balmy 50 degree day, I could be an actual cook. I gathered the ingredients for the farro salad I’d found (somehow, there just weren’t enough vegetables coming to my party, so I needed something to round it out) and for a quiche that I planned to whip up last minute if anyone extra showed up and it felt like there was going to be too little food.

While the pork chops slowly turned golden in the crockpot and the cookie cooled and hardened on the counter, I tidied. I’ve admitted my lack of penchant for cooking, but I’m proud to say that the house is tidy, there are enough seats for everyone (admittedly not at the table itself, but in the living room is okay, right?), two loads of laundry will soon be done and folded, and with all this food, my house is going to smell divine. Just in case, I took a turn working on the hardwood with some orange oil and beeswax conditioning oil; I do it less like a chore and more like penance, a prayer to the hardwood gods to keep the house from falling down around us. I opened a window for a time and put the sad, shrivelly amaryllis into it to hopefully soak up some light and bust out a bloom for us.

I’m learning how to love the preparation for things, I think: I rarely love those stages, but such a pretty day with so many satisfying activities and such anticipation… it made things worthwhile.