Growing in the Twin Cities with Backyard Harvest

Building a sustainable (and delicious) urban food system – one yard at a time

What Else You’re Buying Into September 12, 2009

Filed under: Lisa's Blog: Backyard Harvest Garden-owner — Lisa @ 12:44 pm
Tags:

Garden General - Early September

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

The Backyard Harvest program has, so far, proven to be a really amazing experience. At least, speaking from the point of view of a homeowner – we’re hoping that Stefan likes stopping by the garden as much as we look forward to his visits!

And that goes to a point that’s become more clear as the season goes one. Backyard Harvest is a lot more than just getting a garden installed in your yard. As a garden host in the project, you get the harvests from the garden and it’s not dissimilar from a CSA in that way. Sometimes you get a ton of produce, and other years, some plants have a harder time. For example, this has not been the best season for tomatoes, not just for us, but for the whole state. It was cool when it needed to be hot, wet when dry would have been better, and every other alternate that a farmer could struggle against!

One week, we came home and Stefan had added some things from his own home garden to bolster our harvest. Not only was it delicious and very welcome to get a couple of great tomatoes, it was really generous and totally not required on his part. He did it, I think, because he wanted us to have some of the great vegetables that normally pop up this time of year.

The real effect was, though, that we realized that the project is about knowing your food and using your yard for more than grass, but it’s also very much a group of people excited and passionate and eager to build a community around the idea. We’ve already decided we’re in for next year, and a big part of that is how much we enjoy the people as much as the project.

 

– Lisa in Kingfield

 

 

Sunflower Opening

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

The full photo collection for this project is over on Flickr.

Advertisements
 

A Season Change? August 25, 2009

Filed under: Lisa's Blog: Backyard Harvest Garden-owner — Lisa @ 6:20 pm
Tags:

What's to Come

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

The middle of August was a weird one, wasn’t it? Drought, followed by Spring-like rains. Ninety degrees, then seventy. Oh yeah, and a tornado. With all of that going on, it makes sense that our garden seemed to take a little nap for a bit. Our harvests switched from mountains of lettuce to collections of a few pear tomatoes and squash with a cucumber added in for good measure. Delicious all, but strange mixes of things, you know?

Notes from Stefan have been prepping us for the switch to Fall plantings. The first bean patch went away last week and he pulled a few spent broccoli plants earlier this week. In there place we’ll get spinach, cilantro, radishes, peas, and mixed greens.

I’ve been noticing as the season has gone on how interesting the garden’s transitions have been (both the husband and I didn’t have a lot of vegetable garden experience before this), but I’m not quite ready for the switch to Fall. It looks like we’re just going to have to deal, though, because the plants will do it whether we want to go along or not!

PS – We started getting these cute little peppers and I’m loving them to death – spicy, but not crazy, and with some fruitiness going on too.

 

Backyard Harvest Haul - Early August

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

The full photo collection for this project is over on Flickr.

 

A Better picture August 9, 2009

Filed under: Lisa's Blog: Backyard Harvest Garden-owner — Lisa @ 3:08 pm
Tags:

A Full Week

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

Up until now, I’ve been posting pictures of one of our garden hauls a week, but Stefan comes over twice a week to see what’s ready to pick. For a number of random reasons, we had our harvest from Thursday and our harvest from the following Monday both together in the same place at the same time, so I took a shot of the whole shebang. This was a bigger week than earlier in the season, but gives a better frame of reference for what kind of quantity we get over the course of a whole week.

In this shot is a bunch of great stuff (starting at the left, going clockwise): head lettuce (x2), red kale, some chard, broccoli, a summer squash, a bag of green and yellow wax beans, the first carrots of the year, cucumbers, and another bag of delicious beans.

We have been making amazing salads with simple mixes of vinaigrette and feta. While that doesn’t sound super exciting, the variety and quality of the veggies from the garden have made the repetition a total non-issue. Another thing we’ve noticed is that vegetables are lasting a lot longer than those we got at the store. I suspect that is because there is zero transport time between the ground and our fridge.

 

– Lisa in Kingfield

 

The full photo collection for this project is over on Flickr.

 

Transition Weeks July 24, 2009

Filed under: Lisa's Blog: Backyard Harvest Garden-owner — Lisa @ 12:36 pm
Tags:

Harvest July 23rd, 2009

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

We’ve been clearly transitioning from spring to summer in the garden. The peas have given their last and have been pulled. The tomatoes are starting to get big and should soon go all beautifully red. Our weekly harvests that were heavy on chard, kale, and spicy lettuces are starting to have green beans and adorable squashes. It’s nice to see the segues of the seasons in your own backyard, even these kind of half season changes we’ve been having.

Before the garden was all established and huge, Stefan stopped by one afternoon to ask us about what we liked, what we didn’t, and see if there was anything that absolutely shouldn’t be in there. A big part of why the husband and I wanted to do this (and did a CSA last year) was for the experiment – really find out what we like and what we don’t, how to prepare the things that we thought we didn’t enjoy, and learn more about the veggies we knew we were gaga about. So, when the peas got pulled up earlier this month, Stefan was nice enough to replant the area with more beans. We told him “there are never enough beans,” and I don’t think that we were lying.

Used to be sprouts

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

But on the scale of things that we’ve tried and just couldn’t figure out, were these guys in the picture above. They were sold, planted, and labeled as brussel sprouts, but as the summer has gone on, it’s clear that they were not. But we’re always game for an experiment! They seemed to be some sort of Chinese cabbage-y kind of thing and stir frying seemed to be a good option. Weirdly, when they’re cut, they smell exactly like broccoli, but when cooked are very bitter and pretty… sturdy. If we get more, I think we’ll braise them like collard greens and see how they are that way. It’s great fun to have new things to play with in the kitchen, though, so here’s a cheer for happy accidents!

Continuing the theme of transitions, there are tons of later summer crops that are starting to look like they’ll be ready soon-ish. The tomatoes are getting there without a doubt, our cucumbers are plumping up (even though a squirrel got our first one, it’s the only critter loss of the season so far), and the broccolis and cauliflowers are forming the bud bunches on top that will so delicious roasted on the grill. The first round of beans are producing like mad, the pole beans will be ready after that, and our second batch of bush beans are looking good to go after the pole guys are done.

 

– Lisa in Kingfield

Tomatoes in Queue Broccoli Forthcoming

[[photos by: WontonBrutality]]

The full photo collection for this project is over on Flickr.

 

Unusual Quantities July 6, 2009

Filed under: Lisa's Blog: Backyard Harvest Garden-owner — Lisa @ 9:29 pm
Tags:

Snack

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

We’ve continued to get amazing harvests twice a week from Stefan’s work – bags of salad greens, kale, chard, and little nuggets of radishes and peas hiding in the bottom. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but we’re sharing our haul with another couple. So, all told, the garden thus far has been feeding four adults and a six-month-old for a couple of solid meals a week since our harvests started.

Last year, the husband and I bought in on a CSA. We wanted to do it for a number of different experimental reasons – forcing us to try and work with things we wouldn’t normally buy, learning more about what grows here when, and just generally remembering how amazingly different in-season produce tastes versus some mid-winter greenhouse stuff can have a such a strange non-taste. The biggest thing we learned, though, wasn’t something we anticipated. That, specifically, was what what to do with the unusual quantities of different kinds of stuff we’d get every week.

The Backyard Harvest garden has had the same kinds of rhythm. We’re getting loads of salad greens that are crunchy, peppery, and delicious without a lot of frou frou added. The kale and chard are easy to quickly sauté and get vast amounts down into a reasonable dinner size. But some of the more delicate offerings have been more like tiny treats rather than main components of a meal.

The peas at the top of this post totally fell into this category – they were sweet, poppy, and juicy. But there were only a few handfuls each harvest for a week before the heat wave killed off the blossoms -and no more peas for us. We’re getting another planting for later in the season. Even without that promise of another haul, these were amazing rinsed off, popped out of the shells, and eaten over the kitchen sink. Seriously, they tasted like summer.

Some people who do a project like this for the first time might be weirded out by huge and tiny harvests of different things, but it’s been delicious training for us. We use what we have and we enjoy even the little snack-y servings. And with these peas? It’s like eating ice cream. Thanks Stefan!

 

– Lisa in Kingfield

 

 

Monday Harvest - July 06, 2009

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

The full photo collection for this project is over on Flickr.

 

Our First Harvest June 26, 2009

Filed under: Lisa's Blog: Backyard Harvest Garden-owner — Lisa @ 7:50 pm
Tags:

First Harvest - June 22nd, 2009

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

This has been our first week of getting edible goods from the garden. We’re on a twice-a-week harvest schedule and we prep for each harvest day by putting some ice packs in a cooler on the porch. This week, with every day being above 90, that was especially important, but even the crisp little salad greens survived beautifully until we could get home and get it all into the house.

 

For both of our grabs during the week, we got a similar mix of stuff – dinosaur kale, rainbow chard, and a handful of peas each time. We’re sharing our harvests with another couple, so this week’s division was easy – the husband and I took Monday’s and our friends took Thursday.

 

The chard and kale already got used in a quick sauté over rice with some tuna. I think our buddies are going to just chunk it up and add some dressing to call it spicy, amazing salad. While everything’s this young, they’re all ready to eat without any cooking. The peas are like candy and I keep popping them out a pod at a time and just eating them out of hand.

 

For the first time this year, it’s been really, truly hot and we’ve had some great downpours to go along with the heat. The garden gets watered on a timer, so it’s going to get what it needs no matter what, but it really does seem like the rain works different, mystical things than the sprinkler does. The summer squash, for example, is literally growing inches each day. I’m kind of afraid that it’s going to take over the whole back yard if the leaves keep growing at the pace they’re working right now, but I’m sure Stefan will keep it in check for us!

 

Also, we are now, officially, the envy of all of our neighbors and every one I’ve talked to about the Backyard Harvest program is starting to ask on a weekly basis, “So what’s in your garden again?” And “How’s that garden coming?” It’s really fun to list off everything that we’re starting to get and will enjoy in the next couple of months. And when they see it, it’s even more amazing – everyone wants to know what each thing is, when it will be ready, and how the program works. We’re trying to spread the word as best we can 🙂

 

For kicks, check out the pictures of the garden as a series – it’s really amazing what happens just from one week to the next. I didn’t know stuff could grow like this!

 

– Lisa in Kingfield

 

 

End of June

 

The full photo collection for this project is over on Flickr.

 

Garden Party And an Upcoming Bounty June 19, 2009

 

Bounty

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

There has been a lot going on in Backyard Harvest land over the last week, but thunderstorms and otherwise strange weather has been getting in the way of decent photos.

Thankfully, the weather held out during the first (annual?) Backyard Harvest garden party. It was great to meet other homeowners and farmers. Everyone is so excited about being part of the project and eagerly discussed what was going on with their gardens. While we all have farmers taking care of the heavy lifting, it was obvious that every single person felt really involved with their garden and the group that organizes all of what we’ve been having such fun watching so far. So, thanks Krista, the farmers, and Catherine Turner for hosting the party!

Backyard Harvest Garden Party

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

In our own back yard, we’ve had the pea and bean structures installed. The beans get to crawl up that fancy tepee you see in the middle of the pictures and the peas have some very cute twisty twigs to curl around. Like I mentioned earlier, we finally had some rain and everything in the garden just sort of exploded – there are blooms everywhere, leaves are growing gigantic, and sprouts where we thought things were already filled in are coming up. There are clearly more surprises in the garden that we know about, and they all look like future dinners.

For our part this week, we got a cooler cleaned up and set out on the patio for Stefan to put in any harvested goodies. Right now, it’s just holding our garden journal which got an entry this week outlining the harvest process. We’ll be getting whatever is ready on Mondays and Thursdays and I can hardly wait! In case anyone is wondering how this will work, we’ll put freezer packs into the cooler on Monday and Thursday mornings so that the goods going in can be at least sort of chilled. The journal stays in there too, in a freezer storage bag thing to make sure it stays dry.

I also got a decent panoramic done for this month and it’s obvious how much the garden has come along even from week to week – what a bounty!

June Pano

[[photo by: WontonBrutality]]

 

– Lisa in Kingfield

 

The full Flickr collection of pictures for this project is over on Flickr.