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Archive for May, 2011

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copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the weaving and lose track of all the separate strands. Before beginning, each component was deliberately selected, and the pattern chosen thoughtfully. Hours have been devoted to creation of the tapestry–yet here you are, suddenly, amazed and speechless. How did you get here, and what on earth is going on?

I looked around my garden recently and had that very thought. What is this web, and who exactly is the weaver? It is I, of course; I readily admit it. The nature of the web, it must be said, is somewhat murkier. How have these elements been chosen, and to what purpose? They seem at best haphazard, testaments to impulse and my inability to resist a plant tag or seed packet promising interesting and delicious bounty. It started with a love of food, interest in self-sufficiency, and curiosity about what might be possible. From there, it’s expanded well beyond my first intentions. Plans have been cast out in favor of what sounds good to eat, or what’s at the farmers market–on the theory that what they grow here, I can grow here.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

Yesterday, I wrote a list of what I’m growing now, and it doesn’t seem entirely plausible–even to me–but here it is:

melons
sugar baby watermelon
hearts of gold canteloupe
early silver line honeydew

strawberries
Alpine
Seascape

beans
Roc d’or
Maxibel
Royal Burgundy

purple mizuna
rainbow chard
red Russian kale
Bordeaux spinach
carrots
peppers

red bell
yellow bell
thai bird pepper
habanero

mints
chocolate mint
spearmint
catnip

lemongrass
fingerling potatoes

Russian banana
La Ratte

onions
Walla Walla
California red
European long red

lemon cucumber
zucchini
garlic
tomatoes

Love Apple
Paul Robeson
Caspian pink
black Ethiopian
Jaune Flamme
green zebra

herbs
rosemary
thyme
sage
lavender
oregano
marjoram
parsley

chives
basil

Genovese
thai

blueberries

On top of this, add several young fruit trees that aren’t yet bearing, including:

Meyer lemon
fig
peach
pomegranate
persimmon

copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

Admittedly, I have small amounts of each of these crops–and I’m still working at the concept of succession planting to ensure a steady yield throughout a given season. I’m testing the limits of available space, sun, and time…and my own energy. I know exactly how many bags of compost can be crammed into my Prius, and I’ve given up worrying about the cargo area being dirty. I’ve just ordered a movable electric fence, to surround the beds and keep out hungry critters. This summer, I’m envisioning a spacious greenhouse, maybe up by the garage, where I can get an early start on things and keep my seedlings safe and happy. And I’m pondering sites for a small chicken coop and run…but that’s a project for another year, maybe next year. Right now I’ve got my hands full, adding to the weaving at one end while keeping the other from unraveling. But my stomach’s full too, and I’m not going anywhere.

copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

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Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

Some have called farmers markets the ‘theater of the affluent’ but I beg to differ. Farmers markets, like most things, come in many shapes and sizes–as do their patrons. My local market, which just opened for the season this week after a winter we all feared would never cede the field, attracts a wide range of folk: old and young, well-heeled and food-stamp recipients, artists and laborers, who seem to have in common only their concern for food. Some fear the pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used in conventional agriculture. Some are foodies, seeking rare or heirloom varieties that simply can’t be found in supermarkets. For others, supporting local farmers is paramount. For others still, it’s an afternoon out in the fresh air, sun on their face and cares temporarily forgotten. For all, it’s about community. Like any community, it has some rules–and a few lessons to be learned. Herewith, my top 10.

10. Get there early. That young asparagus or crusty bread your heart is set on may sell out.

9.Bigger isn’t always better. This is never truer than for strawberries–who hasn’t been disappointed by the giant ones that look amazing but have little taste and dry, mealy texture? Next time, try their tiny cousins–unassuming and shy, but packed with aromatic ecstasy.

8. Enjoy the scene–and the scenery. Many farmers markets have live music, activities for kids, and booths with boatloads of fantastic flowers. Stroll around a bit, and take it in.

7. Get your business done, but allow yourself a treat. Maybe it’s shave ice, kettle corn, or an olallieberry turnover–whatever it is, buy yourself one thing that isn’t on your list. I guarantee it’ll make you smile.

6. Sometimes a trend is just a fad….and sometimes it’s a find. Last year’s darling, green garlic, has become a springtime favorite for many. The jury’s still out for me on this year’s craze, fava greens.

5. Scope out all the options–several vendors may be selling the same thing, but they’re not all created equal. Plant varieties, growing conditions, and other variables can make a huge difference in flavor.

4. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I’d never heard of red Russian kale till a few years ago, but now it’s one of my staples. And beet greens–they’re delicious, but who knew?

3. Talk to farmers. They appreciate your interest, and have great cooking and growing tips. Often they’ll remember you, and maybe even set aside a few choice favorites.

2. Don’t judge by looks alone–sure, scan for rot and bruises, but use your other senses too, especially smell. If you can’t smell a peach, you won’t taste it either. If in doubt, ask for a taste.

1. Be open to the moment. The seasons will speak, if you will listen.

copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

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