Magical Gardening

Today was a day of call and response with the Universe. A day full of answers to requests just made. A day of abundance, sharing, and lots and lots of freebies! You know I love that. 😉

It actually started yesterday when David’s sister emailed me about how excited she is to can some of our tomatoes at the end of August. David and I don’t do much in the way of canned foods (other than Eden brand beans with kombu), so at first I thought this was just a “for Linda thing.” I figured that canning would be a good skill to learn, but I planned to dehydrate most of our excess tomatoes, as I’ve done the two previous years. The more I thought about it, though, the more excited I got, too. David’s mom is a veteran canner who lived through the Great Depression. Having a chance to learn this old art from someone who really used it to feed her family feels like an honor. Plus, I now have eight tomato plants, several of which are already producing more tomatoes than I can handle. Having a canning option to give away large quantities feels like a relief!

In the meantime, I decided that I’ll need to dehydrate a batch of tomatoes ASAP, because we just have way more than we, David’s parents, our friends and neighbors need right now. There’s nothing quite like a homegrown dehydrated tomato in the middle of winter, though — or even as a thickener for a raw food marinara sauce over kelp noodles. As I pondered the August canning, I sent out a very quick request to the Universe that we get more canning jars before then. Since canning’s not really a lifestyle for us largely raw folks, I really didn’t want to spend any money on these jars.

Well! Not even 14 hours after I made the request, along comes a Facebook post for David asking if anyone in Goshen could use dozens and dozens of extra canning jars of various sizes. Score! We drove about eight blocks and picked up a huge trash bag full of jars and lids. We are ready for August. About two hours later, another older friend of ours came by to look at the gardens. We told her about canning the tomatoes and getting the free jars, and she offered us even more jars that she has “just lying around collecting dust.” We accepted and will add her to the canned tomato gravy train.

Yesterday afternoon, I made the sad call to cut down my Boston Marrow Squash in crates, because the squash beetles had decimated them right after I took their picture for the last garden update. This was a serious bummer, but I have now concluded that squash in crates is not an ideal option, at least not with the potting mix I used. It was too difficult to regulate the moisture properly, which stressed out the plants and made them more vulnerable to attack. I was still feeling a bit sad about my poor squash, when I noticed a missed phone call from our friend who wanted to see the gardens. She had been gifted way too many squash leftover from yesterday’s Farmer’s Market and didn’t know what to do with it all!

free squash

In total, she gave us eight squash, some of which I will dehydrate into zucchini chips and share with her … and some of which will make a lovely steamed summer entree. Nature truly wants to show me her abundance! I’ve lost five squash plants, but apparently, that doesn’t matter, because the free harvest continues anyway. In the above photo, you can also see just some of our many tomatoes awaiting tomorrow’s dehydrator adventure with the zucchini. Our Early Girl plant has another 12 tomatoes that should be perfectly red tomorrow morning.

In addition to the free squash, our friend brought us two bags of basil, right after I got the hit to make and freeze loads of pesto. For some reason, I’m not real jazzed about pesto in the summer, but come winter, I crave it. We have plenty of basil for daily harvesting and the occasional pesto meal, but I was wondering how this extra basil would manifest so I could use up the lemons that need using and make enough pesto for many meals. Enter … free purple basil to add to my own harvest:

free basil

Thinking about all this food prep got me thinking about what else I might want to can, and how the heck to use up all the dandelion blossoms currently crowding our freezer. David suggested I throw them out, since we will have plenty more next year, but let me tell you: that was some neck straining work this Spring! I’m not tossing those babies out. Uh-uh. I’ve got one container of blossoms defrosting so I can make dandelion vinegar, which works as a tonic to help release the calcium in greens. Supposedly, greens eaten with a bit of herb or dandelion vinegar increase calcium absorption by at least 1/3. Nice!

free dandelions for jam

Sooo, with my free dandelions and some apple cider vinegar, after about six weeks in a dark corner, I’ll have a super potent, mineralizing health tonic that will last indefinitely. Click here to learn how to make your own herbal vinegars.

Of course, this barely makes a dent in my dandelion blossoms, so I started looking for dandelion jam or jelly recipes that use birch sweetener (also known as xylitol, or as we call it, “Berkano.”) Sure enough, I found a lavender infused dandelion xylitol jam recipe that will make fine faery use of the smaller canning jars we just inherited. The lavender has convinced me to make a go of this one, and it will make the whole canning process that much more exciting. I guarantee David’s mom has never canned dandelion jam!

The big impetus for relieving the freezer of dandelion flowers really comes from my recent daydreams about our Fall and Winter gardens. Oh, yes, Spring and Summer are just a phase here. I’ve spent all week figuring out whether to make or buy a cold frame and if we need a dedicated winter garden bed. Indeed, we do. The black sides of all our current garden beds should keep the soil warmer for a month on each side of the traditional gardening season, but the InstaBeds and repurposed Sleep Number Bed frame pose some interesting challenges in terms of cold frames. We considered creating a huge hoop house to cover all the beds, but that feels like a bigger project than we want to take on this year.

After much research and weighing cost versus time, I think I’ve decided on a combo raised bed/cold frame unit. Easy assembly. Twelve year warranty on the bed. Two year warranty on the cold frame. This 4′ x 8′ x 10.5″ structure will allow me to plant a wide variety of crops that need to get started before some of my bigger plants have completed their life cycle. Our raised beds have offered so much produce already compared to anything we’ve put in the ground that it seems like a no brainer to start another raised bed with winter crops, rather than try to force our soil into something it’s not (yet).

I’ve been reading Eliot Coleman’s “Four Season Harvest,” and he makes all those Fall and Winter veggies sound so delectable that I’m turning into even more of a foodie than I already am. I started looking at current plants that could make room for new crops in the next couple weeks, and I decided that my cilantro that’s gone to seed will come out (duh), but also that I can pull the lemongrass that has taken over the west side of an InstaBed.

this is from a few weeks ago, but already you can see the lemongrass looking like a huge ornamental in the round bed.

this is from a few weeks ago, but already you can see the lemongrass looking like a huge ornamental in the round bed.

I started thinking about all the carrots I could plant in the lemongrass spot and began researching how to preserve lemongrass for tea and all that yummy Thai soup I’ll crave come winter but not right now. It’s totally doable, but man, those plants are telepathic! I went outside to harvest a little bit for tonight’s stirfry, and I swear that plant drew blood. It has never done that before, but I think it was mad that I’d discard it so easily when it’s so beautiful. The grass part is very sharp, and you do need to be careful with lemongrass. Still, it reminded me exactly of the times I’ve harvested stinging nettles with nary a prick until I’ve heard them say inside my head, “That’s enough now!” Whenever I’ve ignored that message and taken “just a little bit more,” then whammmmm! Those nettles have stung me something fierce. I’m currently negotiating with the lemongrass about the possibility of becoming an overwintered indoor plant — just one stalk to start, and only if she promises to behave inside. No cuts on chapped winter skin!

Anyway, I apparently need to watch my thoughts not only around my plants, but also inside the house. Just like in The Secret Life of Plants, they really are listening and aware. I’m relieved to know that other gardeners and herbalists have had similar experiences with plants and that science appears to support claims of plant telepathy. I know my garden also grows even better after someone comes by and praises it. The next day, the plants and flowers puff up and glow with pride.

Tonight, they got quite the compliment from our friend, whose husband was a passionate gardener until he passed away four years ago. She has been telling me all about his love of plants, wild food foraging and gardening, about how he planted the fruit bushes and trees in Goshen College Woods, and how a chance meeting in a wild strawberry patch led to them finding their delightful lakeside home. She has shared stories to the point where “Lores’s green thumb” has taken on mythic proportions. Tonight she said, “Well, I can’t believe it, but your garden is even more lush than his, and he was gardener his entire life.” My mouth about hit the wood mulch, but I’m sure the plants are happy. Between that vote of confidence and the synchronously arriving eight squash, I feel OK about losing the squash beetle battle. It’s the cycle of life, right? And that loss has underscored something even more amazing, which I already knew but can always realize anew:

We live in an exuberantly abundant, joyful and generous Universe. Remember that. Breathe that in and live it. Then pass it along.

What a magical 24 hours! Blessed Be.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by tazjima on July 29, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Makes me hungry just reading this! Thanks, Laura.

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  2. Posted by Cheryl on July 29, 2013 at 4:17 am

    Just about to dive into “The secret life of plants”. =) found the cutest little watermelons have sprouted in my garden. Tomatoes, red peppers, zucchini and summer squash all in various states of growth. Should finally be able to start harvesting later this week (got a late start on planting). Can’t wait. You sure had a magical day – fun!! XO

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  3. Posted by Tracy on July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Love your garden articles, and amazing how they parallel things happening here. Just a word for your fall/winter garden….Leeks. Plant them soon!

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  4. Yes, we have leeks already in one of the InstaBeds, along with way too many chives and some green onions that are so large our friend kept asking if they were aloe! LOL … enjoy your harvest. 🙂

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  5. Oh, Cheryl, that all sounds wonderful! Isn’t it fun?! Enjoy the journey … and the food. xo

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