slow yields

This is our third summer in our wabi-sabi cottage. Without any major upheaval, we consider this our forever home. Moving in, the easiest form of our goal for the yard: less grass to mow as we age. The more complex goal: more beauty and food to sustain us.

Growing up, my family garden was two short rows of corn, beefsteak tomatoes and bell peppers, with an occasion pumpkin mound. I have some learning to do to accomplish the scale of urban farming I have in mind. Irrigating and terracing the yard, and espaliering fruit trees are among the more demanding tasks.

I’ve literally started with my childhood roots, expanding what I knew as a child. Last year was five heirloom tomato varieties that all offered multiple volunteers (and perhaps a few crossbreeds) for this year’s garden. Six shishito pepper starts (my husband’s favorite!) and six heirloom varieties grown from seed: black Hungarian, buena mulata, sweet banana, lilac bell, red Caribbean habanero, and chocolate habanero. Our corn stalks are a black sweet and a multi-colored popcorn…

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This past weeks haul from our neighborhood farmers market. KCMO’s Historic Northeast is brimming with community gardens and urban farmers. It is an easy and sound way to supplement our own garden as it grows. Plus I have already saved seeds from two varieties of watermelon for our garden’s future expansion! The lack of HOA restraints and a trend for urban farming helped to keep our home search in the HNE neighborhood.

The garden forced us to reconsider and redesign how we eat, as well as inspire us to find new recipes. I’m developing a fun game of “things on hand” recipe searches. Pinterest is still a good friend. Our shishito and banana peppers are out-producing our snacking habits, so last night was stuffed shishito and banana peppers. I borrowed the ingredient list of a recipe and winged the execution. Most of the recipes drown the peppers in some sauce or other, and I wanted the peppers to stand proudly. The pre-baked image is below. The post-baked lost to our hunger and anticipation.

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Stuffed shishito and banana peppers: filled with sweet Italian turkey sausage, diced peppers, red onions, garlic; topped with four cheese blend – mozzarella, romano, asiago, and parmesan. Baked for 20 minutes, broiled until golden and bubbly.

Previously, my market purchases, combined with our own eggplant and peppers, left me with what I soon learned to be the makings of ratatouille. It was a fun and tasty first time cook. Served on brown rice with a pan-cooked salmon patty, and eaten on our screen porch overlooking our garden on a cool summer night.

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Fixing our own food excites me in continually new ways. Three years ago I never saw myself as a property owner. Now, I am constantly doodling new ideas for expanding the garden, enclosing delicate crops, irrigation systems, seating areas and lighting for entertaining. This is our home, this is our future. And our dirt seems pretty spectacular, so I’m glad to give it featured billing.

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yellow watermelon, from the watermelon lady at our neighborhood farmers market. she thumps her melons before each purchase in a ritual of selecting the best possible.
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one of our first garden yields this season, small yet inviting.
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pico de gallo, made from our own roma tomatoes, and store-bought ingredients.

In my mind’s eye, I am some progressive rebel eco-warrior, reducing our carbon footprint and returning our ill-conceived lawn back into beds of flowers and food, sanctuaries for bees and butterflies and hummingbirds. In the world’s eye, I may just be that odd giant, bald queer man gardening in a silly wide-brimmed straw hat and Doc Marten wingtips.

Either way, I’m good, sitting tall and happy in our wabi-sabi life.

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