Thursday, May 23, 2013

volunteer nasturtium farm...

When spring came this year I was in a panic.  I had this unruly back yard (see below) and it needed some serious overhaul, but since I spent my one-and-only free week (spring break) in the Los Padres National Forest, I had just 2 desperate days to rip out all of the grass, magically turn sand into "soil" and put some seeds in the ground.  Before I got my hands on it, the yard was really just a volunteer grass farm, with a few nasturtiums, California poppy, Calla lily and Crocosmia haphazardly thrown in, or holding out, from a former garden.

I was sad to learn from a neighbor that this sweet little spot of land (a treasure within city limits) had once been a well-loved hobby garden by the former owners of this home.   According to this neighbor, whom I met on a recent sunny Sunday at a yard sale across the street, the soil here was built up, organic and healthy, and had supported a bountiful garden for many years.  Alas, when my landlord moved in, he paved most of the yard.  He self-reportedly hates yard work, thus the now mostly concrete yard.  Luckily for me (and the yard) he spared about 150 sq. feet.  This is my canvas.

Last year was the first year in my adult life that I wasn't able to grow a not-insignificant percentage of my own food.  Living in Oregon for many years makes one into a DIY sort of person.  Everyone is that free-heel, single speed, back-to-the land variety.  Urban chicken farmers and such.  You do what you can, because you can.  Growing food is easy in the North West:  in fact, it's harder to stop things from growing once the sun starts shining there, and the ground gets warm.  My move to California interrupted the cycle, though I did have the foresight to plant, in Newport, before I left, the potatoes and garlic that had been in the family for years...

As a dear friend once said to me, when I introduced him to hobby gardening for the first time in Portland, OR "it's that cycle of life shit...  " Yes.  It is.

That said, I arrived in Petaluma with clean hands and a somewhat empty feeling heart.  I watched the seasons change and had nothing to tie myself to.  The true heat of summer didn't signify the start of a good tomato year for me, nor the end of pea season.  The shorter days and longer shadows of autumn didn't have me looking for a place to store winter squash.  I did, however, get up to Oregon to dig, in late Fall, my potatoes; and a good friend had pulled my garlic and hung it to dry, so winter back home did ground me for a bit and inspire me to keep going... and I was thankful this spring to once again have earth, within which to place those same seed potatoes and garlic, to keep the cycle alive. 

San Francisco:  March 2013.  It really was an eye sore, but also a welcome refuge.  After 7 months of straight city life, pavement, traffic, and buying food from others, I was really excited to rip out grass. I've never been happier to have thorns in my thumbs or a shovel in my hand.  It felt like I was home again, but for the first time.  It was a chore, yes, because someone had also decided to put weed blocker cloth down (not a productive method of weed blocking, clearly evidenced by above photo) so I had to rip out bits of plastic out of the roots before I could compost the clumps of grass I was pulling out.  Ahhhh, modern life. 

Here it is a few days later.  Okay, actually a week or so later.  I can see the little faces of some germinating plants already starting to look for the sun.  Exciting!

Same yard, foggy day.  

This is today!  About 6 weeks after the very first grassy disaster photo.  This is just one little spot, but there is lettuce all ready to eat.  The volunteer nasturtiums are still hanging around in the background.  They give the ivy-laden fence some splashes of orange and yellow, and the bees like them.  

And here is the first real proof that I, despite graduate school, can still keep up with the seasons.  I am eager to see what kinds of things I can grow here.  I have been warned about the fog and its detrimental effects on all things heat-loving (including humans) but I am determined to try new things anyway.  Beans?  Quite likely they will not grow here, but I am in California.  Don't I at least get to try?  Pickling cucumbers?  That was my favorite part about long, hot Portland OR summers.  I remember a streak of days when I would get up each morning at 5 am, before heading to work as a nurse, to pick as many pickles as I could fit into my fridge, because each day they grew from cornichon size to cucumber size, thus had to be picked immediately upon reaching "pickle" size.  We also roto-tilled the entire front yard that year and planted it in 3 varieties of corn.  The neighbor kids would ride by on their bikes and we filled their backpacks with corn and cucumbers.  My roommates marveled at my 3 week binge of pickling, and adored me for the gallons of dill pickles that graced our home for months and months to come.

What, this year, will California contribute to my montage of memories?

(And graduate school does not count.  I'll be blocking most of those memories... )

1 comment:

pranaglider said...

to paraphrase the kids "you grow girl"