Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer bounty

It's two days before the end of the school year.  Like me, my twin first graders are all over the place with mixed emotions.  Luckily, our backyard is a great place to play out some of that wild (driving mommy crazy) energy, and also to check up on our garden.  We pluck twenty eight blueberries from our bush (a new home record!) and marvel at our rich and yummy bounty. 

On my little plot of backyard land in the city, we grow lemons, mandarin oranges, limes, figs, avocados, blueberries, apples (our latest addition), and whatever seasonal fruits and vegetables we attempt to grow like tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and squash.  Walking out a few steps from my back door, I can savor warm ripe blueberries right off the plant or peel an orange and slowly eat it right on the spot or devour a ripe strawberry that tastes like candy.  It's those sweet moments that elicit many warm feelings - I feel blessed, a sense of pride and satisfaction, a connection to the earth, gratitude, a happy tummy, and simple delight.

Our house came with the fig tree, but we had no idea when we bought it.  Then a few months later, we look up at the tree totally surprised to see a tree full of ripe brown figs.  But, uh, what in the world do you do with a fig?  Well, I soon discovered my favorite recipe and now it's an annual tradition - candied figs dipped in chocolate.  Soooo yummy!

A few months ago, I eagerly planted an apple tree.  I figure it will be a few years until it produces anything.  It's a small skinny tree about an inch thick, staying securely attached to a wood support until it gets thicker.  The first week it showed beautiful blooms, then soon after I saw little beginnings of fruit, and it's now growing about a dozen apples in the warm spring sun.  I can't wait to eat them!

People marvel and ask me what my gardening secrets are, saying I have a green thumb and will I please teach them what it is that I do.  I'd like to say I use the precise fertilizers for each plant, like bat guano, seaweed powder, and fish emulsion exactly when/where/how much, but, honestly, I don't.  I do know I don't use chemicals or pesticides, even when I want to annihilate the damn rollie pollies that eat so many of my precious strawberries.  So, yes, I totally wing it.  I go to the nursery, buy plants, put them in the ground or pot, water when I can remember, maybe fertilize with a general organic fertilizer, and hope for the best.  Sometimes I get lucky, but other times I shrug my shoulders and throw the brown plant into the compost bin and start over with something new...lesson learned.

After the fruit trees and berry bush are done producing their delicious fruit for the season, it's kind of sad to goodbye.  Of course, I know I can buy all of this fruit year round at the grocery store that's shipped from all over the world, but it's not the same.  Mine are so much more satisfying and better tasting!  There is some consolation and comfort in knowing that my homegrown fruit will come back again (hopefully), ready to be enjoyed year after year.

Tomorrow is the last day of the school year.  My children are growing up so quickly and it freaks me out sometimes if I sit and think about it.  How did this year whiz by so fast!?  They aren't supposed to be second graders so soon?!   But, as sad as it is to say goodbye to school (and my six hours of daily freedom), like my backyard bounty, I know the return of summer brings with it all kinds of good times.  I love the long beach days, swimming and floating in the pool, popsicles, watermelon, family vacations, camping, barbecues, hiking, getting really messy and dirty, playing with friends, spontaneous outings, carefree days, and splashing in a cool creek.  School will start up again in the fall as scheduled, but for now I'll just kick off my flip flops, breathe deeply, and enjoy the full bounty of the glorious days of summer.


  1. That is so great that you grow so much food in your back yard. I grew up in a jungle of fruit trees and my dad DID have a green thumb. And guess what, a green thumb is just that. Someone who doesn't have to try very hard and yet is able to grow so much good stuff. Sounds like you have one or two of those :)