Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Apple In The Hand....

Last week my wife and I stayed with a friend and his wife in their house in a little town in the mountains of southern Utah. We had gone to see a play at an outdoor theater and then had driven up to their house, about 30 minutes away. It was well past dark when we got there. The sky was lit up with the Milky Way and billions of stars that we don't see because of all the light pollution we have here in Las Vegas. (It's Vegas, Baby!)

The next morning we noticed that his two apple trees had put on quite a crop of apples this year and they were all red, ripe and delicious. Don't know what kind they are, but they are sweet with enough tart to keep you eating them. So we all started picking them. My friends are extremely generous and insisted that we take a bunch home with us. We filled every bag we could find a big box and even a huge cooler. We almost had to sit on our overnight bags to make sure there was room in the SUV to fit all the apples. We ended up with at least a bathtub full, if not more. And we didn't get but a little over half of the apples on the two trees.
Here's my wife picking apples.


If you look closely, you can spot the Royal
Bluecrested Apple-picker, a rare bird indeed!
On the way back, we stopped at a kitchen store to get some parts for my wife's bread mixer. (We don't have that kind of a store in Las Vegas, but they do in Utah.) While there, we picked up a water-bath canner and a marvelous food strainer and some other things like this gadget that peels, cores and slices apples as you crank the handle. Managed to squeak out of there for a little over $200.

The kids loved the apple slicer and actually got busy eating apples, as long as they could slice them with the gadget. But even with 15 people living in my house, we were never going to take care of that many apples before they went bad. So Saturday morning, we started canning.

And canning.

We set up a camp stove on the patio and fired up a pot of water to sterilize bottles and another pot to cook the apples a bit to soften them. We also set up a pot to cook apples in the kitchen as well as the water-bath canner. Then we installed the strainer on the island.
First, we washed the apples.

We washed bottles and sterilized them, then we packed them full of yummy applesauce that we had run through the strainer. Once full, we put the lids and rings on and processed them through the canner. And repeated. And repeated. And repeated. For eight hours.
Then we cut them up into halves or quarters depending on
what size they were.
We used a lot of the grandkids, too. They would help to crank the strainer, fetch more apples to wash, cut apples, fill the jars, get the bubbles out and things like that. Tough to keep them from licking their fingers all the time. The stuff was just too yummy! (Yes, I said yummy. Deal with it.)
Then we cooked them in boiling water for a few minutes to
soften them up. Not too much, don't want really runny applesauce.
Next we dumped them into the hopper of the strainer. This machine is a miracle.
Crank the handle and applesauce comes out.
We went through every pint jar we had and I went to a couple of stores for more lids. Then I went back to the stores and got more lids and more jars. We didn't realize how many jars that many apples would produce.
Sometimes you have to help move the apples into the grinder chute.
This is the applesauce as it comes through the strainer screen. The size
of the holes determines the coarseness of the applesauce. You could
just eat it by itself (and we did!!). We did all of these apples
without the addition of sugar or cinnamon. You can always add
those later if you want, but you can't take them out if your recipe doesn't
call for them.
The exit chute of the strainer had the skins, the seeds, the stems all mushed up and ready
to feed chickens or put in the compost pile. The good stuff goes into the other bowl.
The water-bath canner holds 8 pint jars at a time. They took 15 minutes to process once
they water got to boiling at the right temperature.
8 hours later, the house smells wonderful and we have more than 100 pints of
delicious slightly tart applesauce ready for the pantry.
You know, looking at the big pile of jars on the table, you would think that it's a lot of applesauce. Well, for most families it might be. But the very next day, we had our kids over for dinner and went through several jars. With 12 kids, assorted spouses and nearly 20 grandkids, we'll be lucky if there is any left come spring. But that's what it's for.

When we boxed it up and put it on the shelves in the pantry, the shelves just sort of swallowed them up and made it look like that day's work wasn't so much. But we know better.

It's wonderful to have food put aside for later. It's wonderful to have projects in which many members of the family can participate. It's satisfying to look on the shelves and know that there is great-tasting applesauce waiting to be eaten. 

But it's even more wonderful to have friends like Rick and Patty who are so generous and kind that they gave us all those wonderful apples. Makes me want to go back up there and help him prune and trim his trees. A simple "thank you" just doesn't seem sufficient.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Back in the Garden, Again (Still!)

With apologies to Gene Autry for the title, I am announcing that I am back to writing about my stealth farming again. I didn't quit farming for the last bunch of months, I just stopped writing about it.

Have you ever done something that was fun at first but then began to be a chore so you stopped it only to realize that doing it was actually rewarding and now that you stopped it you realized that you missed it? Well, blogging about my farming was becoming that and I realize that I have missed it for several reasons.

I missed it because it pushed me to do something regularly. Routine can be a good thing; it's how habits are formed. If it's a good habit, something that is beneficial, you want it to be regular and almost routine. By forcing myself to write about my gardening, I also forced myself to look at my garden in a different light or from a different perspective every time I worked in it. As I would be weeding (not a big chore, just a regular one) I would view in my mind how I wanted this to look on the blog.

As I would be thinning or harvesting or shaping or pruning or trimming or any of a dozen other farm chores, I would imagine writing about it and think about how I would tell someone about what I was doing.

And I got to take photos of my garden. That's fun because you get to make your garden look like a total success without any failures and without any weeds. Close-ups of bees and other critters are fun, so are flowers. Photos of my garden are fun for me to look at  because I get to remember the good stuff. Looking at a rather empty bed in the winter can be almost depressing. Looking at a photograph of that same bed all green and lush and productive is thrilling and makes me want to plan and do more.

So, for those reasons and for others, I'm back to writing about it.

There will be a few changes, though. I'm going to include more entries about home production and storage, not just the gardening. I'm going to have some commentary on why I do this and why I think others should (or should not) do it. I'm going to put more effort into the concept of the Stealth Farming to explain that more as I think it's not only a good idea, it's a very fun concept, too. And I'm going to discuss some other aspects of this concept like solar cooking and finding space to grow and wise water use and mulching.

I have been talking with folks who keep bees in my area. Now, in my area, bees are illegal in you backyard. (I wonder how they enforce that law to all the wild bees in the area?) We've decided that we want to push that issue to amend the code so that beekeeping is more acceptable and accessible to us. And, we're going to push the issue on backyard chickens, too. My particular neighborhood is an island of chickenlessness in a sea of availability. That's going to be a challenge, I'm sure. (My son lives a mile away and he is in an area that can have chickens. So he has one. The eggs are great.)

So I'll keep you posted on all of these developments as they work out. And I'll share more about growing food in the desert. Since I can grow all year long without a break, I don't think I'll run out of things to write about.

Living in a Desert Island

I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes, that Las Vegas. No, I don't visit the casinos or the hotels or travel down the "Strip" or even cross it any more than I have to. It's not that I have anything against it, it's just that I live in the "other" part of Las Vegas, the real Las Vegas. It's the one that you see as you fly into town to visit those casinos or that you pass as you drive in on the Interstate and wonder, "Who would actually choose to live in the desert?"

In some ways, most of us who live here actually like the idea that the 34 million people who visit our city each year for vacations, fun weekends, conventions, weddings (yep, that's a big deal here, too), or just coming to take part in some world-class rock climbing, do so in a relatively small area of town. Very few of our visitors actually take the time to venture out into the suburbs, which start about a block off of the strip in any direction. That makes for a relatively quiet city.

One thing that you'll notice if you do fly into town is that we don't have any agricultural areas surrounding the urban area. You won't fly over big, green fields of grain or alfalfa or farms of vegetables or ranches or even those big wheel irrigation fields that dominate the western farming landscape.
This is a great view of Las Vegas with Mt. Charleston in the background (Elevation nealy 12,000 feet) and Lake Mead with Hoover Dam in the foreground. The dam is at the bottom. All brown, tan, empty desert as far as the eye can see.


No, you'll see only tan and brown desert interspersed with the occasional beige-to-white dry lake bed and broken up by north-south mountain ranges. That's it. And it's those colors because we don't grow anything in the area. It's a desert which, by definition, means we have a dearth of fresh water available. The whole state gets only an average of about 7 inches of rain a year. Doing a flyover will show some disks of green near some of the underground aquifers and some green in the bottom lands near those same water sources, but by and large, it is not a garden state by any means.
This is Red Rock, just west of town. Still brown.

We have about 2.75 million folks in the state, with about 1.9 million in Clark County, where I live. That makes for a very sparsely populated state.

But since we don't produce food here, how do we feed the 36 million mouths that annually come to my town?

It's easy, we bring it in on trucks. Everything comes in on trucks.

There is one road coming into Las Vegas from the north or south. That's Interstate-15. We're 4 hours from Los Angeles which means we have close access to everything that California produces. It just has to get put on a truck and it's coming up the road. We're 6 hours from Salt Lake City, which means that anything produced in the intermountain region is coming down the same road. US 95 joins us with Phoenix, also about 6 hours away, but less comes in from that direction than from California and Utah.

A precarious position to be sure.

This past several weeks have been interesting. We had about a 2-hour rain storm hit just north of town and it took out I-15. Literally washed it away. No traffic was moving. It took several days to get that road open again for car traffic and a couple more for the trucks to be allowed on it. In the meantime, trucks had to take a detour that cost a lot in time, fuel and drivers. They had to detour around the mountains and up some older roads to get around the disaster area.
That nice new river bed in the center of the picture used to be a divided, 4-lane highway. Now it's just sand and chunks of asphalt.




Normally, the route from Las Vegas to Cedar City, Utah is 177 miles along a fast-moving interstate. That would normally have taken about 2 and a half hours. The route they had to take was up US 93 and then across the US 56 to Cedar. That was more than 4, closer to 5 hours or double the time for just that short distance. Many trucks were cancelled until the road opened again.
This is looking north about 45 minutes north of Las Vegas. Nobody was getting through at that time.

Now, we don't get nearly as much food into this valley from the north as we do from the south. California is a much larger trading partner, if you will, than is Utah. So what would happen if the same thing were to occur in the other direction?

Well, depending on where the break happened, it could completely shut down vehicle traffic as I-15 is the ONLY road in some places between here and there. That would mean that traffic would need to detour as much as 300 miles to make the trip, over much slower roads. If that corridor were to be shut down for a week, there wouldn't be much on the shelves of the grocery stores.

I've mentioned before in this blog about a truckers' strike that happened more than 30 years ago and really crippled this town. The supermarkets were empty in 3 days. Not even bug spray was left on the shelves. It was all gone. No food, no paper goods, no cleaning supplies, no toilet paper. Nothing. It was scary.

Now, once the strike was settled, which happened in a week or two, it took another two or three weeks to stock everything back up again. People still bought everything in sight. Fear is a powerful thing. It was a couple of months before people stopped panic buying.

Now, this year's floods didn't have that kind of impact; the damage was in the wrong area. But it could have very easily. Good thing home production and storage is a good concept to live by.

I'm glad we live that way.

This last weekend, it rained again. Took out I-15 just north of town. Again.

Who knew it could happen twice in one month?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Where Do You Hide Your Food?

I'm finding it increasingly interesting to think that my city's major source of food is the grocery store chains or the warehouse chains. I recently spent some time looking around my neighborhood on Google Earth looking for gardens in people's homes. I found a couple but they were hard to find. I found lots and lots of swimming pools, lots of grass, and lots more concrete but hard to find a garden. I have to come to the conclusion that most folks in my neck of the woods don't grow food. I may be wrong, but you would have to provide proof to the contrary.
 
Our city is in the desert in the Southwest. Everything comes in by truck from somewhere else. We don't even have rail service anymore for non-industrial materials, and that's rare, too. Everything comes to us from one of three directions over the highways by truck. The bulk comes from California north up I-15. Some comes from Utah and points north via the same road in the other direction. And some comes up from Pheonix from the southeast. We might get some from the northeast, but I haven't seen much in the way of truck transportation from that direction. I would estimate that 75% comes from California.
 
I remember a bunch of years ago when there was a trucker's strike. Truck transporation all but stopped into town. Those that did arrive, didn't go to the grocery stores, they went to the hotels and casinos and their distributiors and suppliers. They knew how their bread was buttered. I lived at that time across the street from a Safeway store that has since closed and has been torn down. When the strike was announced, there was a run on the store and within 24 hours you couldn't even buy a bag of water softener salt. The shelves were completely bare. It was scary.
Be sure! What a great insurance policy against
just about anything: empty shelves, strikes, disasters,
or any other disruption of the fragile and delicate
system we have. It's a good hedge against rising
fuel costs, too. As diesel prices increase, food
prices increase. There is a direct link between the two.
 
We didn't suffer too much because my folks have always been prepared for things like that. That came from growing up in the Depression and was reinforced by the teachings of preparedness that my church does. They were ready long before it happened. But my friends weren't. I was in high school and when I took my lunch of huge sandwich on homemade bread and some veggies, my friends offered what was for us a huge sum of money for my lunch. After the first week, I had people waiting in the parking lot to be the first to bid on my lunch. I was actually afraid to sell it to anyone for fear that I would upset the wrong people so I ate my lunch in silence. There was food, just not as much as normal and not the variety that we were used to.
 
Some folks actually organized caravans of cars to drive to Southern California to buy food in bulk and bring it back to town. You could go to Utah and buy all the fruit you wanted from the farmer's markets, too. It was there, it was for sale, they just couldn't ship it to Las Vegas because of the strike.
 
I wonder if something like that could happen again? We certainly haven't changed our way of doing things in this town. We still don't produce food in any quantity. There aren't any farms or food processing plants of significance here. But there are a lot more people.
A garden will make your rations gor further, or
your paycheck last longer, or you health improve,
or....well, you get the idea.
 
Oh, we have grocery stores in abundance and Costco's and Sam's Clubs and other food warehouses. But it makes me nervous that the bulk of the food in town is not in people's homes or pantries or gardens, it's in these stores. I've seen how fast they can empty out. I spent 5 years working for one and I know how much food they shipped out daily. We had trucks replenish every night and Costco gets several trucks daily. So the system is working, for now.
 
We've come a long way from the days of the Victory Gardens. We've come a long way from a time where people accepted at least a part of the responsibility for providing for themselves. We have worked ourselves into a situation of "I work at my job to be able to buy stuff from your job." And although this is a workable situation, the more complex the system becomes, the more opportunities it has to break down. The farther away from the earth we become, the more dependent we are on others to provide the basics to us.
That doesn't make me feel comfortable. That doesn't make me sleep well at night. What does allow me to sleep is the knowledge that I am doing everything I can to produce as much as I can for my family. It may not be much right now, and we wouldn't be able to live too comfortably on what I can grow yet, but I'm getting better, my soil is getting better, I'm learning more and more and I'm trying.
 
A phrase I learned a long time ago fits this. "All you can do is all you can do but all you can do is enough." All I have to do is all I can do. But, I have to do all I can do. I can't slack off. I can't do less than all I can do, but I'm finding that the more I do, the more I find I can do, and the better I'm able to do it.
 
That makes me feel good.
It's nice to see our Super Heros are on board
with this. Truth, Justice and the Victory Garden!
 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We Really Are the World


Could someone please explain to me why we have food shortages and famine and starvation in this world? Could someone please tell me why some people go hungry? So far, unless it’s a function of mankind, I’m not buying the arguments I’ve been told.

Here’s why I make that claim.

I was given a tomato last week by my daughter-in-law. She and my son have grown a garden and are producing some food for themselves. (They also brought me a squash the size of a baseball bat that I’m going to grill tonight for dinner.) It was a Brandywine tomato, an heirloom variety with a rich flavor, amazing aroma and peculiar markings. It was delicious.

Before I ate it, raw, sliced, with a little salt sprinkled on it, I saved out the seeds. I placed them on a paper towel and then removed the jelly-like sac around each seed and let them dry on another paper towel. I ended up with about 180 seeds from this tomato. Then I started to look at them and started to wonder.

I wondered how many fruits a single plant would produce. Then I wondered how many seeds that would be. Then I wondered how many plants would germinate and grow from those seeds. Then I wondered how much fruit could be produced by this one seed alone over 5 years with some very conservative assumptions. Then I rested my brain because numbers of that size cause me pain. Without a spreadsheet, I wouldn’t be able to follow along.

First, I assumed that if I grew this tomato plant, I could expect about 24 fruits per plant. Some would yield more, some fewer. But based on my experience with this variety, this is what I could reasonably and conservatively expect. OK, so now we start to look into the future.

Let’s assume a 50% germination rate. That would yield me about 90 plants the first year. At about 24 fruits per plant, I would yield about 2160 tomatoes. This would, in turn, give me 4,665,600 seeds for planting the second year. Again, with about a 50% germination rate and the same productivity rate, at the end of the second year, I would have more than 261 trillion seeds. By year 5, I would have 1,553,347,859,158,130,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 seeds to plant. I don’t even know what to call this number. I think it might be 1.5 quintillion googol, but I’m not a math guy. Has your mind exploded yet? Mine did.

So if we go back to the second year, the one with the measly 261 trillion seeds, we can figure that’s probably enough seeds for the world. We don’t have that many people on the planet yet, so I figure that we’re safe with that many. If we allot 2 square feet per plant, to grow that many tomatoes we would need about 18.8 million square miles. That’s about 6 times the area of China. That’s without taking into consideration walkways between the rows of plants, roads for the trucks to haul the produce, and land for the stockpiling, storage and processing of the tomatoes. Might need 7 Chinas then.

But I don’t think that we want that many tomatoes anyway. I don’t, certainly not all the same variety. I realize that this would be a Monsanto fantasy, but what about the other varieties of tomato, especially the ones with fewer to more seeds per fruit? All of a sudden, we’re talking about a lot of tomatoes. So why would we have so many seeds in one tomato? Why would one tomato plant produce so many seeds, more than 4000 per plant per year? Is it only because it wants to insure its DNA is continued into the future, a ‘survival of the species’ thing? I don’t think so.

I think it’s another example of our loving, wise and kind Heavenly Father preparing a world so filled with richness and beauty and abundance all for the welfare of His children.  I think it’s a reminder to us that we need to remember others; that it’s a message for us to know that God loves us and that we have a responsibility to take care of this earth and each other.

If someone is going hungry, it’s not because we can’t feed them. If there are places that don’t have access to food, it’s not because they can’t change that. Now I’m not proposing that we build greenhouses in Alaska to grow tomatoes, but we could. I’m just suggesting that we can do a better job taking care of what we have been given. We can do more than we are doing. We can find ways to take care of ourselves. And still have plenty left over to help someone else.

Let’s say in my house we need to have 24 quarts of tomatoes each year to take care of our needs. We could use these in sauces, as additions to main and side dishes and to add to things like salads and sandwiches. That translates to about 12 medium-sized tomatoes per quart, or about the output of 12 of those plants from the seed example. Could I grow 12 tomato plants in my yard each year? Yes. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. So I could produce all the tomatoes my family needs each year. All I have to do is grow them, pick them, bottle them and store them for later consumption.

But can I grow more than 12 tomato plants along with the other things I would need? Yes, I can. I’m lucky that my house sits on about 1/3 of an acre. 12 tomato plants will only take up about 24 square feet of space, about .3 of one percent of the land left over after you subtract my house, driveway and sidewalks. 3/10ths of one percent for a year’s supply of tomatoes. Seems to me to be a reasonable exchange.

So let’s say I can produce twice that amount of tomatoes. Now I have enough to provide tomatoes for a whole year to another family the same size as mine. Of course, there will be some expense involved, so I would need to charge this other family for my services to cover my expenses. I’m sure I could find a family that would buy tomatoes from me even if it just saved them the trouble of growing them. All of a sudden, I’m a farmer. I have a business.

But I don’t want to just grow tomatoes and eat tomatoes. I want salsa. Now, I have to add onions, garlic, cilantro, and hot peppers to my grow list. Can I do that? Sure. Can I repeat the same thing about the seeds with, say, cilantro? Sure I can. In fact, I just did that. I let 6 of my cilantro plants continue to grow after it got hot this year. Once they bolt, the leaves don’t taste nearly as good as they do when they are young and tender. So I let them go to seed.

I had these tall, beautiful plants in my garden, nearly 4 feet tall. They blossomed with a showy cover of tiny white flowers. Each of these flowers was visited by my neighbor’s bees. (I LOVE having a neighbor who keeps bees!) For a couple of weeks, the garden was really buzzing.

Once the flowers had all been pollinated, they closed up, dried and fell off. Then I could see a small, round, hard ball-like thing on the end of each flower stem. These were the seeds of the cilantro. These are called coriander. This year I harvested about two pounds of coriander. That’s enough for me to have all the cilantro I can eat this fall, winter and spring as well as coriander seeds for seasoning and spice use. They are great in pickles, plus I don’t have to buy seed again next year. I will just save some of what I grew to plant this fall.

I am in the midst of harvesting my garlic. Last fall, I planted about 220 individual cloves of garlic. That was dumb. What am I going to do with 200 garlic bulbs? Oh, yeah, that’s right. I have a business now. After I set aside the best of the garlic for this fall’s planting, I still have more garlic than I can use. I’ll dry some and powder it for seasoning and I’ll mince some and I’ll give some away. It’s actually fun to ask people if they would like some garlic. It’s not the most normal question a person gets asked. You ask them and they stare blankly at you while it registers in their brains. Then they smile, and everybody says “thank you.” I haven’t had anyone turn me down yet.

A few years ago one of my daughters was staying with us for a while. During that time, she bought a cayenne pepper plant. We installed it in the garden and it did just fine. That fall, when everything else died, it lived on. We had it in a south-facing spot up against a block wall. Apparently, the wall retained enough heat and radiated it back onto the pepper so much that the pepper didn’t die. Actually, it lived for three years before an unexpected seriously hard frost happened one night. I must have harvested 30 pounds of hot, hot peppers from it. Each year they got hotter. I dried them and put them in a small blender and powdered them. I’m still eating that stuff, which we call “PH” (for “Powdered Hell!”). And it is mighty tasty and might hot.

Each of those peppers had a couple dozen seeds in it. I’ve saved quite a few of them and they are viable and grow quickly. I don’t think I’ll have to buy another cayenne pepper in my lifetime as long as I keep saving seeds and refreshing my stock of them.

One day my wife was cutting the green tops from some bunching onions. She stopped about an inch from the bottom, the root end. When she was done with each onion, she would casually toss the end bit into the compost bin. I watched her and thought about it for a while and decided I wanted to try something. I had heard that you could grow onions from just a bit of the root end and I wanted to try that out.

I soaked those ends in water for about an hour and then I poked my finger into the soil of the garden and inserted the onion butt into the hole. I watered them in. Every day when I checked on them, they seemed to have grown a bit taller. At first they were only a tiny little bud poking out of the ground. Then several leaves appeared and finally it grew large enough and was picked again for dinner. After that, I just ate them as I worked in the garden or brought them into the kitchen when my wife needed some for a salad or some other dish. When she cuts off what she needs, I pop them back into the garden and off the go to repeat the process. People look at me funny when I tell them I’ve been eating the same onions for three years. They look at me funny anyway, but I have been eating the same onions for three years.

Now to get back to my original question about the food shortages and famine. I’ll take a shot at answering it myself.

Obviously, we could grow all the tomatoes the world could possibly want. We don’t lack for seed or raw materials. Since we can produce the food, and we can process it and store it, what does that leave us? Is it a transportation problem? Well, no, we already know that we can eat a tomato in New York that was grown in Peru, so obviously transportation isn’t the problem. That only leaves us. People. Are we the problem? Are we getting in our own way?

I don’t know, but my guess is that we don’t want to feed everybody. It’s not a priority. We want to eat, that’s for sure. But my guess is that we want to have an income more than we want to feed the world. After all, people with no money cannot pay for food. And if they cannot pay, then we don’t have to send them food. We are not forced to feed the world so we don’t. we also are not motivated as a species to take care of other members of our species so we don’t.

And it's actually sad that amidst all this possible abundance, we have folks who lack. Makes me want to change my perspective a bit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Camel's Nose, or, How Gardening Grows on You


There is an old saying that says something about a camel wanting to “just put his nose in the tent” during a sandstorm. Pretty soon, his head is in, then his front legs, then…well, you get the picture. Before he knows it, the owner of the camel is outside in the sandstorm while the camel is in the tent.

I’m not sure that gardening in the backyard isn’t exactly like that.

First, you get a nice potted plant and it looks good on the plant stand in the corner or in the windowsill. You just do it for some 'color.' Then, you think that you would like to have some potted geraniums out front by the door just to dress it up a bit. Then the flowering plant in the corner of the yard. Then the flower bed along the fence or driveway. Then you think you might like to have a peach tree in that far back corner of the back yard. Just one, because you don’t know if you can grow peaches in your area.

Later on, you visit your neighbor and he has some nice, fresh, juicy tomatoes that taste so good you start to think that you should do that, too. So you plant one. Just one. After all, you don’t really have all that much time to garden. Mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes and pruning the now productive peach trees (you had to add another one for adequate fertilization) take up all your “yard time.” And you are surprised at how well it does. 11 cups of cherry tomatoes from one plant in one season. And they are sooooooo tasty, too, that you cannot remember how many of them actually made it into the house.
And in buckets, no less.

Then you decide that if your neighbor can grow those big, juicy beefsteak tomatoes, you can, too. So you plant several, not knowing which ones will do the best in your area. When they start to ripen, you can’t believe how easy it was compared with how expensive they are in the store (and how much better your own taste!) that you start to think about making salsa.

This year you buy the peppers and the onions and the cilantro to go with your tomatoes, and it’s good. But something just isn’t quite right and you realize that your wonderfully tasting tomatoes are being mixed with rather bland, tasteless “store-bought” food and you decide that you need to grow some of the other things. You don’t need a lot, just a few onions, maybe a couple of pepper plants and of course, you’ll only buy one packet of cilantro seeds. (How much cilantro can you grow with only one packet of seeds anyway?)
You absolutely cannot make salsa without cilantro.
To do so would not only be unthinkable, but possibly criminal.


Sweet red onions.

In the fall you plant the onions. In the winter you start the tomatoes indoors (you didn’t need all that stuff on those shelves of that rack in the garage anyway. The neighborhood thrift store can get much more use out of those things anyway.). And those light fixtures weren’t all that expensive, either.
Love those apricots.

In the spring you plant the cilantro and transplant the tomatoes outside. Come the middle of July, you begin to harvest the whole thing and you make your first batch of home-grown salsa. As you sit under the shade of you apricot tree (the peaches did so well you decided that a couple of varieties of apricot might be nice, too) and sip lemonade (who knew lemons could do so well this far North?) and dip your toasted kale chips (much better for you than fried tortilla chips and kale grows so well that you don't miss those silly shrubs along the fence) into your fresh salsa, you think to yourself “Now if I take out those shrubs and remove that lawn over there and …” you suddenly realize that the camel is in the tent leaving you outside.
Chard, not kale, but you get the idea.

But that’s really OK because that’s where your garden is.

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