Friday, September 16, 2011

An Edible Yard

Today on the phone, my mother and I were comparing grocery shopping costs. She's in Illinois, I'm in New Jersey. She said she spends an average of $125 a week and she shops with a tight budget. Although I don't "budget" per se, I only spend roughly $50 a week on our groceries... "How?!" she asks. Because I really only buy fruits and veggies usually because we have all the staples on hand that I buy in bulk.
I'll talk more about bulk buying in another post. However, one of the main things I do each year is to plant a simple garden outside my kitchen door.

Additionally, I've made it my business the last 4 years ever since we moved into this old house to slowly transform my little plot of suburbia into an edible landscape. I love my family, I love homemaking, and I love frugal. So it makes sense to me to plant things that you can eat. Why do I constantly need to pay someone else to ship things to me when I can probably plant a ton of edibles in my own yard? We may not have much land... but let's experiment, let's see what we can do with what we already have.

What's in my Edible Yard:

Last year I found a local seller of Paw Paws trees in NJ. These are native to the US but the Paw Paw fruits are not sold in stores because they don't ship well.  I read about the sweet banana/mango custard taste a paw paw has, and even though I have never tasted one, I am in love with the idea. I bought two because they need cross pollinating.
I basically bought two sticks last winter. I brought them home and followed the directions of how to care for them, carefully explained by the ex-Rutgers professor/botanist I bought them from. They are still in containers but they are flourishing. There's just something very special about caring for a plant for so long. I'll bring them in again this winter and next spring, I will plant them. It's taken me nearly that long to decide where to put them in my tiny yard.

Last year I bought and planted a blueberry bush but it died after one season and one single blueberry. If I would have done more research (which I am renowned for in my household by the way) I would have known that the Black Walnut tree on my property line releases a type of toxicity that not all plants tolerate well - blueberry is one of them.

I have two apple trees growing. They are 3 years old, from organic apples the boys and I ate. It's amazing to see that one of them is over 6 feet tall already. Since they are from seed, who knows what type of apples we'll get (most apples trees being raised from scions) but I am excited nonetheless!

We have two mulberry trees growing too. It's beyond me why some people refer to these trees as weed trees, but it makes me laugh. They give the most delicious berries in the world! Ours were bought on Ebay and have been thriving. They should produce either next year or the one after that. I'm patient, I let nature do her thing.

Today, after learning about some 50-60% off sales on berries to be sold and planted before winter sets in, I set off with the kids to find some berry bushes on sale. We were in luck! 4 blackberry bushes, 3 blueberry bushes, 2 raspberry plants, and one Permissions tree that's 10 feet tall and was $20. Oh and lest I forget, one lemon balm and one orange mint plant. Yes, I spent what I would normally spend in 2 weeks on groceries. However, I look at this as an investment (food is an asset). The berries have already produced this past spring/summer and will continue to do so I am told. So next spring I'll be writing and telling you about the wonderful berries we're enjoying at my house.

This afternoon, under the rain, my 8 year old and I worked hard digging holes and planting. There's such a satisfaction planting and taking care of an edible yard. 
For dinner tonight - we enjoyed black eye peas from the crockpot, cooked with fresh okra and green beans from the garden, as well as homemade corn bread and sauteed dandelions (picked fresh from our yard) with garlic and onions. 

My little one separated the dandelions from the grass, and we cleaned each leaf rigorously. There was something exceptionally beautiful and touching about watching him enjoy the dandelions for dinner (of which he had three helpings). I think it was the fact he picked most of them himself, and that satisfaction was written all over his face.

What do you think about an edible yard?

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