July in the garden

Greetings from the hot, hot heat of summer! Our garden is flourishing and Chad has gotten it nicely weeded so it’s about time we showed some photos. This spring we got our cool-season seeds planted nice and early, so we now have nice big patches of beets, are a little tired of eating peas, and most of our carrots have bolted. The silver lining to bolted carrots? Beautiful flowers and food for the pollinators!

We decided to go heavy on cover crops this year, planting buckwheat, austrian winter peas, clover, and daikon in between our spring plantings, and then pulling them up or cutting back as needed to plant our tomatoes, squash, eggplant and other heat-loving veggies. The cover crops act like a living mulch, provide more pollinator food, and add biomass for composting. Yay for cover crops!

We have lots of flowers interplanted with our food crops to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and just for the sheer beauty of the flowers. We are having another grasshopper apocalypse this year but the garden is resisting nicely. Some of our marigolds have been stripped bare, and some of our beans devoured, but everything else seems to be resisting this destructive overpopulation of insects. We think it’s because we planted early this year, giving the plants a head start on the grasshoppers. And also, we plant in polycultures, interplanting different types of vegetables with companion plants. Yes, what we need is something that will EAT the grasshoppers, but that will be for later.

While the garden grows, Chad and I are busy working away at some exciting plans and changes. We’ll let you know more about that soon – stay tuned! And until then, stay cool!

 

Harley hikes Sheep Creek Canyon

We spent a weekend in the Flaming Gorge area recently and took a drive to one of my favorite places in this part of the state, the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area, also known as Sheep Creek Canyon Loop. Chad took me here on one of my first visits to Utah and I was awed by the fascinating geology. So I was looking forward to returning – this time under a beautiful blue sky and bringing our dogs along with us.

IMGP5293

IMGP5298

 

IMGP5301

IMGP1543

IMGP5299

The geological loop is one you can enjoy entirely from your car should you choose to. In winter part of the loop is usually closed due to unsafe conditions. So when we reached the gate and could drive no further, we got out, found a nice spot near some conifers, had a picnic and sat, enjoying the scenery.

IMGP1557

IMGP5313

IMGP1558

IMGP1559

IMGP1567

IMGP1569

IMGP5314

IMGP1578

IMGP1584

IMGP1591

IMGP5311

I loved the variety of textures and colors offered by the geology in the canyon and kept looking in amazement when I’d notice something new: striations, cliffs, landslides, jagged peaks, diagonal layers, pinnacles. This area is a visual feast.

IMGP5305

IMGP5316

After our meal, we decided to hike up the road that was closed off. I thought to myself that we’d have to see how far Harley could go, and might have to cut the hike short if he seemed like he was struggling.

Harley is our elderly dog. He’s 13 or 14 and has been having a few issues lately because of his advanced age, yet he remains amazingly sweet, patient and good-natured. He still jumps excitedly when it’s meal time and often bounces eagerly along on our daily walks, but there have been times lately when he looks up at me with his big sad eyes and lets me know he’s too tired to go on those walks.

IMGP1599

On this walk, Harley surprised us all. Not only did he have plenty of energy, he took the lead, and I had to keep adjusting my pace to keep up with him. He strode along the road looking like he knew exactly where he was going – and was in a bit of a hurry to get there! He only got sidetracked to munch on patches of snow a few times. Chad and I kept laughing at what an amazing job Harley was doing hiking with us, making this one of those special memories we’ll always cherish.

20180218_152908

IMGP1705

IMGP1618

The views along the road were amazing, and Chad, who usually likes to bushwhack off-trail, was as happy as I was that we decided to hike along the road instead of in a dense thicket of saplings.

IMGP5321

IMGP1651

IMGP1738

IMGP1688

Leo and Charlie obviously had a great time too. They had noses to the wind the whole time, no doubt taking in an exciting array of wild aromas.

IMGP1667

IMGP1749

IMGP1683

IMGP1690

IMGP1708

IMGP1734

IMGP1748

IMGP1713

By the time we made it back to the car, the clouds had started rolling in, covering the beautiful blue sky, and we were all well-exercised and feeling good. The dogs snoozed happily in the back seat as we made our way back towards Red Canyon Lodge, although sadly, we did not encounter any yaks along the way.

IMGP1775

IMGP1787

IMGP1794

IMGP1790

Head in the clouds

All of us need reasons to relax. Life gets wound up and so do we. Sometimes the only reminder we need is something awe-inspiring from Nature to lower our heart rate a bit and take the edge off of the stress. Chad has an eye for noticing these moments, and also for capturing them – especially when they’re in the sky. He usually takes more cloud portraits than I will include in one post, but here, I decided to dedicate a post just to some of his clouds. Enjoy!

IMGP1436IMGP1439IMGP1444IMGP1467IMGP1487

Why wild food?

My first gardening experience came when I was a teenager. Back then “gardening” for me was an after school job at a small, family-owned garden center, lugging around a heavy, interminable garden hose to water, each in their turn: the herbs, the perennials, the shrubs, and the flats of annuals. Out alone among the plants, I felt a sense of peace. It was one of my first realizations that I felt much happier being outside, even in the stifling humidity of summer. My moments in the herb section were my favorites – I would rub the leaves of the different varieties while I watered, discovering the incredible secret fragrance each contained.

Twenty-something years later, I have graduated from plant-waterer to full-fledged gardener. Once you’ve discovered the pleasure of watching your own zucchini grow from seed, stickered and packaged grocery store produce loses much of its charm. And yet, this isn’t quite enough. Perhaps falling in love with plants opens one’s curiosity about them to more than just those found in a plant nursery. Becoming a gardener may be a slippery slope for some of us; many of us eventually start to ask, why not wild food? Why not eat weeds and edible native plants too?

Considering the incredible amount of food waste we generate in the developed world, and the resources that go into growing, packaging, transporting and retailing most food, it feels like an act of rebellion to source even part of one’s food needs from what nature is willingly offering instead of what we must beat out of it. Many weeds and other wild foods grow without watering or other maintenance, so harvesting these edibles also appeals to those of us who prefer a lazier approach to bringing food to our tables.

 

Beyond the environmental and economical benefits, I also like to incorporate wild food into my diet for the nutritional advantage. Fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutrients shortly after being harvested – just how much depends on the fruit or vegetable. The best way to get the maximum amount of nutrition from your produce is to eat it quickly after harvest. When we overlook the wild edibles growing in our yards, we’re missing out on free vitamins and minerals just there for the plucking.

Chad and I have harvested fruit from a neglected apricot tree in town, nibbled on sweet, candy-like huckleberries in the Uintah mountains, tasted milkweed pods, spiced things up with sumac, savored little mallow seed heads while weeding our garden, and cooked up pots full of delicious lambsquarters, pigweed and amaranth.

I am not a wild foods expert, but I’m slowly working on it. If you are interested in beginning to eat wild foods, find people in your area who are knowledgable and experienced to help you get started. You will certainly be able to find a few easy to identify weeds, preferable in areas that haven’t been sprayed and don’t have run off from roads. Dandelion is one that most of us can recognize, and beyond the fun of blowing off the puffy seed head while you make a wish, you can eat the greens as a salad and harvest the root for tea. Why buy dandelion tea at Whole Foods when you have dandelions growing by your front step?

 

Idaho sheepherder wagon

One of the most interesting spots we’ve stayed in during our travels together was in a little sheepherder wagon in Idaho. We were on our way to the zone of Totality during the 2017 Eclipse, and this ended up being a nice stopover on the way to our destination. And yes, everything else was already booked.

We arrived at the wagon after dark so the next morning we enjoyed discovering our picturesque location. Chad was excited about getting up with the sun to take photos. I was excited about getting some extra sleep.

While I snoozed in the wagon, Chad wandered around taking photos and found some chokecherry trees, with berries much bigger, juicier and more delicious than the ones we have at home, so he grabbed some for the road! They obviously get more rain in Idaho than we do here in Utah.

Chad also did some wildlife observing next to a little stream.

I finally got out of bed and then we enjoyed our breakfast at the fold-up table and chairs we’d brought.

Until we got there I didn’t think to ask where the bathroom was going to be. As Chad pointed out, if you’re used to camping, this little portable toilet is a nice step up from squatting in the bushes.

Sleeping in this little wagon was a fun experience, very cosy and intimate. Good thing the hotels and campgrounds were full and we were able to try it out!

Airbnb listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14656207