Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating

Just another March in Cleveland: Garden Daydreams


In light of the current situation in Japan, March in Cleveland doesn’t seem so bad.  The recent flooding we’ve been dealing with feels small compared to a tsunami.  We did get a foot of snow a few days ago, which melted 24 hours later.  Today was sunny, but cold, but it will be in the 50s by the end of the week.  Welcome to March in Cleveland.

March is a great time to think about the garden.  Yes, I’ve been enjoying my baking, and I’ll have more baking and cooking posts soon, but it is nice to step outside and dream about what spring will bring.  My daffodils are sprouting and so are the irises.  All signs that the snow has to stop falling eventually.

Today was an especially good day to reflect on the coming spring, and all my aspirations for an edible yard.  I spent a bit of time hacking away a the last of the overgrowth in my yard while my little one played in the sandbox.  We moved into our house, which sits on an average sized city lot, just a little over 3 years ago.  We bought the house in winter and had no way of assessing the vegetation, until the spring, when we were first delighted by all the flowers and things that were budding, and then overwhelmed by vines and how big, weedy, and overgrown everything was.  We moved in when I was pregnant, and I spent every morning between mid-March and early June pulling weeds and hacking at overgrowth.  Then I had a baby and didn’t touch the yard again until the following spring, but I was writing a dissertation, so honestly, not much got done that year too.  Then I graduated and my baby was more of a toddler, so dealing with the overgrowth could begin. I spent every evening last summer pulling out ivy, relics from past owners, Rose of Sharon trees, and other out of control plants.

The overgrowth did reveal a few hidden treasures.  Once we hacked away at the glossy buckthorn, we found a high bush blueberry bush that was amazing.  LM’s sandbox is right under it, so we nibbled blueberries all summer while playing in the sand.  We also found a cherry tree, that sadly, needed to find a new home.  Once we got some of the worst of our creeping weeds out of the way we discovered purslane and wood sorrel, edible “weeds” we were happy to encourage as edible ground cover in the flower beds (beats that frustrating creeping Charlie!).  As we opened up the tight corners of our yard, the corner with overgrown forsythia, which I had been hacking away with from the start, rewarded that hard work by revealing what we thought was an ornimental quince tree actually could bear fruit.  We had lots of quince last fall.  The tree just needed the forsythia out of the way.  It was that very corner I was working in today.  I spent most of February cutting down those forsythia bushes keeping them at bay is just too hard, and we have 3 more forsythia bushes in the yard anyway.  This year the quince will have a properly opened space, which I hope will make up for the fact that it was planted in the completely wrong place for its light requirements.  I will also put in a yard waste compost pile in part of that corner.  I am so excited to be starting a compost pile.

My daydreams for the 2011 Garden?

  • We are currently assessing the weed beds that are in the shade.  I think we’re going to build a raised bed for shade plants and put the rest of the area into a moss ground cover.  I’m considering a moss patio as well.  (See You Bet Your Garden for an example.  Their podcasts have even more information).
  • I’ve decided to spread out the violets growing in my back yard to encourage a more consistent covering of the yard.  We will keep plain grass in the front yard, but we will encourage our back yard to be a larger mix of wood violet.  I want enough to have on salads, and to make violet jelly, like my foraging friends do.  Wood violets only grow to be about 4 inches high, so if I can get all the other plants that grow taller than that out of the yard, I might not have to mow the backyard at all.
  • I’ve been reading Lee Reich’s Uncommon Fruits, which has me considering what our planting plan will look like once I’m done clearing out the weeds and overgrowth.  I want to read his more recent Landscaping with Fruit.  We like the idea of adding in fruit to the landscape (mainly showy, and native plants).  We have a subscription to a community supported agriculture group, so we don’t need a veggie garden, but it is wonderful to have fresh fruit in the yard in the summer.

How about you?  Any garden plans this Summer?  Don’t worry.  Spring really is coming.  Before you know it we will be up to our eyeballs in zucchini.


4 thoughts on “Just another March in Cleveland: Garden Daydreams

  1. I am not good about following blogs- maybe I will get better. I stumbled onto your site from Gluten Free and Good on Facebook. I feel like we are on the same road. I live in Orrville, on a corner lot that my hubby jokes I am making a mini farm. My daughter is allergic to milk, eggs, wheat and sunflower. So coking went from known and fun to a wild experiment. I do wonder about the garfava flour- is that really the title on the bag????? haven’t tried much of the bean flours but you are pushing to me continue on my experimentation- I almos bought a pasta machine a couple weeks ago but then changed my mind- i might soon regret it. Have you made your own corn tortillas??? They are absolutely amazing and addicting nothing like the store junk.

  2. Hi Christi!

    It does sound like we have a lot in common. (I love Orrville by the way! We’ve spent a bit of time in that area when we visit Camp Luz with Church.) I also can empathize with the milk allergy. My son was milk-free for the fist 18 months, and since I was breast feeding him during that time, so was I! (I have a great dairy-free ice cream recipe and pudding recipe if you’d like them.) We called ourselves “meegans” since we still ate meat, but without eggs and dairy, we were practically vegan (if you don’t count the meat part….).

    To answer your question, yes, the title on the bag will say “garfava flour”. We have been buying Bob’s Red Mill brand flours since that is easiest for us to get. I do encourage you to experiment with bean flours. As I will show as I get the time, these flours can replicate some of the vitamins and proteins of wheat flour, so that helps with baking and with some of the vitamin issues that can arise from being gluten free. As you might imagine, getting a blog post out once a week with a little one around is about all I can manage!

    Speaking of, if you want to try and follow along, you can sign up for either an email when I post a new entry, or sign up for an RSS feed if you use a reader. Just look for the green email subscription or RSS feed boxes on the right side of the page. Or, if you want, just check here every Monday night or Tuesday morning. That’s when I try to post ;-).

    Let me know how the garfava works our for you. Oh, and if you don’t mind sharing I’d love your tortilla recipe. That is one thing I haven’t tried yet, and I definitely want to. Most corn tortillas in the store are made with lime, which we can’t have, so we haven’t had tortillas since RM went GF.

    Keep up the experimenting. Just because we can’t cook with a few mainstream ingredients doesn’t mean we can’t eat delicious food!

  3. Hello. Great blog, very informative. I was curious about your plans for a yard waste compost pile. I started one during the fall of 2010, or at least I hope I did, using neighbors’ dead leaves I nabbed right off of the curb. (Free fertilizer? Ok!) I’ve read leaves don’t have enough nitrogen to make good composting though, so grass clippings and other items are needed. Do you plan to use table scraps for the compost pile also? Is an open-air pile better, or should I look for (or build) a large bin to keep wildlife out?

    I’ve tried packing some plastic tubs with leaves and appropriate table scraps and (when it was warm enough in sunny Toledo) watered them down and mixed them about. Nothing much seems to have occurred, although it could be because everything froze over not long after I started.

    • Hi JMF,

      How nice to hear from someone in Toledo. I love your approach to fall leaves from the neighbors! My composting teacher has been Mike McGrath, host of public radio’s You Bet Your Garden, and he has a whole chapter in his Book of Compost about taking leaves off the curb! I recommend his book. He advocates just leaves, some lawn clippings and coffee grounds. You really don’t want a lot of green material in there. He also advocates getting a worm bin for the food scraps because it is too hard for most people to keep the brown to green material ratio balanced if you add in food waste. You can also check out his cheeky advice at garden answers A-Z: Compost 101 and also his article on kitchen composting.

      I haven’t had luck with tubs in the past, so this year I’m going to try an open air pile fenced in with chicken wire and with a tube of hardware cloth in the middle to help get air in the pile. Since I’m not using food in this pile I don’t anticipate critter trouble, but I live near a park, so you never know. If you are worried about critters in your pile, worm bins are the way to go. There are some fancy ones out there that minimize how much work it takes to clean them and some basic designs that you can make with a plastic storage container.

      I’d love to hear how your compost goes once things warm up. Check back in and thanks for stopping by!

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