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This has not been a stellar year for the Simons gardens, as I may have mentioned before. And even so, EVEN SO, once you start really paying attention to what is growing in your yard it is amazing what there is there to eat.

For instance, how about this. Scrolling through Instagram (cell phone use has spiked these past few weeks) I found this GORGEOUS photo of steamed Brussels sprouts leaves wrapped around meat and rice. Looks yummy. I thought this even a thing? eating the leaves of plants from the brassica family?? Brassicas are the cole crops, that is broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, etc. That’s great news for us since we can grow the leaves pretty well. It’s what comes after that just doesn’t work out. At this moment I have big beautiful  leaves on plants that will probably never see broccoli heads or Brussels sprout bulbs climbing a stalk skyward. At our house, if the chickens don’t break in and get them, them get MUNCHED by caterpillars — or could it be voles?

I went out into the garden with a flashlight tonight, and harvested a quick handful of  beautiful Brussels sprout leaves from the two stalks that survived, and chopped them into my Indian/Asian fusion invention (chopped onions with tons of curry, tumeric, and garam marsala, ground meat, diced scavenged thin-walled peppers and last of the green tomatoes, currant, diced Granny Smith) and we ate this over steamed cabbage noodles. (Thin slices of cabbage steamed, another idea that I stole from Instagram, many thanks to Amara and Martin!) I meant to get a photo for you all, but it was so good…we ate it all up without a technology stop in the middle.

It was difficult year for the Simons Gardens — first cold, then dry, then very wet, and cold again — just contrary! our green beans, tomatoes, and pepper plants struggled!! — and yet. And yet the soil gave us enough peppers for lots of salads and some to slice up with onions and freeze. The garlic heads didn’t grow large, but three bunches are dried and hanging on the kitchen wall. Jars of dried herbs lie in the cupboards – lavender, sage, oregano, thyme stored with  leftover stay fresh packets from vitamin bottles to preserve them.

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We didn’t get that many cherries from our trees, but more than before. We ate and froze some  blueberries, black raspberries, and strawberries. We did great with salad greens! Grew onions for the first time ever.We only lost one hen over the summer, and the little chickens raised by the adoptive mother last spring have laid their first little girl eggs.

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Then let’s not forget the piles and piles of pruned crape myrtle that I made everyone cut into sticks and stack on the kindling pile!  Looking over this year in our gardens as we wrap up our harvest, I’d say yes, in spite of the frustrations we’ll do it again. It can be maddening. But we love growing things. And there is something to be said for learning to let things go, recognizing how little we control, appreciating what good arrives in our basket or on our plate.

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There is always more to learn, always more to understand about the way weather and soil and insects and even irritating #*%#!! voles operate together, a symphony that we hardly understand.  So we make guesses. We chop down tall foliage to create more light, raise beds higher to ease our aging backs, build new enclosures to better rotate the chickens, and set up rain barrels locally in more gardens to simplify watering in the coming year.

But for now as cold creeps over the ground, we’ll cover our beds with leaf mulch to rest them and us for a season.  Enjoy the fireside. Crush the dryer sock full of lavender in the laundry room….and dream of what might be possible next season…

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