This is the third in a series of posts on Happyday Farms, the CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) located up here on Bell Springs Road, run by Casey, Amber, Lito and Courtney.
The West Forty
As I wrote about in Blue Rock Ridge (http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2011/07/blue-rock-ridge.html), Annie and I moved up here for good in May of 1982. We have always put a garden in, even when it consisted only of a half-dozen tomato plants and maybe some summer squash and cucumbers. Back when there was almost no water for household use, we still managed to eke out a few fresh goodies for the dinner salad.
From the beginning we opted for raised redwood boxes, because I had obtained several units of redwood, sold very cheap, because a good percentage of it was unusable for building as a result of all the knots. The knots made the wood structurally questionable. It worked just dandy for garden boxes, though, and I went through the hassle of stapling some sort of aviary wire to the inside of the redwood boxes and covered it with dirt to prevent gophers from getting into the boxes.
Whereas I planted anything and everything into the boxes, I planted tomato plants in thirty gallon bags, above the ground, and hand-watered them so that I could weed and monitor them at the same time. I placed a six or seven foot tall ring of either foundation wire, or simply range fence, around each plant so that each could grow tall and would not sprawl out on the ground, allowing the tomatoes to come into contact with the soil.
Having begun canning vast unlimited amounts of tomatoes back in San Jose, at War Admiral Avenue while attending San Jose State, I liked my tomatoes and I always grew between thirty and fifty. I grew mostly Ace because they are so uniform and easy to can. But I also like any kind of cherry tomatoes, so we always planted several of those.
I put up cold-pack tomatoes, hot-pack tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, sauce without salt, super thick pizza sauce, and the ultimate, catsup. My goal is always to have enough to make it through to the next August, but I rarely succeed.
Somewhere along the line, Annie began acquiring Heirloom tomatoes and so we always had eight or ten of those, primarily for salads. Then there were Heirloom eggplant and we were off and running. I think because the eggplant we encountered as kids were past their prime and Mama just didn’t know what to do with them, I never cared for it.
Well, Annie did and she made me a convert. Now when eggplant comes in, we eat nothing for weeks, in every conceivable dish, and love every minute of it. I could say the same thing about summer squash, because it is so prolific. The thing about summer squash is that we never let it get beyond petite, or just plain small. Not only is it infinitely more tender, it is also more flavorful and we never end up with the prototypical submarines.
When the boys moseyed on down the line, I cut back considerably on what I planted and even stopped the past couple of years because I was never sure if there would be water throughout the summer. No way was I going to plant a garden and then end up having to pull it for lack of water. As Happyday Farms expanded, it obviously need more water, and we were getting most of our produce from Casey anyway, so why double plant?
Now with water no longer an issue, Casey went ahead and rented an excavator last February and sculpted the sloping, southward-facing back yard, into terraces, or steps, just as he had done three hundred feet up the driveway at the original site of Happyday Farms. We removed on pear tree which not only lay in the path of one of the terraces, but shaded too much of the immediate area.
The pear tree in question has only yielded fruit a half-dozen times over the years because it blooms in March, traditionally the harshest month on the ridge. Obviously, the person who sold us the tree, sometime back in the mid-eighties, was misinformed at to the appropriate elevation, for this particular variety of pear.
So now our back yard is on its second crop already and it’s only May. Great success, say I. And what about that water issue, of which I just spoke? Sounds like next post’s topic.