by Leigh Mills
Ahhhh, October. Fall is here with shorter days and cooler nights. Gardens in the northern part of the San Luis Valley are starting to frost over and die back; and the frantic frenzy of harvesting, preserving and seed saving is mellowing. I took some time to reflect on how this past garden season was and made a list of what I grew, preserved and saved.
It could seem like we grow all our own food here at the Heyokah. Actually, I consider the garden an experiential hobby garden. I grow to supplement our food supply. I experiment with what will grow and what kinds of seeds I can save at 8400 feet altitude. I cultivate plants and the soil of my mind. I was able to tend both full-time this summer and lately took stock of what grew and what got saved. There were 24 types of food plants grown and almost the same amount of flowering plants. Having a hive of honey bees nearby contributed to the abundance of produce, seeds and well-being.
The amount of harvested produce ranged from a handful of this to many pounds of that. It started with little trickles of purple asparagus, chives and strawberries; next—generous amounts of greens and chamomile, followed by lots of garlic, shell peas, orange tomatoes and beet greens, finishing with an avalanche of everything: broccoli, carrots, green onions, yellow squash, hard squash, red tomatoes, and more greens. Beautiful flowers bloomed the whole summer. Some were favorites like Zulu daisies, chamomile, Miriam edible sunflowers, calendula, Bachelor’s button, scarlet flax, and poppies. Several were new types such as Discovery and Endurance sunflowers, columbine, Gloriosa daisy, Mexican hat, and others I can’t name. All were fabulous and gave the view out the kitchen window a special touch.
The seed harvest this year has been wonderful. I consider seeds a viable part of my winter stock just as much as the preserved food in the freezer. I started harvesting seeds in June with chives, chamomile, and green onion. July brought collards, lettuces, and orange tomato seed, (all grown in the greenhouse) with the bountiful garlic and shell peas from outside. August and September were a blur of seed saving as the beets, carrots, and flowers started giving theirs. October will offer the spinach and coriander while the broccoli is an experiment. We see how those seeds transform.
I “put up” quite a bit of the produce we couldn’t eat right away for wintertime enjoyment. Shell peas, broccoli and yellow squash were steamed, drained, and then frozen in gallon-sized plastic freezer bags. Food put into jars as preserves or sauces came from Suzanne and Kent who have their produce stand every Friday in Saguache. They bring fresh Colorado produce down from the western slope and I purchase cases of tomatoes, peaches and pears to process into jars.
No matter how much we have saved, I consider mind the greatest asset. Having the opportunity to work in my garden full-time this summer has helped me start to re-connect and heal in most wonderful ways. I am grateful for the bounteous harvest of plant, seed, and peace.