Harvest time in the back yard

I have always been really inspired by the demonstration garden at the Woodland Park Zoo. It took six years of work and a lot of trips to Wight’s Home and Garden to add edible landscaping to our back yard, but now that things are established, all we have to do is weed, water and wait. We have raspberries, blueberries, currants, grapes, rhubarb, asparagus, artichokes, our own mini-dwarf apple orchard, and raised beds for vegetables like beans, spinach and lettuce.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, both of my children know where food comes from, and they understand how much effort it takes to pull even a modest meal from the soil. Last summer my son grew 10 pounds of potatoes all by himself. At 6 years old he felt pride for putting food on his family’s dinner table. This year my 3-year-old daughter is contributing by planting peas and overly watering everything with the hose.

Even after all of this gardening, I am still really confused about blackberries. Are the big patches of berries that grow along the road fair game for turning into jam? How do you know that they aren’t technically owned by the neighboring house? I want to teach my kids the value of local foraging, but I don’t want to turn them into thieves.

I would also like to know, What’s the big deal about making homemade freezer jam anyway? It takes nine cups of sugar but only four cups of berries. I might as well attach an IV drip of sugar to my children’s arms.

Still, it would be fun to brag that our family cans bumper crops from our garden every year, but the truth is we harvest bountiful shade instead. It is too bad for my tomatoes that our 70-foot cedar trees weren’t turned into shingles last century, but those are the breaks.

I thought our family was doing pretty well as urban farmers until I saw Rubberneck Farm in Edmonds, where Michael and Melissa Mearns turned a grassy lot into a large garden that has produce to sell. My friend Carrina in Brier has four well-established Rainier cherry trees. She might as well be growing money! The people up the street from us keep chickens, which I hear squawking every time we walk to the park. In the middle of Edmonds Bowl, my friend Emily has her own buzz-worthy garden too. Her husband, Adam, keeps bees and bottles the most local honey you can find.

The chickens, cherries and honey I covet; the extra work – not so much. I want my kids to know where food comes from, but I still want our family to have time to eat. I am pretty content with the garden we already have.

That doesn’t stop my husband’s wandering eye when it comes to the other fruit trees growing in our neighborhood. Come fall, I can count on him saying, “Pears! We need to grow pears,” all the while holding his hands out in front of him like he is picking something. Maybe next year, Honey.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.

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