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From the Farmbox

  • Posted by shawn traylor on June 29, 2010 in Food
  • Taking a slight left turn at Albuquerque now, folks, so please remember to keep all arms, legs, and capes inside the vehicle. Today we’re going to change it up a little and forgo the usual cooking and talk a little about growing things that will be cooked at a future date uncertain.


    As you may have learned from previous posts on this very Web log, I have the amazing fortune to be married to a lovely Russian lady who likes beets. Well, as luck would have it, my Russian lady has a Russian grandma, a babushka – an 83-year-old firecracker of a babushka at that. Babushka lives at the dacha.


    What’s a dacha? Well, a dacha is what we English speaking types might call a “weekend cottage” or a “summer house”. Now I can’t claim to fully understand this thing called (by me, at least) “The Russian Soul”, but I do know that, in addition to things like poetry, literature, chess, The Beatles psychedelic period and vodka, it involves a profound love for nature. And “Big City Russians” are just mad for dachas, darling. In fact, I was well surprised to learn that “a very significant percentage” of Muscovites have them.


    An aside. I know that, if nothing else, you come to me for precision in statistics, so there you have it – “a VERY significant percentage” is what we’re dealing with here.


    Now, I’m not sure what the “average” dacha looks like really. I’ve seen them range from a 10x10 shack with a leaky tin roof to a sprawling walled estate with tennis courts, swimming pools, security cameras, and Gianni Versace hand towels in the powder room. You get the picture. But the thing about all dachas is that they are “in nature”, i.e. not in the city (though you might hear them described as “In the nature” by an English-speaking Russian, who, over-compensating for his or her own language’s complete lack of articles, adds an extra one here and there where it is not needed when speaking English- a source of great amusement for me, I assure you.) But, I digress.


    My wife’s family’s dacha is about a two-hour drive outside of Moscow and they go there nearly every weekend during the spring and summer. This is where Babushka lives year-round. The dacha is lovely – not palatial – but very nice – probably about a 1/4 acre, walled off, with 2 small houses – one for Babushka and one for everyone else – a banya or sauna (which is another key part of dacha life), a water well, a small room for the care taker, and (drumroll please)…wait for it...


    A garden.


    Babushka is an avid gardener. And summer at the dacha is a wondrous time filled with fresh berries and all manner of yummy things growing in pots and on vines.


    This garden-centric, idyllic summer-time existence (at least for a few days) is central to my wife’s sense of well-being, and, truthfully, after a number of years now, to mine too.


    We live in DC, but we are lucky to have a back yard. So naturally we wanted a vegetable garden, not only because of all the aforementioned well being aspects, but also because we’re kinda into this whole food thing generally. So, we did the only thing we knew to do – we called my dad.


    My dad is a very handy guy. He knows how to build things using power tools and wood and bolts and concrete and stuff. Me, not so much, but I’d argue that there’s still a chance. Anyway, my dad offered to come visit us and build us a box for our vegetable garden. I won’t go into the details of how that all happened, but suffice it to say that he did an amazing job and built us a beautiful 24-square-foot-or-so planter in our back yard.


    And we filled it up with dirt and planted stuff in it. Yep. That’s what we did. And here’s what we planted:


    • Radishes
    • Beets (duh)
    • Lettuce
    • Eggplant
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Collards
    • Broccoli
    • Carrots
    • Tomatoes – 3 kinds
    • Watermelon
    • Cucumbers
    • Bell Peppers
    • Cayenne Peppers
    • Jalapeno Peppers


    And, lastly, the thing I’m most excited about…


    • Corn


    Corn! Can you believe it? How cool is that? I mean, shit, if you can grow corn you can really feed yourself, right? Just think, I’ll be making corn chips and tamales before long. Ha. Anyway, we’ve got all this amazing stuff growing in our backyard now, and our efforts have started bearing fru, er, cucumbers.


    So, in addition to our Community Supported Agriculture farmbox adventure, I’m going to broaden the bloggin’ and start incorporating more of our own produce into the mix. So stay tuned!


    - Shawn Traylor, Farmbox Blog





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