Rising Like the Phoenix

April 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

This month, thanks in large part to my in-laws, we launched a project to renovate our 2400 square foot backyard, which is in the middle of San Francisco. My in-laws, who are the absolute best in-laws one could ever ask for, love doing home improvement projects when they visit (yes, this is one reason among myriad that they are so amazing; last year, they dry-walled our garage for fun). This year, they wanted to help us tackle the garden.

Before: The wild jungle

I spent an entire week before their arrival, then another week with them here, reclaiming the garden from the two-foot high weeds that had taken up stubborn residence in the clay dirt. And even though we arose at 7:00 am and put in 8 hours of work every day, we were able to best only about 80% of the weeds. However, it looked much, much better “after”, didn’t it?

After: The wildness semi-tamed

The hard-working crew!

With the wildness mostly tamed, we could now focus on the fun part: What was the vision for the garden?

My answer: Food! Beauty. Family legacy.

As those who know me even a little bit know, I am deeply passionate about food. Since moving to the Bay Area four years ago, I’ve become one of those typical SF yuppie locavores. I only buy produce at the Saturday farmer’s market in our neighborhood, Noe Valley. (Which means that I — and by extension, my husband — only ate apples, oranges and dried cranberries for fruit for the entire winter. Wow, was I happy to see the first spring strawberry!) I enjoy talking to the farmers — or farmers’ relatives — who sell their gorgeous fruits and vegetables about what’s best that day. And then I enjoy bringing my bounty home and cooking up a storm.

So my dream is to transform our previously jungle-y backyard into a garden that one day produces 80% of the produce we eat at home, as well as a colorful collection of flowers to surround me while I work (and to attract pollinating bees).

Luckily, my in-laws are master vegetable gardeners and dahlia growers, among other things; this would be a way to glean from them their decades of knowledge and carry on a family tradition. Cooking the goods would be a way for me to relive what I remember my mother doing when I was a child: cooking fresh, healthy meals from scratch. And I’m hoping to learn tips and tricks from other gardeners on how to grow tasty produce and beautiful flowers in foggy San Francisco, with the idea of one day sharing what I’ve learned with other aspiring gardeners. In sum, this is about food and beauty, but it’s also about connecting.

Onward and upward: The project is birthed. And I can only hope that one day, the garden and its rewards will be as beautiful as Voltaire describes the phoenix to be.

“It [the phoenix] was of the size of an eagle, but its eyes were as mild and tender as those of the eagle are fierce and threatening. Its beak was the color of a rose, and seemed to resemble, in some measure, the beautiful mouth of Formosante. Its neck resembled all the colors of the rainbow, but more brilliant and lively. A thousand shades of gold glistened on its plumage. Its feet seemed a mixture of purple and silver; and the tail of those beautiful birds which were afterwards fixed to the car of Juno, did not come near the beauty of its tail.” —Voltaire

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