Yardsteading

pecan-tree

My yard is my sanctuary.  I moved into my current home in 2015, and it has taken some time to get to know, including its array of edibles. For me, being able to gather food from my own yard, or as I like to call it, “yardsteading“, is ridiculously gratifying.  There is something special about using your own fingers to pluck the fruit, nut, vegetable or herb from the branch, stem or dirt, and then to create the time and space to turn it into something you can enjoy or give to others.

A couple of years ago I read Anthony William’s book, Medical Medium. In it he claims there is a spiritual connection between the plants we eat and the energy of the person tending to them.  He says the plant adjusts its chemistry and nutritional value to offer maximum healing and benefits customized for the person who raised it and cared for it.  In other words, he claims the plant is most beneficial if consumed by the individual body, mind and spirit of its caretaker. The idea is that the energy of the caretaker is then infused into the plant itself, so that even if someone else eats it, for better or worse, the energy designed for the original caretaker is passed on to others.

This idea, which probably sounds completely crazy to many, is something I really dig.

Figs Amelia .jpg

Whether it’s true or not is honestly no concern of mine.  I just can’t help but love the idea and the feelings that bubble up when I chew on it.

Give yourself a minute to consider: is there anything better than tasting a warm fig fresh off of a branch in the summer? Or taking a walk and handing a beautiful, freshly shelled, golden pecan to your child and seeing the novelty of “found food” reflected when she pops it into her mouth?

No doubt, humans were designed and have evolved with the urge to discover and create food from our surroundings. And there’s even all kinds of great evidence that supports how wonderful the small bits of dirt left on a fresh outdoor snack are for fostering a healthy gut microbiome.  But whether a scientist or medium is offering me these juicy tidbits, it’s all just an added bonus for something I just really enjoy and get excited about doing.  My guess is Richard Louv probably has some great research citations in his books about how gathering food outdoors calms the central nervous system (the fix that I, someone who is just a teensy bit high strung on a regular basis, crave from it).

We are so fortunate to have multiple edibles in our own yard.  We have both native and grafted pecan trees (the native one being over 200 years old!), and during our yard’s last pecan season we harvested over 180 lbs from our half acre suburban lot.  We also have Chile Pequins, a wild bush with extremely spicy and delicious red edible berries, Loquat, Texas Persimmon, Yaupon (can make highly caffeinated tea from its leaves), and beautiful fig trees which I’ve learned grandfathered many of the other figs in our neighborhood.

pecans 2016.jpg

Figs Bowl.jpg

I can’t help but feel tremendous gratitude for the couple who built and lived in our home for over 50 years. They truly nurtured the abundant plant life and yard treasures all around us.  I hope to be able to steward their babies well as we continue to live and grow together.

Granddaddy Pecan.jpg

I am beginning to look at my yard in terms of a rhythm of edibles for each season.  Things like pecans in the fall, loquats in the spring, and figs in the summer.

I also love learning about foraging, and we are fortunate to live along a creek where we have identified black walnut trees, a mulberry tree, wild blackberries, wild mint, watercress, as well as wild onion widespread.  We have stinging nettle, prickly pear and dandelion as well in our area.  I’m sure there are many others that I have yet to discover.

Here is a list of items I create from my yard and creek area (noted with * and a hyperlink to my documented experiences) in Central Texas as well as the items have on my list to attempt in the near future.  I’ve also included fun projects and ideas for projects that do not come from my yard, like fermenting, but do embody the same spirit of making things together and “yardsteading”.  For example, I began brewing our own fermented kombucha tea in 2016, and it is a really fun continuous project that my kids enjoy helping make. On the times when we don’t have a yard edible, I play with other homesteading projects – like making candles, moisturizers, household cleaners, and soap.

The list below is always growing and changing, and is mostly for my brain, so that I don’t forget the things I want to do, but maybe it will inspire you too. I’ve uploaded links with my completed projects and recipes along the way as I’ve gone. Send me a note if yardsteading is something that excites you, and let’s exchange ideas and recipes as we learn together.

WILD EDIBLES:

Pecans*

Black Walnut*

Chile Pequins*

Wild Onion*

Mulberry*

Dewberry*

HOUSEHOLD GOODS:

Candles (I made beeswax candles in 2017 that turned out great!)

Lye and Melt & Pour Soapmaking*

Lip Balm

Fizzy Bath Salts

Whipped Shea Butter Body Moisturizer*

Citrus Vinegar Household Cleaner*

Tea Tree Shower Spray

Pest Control Products*

Herbal Cold and Flu Remedies*

Olive Oil Lamps

Container Gardens

CANNING: 

Dill Pickles*

Pickled Onions*

Pickled Beets

Pickled Okra

Vanilla

Wild Mustang Grape or Dewberry Jelly

Chile Pequin Hot Sauce*

Loquat Preserves*

Fig Preserves*

FERMENTING: 

Sourdough Bread

Kombucha*

Sauerkraut

Fermented Vegetables*

BUILDING COMMUNITY WITH THE YARDSTEAD:

Community: Cooking with Fire

Kid Fun: The Nature Wheel Jar

A Love Letter: In the Valley