Apparently I’ll have to switch my entrepreneurial venture from the House of Zucchini to the House of Kale. In the past, our zucchini had taken over a large portion of the garden by now. We’d try to keep ahead by harvesting them when they were small, but some grew the size of dolphins before we’d see them lurking in the depths of large, tangled leaves. We tried zucchini stir fries, pancakes, bread, and quesadillas—my favorite since we could smother the slices in the jalapenos we also grow.
But this year, the zucchini are slow, small, and stunted. Our rows of kale, however, keep surging like kudzu on steroids. I’m not sure of the discrepancy, but I think it has something to do with my brother’s compost.
Tom and I share garden duties on our parents’ farm—he gets more of the grunt work such as tilling, weeding, and mulching. I’m not sure what I do, but I hang around enough to look busy. We grow eight or ten different vegetables, and our fence has kept out most of the critters except ground squirrels that seem determined to take one bite out of each strawberry.
In his four huge compost piles, Tom combines soil, grass clippings, food waste, and a special cocktail he moves from the feedlot on the other side of the farm. When we were kids, cattle and pigs spent their days eating and socializing in that pen, with their waste eventually puddling up at the low end of the lot with rain water and whatever else seeped from the ground.
One hot summer day Terry, the oldest cousin in our gang of renegade preteen farm kids, was leading us on an adventure, and the itinerary included hopping over the feedlot fence. An inch-thick crust made the slurry pit look solid, but Terry broke through and was soon floundering around in two feet of a concoction that looked like a poorly made chocolate shake. The rest of us stayed perched on the board fence, laughing like a chorus of Woody Woodpeckers.
We haven’t used the feedlot for years, but Tom harvests some of the aged “secret sauce” for use in his compost bins, and when he mixes this into our garden patch the following spring, vegetables respond. And that’s the problem. Since zucchini is such a garden bully, I planted the seedlings in another spot, along a fence behind the old barn. I exiled them and forgot to add the magic compost to the soil—they have responded accordingly.
But what about the kale? My brother, parents, and other family members think kale should also be exiled—more for the bitter taste than the aggressive growing habits. My wife and I like it as do some neighbors. Salads, stir-fries, chips, smoothies. Unless we can figure out how to make a kale frappuccino, the idea of starting a House of Kale franchise is probably remote. On the other hand, maybe we can start a compost franchise—we can bag it up and call it something like Magic Manure or Terry’s Delight.
by dan gogerty (pic from lisaebetz.com)