We bought this place from farmers who raised cattle and hay. The grasses in our back fields are beautiful, even this early in the season. The soil here, rich with manure, cries out for more–peas, chard, spinach, beets and onions–those early, cool season vegetables we should plant now. A friend gave me Marfax beans and Floriani corn to plant. There will be a pumpkin patch, blueberries, strawberries and a community garden filled with ingredients for salsa, salad, soup and preserves to donate to our local food pantry. I will make pickles and harvest the fixings for dinner just steps away from the kitchen door.
Right now, there’s grass. Everywhere.
We dream of back-hoes. How easily we could build gardens from grass!
The other day, we were walking the fence line in the back paddock when I noticed what I first thought was mint and quickly realized was nettles. Coming up in large patches, it fills the paddock in lush, deep green swaths. Nettles are a beast in the garden. Many call them weeds, a nuisance. They are also known as Stinging Nettles, which is no joke when you run through a patch barefoot. Nettles have these fine little “hairs” on their stem and under the leaves. They contain some kind of chemical which gives a nasty rash. Cows won’t eat them, which is probably why Oliver is peeved at foraging in that paddock when the unfenced pasture is filled with new hay. We had a quick conversation about the nettles (don’t touch!) and I remarked that they are supposed to be extremely nutritious. I remember my first mid-wife, who was an accomplished herbalist, bringing me nettle tea and talking about vitamin K. We left the conversation at that and got back to fixing the fence.
Derek got curious and sent me an article about nettles. After doing some research, we realized it’s our first crop! When harvested early, before bloom, nettles can be cooked and the cooking liquid used, as well. However, we also discovered that if dried, nettles will make an excellent addition to chicken mash and cattle feed, increasing nutrients in eggs and meat.
Who knew? Not I.
Such is the nature of learning as we go.