Mother’s Day brought the sunshine and the intrepid Home & Garden club to the geodesic dome in the Sculpture Garden. With this familial theme, we looked back to the knowledge we have gleaned, passed down, and shared from the matrons and matriarchs of our families. With the sun-warmed soil beneath us, and a red-tailed hawk circling overhead, we also had a skill share moment: our artist-in-residence coordinator, Anna Bierbrauer, opened the table for home gardening queries. First, we discussed the burgeoning garden we were surrounded by: the Foraging Circle is divided into four biomes to reflect the biomes of our region.
Secondly, Anna brought up the importance of testing the soil of your home garden: if your house is older, lead may seep from chipped paint into the soil. The lead will not get into your vegetables, but rather in the dirt itself, on your gloves and galoshes. It is important to thoroughly wash these items. Soil testing can be done by the Soil Testing Laboratory at the University of Minnesota.
We also discussed a myriad of ways to discourage critters from eating from your carefully-curated raised beds. Oftentimes, the small animals visiting your garden are thirsty for a drink and take a bite from a ripe tomato, for example, to quench their thirst. One solution is putting in a bird bath, or providing an alternative source of hydration for your visitors. As far as deterring hungry animals, there are no tried-and-true solutions; but here are some ideas: scattering dog urine around the ground to create “marked territory,” and sprinkling spicy ingredients onto the young veggies were my favorites.
We brought brown-bag lunches, but were also encouraged to bring in a family recipe in the spirit of Mother’s Day. I inquired of my mother for a few family recipes. I received a string of emailed recipes including one for Lemon cake (with a magical secret ingredient: Jello). I decided to try my great-grandmother’s recipe for Nut Bread. Nana grew up on a farm in Cherokee, Iowa, so as my mother put it, “things were a little looser in her recipes and she did a lot by heart.” In the spirit of Michael Pollan’s ethos of simple cooking, I sign off with Nana’s Nut Bread recipe:
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg beaten
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1-2 tsp baking powder
Mix and bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes in a loaf pan.
*About ½ cup (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.), but you can improvise.
Walker Home & Garden Club will share its love and knowledge of baking and gardening with the public during the run of Fritz Haeg’s upcoming exhibition, Domestic Integrities A05. More information to come in the months ahead.