Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Sum of All Things Plum

By Amy Baranski

Jennifer Borges Foster and David Nixon
 in front of their plum tree.
The other day my friend Jennifer invited me to pick plums from her and her husband David's backyard. Jennifer and David are both artists and just great people. When she offered their plum bounty I was thrilled—that word could easily describe the sum of all things plum. But there are other words to share. So many that I thought it best to post a Q&A Jennifer and I did via Facebook.

Here's a formal intro to my friend:

Jennifer Borges Foster is a poet, bookmaker and the editor of Filter, a hand-bound limited-edition literary journal. Filter is available on her Etsy site, Open Books, Elliot Bay Book Company, and Wessel and Liberman. She has received grants from Art patch, 4Culture and the Seattle Mayor’s office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and was short-listed, twice in 2007 & 2011, for the Stranger’s Genius Award in literature. Her poems have appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, ZYZZYVA, Failbetter and other journals. To get a small, but satisfying, sip of her poetry check out the current issue of City Arts.

She is currently participating in the Authorship Project at The Project Room. This series explores the role of the maker, group collaboration, repurposing materials and who gets the credit. Check out the above link for more details. In the near future, October 20, 2011 to be exact, Jennifer will host The Ecstasy of Influence and evening with Heather McHugh.
Zombie apocalypse-ready garden beds. 

Q: I'm curious what's the first thing you do after you've made something new?
Sleep? I tend to take on projects that are pretty all-consuming, and I often end up working late into the night. When something is actually finished, I try to take a good look at the project or poem to see where it succeeds or fails. Poems take a lot longer to judge.

Q: Why do you garden?
My Dad had a garden when I was a little kid, and my second home (where I kept my horse) was a small farm with a big garden, so I guess growing up around growing food made a big impact on me.

To be really honest, I've been somewhat obsessed with apocalyptic visions since I was a kid, so part of my urge to garden comes from the need to be self-sufficient. I lived off the grid for several years in my late teens/early 20's, gardening, keeping chickens and horses, and living in relative isolation - great conditions for possible apocalyptic survival.

Plums from Jennifer and David's tree.
Photo by Jennifer Borges Foster.
One day I realized that I talked with my animals far more than I talked to humans, and I decided to move to the city and die with the rest of the non-prepared. We've got a huge garden in the front of our house in Columbia city, and several of our neighbors joke that when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, they are heading to our house - so I guess my gardening still has that end-of-the-world flair.

Q: How do you maximize growing space at your home?
We bought a house last year, and the major drawback was that the front, south facing yard was all concrete. Bleh! We decided to avoid jackhammers and possible old oil tank explosions, and put in ten 8'x4' raised beds instead. They've been amazing! They do save space, and they help to minimize weeding, rock populations, and all that pesky bending over.
Plums - local, compassionately grown, and super fresh.
Generous plum growers=awesome urban homesteaders!
Photo by Amy Baranski.

Q: Use three words to describe your food politics:

Q: What's the first edible you ever grew?
The first garden I grew on my own (at age 19) was packed. Beans, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuces, cabbages, turnips, tomatoes, squash, you name it, I grew it.

Q: Do you have a favorite outside place, what's it like?
My favorite way to be outside is on horseback, running. Wooded trails are great, but I'd take anything!

Q: How did you learn how to cook/bake/preserve food?
Watching my parents and reading.

Q: What's your earliest memory of the garden?
I used to pull all the peas from their shells and eat them when I thought my parents weren't looking (age two). Turns out they were looking, and thought it was cute.

Q: What are some of your favorite tips for canning?
Experiment! It seems pretty serious when you are putting up lots of food to eat over the course of a year, but disregarding that and taking chances with uncommon flavor combinations is more rewarding than eating the same thing every year.

Q: If you were traveling to outer space & what three earthly spices would you take?
SALT Crushed red pepper Sage

Q: What one fruit would you take?
Apples - they travel well.

Q: What performed well in your garden this year? Did you/do you have any pest problems? Everything did great! It turns out that the concrete pad our beds are on is a giant solar heating mat, so our garden flourished even in the dismal cold of this spring and summer.

Squirrels! They shucked and ate all the bottom ears of corn - next year we'll have to build a squirrel proof corn box. We also had cabbage worms, which I've never had to deal with before. We hand-picked and killed all the worms, something I don't relish. Next year we'll cover our kale and other brassicas.


Melissa Baumgart said...

I love it!
Although, the way I prepare for the zombie apocalypse is to eat as much crap/junk food as possible. I figure when we are all walking around scavenging for whatever food is available (Think of the book The Road), there may be a lot of carp around to eat. I want my body to be ready for it.

Filter said...

I love that crap changed to carp as preparation changed to reality!