Foraging the Fence Line

Sure, it’s May 12th, but that doesn’t mean we’re wearing shorts and sandals on Colorado’s Front Range. Mother’s Day was snowy, today’s wind is cold, and tonight the temperature will drop into the 20s, putting this season’s apple crop in peril. Our wintered-over crops like spinach and onions are slower than normal this year, although what “normal” means anymore is anyone’s guess. As farmers in these days of climate change, we watch the weather instead of the calendar and plant or pick accordingly.


I had intended to harvest asparagus this afternoon anyway before tonight’s predicted frost, but my friend Wendy’s blog post about foraged asparagus inspired me to take my camera along. Wendy’s post will tell you how to prepare asparagus without wasting any of the precious bits, so I’ll leave the culinary instructions to her.


Instead, I’ll share what else I found on my walk around the farm. First, I stopped in the bluehouse—our passive solar greenhouse made from recycled patio doors—to check on the lettuces. We’ve been eating greens like arugula and chard ourselves from the bluehouse all winter, but last Saturday we harvested lettuce for all our members on the first pick-up day of the season. Bluehouse lettuce is never as crisp as outdoor-planted lettuce, but we’re not complaining about fresh lettuce in May, especially in this cool spring.


Next, I walked the fence line on the west side of our property to find the bird-planted asparagus. I’ll let you figure out how that happens. John had picked a first round a few days ago and some of it was already going to seed, but I foraged a half bag of hearty stalks, enough for a quiche soon and some for salad too (I chop in bite-sized pieces, steam tender-crisp, cool, and add to spinach, lettuce, parsley, chopped boiled eggs, and roasted walnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette). I also found cactus in the only spot they grow on our farm, back along the fence line near where our neighbor pastures his cows.


Snow is still falling in the mountains; normally we can see Long’s and Meeker from our field. Today, only Steamboat Mountain just outside of Lyons is visible.


On the way back to the farmhouse with my stash of asparagus, I run into John crossing the bridge by the flower garden. I glance down into the ditch, which is still nearly empty because the repairs following last September’s terrible flood are not yet complete, making yesterday’s snow quite welcome for our fields.

The lack of ditchwater hasn’t prevented the appearance of another spring foraging treat: the saddleback polypore mushroom that grows each year on the stump of our former rope tree over the swimming hole. Today’s find is fifteen inches across; we’ve harvested it just in time for optimal spongy texture. We’ll sauté it tonight for an extra treat, maybe with asparagus over pasta or toast.


Our vegetable crops may be a little behind schedule right now, but I’m happy to be on the cool side of the weather rather than shooting straight to hot. We’re still worried about the above average snowpack, too, since the flood last fall has changed the river in unpredictable ways, but we’re glad to know water is on its way.

As I write in A Bushel’s Worth, on a farm, we work, we wait, and the land gives again. In this 23rd CSA season, we’ll adapt and change and flex and grow in whatever way the climate demands. We may not always get it right, but we’ll do the best we can, drawing on the knowledge, patience, and faith that, so far, have seen us through.


For readers in the Boulder/Ft Collins area, I’ll be teaching a free interactive reading at the Estes Park Public Library this Saturday, May 17th, from 3-5 PM, with a special emphasis on writing stories about the September 2013 flood. Come join us!

I’ll also be offering a workshop at the beautiful Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon Coast this September 27-28 on “Writing from Nature’s Artifacts.” Just the scenery will inspire you (and hopefully the class will too!).




Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

8 responses to “Foraging the Fence Line

  1. Kayann, Don’t know if I already told you but my local library now has your book, A Bushel’s Worth! in the system! I saw it among the most recent books! Yippee! Love the blog as always and have picked some early morning spears of planted asparagus myself. I have to act quickly because my garden fence is down and my dog has a real appetite for fresh asparagus too!
    xo patty

  2. Thanks for the beautiful pics and words.

  3. johnmmartin

    Overnight low of 34°. Yay. I’m out to check the apples just now. Toast was a good choice. When I walk that fence line and see cactus growing right beside water-loving asparagus, I know this is a strange and wonderful place. I particularly like that picture of the fence, pasture, Steamboat Mountain, and the sky.

  4. What a beautiful snapshot of a perfect CO spring day. I, too, am surprised to see the difference in our snow accumulation.

  5. moiscooking

    Just beautiful. The farm looks great, as always.
    Were those pictures from today? I have at least 8 inches of snow here. We woke up to about 12 inches.

    • Yes, from a half hour before I posted. You got lots more snow than we did. Funny how the snow went east instead of right here along the foothills like it usually does. Good moisture, right?

  6. Oh, morels. Now that would be a treasure! The closest we’ve come were the shaggy manes after the flood (a small silver lining in all that tragedy). Glad you’ll be out on Saturday. Maybe we’ll warm up by then!

  7. Lorna Yoder

    Kayann, I loved seeing the pictures and your writing about a farm that I feel I am a little part of…I have been seeing postings of morel mushrooms from my Iowa friends on FB and salivating with envy. How I mess those, both eating and hunting them with my parents. The spinach was amazing. We had some for lunch last Saturday, right out of the field. Even though I see the farm every Saturday it is fun to read about your walks. Great post.

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