A Strawberry Potato Bar, Anyone?

Add a splash of Hugelkultur gardening, the spirit of Burning Man, and a sense of place, and voila, we're rolling.

Sep 6, 2022

For many years I have created little pockets of beauty throughout my community, whether it was an organic farmers market with music, a 120-person farm-to-table banquet in a historic downtown community, or installing a wooden parklet with greenery and sunflowers along a troubled street.

(The downtown Nevada City Farm to Table Banquet (parklet & sunflowers to the left) and organic Nevada City Farmers Market are perfect examples of creating a beautiful sense of place)

I love to bring magic to a place, and I have realized I want to do this again, but on a smaller, more intimate scale, in my backyard.

We have all seen the images of back and front yards transformed into urban farms. It’s beautiful, but let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a lot of work. I want to grow food, but not on a full-scale farm with dozens of different crop varieties. I want to keep it simpler than that.

I want to transform the property where I live, but I don’t want to have to grow everything I need. I want to grow a few food items I use a lot, like tomatoes, shishitos, kale, and lettuce, but make 2 to 3 crops my specialty. I want to become an expert in growing just a few items well and get creative with what I do with them. This also allows me to barter with these items for the things I don’t want to grow or raise.

For me, producing something of value is not going to be just about growing food but creating a micro-economy within my neighborhood while reimagining the space around me.

The two items I have decided to grow that suits my backyard, personal needs, and challenges are strawberries and potatoes. Why these two? Strawberries love my property and naturally spring up everywhere without my help. All I need to do is expand this crop. Strawberries can also be dried, frozen, made into jams and healthy drinks, added to salads, or blended into margaritas.

When it comes to potatoes, well, they’re great during a time of famine (cough, cough) and have a myriad of uses, from potato skins, potato fritters, french fries, gnocchi, and stews, and they store well for a long time.

All these extra items that can be made from what I grow are known as “value-added” items. They allow a person to diversify their income. But there is something else I have that is valuable and underappreciated; the space around the garden.

So, this is where Burning Man comes in: The huge annual event that takes place in the Nevada desert is notorious for turning a wasteland into a fantastic space, creativity, and art. It’s also about participating in a gift economy; each person or camp specializes in providing a service or a gift.

I plan on turning my backyard into an intimate event space. My own Burning Man of sorts… I have just enough room to hold some small events; a little corner for some acoustic music, an outdoor bar and tables, and (when I get done) a magical garden…. here I will conjure up some delicious strawberry margaritas, healthy fruit drinks, and potato snacks that I will serve up from my beautiful backyard.

Check out my video above, see where the inspiration is taking me, and start thinking reaaaalllly creatively with the space you have.

In this video, I mention creating a Hugelkultur garden utilizing the wood and green waste I am clearing from my property to reduce my fire danger (thank you, Samyol, for the inspiration)…. I will get into the details of how this works in other posts. But I will be utilizing “below ground” Hugelkultur for my backyard, as pictured below….

Are you in a fire-prone area? Need to get rid of all that wood waste AND want to grow your own food or have a beautiful garden….? Don’t throw away that green waste. It’s valuable and can save water and maximize soil quality for 20 years! Check out Hugelkultur!


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