by Charlene Burgi
The deciduous trees are shedding their leaves, the temperature is falling, and plants are preparing for winter dormancy. It is the time of year when most of us turn our thoughts to warmer activities found indoors. The garden is forgotten until the first warm sunny day emerges from the cold and dank in late winter/early spring. Somehow, we assume that the garden is sleeping so we can take a break. Pots of homemade soup simmering on the stove are more appealing than the clay pots that could use a scrubbing before spring planting.
Before turning your attention entirely to indoor activities, contemplate one more outdoor idea. Isn’t this the perfect time to consider that rain garden? We have experienced enough rainfall this season to see how water drains from our property. Did you figure out a way to “slow it down, spread it out, and sink it in”? If you are stuck on how to capture nature in your yard, may I suggest taking a walk to see how nature employs the “slow it, spread it, sink it” concept.
Note that in a heavy rainfall, water sheets off bare hillsides and runs down the street. If the hills are covered with native grasses, the water slows down and spreads out. Rocks, berms and swales stop the movement of water and allow it to naturally sink in until saturation occurs. The more porous the soil, the better the water can percolate. We are more prone to runoff if the soil is typical Marin County clay that has not been amended with organic material.
Nature often has a way of mulching itself with leaf litter, pine needles and other decomposing material. Thick layers of mulch will also slow down the course of water. Eventually the water will find a path of least resistance—perhaps a good place to create a fieldstone dry creek bed to function as an area to sink the water in?
For more inspiration, join one of the rainwater harvesting tours being hosted this month by SPAWN and MMWD’s 10,000 Rain Gardens Project.
It is the perfect time to take a walk in the rain. The simmering soup will be a welcome delight when you return. And speaking of soup, a fellow worker came in raving about this recipe. Bon appetite.
Roasted butternut chowder with apples and bacon
Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and author of The Food Matters Cookbook
1 butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4 bacon slices, or one 1/2-inch-thick strip slab bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread the squash, onion, apples, bacon and garlic in a deep roasting pan or on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the oil.
Roast, stirring every now and then, until the squash, onion and apples are tender and browned and the bacon is crisp, which takes about 45 minutes.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven.
Stir in the sage and white wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.
If you’re using a roasting pan that can be used on the stovetop, position the pan over 2 burners and put both on medium heat. Otherwise, transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or Dutch oven and set it over medium heat.
Add the stock and cook until the squash, onion and apples break apart and thicken and flavor the broth, which takes about 25 minutes. You can help the process along by breaking the mixture up a bit with a spoon.
Makes four servings.