You didn’t bring me raspberries?

This week has been an extra challenging week in the Commuter Gardening saga due to the absence of my mother-in-law.  See, we are not just gardening on her land, we are gardening with her.  In return for our help with a lot of the “heavy lifting” (i.e., tilling, soil amendments, fencing, planting), she is the one who does most of the day-to-day gardening: picking, watering when necessary, weeding.  This would not work without her.  When I say “our help” I mostly mean my husband’s, because, out of the three of us, I am the slacker on the team.  And I say this without feeling too apologetic because I would totally carry my weight IF the garden were right outside my back door.

Anyway, during a normal week, my mother-in-law’s work in the garden saves us from driving out, all the way out, to The Suburbs, multiple times a week.  Sadly, she has been on vacation this week, this very hot, very dry, very hot week, so we have been a little crazy keeping up with things.

Last night my husband went out by himself to give the poor, parched land a drink of water.  His mother’s house is equipped with two rain barrels, and we like to use that water whenever possible, but it requires filling and hauling watering cans, which is much more time- and labor-intensive than just turning on the hose.  When he arrived last night, he set up a sprinkler to water part of the garden, but the rest?  He watered the rest with the watering cans, did not even think to use the hose until he got home, and I pointed out that option.

Due to this oversight, he ran out of time and did not get around to picking raspberries.  The raspberries we netted on Monday night so that the birds would not eat them.  The raspberries that I am not eating right now because they are still on the canes, dying in the hot sun.  Do I have a right to complain when I wasn’t there sweating it out with him?  Maybe if I hadn’t been lounging around on the couch all evening in silk robes enjoying our luxuriously cool apartment, watching my Baby Peace Lily Flower grow while eating all of his frozen custard, maybe then I would have some raspberries.

Commuter Gardening

This garden I talk about?  It is, sadly, not here where we live because we live in an apartment in the city.  We have one small plot in a community garden that’s within easy biking distance, but that is not nearly enough space for our food production aspirations.  So, for now, we are commuter gardeners, driving out to my mother-in-law’s in The Suburbs, to fulfill our planting desires.

The Garden

I cringe at the fact that we are driving to do it (we could bike, but since the drive is >11 miles and takes 20+ minutes using interstate, the time cost would be prohibitive), but compared to the thousands of miles that most grocery store food travels to get to consumers’ plates, it seems somewhat justifiable.

My dream about one day living somewhere with space for a large garden in the backyard.  I think about this with great longing every time we are working in the garden, putting in multiple hours at a time to justify the drive to get there.

With a garden in my backyard, I could do little bits of work at a time, choosing the coolest, least sunny parts of the day, instead of the crazy, exhausting gardening blitzes of our current situation.

Last night was one of those blitzes.  We went out after dinner and worked in almost 100 degree heat until it was dark, and we had to stop or risk crushing innocent young plants that we couldn’t see anymore.

Straw mulch and sweat are an interesting combination. By the time I called it quits, I looked like either 1) I was seeking employment as a scarecrow or 2) I had just had a good roll in the hay.  Take your pick.

If you don’t have a yard . . .

Digging the rooftop gardens.

Green roofs are great because they turn an impermeable source of run-off water (i.e., a conventional roof) into a permeable surface that makes use of rain water.  Urban green roofs, like other green spaces, can reduce the urban heat island effect.  Finally, if you plant edibles, you have a source of healthy, local food!  Definitely a win-win situation.


There are three main options for eating local: grow it yourself, buy from local farmers, or go all hunter-gatherer.  I don’t know much about cultivating mushrooms, and some varieties can be pricey to buy, so we’re learning about the third option.  Foraging.

The interest began with a successful morel foray while camping in southeast Iowa in 2008.  This year, we joined our local mycological society to learn more about edible mushrooms in our area: where to look, when to look, and how not to die.

At this time of year, morels are long gone.  The heat and humidity of summer mean chanterelles around these parts, and rumor has it they’re just getting started.  Did I mention the heat and humidity?

On three separate occasions, we’ve foraged enough for a nice meal.  We saute them in butter and/or olive oil with garlic chives.  We’ve eaten them on toast, over couscous, and in scrambled eggs.  Of the three, my vote goes to the couscous con chanterelles.