Summer Squash Salad + Garden Lessons: Fences

One of the advantages of having a backyard is the possibility of growing food, cultivating flowers, both for our enjoyment and for the bees, and creating a nurturing environment for all . Since we moved in to this house we have slowly reshaped the backyard to create a garden where us and the critters can live in harmony. Something the bunnies don’t want to align with their eating habits. In past years they ate the carrot, beet and peas sprouts, chomped on the beans, herbs, and flowers, dug the bulbs: daffodils, tulips, and garlic, and reigned the garden beds at night and whenever we were not around.

This year, after the first few offenders began digging bulbs and eating sprouts, I asked Scott to build some sort of barrier to give the plants a chance to grow and give us a decent harvest. For the ground level beds, where the flowers and a few herbs reside, he built a PVC pipe structure and wrapped bird netting around it, for the two raised beds where I planted and sowed all the vegetables, he used flexible pipes and created a dome on which we laid the netting securing it on the edges with bricks and clamps. It worked. Or so I thought. 

 

One morning I came out to find a hole in one of the beds, the netting ripped and grass scattered all over. I blamed it on the mole living underneath our shed, until the next morning when Scott saw a bunny going in there with a mouth full of grass. It was a nest. We quickly evicted the perpetrator and quarantined the small garden bed. A few days later, the same bunny {I assume} ripped the netting on another bed and dug a hole beneath the poppies. At that point I took the structures off the ground level beds as clearly resilient bunnies found their way in, plus the plants were taller and not as tender and tempting. However, I kept and reenforced the structure protecting the beans and squashes. I wanted my precious beans and squashes to survive, after all the flowers come and go but it was too late to replant squashes if the bunnies attacked them. {The bunny moved away from the nest, we never saw any babies or evidence of life.}

The squash plants, zucchini and pattison panache, grew beautiful big leaves and began to flower day after day, but no fruit. Everyday, a few flowers per plant waited for the help of the pollinators to produce a fruit. I wondered, why aren’t the bees going in there and doing their job? There were plenty of bees around, so what was the problem? 

One day over breakfast, I sat down and observed the bees flying around the bird netting, unsure, I imagine, of the nature of that barrier between them and the flower. Sure they could go through the small holes to the flowers but it meant slowing down, figuring out the aperture, and risking getting caught behind it. So they moved on to other less complicated treasures. 

The next day, I removed the structure, only during the day as I know the bunnies would eat all of the beans if left uncovered overnight, and watched the bees frolic from flower to flower. They jumped from the poppies on the bed next door to the squash blossoms and back to the poppies, freely and carelessly. 

The fences we had built not only kept the bunnies out {well, most of them at least} but also kept other creatures important to the well-being of the garden. Small birds come to the beds to rummage for bugs, lady bugs feel at home eating the aphids and flea beetles, and butterflies, just like bees, pollinate those plants that need it. And I enjoy watching the life happening in and around the plants. 

Some fences are invisible; cultural fences, religious fences, political fences; all meant to keep others and their views from pollinating us, separating us as units unrelated to a working ecosystem, an ecosystem called community, society, either local or global. A healthy ecosystem works together for the well-being of those involved, creating a strong alliance against damaging forces, whether is bunnies, aphids, or erroneous ideas about others, their lives, and their beliefs. 

The zucchini plants began producing fruit soon after I lifted the fence; and I got busy preparing the tender vegetable in different ways, including this simple raw salad. 


Raw Zucchini and Cucumber Salad


 

I love to shave raw vegetables and toss them with a light vinaigrette, it makes for a simple, yet beautiful side dish to accompany any dinner. For this salad I used rice vinegar and sesame oil, but it goes well also with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

1 medium size zucchini
1 small cucumber {I used english cucumbers because the skin is tender and the seeds small}
1 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp kosher salt 
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fresh dill {if using dry reduce to 1/4 tsp}
A few drop of sesame oil, or 1/4 tsp of olive oil 

* Thinly slice the cucumber and zucchini, either by hand or with a mandoline 
* Place in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients
* Combine well and let sit for at least 10 minutes, or about 1 hour in the fridge

~ Paula 

4 thoughts on “Summer Squash Salad + Garden Lessons: Fences”

  1. What gorgeous photos of your garden! How patient, empathetic and creative you are with the fencing and everyone it affects…now if we all could be as thoughtful in our plans for fences.

    1. Thank you! the garden does take a lot of observing and caring, it’s a vibrant ecosystem that teaches me something each day, not just about gardening but about relationships. Yes, I wish we could see our world like a giant garden 🙂

  2. Paula you are amazing with your pictures and your love of nature. I am always looking forward to read about your new adventure with life…and never disappointed.

    I love how simple/easy but powerful your recipes are. Healthy and honest food.

    How do you manage to take such pure pictures. You capture the essence of each subject.

    Merci for continuing sharing after all these years despite your busy schedule.

    1. My dear France! Thank you for your kind words and thank you for allowing me to share my passion for good food and nature with you. I’ve grown fond of photography and especially enjoy following the garden creatures around {when they allow}, and capturing the simple beauty of real food.
      XO Paula

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