Farming in a sort-of-wild backyard

It is a strange kind of voyeurism watching the food you grow advance to producing edible things. I look closely every day. My garden boots are the only required equipment. I’m often out in my nightie, and the boots, peeking at my plants.

I plant them as seeds and they break through the soil as tiny two-leaved beings, almost indistinguishable one from another. As they get a bit bigger, I cull the smaller ones that are crowding the strong ones. (I usually carefully wash these sacrifices and throw them in my salads as microgreens). Making the decisions about which ones stay and which go is oddly unsettling to me every time I do it. But, it has to be done so that the growing plants have room to spread their roots as well as their leaves.

Tiny two-leaved collard greens

I’ve dabbled in growing food, on and off, for about 15 years — once in a community garden, but most recently in my own small back yard in Maple Ridge. We have a hill leading up to a wild green belt that I have terraced some space on. And I added a composting garden box 5 years ago in which I grow leeks, kale, lettuce and, this year, some rogue tomatoes that planted themselves.

“Miniature” Romaine lettuce. Perfect for a home garden!

Each year describes a different scenario for my “crops”. This year, a solid warm sun since the beginning of July, has been extremely generous. Other than our “heat dome” of 44 degrees celsius for a few days, we’ve had temperatures between 23 and 27 with mostly clear skies and — God bless us — no smoke from the deadly fires burning all over the province. This is the first summer in a few where we’ve been able to enjoy sunny days where we can actually see the sun, and it doesn’t look like a spooky moon hidden in the purple clouds.

Caged beets and carrots.

I’ve never grown cucumbers, beets or carrots before. I tried beets and carrots last year, but the rabbits ate all the baby greens off the sprouts and they were a bust. I fenced these off this year. The carrots are dubious, but the beets are spectacular! I’ve planted a singular eggplant up with the two cucumber plants outside the little chicken-wire fence. With their prickly leaves and fruit, the animals don’t seem too interested in taking them on.

Coyotes, bears, deer, raccoons, rabbits, bobcats and moles all abide in our space. This spring, I have watched the brood of 6 coyote pups romp in our back yard with momma watching from the hill. A four-hundred pound bear ambles through on a regular basis and the largest deer I’ve ever seen has made an appearance a few times. It is amazing to live in this semi-rural space and risk growing food that appeals to more than just people.

Apples seem ready almost early as of July 22.

When the apples ripen on our one producing tree, I’ll see anything from a squirrel to a deer yanking them off the branches. Our yellow labrador retriever, Dudley, watched in calm silence the other day as a big black squirrel pranced across the hill with an apple in his mouth, then darted up the pine tree to hide it away. Our dog has all the prey drive of a sheep, God love him.

Dudley dreaming of finding the energy to chase a squirrel.



WIK*D Design Thinking for Social Change

My name is Casey Hrynkow. I am a design strategist, co-creation facilitator and teacher. Blog at