Perpetual Food Storage Part 2 – Ideas for Small Yards and Ranch Dressing Recipe

Last summer I wrote about my perpetual food storage, which is my fruit trees, berries and some of my vegetables – like asparagus – that come back every year to feed us. I promised you a post about incorporating some of these things into a smaller yard. Now I’m starting to get the gardening itch. Are you? This seemed like a good time to share some ideas since I’m hoping you are daydreaming of warmer and tastier days ahead. I’m going to start some of my spring seedlings next week (broccoli, lettuces, etc.). We are all sick of this cold and snow, and starting to plan what we are going to do in our yards and gardens when the weather shows even the vaguest improvement.

A year ago I took a class about naturally leavened bread and made a new friend in the teacher. Amy and I discovered many things in common, including a love of gardening, organic growing, delicious food, and being self sufficient. She is the one who gave me some raspberry and blackberry starts, along with some walking onions and daylilies. I loved going to see her yard. Her house is on .2 of an acre, and while she has put in an unbelievable amount of food-producing plants and trees, her yard is a very attractive, comfortable place to be. There is still room for the kids to run around and have fun, but so much food being produced! I was so impressed when I saw it because she has made such great use of the space. She has grapes on a trellis in between her fence and the side of her house (you can see it in a few of the pictures below). On the other side of the house she is trellising blackberries and raspberries. She has fruit trees for shade trees and is growing strawberries as ornamentals in front of a rock retaining wall. A few garden boxes house the annual vegetables. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I asked Amy to share what they’ve done in their yard to give you some inspiration. Some of what she did inspired what I did in my own yard, and if this snow ever melts before the baby comes, I’ll take some pictures to show you.

So here’s Amy to show you what they’ve accomplished and give you some amazing ideas on incorporating delicious edibles into a beautiful landscape:

Rock garden pathway under the grape vine arbor.

If I can build an edible garden on a 1/5 acre rock quarry, you can build a garden anywhere! It’s never too early to begin thinking about your garden. One fall day, I made the mistake of paying my five year-old a penny for every rock she removed from the garden area. She filled bucket loads. Three hours later, I figured out she could count pretty high and I owed her $35. That is 3500 rocks and we just skimmed the surface of one part of the garden.


BEFORE: The rock garden before our house was built. Can you see the dust in between the rocks? That is literally all the soil we had.
We like to be self-sufficient. We care for our own medical needs, grow our own food, make naturally leavened bread, and enjoy teaching others. When it came to the rock garden, the work belonged to us.

BEFORE: Learning to put the sprinkler system in ourselves.

We live in the 2nd driest state in the U.S., just below the foothills of a big mountain. We chose the area of our yard that receives the most sunshine to plant the garden.

BEFORE: The only living thing around was in the neighbor’s yard by the irrigation canal. Approximately 75 feet of garden just did not seem to be enough for everything edible. So we secured the periphery of the yard as garden beds. By periphery, I mean all the edges of the house, fence, and rock wall.


DURING: The first year, we literally hauled out tons of rocks and hauled in tons of soil before we laid grass and planted the garden beds. We built garden boxes to help terrace the grade.


AFTER: Green summer rock garden. We love it! The kids love the pathways and play places up by the garden boxes. We love the high yield of garden fruits, vegetables, and seeds. We made curves in the grass line for visual appeal and filled these border beds with soil. We planted thornless blackberry bushes, grape vines, and fruit trees. We received lots of fruit in just two years from the bushes and vines. All of our fruit trees produce now, too.

AFTER: Usable space for all seasons. The bed to the right, always shaded, grows lettuces and peas with border flowers. The bed further back on the right and more sunny, grows herbs and flowers. To the left, we sometimes intersperse kale amongst the trees and raspberry bushes. Further back on the left, notice the beehives by the swing set. In the far back, beans and squash climb vertically along the fence line. Cucumbers and tomatoes grow vertically in the garden amongst other veggies. I have easy access to these lower beds year round. This is helpful in harvesting cold weather crops like onions, garlic, sage, chard, and kale. Minerals added to your fertilizer makes all vegetables and fruit sweeter and more disease resistant.

AFTER: Three years later. Rock garden fruit salad includes blackberries, apples, strawberries, grapes, and peaches. Yum!

I have gardened every summer that I have been married. I have had easy gardens–one worked for generations and another in lush Southern California. I have had pot gardens. I have had hot gardens. And now another garden that was literally built on a rock quarry. My favorite garden? The rock garden. Why? It is my own, well my family’s and mine. It is where we are now. We have put a lot of work into our little Eden. Our goal for our yard? Beauty and function. Our kids will tell you, “Our garden rocks!”

-Front yard edibles: sweet potato vines, cabbage, parsley, basil, and medicinal flowers can be planted in front yard gardens. You have probably seen them all in professional gardens.

AFTER: Edible, beautiful archway for the little space between your house and your neighbor’s fence.
-Border gardens. Don’t put grass right up to the house or fence. It doesn’t look as good as a border garden and it is not as functional. Take out some of the grass, put in something useful and beautiful!

AFTER: Pear and cherry trees. Lettuce, potato, and kale “ground cover” in the perimeter.
-Planting edibles. Foods such as berry bushes, strawberry plants, herbs, and greens (like kale and lettuce) make beautiful ground cover around your fruit trees. Eat what you grow!

AFTER: Five years later. Peach trees and strawberry ground cover to the left. Thornless blackberry climbers on the back right. The front right grows hollyhocks and herbs. The rock garden includes 7 producing fruit trees, 7 grape vines, 7 raspberry bushes, and about that many blackberry bushes–all in the backyard.

-All season edibles. We’re in zone five. That means the ground freezes here. Yet, it’s suggested that January is a great month to begin pruning. We even get to start planting onions and garlic in February in this valley. There is a whole host of cold weather plants to start in March: beets, broccoli, cabbage, chard, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, parsley, parsnips, peas, radish, and turnips. In April, you still might have to move the snow away, but you can plant eggplant and summer squash seeds. In late summer, plant a second crop of broccoli, turnips, kale, onions, and garlic for a fall/winter harvest. Many garden vegetables will keep in cold storage throughout the wintertime. Who knew?

Dr. Matt and his wife, Amy McClean, R.D., both graduated with bachelor of science degrees from Brigham Young University. Amy practiced as a registered dietitian teaching sick patients about proper nutrition. Matthew earned his doctorate in chiropractic from Southern California University of Health Sciences and is in his 12th year as a physician. The McCleans have made thousands of loaves of naturally leavened bread since their beginnings in 2006. They are the makers of Dr. Dough Frozen Naturally Leavened Bread. They have been teaching the community natural leavening since 2008! Now, they share the secrets of natural leavening and restoring health with you.


It’s me again.

Now that you are feeling so inspired to tuck some lettuce in with your flower beds, I’m going to give you another dressing recipe. I love ranch dressing. It is my condiment of choice. It’s great for dipping fries, chicken, veggies, anything. I also just love a good wedge salad with some creamy tangy ranch. I do NOT love MSG and all the chemicals that come in commercially prepared ranch dressing, which is why I make my own. My first preference on all foods is fresh ingredients, but that is not always an option since we try to eat as seasonally and locally as possible. So while there is an abundance of great FRESH ranch dressing recipes, I wanted one I could make anytime from my dried herbs in my food storage. I tried just about every recipe I could find until I found the one that made me happy, and then I fiddled with it and made it my own. Everyone likes things just a little differently, and I like my ranch stronger, so I add a little more of the dry mix when I mix up a batch. You may prefer a milder version. So add some, and then keep adding to taste.

Basic Ranch Dressing Mix Recipe
1/2 C Parsley Flakes
1 tbsp + 1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
2 1/2 tbsp Garlic Salt
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 C Onion Powder
2 tsp Dill Weed

Combine everything and store in an airtight container. Makes a little more than 1 cup of dry mix.

To make dressing, whisk together 1 T of mix (I actually use more, but this is a good starting place) with 1 cup of mayonnaise and 3/4 cup sour cream, & 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Then slowly add milk or buttermilk until it reaches your preferred consistency. I like mine thicker. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the vinegar mellow. It will thicken in the fridge and you may want to add a little more milk at that point.

Now, if you want to get super delicious, I have some additional things I add. Sometimes I add in a little sugar for a sweet tangy kick. If you’ve ever had the amazing ranch dressing at Ted’s Montana Grill, you know what I’m talking about. My. Favorite. Ever. It is sweet, tangy and garlicky. So sometimes I add some extra garlic to my made up dressing. I mean fresh minced garlic. Nothing that comes out of a can or jar. I don’t add a lot. Maybe just half of a small clove. Remember that raw garlic will just get stronger the longer it sits, so ere on the side of not enough. Then I add about a tsp of sugar and keep tasting until I like it. Sometimes I just do the sugar and no garlic. It really just depends on how much dressing I made, so I can’t give you an exact amount.

If you want to go more Outback Steakhouse with your dressing, add 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper, 1/8 tsp paprika, a couple shakes of cayenne pepper, and 1/8 tsp garlic salt to about 1 1/2 c prepared dressing.

And now my super secret ingredient that you need to add to any of the above recipes is…anchovy paste. Wait! Come back! I’m completely serious. Why? Because it provides the dressing with umami (pronounced oooo-mommy), which is a Japanese word that means “pleasant savory taste” or “delicious taste”. It is the fifth taste sense along with sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It isn’t really a definable or identifiable flavor the way the others are. It is that deep down satisfying earthy craveability factor some foods have. Mushrooms naturally have it. And so do a lot of packaged foods, thanks to MSG, which is the laboratory created version of it. Manufacturers add it for an addictability factor. It’s why you keep eating and eating those Doritos and then licking your fingers to get every last particle of autolyzed yeast protein (MSG) off your fingers.

MSG goes by about 50 different names on food labeling, including “natural flavors” – don’t ask me how they get away with that one. But MSG has side effects that natural umami does not, like some serious allergic reactions, headaches, and one that is afflicting MANY people who don’t know it: weight gain. Interesting fact: when scientists need fat mice to study something related to obesity, they feed them MSG to get them fat before their experiments. That is standard protocol for fattening up mice. It works on us too, and avoiding MSG is a major reason I make my own homemade version of a lot of things. Start reading labels and you will be surprised at how many things it’s in. Here are some of the names MSG goes by:

Glutamic acid
Monosodium glutamate
Monopotassium glutamate
Calcium glutamate
Monoammonium glutamate
Magnesium glutamate
Natrium glutamate
Yeast extract
Anything “hydrolyzed”
Any “hydrolyzed protein”
Calcium caseinate
Sodium caseinate
Yeast food
Yeast nutrient
Autolyzed yeast
Textured protein
Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Anything “…protein”

The lack of MSG is why some homemade copycat recipes lack that…something, that je ne sais quoi. Well, the missing quoi is MSG or umami, and you can have it back, naturally. A squirt of anchovy paste will do the trick. It won’t change the flavor, and you would never know it’s there, but it will change that satisfaction factor. It will go from “good” to “mmmmm” or from “aaaaalmost” to “dead on”. In a pint sized jar of dressing I might add a one inch squirt. In a pan of homemade spaghetti sauce, I add 3-4 inches. You can find it in little tubes in the canned tuna aisle, usually the top row. Once it’s open it needs to be refrigerated, and I keep it in the butter spot in my fridge so it doesn’t get lost.

So try making some ranch for your homegrown salad!

6 comments to Perpetual Food Storage Part 2 – Ideas for Small Yards and Ranch Dressing Recipe

  • Kris, I love to get new ideas from other people. I was so amazed when I went to Amy’s house and saw all the wonderful things she was doing, and how nice it all looked. there was room for everything. The pictures don’t do it justice. She really thinks outside the box. I am so impressed. You’ll have to tell me if you try any of her ideas. Sorry I’m late responding. I haven’t been getting email notifications for comments. I just happened to see this.

  • Kris G, I wish I could say I’m feeling better, but I’m not. I think I’m just going to have to ride out this pregnancy, but we are grateful for our new little girl! You’ll have to tell me how you like the anchovy paste. :)

  • Thanks for sharing those garden images! We’re on about the same sized lot, but in our case the issue isn’t rocks but a steep slope. We’re slowly working on it to make room for more edibles. This is a good reminder that it doesn’t come all at once (no matter how much I’d like it to!).

  • So glad to see your posts again, April! Congratulations on Baby, and blessings on all the wonderful things you have growing around your place. Thank you for sharing Amy’s plans and your Ranch Recipe. Bookmarked it! And Anchovy Paste? Who knew? Love it!

  • Lynn I’m so glad you liked it. Did you use the anchovy paste? Mine lasts for a few weeks. You have to consider the ingredients you are using. If the milk/sour cream/mayo you use is close to expiration, then that means your new ranch dressing is also close to expiration. I make a pint or so at a time, and our family of 7 eats that within a few weeks. So use the freshest possible of the perishables.

    I can’t believe how much the kids are growing either!

  • Lynn Aldridge

    Yesterday I made up the ranch dressing. It is WONDERFUL!. I was wondering how long this is good for. I don’t expect it to last very long with Hank trying it out on everything. Thanks so much.
    PS The kids are getting sooo big.

You must be logged in to post a comment.