By Kathy Hedberg
For Inland 360
Hy’D Andrews is a person whose version of making lemonade from lemons involves turning bonus asparagus into pickled asparagus.
When she and her husband bought acreage in Clarkston last September, they had little idea what was already growing on the place.
The former owner, Andrew Johnson, sent her a text early this spring which said, “thank you for the asparagus.”
“I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ ” said Andrews.
Johnson pointed out that a 90-foot long row of green spires growing behind their house was actually asparagus. Andrews had no idea.
“We were like, what are we going to do with all of this?’ I posted on Facebook to all my home girls and my friends and said, `Hey, you want some asparagus?’”
She began harvesting it by the armful and selling it at the same price as grocery stores, discovering it was a lot of fun.
“So we planted three more rows of 90 feet of asparagus and we ordered mature crowns so next year they’ll be ready.”
That move was serendipitous because in March, as the region was hit with COVID-19, Andrews was laid off from her job at Northwest Children’s Home.
Andrews, who works with nonprofits on fundraisers and other events, was shaken.
“It was a little shocking,” she admitted. “It’s very humbling because I love the nonprofit world and I love the children’s home.”
Lots of people were losing their jobs at that time so it didn’t seem like she would be able to find comparable work right away. She and Brian decided to adjust their original plans for their property and capitalize on the abundant asparagus and spacious gardening spot.
“When all this happened it kind of was a blessing,” she said. “Originally we purchased the property, not to do any of this.”
The plan had been to build a house on the back part of the lot and turn the front acreage into pasture to raise beef cattle.
Gardening was the furthest thing from their minds. Andrews said she’s never gardened before.
“We had a 10-by-10 (foot garden) and my husband handled it,” she said. “And I literally kill the houseplants in the house.”
The idea to expand the garden was reinforced by a friend who suggested there could be a food shortage down the road because of the pandemic.
“So we planted this garden. We would have never planted this much, but we did.”
Andrews partnered with her husband’s cousin, Shay Burleson, who lives next door, and the pair put in rows of corn, for which they share responsibility. Each woman also has plots for other crops, such as beans, peas, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pumpkins, brussel sprouts and artichokes.
“I don’t even like brussel sprouts but I wanted to see how they grow,” Andrews said.
She was advised that people could not grow artichokes in this area but she’s proven that theory wrong. Several healthy artichoke plants with their arrow-like leaves line one row of the garden.
Becoming a gardener almost overnight was not without pitfalls. Several times Andrews and Brian killed some of the plants and had to start over.
Between watering, weeding and harvesting she also spent time at the Asotin County Library checking out gardening resources, researching online and visiting with neighbors to find out everything she could about how to grow things.
“We didn’t know any of this stuff,” Andrews said. “So it’s been very fun researching and learning something new because right now we don’t know what’s going to happen. I might not be able to find the job until January or whatever else. You just don’t know, so you might as well throw yourself into something else and keep positive about it because it could be sad.”
This year’s garden harvest is beginning to wrap up and Andrews said she has become “a canning machine” putting up jars of her harvested produce. Next year she and Brian will scale back their plantings to only a few crops that they will grow for themselves and their friends.
The plan to eventually build a house in the back lot and raise cattle on the pasture is still on the books but likely will be pushed back a year or two.
And Andrews is hoping that eventually she will be able to work for a nonprofit in the valley again — a project she said is close to her heart because she recognizes that nonprofits are struggling through this difficult period.
“But everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I was working a lot — doing two jobs and it kind of changes your outlook as you need to slow down and maybe do something different or maybe not work 60 hours a week. So it’s been humbling and good.
“Between nonprofits and this and cows,” she said, looking around at her thriving garden, “this is what I do. And I’m also kind of looking for the next right move. Because when you do nonprofit work you really have to love and support it to be able to do it. To me, I feel like there’s such a huge need here and I really want to connect with the right spot.”
Anyone wishing more information about the Andrews’ urban farm may visit the Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/Andrews-Acres