KELSO, Wash. (AP) -- Hidden behind Kim Gensman's two-story home is a virtually never-ending supply of nutrition for her Kelso family. Kim, who was born in the Ostrander-area house, and her husband, Daniel, have cleared and tilled their land. They built the equipment they need to keep their family supplied with fruits and vegetables as late as early January.
It's a dream come true for the young family, which also includes two children. With Kim's family history -- a green-thumbed mother who lives and garden in Castle Rock and a German grandmother who ran an apothecary and grew medicinal herbs, among other things -- the urge to grow food to feed her loved ones comes as naturally as the organic methods she uses.
"I spent summers with my grandparents, and (my grandmother) always had huge gardens," said Kim, a smiling blonde. "Then we moved here, and I said, 'Gardens die in August, September, and we get a lot of snow. I want something that carries over into the fall and winter."
The task of almost year-round gardening keeps Kim, a homemaker, going almost around the clock.
"I do most of my gardening at night," Kim said. "I'm so busy during the day. I cook, and I'm the RIF coordinator at Castle Rock. And my daughter wrestles and my son swims. So I have from about 8 to midnight to do my thing."
As fall sets in and the days grow shorter, Kim gravitates toward the greenhouse her husband built for her. With solar energy powering the clear-paneled house, Kim can comfortably work inside well into the chilly night.
That doesn't mean that her outdoors work is done when fall hits. Recently she pulled out the remnants of her summer garden, which included zucchini, tomatoes, red and green peppers, hot peppers, green and bush beans and carrots.
In their place, she planted her "cold crops" -- peas, lettuce, radishes and broccoli, to name a few.
"Leafy green things are cold crops," Kim said. "They tend to sprout fast when it's hot, and that doesn't make for a pretty picture when you have broccoli with yellow leaves."
She also plants kohlrabi, a white-fleshed turnip-like vegetable that Kim admits, not many people cultivate.
"My grandmother is full-blooded German ... and she makes the best kohlrabi dish ever," Kim said. "All sliced up and with a white sauce."
These crops can handle temperatures to as low as 25 degrees, which comes in handy at the Gensmans' high-elevation home.
"We're almost 900 feet right here," Kim said. "We had 24 inches of snow last year. It was crazy."
If the temperature drops below 25, Kim quickly moves plants into the greenhouse or covers them at night with plastic.
"But I've harvested to the beginning of January before, out in the yard," she said. "I can still be pulling in broccoli and stuff like that."
She also alternates the crops to take advantage of all the minerals the soil offers, and plants "cover crops" such as wheat and legumes that she can plow under to nourish the dirt.
She also makes "hot beds" in the winter, digging down about two feet and layering the hole with raw manure. She covers the manure with sand and waits for the temperature to rise.
"The manure heats up to about 100 degrees," Kim said. "When it drops to around 90, you can plant your stuff in there. Instead of heating our beds with electricity, we do that."
Kim's parents purchased a home on Rollingwood Drive in March 1977, and Kim was born the next month. She made her home there until 1990, when she went to live with her mother.
After she and Dan got together, they were looking for a home to buy. At the same time, Kim's father was wanting to sell the house where his daughter was born.
"I said, 'Let's go look. Maybe you'll like it.' He liked it and we bought it and have been here ever since," Kim said.
Blackberry vines ran rampant through the back yard.
"We had to reclaim about 20 feet of it," Kim said.
The lot is only 100 feet wide and 60 feet long, so there was no room to spare if the family was going to have garden space.
"It was a lot of work," Kim said, smiling.
An apple and other fruit-bearing plants were original to the homestead, and the family left them there. They added other perennial items, including an Asian pear and sweet table grapes.
The grapevines wind their way over an arbor that Dan built for their wedding. Underneath the arbor, a wooden box sways in the wind, acting as nest for the family's Mason bees.
The bees are good for the garden, Kim said. They pollinate the plants and are safe for the kids.
"They don't sting because there is no honey to protect," Kim said.
Dan built a hive for them out of a wooden block, drilled with holes that recess about four inches.
"(The female) fills it up with eggs, goes away and dies, and her little batch is born," Kim said.
Her other garden helpers are the 15 hens and three roosters who share the backyard.
"They are a major component of my gardening," Kim said. "We have one we call the gardener. As soon as you start digging in the soil, she will come to eat all the bugs."
The birds' insect-munching expertise comes in handy when Kim prepares a bed for replanting.
"I let them go and do whatever they want to do," she said. "When they're done, they move off and I plant my stuff and block them off."
She lets the fowl run loose in the yard every few days. They help to fertilize the grass and, in return, the hens lay roughly a dozen eggs a day. The yolks are a bright yellow and orange happy eggs from happy chickens, she added, with a smile and she sells the excess for $2 a dozen.
The family also happily harvests green grapes in mid-October. The juicy little pearls are sweet, Kim said, and the colder it gets, the more the sugar content intensifies.
"I juice them and give them to the kids in the lunch," she said.
Winter isn't just for growing greens, Kim said. She also hunts each fall and butchers her own meat.
"So when I get an animal, it's mine," she said. "I know from the moment that the animal has fallen until he's in little packages in my freezer."
She takes pride in knowing that virtually everything that goes into her family members' bodies has been processed by her.
"I know what it is. I know what I planted. I know from the moment I take a seed into the ground to the moment that it comes out and goes on my kids' plates or I can it," she said.
For the things she can't grow or hunt, Kim shops in bulk, helping the dollars stretch for their one-income family. Daniel is a mechanic for Weyerhaeuser in Chehalis.
"I probably spend only $150 a month on groceries," she said.
There's also satisfaction in knowing that their family is fairy self-sufficient.
"I know that if something happened, if we all got stranded up here, we have a way to survive," she said.
The kids complain now and then, but Kim just shakes her head wisely, knowing that her care is paying off for the small family.
"It's hard for them sometimes because I am old-fashioned," she said. "If I would have been born 100 years ago, I would have been fine.'