Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Garden

I have wanted to post pictures of my garden for the past week because I feel like showing off the little outdoor renovation that our whole family (yes, even the 3-year old) worked hard at the past few weekends.  But somehow getting the right camera to the right computer with some time on my hands hasn’t really happened yet.
You’ll just have to take my words for it. These words.
We used to have a perennial bed that ran along one side of our concrete patio.  I installed the bed myself almost ten years ago and was pretty pleased with it for about five years.  It was edged with concrete bricks, topped with pretty river rock around an assortment of hardy plants (including one my mother-in-law calls “never-dies” because they don’t).  It was great. But the best landscape fabric in the world doesn’t stop dirt and fallen plant material from composting into new soil around the rocks, and the past few years the thing has been a sea of weeds (mainly grass, which I consider a weed).  And somewhere around the 2004, coincidentally, the same year that Charlotte was born, I ran out of time to garden.
With the help of the kids, we painstakingly removed all of the rocks from the garden bed and piled most of them in our wheelbarrow.  They didn’t all fit.  The rest got dumped on the patio and a couple of empty flower pots.  There were a LOT of rocks.  We removed the edgers, and dug out the plants, tossed the remains of the landscape fabric, and found more rocks.  Those suckers were everywhere.  They’d worked their way under the fabric, around the fabric, into the grass, deep into the dirt.  We spent a week panning for stones in soil. 
Three-year olds are quite good at digging in dirt for rocks, by the way.  The trouble is convincing them not to throw the rocks, or to put them in the sandbox, or right back into the dirt.  Luckily three-year olds are also washable.
In place of the old perennial bed, we added a raised garden from a pair of kits.  The sides are plastic and snapped together to make a single 4 x 12 rectangle, to which we added bagged garden soil.  Around 14 cubic feet.  Bags of dirt are very heavy, by the way.
The rocks and smaller pieces of those perennials were relocated to another side of the patio, between the corner of the new veggie bed and the base of the steps to the deck.  This is where I need a photo.  The rocks plus a couple of stepping stones we already had make for a little path that connects the stairs, the patio, and the grass beyond.  And those never-dies are great at attracting bees and butterflies in the summer (pollinators!).
In yesterday’s mist and gloom, Charlotte and I planted the veggie bed.  Some were from Home Depot, some sown as seeds, and some brought from school where Char’s class is also talking about gardens.  We planted strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, snow peas, green onions, jalapenos, banana peppers, and watermelons.  And what Char believes are two marigolds.  I have enough space left for a few more plants, and a pile of bell pepper seeds still in the kitchen.  I’m hoping that dreary weather will be good for the transplants, with no bright sunlight to burn the leaves, plus free watering.
As part of this, we also relocated our compost bin to a spot on the corner of the house right near the veggie patch.  It was out of commission last year after losing its real estate to a swing set, and needed a little duct tape to keep the sides steady.  But really, its just a glorified trash can, so it doesn’t have to look pretty.  We also bought a rain barrel this spring, and my husband built a short stone platform for it to raise it up off the ground to allow gravity to help the water flow out of it.
We have a few to-do’s left.  I have an irrigation kit to install (it’s been in the garage for a couple of years now because it was too linear to fit any of our previous spaces well). It will be connected to the rain barrel with a timer.  And we need to fix up the downspout to fill the rain barrel correctly.  I think a pair of tin snips are in order. 
Overall, I’m really happy with the space.  It looks fresher than it has in a long time, and the garden space is huge compared to the spots I’ve tried in the past.  Now, though, the concrete of our patio looks stained and cracked and generally ugly.  We also have plans to buy an outdoor storage box/mini shed to hide under the deck for storage, and I would like some new patio chairs to replace white plastic one that are now permanently gray.  One step at a time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Last night, Charlotte was very upset about her homework. Not upset that she had to do it, but upset that she could not. She’s my daughter, no doubt.
Char is only in Kindergarten, but she has ten to fifteen minutes of homework every weeknight. Usually this is a worksheet or a book to read. Actually, anything math or number related becomes a two- to five-minute assignment, depending on how much of the sheet needs to colored after the questions are answered.  The kid likes numbers.
Last night’s sheet was supposed to be a math sheet that involved counting out groups of ten bees and drawing hives around them. Char could describe in detail the directions, but the paper was neither in her homework folder nor in her backpack. The kid actually teared up when I told her that.
Now, she’s a bit of a drama queen, but she was honestly disappointed about the missing homework. I can relate. I was enough of a nerd to enjoy most of my schoolwork, all the way through college even. Sure, I got annoyed by the assignments I thought were busy work—the ones with unnecessary repetition or quantity of work that didn’t actually teach or challenge anything new. But I enjoyed work that challenged me.
It’s a lot of fun to watch my daughter learning new concepts and being excited about them. Her eyes light up as she works out a subtraction problem or a counting problem. And homework at her age frequently involves crayons, scissors and glue along with the reading and problem solving. The curriculum does a good job of keeping the kids learning and having fun at the same time.
I hope that she will continue to be as excited by school and have fun with her homework. But I don’t for one moment believe that she will always cry when she finds out that she has an unexpected break from the homework. And when she’s about twelve and whining about how much she has to do, I’m totally reminding her of this incident.