21 March 2010

Garden planning

Just as the trees store their resources for the winter and enter their quiet dream state, so the gardener spends the winter dreaming. There may be white snow outside, but the gardener sees the loamy black devil's food cake baking away in the compost heap, preparing to nourish another year's worth of crops. I turned the compost pile yesterday and more than a dozen worms wriggled out of my first pitchfork full.

This year we are expanding our blackberry and raspberry patches and adding one more blueberry bush. We plan to add a strawberry fountain, which I am most looking forward to, even if the plants don't bear fruit until next year. Strawberries are somewhat finicky and can be nutrient hogs. By building them into a raised bed shaped like a fountain, they can receive the best soil, more sunlight and warmth and it's easier to pick them. I'm not yet sure if mine will be square or round, but I'm looking forward to building it and planting the 50 strawberry plants that will arrive sometime this spring. I often order my fruits from the local nursery, Miller Nurseries. I like ordering from a local company that grows and rates all of their plants for my area. It can be cold in NY state and I appreciate that they've already done the testing for me. They send out the plants you order right after your area's last freeze date, so they always arrive right on time, even if that's a different week or month each year.

I plan to test out the three sisters planting method that so many native peoples have used. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans. The idea is that the beans use the fast growing corn stalks as support and scaffolding to climb, while the squash quickly fills in the shaded underside, preventing many weeds from growing up. All three seeds are sown directly into the soil.

One of my favorite places to order seeds from is the Seed Savers Exchange. This organization saves and shares heirloom seeds, meaning these seeds will grow into plants that bear seeds so you can forever propagate your crops by saving the seeds they yield. This makes the gardener part of a long legacy as well as independent. Plus, it's exciting to plant seeds for crops you could never find in a grocery store. Last year we had heirloom organic black beauty zucchini, early fortune cucumbers and beautifully striped Amish melons with pale flesh. This year we are planting many new heirloom varieties. I'm especially looking forward to the yellow tomatoes that look like lightbulbs and the white and purple and white striped eggplants.

Eventually, we plan to grow some of the feed for our chickens. As was recently pointed out to us, even if you have chickens or other livestock, you're not a step closer to sustainability if you're not growing your own feed. I'm not sure how this fact escaped us before but now we can plan a feed garden for 2011.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day this week:

"You will never plough a field if you only turn it over in your mind."
- Irish Proverb

18 March 2010

Monster or witch repellent

It seems every kid goes through a stage where suddenly their imagination turns to the dark side and in addition to imagining Santa and Easter bunnies, tooth fairies and pirate adventures, witches and other unsavory characters start creeping into their dreams. Sometimes it is not enough to simply tell your child that there's no such thing as monsters. It helps, but they're still skeptical of us grownups who make them eat green things. So it helps to have some magic in your bag of tricks.

Here is a special product that I had to "custom order" for my daughter. She's not afraid of monsters (thank you Monsters, Inc!) and is not afraid of ghosts or vampires but ever since her Girl Scout troop sang carols in an old folks home, she has had reoccurring nightmares about a witch in a wheelchair. I told her that I knew of someone who made a special potion that you spray around your bedroom at night to repel witches. She asked if it worked. I told her it was 100% guaranteed to work or we'd get our money back and that it was just like a bug repellent but made just for witches, who have special big noses. Then I got to work fulfilling the order.

  • spray bottle
  • labels you can custom print on
  • water
  • few drops of essential oil such as lavender (optional)

I chose to fill the spray bottle with filtered water and a few drops of lavender essential oil. The lavender gives just enough scent to make it smell authentic without ruining rugs or furniture. Lavender is valued in aromatherapy as a relaxant even for children, so it's suitable for bedtime, but any herbal, floral or fruity scent that you can stand could work.

I packaged it and "mailed" it to my daughter because she likes the idea of special ordering it and it appears more authentic to her. Another option is to present this to your child as a printed recipe or potion and ask your child to help you make it in the kitchen. The instructions for use are printed on the back (mine say to spray once in the doorway and once near the bed) and the bottle sprays a very fine mist so we're not soaking the floors, rugs or bedding. So far, we have one happy little girl who fully believes in the power of her "Witch B-Gone" and sleeps much easier now at night, which means I can sleep easier at night, ahh!

Moms and dads, please feel free to copy this or make up your own version if your child has a monster under her bed or a witch in his wardrobe. I hope it leads to more sweet dreams in your household as well!

02 March 2010

Ten and counting

William is 10 months old already and one thing we've learned about him is that everyday he loves to laugh and make others laugh too. He has three games that he plays with us everyday, one of them is peek-a-boo or hide and seek. If we don't initiate it, he will! He crawls over to the drapes and wraps himself up in them. Then he'll wait there patiently until someone catches on.

Hmm, wonder who could be hiding behind the curtain???


Peek-a-boo! It was William. This makes him roar with laughter, which makes everyone else laugh.


Here he is at dinner stuffing his cherub cheeks with as much orange as will fit in there. He won't eat anything pureed, including yogurt, but adores lumpy cottage cheese, bananas, and whole beans.This funny little guy will also eat Japanese salad dressing with garlic and ginger like there's no tomorrow and gnaw on my spicy Indian chicken with curry and garam masala but try to give him apple sauce, or any other standard baby food, and he's totally disgusted. 

His new thing is clapping, which he can do to tempo if the song has strong percussion. He figured this out during Ravel's Bolero, which he appears to adore. Perhaps big sister's music class is rubbing off on him?

Look who's 10 months old!