Walking sticks

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We found a lovely canopy of Japanese Maple trees on a late November walk in North Carolina. I found a little refuge, a reminder that God is our refuge and shelter. My son found walking sticks.  He brought them home, removed the  bark with a pocket knife and rubbed the bare wood smooth with fine grit sandpaper. “It feels like velvet now,” he said, sliding his hand along its surface.  He looked proud of his uncovered treasure. At Christmas, he gave one of his carved walking sticks to a friend who hikes long distances. Nature uncovers gifts…comfort and awareness of God’s protection; a child’s perseverance and generosity; and a mom’s pride in her son.

First Peach 2016

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Our two year old peach tree produced fruit for the first time.  The two peaches we picked tasted amazing!  Juicy and sweet.  When I cut through the soft skin fuzz, the peaches nearly fell apart.  Juice squirted.  The peach flesh slipped through my fingers.  I gathered it up with a spoon and offered some to my son. Yummy and sugary!  There is nothing better than growing and eating fruit from your own yard.

In June, there were many small peaches on the tree, but by July we could only find two.  There were no peaches on the ground around the tree. The little peaches completely vanished.  It is a mystery.   Did birds pick the peaches off the branches? Did the peaches drop prematurely and a rabbit, squirrel or other fortunate critter eat them up from under the tree?

Now our peach tree has beetles eating through the leaves.  I shook the tree and several beetles fell to the ground.  The beetles are munching leaves beyond my reach.  What kind of beetles eat peach tree leaves? What is the best way to get rid of the beetles?  Did the beetles eat the little peaches?

I know our gardening season 2016 is off to a great start when both juicy fruit and questions are produced.

A New Gi and Thoughts on Gardening

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My son’s new Seido Karate Gi

On the way to Saturday afternoon karate class with Dad.  Karate – one activity that pulls us away from our garden plot.  School projects, house projects, jobs, swim team and more, also compete for our time.   Limited time and energy is why it has been over 3 months since my last post here.    It may be a bit odd to start writing again on the garden blog at the end of the growing season.  But, I just had to write about our garden again because it is grew despite all our distractions.  That inspired me to get a little philosophical.  Living is like gardening.   The rhythm of preparing, planning, nurturing and harvesting is the created pattern of growth.  Life abundant.  We had less time at our garden plot  this year, but we were still “gardening.”  I saw it as my husband helped my son put on his new Gi for karate class.   I looked for a moment in amazement at what grew amid all the daily chores and activities – a big boy ready to follow the rules in karate class and a father and son relationship.  We have several garden plots.   A metaphorical one is right inside our home.

Our community garden plot produced lots of veggies this year, but not as much variety as years past.  Recently we picked over 10 pounds of cherry tomatoes, 10 pounds of assorted peppers, three sugar baby watermelons, and several bags of kale.  We dug up over 3 pounds of sweet potatoes.  Kale is still growing in our garden despite an early frost last night.  I will post more about our recent harvests.   I may even add some philosophical posts about our metaphoric garden plot -home.  Glad to be back, gazing at what is growing in all our garden plots.

Garden Journal Catch Up

Our garden plot produced lots of vegetables in June.  I gave up trying to weigh all our produce. We harvested lots of beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce (gourmet blend and buttercrunch), parsnips, and turnips.  At the end of June, just before we went on vacation, we had our biggest harvest day so our mature crops would not spoil.   A friend and her two young kids joined us for the big harvest.  My son was thrilled to have a “play date” at our garden plot. It was a joy to watch children have a blast pulling out root vegetables. They tugged then giggled as their buried treasure appeared out of the dirt.

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Baby carrot (my son planted the carrot seeds)

Our best early season crop this year was the cabbage. We grew green, savoy and red cabbage. I estimated that our 15 cabbage plants produced over 50 pounds of crisp, sweet cabbage.

our cabbage patch
our cabbage patch

My mother-in-law and I had a “play date” in the kitchen. We got creative with the cabbage! We made sauteed cabbage greens (with garlic, onion and chopped apple), stuffed cabbage leaves (with ground beef, onions and tomato sauce), shredded cabbage salad. I even tried substituting pasta with sauteed strips of cabbage. The cabbage leaves were al dente and tasted delicious covered with sauce and cheese. Cabbage is a great low carb alternative to pasta!

Stuffed savoy and green cabbage leaves
Stuffed savoy and green cabbage leaves

Time Flies

IMG_8982Not a lot growing in our garden plot right now, except our eight year old son. He speeds by on the new bike he recently received for his eighth birthday. Can’t believe he is now riding a bike with 24 inch tires and 7 gears! Today, our family biked eleven miles on a trail around BWI airport. My son could pedal easily up the step hills now by shifting the gears. He even raced past me several times. “There is fire coming out of my bike, for real!” he told me.

Garden Gifts

We are overflowing with peppers (bells and cubanelles), eggplants (neon, Italian, Chinese and globe varieties) and another 40 pounds of tomatoes.  We can not keep up with the processing of all these veggies.   We  shared with friends, family and the food bank.   I spend my free time searching for recipes, chopping, freezing or canning.    We canned 30 quarts of tomatoes and 11 pints of salsa.  We have several gallon freezer bags filled with chopped peppers and roasted eggplant slices (some plain or coated with bread crumbs).  The eggplant slices can replace the noodles in lasagna.

We are grateful for this wonderful veggie bounty, but the best gift from the garden came today.  It was not the 45 more pounds of veggies we picked (not in the photo).  It was when my son eagerly helped me plant the fall crops of broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, kale and fennel.  He put on gloves, tucked in each newly planted seedling with a handful of fertilizer and a smile!

Friendship

Inside card reads: "But that is what makes our friendship so great!"

My son worked to mend a friendship today.  I am so proud of him.  I hope you don’t mind that I squeeze his story into my garden-themed blog.  There is a bit of a connection….friendships and gardens both need tending in order to flourish, right?

Restoring a Friendship

Spring break gives my son extra time in the morning to crawl into mommy and daddy’s bed and talk.  This morning his chattering “broke up some hard soil” in his heart.  He talked about missing his school buddies except for one classmate, I will call Sam.   My son said angrily  “Sam is not my friend, he is mean to me, he called me a dummy.”  I was surprised, the two boys got along before.  Next, he spilled out how he accidentally hit Sam in the face with a ball during recess one day.   He blamed Sam, “I tried to catch it, but he got in the way, now he is mean to me.” I listened.  Below the surface, I heard regret and sadness over a broken friendship.  Later, that evening we were at Target looking for a birthday card and my son showed me this card and said, “I want to give this card to Sam.”  At bedtime my son said proudly, “I decided to be a peacemaker.”  His anger towards Sam was gone.  What a lesson to learn at 7 years old!  On the outside of the envelope, he wrote “To Sam, with Happiness.”

Great Backyard Bird Count

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Chickadees and woodpeckers dine at our homemade pine cone bird feeders.  We look forward to counting them in the next Great Backyard Bird Count on February 17 to 20, 2012.

The Great Backyard Bird Count website has lots of information about birds and fun activities to help kids develop birdwatching skills.  The site explains why the count is important for scientists, has a video that describes how to participate in the bird count and generates a list of the birds you may find in your area.   Would you like to join the count? You could win a prize!

An Indoor Nature Birthday Party

Last weekend we had a birthday party for the ever growing sprout in our garden plot – my seven year old son. These days, most kids have their birthday parties outside the home at facilities like JumpZone and PumpItUp. Those places are fun, but expensive so we decided to be adventurous and have a nature party in our home. The kids made bird feeders, searched for animal tracks, threw snowballs inside our house and found their own chirping bird to bring home.

Pinecone Bird Feeder
Moose, Polar Bear, Duck, Dog, Wolf and more...
birds in paper origami nests

They made the bird feeders by spreading a mixture of vegetable shortening, cornmeal and oatmeal onto a pine cone, then rolling the coated pine cone in safflower seeds. Before the party we tied string around the top of the pine cones.  After each child finished their feeder, we wrapped it in saran wrap and placed it in their goodie bag.  After the bird feeder activity, the kids guessed how many gummies were in the jars…one for gummy worms and one for gummy bears.

Next, they all searched for animal tracks scattered throughout the house. Each child had a list of the 15 animals who left their tracks in our house, along with stickers to place next to the animal’s name after they found its tracks. The kids had fun scurrying up and down the stairs hunting.  The most difficult tracks to find were the bird tracks since I had placed some of them on a shelf (birds can fly, you know).

My husband led the kids in snowball throwing games in the basement while I prepared the kitchen table upstairs for the pizza and cupcakes. I was not worried, the snowballs were soft pom poms I made with white yarn (I made 20). They held up well, only a few white yarn strands fell onto the carpet.

The party concluded with each child finding their own chirping bird in a paper nest (an origami box).    The kids were thrilled to bring home their own bird.  All the birds were local varieties they may see come to their feeders.

My son enjoyed his day with his friends and all the activities. He felt a bit like a king. “Wait! I need my crown!” he shouted, just before the cupcakes, candles and the happy birthday song.

I’d love to hear your in-home kid birthday party ideas.

Our Growing Boy

our growing boy

The most prolific and dazzling grower in our garden plot is not a vegetable, fruit or flower, but our son. I see all kinds of fruit growing from him.

Recently, he dropped a melon of peace while he set the table for dinner.  On one napkin he wrote a note to daddy.  Earlier that morning he had yelled at daddy  and argued with him  about getting ready for school.   Before dinner, daddy read the words written on the outside of his napkin, “to dad a note.”  Then he opened it and read,  “Dad am srre for being mene to you.”   He wrote an apology!

Fruit that is not picked, but falls off on its own initiative is the sweetest!