Sunflowers

Sunflower
Sunflower

It is August and I am nostalgic for Giant sunflowers.  I miss growing them.  They are too big for our townhouse garden.    I remember when my 5 year old son planted sunflower seeds in our community garden.  In wonder he watched them grow fast  into hard thick stalks towering over him.   Bright and cheerful garden flags waving  and smiling over our garden.  How could a  simple seed grow so tall and produce hundreds more seeds inside the flower’s center?

My son inspired me to write this simple poem over 4 years ago when we played in our sunflower garden.

A Community Garden

A neighborhood of dirt plots,

Garden F-1 is our spot.

Open the gate, down first row,

Here’s the garden we did grow.

See my sunflowers standing tall,

an umbrella, a green wall.

Under giants I will run,

play hide and seek

with the sun.

Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls, Maryland


Climbing

The bumpy walk over rocks turned into a strenuous scramble up a rock wall.  My 9 year old son did not hesitate.  He plowed up first and my husband followed.   Both stopped half way up and stepped out from the line of climbers.  They sat down and waved at me.   I stalled and took more perspective photos.   They called to me.   Embarrassed,  I slipped behind the last climber.  I hoped my weak and tired legs could make it up.   My feet and hands shifted and settled into the deep crevices in the rock wall.   Even though I crawled up, I thought it was easier than expected.  I did it!

The unexpected will always find you. Your path may change.  Your circumstances may seem more than you can handle.  Look for the solid and secure footholds around you.  Climb up.  You will reach your goal.

 

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.

Another Gardening Season Begins

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The first week in April, we started our fourth season in our community garden plot.  My son helped me break up the soil with a rake and hammer.  He likes to pound things, so he was content to whack and crush clods of dirt with a hammer.  Despite his destructive fun, this was the first year he carefully planted seedlings almost completely on his own.  He planted seedlings of kale, lettuce and brussel sprouts.openingday2

The worms and microbes were busy working in our garden plot already because the soil looks very healthy.  It is a deep rich brown and feels light and loose.  Almost every shovel full of dirt we turned had at least one fat worm.  We were careful not to over work the soil and disturb the worms.  We planted seeds of carrots, parsnip, turnips, beets and lettuce and seedlings of kale, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage (at least 12 plants of differing varieties), brussel sprouts, cauliflower and sugar snap peas.

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Gardening is a labor of love to produce fresh organic food for our family, friends and community and to spend time together as a family working on a common goal with others in a community.  May all our gardens thrive this season not only with food, but with joy and hope!

My son took this photo of the clouds above our garden plot on opening day of the 2013 growing season.  Use your imagination. Can you see the word “LOVE” ?

How to Make Hydrangea Wreaths

hydrangeawreath

Hydrangea blooms make lovely indoor wreaths that will last all year until the hydrangea bush blooms again next summer.

My mom, a floral designer, taught my son and me how to make dried hydrangea wreaths last weekend. It is not difficult.   My son will show you how it is done.

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Pick hydrangea when the blooms feel thick and “leathery” and the bloom color is muted (blue turns pale green and pink turns light violet).  Pick the full bloom at the main stalk.  Rinse and soak it in cold water for a few minutes, then place it in a towel and gently squeeze to remove excess moisture.

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Add a hook to the floral form.  Make the hook from a 10 to 12 inch long piece of floral wire that has been wrapped with floral tape.  Bend one end of the wire to make a loop and wrap the other end around the wreath.  Close each end with a twist.

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Place Spanish moss on the back of the wwreath to give it a finished appearance. Fresh or dried Spanish moss may be used. Gently pull apart the moss and secure it with floral pins on the inner and outer edges of the floral form.

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Loosely secure the Spanish moss, avoid placing it in clumps on the form.  The moss will gracefully hide the floral form.  Cover the entire back portion of the form.  After the back is covered, turn the wreath form over so the moss side is on the table.  The wreath is now ready for the hydrangea!

hydrangeawreath4 Before inserting hydrangea in the form, clip the full bloom ionto smaller pieces. Each cut bloom piece needs a pointy stem in order to stick into the floral form. Fill in the face of the form with bigger pieces and the outer portion of the form with smaller pieces.
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If the stem of the bloom is too soft and will not stick into the form then attach a floral wire to the stem.  First, twirl a bit of floral tape around the hydrangea stem then place the wire on the stem and continue to wrap the tape all the way to end of wire.  The wire slips easily into the form and holds the bloom securely in place.

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My son’s wreath is almost finished. It took him about one hour and 6 to 8 full blooms of hydrangea to complete his wreath.

When you finish your wreath, hang it on the wall in a cool and dry place in your house, preferably out of direct sunlight. The wreath will dry in about 2 days. It is fragile, carry it carefully.

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TAH DAH!!  My son finished his wreath.

Wreath-making is a good practice in …

  • following instructions
  • valuing the beauty in God’s creation
  • creating something with own hands
  • persevering and finishing a project
  • being gentle and careful

Happy Wreath-Making!!

Light Through the Swiss Chard

swiss chard leaf

Gardening with kids is a joy, but often it feels like double the work.  Its more messy and exhausting.  Now that it’s summer and my son is out of school, it will be  hard to get all the work done in our garden plot.  While I focus on my gardening tasks, I need to keep an eye on my son.   He will wander off from our plot, visit our garden neighbors and chat with a busy gardener or experiment with a hose nozzle that is not ours.  He forgets that he can not hurl sticks and stones in the garden or cut the grass near the plastic deer fence.  He is just too busy to help me weed, plant, or pick.  Except for yesterday, when he watered his garden bed and created a mud pool at our plot entrance.

All the chaotic and frustrating moments gardening with my son are tolerable when I remember the many priceless life lessons he has learned while at our plot.   Yesterday, I gave a bag of our swiss chard to the community gardener collecting donations for our local food bank.  My son asked me, “What is a food bank?”  I explained.  He asked more questions until I had no more answers.  I picked a bagful of Romain lettuce, gave it to my son and told him to give it to the “food bank” woman.    He carried the bag past several plots and hundreds of distractions to the right woman and cheerfully gave her our lettuce.

What lessons have your kids learned while gardening with you?

Sunflower and Gourd Seeds Planted

sunflower and gourd seeds planted

My son has his own garden bed in our community garden plot. For the last two years he has only planted Giant Sunflower seeds in his garden bed. This year he planted Bottle Gourd seeds along with a new variety of Sunflower seeds.  My son plans to make his own birdhouses and musical instruments from the gourds he grows (we will consult the Gourd Reserve when it comes time for harvesting and drying the gourds).   He planted Magic Roundabout Sunflower seeds,  a  hybrid sunflower that branches out and produces more than one flower per plant through summer into fall.   I plan to brighten our house with cut sunflowers this summer and fall!

Everything from our garden plot does not need to be edible to be useful!