Spring Snow

Spring Snow

On the second day of Spring we were surprised with the perfect snow. Four inches of good packing snow on a weekday. An amazing light snow able to be shaped and sculpted. “Come on, mom! Let’s make a snow fort,” my son called as he knelt in the snow and swung his arms wide along the snow surface gathering up a snow pile. He pounded and smashed the fluffy snow into a hard mound, then gently smoothed the snow wall with his gloved hands. I bent down and began to form snow ball bricks and instructed him in the proper technique for snow fort making.

“Make the snow bricks first then stack and fill the holes with the snow, don’t pound so hard,” I said. I reminded him that I have lots of experience in this stuff because I lived most of my childhood in a state that always had snow on the ground in winter. I made my lopsided snow balls, stacked and crushed them into a bumpy wall. No amount of bragging would change my son’s plans. He pressed and shaped his snow into a solid curved wall that resembled a dragon’s tail. My son asked me why it sounds like I am criticizing his work. After we finished snow building, he threw snowballs at both of our structures. Mine toppled and his stood firm in the snow ball assault.

Next to our snow fort is the Peach tree my husband and I severely pruned a couple weeks ago. It is the “Y” standing next to our snow wall. I think about all the high limbs we cut off so it could produce more abundant and accessible fruit. It reminds me that maybe some of the words I speak need to be pruned, too – cut the critical tone so the fruit of kindness is more abundant and wisdom is more accessible to others.

Winter Hike

I went for a hike today on the wooded trails in Robinson Nature Center. I like the open feeling in the December woods. The sparse surroundings relieve my stress from the busy holiday season. There is less confusion and congestion and more simplicity and space in the bare woods. Only single sounds and single sights. No canopy of leafy trees to crowd me. A single bird song to listen to and try to memorize for later identification. Was it a “creekataw” or “creekachee”? A clear sound without competition. Easy to be mindful and slow down in this place. One crunching sound leads to one squirrel racing up and over a tree trunk on the ground. I could see the squirrel carrying a round orange object the size of its head in its mouth. I wondered if I could see where he would hide it. Less is hidden between the exposed trees and on the crunchy leaf covered ground. The evergreen trees stand unchanged and bold among the greys and browns. Everlasting and eternal things is where to focus. My stress melts when I do.

The Nest

Robin's Nest

In mid April we found a new nest on the rafters under our deck. We felt like expectant parents the day our son announced he saw a Robin sitting in the nest.  We tried to limit our activity around the nest.    But one evening my husband and I assembled a shed on our patio while our Robin sat still in her nest the whole time.  The Robin even tolerated us standing on the deck and looking through the narrow space between deck boards into her nest. We glimpsed the transformation – three bright blue eggs to black and pink squiggles to feather balls.  From our basement slider window we watched the Robin fly to her nest with a worm hanging from her beak.  The chicks greeted her with wobbly bobbleheads and open funnel-like beaks.  Space is tight in the nest, now. See the two beaks?

Two beaks
Two beaks

Welcome Spring

Edible Garden BeginsToday thin green spinach seedlings popped out of the seed starter soil, a perfect start to Spring. During our late winter snowfall last week,  I planted seeds for our summer kitchen garden.  I found this wire rack at the Goodwill and thought it perfect to hold our seedlings.  This year I plan to make our raised beds more visually appealing with a mix of flowers planted among vegetable plants.  I picked attractive vegetable plants including peppers, eggplants and spinach for our garden below the deck.  I will grow patio tomatoes in pots on the deck to keep them from getting unruly.  I learned my lesson from last year.  My son requested his favorite flower, Forget-Me-Not, so we started those from seed, too. My husband planted garlic last fall, and tall green stalks are appearing around the raised beds already.  They will be harvested in July, so I am hoping they will not detract from the plan to have a more beautiful garden that invites relaxation.  The snow in this photo has melted.  Spring is here bringing many garden dreams!

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.

Autumn Aliens

We visited a farm in wp-image-1536863450jpg.jpgPennsylvania to pick some pumpkins and gourds to bring home.   My son was intrigued by their funny shapes and bright colors.  They reminded me of the silly monsters he draws – cute alien creatures with round or oval bodies filled in by swirls or dots and topped with one to three eyes; each creature has a name like,  Dingle, Yugi, Ygug, Hithy, Hicamawiks, Hallywak and Dotty-Spot.  They make us laugh.

These alien-like squashes make us smile, too.  Any names come to mind for them?  I will ask my son, he will have some ideas.

Can you guess which ones he named, Backhoe, Emerald,  and Pouty?

answers: (no peeking!)

Backhoe is the creamy, white gourd with the curved neck on the very top of the hay bale. Emerald is the bright green one in between the bumpy faint, pastel blue pumpkin and the orange pumpkin. It’s underneath Backhoe, a little to the right. Pouty is the crazy, pale blue pumpkin with the frown next to the green and the white gourds. He’s the closest to you!    😉

Hens and Chicks 

The Hens and Chicks in clay pots on our front steps are flourishing in the cool fall weather. Each day I see new tiny chicks emerging. Close and cozy, growing in a tight space. It is counter-intuitive for a gardener.  I want to re-pot and give more space, but these succulents actually grow better in crowded conditions.

When my townhouse seems too small, traffic congested, time limited and life crowded with responsibilities and demands, I will think of these plants. They grow under the pressure of limited space.  Too often my thoughts are rooted in the “not enoughs.”  I need more time. I can’t. I need to pull out. What if I snuggled into the pressure and my limitations, stayed grounded and calm?  I might be surprised by unexpected space and new growth.

Tomatoes gone wild

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Tomatoes (left) and Peppers (right)

Plants with branches slumped and sticky hold plump cherry and grape tomatoes in our kitchen garden.  The full sunny days and shower refreshed evenings kept all growing. Over four feet in two months!  Our tomato plants grew beyond their cages and almost touched the deck before they toppled on themselves as vines will do.  We gave string and stake support a little late.  We did not anticipate such rapid growth so they kind of went a little wild beyond their cages.  They needed a supported space – a ring of rope to grow up into.

A reminder for me to anticipate growth as I seek to provide an effective supportive space for my preteen son. He is growing fast, almost as tall as me now.  How will I support him as he looks beyond our home to friends and middle school?  What kind of support can a give to him as he reaches beyond?

A prayer:  Lord, I need your wisdom and guidance to show me how to provide structure and support suitable to the unique talents You gave my son.  May He reach His full potential and grow into a courageous, kind, faithful, loving and fruitful young man. 

Never underestimate the potential for growth in all that you nurture and care for.  You will be amazed!

Our Garden Plot Comes Home

wpid-img_20150912_141352563_hdr.jpgFirst year of new backyard garden gives our family veggies, flowers, joy,  and humble pride.  My 10 year old son announced a few days ago, “We have the biggest and most beautiful garden in our neighborhood!” Next he said, “I want to sweep the stones and weed.”  Really.  My “working in the garden is boring,” son volunteers to work in our garden?

When our garden plot was in Howard County Conservancy Community garden, we produced more veggies.  Now that our garden plot is at home,  more inspiration grows.   A salad or veggie stir fry for dinner – pick some grape tomatoes, kale, zucchini and peppers.  Science project ideas – check on those kitchen scraps added to compost yesterday.  A break from stress and high tech stuff – pull some weeds, empty rain barrel water into a watering can and sprinkle the dry ground. Stillness – watch the rain soak the garden and revive its thirsty roots.  Welcome home our garden plot!

Fall plantings include:  beets, spinach, lettuce, an assortment of kale and two blueberry bushes in pots on our deck.