Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mulch Addiction

So I have this addiction to mulch lately. This is the first year, since we bought our house in 2006, that I've really been working on the front yard. For the past three years I sort of let it "maintain" itself. In fact, I've treated it like my writing, peeking in once in a while and not staying very long out of fear. I avoided the perennials that were healthy and lush as much as I avoided the barren, weedy, overgrown sections, because so many of the plants are plants I've never grown or taken care of before. But Lily is teaching me to just barrel forward into the unknown, (hello raising children!) and see what happens.

There are parts of our front yard that have survived my neglect, and then other parts where ugly things like quackgrass and creeping buttercup have taken over entire sections of the garden beds. And of course there's the very hardy blackberry vines, that happen to love my neglect. Even the sections that look like they did maintain themselves are overgrown and stagnant.

Avoidance is never good, so this year I decided to dive back in and try to recover the front yard. And I've had tons of help, which always makes the seemingly impossible more like a fun challenge. Greg's mom, GramS was here a month ago, and she and Greg spent hours digging up the brick path and turning over tightly bound grasses that had pushed their way into everywhere they didn't belong. She also cleaned up the raised beds in back and planted strawberry seeds for Lily. We had so much fun, I just wish she was still here to see how things are progressing. Of course the reason I get to spend so much time in the garden is because my own mom, Nana lives with us and helps me keep track of Lily. My friend Joie did a ton of manual labor too, showing me how to lay down cardboard over the grass and then mulch over it so that it will compost over time. And our neighbors, Andy and Mary Ann stop by and help me identify plants once in a while; plus they always have dog biscuits for Dizzy .

And then there is the mulch, thank goodness for mulch! Lily loves the mulch, (not sure if that is a good thing or not...) I feel relief once the mulch is down because I feel like I really can maintain things now, like beginning with a strong foundation so that I can move forward, and not keep taking ten steps backward.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Planting Seeds with Lily

Lily and I planted lots of stuff this week! Two tomato plants, an Early Girl and a Sunburst went in the front yard. Some Brussels sprouts from seedlings, which were a lovely gift from our new friends, Jennie and Dean, went in near the Early Girl up front. And carrots and broccoli raab, from seeds, on Wednesday night with Greg's help. I actually got Lily to play with the seeds and try to put them in the dirt. Mostly they just stuck to her fingers. But she sure loves the seed packets, the noise they make when she shakes them close to her ears, the way she can carry several at once in her hand and crawl at the same time. And she loves my garden tools, so I got her some cute pink ones of her own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Own Little Sprout

I'm learning, that gardening with a 1-year-old is not so much about what I want to do, but about DISTRACTION, which is the word that pretty much rules our life these days. Lily is everywhere all the time. She's both attached to me and determined to do things on her own. I could literally spend all day saying,"no" to her, while constantly taking things away from her that are dangerous or inappropriate. Torture chamber anyone?

Instead, I've realized distraction is the way to go. I didn't say it was easy for me to come to this place, but once I did, I realized Lily and I were having much more fun. And, anyway, who cares that I have yet to plant some of the seeds that should have been in the ground weeks ago? Who cares if every single last weed does not get pulled?

Lily prefers to shovel dirt out of the pots and climb into them. She also likes to pull the plants out of where we've just planted them. Hmm, if I could just get her to pull only weeds...

Monday, May 18, 2009

To Write or Garden...

I spent the weekend at the SCBWI Western Washington Writing & Illustrating for Children Conference. It was amazing! I got to listen to talented, published authors and illustrators speak, including one of my all-time favorites, Jon Scieszka. And agents and editors gave great advice about the business side of writing.

It's always inspiring to me to be in the company of so many other writers. To hear about their struggles and successes, and simply, just to listen to a great story. I also love seeing the work of the illustrators, because in the end, even though my writing doesn't have illustrations, I want it to create a picture, an image that just won't leave the reader alone. And I find that so many things - in addition to great books - influence my writing, such as art, music, and of course gardening.

Ahhh gardening. Another beautiful weekend spent without you. Lily hung out with her daddy, Greg and her Nana. They watered for me and enjoyed the lazy days in the yard. I came home rejuvenated. And I came home with a TALL pile of new books, including two wonderful picture books about trees and gardening, A Grand Old Tree, by Mary Newell DePalma, & Busy In the Garden, by George Shannon, pictures by Sam Williams.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flower Shopping With Lily

Here's a look at what Lily and I bought at Sunnyside Nursery last week. The visit was a little bit fun, a little bit crazy, sort of like this picture. I was going to crop it and make it look prettier, but what fun would that be when I show the after pictures?

Shopping with Lily generally causes one or both of us to go into meltdown. But sometimes it has to be done. I thought flower shopping would be different; I thought it would be lovely. Who am I kidding? I knew it would be insane.

We went with our friends, Joie and Molly, and while Molly is still content to hang out in the baby carrier, Lily is not. Plus the sun was out, I know, shocking in the Puget Sound area in May. Even more shocking that I should complain! While Lily struggled to get out of the carrier and chase the soft grey cat around, I struggled to convince her she was perfectly happy strapped to my chest while the sun beat down on us and my blood pressure took its usual climb. It didn't last long.

But we did come home with some pretty plants and honestly Lily probably saved us a lot of money because I should not be trusted at a nursery with endless amounts of time and a credit card. It could be worse than setting me loose in the bookstore.

I decided the next time we go to Sunnyside, I will leave my expectations at home, along with the baby carrier. And I'll let Lily get down and explore to her heart's content.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Raised Beds

I should tell you a bit about our yard. The front is full of perennials, bulbs, trees and a few patches of lawn that were here long before Greg and I bought this house three years ago. It seriously intimidates me so we'll talk about that another day.

The back is sort of a charming disaster. There are two dilapidated old sheds, random slabs of concrete, in shapes that almost remind me of leaves, a section of gravel and weeds, and a narrow brick path between two flower beds.

Nestled in the back right corner are 4 raised beds and a compost bin. This is my favorite part of the yard; this is where I truly feel like I get to start over every year, planting whatever fruits and veggies I want. Plus it was completely overgrown with weeds when we bought the house. I dug them all up, each and every one, so I feel a bit of ownership.

Mostly, so far, I keep plopping Lily back there with me hoping she'll become interested in pushing seeds down into the dirt. Seeds are tiny, though, so we've tried some snap peas and nasturtiums, which she can actually hold between her fingers and push into the dirt. I said, can, not that she does, exactly. Yes, she'd much rather put them in her mouth. Seeds and rocks taste good! Although, she does like to water - a girl after my own heart.

In the first picture, she's playing with the rocks by her trusty watering can. The second is a raised bed from the early stages. I love watching it all grow, including my Lily.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is pretty cool, I must say, now that I am a mom. Not only is Lily one amazing, goofy, smart, cuddly kid, (okay, she’s also Crankenstein when she’s teething which just happens to be right now,) but I got to spend the entire day in the garden. My friend, Joie, and I planted gorgeous flowers in containers, vegetable seeds in the raised beds and strawberries a plenty, yum! We dug up stubborn, unwanted grass, and mulched. Oh I love how the yard looks with a little bit of mulch. Lily was there, along with Joie’s seven-month-old daughter, Molly. But so were the dads. I know it’s Mother’s Day, but HOORAY for great dads!

Gardening with Lily is a whole different thing than gardening alone. And I’ll be honest, I like to garden alone. I get into my place of Zen; gardening is meditative for me; it’s exercise; it’s therapy. Gardening with Lily means completely changing my expectations of what’s going to get done, or rather undone, as she prefers to take the flowers out of the dirt that we’ve just planted them in. She’d rather rip the pea sprouts in pieces with her little hands and shovel dirt onto her dog’s nose.

But speaking of noses, gardening with her forces me to appreciate things in a whole new way. She’s just learned where her nose is and while I know she doesn’t get the same pleasure we do from the scent of lemon thyme or lilacs, showing her how to stick her nose into the Nemesia, (instead of ripping the flower heads off), and watching her do it over and over again, was priceless.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's Spring

It's spring in the Pacific Northwest and every year just about this time when the tulips start to bloom, and the weather feels like just maybe it's time to start gardening, I go to the library to check out more gardening books than I can carry. Every year I do this. Every year in the garden in spring I feel like a beginner all over again. I guess in a way I am a beginner every year. Even though so much of my yard is full of perennials that emerge year after year, there's also so much space left untouched, my blank canvas to begin anew.

But this year I'm not alone. My daughter Lily, 1-year-old as of April 23rd 2009 is with me. I've hardly written a thing since she was born, and that's what I should be doing, writing. But the scent of an almost-in-bloom, old-fashioned rose bush, fragrant from the spring rain, lures me outside and whispers that I want to be gardening, not writing. Can I find the time, with Lily in tow, to do both, garden and write?

These days Lily is happiest when outside, eating rocks and digging, literally digging through the dirt. So that's what she and I shall do, dig through the dirt. We'll plant, nurture, weed and try to put something good back into the Earth. Hopefully we'll have a ball, and maybe it will even inspire me to write again.