Monday, October 29, 2012

Spiders, Spiders, Everywhere!

We found the most amazing spiders living in our garden and all over the yard this year.  I know they have been there in the past, but this year, we really paid attention, took pictures, made up stories, watched them spin silk over captured bumblebees.

Since it's almost Halloween, I thought I'd share a few photos of the gorgeous, unbelievably brilliant, and spooky spiders and their webs in Lily's and Jasper's garden.

This one isn't the best photograph, but there were seven or eight webs, hanging one after the other after the other.

For sure, Lily knows more about spiders at age four than I've probably known my whole life! The webs are so cool to look at, I even attempted to hairspray an old abandoned web (Lily made me promise not to ruin any home of a spider while said spider was still living on it) onto black construction paper to save it.  It was not successful.  Not everything can be captured; some things are just meant to be looked at and awed over.

Have a safe, happy, spooky Halloween week, everyone!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bye Bye Sunflowers!

We had such amazing, beautiful, huge sunflowers this year!

Bright yellow,

shades of burnt orangey-brown,

and deep reds.

I even think they are gorgeous in black and white.

Some grew over ten feet tall and finally their heads got so heavy they tipped over, bowed down with gravity.

Lily planted and watered them all from seeds and they were a huge success.  They were in the same raised bed as the strawberries and garlic and all three crops did awesome; maybe they liked being planted together.  Plus it was such a good summer of sun for us, which we sooooooo needed.

Not only did the sunflowers brighten our raised beds, but like almost everything else in the garden, they became a source of fun and play for Lily and Jasper, from digging out the seeds to play with, to painting the leaves with watercolors and using them as paint brushes,

to playing hide-and-seek in their "sunflower forest."

Even the ladybugs liked our sunflowers.

Greg put Lily on his shoulders just to show how tall they had gotten.  I saw gorgeous fields of enormous, tall sunflowers from a moving train once in Italy, but this is the first time I've/we've ever grown any quite so enormous.

Last weekend we finally pulled and dug them all out, and of course, played with them.

 See you next year gorgeous bright sunflowers!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lily's Carrots

Lily and I planted a bunch of carrots a couple of weeks ago, at least four rows of about twenty each.

She very meticulously dug the shallow rows with her finger and planted each seed.  Then she watered them in and helped me place some small wire hoops over the area to prevent Dizzy from destroying her hard work.

Jasper also dumped a gazillion carrot seeds in one big pile in his special gardening place.  I was expecting a good carrot crop for the fall.

Lily's little rows were looking awesome and promising.  I took no pictures of the precious sprouts, of course because I thought I had plenty of time.  One day they were there, stretching their tiny green fronds up to the sun; two days later and all we had left was one struggling sprout.

The next day, this...

Our entire crop was gone.

I know other people have success with carrots. Gardeners all over grow delicious, healthy carrots. Lots of gardening books and guides suggest it as a good crop for kids to grow, plus my kids love to eat carrots.  But no matter what I try, I have yet to have success with them. For years I have tried, in different zones, at different times of the growing season, in different soils, in pots, raised beds, in the ground.  Last year we harvested a tiny bundle of four or five carrots. A few years ago they grew up out of the cracks between the cement patio pieces in the backyard, (I must have dropped some seeds in the yard.)

I have a feeling this year it was slugs or snails or some minuscule night creature that chomped its way through and over and around Lily's carrot sprouts. What can I do differently?  Do I need to spread egg shells all over? Will oyster shells do the trick? Will either of those even matter?

Lily was bummed and confused.  Me too, I thought, me too. And she's such a cute gardener, a cute gardener who's wondering when she's going to get to pick her carrots. Perhaps Yoda could explain it better to her. Apparently Star Wars and gardening go hand in hand at our house.  I'm not sure what this says about us.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kale Heartache

This is how beautiful my kale looked when the leaves were just babies, beautiful, green, healthy and whole.

Sometimes I feel like Novella Carpenter, in her book, Farm City when she beats an opossum to death with a shovel because it's killed her goose and one of her ducks, or Michael Pollan in Second Nature when he almost blows himself up trying to rid his garden of a destructive woodchuck.  Angry to the point of murder in my garden.

Cabbage worms, cabbage worms!!!!  You infuriate me! Jasper calls you caterpillars and wants me to find one of you for him daily.  Well, that's certainly no problem, since the kale is infested with you! How, how how can something that starts out no bigger than the size of a pinhead, increase in size like the Incredible Hulk overnight and devour my kale right before my eyes? Sneaky disgusting buggers leaving me with hole ridden kale and your poop!!!

Thinking, like all ignorant gardeners at one time or another, that I would outwit them this year, I planted my kale later in the summer and I only planted kale, no other brassica crops.  Instead of outwitting them, it's like they came back one millionfold.  Aye, aye, aye!!!!!! The pictures don't do the destruction justice.  Some of the stalks, once with tons of thick, beautiful dark green leaves, were eaten entirely away. Nothing left to even photograph.

Oh my lacinato kale, my one true garden love. No offense to you juicy fresh tomatoes, beautiful zucchini blossoms, or my super sweet Hood strawberries, but kale, you and I have only found each other in the garden a few short years ago and I swoon over your taste when sautéed with olive oil and lots of garlic.

I can't keep up with the destruction.  I've been handpicking the little buggers off, but really, it's one big daily disappointment and a feeling this year of, I just can't keep up.  I will not win this battle.

So in my frustration of squishing one cabbage worm after another, I finally just ripped all the kale out and let the kids play Star Wars with the stalks.  If I can't win my battle, at least they can have fun with theirs!

Check out our cute video of one of their Star Wars battles!

And may the kale force be with you!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back to School

The kids went back to school this week.  This isn't the end of our garden for the year, but it does mean I can spend some time getting more done in the garden for winter, and more time writing, yeah!!

We went to see their classrooms and teachers last week for an hour.  Lily has the same AMAZING teachers as she did last year.  I asked Ms. Amie, her lead teacher, if she needed anything for the classroom this year and she smiled and said, "Well I know you have beautiful flowers in your garden." Lily absolutely loves bringing flowers to her teachers. Actually I think it has more to do with bringing flowers to feed the butterflies (which they had in their classroom last year,) but either way it is pretty cute!

Have a great school year everyone!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Playing in the Garden

Although the kids and I spend time in the garden every day during the summer, to be honest, more of that time is spent playing than gardening.  While I would love to get more real gardening done, it is so much fun to see how creative my goofballs can be. They make cakes out of dirt and feed their stuffed animals flowers. They bring their books out to read in the garden.

Lily makes fun beds for her toys out of flower petals.

Sometimes this turns into random dancing.

When the kids returned from Michigan a few weeks ago it was way past time to tear the snap pea vines and teepees down.  The only reason I left them up until they got back was because I knew they'd get a kick out of all the snails living in the old vines and supports. I can't stand the snails, but the kids love them.  If I find a snail in the garden they practically fight over who gets to hold it and play with it.  Luckily where there's one, there's usually ten more so they don't have to fight too long.

The pea vines were housing tons of obese snails and when Lily and Jasper saw them all, they were so excited you would have thought Yoda was coming in the front gate for a visit.  While I was picking the rest of the peas that were salvageable and tossing them into a bowl, Lily and Jasper were collecting all the snails in old pots.  

I had to bite my tongue when they started feeding the peas to the snails.

Lily called it her snail aquarium.

Last week, the kids took some of their legos and plastic animals and made a jungle out of sticks and plucked parsley leaves. 

And this week, their obsession has been pretending to dig up fossils in the dirt.  They bury their toy animals, dig them up and wash them off in a bucket of water, over and over and over again.  My creative girl even had the clever idea of using a chive blossom as a soft brush to dust the dirt off of the fossils so she wouldn't damage them.

Oh, and one fossil, our giraffe, even got a new hairdo thanks to some old sunflower petals.

Our garden really is a playground for Lily and Jasper, one with endless possibilities.