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Monday, February 28, 2011

Taking Advantage of the Sunny Weather

Liam and his scarecrow likeness in the garden.
Lee and I have his boys over every other weekend, so we usually try to take them out to do something fun and educational because we know they don't get out to see or experience a lot otherwise. Friday it rained, and the forecast had promised another day of rain on Saturday, but it never showed up. Instead, it was absolutely frigid despite being sunny, so we chose indoor activities. Overnight we were expecting an odd late-season freeze (generally by this time in our area, all signs of frost are gone and it's time to get planting.) However, Sunday morning was absolutely gorgeous and warm, and we decided to take advantage of the weather and spend the day in the garden.
Rowan and his new pal.

We all had breakfast together, and got out some of the children's gardening books that we had previously picked up on our thrift store outings. The boys are at that stage where they love bugs, so they were thrilled to listen about all of the good garden bugs and animal friends that will help our garden stay free of pests. We browsed over Garden Crafts for Kids: 50 Great Reasons to Get Your Hands Dirty, and of course a scarecrow was included in the 50 ideas presented in the book.

The boys were excited with the prospect of creating their very own scarecrows, especially since they have also been learning a lot about recycling lately. All of the materials they used were recycled. They made the heads from wadded balls of newspaper. Lee helped them construct the bodies of old broken garden stakes. Finally, the boys chose outfits for them from a pile of clothing that they had outgrown. They were really antsy to get their scarecrows outside. We thought this was absolutely wonderful because the boys haven't always been so enthusiastic about going outside when they come over, unless it's to jump on their trampoline. We've tried everything to lure them outside to play and use their old fashioned imaginations, and until yesterday they haven't spent more than a half an hour in the backyard. Yesterday, they spent the entire day outside, all the way up until dinner time! This allowed Lee and I to get a lot of work done in the garden as well, since we didn't have to be inside supervising and breaking up arguments. We got about a third of the garden area tilled up, and four fruit trees planted.

We gave the boys their very own raised bed garden box, which had Liam raving on about all the stuff he wanted to plant. We also gave them one of their Easter gifts early= kid sized gardening gloves, theorizing that this would also encourage more garden play.  For some reason the boys have always been a little overly concerned about getting their hands dirty. Lee and I aren't sure where this phobia of dirt comes from, but it certainly doesn't come from us. Sure enough though, it worked.

All day long the boys "drove" their Tonka dump trucks back and forth from a mound of dirt in the back of the garden to their garden box. Not once did we hear a complaint or request to go back inside. It was probably one of the best days that I've spent with the boys, and we didn't even have to pay for admission fees or gas to get there. Family gardening is a fantastic way to spend the day and instills great values in kids. There wasn't anything more exciting to the boys than eating food that we grew in the garden last summer (except maybe the trip to the farmer's market), so I know that they are going to be over the moon when they taste the food that they grow, knowing that they produced it themselves from the ground up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Busy Like the Bees

If you've been reading this blog for a while, I am sure you thought that it had come to an end. Not true! I just can't believe how fast time moves as the years go by. I miss one day of writing and the next thing I know a whole month's gone by! Usually January is such a blah, boring month with nothing to do. Well, not this year. That whole vegan resolution thing has kept us quite busy. It's been great though. Lee and I cook together now rather than me doing all the cooking while he sits at the computer right after work. We chat and chop, and it's helped our relationship grow in a nice new way. While he was working on the movie, it was almost like he wasn't here in the evenings. That movie was stressful in more ways than one, but it's those little obstacles that really put your relationship to the test at times, and it's nice to see how well we bounce back.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan CookbookSo we haven't been puritan vegans, but we have made tremendous leaps and bounds, especially Lee. He still likes his pizza with cheese, but we did try an absolutely delightful cheese-free enchilada recipe and are now big believers in the theory that food can taste great without cheese. Admittedly, I was skeptical that enchiladas would be any good without the cheese, but man-oh-man! You've got to try it to believe it! Hunt down a copy of Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook at your local library or score a used copy somewhere cheap online and try the Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce!

Some really cool side effects of this vegan diet is that we are actually eating a lot more of the vegetables that we should have been eating before we starting cooking this way, like kale and chard and other dark leafy greens. We always thought they looked good before, but never knew what to do with them.

Aside from all of the cookbook studying, purging my studio and the overspill of art and craft supplies in the garage kept me quite busy as well. I am still selling small batches on eBay, but have made almost a grand in clearing out the supplies I just don't have the room for any longer. I gave myself the month of January to get the house back in order (it was full of boxes), which I did, but it's once again back to being a bit disorganized as I pulled more boxes out of the garage to go through. I'm on a roll with the eBay sales, so I may as well keep purging.

Since the last post, a few other things have happened as well. I found 3 Jersey Wooly bunnies via Craigslist that were in our local area. It was total luck not to have to drive over an hour to find them, they aren't an easy rabbit to find around here! I have two males that are gray- one is a sable point with pinkish eyes, the other has blue eyes, and the female is white with blue eyes. We still haven't named them yet.

Also, a couple of weeks ago I ordered a pound of red wrigglers on eBay, and now our wiggley ranch worm bin is all set up. That was another thing (like the beehive) that I had sitting around as furniture in my old house at the La Grange ranch for years and never started up. We also discovered last week when raking out the garden boxes, that we have red wrigglers all over in our garden. After slapping our foreheads, we justified our purchase by convincing ourselves that it would have taken days to collect a pound of red wrigglers for our box.

Superbowl weekend, Lee tried to butter me up (for being absent  from gardening on Superbowl sunday to spend the day watching the game with his dad) by getting me a cherry tree, a thornless blackberry, a blueberry, a grape vine, and some strawberry starts. I let it him slide this time.

The gardening gods must have been listening to our prayers (or more like curses and shouts from pulling up weeds and walking through mud) because we scored on several bags of free mulch (from an almond orchard that had been pulled up and shredded) and a couple truck loads of free patio bricks- which we really wanted for the side of the house under the old oak where nothing grows except mud in the rainy season. Connections in the country are a good thing indeed.

I am a sucker for half dead plants too, and when we were last at Lowe's to pick up some hardware items, I couldn't pass up two half gallon sized withered Snapdragons for a dollar each, which I am proud so say are now flourishing beautifully in the front beds.

So, stay tuned! Lots of news to come as I continue to get ready for Spring!