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Goodbye Garden, Lesson 2: Worms Happen

28 Jul

When I first started composting from our home’s kitchen waste I did some reading and discovered that worms are essential to the composting process.  I had heard that there were places I could actually go to buy worms for my compost, but the notion of spending money on soft-bodied invertebrates only to throw them in my organic trash didn’t seem quite right, so I decided to go without worms to see of I could manage without them.

Much to my pleasure, a few weeks into my composting adventure I went to turn the pile and sure enough, when I pulled the pitchfork from the middle of the heap there was a whole mess of dark, luscious worms making themselves at home in my soil factory.  I never thought I would be so excited to see those slimy things.

I’ve also previously written about a time when I visited the garden at night during a rainstorm and found myself among thousands of giant night-crawlers slurping around in the mud, wildly retreating into their canals when my flashlight glanced across them.  It was a cool thing.

If you’ve been gardening for a while, I’m sure you’ve come to know and love your worms, and if you’re fairly new at the process you’ll soon find that worms happen…and its wonderful.

Sick of Strawberries?

22 Jul

Okay, if you haven’t noticed yet- I am a bit obsessed with strawberries.  But how can I not be???

They were exploding out of our old garden and now it is time to pick them in the fields by my parents house.  Picking strawberries has been a tradition with my family since I was born.

At the particular fields closest to our house you must be ten years old to be able to go picking.  I remember many a hot afternoon when I was growing up, not yet ten, laying in the middle of the car with the windows open and flies buzzing in my ears, wishing, wishing, wishing that I could go and help my mom pick those juicy delicious morsels.  Thinking how dumb it was that they wouldn’t let such a responsible and hardworking eight year old girl help her mom out.  Well, mostly I was bored and wanted to get on with my life.

I recall the first time I was actually allowed into the fields, it was a bit of a let down.  Just like piano lessons.  I had to wait and wait to be able to take piano lessons and to go strawberry picking and then when I was allowed to to both of these things I couldn’t help but be a bit dissapointed.  I remember thinking, this is what I have been dying to do all these years.  Hmmmm.

Besides eating them immediately  here are some fun things to do with the plethera of strawberries surrounding our house.

Squish up some strawberries in a bowl with a potato masher.

Smell the delicious aroma that spews out of the bowl.

Put some Squirt or other maskable beverage like 7Up or Sierra Mist into the bowl of strawberries and mix them together.

Pour the mixture into a popsicle container or a disposable cup with a spoon in the center.

Use tape so the spoon doesn’t tip over and then place it in the freezer for a few hours.

Enjoy- it is one of the most refreshing desserts I have ever had.

Here are a couple pictures of Aleah appreciating my new strawberry treat.

It doesn’t get much better than that.


Goodbye Garden; Lesson 1: Ice Baths are for more than Sore Muscles

11 Jul

tiny Swiss Chard seedling

 The first few times we harvested lettuce from our garden we simply rinsed it under running water and then let it dry for a short while before eating.  We had a great time enjoying our early summer salads, but no matter how well we rinsed the lettuce, we still got tiny bits of sand and silt in our teeth as we ate.

tiny purple lettuce seedling

This wasn’t a big deal, but I knew there had to be a way to get the lettuce free of dirt.  After speaking with some friends, they suggested we soak the lettuce in a bowl of ice water for about a half-hour or more, periodically swirling the lettuce to allow the dirt to fall off the leaves to the bottom of the bowl.  Not only does the ice bath loosen the dirt from the leaves, it makes the freshly picked lettuce become cool and crisp as it soaks.  Then it’s just another quick rinse under the faucet, shake to dry (or spin if you’ve got a salad spinner), and you’re ready for a yummy dish of freshly picked lettuce, chard, arugula, spinach, and whatever other leafy greens your garden might be pumping out.  

I passed the ice bath trick on to my mom when we visited her in Colorado and enjoyed the delicious lettuce and Kale (pictured in the center row) growing in her garden.  It was fantastic!


Goodbye Garden

8 Jul

Just over a week ago Caitlyn and I laboriously loaded all our life’s belongings into the back of a U-Haul (with the help of many friends, to whom we are extremely grateful), and then said tearful goodbyes to our wonderful community at Bethel Seminary.  Caitlyn stayed back for few days, first cleaning the apartment then working her last few shifts at Lindey’s Steak House, and I drove north that Thursday afternoon, trying not to think of all the things and people I’m going to miss – trying not to go blind with tears while I kept the U-Haul between the stripes and dashes of Interstate 35 and Highway 53.

Goodbyes are usually hard, especially when you’re saying goodbye to the place where you’ve toiled alongside families and neighbors all trying to earn a seminary education while raising kids or making ends meet working late-night jobs with a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.  It’s the place where strangers and classmates became our closest community and the place where our girls learned to walk, give fist bumps to the neighbors, and go face-first down the playground slide with a mouth full of dirt, gravel, and dandelions.

Oh…and it’s also the place Caitlyn and I learned to garden on our own – no longer tugging on the shirt-tails of our mothers while we trailed through plants up to our shoulders, we became the ones responsible for turning the earth, caring for tender seedlings, and picking our plump produce in the hot August sun.

Indeed we’ll miss the relationships more than anything, but no doubt our years of effort in the Seminary Community Garden and the wonderful harvests we’ve enjoyed have made that garden a hard place to leave.  As I drove the U-Haul down Bethel Drive for the last time last Thursday, I couldn’t help but look over my left shoulder at the sunny hilltop and feel a sense of sadness, knowing I may never again turn the stinky, rich compost with a pitchfork or pluck cherry tomatoes and toss them into my mouth where they burst like water balloons between my teeth.  We’ve enjoyed and learned many things from the Sem Garden, and so as a farewell to that marvelous place, over the next several days I’ll be sharing some of the memories and lessons we’ve enjoyed.  I’ll be back soon…

Strawberries from the Garden

26 Jun

Had to take a break from the packing madness to partake in our garden strawberries.

I took Aleah and her best friend Ian out to pick some with me.  It was a bit of a rainy day but they were up for the challenge.

it doesn't get more delicious than that

they are completely hidden

no strawberries

lots of strawberries

Ian feeding Aleah strawberries


look at her little ponytail!

Come on over to say good bye to us and pick/eat some of the wonderful strawberries that we can’t pick fast enough!

Sunflower Sprouts

19 Jun

Since I am in Colorado right now with no sewing machine and no garden to call my own I have had to be creative about the recent posts.  Be creative or completely ignore the original sowing and sewing that this blog was intended for.  Forgiveness please.

But, I have a bit of a real gardening post for you!  Pretty exciting if you ask me =)

Anyways, Jared’s parents live in northern Colorado right by the mountains.  I can’t stop looking at them and will miss them when we leave.  Jared’s mom has a little garden out back that has kale, tomatoes, hot peppers, onions and lettuce.  It is not very big but it has been spitting out food for us all week.  Delicious.

On the other side of their backyard they have a bird feeder that attracts mostly red-winged blackbirds but also house finches and other birds that I have no idea what they are because I am not from Colorado.

This afternoon she was picking some weeds around her yard and came across some sunflower seedlings that were sprouting underneath the bird feeder from the stray seeds.

I thought back to a few years ago when one of our family friends had sprouted the black seeds that come in a huge bag.

The couple has grown flats and flats of them in their greenhouse so they could eat them on salads and on sandwiches throughout the year.  So I picked a few from her yard and after washing them, we ate them.  They were so delicious!

Here is a link that explains the proper way to grow your own sunflower sprouts:

So have fun and enjoy one of the most delicious snacks on the face of the planet.  And the best news is, it only takes ten days.  (Almost) instant gratification!

Water your Plants

16 Jun

A friendly message from Aleah, “The plants are thirsty!”

She kept running back and forth carrying a cup full of water from her kiddy pool to her Nana’s garden (Jared’s mom).  We are in Colorado right now and Jared and his pops are off on their Canadian fishing trip.  Miss my Jared.

Gardens and Clues

18 May

It’s been a while since the last gardening post.  Jared is a bit swamped with school and church and internships and life, so we will give him a teeny bit of grace.  He has promised to get the blog more professional looking and to post more once he graduated on June 4th.  Oh, yeah and also when he gets back from his week long fishing trip to Canada.

Here are the seedlings that we planted a while ago.  Look at how huge these giant sunflowers are!  They are crying to get outside.  We are torn between bringing them up North on our next church job visit or planting them in the Seminary garden.

This tray is filled with leafy greens such as chard, arugula spinach, basil, parsley and a variety of lettuce.  We wanted to be able to plant some things up in the Seminary community garden before we leave that we can enjoy.  Since lettuce is such an early sprouting plant that we will have some delicious salads before we move on out.

Look at the beautiful purply-red stems. Do you like the surrender flags around the plants?

I could just eat them up right now.

For Mother’s Day, Jared got me these beautiful and incredibly sweet smelling Hiacinths.  We have planted them outside so they can have some more sunshine.

here is a little clue as to where we might be moving

Happy Mothers Day

8 May

Happy Mothers Day to all you mothers out there!

I have been a mom for almost three years now and have been celebrated for two Mothers Days.  Mothers Day is a funny thing.  It is fun to draw your mom pictures and bring her breakfast in bed when you are little but it takes on a whole new meaning when you are a mommy yourself.  You can appreciate more what your own mother did for you since you can now grasp what it takes.

I am so thankful for my mommy and am so blessed by my little ones who have made me a mom.

Jared is so crafty and thoughtful.  The past two years he has made me gifts with the girls “help.”

In 2009 Jared made me window boxes for outside our apartment.  Below the window there is a metal slab.  He put a magnet on the bottom of the window boxes so that they would stay.  So ingenious!  This past winter we didn’t really get around to taking them down and they stayed put through all the snow and storms.  My favorite part about these boxes though is not the beautiful flowers that greet me every morning or the magnets that make them stay put.  The best part about the window boxes is that Aleah’s cute little hand prints are all over the front and that they made them together for me.

Unfortunately, I don’t actually have pictures of those boxes right now, but here are some pictures of Aleah helping me fill the planters that go inside the boxes.

she kept going out into the field to find the perfect dandelion for her to pick

Then she would come back and help me plant the dandelions into the flower boxes

The 2010 Mothers Day greeted me with a sign for our garden.  It stood in the middle of our garden all summer long and will travel with us wherever we end up.  Our good friend, Hawker, was around last Mother’s Day and he was able to pitch in and help with the painting.

Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful, selfless, thoughtful, beautiful mothers out there.  Love you all!

If You Plant It, It Will Grow

14 Apr

Spring has finally arrived here in Minnesota, and while there are still small patches of snow deep in the woods and along the shaded hillsides, it appears like our wonderfully white winter is over.  We had a marvelous winter, long and snowy and cold, but it’s time to move the skis and boots to the back of the storage closet and bring out the sandals, frisbees, and lawnchairs that haven’t seen the sun since October.

And of course, the arrival of spring inaugurates the gardening season, a season that begins now and if done well, can send us deep into next winter with freezers and jars full of homegrown goodies.  I help manage the community garden for seminary residents, thus early spring has become a time where Caitlyn and I not only prepare our own garden, but help our fellow seminary gardeners prepare and initiate their gardens.

Since seminary residents change from year to year (some move out, graduate, etc.) one of our efforts in the spring is to raise enthusiasm for the garden and encourage new gardeners to use the unclaimed plots.  Recently, (at our daughter’s birthday shindig in fact) we started asking people if they were interested in gardening this year, and to our surprise several people were like, “Heck yah, let’s grow some stuff!”  Before long, people were leaving the party to go get seed-starter kits (don’t worry, our daughter didn’t hold it against them).

Well, I guess I should back up here.  Not everyone signed on without any reservations.  In fact, many people responded with something like, “Really?  I’ve never gardened before, what do you do?”

And when we told them that the first step was simply to start seeds indoors by getting some seeds and soil from the store, then put them in cups or trays, they were like, “Hmmm…and that works?”

Now, I’m not saying this to make fun of anyone.  In fact, my wife and I gardened on our own for the first time two years ago, and in that week or two between the planting and the emergence of the seedlings we walked around wondering, “Are we crazy, there’s no way a couple novices like us can actually grow anything.”  But sure enough, after several days the garden was full of miraculous little sprouts, and they just kept growing and growing and growing.  It was fantastic!

So I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years talking to people about gardening, and nearly every time I talk to someone who wants to try it for the first time the conversation goes something like, “I’d love to garden but I’ve just never done it.”

“Well, it’s really not that hard, you just put seeds in soil, add water, and things begin to grow.”

“And that really works?”


Of course, I then talk a little about transplanting seedlings, weeding, and harvesting, but the biggest thing is convincing people that they don’t have to hold an advanced degree in agriculture in order to grow a tomato.

Without getting too philosophical here, I think this common reaction points to a larger trend in our society.  For the most part, we live in a culture that out-sources everything, so whenever we need something done we simply dial up the available professional or head to the store for whatever product might fix the problem.  And this is fine; it means that if you’re good at something you can probably make a living doing it.  But the problem comes when we assume that technology and expertise must mediate every process in our lives.  So something as natural and simple as growing a carrot becomes intimidating and foreign because we don’t think we’ve got what it takes.

So I say all this to remind us that seeds, soil, sun, and water have been doing their thing for a long time.  If you’re thinking about gardening but you’re worried that your thumbs are just so…well…not green, go ahead and give it a shot.  Find out what sorts of things generally grow well in your area, and then drop those seeds in the dirt and see what happens.

And for a little added inspiration, here are some photos of our seedlings this year.  We planted these about two weeks ago and they are already rockin’!  One tray is mostly leafy greens that we can harvest in June (while we still live here), and the other tray is full of flowers to decorate the garden and window boxes.  We hope to transplant in about a month!