Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Visit to the Farm

Last Saturday I went to the farm co-op store to buy some seeds. I picked out packets of spinach and sugar snap peas (my mouth watering in anticipation), "sweet lettuce mix" (excluding spicy stuff like arrugula, which CP detests), red beets, and mini carrots, plus a scoop of white onion bulbs. It was a balmy day, the soil was sufficiently dry after recent rains, and I was desperate to get something started growing in the dirt.

I hoed some rows and was about to start dropping the little green orbs when I re-read the package. They were not the sweet, eat-'em-off-the vine kind, but shelling peas! Such was my disappointment that I sat and mentally debated whether I should ditch them and buy the snaps, finally resolving to plant the dumb things anyway.

The second bummer was finding that somehow the lettuce packet never made it to checkout. By then I was feeling like a scatterbrain. The third bummer was that the baby woke up crying, limiting my agricultural accomplishments of the day to one double row of shelling peas. Company was coming, and it was time to prepare supper.

Earlier that sunshiny day, we visited a small family farm not too far from here. Driving up the winding lane toward the historic white farmhouse, I saw what looked like a cold frame constructed of lumber and heavy sheet plastic. Later I learned that it was a portable shelter for two hefty, copper-colored pigs. They move with their "house" around the garden section by section, rooting out weeds, grubs, and old potatoes, and fertilizing the garden in preparation for spring planting. Now that's efficiency!

The farmer and her middle school-aged daughter led us through a small orchard of sweet cherries and pears, past the house to a chicken yard where the fowl ran around eating their fill of whatever they find in the dirt and grass. Young broilers and layers huddled inside the chicken house with heat lamps.

We purchased a dozen hand-gathered eggs--ranging from white to milk chocolate in color--for a mere $2. Hopefully we will be seeing these folks with their produce at the local farmer market when it opens in May.

Herbs & More

A coworker gave me this rosemary plant (left) for my birthday last summer. It was not fazed in the least by the passage of seasons. I'm not a huge fan of rosemary when it comes to cooking, but it is a sensory delight in the garden. Touch its pine-like needles, and the rich, resinous oil clings to your fingers. Rosemary is flanked by the irrepressible perennial oregano (right), a kitchen garden staple.

I brought two parsley plants indoors for the winter. They both survived, but this one that was left outdoors (to die, or so I thought) thrived in comparison. Hooray for hardy herbs!

Last summer, friends who know about my penchant for pesto and had access to a seed surplus regaled me with about 8 packets of different varieties of basil. The main challenge will be finding space to try all of them at once! I guess the positive side of basil's annual demise is that otherwise I would never have room for growing vegetables.

Here's the Bundleboo in use. Moving about at almost-grown-up height, facing forward, is a great diversion for someone who spends so much time on her back. (By the way, the other day NS demonstrated another "first." She reached out with obvious concentration to grasp a rattle. You could almost see the synapses firing.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Indisputably Spring

It's definitely spring in our neck of the woods. In fact, spring has been here for a week already, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. But today I felt it. After a translation job, workout, mom's group, and quick trip to the library, I squeezed in some gardening time while NS was asleep (before getting some shut-eye for myself). I was comfortable wearing a T-shirt while loading the big yellow wagon with dry leaves, vines, and weeds and piling them behind the shed to decompose. (Yesterday I weeded, pulled vines off the fence and shoveled about 30 gallons of compost from the bin into the garden.) The forsythia in front of the house is starting to bloom, and several of the thick daffodils are already glowing in the front and back yards.

Views from the front door (blurry with springtime rain):

Backyard views (the messy-looking patch is the garden ready to be planted):

This evening the weather was so fine that we had to take a walk before supper. Here's CP with NS in her exciting new mode of walking (facing out!). In case you're wondering, she's sporting rainbow froggy leg warmers.

We traveled to our respective parents' places during CP's five-day spring break (Easter weekend). Highlights included skinning logs for fence posts (much like peeling a giant carrot, but it's harder on the back) and playing Chicken Foot dominoes. We invented a version of Chicken Foot that's similar to Fast Scrabble, but didn't keep score (imagine having to count all those little dots!).

Here's Princess NS presiding over pillows. She enjoys sitting up (with a little help). A few days after her 3-month birthday she flipped herself over from front to back for the first time. She's also getting the hang of thumb-sucking.

Below: studying Grandma's Easter card

Saturday, March 15, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, NS got to meet her great-grandmother for the very first time.

This week NS has been practicing holding her head high while lying on her belly.

Ahoy, Mates!

Last night sister HB hosted a pirate party in honor of friend KR's approaching birthday. Dinner featured such seaworthy delights as aspARRagus, cARRots, cauliflARR, sea scallops, shell pasta, and "sand bARRs" and Chips Ahoy for dessert.

HB and brother DH ham it up with NS, the youngest pirate on board.

the party crew

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Notes from a Rusty Gardener

Inspired by 60 degree weather and clear skies, I visited my garden for the first time in about four months. It's buried under last fall's papery leaves, hardy weed clumps, and brittle, matted vines. Already the chocolate mint has furtively dispatched stubborn runners under the mess, punctuated by tiny green leaves and poised to engulf the herb garden even more dramatically this year. The flat-leaved chives (I don't know their real name) are poking wanly through the thick seed-head stalks of last summer, promising another bumper crop of a marginally useful culinary supplement.

The neighbor's chain link fence (between us and the infamous dogs) is partially obscured by vines. That was the goal when I painstakingly dug in ivy cuttings and watered morning glory seeds all along the fence, which borders the vegetable garden. The problem is, the ivy seems to prefer sticking its fingers into the garden instead of properly climbing the fence. And the morning glories, now a wall of thousands of seed pods ready to fly open at the slightest disturbance, love to smother tomato plants or anything else within reach.

Once they're in, there's no getting them out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beauty Sleep

As soon as yesterday's diapers were folded, today's were hung up to dry, and NS fell asleep, I carted her off to the women's fitness club around the corner where I try to work out three times weekly. She's a hit with the other members, usually sleeping angelically through 30 minutes of disco-tech music, her car seat parked prominently in the center of the exercise circuit.

Today NS woke up just as I was doing my cool down stretches. When her eyes open, the countdown begins until the next feeding or diaper crisis. I forged on to the grocery store across the street, remembering on arrival that I'd forgotten the Snugli. That oversight left no choice but to plunk her, car seat and all, into a big shopping cart.

As I zipped through the aisles, checking off my list, her eyes got wider and wider, and I heard the makings of a big diaper deal. By the time we got to checkout, she was squalling. As I scrambled to pack my bags, a gray, grizzled man with a cane stopped and engaged her in conversation, eliciting a couple of smiles and distracting her until I could get the cart rolling again. I know children aren't supposed to talk to strangers, but this stranger demonstrated the value of a well-timed kindness.

Here is NS sleeping off the excitement of the morning's adventures.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

An Acre of One's Own, Part II

We found it--the perfect 3-acre layout with a decent little house and an already cultivated garden plot. It might even be within our financial reach. The clincher is this: it's a three-minute drive from our current house. That's the good news and bad news rolled into one.

See, when it comes to location, CP and I keep vacillating between two schools of thought:

1) Let's put down roots in our current area. CP is happily employed, we have a few friends, I have connections for possible future employment, we like being part of our small church, and there are plenty of opportunities (educational, social, cultural) for NS when she gets older. Plus we're about as equidistant as possible from our various family members, which brings us to...

2) Let's settle in the area about sixty miles from here, where 3/8 of our immediate families' households are currently located, and where maybe--just maybe--our parents could be enticed to settle in their retirement. We have some college friends nearby, too. Moving there could be an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a closer network of family and friends. In some ways, though, it would mean starting over.

We know what we want, but not where we want it (or whether we can have it all in one place).