Sunday, March 31, 2013

{Grow Write Guild} My gardening roots

Note: This is the first in a writing prompt series call Grow Write Guild I've decided to write along with. The prompts come from Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl, one of the gardening bloggers I enjoy following. The first prompt is "write about your first plant." My story is quite loosely based on Gayla's questions, but I'm taking the word "prompt" literally. I will be using her suggestions as a means to get writing with little attention to whether my direction has anything to do with what Gayla had in mind. I'm looking forward to this writing journey through the gardening season and would be honored to have you join me.

I grew up with gardeners. When I was a baby, Mom would put me down for a nap in my crib and go work in the garden at the bottom of our backyard hill. Once I was old enough, I was down there in the garden along side her.

When I recall specific memories of that garden, they aren't particularly fond. To be honest, none of my childhood vegetable gardens conjure specifically good memories, but I am nonetheless thankful for them. And, if I don't try to zero in on any particular moment in time, the thought of my childhood gardens bring an overall warm feeling of happiness.

Our neighborhood was built in an old apple orchard, and our backyard had several too-old-for-good-fruit apple trees. It seems the steep hill from the house to the garden was always littered with half-rotten apples regardless of the time of year. Incidentally, the swing set was at the bottom of the hill, too, so it wasn't as if I could avoid that walk even if I didn't want to garden. The trees may have shaded the hill, but at the bottom it was hot and sunny -- perfect for growing zucchini the size of a small child. Next to the garden was a raspberry patch. I loved raspberries, but bees and prickers made the berries nearly undesirable.

My grandparents, who we visited frequently, had an even larger garden. Grandma tried to get me to eat the Brussels sprouts she grew, but, thankfully, no one forced me, because Mom didn't like them, either. Grandma, grew beets, too. I didn't even realize Mom didn't like beets until I was an adult. I guess, when you're a kid you just gobble up the food that's yummy and don't take much notice of what others eat.

Later, my grandparents moved from Rockland County to their "camp" in the Adirondacks, and I think the garden got even bigger. In the new garden they grew potatoes, which have given me my absolute least favorite gardening memory -- picking potato beetles. To this day, I despise beetles of all kinds, and I'm not sure I'll ever have it in me to grow potatoes. I hated picking those potato beetles, but I managed, as a preteen, to do it with pride. There we were, three generations of gardeners, walking along the rows throwing those nasty creatures into coffee cans of turpentine, so we could eat the most delicious potatoes I've ever tasted.

So, why, if my earliest memories of gardening coincide with memories of rotten apples and potatoes beetles, would I want to garden as an adult? The answer is very simple: we had fresh veggies on our table all summer long. Unlike many of my peers, I love vegetables of all kinds (Brussels sprouts remain my one exception). If you need a second reason, I got to play in the dirt a lot, and I love the smell of dirt. Perhaps most importantly, that overall warm feeling of happiness is something I long to pass on to my son.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Lunch Box

Now that Bear eats lunch away from home three days each week, I've been putting more effort into packing lunches that a) I think are interesting and nutritious and b) I'm guessing he'll eat.

The first part of this is to not ask him what he wants. At 9:30 or 10 in the morning, he really isn't hungry for anything -- he just ate breakfast. So, at 4, it's hard for him to imagine what he might like to eat two hours into the future. 

Instead, I just pick three or four things I think might appeal to him. I just have to realize that when he brings half of it home, it's OK. (At least it's OK as long as I remember to unpack it and don't end up with cheese or eggs that have been neglected when I pack the next days lunch.) Some of his lunch items this week have been a carrot and daikon radish mix, yellow and red peppers, hummus, cucumbers, cheese cubes, and salad.

I've also decided that I'm going to occasionally sneak some things in that he's never tried before. Maybe at school, he'll give them a try. I won't go overboard, but it's worth a try. Earlier this week he got some whole grain chips and he said he loved them. Today he's getting freeze-dried raspberries. I'm not very hopefully about those, but since they're packaged in an Easter egg, maybe ...

Oh, yes, the Easter eggs! Thanks to this post on, I decided to pack today's lunch, the last before Easter, in plastic eggs. I know, I know, the plastic can't be good. But, considering, I generally stay away from plastic for packing lunches, I figure one day isn't going to hurt.

Here's what his lunch box looks like:

I can't wait for him to see it. I wish I could include a mini-camera so I could spy on him. 

Inside the purple egg is shredded chicken, one of his favorite foods. The other eggs have red pepper, carrots and bunny grahams as a treat. Oh, and the dried raspberries. Enjoy, buddy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Random updates

Received in the mail today: The first, but certainly not the last, correspondence addressed to "Parent(s)/Guardian(s) of Bear Nusskern" from Queensbury Elementary School. It was our appointment for Kindergarten Roundup. Another reminder to have all sorts of fun with my boy before he gets swept into the wave of school.

In the category of difficult challenges: Getting outside every day is not so easy. But, with the exception of Tuesday, when it was pouring, we've done it every day this week. Some of those we weren't out for long. But, 20 to 30 minutes is better than not at all.

Tiny things to celebrate: My first seedlings have seen light. I planted these leek seeds at least three weeks ago. The seeds were two years old, so I was very unsure of how well they'd do. Then, I had a bit of trouble figure out how much water  I needed

in the bottom tray and everything dried out. Finally, I got enough water in there and, three days later there were the first bits of green. Now, out of about 100 seeds, I have a bit more than 20 tiny plants. It would be nothing short of a miracle if they were all to mature to full-sized leeks. We have months ahead to find out.

Lastly, in the battle with Daylight Savings Time, I win! Not only is Bear not going to bed later, but he's actually started to go to bed at a reasonable (before 9 p.m.) time. It's probably the fresh air. Maybe a little bit of it's my determination. Whatever it is, it's adding to my positive outlook.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Climbing out of the winter slump

I'm not sure exactly when this slump started, but I've been eating horribly lately. I'm so conscience of what the boy is eating, but I've been chowing down on bowls of ice cream for lunch when I think no one is watching. And, I'm constantly refilling my coffee cup to the point the caffeine no longer keeps me from falling asleep. Although, I know it's preventing me from getting the best sleep possible.

Forget about exercise. I started the winter thinking we would cross country ski and sled and build snowmen. But, when the little bit of snow we had came, I just hunkered down inside. Not only am I suffering from this, but so is the boy. He needs outdoor time and exercise more than anyone, and it's up to me to make sure he gets it.

Yesterday, we went for a family walk. It was that first beautiful March day. The kind of day when just because it is warmer than 40 and the sun is shining, people in the north country think shorts and tank tops are appropriate attire. We went to Hudson Pointe along with river in Queensbury.

It's not a long walk, and it felt great to be out. Hubby and I both felt great to be walking. Along with the dog, our legs were itchy to move briskly. Sadly, our out-of-exercise little boy was dragging his feet and asking to be carried. This is not the boy I know from the summer and fall. It may partly have to do with wearing snow boats instead of comfortable sneakers, but still ... I've got to get this boy moving.

I've got to get this mama moving. And, the papa -- he wants to move more too.

And, I've got to cut the junk food.

It starts today!!!

Bear and I will be getting outdoor exercise time EVERY day. Dan will join us when he can. Starting today, daily exercise for Bear and me will get the same priority status as getting dressed. I don't have an exact plan for the eating, but there won't be anymore ice cream for lunch and a much bigger focus on healthy snacks.

Here we go ...