Monday, August 22, 2005

Harvest Plenty

A few nights ago we enjoyed one of the bounties of our garden: corn-on-the-cob. We started this spring diligently tilling and preparing the garden to plant. Guy put in two rows of corn, planting them a week apart so we could enjoy the ripening crop over a period of time. We put in four rows of potatoes, 2 crookneck squash, and 14 tomato plants. We also planted pumpkins, starting some of them from seed indoors with the kids. We watered, weeded and hoed, involving our children in an attempt to teach them to work, and anticipated when they would enjoy the fruits of their labor.

We enjoyed those fruits the other night, and what a pathetic pile of fruit it was. You can see and count the entire crop—yes, the ENTIRE crop—of corn here. There are a few more ears still remaining on the plants that Guy thought were too small to bother picking—yes, even smaller than the ones pictured here. And the stuff we picked and ate was old. We should have “harvested” at least one week earlier, maybe two.

That’s just the corn. The tomatoes aren’t doing so hot either. We’ve eaten a whole 3 tomatoes from our garden so far this year. Hello! It’s August! Shouldn’t I have tomatoes and to spare by now? The squash has slowed down, too, which is a shame because we love squash. Sautee it in olive oil with a clove of garlic, salt and pepper….mmmm. But they’ve quit producing now. And the potatoes? Well, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? When does one harvest potatoes, anyway? Before or after first frost? I have no idea.

I know the garden needs some weeding, but still, the thing I don’t get is that I didn’t think I was a horrible gardener. I’ve had successful vegetable gardens before. I actually have quite pretty flower gardens. I pride myself in having a nice yard. Particularly when you recognize that when we moved into this house a few years ago, the yard was lawn and 2 trees. That was basically it. I think we’ve made some pretty good improvements—and we’ve done it ourselves. No landscapers for us, no-siree.

So why is my vegetable garden so lousy?

Take a peek with me over my fence at my neighbor’s garden.
It’s a beautiful veggie garden. His tomato plants are nearly 5 feet tall, and he has rows and rows of corn that look like corn is supposed to look. And this guy is 90 years old. No kidding. Last winter he broke his hip. But that didn’t stop him. No, this whole summer I’ve heard him out shuffling around in his garden, whistling and calling (“hoo hoooo!”) to his cat, Buddy. So why does my stooped-over, 90 year old man neighbor have this lush, productive garden and all I get is 12 tiny ears of sticky corn, a few squash and three pitiful little tomatoes?

The only veggies that are really doing well are the pumpkins. I love growing pumpkins. The kids love them and I love them. They’re so much fun at Halloween! But unless you are Molly-Over-Achieving-Mormon and know how to cook them down into the stuff you make pies out of (which I don’t and won’t), they are pretty much non-utilitarian. I guess I’m only good at growing aesthetic stuff. But I’m not giving up yet. I’ll re-think my garden strategies and try again next year. Maybe a sunnier spot, some mulch and turkey poop…

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Midweek Bath

This morning (Thursday) I looked at my children. Ewww. “Alright kids, time for a bath!”

“What?!? But it’s not Sunday!” they complained. And they looked at me with the pain of injustice in their eyes.

This caused me to reflect for a moment on my domestic practices this summer, particularly the ones pertaining to my children’s hygiene. I realized that this summer I’ve bathed my children about once a week, whether they needed it or not. Of course, occasionally I took them swimming during the week. This accomplished some soaking and deep cleaning. And sometimes I told them to go play in the hose, figuring they’d wash a little of something off of them while they did. But other than these occasional water activities, this summer my children’s hygiene and my attention to cleanliness (my children’s and my house’s) has been deplorable.

I remember talking with another mom last winter and I made some comment like, “Well, if I bathe my kids every other day or maybe even skip two days, I figure that’s okay. It’s not like in the summer when they play outside and get all sweaty and dirty. You just HAVE to bathe them more in the summer.” Who was that woman? Bathe them more in the summer? That’s the great thing about summer. Who cares if your kids are grimy? So what if they look like orphans? Big deal if they stay up till 10 or 11 and don’t get up till 8 or 9. Last spring when I was thinking about the upcoming summer break, I determined I was going to be so diligent and start each day with a routine involving exercise, yard work and chores, limit television time, and have organized activities to do like this or that lesson or park time. I did pretty well with the exercise and yard work, but the rest went down the tube. At first I was worried about not having my kids on a routine, and then I decided to just forget it and go with the flow. I remember that was what I liked about summer as a kid—that you could just veg and play with friends and be a bum. I don’t even know if I owned summer clothes other than my swimsuit and I just played without being “scheduled”. I caught bugs and made mud pottery I dried in the sun. I tried (unsuccessfully) weaving a basket out of long grass weeds and played in the sprinkler. I read books. And it was that sense of no urgency and total relaxation that I remember relishing. So this summer I decided I would try to embrace this and just let my kids relax.

Now don’t get me wrong. There have been things that they have to do. I try to remember to have them make their beds in the morning. They help cook and do the dishes. They help me weed the garden and water the plants. They clean toilets and sinks and my oldest (10) mows the lawn. But I’ve been a little better at just letting them play when they have their things done rather than try to fill up their time by finding more work for them to do.

But I think I can only live with this lack of structure for a while before it starts to get to me. The kids start bickering or teasing when they get bored and I heard myself just the other day telling my youngest two (ages 4 and 2) to go beat each other up in the other room instead of where I was. They did. Boy, did they. (I decided maybe I should have said something like “you need to go work it out niiiiicely.”) I’ve about reached my limit of tolerating my messy house and kids with nothing to do. I’m looking forward to the school year and it will be nice to get back to a schedule. I think I’ll even start bathing the kids more than once a week again.