Jul 182012

It feels like slow week in the realm of gardening here at my place.

  • We got rain! A lot of it. That meant no need for daily watering.  There is even a chance for storms again tonight.  Though I would prefer a light rain every morning, I will take what I can get right now.  We even have some green in our grass.  Hard to believe, but it is true.
  • Nothing is ready to pick yet from my garden, though there are herbs ready if I need them.  The cucumbers are covered in blooms, just no cucumbers yet.
  • The stand has had pretty steady business.  That is good as I get tired of putting out and bringing in the same items day after day.  Surprisingly, to me at least, zucchini has been a big hit these past two weeks.
  • And I am choosing to ignore the big weed flower bed in my front yard.  I need to go through and take out what I want to keep, pot those plants up for next spring and then do something about the weeds.  That is for another day week, though, so I’m choosing to ignore it right now.

So, what have I been up to?

  • Slowly working my way through the video here.  I had some thoughts on it as I was watching it.  More to come on that later.
  • Slowly reading through Since Silent Spring by Frank Graham
  • Slowly trying to figure out the new theme that you see.  Not everything is how I want it, but I’m learning a little at a time.
  • (Have you picked up on the ‘Slowly’ theme so far?  I find that though I can read or watch something quickly, that doesn’t mean I comprehend it.  I’m intentionally trying to go through the movies and book at a slow speed.  Firstly, because of comprehension and secondly, because there are really other things I want to get done this week.)
  • Cleaned out my fridge.  Feels so good to open it now.  Cleaning is something I find takes my mind off things I don’t want to think about.  Times when I am frustrated, sad, overwhelmed, etc.  For some reason, focusing on cleaning an area or a particular items makes me feel better.  That is why the fridge finally got emptied out and cleaned on a whim.  This is one thing I like knowing about myself because it is a non-chocolate, non-coffee way to make myself feel better … and something actually gets done.
  • Cleared off my kitchen counter and realized how much more that makes me feel calm.  Love the lack of clutter.  Now for the rest of the room …
  • Gather up the last of several items to take for the teen garage sale this weekend.  My plan is to get the car loaded, during nap time, and drive them over this afternoon.
  • Looking at the bird nesting in the Begonia hanging from my front porch. (Not the one shown above, though they are about the same size.)  It was the source of an afternoon of birdwatching with some toddlers.  It was not only their first introduction to ornithology, but also to a bird identification book.  The bird is a female who has a nest with several eggs in it.  We watched as she would fly close by, then leave, only to fly close by again.  I pointed out that she wanted to come back to her nest, why that was, and why she wasn’t doing so.  Finally, we went inside and watched as she flew to her nest.  We then spent a while looking through a bird ID book with me pointing out several different features (maps, pictures of both male and female, etc.)  Being that this is the book I used in college, it isn’t exactly kid friendly.  They did enjoy the pictures though.  I’m hoping to instill a love, or at least an appreciaition, for nature by starting them young.  I have no expectations of molding them into leading ornithologists or conservationists or biologists or naturalist or hydrologists or what ever other -ist you choose to think of.  I just hope for them to have an appreciation for nature and at least a basic understanding of it.
  • And lastly, I’ve been realizing exactly how much I am away from home.  It really doesn’t seem like it to me, but when the first thing I’m asked in the mornings is, “Where are we going today?”, well, that is a big clue that perhaps we are gone more often than needed.

Here is an update on the television issue we had last week.  I am being more proactive of the amount of television taking place in our house, durring the day especially.  My goal is for zero, zilch, nada to happen.  This accomplishes several goals:

  1.  More imaginative playing
  2. Better attitudes
  3. Less energy being used; the wattage kind, not the caloric kind.  Something I’ve very happy about during these warmer months

Today, I agreed to ONE, half hour epsidose of a non-cartoon television show, but turned off the television afterwards.  This was followed by about one hour of “I don’t want to….”, stomping feet, whining and uncoroperative behavior by one child. They were the lucky winner of In-The-Same-Room-As-Me time.  After that hour, you could hear the kids playing nicely together, using their imaginations and toys to mimic the road construction that is taking place right outside our house.  This was the same construction that we went outside to watch before watching the half hour of television.  The more I am running this little experiement, the more I am convinced that for this particular child, any television is a bad thing right now.  Not sure why this reaction is happening now, in this child, even though they are well rested and have a lot of other physical activites going on.  I have my suspicions, but it is something I will never be able to prove one way or the other.

Mar 292012

We were outside today playing, enjoying the sunshine.  There was a lull in the activity, so I took the opportunity to point out that the tree above us was beginning to have leaves.  “Soon, you won’t be able to see the sky through the limbs because there will be so many leaves.”  We talked a bit more about how trees go from having no leaves, to having little ones, then larger leaves.  Then fall comes, the leaves change color and drop.  Not really an in-depth conversation.  Nothing was said about the chemicals released by the tree for such processes to happen, nor about the mechanics of how it works.  Just that it happens.

One of the kids was sitting on a stump.

“Did you know, the stump you are sitting on … (hm, they may not know what ‘stump’ means) well, what you are sitting on is called a stump.  It used to be a tree.”


Of course.  The ever present, “Why?”

“It was leaning towards the house, so we had it taken down when they were removing a few other trees.  Do you want to see another stump?”

And so ensued the lesson on stumps.  The second stump we looked at was much more interesting.  It was from a tree that was dead and didn’t know it.  Yes, that was my official diagnosis.  Very technical wasn’t it.  Anyway, due to the state of the tree before it was removed this stump was much more decomposed than the original stump.  I pointed out how the bark breaks down and makes dirt.  Hands on learning ensued.

“Insects break it down and soon it will be all gone.”  I started to pull up bits of the stump, amazed at how loose and easy they were.  One of the pieces produced a surprise.  A slug.  Now, as a gardener I am not normally happy to see slugs.  However, with boys sitting beside me I was happy to find a slug.

“Can I touch?”

Now, I wish I could say that I was more than eager to engage in hand-on learning immediately in this situation, but I replied without thinking.  “No.”


Hmmm.  I had to stop and think.  Why is it that I said, “no”?  Why couldn’t they touch it?  Was I worried about them hurting the slug?  Was I worried that they would get sick from something on the slug when they then stuck their fingers in their mouths?  Did I just think the thought of touching it myself was icky?

So I amended my reply.  “Yes, you can touch it, but be careful.  The slug is not happy that we disturbed it.”

Now came an interesting realization.  One that I had witnessed before, but in a different situation.  Older Boy didn’t want to touch it, but encouraged Younger Boy to do so.  I think I see which might be the one more likely to have a bug collection.

After showing them that it had no feet, we put it back under the piece of wood that had come from.  Continuing with my curiosity, I pulled up another large chunk and found yet another slug.  It too was shown.  Again, Older Boy wanted nothing to do with touching it, but Younger Boy did.  Now, wait here guys.  I’m the girl.  Isn’t it supposed to be ME that doesn’t want to touch the slimy, squishy slug?  I think we will have to work on this a bit.

They were done with the second stump and were requesting more.  So on to a third.  Now, this was turning into quite the lesson on stumps.  So far the two we have seen have been very different.  #1 was from a healthy maple tree (Acer spp.) and barely broken down.  Some fungus had started to grow on the bark of the stump, but otherwise it was in great shape.  #2 had great soil in the middle of the stump and is deteriorated enough that I could pull it up by hand.

Well, stump #3 was from a buckeye tree (Aesculus glabra).  This stump has been prolific with stump sprouts. I have cut and sprayed to no avail.  That was okay today as it provided a lesson in buds and leaves.  I showed them a bud that had yet to open, one that had opened but the leaves were still curled tight, and other where the leaves had fully unfurled.  Of course, lots of touching and “ooh, aah” went on.  But first, we looked in the middle under dead leaves that had become trapped there.

We found a worm under the leaves, which I picked up on the request of Older Boy, who then would not touch it.  Younger Boy was eager to touch and did so gently. We then looked at the soil under the leaves.  I had intended to show how the leaves were breaking down and so on.  What I realized when I picked up some of the soil was that it was actually mostly worm castings.  This little guy in my hand had been busy breaking down those leaves.  So, we put him back so he could “do his job”.

So three very different stumps and experiences.  Surely they are good with the stumps we have found.  But, oh no.  They want more.  Well, our yard didn’t have any more, but the neighbor’s did.  It is right on the line between our yards, so it wasn’t like we were traipsing through their yard.  Stump #4 was even more different.  It was the oldest of the stumps, though it too was from a buckeye tree.  It was a gnarled outline of where a small tree used to be.  Perhaps about 6 inches in diameter. The center was completely full of dirt, there was no bark to be seen, and it was barely 1/4 of an inch in width around the ‘circle’ that was there.  Yet, there was a bud sprouting out of the base.  That is the only way I knew what kind of tree this had been.  That fact was mentioned, then all interest in this unique stump was gone.  However, I’m glad we took a closer look as I had noticed this stump several times and always wondered a bit about it.  Now at least I know what kind of tree it had been and that it had been a tree.

I was out of stumps to look for in the yard, so “stump” #5 was actually a hole in the ground where a stump used to be.  Not really exciting, but perhaps a good point to show that stumps are not always there.

So ended our study of stumps around our yard.  I now have a new appreciation for stumps.  Honestly, I had never really given them much though or taken a close look at what makes them different or the same.

How about you?  Ever taken a look at a stump?  Do you have a favorite?