How Does Your Garden Grow?


Down with the groundhog I say!

Today is the first day of Spring and up here in the Northeast there is no sign of it… anywhere!  Instead, Mother Winter continues to drop snowflake upon snowflake.  If I’m not mistaken Punxsutawney Phil did say, “And so ye faithful, there is no shadow to see, an early Spring for you and me.”  You were surely mistaken… you… you… you rodent!

Okay, so let’s just pretend Spring is upon us.  We can now start planning and planting seeds for the garden!

In the past our homestead has done a combination of starting seeds indoors and directly planting in the ground from plants purchased at our local garden store.  This year we’re taking a bigger step and starting all of our seeds indoors using grow lights.  It’s probably a good idea we’re doing this since warmer weather is no where in sight.

My favorite part of garden planning is deciding what to grow.  We always do the standard… tomatoes, peppers, radishes, beans, peas, beets, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, carrots.  We take a further step and also grow potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, kale, swiss chard, pie pumpkins and edamame (soybeans).  In addition, I always like to pick a couple of ‘testers’ crops.  Two years ago I tried okra and got three.  I consider that a success since the okra was forced to grow up here in Maine.  Last year I took a stab at a few artichokes.  No luck.  However, I hear artichokes are perennials, but also hear they can’t survive winter.  We shall see what happens.   I also have tried bok choy, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and hot peppers.

This year I’ve decided on three ‘testers’… sweet potatoes, peanuts and banana peppers.  It is always fun to try out something new in the garden.  Who says you must stick to standard crops you find in the grocery store?  Even if you don’t know what kohlrabi is, or have no idea what to do with bok choy, watching them grow is almost as enjoyable as cooking and eating it.  You can always give them to your neighbor.  Or, better yet, you might find a recipe and a new found love!

If you’re not quite ready to try an unusual crop consider the commonly grown vegetables that come in an array of colors and varieties that you can’t find in the store.  How cool is it to pull up purple carrots?  Blue potatoes?  Zebra tomatoes?

Carpe diem fellow gardeners!  Carpe diem!

Will Isbell Carrots-closeup-thumb-500x375-1404



This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.



Food for Thought…


Yes, I can see it now.  My husband will be standing in front of me waiting for that huge pat on the shoulder.  I would say belly rub, but he gets very sensitive about me using that term.  Not sure if it’s because of the dog reference or because his belly is fully large enough for a good rub.  Anyway, I digress…

This past week my husband was able to make a quick trip home for a few days before heading back out to sea on another ever-so adventurous trip patrolling our waters.  Every time my husband returns home he has a ritual.  He denies it, but this absolutely happens:

  1. As we pull in to the drive way he is in immediate bliss at finally being home, much like being at peace.
  2. He inspects the bird feeders, which are never full when he returns.
  3. He makes his round inside the house, ensuring all is safe and that no major work is required during his stay.
  4. He looks out the window, checking out the bird feeders again.  He will mention that he must make a trip to the local feed store – this happens within 15 minutes of being home.
  5. As I am known to keep our kitchen counter full of clutter during his time away, he’ll make note to clean it up.  This, in my opinion, is pointless.  I can guarantee you I’ll be back to stacking up the mail, keeping the kids Ovaltine, and any other non-perishable food item at arms length.  He fails to see that a trip down to the basement is like taking a trip across town… I won’t do it unless I absolutely have to.
  6. My husband will say, “Did you feed the birds while I’ve been gone?”  My standard response is always, “No.  They’re fine”
  7. His mind is now turning, almost panic stricken.  Finally he says, “I’ve got to feed the birds.”
  8. Forget bringing in his sea bag full of dirty laundry.  Forget taking a nice hot shower after days on end in a steel box.  Forget sitting down and just relaxing for a change.
  9. Darling husband is out the door to save his wild birds from absolute despair… he is headed to the feed store.
  10. A half hour later a 50-lb bag of sunflower seed sits in the back of his truck… along with some suet and corn for the squirrels .

Did you notice the common theme of the list above?  It’s all about the birds.

During his recent trip back home I nagged him about this ritual.  After a few minutes of vehemently denying that steps 1 – 10 actually occur, he finally caved.  Once he acknowledged his ritual, he proceeded to tell me how important it was to feed the birds.  As he rambled on and on I looked out the window, I thought to myself, “what is it about those darn birds?”  I’ll tell you what it is…

Wild birds are an integral part of the ecosystem and serve many important purposes.  Here are some of them:

  • Insect and rodent population control
  • Distribution of seeds that leads to forest conservation
  • Food sources for bird predators (I’m not too keen on this thought, but that is the natural cycle of life)

Birds are one of the most populous life forms on the planet, and that biodiversity leads to a richness of life and beauty. The incredible numbers of bird species demonstrate amazing evolutionary adaptations, even back to the early dinosaur days. And although I am not an avid bird watcher they teach us how to adapt throughout the world.  And this, in turn, can teach us how we can begin to adapt our own behaviors to live in our world, rather than to force our world into an artificial and unsustainable mold.

When we first moved in to our home not a single bird visited us.  It was a shame, especially since we are surrounded by trees and have an excellent location for birds to come and visit.  My husband kindly reminds me of this at least once a month.  Since the day we moved here my husband has loyally kept the birds fed.  And if a storm is approaching you can be sure those birds have a stockpile of seed outside for them to bring home.

Throughout the years I’ve seen many different birds visit our home.  From pesky blue jays, chickadees, wood peckers, morning doves, cardinals, orioles, finches, rose breasted grosbeaks, brown creepers, hummingbirds, hawks, owls, and even the simple sparrow.  And my most favorite of them all…  the pileated woodpecker.

It’s early morning, and the sun just came up.  My husband has been gone for a couple days now, but the feeders are still full.  I figure in another week when I look outside the feeders will be empty.  It will be at that moment when I will finally cave in and make that trek to the feed store.

I can hear the birds singing already.


Summer Camp lesson…

This year I sent my children to a real outdoor summer camp.  No overnights – they’re not quite ready for that just yet… or maybe I’m just not ready to let them go.  I spent last winter diligently researching summer camps.  Once my selection was made I saved every nickel and dime I could to ensure their summer would be a blast.

Summer camp is suppose to be a young person’s first true taste of independence and personal responsibility, putting to test the social and problem-solving skills he or she has been taught at home and at school.

I chose a camp circiculum that would benefit each of my children, giving them exposure to outdoor adventure, team building exercises, personal development, arts and crafts, not to mention a whole bunch of swimming.  Their summer camp offers physical challenges, providing them with an environment in which their problem-solving and teamwork skills are truly put to the test. So, for them, what comes across as merely a fun, physical challenge is in fact a test offering valuable life skills, providing them with leadership and teamwork skills that will help in any social or work environment.

My kiddos come home everyday talking about all their activities.  What’s even more exciting is that they are doing activities like archery, harvesting their own garden, learning to make a living structure in the woods, what to do if your kayak flips over, visiting the horses in the barn, hiking, ropes, obsatcle course, and playing all the old traditional camp games and singing songs.   They are all designed to teach the three P’s – Patience, Persistence and Perseverance.

Mom’s and Dad’s don’t take it personally – when you go to pick up your children from summer camp, they may prefer to stick around and enjoy the company of their peers. I learned that my first week.  The kids did not want me picking them up until closing circle was done.  Oh, and yes, I can never be late for opening circle in the morning either.  And Friday’s are the most sacred… it’s awards day.  Every kid at the camp prays that their name is called for a special award.  I think summer camp is synonymous with the personal maturation process, and allowing our children to see that life can be a blast, even when presented with many challenges. Perhaps the greatest benefit of sending my children to summer camp has to do with me letting my children begin to enjoy more of their freedom.

In the end, summer camp was not only an experience for my children, but for myself as well.  I felt that I have let of part of my children go… not in a bad way, but in a way that allowed them to grow up and become the wonderful human beings they are.  And because of that I grew up a little myself.

I’m already looking forward to next summer!