23 June 2014

Girlish prose

....when the goldfish hear the vibration of the boat they come swimming up to see what is going on. I thought it was amazing. They swim up and over each other like weaving a basket out of wriggling fish.
By my Anna, aged 7.

She was writing about a boat trip we did with her class along the Waikato River. We didn't see the fish, but the man doing the commentary told us of their curiosity. His commentary was particularly lame, I had callously thought at the time. He certainly didn't mention anything about the fishes' approach being like weaving a basket, and that is what amazes me - how does the mind of a child, born only 7 1/2 years ago, create that?

That's the thing about being a parent. There is a wondrous thing happening in your life, all the time, as the baby unfolds into an adult.

It's unfortunate that because it's happening all the time, it's hard to constantly hold on to the wonder. Our children have just brought home their 'learning journal' from school, which the teachers put together with samples of their writing, drawing, maths etc.Their stories are my favourite thing, and they always inspire my wonder.

I think we have to try, try and try again to notice the wonder of it all as it's happening, and not just in retrospect, when it becomes just a wonderful memory.

17 June 2014

Dig up the lawn

Two or three years ago my husband decided we needed more room to grow potatoes, so he dug this big strip in the back lawn.

I didn't mind too much, although I keep thinking it should have some kind of edging. But now I love it! Ah, what food it gives us. Without it we wouldn't have enough garden to grow what we want. This backyard is our pantry, our medicine cupboard (I haven't had a cold for a year) and our playground. (Not the children's playground. They spend MUCH more time in the front garden which can only grow what will withstand being battered by powerful soccer ball kicks.)

Some people don't bother with a winter vegetable garden, but we get so much out of it. I've been hardly having to buy greens at all. Lunch is an omlette with stir fried kale, spinach or silverbeet, or a salad with feta plus toast and honey. Or soup - such a highlight on cold grey days - with root vegetables that are not from our garden. I'll try to remedy that next year.

Dinner greens are usually either broccoli, stir-fried kale with olive oil and garlic, or a salad. These days the children eat all three, albeit reluctantly. Actually they both like boiled frozen peas, so sometimes we have those too. My least favourite.

Broccoli, kale, wild lettuces and wild parsnips.
To the left you can see shallots poking
their heads through the leaf mulch.
A dinner staple.

There are always salad leaves for sandwiches. I got a bit paranoid that the greens I'd sown wouldn't grow big enough before it got cold. So I used a polystyrene container cast off by a fruit shop years ago (I asked), filled it with compost and potting mix and planted a supermarket punnet of fancy lettuces.

It lives on our sunny, sheltered front porch. But I haven't had to use them. I'm addicted to the strong, spicy and slightly bitter taste of our backyard salad leaves - mizuna (green and red), rocket and mustard. They are fabulous with red onion, red capsicum (which I get from our local Farmer's Market - sadly the capsicum people are about to have a couple of months break), cow's feta and an oil/vinegar dressing.

 What else is in this mid-winter garden of ours?

Sprouting broccoli, mustard, self-seeded lettuce and celery.
Broccoli, twelve mini cauliflower plants (woops) and broad beans.
The broad bean garden above has been 'double dug'. It's my experiment with this method, which is key to biointensive gardening, that I've just finished reading a book about. Basically you dig the soil very deep - moving over the top 30 cm so as not to disturb the soil structure, and forking the 30 cm below it. I went nowhere near that deep. The idea is that the soil thrives on the air this process introduces. We'll see.

The other key idea is planting your vegetables close, and not in rows. I already do that.

I'm loving kale. I've grown two types: cavolo nero and a curly kale. I prefer the cavolo nero, but the other's good too.

Cavolo nero

Curly kale
And Kings Seeds' new type of rocket, Rocket Runway, has been a hit - it's milder than the standard type and thriving in our garden.
Rocket Runway

It's time, too, to be thinking ahead to spring. These are little alyssum seedlings. Those tiny-flowered plants remind me strongly of older ladies - I can't help but think of them flowering in our neighbour's garden as I grew up. Turns out they are a good host for an insect that eats the dreaded whitefly, which attacks our citrus plants. I've planted some in the garden, and this collection in a pot.

Is your winter garden giving you any treasures?

Are you tempted to dig up some of your lawn? Ian swears that once the children leave home the front lawn is going to be a giant potato patch. After tasting pink fir potatoes from the Farmer's Market last year, I think he might be right. They make unbelievable potato salads. There are some amazing potatoes out there that you'll never find at a shop. Hence the lawn....

4 June 2014

My boy is like a caged bird

Jack, aged 10, is away at camp this week. It's his first extended stay away from us, and we don't like it! We miss him.

His distance has brought some things into focus. So soon he'll be a teenager - what do we want to do with these next short years? How do we want to live them with him?

Ten years ago there never was a brighter, more sociable, curious baby, who learnt everything with dazzling speed. That brightness is still there, but everyday things - a tractor, a cemetery, visitors to our house - no longer hold a trace of their past enchantment to him. Of course.

Now he seems like a caged bird, hungry for more. Go wider, we say! Roam the streets, explore the local park with your mates, come to the museum, learn about space, do woodworking.... but the only world he wants to escape to is the virtual world. It is so enticing, so compelling.

We have no television, but that makes little difference when there's an ipad (we won it) and a computer. We limit his computer time, which is what creates the bars of the cage, and is a constant source of friction.

His friends are the same, it seems to me, except their screen time is longer. Their physical activity is organised sports, or practicing for them. What happened to climbing trees and going for bike rides?

What will this do to our children?
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