Childhood in the Garden

Last weekend I helped my mom transplant several rose bushes, butterfly plants, and bulbs around her property. The soil on my palms, the sweat on my body, even the blister below my wedding ring felt wholesome and reviving. It was a joy to allow my daughter to toddle through the flowers and inspect the kale and herbs, and it boosted my confidence– and my excitement– for the coming year in which I’ll be nurturing a vegetable garden and a child together.

Something about gardening evokes the curiosity of youth. You have to look closely, know the wild plants, the bugs, the root systems beneath the soil. I joined my daughter as she sat contentedly among the bright yellow sour grass. Just as I had done when I was young, and I could not resist doing alongside her today, she munched the succulent stems, and puckered and grinned.

Without thinking, the tart flavor still on my tongue, I lifted a nearby tile to discover what wild critters night be hiding. Salamanders? Potato bugs? Earthworms?

Gardening, particularly youth in the garden, feeds the inquisitive wonder of childhood for a lifetime. As delicious and healthful as homegrown fruit and vegetables may be, and as gratifying the harvest, this is one of the garden’s most powerful values and why I want my child to grow among the vines and leaves, with dirt under her nails and fresh air in her lungs.

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Waning Winter

The first of the buds opened in January. Like a kaleidoscope of butterflies clinging to the silvery bare branch of the almond and plum trees, the blossoms arrived as a harbinger of the imminent spring.

It’s been warm here– unseasonably warm. Alarmingly warm. But at times, in the evenings while my husband throws the ball for the dogs and my daughter and I forage for salad greens, it’s hard not to enjoy.

On February 14th, a regular Saturday for us, we drove out to the local winery adjacent to a sprawling almond orchard, just for fun. Sipping glasses of pinot while our daughter toddled across the bare dirt, we walked out beneath the bejeweled branches. With each tiny wisp of breeze, showers of snowy petals rained down over us.

I was especially grateful that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because that afternoon became, with no expectation or urging, a celebration not of a calendar holiday but rather of a unique landscape and a season of our lives. February won’t look quite like this next year, but I know it too will be breathtaking in its own way.

With a Toddler’s Help

Yesterday my daughter and I went out to gather greens for salad and a spicy sauté. As I carefully selected leaves of mustard, dandelion, shepherd’s purse, mallow, nettle, chickweed and dock, Suzanna eagerly grabbed handfuls of grass and mixed greens and flung them into my basket, looking pleased to help. Her enthusiasm made any annoyance impossible.

In an “ah-ha” moment (or perhaps a “well, duh” moment), we returned to the kitchen to get a second basket for her own gathering.

Time and advancing communication and physical skills have made life much easier and more fun as she’s grown, and I’m gaining confidence about managing a garden, livestock, cooking and the rest with a toddler at my side (or more likely, racing off into the distance).

I find great comfort and inspiration reading the stories and seeing the accomplishments of homesteaders with young children, mamas who wear the tiniest ones through daily chores and let their toddlers go ahead and get dirty. I love knowing that so many others manage to accomplish so much while providing their kids with such incomparable experiences, skills and joys.

Nourishing curiosity, compassion, and good health are really what it’s all about.

The Lyra Hat

I’ve knitted several of these hats, inspired by The Golden Compass, from infant-size to adult. They’re simple, whimsical and warm. I made this one with the handiest yarn, which turned out to be nearly the same color as the last hat I made. Fortunately, the color suits my slightly red-headed daughter well.

Staying Warm

As we listened to stories of kayakers in Healdsburg’s parking lots and highway closures in San Francisco, as my mom complained that she thought her windows might shatter behind the wind and rain in Sonoma County, and as local people scrambled in the path of the anticipated “megastorm,” we went to bed last night under a gentle drizzle.

We had prepared to cook by candlelight, perhaps in the fireplace with the Dutch oven. We’d gathered flashlights and moved the penned goat to a stall in the barn. And when it appeared nothing would materialize, we were disappointed if not surprised.

In a place, and a time, where even clouds are a rarity, I’ve come to use my imagination to enjoy a cozy winter hunkering-down. Even on warm days if the clouds roll in I turn on lamps and keep a pot of chili or stew simmering on the stove. Just to enjoy the feeling of warmth, of desiring warmth.

So yesterday, excited but skeptical, I bundled up and donned a hat and scarf for my drive to work.

My drawer of handmade winter accessories have hardly been touched since we left Oregon and I miss them. Making new ones was my way of welcoming the fall. I’ve kept my husband and me in more hats than there are chilly days for, and my daughter’s supply is growing. Soon enough, they’ll once again be essential.

This morning at 4:30 I got up to make coffee and noticed lights glimmering off the front field as if it were a lake.

It’s still too dark to tell the extent of the flooding, but on the flat, drought-hardened valley floor, rain backs up quickly. The old, old house groans overhead, and I’m enormously grateful that we managed to remove the dead trees from our backyard earlier in the week. Today will be a first, and likely a last before we leave the Valley for good.