2016 Family Garden Kickoff

It took awhile but we finally got our garden in the ground! Between our busy schedules and wet weekends I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to happen.

To be honest, I thought about skipping it this year when I realized how much work it was going to take to get it ready. We never cleared it off last Fall and let the weeds take over this Spring.

It’s a little embarrassing but here’s what it looked like when my youngest and I started in on it this past Saturday.

Garden overgrown with weeds

Like most things getting started was the hardest part. Once our hands were dirty and the sweat was flowing it really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was actually kind of fun.

Girl weeding a garden

We made short work of the dead growth and waist high weeds. I raked it off showing a blank dirt patch.  Then it was time to loosen the soil by turning it over.

It’s a hard, physically demanding job doing it by hand instead of using a tiller but I kept telling myself, and my daughter, that it’ll make us really appreciate the produce our garden will yield this Summer.

You can read more about this stage of our garden process here and the lessons I learned during it.

Garden dirt turned over

Four hours after we started the garden had been cleared, raked, turned over, raked again, and was ready for planting. The garden was ready but my daughter and I where not.  We were beat and didn’t have any seeds or plants.

Rest and a plan were needed. We talked about what we wanted to include in our garden and decided to get it all the next day.

Armed with our list we headed to the store on Sunday. We brought my oldest along because she had plans for an herb garden this Summer. That will be her project and I’m guessing she’ll be guest blogging about it in the future.

While we were there I also got a forgotten part I needed for my rain barrel water collection system I’ve been working on. There are still a few things I want to tweak on them before doing a full write-up about them here on my blog. Here is what one of the two barrels looks like so far.

Rain barrel water collection system

Armed with a bunch of seeds and plants we headed home and got to work. The first thing we did was map out where we thought things should go. Then we put everything in the ground.

There is something really satisfying about planting a garden… especially after working so hard to get it ready.

So, what did we plant? Here’s the rundown:

Our 2016 Family Garden

1 or 2 jalapeño peppers – One of the plants when we got home had an orange bell pepper tag in it even though we grabbed it from among the jalapeños.

Orange bell pepper plant in a garden

We planted it any way. If it is an orange bell pepper it will give me an excuse to try making stuffed peppers. I do plan on picking up another jalapeño plant. I need to be sure we have enough jalapeños to make my favorite grilled jalapeño poppers.

4 beefsteak tomato plants – I like these for making BLT’s and fresh pico de gallo. I also like to have extras to give to garden-less friends.

1 grape tomato plant – I love the sweet flavor of these. They’re great in salads and for making my BLT appetizer bites.

2 long rows of stringless green beans – I could eat these raw right out of the garden but they’re also good grilled, steamed, or in salads.

2 short rows of red onions – These weren’t originally part of the plan but they had a bag of onion sets marked down to 50¢. For that price we figured it was worth a shot. Plus, it’ll go good in the previously mentioned pico.

1 trellis with sugar snap peas on both sides – Another favorite veggie that’s great raw or cooked.

2 hills of slicing cucumbers – My youngest has really taken a liking to cucumbers. She loves dipping the slices in ranch and putting some in water.

2 hills of lemon cucumbers – We got these for two reasons. The first, again my daughter loves cucumbers and lemons. Second, they looked cool on the seed package. Turns out the only resemblance to lemons is in color and size. Other than that they’re like a mild, single serve cucumber.

My daughter and I were both pretty proud of our efforts and stood there for a short time admiring our work.

2016 Family Garden

As proud as we were… we were equally frustrated to see that by Monday night a rabbit had breached our fence and chewed off one of the beefsteak tomatoes.

rabbit chewed tomato plant

Fortunately, the beefsteak tomatoes came in a six pack of plants so we had a leftover one we could immediately replace the chewed one with.

Guess I’ll need to get my pellet gun ready for bunny patrol/control.

That’s how our 2016 Family Garden has started out. I hope to share some updates as the season progresses.

Did you plant a garden this year?

Memory Monday – Salad Bars

It was a busy night for me of dropping off girls at softball practice and then rushing to get to a city meeting.  That meant I was on my own for supper after the meeting.

I decided to go the easy route and make a salad.  As I was surveying what we had in the house to add to it I remembered when I gained a love for salads.

Spinach salad with cheese and carrots

It was when I was in Middle School. Probably 6th or 7th grade.  That was the first time our family ever ate at a Bonanza Steakhouse. Even though the word “steakhouse” was in their name I don’t recall ever eating a steak there.

I was all about the all you can eat salad bar!  It was my first all you can eat experience.  You can imagine how cool the idea of unlimited food at a restaurant was to a pre-teen boy.

There was anything you could possibly want to build the perfect salad… bacon bits, hard cooked eggs, cucumber slices, peas, olives, croutons, ham chunks, and at least 6 dressings.

I took a liking to ranch.  Probably because the only dressing I remember having in our house growing up was French. (The Western Dressing brand if you want to be specific.  These days the only time I go for French or Western Dressing is on tacos! It’s awesome on tacos or taco salads).

There were a few years where our family ate the salad bar at Bonanza with some regularity.  Probably because it was the cheapest option for feeding two growing boys!

What was your first experience with an all you can eat restaurant? Did you think it was as cool as I did?

A Parenting Lesson From A Shovel

This afternoon my youngest and I spent a few hours getting our garden ready for the season.  I’ll share more on our garden soon in a future post.  In this post I’d like to share a few parenting lessons that I learned from my daughter and of all things… a shovel.

After clearing all last year’s dead foliage and an unreal amount of weeds we got it down to the dirt;  hard compacted dirt that needed to be worked.  I grabbed our potato fork and got to work digging up and turning over the soil.  It’s the same tool I’ve always used for the job.

Potato fork & shovel by garden

My daughter grabbed one of our bigger shovels and attempted to help.  It was back breaking work for me.  I can only imagine what she was thinking.  Several times she asked for my potato fork.

Several times I told her no.  After all, it was what I was using and to be honest, I didn’t really think she could offer much help. My goal was just to keep her occupied and out of my way so I could get the real work done.

I could tell she was getting frustrated and close to quitting and I was getting tired so I suggested we take a break.  I sat in the shade and checked my phone.  She kept working… but she grabbed the potato fork I had been using.

I was impressed!   She was getting some real work done with a tool more her size.  I grabbed the shovel she had been using and joined in. You know what? The shovel was actually easier for me to use.  The longer handle meant less strain on my back.

Here I thought I’d have to do it all myself but with us each with the right tools we were able to work on it together.  After that it was still hard, sweaty work but it was more fun being together and seeing the progress we were making.

The whole scene this afternoon with the shovel and potato fork taught me a few parenting lessons.

  1. If your kid wants to work do whatever you can to encourage them.
  2. There’s no one way to do something.  You should be open to trying new things and new ways.  You might stumble upon a better or easier way.
  3. Don’t underestimate the work your kids can do.  Give them a challenge and you might be pleasantly surprised.

The other thing I was reminded of today is that kids are always watching and remembering.

We had the country tunes cranked and my daughter reminded me of a song we heard last year working in the garden and a “bad Dad joke” I made about it. A year later and she still remembered!

It was in that moment I realized that the best memories don’t have to be big or grand.  They can be of ordinary everyday things… which now that I think about it… are what most of my Memory Monday posts are about.

What will I remember most about today, besides the parenting lessons my daughter and that shovel taught me?

I’ll remember two specific songs that came on that seemed appropriate for the afternoon.