Saturday, April 25, 2009

Garden Roll Call

Here's the current status of our garden. Yes, we've got lots of plants, but no, we're not eating 100% of our own food yet. Our yard is becoming increasingly edible and the kids munch on it while they play. Our salads these days are to die for, and there's so much more on the horizon... should be a yummy Summer.

Aside from the spearmint which grows around our hose spigot,

the lavender, which is in full bloom throughout our yard,

and the dill and watercress, which likes the more shaded, wet fence line (both seeded together about three weeks ago),
we've got the perennial herbs together in one bed:

the chocolate mint (the kids' favorite)

the sage (hard to believe this was in a little plastic cup about 3" x 3" last Spring!)

the thyme (hasn't grown much in a year, but has stuck around)

lemongrass (new this year, dug up from Kenny's garden)

oregano (been here since Grandma shared some from her yard last Spring)

rosemary (4 plants, all planted last fall. I'd tried rosemary in the past a couple of times and killed my plants. Perhaps the fall timing was key?! Who knows!)

fennel (2 plants, just planted about 2 weeks ago, already larger!)

We also have chives seeded between two rosemary bushes, near the fennel, but they've not yet sprouted. And then there's the garden proper, which contains:

broccoli (2 rows, about 10 feet long each)

peppers (varieties include: pimento, thai dragon, espinoza, jalapeno, serrano, ancho-- a total of 8-9 plants, planted three weeks ago through yesterday)

squash (varieties include: sunny delight scallop and salmon, about 6 plants)

pickling cucumbers (about 4 plants)

peas (2 rows of snow, and 1 of sugar snaps)

carrots (nantes variety, 2 rows)

beets (ruby red variety, 5 rows-- anyone want beets?)

lettuces (mixed varieties)
About half of our lettuce made it all year, but in the gaps we seeded more a few weeks ago.
tomatoes (about 20 plants, 4 varieties... should have enough to share, no? some planted about a month ago;

the last few were added yesterday)

and artichokes. We'd had these 2 plants since last Spring, but not until last week did one bloom. Can't wait to eat some home-grown artichoke!

And then over on the west end of our yard, beneath the hammock, we've got pumpkins sprouting (Jack O'Lantern variety, three plants going). Hopefully we'll get to carve our own this year!

Next on the garden to-do is the melon bed, which we'll probably plant in about two or three weeks. Also, we're going to need to string some twine in the next week or so to support our growing peas, and put up a lattice structure (or something like that) to train our squash and cucumbers to grow vertically to save space. We also plan to add hay over the soil to help keep moisture in as the temperatures rise.

This is only our second year attempting a garden, but we learned a lot in our first year and we're hopeful to have more crop than our last harvest. We also consulted our good friend, Kenny, who helped us prep our beds, placed a seed order with us, shared seeds, and even started some of our seeds for us. His encouragement and advice is invaluable to us newbies. A big, fat THANK YOU to Kenny!

We'll check back in a few weeks so you can (hopefully) see the progress!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Homage to Our Public Library

Since we've been weekly library-goers for about 3 years now, we remember the less attractive days, when the walls looked decidedly seventies and the carpets were dingy. The Children's section was tucked back in a corner of the open floor, and the tweedy, textured wallpaper darkened the space. But the decor didn't bother me. It was nostalgic for me to attend Storytime with little Harper in the place that matched my memories, and where damp, book glue smells brought me back to when I was just beginning to read. I thought this reminiscent experience couldn't be topped, but the remodel completed last year has made our time there all the better. We love our library!

The ambiance is beautiful, fresh, and bright. The Children's Library has its own wing, and the decor is tasteful and calm. It's like a library out of the movies or something.

Here's Jack climbing on the padded "books" in the little kids' section.

But the best part of our Wednesdays at the library is the people who run the show, Miss Valerie, Miss Lisa, and Pierre. Here they are singing the greeting song, "I have a friend, the very best, and we read books together. You are my best friend. You are my best friend. You are my best friend, and we read books together."

Pierre is a volunteer for our library. It is clear he loves to read for the kids because he puts on different voices and really engages the audience. He frequently pauses the story to ask the kids to predict what will happen next. When they know, he always asks, "Have you read this before?" with a bewildered look on his face. Never seen without the Seuss hat, Pierre is an animated reader who keeps the kids' attention.

Miss Valerie leads the show. She chooses the theme for the week, finds stories and songs that dovetail and reinforce the concepts, and keeps everyone entertained. But perhaps most important, she loves my kids. She is so good to them, always friendly and cheerful, always glad to see us. She gave Harper and Jack each a Baskin Robbins gift certificate at the holidays. She has given us countless lollipops, spent silly shakers, special nods and smiles when she sees us arive, and book recommendations. She's also given us CDs of great kids' music, and a soundtrack for this time in our lives: how could we do these young years with out "Shake Your Sillies out?" or "I Know a Chicken?" or "The Noble Duke of Books..." and so many others? She's got a talent for her job and it's so nice to reap the benefit of that.

Miss Lisa joined Miss Valerie about a year ago and she instantly fit. Always kind and sweet to my kids, she has helped us search for the right book to fulfill my children's latest curiosities. She is quick to laugh and very animated when leading a song, acting out a rhyme, or reading a story. She ooo's and aaaah's over Harper and Jack's artwork. She receives my kids lovingly; she makes us feel welcome and encouraged.

We almost always run into buddies there, too. Here's a happy Miles, Isaiah, and Harper shaking their sillies out.

"Shake Your Sillies Out" is basically the library kids' anthem.

And here's Harper greeting Jovial another week.
Speaking of buddies, we usually attend the library with Grandma or Grandpa Paul and Grammer Lynda. It is such a help for me to have a grandparent with me-- to keep an eye on the kids, the purse, the book bag, to return the super heavy bag of (usually about 30) books, to search out and find new books for the next week. Gotta keep our "library shelf" stocked each week with new treasures!

Harper loves it when she's gets called upon to have a starring role in the song or activity. Here she is holding up her pig proudly for the "Old MacDonald" song.

And here she is with another fun prop.

Hmmm... I wonder if this is enjoyable?
Look at this rapt crowd of preschoolers!

It's not unusual for this girl to be so excited about a new book that she begins reading her stack before we've even left the building. Here she is reading a book about princesses, one of her favorite topics, on our way out to the car. (By the way, she continued to read this book all the way home, and during our picnic lunch in the backyard, finishing the 127 page book in just a couple hours.)

And here's another program we love: Elf Club. Elf stands for Early Literacy for Families. It's a grant-funded program designed to promote early literacy activities and model for parents how to engage their children with books. Once a month, on a Friday morning, we go over to the literacy center for more fun: books, songs, a craft, a snack, and a free hardback book based on the month's theme.

Here's Harper helping to tidy up so we can begin the story.
Here she is raising her hand to answer a question. That week, the reader asked the class (probably intending for the question to be rhetorical) if anyone knew what a buttercup was. Harper said, "Yes-- a flower!" much to the crowd's surprise. That's my smartie!
We loved this month's book choice-- a rhyming book about a much beloved topic.

The craft always connects with the book. Here's Jack gluing his kitten together before coloring it.
And here is what Harper looks like basically the whole time we're there.

My kids feel at home in this special place and I am so grateful that during my years at home with my young children, we have a weekly routine of going here. We have arranged our kids' preschool hours to avoid library programs-- leaving Wednesdays and Fridays free for the library. It's important for us to be there. And why wouldn't it be? We read books, sing songs, play, color, learn rhymes, hug buddies, and smile a lot at our library. And we take some of that home with us for the remainder of the week as well.

Thank you, library!