Black gold

Compost.   Valuable.   Beautiful.  (And so exciting!) 

Wow.   Heart pounding.  Deep breath.   Really an amazing creature, that Mother Nature —  save the ants and maggots (or whatever those creepy wormy bug things are).   She is a beautiful woman indeed.   Gorgeous, in fact, and her talents are endless.  Yes, as you may have guessed…ta-da!…I have my FIRST batch of compost! 

I know it doesn’t look like much but photos don’t do this beauty any justice.  This stuff is incredible.  Amazing how a pile of nasty kitchen scraps can turn into this rich, luscious specimen, isn’t it?  I mean, I only started this pile last July and then, voila!  Seven short months later, I have this awesome mound of dirt to create a spring garden.   Are you serious

Oh, I’m serious all right.   Lucky for me, I live in Central Florida where Mother Nature virtually does everything without you lifting a hand!  Kinda like having an outdoor helper you don’t have to supervise, she knows where everything is, knows what to do and how to do it — AND, I might add — she does it a heck of a lot better than I could do!  I turned that pile maybe three times, just because I read somewhere that you were supposed to turn piles.   Truth is, I think this pile of mine would have turned out plenty well had I not lifted a finger (or pitch fork, as the case may be).

But it’s SO exciting.  Now I can “hill” my new potato princesses with pure homegrown compost!  And won’t they be in seventh heaven.  Once they recover from the recent dip in temperatures, that is.   After all my hard work learning to protect them from the frost, I was blindsided by the cool temperatures of late.   And to think I was under the impression potatoes were cool worthy, but frost intolerant.   Just goes to show how dangerous a little knowledge can be.   These creatures turned out to be sensitive all around! 

But I digress.  I have compost and wagons full.  With spring planting in full swing, I have also have a place to put it!  Why, my organic garden will be FULLY organic this year, from the ground up.   And what a wonderful feeling.   A real strap-on-the-boots-let’s-go-hiking kind of feeling!   One with nature, breath of fresh air… 

At this point, I am nearly sustainable.   What I grow, I eat.  What I don’t, I compost.   Does it get any better than this?  My husband might feel inclined to point out a few things that top this one, but we didn’t ask him, now did we?

No.  We most definitely did not.  So off to the garden I go, with wagon in tow and a skip to my step.   Gardening is an adventure!   And one ready to begin in earnest.  With the potatoes in, the melons are next, along with the beans and squash and tomatoes and peppers and corn and…

Whew!  Another deep breath here.   There’s a lot of work to be done and I can’t wait to get started!  My new year’s resolution to be more productive is working fine, but my waistline has been expanding and NEEDS to get busy.  Rather than waste time on my drawer full of exercise videos, I plan to lose it  — in the garden!  Nothing like a little spring tilling to get the blood flowing and the heart a pumping!  In fact, I read somewhere that gardeners tend to outrank others on the list of centenarians.  Not that I really want to live to a hundred, but it’s nice to know my hobby will sustain me if I do… 

Shoot.  I could probably turn this hobby into an exercise video, if I wanted.  Imagine for a moment…the sun is shining, the wind is dancing, the birds singing in the background.   Up, down, left, right, reach, lunge, pull, stretch.  I don’t know about you, but during some of my garden sessions I’ll be sweating and panting before all is said and done!

And this spring, I have company.  A friend of mine has decided she’s ready to “start a garden!”   Actually, a few women are ready to take the plunge.  Well raise the flag and send up the flares — yahoo –we’re going gardening!   And if any of you think you don’t have the time or the space, you need to meet this gal.  With no yard to speak of, two young boys and a career in interior decorating — she’ll have your excuses flapping in the breeze in no time!  She’s even managed to lasso her husband into the mix by enlisting his wonderfully masculine talents in the realm of construction.  He already built her this lovely cistern.

So grab a friend and JOIN US as we share the adventure!

If your man were a plant, he’d be…

Corn – Tall and slender with silken hair, this man provides well and yields a harvest of golden treasure.  While pleasing to look at, beware:  he also tends to be needy; easily blown over by the slightest of breezes—not the man for your hardier types!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Garlic – This fellow is somewhat distant, as he spends long periods of time out of sight, only to emerge when conditions improve.  Strong and distinct, he’s not for everyone, but given the right environment, he can show great depth, even mellow his pungent tone with time.  A worthy peer, indeed.

Okra – Strong, of firm build, this one likes it hot and enjoys it spicy—very at home in the Big Easy, too.  Generally speaking, he blends well with others, can plant himself anywhere, but caution:  he can be seedy, even a bit slimy at times.

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Onion – Sometimes sharp, sometimes sweet, this notable companion enhances every dish he meets.  But don’t be fooled.  You have to watch yourself around this double-edged treat.  He tends to “age” those around him quicker than most, and will often make you cry.  But if you like a challenge, give him a try.  He will infuse your life with flavor!

Raspberry – Sweet at first sight, this guy may follow up with a tart bite.  He generally likes to be left alone—literally thrives out in the wild of nature.  Ah…an adventurous type yourself, you’ll feel drawn to this bright and colorful character, but be forewarned:  he’s got thorns and lots of them.

Squash – Talk about diversity, this one has it!  From sunny yellow summers to cold and cozy winters, this man will keep you well supplied no matter the season.  The cutest of pumpkins, he’s always welcome during the holidays, and his cousin plays a mean racquet ball—for you sportier types.  But keep him moving; stagnation easily leads to illness with this one.  Rest assured, if variety is your thing, take heart.  This dazzling character can fulfill your desires, tenfold.

Carrots – Bred from firm and solid fiber, these men are steady and strong and always there for you.  Given proper attention, they can also become quite sweet in nature; a true hidden treasure, if ever there was one.  They do need some elbow room, a bit of thinning at times, but if you’re willing to work for it, this one’s a keeper!

Tomatoes – This popular guy is an all around favorite with the ladies, most drawn to his bright and cheery appearance and radiant personality.  A real reliable kinda guy, sweet with a hint of tang, meaty and quite robust–he comes in all sizes.  Yes, this one is tempting.   But be sure you’re in for the commitment—he’s going to need it if you expect him to produce.

My husband?   He’s definitely a raspberry with garlic tendencies.  Me?   He thinks I’m a venus flytrap.  Yes, I gave him the evil eye–at first.   But then, I got to thinking.   Imagine the unique and stunning plant for a moment, with her beautiful red, heart-shaped petiole, her pair of symmetrical lobes hinged near the midriff — I mean, midrib.    Lovely so far, isn’t it?   Catches insects and spiders with a bat of her eyelashes.   Tolerates fiery tempers well, er–fire–well.  Tolerates fire well, using the opportunity to suppress the competition.   (Sounds like a feisty gal to me!)   Sure, she can be difficult to grow, but what plant doesn’t have its difficult days?

You know, the more I think about it, the more I do believe I heard compliment.

We take it where we can get it, don’t we?

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

 

When all else is frozen

You can count on your peas!   These little beauties are not only survivors, but the beautiful promise of spring with their delicate white blossoms and pale green foliage.  I’ve never grown them before and had a hard time at first, but they seem to be the only things blooming at the moment so I’ll continue to watch them.

Might as well.  I’m in the garden anyway, working to prepare the beds for spring planting.  And on dreary days like we’ve had of late, I’ll take the bright spots when and where I find them! 

Hopefully, we’ll have no more frosty weather and these kids will survive.  But alas, if they fail me, I’ll not be forsaken…

Cause it’s February and this is the month for ROMANCE — my favorite time of year!   And I’ve been doing some thinking as I toil away in the garden.  If my man were a plant, which type would he be? 

Grins a plenty on this one because I HAVE the answer.  Stay tuned and watch for my next juicy planting!

Fabulous Red

With the frigid temps solidly behind us (I think), we can clear the beds, fear not the weeds, and look forward to spring!   It’s the border season here in Florida, a time to enjoy stored veggies and plan for our next planting — unless of course you are a “Brassicas” fan and I for one, say “on with it!”   There’s always fun to be had and for the moment, it’s found in the Brassicas section.  These kids love the cold, actually seem to thrive in it.  My red cabbage sustained no damage from the Florida freeze and that’s a wonderful thing — especially since I discovered so many wonderful recipes for red cabbage!  Forget that old German favorite grandma serves during the holidays with the turkey – this baby has evolved!   I found a great recipe in the Real Simple magazine and discovered it’s only one of the many ways you can serve this gem. 

But don’t forget those broccoli and brussel sprouts!   They also love the winter weather and this frosty photo shows quite clearly they “ain’t afraid of no cold.”   It’s proof positive you can still enjoy these sweets throughout the season.   I hear brussel sprouts actually become “sweeter” after a cold snap.   As I haven’t had a chance to bite in, can’t tell for sure.  

With all the excitement and reward going on with my reds and greens, I wonder:  Dare I put those potatoes in the ground…?  Glancing over at the vacant beds where my princess potatoes once blossomed, I hesitate.  And as much as I’d like to rely on the Farmer’s Almanac, I realize it’s not always accurate, exactly.

Hmmm…  Once again, I find myself “winging it.”   Aw, why not.   Now that I know how to protect them from frost, I should be good to go, right?

Stay tuned!

One potato, two potato

Three potato, score!   We made it!   Our potato houses were a success! 

Sort of.   Most of the plants still died off, but only after the hardest of freezes, so the good news:  I have found my potato frost protection.

My daughter and I came up with the idea.   Okay, so it was my loopy idea, but she handled the construction end and beautiful construction it was!   And quite practical, I might add.   (She gets that from her father.)   But when in need, resourcefulness must transform into creativity–momma style! 

So here’s the dilemma:   What do you do when you’re so eager to plant potatoes, yet uncertain as to what your winter holds in store–do you bite your nails and wait, or go full tilt and get those babies in the ground!   (Oops, that wasn’t a question, was it?)   All right, so I showed my hand too soon, but of course, you go ahead and plant those tubers!   They have sprouts, it’s warm outside–what else would you do?   I mean, no one’s stopping you, right?

No one, but Mother Nature, that is. 

Hmph.   Watching the weather forecast last week, I grunted under my breath.   Record lows were expected in our area for not one, but TWO weeks!  Are you kidding me?  C’mon!   Who invited the Ice Mistress to the party?   According to my kids, the culprit is most likely Jack Frost.  Saw him in a couple of movies last month and he looks to be quite a troublemaker, if you ask me.   But refusing to give in so readily, I lock my arms across my chest.   I have made my decision, and I’m sticking to it. 

Have no choice, really, since the potato seeds have already blossomed into lovely young women.   Only one question remained:   How best to protect them?   That’s when my creative juices started to flow, coursed wildly through my body, the ideas quickly ricocheting from one end of my mind to the other until it hit— 

But of course!  Every lovely young princess needs her very own castle…   Why not my princess potatoes?   A firm structure would not only be aesthetically pleasing, and provide protection from the frost, but it would insulate them against an extended duration of freezing temperatures—the real killer out there. 

I’m proud to report our experiment worked.   Aren’t they beautiful?   My daughter worked through the cold afternoon to decorate the potatoes’ new home–er, castle.   (Pay no attention to her lack of jacket–she thinks she’s a polar bear.) 

After all sections were completed, we placed them over the potatoes, added some mulch “landscaping” to beautify their surroundings (keep them warm), then retreated to the roasting temperatures of our own humble abode, holding our hands to the fire.   And waited.   It was a grueling evening–never mind the toasty flames and delightful movie–but we were confident our gals would make it through the night.

Upon our return the next day, we were thrilled to learn they survived!   Mostly.   Well, compared to the ones not fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of their very own castle.   They were crispy critters, but not these girls!  Just look at their beautiful shades of green, fanning about them like the fullest of ballroom gowns.

After several nights in a row of freezing temps, though, our girls took a beating.  

For a while there, I thought we could still save them.

At this point, I could probably still categorize them as “living” things.

But after the weekend, I’ve since given up on the notion.   

Ever the optimist, I look for the positive.  No matter how dreary things seem, there’s always a trickle of sunlight.  In this case, flurryRedirecting the kids’ attention, I shout, “Hey kids, look!  It’s snowing outside!  Hurry, come see!”   The immediate patter of running feet through the house warms my heart.  

After all, an afternoon of family fun will heal any disappointment the garden can dish out.

P.S.  But just to prove I’m no quitter, I’ve already buried another half dozen tubers in the next bed over.   We’ve had our record cold.  What are the odds it will happen again this season?   (If you responded highly probable, I’ll kindly ask you to refrain from raining on my parade–at least until sometime between Feb and March, when my next attempt goes into the ground.)

Remember:  Gardening is an adventure!

New Year’s Resolutions

This year I plan to be more productive.  This month I plan to lose the holiday weight gain.  This week I plan to relax.  (Why not, it’s freezing outside and most of the garden is dormant, anyway — read: dead — including the weeds, so there’s not much to do.)  Today I plan to write.

Wow.  I feel better already!  Talk about productive, I’ve set a plan, followed it for a full week now…why, I’ll have this resolution thing down pat in no time!  Yes si-ree-bob,  I’m on my way. 

 To where, you might ask?  Well, now, wait a minute.  Glancing about my office, I don’t see it.  “Wait–hold on,” I say, with a finger held high.  “I know it’s around here somewhere.”

Maybe the kitchen.  I do seem to spend a lot of time there.  Perhaps I left it with my “to do” pile on the counter by the sink.  I know, I know, my husband told me.  “Don’t put anything next to the sink you don’t want wet.”  Tell me later.  I’ve got a list of resolutions to find!

Ever stop and wonder why we put ourselves through it?  Why we bother conjuring up these grandiose ideas in the first place?  I think the answer is growth.  Much like our plants (we’re talking perennial in nature here, not those annual types where you have to yank them out by their roots after only one season – I mean, what kind of waste is that?  After all my hard work?  Those babies better stay in the ground, as long as possible!).

But I digress.  Back to the issue at hand, I believe we seek growth, just like our plants.  All the better, if our caretaker prunes us, feeds us, and generally tends to our well being. 

Unfortunately in my case, I am my caretaker, so the occasional lapse can be expected, although lists do help in this regard.  If only I could reliably find the thing, I’d be in business.  Big business!  As it stands, I struggle.  Every year, there seems to be something else I need to improve.  And I thought I was making so much progress

But maybe that’s the point.  Progress.  Growth.  Steadily moving ourselves forward, upward, in an effort to reach our greatest heights.  It may be our habits we want to change, or perhaps our outlook, but whatever the goal, it seems to me a clipping back of the dead weight (too much pumpkin pie, in my case) will allow for new growth; the beauty for which we strive, blooming to life from the inside out.  

We nurture our blossoms until they’re fresh and full (Blossoms, not bottoms.  Am I harping?  Go ahead, add it to the list.).  I mean, if we don’t, isn’t it we who suffer?  We who lose the beautiful palette of color in our lives, or the decadent fragrance which escalates our senses, carrying away our imagination on the wings of a glorious spring breeze?

Sort of like an old hedge, left to her own device.  Over time, dead spots can form, growth can be stunted.  In some cases, if the hedge plants herself in the right spot, she can grow wild, maybe even full, but not all growth is healthy.  Without proper attention, it can become host to disease—disease which could have been prevented with a spritz of attention, or cured with an ounce of diligence.

A rose will never reach her full potential without a yearly pruning.  And how about Grand Oaks?  Without proper thinning, they can become over-stressed, thereby susceptible to stormy weather.  Even our vegetables.  Without proper clipping, their production can be greatly diminished, thereby reducing the harvest.

It makes sense we women need the same.  So this year, I say:  embrace the change.  Make those resolutions, write them down (on a list, you know exactly where to find) and follow through to the best of your ability. 

No one’s perfect.  That’s what makes us special; human.  We all have the ability to grow, a challenge that incites action, stirs our very heart and soul, and leads us to a future of abundance and prosperity.

Let’s do it!  And welcome in the New Year and a new dawn. 

(But don’t dilly-dally.  After you’ve rested, pack your bag – we’re going gardening!)

BTW:  I found my list.  It was under my Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, right next to the notes for my next novel.  Like I said, this is going to be a productive year!

What’s your garden personality?

If you have two minutes, click on the link below and take this fun quiz to discover YOUR garden personality.   Share it with your friends!  (Feel free to disregard last question about beating score)

  
 
 

 

 

Cabbage update

Apparently, not all vegetables can be “stored” in the garden with equal ease.   I try to grow what I’ll eat, with any extras happily doled out to the family and friends, but sometimes, I lose a few.   Take this poor cabbage, for instance.   Unlike my potatoes, which I can basically leave in the ground until I’m ready to eat them, cabbage must be picked when ripe.   If not, you suffer the chance there might be rain — and lots of it — which seems to blow the stack wide open.    Now, that’s what I call a splitting headache!  

Of course, never one to waste (I cut the bad end of a tomato off if I think I can salvage the other half!) I dutifully cut the cabbage head from the plant, scored the base to encourage more growth – growth to which I’ll pay closer attention – and lugged the poor fella up to the house.   The kids do love coleslaw, and they won’t mind a smaller harvest, just this once.  I mean, it all ends up in a bowl, cut to smithereens anyway, right?

Right.  

But word to the wise:  when your cabbage is ready, don’t wait — cut it!   Wind it tight with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator.  You’ll be glad you did.  Especially when your next recipe calls for big beautiful cabbage parts!

When it looks like this -- secure the bounty!

Save the Poinsettias!

This time of year poinsettias take center stage, boasting big, beautiful red blooms (leaves, really, known as bracts), with petite yellow flowers nestled amidst the magnificent color.  While also available in pink and white, for me, red remains the heart and soul of the Christmas season.

Last year I decided to save my poinsettia plants, and actually put them in the ground.  What better way to decorate the house for the season than an abundance of beautiful poinsettias, right? 

Okay, so it’s easier.  They grow by themselves all year long then, poof!  Gorgeous red blooms for Christmas.  Does it get any better?  To tell the truth, I first came up the idea while driving through the neighborhood.  On the corner of my usual route, there’s a cute cottage home with a HUGE poinsettia plant.  (More tree than plant, the way this thing has grown wild.)  Wild and beautiful.  

The first time I saw the red blooms take over the scraggly branches – and realized it was a poinsettia – I was in awe.  Complete awe.  I had no idea poinsettias grew this way!  And if looks were any indication, it appeared as though it was growing naturally, without the assistance of pruning or fertilization.  Perfect, I mused.  A seasonal plant that survives on its own, yet heralds in this glorious time of year… 

Why, it’s doubly perfect!  Chocked full of inspiration, away I went, determined to have one for my own yard.  If they could do it, I could do it

Immediately upon my return home, I thumbed through my home and garden magazines, and noticed a plethora of articles on this very subject.  Wonderful.  It meant I didn’t have to start this project from scratch. 

As directed, I placed my plant in the ground, selecting a nice spot where it would receive plenty of indirect sunlight, and made sure it was well protected from cool drafts.  As a native of Mexico, this plant doesn’t like the cold, so whenever the temperature dips below 50-55 degrees, you must be vigilant and cover it else it shrivel up and die.

Note:  For you Arctic Amigos living north of the Florida border, don’t try this at home.  Save your plants, but keep them as indoor “pets” only.  Do remember to water them, a common problem with any indoor plant I adopt.  (The whole watering schedule thing puts a crimp in my carefree and spontaneous style – that, and children tend to be quite demanding, though getting pretty good at accomplishing their own chore list.  Note to self: houseplant watering is now a kid’s job.) 

But as I was saying, outdoors I have an irrigation system.  It works on a timer and is quite reliable.  Following my gardening guidelines, I decided on the northern side of my house (summers can be brutal in Central Florida), dug the hole, loosened the roots, fertilized with an all purpose fertilizer and let it grow!  

Fanning my feathers like a grand peacock, I’m proud to say:  it’s alive and doing well.  Then — another brainstorm hit.  How about reproducing these spectacular results?  If one can survive, so can two, or three, or as many cuttings as I can root from this existing plant of mine! 

Excited by the prospect, though uncertain which method was best, I decided to experiment.  Have I mentioned I have mad scientist tendencies?  I prefer to refer to it as creative, but either way, some cuttings went into dirt and one went into water.  Shoot, if my mother can do it, I can do it!  (Whoa back, cowgirl — she is the “rooting” queen.) 

That's my little gal, down toward the left

But so full of gusto, I decided to continue full steam ahead.  Just to be sure, I gave myself a boost with rooting “tonic.”  You know, that little powder you dip the stems into before you plant them?  For this particular experiment, I used Rootone, though I imagine there are others on the market that will produce results equally as well. 

The stuff works wonders.  As you can see, my little babies are faring quite nicely.  (Big smiles here.)  Small, but I only rooted this past September.  With relative ease, I might add – unlike my human darlings.  Those children take work and lots of it.  Albeit, a labor of love, I add with another smile, but if you want to give the gift that keeps on giving, my advice: Save the poinsettias!  Next year, when you come home to a yard full of spectacular seasonal color, you’ll be glad you did. 

One caveat:  General consensus suggests you may need to “trick” your poinsettias into blooming if you have less than 14 hours of nightfall per day.  Mine achieved the red without any effort on my part, though I wonder if there wouldn’t be quite a bit more if I had covered the plant for a few extra hours each day, a month or so before Christmas.  

This one was fully "rooted" in water only

It’s something to consider, though you can be sure my neighbor doesn’t do this for their wild beauty!  Either way, have fun and enjoy the process.    When all else fails, that’s what’s it’s really about. 
Share the joy!

Summer’s finally winding down…

Call me crazy, but at least, I think so.  In Florida, one never knows.  Each morning is truly a new dawn and the season, well, it’s rather indiscriminate around here.  One day, you wake up to fog and rain—and cold–fifty degrees, max.  But next thing you know, it’s eighty and sunny.  Your head spins around and you find yourself wondering, where did this come from

It’s a gift.  Me, I’m good with eternal summer.  As much as I like cooler weather and the knock of fall foliage, I’d take heat over cold any day of the week.  It’s like this, when it’s too hot outside, I’m uncomfortable, sure, and I complain… 

But when it’s too cold outdoors, YOU CAN DIE!  I’m not kidding you – it starts with your ears, seeps down to your toes, next thing you know, you’re at an icy standstill and couldn’t walk to the next clearance sale sign if you had to!  “Yes, dear, I admit it.  It’s too cold for breathing out here let alone shopping!”   

We recently returned from a trip to New York City and let me tell you, it’s not pretty.  Sure, the town, the sights…the tree – they’re spectacular!  But the cold?  Brrrrr…..hand me the remote, is all I can say. 

But I digress.  Back in sunny Florida, summer crops are FINALLY winding down, sweet potatoes our latest victim.  But a fun thrashing, if I do say so myself.  Picked the kids up from school the other day with a garden agenda in mind and lo and behold, I have two extras on board!  Neighbor children left to simmer on the playground for a while after school whereby my daughter pleads, “Please. Can’t they come over to play?”

 Play?  My mind raced through the possibilities and with a gleam in my eye I replied, “Sure, sweet potato—I mean, sweetheart.”  My smile broadened.  “Of course they can come over to play.” 

Yes!” she exclaimed, and thrilled beyond imagination, dashed off to the playground to tell the others.  As I watched her run–and pray she didn’t fall victim to a face plant—my smile turned devious. 

I am wicked.  I’ll admit it, straight up.  But sweet potatoes need to be harvested, their vines composted, the fruits hauled up the hill to the house and I know of no better worker bee than a child.  Their energy is boundless!  And their enthusiasm…well, we’ve all read Tom Sawyer, haven’t we? 

Chuckling to myself on the drive home, I turned up the Christmas music and rejoiced right along with them–what fun it will be!—then casually mentioned the sweet potatoes. 

My daughter groaned, but the industrious lad sitting to my right perked up.  “Sweet potatoes?”  He glanced at me with the astute curiosity of a third grader.  “What sweet potatoes?”

Generously, I shared with him how I intended to swim for sweet potatoes that afternoon, and if anyone cared to join me, I’d bee happy to have them.  I smiled all sugar and pie.  No, not swim in the pool.  The dirt, dear boy.  Glorious dirt. 

“Sure,” he replied eagerly.  “I’ll try.”

Well that was the end of that.  Upon arrival home, the four barreled down to the garden intent on discovering the joy of harvesting sweet potatoes.  Never mind it’s not their favorite food.  No, no.  That would be missing the point.  These kids were after the fun factor and I am all about fun!

And by God, we didn’t disappoint.  Actually, they were so enthralled with the entire process, posing for pictures, hollering after who had unearthed the largest potato, near knee deep in a soft pile of dirt, we had to send off to the house for more baskets! 

More baskets!  More baskets!  My glee was contagious.

Until my daughter decided she’d had enough.  It was time for her and her friend to return to her bedroom and commence dancing.  Or jazzing, tumbling, whatever the heck you call leaping hands to floor, kicking your feet high in the air, over and behind your head, hopefully landing them against a wall, or to the floor again, this time with your belly inverted. 

But she was gravely disappointed by her friend’s unabashed exuberance for sweet potato digging.  She found the largest one so far.  “Can I take it home?”

“You bet.  Take a couple and I’ll show you how to make slips for growing your own.”

“When I get home,” the other insisted matter-of-fact, “I’m going to tell my mom, I want to start a garden.”

My daughter frowned and my heart went out to the poor girl.  This garden business was old hat to her, but to her friend, it was heaven.  Why, she may as well have told my daughter she was taking her dolls and going home, for the resultant disappointment was the same. 

With a small smile, I prodded, “Isn’t it enough she’s at your house, having fun?”

“No,” came the sullen reply.  “It’s not.”

I sighed.  Lessons.  They come in all forms and when you least expect them, forget about least wanting them, but there it was.  “Look on the bright side, honey.”  I put an arm around her slender shoulders and said, “We’re about finished here, and then you two can go on up to the house and play until her mom gets here.”

She brightened.  “C’mon,” she urged her friend, encouraging vigorously with her arms.  “Hurry up.  Let’s go!”  Moments later, the two took off running, only to halt midway up the hill.  “Mom!” she shrieked.

I looked up to see my girlfriend strolling down to the garden.  Time’s up, I mused, disappointed for the girls, but much to my satisfaction, they sprinted toward the house for a quick grab at play time.

“Your tomatoes are gorgeous!”

I basked in the admiration of my good friend.  “Thank you,” I replied, hiding none of my pride.

“They’re wonderful.”

“You really think so?” I asked, and immediately began to fuss with leaves and stems.  “They’re a little droopy, over here, and this one needs a stake.  This fella, he needs more twine.”

She smiled.  “No, I don’t think so at all.  I think they’re beautiful.  And look at all your onions!”  She walked up a few rows.  “Are these the garlic?”

I beamed, delighted she remembered.  “Why, yes they are,” I replied, then joined her to give the grand tour.