Strawberries and onions

Strawberries and onions go together like sisters and brothers.  Great companions in the garden of life, but quite different from one another on many different levels.  My daughter takes to strawberries, my son to onions. 

He eats them raw actually, which is odd in itself — until you taste a homegrown onion fresh picked from the garden.  It’s nothing like the store bought kind!  Sweet and delicate and oh-so-fun-to-pick.

Must be a man thing.  My husband loves to slice them alongside his tomatoes with a little salt to boot.   Says he could eat them every day this way.  Which is a good thing, seeing as how I planted a hundred of these babies!  Literally.  I planned on braiding them for storage and hanging them for effect.  Looking forward to it actually, as I thought it would be kinda fun.  At this rate, I doubt I’ll get to try my first weave!

But that’s okay.  As long as the crew is eating fresh veggies, I’ll stick to braiding hair. 

As to my personal preference, I’m with my daughter on this one.   Gorgeous red strawberries hold the allure for me, especially when you can spy them on the vine and pluck to your heart’s desire.   Once again, there’s something about growing your own that seems to make them taste sweeter.  

Psychological?  Could be.   But then again, when I’m in the garden it’s all psychological!  

And physical.  

And emotional (when the mutiny over weeding pokes through the kid’s veneer of joy).  But i’t’s all fun!

Learn something new everyday

Gardening with kids can be enlightening.  Fun, entertaining, eye-opening.

The key to successful garden management is to do a little bit everyday.  More specifically, working in small batches is the key to keeping the kids on top of their garden chores.   Let’s face it, some tasks aren’t fun.  They’re simply necessary.  Take weeding, for example.  The kids don’t enjoy it.  It’s not their favorite part of gardening.  It’s just another job that must be done.  So what do we do to distract ourselves from the tedium?

We tell stories!  We take turns and create them as we work down our prospective beds, alleviating some of the boredom.  It’s actually quite fun when you here how your children’s minds work.  My daughter’s stories tend to focus on girls; their likes and dislikes, their squabbles and resolutions.  My son on the other hand, veers toward the action-adventure.  Go figure.

So it makes sense when he comments on the bees buzzing nearby his row that he would compare them to an action-adventure movie, right?

“Hey, Mom.”  He pointed to the enormous bee hovering about the broccoli florets now bursting with bloom.  “Do you know what that is?”

“No,” I played along. 

“It’s a drone bee.”

The boy’s an avid fan of Star Wars and sees everything in terms of warriors and epic struggles.   Why not bees?   “Really?”

“Yep,” he stated matter-of-fact, as he states most things.  Boys, I’ve learned, like to have a handle on the facts.  “He’s the defender.”

I suppressed a smile.  As his mother, I’m a firm advocate for his imagination and encourage him to go on.  “Wow.  I didn’t know they had defender bees.”

He promptly left his row to come over and explain.  “He’s not a worker bee.  His job is to protect the queen bee.”

“What about the other two.”  They were much smaller than the larger one under discussion.  “Are they worker bees?”

Walking back for closer inspection, he nodded and pointed.  “See how they fly into the flower?  They’re collecting pollen so they can spread it around.  I remember this from primary.  That was a year ago and I still remember it!”

“See,” I told him.  “That means you learned the information.  That’s great!”

Proudly, he strolled back to me and expounded upon his drone bees, the queen, and all the workers, then decided he wanted to take their picture, which I offered to do for him.  “Let me do it, honey.  So you don’t get stung.”  My camera is NOT a toy and well-intentioned as he may be, is off limits to the lad!

That evening, I relayed the story to my husband.  “It was so cute.  He called it a drone bee, like Star Wars.”  I shook my head.  “I think I’m going to comment on it on my blog.”

My husband turned to me.  “You might want to check your facts, first.  I think there is something called a drone bee.”

There is?”

He nodded.  “I believe so.”

I glanced away and laughed.  “And to think I thought it was one of his stories.”

Hmph.  Apparently, one of us learned their botany lesson better than the other!  Sure enough, I went online to check my facts and there it was — drone bees.  While not the defenders of the queen but her fertilizers, I was duly impressed — for real, this time.   The kid knows his stuff!

Yet another reason I enjoy gardening with the kids.  Not only do I enjoy listening to their creativity, I learn things along the way.  Bonding, 101.  Our visitor may actually be a carpenter bee, as he was diligently working the pollen, which from my understanding, drone bees take no part in.  But this fellow is definitely a worker bee.

On another note, the kids noticed some interesting developments in the garden.  “Hey, look at this!”

I gazed down at the sprout and wondered, How did that get there?  It’s definitely not a bean.  Zucchini, squash…cucumber?  I wracked my brain to remember which vegetables we recently threw in the compost pile that could have produced this little guy.  At the rate we eat vegetables, it could be any one of them!

Hmmm…  Either way, it needs to be moved.  I run a tight garden and my rows are not only evenly spaced, but organized according to family and flavor, and staked out to differentiate between planting dates!  This way I can track how long each plant actually takes from seed to harvest.  I know the information can be found on seed packets and planting sheets, but I’ve come to learn those are “guidelines” at best, as my real life experience has often proven otherwise.

With the busy garden season at hand, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us tomorrow!

Gardening — share the adventure with a child.

Organic gardening made easy.


Meet Mandie.   Here’s a gal who wants to garden, but never thought she had the time.   (She’s right!)   Married with two young boys and a full-time career, time is the last thing on her plate.  (Not to mention sanity)   Ah…but what she lacks in agenda, she makes up for with attitude.   This woman has DECIDED she is going to have a garden.  Organic, of course.   A project in which I enthusiastically signed on to help.   Spread the joy, right?

Absolutely.   And you can, too!

Your head drops, you kick at the dirt.   You glance sideways.   While you appreciate our enthusiasm and fabulous outlook, you really do, it’s just not in the cards for you.   Your schedule is jammed packed.   Add the commitments you’ve made outside work and home and there simply isn’t the time to devote to a garden.   Mandie’s image pops into your mind.   Ability, you correct.   You’re simply unable to start a garden for reasons…  For reasons…

Well, yes, I get the picture.  It’s hard.  I understand.  It takes more than time, more than desire.  I mean, positive attitude exudes from your pores, I can see that.  I know that if you could, you’d start a garden today—yesterday–this very minute! 

But you can’t.   There’s just no way. 

Maybe next year.   Season.   Maybe next season.   Check back with you in fall?   Yes.   Fall.   Absolutely.   You stand a little taller.   You bet.   Come fall, you’ll be ready to go!

I smile.   Yes.   I’ll check back with you in fall.   But for the rest of you neophytes who haven’t the good sense to know any better, grab your hat and pack your bag – we’re going gardening!    Together — by tracking Mandie’s process on a weekly basis via her post link. 

Now, to begin, we need to set the right mood.   Music.  Of course!   What a great way to start your afternoon outdoors.  Mandie thought Jimmy Buffet would be nice (though his penchant for gardening is highly speculative), I mean, from what I can tell, the man is no landlubber – BUT – he does epitomize a laid back mindset and hankering for a good time – both of which we’re after in this new adventure of ours.  Remember:  your garden should be a place you want to spend time, because daily visits will be essential to your success. 

Next up – site selection.  Full sun is vital as well as a reliable water source – two things in which Mandie excels!  With no trees to speak of in her “compact” yard space, sun is not a problem.  She can put her garden anywhere – save for the area claimed by the boy’s playground set.  And swing bench.  And bicycle, toys…a couple of shrubs.  Well, you get the picture.  Creativity using space is a must.  As to water, she and her clever husband have devised a homemade cistern.  Did I tell you, this girl is green – from the inside out?  She means to waste nothing in this endeavor of hers and I applaud the ingenuity.  In fact, I’ve suggested as much to my husband.  Quite the industrious sort, I imagine he will construct a cistern with a garden sprinkler system attached!  He is amazing

Perfect.  Then, solving two problems at once, Mandie chose the back corner of her lot where old abandoned cement blocks proved a horrible eyesore.  Meet Gary.  Undaunted by the challenge, her husband went to task and built her a planter box.  Now, not only do they have a beautiful garden “section,” they’ve eliminated a huge “blemish!”  Aren’t husbands wonderful?

Time for the dirt.  Let’s say your yard isn’t naturally graced with luscious, black organic soil.  Okay.  We can deal with it.  By contacting a local supplier, Mandie was able to fill her 15 ft by 5 ft space (1 ft deep) with good composted dirt for about $80.  Mind you, this is a one time investment.  Once her personal compost pile gets going, she’ll have her own compost to use for the fall planting season!  And there will be a fall planting season.  (If she misses the compost mark, again, no problem.  Using crop rotation, her dirt will be primed and ready for next season!)

On to seeds.  Purchase them from your handy-dandy trustworthy and knowledgeable local seed and feed — “flavor specific” to your taste buds — and then you’re ready for action!  Mandie is planting potatoes, broccoli, carrots, conch peas, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. 

This is BIG fun, so if you have kids, holler for them now cause they’re gonna love this part – until the novelty wears off, anyway.  Older kids might appreciate the endeavor more, if the delivery is fine tuned.  Parents:  get crafty.

As to design, consult your local expert (in this case, that’s me!) or your Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (the source for my expertise – in addition to that age old instructor called experience).  You’ll learn plants have preferences of their own and if you place them next to their friends, they’ll serve you with splendor.  If not, you’ll likely miss your fall planting season, uninterested in trying after your lackadaisical results from spring. 

Trust me on this one.  It’s like a marriage.  What you put in, you get back, tenfold.

Okay kids, it’s time to get dirty!  Space your seeds accordingly, dig your holes, mark their spots (helps to remember where to water) and wait for first sign of sprouts!  I use an excel program on my computer to mark what and where I planted, but a garden journal works just as well and is “pretty” to boot.  Mulch will help conserve moisture, if it’s a pressing issue for you.  I prefer hay, but you can use straw, paper liners, etc.

Then, water in your seeds and there you have it!  Heart pound. Gasp.  Mouth agape in disbelief.  It’s the beginning of YOUR OWN GARDEN!  The one you thought impossible, but will be amazed by easy it is to manage!  Yes!

With daily visits to check soil moisture, bug invasions, fertilizer insufficiencies, etc., your very own produce will begin to hit the table in two months time.   Whoa.  How awesome is that?

It’s totally awesome and totally organic.  You’ll not only eat healthier, you’ll know exactly what went into your food — and your family’s.  Like watching your children grow, you’ll be excited by each and every change in your garden as you watch its progress, amazed this beautiful bounty is the result of YOUR hand!  And Mother Nature’s.  (Don’t insult this woman.  You do not want to be on her bad side.)

Exciting isn’t it?  How about joining us?  Track Mandie’s progress, ask questions, offer suggestions and next thing you know, you’ll have friends signing on for a community wide effort!  You grow that, I’ll grow this, so and so will grow those… 

Why, the possibilities are endless.  C’mon.  Share the joy and begin your adventure today! 

(This weekend will do.)

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!

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.


What’s cuter than a cabbage patch doll?

Why a cabbage patch, of course!    (They do look a bit like the doll, don’t they?)    I mean, from my limited recall, anyway.   Never one for dolls, I do remember the cabbage patch doll craze.  Passing them by in the store – after the holidays, as you couldn’t get NEAR one during shopping season – I wondered what all the fuss was about.   They were unique, which I fully appreciate, and endearing, in a “vegetable” sort of way, but why on earth would you wait in line for one?  And pay top dollar?

Oh, but that was before I became a gardener!  The world looks entirely different from my crouch between the rows!   I see the appeal now.  Cabbages are indeed GORGEOUS.   Round and full – plump, really, with a smooth complexion in the palest of green and framed by a full head of “waves.”   Perfection in the making – that’s what I see in MY cabbage patch these days.

We cut our first one yesterday and it was exciting!  I wasn’t real sure if it was time, but it seemed to resemble the heads of cabbage I buy at the store, so I figured, why not?  The kids were enthused and that’s half the battle – I mean, appeal.  (Did I say battle?  No.  There’s no battle going on around here.  Ever.)  So with the help of a large knife, we whacked the head off and toted our trophy home.  Okay, up the hill and to the kitchen, but it sounds more theatrical the other way and my kids LOVE theater.   Because it’s fun, and kids love fun.

So slice it, toss it into the pan with some butter, onions, salt and pepper, and you have for one delicious meal.  Or side, depending on how heartily your group eats!  My kids love it.  Probably because they eat it on camping trips — “dads only” trips — hence, the allure may be more associative than actual,  but either way it’s a veggie in their belly, so you won’t hear me complain!

Excuse me?

While watching television the other night with the family, my daughter asked, “Mom, is that a poppy?”

Absorbed in a novel I paid no attention (to be a writer, one must be an avid reader, multi-tasking screen versus print, notwithstanding).   Her father, seated next to her, was watching the same program.  He could answer. 

But he didn’t.   And apparently, this was a girl who wanted to know so once again, a little louder this time, “Hey, garden whiz.  What kind of flower is that?”

I flipped my gaze from book to daughter.   Garden whiz?   My husband and I exchanged glances and shared a private chuckle.   Garden whiz?  Really?   She’s nine.   Where do they come up with this stuff at this age?

To his credit, my husband was first to respond.   “Garden whiz?” he asked her, giving none of his amusement away.

“Well,” she surmised, putting forth her best authoritarian air.   “She knows everything about plants.”

“Vegetables,” I corrected, still amused by the maturity she revealed.   It’s constant, really.   You have to keep on your toes around these kids, I’m telling you.   “I know all about vegetables.”   As far as you know, anyway.

“Whatever,” she replied, unimpressed by the distinction.   “Do you know what kind of flower it is?”

Twelve, I groaned inwardly.   I thought I had until she was twelve before this attitude started!   But indulging her, I glanced toward the television screen and speculated – guessed, really – as to the identity of the orange-red flower with the black center.   “I think it’s a poppy.”

“Oh,” she replied, unenthused.   That — after her initial persistence.  Go figure

Curious now, I began to wonder about the flower.   Was I correct?   Images formed in my mind’s eye of where I last saw this particular species and suddenly, I realized I was thinking of the “drug” flower — as in opium.   Fields of it floated within the breeze of my imagination as the images swirled in my head.

Images I quickly extinguished.   I flashed to my daughter.   She is an innocent, granted, dipping perilously close to adolescence, but I reassured myself that a poppy is a common flower, and doesn’t necessarily denote anything more than beauty. 

But ever the creative one, my mind continued to conjure up image after image of all kinds of sordid things; bad seeds growing bad weeds, kids whacked out on drugs—

Stop.   Breathe, darn it.   Breathe.   It’s just your motherly instincts breaking out of their pen, trampling the beautiful green pasture you’ve created so meticulously with loving care.   Nothing to worry about here.   All is well.

Anxiety attack securely behind me, I checked my internet resources and discovered I was right.   Don’t ask me how I knew.   Remember, I grow vegetables, not poppies.   Must be the news, I concluded.  I watch too much news. 

Tucking my daughter in that evening, I kissed her forehead and took in the sweet scent of her hair, her skin.   Lingering, it occurred to me; kids can amaze you.   From out of nowhere, for no reason, can appear the rarest of moments, the clearest of glimpses into their hearts and minds — and you as a parent —  simply must keep up.  Some days, this feat is harder than others.  

But most days, I’m good.   And fortunate, because it’s my job to stop and smell the roses, savoring each and every moment along the way.   Sometimes more is required, sometimes less, but it’s always fresh and new.

And always worthwhile.

An experiment in neglect

I’m a busy lady with two small children, volunteer activities, after school sports and an up and coming career in writing.  Neglect is no stretch of the imagination for me which made my experiment all the more enticing.  Easier — considering the fact that overhauling my summer garden drained me to the bone.

And so it happened.  One afternoon, after a full day of tilling and mound shoveling, I spied my leftover watermelon rows and thought, there’s no way.  The tiller is due back at the rental store, my back is aching, and my husband is staring at me, the question clear in his eyes, Are we through here?

Yes.  We’re through here.  I have no desire to weed and till another inch let alone a ten by seventy patch of garden!  Besides, I’ve nothing to plant in these last rows, so why bother excavating when all it will mean is more maintenance?  Come spring, if I want to expand, we can scrape these weeds clean with the tractor – a much easier prospect.  So it was settled.  I’d ignore this end of the garden until spring.

Over the next week, tiny shoots of watermelon broke through the ground.  Admittedly my first thought was more grunt than anything, but I quickly put the annoyance aside and admired the little cuties, reminding myself I was NOT weeding that section.  No problem.

Next thing you know, the vine is meandering into my peanuts, flowering, and out pops a miniature watermelon!  The kids noticed it first, with hoots of excitement (apparently, they find this sweet and delectable fruit more enticing than the cabbage and broccoli we were currently planting).  Not wanting to spoil their fun, I joined in and exclaimed my admiration, “Look at those beautiful stripes of green!”

It wasn’t until my son’s family birthday party when the real excitement broke out.  Everyone was in attendance, kids running wild in the backyard – we have plenty of them, ages five to fifteen – whereby my little “authority on everything,” intent on extolling his knowledge and know how to the others, led them to the garden.  Much to his delight — success!  Not only were they amazed he knew the name of each plant, bean and herb, he was also growing watermelon.  Watermelon!

Well, grab the basket and run tell your parents, this kid’s got his own watermelon patch!  Unbelievable!  Indulging the children’s enthusiasm, the adults trailed after to see what all the fuss was about and sure enough, my son had already clipped and claimed a pretty good-sized watermelon for the harvest basket.

Everyone oooohed and aaaahed over the specimen, and a nephew asked me for instruction on how to clip basil.  Pleased by his interest though surprised by his choice, I began to explain – until suddenly, my heart stopped.  From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of another nephew leaping over rows as if he were running an obstacle track!

I hollered at him, “Stop!” while at the same time, my niece called out for permission to cut another melon.  My attention duly divided, I couldn’t respond until — thankfully — my son took over the job of teaching his cousin how to correctly traverse the rows.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I turned to see her ripping the fruit from the vine.  “Take it,” I murmured.  It’s yours, now.

Returning to the task at hand, I showed him how to pinch the basil, the only part he wanted.  To our left, kids were swimming for sweet potatoes and to our right, they were snipping okra.  It was an amazing scramble of activity.

“Can I have this green pepper?” asked my sister-in-law.


“Sissy, what’s this?”

I looked up to see her holding an eggplant.  Glancing up from the basil, my nephew ventured, “May I have a watermelon, too?”

Pleased everyone was enjoying the harvest, I replied, “Of course.”  But I can’t make any promises as to quality.  By the warm pleasure that swamped his expression, I’m not sure it mattered.

He doesn’t know it isn’t watermelon season!