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IMG_4206.JPG, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Serena, like most toddlers, loves to mimic everything Mommy does. Especially the things Mommy does that are not generally available to toddlers. Like operating a spray bottle full of cleaning chemicals, or using the garden tools.

Today was her day to do it all, just like a grown-up. A few of our plants are infested with aphids. The cure for this, according to our Wise Gardening Neighbors? A very diluted solution of Dr. Bronner’s soap. Another neighbor gave us a big bottle of it, which I watered down and poured into an old 7th Gen spray bottle.

Toddler toy, meet pest control. How often do you get a chance to put those things together in a good way? Serena was delighted. This photo captures her focus and determination. She must have spent an hour carefully spraying everything in the garden. Those aphids and their ant farmers have met their match!

I took a lot of photos in the garden today, as well as some jammaking ones. They’re all up on my Flickr if you want to see more of what the girls and I got up to.


Library - 5808Last week, Serena’s godfather came by to plant a rose bush for her. Her middle name is Rose, and he wanted her to have flowers. Very sweet and simple. Then he saw our front yard.

When we moved into our lovely new home last fall, the front yard was a wasteland. It was also low on the priority list. This house is old, and was in need of a lot of work. Things like finishing our back bedroom, painting the walls, upgrading the wiring and replacing the heating system all trumped even looking in the front yard.

“This rose needs to grow in a place that people love,” he declared. Then he set to work. The kids and I loitered nearby, and gradually started using the growing pile of garden tools ourselves, in a way that might have been described as helping. Rio drove her little toy car back and forth between the garden bed he was clearing and the driveway I was sweeping for an hour, carrying supplies and water.

We took ten large contractor bags out of our tiny urban yard. Then the rose went in, and sat there lonely and the empty yard. Until it’s benefactor returned the following week with bags of mulch, blueberry bushes, and a dozen other little plants whose names escape me.  Suddenly, we have a garden.

John believes “the natural fate of this place is to grow flowers”, and it’s on it’s way to doing so, in abundance.

crystal-powered garlic, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

I planted some garlic bulbs last fall, and used this crystal to mark where I’d put them so I wouldn’t accidentally dig them up come spring.

No fear of that; they were the first thing to sprout in our garden after the snow melted. I have half a dozen, and they are all doing great. But the one that came up immediately next to the crystal is twice as big as all the others.

Coincidence? Probably. But I’m tempted to litter the garden with more quartz just in case.

mud bucket

Last month, I presided over the creation of a large bucket of mud with my homeschooling coop. I threw a couple of towels on the floor, gave each kid a wooden spoon and a few dried disks of soil mixture that came in a science kit Jen dropped off for us, and we went crazy with it. For, like, hours.

When the kids finally tired of the mud (which made surprisingly little mess), we poured it into to the science kit. The kit is a window garden in which we are supposed to be able to see the roots of growing plants. We planted carrots, beets and radishes in it. Then the girls wrote labels for their sections, with little pictures of the veggies and the words spelled out.

The next day they could not stop checking on their garden, which was not doing anything the least bit interesting, so I got out the felt and we made felt gardens with little felt vegetables in them. The kids talked about all the foods they wanted to grow this summer, and another mom and I helped them cut out the shapes.

felt gardens

Now the little window garden has had a few weeks to take hold. The carrot and radish sprouts are doing great growing boldy up toward the sun with little thready white roots exploring the soil below. The beets never came up; we seem to be cultivating some kind of weird mold in their place. That’s science!

window garden

yes, the weather outside is frightful, but it still beats sitting indoors all day.

Here are two great sites for getting yourself and your kids out into the great outdoors:

The Green Hour offers suggestions for simple outdoor activities to do with kids. It’s updated weekly, and the site is a wealth of other resources for families interested in nature, environmentalism and play.

If you’re interested in something slightly more ambitious, The Outdoor Hour Challenges offer a series of weekly nature study lessons based on Anna Bosford Comstock’s Handbook Of Nature Study. This is a classic text on nature study that advocates simple observation and recording to learn about the world around you.

So go! Out into the cold, windy, damp spring! Enjoy its blustering beauty, frolic in its mud, play!

Is anyone else going to be starting seeds indoors? I’m thinking of buying a biodome for mine, and they offer a decent bulk discount.

Of course, I’m probably late to this party since I just realized today that I do have seeds I need to start indoors. Thanks, GRS!

We put out compost, examined the soil and observed how it’s still all frozen, watched some birds flutter around the rooftop and call to each other. And we talked about the garden rails. Our garden is a couple of raised beds built probably a decade ago by the previous folks. The wood sides of the beds are rotting and falling apart. I mentioned to Rio that I would probably replace them with cinder blocks this summer, and she walked on one and knocked a few chunks of rotten wood off.

A few minutes later, while bird-watching, one of our cats came by and clawed at the wood, like cats do. And Rio said, “AHA! I see what is going on here! I get it now! A long time ago, before any humans lived in this part of the world, this wood was strong and whole. Then a swarm of cats came and scratched it all up and made it fall apart. I figured it out!”

This was going to be a response to ‘s thoughtful post about feeding her family less meat, but enough people have asked me about this sort of thing that I thought I’d post it to my own journal.

The Background

Industrial chemicals posing as food! World of Ick!

from : Here’s the article exposing the Pizza Hut cheesy business.

Turns out the PDMS is there in small amounts (0.1%), not to replace the “cheese” (actually the “cheese” is mostly starch and water…), but to  prevent bubbles from forming on the cheese when the pizza cooks. Still, PDMS is not approved even by the FDA for any food products.  They do allow trace amounts as leftover in food from earlier processing (it’s an  antifoaming and anticaking agent); the pizza hut cheese contained about 100x that trace amount.  Apparently Pizza Hut doesn’t use that anymore, though they never denied using it in the past…  

One more case of “let’s poison ourselves so that things *look good*”


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Garden Gnome!, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

As a follow-up to my earlier post about food and sustainability, this week became all about a garden.

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Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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