I have spent the last two days outside working in the garden. I have dreams and visions of a fruitful and prductive garden. Every year the garden has become more productive-- although last year was the exception due to the severe midwestern drought of 2012. My mom and I were discussing the many ways our garden produces more than just vegetables and fruit. The first thing Mom pointed out to me was that the garden is like a gym membership that we don't pay for monthly. Judging by all my sore muscles I would say that she is absolutely right. I have been weeding, digging, and hoeing.
Another thing the garden has done is help educate our children. This fits with the Charlotte Mason style we have chosen for our homeschooling. The boys have had so much fun digging in the dirt and observing the life in the soil. They have enjoyed finding earthworms, taking grubs to throw into the burn pile, watching plants grow, learning that you put the eye pointing up when planting potatoes, and the list goes on and on. They are also learning work ethic as they work with me.
My favorite thing happening in the garden is the relationship building that seems to be happening with the boys and I. There have been some notable times already this year. Last night while I was pulling weeds in the herb bed Caleb and Simeon were both pulling off leaves of different herbs to taste them. Yesterday afternoon while I was pulling weeds out of cucumbers Simeon wanted to know which plant was which so I told him. After that he wanted to know if plants were alive. We then talked about plant life. He wanted to know if plants like to be talked to and I told him that plants do better when we talk to them. So he walked around for a while telling the yellow squash and tomato plants jokes. When planting those tomatoes Caleb sat next to me and "whittled" sticks. Caleb earned his Whittle Chip card in Cub Scouts back in January so he was practicing. While he sat next to me whittling (basically scraping bark off sticks) he was telling me all sorts of things on his mind. He asked questions and we had some tender moments. Simeon sat next to me while I planted the cucumbers and told me all sorts of things on him mind and asked his questions. That was another tender moment. I want them to enjoy the garden and have great memories there. I do require some work such as Caleb and Simeon are required to water the garden, front porch flowers, and rose bush when needed. Simeon helps me fertilize plants. Then Caleb is required to pull weeds 15-20 minutes a couple times per week. At their young ages I don't want to push more than that because I want them to love the garden. They do so much more because they come and join me in the work regularly just for fun. So I think they are starting to enjoy this wonderful place.
The garden is fun. Simeon loves running between the tomato cages and stakes for the cucumbers. They built a scarecrow for the garden this year and we are planning to make our pole beans into tee-pees this year that they can hide in. When our sunflowers are tall enough we plan to make a little archway to walk through. If time and money allow Caleb and I are going to attempt to build a bench as a woodworking project for our garden. Next year hopefully plant a bush or two and make a reading nook. Also next year hopefully a tree house along the edge. The possibilities are endless. The boys enjoy snapping beans, shucking corn (I buy fresh homegrown sweet corn as it does not grow well inour garden), and preparing the harvest. Caleb learned this winter how to safely use a knife to cut veggies so I will have a partner cutting up produce. Simeon likes to be with me helping to stir so when we are making things from our harvest he will be by my side stirring.
I look back at my childhood and wish I had paid more attention to my mom's gardening and learned more from here. I started from scratch not knowing what to do, so I learn a little more every year. The garden also helps to build my own brain and to keep me learning.. I read and practice what I read-- right now I am reading how to prune as I desperately need to prune our raspberry bushes and grape vine. This helps to keep me sharp and blends well with the homeschooling lifestyle which is simply a lifestyle of learning. So we will keep growing our organic produce, building our relationships, having fun, and building our brains in our garden this year. I hear from some that I could just go to the store and buy food. That is true I could, but we would miss so much if we did not grow our garden.