Garden update: April 2018


As I write this, a heavy spring storm is moving in over the mountains. Once again, I’m left worrying for my peach tree’s blossoms (will they all be frozen, and we’ll have no fruit come fall?) and all the tender young things coming alive.


I am lucky enough to have a small yard, and I’ve been enjoying the sight of all the perennials waking up in the front yard. I’m like Mary Lennox, crying in delight over everything showing how “wick” it is. Our tulips are going to bloom soon, and even last year’s Mother’s Day forsythia is throwing out a first few brave flowers.


This is the peony I added to the bare patch last fall. We’ll see if it survives. So far, so good.

One of our neighbors (I think it was a kid) made some delicious-looking sushi or spring rolls with the leaves from my tulips. So far everyone has denied being the mystery chef.

I’m conflicted: I love the creativity, but I think I’d rather keep the tulips in the garden.

I finally planted the spinach, broccoli, lettuce and peas in my garden. We have two square foot gardens in which I plant just my favorites.


We are so lucky to be members of a CSA farm, which provides the vast majority of our produce. A CSA is like your own private farmer’s market, which provides fresh, local produce to its members on a weekly basis. If you’re curious, I’ve written about CSAs here and here. Perhaps a CSA near you might have an opening in its membership for you to try out. Here are two links to help you find a CSA near you: Local Harvest and the USDA directory of CSAs. Joining a CSA truly transformed how we eat- both in terms of quality and variety- and I think has been a huge part of my journey toward health. Plus, buying food that is locally produced has a major impact on the environment.

Okay, back to my garden. These are 4’x4′ boxes filled originally with a 1:1:1 mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and compost as specified by the Square Foot Garden method by Mel Bartholomew. Then every spring I add an additional layer of compost. In our first SFGs, I made wood grids, but we have since changed to twine and string (it’s easier to cut the compostable strings than to disentangle large squash and cucumber vines from the wood).


It was so good to have my hands in the dirt. It smelled wonderful, and something in my own heart came alive again with a day spent planting in hope of sweet June shelling peas eaten raw and crisp salads of baby spinach. (Are you hungry yet?) I started basil, zinnias, and cherry and Roma tomatoes (for canning) inside. The farm gives us lots of big, juicy heirloom tomatoes, but there’s nothing like pulling a warm cherry tomato off the vine on an August afternoon and popping it in your mouth.

Have you started your garden yet? What’s your favorite thing to plant?

Daybook: Sunday afternoon in April

Outside my window: the tulips are blooming!!  And the crab apple trees.
On Friday:


In the kitchen: pizza dough is rising, and Moriah is making banana-zucchini bread. It smells great in here.

What I’m hearing: Phoebe is having a tea party under the kitchen table and listening to Ramona and Her Father on her CD player.  In the living room, Owen & Moriah are playing quiz up together.  It’s a rare minute that the two of them are enjoying something together without someone acting as a buffer, but I am loving the moment.

Quiz up!

In the school room: (I say that, even though we no longer have a “school room.” You know what I mean, right?)  Anyway, we survived our Iowa tests last week, and I’m hoping for a more normal rhythm this week.  We are wrapping up biographies and starting new math books.  Fun all around.  Jonah is studying hard for his AP exams.


In my shoes: I took two great hikes last week, one with Phoebe and one with a friend who drove up to spend Saturday with us.  What a treat.  Spending time in the mountains was good for my soul.


What I’m reading: I started another Inspector Gamache, which has yet to grip me. But I just read a book I loved- more on that on Friday!  I’m also reading Sofia Cavalletti’s The Religious Potential of the Child, and I’m inspired.

I’m grateful for: Hiking, a date with Sam this weekend, sunshine, and tulips.

I’m praying for: Mandy, Judy, Heather,  Justine. Our friends serving in Fiji and the Philippines.  Energy to spend at home on the ordinary means of grace for our family: dinners together, attentive listening, bedtime routines, and laughter.

garden update


We have such a little garden now, but I think we’ve made the most of it. The front yard is all flowers: roses, sweet pea, poppies, a clematis I need to train. I’ve moved three plants that were housewarming gifts (my friends know me so well!) out: 2 African daisies and a hydrangea. I don’t have experience with either of those to know if they’ll make it through the winter. If not, new adventure will go in those spots next year.


Because it’s so arid here, our landscapers (hired by the builders) have always put fabric down, cut holes in it, and then planted discrete units of plants: a bush every 2 feet, for example. Sam likes the regularity of it. I long for the lush density of an English cottage garden. Of course, for that to happen, I would have to change completely my discrete watering-at-24-in-intervals system… or move to England.
This little patch on the side is my favorite spot, probably because the birds frequent it.

On to the back: remember my dying peach tree?  Well, a day or two after my post on its horrible aphid infestation, the hail hit. Hard.  Neither the plants not the aphids appreciated the hail, but the aphids fared worse.  Look at how the leaves have opened up on the peach tree!  It’s now a happy, healthy aphid-free tree.  (Of course, the hail knocked off the tiny fruit, too, but at least there’s hope for next year.)

Our pear tree has two tiny Bartlet pears on it, but I can’t seem to get a good picture of them.  The birds and I are both watching those pears carefully. Hungrily.

Here are my little vegetable and cutting gardens. The pots have zinnias and cosmos. The cosmos have just germinated- it may have been too late to add them, we’ll see. The closer of the two square beds has the end of my lettuce and the beginnings of my cucumbers. The second has tomatoes, basil, Thai basil and peppers. Everything else we’re planning to get from our CSA share.

Oh, and our chicks! I should count them in the garden, since (if all goes well) they’ll be our egg supply and our fertilizer. All eight are here. Our Rhode Island reds seem to have the most pooping trouble- is this normal?

What’s growing in your garden?

Garden Update: May

Oh, how I love the garden.  After the neighbors, our garden is what I miss most about our old house.

This weekend we went to the garden store (our favorite is Paulino’s Gardens in Denver) and bought a few roses and whatnot to replace the grasses and junipers our landscapers was weirdly obsessed with. [He couldn’t seriously expect me to be excited about juniper bushes, could he?]

So here’s what’s going on Chez Nous.

Here are the peas Sam planted almost 4 weeks ago. I don’t think we’re going to have many peas, do you?
This bed also has some lettuce that has just sprouted. Time to put in some more, I think.

Here’s the basil. Normally I like to start our own seedlings, but in March this year I could barely find my dishes, let alone sprout seeds.


Now on to the pretty stuff: the roses:


Sam picked these out. We had a gorgeous yellow tea rose like this one at the old house, but one winter it didn’t do well, and I had to trim is way back to get it to come back. When it started to grow again, it had reverted to its root stock, which was a red climbing rose. It was gorgeous but far from anything it could have possibly climbed, so it just rioted all over the garden. Anyway, Sam picked another yellow as well as this stunning orange one.


Its fragrance reminds me of my grandmother’s rose garden.

This is Moriah’s replacement baptism rose, which didn’t survive my attempt at removing it last summer. SweetP’s is doing well, though, and Moriah made a good choice, I think.


I know purple iris are old-fashioned. My mom is always passing on brown and russet and nearly-black ones, but give me purple and yellow any day.

We put in a few other things, too: peonies (oh, how I love peonies!) and a frilly magenta-flowered  plant reminiscent of a daisy, but I can’t remember what it’s called.  Any takers?

If you’ve made it this far in the post, you must actually like gardening. So I have a question for you: is my peach tree going to make it?


It’s covered in aphids, which I’ve been regularly hosing off the leaves, but they [the leaves] are still curled and sickly looking. Yesterday I added a gazillion ladybugs to the tree.  The ladybugs have made for good nature study.


I’m thinking I should ask the landscapers to replace the tree. What do you think?

What Makes a Home?

Our house closed.  It now belongs to someone else.  I thought I would feel weirder about that, but I don’t.  I feel overwhelming relief that this process of house-selling is over.  It exposed so many of my raw nerves– will they think it’s clean enough? What do you mean, they don’t like my paint?  They don’t like roses?– and had me on pins & needles for weeks.

We were very happy there, but it wasn’t the house that made us feel at home. It was the garden… it was small, but it was full of life.





It was the mornings, when we woke up and came downstairs to bask in the sunshine.



It was the celebrations we lived there.


It was the griefs we acknowledged and mourned there.

The applesauce we made there.

It was the friends and family who shared our lives there.



It was the baby we brought home to that house.



It was the messes we made there.



The runs we ran there…


And the snow forts we built there.



So here’s to a new, temporary home with my parents. To a new home in the winter. And here’s to the home we make together with the people God gives us to share our lives.


Grateful, 6 years


This week is the 6th anniversary of my little blog.  I am grateful for this space to share my thoughts, our life, and what we are learning.  As this week feels out of control– nephew far away in the NICU, buyers’ loan trouble, good-byes I didn’t want to say, sick children– I find comfort in the trail of breadcrumbs at my feet.  God is good.


I am grateful for:

  • the miracle of the garden.  seed + water + sun = a vine of leaves.  I am hoping the people who makes their lives in this place after us enjoy the watermelons and zucchini, strawberries, beans and rhubarb I am leaving behind.
  • our neighbors.  Some of them will go with us in very tangible ways into the transition ahead of us.
  • that my nephew is doing so well
  • a few good runs lately
  • my niece’s mission trip this week
  • our upcoming fast for World Vision’s hunger relief programs.  Thanks to those who have donated and/or promised to pray for us.  (As I look at my daily caffeine habit it is very clear to me how much prayer I am going to need!)
  • the women who walk with us on this home schooling journey– they sharpen my thinking, call me on my laziness, and inspire me to grace and faith
  • that three of my four children are well again… just one to go
  • our church.
  • watching Downton Abbey with a pint of salted caramel gelato and Sam (bliss!)
  • last night’s evening walk with SweetP



Autumn Work: Putting the Garden to Bed


There are a few treasures left in the garden. One rose-bush and a mum (a tall, weird mum that only blooms in November) are still flowering.

Can you see how weirdly tall this mum is?

Otherwise, everything else needed to be cleared out for the winter.  In past years when I haven’t taken out the dead vegetables and pruned, I have regretted it come spring when I want to plant and I can’t.  Putting the garden to bed is kind-of the gardening equivalent to filling a sink with hot, soapy water before I cook.  I think it’s easier to do this work in the autumn when the gratitude for all it produced is still fresh in me.

I required the children’s help (ten hands made light work!) and rewarded them with “free computer time”… they were all in until I started to mix fresh compost.


We spread sheep-manure compost over the beds and laid the dried grass we’d saved over it all. (Obviously, don’t do this if you use fertilizer on your grass or if it’s full of weeds.)

This flower bed was entirely choked with sunflowers this year. When I ripped them all out, I lost a good third of the soil on the roots, so it needed additional soil and compost. I had a bunch of oldish flower packets, and I sprinkled them in, hoping that in the spring they will think they naturalized themselves there. It’s worked in the past.

Strawberry plants, beautifully colored for fall.

We didn’t get to the raspberry canes yet. Maybe this weekend?


Here is our final harvest of the year:
More potatoes (Yukon gold and purple) than I expected, and some bizarre, overgrown carrots that were hidden in the cucumber vines. As Calvin (or Hobbes?) says, There’s treasure everywhere.

Independence Days: End of July

Plant something: the sweet potatoes that had grown legs.  I know nothing about growing sweet potatoes, but I guess I’m going to find out!

Harvest something: basil, a few tomatoes, onions, beets!, strawberries and raspberries. And we’re doing our best to hold off on those plums…


Preserve something: pickled beets.  And some raspberries that were on sale at the grocery store– I just froze them on trays and will have them in smoothies all winter.

Waste not: lots of laundry dried in the sunshine.  And while we were gone, 14 people stayed in our home for a night or three.  Isn’t that fun?


Want not: we received two bags of hand-me-down clothes for the kids.  What a blessing.

Build Community Food Systems: I’m really getting nothing done here, but I’m enjoying watching my friend embrace local and natural food.

Eat the food: I love this part.  We’re enjoying this tomato sauce, and pickled beets.


Garden Update: Edibles

I think I wait too long to harvest my food.  I know that because I had multiple heads of lettuce bolt, and my beets are ginormous (and hopefully not too woody.)

But it all looks so pretty in the ground.



If the birds don’t eat them all, this may be a good year for the plums!