Bold New Ventures

Hey there! Check out my latest off-season project — a sort of double-decker birdwatching platform/playfort thingee, tucked in the far corner of my backyard. According to the various building plans I have consulted, a project like this should be do-able in a weekend! Ha-ha! (They should list alternate time estimates for the out-of-shape and/or clueless). This is where I am so far, after about 10 hours worth of work (with one 6-yr-old helper):

fort1

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Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Memory and Plants

I’ll I’ll be honest.  I had a hard time figuring out how to approach this topic.  As I have mentioned before, I am New Dirt and not Old Dirt, meaning I do not come from a long line of gardeners, but rather picked up this obsession at age 36 with no influence from parents or grandparents.  Like Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, my conversion to a life of gardening was sudden and complete.  (Whether or not Constantine was pruning Euonymus at the time of his revelation, as I was, is not clear.)

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Tomato Hornworms Provide Bigger Pay-Off Than Actual Tomatoes

At least for my six-year old son. 

When he first spied one of the chubby 3-inch long hornworms among the tomato foliage, he recoiled in horror.

Horror gradually turned to cautious fascination as he helped me find several other hornworms that were feasting on my plant. 

Charlie provides Last Rites to a Tomato Hornworm

Five minutes later he was plucking them off by hand, studying them, getting to know them as individuals, naming them things like “Mr. Chewie” and “Spike”.

Then he happily ushered them into the Lepidoptera Afterlife by submerging them in tub of soapy water.

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Art and the Garden, Part I: Early Mishaps in Art

This week Garden Designers’ Roundtable is posting about Art and Sculpture in the Garden.  Even though I signed up to post this month, I have to confess that art and sculpture intimidate me a little, in the garden and everywhere else.  In fact, you might say that I am uniquely disqualified to give advice about art.  To preface my GDRT post, I thought I’d share a story about my early experience in art to show what I mean. 

As a kid, like most kids, I had fun with art.  I liked coloring with crayons, making papier mache masks, creating construction paper mosaics.  I wasn’t particularly talented, but I reveled in the creative aspects of art, and loved all the fun materials. 

I’m sad to say that it was a middle school art class that drove the joy for art right out of me.  During the ceramics unit for that class, I created this clay beaver:

Yes, I’ve kept it all these years.

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Children’s Film Features Kids Who Roam Unsupervised, Trespass, Get Dirty.

Based on our enjoyment of Ponyo, Netflix thought that our family “might also like”  Kikkerdril, a Dutch film about an adorable little boy named Max who wanders around the Dutch countryside in search of frog’s eggs. 

Now, the original Dutch title translates as “Frog Spawn”, which I guess the American distributors felt wouldn’t go over well here, so they renamed it Max’s Magical Journey.

Whatever.  As a person interested in both nature and children — and in films that present nature to children — I found this film to be delightful.  It’s a refreshingly simple and earnest depiction of a kid discovering nature.  Totally low-budget.  No CGI.  No amazing macro photography.  No underlying environmental message. 

And I love how Max just wanders around with no accompanying adults —  through meadows and woods, riding through town on a bike, sneaking onto a public bus to get back home, encountering strangers with dirty teeth and making friends with them, messing around with irrigation equipment, milking other people’s cows —  all stuff that, if an American parent allowed their kid to do, they’d be investigated by Social Services.  

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