Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: End of Growing

My raised bed in October

We experimented this year. Every year, Nature Mom and I discuss how to encourage you, bynature.ca customers and other readers, to plant a garden. Every year she and I have big plans for our own gardens, and every year we get so busy that we neglect our gardens.

This year, we decided the wild, neglected reality of gardening for busy parents would be our whole theme. My intentions were to give more care than I did. Even knowing you were watching, I still didn’t find the time to tend the garden. I let the snails eat their fill of tomatoes. I didn’t trim the fennel in a way that would keep it from going to seed so early. I let the mint spread into the flowers. The pumpkin has covered the sidewalk and creeps into my neighbor’s driveway every day. Grapevines have crossed the canyon beyond the house to claim the garage. Tomatoes tell the UPS man “No Passage Here.” It’s garden chaos. It’s beautiful chaos. It’s the last push of green before it all dies back.

And this is the lesson. Even through my neglect, the garden gives us bounty. You don’t need to put much into your garden to have it feed your family a meal here and there throughout the summer. If you decide you want to get more serious, it doesn’t take much attention to harvest that bounty and preserve it for the winter. I know you are busy parents, but you can plant a garden.

October Harvest

Yesterday it snowed. There is no nighttime frost yet, so some of my green tomatoes are still on the vine, but we only have a week or so before everything will be finished growing.

The end of my harvest will include:

  • 4-5 dozen monstrous green tomatoes
  • grape leaves, to be frozen and stuffed through the year as dolmathes
  • one giant pumpkin, painted (not carved) then eaten
  • several varieties of slightly bitter mint

 Total Cost So Far

Total for October – $0
Total for September – $3.00 (stakes)
Total for August – $0 (nada!)
Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
Total cost for the year – $74.50

Total Time So Far

Most of my time in the past month was spent moving vines that were trying to take over. That might have taken 10 minutes all month.

Taming – 10 minutes
Previous time spent  – 11 hours 20 minutes
Total time so far = 11 hours 30 minutes

Our goal has been to spend less than 30 minutes in the garden most months. Unless you want to start the garden cleanup early, there isn’t much need for 30 minutes this month. Most of your garden time is actually kitchen time. Slice green tomatoes for salsa, relish, pickle, or other side dishes.

Your 30 minutes for September:
Taming – 5 minutes
Harvest – 10 minutes
Cooking – 15 minutes

Growing & Gathering Hops

This past month, my husband gathered the cones from his hops. You can use fresh hops to brew beer, but you have to do it right away, so he chose to dry the hops. He harvested .3 ounces when dried from one plant, the Nugget. The other plant didn’t produce this year. That isn’t a lot, but he was pleased to have harvested anything at all.

Dried and frozen hops cones

His homegrown hops inspired him to look for feral hops. In old cities, hops often grow long after the families who planted them are gone. My husband found three big groups of feral hops in the city. One of the plants he has been watching for a couple of years was in a 19th-century neighborhood that is now hip businesses in the shadow of downtown. That plant is called Cluster, which is more of a heritage breed. This plant is probably more than 100 years old. The other large producer lines a parking lot near a cultivated public garden. This breed is probably Cascade, a varietal that is about 30 years old. The bitter smell of Cascade currently dominates my house as he took it out of the dehydrator this morning.

My husband has dried and frozen several pounds of hops, but he says it would be best to express the harvest in the number of batches of beer he can make with the them. He harvested six batches of homebrewed beer from secret locations throughout our city. For now, they occupy a deep basket in our chest freezer.

Not bad for neglectful gardening and gathering.

Our Wall of Green

Progress of my garden to October

Progress in the Cultivated Raised Bed

Progress of my wild garden until October

 

6 Green Tomato Recipes You’ll Love

Green tomato

I’m overwhelmed with tomatoes. I have so many of them that I have even stopped telling the snails to leave them alone. The only problem: they are all still unripe. I have masses of green tomatoes that will not have time to ripen before the frost. My wild garden was a bit late going in—that’s how things sometimes go with a wild garden—so here I am with a bountiful harvest of green.

To take full advantage of these beautiful green tomatoes, I have lined up six new recipes to try.

Fried Green Tomatoes

A southern classic. I have never tried it, but I have some flavorful, roasted corn meal that is calling out for a special recipe. Southern Living magazine links to this classic fried green tomato recipe at MyRecipes.com, so this is going to be the lunch side for my kids tomorrow. I see a bottle of Crystal cayenne sauce in the photo, and that’s how I’m going to serve this. Warning: this takes a lot of oil. This is a one-time deal for us.

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Rather than blending a traditional tomatillo-based green salsa, this recipe goes all-out green tomato. I need to use all of the tomatoes I have, and we eat a lot of salsa, so this salsa recipe from the New York Times is the winner. Very simple salsa recipe using charred tomatoes as the base.

Green Tomato Relish

I don’t love sweet sauces, so I’m intrigued that Farmgirl Susan’s No-sugar Green Tomato Relish uses tart cooking apples for all of the needed sweetness. That’s my kind of sweetness (without the sweet peppers). Boil, thicken, and buzz in the KitchenAid.

Green Tomato Pickle

We love Indian food, and all kinds of pickle are staples of the current British diet, so this I Indian-flavour pickle recipe from NPR ought to fit right in with my family. It lasts several weeks, but we will likely freeze this so we can continue to have it through the winter.

Italian Farmhouse Green Tomato Pickle

I love the Splendid Table, so I was glad to see that they had a suggestion for me of a long-lasting, vinegary pickle. These last up to six months in the refrigerator if they are completely covered with vinegar (white wine vinegar) each time you take a few tablespoons to add to saute or to spread on a sandwich.

Grilled Green Tomatoes with Creamy Basil Sauce

I do love sauce, salsa, relish, and pickle, but I wanted to find more recipes that leave the tomatoes closer to whole. Martha Stewart came through with grilled tomatoes. They have a simple garlic, lemon, mayo sauce. This sounds like a perfect first dish to let my family know that this is green tomato season.

Peace Education Resources for Children

Child making peace sign

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we build a foundation for peace with children. We can’t just wait until they are some magic age and use logic. No lesson works quite that easily. We have to both model peace and give opportunities for our children to play peace.

Building a peaceful foundation works best if you start when your children are babies and just shift the application as your children develop greater understanding. I gathered a few resources for you, from simple, first steps, to a classroom unit, to tools for nonviolent communication play with children.

10 Steps for Peace

The Alliance for Childhood offers “Ten Steps for Peace Education”, basic actions you can take every day:

“As the world struggles with increasing fears of war and violence, the Alliance for Childhood offers the following brief guide for parents and teachers who seek to nurture the values of compassion and good will in their children’s lives. It is easy to teach children about war. It is much more challenging to teach them how to create peace. These first steps on a path to peace require only small deeds, but will leave profound impressions.”

These ten steps can be integrated into your life with even very young children.

Peace Lesson Plans

Teach Unicef has a whole classroom unit on Peace Education for Pre-K through 2nd Grade. This includes five lessons, videos, and audio for older children.

“Peace education is a natural tool to prevent conflict and to promote social, economic, and political justice amongst a nation’s youngest citizens. It can be integrated seamlessly throughout the curriculum as a learning process, equipping young children and adolescents with confliction resolution skills, respect for human diversity, and awareness of our interconnected world.”

Nonviolent Communication for Children

The Center for Nonviolent Communication sells books and workbooks for adults as well as storybooks and puppets for children. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been an important part of how I have created a respectful, nurturing environment for my children.

Image © Ferguswang | Dreamstime.com

Cultivating Compassion in Children Through Giving

Child and adult hands reaching

Most of us want our children to understand the pain of others and work when they can to alleviate that pain. We want to encourage compassion in children. That is true whether in personal situations among their young friends or in helping them understand the needs of others far away.

One of the ways I help my children cultivate compassion is by encouraging them to give to charity. To keep the action from being too abstract, though, I try to help them understand the needs of others before they decide to give. Even if they give a very small amount, I want them to connect that gift and that feeling of giving with the need. It is in connecting with the needs of others where compassion grows.

We started charitable giving by giving to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, because we had read together the book that UNICEF published with Dorling Kindersley: Children Just Like Me. Just reading this book together to find out about the lives of children in other areas of the world helped my children to see a broader world than the one they saw everyday around them. That was part of our positive foundation.

When it came time to give, we looked at the projects UNICEF funded. Yes, I was guiding my children to give, but I left the decision to give to them. My daughter took her donation money to the post office to get a money order, then she mailed it with a note she wrote. Frankly, I’m sure it’s more difficult for any charity to process small donations that arrive by mail, but I think the concrete actions of the process were important in helping my daughter understand what charitable giving means.

Specifically talking about giving increases the likelihood even more than just modeling giving alone. A recent study, Women Give 2013, found that talking to children about charitable giving increases by 20% the likelihood of those children becoming donors.

Have you considered either donating to a charity with your children in order to cultivate their compassion and help those in your community?

There are about 165,000 charities in Canada. Whether you focus on charities that serve families and children or any other charities, please consider giving and helping your children learn to give.

Image © Irina Brinza | Dreamstime.com

What Is Nature Deficit Disorder?

Child outside

“Technology is not, in itself, the enemy; but our lack of balance is lethal. The pandemic of inactivity is one result. Sitting is the new smoking.” Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv, in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, used the phrase “nature deficit disorder” to decribe what has happened as children spend more time in front of screens and less time outside. The idea refers to the costs of the alienation of humans, primarily children, from nature.

Is it a real disorder?

That the majority of children spend little time outside is real. The change from how children spent time only decades ago is real. There is research, Louv points out, that finds a correlation between concentration and taking walks, between greener neighborhoods and lower body mass. The change in body and mind is real.

The word “disorder” might imply a diagnosis, though, and there is none. The author chose that word to make his point simply understandable.

Do I need to worry about nature deficit disorder?

Maybe. If your child is young, your awareness that our culture pushes children indoors can help you make decisions that will give your children more access to nature. If your child is young, you can probably avoid the problem.

Encouraging your child to go outside will get more and more difficult as they get older. Create the expectation of open, outdoor play now, and the habit will be easier to continue. Model outdoor activities yourself, so it doesn’t appear to your child that outdoors is just for young children.

The truth is, you probably do need to worry about it because the pressure will increase to stay inside—peer pressure, homework pressure, and plain laziness. Remain conscious of outdoor time and prioritize nature in your family life, and you will reduce the negative effects of spending too little time in nature.

Image © Christophe.rolland1 | Dreamstime.com