Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Life of Ben: In the Garden

The back door eases open; he sniffs the air to see who is in the kitchen. He finds me there and waits patiently by the fan as I finish up dishes before gathering my gloves and basket; we are going to the garden.

In the corner of the garden, just beyond the peach tree, a tiny nose twitches. Crouching back in the shadows his heart races as the garden gate opens.

With a burst of energy, Ben charges straight to the back corner; past the peach tree and to the shadowy corner.

The little rabbit we fondly call 'Pete" has bounded under the fence. He sits in the shadow of the wood's edge watching Ben sniff the very spot he was sitting. In hushed tones Ben 'speaks' to Pete; I wonder what he must be saying; is it a warning about eating my garden or simply a conversation between oddly paired friends?

In a show of good measure, Ben carefully searches every inch of the bunny hideout making sure I know how hard he is working. Convinced that task is complete, Ben moves through his routine checkpoints, sniffing, scratching, and nuzzling every inch of the garden- every possibly hiding place. He nibbles snippettes of greenery as he goes.

A stop at the water barrel for cool drink ends his list of things to do. Lumbering through the growing things, he plants himself at my feet. His large head nuzzles my side, seeking approval for a job well done. As I picks a pepper, I scratch his soft ears and pat his strong shoulder- he has worked hard today keeping her garden safe. Ben decides to take a welcome rest in the shade of an oak tree when the watering begins; he's not fond of being wet.

Together we stroll back to the house; he stays just close enough for my hand to rest on his shoulder as we walk.

Once inside, I make a glass of tea as Ben enjoys a bit of egg leftover from breakfast. I take my seat at the table to answer emails and sketch a bit; Ben takes his place at my feet.  There he will nap until we head out for evening chores and one more visit to the garden. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Adventures of Miss K: S is for Song

No matter what the moment or the mood we find ourselves in, a song always brings a smile. It seems a great many of our emotions are lifted when music tickles our ears. Miss K loves to sing.

In moments of play she is always drawn to musical items: her favorite? the nativity that plays Away in  a Manger. Dancing and smiling, the music gives her joy and softens a sour moment. Knowing this, we have set various 'musical' items around the house in order to offer her opportunity. Of course, she loves to snatch my phone with a request for Pandora's toddler tunes. Music is joyful, but singing is even better.

Holding a baby doll in her arms, she starts the tune Rock a by Baby, eyeing anyone nearby to join her. There is Twinkle Twinkle and a host of other familiar tunes- but there is one that stirs a reaction like no other. A song a have sung to her since birth; one I keep unique to her and her alone. When the first few words are heard all movement stops. She turns to face me with a smile bigger than anything you have ever seen. Giggles escape her as she wiggles side to side and inches closer- because we have to have a full hearty hug at the end.

I have no idea what made this 'our song'- it isn't modern, new, or even that common. It's quirky and unusual- like us. Interestingly enough I had decided the second verse just didn't fit us, so I reworded it when she just a few months old; a reflection of the crazy chaos that was at that time and how fun it was in spite of it.

So here it is, Miss K's favorite (the original version).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

His Name Is Ben

His name is Ben, or as Miss K says, "Big Ben". This gentle giant came to be part of my home a little over a year ago; just about the time Miss K joined us. They have been partial to each other since the day they met. So have Ben and I.

It was a long journey from the little farm he was born on to the simple homestead where he now resides. Ben came to me at the tender age of 6 weeks; a cotton ball with a wet nose. From day one he found my lap, my foot, and my shoulder his favorite places to lay his head. We were inseparable, learning each other's manner and temperament. 
He has been my shadow, comfort and fervent protector every single day. At my side or under my feet, Ben is never far from me and always ready to warn me when things just don't seem right. He is a gentle dog, but has shown on more than one occasion the ability to protect and defend. 
Miss K and Ben are kindred spirits- loving the garden, the barn and the great outdoors. Story time has often found them side by side listening to me read to them. Upon her arrival, Miss K's first order of business is to bring Ben up to date on all things as she chatters away beside him in the kitchen. He offers a tender dose of attention and a few will placed kisses. If K goes outside, Ben is close beside her- it's the only time he goes anywhere near the baby pool!
With my family growing and changing, Ben has been my comfort and companion. He lays at my feet as I sip coffee after work, 'helps' me with chores, and joins me in the garden while I work. We are never apart when I'm home- he lovingly walks me to the gate and he eagerly greets me when I return. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

August's Garden: Let it Go

August made it's appearance in a wave of intense heat; we tipped 108 last week! Temperatures like that pretty much bring all of life to a searing halt; especially the garden. That is why the garden theme in August is 'let it go'.

1. Pull it out! Plants succumb to the heat quite quickly leaving the garden a sad, crispy mess. All we can do is pull it out.

2. Put it in! The soil will be somewhat depleted from nurturing the summer garden. This past weekend found me adding manure and compost in thick layers.

3. Cover it up! As much as possible, I cover the beds/rows and let the sun cook down the compost along with weed seeds and pests; the fancy word is 'solarize'.

4. Let it go! I walk away and pretend it doesn't exist until planting time. That's the plan anyway. I never really can stay out of the garden!

5. Plan something new! Whether it is what we plant next, adding a new bed or two, or even creating a 'theme' for the area I love sketching and making notes on the next season's layout.

The three garden beds are going through a major overhaul this year in order to adapt to our changing homestead. Our large 'raised row' garden is intended to become the orchard/vine patch; blackberries, gourds, melons and wildflowers are in the plans. The victory garden (the one with a greenhouse) has six raised beds and several raised rows- the plans are to add a few more raised beds and possibly irrigation while planting 'pottager style'. This area will also have a small bed area for Miss K to work her tools in. I hope to stock the greenhouse with fresh herbs. Finally, the rose/herb area is to undergo the most change as a children's wonder garden filled with color, texture, fragrance and hidden storybook characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle Duck.

Today I'm drooling over seed catalogs and perusing Pintrest for garden art ideas. I guess when you really look at it, I'm not letting go after all!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Adventures of Miss K: We Paint

In the afternoon, long after goat herding and chicken chasing, there comes a point in the day where we paint. A time of togetherness; of quite and stillness; painting time is where no words are spoken- none are needed. We paint. 

I hear the pitter-patter of her little feet. There at my side she smiles, paints and brushes in hand, and impish smile and teasingly asks, 'We paint?" She knows I always say yes. The anticipation builds in her little heart as I grab paper and a bowl of water; she loves to paint. 

At the table, she climbs to her favorite perch a.k.a. my lap. For the record, I attempted to find her a chair just the right height, but that was not going to work for Miss K. My lap is where it's at! Sitting there together, she has her paper and I have mine Together we begin the beautiful dance from water to paint to paper. Swish, swish, swish. 

Recently I purchased some glitter water colors- imagine her delight! Then I picked up a few new paint brushes- now that excited her. She loved them so much, she used every one of them (at the same time). 

Generally Miss K is much like me- always moving and going; quite a busy gal. Not true when we paint. Here she is still and quiet; focused on the process; unphased by the outcome. Some days she uses her favorite colors: blue, yellow and green. Recently she has been focused on individual colors and their variance: blue, then purple. I think for a 1 year old that is fairly amazing. 

What happens to all these water color pages? I'm glad you asked. After they have dried and Miss K has gone home, I sit down and sketch a memory on them. One of her in the garden, one on her swing, another with her donkey- you get the idea. These are gathered together in a folder for when she is older- Miss K's watercolor memories of Grandmama's house. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Project Completion

Today's post is brought to you by the letter 'c'. 'C' is for 'complete'; as in 'The project is complete.' Wow. I can hardly believe it. Two years went by rather fast!

Some of you may remember, I took a part time job as a project specialist in a research study testing curriculum focused on combating childhood obesity. That was two years ago. In that time the project grew from one grade level in four schools to multiple grade levels in four schools plus after schools; from there we even made it to summer camps. It has been quite a ride.

Today I took a moment to really look at what had been accomplished. There is the research assessment which says we improved nutrition and garden knowledge, improved vegetable preferences, and showed improvement in beverage choices and physical activity.  The office assessment shows thousands of educational contacts with expansion in the county and a diverse outreach base. Those are great accomplishments, but they seem rather impersonal.

The project took me to places I never thought I would be, to do things I could only imagine doing, with children who truly needed 'just one person' to be a change in their day. Amazing teachers, camp and after school staff have become work partners and friends. My eyes have been opened to the hearts of many families that shared their children with me- and I have grown to love them. It has pushed me to challenge my creativity and my knowledge base. I have grown and become better for it.

These past few months have been filled with data collection, documentation and finalization of all the hard work we did. There were speaking engagements and conferences; training dates and sharing moments. Now it is complete.

So what will become of 'Professor Go?' now that the project is complete? We won't know until the month ends; she might just be around a little longer or she may stay a while. Either way, I can confidently say, 'I did that and it is complete!'