Dirty Work

Well, so far my summer plans have definitely not gone according to plan.  Rain has forced me to be flexible, and goodness knows that goes against every anal and organized fiber in my body.  But I’ve adjusted, and amazingly the kids have too.

Tuesday, when it had rained off an on during the night, we played board games instead of heading to the park for a picnic.  On Wednesday there was only a slight risk of rain so I thought we might be able to stick to our original plan which was to dig out our water guns and have a watergun fight outside.  But as the morning went on, and there was a thick cloud cover in the sky, I knew that the temperature wouldn’t get high enough to allow us to put on bathing suits and play.  What to do then?

We were running out of indoor activities for the week, and I knew there were rain possibilities off an on later in the week as well.  I could’ve done my postponed picnic, but by the time I realized we wouldn’t be able to do our waterplay, it was kindof late to plan on that.  Then it hit me, it’s supposed to rain on Saturday and we had plants that had sprouted in our seedling container.  Why not take advantage of the dry, yet cool, weather to go out and plant our seedlings.

The kids were totally on board.  Matt and I had already begun the actual garden, because about a week before summer vacation started some of their seeds had already sprouted and were outgrowing the seedling container.  Knowing we desperately needed to get those seeds outside before they died because of lack of room to grow, he and I spent one nap time pulling up the grass and getting a section of our garden ready to plant.  Knowing that we wouldn’t have any time beyond when we were out there to work in the garden that day I also quickly planted the sprouts without the kids.  I hated to do it, but with as much rain as we’ve been getting I didn’t want to risk not being able to get out there again.

So this would be their first experience actually working in the garden itself.  First, we collected our tools and set the ground rules.  I had my big shovel, since we’d need to pull up more of the grass to plant the newest sprouts, and a tool to break up the soil.  Each of the kids had a hand held shovel, plus we had a little rake and hoe as well.  Having three hand held shovels was a godsend.  Each kid could dig to their hearts content and there would be no fighting over who got the shovel next.  The ground rules were simple.  Don’t dig up the plants, don’t run with your shovel, and don’t dig up daddy’s grass.

We get out to the garden itself and at first the kids are in hog heaven.  They were amazed at how much their tiny little seedlings had grown.  I wasn’t too shocked given the amount of rain we’d been having.  In fact I was more concerned that the plants might have been harmed in the pounding rains and high winds we’d experienced.

For a short while they were content to play in the dirt with their shovels while I pulled up the grass.  Unfortunately pulling up the grass was taking me longer than I had hoped.  With Matt and I working as a team the process was very quick.  With me working alone to both dig and pull it up it was time consuming.  Eventually the boys left their shovels and ran off to play with their outside toys.  Kaylee, however, never left my side.  She insisted on digging right next to me which, while cute and adorable, slowed my grass pulling ability even further as I had to constantly be on the watch to ensure she hadn’t gotten a tiny hand or foot in the way of my shovel.

As I began to make progress, I was able to recapture the boys attention.  With all the rain we’ve experienced the earthworms have been burrowing close to the surface.  With every clump of grass I turned over there was a good chance I’d turn up an earthworm as well.  Being deathly afraid of snakes as I am, you’d think that worms would gross me out but they don’t.  In fact I know how good for a garden earthworms are, so anytime I found them still half buried in the dirt clod clinging to the grass I made an effort to extracate them and put them back into the fresh dirt.

I first called over the boys when a worm started working its way out of the ground where I’d recently pulled up the grass.  It was amazing, this worm had to be close to 6 inches long.  I’d never seen one that long before.  The kids all crowded around me and stared in awe at this worm slowly making it’s way out of the ground and across the garden.  Then they got to watch as he began to burrow back into the ground a few inches away.  Once his body was partially out of sight you could still see where he was digging because the dirt moved slightly over his burrowing body.

After he disappeared the boys went back to playing but came running over every time I turned up a worm after that.  The most squeamish of the three kids was Brendan, who could not believe that I would just stick my fingers into a dirt clod and pull a worm out with my hands.  He declined any offers to touch worms himself, but was fascinated in watching them wiggle and move.

Finally, I pulled up enough grass to get our current seeds planted.  I called the kids to me and showed them all the process.  I dug a shallow hole, removed the plant from the seedling container and carefully placed it in the hole, then put a small handful of potting soil with nutrients into the hole with the seedling before filling the rest in with dirt from the garden and pressing the dirt firmly around the plant.  Once they saw everything that needed done I called them individually to do it themselves.

Brendan dug his hole with no problem, I placed his seedling and instructed him to get a handful of soil out of the bag laying nearby.  He was appalled that I was actually telling him to reach into a bag full of dirt with his hands.  But eventually he complied and put the potting soil into the hole.  We covered his plant, and he was finished.  And quite proud of his work.

Cameron came next.  He got his hole partially dug before losing interest, and I had to finish it out.  After placing his seedling I instructed him to get potting soil as well.  He had no problem whatsoever in grabbing dirt out of the bag, and brought me a very generous double handful.  We covered his plant with a little bit of dirt, and before I’d finished helping him pat it firm he was off and running playing with his toys again.

Kaylee had a lot of trouble using her shovel.  Her favorite thing was to drag it across the top of the dirt and make little piles.  Actually sticking the point of it into the ground and digging any sort of hole was beyond her comprehension, so I helped a little.  But like the boys, I still stuck her seedling into our hole and told her to get me potting soil.  She went eagerly, and happily stuck both hands into the bag of potting soil.  Unfotunately keeping hold of the soil was a different story.  By the time she reached her hole in the ground she put approximately 3 grains of soil into the hole.  But I praised her anyway and sent her on her way before reaching into the bag myself and grabbing a much larger handful.

While Kaylee and I finished up with her plant, the boys were taking the scraps of grass that we’d pulled and putting them into the trash container which Matt had wheeled around the house for us when he got home.  After a few minutes of this Cameron says, “boy this is dirty work.”  Matt and I both busted out laughing at this comment.  Ah Cameron, our stater of the obvious.

Brendan and Cameron both mentioned how much harder it was to work in the garden than they thought.  Hopefully the hard work will seem much more worth it when their seedlings grow into full fledged plants.  Brendan in particular is quite keen to have his plants produce food.  He wanted to know if we could harvest them and sell them to people.  I chuckled and told him that we probably wouldn’t sell them, but if we had enough turnout we could give them away to our friends and family.  He looked puzzled and asked what kind of farmers we’d be if we didn’t even sell our crops.

That comment prompted a long discussion about the difference between an actual farmer and growing a few vegetables in our backyard.  Despite my explination he still thought we should try to sell our crops.  Who knows, maybe someday he’ll grow up and buy a farm.  Though something tells me he’d pay someone else to do the actual work on the land.  Yeah, somehow I can actually picture that happening.

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