I have found summer gardens hard to maintain in Texas due to the intense, dry, heat. The summers that I have kept a vegetable garden going I had to set up soaker hoses and timers to make sure that nothing died while I was gone, which seemed a bit too much for a small backyard garden. The past two summers I haven’t planted summer gardens, but the weather is cooling down now and S. is a little older so I decided it would be a perfect time to plant a winter/fall garden. Actually, a few weeks or a month ago probably would have been the perfect time, but I have found that many things don’t get done in a timely manner with a toddler in the mix. The fun part this year though is that there is a toddler in the mix! To get our garden started we had to get some compost from a nearby garden center to revitalize our vegetable beds, it turned into a whole afternoon event with S. It is always so enjoyable to go places with S. that she finds fun and exciting and where there is no entrance fee required or crowds to contend with. She and Matt recently took a trip to the garden center so when we got there she knew exactly where she wanted to go, she was off running! I was able to slow her down a bit by getting her to stop and say “cheese” while I took her picture.
S.’s destination: the goats. She was particularly fond of the goat named Oreo, I think she just liked the name. She was also thrilled to point out that the goat had a beard, I am not even sure where she learned what a beard was; it is always amazing to see things that she has picked up all on her own somehow. She probably would have loved to feed the goats, but Oreo and the other two goats are on a special diet so no feeding allowed (ahem, Matt). Instead, I think she had her own little private conversation with one of the goats.
The chickens were also very exciting. S. loves chickens and thanks to some chicken-sitting we did this summer she is very familiar with chicken noises and activities (such as snatching food out of your hand and laying eggs). She wanted to get as close to the chickens as possible, but there was a fence she had to contend with.
S. can also make some great donkey noises. The donkey at the garden center came right over to her and she kept asking to “touch it”. Or she wanted me to touch it. Luckily the donkey seemed pretty friendly so S. was able to gently reach through the fence and pet it. She was thrilled.
It is amazing how exciting animals are to S., I love watching her interact with them and get so excited to see them. Pre-S. I went to the garden center many times and only glanced at the goats, chickens, and donkeys. Being with S. reminds me to go slow and enjoy things like a visit with a donkey. However, we did have a few other things to do at the garden center so once we had the prerequisite visits with the animals over it was time to head off and look for some plants. S. saw another little boy riding in a red wagon and was eyeing him with envy so Matt went to find her a red wagon to ride in as well.
Probably a lot of kids have a wagon at home and don’t get quite the same amount of joy S. gets out of riding in a red Radio Flyer wagon, but we don’t have one so this was a novel experience for her. She loves being pulled and pushed in any type of wagon or little car. She also loves to pull them herself and of course she doesn’t want any help. Lately she is starting to show more signs of independence so I try to support her by giving her more independent play time as well as letting do things all by herself, even if it means watching her (happily) struggle to pull a wagon around.
S. also found a “baby” house plant in one of the greenhouses. She picked it up all by herself and brought it to me to show me. We figured we would get her a little house plant if she wanted one and we tried showing her other options too, just in case there was another plant she would like more, but she was pretty attached to this one little house plant. She wanted to hold it as we pulled her around in the wagon which she did quite happily, although there were a few incidents including a couple that involved broken leaves and one that resulted in a loud “oops” from S. when the plant fell right out of the pot. However, for the most part S. held onto her little baby house plant “tight tight tight”:
The next day we did have to have a discussion about taking the plant for a walk and luckily now the kitchen counter has been deemed an acceptable place for her plant to live. While having S. as a caretaker is rough on plants, I love how excited she gets about things like plants, bugs, lizards, rocks, sticks, etc. I try to make sure that her life isn’t filled with loud, flashy, plastic, toys (although she does have a few of those too).
Next, we picked up a few plants to finish off some landscaping we started months ago as well as a few kale plants; however, we didn’t buy too many vegetable plants because I decided for financial purposes to start most of our plants from seeds we already had. S. willingly shared her wagon with her new plants and even allowed her “baby” house plant to be put with the other plants for a little while.
As we were getting ready to go checkout S. got side tracked by some water she discovered that was flowing through a rain chain display and, never one to miss a good opportunity to get wet, she was quick to stick her hands in the water.I have to admit, rain chains are pretty fascinating so I can’t really blame her for wanting some hands-on experience with one. Next, there was a short trip through the butterfly garden on daddy’s shoulders (we were hoping for some Monarchs to show S., but there were none to be seen).
Then it was finally time to check out and to head for the compost piles to shovel some dirt. This was the whole reason that we went to the garden center, but there were just so many other great things for S. to experience along the way. We opted to save some money and bag our own compost which I also thought S. would enjoy. She isn’t always too fond of getting dirt on her hands (or feet) so I encourage “dirt interaction” when it comes to gardening, even if there is a little turkey manure involved. S. even got her own bucket to help bag the compost.
I was happy to see her enjoying herself and not being concerned about the dirt that ended up on her hands and clothes. She was excited to be involved in a task that included use of a bucket and a shovel and she “helped” Matt fill all the bags and tie them closed.
While playing in a pile of dirt or garden compost may not sound like a good idea to everyone, I like S. getting an opportunity to be involved in gardening. I want her to know that food doesn’t just come from the shelves in a grocery store, but that we can grow fruit and vegetables ourselves. I am excited to show her how seeds grow into plants and how flowers turn into fruit. She may not understand these concepts right now, but hopefully as she gets older they will be things that are just second nature to her. I also hope she learns to love sticking her hands deep into the soil to pull out a nice big carrot, so next we will be planting carrot seeds along with some other greens in our fall/winter garden.
Note to anyone in Austin: This “adventure” took place at the Natural Gardener, it is a fun place to take the little ones on a nice fall morning or enjoy a quiet walk through the butterfly garden by yourself. If you haven’t been there yet I recommend going.