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Archive for June, 2010

Remodeling

We will start posting regularly in August!

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Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Years ago, long before my daughter was born, I got garden-fever. I lived in Atlanta, in a house in Midtown, and I had a successful compost pile, and a squash, cucumber, and flower garden. I grew peas and peppers inside (which were sorta failures, but I learned a lot from my mistakes).

Right after my first grow, I had to move to Tampa, where I committed basil genocide. I have a theory that creativity, whether maternal or green or otherwise, tends to centralize in a specific outlet. Garden-fever turned into baby-fever. And then I got pregnant and moved across the country twice.

Now, we live in Virginia Beach. We just moved into a new apartment with a back and front yard, and with my eight-month-old superstar baby, I’ve started the garden again. This time, I bought a few already grown plants and started some seeds. And I’ve started a compost pile.

These activities are super fun to do with your kid, and I feel all giddy and enriched when my seedies sprout. While I’m weeding, planting, pulling, the Snoot sits beside me banging her own shovel against a little pot, and she babbles, telling me and our dog stories about her own life as a seed (at least, that’s what I imagine she’s telling us about). Letting her play with the same objects I’m working with aligns with a piece of Montessori Method that I loosely adhere to, “Fewer toys, more real life objects, promoting the idea that children should learn how to handle real objects, rather than pretend ones.”

A lot of times she ends up playing with dirt, which is cool with me too, and good for her immune system!

Aside from being a good, cheap outdoor activity, seeing plants grow makes me feel good. I’ve currently become obsessed with edible flowers:

Marigolds: Sorta spicy/ bitter. I like them in a salad with similar-tasting arugula, pears, and a sweet vinigarette (like raspberry or champagne)

Blue Borage: Cucumber-like flavor, beautiful. And the leaves can be used as a savory herb.

Chive Flowers: Garlicy flavor. Lovely addition to almost any salad or baked potato.

Squash Blossom: Can be sweet, nectar-ish flavor. Great stuffed with goat cheese or any kind of homemade nut cheese.

And there are so many more…but those are the four I’ve started with.

And then there’s the ecological benefit of composting:

“Yard and food wastes make up approximately 30% of the waste stream in the United States. Composting most of these waste streams would reduce the amount of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) requiring disposal by almost one fourth, while at the same time provide a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention. When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened, and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.” (Find source here, a great website for composting references.)

There are all kinds of fancy products to facilitate composting: nutrient-rich teas, barrels, machines. I’m old fashioned: we collect our organic products from our kitchen in a bowl, pile it  in the back of our backyard, and use a shovel to move it around.

Starting A Pile:

  • Start on the ground, grass or soil. You do not need a barrier, but first lay a few inches of straw or twigs for aeration and drainage.
  • Add stuff in layers: green then brown, wet then dry. Green manuer helps speed up the process.
  • Cover with plastic or carpet or whatever you want.
  • Keep moist, but do not soak.
  • Turn every week or two with shovel.

These things can be added to your compost:

“Green Stuff” (Nitrogen)

  • tea bags
  • veggie and fruit scraps (uncooked)
  • fruit rinds
  • coffee grounds
  • old flowers
  • dead plants (NOT DISEASED PLANTS!!)
  • coffee filters
  • cut grass and weeds
  • seaweed and kelp
  • chicken poop

“Brown Stuff” (Carbon)

  • Fallen leaves
  • Twigs and branches
  • Torn up cardboard
  • Mulch
  • Newspaper
  • wood ash
  • dryer lint
  • corn husks

*Keep the Green Stuff and the Brown at a 1:1 ratio.

*Add soil or cover any new additions with grass clippings to mask scent.

* Add lots of straw between layers to reduce need for “turning”

*Layer grass on top to reduce flies.

Do NOT add this stuff, EVER:

  • Meat, dairy, or whole eggs
  • Weeds with seed heads
  • Dog or Cat poop
  • Litter
  • Cooked ANYTHING

Temp and Water Content:

After it’s established, the compost should feel like a damp towel and remain between 90 and 135 degrees (which is why it’s easiest to start in the summer). It takes 2-4 weeks to establish, and, once it’s established, you’ll notice bugs and worms infiltrating it.

Compost is a good addition to soil. It is not soil itself! But if you are growing a potted garden, like me, it is good, solid plant food.

As far as outdoor activities go, gardening is my favorite: After planting and growing and composting, the veggies and herbs can be used for dinner. And if you plant things you’ve never cooked before, they will inspire new recipes. Plus, kids who don’t like eating veggies may have a little more fun if they helped grow it…or if they’re eating flowers!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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