Featured post

Spring at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Prepare for your retinas to be seared with awesomeness. Spring at the Missouri Botanical Garden…

Spring!

Spring!

Many beautiful varieties of tulips.

Many beautiful varieties of tulips.

Tulips are Spy Garden's official favorite flower.

Tulips are Spy Garden’s official favorite flower.

The petals are edible (I've heard)...

The petals are edible (I’ve heard)…

They certainly look...

They certainly look…

scrumptious!

scrumptious!

Like candy!

Like candy!

Spy Sister (aka Aunt Spy) and I enjoyed tiptoeing through the tulips and…

The many sculptures in the garden.

The many sculptures in the garden.

Twisty Twirly

Twisty Twirly

Some are more modern...

Some are more modern…

Some more classical...

Some more classical…

I love these sheep sculptures.

I love these sheep sculptures.

And this angel is another favorite.

And this angel is another favorite.

The Linnean House is the oldest greenhouse west of the Mississippi.

The Linnean House is the oldest greenhouse west of the Mississippi.

Detail inside the Linnean House

Detail inside the Linnean House

And outside the Linnean House

And outside the Linnean House

There are many old and huge trees at the garden…

Many different textures...

Many different textures…

This one reminds me of an elephant.

This one reminds me of an elephant.

This one's sort of creepy.

This one’s sort of creepy.

Polka Dots

Polka Dots

Spiral Tree (and more sculpture!)

Spiral Tree (and more sculpture!)

Spring "Confettti" is Everywhere

Spring “Confettti” is Everywhere

Pretty Trees

Pretty Trees

Trees with big sweeping branches

Trees with big sweeping branches

Pink Dogwood

Pink Dogwood

Looks like a Fairy's House

Looks like a Fairy’s House

Same House, Different View

Same House, Different View

Phlox Moss (say that three times fast)

Phlox Moss (say that three times fast)

We also visited…

The St. Louis Herb Society Sale

The St. Louis Herb Society Sale

We have loads of herbs in Spy Garden but I was looking for some unique varieties…

Two types of eucalyptus were among my finds!

Two types of eucalyptus were among my finds!

Spy Sister got some too!

Spy Sister got some too!

Back in the garden, we skipped the

Climatron

Climatron

(since it was too pretty to go indoors!)

We interpreted some...

We interpreted some…

more sculpture...

more sculpture…

A Perfect Spring Day at the Garden!

A Perfect Spring Day at the Garden!

To learn more about the Missouri Botanical Garden click here!

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Easter in the Garden

Planted!

Planted!

Built!

Built!

Camofrog

Camofrog

Blooms

Blooms

Buds

Buds

The Spy

The Spy

Beyond the Deer Fence

Beyond the Deer Fence

The Best Brother

The Best Brother

Loads of violets in the yard...

Loads of violets in the yard…

…with which we will soon be making violet tea (thanks Eliza for the tip) and having a proper garden tea party! Baby can’t wait. But first, these are definitely violets, right?

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Egg Hunt

Egg Hunt

After Sunrise Service

After Sunrise Service

Back at home hunting for Easter baskets!

Back at home hunting for Easter baskets!

Lots of loot!

Lots of loot!

Formal Archery haha

Formal Archery haha

Action Shot

Action Shot

Spy Sister Stylin'

Spy Sister Stylin’

A Perfect...

A Perfect…

Spring...

Spring…

Easter Day!

Easter Day!

I spy a box turtle

I spy a box turtle

Turtle-Watching

Turtle-Watching

Tree-

Tree-

-Fort

-Fort

Egg-

Egg-

-Chalk

-Chalk

Kite-Flying

Kite-Flying

Relaxing

Relaxing

Happy

Happy…

Easter!

Easter!

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Springing

Redbud Trees

Redbud Trees

Knobby Tree

Knobby Tree

The grass is so green!

The grass is so green!

Lots of dandelions in the yard

Lots of dandelions in the yard

And other little flowers to pick

And other little flowers to pick

Including loads of these tiny purple flowers.

Including loads of these tiny purple flowers.

Tulips beginning to bloom

Tulips beginning to bloom

Strawberries beginning to blush! (Quinault Strawberries)

Strawberries beginning to blush! (Quinault Strawberries)

Technicolor flowers! (store-bought)

Technicolor flowers! (store-bought)

Bradford Pear Trees

Bradford Pear Trees

Best viewed from a distance (the white flowers are very stinky: they smell like garbage!)

Best viewed from a distance (the white flowers are very stinky: they smell like garbage!)

The Spy and Dexie

The Spy and Dexie

And just in time for Easter…

A very delicious...

A very delicious…

Waffle Recipe

1 3/4C Flour (sometimes I substitute different flours like sorghum for part of the flour, but today just used all purpose)

1 T sugar, 1 T baking powder, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t fresh grated lemon zest, 1 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 C Almond milk

In a small bowl: 3 T Chia seeds and 9 T water, let set for a few minutes until it is a gel-like consistency, then add to batter

Coconut oil: I added a lot, about 10 T because I wanted them to be rich and decadent, but you could add half the amount

Whisk it all up then pour into a waffle iron. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, with maple syrup and strawberries; MMMmmmmm!

And a…

Sneak...

Sneak…

Preview...

Preview…

…of Easter but SHhhhhhh! Don’t show the kids!

Hope you all have a happy and blessed Easter!

Featured post

April 16, 2014

Spy Garden 4.16.14

Spy Garden 4.16.14

I took the above picture just before removing all of those milk jugs from the strawberry plants and planting the Purple Majesty and Kennebec (white) potatoes. We are right around the time of our last frost date (the average is April 20), so I think they will be ok!

After

After (A Closer View)

Baby helped to plant the potatoes, after getting herself dressed…

(One can never have too much leopard print.)

(One can never have too much leopard print.)

And we are in Missouri, so a cowboy hat goes with everything, right?

And we are in Missouri, so a cowboy hat goes with everything, right?

In the garden

In the garden

Who lives in there? (Probably a toad)

Who lives in there? (Probably a toad)

Quinault Strawberry

Quinault Strawberry

Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry Plants

Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry Plants

The Spy

The Spy

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Tuesday

The Spy did a report on Lewis and Clark and had to type it up for a presentation tomorrow. It’s certainly more words than I’ve written/posted lately, so thought I’d share!

Detail of "Lewis & Clark at Three Forks" by Edgar Samuel Paxson, mural in lobby of Montana House of Representatives (source)

Detail of “Lewis & Clark at Three Forks” by Edgar Samuel Paxson, mural in lobby of Montana House of Representatives (source)

Meriwether Lewis was born in Virginia in 1774. Lewis was born in Locust Hill. It was near Thomas Jefferson’s home. As a kid, Lewis usually hunted in the middle of the night. Most of Lewis’ family was in the military. Lewis learned about the stars and how to know where he is when he looked up at them. Lewis learned how to fix a broken bone. Lewis learned how to make clothes out of animal skins too. Meriwether Lewis died on October 10, 1809 because of suicide or because of getting shot by another person.

 
William Clark was born in Virginia in 1770. As a kid, William Clark fished and hunted in the day time. He had one older brother his name was George Rodgers Clark. His brother was a famous general in the Revolutionary War. William Clark learned how to draw maps, build forts and sail boats. He did that when he was in the army. William Clark died in Saint Louis on September 1, 1838.

Lewis and Clark’s job was to explore the parts of the country that no one had been to.
One of Meriwether Lewis’ jobs was to become the governor of the Louisiana Territory.
One of William Clark’s jobs was to become the governor of the Missouri territory.
Lewis and Clark were famous for exploring the parts of the country that no one besides Native Americans had explored.

Clark (that's Lewis in the background of the picture)

Clark (that’s Lewis in the background of the picture)

In the garden today…

What is this?

What is this?

Purple Seed Potato sprouting

Purple Seed Potato sprouting

Still haven’t planted these spuds yet, it’s been chilly (we had flurries last night!) so waiting a few more days.

But its definitely spring! The Spy after a hit at the first game of the season tonight.

But it is definitely spring! The Spy after a hit at the first game of the season tonight.

The team (and Baby) celebrating the season opener (a WIN)!

The team (and Baby) celebrating the season opener (a WIN)!

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Spring Sights from Spy Garden

Quinault strawberries under milk jug cloches

Quinault strawberries under milk jug cloches

Daffodil

Daffodil

Archery!

Archery!

Baby and I showing off our matching shoes

Baby and I showing off our matching shoes

Dexie helping...

Dexie helping…

Smoochie build the new corner office.

Smoochie build the new corner office.

Enjoying the view. Hahha

Enjoying the view. Hahha

Swinging into...

Swinging into…

spring!

spring!

And my favorite shots for last…

A pretty spring...

A pretty spring…

sunset.

sunset.

Featured post

April 9, 2014

Installed!

Installed!

The east and south sides of the relocated deer fence are re-installed. I have a special place in my heart for a deer fence. What a relief it is to keep those destructive beasts OUT of the garden! It is a simple structure: seven foot metal fence posts sledgehammered into the ground and plastic deer fencing material zip-tied to each post.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

We’ve been watching the tiny buds in the garden closely for deer-damage since the fence has been down for the past few weeks. Fortunately…

The tiny buds are all still intact!

The tiny buds are all still intact! (pictured is one of two plum trees in the garden)

While Smoochie and I attached the deer fencing material to the posts this afternoon…

Baby continued...

Baby continued…

to perfect her tree-stump-yoga-practice.

to perfect her tree-stump-yoga-practice.

And we all took breaks in our designated "Garden Living Room" (pictured beyond the new whistle-shaped plot).

And we all took breaks in our designated “Garden Living Room” (pictured beyond the new whistle-shaped plot).

And...

And…

the...

the…

asparagus continues to shoot up!

asparagus continues to shoot up!

Featured post

Seed Potatoes

Purple Majesty Seed Potatoes

Purple Majesty Seed Potatoes

“Fancy a Free Wax?” hahaha.  An ad in our local paper. A good background for these flashy purple potatoes? Maybe because we just got back from the pool? Or maybe because…what better way to get ready for swimsuit season than by eating (and growing!) LOTS of vegetables?!

Seed Potato Instructions

Seed Potato Instructions

We’ve never grown potatoes before. I’ve seen them grown in a tall pile; basically you just keep adding dirt on top of them as they grow, I think I will try a version of that. They are drying out at room temperature on newspaper…T-minus two days till planting!

Kennebec Potato

Kennebec Potato

I chose the purple ones just because they look awesome, and chose the “Kennebec” variety because I met Smoochie on the Kennebec River in northern Maine, where we were whitewater raft guides for a summer. Very fun, but potatoes are nearly as thrilling…

WoooO!

WoooO!

The above picture is the perfect illustration of how I open packages. Smoochie always wonders why I demolish bags, boxes, tear through the “resealable” parts of packaging, etc., etc. Well, in this case..I was just so excited! Potatoes! GAHAHhaha ha

The potatoes (along with “Centennial” sweet potatoes, which have yet to arrive) were ordered from Gurney’s.

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Dirt and Vrksasana

Dirt Delivery!

Dirt Delivery!

Whew!...

Whew!…

Nearly the whole pile (five cubic yards) has been moved into the garden.

Nearly the whole pile (five cubic yards) has been moved into the garden.

I’m almost too sore to type! Though we did take a few breaks…

To enjoy the green grass...

To enjoy the green grass…

...the warm sun...

…the warm sun…

To sample...

To sample…

...the first of the asparagus spears.

…the first of the asparagus spears.

And Baby…

has...

has…

been...

been…

working...

working…

diligently on...

diligently on…

her tree pose!

her tree pose!

Featured post

TGIF!

Woooo Friday! Hope you all had a great week. Never a dull moment in Spy Garden…We’ve ordered seed potatoes (purple! and sweet! and Kennebec!) and a mountain of dirt, which arrives tomorrow (another wooo!). In Squirrely Garden (Baby’s Forest School Garden) we’ve ordered dirt and I (the Garden CEO) spray-painted the borders of the lovely, undulating shapes of each garden bed onto the ground. With lovely neon orange paint, which happily washed out of my lovely wool coat and leather handbag, which I wore as I graffitied the ground haha. Instead of digging all the plots, they tacked down black garden fabric cut in the shapes I spray painted and will soon dump dirt on top of that (rather than taking the dig it in first approach I’ve used in Spy Garden), so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I’ve brought them lots of seedlings to care for until they are ready to go in the garden. The seedlings are springing up by the dozens in Babyzilla’s room (aka our glam-greenhouse).

We’ve contended with the usual repertoire of wildly violent midwestern spring storms,

Hunkering down in the basement with the tornado sirens blaring!

Hunkering down in the basement with the tornado sirens blaring!

And come through unscathed. Though I did have a bit of a detour over a bridge (as seen on Instagram this afternoon). Here’s an excerpt from our local news station’s website (replete with typos;)…

MoDOT officials say the incident is weather related because of the massive storms we just had.

“The river cane up about 10 feet last night. There was high winds and it came up higher than we expected. The barge broke free, basically it was holding the crane, and it moved about 50 feet and it’s resting up against the bridge. The problem is, too, there’s a lot of debris building up against the barge and so there’s a lot of pressure on this bridge and so at this point there’s more and more pressure on it so we want to get the traffic off there and get that moved as quickly as possible,” said MoDOT District Engineer Greg Horn.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

MoDOT is working with several agencies, including the US Coast Guard. Tug boats are being moved up the Missouri River to help move the barge.

Horn says MoDOT believes the barge moved the 50 feet slowly, and that the crane did not slam into the bridge, but gently eased into it, probably overnight. Workers first noticed the crane next to the bridge at 5:30am Friday.

The extent of the damage is not completely known yet.

Basically it was holding the crane” (well I guess if you want to get technical the river was also “holding” it) and “gently eased into it” Hahhahaha. Come on, “slammed” or “smashed into it” sounds way more exciting.

It wasn’t all wild Jurassic park-style-suspense storms and excitement this week. I enjoyed a leisurely swim (indoors!) with the kids…The Spy enjoyed a friend’s birthday party, baseball practice and teaching Smoochie about the metric system. I, a yoga class, a happy hour or two and found this hilarious, smartly-written blog and also enjoyed agreeing with this post. And, of course, we are all enjoying watching everything turn green and the daffodils blooming everywhere!

Happy Weekend!

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Early April

Entitled, "Blurry Sunset at Spy Garden" or "I need to break out the tripod for lowlight slow exposure shots when the sunset colors are this good"

Entitled, “Blurry Sunset at Spy Garden” or “I need to break out the tripod for low-light slow exposure shots when the sunset colors are this good”

Spring in Spy Garden means lots of April showers: pounding, heavy rain, whipping winds, bright pink lightening and booming thunder. The rumble of a storm coming from the west reminds me of Jurassic Park.

Quivering puddles a la Jurassic Park

Quivering puddles a la Jurassic Park

(soon to be) Daffodils

(soon to be) Daffodils

Looking west, from whence the storms come

Looking west, from whence the storms come

Foggy Valley

Foggy Valley

Sunny Valley

Sunny Valley

The dogs dragged up another deer leg from the woods. Third one! I wonder if it is from the same deer?

The dogs dragged up another deer leg from the woods. Third one! I wonder if it is from the same deer?

Working on the new corner office

Working on the new corner office

Dexie helping too

Dexie helping too

(as seen on Instagram)

(as seen on Instagram)

Very nice to see!

Very nice to see!

And an early April salad dressing: A heaping spoonful of tahini, a splash of olive juice, a splash of white vinegar and olive oil, a spoonful of dijon mustard, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some black pepper and a chopped clove of garlic. Mix it up with a fork. Tangy, tart, creamy, rich and complex: really delicious!

Featured post

March 29, 2014

Baby demonstrates...

Baby demonstrates…

One can never have too much leopard print.

Baby in the...

Baby in the…

forest.

forest.

Stepping over a branch...

Stepping over a branch…

finding a fossil...

finding a fossil…

...a fallen tree...

…a fallen tree…

...feeling the soft, springy moss.

…feeling the soft, springy moss.

What do you hear?!

What do you hear?!

It's the Spy and his friend.

It’s the Spy and his friend.

A sure sign of spring, no one huddled next to the warm fire!

A sure sign of spring, no one huddled next to the warm fire!

Smoochie revamping the corner office.

Smoochie revamping the corner office.

The asparagus waits for a warmer day to shoot up.

The asparagus waits for a warmer day to shoot up.

Maybe tomorrow? It’s supposed to reach 70!

Spy Garden March 29, 2014

Spy Garden March 29, 2014

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Some Seedlings

Seedling Setup in Babyzilla's Room

Seedling Setup in Babyzilla’s Room

This picture was taken from an angle that included part of Baby’s chandelier in the composition, and I just love how the photo turned out. Very glamorous seedlings!

Spy Garden Tomatoes

Spy Garden Tomatoes

We’ve planted the tomato seeds! The descriptions (from http://www.rareseeds.com) of the varieties…

Flame (also called Hillbilly)

A huge, bi-color heirloom: brilliant yellow color with red marbling. Very large with a rich, sweet flavor. Beautiful when sliced. An heirloom believed to be from West Virginia.

Purple Calabash

May be the most purple of all “purple” tomatoes; a deep purple/burgundy and very colorful! The shape is also exciting, with the 3″ fruit being very flat, ribbed and ruffled. Flavor is intense, sweet and tart, with a lime or citrus taste. A most uniquely flavored tomato! The plants give huge yields. This tomato resembles tomatoes pictured in 16th-century herbal diaries.

Gypsy

Named for the Gypsies who live in Russia, this is one of the deepest, purplest, maroon tomatoes we have ever grown. It has a gorgeous color and good taste. Perfect, medium-sized globe fruit make this one of the nicest dark varieties. A lovely and colorful introduction from the great Soviet plant breeders.

Morning Sun: no longer sold on rareseeds.com so I don’t have a description, but we grew this last year and is a prolific yellow cherry/grape tomato. The description of “Egg Yolk Tomato” seems accurate of Morning Sun…

The fruit are a lovely yellow color, being the shape, size and color of an egg yolk. A tantalizing taste treat just bursting with rich, fruity flavor and all of summer’s sweetness. The extra-long vines really amazed us with their productiveness. Developed by Larry Pierce from a sport he found growing in his garden.

Sioux

One of the best-known historic tomatoes, the medium-sized fruit are early. Productive plants and great flavor made this one of the most popular Midwestern tomatoes in the late 1940′s. In 1947, Oscar H. Will & Co. stated, “It out-yielded all other varieties in South Dakota trials.” Per Henderson & Co., in 1951, “Two weeks earlier than Marglobe or Rutgers.” This tomato was one of our most requested, as people love the smooth, beautiful fruit and heavy yields. Introduced in 1944 by the University of Nebraska.

We have loads more varieties planted (of greens, peppers, eggplants, herbs…) but we’ll save those descriptions for another day.

A pepper seedling touching a water droplet on the plastic seed cover. I like the optical illusion this creates!

A pepper seedling touching a water droplet on the plastic seed cover. I like the optical illusion this creates!

Featured post

Marie-Antoinette, Gardener

My mom sent me this pretty book,

From Marie-Antoinette’s Garden: An Eighteenth-Century Horticultural Album by Élisabeth de Feydeau

From Marie-Antoinette’s Garden: An Eighteenth-Century Horticultural Album by Élisabeth de Feydeau

…probably because when I was in first grade I did a “Night of the Notables” project where I dressed up as Marie-Antoinette. The hairstyle and costume I donned has always been a fond memory.

For the record, that is my real hair.

For the record, that is my real hair.

In my own words...

In my own words…

For the record, it was 1793, not 1893. Guess the teacher missed that opportunity for a correction (though note that she did correct my spelling of “Ouch”). I still think “OOwch!” may be more appropriate. Note the guillotine drawing hahaha.

In reading...

In reading…

…we were surprised to learn that Marie-Antoinette was quite the passionate gardener. Marie-Antoinette is often described as having decadent and opulent interests. It certainly wasn’t cheap to redesign her gardens and she did spend a lot of money having plants shipped in and in making major changes to the landscaping, but usually…

The queen flitted about the gardens in a white percale gown…and a straw hat, going from her farm to her dairy, leading her guests off to drink her milk and eat her fresh eggs, luring the king away from his reading beneath a clump of trees to take tea and a picnic on the grass…It was rumored that the queen had taken to dressing like a ladies’ maid, and the silk traders of Lyon accused her of willfully seeking their financial ruin.

Most portrayals of Marie-Antoinette (including that ghastly movie with Kirsten Dunst) follow the clichéd and ill-informed notion that wealth and privilege equals evil and pretention. She’s often portrayed as a rich, self-indulgent and careless elitist. This book paints a much different picture of the Queen as a mother who is passionate about gardening and other arts of the home.

She writes of her four year old son, “I think it would be best to let him play and work the soil on the terrace…” Agree, Marie! Wholeheartedly! Just call me Marie-Antoinette. Or maybe Marie-Antoi-Internet.

Petite Dauphine de Spy Jardin

Petite Dauphine de Spy Jardin

The braid...it's French ;)

The braid…it’s French ;)

Petite Jardinier

Petite Jardinier

The book features various varieties grown in her gardens, a few of which are near and dear to Spy Garden…

Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn Sumac

Black Walnut

Black Walnut

(I wonder if Marie-Antoinette ever tried to make ink from the husks?!)

I especially enjoyed this highly entertaining story of the potato…

In 1785, at a loss to know how to tackle the famine sweeping the country, Louis XIV ceded fifty acres of land…to the botanist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, for potato planting…French peasants were suspicious of this strange, exotic vegetable…To support the botanist in his efforts, and to encourage potato eating, Louis XVI slipped one of the flowers into his buttonhole. Marie-Antoinette set a similar example, wearing a potato flower in her hair when she visited Parmentier’s plantation that same year. The people’s suspicion was undimmed. Parmentier decided to whet their curiosity, and mounted an armed guard around his potato fields (which were now ready to harvest). The guards left their posts at night. Mightily intrigued, the people of Paris hurried to steal the closely guarded “treasure” within. The root vegetable conquered the public…The tide of public opinion turned, and the exotic root vegetable became that staple European favorite, the ‘humble’ potato!

Imagine? No pommes frites!?

Marie-Antoinette was made the Queen of France at barely 18. It’s often said she “played” peasant in her gardens and private home. But I question the notion of “play”. Was it really pretend? Was it wrong for her to defy the politics of the court of Versailles and frolic in the flowers with her kids? Was dismissing the culture of the court more than a personal preference? A conscious political statement? Surely anyone who is so fond of gardening can’t be all bad. So far as I know, Robespierre was no gardener…While Marie-Antoinette cut flowers and ribbons all he seemed to cut off were heads!

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Love is a Battlefield

Maybe Pat Benatar was half-right. A garden battlefield…

To Battle!

To Battle!

Burning small piles of leaves in the garden.

Burning small piles of leaves in the garden.

While we worked we kept joking that it looked like there was quite a battle in the garden today!

The dogs know all about the art of warfare.

The dogs know all about the art of warfare.

Baby watching the action.

Baby watching the action.

The Teepee

The Teepee

The "back nine" of the garden About halfway done turning everything over.

The “back nine” of the garden About halfway done turning everything over.

After the smoke cleared…

The fingers of the dead...

The fingers of the dead…

emerged to seek revenge. AHHH!H!!!! Zombies!

emerged to seek revenge. AHHH!H!!!! Zombies!

Whew! Just asparagus.

Whew! Just asparagus.

The asparagus patch (did not turn that over as it would disturb the asparagus crowns)

The asparagus patch (did not turn that over as it would disturb the asparagus crowns)

A beautiful, chilly spring day.

A beautiful, chilly spring day.

Facing South

Facing South

Facing West

Facing West

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Happy Spring Equinox!

Spy Garden spring officially began March first, but now it’s officially, officially spring!

Spy Garden First Day of Spring Sunset

Spy Garden First Day of Spring Sunset

Trying to get the whole garden in the shot (can't quite do that anymore!)

Trying to get the whole garden in the shot (can’t quite do that anymore!)

Some forgotten jaune paille des vertus onions from last year springing up.

Some forgotten jaune paille des vertus onions from last year springing up.

In other official matters…

The first of the tulips have emerged.

The first of the tulips have emerged.

Tulips are Spy Garden's official favorite flower!

Tulips are Spy Garden’s official favorite flower!

Spring sunset light

Spring sunset light

Spring lighting

Spring lighting

The trees are still bare, but not for long.

The trees are still bare, but not for long.

I like how you can see the horizon of rolling hills off in the distance, this view will soon be obscured by lots of leaves!

I like how you can see the horizon of rolling hills off in the distance, this view will soon be obscured by lots of leaves!

Happy Spring!

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March 19, 2013

Hope you had a Happy St. Patty’s Day! Ours was filled with the standards (i.e. cabbage) and lots of green…

Green watering can

Green watering can…

Green shirts and green hats...

Green shirts and green hats…

Shamrocks...

Shamrocks…

Green plants (kalanchoe, aloe and a few jade starts are pictured here in a little green pot)...

Green plants (kalanchoe, aloe and a few jade starts are pictured here in a little green pot)…

Lots of little green seedlings...

Lots of little green seedlings…

and…

Green bowls of green ice cream with green sprinkles!

Green bowls of green ice cream with green sprinkles!

The green has continued beyond St. Patty’s and we’ve noticed tiny emerald buds on some trees and the grass is slowly changing color.

The Spy in (the neighbor's) field of soon-to-be-green grass!

The Spy in (the neighbor’s) field of soon-to-be-green grass.

Incoming!

Incoming!

Good practice for pitching.

Good practice for pitching.

Baseball is the Spy’s favorite thing about spring! In the garden…

The garlic is looking good.

The garlic is looking good.

It is planted in a big spiral shape in this plot.

It is planted in a big spiral shape in this plot.

The garlic spiral is an homage to Robert Smithson, but also to echo the whirly, twirly garlic scapes!

Stay off the earth sculpture!

Stay off the earth sculpture!

The garlic and other things popping up at the moment are hardy and can take a bit of puppy paw-pounding. However, I fear for the tiny seedlings to come! Maybe we can dissuade them with…

Dog treats?

Dog treats?

Baby debating whether to sample these herself or...

Baby debating whether to sample these herself or…

give them to the dogs!

give them to the dogs!

Having not much to do with the yard and garden and things turning green, but perhaps relating to folks who head south to “spring break”, a painting by Baby:

Watercolor, by Baby

Watercolor, by Baby

Quite bright and beachy…I spy waves, a flounder (or horseshoe crab?) and two petrified shark’s teeth.

Detail (shark's tooth)

Detail (shark’s tooth)

Petrified Shark Tooth

Petrified Shark Tooth

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The Ides of March

It seems we did not have much to beware today. Caeser missed the warning long ago. Really he never got the warning, wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote “Beware the ides of March”? Either way, we found little to beware and we didn’t even sacrifice any sheep to Jupiter…

Though the dog did drag this charming piece of deer pelt from the woods.

Though the dog did drag this charming piece of deer pelt from the woods.

We did not find much doom in this Ides, just a lovely warm day filled with lots of progress in the garden…

We moved the fence posts.

We moved the fence posts.

The fence used to be where the new…

(whistle shaped)

(whistle shaped)

…plot now is. The fence ran to the right of that tree in front of the picnic table. The garden feels SO much bigger now! Now we just need to attach the deer fencing material to the posts and the expansion is complete! Down at the other (west) side of the garden…

Tim...

Tim…

...ber!!!!

…ber!!!!

It was a nice tree but it just had to go.

It was a nice tree but it just had to go.

It was shading such a large area of the garden and we already have several shaded areas (good for lettuce and some flowers), but we needed more “full sun” areas.

It was such a beautiful day!

It was such a beautiful day!

Spring is springing

Spring is springing

So nice to be outside all day...

So nice to be outside all day…

right up until sunset.

Where I'm a redhead with the right lighting!

Where I’m a redhead with the right lighting!

I think I’m doing a great job of channeling a Boticelli chick in that shot, eh?! A seated, fully clothed, midwestern birth of Venus? HAhahah

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The St. Peter Formation

A warm and windy spring-day outing to Pacific, Missouri…Pacific is not too far from Spy Garden, but very different from the area where we live. The first sight you see when entering Pacific on historic route 66 is the St. Peter’s Formation:

St. Peter's Formation (and the sign for a car wash)

St. Peter’s Formation (and the sign for a car wash)

These huge rock formations with big, striking “caves” (really old mine entrances) have quite an unceremonious presence in Pacific. There are no signs, no information, no parking (we just parked on some gravel on a side road). I wasn’t quite sure we were even “allowed” to be walking around here!

Uhhh...let's not go inside.

Uhhh…let’s not go inside.

I didn’t know it was even called “The St. Peter’s Formation” until I looked it up when we returned. I knew it was a part of an active mine because a bustling U.S. Silica plant sits right along route 66 just a few “blocks” (rock blocks? haha) beyond where these pictures were taken. Train tracks run right up to the plant and the sounds of train whistles and chug, chugging are steady.

We learned that U.S. Silica is mining “St. Peter Sandstone” and that…

More than 65 million short tons of St. Peter, having an estimated present value of $2 billion, have been mined in Missouri from the 1870s to present.  In 2008, more than 700,000 short tons of St. Peter at a value in excess of 20 million dollars were produced from Missouri.  St. Peter Sandstone was originally used for the manufacture of glass.  Its dominant use recently has been as a proppant in oil and gas formation stimulation nationwide.  There is an estimated 3.8 trillion short tons of St. Peter Sandstone reserves in Missouri. (from Missouri Department of Natural Resources website, click here to read more about the properties of the sandstone)

Not a mile away, there is a little civil war memorial park that does have parking and signage/information. The description of Blackburn Park from Pacific’s website reads,

Home to Pacific’s Civil War replica cannon located on top of Sandstone mountain on 2nd Street off Osage. This is a breathtaking view of Meramec Valley and the civil war cannon are spectacular sites that you will never forget.

That’s a bit of an overstatement. It is a good vantage point, but I wouldn’t call it a mountain. Given, it was cloudy and the trees are still leafless, but still, this view of Pacific isn’t necessarily picturesque.

Though the Spy liked to see the...

Though the Spy liked to see the…

canon.

canon.

Plus it was VERY windy up there, which made it fun.

Plus it was VERY windy up there, which made it fun.

But…

I was way more interested in getting a closer look at those huge rocks down the street!

I was way more interested in getting a closer look at those huge rocks down the street!

Old mine entrances...and can you spy the Spy?

Old mine entrances…and can you spy the Spy?

I don't think we should stand under this over-hang!

I don’t think we should stand under this over-hang!

Can you spot him?

Can you spot him?

Lots of colors...

Lots of colors…

...and textures.

…and textures.

A tree in an old mine entrance, way up!

A tree in an old mine entrance, way up!

Rocks with Tree

Rocks with Tree

Rock face

Rock face

Our favorite part was this big sandy flat area below…Silica Valley, if you will. The kids collected rocks (never, ever underestimate the entertainment value of rocks!)

Silica Valley

Silica Valley

Collecting rocks.

Collecting rocks

Stripes

Stripes

Still collecting rocks

Still collecting rocks

I liked these pretty little (tiny!) weeds growing in the sand.

I liked these pretty little (tiny!) weeds growing in the sand.

St. Peter Sandstone

St. Peter Sandstone

Sharing their finds

Sharing their finds

See you later, Pacific!

See you later, Pacific!

It would be nice to go back on a day when the sky was a good clear vibrant blue (would make for an entirely different set of pictures), but I like how the gray/bright-white sky kind of gave everything a little bit of an otherworldly look today! Happy Friday everyone!

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Seedlings and Sculpture

Normally around this time of year I start planting tons of seeds: in paper cups, plastic cups and containers, coffee cans. Then said containers were unceremoniously placed in drafty windowsills, covering the Spy’s dresser and desk. I’ve relied on south-facing windows (the Spy has two) to provide light. I’ve never really had a proper seed starting set up…

Until now!

Until now!

Smoochie built it this weekend. It’s pretty simple, but a MAJOR improvement! Like I said, I used to take over the Spy’s room with the seedlings, but this year Baby has offered up the top of her dressers for the little seedlings and supplies (thanks Baby!) If you want a really proper list of seed starting supplies and instructions check out this post on sweetdomesticity. My basic list includes…

DSC_6823 (500x299)

Seeds, water in a spray bottle, white duct tape and a sharpie (for labeling), dirt (potting soil) and containers. I find that having the seeds in a location that I frequent (i.e. Baby’s room) ensures I won’t neglect watering them (or miss watching them sprout!). Plus it is toasty warm and in front of a south facing window AND Baby gets to closely watch the process too.

I had this tray leftover from last year.

I had this tray leftover from last year.

So far we’ve started eggplants and sweet peppers (I’ll write about the different varieties in a future post). I think they’ll do well in these smaller sized sections (they take a long time to germinate), but for the tomatoes I will use something larger (like plastic cups) because I like the tomato seedlings to get pretty big before transplanting. There’s lots of room left for more plants.

In even MORE exciting garden news…The new plot is complete!

The Spy thinks it is shaped like a big whistle.

I have to agree.

I have to agree.

It was 77 degrees today (!)

An open window!

An open window!

…and it was a lovely afternoon of digging.

The Spy in the shade of a tree trunk.

The Spy in the shade of a tree trunk.

Ahhhhhh! Bliss!

Ahhhhhh! Bliss!

I had...

I had…

...lots of help!

…lots of help!

Little Diggers (Maggie was digging with her teeth! See the big clod of dirt in her mouth?!)

Little Diggers (Maggie was digging with her teeth! See the big clod of dirt in her mouth?!)

Another view of the expansion (facing north)

Another view of the expansion (facing north)

We just have to move the fence and the expansion is complete!

Fits right in!

Fits right in!

We are planning to plant pumpkins in this new plot. Not sure which kind yet (we have three types of seeds: Jarrahdale, Giant Atlantic and Rouge Vif D’Etampes).

My favorite earth sculpture, Spy Garden

My favorite earth sculpture, Spy Garden

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Ode to a Commute, and a Bridge

I am (recently) gainfully employed (as a registered nurse) and am fortunate to have a very lovely commute.

It has an over the river…

img_4092-500x149

and through the woods…

IMG_4005 (500x311)

thing going on. Plus, it’s sunrise, which is often so colorful and striking.

Just another sunrise.

Just another sunrise.

The vibrant sunrises never seem to get old!

IMG_4166 (500x374)As the first rays hit the tops of the hills, they sometimes look hot pink (as in the above shot). It is a very striking effect.

IMG_4169 (500x331)A very flat Missouri River valley…

IMG_4189 (500x203) (2)but you can see the hills at the horizon line.

IMG_4182 (500x310)I pass horses (often with warm weather “coats” and headgear), old barns and sheds (like this green shed in the above photo) and an old (now defunct) train station (as seen on @spygarden Instagram).

It’s twenty minutes, there’s very little traffic. Now, as a nurse, I cannot advocate photographing while driving as that is not safe at all! And I do promise to stop. I did stop. To take many of these pictures. Like I said, there’s not too many cars on the road.

But the bridge…

The Daniel Boone Bridge was built in the 1930′s and is currently being replaced. It has this great patina-green color and there is always an element of danger in crossing: icy, deep, swift Missouri River below…and the lanes are SOooo narrow! Perhaps more convenient than early Western explorers trying to cross the river by ferry (or fording the thing in a wagon!), the Daniel Boone Bridge still captures that Western explorer/adventure spirit. Or maybe it’s just hunks of metal and concrete and I’m in a poetic mood?

I had the bridge just about to myself this morning, and so, even though it doesn’t make it right, (NO photography while driving!), I snapped a shot.

IMG_4201 (373x500)

I just hate the idea of this bridge getting torn down (2015) without anyone properly capturing some good photos of it. Not that this one is any good…it’s with an iphone. But I have been seriously thinking of the logistics of hiking out near the bridge on foot with the good camera to try and get some shots before it is torn down next year. There are no paths or sidewalks anywhere near the thing. It would be quite an adventure. Perhaps Chris Naffziger could do it, the author/photographer of St. Louis Patina, “a blog detailing the beauty of St. Louis architecture and the buildup of residue-or character-that accumulates over the course of time.” as it would seem to fit the theme of his unique site.

I like the look of the big construction cranes and the red and white striped cement trucks: I appreciate the creation of a new bridge, but it’s hard for me to resist wanting to capture this big old structure “taking its last breaths” (as it were).

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Lent Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 or so days until Easter. We went to evening service tonight. The last time I scanned in all the pages of the bulletin from one of our church’s services it wasn’t exactly a wildly popular post, so I’ll refrain. THIS TIME ahaha. I find examining the differences of doctrines and religious practices to be quite fascinating without any bells and whistles (i.e. the black and white printed bulletin on plain paper). But this is a glog; heavy with bells (pictures!) and whistles (jokes! or at least a bad pun or a double entendre or two) so I’ve picked out the highlights from the service/message. The cover of the bulletin this evening read…

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

A notion taken from Ecclesiastes 3:20 which reads:

All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

I was immediately reminded of one of our favorite posts (Hamlet for Babies). Here is an excerpt from that post to illustrate why…

"is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt?"

“is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt?”

Hamlet was grappling with the idea of our earthly worth. Perhaps if Hamlet were a gardener he would not be so conflicted on the worth of a person’s temporal life…

Fine dirt sounds pretty good to me! I try not to take the “earthly” things too seriously. We’re not really supposed to love money or possessions or measure our worth by our accomplishments, deeds or assets. I’m really nothing more than dirt here on earth. A speck of dust. Only in Christ is there value, joy and everlasting life and anything truly significant.

The idea of “giving up” something earthly for Lent I think is meant to disrupt your routine to focus on personal repentance in light of the suffering and death of Christ. But when I think about possibilities of something to restrict (sugar? caffeine?) such things seem SO insignificant in relation to the actual point of Lent…

“…a holy season of prayerful and penitential reflection…a time of special devotion, self-denial and humble repentance…” (taken from the church bulletin)

I mean, Jesus was fasting ALONE in a desert (with nary a garden for miles!). He couldn’t lament to his coworkers or friends about how much he missed food. He was alone. With only God (and the Devil) for company. Quite a far cry from sharing your “sacrifices” with all your friends and family, “Woe! I miss Dr. Pepper so much.*” Even if the sacrifices/restrictions have good intentions, i.e.”I’m giving up procrastination!*” or obvious benefits, they don’t necessarily equal spiritual value or make one more reflective or repentant or humble (especially if you’re sharing them with everyone and their brother, see Matthew 6:16 on that!). I think restrictions and changes to routines definitely CAN have spiritual benefits, but I suppose I’m giving up: sharing what I’m giving up for Lent. HAHahaha

*Actual Lent “sacrifices I’ve heard people say. HAHAHahhaa

Please share in the comments your thoughts on how “giving things up” does or does not make you more spiritually mindful. Love to hear different perspectives on this!

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Fat Monday, Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”. It is the practice of indulgence (i.e. eat, drink, be merry…) before Ash Wednesday. The spiritual worth of indulgence is perhaps questionable from a spiritual point-of-view. Debauchery is debauchery? Lent or no Lent…n’est pas? Perhaps…So we’ll at least try and keep our debaucheries rated PG (i.e. involving various forms of sugar) in true Spy Garden style. Tomorrow the church season of Lent begins (where ideally one reflects on how Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days)…but more on that tomorrow. For today we feast. On leftover jambalaya and king cake. For our Mardi Gras started yesterday (Lundi Gras!), Aunt Spy’s birthday.

Birthday card made by the Spy

Birthday card made by the Spy

Festive flowers

Festive flowers

King Cake...yes, that's a plastic baby and yes, that baby is supposed to be INSIDE the cake (we fixed that)

King Cake…yes, that’s a plastic baby and yes, that baby is supposed to be INSIDE the cake (we fixed that)

And…

The piece de resistance...

The piece de resistance…

A birthday gift from Spy Garden to Aunt Spy…

A "Coral Cactus"

A “Coral Cactus”

It’s a warm-weather cactus, I just brought it outside to take a few pictures of it with better lighting. Aunt Spy likes mermaids and this plant really reminded me of…

A Mermaid's Tail

A Mermaid’s Tail.

The top edges of the plant will turn reddish pink if put in a sunny location.

In other early March festivities, we’ve proclaimed March first the start of Spy Garden spring and the season is off to a great start. A few inches of snow and a little ice on Sunday, Negative 10 (Farenheit) wind chill factor yesterday and today: 45 and sunny (also known as “balmy”). Sounds like spring, non?! I’m eager to start planting some seeds (indoors) and plan to start with the eggplants. I purchased some potting soil and the dogs were kind enough to help me open the package:

Thanks!

Thanks!

Gratuitous Spy Garden shot from today (not too much new going on!)

Gratuitous Spy Garden shot from today (not too much new going on!)

Lundi Gras Sunrise. Cold piles of dirt/compost at Fick's

Lundi Gras Sunrise. Cold piles of dirt/compost at Fick’s

Mardi Gras Sunrise. I spy rows...spring is here!

Mardi Gras Sunrise. I spy rows…spring is here! (Missouri River Valley)

Happy Mardi Gras Everyone!

Happy Mardi Gras Everyone!

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A Few Things for Friday*

*because I couldn’t think of a better alliteration…

Missouri River Valley

Missouri River Valley

It’s still cold but I’m naming today the last day of winter. You can’t really tell in the above photo, but this field has recently been plowed. Love the undulating rows of freshly plowed dirt.

Baby is adjusting to her new school. And by “adjusting” I mean she got a violent cough, raging fever and missed school most of this week.

(She's feeling better now)

(She’s feeling better now)

Until around age five, kids’ Eustachian tubes (the tube that connects the ear to the throat) are not slanted downward (like an adult’s), so when kids are congested, fluid can easily collect in the tube. Stagnant fluid can easily become infected, hence why kids who get a cold or a virus often also get an ear infection. The principal of homeopathic ear drops are that they are anti-microbial, but this still doesn’t solve the issue of blocked tubes or necessarily decrease fluid accumulation. Plus, I am not too keen on using stinky garlic drops in Babyzilla’s ears all the time (garlic is one of the most common antimicrobial ingredients used in such drops). I was looking to try something different than simply treating every ear infection with antibiotics or “riding out” the more mild ones, and so baby and I took a trip to the chiropractor.

Logan College of Chiropractic is a great school in our area and they have doctors, interns and students that see patients. The Biofreeze Sports and Rehabilitation Center is very nice. I snapped a photo of these stadium seats there (from the old Card’s stadium) for the Spy:

A sight that reminds me of spring! Opening day is just around the corner!

A sight that reminds me of spring! Opening day is just around the corner!

Not sure what this thing is!

Not sure what this thing is!

And little…

congested Baby

congested Baby

…got to play with some balls while we waited.

The doctors showed me how to do some of the “moves” to clear the Eustachian tubes. I think they felt comfortable showing me how to do some of them because I am a nurse (who just passed boards last week! Woo! RN, BSN!) Always check with your doctor first if you have health care concerns/questions for yourself or your kids. Don’t trust random advice on the internet (hahhah)! I’m going to do them regularly on Babyzilla and also bring her in regularly for some easy, noninvasive, nonpharmacological prophylactic against the dreaded otitis media (ear infection).

In garden news, we’ve joined the Missouri Botanical Garden and are so excited for our membership, which includes free admission to the main (big!) garden, Shaw Nature Preserve and the Butterfly House.

The first bloom of Spy Garden has been spotted. It is in our living room, but it counts!

Meyer Lemon bloom with a window view

Meyer Lemon bloom with a window view

Our garden expansion is still underway and we’ve ordered some more fence posts and another roll of…

deer fencing material

deer fencing material

…and we look forward to the next warm day to move the east side of the fence. It may be cold and icy this weekend. So it may be more batting cages and seed starting (indoors) than digging outside in the dirt, but it’s still officially Spy Garden Spring tomorrow. Have a great weekend!

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Winter Retrospective

It’s still winter in Spy Garden. I don’t really regard “official” first days of seasons and prefer to think of March, April and May as spring. So regardless of the temperature (not much higher than 30 predicted for next week) I’m naming March first as Spy Garden’s first day of spring. Officially. And so, a winter retrospective to say farewell to the season.

Best Spy Garden Snow Shot

Best Spy Garden Snow Shot

The above shot was taken the morning after the first big snow of the season (back in December). The entire section of the fence in the foreground of the photo is being moved (many posts have already been taken down), so this photograph may be the last time the whole garden fits into one photo. Unless I climb up on the roof for an aerial shot…

Winter is not really all white/gray in Missouri. The snow usually melts within a few days. But still, the palatte of our winter is quite limited.

Sky and Dormant Grass

Sky and Dormant Grass

Field, woods, hills, sky

Field, woods, hills, sky

I wonder if Mark Rothko would’ve enjoyed Microsoft Paint? hahah

Woods in the distance, field in the foreground and sky.

Woods in the distance, field in the foreground and sky.

And all that is on a clear day. Comme ca:

Shaw Nature Preserve

Shaw Nature Preserve

Shaw Nature Preserve

Shaw Nature Preserve

Shaw Nature Preserve...best of our winter outings.

Shaw Nature Preserve…best of our winter outings.

Vibrant colors beyond blue sky and

"Dormant Grass Gold"

“Dormant Grass Gold”

…are reserved for sunrise and sunset.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise (Missouri River)

Sunrise (Missouri River)

Sunrise

Sunrise

Spy Garden Sunset

Spy Garden Sunset

Sunset in the manner of...

Sunset in the manner of…

I’m looking forward to the drastic changes in the “palatte” that spring brings, but do fully appreciate winter. White is, in fact, my favorite color.

Favorite Spy Garden Winter Decoration

Favorite Spy Garden Winter Decoration

Spy Garden at Zero Degrees Farenheit (January)

Spy Garden at Zero Degrees Farenheit (January)

A blank canvas.

A blank canvas.

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First Signs of Spring

Groundbreaking!

Groundbreaking!

I took the picture above at the groundbreaking ceremony at baby’s new school today. And when I say “ceremony” I mean, I ceremoniously shoved the shovel into the ground and started to dig the plots. Baby’s school is a Forest School (click here to read about one mom’s description of a Forest school in Denmark) and gardening is integral in the curriculum and for the chef’s lunch and snack offerings (yes, they have a chef!)

Baby's school's dining hall (with sweeping views of the FOREST, of course!)

Baby’s school’s dining hall (with sweeping views of the FOREST, of course!)

The students have named the garden…drumroll, please…

Squirrely Garden

I believe the name derives from one child’s affinity for a long-lost stuffed-animal squirrel. Though I prefer my squirrels OUT of the garden (i.e. doing yoga in the trees), I love the name for the double (it might be a triple) entendre. Squirrely, as in eccentric: and the garden is sure to be unique and unconventional. I am the CEO of Squirrely Garden (hahhaha best title ever), so I will be sharing more about it as it develops.

Back at Spy Garden…

I looked carefully for signs of spring.

I looked carefully for signs of spring.

And found lots of garlic popping up.

And found lots of garlic popping up.

This one looks like a tulip bulb and I think it may have got mixed in with the garlic bulbs!

This one looks like a tulip bulb and I think it may have got mixed in with the garlic bulbs!

Two garlic plants side by side.

Two garlic plants side by side.

This lavander plant has a lovely gray blue shade to it.

This lavender plant has a lovely gray-blue shade to it.

It was the first warm Saturday in a while and it was wonderful to be outside all day,

building a

building a

fire,

fire,

roasting marshmallows, swinging, playing catch,

and practicing...

and practicing…

pitching.

pitching.

Baseball in St. Louis is quintessential spring.

Baseball in St. Louis is quintessential spring.

The Spy loves baseball.

The Spy loves baseball.

It was nice to notice changes to the winter palatte, even if only tiny bits of green. One of my favorite spring sites is the big mounds of topsoil and compost at Fick’s:

Beautiful mountains of dirt!

Beautiful mountains of dirt!

What are your favorite first signs of spring?

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Tips for Gardening with Kids

In case you didn’t pop over to Sweet Domesticity last week to read the Spy Garden guest post, I’m posting it here. Enjoy!

Here’s a picture of my tiny gardener destroying some marigolds learning about plants:

baby with marigolds

It would first appear she has a black thumb. After all, she is breaking plants apart and tearing the leaves to pieces. However, I would argue she has more gardening experience and understanding than most. Because she knows the number one most important thing about gardening. Here it is (along with a couple of other tips):

1. Don’t be afraid of killing plants. For each of the plants thriving in Spy Garden, two (or maybe more) are looking down from plant heaven. Cutworms have eaten my cauliflower plants, flea beetles have gnawed up my eggplants. All the marigolds planted in two large planters have been destroyed by my two year old “Babyzilla”. I tried growing three different varieties of eggplants in 2013: started the seedlings indoors in February, with nary an eggplant in sight by October. Does this mean I will never try growing cauliflower or eggplants again? No!

Don’t get too frustrated when you kill plants. And if you are gardening with kids, don’t get mad at them when they (perhaps more swiftly) kill your plants. Encourage them to pick the red tomatoes (vs. the green ones) and to be gentle in the garden. But, if they rip a bean plant out of the ground, let it go. I mean, I wouldn’t encourage pure destruction, but a broken stem or some torn leaves are small sacrifices in cultivating (pun intended) a love of plants.  

"Look mommy, here's one that's not ripe!"

“Look mommy, here’s one that’s not ripe!”

2. No matter how much you learn about gardening (from books, online articles, etc.) the bulk of the learning must take place in the actual garden. Every plot of soil and site is different and a plant that will thrive in one garden, may do poorly in another. Even in the same town! Every season is also different, so if a particular variety doesn’t do well one year, don’t be afraid to try it again. Don’t focus too much on searching for “how to” advice on gardening, and just experiment.

Even growing just a few plants provides valuable lessons for children of all ages.

My kind of math lesson!

My kind of math lesson!

Questions like…

How long does it take from seed to plate?

What types of animals live in the dirt?

What do birds (or deer!) like to eat?

…will naturally be investigated when you’re in the garden. Even when you are not actively “teaching”, kids will observe thousands of aspects of your local ecosystem and truly learn about “real” food. Not to mention that, in my experience, kids are about 300 times more likely to be adventurous eaters when they have a hand in growing it.

Mmm...kale blossoms!

Mmm…kale blossoms!

The same lessons the kids are learning, you learn right along with them. Often kids have insights and observations they share with you while you are together in the garden that create really special moments where you gain a deeper perspective of gardening (and life!)

3. Grow the things that you can’t kill. Asparagus and strawberries are very low maintenance perennials. Mint, catnip, thyme (and most herbs) are great choices. Even if you don’t use the herbs you grow (and I definitely confess on this point that I don’t harvest and use my herbs nearly as much as I should) having something green and thriving in your garden will get you more excited about gardening.

Most kids love mint. So it’s not about whether or not you really like mint in cooking. Just grow mint, because it will grow. It is always one of the first green things in our garden and therefore a staple snack in early spring garden walks with the kids.

Colorful as...

Colorful as…

candy!

candy!

4. In addition to growing “things you can’t kill” also try growing lots of different things (as much as you have room for). Squash may be devoured by squash bugs one year that your tomatoes are beefy and prolific. Beans may be doing awesome when your lettuce is burnt to a crisp. Even though starting plants from seeds is a bit more work, it is a LOT cheaper, and if you are following rule #1, you don’t want your sacrifices to be expensive exotic specimens from a designer nursery. Plus with seeds you get a ton more plants (and because of the law of attrition (#1!) this is a great thing! I always encourage the kids to choose the things we grow.

Now in February, I asked my family to name their favorite varieties looking back on the 2013 season:

My eight year old son said, “lemon cucumbers”.

My husband (who is definitely a child at heart) said “cantelopes” (he’s referring to “Delice de la Table”)

And I will go ahead and speak for our two and a half year old and say “Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberries” since…

She is still checking each strawberry plant for berries (still a few months to go!)

She is still checking each strawberry plant for berries (still a few months to go!)

My favorite were the “Violet de Provence artichokes” The spy gobbled down the prepared hearts (without ANY salt/pepper/lemon/etc: they were delectable!) But the ones that we left to “go to flower” were so beautiful and striking and added a lot of whimsy and magic to the garden, which makes it inviting to children.

Magic!

Magic!

Nasturtiums are also a great choice for kids because the flowers and leaves are edible. And on that point, I try and ONLY have edibles in the garden (since the baby grew accustomed to sampling everything, I wanted to make sure there was nothing poisonous in the garden (i.e. moonflowers, morning glories).

5. Take “Garden Walks”. There are often several weeks that go by where I do absolutely NOTHING in the garden. But that doesn’t mean I’m not in the garden frequently. We take family “garden walks” just about every day, in all seasons. This will help you to get to know the plants you are growing and get your kids into the habit of being and LOOKING closely at the different aspects of the garden. Sure there are a few days where gardening is a bit more labor intensive (30 minutes of digging here, an hour of planting or weeding there) but I would say that I learn the most in the observations we make on the frequent “garden walks.”

Some sights from our garden walks:

Baby in the teepee

Baby in the teepee

The kids next to very tall yellow bonnet sorghum

The kids next to very tall yellow bonnet sorghum

Planning for the spring garden starts now! So if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of growing something but convinced yourself you have a black thumb, just remember rule number one!

Featured post

I Spy: Hidden Valley

Last night at Hidden Valley:

The Spy's first time skiing!

The Spy’s first time skiing!

Smoochie (aka Spy Dad) took him for his first time skiing. Smoochie grew up in Vermont and one of the things he did in the Marine Corps was Telemark skiing and tested ski/cold weather gear in Alaska. So he is a good ski instructor! I was happy to stay home with Baby and send out my Spy Garden “reporters” for post content. Hahaha Though next year Baby should be ready to hit the slopes.

Not exactly the Rockies

Not exactly the Rockies

But still very fun!

But still very fun!

Hidden Valley is the only place around St. Louis like this, the next closest place is in Kansas City.

Ski boots

Ski boots

Spy Sister (aka Aunt Spy) also went to Hidden Vally this weekend and did the “Midnight Ski” on Saturday night:

Aunt Spy and her friend

Aunt Spy and her friend

Night skiing

Night skiing

Night skiing

Night skiing

Featured post

Spy Garden Valentines and Spreading the Garden Love

The Spy’s valentines:

"Have a doggone wild Valentine's Day!"

“Have a doggone wild Valentine’s Day!”

They’re printed up and ready to go in the red and pink shoe boxes of his classmates at school tomorrow.

However, there’s still room for sharing your best Valentine puns because…

Spy Sister (Aunt Spy) captured this gem today:

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Yes, that is a leg o deer. Better a dog treat than a deer eating treats from Spy Garden, right?! hahahah (I know the gardeners feel me on that one!) So basically now we feel compelled to make at least a couple of valentines just for fun out of these pictures. Last chance to make up and share some bad puns! No bones about it…

Insert bad-pun valentine caption here.

Insert bad-pun valentine caption here.

Insert bad-pun valentine caption here.

Insert bad-pun valentine caption here.

For those of you who do not think bad puns are compulsory for a valentine…

Cut...

Cut…

heart shapes out of paper that's been drawn/painted on...

heart shapes out of paper that’s been drawn/painted on…

(In this case we can thank baby for the lovely watercolor splotches.)

arrange...

arrange…

glue on a piece of cardstock folded in half.

glue on a piece of cardstock folded in half.

Very simple!

Very simple!

In the spirit of sharing the LOVE of gardening via social-media-garden-internet world, Spy Garden has a guest post to share!!! Please click here to read my post on sweetdomesticity:  “Cultivating the Love of Gardening” (when you click the article will open in a new window). Please click and read it to learn more about how to get your kids into the garden, about some of our favorite kid-friendly varieties and more!

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Featured post

Views from the Garden 2.11.14

Sledding in the garden

Sledding in the garden

Nice to see a blue sky!

Nice to see a blue sky!

Boxwood

Boxwood

Woo...

Woo…

Hoo!

Hoo!

Those green leaves are some new growth on my potted Meyer lemon tree (which is indoors next to a south-facing window). This is the first sign I’ve seen of spring! I realize it’s indoors, but it still counts!

The Spy

The Spy

Baby

Baby

Featured post

You’re a Doggone Good Friend Valentine

I shared some of our Valentine fun-o-2013 yesterday. Click here to see
last year’s Valentine and here for a very easy truffle recipe.

I don’t like to brag too much about the fact that the Spy makes his own Valentines because…essentially…a Valentine is a little rectangle of paper. With something on it. A picture, a bad pun. It’s not very complicated.

I am a big proponent of always having cardstock (cardstock = regular printer paper that is just thicker) on hand. Pretty much all the “crafts” we do involve using cardstock in some way. We do not really have a lot of art supplies in Spy Garden home. Glitter, specialty papers, fancy hole punches, bejeweled embellishments, pom-poms, “DIY” accessories sold by Martha Stewart, etc: I find none of that necessary to make something creative and interesting. You can do millions of things with just regular plain white printer paper, cardstock, cheap paints, pencils/crayons/markers. Add a few types of tape (love colored Duck tape and double-sided Scotch!), scissors and glue and the Spy Garden art pantry is complete.

So for the Valentines…

Last year the Spy drew a picture of a tank and then wrote “Tanks for being my friend.” I scanned it in to the computer and then printed copies on cardstock. Then cut them with a paper cutter (ok, one more useful Spy Garden art pantry tool!).

He and I were both tempted to just hit “print” again and use the same one as last year, but decided…though there are many kids that weren’t in his classroom last year, the few that were can’t get a re-run of a Valentine!

Since…

Aunt Spy’s dog, Magnolia,

Aunt Spy’s dog, Magnolia,

is at our disposal for photo shoots with Dexie, we decided to do a “You’re a “doggone” good friend” card using a picture of the two of them. A photo shoot was in order to get some photos to choose from to make the Valentine.

And so, here are our attempts at:

Depicting Dog Friendship

People let me tell you 'bout my

People let me tell you ’bout my

beeeest friend...

beeeest friend…

[She's] a warm-hearted person who'll love me till the end...

[She's] a warm-hearted person who’ll love me till the end…

Cuz she's my best friend...

Cuz she’s my best friend…

And the Spy decided on…

DSC_6327 (500x314)HAHAHAHah so “You’re a doggone good friend” doesn’t really go with this photo and it looks like they are shouting in anger at each other.

“It’s ‘RUFF’ being your friend.” would be more fitting but not really appropriate. HAHAHahah. It has to be a pun because that is sort of a Spy Garden Valentine Requirement (Officially). If you have a better suggestion, we have a few more days to get these printed, so please leave it in the comments! I’ll share pictures of the final Valentine when they’re done!

Featured post

Sochi in Spy Garden

A few days ago I had that first feeling of “I’ve had enough of winter.” I deign to acknowledge such a thought because: it is important to appreciate each season/each moment, complaining about the weather is entirely futile AND because we only have a few (maybe four?) weeks to go. The excitement of the winter Olympics has provided just enough “winter is awesome” vibes that today I am able to reframe my “I’m sick of winter” thought to: “I’ll pretend I’m in Russia.”

Я хотел бы предложить некоторые фотографии.

Я хотел бы предложить некоторые фотографии.

(I will take some photographs now).

 

Привет! Чемпионат мира - это не для зимнего спорта.

Привет! Чемпионат мира – это не для зимнего спорта.

(Hey! Wrestling isn’t a winter sport.)

Мальчиков фристайл Сувенирная продукция (Boys Freestyle Sledding):

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DSC_6189 (500x346)DSC_6249 (500x374)

Собака (dog)

Собака (dog)

Лыжные трассы?

Лыжные трассы?

No! Not ski tracks…

Deer tracks

Deer tracks

Spy Garden is quite hidden from this vantage point in the yard (can you see the top of the trellis?)

Spy Garden is quite hidden from this vantage point in the yard (can you see the top of the trellis and top of the hose holder?)

Another Собака

Another Собака

И магазин сувениров (and a souvenir)…

DSC_6219 (335x500)DSC_6221 (500x373)(thanks http://www.freetranslation.com ;)

Featured post

Friday Funny

I sifted through (800+) “search terms” in my “stats” and listed the ones I chuckled at. I put a few comments/answers with some of them. And so,

What people googled and landed at Spy Garden (they’re in italics, my comments are not):

saponin people who don’t like cilantro

Saponins are the bitter-tasting chemical compounds found on some foods (i.e. quinoa which needs to be rinsed well before consumption). So this googler is using “saponin” as a synonym for “bitter” I think? HAHAHAha

zombie shooting range

learn to “climb hills without stopping” -bike –cycling

I believe it is “I think I can, I think I can”

de-christmatize, remove cards on the wall

I thought I invented the term “de-Christmatize”!? (as in taking down the decorations)

telagon aflubia, brain surgery

Funny, when you know where I used the word “telagon” (I thought I made it up haha)

where can i buy a giant outdoor advent wreath for my yard?

how do you spell pare as in pare down

You’ve got it!

how does gardening contribute to the creative and aesthetic value

Of…? (Everything in every way;)

anatomically correct skeleton sweatshirt

I’ve got that one nailed!

I’ve got that one nailed!

what to put on top of an obeslik ina garden

That’s what I’d like to know!

do you wear shoes while doing yoga

However you feel comfortable. I ALWAYS prefer bare feet (in most any activity)

what to write on gardening progress report

About your plants. Our progress report for today (February 7, 2014) is that they are covered in snow.

what zone db oes purple artichoks grow in

I hope in our zone. It’s been awfully cold (zero, quite a few times) I hope they survive this winter!

guacamole wolf spider

Holy guacamole! That’s a big spider!

pictures of lawn problems with tiny purple flowers

I REALLY hope this person read at least a little of Spy Garden to realize that tiny purple flowers are quite the OPPOSITE of a problem. The bees NEED your non-uniform lawn with flowers!

mudbath kids

my recently planted eggplant has holes in the leaves & teeny little black bugs what do flea beetles look like

Like what has chewed holes in your eggplant foliage.

do deer eat yellow scallop squash

Yes.

moss aligator diy

I want to DIY an alligator made of moss! Thanks for the idea!

rock garden in a jar

Step 1: Gather rocks. Step 2: Put in a jar.

Hahhaa Happy weekend!

Featured post

Cedar Waxwings, Oil Pulling and Sanctification

These three things have pretty much nothing to do with one another. They were just a few new things I learned about so far this week and I wanted to share.

First, on the Cedar Waxwings

DSC_6053 (500x295)

This picture is on the back of Xplor, a free children’s magazine for kids in Missouri.

Here is a close-up of the “wax” on their wings (from the same magazine):

DSC_6059 (328x500)

What most endears cedar waxwings to me is their habit of communal and cooperative eating. Instead of fighting for access to berry-laden branches, half a dozen waxwings perch side by side, daintily passing berries from beak to beak as the bird nearest the tip of the branch plucks them. It’s enough to make you reconsider standard notions about which species are most evolved.

The quote above is from an article by Jim Low, “Waxwing Birds Mean Waning Winter” (had to include the title because I love a good alliteration!) (click here to open the article in a new window)

We have several large cedar trees loaded with berries, so I really hope to catch a glimpse of these striking birds at some point this winter, or in spring when they migrate north. Mostly, I gravitate toward photographing plants. They stay nice and still and you can move in really close without scaring them away. Every once in awhile a spider or snake will stay still long enough for me to get some good shots: but I’ve never had much luck photographing birds, so just seeing a waxwing would do just fine.

On Oil Pulling

I am not a hippie. I believe the words “green” and “natural” are thrown around FAR too often and I rarely believe packaging (honestly, if it’s IN a package/made in a factory, how “green” or “natural” is it really?)

The Spy Garden Gold Standard:

...fff

Green (+!). Organic. Natural. Local (as in 50 feet from my front door).

But of course, also, seasonal! But I digress…

I’m a skeptic and no matter what I hear or see or read, I usually believe it is false first (or at least contains some untruths) and then investigate further to see if there is any value. I usually estimate that anything being sold is 97% advertising and 3% truth hahaha. So I am often drawn to trying cheap/easy things that are not advertised at all.

A few days ago I came across designmom’s post about Oil Pulling.

Oil Pulling?! I’d never heard the term.
So basically it is taking a tablespoon of raw coconut oil, putting in your mouth and chewing it up until it dissolves (it’s a solid at room temperature). Then swishing it around for 20 minutes. TWENTY whole minutes. From the two posts I read (including this one) I’ve learned that oil pulling will: cure cavities and halitosis, replace brushing and flossing and may or may not turn you into a mermaid. Hahah

So again, I RARELY believe what I read (I mean I know you can trust everything on the internet but…;) However, I love to try something new (especially something as benign as swishing oil around your mouth) . It’s kind of like a risk-free adventure.

So the first time I did it, I thought it was weird. And basically thought “Yeah, not for me.” But then the next day I felt like doing it again. And I’ve done it twice a day ever since! So I’ve tried it before brushing or flossing and after flossed my teeth to see what was left and was really surprised to see that there was barely any plaque/stuff in between my teeth! Crazy! So on some level it does appear to work because my teeth feel awesome. And also appears to be a fun activity as the Spy, Smoochie and Spy Sister are all still doing it regularly too!

If you think about it, most toothpastes have glycerin. Glycerin is soap. Soap is made of fat.  And coconut oil is, indeed, fat. You’re just taking out the middle man. Or something like that.

Anyways, try it if you want a risk free adventure. We’re all still brushing and flossing in addition so its REALLY risk free;)

And the final “new exciting thing” this week…

Sanctification

We talked about the meaning of this word in (grown up) bible class after church this past Sunday. I found the meaning to be so hard to pin down.

It seems simple.

Sanctify means to “make holy” (so sanctification is the act/process of becoming holy).

Here is what I do understand:

As a sinner, I am quite imperfect. I am “freed” of sin because (and ONLY because) of the sacrifice of Christ.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Since I am so humbled by this sacrifice I am compelled and eager to do “good works”. So I’m not doing them because they “count” for anything.

Where I suppose it gets complex is the idea of “becoming holy”. I certainly don’t feel holy, I feel humbled.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:17-19)

What does the term “sanctification” mean to you?

Unrelated to the waxwings, oil pulling or sanctification, here are some snow day pictures from today (taken by Aunt Spy):

Hitting the slopes in our backyard

Hitting the slopes in our backyard

Dexie

Dexie

Magnolia

Magnolia

Important dog meeting under the fence

Important dog meeting under the fence

Water color design by the Spy

Water color design by the Spy

Featured post

The Ground: Today (February 1, 2014)

DSC_6005 (500x335)

DSC_6011 (500x335)

DSC_6022 (500x350)

DSC_6002 (500x335)

DSC_6015 (500x335) (2)

DSC_6024 (500x335)

DSC_6029 (500x335)

DSC_6019 (500x334)

DSC_6017 (500x335)

DSC_6014 (500x335)

In theory this concept for the set of photos was a bit more groundbreaking. Hahaha

Spy Garden Rainy Day 2.1.14

Spy Garden Rainy Day 2.1.14

A rainy day never bums out a gardener (water for the perennials, breaking down the soil, etc!) Colorful paintings to illustrate that though the sky may be gray, inspiration still abounds:

Painting by Babyzilla and me

Painting by Babyzilla and me

Baby did all the shapes and I just filled in the blank parts of the canvas with blue/purple.

Baby and the Spy painting

Baby and the Spy painting

Painting

Painting

And in other Saturday rainy day craft project news:

 

Made a green beret for Baby.

Made a green beret for Baby.

And Smoochie started making:

A bookcover

A bookcover

with old couch leather. The book covers are for a Bible (which is pretty old and the pages are in good shape, but the cover was ripped) and for Lonesome Dove (which the dog ate the cover). Both books are absolute staples that should be in every household! Stay tuned for the results. And I know at least one of my readers has experience in homemade leftover leather book covers (thanks for the idea, Road to Serendipity) so feel free to share insights/pictures of yours!

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A Brand New Garden!

Even though I’ve started a new job as a nurse,

with quite a lovely commute

with quite a lovely commute,

There’s still plenty of time for gardening.

In fact, there’s time for an entirely NEW garden!

Baby is attending a new school on an eleven acre campus.

11 acres for Babyzilla to explore!

11 acres for Babyzilla to explore! Plan by D2G landscape design.

The playground is au natural, the property is wooded, there will be meadows…The school is working with individuals from the Missouri Department of Conservation to establish proper native meadow habitats (think Shaw Nature Preserve on a smaller scale).

The best part, of course, is…a brand new garden! And I am the Garden CEO! Woooo!

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

We walked the site last Sunday to scout it out to create a garden plan.

The Spy checking out the construction progress inside the building.

The Spy checking out the construction progress inside the building.

He attended this same preschool (at a smaller campus), and is excited for his sister to attend the new and improved school!

View of the building from the garden

View of the building from the garden

Can you spot the Spy in the picture above? He had a great time walking the site even if…

It was a little bit muddy.

It was a little bit muddy.

I am a big believer that in order to create inviting garden spaces (especially that are inviting to kids) you need to abandon the typical rectangular raised beds and create raised beds with lovely curves that mimic and enhance the landscape surrounding the garden. I am also opposed to using materials (wood/stone/etc.) as borders for raised beds because it really limits you when you want to expand/change the shapes/size of the beds. To see how I begin this process of raised beds without “typical” borders/rectangles see the post on How to Dig. To read more about why I believe in “thinking beyond the rectangle” check out this post from when I planted our garlic in a spiral: Garlic Planting.

After very thorough…

Scouting...

Scouting…

Photographing...

Photographing…

Looking...

Looking…

thinking…

and looking some more...

and looking some more…

I came up with this plan:

Garden Plan (500x388)

Even though the plan is not exactly drawn to scale, the diameter of the teepee will be at least ten feet (it needs to accommodate lots of little preschoolers!) The area outside the teepee will serve as a gathering/meeting area for important garden talks!

What all will be planted in each of the plots?

Hold your horses! We’ve got to dig the thing first! Loads of seedlings can be started on/before March 1st and by the time they are ready to go in the ground mid-March (through mid-May) we’ll have their destinations mapped out!

Here are some more notable features/explanations of the plan:

  • All of the numbered plots are the raised beds. They will be raised beds without wood borders (so just an edged out border created by digging them as I mentioned). They will be numbered to enable more organized approach to garden duties (as the kids/parents/teachers will be working in the garden)
  • The teepee will have a roughly 10’ diameter, so though the drawing isn’t exactly to scale, that measurement on the plan can be used to gauge the rough sizes of the beds. Beds #5-9 would be roughly 3’ x 10’ rectangles. Plenty of room between them to make them wider in coming years/seasons (and/or longer).
  • Lots of open grass space at the entry way of the garden. More plots could be added there in later seasons/years.
  • Room for a kid-sized produce stand (basically a long, low table with a sun-shade above) (somewhere near the entrance in the large grassy area)
  • Gathering area outside the teepee will be a large grassy area and will feel enclosed because of the teepee and the plot surrounding it.
  • All the ground around the plots is grass (as is)
  • The sloped hill is too steep to be worked in by the kids (at least until summer when it is not so slippery/muddy) so it is a perfect place to just let pumpkins grow wild, which should do great sprawling down the hill.
  • Front arbor entry gate will have a sign posted/some type of waterproof plastic board feature to post garden news/to-dos/etc.
  • The path to the garden runs along the big rock retaining wall and swings wide around the muddy “sledding” hill. This was the least steep point of entry to the garden and will avoid cutting through the big sledding hill.

DSC_5949 (500x393)

If you have any suggestions or tips for a preschool garden, please post a comment, I’d love to hear feedback on this plan! I may be the CEO, but I’m no dictator! hahahah

DSC_5947 (500x287)

Featured post

A Narrative Service of the Liturgy

I’ve scanned in the entire bulletin from our church service this past Sunday. At our church we follow a liturgy, which is a specific order of worship. There are a few different variations (they change with the church seasons and communion is only part of the service on the second and forth Sundays each month), but it is always structured and there are few enough variations that it is easy to memorize many of the “usual” prayers and responses and songs that we sing (if you go often enough). I scanned the whole thing in because usually we follow the service along in the Lutheran service book (which has the various layouts of worship in the first part of the book and all the hymns fill the rest). The bulletin typically has an abbreviated order of service (like an outline). But last Sunday the whole thing was printed up in along with italicized notes about WHY we do each little “part” of the service. I thought it was really interesting and wanted to share:

1 (405x500)

I always regard our church as taking a sort of academic approach to understanding Christ (and the Bible).  The bulletin is quite plain. Black text on plain white paper. A simple design on the cover. I love how it is so simple and unadorned. To me, the words, the messages and the meanings become the very clear focus. Focusing on Bible passages (at least for me) takes a lot of concentration. People have entire discussions (or write entire volumes!) on mere verses. The words are not like the sentences I’m hammering out here. They’re God-breathed. It really is a “living” work and every verse is a chance for an amazing encounter- direct (!) –with God. But it takes focus and concentration. Clapping or crying or waving my hands would not facilitate the concentration, I personally, need to grasp the messages of the Bible. Not saying I don’t sometimes cry/have an emotional response as a result of a deeper spiritual understanding—I just like taking this sort of “academic” approach first.

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(back of bulletin)

(back of bulletin)

It’s never too difficult to catch which part of the Bible is being studied during service (even when accompanied by Babyzilla). The verses are always printed on the back of the bulletin!

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The hymns have lovely old syntax and multisyllabic vocabulary words that sometimes stretch on for measures. Truth be told, I don’t really know what a measure is in music-speak. But I enjoy the opportunity of the hymns to hear AND see the notes, even if I can’t technically “read” sheet music. (Side note: the hymns from the service were not printed in this handout: we sang them out of the book). Maybe I’ll borrow a hymnal for some more “scanning in” next week!

Perhaps you’ve scrolled to the end of this post and haven’t actually read a word of any of the pages (I so painstakingly scanned in)? The following are some questions I considered during/after this service and I think sharing these questions may reveal why I find this so interesting. Perhaps after considering all of these questions maybe you can scroll back up through the pages and at least check out some of the italicized blurbs and see what you think in relation to how you worship or praise or understand the notion of “church”. I won’t directly answer things I consider in attempting to answer these questions below (this is an essay, not a book!), but if you leave a comment I will be happy to continue the discussion!

If a church has lots of “bells and whistles” (i.e. a “band”, more “contemporary” music, colorful logos, video components, etc): Do you think these things are distracting to the messages?

What about the church service as a “stage” (literally and figuratively) to share our God-given talents? Art, music, design? What place (if any) do these things have in a church service?

Is there anything wrong with using such “bells and whistles” if the main goal is to attract more people (because obviously the churches with the “bells and whistles” certainly DO attract LOADS of people)?

What do you think of the idea of the “perfect prayer” (The Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus tells us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13)? Do you say this prayer at church?

How significant is syntax and diction when it comes to the language used in a church service? (an example of this would be “The Lord bless you and keep you” instead of “May the Lord bless you…”

What are the benefits of eliciting an emotional response during a church service?

The theater can elicit a very emotional response, but going to a show is not the same as attending church; how are they different?

How do you think attending a church service should differ from attending a “show”?

Do you feel like an active participant when you attend church or an audience member?

Do you think using sheet music (as in a traditional hymnal) is significant in singing songs in church? (At least for me it sure is educational and has that “academic” feel I’m drawn to)

What are the benefits of following a consistent order of service?

Do you think there are any negatives to following a “strict” order of service (a liturgy)?

What about social media (streaming church services/virtual bible classes, etc.) and not participating live (in person)? Is that church?

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Please discuss among yourselves. Or here. And I do hope, Internet, God is among us at Spy Garden website. Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as “church” but it’s still a sort of gathering…or is it?

Featured post

I Spy: Jay Henges Shooting Range

In the case of a zombie apocalypse, everyone knows you need a good garden (see Gardening in a Zombie Apocalypse). The other thing you need are weapons. Very important to teach the Spy gun safety and for him to be a good shot. Imagine, a boy, alone, faced with a dozen walkers coming toward him and he didn’t know how to properly, safely and accurately shoot a rifle?! We can’t have that!

On the range

On the range

Jay Henges Shooting Range

Jay Henges Shooting Range

The Missouri Department of Conservation has many resources and education programs for all skill levels and ages. Hunting is very popular in our area, and while we do not hunt, we sure appreciate the people who do because otherwise the deer populations would be off the charts and wreak havoc on our ecosystem.

Smoochie and the Spy

Smoochie and the Spy

Smoochie served in the Marine Corps (1992-1996) in the Infantry in a heavy weapons company, so he has lots of knowledge to share with the Spy!

Shooting

Shooting

Spy Sister (and Smoochie's friend) shooting

Spy Sister (and Smoochie’s friend) shooting

View of the row of booths

View of the row of booths

From a distance

From a distance

Action Shot!

Action Shot!

Checking out a target

Checking out a target

Thanks to Aunt Spy for photographing the outing while Baby and I stayed home with:

the dogs!

the dogs!

Dexie and Magnolia hosted Lady this weekend!

Dexie and Magnolia hosted Lady (Smoochie’s friend’s dog) this weekend!

For more information on Jay Henges Shooting Range check out this page on the Missouri of Conservation Department’s website.

Featured post

I Know Where the Scissors Are!

I started reading Zen and the Art of Housekeeping weeks ago. And still haven’t finished it. I have, however, done the following:

Completely emptied every drawer and cabinet in the kitchen, and discarded anything chipped, broken or superfluous.

In consideration of questions from the book such as,

“Is this item truly of value to me?”

“Does it make my life better in some way?”

and

“Is it meaningful to me?”

Baby has graduated to normal vessels of consumption (i.e. glass bowls) so we are down to only two ugly plastic sippy cups. Actually one because I forgot the other one at church last week. No more “kid” plastic lurking in the kitchen. This is just personal preference. I am not fond of plastic. I now have NOTHING in my kitchen that I don’t use regularly, save for just a few special things I use only several times a year (i.e. cookie press, piping bags/tips). I thought that I was a pretty clutter-free person but when I did the kitchen overhaul I had three giant boxes worth of trash/donations! You can’t even really tell the difference. Even when you open the cupboards. It just looks subtly more open, more organized.

(not that exciting)

(not that exciting)

There’s no “hidden” food in the pantry. I can see everything. The dead space (dark corner-areas of cabinets) are empty. All of the cabinets have been cleaned inside and outside before I reloaded all the necessities. It may not be an obvious improvement, but it is pretty great.

Last I wrote of Zen and the Art of Housekeeping, the kids rooms had been cleaned and organized (even the closets!) There are no clothes that don’t fit them taking up valuable space. Too-small garments have been donated.

Before you roll your eyes, please know that I am not an organized person and these all are major departures from my normal routine.

I throw caution to the wind and start painting, digging or writing (or whatever creative process) and make gigantic messes on a very regular basis. However, I am learning that it will benefit my creative process (and the people I live with) if I properly clean up my gigantic mess rather than pile it on the table down in the basement when I’m finished.

Like so.

Like so.

This table was clean one week ago. When you think you have all the Christmas decorations cleaned up, there always seem to be some forgotten trimmings coming out of the woodwork, right?!

My house is not always (ever?) sparkling clean. I like art. I view our home as a sort of canvas.

Clutter-free surfaces

Clutter-free surfaces,

Dusted artwork,

dusted artwork,

with clean glass to properly reflect the light,

with clean glass to properly reflect the light,

no visible electronic wires and a feng shui-ish use of

knick-knackery

knick-knackery

is my forte. So usually, Internet, I show you the artful side of Spy Garden Home. Most home and garden bloggers do the same, which is why you don’t see many photographs of artfully-lit dirty bathtubs that need scrubbing on designmom. Or mud caked into a rug on simplygrove. Or crayon covering a closet door on lalalovely. On mogs (mom blogs) you do see (and hear of) such things.

The simple statement of “I have a two year old, an eight year old and a golden retriever puppy” (in my mind) implies that my home is never entirely clean. I appreciate the style of the aforementioned home and garden blogs (and magazines), Martha Stewart, etc. and don’t get offended by the appearance of “perfection” because I know that they are images. I can value a photograph in an artistic way while knowing full well that no matter how la la lovely things look in photos, some common things are true for any person who has kids (or dogs, to some degree):

Getting 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep is a unexpected delight

All furniture shall be ripped/stained/broken (to at least some degree)

The unexpected happens (all the time)

This one may not be universal but also: One can never find a pair of scissors. Or tape. Or a pen. (etc., etc.) In real life, these messy moments usually involve much laughter and chaos. Just because people don’t showcase their chaos on their website, doesn’t mean they are liars trying to be perceived as perfect. That’s like painting a landscape of a colorful summer scene and calling it a lie because the landscape depicted is actually all gray in winter. Or something like that.

Of writing on the chaos of children, basically the same exact things happen to everyone who has kids. I usually don’t write about such things because so many other people do it so well. It takes a lot of effort to make jokes and be witty (at least for me) and if I’ve just completed cleaning up a mess (or looking for the scissors) by that point (i.e. the end of the day) I’m ready to move on to a new subject, perhaps one that does not involve chaos. Such as organizing (ha!). Or appreciating the artful side of things. But just because I tend to focus on the attractive angle does not mean the rips, stains, messes aren’t there.

But back to Zen and the Art of Housekeeping

My junk drawer is now organized and really, quite bare. For the past year every time the junk drawer was filled to the brim I would just dump all the contents into a big plastic Rubbermaid bin and put it down in the basement. FOR A YEAR. I finally brought the bin up and told Spy-Wonder Boy it was “TREASURE!” And to “Please separate into piles of tools, art stuff, his toys, Baby’s toys, etc.” He did the whole bin, it took hours! One year’s worth of one little junk drawer.

NO MORE! Now junk drawer contents have a home. On top of the fridge.

Out of the reach of the clutches of the tiny destroyers. Though let's be honest it was usually me leaving the scissors somewhere (i.e. out in the garden).

Out of the reach of the clutches of the tiny destroyers. Though let’s be honest it was usually me leaving the scissors somewhere (i.e. out in the garden).

And now, I know where the scissors are. Joy!

I’ve also started a cleaning schedule.

Spy Garden Home Cleaning Schedule

Spy Garden Home Cleaning Schedule

I haven’t religiously followed it, but I if I skip a job (i.e. cleaning the fridge) the next Monday I know I skipped the previous week and it gives me more incentive to just get it done.

Posted right under the calendar, can't miss it!

Posted right under the calendar, can’t miss it!

I used to clean things when you could visibly see something was dirty. But if you just clean everything once a week, the jobs are SO MUCH less involved! I’ve left room for other chores to be added as we think of them. The home pictures are there for motivation and Baby especially loves looking at the pictures of her room.

I haven’t stuck very closely to the sweeping schedule. I love to garden, ergo I love dirt. Dirt on my floors doesn’t really offend me. Smoochie and Baby the Spy and I are constantly tracking it in and I don’t worry about it. To me dirt isn’t dirty. Soil is lovely. Old food on the floor would be unsanitary and I would classify that as dirty. However, food on the floor doesn’t last long with two puppies in the house. So what I sweep up is pretty much all plain dirt. And when you think about it, dirt is just teeny-tiny rocks. Granite and marble floors are much larger and perhaps more luxurious, rocks. If you think about it. HAHAHAHa

So dirt’s alright. But I don’t like clutter or too many tchotchkes. For the most part I don’t block windows with furniture. A fireplace or picture window is the ideal focal point of a room (i.e. not a TV). We pick up the toys. The kitchen counter is cleared. None of this is actually cleaning, they are really just interior design preferences. At a glance, our house usually looked clean and organized. But the drawers, the closets, the cabinets and the basement were a real mess. Shoving things in a closet does not equal organization. Zen and the Art of Housekeeping has made me face this and start to create a more organized Spy Garden Home.

If you read regularly you may have noticed Spy sister (my sister, aka Aunt Spy) and her golden retriever puppy, Magnolia, making frequent appearances. That is because she is living here. Not forever, though we sort of wish it would be forever. She has moved to St. Louis and is staying with us. We have a pretty small house (something like 1200 SF). It’s a basic ranch, with three 10 x 10 bedrooms and one bathroom. As “chaos” is implied within the statement “I have kids”, implied in “one bathroom” are 753 jokes. The man cave is the house’s saving grace, a large, cozy room that doubles as family room and office.

The Man Cave (where tchotchkes are permitted)

The Man Cave (where tchotchkes are permitted)

We have a living room which I regard as the “girl cave” that is now serving as Spy Sister’s sleeping quarters. Living Room Living, if you will.

Living Room Living

Living Room Living: nighty night Aunt Spy!

When you have multiple people (and animals) in the same home (with one bathroom), keeping things clean and organized is sort of mandatory. If I lived alone I would probably have all my clothes piled up on the floor and I’d shove them in a closet when someone came over. In fact, my own clothes are piled up mishmash in my closet. But I’m going to go organize them now. And then maybe I’ll finish reading the book.

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The Plot Thickens

Four days ago I began a series on How to Garden, for beginners, with How to Dig. This is sort of part two of the series. More like part 1.1. Until today I haven’t done a thing in the garden. See? Gardening is so easy: it involves many days of doing nothing at all! Today, we continued on with another (under an hour) digging session of the new garden plot.

Baby and the Spy helping to dig.

Baby and the Spy helping to dig.

He was burying a ball in different spots around the edge and she was digging it up. And throwing the ball out in to the garden for her to go…uh…fetch. She’s sort of like golden retriever number three!

The gray area are ashes from our fireplace

The gray area are ashes from our fireplace

We always dump the ashes from our fireplace into the garden. I think too much ash would be bad, but this pile will get mixed in to a pretty large plot. I figure it adds some sort of acid or alkali or minerals or something. I’ve never really spent any time figuring out the pH of our soil or learning about amending soil (yet anyways, not like I’m against learning such things). I’ve heard the saying of “fertile midwest soil” so I just assume it’s pretty good. Mostly what I know it that it is VERY clay. In the sun it will dry as hard as concrete. So what I DO add is a loam/compost mix (to the new plots) mostly for ease of working with it (i.e. planting). If you want a sneak preview of what adding the loam/compost mix will look like in Spy Garden 2014, click here to check out our dirt from last year.

View of the new plot facing west/northwest: where the sun will be setting when the garden is green!

View of the new plot facing west/northwest: where the sun will be setting when the garden is green!

View facing south/southwest

View facing south/southwest

You can see from the photo above that the fence may be able to stop deer, but certainly can not stop the garden. IT’S ALIVE!!! It’s breached the fence!

The fence will be moved about ten feet out to include this little hill.

The fence will be moved about ten feet out to include this little hill.

She has to check every strawberry plant.

She has to check every strawberry plant.

Where are the strawberries?

Where are the strawberries?

Today was the first day of winter that I was thinking about a little color myself (those are yellow strawberry plants after all). All of the photos I’ve taken lately have the same washed out sandy-grass color,

(aka Golden Retriever Gold)

(aka Golden Retriever Gold)

muted green,

gray, etc.

gray, etc.

I like the palette of winter but was longing for a little color!

So we made some collages

So we made some collages

Shapes cut out from half-finished paintings, scribbles on card-stock and forgotten sketch book doodles=collage perfection!

In progress

In progress

Collage by the Spy

Collage by the Spy

I did this one. Very synthetic cubism.

I did this one. Very synthetic cubism. haha

Baby appreciated the colored glue sticks

Baby appreciated the colored glue sticks

Since there are no yellow strawberries to enjoy, yet.

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A Walk in the Park

After church

After church

The dress is sort of way too big but TOO cute not to wear

The dress is sort of way too big but TOO cute not to wear

Ready to enjoy the nice weather!

Ready to enjoy the nice weather!

at…

Babler State Park

Babler State Park

Time for a walk (or a run)

Time for a walk (or a run)

Mossy paved path

Mossy paved path

Running

Running

Stop for a stretch

Stop for a stretch

The Spy and Babyzilla

The Spy and Babyzilla

This way

This way

That way

That way

Baby with Snood #2. She said "It's kind of like a necklace." I say, "It's kind of like a scarf." So a Narf? Or a Scecklace?

Baby with Snood #2. She said “It’s kind of like a necklace.” I say, “It’s kind of like a scarf.” So a Narf? Or a Scecklace?

Hello, hello, hello, hello!

Hello, hello, hello, hello!

Dexie and Magnolia got to see lots of dogs on the walk. And some horses too. Baby even got to give a horse some treats. Babler has lots of equestrian trails and there were many riders enjoying the nice day.

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Friday Night

Painting and crocheting: a perfect Friday night!

Twisty Snood for Babyzilla

Twisty Snood for Babyzilla

I finished this yesterday. 100% cotton yarn (so easily washable: and breathable too!). I didn’t mean for it to be twisty, but after I did a chain stitch and started to connect it, the twists just “appeared”. A “snood” = scarf + and + hood. Scood or Hoorf if you prefer.

Baby showing off her new twisty snood

Baby showing off her new twisty snood

The Spy making a crocheted yo-yo

The Spy making a crocheted yo-yo

Spy Sister (Aunt Spy) crocheting a hat

Spy Sister (Aunt Spy) crocheting a hat

Painting inspired by Lonesome Dove. By my sister and I

Painting inspired by Lonesome Dove. By my sister and I

Painting in Progress, acrylic on canvas, by Baby

Painting in Progress, acrylic on canvas, by Baby

Figure. Acrylic on paper, by the Spy

Figure. Acrylic on paper, by the Spy

Shape. Acrylic on paper. By the Spy

Shape. Acrylic on paper. By the Spy

Scene. Acrylic on paper. By me (and the gold is by Baby)

Scene. Acrylic on paper. By me (and the gold is by Baby)

The last painting is inspired by tiny houses. They are a thing. And this one is adorable.

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How to Dig

How to Dig: Part one of a shiny NEW Spy Garden How-To series! How to go from Grass to Garden. Yard to Vegetables. Lawn to Earth Sculpture.

Prerequisite gardening knowledge needed: NONE.

Even if you don’t plan on picking up a shovel in the foreseeable future, you may want to follow along anyway because if there is, say, a zombie apocalypse, gardening will be a wicked useful skill. And so,

Presenting…

Part One: How to Dig

Here is a map of Spy Garden:

2014 plan (500x390)

A few days ago we had a momentous groundbreaking ceremony for the “EXPANSION!” (the dashed-line shape) in the plan above. By “ceremony”, I mean, me,

Baby,

Baby,

and

the puppies,

the puppies,

started digging.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Groundbreaking Ceremony

During the grand celebration (aka the first glorious moments when grass begins to turn to garden), I thought “HEY! I should share step by step on how I create this new garden bed from scratch so people can see how easy it is!” I am not very fond of following directions (at least in my creative/leisure pursuits) and my approach to “grass to garden” is based on me “winging it” in the garden for the past few years. The method I will share in the formation of this new plot is what has been most effective method for growing vegetables in Spy Garden. My approach incorporates aspects of both “till” and “no till” approaches, the only tool I ever use is a regular shovel (well, sometimes a wheelbarrow) and mostly all “jobs” in the garden are completed in 30 minutes or less increments (which is about the time it takes for a two-year old Babyzilla to get bored of the garden).

Unearthing the mechanics of proper digging is the first step in deepening your garden knowledge. The bad puns and double-entendres contained in explaining the art of digging could fill a very deep hole…but I digress.

Sometimes, when the topic of gardening comes up (and by “comes up” I mean, when I bring it up) people say to me, “I don’t know how to garden.” Probably what they really mean is “Please stop talking about gardening.” This statement always bothers me because really, neither do I, really, KNOW how to garden! And how can everyone possibly not share my enthusiasm for dirt!? In the Microsoft Word Thesaurus if you look up “dirt”, some synonyms are “gossip”, “scandal” and “smut”. Judging by the magazine display at the grocery aisle check-out, I gather that a lot of people care about that sort of dirt. But again, I digress.

I’ve learned various things about gardening but it is sort of like starting over every season and being open to learning “how to garden” all over again, every spring. One does not really “learn” how to garden, you just do it. And the first step of gardening is digging. Well, really the first step is choosing a location, but that’s a whole other topic, one I’ve covered, along with the merits of thinking beyond the expected quadrilateral for your plot, in this post.

In our area (Missouri), I find that the ideal time to dig a new garden plot is winter. On, say, a 35-50 (Farenheit) degree day

50 Degrees Farenheit

50 Degrees Farenheit

when all the snow has melted so the ground is slightly damp, but not soaked. Winter is a good time to dig new plots because the grass/weeds are dormant. When you dig in the spring you are flinging millions of seeds around that are eager to grow, overzealous really, and they will quickly take over. In winter, everything is dormant,

(except for children)

(except for children)

so if you create a big patch of dirt it will stay a big patch of dirt (sans weeds) for a month or two (until spring). Come spring I’ll share my patented (not really), No Till, No Weeds phase of preparing the garden for plants. Exposing big clods of dirt to the elements (wind/snow/sun/etc.) prior to spring is great because it allows for the soil to break down (nature’s mechanical tilling) for the next few months.

Enough blathering let’s have at it:

How to Dig

Step 1: Shove the shovel into the ground.

Step 1: Shove the shovel into the ground.

Step 2: Step on the flat part at the top and shove it deeper into the ground.

Step 2: Step on the flat part at the top and shove it deeper into the ground.

Step 3: Use the leverage of the handle to pry up the clod of dirt.

Step 3: Use the leverage of the handle to pry up the clod of dirt.

Step 4: Flip the clod over so the grass is on the bottom.

Step 4: Flip the clod over so the grass is on the bottom.

Step 5: Repeat until you have the plot as large as you’d like.

Step 5: Repeat until you have the plot as large as you’d like.

I’m going to need to move this fence.

I’m going to need to move this fence.

Love those dirt moguls!

You could remove the grass/sod.  There is a nifty little sod cutter thing that digs up just the uppermost layer of grass and soil. You could roll it up and then relocate the grass to another location. But that would be REALLY involved. Martha Stewart does that and it’s awesome and all but my method takes virtually NO TIME.

Seriously, this new plot I’ve started in the picture above took less than 30 minutes to dig. Plus you only need one tool (a shovel).

Unless you have paws then you don't need any tools at all!

Unless you have paws then you don’t need any tools at all!

I was hoping to make this as satirical and funny as possible, but I had to take a lot of the jokes out because they were too dirty, and this site is rated PG.

Dig it?

Featured post

Views from the Garden 1.11.14

In and around the garden today. The polar vortex seems a distant memory.

Snow melting in Spy Garden

Snow melting in Spy Garden

Baby and the Spy in the garden

Baby and the Spy in the garden

The Yellow Wonder wild strawberry plants looking quite perky and green even after -9!

The Yellow Wonder wild strawberry plants looking quite perky and green even after -9!

Dexie's getting huge! Spy Garden is just at the top of that little hill on the left side of this picture.

Dexie’s getting huge! Spy Garden is just at the top of that little hill on the left side of this picture.

Big puppy

Big puppy

Gravel in a puddle: very interesting stuff

Gravel in a puddle: very interesting stuff

Baby loves gravel.

Baby loves gravel.

One of my favorite bed-shapes

One of my favorite bed-shapes

Spy Garden has raised beds, but they are not confined to borders of wood or rock, so it is easy to change the shapes of the garden mounds.

Another view of the garden

Another view of the garden

And another.

And another.

Spy Garden backyard (viewed from the top of the Spy's treehouse "Captain Ship") the garden is off to the left (beyond this photo)

Spy Garden backyard (viewed from the top of the Spy’s treehouse “Captain Ship”) the garden is off to the left (beyond this photo)

Slippery mud everywhere!

Slippery mud everywhere!

Baby stylin' in the garden. She has her runway walk down, so no slipping in the mud for her.

Baby stylin’ in the garden. She has her runway walk down, so no slipping in the mud for her.

Though she did eat a fair amount of the cold, damp dirt. I wrote earlier today of finding joy and meaning in cleaning, but my TRUE passion and joy is all about dirt! When the snow melts, there’s plenty of it!

Not today!

Not today!

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Zen and the Art of Housekeeping

A friend was cleaning out (cheers for irony) her library and had a whole big pile of books she was giving away. I can rarely resist free books so I picked out a pile including this one.

Zen and the Art of Housekeeping by Lauren Brownell

Zen and the Art of Housekeeping by Lauren Brownell

It’s a wicked good book. I admit I sort of rolled my eyes at the whole zen/enlightenment/writing haiku/koan concepts. I mean come on, haikus?! Those are WAY too easy to write.

Writing a haiku

About vacuuming your home

Is a bit absurd

BUT WAIT! Spy Garden loves all things absurd. And haikus aren’t so bad. Seventeen carefully chosen syllables are better than some free form bs poem with 117 words. Plus, seventeen is the Spy’s favorite number. Plus, I love the Japanese aesthetic (we do have our very own zen garden after all). I don’t mean to discount the zen stuff, I just prefer to interpret it as it relates to Christian practice. Indeed, I found many of the concepts of Zen to be strikingly similar to the Christian concepts I try to practice. For example, when I think of “meditation” I think of it as exemplifying the biblical concept of “don’t worry/be anxious about your life” and just focus on the immediate present and the blessings surrounding you at any particular moment.

As for the detailed descriptions of the physical acts of cleaning, at first I was thinking, “COME ON! Why is this lady giving directions on how to vacuum?” Then I realized that I loved Martha Stewart and one of the things about her is that she is pretty left-brain overcore and always describes everything step by step and while it usually seems superfluous to me, I truly appreciate that this is how the left-brainers function.

To illustrate, one day I was reading Martha’s blog: the post was about her pet doves, how she cleaned the cage, fed them, and cared from them. My husband looked over my shoulder:

Smoochie, “What are those?”

Me, “Those are Martha’s pair of white doves. They live in the servery off her kitchen.”

Smoochie: (eyerolling)

Me, “Don’t get it twisted. Martha Stewart is (there may have been a profane word here-ing) awesome.”

He laughed and I explained that she takes meticulous care of her home, her animals, her plants. How could there possibly be anything wrong with that? He concurred that ok, yes, she is awesome.

So am I jealous of Martha and her extremely clean doves (and grout)? No way, because I gather that Martha is 79% left brain, while I am 79% right brain. We may have very different methods but both share an appreciation for our home. I LIKE the fact that when I create I do so spontaneously, unsystematically and untidily. Ok, “untidily” would be a euphemism, let’s call it a Creative Tornado. I make up recipes without following any recipes or directions. I dug a giant garden without measuring one square foot of it. I get ideas and just run with them and don’t bother to try and follow someone else’s definition of the “proper” way to do it. But when it comes to cleaning, there is sort of a proper way to do it. Most acts of cleaning are fairly straightforward and usually brainless, therefore the perfect time to practice being “in the present”.

I enjoy cleaning up the aftermath of the creative tornado. I value aesthetics. I like the look of a clean surface, a neat closet and white door frame wiped free of tiny fingerprints. Plus, there’s the bonus of finding the masterpieces that were created in said creative tornado.

Exhibit A (watercolor by Baby)

Exhibit A (watercolor by Baby)

“As keepers of the home, we have an incredible opportunity to make an enormous impact on the quality of the lives we live and the lived of those we love.”  (from the Intro of the book)

If chores and housework must be done, and done over and over again, shouldn’t these jobs be moments we enjoy, rather than hastily finished so we can get on to something better (i.e. writing an essay about cleaning hAHAHa)? If not “enjoyed” at least moments to practice being in the moment and quieting your thoughts and sharpening your senses: Feeling the hot laundry as you fold, noticing the shiny clean sink and the sparkling dish sponge:

BEST DISH SPONGE EVER

BEST DISH SPONGE EVER

Seriously.

Seriously.

And that brings us to the dishes. One thing I learned in the book is that some great writers thought of ideas while doing dishes. HEY! I DO THAT ALL THE TIME! We don’t have a dishwasher, I cook A LOT, ergo, I do a lot of dishes. Hating to do dishes, would be hating a significant part of my life and that wouldn’t make much sense at all. Why deign to do something (laundry, dishes, whatever) that you must do (and do often) instead of finding meaning, purpose and (ideally) a bit of joy in these acts? The book talks a lot about dishes, dusting and other aspects of cleaning as opportunities to be in the moment but also to use the mindless chores as time for some double duty productivity (i.e. thinking of sentences for essays about housekeeping while you do the dishes haha).

Anyway, it’s a great little book, a perfect read for the new year. I read pretty fast but it has taken me weeks to read the thing, because every time I pick it up I read a few pages, then get inspired to clean out the junk drawer, read a few pages, organize my closet, etc. etc. (technically, I haven’t even finished the book yet haha). It’s winter, I won’t be starting the seeds for another month, so it is a perfect time to do (and share) a little indoor “gardening”. And hope my readers will enjoy a peek indoors (as the actual garden is mostly just melting snow and mud at the moment).

Baby’s Room

Baby’s Room

A closer look.

A closer look.

Hmmm “Nobody Does it Better.” So untrue, yet so true. I spy a koan?

The Spy’s Room

The Spy’s Room

A closer look.

A closer look.

Next I will tackle the topic of cleaning and organizing with your kids. But, first I need to go shampoo the rugs.

Featured post

Snow Days

The Spy getting snowboarding "lessons" from his friend

The Spy getting snowboarding “lessons” from his friend

Dogs are welcome on our bunny slopes!

Dogs are welcome on our bunny slopes!

Baby needs some snow shoes!

Baby needs some snow shoes

Sledding backward

Sledding backward

Weeeeeee

Weeeeeee

"Let's do it again!"

“Let’s do it again!”

Puppy's turn!

Puppy’s turn!

Hold on tight!

Hold on tight!

Swinging, sledding and shredding

Swinging, sledding and shredding

Getting the hang of it

Getting the hang of it

But something is missing…

Powder Valley Lift Ticket (from the Spy's friend's jacket)

Powder Valley Lift Ticket (from the Spy’s friend’s jacket)

That's the ticket (literally and figuratively)! Enough for everyone (including the dogs!)

That’s the ticket (literally and figuratively)! Enough for everyone (including the dogs!)

NOW they’re ready to leave the greens…

They've got the ticket but who really needs a ski lift?

They’ve got the ticket but who really needs a ski lift?

Double Black Diamond (haha not really)

Double Black Diamond (haha not really)

The Spy's friend shredding it up

The Spy’s friend shredding it up

Time to clean up

Time to clean up

Collect some wood

Collect some wood

Hauling it up

Hauling it up

AHhhhhhh

AHhhhhhh

Snow days are the best!

Snow days are the best!

Happy Polar Vortex everyone! We’re now warming up here in Missouri. After -9, 40 feels downright balmy!

Featured post

One

One degree Farenheit that is. Very windy and bitterly cold today. I don’t think I’ve ever felt -9 (the low) before. And who knows what the wind chill was. A good day of being freezing cold and toasty warm:

Cold Garden

Cold Garden

I was too cold to take any proper good shots outside!

I was too cold to take any proper good shots outside!

Blue Stripes

Blue Stripes

Ice on the windows

Ice on the windows

Looks like a painting

Looks like a painting

These ice crystals were on the INSIDE of the windows!

These ice crystals were on the INSIDE of the windows!

Not all the windows were frosted. Looking through another.

Not all the windows were frosted. Looking through another.

Through another window.

Through another window.

Indoor fun

Indoor fun

Baby's signature expression. Skepticism.

Baby’s signature expression. Skepticism.

Baby and Spy

Baby and Spy

Black-eyed peas

Black-eyed peas

I rarely buy canned beans. Dried beans (black, pinto, kidney, northern, lentils, etc.) are so much cheaper and are easy to prepare. Basically you just boil them in water for awhile then add a bunch of spices/seasoning to them. Vegetable bouillion, salt, pepper, pinch of garam masala, a squeeze of ketchup, a squeeze of dijon, teaspoon of paprika, splash of soy sauce, some chopped garlic. Or some other combo of flavors/spices you like. Savory, hearty and delicious!

A little below zero temps can't stop the Spy!

A little below zero temps can’t stop the Spy!

Heyyy! (the snow didn't really get me, just looks that way in the shot!)

Heyyy! (the snow didn’t really get me, just looks that way in the shot!)

Smoochie, the Spy and his friend by the garden (and me far too cold to go down for a closer look!)

Smoochie, the Spy and his friend by the garden (and me far too cold to go down for a closer look!)

BFFs snuggled up together

BFFs snuggled up together

The Spy and Aunt Spy

The Spy and Aunt Spy

No idea who this is, too good of a disguise!

No idea who this is, too good of a disguise!

Toasty warm in the man cave

Toasty warm in the man cave

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Shots du Jour 1.4.14

Some random shots from today, a balmy 43. Now we’re batting down the hatches. Snow storm a few hours away and low of NEGATIVE NINE tomorrow and Monday is supposed to be a high of ONE degree Farenheit. Brrr! I know, I know, “the weather”…what a fascinating topic (maybe not so much). But the garden is certainly concerned with the elements.

Rose of Charon bush

Rose of Charon bush

Man Cave

Man Cave

The neighbor's magnolia tree foliage looks down right tropical!

The neighbor’s magnolia tree foliage looks down right tropical!

Still green in the kitchen too.

Still green in the kitchen too.

Salad has: spinach, artichokes, and green pasta dressed with pesto made from: basil, peas, garlic, olive oil, sunflower seeds, cashews, salt/pepper). Pea-basil pesto is DELISH!

The Spy is ready should a zombie apocalypse arrive with the snow storm.

The Spy is ready should a zombie apocalypse arrive with the snow storm.

An important meeting

An important meeting

The Spy

The Spy

Baby on Tree Stump

Baby on Tree Stump

Baby stylin' on Instagram (@spygarden)

Baby stylin’ on Instagram (@spygarden)

January "FAST"

January “FAST”

Compass and Sundial

Compass and Sundial

Handy little tool should we decide to set sail (which may be a bit difficult in Missouri)

Handy little tool should we decide to set sail (which may be a bit difficult in Missouri)

Another view of my favorite January decoration

Another view of my favorite January decoration

And one shot from the road (taken from the passenger seat, as I never “shoot” and drive;) haha:

Historic stone church in our area (built in 1800s)

Historic stone church in our area (built in 1800s)

Despite the angel hanging in the top window and the festive white lights, still looks very creepy in this photo.