Monday, April 30, 2012

Tales of Two Dirt Farmers: Installing a Raised Garden Bed

It is well known fact that other than asteroids and the zombie apocalypse, my other biggest fear is of snakes.  So imagine my horror when I came across a sunbathing garter snake in my front yard on Saturday morning.

When I saw the little bastard, I yelped, grabbed the baby, and ran inside as fast as my cankles would carry me.  From inside my living room window, I kept an eye on the snake to make sure he wasn't up to something.  Eventually a bird scared the intruder away, and I haven't seen him since.  Yet, I know he's still out there lurking in the depths of my yard, making snake babies, and waiting to do the devil's work.  

My fear of the terrifying six-inch beast almost prevented me from venturing out into the yard for the rest of the weekend.  Yet, I overcame my fear, and sent Eric out to scan the area for anything laking a backbone before venturing out myself.  

Yesterday, I braved the snakes to build our raised bed for this summer's vegetable garden.  We're doing a raised bed because it's a bit less work than a traditional garden and because we have a tiny yard.     

One could easily make a raised bed from scratch using some wood and nails, but since we're not the handiest of people, we chose to go with a kit.  

Our kit is only a 4 by 4 ft bed.  If our experiment is a success, we'll add a second next spring.  

They sell both plastic and cedar kits.  We went with the cedar, even though it's more expensive at around $60, because it looks and smells nicer than plastic.  The one we chose came with a trellis to help along beans and other climbing plants. 

First, we had to choose a location.  Vegetable gardens need a lot of sunlight and good drainage, so we chose a relatively flat area of our lawn that gets almost constant sunlight.  The area we selected also had very little grass, so that was a bonus too.  

It's recommended that vegetable gardens face south to get the maxim amount of sunlight, so we took that into consideration as well.  

Once we settled on a spot, we marked off a 4 by 4 ft section of lawn using some long nails and twine.  We had to readjust the nails a bit after our first measurements to make sure everything was straight.  

Then, we went to work digging.  We dug down about a foot, (although it was recommended that we dig down about 16 inches...oops.) loosening and turning the soil as we went.  Madeline helped pick out any clumps of weeds, grass, or large rocks we came across.  I must say, she was not a fan of getting her hands dirty though.  She kept saying, "Ewww!  Mess."    

 Our lawn is slightly sloped, so we dug a three-inch trench in the higher ground to sink one side of the frame into.  It's hard to see in the picture, but the back side of the bed is about three inches below the earth to ensure that the frame is level.   

Once the frame was in place, Eric pounded some metal posts into each corner to secure it.  Meanwhile, I filled any gaps between the wood and the ground with excess dirt.  Then we raked the soil once more to level the area.   

Along with being anti snake, I'm also anti mole, so we placed some some woven wire cloth along the bottom of the bed in an attempt to prevent attacks from below.  Eric used some u-shaped nails (fencing staples maybe?) to attach the wire firmly in place.  

At this point, Madeline decided she was bored and decided to take Elmo for a walk.  I had no choice but to follow because she got about a full house length away before I could catch up to her.  

I assume everything went smoothly for Eric because when we got back, the garden looked like this, and he was busy putting the trellis together.  

Madeline helped me haul some dirt from the truck, (I know, gal's got some brawn!) and I got to work filling the frame.  We ended up using four giant bags of soil.  We have a fifth bag that we plan on using to top everything off when we start planting the vegetables.    
(Madeline is hoping to grow an Elmo bush.)

Finally, Eric nailed the trellis to the frame.  We made sure we placed the trellis on the north-ish side of our south-ish-facing bed so that it does not cast a shadow over the smaller plants.  Meanwhile, I finished up by once more raking and leveling the soil.  

Ta-Da!  We're a bunch of dirt farmers!  Sometime in our near future, we'll actually add some veggies to that slab of dirt.  I can almost smell the fresh tomatoes in anticipation!  

I think just to be safe, I'll also put up a "No Snakes Allowed!" sign.

Friday, April 27, 2012

When Babies Hit

You know my perfect, sweet baby girl, Madeline?  The one who I said was a little slice of perfection in a yellow cardigan last weekend?

Well, as it turns out, that little slice of perfection may be the new playground bully.  She's been pushing and slapping other children at school.  Apparently, some poor, unsuspecting baby was minding her own business on the playground today when she was blindsided by my daughter.  (Insert wide-eyed, rapid eyelash fluter.)  Sadly, this is only one of three incidents from the past two days.

This is SO out of character for the Maddie Bear, who has been nothing but a ball of cuddles and kisses since she was born, that I got really upset after talking to her teacher today.

Who is this baby?  And what has she done with my sweet baby girl?  

The whole drive home I kept thinking about what I could have done wrong to cause Madeline to act out.  Do I not pay enough attention to her?  Do I pay too much attention to her?  Are we disciplining her in all the wrong ways?  Did she learn this from someone else pushing her?  And if so, how come I wasn't there to protect her?  Is this all because I let her listen to Kanye West in the car? 

Then I thought of all the times I've had to call a parent over something a student did, and all I could imagine were years of teacher conferences and meetings with guidance counsellors ahead of me trying to figure out what I did to turn my daughter into a bad apple.  In my daydream, I'm sitting on a thirty-year-old office chair sobbing, "I don't know what happened?!  She was such a nice baby...I've tried EVERYTHING!" into her report card.

And what if she turns into a complete criminal, and the next thing I know she's like one of the teenagers I see being escorted in handcuffs out of Target for stealing a can of hairspray that she was planning on huffing behind the Market Basket down the street?!

Sigh.  Good God, there's a lot of pressure as a parent!!!

The worst part is that I want to be able to try to fix the situation, but I have no idea how.  There are no other children in our house for her to whack, therefore I can't tell her to stop doing it.  I debated bringing her to the mall and waiting for her to whack a stranger's kid so I could intercede and tell her no, but that could get real ugly real fast.  

And how do you explain all this to a one-year-old?  Whenever we tell her to NOT spill her milk on the floor, she does so immediately because all she hears is, "Spill. Milk. Floor," which sounds like an awesome idea to her!  So if I say, "Don't hit your friends, it's not nice," will she hear, "Hit. Friends. Nice," instead?

I teach her to be nice to her baby dolls.  When she threw Amy across the car as I was strapping her in this afternoon, I told her that she needed to be gentle and nice to her baby.  Madeline showered Amy with kisses after that, which made me feel a tad bit better.  But is teaching her how to be nice to a plastic doll really going to translate to real life when all that stands between Madeline and the swing set is a baby she could simply shove out of the way?  

I guess what I'm saying is....I have no idea how to raise a child, and I can't believe they let me leave the hospital with one.

Psssh, doctors.  (Insert eye roll.)  

Any advice from season mothers would be appreciated.

Dear God, look, she's already trying to steal my car AND my coffee.  We're doomed.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fun with Nana and Pop

The reason we get to go to Montauk and have great mini vacations by the ocean is because Eric's parents have a place out there.  (Thanks, Nana and Pop!)  Eric has a lot of fond memories of spending time out there during the summers of his youth.  It's nice to think that Madeline will have some of the same great experiences there that her Dada did.  

Nana is a go-go-go grandma.  She always has a fun new idea to keep Madeline amused.  She's like a magnet for small children.

For example, this past weekend Madeline was introduced to a new game that we call Go! Go! Go! Stop!  It's pretty simple.  All players drum their hands on the table when Nana says, "Go!" and we all stop the instant Nana says, "Stop!"  Usually the drumming continues until Madeline lifts her hands off the table, at which point the Stop! command is given.  Madeline though it was pretty much the best game ever.

We also got to visit Pop's boat, and Madeline wasted no time in requesting to be brought on board.  She's been pretty obsessed with boats recently...even before we traveled by ferry last week.  Who knows?  Maybe she'll have a nautical future in store just like Pop!

 Thanks for the nice visit, grandparents!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Think Happy Thoughts

Before I even begin, can we just take a minute to admire this beach?  I mean, how gorgeous is that?  And that little black speck in the water?  That's a lady riding a horse.  A HORSE.  This could be the setting of a Nora Ephron movie for crying out loud!    

This was not Madeline's first trip to a beach, but her other trips have been made in cold weather.   On this visit, she really got to dig down and explore the beach for the first time.  

We took our shoes off, dug in the sand, chased some waves, let the cold water roll over our feet, and watched the surfers bobbing on the horizon like corks.   She loved it.

And while we're at it, could we take a minute to admire my daughter?  I mean, how gorgeous is she?  She's a little slice of perfection wrapped in a yellow cardigan.

Madeline had mixed feelings about the sand.  She wouldn't walk on it unless it was the hard, compact sand by the water.  The rest of the time she tottered uneasily in one spot and begged us to pick her up.  On the other hand, she really got a kick out of letting the sand slip between her fingers, and she loved sitting on her bum and digging her toes in it.

We even buried her feet, which she did not mind one bit.  

I eventually lured Madeline to the water, and let the waves wash over our feet.  Eric thought I was crazy because the water was cold.  I explained to him that at the beaches I grew up going to, that's what the water felt like in August.  It's not a problem until you stop feeling your legs.  
Madeline liked the water so much, that we spent a lot of time preventing her from running straight into it.   We showed her how to run away from the incoming waves, and she squealed like a mad woman.  

The rest of the trip was spent wandering the beach, picking up rocks, saying hi to puppies, and pretending we were the little mermaid.

 And in case you needed a reminder...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Boats are THE Only Way to Travel, Dahlingk

When you have a toddler, the term "traveling light" means you only have 100 pounds of crap instead of the 150 you packed for an infant.    
Along with the clothing, comes backup clothing, diapers, strollers, pack n' plays, stuffed animals, booster seats, baby monitors, toys, and more diapers.

Luckily, we no longer have to worry about breast pumps, bottles, nipples, bottle cleansers, and freezer bags.  On the other hand, those things have been replaced with back up supplies of Cheerios, sippy-cups, child-sized forks, and favorite stuffed animals.  Heaven forbid we leave little Elmo, or big Elmo, behind.  

And once we've spent a full day packing and repacking and loading the car, the adventure is just beginning.  Madeline used to fall asleep the moment we turned the ignition until we unloaded her at our final destination.  No more.  

 Now she wakes up after an hour car ride.  Now she knows that if she could just get out of that gosh-darn car seat, she could run around like a happy lunatic for hours on end.  Now she can scream for a million reasons other than just hunger or a wet bottom.    

Don't get me wrong, Madeline is not an hellion by any stretch of the imagination, but she is a normal, headstrong, impatient toddler.  Traveling by car is just simply not as easy as it used to be.  

And while I've never boarded an airplane with my child, I'm pretty sure that's a situation I want to avoid as long as possible.  Maybe when she was still a loaf of bread flying would have been easier.  Maybe when she can sit still for more than ten minutes without grunting in displeasure flying will be easier.  But right now?  At this stage?  There is nothing on God's green earth that could entice me to sit in a steel tuna can high in the atmosphere with a wiggly Maddie Bear strapped to my lap.   

Therefore, it's a blessing that the drive to Montauk from Massachusetts can be shortened by the miracle of a ferry boat.  Ferry boats, my friends, are a very efficient way of traveling with a toddler.  If you have a toddler and/or a ferry boat, I highly recommend mixing the two together.  

First, there's no carting and carrying of luggage necessary.  The car drives on board with you.  

Secondly, we don't actually have to stay in the car.  There's a whole boat to explore.  When Madeline got bored with looking at the view, we went and had a snack.  When she was full, we took a stroll.  When she got tired, we carried her to a bench and waved to puppies. 

The only potential worry was that she would slip between the railings into the water.  But she was so distracted and happy watching her surroundings, that she didn't mind being carried and herded away from any un-baby-friendly areas of the boat.  
Madeline was an angel for the entire trip.  Very little whining, grunting, or wiggling involved.  Now that is the the way to travel!    

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Break

Our little family had an excellent spring break last week.  We had some Mumma-Dada dates, rocked on the porch, got some small house projects done, ate lots of foods, gained ten pounds, visited with Nana and Pop in Montauk, (much more on this later) and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

The weather was so amazing, in fact, that my brain fooled itself into thinking it was summer vacation already.  It is not.  This is sad.  Luckily, it was a dreary, rainy day today, which made returning to work and the real world much easier.  (Not that easy, though.)

Here's an overview of our week:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yard Work

Eric and I are on vacation this week, and we're lucking out with some pretty amazing weather.  Yesterday, we took a break from eating bonbons and lounging by our nonexistent pool to get some yard work done.

We've got plans to add some bushes, remove some bushes, and plant some flowers in the future, but yesterday was spent mainly tidying things up a bit.

This area of the yard didn't need much work, so we started with that.  I pulled out some half-dead shrubby things, weeded, and laid down mulch.  Fresh mulch freshens everything up!  

I'd like to add either a small tree or another large bush to fill in the gaps where the shrubby things used to be.  Two of the bushes we have planted there now will be huge someday, so even though it currently looks a bit sparse, I need to be patient.

We're also installing a raised-bed vegetable garden on that section of dead lawn in the near future.  Mmmm, I can taste the fresh tomatoes already!

Around the back of our porch, we have a small flight of stairs that leads down to a lower patio.  Our house doesn't have a back yard.  The patio is pretty much it.  Therefore, I'd really like to clean up that area of the yard so that we can sit on the patio without getting the heeby jeebies.

There were so many leaves and overgrown bushes, not to mention some bizarre-o stick tree/weed, that I was a little afraid to rake this area up lest I find some creature lurking in the depths.

Our creature came in the form of a stone gargoyle planter and a lot of wasps.  (We also found a very old baby shoe in the eaves of the garage, but we left it there.  I don't want another box situation on our hands...)

After removing the leaves, the area looks neater, but far from finished.  There's some sort of ground cover with black leaves sprawling across the area.  The bizarre-o tree/weed was cut back to a single stick, and will be going the way of the dodo soon.  Other than our two shaggy bushes, Sid and Nancy, the area is basically just a big patch of dirt.   We've been finding that we have to wipe down the porch furniture on a daily basis because of how much dirt blows through the windows.  Hopefully some landscaping (and probably some rain) will help with that?

I pruned the bejesus out of the bushes in our front yard, and we found a lot of hidden flower beds around the fence.  I didn't take any pictures of those projects because one, I forgot, and two, this really isn't that interesting anyway.

And of course, Maddie Bear was an excellent helper...

She was rewarded with a cherry Popsicle for her time and effort.