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    Confessions of a Crunchy Mama





    I’m a crunchy mom. Really, I am. Wanna hear my credentials? Well, there’s the prenatal stuff: I did prenatal yoga, had a doula, and a midwife. There’s the parenting stuff: I breastfed (even tandem nursed), coslept (didn’t even set up the crib with our second baby), and babywore. Our kids attend Montessori school, we practice gentle discipline, and we selectively vaccinate. There’s the green stuff: we recycle, use natural cleaning products, we're vegetarian, and nearly all the food in our house is organic. Have you ever heard the song, “Hippies Lament” by Wally Pleasant? There I am (ha, ha)!

    The thing is, I have a confession to make. It’s something that separates me from crunchy mamas everywhere. Are you ready? I didn’t cloth diaper my kids. Nope. In fact, with my first child, we used straight up Pampers Premium (I’m ducking as green and crunchy things are being thrown at the screen). I suppose I have excuses: I grew up helping my mom cloth diaper my sisters and remembered the folding, the pinning (the poking my fingers), the stinky diaper pails. Cloth diapering seemed old-fashioned, and quite literally a pain. Plus, I run a business with my husband – so never was a full-time stay-at-home mom (I’ve done a combo of WorkAtHome/BringBabytoWork/WorkWithaNanny). When I did a little research into cloth, it seemed like such a large up-front investment. And frankly, I’m horrible at laundry. It just didn’t seem like cloth diapering would work for me.

    But, really? These are just excuses, not justifications.

    Because the thing is, all excuses aside, I should have cloth diapered. I should’ve done my research. I should have realized that the growing pains associated with starting cloth, were likely to have been short-lived. I believe now that had we stuck it out and found a set of diapers that worked (we did try – very briefly – cloth diapering with a few Fuzzi Bunz on loan from a friend, and a bunch of gDiapers, which I later returned), we would have ended up saving some money in the long run (we used mostly Pampers premium & 7th Generation with our first child and solely 7th Generation disposables with our second child – in other words: expensive) particularly with reselling the used ones, we would potentially have avoided the seemingly endless succession of diaper rashes our daughter had (did you know that Pampers Premium diapers contain the additives: Petrolatum, Stearyl Alcohol, and Aloe Barbadensis Extract?), and maybe most importantly, though certainly most assuredly, by cloth diapering, we would have kept pounds and pounds of stinky non-biodegradable waste material out of landfills and out of the ground water. Waste materials, mind you, that will be there for hundreds of years. Soiled diapers that will still be decomposing long after we and our conveniently-diapered children are no longer earthside.

    To put it plainly, the clean air council indicates (I’ve decided to cut & paste the exact text because the numbers are so startling that they need repeating): An average child will use between 8,000 -10,000 disposable diapers ($2,000 worth) before being potty trained. Each year, parents and babysitters dispose of about 18 billion of these items. In the United States alone these single-use items consume nearly 100,000 tons of plastic and 800,000 tons of tree pulp. We will pay an average of $350 million annually to deal with their disposal and, to top it off, these diapers will still be in the landfill 300 years from now. Americans throw away 570 diapers per second. That's 49 million diapers per day. [source: http://www.cleanair.org/Waste/wasteFacts.html]

    Back to my words: 49 million diapers a day. That’s disgusting. And it’s not fair to our children, nor to our children’s children’s children.

    Why am I telling you this? To assuage my guilt? Maybe that’s a little of it. But mostly, I think I’m confessing to let moms - crunchy or not - who might be leaning towards disposable diapering, know that while the potential “convenience” of disposable diapers is tempting, it just doesn’t compare to the inconvenience to our environment. The amount of trash you’ll leave behind (that I left behind) for those years of convenience just. isn’t. worth it. Everything I’ve read and understood and seen firsthand from friends who made the environmentally-friendly choice, is that choosing to cloth diaper your babies is nearly as convenient as disposables (especially with the advent of AIO cloth diapers), less expensive than disposables, leaves far less of a carbon footprint (especially if you line dry), is eons “greener” than disposable diapering, and, means you don’t have to end up writing a crunchy confession post like me.

    So do/did you cloth diaper? Or do/did you use disposables like me? Confess... it just feels better. :)

    Posted: Apr 20 2010, 19:45 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    The Whys and Hows of A Vegetarian's Journey





    I’ve been a vegetarian for more years of my life now than I haven’t been; I’m going on 20 years without meat now. My husband is entering his 3rd year of vegetarianism, and we are raising our children as vegetarians. In fact, my youngest child has never tasted meat.  So, I think it’s safe to say I’m familiar enough with it; it’s a part of who I am.  Over the last two decades I’ve seen vegetarianism and overall awareness about healthier eating evolve; both in my own understanding, and society’s as well. I find this exhilarating and promising! When I first stopped eating meat, I’d have to trek (and I do mean trek… I didn’t have a driver’s license yet, folks) to an out-of-the-way tiny health food store to get the one brand of soy dogs that were made at the time – that tasted, well, let just say: less than awesome.  Nowadays, meat analogs (that actually taste like meat – if that’s your thing; it’s not really mine) are sold at nearly every grocery store – alternative as well as conventional.  I’ve met many vegetarians in person (not just online), I know another family raising their children without meat, my children’s school excludes meat from the lunch menu, most restaurants have menu options other than salad for vegetarian patrons, and even fast food chains have vegetarian choices (though, personally, since viewing Supersize Me several years ago, we no longer patronize fast food restaurants). The fact that meatless options are so readily available now is a testament to the increasing normalization of vegetarianism in our culture.  It only makes me increasingly hopeful for the future health of our nation!

     

    Often, when my eating habits come to light, one of the first questions I’m asked is, “why?” It’s a valid question, and one I’ve not really put into words, until now: Why am I a vegetarian?  In all truthfulness, I first embarked on my vegetarian journey trying to be different, rebellious, special – I was a teenager in a meat-loving household; you get the picture.  It just felt good to answer the question, “Would you like some meat loaf?” with a dramatic, “No way!” (and watch my level of coolness exponentially increase).  I even influenced one of my sisters to become vegetarian (and she still is to this day).  Of course, after a while, the act of not eating meat became far less of a conscious effort and was much more habitual, and eventually I entirely lost interest in the taste of meat. But it wasn’t until fairly recently – I’d say around the time I became pregnant with my first child (enter Supersize Me again), that I really started digging a little deeper into the whys and hows of a meatless diet. Full disclosure, I haven’t been a strict vegetarian all 20 years.  There have been points in time where I have eaten fish, even had some chicken during my pregnancy & breastfeeding years. Yet, I always tend to come back to a vegetarian diet; and strive towards a vegan (or nearly so) diet.  So why is that, after all these years?

     

    Primarily, I believe that vegetarianism is one of the healthiest ways to eat.  It is naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in fiber, and rich in nutrients gained from the key building blocks of the food pyramid: fruits, veggies, and grains. It tastes good and feels good to eat fresh, real foods.  Being vegetarian often forces one to pay closer attention to what is in the things one is eating, and in doing so, one reads labels and studies menus more carefully and closely, and becomes more choosy overall about what is going into one’s body.  I see all of these things as good: the more aware you are about what you eat, the better choices you tend to make.

     

    Secondarily, I believe vegetarianism is a more sustainable and earth-friendly way to eat. For example, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef (Sources: http://www.vegsource.com/articles/pimentel_water.htm | http://www.earthsave.org/environment/water.htm) compared with 60 gallons of water to produce one pound of potatoes. That’s a lot of H2O saved by not eating meat. Not to mention the land savings: it takes far more land to produce a pound of meat – via mass amounts of grain needed to feed cattle intended for slaughter (which is neither a natural nor healthful diet for cows, though not precisely the point) than it does to produce a pound of vegetables/grains intended for human consumption.  (Source: http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/environment.html) Simply put, cows consume far more food than they produce. More complexly, in order to produce the amount of grain needed to generate meat, the grain needs to be grown in large quantities (through use of pesticides and water) and harvested and transported quickly (through use of fossil fuels). It doesn’t make sense from an environmental standpoint to use so much of our precious land and resources to feed a cow, just to slaughter it for a fraction of the amount of food which could have been gained instead from planting the fields with crops intended for human consumption. Recently, Adam and I watched Food Inc., and I’ll never look at animal-derived food products in the same way.  The ideas about more vegetable consumption and reduced animal consumption being better for the planet really came into better focus for me after seeing this film. 

     

    Finally, and perhaps most simply, by not eating meat, I’m not directly contributing to the killing nor torturing of animals, through my dietary preference. Frankly, I teach my children to treat other beings that share this planet with us – people AND animals – with kindness and empathy; so to do otherwise when it comes to our dietary choices is a dichotomy which I’ve yet to find a better way to reconcile, than going with a compassionate (vegetarian) diet.

     

    So there are the whys.  What about the hows? As healthy a way of eating as vegetarianism is (heck, switch around a few letters, and you’ve practically got the word vegetable), as many celebrities who “go vegan”, as many articles that are written on the benefits of a low fat, plant-rich diet, I find that still the mention of a meatless diet causes concern, in varying degrees, from strangers, friends, and family.  I find the concern directed most particularly towards “getting enough”. In other words, by eating vegetarian, are we really eating healthy enough?  Are we eating enough protein, consuming enough calcium, getting enough iron? Honestly, I can’t say even I am immune to this concern.  How can I be sure we’re getting enough? Anecdotally, I’m healthy, my children are healthy, and after just a few months on a nearly-vegan diet, my husband’s high cholesterol came completely under control; he’s healthy & vegetarianism helped him get there.  I was a vegetarian through my pregnancies & got the thumbs up from my midwife and OB, our children’s pediatrician says a vegetarian diet is healthy, yet I still regularly revisit the issue.  I read books, articles, and ask questions.  I’m constantly learning more about eating healthier and feel I’m continually making better choices when it comes to the food we eat. I believe vegetarianism is the diet of a healthier planet, and I really do believe we’re “getting enough”.  I’ll share some of the hows; and maybe you too can join us in going vegetarian!

     

    I’ll start with perhaps the most common question vegetarians face:

     

    How will you get enough protein if you don’t eat meat?

     

    The short answer is: assuming one is consuming enough calories, one will consume more than enough protein – as there is protein in nearly everything you consume. In fact, the American Heart Association indicates that Americans eat too much protein & too much protein can increase health risks. However, the question really begs a longer answer, as certain foods are more calorie-dense, and some foods, while calorie-dense, aren’t necessarily healthful (even while being meat-free). Ideally, I’d suggest when eliminating meat from your diet, and attempting to maintain an adequate supply of protein (especially important for children and pregnant women), one should choose foods rich in nutrient-dense calories like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts; and limit foods which are rich in saturated fats or cholesterol (like eggs or full-fat dairy) or simply calorie-dense but lacking in nutrients (like sugars and processed foods).  If you’re looking to eliminate only meat from your diet, but not other animal products, eggs and reduced-fat dairy easily make up more than enough protein in the average diet. Eggs and dairy also contain vitamin B12 which is essential to the human diet, and not easily found in non-animal sources (though it can be sourced from seaweed & barley grass).  I find it necessary to mention that if you do choose to keep eggs and dairy in your diet, to be a bit wary. While these items are a good source of protein, they are also a source of saturated fats and cholesterol.  Due to those high levels of fat, dairy and eggs also tend to “hold onto” any pesticides, hormones, additives, or antibiotics that the cow or chicken was given in its feed or healthcare regimen.  To that end, I strongly recommend only eating grass-fed organic dairy and eggs whenever possible, keeping in mind that a hen or cow fed on healthy organic pasture greens produce eggs and milk that are richer in key nutrients. To read more about why grass-fed animals are healthier (and thus produce healthier milk and eggs), go here: http://www.eatwild.com/basics.html

     

     

    So realistically speaking, how can one get enough protein without meat? Here’s an example.  An average (non-pregnant) adult needs 0.6-0.8g of protein for every 2.2 lbs of body weight per day.  So divide your current weight by 2.2, then multiply by 0.7.  Or, have this calculator do it for you). According to the calculation above, I need approximately 38g of protein in a day. I’ve broken down my consumption of protein in an average day (you can create your own breakdown with this awesome site http://www.nutritiondata.com/), so you can see that it is possible to acheive adequate, even surplus of protein without meat in your diet:

     

    Breakfast:

     

    Bowl of Oatmeal: 11g

    Add skim milk: 8g

    Add molasses: 0g

    Half cup of raspberries: .5g

    8oz glass of OJ: 2g

     

    Snack:

     

    Handful of cashews: 2.5g

    Starbucks iced latte: 12g

     

    Lunch:

     

    Tofurky (13g), cheddar cheese (7g), spinach (.5g), tomato (0g), sprouts (1g), on whole wheat bread (8g) sandwich, reduced fat potato chips (2g)

     

    (Note: Only at lunch, and already at 69g total protein for the day – 31g over my recommended daily value; and haven’t consumed any meat.  Now, if I were to eliminate the animal protein sources altogether (the milk in my oatmeal, the cheddar cheese slice, and the Starbucks latte), I’d be at 40.5g – already over my recommended daily value, without animal-sourced protein)

     

    Snack:

     

    Carrots & hummus (3g).

     

    Dinner:

     

    Whole grain pasta (10g), with black beans (5g), sautéed Portobello mushrooms (5g), spinach (.5g), and garlic (0g), with tomato sauce (1g), whole wheat bread (4g) with olive oil (0g), and green salad (0g). 

     

    If I add a meat analog (say, soy “meatballs”) to dinner, I’d add another 10g or so… but even without it (I try to keep our processed soy intake low. For some links to further info on soy, see the stars, below **), I’m at 97.5g of protein for the day.  59.5g of protein above my recommended daily allowance… and that’s without any animal products.

     

    ** There are varying reports on the benefits and drawbacks of soy; the drawbacks being numerous, and primarily focused on processed soy, like soy baby formula, soymilk, and TVP/TSP (textured vegetable/soy protein). Here are a few articles:

    The Ploy of Soy | Soy & Hexane | Behind the Bean

    If you do choose to use soy as a meat replacement, I’d recommend only buying organic and GMO-free soy.

    For a less negative read on soy, here's Eden Organic’s take.

     

    So what about iron?

     

    Iron is a key element for health; one that happens to be highly present in animal sources of food.  However, it is also found in non-meat sources. The iron sourced from non-meat sources, called “non-heme” iron is more difficult for humans to absorb than iron derived from meat.  However, consuming vitamin C-rich foods at the same time as iron-rich vegetarian foods will increase your iron absorption dramatically (like, for instance, my eating oatmeal with orange juice or spinach with tomato sauce)

     

    With that in mind, here’s a list of foods that we regularly consume from non-meat sources that are rich in iron:

     

    Whole wheat bread

    Oatmeal

    Lima beans

    Enriched whole wheat pasta

    Black beans

    Kidney beans

    Lentils

    Spinach

    Green beans

    Asparagus

    Hummus

    Sun butter

    Peanut butter

     

    And some accompaniments, high in vitamin C:

     

    Tomatoes & tomato sauce

    Orange Juice

    Broccoli

    Raspberries

    Brussels Sprouts

     

    Some other sources that we eat less often, but which are also rich in iron:

     

    Fortified breakfast cereal

    Black strap molasses

    Pumpkin seeds

    Miso (high in protein, iron, and calcium – this stuff is awesome for vegetarians)

    Quinoa (again, awesome)

    Tofu

    Eggs

     

    Here is a good article which explains the importance of iron, iron absorption, and why vegetarians aren’t necessarily prone to iron-deficient anemia.

     

    How about calcium?

     

    I bring up calcium, not because vegetarians don’t get enough. But, because though I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I still try to limit my intake of dairy products for a couple reasons: the difficulty in being able to find grass-fed organic cheese; the higher concentration of fat and cholesterol in dairy. I think it is wise in general to limit our intake of dairy products, vegetarian or no. However, in limiting dairy in one’s diet, one also limits a very available and plentiful source of calcium. Calcium is particularly important for women and children.  So with that in mind, I make sure to eat items from this list of non-animal sources of calcium:

     

    Miso

    Almonds

    Leafy green veggies

    Navy beans

    Tofu

    Walnuts

    Sesame seeds

     

    For more suggestions on non dairy sources of calcium, visit Ellen's Kitchen.

      

    Vegetarianism and healthy eating continues to be a journey for me and my family.  We’re always changing the things we consume, clarifying the whys and hows of our eating habits, always with an eye towards overall health both now and in the future. I’ve made food mistakes in the past; my vegetarian path hasn’t been straight and narrow. And, while I’ve strived to be closer to vegan, there are some days, particularly on my second latte of the day, when I find that goal very difficult to achieve.  Yet, tomorrow brings with it the promise of continually better choices. My greatest hope is that through demonstrating an awareness about healthy vegetarian eating my children will grow up to have an appreciation of healthy eating, to understand the benefits and drawbacks of certain food choices, and most importantly, to be healthy and strong throughout their lives.  I hope some of what I’ve written helps you make better food choices too!  Please share your thoughts, both positive and negative --- comments are always welcome!

     

     

     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     

    I shared this post on Melodie's Vegetarian Foodie Fridays Carrnival (#29).

    Please take a moment to visit her site, Breastfeeding Moms Unite

    for vegetarian recipes, and articles on natural health and parenting!

    Posted: Apr 15 2010, 18:25 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    No Sugar Added Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies





    7 tbs butter, softened

    ½ cup agave nectar

    1 large egg

    1 tbs vanilla extract

    1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour

    ½ tsp baking soda

    ½ tsp sea salt

    1 cup of chocolate chips

    1 cup of chopped walnuts

     

    Preheat your oven to 325degrees F.

    Beat the agave nectar and butter until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.  

    Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then combine with the butter mixture.  Fold chocolate chips and walnuts into the batter. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto your cookie sheet (I recommend using parchment paper for ease).

    Bake for 12 – 14 minutes until lightly browned – be careful not to overcook.

    Enjoy!!  

     
    Notes:

    1) I recommend using organic ingredients whenever possible – better for you and the environment.

    2) I adapted this recipe from Ania Catalano’s Baking With Agave Nectar cookbook; the original recipe calls for ¼ cup more agave nectar, barley & oat flours instead of whole wheat, pecans instead of walnuts, and the addition of cinnamon.

    3) This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies.  The photo I took only includes 4… because that’s all that was left by the time I got this recipe blogged.  :)

    Posted: Apr 14 2010, 16:39 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Recipes

    Breastfeeding Support and Normalcy






    I’ve been lactating now for nearly 6 years. Six years of being able to nourish and nurture my children with my own breast milk. I feel lucky.

    Because although the U.S. government indicates that “Breastfeeding is Ideal for Infants”, according to the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card from 2006, only 73.9% of US babies have ever been breastfed. Only 43.3% of U.S. babies were still breastfeeding at 6 months, and a mere 22.7% were still breastfeeding at 12 months.

    The exclusively breastfeeding numbers are even lower (and much more startling, considering the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life – meaning, baby needs no additional foods or fluids other than breastmilk) at 33.1% exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months and only 13.6% exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months.

    So, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the World Health Organization recommends breastmilk ONLY for the first 6 months of life, only one seventh of the babies in this country are doing so. When you look at the individual states, the numbers are even more shocking. In Mississippi for example, of babies born in 2006, only 4.6% were still exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. Only 4.6%. A tiny fraction of infants. In spite of the recommendations. In spite of the fact that human milk is species-specific (meaning, our human milk is tailor made for human babies, whereas cow milk is tailor made for calves), in spite of research that indicates human milk feeding decreases infectious diseases such as bacterial meningitis, respiratory tract infections, UTIs, ear infections; in spite of studies indicating reduced rates of SIDS, insulin dependent type 1 and non-insulin dependent type 2 dibetes, cancer, obesity, and asthma (both in older children and adults who were breastfed compared with individuals who were not breastfed); in spite of the association with enhanced performance on tests of cognitive development in individuals who were breastfed; in spite of maternal health benefits – like decreased post-partum bleeding and decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. (Source: http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;115/2/496)

    What’s wrong? Why aren’t more women breastfeeding their children? And why are so many supplementing with formula so early on, or quitting altogether? I believe it’s a combination of factors. Perhaps foremost is the lack of understanding and support from the general population with regards to normal infant feeding and sleeping habits. How many articles have you read which indicate women should breastfeed only under cover or in private, should have their infants sleep separately, should feed them on a specific schedule, should give them pacifiers instead of the breast for comfort? How may advertisements in parenting magazines are there for formulas? How many free samples of formula are sent home with new mothers, instead of easy, free, consistent, and friendly access to breastfeeding counselors and lactation consultants (both in the hospital and at home)? Far too many.

    In combination with the lack of public support for breastfeeding is the general feeling towards the act of breastfeeding. I believe that while many people may feel “breast is best”, in reality, breast is just normal. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be seen as an ideal (which makes it difficult to reach for some), rather as a normalcy. Unfortunately, breastfeeding is often seen as shameful. When new mothers feel they have to put their breast milk into a bottle, or to nurse under a tent in order to feed in public, the act of breastfeeding, and with it the breastfeeding mother herself, is marginalized; not normalized, not supported. How can a new mother stand up to that?

     

    When formula companies suggest feeding formula offers “healthy growth patterns similar to breastfed babies” (Infamil) or their formula contains “unique blend of prebiotics, nucleotides and antioxidants nutrients naturally found in breast milk” (Similac) and offer “$250 worth of free gifts” (again, Infamil), breastfeeding is further marginalized, and formula feeding becomes more accessible and more normalized. When formula feeding is presented as just another way of feeding infants instead of something to be offered only when medically indicated by a physician (as per the AAP policy on breastfeeding), when its presented as easy, healthy, and free; when real breastfeeding support is lacking, what else can a mother do but formula feed?

    So why aren’t more women breastfeeding their children? Because society and big business says formula feeding is easy, bottle feeding is normal and acceptable anywhere & everywhere, and breastfeeding is difficult and something to be hidden or kept private.

    So, here I am, breastfeeding for nearly six years. But I understand that this is primarily because I was lucky enough to have had support from day one in the hospital – a hospital which was working on “baby friendly designation” which meant all of its lactation consultants and nurses and doctors were familiar with and fully supportive of making the breastfeeding relationship work. Lucky enough to have had no bottles or pacifiers offered to my newborn, even while in the nursery. Lucky enough to have my baby room in with me when possible, and brought to me each & every time she awoke to nurse (when she was in a special care nursery due to ABO incompatibility jaundice). I was lucky enough that when I had to supplement with formula, the formula was given to me with an SNS (supplemental nursing system) so that I could keep baby suckling at the breast. I was lucky enough to be given a free pump and consistent instructions and encouragement to bring my milk in and get my baby off of formula and back on to breast milk. I was lucky enough to have support at home from my husband, parents, and phone support from the hospital’s lactation consultant. I was lucky enough to have had support from other mothers in La Leche League.

    Yet, it shouldn’t be luck for women to have support in breastfeeding. It should be normal. We need to work towards normalization of breastfeeding in this society so that more than 22.7% of the population of new babies can get the benefits of breastfeeding to (at least) one year, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

     

    Please tell me your stories of support. How you were able to be successful in breastfeeding. Or, if you weren’t successful with breastfeeding, please share what circumstances led you to formula feed. Thank you so much for listening & sharing. I believe we can all learn from each others’ experiences in order to better support all women and babies.

    Posted: Apr 07 2010, 16:10 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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    Our First Garden





    What better way to start off Spring Break than getting out in the sun, turning over the dirt, and planting a garden?  I’ve always wanted to plant & tend a garden with the children.  Gardening has so many benefits – it teaches patience, caring for the earth, attention to detail, nurturing, and helps boost spirits!  Gardening is therapeutic for me. Who doesn’t just feel better outside in the sun, earth in their toes, the sound of wind through the trees? I just can’t be grumpy out in my flower beds; and I’ve found, neither can my children.

     

    Over the years, my children have helped me create and tend our perennial flower beds, but, due to our locale, never yet have attempted a vegetable/fruit garden.  This is due to the fact that we live in a condo which hires a landscaping company that sprays the common areas regularly with pesticides and fertilizers (Grrrrrr…).  That being the unfortunate case, I’m really not comfortable with planting anything edible here, due to the potential run-off from the grass area.  However, out beyond our backyard and the heavily-treated common area, right at the edge of the woods, there’s a perfectly sunny spot – just right for planting non-edibles! 

     

    First, we had to clear a space out there.  So… out we went with rakes, shovels, and my new gardening best friend, the hound dog and spent the better part of two hours pulling weeds, cutting vines, raking and tilling.  The vegetation, dead leaves, roots, and downed branches that reside on the edge of the woods made clearing a daunting task, but we hung in there (my children are gardening naturals, I tell you). 

     

    Two hours, and two very dirty kids (yes, they did actually lie down in the dirt) later, we had our very first garden!  I was able to scavenge 4 pieces of lumber from the woods (don’t even get me started on people dumping trash in the woods), to surround our space, and felt quite satisfied with the results!   My 5-year old tells me we need a sign that says, “Welcome to my Garden”, and I agree. 

    Next, after a lunch break and much-needed shower, came the seeds.  Now, a couple of years ago, my daughter & I tried to plant some sunflower seeds out on the edge of the woods, and they were immediately dug up & eaten by the local squirrels.  So, this year, we decided to try using a seed starter and let our seeds germinate indoors first, and then transplant out to the garden.  We bought an “eco-friendly”
    seed starter kit made from biodegradable plant material. It was super-easy to put together and plant with the kids.  We chose some easy-to-grow non-edibles: pumpkins and three varieties of sunflowers.  My 2-year old enjoyed watering the pellets, and my 5-year old loved being in charge of labeling the rows.  We finished the seed starting part in about an hour, and added it to our nature table Now we just have to wait for the seeds to germinate & tiny plants to grow! We’re all excited to watch the magic of nature! Once the plants are strong enough & big enough, we’ll move them outside to the garden, and make tending our pumpkins and sunflowers part of our daily summer routine.

     
    Please share your gardening with kids experiences!  I'd love to know which crops work best for you; and how you help your children learn to enjoy gardening!

    Posted: Apr 05 2010, 17:50 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Gardening | Outdoors