Pumpkin Perseverance

DSC05535If you’ve never gardened before you might not realize it, but gardening is a whole lot like your own personal therapist, or shall I say life coach. It takes everything you thought you knew about plants and throws it right out the window. It makes you evaluate yourself all the time. Gardening comes with so many highs, the first sprouts, the first little tiny tomato, flowers and bees and butterflies. It also comes with a lot of lows, like the loss of an entire crop of kale to unchecked cabbage moth larva, early blight in tomatoes or a curious and hungry puppy.

I’ve had a lot of insects come in and eat my plants. It was sad but not devastating. However a few weeks ago I lost three pumpkins the size of the two in the background to our cute dog Lily. I was livid with anger because I had been waiting to so long for fruit to finally set. The weather was so hot and it was killing off all the female blossoms before they could set fruit. Every morning I would go out diligently in the wee hours of the morning when it was still cool and hand pollinate the female flowers because we have very few bees. After much disappointment those three pumpkins finally set. Then a few days later they were gone, having been chomped to bits by the dog.

I lost it. I raised my hands to the sky and yelled out a series of profanities which scared the girls. I then fell to the ground and cried. So much effort all gone and the darn dog didn’t even eat the pumpkins, just chewed them up. I yelled and stomped my feet and said to D in a not so nice voice “You build me a fence or I will give the dog up for adoption.”

I then went and pouted in my room. After a half hour I came to realize something: growing my own food is more than just a hobby: it’s part of who I am. I felt like this dog had personally attacked me. I also realized how silly it is to be mad at a creature that has no advanced planning skills; she just smelled something good and wanted a snack.

So the next day I went to the local hardware store and bought a lot of lumber and pre-cut pickets. Over the next two weeks I worked everyday to put up a fence. In that time the weather was cool and rainy and -guess what?- four pumpkins set fruit and started to swell and grow. With those fruits my confidence started to grow again too. I forgave the dog and kept building the fence. This weekend we finished the fence. Now my worries can go back to bugs and the weather.

The biggest thing I learned from all this was perseverance. Do not be deterred by setbacks even if they make you mad enough to see red and cry. Just wipe your eyes, stomp your feet if you need to, and keep gardening.

Posted in Garden | 9 Comments

The Summit

DSC05519There is nothing like being on the summit of mountain and looking down over the town you live in and practically into another country. Out past those mountains in the distance is Mexico.

Wishing you all an adventurous weekend!

Posted in Travels | 8 Comments

In My Garden

DSC05512 DSC05509 DSC05507 DSC05505 DSC05499 DSC05513DSC05518Not too much has changed this week with the veggies other than I now have three pumpkins that are growing and thriving along with a butternut squash. The sunflowers have opened and are attracting the first of the bees! The corn is still growing and the beans have been left to dry on the vines. I planted calendula which is sprouting nicely after the three days of heavy rains we had.

The fence is almost complete. Three more sections, a gate and a coat of paint! This fence has really transformed the yard from something barren to a cozy garden in the works. I love being out there. Now if only the mosquitoes would go away!

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Life learning, homeschooling, unschooling…..

IMG_20140902_092227At our homeschool group last week we introduced ourselves to the new people in the group and said what we liked about homeschooling. It pretty much boiled down to freedom to learn, which I believe is a really powerful thing: allowing your children the freedom to learn in the way the suits their personality and interests.

My mother in-law asks us every weekend if is S going to school and we reply “not now”. It’s always an awkward conversation but one D skillfully deals with. In Italy homeschool is essentially unheard of, so it’s a strange concept for my in-laws to deal with. That’s okay though, Italian school are pretty amazing.

If you asked me to tell you what kind of homeschoolers we are, I can’t really tell you. We do a morning lesson because S likes the structure and has asked to learn how to write. She learned the whole alphabet last year because she wanted to learn how to write then too. Now she is working on perfecting her letters so they look just perfect. We recently started looking at mixing vowels and consonants to try and make words. She wants to write and she does all the time but most of her words are a mixture of consonants and so she gets frustrated. So our project work right now is all about letters and how they form words.

We draw daily, make bread, take nature walks, spend hours a day reading, do chores together and have lots of play time.

On any given day you might find us drawing from nature or making books and writing stories, baking or cooking to learn about numbers and measurements, watching YouTube videos about the International Space Station and learning about the solar system. Learning here at home is oh so much fun. And we do all in our pj’s sometimes!

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

In My Garden

DSC05490 DSC05489DSC05471In the garden this week the pumpkin plants are taking over. They had an unfortunate attack by our dog who ate the three small pumpkins I had growing. But the plants did not seem to mind and have continued to thrive anyway. I’ve had trouble with fruit set despite hand pollinating the female flowers. I think it was the bit of heat wave we had. This next week we are expecting a temperature drop of 10 degrees so it will only be 89 instead of 100. Every bit helps right?

DSC05472 DSC05473There are corn cobs and sunflowers about to bloom, a zucchini every day or two and lots of cow peas. I think next summer I will plant more than two zucchini plants, maybe 4 of them. I like summer squash and would like to eat them more frequently.

DSC05474The struggling butternut squash plant has finally produced a female flower so lets hope it sets when I hand pollinate it. Speaking of hand pollinating, I’m hand pollinating because there are very few happy beneficial bugs in our yard.  I’m trying my best get pollinator friendly flowers in yard. I have grand plans for making our yard a bee, butterfly and other pollinator friendly space. So far the only bees to visit us are the huge black carpenter bees.

DSC05475Last weekend I planted two kinds of mint and garlic chives in the space near our bedroom. I also moved all the potted plants to our bedroom patio. This space is where the future garden will be so I thought I would bring them all over to inspire while I wait.

DSC05467After the dog attacked the pumpkins I decided I would put up a fence first and wait for the beds until fall. So this whole week I have been busy hammering pickets to 2×3′s to make fencing. I’m excited to show you all the fence because it looks quite nice. We’ll paint it white once it’s all setup, and then I won’t have to worry so much about the dog anymore.

DSC05468Once the fence goes in then we’ll put in about 200 square feet of  garden in this space. This is the biggest amount of space I’ve ever had since I started gardening in 2009. I am stoked about tending to this many plants because I feel confident enough in my gardening experience to actually plant lots and lots of things. We went to a local source of great gardening soil and we’ll need 8 cubic yards of soil! It’s like 2,000 pounds of soil!

DSC05469Lastly, this trench. Right now it’s unsightly and potentially dangerous but it’s all for the greater good. I’m making a swale in order to stop the water that runs down the yard from the back of the property. This past monsoon season we experienced a lot of flooding coming from the elevated backside of the yard and so it needs to be controlled. So swale it is. Our dog plays with it all she can, and of course helps with the digging!

Are you putting your gardens to rest yet? Or gearing up for the next season?

Posted in Garden | 8 Comments

Mountains and Mushrooms

DSC05461 DSC05455 DSC05451 DSC05446 DSC05445 DSC05444 DSC05442 DSC05434 DSC05433 DSC05426Last week the mountain called to us to come and play. It looms over Tucson like a guardian, reminding you that the wilderness is just up the road. We live much closer to the road that takes you up the mountain now, so we can be up to alpine forests within 45 minutes. From desert to forest in 45 minutes, not too bad!

We were pleasantly surprised to see the forest in a wonderful green and healthy condition: all the monsoon rains have really livened things up. We of course headed to our favorite spot at the very top and end of the road. We walk, we listen, we observe.

Oh yes and there were more mushrooms there then I have ever seen before. If only I knew anything about them.

Fall is certainly on it’s way. The air up there was chilly and the leaves were getting ready to change. The light as well has taken on the warmer, softer color of fall. Welcome September!


Posted in Travels | 21 Comments

Happy Mail Day


You all know how much I love mail. Well what’s better than getting a bunch of lovely handmade gifts in the mail? When Amanda opened up her Summer Swap I had to jump in line. I sent off a lovely package, which of course I forgot to take a picture of.  In return I received these sweet things from a fellow blogger. Thank you so much Jen!

Today we are off to the mountains to collect nature toys for our first season of organized homeschooling coming up next week. I can’t say that we are really actually starting homeschooling because when you homeschool you never really stop learning new things… I love life learning!

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Today I am Grateful

DSC05420Today I am grateful for lots of little things and some not so little things.

  • for this garden which gives me such joy every time I see it.
  • for the girl who will be 5 soon and who is 100% her own person
  • for really really good eggs with orange yolks
  • for time in the evening to do nothing
  • for the new Weck jars coming my way in time for apple season
  • for apple season
  • for longer nights and later rising times
  • good hard work that gets your hands dirty and your brow sweaty
  • for a husband who can do math in his head and is willing to do all the math for all my crazy ideas
  • for the joys of homeschooling and all the little surprises and new knowledge it brings
  • for dear friends who send letters and postcards in an age of quick communication


Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

After the Rain

DSC05384DSC05381DSC05385The monsoon storms can be violent and destructive here, and then end on a beautiful note. One that almost makes you hear music. This was one such time two weeks ago.

Happy Monday!

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Posted in Photographic Thoughts | 8 Comments