Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gardening with a Baby

I googled this theme and did not come up with many helpful suggestions. I wanted some advice on how to carry your baby while gardening, what kinds of contraptions to rig to put your baby down where he would be happy, safe, and relatively bug-free. Perhaps I rely too much on the google. We'll just have to be innovative.

We started with O in the car seat, which only lasted about six minutes before he would squirm and cry unhappily. I would then put him in the baby bjorn, which worked alright for him but I could only water and not really bend over. We also tried "the grandparent", which is very effective but time-sensitive and not always available.

We have settled on bringing his bouncy chair and putting him under whatever source of shade is available, from the neighbor's raspberries to our ever-expanding sunflowers. It seems to work pretty well. We also put down a blanket with a blue and white umbrella over the top and he seems to like kicking his legs up and feeling the breeze. Now that we finally have a comfortable situation for him, I think he's getting out of gardening what I'd hoped: exposure to the sounds, sights and feel of nature, from the birds to the soft breezes to just getting his eyes filled up with all the different shades of green.

Let me back up and explain a bit more about our garden. (First, see my other post about our community garden plot.) Last year our plot was prolific. We had broccoli, tomatoes, tomatillos, strawberries, daikon, corn, arugula, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, eggplant, artichoke, spinach, lettuce, and sunflowers. We also had an earlier start and an easier time gardening pre-baby. This year, we got a notice in May saying that we needed to tend to our garden or give it up. We had visited once to survey but didn't get started until O was about one month old. We gave them our reasons and got to work. In the fall, Shannon had become disinterested in gardening and I had become increasingly larger and less mobile, so we didn't "put our garden to bed" as we should have. Thus, we returned to mostly weeds. It took some work to clear out, but some brilliant person had brought a ton of used burlap sacks from coffee shops in to kill weeds. We covered most of our plot with these sacks.

We also learned that in our absence, a killdeer family had nested in our plot, and people staked out the nest so no one would disturb it. We felt glad that we had inadvertently provided a space for another fledging family.

Other changes had occurred in our absence. A number of the plots had not sold, so the city decided to give them away to immigrant families in the area. We now have about five plots being worked by Eastern European families who have brought with them their knowledge of cold-weather gardening and have created amazing structures (cold frames I guess, though they are solid enough to call green houses). These families must have some agreement to raise food for their community, because there are so many tomatoes they could feed hundreds of people!

With new community members comes some strife, of course, and it came in the form of cultural misunderstandings. I have noticed that some of the greatest issues between cultures has to do with the use of space. In this case, I think being helpful has been confused with being invasive at times. We so far have thoroughly enjoyed the exchange. Shannon can speak a small bit of Russian, which quickly ingratiated us with George and Maria, who have given us tomato plants, cucumbers and a great big zucchini. When I asked George what kinds of tomatoes we got, he said "good". But apparently, not everyone had this experience. Early on, a woman came up to me to complain about pillows in the shed which might lead to homelessness (or something like that. I couldn't quite follow). She began yelling at me as a way to get me on her side (not effective, obviously) and in her rant, she said something about "the war with the Russians and you have to pick a side". I decided she was crazy and tried not to find out too much more about any war with the "Russians", who are not Russian. On the other hand, it has helped me to see others advocating for each other where I did not expect. A woman who can sometimes be interested in drama was defending the Eastern European families by explaining the difference in how people view ownership, and mentioning that they were impressively multi-lingual. Ultimately, we all will grow from this experience.

So, back to our plot: this year we have not taken on as much. We are being realistic about what we can handle (though with donations from George, our plans have changed a bit). So far we have seven tomato plants (two volunteers from last year's heirlooms), two butternut squash, a tepee trellis of green beans, a whole bed of strawberries, six broccoli plants, onions, arugula, cucumbers, three peppers, eggplants, and sunflowers. Actually, it sounds like a lot. We still have paths of burlap sacks and a small and dwindling weedy section, but it is a great work in progress, and now we have another person to share it with, which makes it even more meaningful.