Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Weeding Is the Hardest Part

Look closely - there is a strawberry in there

Tom Petty said it best - The weeding is the hardest part (I think this song was actually published with "waiting" instead of "weeding," but we know what he really meant). I hate weeding. I love gardening, I love watching things that I plant grow, but I despise the weeds and grass growing in the garden. Living in Arizona, I have an especially difficult time in the summer, when our temperatures reach 115 degrees with 45% humidity. Before I start weeding, I have to preemptively call 9-1-1 for the heatstroke I am about to have.

But you know, the weeds and grass don't care what my feelings are or how many heat strokes I've had. With some rain, some irrigation, and plenty of sunshine, these things grow like...well...weeds. In fact, my strawberry bed, previously featured in two Renaissance Dad blogs, was so overgrown, I was afraid that I would have to break out with the machete in order to get into the garden bed. Finally, I just sucked it up and started weeding. I spent shorter periods of time for two evenings and one morning pulling grass from the strawberry bed until it was cleared up.

Going, going...
I am regularly telling students that we have choices to make in life. I often quote Ella Wheeler Wilcox's 1916 poem "'Tis the Set of the Sail." My favorite stanza is this:

One ship sails East
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Do you know what that means in the gardening world? Bad things will happen. Weeds and grass will grow in places you don't want them. Gophers, rabbits, or land sharks will consume your fruits and vegetables. Meteorites may land in the middle of your crop right before harvest. But these are all things that come with gardening. These are the things that make vegetables crunchier, fruits juicier, and time spent in the garden with kids that much sweeter.

So, Mr. Petty, you are right. The weeding IS the hardest part. But it is also satisfying, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Personalized Pancakes

One of my favorite traditions that we have as a family is Pancake Day. Last summer we visited some friends in Illinois--Chris, Aimee, and their kids have Pancake Day every Saturday. This is amazing, ambitious, and if it is something that you are able to pull off, more power to you! At our house, it’s not quite that frequent, but it is a regular occurrence. For a long time, the special Daddy addition to Pancake Day was the amazing amount of whipped cream I would put on the kids' pancakes. But that one-trick-pony show got a little stale, and I needed a way to step up this family tradition. I came across this little trick in an excerpt from a 1950's kid friendly recipe book, and it is something that my kids have grown quite fond of.

Here's the trick. After heating up and greasing the skillet, use whatever you have on hand (a baggy with one corner snipped off, a pastry decorating tool...I use a Baby Motrin doser) to write a letter in pancake batter on the skillet. Please note that the letter will need to be written backwards. As the letter batter begins to bubble, pour 1/4 cup of batter (more for a jumbo pancake) on top of the letter and cook the pancake as you normally would. The letter cooks longer than the rest of the pancake, creating a darkened letter. 

Through the attempts of making these pancakes, I have expanded from writing the first initials of my kids' names to drawing pictures, like hearts. I haven't quite gotten to the artistic ability of drawing caricatures or renditions of Van Gogh paintings, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. 

Chris and Aimee, here is to a very happy Pancake Day!