Growing Up Veggies, Herbs and Ice Cream

From Lisa Barnes

Not only did we set up a compost, but we planted some edibles. I’d been reviewing lots of great photos and ideas in Sunset Magazine and online on Kids Gardening , but because of all the animals around us (deer, foxes, raccoons, turkeys, skunks etc.) we decided to plant in containers on our front deck. I figured once we had some experience then we could see about making the investment in a true garden in the yard and building the deer fence.  While I was optimistic I was also realistic in my green thumb expectations.  I don’t do very well with plants and thus usually only have orchids or cut flowers indoors.

So my kids and I venured to the nursery with lots of questions about edibles and containers. We bought starts of tomatoes, lettuce, beans, peas, strawberries, basil and mint.  All chosen by my children.   When we got home we all got dirty and had a great time planting. Every day the kids have been eagerly taking turns to water the plants each day and look for anything “to happen”.

Well after about 3 weeks, my family actually ate a salad of greens from our efforts. Harvesting lettuce was really a proud moment for my kids and I. I’ve been writing and telling parents about getting children involved in the growing, shopping and cooking of their food. We all see how children (and adults) enjoy tasting foods at the farmer’s market and picking berries at a u-pick farm, but there really is a sense of pride when they grow and eat something they’ve nurtured. Both my daughter and son enjoyed the lettuce and kept pointing outside and reminding my husband and I “We made this lettuce, just right out there.  Now we don’t need to buy lettuce at the store”.

Because we haven’t had enough the heat, the tomatoes aren’t ripening yet. However they are growing.  Not knowing how big they’d get from our little 5 inch starters, we kept gathering sticks to make stakes and hold the plants. Finally we made a trip back to the nursery to learn about proper stakes and garden tape to make a cage. (I was asking too much of my culinary string). Also feeling bold we bought some additional pots for seeds my father had sent us. After about 2 weeks now we’re sprouting carrots, radish and cucumber too.

While we’re waiting on our veggies, I’ve found the perfect thing to make for the summer and use the garden – mint chocolate ice cream.  (This recipe from Simply Recipes has great step by step instructions and does not use peppermint extract or food colorings as so many others.)  I missed making ice cream, since I had such an old freezer (see post), so I couldn’t wait to make and share the taste of real mint ice cream (that wasn’t bright green) with my kids.  We made about 3 batches so far as we have many birthdays in our family in July.  In fact I’m going to have to buy fresh mint for our next batch, as we need to give our mint in the garden a chance to grow more.

My family has been really been enjoying time together in our mini garden (and the fruits of our labor).   With just a few simple pots, dirt, and plants I feel good about practicing more with my family of what I’ve been preaching.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry and lives in Sausalito, California.


Compost Commitment

From Lisa Barnes

So we finally did it. I set up a compost system. It took me forever to commit. Worms, no worms, tumbler, stacker, indoor, outdoor…. Once I started reading and went to a few community classes the info came fast and I was overwhelmed. I also asked lots of fellow moms and got their experience and feedback. I realized I just needed to try something. I could always change once I had some success or failure. I finally went with the BioStacker by Smith and Hawkin which is subsidized by Marin County, where I live. It was easy to put together. I did it in the living room. It was a fun space for hide and seek and pop goes the weasel before it went outside. Of course now, they wouldn’t venture inside it.

It seems to be good. Although things aren’t breaking down as quickly as I was envisioning, it also isn’t stinking and just has a few small flies. O.K. right? They aren’t the big yucky horse flies, but look more like little fruit flies. Luckily our resident deer, foxes, turkeys, skunks and squirrels haven’t disturbed it. I always wonder what I will find when I go out and open the lid, and so far I’m grateful nothing has scurried in and surprised me (or at least not that I can see).

Because I cook so often, I have lots of “green” waste, but not so much of the “brown” waste. I have the nice looking stainless steel crock to collect everything in the kitchen. It’s fun when new visitors come over and peak inside when I’m cooking. I guess they’re expecting to find something tasty. My cousin reached in and got a handful of egg shells. Sometimes I fill the entire crock after one meal of entertaining. Now I realize I have to throw some things in the trash to keep things in balance. No more pineapple tops and watermelon rinds. While I now know composting is a science, it’s also lots of trial and error for a newbie composter like myself. If it smells bad, I know to back off the heavy produce scraps and just put them in the trash (and try not to feel too bad about it). I know it should be wet as a sponge, but I’m not putting my hands in. So I eyeball and make a judgement about watering. I tend to err on the dry side. Seems less yucky and inviting (to those scurrying things I mentioned above).

I create “brown” waste with shredded newspaper and throw in bark from the yard. With our house we inherited a rock quarry rather than a grassy yard. I hope someday to have more natural brown. If only the compost would break down rock – we’d be doing great.

For now, I’m being patient as I add, shovel and turn. The other irony is that the compost books say you have to have a 3 cubic foot pile to start working. Well that’s the size of my whole stacker. I can’t provide everything all at once. Where would my green waste go if the compost was already full? What’s the point in that? I also can’t imagine turning it when it gets above my waist. I guess I’ll see soon enough.

I’m happy with the compost so far. The goal is to reduce my trash (which is working), and hopefully make some “black gold” for the garden. Which brings me to my next post. We’ve planted a garden, stay tuned….
Lisa Barnes
is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry and lives in Sausalito, California.