can we have a garden?" asked Kayla (9) as spokeswoman for her and
Clarissa (6). Having recently moved from southern Ontario fruitful farmlands
to northern Ontario bush country, neither my husband nor I were interested
in gardening. But going by the interest of my homeschooled daughters,
I decided it was a worthwhile project. So I dutifully helped them buy
tomato and pepper seeds, which they started indoors.
Day after day the girls faithfully watered and watched. And then came
the moment when they excitedly came running with the news, "The
seeds are growing!" Sure enough, the tomatoes were starting to
show their dirty heads as they pushed their way through the well-watered
soil. A week later, the peppers were popping up, too.
The girls wanted more seeds, so another trip to town yielded twenty
more kinds. As we stood in the line, the check-out clerk smiled at my
daughters and said, "You'll be busy!" In their excitement,
however, they did not see the work that lay ahead of them.
After plenty of research, they decided which of these new seeds needed
to be started indoors -- onions, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
These industrious workers then hauled out some empty pots and bags of
soil. The back deck was dirty by the time they had completed the task,
but they were pleased as they moved these newly-seeded pots to join
the tomatoes and peppers in my already crowded laundry room.
Not long after, a house-cleaning neighbor gave the girls her seed box
which held a great variety of flower, herb and vegetable seeds. "Which
ones do we plant indoors?" Kayla asked as I imagined the greenhouse
on my laundry shelf overflowing to the top of the dryer. Immediately
they set to work once again with seeds, soil and an odd assortment of
containers. Afterward the seed packages stuck upwards showing ownership
to each kind and ripped tops of seed packs lay scattered on the ground.
A donated box of books yielded three that Kayla found fascinating: The
Vegetable Expert, Vegetable Gardening and The Herb Book. She could be
seen poring over these treasures, at one point calling, "Mommy,
where do I find 'parsley'?" After I helped her find the index,
she muttered, "Under 'p'."
Later, I counted 26 mismatched but colorful "paper scraps turned
bookmarks" sticking out of these books identifying various plants
she wanted to grow. Also stored in one of these books was her handwritten
"spelling" list with a check beside each one, indicating garden
possibilities: "beans, brokly, cabige, carit, cawiflower, cucumber,
lettice, parsnip, radish, rubarb, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnip, parsly,
beets, kohlrabi, onions, peas, peppers, scwash, and pumcens."
A retired-schoolteacher friend has inspired the girls more than anything
else with her interest in gardening. One time after a visit with her,
they informed me, "We need a little squirter with holes to water
Later, our "cinnamon container turned watering can" was used
to squirt water day after day. Also imitating our gardener friend, Kayla
said, "You need to tilt the pots so the water drains out,"
as she lined two winter scarves underneath the front edges of the containers.
After diligently waiting for some of the more recently planted seeds
to sprout, Kayla said, "I don't think the stuff in the laundry
room is going to grow unless we move it to where there is more sun,
but I know daddy won't want any on his desk." Earlier they had
needed more room, so they followed my suggestion to use Clarissa's desk
by the window for plants. But now since they needed even more sunny
space and as their father's desk was out of the question, the girls
took up my challenge of making an outdoor greenhouse. I
helped Kayla haul an old window from the back shed to set it against
our outdoor furnace. Kayla and Clarissa then hauled some of the crowded-out
indoor plants into this make-shift shelter, where a thermometer was
also tucked, indicating a safe temperature. On cold nights they bedded
down the outdoor greenhouse with old blankets, sheltering their beloved
I was getting used to delighted shouts, with Kayla yelling, "Clarissa,
the broccoli is coming up! We just planted it a few days ago!"
and later, "Mommy, our onions are growing!" Another time it
was Clarissa's turn to holler, "Mom, the cauliflower is coming
At the beginning, the work involved in this project was mostly fun.
"Clarissa," Kayla called. "Do you want to water your
plants or should I?"
Clarissa pranced downstairs wanting to keep up her end of the deal.
But as the weeks passed and the excitement began to wane, Kayla could
be heard to holler, "Mom, Clarissa won't help to water the plants!"
A more exciting aspect of this occupation was the categorizing of the
remaining seeds into small plastic bags -- assorted packs of peas in
one, musk-melon in another, and various flower seeds in yet another.
Once I noticed Kayla racing through her chores and saying, "I want
to get back to my seeds." "What are you doing with them?"
I asked. "Oh, just organizing them some more." Nothing seemed
to please her better than working out the details of her new career.
Not only did the girls want organized seeds but an orderly garden spot
in which to sow them.
time when I saw both girls poring over some paper work, I asked, "What
are you doing?" Kayla answered, "Making a map so we know where
to put things in our garden."
My husband was needed to till the soil, but this posed a problem, because
my darling, who is never sure what bright ideas his wife and daughters
will come up with next, had questions about this gardening project.
Hoping to inspire him, I enthused, "I remember in school when I
had one bean seed in one pot and I was so excited, but look how much
more our girls are learning!" He seemed to think, however, that
one bean plant might have been a more realistic idea. "Do they
know how to do it?" he questioned.
Nevertheless, a few weeks later I heard the tiller start up and head
down the hill to the garden plot. My good-natured, farm-raised husband
asked, "How big?" and I answered, "As big as you can,"
knowing that there were enough seeds sown indoors to keep a few families
This was their project as was revealed in a letter to a cousin, where
Kayla wrote, "We are having a garden and Clarissa and I have to
do all the work but it should be fun." The day finally arrived
when Kayla was on her hands and knees transplanting from pot to garden
her onions, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Not
too long after, the categorized seeds were finally ready to be sown.
I gave my daughters a bit of guidance, then they were on their own for
the rest of the afternoon, finishing up their garden. Afterwards, an
odd assortment of sticks on which various seed packs haphazardly rested
was the only indication the girls had been there.
Kayla's agricultural-entrepreneurial interest showed up in a list I
found lying around, Ways to Earn Money this Summer, with point number
two listing: "Sell Plants." At their garage sale my little
career women were successful for they sold most of their self-grown
seedlings. Another business venture was also itemized on a similar list
that I had discovered, sounding even more idealistic: "Sell vechdables."
Time will tell how energetic and prosperous they will be by harvest
This interest in seeds and soil is a good thing, as it has taught my
children what it means to earn a living by sweat and toil. They water
and watch and wait, and they might someday eat fresh carrots and cucumbers
and corn. I hope my girls will feel kin to their grandparents and great-grandparents
who worked the soil for survival. Gardening has been a life lesson for
my children. They have learned about ups and downs and taking disappointments
in stride. There has been brokenhearted crying: "Mommy, the twins
tramped in the garden and wrecked everything!!" and "All of
our plants are ruined!!" after half of the "transferred to
the garden seedlings" had succumbed to frost. But this is all part
of them understanding that life is a struggle and in order to continue
pursuing their interests, they need to take heart and go on.
Most of all, hopefully they will realize that when they are doing what
they enjoy, the journey is as fun as the arrival. They might even discover
that when their hobby is also their occupation, in life they will be
one step ahead.
uses a medley of garden vegetables. As a child I would be met by the
aroma of my mother's Russian Mennonite soup as I would walk in the door
THE SMELL was a combination of vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, carrots,
and cabbage) and spices (bay leaf and pepper kernels). My sisters and
I would grab a bowl and dip some steaming soup from the kettle on the
Nothing ever tasted better.
Now, my two oldest girls have helped to make this soup, and they especially
like to eat it.
I am pleased that they seem glad to continue the tradition.
in kettle and bring to a boil:
2 lb. beef with soup bone
enough water to cover meat
Let simmer until almost tender, adding water, if necessary, to keep
One hour before serving, add:
1 medium head cabbage, chopped
6 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes
6 whole pepper kernels
1 bay leaf
Remove from heat, and serve.
Sharon Schnupp Kuepfer - http://skuepfer.com/
Author, Homeschooling Moments and Child-Friendly Recipes -- A Collection
of the Unique Adventures of a Mennonite Family
***The PERFECT summer read for a harried mom and bored child!***
Ordering info (ask me about special discounts):
Sharon Kuepfer, General Delivery, Longbow Lake, ON, Canada P0X 1H0 1-807-937-5715
firstname.lastname@example.org OR from