food, growing things

Adventures in Parenting: food from the garden

It’s taken a looong time this year (possibly because of June’s dreadful weather), but finally I am regularly harvesting food from the garden*. Carrots (my first ever really decent carrot crop!), courgettes, little cherry tomatoes, chard, and the last of the garlic.

Simultaneously, L has started on solids, which is great fun. We’re doing baby-led weaning, so I’ve been putting slightly more effort into lunch (ie not just hummous sandwiches) then just giving L some of whatever I fancy eating. If possible, including at least a little of our back garden veg. Stir-fried chard, courgette, carrot, and a little garlic, with rice or rice noodles; a few halved cherry tomatoes or some rocket on the side; pasta with garden veggies in a tomato-y sauce; steamed veg with a baked potato.

L is a big fan of courgettes and carrots (most of it eventually ends up on the floor, and thence in the dog, but he grabs and sucks and gums with enthusiasm). The first time I gave him a cherry tomato, he pulled the most peculiar face and drummed his feet on the high chair, and I assumed he must not like it. But no; when it fell out and I put it back on the table, he grabbed with enthusiasm and shoved it straight back in, for another flapping-and-grimacing session. I guess tomatoes must be pretty intense (and home-grown fresh tomatoes even more so) after six months of breastmilk.

Seeing him starting to experiment with food has been fun; being able to share food that I grew with him has been fantastic.

It’s not that I want to be parenty-high-horse about it. L is also eating plenty of stuff I didn’t grow; and I don’t garden because I think it’s better for L, although I do want to reduce household food miles**, but because I love doing it. It’s one of the non-parent things I’ve tried to keep up while submerged in newborn parenting.

But I love growing food, and I love eating food I’ve grown, and I love being able to include L in that. Some of those plants I planted (or watered, or thinned) while carrying him in a sling over the last six months. I harvest them while he plays on the grass, and then we both eat them. It feels like the way I want my life to fit together, with the various parts of it feeding (ha!) into one another.

And then I blog about it, and the words join into the same pattern.

* There’s been salad all summer; but we haven’t eaten that much of it. I have to conclude that we just don’t eat much in the way of salad leaves, even nice ones, and intend to plant much less of that next year.
** Not that our tiny back garden meets more than a fraction of our food needs, although I’m trying to improve on that over time as I work out what’s best to grow.

Uncategorised

Trike review: 4.5 months in

Some time ago, before L was born, we bought a Christiania cargo trike, which we used for the first time when he was about 5 wks old. How is it working out now he’s nearing 5 months?

It has been absolutely invaluable for middling-local trips: to the shops (a mile away), the library (ditto), the breastfeeding drop-in cafe (1.5 mi). All of these are walkable distances but a mile is a long way to go when you’re carrying a baby plus books/shopping, and have dodgy knees. It also makes the whole thing quicker, and it’s fantastic for putting lots of shopping in.

It’s also been great for going to swimming classes (about 3 miles), but for now that’s about the furthest we can go.

The main issue is bumpy roads. Understandably, L does not like the bumps (the trike doesn’t have suspension, and while his car seat is padded, it must still be a bit surprising to bump around in it), and it turns out that the roads round here are fairly bad. We now take bumps very slowly, and as long as he’s in a good mood, he copes with them.

Regardless of the bumps, though, his tolerance is limited. It definitely pays to feed him before setting off, and if he’s grumpy to start with or it’s late in the day, we’re more likely to have problems. I have done several roadside feeds, and walked home, pushing the trike, with L in the sling, a couple of times. (I’ve also cycled at walking-pace halfway along the Thames Path with a grizzling L in the sling, when he refused point blank to go back in and I got desperate and achey, on the way back from the Royal Festival Hall. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I don’t think it was seriously unsafe given the speed I was going at.) Having said that, he’s also fallen asleep in it a couple of times, and if put into it when already asleep, stays asleep quite reliably.

He prefers to have the hood down (so he can see whoever’s riding it), which is fine when it’s not raining, and even if only raining a little if I cover his legs with a blanket. It gets pretty hot in there with the hood down, too, which he doesn’t like. As a result, we leave the hood down unless it’s proper tipping it down.

From the point of view of the adult rider: it is still not a speed machine! And it’s moderately hard work. I’d like to get a better saddle, too. You get considerable attention when riding it, but almost all of it has been positive.

If you’re considering getting one, bear in mind that you do have to carry the baby when you get out. Not a problem for us as we use slings rather than a pushchair anyway, but I doubt you could get a pushchair in there (certainly not a suitable for < 6 months one). General conclusion: awesome and well worth the money, but we haven't been able to use it quite as much as I hoped in the early months (I was faintly hoping to be able to do the 8 mi down to my parents' house, rather than taking the train, for example, and right now that's not feasible). I am, however, hoping that L will tolerate it for longer as he gets older -- he's certainly getting steadily less bothered by the bumping around already. On the upside, I have a good excuse not to cycle a 35-kg bike + 7kg baby + carseat + misc bits and bobs any further than 3 miles down the road, which is perhaps a good way of building those cycling muscles back up.

writing

Writing and time

Since I last wrote about writing and parenting, a few weeks ago, I’ve been experimenting with ways of writing fiction during my child-care days.

I’ve written a few more bits and pieces on my phone (thumb-typing is slow) using Epistle, which has worked a little but I still find it hard to do more than notes or a handful of sentences. Then the other weekend I bought myself a nice hardback notebook which opens to stay flat (I love my Moleskine, but I can’t use it it one-handed as it won’t stay flat). Since then I’ve written about half of a short story, balancing the notebook on my knee, with L asleep in my lap. The other half I’ve written partly on the phone, and partly on the laptop like a normal person (i.e. when not actively baby-wrangling). Editing still needs to be done on the laptop, although I can think about it whilst baby-wrangling.

I also did some sketching of maps on a borrowed portable easel, while Leon sat on my lap, watched, and then tried to steal the pens. Possibly I might use crayon if I do that again, although the sofa did survive unstained. That was fun, entertained L (always useful!), and was more productive than I anticipated for the story itself.

There’s something about writing by hand that allows me to sneak up on myself. I’m not really writing, I can tell myself, I’m just making notes. I’ll have to type them up later anyway so I don’t have to get it right first time. It allows me the mental freedom to scribble things down (and it is scribble; my handwriting suffers dreadfully from the angle even when using a fountain pen) without getting paralysed by the idea that I am Sitting Down To Write.

(I just hope it carries on working now I’ve talked about it here.)

Writing in multiple different places does have its drawbacks. I have to type up the handwritten notes anyway, so I’m working over that twice; but then that can be seen as an advantage. I’ve occasionally found myself writing the same bit twice, or writing scenes that need something else between them to tie them together. On the other hand, that can help me to keep it all active in my head, as I remind myself of what I’ve written where, and what’s still missing. And having two takes of a single scene isn’t such a bad thing either.

I’ll keep experimenting. And I have a short story to finish.

Uncategorised

Allotment weeding with a baby

We already solved the problem of taking the baby to the allotment (and to lots of other places). This weekend for the first time I managed to get something done while I was there, too, rather than just telling doop what to do.

After a false start when Leon insisted that this was NO GOOD and he wanted MILK instead, I got him snugly up on my back & started clearing dead asparagus. Shortly after that I had sleepy baby breathing in my ear.

Untitled

With Leon in the allotment 1

All the potatoes are at last in, only a month late (although half of them did go in last month, and are already poking above the cardboard mulch). We have, from north to south (1.5kg of seed potatoes each set):

  • Orla (1st early, planted mid-April, to lift early July)
  • Lady Balfour (west of the apple tree) (maincrop, planted mid-April, to lift late August/early Sept)
  • Amorosa (1st early, planted mid-May, to lift early August)
  • Arran Victory (late maincrop, planted mid-May, to lift mid-Sept)

Not sure how well the Amorosa will do, given their late start, but if all goes well then we’ll have a nice spread of potatoes to harvest over the summer/autumn.

The final bed, in the south, will have butternut squash planted in it when the seedlings currently on the window-sill are a bit bigger. I should also think about a late summer catch-crop for the Orla bed.

activism, permaculture

Potatoes, babies, and tricycles

I decided to plan for a very low maintenance allotment this year, given that I also have a new garden and (rather more time-consumingly) a new baby to deal with. Over the winter, the main beds have almost all been mulched with a double layer of cardboard to reduce weeding. The next stage was to plant potatoes (low-maintenance but tasty!) through the mulch. So, only a couple of weeks late, we headed down to the allotment last weekend to get planting.

The mulch is doing its weed-reducing job where it’s been put down, but around the paths and edges the dandelions are in glorious but weedy profusion. I ignored them in favour of getting 50% of the potatoes in the ground before the baby got too grouchy. (I should note that I did not actually plant anything but was instead acting in more of a supervisory/baby-feeding capacity. Many thanks to my glamorous assistant doop.)

The trip also provided the opportunity for the first test of our baby-transporting device, chosen after researching seats and trailers/cargo bikes: a Christiania trike with a car seat strapped in. Glorious success! Leon slept peacefully all the way there, and observed thoughtfully most of the way back, until a cobbly patch near our front door upset his equilibrium.


The Christiania in action


Baby in a trike!

the garden project

Making things

Recently, I have been making things:

Rave baby! (Leon with his hands in the air, aged 1 day)

The second one took a bit longer, and is kind of still under construction.

Actually the shed is also still under construction, lacking as it does a door; it has however had front battens added since that picture. Construction post to follow. I’ve also got going with this spring’s planting in the raised beds over the last month — more to follow on that as well.