Scrapbook: Thanksgiving Table

Last year I really wanted to share my Thanksgiving table centerpiece but I felt too enormous and exhausted to do so. I somehow took photos, and a month or so (or more) later I managed to process  them, but I was so busy growing a baby my mental capacity had shrunk so considerably I could barely string three words together and managing to get those words chained down to a piece of paper or the computer seemed too much. I felt as large and as inert as the twenty pound turkey my Dad and I roast each year. I managed to attend my own Thanksgiving, but I don’t remember cooking it.

With Isobel’s help we had a special centerpiece that year created out of all the things we had grown in our garden that summer plus a few things Isobel loved to collect on our nature walks.

We collected roses from the garden and leaves and berries from the trees in our front yard.

The tomatoes are from our own plants (it was the last of the big tomatoes for sure — that green one wasn’t going to ripen anyway) a rosemary sprig from the bush by our front door, and a strawberry from the decently prolific front flowerbed. (This year I noticed our strawberry plant was mysteriously mangled, but yesterday I noticed it recovering, so hopefully we’ll have strawberries again next year.)

The pine cones, magnolia seed pod, and acorns are from our nature walks. There’s also a peach pit because Isobel can’t throw any of the stones away after she finishes the fruit. If it were up to her our backyard would be a mismatched orchard by now.

There’s also pumpkins–we had lots last year–dried petals from our sunflower garden, and some corn. We grew corn in our garden but it wasn’t happy and it never fruited. This is symbolic corn Isobel saved from a trip to the pumpkin patch.

I also included some greenery from my poppies.

This year I am more or less back to my usual size, and Elias is the one who approximates the size and shape of our turkey. Isobel wants to be in charge of the centerpiece, and she’s managed to charm my mom into giving up her cornucopia decoration. I’ll request that it not be filled with Pokemon but at the end of the day I’ll just want to sit down with my family and have a squabble-free meal surrounded by the things we are thankful for.

I hope you have a bountiful holiday.


My Unruly Garden: Summer

My garden is always unruly, but this year it went above and beyond in living up to its name. Family friend and environmental scientist Jacob installed a drip irrigation system into our garden for my birthday which helped tremendously for our plants but also helped foster a thriving weed community. Which wouldn’t have been so bad had I been able to pull them in a tidy manner. Unfortunately I had a severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic that resulted in hives that lasted well over a month and going outside in the heat was verboten for my condition, so the weeds grew and grew. The weather was also the strangest I’d ever experienced, and winter was so warm my strawberries never stopped producing fruit and my poppies never stopped blooming. When summer hit, full-force with heat and incredibly dry conditions, the poppies burnt out early and the strawberries looked stunted. This was dispiriting until I noticed the neighbor’s dog, Coco, chowing down on my entire strawberry plant. At least their demise wasn’t my fault.

Watering became tough and nearly impossible while I stayed indoors, hive-covered, and took care of the kids. Anthony was consumed with work, and watering became a near-impossible task. It wouldn’t have gotten done at all if it weren’t for Jake’s irrigation system. It saved the garden, as much as it could be saved. The peppers (YOLO!) only produced a handful to harvest, and the tomato plants were mostly decorative. I think this might be the last year I try full-sized tomatoes in the backyard. I’ve tried them in several spots and have never had great luck. I did get a pretty impressive crop from a tomato plant that we stuck in our front flowerbed, as it’s shadier and cooler there, but I’m not sure if I can convince Anthony to put vegetables in the front yard again. Cherry tomatoes of all types seem to thrive in the backyard, so I might just stick with them considering water is too precious a resource to waste on plants that won’t produce.


We were treated to pumpkins of several types this year, thanks to Isobel raiding my seed stash and dumping them all in one corner of the garden while the adults were otherwise occupied. The plan was to grow only one plant this year, but she had other ideas. It worked out as we got so much out of them in terms of both fruit and variety. It was really a lot of fun to search through the plants for the pumpkins (they like to hide under the broad, prickly leaves) and we still have a few more on the vines right now.  The most famous of our pumpkin crop is Pumpkiny, the pumpkin Isobel adopted as her BFF and took with her everywhere, including to school. One day Isobel accidentally left Pumpkiny in the garage for a day or two and it dessicated in the hot, dry oven that is a Valley garage in the summer. No matter, Isobel still carried him with her everywhere, even as the wrinkles increased. He first was like a pumpkin prune, but as time went on more moister left him and he became hard and cracked. I don’t know where Pumpkiny is right now. It’s been a week or two since we’ve seen him. I think there’s a fair chance he lost so much water and shrunk to the point where he winked out of existence.


We still visited the pumpkin patch even though we grew our own pumpkins this year. It is a fun yearly tradition that I would hate to miss out on and besides, Isobel is so attached to the pumpkins we grow in our garden that we are not allowed to eat, carve, or in any other way decorate them. It was not that long ago that we spent all month long painting our pumpkins from our garden but that is no longer acceptable. They are members of our family that she treats as such.

None of the marigolds I grew from seed made it past the sprout stage, but we still had plenty of of poppies until the summer heat exhausted them. The sunflowers thrived and Isobel took care of a section of the sunflower patch herself. She loves the whole process–planting, watering, watching it grow, finding the new blooms, and perhaps best of all, harvesting the dry heads and fishing out the seeds. I think she enjoys that more than our yearly ladybug introduction tradition, which is saying a lot.

Elias loves being outside and giggles whenever the breeze ruffles his hair. He can sit outside on a blanket or a bouncy seat and be content for a long time. Especially if Sister or the cats are being entertaining within view. He is fascinated by grass and leaves and the experience of being outside.

I think the biggest change to the garden for next year will be timing. Climate change is causing us to adjust our gardening schedule radically. Late summer has become the fallow months and we’re going to start our garden in February or even January when temperatures (if they are like they were at all last year) are mild. Many crops that didn’t stand a chance this year will have a better shot at it if we start earlier. The basil started off strong but had a hard time sustaining itself in the heat, as did the marigolds, and poppies. The peas never even reached the flowering stage.


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