I have written previously about how important it is to get children into the garden… into nature in general. I want to share a few photos and stories of how I do that now. But first I really want to make a point that it doesn’t have to be your own biological kids you teach about the natural world. All kids deserve to know about it, to experience it. My wife and I dealt with infertility and were married for 10 years before we welcomed our first child into our home, so I know that not all people reading this will have a son or daughter to teach. But you probably have a niece or a nephew or a neighbor’s kid. Get them into the garden. Get them into nature. You will never regret it!
This first photo series is of my almost 2 year old daughter. She is more into plants and gardening at a younger age than either of her older brothers (so far). She has spent hours with me plucking and eating cherry tomatoes, planting seeds (she loves to taste test the distinctly colored Hidatsa Shield and Calypso beans… yeah, we are working on that!), and harvesting any produce she can.
Later that week, I was spreading some old straw as mulch around my newly planted tomato and pepper seedlings. A blur of brown fur clued me in that a mouse had taken up residence in my old garbage can full of straw. I hadn’t opened it in months. Well, sure enough, after a few minutes of removing straw and spreading it in my garden, I uncovered a bunch of newborn mice.
Not one to let an experience like this pass, I called the kids together and showed them what I had found. They were ecstatic. They were giggling and laughing. Asking question after question before I could even answer the first one. There was no fear. No shivers. Just interest and awe. If only we as adults could maintain this wonder.
After about five minutes of letting the kids see the mice, gently touch them (and then have mom help them wash their hands!), I put the mice in a pile of straw. I finished my mulching work, and I placed them back in the original pile and lightly covered them up again. The next morning they were gone. Did the mom come back and move them? Did the mom come back, smell human scent, and kill them all? Did a predator come by and eat them (I had a lesser weasel living in one corner of my garden last year)? I have no idea. We don’t have much of a mouse problem inside our house. We had one mouse this Winter which my dog quickly dispatched. In the garden, I see mice as a welcome part of a healthy ecosystem. If my disturbance of them while I was going about normal garden work interfered too much in their lives, I honestly feel a little bad. But not that much. It is part of life. Ours and theirs. I do think that the few minutes my kids were able to watch these tiny creatures was a treasure.
Finally, and with no photos, I will share how I spent some time planting seedlings with my sons and their friends. I really have no idea how much experience these two boys have had in a garden, but they got to plant some seedlings with my sons and their dad. I know which ones they planted, so each time they come over, I ask them to check on their plants. Who knows what seeds will be planted in them, no pun intended. I do think that we are connected to this Earth in a way that many of us have forgot. Deep down, there is a longing in all of us to be a part of the natural world. I just think it is buried deeper in some than in others. Is this a spiritual thing? Maybe. I am not really sure. As a Christian, I read about the perfection in the Garden of Eden, but I also know of the essence of nature that runs in almost all world religions. It makes me think that there is something intrinsically “right” about humans working with nature instead of against it. I guess this is why I am so passionate about Permaculture. This is why I am so passionate about getting kids back in the garden and back in nature.
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- All photos are mine. Please ask if you would like to use them. Thanks!