A few weeks ago, Pam and I (Bethany) had to watch Faith all week. Faith is the four year old daughter of Pam’s son Jonathan. We had a lot to get done that week in the greenhouses. So on Monday, Pam asked her daughter, Aleesha, if she could borrow Aleesha’s daughter Isabel, who is six and a half years old, to play with Faith. In the afternoon before putting Faith down for a nap, I asked Isabel, “What are you going to do while Faith is napping?” She pointed to the pile of toys she had been playing with. I said, “Grandma is going to the greenhouse to pick spinach. Would you like to go to the greenhouse to help Grandma?”
“Yes!” Isabel was more than eager to help Grandma with picking spinach. Later, she was delighted to show off all the spinach she helped pick. “We picked in greenhouse C first but there wasn’t very much spinach in there so then we picked in greenhouse A.”
Grandma Pam added, “She is a really good spinach picker. She’s not fast but she does a good job.”
On Wednesday we had a lot we wanted to accomplish in the greenhouses but figured with babysitting Faith we wouldn’t get a lot done. Right away in the morning, Pam called Aleesha, “We want to work in the greenhouse today cleaning up all the dead stuff. Do any of your girls want to come over and help with it? I have three seats in the van so I can take up to three girls.” Aleesha was fine with three of her girls coming over to help but it wasn’t until Pam got there that it was decided who would come. (Sylvia is only two so she wasn’t given an option to come, staying home with mommy and taking a nap in the afternoon was more important. And since Isabel had spent all day on Monday here she had to give someone else a turn.) Just a little while before Pam came back with Aleesha’s girls, I told Faith, “Grandma is going to pick up some of your cousins to bring them over and then we’re going to the greenhouse.” Shouting and jumping up and down, clapping her hands, Faith replied, “COUSINS! Geenhouse! YAY!” Pam returned about 11:45 am with Therese (12), Lexie (8), and Bernadette (4 and a half). Lexie informed me, “Elena wanted to come but she decided to stay home to let Bernadette and me come because we both wanted to come. But she gets to come tomorrow.” I loved how when the girls were asked if they wanted to work in the greenhouses they all wanted to. Being in the greenhouses in the winter is a special treat for the kids; they just love playing in the dirt in the middle of winter. Since it was so close to noon, we decided to have lunch before going out to the greenhouses. Therese helped Grandma with preparing the meal and Lexie and Bernadette played with Faith, keeping her out of the kitchen until the food was ready. After lunch, we bundled the little two up and we all piled in the van to drive to greenhouse B so the girls didn’t get too cold walking out there, since the wind chill was -15F. Isaiah joined us, driving the skid loader out to fill it up. As soon as we stepped into the greenhouse, coats, snow pants, hats and sweatshirts came off. It didn’t take very long for the boots and socks to come off too. The girls take after their grandma Pam that way, they prefer to garden barefoot. As do I. In fact, my favorite thing about the greenhouses in winter is taking my boots and socks off and feeling the cool dirt beneath my bare feet. And I believe Aleesha’s girls and Pam feel the same way. It was the first time Faith had taken her boots and socks off in the greenhouse, and throughout the afternoon she was in various stages of dress. Sometimes she was barefoot but had her snow pants and coat on. Then she’d take all the winter clothes off and be barefoot, and then a little bit later she had her coat on or just her snow pants on or she’d be without both of them but wearing her boots. The other girls didn’t put any of their layers back on until it was time to leave. Isaiah was going in and out of the greenhouse hauling stuff so he only took his coat off but left his insulated coveralls on.
Pam untied the dead, dried tomato vines from the fence. Bernadette, Lexie and Faith helped pull them off. Isaiah picked them up and dumped them in the skid loader bucket. Therese was pulling out the dead lettuce and gently pulling off dead leaves from the plants that were still alive. She did an excellent job, going along at a good pace. I pulled out the dead pac choi plants and lettuce in another bed. I was going slowly because I was also photographing the cuteness of our helpers. Pam and the younger girls finished the tomatoes quickly and moved on to cleaning up the arugula and mustard greens. Lexie ran up and down the length of the greenhouse many times. Bernadette and Faith did a little running too. Then they all went near the door and played with tractors and a dump truck in the dirt, which allowed Pam and I to work without worrying about what Faith was getting into. But Faith and Bernadette helped Grandma pull the arugula, chickweed and mustard greens. For awhile, Faith was being Grandma’s courier, taking handfuls of dead vegetation to fill a tote that Isaiah hauled out in the skid loader to dump to the pigs. Bernadette was quite a determined little helper and for being so young she was incredible help; she loves weeding. I was so delighted Bernadette came; she is just so sweet. Therese and Pam finished their beds before I did, so Pam and the younger three helped with the pac choi/ lettuce bed awhile Therese pulled out the turnips along the south wall that hadn’t survived. We finished all that in only about an hour’s time so we decided we had time to switch over to greenhouse C.
Hardly more than just boots were put back on to get to C since the greenhouses are right next to each other. In only an hour we were able to get four beds cleaned up with so many helping hands. Pam was impressed how quickly we cleaned up both greenhouses; she wasn’t expecting that we’d get that far. The girls, especially Therese, were very pleased with themselves for accomplishing so much in only two hours. With many hands to do the work and some very silly conversations we all enjoyed our afternoon.
On Thursday, Pam picked up Therese and Elena (10) in the morning around 11:00 am after they had completed their school work. I took Therese, Elena and Faith the greenhouse A. We got started cleaning up in A while Pam did some other work and made lunch. The girls immediately were down to t-shirts and bare feet. We each took a bed, except for Faith who played with various items she found at the front of the greenhouse. Elena brought two tractors down from greenhouse B for Faith to play with but she ignored those in favor of a stick. Digging in the dirt with it she said, “I’m digging tatoes.” As always she was lost in her own world of make believe carrying on a two-sided conversation. Elena and I were quite entertained by it. Both she and I had more difficult beds to clean up so Therese was able to clear out two whole beds by herself by the time Elena and I each finished one. But we were fast enough to finish all of what Pam wanted us to do in greenhouse A; she was pleasantly surprised by our speed. After lunch we were joined by Pam in greenhouse B. With the girls’ help we planted lettuce, swiss chard, radishes, beets, mustard greens, arugula, and pac choi. Therese dropped the radish seeds in the trench Pam made. Faith found it fascinating so she wanted to try too. Therese put some seeds in her hand and helped her sprinkle them. Elena came to help Faith as well until Pam had the trench made for the swiss chard seed, then Elena very carefully spaced the seeds a few inches apart. Both of the older girls planted the beets too while Faith played with the toy dump truck. I sprinkled in the smaller seeds. We were all pleased that we were able to do all of the planting in B in just a couple hours. Therese was excited that she’s now old enough and tall enough to help uncover and cover the plants with the row cover fabric.
The next week, we didn’t have Faith here but Pam still asked Aleesha for Therese and Elena’s help for an afternoon to help Isaiah plant garlic in greenhouse C. Pam and I planted spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, turnips, radishes, pac choi, and carrots. Elena and Therese took turns breaking apart the bulbs of garlic and placing the cloves into the trenches Isaiah made.
On a different day, Pam and I planted beets, kohlrabi, cabbage, and broccoli in greenhouse A. And then on yet another day, Pam cleaned up the Kale; picking all the dead leaves off and pulling out a few dead plants, hoping what’s left will make a comeback. I began pulling dead leaves off a few of the spinach plants but didn’t get very far with it before it was time to cover the beds for the evening. Isaiah planted some more garlic but this time in greenhouse A. Now that round of planting is done and we are waiting and watching for the new plants. The lettuces and radishes are up already.