Sunday, February 20, 2011

Let the Garden Games Begin!

Preparing the garden
It's getting to be my favorite "Back er Down" part of the year.  It isn't so much because it will be easy, because it will actually be a LOT of work.  It's the #1 thing the epitomizes my desire to take it easy and focus the more important things in life.  It's almost time to plant the garden.  We're going big this year!  The list includes: snap beans, peas, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers, watermelons and even a little sugarcane.  I'm going to document the entire season, complete with pictures, here on the blog.

The garden provides food, exercise, recreation and education.  It gives opportunities to learn lessons about life, the value of hard work and actions & consequences.  Last year's garden was good, but we're almost out of veggies.  We ran out of corn in December.  We're down to our last few quarts of tomatoes.  Two quarts of squash left.  We do have plenty of snap beans left to get us to the first picking.  Seems we planned just about right with the exception of the corn.

Nutrient-packed compost
We will plant potatoes late this week, but the bulk of everything else won't be planted until mid to late March.  Even so, the work is well under way!  We planted oats over the winter and recently plowed those under to add some matter to the soil.  After breaking the ground and letting that rest for a couple of weeks we got started in earnest this weekend.  We laid out the entire garden, trenched for potatoes and bedded the rows for watermellons.  Something new for us....we're composting and using horse and quail manure this year.  We worked the horse manure in during this first prep.  We will use the quail manure after planting.

Barrels in which I will plant something...not sure what yet.
Likely heirloom tomatoes and some kind of peppers
We expanded the size of the garden again this year.  This will be the final resize for quite some time.  In addition to the manure we are also entering uncharted waters with an electric fence to try to discourage deer.  (Pause for a little frugal bragging:  I was able to make the 4 corner posts out of a free utility pole...thanks Alan.  I got all of the t-posts and insulators for free.... thanks James.  Dad had a whole roll of wire already.  I'll be charging the fence with two deep cycle batteries....also free....thanks Gil.)  My only cost is the fence charger for which I laid out the cash.  It is rated for 100 garden is about 1/8 of an acre.  I gotta remember to turn it off when the kids come outside ;)

The weather has been nice.  It's tempting to get started early, but I know in my gut that there is another hard frost coming.  I'll wait and obey the Almanac.  After all....the Almanac has been getting it right for what 200 years?  I'm very optimistic about this year's garden.  We have some nice soil amendments, a good watering plan and hopefully a barrier that will zap the piss out of any four-legged intruders.  Looking forward to it.

Y'all take it easy,


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Being a Father

"It seems to me that children thrive when they are part of something bigger than themselves. They need to feel useful, needed, as we all do.  We need our children.  Their assistance is a necessity if we plan on keeping this family warm, fed and clothed.  They are part of something bigger than themselves.  They are part of a family."

These aren't my words.  They are from a charming lady who goes by the pen name Enola Gay.  I enjoy reading her blog Paratus Familia  It got me to thinking about my own kids.  It made me wonder, what does it mean to be a Father?  Not a man, or a buddy or a glorified babysitter.  More specifically, what should I focus on to be a successful Father?  Wrote a Blog about it.  Like to hear it? Here it go! (That's an obscure Calhoun Tubbs reference for those that remember In Living Color)

I suppose the definition of "successful" could be up for debate.  For one Father it might be that their child grows up to be a doctor or a well-respected banker.  For another it might mean that they simply make it to adulthood without ending up in jail.  Whatever.  My point is that there may be differing degrees of how one defines success.  I've narrowed my own definition down to two traits.  If my boys can grow up to have a good moral compass and a strong work ethic, I will consider myself to have been a successful Father.  With those two qualities I feel like I will have prepared them for life and given them seeds which can produce fruit as they become Fathers later in life.

So there's the goal.  Objectives and strategies for attaining that goal are where it gets mucky....and it's gotten tough.  Holy crap has it gotten tough!!  Here I am five years in, with a five year old and a two year old and I'm only really just getting started.

I'll take the opportunity to share some info below.  Obviously I'm no expert.  I'm just a dumb redneck with a blog who has a couple of kids and I think this is the best way for me to raise them ;)  So far it's working out pretty well.

Three things I have learned to be fact:

1. They learn by watching me!
My boys have learned how to eat, talk, walk and pee all by watching me. (yes, I actually let my boys watch me in the bathroom.  Though the five year old is now banished, the two year old is still watching and learning, lol)  Should I really expect that they will learn their work ethic and morals any other way?  The way I figure it we have a relatively short window to work in since in a few more years mommy and daddy won't be cool anymore.  All I have to do is remember one rule.  Coach Erk Russell famously told his Eagles to just "Do Right."  Pretty simple.  No pressure right?  :)

2. They need structure and discipline.
I've found that my boys actually prefer structure.....maybe they didn't at first ;)  but they do now.  Their behavior is much better and their ability for retaining lessons is much better when there is a schedule.  For example: eat, play, bath, bed.  They know what's coming.  They expect it.  Once they figured out that it was beneficial for them they prefer it.  Kids need to be told what to do.  The only other option is that the child tells the parent what to do.  That is not a good situation.  I've seen it and I PROMISED myself that would never let it happen to me and my wife.  It's a disservice to the parent and the child.  As for discipline, it is a very unpleasant, but necessary task at my house.  The most recent lesson with my 5 year old has been actions and consequences.  All actions have consequences.  All of them.  Period.  The number one biggest challenge for me as a parent is punishing out of love and not out of anger.  It is a hard thing to do.  If I punish my boys out of anger the punishment was pointless.  If I do it out of love, lessons are learned.  That topic could make a great blog topic on its own.

3. Crying will not kill them.
Our pediatrician gave me that little gem.  The oldest didn't like tummy time and cried all the time when we had him belly down.  I asked the doc about it and he said, "Out of all my years I've never had one die from crying."  LOL, so there you go!  I applied that to every other opportunity that I could and it hasn't failed me yet.  Seeping through the night, staying in bed, getting dressed by himself, doing chores, the list goes on and on.  Once they figure out that I can outlast the crying, I win!  Horray!  +1 for daddy.

I've heard sermons and read literature about raising children biblically.  Proverbs 22:6 is a great model and I pretty much approach my fatherly duties in that way.  However, a much more memorable spiritual lesson came when a pastor asked, "Do you think your children see Jesus in you?"  That kind of question gets a man thinking.  It gets a man thinking about the image that he presents to his children, but also about the way in which he appears to his God.  Once I finally wrapped my mind around the fact that "my sons are to me as I am to God" my perspective changed.  I surely disappoint God all the time.  I whine, I groan, I am many times unappreciative, and I often don't understand situations and get angry as a result.  Sounds like any given afternoon at home with the kids!

So then Alex...where is your wife in all of this?  Oh she's there!  She's all in and we are a team.  We work together 100%  This ramble just took on a different approach.  I am a man and I have two boys.  I wrote in terms of being a Father.  Maybe a future blog is in order talking about what it means to be a Husband.  I have some pretty strong feelings about that too :)  Shoutout MB!  Holla!

I'm blessed to have the opportunity to have children.  They are a gift from God for sure!!  They're a responsibility too though.  Did I drop everything in life?  Nope.  Everything else sure did move down the list though.  It was a major factor in the decision to "Back 'er Down"  I hope to be able to look at this particular entry often to see if my perspective changes.  That is if I don't gouge my eyes out in frustration between now and then :)  As long as we all "Do Right" I think we'll be in good shape.

Y'all take it easy,