The biggest thing to happen around here this week to my children is wood chips.
This is the time of year when my garden begins to look sad, tired, and dried out. Last year I learned that when this happens, this is the time to cut back. Literally, cut the plants back, keep on watering, don’t give up and, here in California, we will be rewarded with another flush of growth when the temperatures cool ever so slightly in the fall.
The past two years were focused on the growth of a cut flower garden, flower stand building and bouquet arranging for roadside sales. This year, writing took precedence and the focus of the flowers transitioned to cultivating the landscape and the pleasure of the place in which we live.
Monty Don and his book, “The Complete Gardener” are my inspiration. As is @blossomandbranchfarm on Instagram and her regenerative growing practices.
As I pull an endless series of wild grasses from my garden beds, I think of the lessons I’ve learned. The soil is poor. The wind blows away the topsoil. I rant at the land left fallow because of water restrictions and erosion it causes. The soil must be improved around my home.
I posted the question on a local moms’ group requesting recommendations on how to get wood chips. Chipdrop.com, one mother responded. I went online and filled out the form. The next day I had a truckload of wood chips.
“Let it sit a couple of days,” Andrew from The Tree Guys, Inc., explained, “to kill the bugs or any seeds that might be in there.” That was Friday.
On Tuesday it was time.
I prepped my husband and my children. Wear your farm clothes, all shirts should already be stained, gather your work gloves, and get some buckets. This is a family project.
Therein lies the focus. A family project means it is for the whole family, it will be taxing, and focused, and there will be treats after.
The plan must accommodate different age levels. Some parties will push wheelbarrows, some will fill buckets, and others will empty buckets in garden spots where wheelbarrows cannot go. One child will make a special request to our neighbor to borrow his wheelbarrow so we can maximize the time of the man shoveling woodchips.
My husband said, “I feel like the sugar bowl in ‘The Sword and the Stone’” as he tossed shovelful after shovelful in a rotating series of wheelbarrows.
We took water breaks. Slowly but surely we finished off the third garden bed. Time to stop for the day.
The kids were sent inside to shower, eat snacks and then finish a movie they asked after each day. It is hard, especially in a world where it’s easy not to ask too much of children. How far away the days of “Little House on the Prairie” seem when, as the family or farm grew larger, children were essential to running a household and farm. It builds muscle, character and a strong work ethic. For our home, the most important part is to tell our children, “we need you.”
And so they learn to step up.
When we finished the last wheelbarrow load, we chatted with the UPS driver, whose delivery drop-spot is conveniently located near the wood chip pile. He asked the kids questions about the garden and as he climbed back into his truck said, “listen to your parents, kids, they know what’s up.”
It was a little moment of affirmation that I needed to hear. Not every adult supports the idea of children working hard. As a child, I most definitely did not work hard, as my parents will attest.
I want our children to know the value of it all. I hope that they grow up being able to look back and say, “Things weren’t always easy. It was hard, but they needed us.”
I hope they grow up and understand that we are a family. We are here for each other. We need each other. We cannot do it without them.