Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What happened to the sandpit?

The sandpit of this blog title is at my house. It was built (by Bernard and me. I think Michael might have helped) when Elanor was four, and was a huge attraction when the children were young. I had other people's children in my garden for seven years - and they also enjoyed the sandpit in its time. (Ok, they went home nights.)

Last year "the sandpit" underwent a major transformation. I had stopped looking after little kids at home, and it became a vegetable garden.

It doesn't receive much sun for much of the year. (Ahem - 'none' for a lot of the year!) The 'interwebs' suggested that leafy greens did best in partial shade, so I planted in mint, silverbeet, kale, spinach and parsley. (I knew the parsley would do well because it self-sowed in the sand pit itself.)

So, if a great deal of forethought had been used, I would have had a 'before', 'during' and 'after photos. I didn't, so I'll just have to paint you a word picture.

The sandpit was pretty neglected for a year before I decided to give it a new life. Weeds (parsley!), old toys and junk. Yuk!

I googled, and obviously one should add lots of composted matter as the dirt was, by definition, 'sand'. Not ideal for growing plants, although definitely free-draining! One site also suggested lots of shredded newspapers on the sand before adding compost. And advised on what to plant in a shady (semi-shade in summer only) spot.

I didn't have enough compost to fill a volume 2m x 1.5m x 40cm all at once - that's a LOT of compost! So I hit on using a plank to section of 1/3 of the space first and plant that up. A few months later I had enough to fill a 2nd 1/3.

(Actually, I was impatient and hadn't left my compost to 'cook' long enough, so I spent 2 months pulling out little pumpkin seedlings which weren't part of the planting plan. That was kind of funny, and they've stopped turning up now.)

So the funky tiered look is more by luck than design, but I quite like it. I planted lots of little seedlings - lots from the garden centres, and then some I'd raised from seed. And a few months later it looked green and lush!

This sandpit garden has been giving me all the leafy greens we can manage to eat, and means I can use the sunny vege garden for things that really need the sun. (Oh, and the patch of silverbeet and spinach that I planted in the dead of winter and is still going strong.) I'll be really interested to see how long it keeps producing.

Now, instead of sitting in the sun digging a hole and filling it with water, I'm more likely to be pulling weeds, tending baby plants and picking food. And of course lots of messing about with mud and water. Still just as much fun. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The joy of learning

This morning I dressed early, as I've signed up for relief teaching this week. A call could come anytime from 7am. When I wasn't called by 9.30 I was able to plan my day. It felt like an extra holiday day. (Yeah, yeah, I know, I don't get paid. Details!)

I did some desk work, had a haircut, and met Rowena in town for lunch. Then we went to my favourite 2nd hand bookshop for a browse. (Actually it's a "2nd hand anything" shop with a very good quality book wall. I'm not saying which shop.)

(Everyone is reading the Luminaries this Summer. Unless I borrow it sooner I expect to wait until it turns up on this bookshelf for $4. I wonder how long it'll take - there are lots of copies out there, but if it's very good it could be longer before people start letting them 'return to the wild' of 2nd hand shops. There were books from 2 summers ago there today.)

It's hard to explain the delight of a pile of books, especially when the house is full of piles of books, we've had new piles of books for Christmas, I have happy shelves full of piles of books in my office, and it can get quite stressful thinking of all the books I'll never get around to reading (or finishing).

The Steinbach has this to say in its introduction:
"My hope is that by the end of our journey together you will share with me what my role model, the late Richard Feynman, called "the pleasure of finding things out." Feynman, a Nobel laureate who was a legendary physicist, accomplished bongo drummer, and expert safe-cracker, summed up his lifetime of learning this way: "I was born not knowing and have only had a little time to change that here and there." I offer here stories of my efforts to add little bits of knowledge here and there to what I was born not knowing."

I like that. It's not about knowing "to know." More about knowing "to grow," to have a richer perspective by being about to bring the 'then and there' to the to 'here and now'.

It's also about learning about things, places, people. The nice thing about books is that someone has gone to the trouble of finding out and reflecting and putting down what they think is the most important (admittedly, for their purposes), in a handy package. Much easier than an old internet search.  

Anyway, I've just spent $16 on perhaps 60 hours of reading or more, of which I shall probably complete less than a 1/3, but it's not a test so I don't have to read any of them - I can dip as I choose. The thought is pure pleasure.

(The book on Tolkien is a gift for Elanor - I needn't read at all.)

And in a few years I'll return half of them to another 2nd hand shop to keep them in circulation.