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Saying goodbye with one last gardening project

by Rebecca Sweet

My daughterIn just a few days I’ll be saying goodbye to my daughter as she embarks on a new adventure in her life as she goes away to college.  And while I’m proud, thrilled and excited for her, I can’t help but quietly mourn each passing minute, knowing I’ll soon be face-to-face with the giant hole that will be left in my heart, home and garden.

My daughter has never been one of those kids that have naturally taken to gardening, never bounding out of bed saying “what are we going to plant today, Mommy!” or “of course  I’d love to go the nursery again with you!”.  Oh, how I’ve envied parents with kids like that.  Instead, she’d much rather lie in the sun with her dog while watching me garden, catch the endless butterflies and lizards who visit, or make various art projects to sprinkle around my garden.  And as she’s grown up, she’d much rather take photos in the garden, than weed it.  Who wouldn’t, right?   While she might not have been interested in planting seeds, she did, however,  like other aspects of the garden.  And heck – I’ll take what I can get.  I’d try anything to get her out the garden having fun.

I know my plan was successful because as she’s grown up, I’d hear the occasional gardening tidbit pop out of her mouth (to her chagrin, of course, because like all newly independent teenagers, God forbid she sound like her mother).  I once heard her telling one of her friends ‘Oh yeah, that’s our hydrangea – my favorite flower’.  Or, ‘Hey mom – there’s a bunch of Robins in the birdbath’.
One of my favorite comments came just yesterday.  As we were lying in her bed, quietly gazing out of her window she began to tear up, saying she was going to miss seeing the green pyracantha berries turn red, followed by the fun of spying on the robins gorging themselves on the ripe fruit.

 

 

 

 

We’ve watched those berries (and drunken birds) for years, and loved starting each fall and winter morning checking the progress of the berries before she went off to school.  It warms my heart that these gardening moments have permanently lodged themselves in her memory.

I know of other mothers who are going through the same transition in their lives, and it makes me laugh at what our different focuses are right now.  I know one mother who is bound and determined to make sure her daughter knows how to be as self-sufficient as possible while she’s away.  My other friend is busy making all of her son’s favorite meals – and I mean all of them.  And while I’m doing a bit of this, it’s dawned on me that my focus this summer has been to make sure I send her off stuffed full of  last minute gardening memories.

Throughout the years, my daughter has always enjoyed gardening projects that involve food.  We’ve had fun with tomatoes, potatoes, beans, grapes – you name it. This year I had time for one last project – sprouting beans.

I was recently given a few packets of seeds by Botanical Interests (have you seen these seed packets?  The artwork is stunning).  Since we both love our summer salads, I thought I’d show my daughter  just how easy it is to grow your own sprouts.

I knew she’d love this project if not only because of the name of the beans.  When she was a little girl, she thought the words ‘mung beans’ were so odd and would say them in a funny voice to get a laugh out of me.  Perfect!Here’s what we did:

First, it’s critical that you disinfect the beans with a mild bleach solution to kill any possible E. Coli bacteria that might be present.  A teaspoon of bleach  per cup of  hot tap water is enough to do it – just soak the beans for 15 minutes then thoroughly rinse.  Then rinse again. Once the beans are drained, put them in a quart-sized jar on the counter somewhere (out of direct light) and securely cover with a piece of cheesecloth. It’s important to have air circulation, so only use about 2 Tbs. of beans per quart.

Every 8-12 hours you’ll need to fill the jar up with a bit of water, swish the beans around to rinse them, then thoroughly drain the water out.

It’s important that the beans are well-drained (moist, but not soggy) before covering them back up with the cheesecloth.  The point here is to avoid germs from growing in standing water.

Rinse, drain and repeat a few times a day for 3-5 days.

Once the sprouts are about 1/2″ – 3/4″ long, they’re ready to eat.

Give them one last rinse and really make sure they’re really well-drained well before storing them.

I store mine in a plastic bag with a paper towel tucked inside to soak up any moisture I might’ve missed.  The sprouts should last at least 10 days.

Voila!  Couldn’t be simpler, right?

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer everyone, and may your hearts (and stomachs) be full and your gardens be glorious!

 

{ 30 comments }

michele September 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Ok, late again. But that doesn’t take anything away from your lovely piece. My daughter still sprouts beans, many years after her college graduation. They choose what they will remember, & continue. We just need to provide them with enough good stuff to choose from, & it sure sounds like you have. A side note: yes, those are beautiful seed packets, but have you seen the ones from Hudson Valley Seed Library? They are actual works of art, frame-worthy, & might appeal to your young artist as well as you. Thanks for your writing; it’s always enjoyable.

Rebecca Sweet September 12, 2013 at 8:31 am

Thanks, Michele – hey, better late than never, right? I haven’t seen the Hudson Valley Seeds in person, only online. But you’re right – they’re amazing, aren’t they? When I go to the nursery and see ordinary and, dare I say boring, seed packet art I think “WHY?” It’s such a great opportunity to entice people to take a look. So glad your daughter continues to sprout seeds! Currently I have some fenugreek seeds sprouting on the counter – they smell like maple syrup!

Sue Mings September 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I’m sure you’ll enjoy hearing about all her new adventures. I know I did during my kids college years. My youngest graduated from my alma mater so it made me a bit nostalgic thinking about my college days too.
We recently returned to WI after a visit with our youngest in California where he ended up after graduation. I was pleasantly surprised to see a little garden of herbs and succulents had joined his hockey gear on their balcony. And it turns out he was the one behind the improvements according to his girlfriend. He’s even using the herbs in his cooking. So they do indeed inevitably seem to pick up some of our enthusiasm for gardening. (His only interest prior to this seemed to have been mowing the lawn on the riding mower-for pay of course, and once the neighbors starting paying more, we had to up the ante.)
Looking forward to picking up a copy of your new book-should provide inspirational reading during our long, cold winter here!

Rebecca Sweet September 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm

What a sweet story, Sue! I bet you were so, so happy to see that little herb garden. If it had been my daughter I would’ve had to temper my enthusiasm lest she rip it out once I left. I’m kidding (sort of). Thanks for your encouraging words, I really appreciate it. And I certainly hope my new book provides you with lots of gardening inspiration for those long months of winter! :)

www.sharonlovejoy.com August 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

Ahhh, your glorious girl. She is flying away, but she will ALWAYS return to her Mama. You have made an indelible mark on her mind and her heart.

This brought tears to my eyes. Imagine, you sat in my garden in Cambria the day before she was born…and now she is college-bound.

Sending love, love to you and yours,

Sharon

Rebecca Sweet August 30, 2013 at 9:04 am

Ha – yes, imagine how time has flown. It seems like yesterday I was celebrating my very first Mother’s Day in your beautiful garden with a little newborn squirming in my arms. And now she’s flown the coop. On to a new chapter, right? Glad to hear you’re feeling better and are enjoying beautiful Maine! XOXO

Diane C August 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Such a bittersweet story. Your daughter’s bound to surprise you one day. Mine did. She didn’t want to do any of the things I did and now she that she’s older she does them all … even the gardening (with the excuse that it’s cheaper than buying produce).

Rebecca Sweet August 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Thanks, Diane – your comment made me smile and hope that you’re right! And I’m sure she’ll have a similar reason for liking gardening ;)

Jane / MulchMaid August 27, 2013 at 8:23 am

This is a lovely send-off for your college-bound daughter, Rebecca. When one is so passionate about gardening, it can’t help but rub off on those nearest and dearest to us, can it? It was such a pleasure to meet you and your daughter during our Fling visit. I know your garden will sustain you both during this journey of growth!

Rebecca Sweet August 27, 2013 at 8:39 am

It was so nice to meet you, too, Jane – and thanks for your kind words. I’m back home now and am happy to say we both survived! And best of all – there’s a beautiful pine tree right outside of her bedroom window that she can look out on – no blank walls or dumpster views for her (phew!!) As she was resting in her bed one day, she said “I can hear the wind in the pine needles and it sounds sorta like home”. Music to my ears….

Pam/Digging August 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

It’s lovely that you’ve instilled all these memories of the garden. She won’t forget. I’ll be in your shoes next year, as my eldest is a senior in high school.

Rebecca Sweet August 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

Thanks, Pam. And I truly wish you the best of luck – it’s a fairly grueling experience (both mentally and physically) and a roller coaster filled with ups and downs. After having returned home now, I can’t believe what a ride it’s been! Phew! Enjoy your last year with your daughter at home!

Celia Mendoza August 22, 2013 at 6:03 am

This is really a phase most mothers dread. Luckily my son’s university is just 15minutes away from home.

As regards interest in gardens, do you have any suggestions i can try to get him interested? I have not tried actually.

Rebecca Sweet August 28, 2013 at 10:06 am

Hi Celia – it’s never too late to start enjoying gardening. I’ve had really good luck with introducing gardening to others (ie: my husband and daughter) via food. I’ve found that if they can eat it, they’re much more likely to enjoy it. I’d suggest trying to grow something that he likes to eat – have him decide what it is and if possible tend it?

Helen August 20, 2013 at 1:48 am

My son went to University 2 years ago, its a good 3 hour drive from me so he isnt home that often apart from during the summer break. I missed him terribly, and still do, and he was very homesick to start with. We hadnt thought he would miss the green of the hills he can see from his bedroom window but being in a concrete city as he is now he felt it very hard. The hardest thing I found was finding the balance between letting him have his space and not interferring and being there for him. At the same time he felt he had to be grown up so didnt confess to feelings of home sickness until he came home for his first Christmas. He has one more year (well 9 months) to go and he can’t wait to finish, he loves his course but hates the city he is in.

I don’t now feel that he has left home as we talk loads and he is back whenever he can get back but it is a strange thing and I find it hard to not know where he is and what he is doing as I did when he was living full time at home.

As for gardening kids both mine endured trips to gardens and nurseries as they grew up especially as I am a single Mum. There was a resistence in the end but I have noticed when I pick him up from University he is now keen to visit nearby gardens as they are so green and my other son tells me that his horticultural knowledge has come in use at the local quiz night!!

Rebecca Sweet August 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Helen – I think you’re so right. Finding the right balance between being a ‘helicopter mom’ and letting her ‘grow and go’ will probably be challenging for me in the beginning. Luckily she’s about 5 hours away which will ensure I won’t be lurking outside of her dorm room too often! ;) And I’m so encouraged that your children enjoy gardening now that they’re grown. There’s hope yet!! :)

Laura Balaoro August 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Oh Rebecca, this brings back memories. I know how it feels. The separation, the feeling of being happy and sad at the same time. What a fun memory you are doing to send with her. I went thru the same situation twice and I remember when my first son went away to University of San Diego, we dropped him off, got him settled, had breakfast with him the next day, and when it is time to say goodbye, he asked if I was forgetting something. What did I forget? An Aloe Vera plant so when he gets cut, he has one handy. I had to then immediately run to the nearest grocery story (I think it was Henry’s). 12 years later, he moves back to the SF bay area and carried with him his Aloe Vera. I just thought I would share this story.

I love all your blogs.

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Laura, what a lovely story! I just love that he carried that little aloe vera with him throughout the years. I used to have a tiny little cactus in a 1″ pot that I’d keep in my dorm room, and then transferred to the dashboard of my car. That succulent lasted for at least 10 years, through the baking hot sun, through the neglect of a twenty-something girl, and even survived the earthquake we had in ’89 (it dumped it upside down on my bedroom floor!). God bless those tough little plants!

Debra Lee Baldwin August 19, 2013 at 10:12 am

This is so beautiful, Rebecca. Poignant and funny at the same time. This is one of those major life moments, not only for her, but also for you. When she has her own balcony or yard, she’ll naturally plant a garden, because that’s what one does. Her seeds will sprout and her plants will be green and gorgeous (and arranged beautifully). When her friends are amazed, she’ll be amused. Doesn’t everyone know how to do that? Nothing to it!

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi Debra – yes, a major life moment for sure. Luckily, it’s one of the good moments (despite the tears) that will undoubtedly lead to new horizons. You make me laugh with your description of her artfully arranging her plants, wondering to herself where her talent might’ve come from. I’ll have to kill her if she says its from her dad – ha! XOXO

Robin August 19, 2013 at 9:47 am

I share your emotions as I have been there. Even tho, we, as mothers, know we need to let our daughters leave our garden, its not easy for us. She just might surprise you with her gardening knowledge when she is away. May your birdbath always be filled with Robins!
(great photos)

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

Thanks, Robin. I think she’ll definitely surprise me as just this morning she asked if she could take the little African violet she’s taken care of on her bedroom dresser for the past 3 years. It’s never bloomed (too dark, I think) so wouldn’t it be magical if it bloomed in her dorm room with better light?

Jo Pomeroy August 19, 2013 at 9:43 am

Oh, this made my cry! Such a bittersweet time for you and your family. Amazingly, the ‘empty nest’ becomes filled with other joyful things. Naturally, they don’t replace that ache we feel when our daughters are away from us, but, somehow, everyone survives! Have fun getting her settled in with endless trips to Target and B, B & B! I hope she has a nice roommate!

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 11:02 am

It’s so nice hearing from others who have ‘gone before me’, Jo. I really like how you said ‘the empty nest becomes filled with other joyful things’. And if I never step foot into another BB&B again, I’ll be a happy gal. Who knew a kid needed so much stuff? $$$

sheila schultz August 19, 2013 at 7:52 am

Dear Rebecca,
You have been on my mind a lot the last few weeks, knowing that your girl is setting off on an exciting adventure without you physically by her side. I was tearing up reading this post, but think of this as the next important step in her future. With the beauty she has seen through your eyes over the years and with the memories she now carries in her heart because of your gentle manner, she has some incredible tools to carry her through life. Lucky girl!
Sheila

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 9:18 am

Thank you, Sheila. I think she would laugh at your words ‘my gentle nature’ as the past few weeks have definitely brought out the best (and worst) in both of us. At times tender and gentle, and other times a raging monster mother. Oy vey – what a roller coaster of a ride this has been! Luckily, writing this post has given me at least a few moments to reflect on things while in the middle of packing, chores, errands, etc. Thank you again for all of your encouragement and kind words over the past few months. I’ve saved them in a file called ’911 moments’ that I have no doubt I’ll be referring to over and over again!

Sabrina Tanner August 19, 2013 at 6:03 am

Hello dear Rebecca,

Loved your story about you an your daughter. Thank you so much for sharing. I know your daughter will do great in college….she has you as an example as a great study and teacher!!

Sincerely,

Sabrina

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hello Sabrina! I appreciate your thoughts and wishes (and I can’t WAIT to show you the book – I received a copy of it yesterday and the photos of your garden are breathtaking!!) XOXO

Layanee August 19, 2013 at 4:08 am

Enjoy the last few days with your daughter. There is no way she will stay away from that beautiful haven you have created so, no worries.

Rebecca Sweet August 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

Thank you, Layanee. I’ll try and remember this when things are just a little too quiet around here!

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