Potager Garden: When the veg plot becomes an outdoor classroom

Today in the garden, whilst I have been working on the veg plot and sweeping the paths, my little daughter has had some lucky finds. She has gathered them in her wheelbarrow, and is now laying them out neatly.

We use them to practise her counting, one to ten. She pauses and concentrates after “123” because she always has the urge to shout “go!” and run off. Once she makes it past this hurdle and onto 4, we can get all the way to 10.

I have been taking pebbles out of the raised beds – recent heavy rains have drilled them up to the surface – and have made a small pile to add to the birdbath. My daughter inspects them, wrinkles her brow and waves a finger at me. My heap of lucky finds is very messy. She organises them for me, in a line to match hers.

We practise sharing. She gives me a few of her treasures, I give her a few of my stones. We make pictures together: a face, a hedgehog, a bridge.

My daughter enjoys seeing all of the new flowers in the garden and quickly spots if something has changed since yesterday. She believes the primulas have faces. She points out their noses to me.

I pot up the last of the bedding plants in need of a new home. My daughter copies me by adding an old piece of evergreen into a tiny pot next to a delicate crocus. It takes a bit of a knock, but will likely perk back up. For the garden to belong to the children as well as me, I embrace these little gestures.

Whilst I remove bark pieces from the stream, she pokes at the waterfall with a stick. We seem to have a lot of these about, brought back by all five of the children from our woodland walks.

It escalates pretty quickly to her clambering up onto the giant rock, laying across it, coat sleeves dipping into the water.

I stop my gardening for the day, pull up my sleeves and join in. We build damns, pools and harbours. We search for fallen leaves to float down the choppy rapids. A happy hour together passes.

When the sky clouds over, we notice how cold our hands are – the difference the sun makes to a chilly winter day!

Soon after, we are back inside to get warm. My husband puts the kettle on and the whole family pause for tea and biscuits. My older boys tell me about the maths they have studied; my younger boys have been practising their singing. I tuck a woollen blanket around my daughter and the kitchen fills with voices.

My eyes catch a glimpse of a stack of old newspapers set aside for recycling. I decide to keep a few back. Next week I will teach my youngest two children how to make paper boats for the stream.

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