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Libby and the Garden

Robyn Openshaw - Jun 25, 2012 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links


I have this photo of me and my younger daughter, Libby, working in my garden about five years ago, when I first put the site up. The photo is in Chapter 5 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods. She looks so little. And now she’s turning 15.


Some time ago, Libby discovered that if you get a little rectangular piece of plastic out of Mom’s purse, it buys you lots of video games, movies, and songs on iTunes! Exciting! She did that, to the tune of over $1,000, in a four-week period, until my statement arrived. At which time, Libby and I had a rather intense little chat. Neither Apple nor MasterCard wanted to cut me any slack on that situation. I had to pay it.

There’s been a chart in my office for 18 months now, where Libby marks off every extra job she can do, with a value assigned for that job, taking it off the big, ugly total. Today she organized my pantry for 2.5 hours for $25 off her chart. She is leaving for camp, so she made me two quarts of green smoothie to drink while she’s gone, for $5 off the still-significant total.

She’s learning the value of $1,000. She’s chipping away at that debt to me and learning that using the little plastic card isn’t as fun as she thought. Part of our deal is that every time I give her an extra job, she isn’t allowed to complain. She has to say, “Thank you for the opportunity.”

So today we had this convo:

Libby:  So, where will I get the greens to make the smoothie?

Me:  In the garden. There’s tons of spinach out there, and pick the bigger kale leaves too, okay?

Libby, wailing:  MOM! NO! I hate the spiders! You know how much I hate them!

(Libby’s been pulling weeds out there most days since school got out. There’s always drama associated with garden tasks, and spiders inevitably come up.)

Me:  Lib. We’ve been over this. They’re just little garden spiders. Harmless! In fact, if we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t have our garden. They keep the pests in check. You’ve got to get over this. Working in a garden is part of life. It’s important.

Libby:  WHYYYYYY??!!

Me:  Because. That’s how we grow food.

Libby:  That’s what grocery stores are for!

Yes, my child who was raised with lots of garden produce every summer of her life, working with me in the garden, pulling whole boxes of weeds, she actually said that. “That’s what grocery stores are for.”

I didn’t say anything, because I was shocked at that entitled, city-girl comment. When she comes back from camp, I’m going to tell her how I love to observe the complicated, teeming ecosystem in a garden, this time of year. Just a few months ago, the ground was frozen and nobody was moving around on top of the earth, here in Utah.

Now you can see millipedes, ladybugs, spiders, aphids, worms, and lots of other critters just filling the measure of their creation,  milling about, avoiding the bigger guys and trying to eat the smaller guys—in my square foot garden. It’s so cool, really.

“Spiders are our friends,” I tell my kids. My mother never let us kill a spider, even in the house. We had to Catch and Release. She caught spiders in jars and took them outside.

I’m going to suggest to Libby to challenge her fear and let a small one run around on her arm sometime when she’s out there. That’s how I conquered my own fear of spiders.

That, and we caught a big tarantula in September in our driveway. We bought a terrarium and I confronted him every day, changed his water, named him, talked to him, and became actually rather fond of him before he died the next February.

I’m going to tell her that every square in the garden gives us food that’s practically free. And better yet, we know it has absolutely no chemicals on it. When I cut spinach and rinse it, blend it, and drink it, I’m getting the freshest, most nutrient dense food possible.

And when we put our hands in the dirt, we’re grounding ourselves. Getting rid of the buzzing, negative electrical energies clinging to us. Letting atoms with missing electrons pick them up. Getting ourselves a mega-dose of antioxidants.

That, and the fresh air and smells of dirt and green plants, and oxygen. That, and the Vitamin D being produced on the surface of our skin, from the sunshine. Might be why we feel so good after gardening outside for a while. Plus there’s that “sense of accomplishment” having so directly contributed to our own sustenance and survival.

I hope you’re doing Step 5 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods. It’s not just about how to garden organically, in any space, but about how to use everything in the garden, too, in new ways.

Of course, all that is fun—planning, shopping for seeds, planting, dreaming of what you’re going to make with your fresh vegetables—but the harvest? That’s where the real fun is.

Make sure your kids know where food comes from. Make sure they know the value of free, organic food that is made all the more delicious by the little bit of labor you put into it.

I feel a little Mama Lecture coming on, for Libby, in a couple of days!

My Mama Fantasy is that it ends with a commitment to get peaceful with spiders, and this statement:

“Thank you for the opportunity.”

Posted in: Gardening, Relationships

8 thoughts on “Libby and the Garden”

Leave a Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I am confused. I saw a video of yours that indicated it is OK to freeze your greens and yet have also heard from a radio news interview by Nava Atlas “Wild About Greens” book promotion, that freezing is not a good idea as they lose much of their nutritional value. I was going to buy at Costco and freeze the larger quantities, but now I am confused.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin. I enjoyed reading about your daughter and spiders. I used to read a book entitled “Be Nice to Spiders” by Margaret Graham to my 2 daughters, Julie and Amy, who are now 24 and 21. They are not “in love” with spiders but don’t “freak out” when they see them like so many other people. We also capture them in our house and let them go outside. The book is really cute and you might enjoy it. I saw you in Mesa recently and thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and bought your “Green Smoothie Girl” book. My daughter, Amy, tagged along and really was inspired by your talk and wants to start eating smoothies but needs to earn the money for a Vitamix or Blendtech.

    I also would like you to know that I am going through radiation treatment for breast cancer and eating green smoothies is part of my wellness routine to combat everything that my body is being exposed to. Thank you for all that you do and blog about!

  3. Sarah says:

    I have a weird relationship with spiders. Don’t like em. Never have. I will face em for some good home grown greens. I have learned the jar catching method and don’t have to feel guilty about drowning them in soap or shampoo like I used to do as a teen. The other day one came in with my beet greens and I freaked out and he got washed down the drain. I felt SO guilty. I won’t do that again. Poor little thing. But they still get to me! Maybe I need a pet spider? Eek! 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, what a great learning this is…parenting, gardening and spiders…all rolled into one! Thank you for all the opportunities your blog provides!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I loved this post. Right down my garden path! I have been teaching my kids, my grandkids, school kids where I taught, and my lady friends just how important spiders are. I think of them as secret “Green Berets” seeking and destroying the enemy while I’m taking care of things elsewhere. If anyone is ready to begin an easy, efficient, low-work garden, get a copy of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening. I read my first copy from the library over twenty years ago. I pick them up at thrift stores, and loan them out. I have several editions through the years. I have veggie gardened for around 30 years, and this is the best technique out there for the home gardener. The only thing that may prevent you from growing food might be lack of sunshine on your property. Even then, you could grow cool weather crops. I promise you’ll be glad you tried it. We never buy greens, we just harvest them all year around, (California) Like having our own Farmer’s Market out back. Get gardening . . . you CAN do it!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m jealous that you still have spinach! Mine bolted weeks ago. And kale . . . mine did great last year, and this year it just came up and died. I think it got hot too fast? I’m in Utah, too, so what’s your secret, Robyn?

  7. Karen says:

    Robyn, Thanks to you I have two 4×4 square foot gardens in my tiny backyard. I love them. It’s all trial and error and it’s fun. My kids love it too. Spiders are another story. The kids and I have a rule: If Mom’s hands are anywhere near the dirt, they are not allowed to talk about spiders. I’m totally terrified of them. Just this morning I went out to water the flowers and there was a wolf spider just under the faucet (it was huge) and I came inside and made my husband go out and kill it. (I usually leave the ones outside alone, but this one has been stalking me.) I wouldn’t go outside to water the plants for 6 more hours. Yes. Major arachnophobia. You are a brave woman. 🙂

  8. Shay says:

    Greetings, love you blogs and I think the info you give is always very informative. I was wondering..since Libby has some issues with the #toocute, have you guys ever thought about an inside auqaponics system? What are your thoughts on the whole auaponics, hydroponics vs organic thing? Have you ever tried any green veggies and fruit from this system? Would love to hear your thoughts in a blog about wholefood growing without the use of soil. Its so easy to do, ends up cheaper and the nutritional value doesn’t decrease by anything noticeable. Look fwd. to hearing back from you about this.

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