Welcome!

You’ve reached the online home of Danielle Meitiv, the “Free-Range Mom” from Maryland

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I’m a scientist, writer, and parent of kids who roam. (You might have heard about that last part…) I have a Master’s degree in oceanography and a lifelong love of science and the sea. When I’m not penning or parenting, I work as a science consultant to government agencies and non-profit  organizations.

I’m an opinionated parents who thinks a lot about how to raise kids who thrive – and I’m willing to stand up for my beliefs. Come say Hi on Twitter (@daniellemeitiv) and join the conversation about parenting and freedom on my Community Facebook Page. I’m represented by Louise Fury of the Bent Agency.

Thanks for stopping by!

UPDATE:  As of June 2015, ALL of the CPS charges against us have been dropped. Now we are gearing up to bring the fight to them, to stand up for the freedom of all parents to raise their children independent and responsibly, as they see fit.  If you would like to help, please donate and/or spread the word about this fundraising campaign.

Click here to donate via Paypal.

All donations go through the National Association of Parents and are full tax-deductible.

Thanks for your support!

Danielle

When letting your kids out of your sight becomes a crime – The Washington Post

When letting your kids out of your sight becomes a crime - The Washington Post

    When letting your kids out of your sight becomes a crime – The Washington Post.

February 13, 2015

Danielle Meitiv lives in Silver Spring.

We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and successful, and we want to protect them from harm. But what if we are protecting them from extremely remote threats while ignoring the things that most endanger their well-being? What if police and child welfare officials, the experts whom we empower to protect our children, are pursuing phantom problems while neglecting those who are truly at risk?

One recent Saturday afternoon, six police officers and five patrol cars came to my home in Silver Spring. They demanded identification from my husband and entered our home despite not having a warrant to do so. The reason for this show of force? We had allowed our children to walk home from a neighborhood park by themselves.

A few hours later, a Montgomery County Child Protective Services (CPS) social worker coerced my husband into signing a “temporary safety plan” for our children by threatening to take the children “right now” — a threat she backed up with a call to the police. In the weeks that followed, another worker from the agency appeared at our door with the police and insisted that he did not need a warrant to enter our home. He also interviewed our children at school without our knowledge or permission.

When did Americans decide that allowing our kids to be out of sight was a crime?

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of young children being outside without adult supervision. We’re not always comfortable with it, either. We think, however, that giving them an opportunity to learn to make their way in the world independently is the best way to prepare them for adulthood — and that it is safe for them to do so.

Although our fears may tell us one thing about the world, the facts say something quite different. Crime rates across the United States are as low as they’ve been in my lifetime. Stranger abduction, the bogeyman of most parental fears, has always been exceedingly rare. Far more hazardous are the obesity risks and idleness we subject children to if we do not allow them to run outside and play.

Fear, too, takes a toll. I wasn’t there when the police brought my children home in a patrol car, but my 10-year-old called me, sobbing that “Daddy is getting arrested.” The incident gave my daughter nightmares. My son told us that the social worker who questioned him asked, “What would you do if someone grabbed you?,” and suggested that he tell us that he doesn’t want to go off on his own anymore because it’s dangerous and that there are “bad guys waiting to grab you.” This is how adults teach children to be afraid even when they are not in danger.

We are not the only parents in this position. Last summer, Debra Harrell of North Augusta, S.C., spent 17 days in jail because she let her 9-year-old daughter play at a park while she was working. In Port St. Lucie, Fla.,Nicole Gainey was arrested and charged with neglect because her 7-year-old was playing unsupervised at a nearby playground, and Ashley Richardson of Winter Haven, Fla., was jailed when she left her four kids, ages 6 to 8, to play at a park while she shopped at the local food bank.

The problem with these cases, and ours, was not that police stopped to check on the children involved; that’s what we want officers to do if they have concerns about a child’s welfare. The problem is that, once it was determined that involved parents had already judged their children to be safe, the authorities didn’t move along. Instead they turned to heavyhanded legal and bureaucratic remedies that did far more harm than good.

Nationwide, providers of social services are burdened with overflowing workloads and backlogs of hundreds of cases. So why are they wasting time with us? Even if CPS is mandated to follow up on every call, why aren’t there objective, rational criteria to determine which situations warrant attention? As long as the trigger for an investigation is “child left unsupervised,” these workers will run themselves ragged and waste precious resources investigating families like ours while neglecting children who really need their help.

CPS’s work is vital and necessary, but the pendulum has swung too far. We need to take back the streets and parks for our children. We need to refuse to allow ourselves to be ruled by fear or allow our government to overrule decisions that parents make about what is best for their children. Overpolicing parents in this way does not make children safer; it disrupts families and makes our kids fearful, anxious and unhealthy. We also need to support groups such as the National Association of Parents, which fights for the constitutional rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, as long as the children are not harmed.

 And whether through the legislatures or the courts, neglect laws need to be redefined to safeguard parents’ discretion to make reasonable risk-management judgments for their children, including the decision to allow them the freedom and independence that was the norm a generation ago and is still essential to their development and well-being.

Wednesday Wet & Wild: Dolphins & Sea Lions Go to War

Welcome to Wet & Wild, a  post at Danielle Meitiv’s Brave Blue Blog that explores everything fabulous and fascinating about the sea, surf, and sands of our Blue Planet. Today, I’m sharing some of the amazing stuff I’m learning as I research my new sci-fi work-in-progress. Enjoy!

Navy Dolphin K-dog
A U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program dolphin named KDog, wearing a locating pinger, performed mine clearance work in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War.

Even before they took out Bin Laden, most people were familiar with the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air and Land Teams).

But what about the Navy’s sea lions? The dolphins?

No, this is not just the stuff of Hollywood. Since the late 1950’s, the U.S.Navy has studied the ways that marine mammals can aid military efforts at sea. Today, the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program trains and deploys more than 140 dolphins and sea lions from the programs headquarters in San Diego.

The two primary species involved are the Common Bottlenose Dolphin and the California Sea Lion.

Flipper Enlists

Because of their amazing ability to use sound to navigate in the water – echolocation – bottlenose dolphins are naturals for locating people and objects in the sea, including sea mines.

Dolphins are especially helpful in the open ocean. They can make multiple deep dives without getting “the bends” or decompression sickness, which would be harmful or fatal to a human. Most recently, mine-hunting dolphins were employed in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.

Sea Lions Get Their Man

A MK 5 sea lion is about to attach the recovery hardware to a simulator.

Sea lions have been trained to locate and retrieve undersea objects. Like dolphins, they help to locate and tag mines. Unlike their dolphins comrades, sea lions don’t use echolocation, but their vision in low light and murky water makes them excellent seekers.

Sea lions have been employed to patrol around naval ships at port and to alert their human partners if human divers approach. These critters carry leg cuffs as part of their undersea equipment. If they locate a diver in the water, the sea lions attaches a cuff with a rope to the intruder’s leg, allowing humans above water to reel the trespasser in.

For more about sea lions and their cousins (as well as their mythological buddies), check out this post. To learn about dolphins and their whale pals, check this out.

UPDATE: Check out this CNN clip from YouTube, showing a reporter trying to evade a Navy dolphin and what the dolphin does to catch her man. Too cool!

Also – lest you worry about the health and happiness of these marine mammals (as I did), they are released into the ‘wild’ frequently during training, and choose to come back everytime. 

They also live long lives with the Navy.  One female dolphin I read about was over 30 years old, with 20+ years of active service. Among the sea lions recruits is a 27-year old male who is still going strong. (The average lifespans of these critters in the wild are 25 and 17 years, respectively).

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, on Google+ Danielle Luttenberg Meitiv and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

Get in the Garden, Already!

Happy Spring!

Last week, we celebrated the vernal or spring equinox, when the Earth leans neither towards (summer) nor away (winter) from the sun. On that day, the hours of daylight and darkness were exactly equal.

What does that mean for us gardeners? Time to get out there and dig in the dirt – summer’s coming!

If you’re like me (impatient and congenitally unable to follow rules or even “guidelines”), you’ve already been playing out there for weeks now. Especially if you live in a region like the mid-Atlantic, where winter hardly showed up this year and the spring weather started sometime in February.

So what’s happened in the barefoot garden so far?

Asparagus!

After two years of waiting (I can be patient when necessary) we harvested the first tender spears of our own asparagus. Delicious! Asparagus is one of the few common vegetables that are perennial, meaning that a little patience up front will be rewarded for years to come.

If you’re so inclined, now is the time to plant the crowns (small rooted plants). Pick a sunny spot that you are willing to dedicate to asparagus forever; the plants can last produce for 15-20 years! For the first two years you must force yourself to let the tender, tempting shoots grow into tall fern-like fronds, allowing the roots to develop fully. Then in year two you can snip the first two weeks of shoots, in year three: three weeks, etc.

We harvested three or four meals worth. Now we’ll let the spears grow into tall fern-like fronds, to feed the roots developing below ground. They’re quite beautiful, so I don’t mind giving up the tasty spears.

Fall Winter Spring Greens

I’m a big fan of fall and winter gardening. When temperatures and light levels drop, plants grow more slowly but that doesn’t mean the growing season is over. Eliot Coleman, garden guru extraordinaire runs a CSA in Maine that produces greens and other tasties year-round! If he can do it, so can we.

Here’s the plot that I planted back sometime in October. It’s been producing all winter long and with the advent of warmer weather it’s taken off! Last week I harvested these two baskets of greens and that’s probably only ten percent of what we’ve eaten from this plot so far.

I’ve scattered some lettuce and spinach seeds in there to fill out the spots where we were over-zealous in our harvesting and expect this bed to continue to produce until June. Then I’ll clear it out and plant sweet potatoes.

What Can I Plant Now?

Even if freezing temperatures are threatening your area tonight (I’m looking at you, mid-Atlantic!), there are still many seeds you can sow now to get  a jump on the growing season.  In fact many of my favorite veggies prefer the cooler temperatures of spring to the roast ’em and toast ’em summer. These include:

  • most leafy veggies: lettuce, spinach, corn salad and all of the lovely cabbage-family greens like collards, kale, mizuna, arugula and mustard.
  • cabbage-family root and “head” veggies: radishes, turnips, cabbage broccoli, cauliflower
  • peas – snow and sweet
  • white potatoes.

All of the above can be sown directly into the garden. Red radishes and lettuce are are super fast; plant them today and you’ll be eating them by Mother’s Day!

For great info on four-season gardening check out Eliot Coleman’s book, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Garden All Year Long. You can find links to more of my favorite gardening books on the Gardening Authors and Experts Page.
Happy growing and eating!  — Danielle

Hidden Baja Undersea Park Is the World’s Most Robust Marine Reserve

Hidden Baja undersea park is the world’s most robust marine reserve.

Baja marine park
Once depleted by fishing, Cabo Pulmo now boasts a healthy mix of wildlife. (Credit: Octavio Aburto-Oropeza/iLCP)

ScienceDaily (2011-08-13) — A thriving undersea wildlife park tucked away near the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula has proven to be the most robust marine reserve in the world, according to a new study. The most striking finding is that fish communities at a depleted site can recover up to a level comparable to remote, pristine sites that have never been fished by humans.

[More]

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, on Google+ Danielle Luttenberg Meitiv and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

Missing Mom [Reposted from August 2011]

mom with Isaac and Rafi
Thanksgiving 2005. Mom with my son Rafi (standing) and my newphew Isaac. She died four weeks later.

My mother Davida would have been 70 years old today. She died at 64. I can never hear that Beatles tune without thinking of her.

She lived long enough to attend my wedding and celebrate my son Rafi’s first birthday. She will never know the grand-daughter Dvora who is named for her.

My mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer when she was 44. I was 13 at the time. Thank God and modern medicine that I had her for another 20 years. Damn them both that it wasn’t longer.

Motherloss

Motherloss is a recurring theme in my family. My mother’s mother died of breast cancer when she was 43. My mother was 17.

I grew up in the shadow of that tragedy. Every day of her life my mother mourned her mother. No, she didn’t walk around in tears all the time – she was vibrant and alive and taught me much about the joy of living.

But she always missed her mother. I had no doubt that that early loss marked my mother forever. I regretted not knowing this woman who was the star of so many family stories. Legends, even.

And now my daughter shares a similar fate – she will only know her mother’s mother through stories. Thank God, I had so much more of my mother than my mother had of hers. I have more to tell. I pray the pictures I paint will be that much richer, her presence that much more vivid for my daughter.

Losing another mother

My mother’s younger sister Linda was only 8 years old when her mother died. When Linda turned 43 she died of a brain tumor. She left behind two children, 8 and 14.

I became very close to that 8-year old. She spent at least one weekend a month sleeping over at my Manhattan apartment.  When my mother died, I mourned with that same girl, now a woman in her late twenties. Among other things she told me about two books that have become priceless guides to the painful journey that I have now begun: Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers by Hope Edelman. I recommend them both to all women who have lost their mothers, at any age.

And now I’m the Mom

To recap, in case you’ve missed any of the craziness on this page:

My mother’s mother died of breast cancer at 43. She left behind four children: 21 (Judy), 17 (Davida – my mom), 8 (Linda), and 3 (Larry).

Linda died when she was 43. She left behind two children 14 and 8.

My mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was 44. She died 20 years later.

I turned 42 this year. Am I afraid of dying? Does the specter of cancer haunt my thoughts day-to-day? Not consciously. Yes I’ve tried to eat well all my life and I rejected smoking after a very brief experiment in my teens.

But that’s not the most important impact of all this tragedy.  As a direct result of so much sadness and grief, I’ve learned how to live.

Carpe diem. Live each day as though it was your last. You really only get one chance and you never know when your time will be up. Live, love, laugh. Don’t wait for that rainy day – live now.

I don’t know if I ever would have started writing if my mother hadn’t died. Knowing that this was it, that I only had one life in which to be whatever and as much as I could be – maybe that’s what opened the creative wells that had been shut for decades. And now I write almost every day.

With Rafi and Dvora on the Staten Island Ferry, Memorial Day weekend 2011.

It was a dream of my mom’s, too – to be a writer. Now it is my reality, a gift from her to me.

And maybe back to her as well?

My daughter will turn 3 tomorrow. She has my mother eyes.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you very, very much.

Danielle Meitiv is a scientist, a writer, a “free-range” mom, and a very passionate, opinionated person. She is currently working on a book called “Fighting For the Future: A Parent’s Rebellion.” You can find her on Twitter:  @DanielleMeitiv , Facebook: Danielle Meitiv, and YouTube: Danielle Luttenberg Meitiv. She lives with her husband and her two famous, free-range kids in Silver Spring, MD.

Wednesday Wet & Wild: Dolphins & Sea Lions Go to War

Welcome to Wednesdays Wet & Wild (formerly Wonderful Waterful Wednesdays), a weekly post at Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog that explores everything fabulous and fascinating about the sea, surf, and sands of our Blue Planet. This week, I’m sharing some of the amazing stuff I’m learning as I research my new sci-fi series.  Enjoy!

Even before they took out Bin Laden, most people were familiar with the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air and Land Teams).

But what about the sea lions? The dolphins?

No, this is not just the stuff of Hollywood. Since the late 1950’s, the U.S.Navy has studied the ways that marine mammals can aid military efforts at sea. Today, the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program trains and deploys more than 140 dolphins and sea lions from the programs headquarters in San Diego.

Navy Dolphin K-dog
A U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program dolphin named KDog, wearing a locating pinger, performed mine clearance work in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War.

The two primary species involved are the Common Bottlenose Dolphin and the California Sea Lion.

Flipper Enlists

Because of their amazing ability to use sound to navigate in the water – echolocation – bottlenose dolphins are naturals for locating people and objects in the sea, including sea mines.

Dolphins are especially helpful in the open ocean. They can make multiple deep dives without getting “the bends” or decompression sickness, which would be harmful or fatal to a human. Most recently, mine-hunting dolphins were employed in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.

Sea Lions Get Their Man

A MK 5 sea lion is about to attach the recovery hardware to a simulator.

Sea lions have been trained to locate and retrieve undersea objects. Like dolphins, they help to locate and tag mines. Unlike their dolphins comrades, sea lions don’t use echolocation, but their vision in low light and murky water makes them excellent seekers.

Sea lions have been employed to patrol around naval ships at port and to alert their human partners if human divers approach. These critters carry leg cuffs as part of their undersea equipment. If they locate a diver in the water, the sea lions attaches a cuff with a rope to the intruder’s leg, allowing humans above water to reel the trespasser in.

For more about sea lions and their cousins (as well as their mythological buddies), check out this post. To learn about dolphins and their whale pals, check this out.

BONUS: July Poster Giveaway

Love marine mammals? Then, you’re gonna LOVE this month’s special giveaway: a fabulous out-of-print NOAA poster, Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the end of July gets one entry in the drawing. Link to this site on your blog and get two entries.

Only one week left – get your comments in now!

UPDATE: Check out this recent CNN clip from YouTube, showing a reporter trying to evade a Navy dolphin and what the dolphin does to catch her man. Too cool!

Also – lest you worry about the health and happiness of these marine mammals (as I did), they are released into the ‘wild’ frequently for training and choose to come back everytime. 

They also live long lives with the Navy.  One female dolphin I read about was over 30 years old, with 20+ years of active service. Among the sea lions recruits is a 27-year old male who is still going strong. (The average lifespans of these critters in the wild are 25 and 17 years, respectively).

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, on Google+ Danielle Luttenberg Meitiv and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

I’m Diggin’ Friday: Wilting and the Seventh-Month Slump

Welcome to I’m Diggin’ Friday, a weekly feature here at Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog that explores the ins and outs of Barefoot Gardening, a fun, family-friendly, low-stress way to grow fresh produce right at home!

The temperature hit 102 degrees today – too hot to even think about gardening. But with the A/C and the ceiling fan working hard, I can blog about it.  At least a short post. 🙂

Wilting pumpkin vines.
Wilting pumpkin vines I know how they feel.

I watered yesterday but these poor pumpkins are still wilting. I know how they feel. (Don’t worry, the water is on as we speak. They obviously need some more).

The good news is the wilting allowed me to find a few more pumpkins amid all that foliage – there were seven, including a cool green and orange-striped one that I harvested this afternoon.

Why do plants wilt?

Herbaceous plants – those without woody stems – rely on water pressure to keep them upright. Like a hose, they can only stand straight when their cells have sufficient water. Not enough H2O and they flop over or wilt.

The cure? Give ’em a drink!

However, not all leaf-curling is wilting. Plants lose water from their leaves through a evaporation – a process known as transpiration. When it’s really hot, transpiration increases. To avoid losing too much water some plants curl their leaves, thereby reducing the amount of surface exposed to the sun.

So, if your tomato plants are otherwise healthy and well-watered, but their leaves are curling up, they’re just protecting themselves from the heat.

The Seventh-Month Slump

It’s official: I’ve hit the mid-summer gardening slump. Veggies are ripening, beds need watering and the temperature is climbing. And yet, while summer is still going strong, now is the time to start planning for fall veggie gardening.

Yes, now is the time to start those long-growing veggies, the cabbage family crops that 4-EVER to ripen. Every year I have great plans to start them as seedlings indoors in July. And every year I hit the slump.

This year I will embrace my laziness and decide upfront (instead of accepting the inevitable later) that there will be no broccoli, Brussels sprouts or other time-hogs in my garden come fall.

Instead I will enjoy the lazy days of tomatoes and cukes and plant lettuce, spinach and other quick and easy crops in September and October – when the beans have come up and my energy has returned.

The return will still be great. I’ll be harvesting THOSE greens all winter – and into the spring, too! More on that in a future post

BONUS: July Poster Giveaway

This month’s special giveaway is this fabulous out-of-print NOAA poster, Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the end of July gets one entry in the drawing. Link to this site on your blog and get two entries. Get your comments in now!

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. She’s currently writing a series of short erotic romances. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

I’m Diggin’ Friday: We’re Growing Steady

Welcome to I’m Diggin’ Friday, a weekly feature here at Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog that explores the ins and outs of Barefoot Gardening, a fun, family-friendly, low-stress way to grow fresh produce right at home!

Things are growing steadily in the barefoot garden. I’m also embarrassed to admit that I haven’t done much out there in the last couple of weeks. Not even watering, as Mother Nature has taken care of that with a trio of well-timed thunderstorms.

We’ve harvested the last of the in-ground potatoes and will see if the potato bin experiment was a success when I return home from my business trip next week.  The cucumbers are ripening nicely, as are the cherry tomatoes.

The Great Pumpkin

Cucumber patch
The cucumber patch. We've already harvested a half-dozen "Boothby Blond" yellow cukes.

The pumpkins are completely insane and one is ready to harvest. My brother suggested pinching off all the other flowers and seeing how big it could grow, but I think this variety is bred to produce smallish pumpkin. (I have no idea because all of the pumpkins were volunteers – more on that in this post).

I’ve been reminded that The Great Pumpkin will only visit a sincere pumpkin patch  – I think an enthusiastic, all-volunteer patch qualifies, don’t you?

Asian eggplant
The first tiny Asian eggplant. A few more weeks and yum!

Eggplants, Pole Beans, and Bamboo – Oh My!

The eggplants are starting to grow, although only two of the four plants have fruit. I can’t eat Italian or globe eggplants (allergic reaction) but have no problem with Asian eggplants, so I grow them every year.

Well, now I do, since I live in a warm enough climate for them. Boston’s summers just weren’t long enough but Maryland is just right!

We planted pole beans in the patch where the garlic had been and they’re coming up nicely.  Strangely, the vines haven’t been winding themselves up the poles. Instead they’ve been winding around each other and trailing on the ground so I have to untangle them and coax them up the poles.

As you can see in the cuke photo above, bamboo is my favorite pole and trellis material. We just cut in from vacant lots or friends’ backyards. In the DC-area is grows like a weed!

Asparagus is desperate need of weeding. Planted last year - ready to eat NEXT year.

The Value of Patience

This fuzzy patch is one of two asparagus beds planted last summer. Asparagus is a hardy perennial that is very easy to grow, but it requires patience!  You plant the crowns in the early spring and then leave them alone – no harvesting, no nibbling – for the next TWO summers. After that, however, you can have fresh asparagus for a decade or TWO!

Now there’s a plant that personifies (botanifies?) the barefoot gardening approach. You give it a little care up front and it pays you back in spades for YEARS to come. More on using perennials in the vegetable garden in a future post.

Feeling Fruity – Berries and Figs

It’s not all veggies around here. A few weeks ago I blogged about strawberries. In the berry realm, we also have raspberries, blackberries, and currants. I planted two goji berry bushes but one died and the other’s not looking too hot- I may try to transplant it to a better spot.

Figs
We're gonna have an awesome fig harvest come September!

But those aren’t the only fruit we have. One of the reasons I LOVED our house on sight – or I should say four of the reasons – were the mature fig trees growing on both sides of the house. Until then I had assumed that figs needed a Mediterranean climate, like olive and apricots. But they grow wonderfully here.

Oooo – Pretty! (And Yum!)

I’m not big into planting flowers – I want food for my efforts – but the woman who lived her before me did such an amazing job planting bulbs and perennials that I still benefit from her labors. In the spring we eagerly anticipate the emergence of the crocuses and daffodils followed by the tulips and irises.

But nothing pleases me more than the hibiscus that pop up amidst all the lilies across from my office window. And did you know hibiscus flowers are good in herbal teas?  In fact, if you’ve ever had one of Celestial Seasonings “zinger” teas, you’ve tasted it. The citrusy taste is from hibiscus.

Hibiscus
Hibiscus flowers: beautiful, huge (dinner-plate sized), and yummy in herbal tea.

My son loves it so this year we’re going to harvest and dry some of he flowers ourselves.

…in an Itsy Bitsy Gardening Space

I have to clear up a common misconception.  I don’t live on a farm. I don’t live on a huge lot in a distant exurb. I don’t have a huge community garden plot or allotment (to use the English term).

I live on a normal-sized lot with grass, flowers, shrubs and a driveway. All the veggies and fruit bushes and trees that I’ve described to you grow in small patches. The biggest is maybe 8 x 10 feet.

In a future post (yes, I know I promise that a lot – I mean it!) I’ll focus on how to garden in tiny places – like balconies and containers – as well as where to garden when you have absolutely no space of your own.

In the meantime, grow green – and barefoot!

How does YOUR garden grow?

How are your tomatoes, cukes or pumpkins? Got any bean coming up – or veggies ready to harvest?  Have bugs got you down or is drought drying you up?

Share, kvetch or commiserate – in the comments below!

BONUS: July Poster Giveaway

This month’s special giveaway is this fabulous out-of-print NOAA poster, Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the end of July gets one entry in the drawing. Link to this site on your blog and get two entries. Get your comments in now!

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. She’s currently writing a series of short erotic romances. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

 

I’m Diggin Friday: Squash Happens (a lot!)

Welcome to I’m Diggin’ Friday, a weekly feature here at Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog that explores the ins and outs of Barefoot Gardening, a fun, family-friendly, low-stress way to grow fresh produce right at home!

As any home veggie gardener knows, when squash happens, it REALLY happens. That is to say, unlike eggplants or bell peppers, which produce in modest amounts, when you plant squash you almost always get more that you bargained for.

Pumpkin on the walkway
Pumpkin plants spilling onto the path and the first orange pumpkin of the year.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Barefoot gardening is all about getting the most food and fun out of the least amount of effort. Squash definitely fits the bill, especially summer squash. They’re easy to grow from seed and have relatively few pests.

(I’ve had problems with squash vine borers wiping out my plants in August, but I got a good harvest before then).

Squash are members of the cucurbit family, which includes cucumbers, cantelopes and melons. There are two basic types of squash: summer and winter. They’re named not for when they grow – both types need warm summer weather to grow and ripen – but for when you eat them.

Summertime – and the squash is prolific

Summer squash include the “soft” squashes like zucchini, patty pan and yellow crookneck. These kinds don’t store well unless you freeze them. They are super easy to grow and VERY prolific.

Let me repeat that for those of you who are tempted to rush out and plant two or more plants: they are VERY prolific.  Even a family of dedicated veggie-eaters couldn’t eat the number of zucchinis that 3+ plants would provide. Ratatouille, zucchini bread, stir fries and the like are nice – but everyday???

Sweet potato and summer squash foliage
The really large leaves closest to the hose and rain barrel are summer squash plants. (The rest are sweet potato vines).

Also, they grow so fast that the cute 2″ long zucchini you admired last week will be a 18″ long club as thick as your calf if you so much as look away. So whatever you do, don’t blink!

(Bonus points to the geeks who can ID that reference).

That said, I planted some in my garden this year, after swearing that I wouldn’t because I get dozens from our two CSA shares every summer. They grow so fast and produce so much they make you feel like a freaking gardening genius!

(More on CSAs or community-supported agriculture in a future post. Summary: They’re AMAZING!)

Squash for fair weather OR foul

Winter squash are the hard-skinned varieties, which can be stored for months. There are dozens of varieties including : butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti and of course pumpkins.

Four pumpkins hiding
Can you spot the four pumpkins in this picture?

These guys take a lot longer to grow and are usually not as prolific as their summer cousins, but their still pretty easy and totally worth it if you have the space – they’re vines tend to spread out, unless you plant a variety that is specifically bred to stay contained.

Come Halloween, what could be more fun than decorating a pumpkin you grew yourself?!

I did not plant ANY pumpkins this year.  I planted a few butternut and delicata seeds, but I knowing that pumpkins took up more room than I was willing to give them, I held off.

This morning I counted seven soccerball-sized pumpkins in various shades of green and orange and at least half-dozen tiny ones. They’re growing beneath platter-sized leaves on vines a half-dozen feet long or more in two different beds.

Clearly, it was not up to me.

The eggplant and potato beds
On the right: volunteer squash (and tomatoes) taking over the potato beds. Luckily the last spuds are ready for harvest.

No, my family did not sneak out in the middle of the night and sprinkle pumpkins seeds liberally throughout the garden.  They’re ALL volunteers – plants that came up on their own because their seeds were dropped on the ground sometime between last fall and this summer.

These particular seeds came from a pumpkin that my son brought home from a school trip to a you-pick farm last fall.  We kept it on the porch until it started to get soft, then tossed it in the compost pile.

Now its progeny are taking over my yard. I even found one climbing up a weigela bush and it’s already set a little pumpkin

A pumpkin plant on a bush
A pumpkin plant growing up a bush! Note the little pumpkin already forming at the base of the flower.

The vine won’t be able to support a full-sized pumpkin, but I’ve read about fashioning a sling from an onion bag or an old pair of stockings. (I’ll let you know how that goes).

I’m not really a big fan of pumpkin pie, so what am I going to do with all these pumpkins?

The ones that are babies now will be perfect size for carving come October.

The others? We’ll eat them, of course, but since they store well, we can do so over a number of months. Whew!

When they think “pumpkin”, most people think of only sweet dishes. But pumpkin and other winter squash because a favored part of my diet when I had an Afghani dish that features pumpkin cooked in olive oil, garlic and salt.

My husband also makes a great millet and pumpkin dish.

Basically, pumpkin can be used in any recipe that calls for squash. Try it in a pureed curried squash soup. Delish!

How does your garden grow?

Confession time: have you ever gone crazy with the squash? Had so many you were dropping them on your neighbors porches in the dead of night, slipping them into open car windows? Or maybe you’ve had the opposite problem: vine borers or some other pest doing away with your crop before the first zucchini could make an appearance.

Let us know – in the comments below!

I’m also open to any all and garden questions. If I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find someone who does. Those also go in the comments below.

A hardy thanks to all the folks who have piped up so far – keep those questions and blog topic suggestions coming!

BONUS: July Poster Giveaway

This month’s special giveaway is this fabulous out-of-print NOAA poster, Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the middle of July gets one entry in the drawing. Link to this site on your blog and get two entries. Get your comments in now!

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.