The Real Family Lab



Practically perfect in every way.

He likes to shake hands and dance.

His favorite place to hang out is under the dining room table.

He only barks when strangers come to the door.

He protects our yard from rabid squirrels.

He doesn’t eat shoes and he never digs holes in the yard or in the garden.

April Loves May


I thought I’d check in and write a wrap-up post for April.


It’s not April anymore?


I guess I’m in calendar denial; I wanted to stick with April a little longer. We’re still into our recycling and reusing projects, and we’re watching the world turn green, so April and May are combined in my mind this year. Mapril. Aprilay? Whatever the name, both of the months are flying by.

We haven’t planted anything, but we like seeing the perennials come back. The rhubarb has survived a a few unexpected snowfalls, and the mint is poised to take control of the entire garden.



The kids have been obsessed with cracking rocks in the back yard. They’ll disappear for an hour, to search for crystals and sandstone, taking turns with the hammer, both wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes. Sam reminded me that he wants to go to the mining school some day (Colorado School of Mines), so these backyard excavations could be a great foundation.


If geology doesn’t work out, I think he could be an inventor. Divergent thinking is always a favorite pastime. He’ll look at random objects and come up with a dozen possible uses. My favorite is the   Bubble Gum Nose Protector.


It’s not a safety device. The Bubble Gum Nose Protector was designed to be worn when taking out the trash or the recycle bin, because protecting yourself from bad smells is very important.


If Isabel looks skeptical, it’s that she really wants a Bubble Gum Nose Protector for herself.

So that’s Mapril. Coming back to life, spending more time outside, and stretching our wings a bit. We may need to extend into June. Who’s with us for Maprilune?

Tuesday Top Ten: Food from Cuttings


With just a quick perusal of pinterest, you can find hundreds of grow-it-yourself instructions. As I surfed around DIY gardening sites, I quickly realized that some of the projects don’t result in edible food. You can grow beautiful avocado trees or carrot tops, but they won’t make much of a dinner. Here are our top ten edible items that we’re going to try to start from cuttings this year:

  1. Green Onions – from 17 Apart
  2. Ginger Root – from Tropical Permaculture
  3. Garlic – from A Veggie Venture
  4. Sweet Potatoes – from The Garden of Eaden
  5. Celery – from Deep Roots at Home
  6. Rosemary – from Geek Gardener
  7. Basil – from Garden Therapy
  8. Tomato Plants – from Vegetable Gardener
  9. Peppermint – from Mother Earth Living
  10. Lemongrass – from Backyard Gardening Blog

Setting Intentions: Grow


The weather here is unseasonably warm, so we’ve got seeds and planting on our minds. We didn’t grow very much last year, so this feels like the year to really go big. It helps that I’ve been reading Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail, again. It’s one of those books that makes the idea of planting a lot of food seem possible, even though we don’t have a huge garden space.  Here are some of the steps we’re taking right now, to get on track to grow more of our own food this year:

  1. Mapping our entire yard space, so we can make better use of the light and shade – I really like this simple mapping tool from Gardener’s Supply Company. We’ll need to make a more detailed map of the small areas that we plan to use in our side and front yards.
  2. Deciding what we can realistically fit in our space.
  3. Gathering seeds! Seed Savers Exchange is a great resource.
  4. Finding and preparing alternative planters, inside and outside.
  5. Making a space to start some seeds inside – Gayla Trail has devoted a entire section of her You Grow Girl web-site to seed starting.

In addition to working with the garden spaces in and around our home, I’m also hoping to buy a plot in our school’s community garden. When school began in August, Sam was very interested in the plum trees in the garden, so he’ll be motivated to help care for the trees and help with the fall harvest. We’re also figuring out our CSA (or NSA) budget, and which farm we’ll support this year. We’ve been very happy with Monroe Farms during past years, but we’ve recently heard about some options that are even closer to our home.

Beyond the details and logistics of learning to grow more of our food, we’re simply enjoying our time outside, absorbing the fresh air, the light, and of course the dirt.


What are you thinking of growing this year? 


Good Water vs. Bad Water

The Good:

We picked up our first Monroe Farms CSA vegetables this afternoon. We got a big bag that included sugar snap peas, parsnips, kohlrabi, garlic, and multi-colored popcorn.  And lots of lettuce. Which is where the  good water comes into play. According to wikipedia, lettuce is 94.9% water. Yay lettuce!

The Bad:

The murky water that ‘s dripping under the sink, because you’ve run the garbage disposal after somebody has dropped a penny and an empty ziploc bag down the drain. That somebody still hasn’t stepped forward. But we did fix the leak. I didn’t catch any photos of the bad water – it’s best left to the imagination anyway.



This month is turning out to be about plants, but not necessarily planting.

Thousands of  beautiful weeds grow between the playground and the parking lot at B.’s school. Each day, as we walk back to the car, we’re compelled to walk through that sunlit field, and sometimes the plants pull us down, to play.


She wants to gather them by the handful, and now the back seat of my car is covered with this memory. When I’m driving I glance back at the scattered seeds, and imagine a new field, growing right there between the kids’ seats.

Planning for Plants

It’s the first of May, and we haven’t planted anything. I thought you were supposed to wait until after Mother’s Day in Colorado, so we’re really right on schedule.

When I came downstairs to tell S. a story tonight, he was busy drawing ninja knives in his three-ring binder. I admired them, of course, because ninja knives are cool and awesome, and he’s not allowed to draw them at school. I know, that’s a discussion for another time, another venue.  Anyway, when we were tapped out on knives, I asked him if he wanted to do some garden designing with me. He did!

He’s interested in planting pumpkins, corn, and carrots. That sounds about right to me. I’m not a very organized gardener, but three new vegetables should be manageable, right?

As we make our way through May, the focus here will be on urban plants and gardening. How do you put roots down, when you’re surrounded by concrete? Well, roots always seem to find a way. If you’ve got a story or photos you’d like to share, you can reach me at – guest posts are welcome!