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Why I went over budget on our farmhouse kitchen hardware and…sure, you want to know how much?

Pewter bin pulls and knobs on a farmhouse kitchen cabinet

It’s a subtle design point, but I think it makes a world of difference in our Early-American farmhouse kitchen renovation. Hardware. The handles, knobs and pulls that make our cabinets functional. It took me two tries to get the right look with our farmhouse kitchen hardware. Quite a first-world journey.

This was supposed to be easy. I loved the look of black iron knobs against the white doors throughout the rest of our house. So, when we started our kitchen reno, I quickly picked out ridiculously inexpensive black cabinet hardware on Amazon and called it a day.


then I held those dark knobs up against the white cabinets, and it just didn’t look right in the space. In my farmhouse kitchen, this hardware was too much. Black dots on the cabinet fronts were too much of an eyeball magnet.

Plus, inexpensive metal knobs feel light and cheap in your hand. There’s no weight to them. They scream cost-saver. At first touch, my initial selection felt like you could almost crush it just by squeezing.

In terms of durability, pretty much everyone who enters a kitchen interacts with drawer pulls. I didn’t want the finish to wear off in two years.

What now?

So, I did nothing. I ignored my gut and decided to put the knobs aside for a few weeks. Maybe the look would grow on me? Besides, neither the knobs nor the bin pulls could be returned. I already opened the packages. Why not just check every few days and see if my opinion changes?

Of course, no matter how many times I held them up, shifted them over an inch, and tried them in the morning light or the evening dusk, those heavy, dark knobs looked like polka dots on the white cabinets. Ugh. Nothing is easy.

Time to find plan b

I went to big box stores and fancy specialty shops. It turns out, you can spend as little as a dollar or as much as $35 per tiny little knob. It’s quite a wide range. And I studied them all. Iron, antiqued, chrome, copper, nothing felt right.

When in doubt, over-think it. Our lights are black iron. Maybe I was wrong about those black knobs and pulls after all. If just held them up one more time…nope, nope still too much, too much of a good thing.

Ok, the range is stainless steel. Maybe chrome or brushed nickel would complement it? Hummm, those shades of silver are nice, but they don’t reflect the authentic, Early-American style of our 1788 farm house.

The solution

Then, it hit me. The solution! Something authentic to the Colonial era but not iron. Years ago my aunt brought me to Woodbury Pewter, a beautiful shop where they sell handmade pewter items like mugs, candlesticks and pitchers. They use authentic 18th century techniques to craft their goods. Some items have a smooth, polished finish. Others are lumpy and rustic with a true handcrafted quality. You can spend all day there. It’s beyond gorgeous. Historic pewter. That’s my answer!

Pewter bin pulls and knobs on a farmhouse kitchen cabinet

We found a full set of pewter knobs and handles through Rejuvenation Hardware. Here are the exact same knobs I purchased.

Let’s talk budget

Budget blown. I thought we would save money on the hardware. Way wrong. Even though the first set of basic black knobs and bin pulls was 10 for $11…sigh…I wasted them. Actually, I stored them intending to put them on the cabinets in my master bath but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

The pewter knobs and pulls I selected came to a grand total of $1,205. I believe they cost more than our first refrigerator. Was it worth it? Well, I am a satisfied customer. Authentic pewter lives up to its luxury price tag. The knobs are hefty and durable with a color fit for a knight in shining armor. Pewter is a living finish, meaning it will age with intention over the years.

Pewter knobs and pulls in a white farmhouse kitchen with reclaimed shelves

Did you notice something unusual about those farmhouse kitchen cabinets?

How and why there are no toekicks under my farmhouse kitchen cabinets.

Sizing hardware

When you renovate a kitchen, you encounter some surprising questions, like…what size handles do I buy for different uses?

Oh come on, normal people don’t know if they should buy a 3″, 4″ or 5″ handle.

Do appliances need a larger handle? Yes, if you put cabinet panels on to conceal them. Ok, what size handles do appliances need?

How about the knobs? Do I need 1″, 1.5″ or 1.75″? Or should I just do handles instead of knobs on the cabinets?  Ugh. Nothing’s easy. 

All of our knobs were 1″. But, we chose three different handles for our farmhouse kitchen cabinets. On the upper drawers, we used 4″ bin pulls. For the big, deep lower drawers, we used two 4″ handles, and the appliances, which came panel-ready, got sturdy 6″ handles that double as a towel bar.

Farmhouse kitchen gray cabinets with pewter knobs and pulls

Hope you enjoyed reading about my search for the perfect, Early American inspired kitchen hardware. Check out the rest of the farmhouse kitchen renovation at:

Early American farmhouse kitchen design

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How to be pretentious at a preschooler’s birthday party

My kids went to a private preschool. The place is awesome. It is in a custom-built, self-sustainable little schoolhouse on the grounds of a nature preserve. Tuition was more than the taxes on my home.

The teachers are kind and loving. The kids are learning and exploring. The parents range from frumpy to stuck-up. Fitting.

There is a series of sticky notes on the refrigerator in their little kitchen identifying a list of 20 items that cannot be in any of the snacks due to allergies or lifestyle choices. There are only 18 children in the class.

For the record, I am heart-broken for the parents who’s kids have allergies. It is terrifying to think that an accidental exposure could make your child scary sick. It is an absolute blessing for them to find a school as conscientious as our preschool. It is no trouble for me to make a sunbutter sandwich instead of peanut butter. Small price to pay.

True confession – I was a vegetarian for 10 years. I pass no judgement on vegetarians, vegans, keto, gluten-free, or just people who don’t like tomatoes. I applaud freedom and acceptance of healthier eating in almost all its forms. Do whatever works for you.

Ok, then, where is this going?

When you have a kid, you get a lot of birthday invitations. (If you don’t, check to see if your kid is kind of a jerk.)

Most parents at a kid’s birthday party hang back, chat to new people and check their phones. Some parents view a preschooler’s birthday party as an opportunity to boldly impress upon the world just how normal and fulfilling a low sugar lifestyle can be. You will come across more of these Fire-and-Brimstone Sugar Preachers if you send your kid to a self-sustaining preschool on the grounds of a nature preserve. These people are intense.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the idea of my kids over-dosing on sugar. I don’t think a high-sugar lifestyle is healthy. Parents who are diligent about watching their kid’s consumption of sugar should be commended. It’s hard work to be consistent.

However, I have seen parents who take it to the next level. Parents so inherently judgmental and high-strung that they clearly view a preschooler’s birthday party as their golden opportunity to lead by example with a passion. As the party progresses, their voice becomes elevated. Their breathing grows shallow; their behavior is increasingly frantic.

Truth be told, a kid’s birthday party is just not the best place for a Sugar Preacher. But I’ll probably never convince one of that. I don’t think they are good listeners.

In reality, the more frantic the Sugar Preacher appears to be, the more the other parents brush off their words and actions. Hey, if you want to tell me about a delicious new bakery that makes low sugar, gluten-free cupcakes, I’ll listen up. After all, you had me at “delicious”. I appreciate some low-sugar eating tips. But here is a real-life, jaw-dropping example of extreme Sugar Preacher behavior.

The Sugar Preacher

Once upon a time, a Sugar Preacher was invited to a four year old’s birthday party. It’s no one’s fault. It just happened.

It started off well. She walked into the party room with a sweet little package wrapped in hand-stamped brown paper, what a cute and personal touch for a present. Lovely.

Then came the first sign of escalation in her behavior.

There were three metal bowls filled with rainbow goldfish crackers in a line down the center of the table. She shot them the stink eye.

The goldfish just smiled back. Way to antagonize, guys.

She strolled over to her daughter and, loud enough for the other parents to hear her, reminded the little girl not to eat any crackers. They’re not good for you.

When her daughter went over to check out the cooler, she hovered above her, “No juice, Honey. It is full of sugar.” Yeah, that was loud enough. We heard you, Sugar Preacher.

She seemed to hold it together through the fun and games. When the kids were called over to the table for pizza, she quickly whipped out a little snack pack of healthy food she had brought from home and set it down in front of her daughter. No problem, lots of parents bring their kids food from home when they are worried about allergies or ingredients in the party food. But by then, I think the warm scent of vanilla cake looming in the background sent her over the top.

She began a well-practiced sequenced with her little girl. “Now, Honey, there is watermelon here. I’m going to let you have a piece if you eat your healthy lunch but not too much.” The little girl replied, “I know, Mommy, because fruit is sugar.”

Too far, Sugar Preacher, too far.

agriculture close up delicious eating healthy
Photo by Pixabay on

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Is Autumn or Spring the better time to have kids help you in the garden?

Kid wearing purple rain boots

Until this year, I never questioned whether Spring or Autumn was the preferred season for kids in the garden.

Spring was the only season I imagined when I thought about brining kids to the garden with me. But, this year, I am open to reconsider.

person holding a green plant
Photo by Akil Mazumder on

Before I had kids in my life, I idealized visions of tiny fingers pressing seeds into the rich soil. I imagined them putting on their little rain boots on a warm Spring morning and following me to the garden to check on our pea sprouts and kale babies.

Then I had kids. Two, in fact, and I realized that in real life it is a little more stressful to bring kids to the garden with you.

Kids like to scatter seeds all over. Kids like to press seeds deeeep into the earth. Kids like to water delicate seedlings until they are drowning in a pool of brown muck. Kids trip and fall and squish things that are trying to grow.

But I realize they are both trying to grow, the plants and the kids.

It’s important to bring kids to the garden in the Springtime. You just have to do it with strategy and forethought. You have to be willing to let go of perfection and accept that you will lose a few plants along the way.


in the Autumn, you don’t have to worry as much. It is pretty obvious that the cucumbers and zucchinis are long past their prime. Let the kids pull those dead plants out of the ground and bring them to the compost pile for you. Yeah, kids! Thanks, that’s actually useful work.

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Do you like to turn your soil and spread cover crop in early Autumn? This year, let the kids do it.

Children are perfectly suited to get their hands dirty mixing compacted soil. The kids in your life will be happy to scour the shadows between leaves and vines for the last remaining fruits and veggies. It’s a garden-time scavenger hunt. They dream that one day someone will hand them a huge bag of alfalfa seed to spread with abandon.

Check the weather. If there will be a day or two of rain the forecast, let the kids toss those alfalfa seeds all over the raised beds or garden plots. Sounds like fun to me, and I’m a certified grown up. Although, to clarify, if you don’t want the entire bag of seed dumped in one spot, you’ll have to guide and oversee. Or give out the seeds in little scoops.

Six jobs kids can help with in your Autumn garden:

1) Mix soil that’s been compacted by the Summer rains
2) Scatter cover crop seeds
3) Rip out dry and dead plants
4) Carry, wagon or power wheels plant matter to the compost pile
5) Cut batches of mint or parsley, tie the stems tightly and hang them upside down inside to dry
6) Collect and separate seeds

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I did not know people did this. What is a yard walk?

Little kid walking on a trail in the woods

I wish I knew sooner about yard walks. It never even occurred to me that people did this, but when I did, I loved it.

Now, I owe my friend, Kaye, for introducing me to yard walks.

YARD WALK: a stroll around your own backyard with an expert in identifying herbs (and other plants), who can tell you the story behind the herb. Is it is medicinal, edible, toxic, native, invasive, infamous, or forgotten? It’s a good time. You should organize a party around it. 

Kaye bought a new house last year. Instead of inviting us to a pretty traditional housewarming and touring everyone through all the rooms on the inside of the house, she made her first get-together about the outdoors. Most of us can relate to her feelings about indoor tours causing too much pressure to paint and clean and unpack. Most of us have said, “Oh you gotta see the new place. Some time, when it’s ready, I’ll have you over.”  Instead of procrastinating and pretending like she would ever feel ready for a full-blown housewarming party, Kaye invited us to a yard walk at the new place.

There are so many interesting ‘weeds’ in your yard. If you don’t have a yard, there are interesting wild things growing in your flower pots, at the park down the street or between the cracks in your sidewalk.

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An experienced yard walker can stand in one spot and point to 12 different plants around you, identify them and tell their stories. Are they native plants or stowaways from some long-ago ship voyage? Can you eat them? Are they poisonous? Are they medicine? What did people do with them 200 years ago? Did we forget about them?

In 45 minutes of walking Kaye’s yard, I learned (and retained) as much as I have in some college courses. It reframed the way I looked at my own yard…


Ok, that’s not my yard.  It’s Torrey Pines in San Diego. But it’s such a nice view. More about that later.

Many of us are looking for easy ways to connect with others, to spend time with friends or invest time in forming new friendships. We come up with ideas like bookclubs, guys nights out or cookie swaps. I recommend you add hosting a yard walking party to that list of ideas for get-togethers. Even if you or your friends are not nature buffs, it is an experience. It’s empowering to learn how to look at something that’s been hiding in plain sight your entire life and identify it.


The everyday weed in this photo is mullein. Up until the last 100 years, the leaves were brewed into a tea for sore throats. (Full disclosure, I did not see this one on Kaye’s yard walk, but I have some in my own yard.)

Problem: it’s not exactly like yard walkers advertise like lawyers. You won’t see their photo on the side of a city bus.

If you have a local university, botanical or garden center, that would be a good place to start. Many local agencies have departments that study native or invasive plants and may offer you some resources. Try the American Herblists Guild membership lists. They might not exactly have what you need, which is more like a wild plant ranger. You can do an online search for “wild herb walks” or “herblists” near you.

If you are lucky enough to have a nature center near you, they may offer foraging hikes or woodland discovery tours that are in the same spirit of a yard walk but lack some of the personal connection. I mean few things are as personal as getting acquainted with the hundreds of plant species growing in your own backyard or on your block.

Would you help me brainstorm other places to find experienced yard and herb walk guides?

Hey you. Me?

Yes, you, the person reading this article. If you can think of additional resources or you’ve been on an herbal or yard walk, please add a comments about it.

For the do-it-yourselfers, there are field guides you can buy. Peterson’s are popular, but I found myself squinting at some of the sketches not really sure if I was looking at an invasive or a native. Please don’t ever eat wild plants you are unsure of or if you don’t know whether they might be sprayed with pesticides.

When I was at Torrey Pines getting that photo pictured earlier, my family and I hiked the cliffs along the shore. While we were passing through the trails, I spotted some native wild sage. Not only could I identify it on sight, my proud mama moment was when my six year old spotted it and yelled, “Sage!”

Come on. How is that real life? But it was. Well done, kid.


If you want to learn more, visit my on-going series about forgotten herbs.


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Forgotten herb: calendula

Weird name. Amazing herb.

Close enough pronounciation “ca-len-juh-la” (how a “d” makes a “j” sound in English, I suppose it’s my Connecticut accent.)

calendula colander.JPG

Calendula is the weirdest looking seed I plant in my garden. Really, it looks like something from an alien nation. It’s mildly spikey and curved, almost in an arrogant way. It grows easily and goes to seed easily, if you don’t harvest the blooms.

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Planting is easy. I just mix the seed lightly into turned soil with my hand, and it fills my cedar raised bed with bright yellow flowers.


When your flowers are almost fully open, it is time to harvest. If it rained recently or the petals still have morning dew on them, take a photo but don’t start your harvest. It pays to wait until the sun dries off any dampness. The blooms snap off the stems easily. You can layer your plantings a bit and gather them by hand almost all season from summer to fall. Consider getting yourself an airy and convenient basket for harvest time.

I don’t eat my calendula with the exception of a little petal here and there. They have a bitter taste.

In terms of other uses, I am not sure why would you need to do this, but Dr. Weil notes that you can mix white rice and calendula flowers together to color the rice without adding flavor. Someday, I may suggest that to my kids as a fun and interesting STEM experiment.

My favorite use for calendula isn’t making a stunning bouquet, although you could. I like to infuse olive oil with a bunch of dried calendula flowers. Then, I can add the infusion add it to salves. Salves are just heavy, solid lotions that are intended to be soothing to the skin or to wounds.

Not one to waste something so precious, I like the idea of chopping up those oil-soaked petals and mixing them into homemade soaps. Do not compost them. You shouldn’t compost oil or oil-infused herbs. Your bin will stink.

How do you dry calendula flowers? It doesn’t take much effort.

Oh, I know the internet will tell you to separate out the blooms on an old screen in a dry, dark place between two elevated stands. But I’ll tell you that during our BIG reno last year, I put my calendula flowers on a paper towel on top of our refrigerator. How’d it go? Just fine. I must have left them up there for a month or two, and dutifully, they dried out. I will likely include some in a salt or sugar scrub for beauty’s sake.

calendula marble2

I should confess that my husband is 6’3″ tall. He could see the top of our old fridge and was not a fan of my messy flower drying station. Everyone else was oblivious.

About the scent, I am almost at a loss for words to describe it. Calendula is only lightly floral. It’s about 5% tangy, 5% medicinal, 60% fresh, 20% floral and 10% other. Mainly, I would describe calendula as a fresh scent. It’s not earthy. It’s more like the woods after a rain shower.

My calendula bed went above and beyond this year, producing three harvests. I only actually reseeded it once during the mid-summer season.  Calendula is so easy. It is one of the best students in my garden class. I feel like I ask calendula nicely to keep producing blooms, and it does its best to comply.

Calendula is such a happy flower. As you go about your day today, from time-to-time think back to this joyful bloom.


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Return to the Forgotten Herbs series.

Find out what borage is.

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Ground cherries. I did not expect so many questions.

Whoa. It’s not often that I’m stunned into silence.

I mean; when I first saw them at the farm stand, I thought ground cherries were cute and tasty. They fit my mission to showcase interesting and unusual farm stand finds perfectly. Plus, I could snack on them in the car during my long commute home.

It was fun creating a salsa recipe for them from scratch.

What I did not see coming was that so many of you would send requests about where to find them. I’m even getting ground cherry locator requests in-person from my long-time friends and neighbors.

If you can help us find other sources for ground cherries, please post an idea in the comments.

Ground cherries are also called husk cherries, winter tomatoes, and strawberry tomatoes, which would only be true if you saw the world in sepia tones.

RB ground cherries

How could I do this to you? I made you aware of these captivating little oddly-beige tomato-grape surprise lanternssurprise! there’s a berry inside that papery huskand then you frantically try to find them. And inevitably fail.


If you happen to be one of the 20 million people who live within an hour of Connecticut, you can still get them from Rose’s Berry Farm Stand. Rose’s brings their ground cherries around to lots of farmers markets. I know they are in Hartford, New Haven, and Greenwich at least once a week from June until November.

Now if it’s the right time of year, and you promise to water them, you can buy ground cherry seeds. Not good with growing from seed? Have a lot of patience? Try a live plant.

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If you do happen to get your hands on some mildly sweet ground cherries, try my original recipe for fresh ground cherry salsa!

Where did you see them first? Ground cherries star in this farmstand5.

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Do you meditate? Not exactly

My hair stylist once asked me, “You’re always so calm and have such a good outlook on things. Do you meditate?”

Ah, I don’t. I just aspire to, like a lot of other things. Add it to the list. It’s is not to say that I don’t have other hobbies that might offer similar benefits.

I responded, “I don’t, but I pray…and I visit my garden almost every morning.”


It’s true. I wake up thinking about the garden.

And my husband. Husband first, then the garden.

When the weather cooperates, I wait for my kids to get up and ask them if they want to go to the garden with me. The kids and I really look forward to our mornings together in that peaceful, sweet-smelling space.

I brew myself tea while the little ones search for their boots.


We look for new sprouts. We assess damage from storms and critters. We push stakes back into the ground and fix the nets on the berry bushes.

I handle most of the weeding myself.

Not everyone views pulling weeds as a calming activity. Most people view weeding as back-breaking work that seems manageable one day but gets out of control fast.

Most people have a point.

Weeding is all of those things. I just chose to reframe it. Instead of being overwhelmed by the chore, over the years I learned to redefine weeding for myself.

Weeding is winning.

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Best 5 items at Off Center Farm Stand, Woodbridge, CT

August 30, 2018

Welcome to the new kid on the block. Off Center Farm’s stand just opened up a few weeks ago. Last time I was there, they were already starting to sell out of certain items. I personally bought out their stock of my #2 pick.

Even though the farm is new, the farmer, Kristyna, represents the sentiments of farmstand culture perfectly. She passionately manages her farm while reaching out to the community. You will notice I credit her in other places on this site for the help she’s given to me.

Enjoy the beautiful and unique items you can find at her farm stand.

Big, happy dahlias!

Dahlia’s have strong stems that explode into powerful blooms. The colors find almost every shade of the rainbow. You might notice that I included a small photo of a mix of sunflower varieties with the choice. It’s a great example of flowers that bloom simultaneously and pair really well in arrangements. I picked up a handful of the darkest sunflowers and the lightest dahlias for a vase in my kitchen.

Maitake mushrooms


Maitake mushrooms are believed to have medicinal properties. Off Center Farm goes above-and-beyond in harvesting and drying these remarkable mushrooms for their customers. The little basket of hand-packed mushrooms is reminiscent of the offerings you might have found at an old-time apothecary.



I have a confession: an obsessionwith tomatillos. They add a vinegary flavor to soups and sauces. I almost always blend them in a verde salsa with jalapenos, onions and cilantro. A spice-paring tip: the flavor of tomatillos is really complemented by a smoky ground cumin.

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Kermit (Thai) eggplant


I did not know what these were when I saw them at the Off Center Farm standof course that was enough of a reason to buy them. A quick google search told me they are eggplant. Actually, they are closer to the shape of their namesake (and my #1 pick) than a traditional purple, Black Beauty eggplant. I got home late one night and made a quick dinner by sautéing these chopped Kermit eggplants with onions, basil and chicken.

Fresh, hand-gathered eggs


Yes, that little table at the end of your neighbor’s driveway with the hand-painted “fresh eggs” sign is a farm stand. Egg stands are one of the best examples of the farmstand culture our communities gave up when big grocers cornered the market. But, as keeping flocks is becoming a popular past time again, I predict you will see more egg stands in your neighborhood. People with hens usually go through a time when the supply of eggs exceeds their personal need. I love the bright chartreuse cartons Off Center uses for their fresh eggs.

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I hope you are having fun and feeling inspired to shop farm stands and cook fresh. Or at least to find some friends who do and let them do all the cooking.


Did you see this farmstand5 post?…

Fancy’s Farm Stand, Orleans, MA

Back to farmstand5 full list.

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Worst gardening mistake I ever made

Don’t read this post. It will ruin the whole illusion for you. Right now, as far as you know, my garden grows weed-less. My flowers are always crowned with a glistening morning dew. My local farm stands always have lush offerings, and my hair always holds a perfect curl.

Why are you still reading?

Ok, fine.

I brought it on myself, really. It’s not like I don’t know what happens when seeds fall into soil and water lands on them.

Last year, I had a beautiful chive plant. It grew nearly 4′ tall and blossomed snow-white flowers. Those flowers were the trendiest new bar in town for my neighbor’s honey bees. We were all so happy. Me, with my beautiful flowering chive, and the bees with the nectar.

chives stepped back

In fact, those flowers were so pretty, I let them stay in bloom in September.

And since there were a few late bloomers, I didn’t cut them down as they went to seed in October. Oh wow, did that chive plant know how to make seeds.

We were in the middle of a major renovation of the first floor of our farm house, which is probably why I got lazy. I never did go back and clear out that dry, seedy chive plant.

And those seeds went everywhere.

Boom. Seedling explosion.

The following Spring, roughly 10,000 baby chive plants sprung up all around my garden. It was intense. A 4′ diameter around the momma chive blanketed with her hairy little babies.

chives wild.JPG

Tough little suckers, too. I could pull and tug. Those seedlings just snap in half and grow a stronger, chunkier root ball.

I spent some time digging around the garden bed with my bare hands to pull up the chives. Maybe, I got 8,000 of them. Mostly I just gave up and planted some hearty green bean seeds in the bed with the chives. Figured some sturdy, little green beans would be capable of bursting through the chive forest. And they more or less did.

I’d like to say that if I could go back in time I would cut down those pretty white flowers before they caused me trouble. But, I probably wouldn’t. Circumstances being what they were. My family knee deep in construction debris, and me spending my evenings shimmying between towers of moving boxes to microwave frozen burritos.

Update! How I fixed it

After following a cycle of sprout-pull-resprout for a summer season with those chive seedlings, I was able to clean out the chive bed. In the early Autumn, I went in and dug through that bed with my bare hands. First, I pulled everything out that wasn’t a chive. Then, I went inch-by-inch through the garden soil, driving my hands below the surface, feeling for chive roots and lifting them out completely.

An half-hour later, there was a pile of little white chive root balls and green shoots in our compost bin. My back ached for two days, but I got a great leg and shoulder workout. I suspect there will be a few more chives to pull out next season. I’ll be ready. Of course, that would mean that letting one plant go to seed one time cost me two seasons of work to undo.

Oh well, only time will tell if the chive baby bomb retains its place as the worst mistake I ever made in the garden. But for now, champion crowned.