Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Loquats are blooming!

After following the Clemson extension planting guidelines for Fall planting in the Sandhills of SC and watching the late heat and dry weather decimate our hopes for a Fall garden these Loquat blossoms are a real treat.

Loquats are from Asia (pretty general right?) but are well established in the Southern US. I see them all over town in Columbia, mostly single trees as ornamentals in yards. Loquats are evergreen, reach a modest height of 20-30 feet, have large shiny leaves with a gray hairy underside, and are both easy to care for and attractive as ornamentals. I picked up some Loquat saplings from the landscape department at the school I work at downtown. A landscaper had collected saplings and they were just living in pots in a corner with little attention. The plants reproduce readily from the seeds of fallen fruit.

I planted them in full sun and they shot off like rockets with little extra care. I maintain a heavy layer of mulch but they are rooted in a well-drained very sandy soil. This is the northern exremity of their range. We are zone eight. Some years the fruit is killed off by a run of very cold nights. However last year I ate lots of fruit off the trees on campus. I also had some interesting conversations with students who were unaware that food was available above their heads.

Loquats bloom in the Fall and then the clusters of orange fruit mature in the late winter or early Spring. I'm very excited to see healthy blooms on my young trees and hopefully we'll stay warm enough to harvest some good fruit.

If you are zone eight or hotter, and the hotter the better, consider the Loquat for its attractive shape and foliage, food provision, and odd fruiting time. The orange fruits will stand out when everything else is just waking up from winter sleep. If you want one try hunting down a mature tree in your area. Chances are there are saplings waiting to be dug up and planted in your yard for free.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Annual Carolina Coast Beach Bonanza

Our annual beach trip with friends on the Carolina coast was a resounding success. Each year is better than the last and this one was no different. The beach was beautiful, and while the temperature was cooler than last year, there was no shortage of boogie boarding, beach frisbee, beach football, beach horseshoe, beach bocce ball, hole digging, dead fish finding, dead fish dragging, jellyfish poking, racing, castle building, jogging, walking, guitar playing, body burying, sea shell collecting, beach food eating and drinking, book reading, sand eating, sand throwing, hole filling, beach talking, reading, and what am I forgetting? Oh, good ole beach staring. My favorite.

The food was wonderfully organized, filling, delicious, and lovingly home-made. Each family brought components of larger meals and lots of snacks for in-between. Not only was it yummy but the cooking was well distributed amongst everyone so that no one cooked all the time.

The group doubled in size. Dan and Janet Aardema came from Virginia with their two kids Sylvia and Joren. Scott and Anna Morrison came from North Carolina and brought their kids Julian, Madelyn, Kalen, and Brayden. Jason and Lesley Bulluck, who we've made the trip with three times before, came with Alder and Heath from Virginia. We totaled eight happy adults and ten happy kiddos.

When we started the beach trip tradition several years ago all the kids were itty-bitty and clung close to the parents. This trip I saw our girls for meals and before bed, and Alder ventured off everywhere and even fell asleep with the big kids. Watching the kids grow is sure cool.

We moved up to a house right on the beach. This was wonderful.  What benefits. It made everything from transporting beach stuff to watching the kids easier. And back porches are much more interesting facing the ocean than facing hotels.

Some favorite moments: A strapping lad eats his weight in oatmeal. Sand fleas are inexpensive pets. Flying diapers attack unsuspecting parents from a loft above. Daringly, a fish carcass is dragged down the beach. Internet withdrawal syndrome strikes. Country accents don't automatically imply horseshoe skill. A rookie quarterback's career ends with a preseason jammed finger. Piers are dangerous places of flying hooks and fish guts. Sometimes oceans act like lakes. Sand is fun in large quantities. A guy treats the guitar like a third arm. The Nodo Chords rock!

The kids, especially the older ones who are old enough to experience leaving the beach and friends as a loss, were visibly down when we left. I was too. But that means it was good.

So many thanks to the Aardemas, Morrisons, and Bullucks for all the love they gave the trip.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

Homeschooling and Socialization

 We attended two events last week that made me thankful for our friends and the town we live in. On Sunday we met up with 3 other families and went to Unearth at Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo. For this event, the park organized more than 20 artists, musicians, and drama teams who were all performing along the nature trails. (It was put on for the entire Columbia area not just homeschoolers.)
 Some artists had hands-on demonstrations while others just talked about their work.

 The day ended with the Lake Murray Symphony set up for a free concert right by the river.
 On Wednesday, Harbison State Forest hosted our homeschool group for a Fall Field day. The 60 or more people in our group divided up according to the ages of their children and we split up for nature hikes and relay games.
When we first started homeschooling people would ask me if I was concerned about my kids having enough opportunity for socialization. I was pretty confident even then that finding friends would not be a problem. Now I find that it is hard to choose from all the field trips, clubs, classes, and events that Columbia has to offer for families and homeschoolers. The girls (and I) have amazing friendships and are thankful for the relationships, play times, learning opportunities and memories of these early elementary years.