Camp Frémont

Gardening, Photography, and Homeschool.

- by Sarah Fremont

  • Sarah Fremont

When I was ten my grandmother gifted us tulip bulbs to plant alongside our home. She had brought them back from a trip to Holland and waited for the fall to present them to us. We spent the afternoon helping her dig holes along our path and dropping the bulbs in with their little tops pointing up. It felt like we were tucking away special gifts that would be opened in the spring. We had to wait through the long, cold winter of Minnesota, but when spring finally arrived it seemed even more glorious after enduring the dark, bleak days. The snow finally started melting and by April we knew the tulips should be peaking through the soil. We waited, but they never came. What happened to the tulips? Our answer arrived on the other side of the yard- random tulips started popping up everywhere! Apparently, the squirrels had found our fall bulbs, dug them up, and moved them to another area of the yard only to forget about them later. Every spring after that we always chuckled when the tulips arrived, randomly planted by our burrowing friends.

Have you ever tucked away bulbs in the fall for a delightful spring surprise? They are easy to care for and require little maintenance after being placed in the ground. Here are a few tips:

  1. Plant your bulbs no later than the end of December so they have time to chill in the ground and bloom by spring. We usually plant our bulbs in October.

  2. Dig a hole two to three times deeper than the width of the bulb, place the bulb in the hole with its tip pointing up, cover with dirt, and water thoroughly after planting.

  3. Bulbs look best planted in groupings of three or more of the same flower.

  4. To keep burrowing animals from digging up the bulbs, we have had success adding a bit of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to the planting area.

  5. Add a layer of mulch on top of the soil to keep moisture in the ground and to protect the bulbs in the winter.

Pick out a few bulbs this fall, drop them in the ground, and enjoy this simple gardening delight. Happy planting! xo

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  • Sarah Fremont

“All that summer Miss Rumphius, her pockets full of seeds, wandered over fields and headlands, sowing lupines.”

-Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Fields of wildflowers, along the highways of Texas in the spring, are a glorious sight. Bluebonnets, indian paintbrushes, indian blankets, verbenas, pink evening primroses, and other native wildflowers flank the roads creating a splendor of color. Thirty thousand pounds of wildflower seeds are sown every year by the Texas Department of Transportation, and in addition to being beautiful, the wildflowers help to conserve water, control erosion, and provide a habitat for wildlife. So, inspired by the beauty and function of wildflowers, we decided to create our own wildflower habitat and sow seeds on our property.

When we first moved to our homestead, we were very excited to add wildflowers to our property, so we bought many, many packets of native wildflower seeds. I noticed some areas of our property were shadier, so in those areas, we sowed shade wildflower seeds. In the areas with lots of sun, we sowed sun wildflower seeds. We were so excited to finally get started and have wildflowers. Unfortunately, naysayers told us that we did not prepare the land or pay attention to proper seeding times. Flowers were unlikely. We were certainly disappointed with our vain attempts, but not thwarted. We determined to revisit this endeavor again at the “proper” time. But then a strange thing happened. In the spring, wildflowers started sprouting. Wildflowers that we had sowed at the wrong time and in the wrong place. How was this possible? Our neighbor, who has been working for years in restoring her property to native grass and wildflowers, gave us this simple explanation, “Wildflowers are benevolent!” (Benevolent: kind-hearted and compassionate.) In the three years of planting wildflowers, we have indeed found this to be true. We have also learned a few things for the most successful wildflower sowing:

  1. Wildflower seeds need contact with soil, but unlike vegetable seeds, you do not cover them with dirt. We aim to scatter seeds where contact with soil is possible: places with thinner spots of grass, small areas of dirt along paths and fences, and nestled among other flowers. Then, we walk on these areas to press the seeds into the dirt.

  2. Wildflower seeds do best scattered in the late days of September before a predicted rain.

  3. One type of seed (and not a wildflower mix) does best sown in an area all its own, so it does not need to compete with other types of seeds.

  4. If you do not pick the wildflowers, but allow them to “go to seed,” they will sow themselves and return next year.

  5. Find a source for native wildflower seeds for your particular area. We purchase our Texas native seeds online from Native American Seeds.

Sowing wildflower seeds is a simple way to restore land and add beauty to your surroundings. Scatter some lovely wildflower seeds native to your region and your attempts will be rewarded with kindness!

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  • Sarah Fremont

Mornings at home are for “school,” but after that, it is outside time. The fairies are usually the first destination. It seems to be a good transition space from indoors to outdoors. Often, before fairies, I would send the children outside only to see them at the window a few minutes later, as if they suddenly felt a bit lost and needed to return inside to the familiar. Now, the fairies help them adjust to the outside world - a lovely place where nature meets creativity and inspiration. And by the time they are done with their fairy work, they are inspired to move on to other outdoor adventures.

Fairyland is a small little corner of the yard, unseen from the house. Their camp is outside of my influence, it never needs to be cleaned up, and they are free to use whatever bits and bobs they find. As E. Nesbit says, “If you play near windows, someone inside generally knocks at them and says, ‘Don’t.’” Sometimes they work within a flower pot, in the dirt, or on a dead tree stump. Their use of “loose parts” really connects with my daughter who is my three-dimensional artist. Here she finds an excellent avenue to express her creativity with the recycling bits she retrieves from the bin. Bottle caps, corks, buttons, cardboard, plastic containers, string, etc. all find a way to be utilized here. Additionally, found bits of nature are incorporated in magical ways: rocks for boundary lines, tepees made of sticks, flags from leaves and acorn pottery to name a few.

After a little world is created many things happen . . . They love to give detailed tours sharing their creation. Often they will sit and admire their world . . . . Many times they will sketch the area, and of course, they play. One of their favorite ways to play is “trading.” They barter for other bits and offer nature exchanges. This has developed advanced skills for negotiating, collaborating, and learning how to cope with disappointments. It also teaches a robust sense of value, and an active understanding that what one person values another might not . . . which is a surprisingly difficult idea. All this occurs without adult supervision to “help” them learn these skills.

If a storm blows through we rarely shelter anything. There is an ephemeral nature to their art. They are not making permanent installations - it is dynamic! The next morning is a fun treasure hunt to see how far things have traveled, what has been lost, and if anything has been destroyed. This only becomes an opportunity to rebuild, create new things and perhaps to set up camp in a new location.

There is an added element of magic that has found its way to fairyland. Every so often a fairy may mysteriously move in the night, fairy bits may be hidden or captured with clues left to their whereabouts, and the most enjoyable discovery is new treasures placed nearby to be found in the morning. One never knows when this may occur, so its unpredictability is always an exciting discovery.

Fairyland has become a sweet rhythm to our day . . . a way for them to play in nature, to work out inspirations from literature and to use their minds to create imaginative new worlds.

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