Tag Archives: children

Earth Day 46


Today is Earth Day 46. Given the state of the planet, I’m not sure whether to celebrate or commemorate the occasion.  Either way, I’d like to share a couple paragraphs from the chapter “The First Earth Day–and Still Counting” in A Bushel’s Worth, followed by a story for Earth Day today. I’ll be reading from Dirt: A Love Story tonight at Wolverine Publick House in Ft Collins at 7 PM. Please join me and authors Laura Pritchett and Jane Shellenberger for Earth Day 46.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, was organized by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson to bring national attention to the growing problems of environmental degradation through grassroots actions focused on issues in local communities. On Earth Day, people were asked to demonstrate care for an earth whose gifts of clean air, water, and soil could no longer be taken for grant- ed. Earth Day would not only create awareness of the steadily declining health of the environment, but bring hope of a better future for the planet.

Our fifth grade class decided to join the first Earth Day celebration by turning the hard dirt outside our classroom into a beautiful garden of grass and flowers. All it would take, we thought, were some shovels and a few seeds. On April 22, we showed up with tools—the girls wearing pants, which wasn’t normally allowed—and worked like crazy all day to get that small square of soil ready for the plants we imagined would grow there. Mr. Osborn even let me run the block home for my wagon to haul away rocks and trash. With rakes and hoes in our young hands, we scratched tiny furrows in the soil to plant our hopeful seeds. A little water, a little weeding, and we’d have our first Earth Day garden. At the end of the day, we were dirty and tired, but proud to be part of something bigger than ourselves. . . .



On that first Earth Day in 1970, were we optimistic or just naive? We didn’t yet now of the much larger environmental problem looming, I think I can say “literally,” on the horizon. I mark Earth Day each year to remind myself how these ideas that were so radical in 1970 are mainstream today, if not yet implemented. In a small step to move outside a framework that privileges humans over the rest of the planet, I’ve decided to quit saying “humans and the environment” (as in, “harmful to humans and the environment”). Instead, I’m going to say “the environment, including humans.”

To remain hopeful, I try to see the world through my grandson’s eyes. At three and a half, he loves animals and playing guessing games with his grandparents. Last week, he quizzed me: “Grandma Kayann, what’s the smartest mammal?”

I went with his favorite first: An elephant?

“No, it lives in the ocean.”

A whale?


Then I remembered he’d just been to the San Diego zoo. Dolphins?

Yes! I’d gotten it right, so I thought I’d take the game a little further: What about humans? They’re mammals.

He shook his head. “No, they’re not very smart.”

My daughter and I had to smile at his three-year-old savvy. Even though it seems he’s right, his viewpoint still contains some hope.

Maybe the animals will save us.




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Filed under ecobiography

Round Your Garden

My Grandma Smith taught me to crochet when I was in junior high in the early 1970s. My first real project was a red, white, and blue granny square vest from a kit that I bought at the Williston Ben Franklin when I was visiting my grandparents’ farms one June. Both of my grandmothers crocheted potholders and doilies and afghans; I still have many of their creations, including a round throw rug made from cotton scraps, one of the many that Grandma Smith made for everyone in the family.

Later I learned to knit, putting aside crochet for a while because I wanted to make sweaters and two needles seemed more versatile than one. When my daughter was just a baby, I took a class on designing a sweater that liberated me from strict adherence to patterns. I learned that by figuring out the measurements I wanted, fitting the gauge as needed, and following basic elements of style, I could design many different kinds of sweaters.

I’ve been making sweaters for years now but lately I’ve been wanting to make something smaller as gifts for the many babies that have recently come into our lives. I thought about knitting hats but I honestly don’t care for the double-pointed needles necessary at the tippy top of the crown. I looked at crocheted baby hat patterns online but didn’t find any that fit my notion of quick, easy, and cute, so I decided to design the hat myself.

With my basic knowledge of crochet stitches and techniques, I sat down with a skein of worsted weight cotton baby-type yarn and a size J crochet hook and started crocheting in the round, just like you would for a crocheted rug or poth and of course it’s faster than single crochet.

Once I thought the crown was large enough in diameter, I reduced stitches for one round to shape the brim, continuing on for a few inches to give the hat length. Then to add a little more design, I finished with a row of triple crochet for a band and a scalloped edging to give it a vintage look. Cute—but not quite what I wanted.

What did I want? I love those knit vegetable or fruit children’s hats that look like strawberries or eggplant, so I decided to adapt my pattern that way. But I like flowers too, so I started the round in green for the sepal where the flower or fruit attaches to the stem. Then I crocheted the rest of the hat in whatever color struck me: purple for a pansy, red for a tomato, blue for a blueberry. Still, it needed something more, so I reattached green yarn at the top to crochet three stems or leaves in single crochet sprouting out of the center.

Round Your Garden Hat

My first Round Your Garden hat

Fresh-picked from Round Your Garden

Now I’ve got a pattern that is quick (because it’s double and triple crochet), easy (because you size to a measurement rather than counting stitches), and very adaptable (since you can use about any kind of yarn you want). I think of it as a “make do” hat, great for “making do” with whatever leftover yarn you have lying around. I also really like its vintage look, like the crocheted doilies or potholders you can pick up for a couple dollars at a flea market.  My mom said it reminds her of the hat my grandmother made for her when she was little, a hat with earflaps to keep the North Dakota wind out of her ears.

My mom's winter hat (check out that snowball)

Mostly I love my hat’s playful and colorful style. Children are like flowers or vegetables—fresh and sweet, like something just-picked from the garden (hence the popularity of Anne Geddes’ photos of babies in pea pods).  I decided to call the pattern the Round Your Garden hat because it’s crocheted in the round and because it reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books, In Your Garden by Omri Glaser with illustrations by Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi. This book of bright, close-up illustrations follows the biological cycle of a garden from a tear drop to a vegetable feast. It’s a seemingly simple story that contains the whole of life, a delight for children and adults to read together.

I guess at 50, I don’t want to follow patterns. I want to make up my own. I want to figure out what I need and what I know to fashion what I can imagine. Making up this hat made me happy, kind of like when I was giving my daughter advice recently and she said, “Well, you’ve got a lot more experience than I do so I’m going to listen to you.” Wow! In my 50s, I do know a few things, so I might as well listen to my own wisdom and create from there.

A Garden of Hats


Filed under memoir, sustainable agriculture, Uncategorized