Tuesday in Spring, With Jonah


Jonah playing in the shade

This week is my only real break between school semesters, so Jonah stayed home Tuesday to help me in the garden. We haven’t hung out much since late last fall. School and work almost overwhelmed me this winter. So Tuesday was wonderful.

Not that we got any gardening done. But the spring weather was perfect. Jonah lurched all over our acre of land, collecting sticks and babbling. I did my best to keep him away from the road and out of the fire ant hills. I followed him around all day, sprinkling Amdro judiciously and talking to him about the things we saw.


a happy lunch

Sometimes I forget how nice it is to have a small piece of land miles outside of town. But I think it’s part of why Jonah is such a happy boy. He loves being outside, and we live in the country, so it works out well.

A word about photographing Jonah: he almost never stops moving, so any photos I post will tend to have blurry bits. I don’t mind. I would never ask him to be still or to pose for a photo. Posed photos are usually so awkward, what with fake smiles and insincere eyes. I love how Jonah utterly lacks self-consciousness. With time, perhaps, he’ll become more self-reflexive and less spontaneous, but I hope not too much. And I certainly don’t want to be the reason it happens to him. Joy bubbles out of him all day, every day. It would break my heart to think that I had helped tamp that down.

Space Was the Place

Kitschy and slightly gimmicky, but cleverly crafted and carefully timed to ride the coattails of both the Apollo 11 moon landing and Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (and nodding as well at the psychedelic fads of the era), David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was originally created to jump-start a seemingly stillborn career.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was recently filmed singing the song aboard the International Space Station (ISS),  during what was probably his last trip to space. Hadfield’s version of the song is poignant and sweet, sung against the shining backdrop of the planet he will soon return to, never to leave again. You can see in his eyes that he’ll miss it up there.

David Bowie never had very many poignant moments, at least not in a recording studio. So it’s strange that one of his most careerist and cynical musical efforts should be rendered so touching by being sung by a real astronaut on a real space mission. Hadfield does a good job of singing it, and the backing tracks are well-played, but the recording would not be quite good enough to garner our collective attention if it weren’t for the fact that he sang it in space, floating in the gravity-free confinement of a high-tech tin can with superbly good views out the window.

It seems like space is not so important to us anymore. I’m not sure why. When I was young, I dreamed of going to space. Many kids did. Back then, NASA was a very big deal, and the men who went to space were more than heroes: they were almost god-like. The screening process that ended with so very few being chosen was rigorous and exacting, and the men who soared out of Earth’s atmosphere were branded forever, known for the rest of their lives for their association with something special, audacious, and magical.

Becoming an astronaut still requires a staggering amount of discipline and determination. One is not surprised to find that one of Commander Hadfield’s crew mates aboard the ISS is a Navy Seal. That’s the sort of person we hurl into space. It’s just expected that these people are the brightest and hardiest of us all.

One has a difficult time imagining a man like Neil Armstrong singing a mournful pop song made famous by some decadent rock ‘n’ roll androgyne, much less recording himself in the act and then broadcasting it to everyone down on Earth.

David Bowie could never have been an astronaut. He was far too artsy and willful for that sort of thing. I bet he dreamed of it, though, when he was still young. He wrote a song about it, after all.

And Commander Hadfield could never have been a rock star. He doesn’t have that sort of charisma, nor does he have that sort of voice. Few of us do. But look at what he actually did do: he went to space in a rocket ship, several times. He looked out his window and gazed at our planet from hundreds of miles away. Not many of us alive today will ever do that.



My wife and I have been together for a number of years, but we held off on reproducing until we felt good and ready.

And so: Jonah McRay Johnson was born in the early morning hours of April 5, 2012.

Jonah is something else. He’s mostly a happy little man, though he isn’t a stranger to the usual childish protestations and remonstrances.

We adore him.

Here are a few snapshots from along his timeline so far:


5 months old


I put an empty box on his head, which he found hilarious.


1st trip to the toy store.


Eating bananas with his new teeth. Good times.


Little man loves his momma.


Checking out the horses on one of our many walks down the country road where we live.


Just waking up from a nap.


Always in motion…

The Garden – Phase 2 (ctd.)

This time, I decided to mix my own growing medium. It’s far cheaper than buying ready-mixed bags of container soil, and of course it’s a great opportunity for obsessive types to get all creative with their choices and mix-ratios of the various available ingredients. I’m not obsessive, exactly, so I took the advice of the good folks at Cofer’s Home and Garden and mixed 16 cubic feet of soil conditioner (partly-composted pine bark, I think), 2 cubic feet of mushroom compost, 2 cubic feet of cow manure, 1 cubic feet of worm castings and 4 lbs. of Tomato-tone organic fertilizer. It’s a nice mix, I think, but the proof is in the tomatoes. That’ll take a few months.

In the meantime, here’s a shot of Jonah looking out our back door a few months ago:


He loves being outside, but that was a cold, rainy day, so he was stuck inside and rather sad about it.

The Garden – Phase 2

We’ve been gardening here for several years now, with varying degrees of success. The Phase 1 garden consisted of two 8′ X 4′ raised beds built with 1″ X 10″ pressure-treated boards, filled with potting soil amended with Plant-tone organic fertilizer. We surrounded the whole affair with wire fencing to keep out the deer and rabbits.

That worked great for a few years, but then we decided to introduce nematodes into the soil to control the cutworms that were eating our heirloom tomato plants. Turns out, heirloom tomato plants don’t like nematodes, not at all. Then the pressure-treated boards rotted away, leaving us with raised mounds of dirt instead of raised beds. Plus, it was really hard to keep the grass and weeds under control in that tight space between the fencing and the beds.

So this year I moved the garden to a new spot, and we invested in some ready-made cedar raised bed kits. I had a few hours to spare between semesters, so I spent an afternoon putting the whole thing in place. I reused the irrigation system we bought from Lee Valley a few years back (good company, btw).

new raised beds

irrigation system

new raised beds

new raised beds

So we’ve got four heirloom tomato plants in the near field, and three hybrids plus a basil plant in the far field. I’ll be adding another square bed onto the side in a few days; we’ll plant some wildflowers and herbs in there. It’s not as big a garden as I’d like, but it’s a start. As any gardener knows, establishing a new garden is expensive, so that’s reason enough to wait till next year to expand it. Plus I’ve got two challenging classes this summer semester, and we’re a family perpetually out of time & energy these days, so I didn’t want to overwhelm us.

But it comes down to this: I want my son to grow up with a well-tended garden in his back yard. Eating fresh vegetables straight from the garden was one of the most mind-blowing things I ever did as a child, and I want Jonah to know that feeling, too. Dear old Papa Johnson would approve.