Ask Dr. Bleedingheart

Bleeding Heart BlossomsDear Dr. Bleedingheart,

I’ve leaving in a few weeks for a vacation with extended family at a beach house that we’ve rented for a week. Do you have any tips for surviving the week with family while still having fun?


Beach Mom

Dear Beach Mom,

What you need is a project.  Fathers, fathers-in-law, and grandfathers in particular need some handy little project they can complete together over a case of beer.  They’ll be out there for hours and they won’t speak, except to ask whether there’s an extra charger for the cordless drill, but somehow they’ll have a great time and feel like they’ve bonded like never before.

Pick something non-essential so it doesn’t feel like too much of a chore.  For instance, can you pour concrete paving stones and have the kids embed seashells in them?  That’ll get the guys working on mixing concrete and the kids collecting shells.  (This assumes, of course, that you’re not going home by train and could actually bring some heavy paving stones back with you.)

Or get everyone involved in building a sculpture of found art.  There’s something about driftwood that brings out the sculptor in all of us.  Somebody will have to be handy with a glue gun, a drill, or rolls of wire. A spot of bright sea-green paint might be in order. Be sure to incorporate “found” garbage into it, so that you’re leaving the beach cleaner than you found it.   (Here’s a hint:  Start one of these projects by yourself, and take the Tom Sawyer/Aunt Polly approach of being highly skeptical about whether anyone else is really qualified to help. That’ll get them begging to participate.)

If you can’t bring your sculpture home with you, perhaps the owners of the beach cottage would appreciate a piece of yard art.  Failing that, take inspiration from Andy Goldsworthy and create an art project out of natural materials that will simply wash away with the next high tide.

Amy StewartAmy Stewart is the author of From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, and the New York Times bestsellers Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers and Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. Find more from her at Garden Rant.

Submit your own horticultural question to Dr. Bleedingheart by emailing it to: katie [at] algonquin [dot] com

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