No Internet, no problem

Florence mom keeps family occupied outdoors

Staff writer

The other day, someone asked Natasha Craig-Brenzikofer if she had seen the latest episode of Duck Dynasty.

She had no idea what he was talking about; her family does not have cable or Internet.

What Craig-Brenzikofer has is a garden so lush that it induces Florence residents to stop as they drive by and ask their neighbor how she gets such good results from her 80 tomato plants.

She may not know much about the latest reality shows, but Craig-Brenzikofer knows about the magic of natural animal byproducts blood and bone meal.

“Tomatoes love it,” she said.

She knows that garden dust will keep out troublesome squash bugs. At the start of the gardening season, she said the edges of her 100-foot rectangular spread appeared burnt from the thorough spray application.

Even without the World Wide Web, there are plenty of things to do at the Craig-Brenzikofer residence. She currently has three projects in different stages of production.

A stack of lumber, planned for her front porch, sits idly near a completed chicken coop. Many people, including Craig-Brenzikofer’s three daughters have noted that the coop looks like a miniature white church. A congregation of Frizzle bantam chicks arrived on Monday.

Craig-Brenzikofer wanted the coop to use for her daughter’s 4-H activities. By building it herself, she may have saved as much as $700. The simple structure was not devoid of ingenuity, featuring a detachable bottom hatch for egg removal. Fresh eggs were a welcome side effect.

The front porch is a longer-term project. Craig-Brenzikofer plans to replace all the existing wood and stone pillars of the awkward, leaning structure.

The construction job, that is midway through completion, is a greenhouse at the southern edge of the garden. The frame stands erect waiting for cloudy plastic windowpanes and vents. If assembled properly, the vents should open and close based on the temperature on the interior and exterior of the house.

Proper assembly has been a frustration. The greenhouse manual features elaborate black and white illustrations, but does not contain any written instructions.

Craig-Brenzikofer has imagined starting her plants in the greenhouse. She tried storing some inside her home in past winters, but was foiled by greedy cats, apt to bite the heads off broccoli. The greenhouse might aid new additions to her garden, possibly sweet potatoes and peanuts.

No doubt about it, Craig-Brenzikofer loves gardening. She often gardens barefoot — she loves the feel of the soil between her toes. She loves the smell of water hitting the ground, releasing fresh vibrant vapors.

Craig-Brenzikofer is not sure where her green thumb comes from. She learned a lot watching her mother and grandmother when she was little. She learned more from trial and error.

Some of those lessons include rotating plants — never putting a crop in the same spot two years in a row — and putting as much natural waste back into the garden as possible. Eggshells were visible on Thursday; Craig-Brenzikofer said tomato skins work wonders.

She has tried to pass down those lessons to her daughters. Kalea, 8, is her most helpful girl, often lending up material and tools to her mother during a building project. Kalea and Cadence, 7, also suffer from an allergy where they break out in hives and get fevers from tomato plants — for whatever reason the fruit does not carry the same reaction.

Gardening has become Craig-Brenzikofer’s peaceful “me” time. Sometimes that still gets interrupted. Sometimes her girls seem uninterested in their mother’s efforts. On Thursday, Cadence asked if she and friend could go to the library to get some Internet.

However, last year, Aubrey, 11, Kalea, and Cadence were part of a long caravan of Florence children that followed Craig-Brenzkover dutifully up and down the rows of her garden as she tilled. They waited for earthworms to revealed and conducted small skirmishes when the slimy invertebrates were uncovered.

Craig-Brenzikofer was confused by this activity but she was happy the children were outside enjoying a garden.

 

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