DS1 turned 8 today, so we've been watching out for suitable gifts the past couple of months. I don't go too frugal when it comes to presents for the family, but I also don't want to waste money on expensive plastic toys that get broken or discarded after a few days. He already has plenty of "father-and-son" things from previous birthdays, so this year I concentrated on items he can enjoy by himself with minimal supervision or assistance.
He'd received a small digital camera from my parents last Christmas, and had a lot of fun taking pictures at the zoo and other family outings. Unfortunately he'd dropped it one too many times, so it now has the bad habit of erasing all the photos from memory at random intervals. I spotted a more up-market digital camera (5 megapixel, 3x optical zoom, LCD screen, SD-card memory) on sale at Aldi recently, so we decided to buy it for his birthday as a "shared" birthday gift from his parents and grandparents. $159 split between four adults seemed quite reasonable. DW and I will make sure we handle the transport of this new camera, and just hand it to DS1 when he wants to take a photo!
He also likes gardening, although our previous attempt to grow some carrots in our rather poor garden soil wasn't a success. Last weekend I pulled out a couple of straggly plants from the flower bed in the alcove outside his bedroom window, and moved the edging to create a small vegetable patch (2.8m x 1.7m). I ordered a cubic meter of 'vegetable soil' (50% mushroom compost, 50% sand, soil, cow manure and ash) from the local garden centre ($77 delivered) which was delivered onto our driveway this morning for his birthday. I enjoyed telling him he was getting a pile of dirt for his birthday ;)
While searching for information about what vegetables are best suited for a child try cultivating, I came across the interesting site squarefootgardening.com which provides information on grid-based, raised-bed gardens which looks promising. The main benefit of this system is that is doesn't require any digging to try to "improve" your existing soil, and has been used for school gardening projects with great success. In order to mimic the special "Mel's Mix" (1/3 compost, 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite) for this type of garden I'll need to add some bags of peat and vermiculite to the "vegetable soil" - a project for this weekend. I'll also need to finish preparing the vegetable patch by clearing the remaining grass, putting down a layer of leaf mulch, and using some boards to create a couple of 6'x4' garden boxes with an access path down the centre.
My parents have bought a small "greenhouse" for propagating cuttings and seedlings, and will be getting him some small gardening tools. I'll be shopping for seed packets with him next weekend. With any luck we may end up getting fresh, organic vegetables from DS1's garden later this year. As an added incentive I may get DS1 to weigh out his "produce" and I'll pay him the going rate for his vegetables (based on current supermarket prices). The SFG website also mentions selling organic produce as a hobby business, so he may add this sideline to his busking "business".
Copyright Enough Wealth 2008