I hated gardening as a kid. Gardening was holding the hose over the gerberas or Dad swearing at the lawn mower when it failed to start every Saturday afternoon.
I didn't learn to love growing things till I was 18, and had a garden of my own. It wasn't terribly productive - the first crop of beans got what I now know were bean fly and died all yellow and speckled after about five weeks.
But I enjoyed it - not the dead bean bit but working out what went wrong and what to do better next time.
Too often we try to make kids the assistants in our own gardening projects. If you're not having fun, you may not ever want to learn how to garden.
But semi self-sufficient neighbourhoods - the kind I knew in my childhood, where neighbours swapped paw paws for eggs and every area had its own market garden or even a dairy and the Christmas chook was ''bought from a bloke I know in the pub'' - are one of the best ways of lowering the carbon footprint while eating well, and yes, having fun.
Tomorrow five extremely small people are arriving in our garden.
They all expect a garden to be a place of infinite enjoyment. The next few days will include:
1. Feeding handfuls of corn to Snowy, Freckles, Brownie, Roo Roo and Policeman Guard Rooster who fought off a fox and will forever be admired. After the feeding will come the egg hunt and hopefully there will be at least one egg, even in the depths of winter.
Even more hopefully it will be a green-shelled one, as one of the hens - we are not sure who - must have Aracauna somewhere in her ancestry though she never sits on the nest long enough to be sure who it is.
There might possibly be ''egg eating'' after that, but given the fickle tastes of small people, this is not guaranteed.
2. Cumquat picking. This will occur as the kids climb the steps as that's where the cumquats are. It will be accompanied - probably- by yells of encouragement to each other to eat one.
Someone will, followed by then yelling ''yuck'' and spitting it out and someone else will grin in a superior manner and eat it all and take another one. Both the eater and the spitter-out will receive applause.
3. Potato harvest inspecting. The spuds were planted last spring and are supposed to be harvested as new potatoes during the December-January holidays, but no one got around to it.
The harvest is now sitting in a bucket in the laundry, or what is left of the harvest as I have a passion for newly dug potatoes - they taste of earth and sunlight - and so have eaten most of them. But there are enough, and they are grubby enough, and knobbly and varied enough, to look like genuine home-grown potatoes.
It is even possible a few will be cooked and eaten in their jackets, but I suspect that the interest will fade in five minutes and they'll be mashed at dinner time.
4. Jerusalem artichoke discovery. We have a large crop of Jerusalem artichokes this year. A very large crop of very large roots. They look totally unattractive and so will be abandoned by the kids after maybe 30 seconds of ''Hey, what's that?''. There will be no Jerusalem artichoke eating as a) the artichokes look boring and b) they cause, shall we say, digestive noises and other phenomena and are so not a good idea for very young stomachs if everyone wants a good night's rest.
5. Bird watching. This will happen many times during the day as various birds eat the cumquats, crab apples, Melia seeds, and grass (bower birds love grass, as well as young broccoli) or the lyrebirds chase each other under the lemon trees.
6. Avocado picking. This may be combined with ''climb an avocado tree and throw down the fruit'' but for older kids only. I hope.
7. Lemon and lime picking and the discovery of a wonderfully odd-looking Buddha's hand citron - there is only one so the first to find it gets to pick it and carry it back to their parents to be admired.
8. Examination of wombat dung, wallaby droppings, kangaroo pellets and possibly the leavings of a few owls, with a lecture by the older kids on who left what.
9. Wombat and wallaby watching in the late afternoon. If the kids were older there'd be late-night powerful owl, sugar glider and possibly even Greater Glider watching, but not this year, as by the time those emerge, the kids will be in bed. We hope.
10. A lot of running, while discovering a multitude of other things like lichen, fungi, interesting rocks, possibly a lizard and thankfully at this time of year, no snakes or leeches or mosquitoes. And an enormous amount of joy for Grandma.
This week I will be:
- Coaxing the coffee bush back to life, I hope. I left it out in the frost too long, though the top third still has leaves and berries.
- Picking any fat limes and oranges the kids can't reach.
- Asking Bryan to pick the limes and oranges I can't reach - or bring the tall fruit picker he made for me several years ago that reached about four metres high.
- Missing the large brown dog that used to leap with us in garden expeditions. Loved always, and always missed.
- Picking camellias for small people to present with due ceremony for their mothers
- Rejoicing at the wonder of the garden all over again, as I see the young people discover it.