What everybody wants for their birthday.

I know you’ll all agree that there’s no better birthday present than an ear of corn on the cob. It comes with it’s own rustic hipster wrapping, it’s made of 100% gold colour and only sometimes has worms.

So when Bikram Yoga niece‘s birthday started to get close I decided to give her what everyone wants for their birthday. Raw vegetables.  She’s been talking about putting in a small vegetable garden for years now because she thinks her kids would like it.  4 years ago she came close.  She actually stared at the grass in her backyard and said out loud “Yeah, I should put in a garden”.  3 years ago she came even closer when she stared at the grass and said “Yeah, I should really put in a garden”.

Then she never mentioned it again.

So last year I decided for her next birthday I’d get myself organized and secretly build a vegetable garden in her backyard under the cover of darkness one night.  Commando style.  I’m not sure if that means I was going to do it without underwear on, but that’s not what I mean.  I mean, secret, army-like.

It’s really hard to build a raised bed and plant a vegetable garden when it’s dark out mainly because you can’t see what kind of bugs are landing in your hair.  So I made a few concessions to my original plan and went over and did the garden during the day while she was at work.

And then I did it again when I realized the first place I dug out the garden was in complete shade.

Then I said Snarklefart only a much stronger version of that word.  Something you’d be more likely to hear in a grocery store self check out line than a backyard filled with children ready to plant radishes.

My niece’s birthday present consisted of digging out the area for the garden, building two, 4’x4′ raised beds and planting the garden.  With corn.

Because as I said, everybody’s favourite present is corn.



You may not recognize Bikram Yoga niece in the above picture what with her not a) swearing or b) throwing up. But trust me. It’s her.

Her 3 kids helped plant the garden and by “helped” I mean actually helped.   Not that whole “Oh aren’t you a good helper, get the hell out of my way, you’re slowin’ me down kid,”  kind of help.

By the end of the day we had planted the following in two 4’x4′ beds.

8 stalks of corn

6 potato plants

6 sweet potato plants

2 tomato plants

8 heads of lettuce

1 Brussels sprouts plant (barf)

1 broccoli

1 squash

2 cucumbers

2 kale

16 radishes

1 red pepper

4 rudabaga

20 carrots

and finally …

16 onions





We got everything planted about 2 weeks later than it should have been put in the ground and the weather has been way colder than normal.  So if nothing gets as big as it’s supposed to I’ll just tell them we were growing exotic miniature varieties of everything.  Very in demand in the high end culinary world.

My helpers.


Have a good weekend and remember the best presents don’t always come in small packages.  Sometimes they come in manure.

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  1. Linda says:

    What a beautiful veggie garden and what a wonderful aunt you are! Those kids are just so adorable. They must love you alot. I agree you should frame that picture of those cute kids.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Linda! Their broccoli has been eaten by cabbage worms, their mother accidentally pulled out some of the onions thinking they were weeds but their squash is HUGE. So far so good :) ~ karen!

  2. Barbie says:

    This makes me love you all the more! What an awesome aunt!!

  3. Jess says:

    That is an awesome gift.

  4. ronda says:

    I’m wondering if the swing set has made an appearance earlier than expected?!

  5. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Also I want the plans for how you fit all of that into two 4×4 gardens….

  6. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    The kids are at a great age to start learning how to garden..when you are old and feeble minded they can bring you fresh veggies..better teach them to cook too..great post…

  7. Mike says:

    You know, I must have the wrong relatives. Any time I say “I really ought to do” this or that, they just say “yeah, you should” then ask if they can borrow something of mine and I never see it again unless I go over to their house and “steal” it back. I get the “Oh, I was going to get that back to you when I had the time” story as I’m loading it in my truck which , BTW, could I possibly loan my truck to them sometime because they need to pick up something. The last time anyone was in my yard after dark was when my trampoline was stolen and I didn’t even realize it until two days later when my kids wanted to know where I put it. It is a great idea, Karen, and I think you are to be commended for it for your generosity . At the least, you should be invited over to enjoy the “first fruits”.

  8. maggie van sickle says:

    My Grandkids have the same kind of Aunties that you are and that is “THE BEST” in the world. Not only are you teaching them work ethic and that sharing chores makes things go faster, easier and happier you are spending quality time with them, Great Birthday present as well. You go Auntie Karen!!

  9. Rondina says:

    Those kids are 1) adorable, 2) look like they had fun, and 3) obviously love their aunt. Icing on the cake would be to frame that last photo for yourself. Lucky you.

  10. Maria says:

    I have officially adopted you as my Auntie! As my FAVORITE auntie!

    Love the little itty bitty helpers, the stakes, and after I counted the number of plants, I went back to look at the pictures and wondered just where everything was!

    Is it too late to plant potatoes in Maryland, U.S.?

    (pssssst, east side is the sunny side by me. Just saying Auntie :)

  11. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Those 3 cutie patooties really tugged at my heart strings! They are so beautiful!!! But I know the guys won’t like that. I’m a “Granty”, great aunty, to 3 (ages 3,5,8) who are my stand-in grandkids. Now I understand why some moms don’t want them to grow up . . . I just want to hang on to their sweetness. Next weekend, my husband (Uncle John the Great, since he refuses to be a Gruncle) are taking them to Farm Crawl (like a pib crawl but without the beer) so we can all learn about food and animals and stuff.
    You are a fab aunty and great aunty!

  12. SunGold says:

    “And then I did it again when I realized…” I was certain the following would read “it was in the wrong yard.” Sorry that I underestimated you!

  13. Melissa in NC says:

    You win the BEST AUNTIE Award, commando or not! The best gift I ever got from an Auntie was a Timex watch with colored interchangeable leather straps. Those kids are adorable!!!

  14. Catherine Simonelli says:

    I just freakin’ love you .. not enough people get our magnificent sense of humour. You slay me!
    I’m big into gardening, so I adore everything about this post (ummm..and every other post), but ESPECIALLY dig the plant markers :)
    Thanks for sharing your awesomeness with the world!!!

  15. Ev Wilcox says:

    That is about the best present I ever heard of! Like “IRS”, I moved my dumb birthday from New Years Day to April 15 (Sort of a memorable day!). Coming a week after Christmas, it was a sucky day for a birthday-the weather was often treacherous for travel, and people are all visited-out. My daughter’s was March 22, so now we share the 15th of April-too hard to get people together, etc. Works great! Neither of us has to be the center of attention and it is much more fun! She gardens too, so maybe we should move Birthday Day a couple of months and we could get gardens from our family in June! Anyway, awesome gift, and your planters are very cute!

  16. Connie S. says:

    I want Corn !
    You are the BEST Auntie and what wonderful memories ( and lessons) for the kids, drunken caterpillars and all… haha
    They’ll just be looking more closely next time ;)

  17. Ella says:

    Those kids are sooooooooo cute. And the curls on the middle one!?!!?!

  18. Heather says:

    You are the best! One year my son & his GF came & totally revamped my front garden as a combined birthday/Mother’s Day gift. It was back breaking work & I had been putting it off for a summer or two. I don’t need any more “stuff”. It was the perfect gift.

  19. Mary W says:

    Just when I thought the garden was the best gift ever, I saw the kids. Doing the garden with them actually helping the over the top, the best gift ever. You had to be tired after that day. They will remember it always and probably love eating the worm infested veggies even more once they get to pick out the bonus protein. This just confirms why I read you every time you post. Its a gift to me, too! Fun, informative, and full of ideas and good memories. You are just the perfect blogger. (and Aunt)

    • Karen says:

      I’m not perfect in any way. If I were the perfect blogger I’d a) make a lot more money and b) swear much more in my posts. ~ karen!

  20. Leslie Best says:

    I wish you were my Aunt!

  21. Wendy says:

    Um. I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but isn’t that kind of gardening already called GUERILLA GARDENING. But doing it with no underwear on, or swinging from the trees (not already mutilated by a chainsaw gardener) does allow for some special considerations. And including the Cutie Pie Squad takes it all over the edge of total awesomeness. Have a good weekend Karen (and all you online minions).

  22. Kellie says:

    That is like the greatest gift EVER, you are badass. Birkam Yoga niece looks very beautiful and so do her offspring.
    Commando is a good term but next time you can use the term Guerrilla gardening and then throw the word commando in for effect. I used to to it around my town – politely shame people in to weeding and taking care of their gardens. They are usually lazy and hire my husband’s landscape company. hardy, haar, haar….
    Love the ‘barf’ after brussel sprouts – I Hate those things too.

  23. Tara says:

    If someone did this for my birthday they would pretty much be my favourite person for life.

  24. Tigermom says:

    Any chance you would come to Texas and do this in my backyard? I realize we are not related, it’s just that I have discovered that I am much more successful in keeping things alive when other people (translate that to anyone who knows what they’re doing) plant them. : /

    Have you ever been to Texas? If not, this is a perfect excuse.

  25. Dawn Rise says:

    Hmm. So would this count if a squirrel planted a small pumpkin patch outside my front door some time last fall near my birthday? I don’t think the squirrel is capable of handling the camera to take a shot of its present glory…

  26. Jennifer says:

    Love the stakes! In our family language often gets twisted, most times by the kids (if only), and sometimes we keep it. So, only for girls, commando is Chardonnay, cleavage is your threshold, and in the event of a wardrobe malfunction we say “spiderweb”, polite people stare intently skyward while the target adjusts.
    Love this blog!

  27. Kim says:

    Awesome gift Karen you rock!!!

  28. marilyn says:

    a swing set!! lmao spit up my coffee on that one..by the way Betty was in the store yest looking fab! i wanted to steal her earrings!

    • Karen says:

      Tell me what they looked like and I’ll see what I can do. This vegetable garden has really honed my sneakiness skills. ~ karen!

  29. Marna says:

    Cute! I loved gardening with my sons when they were little. They seemed to eat more varieties when they grew it themselves. All them are grown up, but now grow something green, some edibles some not. :)

  30. IRS says:

    If my hubby ever gave me an ear of corn for my birthday, I would first stick it in a January snowbank for a few hours, and then into his “Cuddles’ orifice of fly infestation”. If I’m getting veggies, they had better be carats, and that is no typo. Plus, if anyone sneaks into the yard Ninja-style to put in veggie beds, they had damn well better come back every few days to weed and tend to the things. If not, I’m ripping them out too, but I’m not putting in a swing set, but a nice still.

  31. Kathleen says:

    The best gift ever. Awesome job, Karen.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  32. Lynn says:

    Commando Karen an her little Raiders rock. I love the fact you got to share your love of gardening with your little Raiders for such a good cause.

  33. peg says:

    that’s a great gift,hope they still eat vegies after the cabbage worm.nice plant stakes.

  34. Mindy says:

    Too cute. You know what I always wanted for my birthday? A summer celebration. Not the two days before Christmas horse shit I’ve been dealt the last 39 years. I want sangria and sun for my 40th. Corn would be fantastic. Is that too much to ask?

    • peg says:

      you need a midyear bday celebration. my girlfriend used to do that for her son.

    • IRS says:

      Mindy, I feel your pain. My birthday is 2 weeks after Christmas, when everyone is still hung over, in no mood to party, and so broke that all they can afford to buy me IS a &@$?! damn ear of corn. Which is why for several decades now, I have forced the people in my life to celebrate something I invented called the “Half Birthday”. It is exactly 6 months after your actual one. Mine was a few days ago, and I made out like a bandit; you should try it. Of course no such nonsense as a half cake, or a half present are allowed. Only full sized versions are permitted, and this on top of them also celebrating your actual birthday. Oh, I almost forgot: I hate Mindy. (Isn’t that the obligatory sign-off around here? Like Spock’s “Live long and prosper.” Or the terrorist assholes’ “Death to America.”)

    • Tracey says:

      You declare your “summer birthday ” as June 23, exactly 6 months after your crappy I can relate to that shitty Christmas birthday time”. That’s what me and the hubby do. So his is now June 27th and mine July 4.
      On your Christmas birthday you get a card…but the summer birthday is gifts and parties.

      And great post Karen! XO

    • Karen says:

      Hey, I’m a December too, and my sister has it even worse. She’s Jan 2nd. The exact day everyone is COMPLETELY over any kind of celebrating. She usually gets leftover Ferrero Rochers wrapped in wrinkled Christmas paper for her birthday. ~ karen!

      • Karol says:

        I’m January 4… and my Christmas gifts came with this message. “Half of this is for your birthday”. WTF, thanks mom.

    • Heather says:

      I think we should have a half-year birthday party for Mindy & everyone else!

  35. Teresa J says:

    I love your military-secret style birthday present!!! What a fantastic idea and execution…..cabbage worm and all, ewwww!!! Poor kids! Take heart Karen, I am sure you could make up some exotic experiment for the kids to watch like a cabbage worm patch, or something!!! You almost lost me with chicken fly thing ( I am now vegetarian and then this……)but this post certainly makes up for that one with those cute and happy little helpers!!!

  36. Louise says:

    What a GREAT gift! And the time, energy and sweat it cost you makes it incredibly touching! WOW – you are a wonderful auntie!

  37. Cynthia Jones says:

    I soo wanna plant a tree in my next door neighbour’s garden. He is a Chainsaw Gardener. He goes along his fence line and cuts off anything that hangs over.

    Just waiting for the f###er to touch my Moreton Bay Fig. He also sprays possums in the face with ammonia. Nice guy!

    Does ‘Ninja Planting’ in the Park Across the Road qualify for the Commando Planting Challenge? After all, it requires stealing wooden stakes and orange reflective tape to make the tree look like it was planted by local council workers.

  38. Ellen P says:

    Cutest darn helpers ever! Love the markrts, and go you! You’re always pretty darn amazing!

  39. Cynthia Jones says:

    What a great Aunty you are and those kids are lucky to have such a Great Aunty.

    Everyone needs a weird Aunty to tell them tales of maggotty chook bums and the finer things in life.

    Lucky kids. True story. Bless you.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. This just in … They found a caterpillar (cabbage worm) in their salad spinner after washing the lettuce for dinner. Actually worse … they found it after eating the lettuce for dinner. I’m guessing by the time I go back to check on the garden in a week or so it will have been replaced with a swing set. ~ karen

      • Yvonne says:

        I love the stakes the kids made so you’ll know what vegdles are in the gaten. Or, is that one you did??

      • Stephanie Hobson says:

        Well, at least it was in the spinner, not on their plate! Maybe that’s a secondary benefit of using a salad spinner – it makes the cabbage worm so dizzy it has to hold onto the side, thus abandoning the lettuce. Sounds like something you could tell those cute kiddos and their mom anyway.

      • Kae says:

        That’s only bad if you find half a worm….

  40. Paula says:


  41. Rachel San Diego says:

    Commando gardening. Love it.

    This should become a thing.

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