My daughter is studying plants in her preschool class. As part of the project, she was given several beans to plant. What kind of beans they are, I have no idea. The only beans I know are Pinto and Black beans. And pork and beans, though I suspect those are Pintos also.

While working on her three beans, which sprouted leaves nicely, she has taken on other vegetables, such as watermelons and broccoli. They are both separated into little green plastic planter boxes. The strawberries, which she planted nearly a week ago, are still on the windowsill in the dinning room/kitchen, since they need four to six weeks to mature before placing outside to fend for themselves.

But I, Mariela's father, in my infinite wisdom, decided that small green planters were not enough for my daughter. My daughter deserves a farm.

"No, Mauricio, we're not going to have a farm. That is ghetto,' said my wife Leti, after she heard the news.

"What do you mean 'ghetto?'" I said. 'Couches out front, that's ghetto. Forty ounces of malt liquor served in a paper bag, that's ghetto. A farm is not ghetto."

"It's a garden Mauricio, we're not having a farm in our backyard,' she said.

In the end, we agreed on 120 square feet of "F-A-R-M".

On Sunday, between a 2 p.m. interview I had scheduled and after a breakfast that consisted of a peanut butter covered bagel, I began to dig out the weeds in my backyard along the fence line in preparation for Mariela's Garden.

Using my brand new Husky shovel from Home Depot, (it has a wolf on it, so you know it has to be tough), I slowly plodded away, removing clumps of grass and weeds. All the while, Mariela sat in her princess folding chair drinking lemonade.

"Mariela, can you get dad some tea?" I asked while attempting to think cool thoughts. My gray t-shirt had taken on a darker hue, while only 30 minutes had passed.

"More tea, Mariela," I said, after chugging the first cupful, and the second…and the third.

Mariela then wanted to use the shovel, so I held her right hand while she used her left to hold the shovel steady, then stood on top of it. She used the weight of her 38-pound frame to push the tip of the shovel into the ground. She brought up only a cupful of dirt. After three tries, she wiped her brow and gave a tired grunt.

'Your turn dad," Mariela said.

Two hours later, I almost died. Not from exhaustion, but from the orange wire I struck underground with the head of my shovel.

"I hit a wire!" I said, jumping around the yard, as if I had actually pierced the wire's casing and had electrocuted myself. "I hit a wire Leti I could have died! Oh crap! I almost died!"

"Tonto, that's a phone wire," she said.

"No, those are black,' I said, pointing to the end of the phone wire that came out of the ground and up the wall into the house.

"That's just a cable wire then," she said.

"But they still carry electricity, right? I could have been killed," I said.

"Whatever,' she said, going inside. Mariela followed.

Looking over my work from the past two hours, I dug a 120-square-foot border for a garden, drank half-a-gallon of iced tea and almost killed myself. I decided to call it a day and, in the end, felt quite proud about the farm's progress.

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr. is a reporter for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at