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Friday, January 31, 2014

From Lawn to Garden Part 3: Starting our Seeds!!

We are so excited to be continuing on to our journey of turning our entire yard into an urban garden! If you missed the first two posts for this series, you can click here or here. This week our seeds arrived from The Incredible Seed Company! We also began using Sprout Robot to tell us when we should plant what when. This week our area needs to begin cabbage indoors and so my little helper and I got them started in some old containers placed in a larger glad tub.
Once they were emerged in the soil, we closed the lids (which have little air vents) and placed them in our pantry at the top of the cellar steps.
We did an experiment a while back on where seeds sprouted best in our home. We placed a few bean seeds wrapped in a damp paper towel in three different Ziploc baggies. We hung one baggy in our kitchen window, one in the refrigerator, and one we placed at the top of our basement steps. We all predicted that the window seeds would grow the fastest and were surprised when the cellar sprouts went crazy. They were searching for light which is why they grew so tall, but they did sprout fastest there too. So, we are seeing if our cabbage plants will begin there quickly as well. Once we seed little shoots we will transfer them to our kitchen window. Currently, we have some lettuce bases from salads that were made a month ago trying to grow.
We are sitting them in a cup with some water and are just beginning to get new life coming off the stumps. We tried this once before and it takes a very long time and in the end, our new shoots turned brown and withered. My husband suggested that this time we transfer them to some soil and so next week we will see if that helps them be more successful. Since our seeds arrived this week we began mapping out our garden and seeing where everything will do best-- its actually very exciting! Soon we hope to begin some broccoli seeds in the hope that we can get a spring crop as well as a fall one. If you would like to follow my Garden Board on Pinterest that is where we are getting a lot of our inspiration and knowledge! What do you start first inside and what tips have helped your plants grow well?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

From Lawn to Garden (Part 2)

Hello and this was quite the frigid week we had as we did a little more (inside) planning for the garden! The first part of our journey is here and we received a lot of good honest questions. We have thought this out and for those of you who were concerned where our kids would play I can promise you that we spend most of our summers hopping form one park to another or swimming at grandmas. Our yard borders elderly neighbors who don't always appreciate the noise and daily occasional ball that goes into their yards. This is maximizing our space to create our own urban farm. These are actually en vogue on the east coast so who knew? The nice thing is we have been soaking up youtube videos and watching them grow and make mistakes and it's been very helpful. Our goal isn't to just grow to fee our family for the summer but well into the rest of the year. Last summer we did a lot of berry picking and just today we used up the last bag in oatmeal and the kids were quite downhearted. They're looking forward to having some more in our freezer next year (and the jam I can lasting longer than a week!).
We have been reading up on gardening as much as possible. This is our research and planning time as come spring and summer and fall we will be busy in the garden... I hope.
The kids have been busy playing in the snow and stamping lots of moisture down into the frozen ground. Well, I don't even know if that's true or accurate, but for their sake, lets just say that's whats happening! We were also asked what we were planting and here are the seeds we ordered from incredible seeds: 1 ea. National Pickling Heirloom Cucumber Seeds 1 ea. Truckers Favorite White Heirloom Corn Seeds 1 ea. Chantenay Heirloom Carrot Seeds 1 ea. Golden Acre Heirloom Cabbage Seeds 1 ea. Green Sprouting Calabrese Heirloom Broccoli Seeds 1 ea. Purple Peacock Heirloom Bean Seeds 1 ea. Blue Lake Heirloom Pole Bean Seeds 1 ea. Green Globe Heirloom Artichoke Seeds 1 ea. Thyme Seeds - Winter Thyme 1 ea. Oregano Seeds - Greek Oregano 1 ea. Dill Seeds - Mammoth Dill 1 ea. Cilantro / Coriander Seeds 1 ea. Chive Seeds - Onion Chives 1 ea. Basil Seeds - Fino Verde Basil 1 ea. Straight Eight Heirloom Cucumber Seeds 1 ea. Yugoslavian Red Heirloom Lettuce Seeds 1 ea. Paris Island Cos Heirloom Lettuce Seeds 1 ea. Evergreen Hardy White Onion Seeds 1 ea. Mammoth Melting Heirloom Snow Pea Seeds 1 ea. Serrano Chili Heirloom Hot Pepper Seeds 1 ea. Purple Beauty Bell Pepper Seeds 1 ea. Sweet Cherry Pepper Seeds 1 ea. Bloomsdale Heirloom Spinach Seeds 1 ea. Black Krim Heirloom Tomato Seeds 1 ea. Aunt Lucy Heirloom Tomato Seeds
My little snow bunnies and I are anxiously awaiting our package of seeds to arrive! In the meantime, we picked up some pea seeds at a local farm store as Incredibles had already sold out and I believe we still have to pick up some flower seeds too as we would like to attract a lot of bees to the yard even before our vegetables start flowering.
And I did pick up a pretty hat holder and I am envisioning us filling it with 6 floppy summer hats... although I'm sure it will be more like 30 ball caps, but a girl can dream right? Next step, well, hopefully our seeds will arrive this week as they have shipped already. We also need to begin mapping things out. We might start some spinach and broccoli indoors soon as well so maybe we can squeeze a spring and fall crop in this year... we shall see but we are optimistic! So, what have you been able to grow amazingly well in your garden and what was a flop?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

From Lawn to Garden (Part One)

I'm pretty sure one day my husband is going to insist that I change the title of this blog to "Wife who has husband and kids on the crazy train" because weeeeeeeeeeeeeelllll.... sometimes I get these ideas. I share them with my husband and he asks some really good questions and is surprised when I have some really good answers and then my crazy idea actually begins to make sense. Or maybe he is going crazy too. I don't know, but my new crazy idea is what if instead of having a little vegetable garden if we turn our entire lawn (read every single inch of our outside property) into a massive garden to try and feed our family veggies for the year. And again, my husband said yes to my crazy idea! I want you now to glance back at the title picture. We have a long thin anorexic yard. We don't have acres but a small fraction of an acre. We also have four kids. Two parents. And we are so going to try and make this happen!! And really, if we can do it, anyone can. I mean before this year we dabbled in tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers and last year we had two small pitiful tomato plants that gave us maybe 10 pieces of fruit (which is because I spent the spring on bedrest, then had a baby, then was in a wedding.... yada yada-- we totally did nothing last year). So this year we wanted to roll our sleeves up and do it better. Then we decided to do it crazy bigger and better (I hope or instead of learning alongside of us you'll be learning from our mistakes).
Our kids are all on board. Till we explained it would be the entire lawn. Like no more grass. Or play house (which no one even touches anymore unless they are jumping from the roof which drives me bonkers... but hey, maybe when your mom goes crazy enough stuff like this happens! ha!). And they innocently asked, "What will we play?" To which I said, "Farmers." Which apparently I underestimated how cool this was because they squealed with delight and asked when we could begin. Except this guy.
I think he just figured out Momma will not be holding him every second of every day. So I quickly explained we will get food out of it and I think he's on board too now. Our family has delved into videos on youtube on how tos and gardening and canning and blanching... and pretty much all from this Canadian man at 50 Ducks in A Hot Tub We are feeling pumped up! So, you want in, here is what we have done so far:
The first thing we did was order our seeds. I am mentioning this because if you want heirloom organic seeds certain veggies run out quickly. We even had to go with our fourth choice for corn. We went with Incredible Seed Company but there are others out there. Next we went to some local woods and found a bunch of sticks all different sizes which we will form into teepees to grow beans, peas, etc. and also for tomato stakes. We also got a big bucket from the store 9cost us less than 3 dollars) and will be placing all our egg shells in there from now until, well a long time. Egg shells add calcium to your garden and when you crush them they break down faster-- also placing them in a ring around plants makes it harder for slugs and other nasty critters to eat your prized plants. So very simple steps to begin making this winter in preparation for your garden to begin this spring.
This back yard area behind our shed was originally what we had planned to turn into our garden and this is where we will begin our work. You can see we have our potting soil (organic) ready to go. We also have secured some pallets which we will be turning into vertical gardens so we can grow our herbs without taking up any much needed land. You can see how to make a pallet garden here. We have a large black tub that was originally going to be our little pond but we didn't use it so that too will soon be put to work and grow something on the patio or porch. We also have a lot of patio stones leftover from when we put our patio in and they will become stepping stones. I am showing you all this to have you take a look around your yard and see what you can use that you already have. (and I apologize things are messy-- it got a little crazy when the kitchen was remodeled).
Again here is our little bit of lawn before it goes to veggie seed. We need to get the playhouse out and get the ground ready but will wait till its warmer and the ground is softer. I didn't get it in the picture, but two years ago we planted our first grape vine and last year we did get to add the second. Hoping soon we get grapes as not only do we go through a lot of veggies but fruit too! we are hoping to start strawberries this year too.
One final thing to begin doing now: save your containers to begin seeds indoors! we have berry containers, milk, and clear bottles which we will turn into planters as well. We are super excited and will try and update as time allows. Our kids have helped pick out what we will grow and this week we plan on making our teepees and mapping out where everything will be planted! So, what's the best thing you have ever got to grow in your garden or your secret gardening tip?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

10 Reasons to Homeschool (you never thought of before)

This post is ten reasons homeschooling has been extra appealing to us and maybe things that non-homeschoolers have never considered as to why we do what we do! I'm sure others could add more and so I encourage you if your a homeschooler or just stopping by to add your reasons in the comment section below as this list isn't all inclusive! So, we actually get asked this question more and more by strangers even though we have homeschooled for years and I think its because its much more noticeable now that our kids are getting older. I actually will begin to start in on our whole list as the person who asked either nods, moves away, or makes a remark (to which I say bring it on pal and I'll challenge you to a game of wits-- versus my kid. That hasn't happened yet, but I do entertain the idea in my head). So our first reason you might not have thought of is 1.) When the going gets tough-- the tough get going. Like we leave. We just pack up school and take it on the road. That's exactly what we are doing in the header picture-- homeschool at grandmas! When our kitchen was under construction and the gas and water were at times getting shut off so piping could get re-wired we went to good ol' grandmas for a few days. And we took school with us instead of taking off from school. This concept also comes in handy if there is a sick relative, dad who travels, etc. I see it as a huge perk! No absentee notices or clearing it with a school district-- we just go!
2.) We homeschool because we love our daddy and spending time with him! My husband works crazy revolving hours and his days off are neither predictable or consistent. Homeschooling affords us ample time with him and we get to all see him on his days and mornings off that take place during the week. We also love having him learn with us and come on field trips with us. It's a huge perk and something to consider if you're family members don't have 9-5 M-F shifts.
3.) We can vacation without the crowds! Many places have caught onto the fact that homeschoolers can come when others cannot and offer discounted rates and packages which is an added bonus! We love to go on vacation in the fall and spring and these less crowded times mean less congestion traveling, shorter lines (actually when we were at Disney we only waited once the entire week and that was to meet a character), and I don't have to write a note into their teachers or have them do make up work. AND-- this is awesome-- I can even count some of their vacation days as school days!!! How cool is that! (and I'll clarify, we counted Epcot as a school day and not the waterpark)
4.) We can start our school year any day we'd like. Sure we have a lot of friends that do the traditional Sept.- June schedule, but it's no secret that I can't stand the heat, so we start school when we are hovered around the AC anyway in July! I love it-- there are so many cool things to learn in the summer-- much of the gardens are in full bloom and production and we can incorporate that into our science lessons! It also gives us wiggle room for emergency situations-- we still need to do 180 days in our state, but there have been two years when we needed time off or to finish early and since we begin early this was of no concern when it came to fitting in our days.
5.) Relatives can get in on the schooling too! We love when my parents or siblings can join us for a field trip or other aspect of our school day as many times as they can or whenever their schedules allow for it.
6.) I can distinctly remember being in school as a 7 year old and the windows were open and I could hear someone mowing their lawn and it was a gorgeous day outside. Inside my teacher was trying to keep our attention on her and frankly I don't remember the lesson but I still remember the draw of a beautiful day.... missed. When a gorgeous day is calling, we often times pack up a lunch and head out to meet it! I LOVE this about homeschooling! We can always do night school or because we begin early, we can afford to take some time off during the year when we would like to. It's a beautiful thing I tell ya'!
7.) My kids are each others classmates. They teach one another, learn things together, and yes, sometimes they try each others patience, but the point is they do it together! I know a lot of people think their kids would drive them crazy being together all day every day and I'm not going to say my kids don't have their moments, BUT they do love to be with one another. I tell my husband we are making investments into their life banks and will see the interest magnify beyond our wildest dreams one day! We are cultivating a home where they build relationships with the people who will be with them forever and that's a beautiful thing! I also love when an older child instructs a younger child! This melts my heart! My 8 year old son has been coming alongside our 4 year old and encouraging him with reading. My 7 year old has been helping our 8 year old with his multiplication flash cards and these are just a few examples and I only see this happening more and more everyday! Priceless!
8.) We LOVE to read-- I can't imagine not having all the time we do to sit and read with the kids and to share so many books with them! I'm not saying f you don't like to read you shouldn't homeschool, but it might just grow on you when you see where some really cool books will take you!
9.)Lately my kids love Chinese-- nope not the food (although they are crazy about that too!) but the people. The history. We have been studying and learning some pretty cool things and since it's of great interest we can spend extra time on that. My boys love legos so I can incorporate that into school as well (we even got to see some pretty awesome ones on display at a museum). On the flip side, when I notice a child excelling or needing more help, I can tailor their education right to them. Just having taught two of them to read I can say that they both needed different methods and approaches and we were able to sit back, evaluate, and help each one right where they needed it most! If you have special needs kids, I'd imagine this to be a big perk as well!
10.) I think one of the best benefits about homeschooling is I learn too! This in turn models to the kids a lifelong love of learning! There are so many history lessons that I have heard firsthand while teaching the kids and really cool science facts I've discovered right a long with them and that is one really cool benefit!
Now your turn, what makes you excited about homeschooling or what's a reason you love?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

10 Ways to Help a High-Risk Pregnancy Mom

I was brainstorming and praying today while watching my two littlest boys napping on my lap right beside me and really felt the Lord laying this post on my heart. It's not so hard to believe that a year ago our pregnancy was about to go its normal high risk route-- and then some! Each time we were pregnant it was different degrees of high risk and each time, Praise the Lord, God bought us through and blessed us with a healthy little one. But before we had gone through our train wrecks, I really had no prior knowledge that things went wrong for people or had ever given it a second thought. We were also so blessed each and every time by wonderful friends and family who loved on us and met so many of our needs. So, I thought I'd compile a list of ways people blessed and us and then some so more high risk mommas out there can be blessed:
1. PRAY-- "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16. We were so encouraged by praying friends and family and there were so many times each and every pregnancy where God moved mountains and carried us.
2. Bring them a meal or stock their freezer. Sometimes we were in and out of the hospital so much that people would just bring us things we could heat up whenever we were home and that was a HUGE blessing! When I was on bed rest and grocery shopping was hit or miss it was just so nice to have these meals made with love ready to serve. A lot of people focus on after baby meals, but if there is a high risk momma, she needs them just as much before hand-- especially if she has other kids and a husband to feed.
3. Clean or organize for the mom. A huge shout out goes to my own mom who would just come and fold laundry or clean bedrooms while I was sick at various times each pregnancy. One year, she even came and took down our Christmas tree and decorations while I watched from bed rest-- she is awesome at blessing people this way.
4. Bring them flowers. Or books. Or magazines-- bed rest and hospital visits are boring and often times filed with anxiety-- having something to aid as a distraction is a huge blessing. 5. Send them snail mail or email just to bless them. Maybe daily facebook messages. Bed rest or hospital stays can be very isolating. You just live in a strange reality and having people stay in touch this way is so helpful and gives the mommy something to look forward to. 6. Bless the family and clean up their yard or plant things for them if its that season. I know there were times my husband was overwhelmed working and being mr. mom and shuttling me around to appointments and it was nice when people remembered dad couldn't do it all either.
7. Watch their kids for them. This was always a hard area for me to accept help, but when I could break down and admit I did need help, this was always such a blessing. There was just a limit to how many times my kids could hang out in the hospital or would feel cooped up while I was on bed rest and this is a great way to help out high risk families. 8. Don't ask-- just do. This is something that I would get overwhelmed with at times-- I barely knew what was happening in the next day or sometimes hour and so I couldn't always think straight when people would ask how or when they could help. The best thing people could do for me was to just do it. Or say I can do ____ on this day. It just gave me one less thing to think about or coordinate. 9. Go with a mom to a doctor appointment or visit them in the hospital. I hate hospitals. The smell alone makes me sick to my stomach so whenever someone popped in to say hi, it was like a burst of light on a very dreary day. Even lab work days can be very long sometimes lasting for hours with nothing to do and mom could perhaps use some company. 10. Be compassionate and gracious. Every mom and every pregnancy are unique. Maybe you were she-woman when you delivered your kids and were out mowing the lawn while in labor. That's awesome and fantastic, but it just isn't a reality for every mom. Maybe you delivered all your kids at home-- fantastic! But trust me when I say a high risk mom wont always have the same options or opportunities because its just not safe-- show her love. You just can't know what another family is going through or what road they are walking to bring their little one home. So above all, show them the Love of Christ.