Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kids in the Garden

Kids in the garden gain analytical skills,
will build environmental stewardship
and may find a life-long hobby!
As a parent, I have always encouraged my kids to spend time in the garden with me. It's how I grew up too. I'll never forget the taste of a warm, ripe berry directly from grandma's garden. Brushing the dirt from a just pulled carrot, or the wonder of pulling up new potatoes was amazing.

I am grateful too that my grandparents taught me to harvest and preserve garden goods too. It's something I have even begin teaching my own children. My son LOVES to make his yearly specialty - Pepper jelly! He even won an award at the local fair for his jelly.

"When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands." 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Beyond the simple pleasure derived from kids in the garden, there are many benefits from having kids in the garden. Gardening provides a positive bonding experiences, increases their respect and love of nature and perhaps creates a lifelong love. Kids in the garden get the following benefits too:
  • They build positive social and interpersonal skills 
  • Get a better understanding of healthy eating and nutrition 
  • Better understand the farm to fork concept 
  • Create environmental stewardship attitudes 
I love the time they are with me, but I have also read that gardening could improve the reasoning and analytical skills of my kids. Will there be enough light? How much space will each plant need? What grows well together? How much water will be needed? And so much more!

A couple years ago, my children surprised me with planting part of the garden. I didn't think their garden would thrive but they grew amazing veggies for me. My son has even decided to take on the gardening merit badge in Boy Scouts!

So what will YOU plant this year? Will you get your kids in the garden?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Product Review: Badger Anti-Bug Balm

Today I was wanting to go on a walk in the natural area near my house and I realized that my kids had all of the bug-spray at camp with them. I am outdoors a lot with my scouts and certainly with my garden, so we have several bottles, but they were gone. I have been carrying Badger Anti-Bug Balm in my purse though since last July when I purchased it. I figured it was for those emergency picnics outdoors or otherwise. It smells awesome and is in a small, convenient container. While I have used it a handful of times, I have not truly tested it in the woods. No time like the present eh?

I applied it on my exposed skin areas and wiped mostly dry hands across my hair. I also applied it to my jeans at the ankles. For a walk in  the woods, I was pretty un-prepared, as I had even forgotten my hat, but I wanted to get the walk in before it got really hot! At least I had sunglasses, my map and a water bottle.

Badger Anti-Bug Balm claims are that it is a "USDA Certified Organic - All Natural Mosquito Repellent." I guess I should have looked at that first. It repels MOSQUITOES. Doesn't say anything about other biting insects. If you can picture this, then you will get a pretty accurate idea of how I felt...

Only it wasn't dirt, it was deer flies dive-bombing my head!

I did try opening the tin and walk with it on my head, which proves tricky, so instead, my leisurely 45 minute walk on the path was done in 22 minutes as I mostly jogged the path dodging and weaving the bugs.

Honestly I should consider that I only got bit by deer flies three times, I did not see ANY mosquitoes AND the deer flies mostly buzzed my head and did not actually land on me. So they were more of an annoyance than anything. I would also add that at some point the oils in the product would break down and become less effective.

Would I recommend Badger Anti-Bug Balm? It is a certified organic and 100% natural DEET-free bug repellent that uses all-natural citronella, cedar, and lemongrass, and essential oils. I would recommend it for casual back-yard use or picnics, but NOT for walking in the woods. Running from deer flies was not an ideal way to start my morning.

I do appreciate using natural items to deter insects though, what do you use when spending time in the outdoors?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Companion Planting Guidelines [Chart]

Has the planting itch begun yet for the year? It sure has here. The seed catalogs have been arriving, I've been checking out many new ideas on Pinterest and the spring-like weather is starting. Even though I'm busy making maple syrup right now, I know there is so much to get started for my spring gardening.

Of course the first step is always to decide "what" to plant. I suppose that's why this image struck me as a good one to share. I always consider moving my plants around the garden, but sometimes forget about the companion plants. This easy to read chart covers many of the basic garden veggies that I am likely to plant.

Do you ever consider what to plant and where? Companion planting
can improve yield, prevent pests and more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Food From The Scrap Pile: A Tasty Science Experiment

Regrowing food from what might otherwise end up in the scrap-pile
can be fun, educational and may feed you many times over!
As a child I enjoyed growing an avocado tree from seed, potatoes from the eyes of an already potato (and even got several pounds of potatoes as a result) and even tried growing the tops of a pineapple. Although sadly I didn’t end up with more pineapples – Go figure our environment  It was part science experiment and part recycling of food scraps. More recently I have re-grown green onions from cut off ends I wasn't using and have also tried to plant the garlic that was growing in my pantry. Probably at one time or another I have tossed the seeds from whatever I was eating into dirt to see if it would grow.

It gets a little trickier now-a-days with anti-growth agents being added to food in grocery stores, but if you eat organically grown foods it becomes an option for sure! 

Carrot Tops (I have read that other root crops would work well for this too, like beets, turnips and rutabagas)
Ginger Root 
Green Onions/Leeks

Tomatoes from fresh seeds (Oddly I let several late season non-ripened tomatoes stay right in the garden and each spring I have several ‘volunteers” growing!)
Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes

Whole seed spices

Think of the possibilities use whole seeds from your spice or herb bottles, seeds from fresh fruits and veggies. Certainly some of these options allow the items to be started from seed then planted, others allow for the scrap to go right into the ground, and still others can be started in water. It's an endless way to re-used what Mother Nature has gifted us!

It would be an excellent way for my children to learn a little more about the garden. They watched with awe as the green scallions regrew on the window sill. So what's next? Waste not, want not.

Have you ever tried this? What are your success stories of food you have grown from scraps?

Friday, May 11, 2012

What's Blooming?

There's a lot that's green in my garden, and I'm thinking that it would be a perfect weekend to plant a few more items as well as getting out there for "the BIG weeding". In some ways I suppose the spring-weed is cathardic. You pull and pull all of those unwanted plants and overgrown areas to expose beautiful, black, rich soil only to later have it fill in with bits of color, fragrance and delight!

I stepped out this afternoon and realized how badly I need to weed, but also took stock of a few things.

I knew the one gooseberry plant was coming along quite nicely. It's snuggled up to the house and already has berries the size of my pinky finger. Bet we'll be eating gooseberries by early June!

Next I went to check on the current bush and found it pretty loaded.

Of course there are plenty of flowers blooming including the chive blossoms. I LOVE making chive blossom vinegar in the spring and love topping salads with the beautiful leaves as well. This area is in front of our fence along a path. It was an area that my husband didn't like to mow and I didn't care what was planted there so long as it didn't look overgrown and unkempt. It finally looks filled in and full of several goodies including gooseberries, raspberries, chives, alpine strawberries and many types of flowers.

My spouse always complains that several of my gardens are too "jungle-like" but I actually don't mind them being filled in. This is part of my herb garden which has many types of gourmet and medicinal herbs. It came along quite nicely this year with the mild winter. Originally we filled it in with some flowers, but i may move them out for more herb space!

How does your spouse feel about your gardens? 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Composting Class: Ann Arbor

Mom, Dad and the whole family can get down and dirty with a little composting at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens during a green thumbs program. On Saturday, May 12 10:00 a.m. - noon, learn about the secret to making the most of your vegetable scraps and leaves by creating "super soil" for the garden.

The program cost just $5/person and you even get to decorate and take home your own counter-top compost bin. This is a great course for the kids to learn about contributing to a beautiful, healthy garden.

For more information or to register, call 734-647-7600 or visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum website.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Early Spring Finds and Easy Violet Blossom Jam

While the garden is just starting to pop up with some of the early spring plantings beneath my hoop house, I've been searching for springs bounty. So far I've come home with ramps for cooking and pickling, garlic mustard for pesto, wild onions and garlic, and violets for jam. I know there is a lot more out there starting to burst forth, I just have to find the time to go and get it!

Each year, I've been learning more about foraging too. I really do enjoy learning about what you can eat for free in nature. It's produced some wonderful foods and beverages, and my children enjoy heading out with mom to see what she can find.

My new favorite though is violet blossom jam. We made violet jelly last year, straining the violet blossoms out after they soaked overnight. This year though, I left them in, and made a freezer jam recipe. Maybe it was the laziness of not wanting to pull the canning items out of the basement, but it ended up being pure genius! I actually think I prefer the violet blossom jam to the jelly we made last year. If you can imagine a cross between a kiwi, melon and strawberry flavor with a hint of light floral as an aftertaste, then you can imagine how wonderful the violet blossom jam is.

The jam takes very little time to make too. In fact this year it took me even less time, since I bribed my daughter to pick the flowers initially. Picking the stems off the violets was the most consuming part of the process for me.

It's wonderful though, and I encourage anyone out there to try it and let me know how it turns out. Hurry though, violets are the gems of spring and won'tr be here in this abundance for long.

Violet blossom freezer jam is like spring in a jar!
Violet Blossom Jam Ingredients:
2 cups, loosely packed violet blossoms. Remove their stems.
The juice from 1 lemon
1-1/2 cup water
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 pkg. pectin

Place the violet blossoms and 3/4 cups of the water into a blender and blend well. Next add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to the blender and notice that the liquid turns from purple to fuchsia. Next the sugar and blend until the sugar is dissolved.

Next add the remaining 3/4 cups of water and a package of pectin into a non-reactive pot and bring it to a boil. Continuing to boil hard for 1 minute. Pour the hot pectin mixture into the blender with the pulverized violet blossoms and sugar and blend until thoroughly smooth.

The "jam" may now be poured into small jars or small storage containers. Once it is cool, add lids to cover and store in the freezer.

This recipe makes approximately 4 pints of violet blossom jam.