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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gardening With Kids - Gardening Gives Food and More

I left off in the last post talking a little bit about harvesting produce with kids from the garden. The garden provides nutritious and delicious food for us to eat....and also preserve if you have abundance.

There is nothing like a fresh garden meal in the summer!
Picking your vegetables right out of the garden and using them in your meal - you can't get any fresher than that!

You might make fresh salsa from your tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro in your garden.

You might enjoy stuffed peppers.

Sweet corn is always a delicious summer treat with any meal.

You might have a wonderful crop of green beans and can them to enjoy during winter.

Of course, picking fresh lettuces, spinach, radish, and green onions for salads is always refreshing.

Allow your children to cook meals with you. Sometimes its hard with little hands, but you might be surprised what they will eat knowing that they helped prepare it from what they helped grow and harvest.

Sometimes room is not available to grow everything you would like, such as fruits, where several plants are needed to pick a larger quantity. Look for local u-pick farms in your area and take your kids there to experience picking at a specialty farm. We go to a blueberry farm and strawberry farm every summer to pick bulk amounts of berries to freeze and make jam from. You might want look for local specialty farms in your area to pick strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, pumpkins and more.

For your kids to see these large specialty farms puts a whole new perspective on how and where produce is grown. For example, we just went to a u-pick blueberry farm and driving down the lane to where we would pick, my son said "These are ALL blueberries?!" They can see acres of one type of plant growing. I explained to him that the blueberry farm has workers to pick blueberries for customers to pick up or they can come and pick them themselves. Seeing these specialty farms helps put the whole idea of farm size into perspective. Kids can see that your backyard garden feeds your family. There might be some abundance of certain vegetables that you can share with others. Large farms, such as berry farms or pumpkin patches provides for several families, sometimes several hundred to thousands.

Gardening with kids has several advantages and provides such wonderful experiences.
- It educates them on where food comes from.
- Showing them planting to harvest and getting them involved is a great way to share the farm to    fork process.
- It teaches them what it means to live a sustainable and healthy life.

I hope you will show your kids where food comes from and enjoy the farm to fork process!

This post is sponsored by Indiana's Family of Farmers but all opinions, photos, and ideas are mine.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gardening with Kids - The Harvest

If you remember in my first post about gardening with kids, I talked about some easy vegetables to grow in your garden and shared some tips how to get your kids involved in the garden.
This post is about the HARVEST! 
The most rewarding part of gardening in my opinion. 
The result of all your hard work in the garden......and you can sample and snack as your picking.

One exciting part about gardening is some vegetables continue to produce bounty after the first, second, and several  pickings.
Like green beans and tomatoes.......

By planting your garden from seed and/or transplants to picking what is produced and involving your kids in the whole process they are learning, seeing, and experiencing gardening with you. What a great way to show them how plants grow and where the food you eat comes from.

So what have you harvested from your garden? What is your kids favorite things to pick?

If you have the space try your hand at backyard gardening. Gardening is a great way to not only include your kids in the process but also to save some money. Who doesn't want to save a little cash on your grocery bill?!

For example:

Tomatoes in the grocery store cost between $1.50 to $3 a pound in the grocery stores. A 4 pack of tomatoes plants at a garden center is less than $2. Each tomato plant can produce roughly 8 to 20 pounds of tomatoes based on growing conditions and if staked and caged.

Potatoes cost around $4 for a 5 pound bag where as you can buy seed potatoes in the spring for 99 cents a pound. Cut those seed potatoes in fourths then plant. Each one will yield on average 5-15 potatoes give your a pretty high return on your seed potato cost.

When you think about your entire garden - lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, onions, etc the money savings can really add up. 

You will also save money by eating what is in your garden. This may prevent you from going out to eat or will aid in providing ingredients to the dishes you prepare for your meals. Doesn't a dinner of green beans, red potatoes cooked with onion, sweet corn, and broccoli sound great to go with the steaks your having? Save yourself the $40 plus dinner bill going out to eat and have a nice meal from the garden you've grown yourself.

If you don't have room to garden at home, check to see if there is a community garden in your town. These are becoming more and more popular and are a great to take part in. Your children can help in the garden and also enjoy the rewards of gardening with fresh produce. You can also do some patio gardens with tomatoes in pots. Grow lettuce, green onions, spinach together in a spot for your salad needs.

The taste of your backyard garden produce will taste amazingly different that what you can buy in the store.

Stay tuned for the next Gardening with Kids post for different ways to enjoy and preserve what you're growing in your garden.

This post is sponsored by Indiana's Family of Farmers but all opinions, photos, and ideas are mine. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Down At The County Fair

Last week was our county fair and although our kids aren't in 4-H yet, it will always be a part of our life. We usually go out most nights of the week and enjoy different parts of the fair. Having a breaded tenderloin sandwich, a funnel cake, several milkshakes, a pork burger, and a lemon shake-up are always musts on the list for fair week.

Being 10 year 4-H members has provided so many memories. 4-H is where I first learned how to sew, a skill I still use very regularly today. I took basketry and made several pieces that I love, including a fishing creel, a basket w a deer antler as the handle, and a baby cradle my last year of 4-H. I also did the photography project. It was always fun taking several pictures and then narrowing it down to your best and favorite one. Showing horses provided the most 4-H and fair memories! I grew up on a horse farm and had been riding horses since elementary school, but only showed them my last 6 years of 4-H.

My last year of 4-H showing my horse Tiny
My farmer showed beef, took the corn project, farm scene project, and woodworking. At fair time (and also throughout the year)  we always reminisce of our 4-H days. 

Having kids in 4-H allows you to enjoy it all over again and I cannot wait until our time comes ( 2 more years until our oldest can start). Next year we will enjoy mini 4-H! I can picture the projects that our kids will take and hope they will want to show an animal or two also (maybe a goats and Rhode Island Red chickens - what we have now). 

Until then we will enjoy the fair time as future 4-H parents! 

We enjoy the games and rides! 

The food and milkshakes!

We show off our Farmall 560 as part of the Retired Iron antique tractors and parade!

Our kids enter in the open class!

We serve milkshakes as part of our Farm Bureau Young Farmer group!

We enjoy watching 4-Hers show their heart out during animal judging! 

We enjoy grandstand events!

I enjoy when I'm asked to judge open class and 4-H projects. 

4-H will always be a part of our life and we will always enjoy going down to the county fair! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Quick Refrigerator Pickles and Onions

I have eaten pickles and onions for many many years. I love recipes that I continue to make as an adult enjoying the same things that my mom and grandmas have made and continue to make.

Refrigerator Pickles and Onions, also called refrigerator pickles or pickled cucumber by others, are super quick and easy to make. There's no canning equipment required.

They are great to whip up and have on hand for a fast addition to your meals.

You only need a few ingredients and most are staples in the kitchen and the cucumbers and onions came from my garden. We have cucumbers and pickling cucumbers growing like crazy as well as sweet onions in the garden that we will be pulling soon to dry. So I grabbed a few and made up a few jars of pickles and onions to enjoy this week.


 3-4 medium sized cucumbers, thinly sliced cucumbers - I prefer mine to be peeled, but you can leave the skin on if you'd like
1 small sweet onion sliced
1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt
a little pepper for taste


1. Mix water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Add cucumbers and onions to the mixture. Taste and adjust to your liking. Add more cucumbers or onions if you like more of either. 

2. Your cucumbers and onions should be covered with the brine mixture. If you want to make a large batch make up more brine to add. 

3. Place the mixture in containers in the refrigerator. The flavors blend together overnight, although I start eating as soon as I've made them. 

They can store in the refrigerator up to two weeks. I have been making several jars up on Sundays to last us the week then repeat again. Makes about 4 pint jars of pickles and onions.


The farmers markets are plentiful of cucumbers and onions at this time in the season. If you don't garden, go grab some up and make yourself this refreshing recipe. Now I'll go enjoy mine with my dinner. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to Freeze Peas

Freezing peas is a great way to enjoys peas well after the growing season. Super simple way to freeze peas

Freezing peas is a great way to enjoy them after the growing season. Super simple way to freeze peas.

If you enjoy peas fresh from the garden, you'll want to put some away in your freezer to enjoy this winter! Freezing peas is an easy way to preserve them fresh from your garden or the farmers market. The frozen peas are nearly as good as right out of the garden. If you don't have peas growing in a garden, now is the time to get them at your local farmers market.

It's a nice treat to walk through the garden and grab some peas to shell and have for a snack. But when you have a lot come on at once and can't eat all that are ready at one time, its nice to put them in the freezer to enjoy later.

The most tedious part is shelling all the peas. I shelled some outside while the kids were playing. I shelled some while dinner was cooking. I shelled some after bedtime. You get the idea.

After the peas are shelled, wash them in a colander.

They are then ready to blanch.

To blanch: Just simply bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Pour the peas in and let them sit for 4 minutes. This process of blanching then makes peas ready to freeze.

After the 4 minutes, immediately pour the peas into a colander and run under cold water. I put the plug in my sink also and let the colander of peas sit in the cold water too to help cool the peas off. This process is done to stop the cooking process that was started with boiling them.

You can see the color change to a bright green now.

Once the peas are cooled, spread them out on baking sheets and put them in the freezer. This is flash freezing.

After a few hours they are frozen and are ready to bag. Bring the baking sheets out of the freezer. I just use a spatula and bag up the desired amount and place in each bag. I like to do 2 cups per bag.

I like to freeze them this way because each pea is frozen individually making it easier when ready to use. When you're ready to eat, simply pour out the desired amount and bring to a boil and add to your meals or dinner plates.

It's as simple as that! I do this a few times during pea season. This puts enough in our freezer to eat during the winter months. We eat some fresh and I put some in the freezer.

The blanching process works for most garden vegetables for freezing. Simply pour your vegetables into a pot of boil water for 4 minutes. Immediately drain and cool them off with cold water. Then place them in the freezer.

This post is part of The Backroad Life freezing & canning series I am doing. 

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