Improving Upon Our Current Systems

Each year since we’ve been in our house, we’ve added something new. The first year it was a garden plot expansion. The next year it was a flock of backyard chickens. Next came the goat, then meat rabbits, then new garden plots.

Each year has also included some home DIY project. At first it was things like wallpaper removal, moving the laundry upstairs, and painting. Then it was a porch rebuild, a chicken coop, a garage rebuild, and creation of a music studio.

Last month, I wrote a post on considering which homestead projects are right for your family. As it turns out, we’ve had to bear this in mind too! As we considered a host of new ideas, we came to a realization- we shouldn’t add anything new this year.


Improving upon our current sytems feature

Why? Well, we have a lot of balls in the air at any one given time. When we do too much, none of these balls land where they’re supposed to, and we’re left having to pick up the mess we’ve made. So many of the projects we have going really need major fixes to work more efficiently for our family.

We still have projects that we want to complete this year. However, instead of adding something new, we are focusing on improving the systems we already have. This way, we avoid burnout and make the projects we are already doing much more profitable and enjoyable.

That being said, here is our 2017 spring and summer project list:

Garden: Our main garden will likely lie mostly fallow this year- the soil needs some rest and revitalization to grow strong, healthy crops again next year. Instead, we will plant in our other newer plots and focus on building up the soil through lasagna gardening methods.

Chickens: Our flock has nearly outgrown their coop. Too many birds means needing to clean it more often, and overcrowded birds are unhappy birds. Also, the original coop was completely built out of re-purposed and scrap materials, so there were parts of it that didn’t function as efficiently as a standard coop.

It’s time to either 1) put some birds in the pot to make more space or 2) build a new coop. Since we’ve had high demand for selling fresh eggs (and since we’d like to expand our flock in a year or two), we want to keep the birds, but make them a new home. Preferably, this will be a walk-in coop.

Rabbits: Oh meat rabbits. They are a really great venture for so many reasons. However, our current housing system is not efficient. We started out with having them in hutches that were converted into “tractors” that could be drug around the yard. However, because of the design, they are extremely hard to clean and too heavy for efficient rotation.

We tried setting up one of the hutches on blocks to create a fertilizer collection system. However, then the rabbits don’t have access to the grass beneath them, so their diet is largely feed. Not ideal for a pastured meat source.

Our hope is to build a colony location for the rabbits. (Read about colony raising rabbits here.) However, because of the slopey nature of our yard, this is a really big project and one that might not get done this year.

Goat: I really, really wanted to breed our one goat this year so we could have 1) babies and 2) milk. However, I am realizing this just isn’t the right time for it. We are facing several complications, a positive CAE test being our main concern. While we are hoping the test results are false, we’re realizing that there are more things to take care of for the arrival and care of baby goats than we are able to commit to currently. This might just not be the year to take on this project.

House improvements: Our plan for the summer is to build a mudroom right outside our kitchen door. Currently, our closet-less house is spilling over with shoes, coats, and backpacks. A mudroom would give us a spot to put all that STUFF, plus it would provide a functional place to keep for outdoor/animal supplies that don’t currently have a home. Not to mention it might give us that little extra push to do a cheapie DIY kitchen remodel… 😉

Another eventual project is to put a greenhouse on the back of the house. We haven’t made it that far yet, and we’re not sure if we will be able to do it this summer. This falls into the category of expansion, not improvement.

Our main goal is to avoid burnout and try to improve upon the systems we already have. Once they are running efficiently, then we can consider whether or not we want to take on a new one!

What projects will you be working on this spring and summer? 

Why we are taking time to improve the systems we have instead of adding new ones.

Five Ways to Cook Without Power

We had a pretty wild snowstorm last week– we got about 2.5 feet of snow dumped on us at once, everything shut down, and our county was in a state of emergency with a travel ban due to avalanches on nearby roads.

Thankfully, our power did NOT go out. But it made me think about whether or not we would have been prepared if it had. With no ability to leave the house, an outage would have made things a bit complicated!

Candles & oil lamp- check. Water bottles- check. Shelf-stable food- check. Extra blankets and layers of clothing- check. Shelter- check. And, happily for us, we also had the ability to cook without power if needed.


When the power goes out and you can't get anywhere, what would you eat?

Almost four years ago, my husband built us a beautiful mud oven in our back yard. (You can read the post on that process here.)  It was made with mostly found materials and runs on small logs and manpower. It’s delightful to use for cooking any day of the week, but it would be especially useful during a power outage.

Of course, power outages don’t only happen in winter, and there are other reasons to use alternative cooking methods besides an outage. Saving money on bills, reducing heat in the house in the summer, or just enjoying the charm of cooking outdoors- cooking without power is a skill for all occasions.

Thus, I present to you: cooking options that don’t involve electricity. (This post contains affiliate links.)

  1. Open Fire Cooking

Sounds obvious, right? However, I’m often ashamed of how long it takes me to start a fire, and I know I’m probably not alone in my challenges. Here are some posts with tips on cooking over an open fire:

2. Solar Ovens

Solar ovens are what they sound like: cooking with no fuel but the sun! Now that’s cheap power! I have never tried a solar oven, but they are apparently a popular off-grid cooking option. Here are several posts with more information & solar oven recipes:

3. Dutch Ovens

Obviously, a dutch oven can be used indoors in a conventional oven. However, its durability lends itself to alternative cooking methods very well. If you’ve managed to find yourself a good cast iron dutch oven, be happy. You can do a lot with it! Here are a few examples:

4. Alternative Stoves

Who says you need a nice cook top to saute something? Check out these posts for some alternatives to the conventional range.

5. Earth & Brick Ovens

Jas Townsend– one of our original mud oven inspirations:

Other Inspiring Posts

What other ways have you cooked without electricity? Share below in the comments!

Be prepared for your next outage, camping trip, or just for a bit of fun cooking the old-fashioned way.

 

Violet Jam & a Recipe Round Up!

We recently talked about one of my favorite ways to eat dandelions. Now let’s talk about another beautiful, edible wildflower: violets!

Violet Jam & a Recipe Round-Up!Our first spring at our house brought hundreds thousands of violets. And what would we do with them besides figure out if we could eat them?

Upon seeing this glory spread through our front lawn, we first made sure that we did indeed identify the plant correctly. Next, we checked on its edibility. The flowers and leaves are edible, but the roots and seeds can make you sick. So make sure you only pick the tops, please, and always double check your plant identification and edibility when foraging.


I found a recipe for violet jam on the blog Emergency Outdoors. J has always been eager to help gather flowers, so this project was a welcome excuse to get a bowl and get picking.

Spring 2013 081We washed our flowers and got ready to make the jam.

Spring 2013 087After sanitizing my canning jars and lids, we blended up the ingredients as per our recipe, and ended up with this lovely lavender gel:

Spring 2013 095This was a sweet, floral jam that pairs well with lemon poppy seed muffins or a light springtime bread. The color made me think to give it away for Mother’s Day. While I prefer jams with less sugar, it was still very satisfying to prepare a treat from wild food growing in our yard.

Spring 2013 100 Emergency Outdoors provides all the details for this violet jam recipe. You will also find a wealth of information on violet there, including edible, medicinal, and perfumery uses- not to mention recipes for violet vinegar and violet syrup. Yum!

While we enjoyed trying the jam, I’d like to branch out this year and try using violet in other ways. I’ve compiled a list of violet recipes & resources that I’d like to try:

The Common Blue Violet– Common Sense Homesteading shares a violet jelly recipe (for those of you who prefer a clear spread), and shares various medicinal uses of violets.

The Health Benefits of Violets– From the Herbal Academy of New England. This amazing website provides a thorough review of violet and her medicinal uses. Check out her instructions for several different violet teas for health.

Let’s Talk About Violet- Amber of Pixie’s Pocket is bursting with enthusiasm for the little purple blooms that fill her yard each spring. Visit her blog for information on using violets for warts and acne, as well as a few links to wild violet recipes- like adding them to a wild greens pesto? That sounds delightfully different!

How to Make Wild Violet Syrup– ABCs & Garden Peas shares a method for making violet syrup- without heaps of sugar- and some ingenious ways to put it to use. I may have to try this to change up our maple syrup habits for springtime.

Five Uses for Violet Vinegar- I’ve seen a few recipes for violet vinegar, but always wondered what in the world you used it for. The Nerdy Farm Wife takes out the mystery and gives you five concrete ideas to get you started.

And of course, you can just plain eat them. They go well in salad, and the flowers are a wonderful outdoor playtime snack. The kids think it’s tons of fun to sit and munch flowers with mama. The novelty masks the health benefits, so they consume the blooms without hesitation. 😉

Did you know violet can also be used for personal body care? Try your hand at Herbal Academy’s Violet Leaf Soap Recipe, or The Nerdy Farm Wife’s recipe for Herbal Deoderant for Women’s Health.

Which recipes are most appealing to you? What will you try first this year? I am eager to get started soon!

How to make pretty purple violet jam- plus a round up of other violet uses!

 

Using Wild Plantain to Treat Bee Stings

I am not a healthcare professional. This post is meant for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please use common sense and do not rely on any internet remedy if you have serious reactions to stings. Please consult with your doctor for medical questions.

Did you know that you may have a natural remedy for bee and wasp stings growing wild in your yard? Wild plantain (not the banana variety) is a very common weed that also has some great health benefits (not to mention nutritious too!).

wildplantain (Photo Credit)

Though there are many varieties, the photo above features Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)- the type that is most common in my yard. (Note: the Broadleaf Plantain stems are covered in a long patch of many teeny tiny seeds.) The leaves are- you guessed it, broader than another common variety, Narrowleaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), as featured below:

wild plantain minor collagePhoto Credit

Narrowleaf Plantain has much longer leaves and taller stems. (Note how the seeds on the Narrowleaf variety grow in a conical shape atop the long stems.)

Plantain is pretty simple to identify. In both of these common varieties, it grows in a rosette pattern. Its leaves have smooth edges with parallel veins. Typically, you’ll find it in places with bad soil, or coming up through cracks in the driveway.

wild plantain rosettePhoto Credit

This post has some really wonderful photos to help identify wild plantain (as well as an awesome idea to make plantain vinegar for future use!), so please pop over and check it out if you would like some close up shots of individual leaves and stems.


According to the all-knowing and highly reliable Wikipedia, 😉 “The active chemical constituents are aucubin (an anti-microbial agent), allantoin (which stimulates cellular growth and tissue regeneration), and mucilage (which reduces pain and discomfort). Plantain has astringent properties, and a tea made from the leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes.” (Don’t worry, if I hadn’t heard it other places and seen it in action, I wouldn’t be quoting Wikipedia to you.)

Plantain has historically been used for all types of wounds, as it has many benefits, including being anti-inflammatory and analgesic (source), but one of our favorite uses for the plant is to help treat bee stings.

The quickest way to treat a sting with plantain is to grab a couple leaves and start mashing them in your mouth. (This makes a poultice of the leaves.) Take the mashed up bits and plaster them over the sting. They will actually draw out the venom of the stinger and help to alleviate symptoms quickly. As the poultice dries, reapply to continue to help with pain and swelling.

Remember, this remedy is meant for people who are NOT threatened with a serious reaction to stings. If you have a severe reaction, please do not hesitate to call 911 or use your EpiPen. While plantain can help to delay a severe reaction, it shouldn’t be relied upon if you’re at risk for anaphylactic shock.

We first tried plantain when my son encountered several bumblebees poking about in a flower patch. The poor guy got stung three times and immediately began developing some hives around the sting sites. My husband applied a plantain poultice in the manner described above and within about 20 minutes you couldn’t even see where the stings were. It also seemed to alleviate little J’s soreness at the sting sites.

See this attractive mash?

plantainmash

Since then, we’ve used plantain for stings multiple times each bee season. Each time we’ve tested it, it has been very successful.

What are your favorite uses for plantain? I would love to hear your experiences!

How to Use Wild Plantain on Bee Stings

Bee photo credit (adaptation mine)

Why Procrastination is My Worst Enemy

I am possibly one of the worst procrastinators ever.

why procrastination is my worst enemy small

I put off and put off and put off simple tasks. Picking up that toy I’ve been tripping over. Feeding the sourdough starter. Getting out first thing in the morning to feed the animals. Preserving that batch of beets that was sitting in the fridge for far too many weeks.


You know what happens when I procrastinate?

My house falls apart. Food gets wasted. Bills get paid at the last minute. Library fines accrue. Animal cages take much longer to clean because they get messier than they should. I get stressed out because of so much to do that I should have been doing all along.

Procrastination makes more work for me. Those simple little tasks add up- and even multiply- as I ignore them. It seems that every time I let something go, it’s easier to let more go. And pretty soon, when I’ve let go of too much, it all becomes overwhelming. You try washing the dishes and feeding the animals and folding the laundry and practicing for a concert and working on the blog with small kids under your feet and chickens sneaking in the kitchen through the open door.

chickenkitchen

Hmm. Maybe I should have done those little things one at a time.

Procrastination is a time waster. I don’t want to do that work right now… instead, I want to_________________________ (fill in the blank). Just veg out a few minutes? Eat cake? Play on my phone? When I procrastinate, I put off the work that needs to be done in favor what is essentially a big distraction and waste of a few minutes… or an hour… or a day…

Procrastination can be costly, too. Didn’t preserve the food? I’ve wasted the time, money, and work it took for us to get it in the first place. Didn’t pay that bill that you forgot about? Now I’ve got a fee on top of the original payment.

Procrastination is an ugly monster that can undermine an otherwise pleasant routine.

It’s hard to change habits completely. I sort of fall into that undisciplined category by nature. BUT that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to do better. Here are some of the things I’m working on:

  • Tweaking (and sticking to) my morning routine to start my day off right.
  • Eating my frogs first. (A.k.a., getting the least favorite tasks out of the way before anything else.)
  • Making a habit of cleaning up right away. (Wash the dishes right after a meal, picking up the shoe on the floor instead of stepping over it, etc.)
  • Taking care of my mail as it comes in instead of setting it down to handle later.
  • Setting up a schedule in my planner for routine animal tasks (hoof trimming, coop cleaning, etc.)

Note that I said I’m working on these things. I’ve got a long way to go, friends.

Anyone else struggle with procrastination? How do you tackle it?

Why procrastination is one of my worst enemies on the homestead and what I'm doing to work against it.

 

Easy Slow Cooker Venison Pot Roast

At the end of deer season, we had a friend text us early in the morning: “Could you use any venison? We got an extra deer and don’t have space for it all!”

What followed was a somewhat humorous scramble to say yes to the deer meat. Moving around stuff in the freezer, looking  up YouTube videos on how to process venison, staying up til 2 am trying to make cuts out of a quartered deer… you get the idea. Complete novices working hard to save meat without a clue what we were doing.

However, we ended up with a freezer full of some of the best meat you can get– free range, organic, pesticide free– you name it, this was healthy, wild meat to feed our family.


An easy "set it and forget it" venison recipe.

Enter the pot roast recipe. We actually used the deer neck for our roast, based on an internet recommendation. (Do let me know if there’s other parts suitable for a good roast!)

The nice part is that this is a “set it and forget it” type recipe- just dump the ingredients into your slow cooker unceremoniously and leave it for several hours. You’ll have magic when you get back.

Easy Slow Cooker Venison Pot Roast

  • 1 large bone-in venison neck roast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt & pepper (enough to generously rub the surface of the meat.)
  • 2 cups water

This is SO easy. Just put all the ingredients in the crock pot, rub the Venison with salt & pepper, and cover with water. Put a lid on it and cook on high for about 4 hours.

Done!

I served mine with oven-roasted potatoes & buttered carrots and peas. I’m sure you could easily put vegetables in the crock pot with the meat if you prefer a one-pot meal.

Another great part about this meal is that it makes its own broth. After we ate our pot roast, I made venison stew the next night with the leftover meat and broth. It was absolutely delicious.

If you’ve never tried venison before, this is a great way to begin! It tastes very similar to a beef pot roast. The meat is soft and falls apart under the fork. No tough, dry venison stereotype here!

We hope you enjoy it just as much as we did. 🙂

Plant Therapy Giveaway!

I don’t know about you, but March gives me so much hope. It may still feel like winter, but I know spring is coming. In like a lion, out like a lamb!

How about we celebrate the onset of March with a nice big GIVEAWAY?

Plant Therapy Essential Oils & Diffuser Giveaway


Some of my Homestead Bloggers friends and I have partnered with Plant Therapy to bring you a really awesome prize.

This week we’re giving you a chance to win an Essential Oils Kit and AromaFuse Diffuser valued at $110.00! You can view more details about the essential oils kit HERE, and the diffuser HERE at Plant Therapy.com. Plant Therapy has graciously provided this essential oils package as a prize so that YOU can get a jump start on your health and wellness this spring!

You should know that I’ve gotten Plant Therapy oils before as part of my previous Healthy Living Bundle purchases and they are fabulous. While I don’t hold a particular brand loyalty when it comes to EOs, I do love that Plant Therapy offers quality oils at a very affordable price.

Let’s take a look at the prizes in this giveaway:

The Essential Oils

The 7&7 Essential Oils Kit features fourteen of Plant Therapy’s most popular oils. 7 single oils, and 7 blends or synergies- hence, 7 & 7. 😉  This would be a great set for someone who is just starting out with essential oils and would like to try several out, OR for someone whom is well-versed in essential oils and is running low on the essentials!

The Diffuser 

The AromaFuse diffuser, with its sleek, modern style and programmable lights & timer, would be an excellent addition to any room. The large reservoir will allow you to diffuse your favorite oils for several hours for all of the added benefits of essential oil aromatherapy.

 

Meet the Bloggers Involved

They’re Not Our Goats <—You are here. 😉 

 

Terms and Conditions

This 7&7 Essential Oils Kit & AromaFuse Diffuser Giveaway is sponsored by Plant Therapy, and is open to any resident who is 18 years of age or older and who lives in the USA or Canada. This giveaway starts on Wednesday, March 1st at 7:00 am (CST) and ends on Friday, March 10th, 2017 at 11:59pm (CST). The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If we do not hear back from said winner in the designated time period of 24 hours we will choose another winner and they will have 24 hours to respond from the time the notification email is sent. Please check your SPAM email folders. Good luck to everyone!

 

Enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win a 14 oil set and diffuser from Plant Therapy!

Tick Bite Prevention (Naturally!)

I don’t remember ever getting a tick growing up. But at our house, we get ticks on us almost every single time we go outside in the spring or fall. Literally. No ticks is a rare occasion. After knowing several people with Lyme disease, the commonness of deer ticks in our yard gives me the heebie jeebies.

Tick Bite Prevention (Naturally!)Photo Credit

(This post contains affiliate links.)

The typical advice for avoiding tick bites & diseases? Don’t walk in high grass, spray yourself with DEET insect repellent, wear clothing treated with permethrin, and then check yourself after coming in. If you have a tick bite, get on antibiotics pronto.

However, our property has ticks everywhere- not just in high grass. And while I think it’s unlikely that the occasional use of bug spray and insecticides will kill you, it’s certainly not something I want to rub on my kids or wear on a daily basis. (See here and here for some reasons why.) Same with antibiotics- I am all for using them judiciously as needed- but can we be on them almost constantly without health repercussions? Certainly not.


Thankfully, we have found some alternative tick prevention methods over the past year or so that have proved to be fairly effective- without the theoretical risks and worries that come with regular chemical application. Here are some of the methods we use:

1) Homemade anti-tick spray: I don’t know where this recipe originally came from, but thank you to whoever published it! You will need:

  • 2 C white vinegar.
  • 1 C water.
  • 10 drops of eucalyptus, peppermint, OR citrus essential oil. All of these serve as a tick repellent. (I like orange, personally.)
  • 10 drops tea tree essential oil (another tick repellent- plus it’s antibacterial).

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle and apply to clothing and skin before going outside- particularly to the socks and pants. It’s a little stinky, but no worse than bug spray- and it doesn’t have the same toxicity concerns.

2) Look dorky. Wear sneakers instead of flip-flops. Tuck your pants into your socks. You might look silly, but it will keep ticks from crawling up your legs. Just a thought.

3) Get chickens. If you have a tick problem in your yard, consider getting a few chickens. Besides all the other awesome reasons to have them around, they are also great at reducing the tick population. Last spring, without chickens, we were overrun with deer ticks. This spring, with a small flock, I have only found one so far. Obviously, it’s too soon to tell whether it was the chickens or just a different year, but I’ll take anything that helps.

UPDATE: We do still get ticks, even with chickens, so maybe it was just the year. However, I know that chickens like to eat ticks, and anything helps– so I’m keeping ’em.

4) Do a tick check. Every night during tick season, we do a full check of ourselves and our kids. Even if you do have a tick bite, catching it quickly is key to avoiding tick-transmitted diseases. So scan everywhere on your body- particularly in armpits, behind the ears, in your hair, and other hard to see places. Showering soon after coming inside can help rinse off any non-attached ticks. These guys can be really tiny, so do be thorough.

tick on pennyPhoto Credit

If you DO get a tick bite:

1) Remove it quickly. You can find instructions for removing ticks with tweezers, but I have always been nervous about accidentally leaving the head in. I personally like using the Ticked Off tool, because it’s simple and I’ve never had a problem with severing the tick. It’s cheap too.

UPDATE: We have had a few ticks break when using the Ticked Off tool. We’ve since switched back to tweezers, but will still occasionally get a head stuck in the skin. We just purchased these fine-pointed tweezers for hopes of a better success rate. I will update again after we’ve tried them to let you know how they perform.

2) Disinfect the area. My husband always does this with a bit of alcohol. Ask your healthcare professional for recommendations.

3) Consider whether or not you need treatment. We have spoken to five different doctors on the topic of routine preventative antibiotics for tick bites. Two were for it, two were against it. The fifth prescribed it to my husband because of a questionable rash and illness after the removal of a tick we didn’t catch very early. We use antibiotics when we feel they are the safest choice, but not as a matter of course- simply because of the frequency of tick bites in our area.

UPDATE: My daughter got Lyme’s this past fall, complete with an atypical rash. We did a course of antibiotics for her. It reminded me of the need for due diligence in preventative measures– because even as the author of this post, it’s easy to get lax and neglect taking simple precautions.

What should you do? Please inform yourself on Lyme’s Disease and talk to your doctor to decide what course of treatment is best for you. If you are concerned (especially if the tick has been in your skin longer than 24-48 hours), save the tick if possible to be taken in for testing.

This post is mostly about tick & Lyme’s prevention. I cannot begin to cover all the details of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, nor can I recommend a medical course of action. Here are some other helpful articles for your further research:

Remember, ALWAYS check for ticks after time outdoors in tick seasons.  (I’m preaching this to myself as much as to you.) EVERY TIME. That’s the best preventative measure you can take.

It’s worth it.

I am not a healthcare professional. This post should be used for informational purposes only.

Take five minutes to learn simple, chemical-free ways to avoid tick bites this season.

 

 

 

 

Planning a Children’s Garden

We’ve been talking about garden planning recently. Gardening is a great hobby for some of us adults, but have you ever considered making a garden just for your kids?

Planning a Children's Garden2

When my son was four, he proclaimed that he wanted to have a garden, just like Dada. What joy to see him taking in an interest in growing food! It made my little heart flutter to hear him talking about planting, watering, and weeding.


But, as with many involved children’s activities, the logistics seemed daunting. Where would we put his plot? What could he grow easily? Could we trust a preschooler to successfully grow a garden? What if he kills it all? What if all he wants to do is rub dirt on his belly?

Consider planting a children's garden this year! The mishaps are well worth the fun.

Dirt on the belly. It’s a dangerous thing.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long to decide that the learning process was far more important than the outcome of the garden itself, and we got down to planning.

We decided we would ask him what he wanted to grow in his plot. His interests? Tomatoes, peppers, spinach. Maybe a melon too. Fair enough- those are his favorite edibles from our big garden, so why not let him grow them?

The chickens had conveniently decimated their rectangle of run right near the big garden. This area became my son’s garden patch.

We planned to have our son help with layering the ground to build healthy soil, starting seeds indoors, transplanting, watering, and (maybe) careful weeding. Later, he could help with the harvesting and eating of his homegrown food. 🙂 Sounds good, right?

You’ll be pleased to know that our little experiment turned out well. In late winter, he helped to dump layers of leaves and straw on his garden patch to help enrich his soil. He loved watching Dada start the seeds in early spring, and even helped a little bit here and there. He watered away all through the summer– maybe a little too much– and ate every single cherry tomato that grew by the end of September.

jgarden2

 (My little guy working away at bringing straw to lay in his garden.)

There may have been a few mistakes- a few plants pulled instead of weeds, broken tomato stems, premature carrots… But he learned a lot and took pride in his patch. I think that I want my kids to enjoy gardening far more than I want them to have a perfect crop each year.

Two years later, he’s already talking about this year’s garden. His three year old sister also wants her own garden– and she wants to paint it purple. 😉

Here are some considerations for planning your own children’s garden:

  • What types of plant would your child like to grow? Try to pick low-maintenance plants, but feel free to try something your child wants, even if you don’t really think it will grow. Letting them pick and plan (within reason) helps to generate enthusiasm.
  • Where would a good location be for the garden? Pick a good growing spot that’s easy for your child to see and get to. Ideally, it should be near where you are working so you can work side by side.
  • What would be a good size for the garden? You want it to be fairly manageable for your little one, but not so limiting that he doesn’t feel like it’s a “real” garden. We did a small patch, maybe about 4′ x 6′- just enough to call his own.
  • What garden tasks are age-appropriate for your child? Try not to pick tasks that are so advanced that they become frustrating. A three year old delights in spraying a hose or using a small watering can. An older child might like the delicate care required for transplanting.
  • How can you make this a positive, bonding experience? You can use this a teaching tool, but try not to fret too much if your child makes mistakes. Your cheerful attitude can turn an accidentally snapped tomato plant from a disappointment into a bolstering learning experience. Likewise, working together should be an encouraging, happy time- not a time of barking orders or miserable complaining.
  • Consider alternate gardens. A flower garden, rock garden, small pond, or herb garden can all be great places for your little one to tend and care for! Be creative and have fun thinking of gardening ideas together. You could go a step further and find ways to decorate your little garden after it’s planted.

Have you made a children’s garden? What did you include? I would love to hear your ideas!

P.S. Don’t forget you can grab your free seed starting printable here.

Go outside, get in the dirt, learn together. Make this the year that you make a garden just for your kids!

Free Seed Starting Printable

It was 60 degrees in PA this past weekend! Depending on your zone, seed starting time is either already upon you or it will be shortly.

Get a free planner to keep track of all your garden seeds this spring!Today’s post is a quickie- I just wanted to share a free seed-starting printable with you!

Get your planner by email! 

I created this printable last year to help us keep better track of what seeds we started, when we started them, and how soon we should transplant them. It’s easy to loose track of what’s what when you’ve got tray after tray of tiny green seedlings.


If you don’t know anything about starting your own seeds, or if you just need some extra help (like me!) I highly suggest you pop over to the Ultimate Seed Starting & Garden Planning Guide. There you will find wisdom, tips, and resources from some of the smartest gardening bloggers I know.

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Looking forward to keeping in touch!