Category Archives: Good Pickins’

Good Pickins # 19 (Seed & Garden Edition)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year- almost springtime! We still haven’t officially planned out our garden, but by golly, we had better do it soon. We have a lot of saved seeds from last year, but will be ordering some new ones from Johnny’s. And in just a couple of short weeks, it will be time for us to start our seeds indoors!

Summer '13--March '14 022(It won’t be long, it won’t be long, it won’t be long…)

Today, my “pickins'” will be focused on seed starting and garden planning. This is partially because we need to be doing it ASAP, and partially because I think it goes along with my $25 grocery challenge. Chances are, we couldn’t eat on that little a week without having our own preserved garden food. Planning ahead for a successful garden will help to keep us well-fed next year too!

Find Your Hardiness Zone– Find out what you can plant depending on where you live. All seed packets are labeled with a “Zone,” so do make sure you’re buying plants that match your official zone!

Seed Library with Origami Seed Envelopes– It’s a little late for me this year, but this would have been a smart, pretty, and functional way for me to store my seeds over winter. Let’s just say I put various mystery squash seeds into plastic ziplocs and didn’t label them. Oops.

Simple Seed Germination Test– If you have saved seeds from last year’s garden (or old purchased seeds), you can find out if they’re viable with this simple test. No need to waste a bunch of starting medium and grow space on your seed-starting shelf.

A 10 Step Guide to Starting Seeds Indoors– From Backyard Roots. This series is super helpful for the newbie who wants to start seeds inside rather than waiting to buy a plant at the local nursery. Kellie breaks down each part of seed starting into super simple steps, and helps you to avoid common problems along the way.

Planning Your Vegetable Garden– Grow a Good Life shares how she goes about planning and mapping her vegetable garden each spring. I like her approach. She is sure to consider crop rotation and succession planting, and gives priority space to her “necessity” crops first.

If you want to use technology to plan out your garden space, try Mother Earth’s vegetable garden planner, or The Old Farmer’s Almanac garden planner. While you can try them both for free for 30 days, they do eventually have a fee. My husband was so impressed with the Old Farmer’s Almanac version that we considered paying the annual subscription cost— but didn’t! Just having printable plans made up was helpful enough for us.

Do you plant a garden? Do you have any favorite resources or tips to share? Link them below so I can learn from you!


Good Pickins’ #18

Sub-zero temperatures have racked our area the past two weeks. I can’t wait to get into March and maple-sugaring season, so I can be out trekking down the hill in the sunshine and mild temperatures to haul up sap to pour over the fire… There is something wonderfully invigorating about it!

February 2015 004This girl is hysterical. She wants sunglasses, shoes, necklaces, and dancing. And I’m not a girly girl mama. But apparently, this little one wants to be the star of the party whenever she can- even when she’s practicing on the potty. πŸ˜€

This week’s pickins’ are child-centered- hopefully some of these are as helpful to you as they were to me.

How I Stopped Yelling at My Kids– From Money Saving Mom. I am totally with Crystal on this one. It’s so easy to get into the cycle of frustration, snapping, yelling, and creating an all-in-all unpleasant home. Her story has inspired me to try a similar move to try to create a more peaceful, calm, and loving home.

How to Talk to Kids About Their Art– I really struggle with not dictating J’s artwork- or pointing out my observations first without letting him tell me what he was thinking. Check out this short but helpful post from the Artful Parent on constructive ways to talk to children about their artwork.

Just One– It’s so easy to forget how much we have in this country. Even the poorest of us have far more than those in poverty-stricken third world countries. I write about frugality and resourcefulness- but for these families, their lives are about just getting by. Ruth Soakup has been in the Dominican Republic this week, working to get more children sponsored through Compassion International. A friend and I split the sponsorship for a child through this program for years and years, and Ruth’s writing has been reminding me that there are children out there, just like my own children, who need the help- the help that is really not so hard for me to give. I can’t speak to when we will definitely begin sponsoring another child, but the issue has been heavy on my heart and mind recently. It is something we can all consider.

Have a blessed Saturday! πŸ™‚



Good Pickins’ #17

The past week and a half or so was hectic. My dad-in-law was hospitalized last week for what we initially thought was a stroke. Thankfully, it turned out he was having similar symptoms from complications from a car accident, and he is now home and recovering. I am immensely grateful to have this wonderful man- the father of my husband and four great brothers-in-law- home and feeling much better than he was!


We are also remembering several life markers this week- my grandmother just turned 88 on Monday, and my grandfather would have been 90 today if he were still living.


And seven years ago this week, Tim and I got engaged.


What a whirlwind of memories has come swirling back to me!

All that being said, we are hopping to it this weekend with a long to-do list, so I’ll keep the pickins’ short and sweet.

Weaving Learning Into Everyday Routines- This beautiful post reminds me to slow down and enjoy my children more. To invite them into my life and stop rushing to meet every deadline. To stress less. To build our relationship. Well worth the read.

The Real Truth About Boring Men– Not to criticize those guys who can pull off romantic proposals and movie-worthy surprises for their honeys. But rather, it praises the men who stay faithful and true in the day in/day out boring, everyday routines- and through the hardest times you will face together in life:

“And there is now and the beautiful boring, the way two lives touch and go deeper into time with each other.

The clock ticking passionately into decades.”

That’s it for today folks. Happy V-day, if you celebrate it. I’m off to enjoy my “boring” and absolutely amazing family. πŸ™‚




Good Pickins’ #16

I’m…. dreaming of a gree-eeen… spri-ing…. (Can you hear the tune to White Christmas in your head? Get on your Bing Crosby, everyone!)

I’ve been getting cabin fever with all this chilly weather, and I want nothing more than to get moving and active outside again. Yeah, I know I can still be active in the winter. But I’m such a cozy-upper- I want to surround myself with scarves and blankets and heaters- I have such a hard time dragging myself into the cold to get moving.

So in lieu of spring walks, weed pulling, stream-hiking, and other blood-pumping activities, I pulled out the incredible, amazing, fantastic…


january 2015 020

january 2015 019 (For some reason these kids kept bouncing and I couldn’t get a still picture of them!)

Well, the kids usurped my trampoline workout time, so here I am typing again instead… Alas. I shall just have to share with you this week’s pickins’.

Why Everyone Should Care About Rainwater Harvesting– Ever considered collecting your rainwater? Find out why and how in this friendly persuasive article.

10 Minute Infinity Scarf Tutorial – Check out this super simple jersey-knit infinity scarf! It’s one cut and one seam. Perfect for the novice sewer.

101 Tech-Free Toddler Activities– A free e-book for subscribers from a fellow blogger, Julie of Happy Strong Home.

How to Grow Luffas– What?!? Yes, you read that right. Did you know that luffas are actually the inside part of a gourd? This was absolutely fascinating to me! Head over to Little Sprouts Learning to read all about it.

While you do your reading, I’m off to brainstorm some other bouncy activity for myself. Have an energetic Saturday!


Good Pickins #15

This week, walking through the grocery store, my son spied a box of Kix in the cereal aisle. “Ooh, mama,” he said, with a gleam in his eye, “Can we get these, please???”

All the reasons that cereal isn’t all that good for you flashed through my mind as I considered. The price below the box had no sale sticker on it, either. I hesitated. “It’s not on sale, J…”

“Please, mama?” J requested again, very sweetly, and without a hint of whining in his voice.

I held firm for a moment, not wanting to give into supermarket bargaining techniques. And then I thought to myself, Well, why the heck not? I so rarely give into my kid’s random snacking desires that I decided it wouldn’t do any harm- at least not when it’s done as a treat.

“Okay, we can get it this time, honey. It’s fine.”

J leapt out of the car cart, wrapped his arms around my legs, and said delightfully, “I love you, mama.”

“I love you too, J.” I replied. The woman across the aisle chuckled to herself, and I smiled to myself. “He loves me. I bought him Kix,” I informed the stranger.

Sometimes, I let go of my real foodie ideals and just enjoy the fun I have with this kiddo.

January 2015 013

Speaking of groceries… here’s the first of your weekly reading!

My $170 Grocery Budget Challenge– And I thought my $280 was good! Shannon, a contributor on The Humbled Homemaker, shares how she managed to feed her family of four on $170 for a whole month. After hearing where she cut the corners to do it, I felt inspired to see if I could cut our budget a little more next month too. Shannon makes readers realize that most of us probably have more resources to make dinner than we think we do, if we will just be willing to sacrifice favorites and be a little more creative.

Transformed Talk– A written sermon of sorts on taming the tongue and using our words for edification, rather than the opposite. This particularly spoke to me this week and I wanted to share it with you.

The Deep Litter Method of Waste Management in Chicken Coops– The Chicken Chick lays out the dos and don’ts of the deep litter method for chicken coops. Essentially, you don’t clean out the coop on a regular basis. Instead, you continue to add more litter on top of the old stuff & the poop, and allow the litter and waste to compost throughout the season. Of course, you have to be careful about excess moisture, unturned litter, and other hazards of the method- read on if you’d like to know all the gory details!

Embracing the Pain and Letting Go of Fear in Childbirth-An old post from Lindsey of Passionate Homemaking. This has been a long time favorite of mine, and one that I would often pass on to my birth clients. Lindsey talks about how the pain in childbirth has a purpose, and how understanding that purpose takes away some of the mystery and fear of it all. She also has some wonderful ideas for how to change a fearful mindset towards childbirth. As it turns out, embracing the process can actually make it all a little easier!

Have a brilliant Saturday. πŸ™‚


Good Pickins’ #14

Frigid wind chills have swept our region this week, and our poor hens have been hanging out inside most of the time. Us too, actually. Why go out more than you have to when you can snuggle inside in comfy sweatshirts and fleecy PJs?

December 2014 030Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Things You Didn’t Know About Eggs – Here’s an interesting post on egg and layer facts. I actually really didn’t like a couple of things in this article, but sometimes the things that get me fired up make me want to share about it. One disturbing fact in this article was how many male chicks are killed by the laying industry yearly (can anyone say WASTEFUL?). The next was the quote on cholesterol… but did you know that high cholesterol in eggs is primarily a problem found in commercial layers? Which leads us to the next article…

Free Range Eggs: The Good Egg– From Mother Earth News. Did you know that free-range eggs have half the cholesterol of the typical store-bought egg, and many more times the nutrient? So perhaps the idea of too many eggs being bad for your health is born out of the unhealthy way we raise our commercial chickens. Things that make you go hmmm…. and one more reason to buy local farm-raised eggs or to raise your own.

Being Frank About Family Size– I really appreciated Sarah’s gracious, yet unapologetic approach to family size. We shouldn’t criticize the mother who wants eight children close together, nor the mother who wants only one or two. “The quiver is full with how many are in there,” she reminds us, and I couldn’t agree more. While you’re at it, check out I Was That Mother In The Grocery Store for a little courage in facing your daily routines with children who act like- uhhh- children.

Ten Smart Ways to Build an Emergency Fund– Remember that post I wrote on emergency funds? Ruth at Living Well Spending Less offers some practical ways to begin building that fund for a rainy day.

Read on, and have a spectacular Saturday!



Good Pickins’ #13

We have been engaged with several family gatherings and celebrations over the past two weeks or so, hopping from my parents to my in-laws to my brother and sister in-laws who live five hours from us to back home again. It’s funny how after an extended hiatus from normal life, however, the body decides its time to let down its defenses and go ahead and get sick. Anyone else experience an internal system crash when you’re supposed to be on break?

While we and the kids are working on getting back to full speed, I’ll share some pictures with you from our holiday hullabaloo.

The kids, excited about my family’s generosity:

December 2014 050

Fascinated with his new magnifying glassDecember 2014 053

Matching pajamas from a friend. Of course we couldn’t get them to smile at the same time!December 2014 073

Loving his new train village. The best part? It all goes back in one box pretty easily. December 2014 080

Four cousins in a tub. What could be more fun? cousinsNow that you’ve gotten to see all that, I’ll give you some Saturday reading material:

Learning to Live Without Walmart– One family’s list of current self-sufficiency accomplishments, projects, and future endeavors.Β  This family is a bit further down the homesteading road than we are, but their goals inspired me to continue down the path a little further ourselves!

Teaching Kids the Value of Work- I desperately want my children to understand their place in the family- they are loved, they are valued, and they are equal contributors to the household- and that means in chores too! Allyson at All Our Days shares a relevant book review that hopes to avoid giving your kids a sense of entitlement and encourages them to be cheerful workers in their household. I may have to check out the bookΒ Cleaning House myself!

How to Render Lard– Cooking with lard! I have to say, I have never tried this before. (Though we do save and cook with our bacon fat frequently.) But we have a local butcher down the road, who I am sure, will give us some fat if we ask for it. Have you ever tried this?

We Don’t Need No Education- Unschooling. Depending on who’s hearing it, the term can rattle up intense jealousy or complete scorn. Though I myself am uncertain whether unschooling could be The Right Choice for our family, and I can’t say to what extent I endorse it, I must say that this beautifully written article from Ben Hewitt is a striking account of freeing his own children from institutionalized schooling. Thoughts, anyone?

Hope you have a happy and healthy Saturday, to go along with your New Years. πŸ™‚

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Good Pickins’ #12

It’s almost Christmas! I’m hustling around trying to finish up my last minute gifts and pack for a week of traveling to see several family members. And in the meantime, I’m trying to quiet my heart and prepare for Christmas properly. This is for my own benefit, as well as my children’s- so they don’t remember holiday time as mom running about like a headless chicken time.

Have I mentioned that my mom-in-law is 100% Italian? She’s the real deal, and she makes a mean lasagna for Christmas dinner each year. I’ll be privileged to enjoy both her company and her good cooking on Christmas day- lots of family members around, chatter and laughter, the radiant heat of the wood stove, and a kitchen brimming with homemade sauce, noodles, and cheese. And meatballs. You can’t forget the meatballs.

Which brings us to our reading for the week. When I saw this recipe for ricotta cheese cookies, I couldn’t help but think of the Italian side of my family I married into. I’m not sure if my Mama Z has made them, but we just may have to try them (if there’s any cheese that didn’t make it into the lasagna!)

How about The Twelve Days of Christmas– have you ever wondered what’s up with the tradition or the song? I thought Christmas was only one day! Head on over to Celebrating Holidays to read up on the history of the twelve days- both the celebrations and the songs. You can learn something new every day!

The last link is Christmas and the Wealth of Tradition.Β  I loved how Rebekah described how traditions and symbols can help us to remember and focus in on the Scripture’s story of Christ’s birth. While the symbols are never to take precedence over the story itself, they can serve as reminders and directors to our straying hearts.

I think how J doesn’t understand every nuance of every Bible story- but he sees the symbols at church and in our home. The nativity scene we complete. The advent wreath. The purple banners reminding us of royalty- the coming of the king. Communion. The picture of the lamb, reminding us that Jesus was God’s special sacrificial Lamb. J doesn’t understand it all yet- but he sees the symbols and asks. And we get to explain and take him back to the Bible and where the symbols come from. All of it serves as a reminder for him, but they do just as much for us- we adults who are so prone to forget!

I hope that your holiday week is peaceful and beautiful, and that you too can focus in on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.





Good Pickins #11


December 2014 011This cute little munchkin is 18 months old today. My little girl is getting less and less like a baby each day with her ability to climb, say a small collection of words, and wee on the potty. I’m amazed by how much faster she seems to be growing up than her brother! I guess second children will do that to you.

Speaking of children growing up, my son is constantly wowing me with everything he’s learning and comprehending. My hubby and I were talking about whether or not we should try for home school kindergarten next fall (J will be five), and our discussion led to research. While we didn’t make a hard decision about how we will school him, we had some interesting discussion on the matter. Enter the first of the “pickins’.”

Much Too Early! by David Elkind, Ph.D. I often struggle between allowing my children to have a less structured early education (one where they do learn naturally through interacting in depth with their world) and encouraging them to do as much as they can as early as they can (pushing for academic rigor at a young age). This article, while not all-encompassing, piqued my interest and helped me to think through some of the implications and problems of imposing formal academic study on children who are not yet ready for it. I’d say this is an appropriate read for all parents of young children, regardless of your schooling choices.

Sourdough Pizza Crust– When you’re unsure of big decisions in life, like schooling for your children, pizza is a easy choice to make for dinner. πŸ˜‰ This was my first time trying sourdough pizza crust, and boy, did it turn out well! The dough was stretchy and malleable- though it did want to keep springing back on me. It was fun to work with and cooperated when given periodic rests. And once baked? Bubbly, airy, beautiful pizzeria-style crust- all because of a little help from a starter.

Fun and Simple Advent Activities– Trina provides some low key ideas to keep you and your little ones merrily occupied between now and Christmas. If I get ambitious, I may try out her Christmas wreath tutorial too!

How to Feed Your Hens for Best Egg Production– Our hens are of laying age, but the days are so short and cold now that we think eggs will be unlikely until early spring. However, we are hopeful, and providing good nutrition for the girls throughout the cold months will help to keep them healthy and (maybe???) give them a head start for egg production. Now, even if they don’t actually lay, at least we’ll know they’re getting what they need. πŸ™‚

I hope you have a marvelous Saturday! Happy reading!



Good Pickins’ #10

This weekend, four generations of my family are together at my grandmother’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s been a long time since all of us were together, so I am thrilled to get to spend time with my family in this way!

June 2014 113What does this picture have to do with Thanksgiving time, you may ask? Well, this photo of J won a summer photo contest at our local turkey/strawberry farm… and the prize was a free turkey! Thanks to my handsome little man surveying the John Deere, we can feast on poultry this year without spending a dime (on the bird, anyway).

On to the pickins’! I’ve got a theme going on this week- taking care of Turkey-Day leftovers, and taking care of sickness. Both duties have fallen upon me. I have a load of food to preserve for the coming weeks, and a head cold to boot. Here’s what I’ve been reading up on:

Thanksgiving Leftovers– Food Network has a great line up of turkey re-dos in both classic styles and ethnic twists. If you don’t know what to do with your leftovers, check out this collection!

Canning The Christmas Turkey– The Organic Prepper outlines an efficient run-down of how to make an easy, nourishing stock from your turkey carcass and then turn your leftovers into delicious soup in a pressure canner.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar– This article fromΒ  a mainline medical website confirms what natural health nuts have been saying for a long period of time now- apple cider vinegar does wonders! Read the whole article for uses and tips.

The Best Way to Boost Our Kids’ Immune Systems– Trina shares how health in the gut is great for avoiding sickness too! Read on to find out why you should start having more cultured dairy today.

Don’t forget to shop Small Business Saturday today! Hope you have a festive day today. πŸ™‚

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support in this way!