Thursday, June 30, 2011

Homeschool Village Garden Challenge

This evening we spent a fair amount of time in the garden. It has been neglected because of wet and then hot weather. Today we hit 100 degrees so an evening of weeding is what we had to do.

 (see the empty bed back there? Swiss chard is now planted.)

The turnips we pulled last week have been replaced with swiss chard seeds. My mom says the plants are beautiful reds and purples so I can't wait to see them. Not sure how you eat them, but I'm game!

A couple garden posts ago, I talked about our worm problem. Someone suggested using soap and water and spraying it on the plants. I did that. However, I think they did not like it or something, especially the cauliflower because the leaves are now all brown. 

We went out and tied all the cauliflower leaves (what there was left) around the cauliflower heads to blanch them. Some were already turning purple and while you can eat that, I read that the purple parts are more bitter. So its best to stop that as soon as possible.

The little one is not a fan of gardening this week. She's not really a fan of heat though so you can imagine what she feels like today. She does, however, enjoy harvesting things! We found several LARGE squash today. They're special striped type squash. I can't wait to cook with them. Tonight I found this Squash Bread recipe, hoping its similar to zucchini bread. I'll let you know.

I've been reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it is an eyeopener. I plan to teach the little one the difference between organic, heirloom, genetically modified plants. I don't think she had much of a clue where our food came from before we planted a garden. We plan to shop more organically and locally from here on out. Read the book, wonderful.


Our tomatoes are growing so wonderfully, although they're like a wild fire bramble bush!  Hubby tied up the plants he could, by scrounging around for sticks to use. He got a bit inventive when he found a broken old broom handle. 

Pretty soon we'll be doing a fall planting. Things you can pick in the fall such as lettuce, spinach, peas, beets and swiss chard. I'm looking forward to beets. Have you seen some of the ones you can plant? Stripes, like a candy cane! I can't wait. No one in my family will eat them but me, Yay me.

Believe it or not, I'm already thinking of next year's plantings. I've decided to go with organic heirloom vegetables and have been ordering catalogs. I shouldn't be so eager for another planting. I should be crossing fingers for this year's crops! lol

Feel free to follow me through Google or Facebook to be updated about my gardening and homeschool adventures. I'll follow you back as well. Have a great weekend!

* Linked to Homeschool Village Garden Challenge *

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chicken House & Mealworms for Dinner

 (chicken house model, imagine a chicken wire part underneath)

Last night the little one and I sat down and perused these chicken trailers. We found quite a few that we liked but wanted to make out own. Pulling out scissors, cardstock and pencils we worked on making a model. 

(see the roosting boxes section planned?)

We still have a ways to go because I need to plan out double walls and what I need for those since we'll be insulating in between for winter warmth. 

Here's a pic of the plans for cutting pieces out of a sheet of paneling. Thankfully we have two we pulled off walls in the teen's room but we'll still buy two to use on the inside (since we're doubling the wood for insulated walls.) 

The little one drew a picture of what she thought it should look like. I've drafted a bit over it and I've kept a tally of measurements and am working on what pieces we need to cut for the supports of it. We're getting real technical here! lol  Can't wait until we actually build the darn thing!

Speaking of chickens...
I just joined the very informative Backyard Chicken Forum boards. Oh my goodness. I could stay on those boards forever. So much to learn! So much I did not know! 

For instance, chickens like mealworms. They're expecially good to have in the winter when the chickens can't find worms. We grew a few for a very short time while studying bugs one year in homeschool (they grow into beetles). I think its been about 3 years? Anyway, I found out that you can continually grown them and freeze the larvae to have chicken feed in the winter. Who knew! I plan to do this, although my family is going to balk at having frozen worms right up against their frozen veggies, meat and fruits in the freezer. I better start praying for a separate upright freezer! lol

Mealworm Links
Live Mealworms

I'm also learning about all the different things you can feed your chickens: cucumbers, and kale, lettuce, and cheese. Did you know they'll eat yogurt and it's really good for them? They also like melons, celery tops, pumpkins and bananas. Who knew that either? I expect if I keep researching, we probably wouldn't have to buy much feed for them at all.

Feeding Chickens Links
Chicken Feed - An Introduction
Chicken Treats chart
How To Feed Chickens 
Grass Fed Chickens? 
Feeding Chickens 

I'm off to do normal things like dishes and laundry, cutting up and freezing peachs (and making a peach cobbler!) and quit dreaming of little chickens in my backyard for now. The little one is playing with Playmobil and listening to a dramatized version of the Chronicles of Narnia books. Summer homeschooling at its best!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hungry for Garden Food!

This past weekend I took a few pictures of the garden with the cell phone (since I was too lazy to come in and get the camera.) Things are growing!

I forgot we had planted bush beans. With all the squash hoopla, I neglected to go look at the beans/pea bed very much. The peas are dying because of the hot weather but we will replant sometime in July I think, to have a bumper fall crop. (Did you know beans had adorable little purple flowers?!)

The tomatoes have started forming and I can see that although I stuck sticks in with the intention of tying the plants upright, I have not done that. Didn't I say I was a terrible gardener?! The plants are hanging over the side of the beds, not good. It's on my list to do today!

Squash, squash, squash! I counted 12 different little baby ones and some about 4" long. I can't wait to eat some squash! I'm already planning meals and dishes with it. I'm looking forward to using my squash, tomatoes and basil to bake a homemade lasagna. I'm thinking vegetarian so everyone in my house can eat it (teen is veg) but hubby might want some meat. We'll see. 

Last fall I made my own Basil Ricotta (which is perfect for vegetarian lasagna.) So easy and SOOOOO good! You have to try making some (although, to be technical, real ricotta is made from leftover whey, not fresh milk. So we're really making a paneer or queso-fresco cheese.)


large pot for cookin'
cheesecloth lined colander (or use 2 layers of paper towels)
stirring spoon
reliable thermometer (I used a candy one)
fresh basil
coarse salt
acid based item (ie: vinegar, lemon juice)

* Note: As to measurements, I don't do a lot of that (aka: precise measuring), but you can start with 4 cups of milk, or if you want a creamer, less dry ricotta, subtract 1/2c milk, add 1/2c cream.*

1 - Pour the milk, (and opt: cream) and salt into a 3-quart saucepan. Chop up the fresh basil and add to the pan. Add the candy thermometer to the edge and watch for a temperature between 175 to 190°F.  
2 - Make sure to stir it occasionally with a non-metal spoon to keep it from burning on the bottom. When it reaches the desired range (shoot for somewhere near the middle numbers), turn off the heat, remove from the hot burner and add about 3 tsps acid based item. 
3 - Stir in slowly. Then let the pot sit, no more stirring. Curds will begin to form and the whey will start to separate. Let sit for 5 minutes.
4 - Carefully spoon curds you see into your cheesecloth/paper towel lined colander (make sure to have it sitting in a bowl to catch the whey.)
5 - Let it drain for 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the consistency you desire. The longer it drains, the drier it will become. DO NOT pull a rookie mistake and squeeze the whey out. You will get dry, gritty, coarse cheese.

Eat right away or store in a container for up to 3 days. Enjoy!

P.S. If you're like me and hate to waste, remember that whey you were straining and catching in a bowl under the strainer? It can be used in a variety of ways. It is an acidic whey and I found this great article on uses

Blog is linked with: Tuesday Garden Party and Hip Homeschool Hop.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Un-Chicken Update

Yes, I know. We are still chicken-deficient. I have wonderful excuses; I was out of town on and off for two months, hubby redid the floors and all extra stuff got moved to the basement where we planned to house the new chicks, we've had other problems to take care of,  it's been hot...

(my mom's friend has chickens)

But truth be known, we just haven't gone to get any chicks. Finding the exact breeds we want locally has proved not as easy as we would think. Plus, the little one wants to see the baby chicks grow up but I'm getting to the point in my thinking that I might want pullets that are about ready to lay. We could use some free food about now. As I see it, if we get chicks, they won't start laying for another 6 months. We're talking December. Eggs for Christmas. That seems like a long time away! Then, to add insult to injury, if they come into maturity (ie: 5-6 months old) during the winter months, they won't start laying until spring. What's up with that?! 

I've read if you provide a light source in their winter home that stays on longer than the sun is out, like it is summer, they will continue to lay. All this information and I'm confuddled as to what I should do. I think the best thing to do is to start building a coop. And a winter coop as well. Then, after I've felt like we've committed well enough by building the coops, I will feel happy to get the chicks. The other idea was to get a couple pullets and a couple chicks. Although I'm not so sure the pullets won't start pecking the chicks to death. Anyone know?

(I want my chickens to be helpful like these!)

I found this wonderful advice today at 2nd Generation of Homeschooling, for if ever I get me some chickens; "We rake the fall leaves from our many trees into a one-foot pile in the chicken run. When the leftovers from our kitchen (rinds, peels, scraps, scrapings, etc.) and chicken scratch are thrown into the run for the chickens to eat, the chickens scratch around, trampling and tearing apart the leaves, which mixes with their manure. After a few weeks, the one-foot pile is just an inch or so high and it is raked out and into our compost bin for use in the garden in the spring! This is wonderful fertilizer that we make for free."

See? Something else for free! Poop!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Wouldn't Be Complete...

Without a little entrepreneurship.

The little one has her cousin over today and we've been all over. But one stop they insisted on was a trip to the store for lemonade stand supplies. Dollar store here we come!  $4 later and we have cups and lemonade. Perfect activity for a little homeschool summer math brush up: Making change.

The little one has been working on an idea for a club for a couple days now. Ever since I printed out a coloring sheet for her by MadeByJoel, she has been planning.

Posters colored, sign up sheets written. She wants to print shirts but I'm not sure copyright laws would be on her side! lol

I glanced at them before coming in and they're so adorable looking back and forth up the street for customers! Cross your fingers for good sales!

** This post is linked to this week's Hip Homeschool Hop. **

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17 - Homeschool Mother's Journal

 (This is linked to the Homeschool Mother's Journal.)

In our homeschool this week…
Although our official all day schooling is over for the summer, we do a fair bit of learning still. Things we've learned, studied or talked about this week:
Egypt (little one is reading the Kane Chronicles series, Book 2)
Bugs (see garden post)
Tornadoes (we picked up Sim City 3000 at the thrift store and tornadoes can destroy your city!) plus our church is going down to Joplin, MO next week to help with the devastation there from tornadoes, so we've been discussing all of that
How to blanch greens (see garden post)
history of Winston Churchill (we're still discussing him, and need to order books, but the discussion started because I named my dog Winston Churchill because our first dog's name is Clementine. Winston's wife's name was Clementine, it seemed fitting. Also, he came up in some book the little one is reading as well.)

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
All we've been doing the past couple weeks is go to the pool, go bowling (free games through Kids Bowl Free!), go to church, walk the dogs, paint, draw and read. What a life. What a lovely lovely blessed life!

Questions/thoughts I have…
I'm curious what others use for 7th grade anything? I really have no plans yet except we'll keep our Latin for Children going and I plan to study American history, as well as the World's history during the time America was settled, up until now. Other than that, I'm open to suggestions. Could use a good foreign language program. We might study Spanish or mandarin Chinese? Who knows. :)

Things I’m working on…
Spring cleaning. Doesn't everyone use a bit of their summer to catch up on the things that get sloughed off during the school year? I've cleaned out my bedroom of all piles, clothes that don't fit or have stains, piles of books, papers, mail mail mail. It's so nice to have my room back! On my to-do list: Help the little one pare down her toys and clothes, clean closets, clean basement, hang curtains and new shades.

I'm Praying for...
I've been praying for guidance this week. Some things have been changing at hubby's work that mean less money for us and some expenses have come up that we're trying to pay for. So I'm trying to decide if I need to find a job, or start selling on Ebay again, or what? Not sure how to balance homeschooling and having my child home with me all summer, with working. Plus we're down to one car so I'd probably have to work in the evenings which takes away all my time with hubby. Like I said, just praying for guidance...

What we're reading…
I was excited to find a few good books to read at the thrift store last night. The little one is anxious to see the Pirates of the Caribbean movies but as of yet we have not let her. I found several Pirates of the Caribbean chapter books, some a spinoff of when Jack Sparrow was younger. For now, that will appease her interest.  I found these for me: 
The New Glucose Revolution (I've been reading extensively on eating to the low glycemic index so this was a great find for me!)
I also picked up Ida B for her to read in the fall.

I’m cooking…
We've had such an explosion of Kale in our garden this year. I've given tons away but still it grows. So yesterday we blanched at least 4 Walmart bags full, plus one bag of Turnip greens. we then vacuum sealed them and froze for future eating. It's so nice to stock up food I've grown for when we might need it in the fall, like when I run out of money before I run out of month! lol

What are you doing this fine day?!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garden Update - Buds & Bugs!


A couple weeks ago I did a life update of what had been going on with our homeschooling, our garden, our lives. Since then, things have changed in the garden tremendously!

lettuce, almost done
We're seeing massive growth on many things, and some have gone to seed just about. You know, those cool weather plants like lettuce, turnip greens and even our peas are starting to wilt. I'm thinking tomorrow I might make a makeshift cover out of sticks and cheesecloth for the peas, to see if we can get them to last longer. 

The massive growth that was so astonishing is the squash. Who knew it could grow so TALL! It's so big its threatening to overshadow the kale and it IS overshadowing the okra behind it. Who knows if that will grow enough to get plants.

The squash even has little flowers growing. Now that I look at the squash, I think I bought a special kind that is yellow in the middle and green on both ends. Very cool. I wonder if it will taste the same?

The tomato plants we planted long ago never grew. We finally broke down and bought plants. By the time we went to get some they were on sale for 25 cents and $1.25 for some bigger plants. So it pays to wait I guess!


I was excited today to see little tiny cabbages and cauliflower finally budding. I was starting to worry that would never happen and we'd just be eating the greens.

The only thing I'm concerned about is our cabbage has holes galore. I found one of these little worms on one leaf. I need to research them to see how to get rid of them. Mom suggested to spray with soapy water, maybe that would work.

We have been regularly harvesting lettuce and spinach, although today we pulled up the last of the spinach. It was going to seed. The kale continues to produce profusely so we have been sharing it with mom and a friend regularly. The turnips went to seed so I pulled them up today and cut off all the greens I'm going to blanch them and freeze for another time. I need to do that for 2 bags of kale as well. I think we might plant swiss chard or flowers where the turnips were.

A garden is such a wonderful thing to work on for our homeschooling. Learning to identify plants, how to care for a garden, looking up the bugs and remedies, and even what to cook with our harvested vegetables. What a wonderful garden we are having this year. Now if only we'll get some tomatoes!

*This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.*

(P.S. Next time I make raised beds, I am SO using this idea!)
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