Advertisements

Posts Tagged With: gardening with kids

Realities of Farm Life

Many people want to do what we do.  A house in the country, taking care of a couple of goats, a flock of chickens, and a Daddy who farms is the dream of many American families.  Getting your own fresh eggs from the backyard seems so ideal.

This is the reality.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Because fresh eggs require live chickens, and live chickens must be feed and watered everyday, in cold, heat, wind and rain.  So then the chickens poop.  Constantly.

On top of that, life happens.  A few weeks ago I noticed the hens were going through a lot of water.  Then I realized why.  Their waterer, which rests on a heated base, was leaking down onto the base and seeping under the layer of straw and poo.  By the time I figured this out I had 9 inches of soggy, wet, manure.

It smelled just like it sounds it would.

The realities of life on a family farm!

First thing was to let the chickens out for recess.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Or that’s what they act like when you open their gate!

Then we shoveled all the manure into the wagon and wheelbarrow and took it down to the garden boxes.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Although nasty smelling and very heavy, sopping wet chicken litter is fantastic garden compost.  You have to plan ahead, however, because chicken litter can also burn plants.  It needs to decompose for a few months– which is perfect because our last frost date.

The realities of life on a family farm!

It took two days, but Brett and I finally hauled all that mess out of the coop and down to the garden.  Since the coop doesn’t have heat I don’t clean it out during the winter, using the process of decomposing to create a layer of heat on the floor.  We haven’t seen the bottom of this mess since last fall!

We’d usually fill the laying boxes and the floor with straw (the stem of a stalk of wheat) but we didn’t have a wheat harvest this year, so we used hay (grass cut in the summer and dried for animals to eat in the winter) the goats had already picked over.  Goats are seriously picky animals and won’t eat hay that’s been on the floor or that they’ve laid on.  Which means we have lots of extra. 😛

The realities of life on a family farm!

The funniest part was hearing those crazy girls after putting down their new hay.  They make So Much Noise!

“Cackle, cackle, cackle, did you see this new flooring?  It adds so much texture to the room, don’t you think?!”

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Bonus: Plant Projects for Mom :-)

You saw what my kiddos have been busy with in the Plant Thematic Unit, but I’ve been testing my green thumb too!  I’m a big believer in using thematic units because they work for kids across a wide range of abilities, including siblings in a homeschool family.  So I’m sharing some of the projects I’ve been working on as classroom enrichment, extensions for older siblings, or fun projects for mom!

Fairy garden in the dinning room!   {DaddysTractor.com}

This bird cage came from Hobby Lobby (please note: everything in my life seems to come from Hobby Lobby!)  Last year I saw fairy gardens at Graber Greenhouse in Jamesport, MO and I knew as soon as I saw the bird house it was the perfect!  So I found one of those plastic things you put under a plant pot to catch the excess water (what is that?), some tiny plants, and fairy paraphernalia and assembled this vignette while the kids “helped.”

A Fairy garden inside a bird house  {DaddysTractor.com}

You could have lots of fun building your own fairy items (or shopping on Amazon!), you could write a story, or you could follow Anna’s lead and dance around the house like a fairy for a week.

Live centerpiece  {DaddysTractor.com}

Brett helped me with this “art” project.  The box is a shadow frame (Hobby Lobby) we turned upside down so the glass is on the bottom.  Using 4″ square pots Brett and I could arrange and rearrange the succulents to our heart’s content.  I  wanted to hang this on the wall, like I’d seen all over the internet.  BUT… it  is heavy!  So I think I’ll use it as table décor.

Moss basket

This planter is a cheapie basket (NOT from Hobby Lobby, but I’m sure you can find one there.) and moss paper (Hobby Lobby!  Look by the floral foam.)  wrapped around with string.  You’ll need to choose a basket with a large enough weave to fit a large darning needle through the spaces.  Hot glue helps too!  The basket came with a plastic liner but you could probably line the basket with plastic yourself too.  Then you just need soil and plants!

And finally,

Create your own moss wall art with this tutorial {DaddysTractor.com}

This is more of that moss paper (heart!), a simple frame and piece of foam board.  All from Hobby Lobby.  They should be paying me for this post.

Moss framed art {DaddysTractor.com}

This requires math, which makes it the perfect project for a student who thinks they are making art. 😉  First, design a stencil.  Nothing too complicated because you will trace, cut and glue this many times!  Trace the stencil onto the back of the moss paper and cut. Over and over.  I recommend watching a movie.

Moss framed art  {DaddysTractor.com}

Then create a grid on your foam board.  Get a rough idea of how far apart you want to space them and lightly mark the middle.  Measure the distance between the center of two stencils so you’ll know how far apart to make your lines.  Do the same thing with the offset lines.  You’ll have two sets of grid marks, because of the offset lines. Do check it to make sure the math matches up with your eye.

moss framed art  {DaddysTractor.com}

Then remove the paper backing from the moss and hot glue to the foam board.  I suggest using a high temp glue gun.  Trim the edges as necessary.  Carefully erase the grid lines.  Remove the glass from your frame if desired and put in your beautiful creation!

Plants never looked better!

Categories: Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Plant Thematic Unit

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Many of you said last month’s Insect Unit was oodles of fun, so today I’m sharing the Plant Thematic Unit we’ve been exploring .   It was perfect for homeschool since we are spending lots of time in the garden anyway, but its also the fun kind of unit I would have used as a kindergarten teacher to get us through the end of the school year or for summer school!

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

After reading about what plants need, this experiment was to observe what happens when you take something away.  I bought a four-pack of flowers, cut them apart and Brett labeled them.  Plant 1 was our control, Plant 2 we took away sunlight by placing it in a shoebox, Plant 3 we took away carbon dioxide (we called it “air”) by zipping it in a plastic bag, Plant 4 we took away water.  Then we used these pages Plant Need Experiment Plants Need Experiment 2 to record.  It worked pretty well, but the only thing that died in the ziplock bag was the flower part, so make sure your plant has one 😉

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Of course we used play dough to learn plant parts!  In addition to leaves, Brett also added a stigma and stamen after I took this picture, which could enrich this idea for older children, depending on how complex they made their models.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Understanding plant parts led us to a project learning about the parts of the plant we eat.  I divided a paper plate into six sections.  Next we cut out the center circle from Plant Parts We Eat and attached it with a brad. Then we cut pictures from garden magazines. (For free catalogs try Gurney’s, Jung’s, Burpee, or Johnny’s.  They do take a few weeks to arrive.  You could also print the picture of food from the Who Grew My Soup post.)  The kiddos matched up the food to the plant part and glued.  This became a center activity because the brad allowed the circle to spin and become a puzzle over and over!

Make your own root viewer {DaddysTractor.com}

We found this root viewer at Wal-Mart, but after opening it I think you could make one of your own by filling a quart jar with potting soil, placing seeds 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the jar, and covering outside of the jar with black construction paper and a rubber band (they need dark to grow).  Simple and cheaper!

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Since lap books are our new favorite thing I created a foldable book to review plant parts and what plants need.  Print this Plants Have Plants Need chart and glue it onto construction paper if you like.  These Plants Have Plants Need labels can be cut out and glued into place on the flaps.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Also for the lap book (or center) we made a flower petal math game.  I used an advertisement refrigerator magnets to make the circle for the center and covered it with contact paper.  Then I cut flower petals from cardstock and added snips of magnets.  Anna made patterns or used a wipe-off marker to write the number of petals I put on her flower.  Brett got two colors of petals and had to write addition problems with the marker.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

To observe how seeds begin to grow we traced bean seeds and then allowed them to soak in water for a few hours.  When we came back we could clearly see how the seeds had swelled and the outer paper-y layer was peeling back!

And since I was unexpectedly promoted to Sunday School teacher during this unit, here’s a bonus activity I did for church.  My poor kids had way too much “plant” that week, but it was last minute!

Sunday School lesson comparing faith to a seed {DaddysTractor.com}

We compared faith to a seed, planted in our hearts.  Just like seeds need sunlight, air, and water our faith needs things to grow.  We brainstormed ideas and they drew three they like on the rain drops; things like praying, obeying parents, going to church, reading Scriptures.  Or you could just make the mobile with no pics at all :-).

And last but not least, no unit is complete without snacks!

Plant Thematic unit snack idea {DaddysTractor.com}

This is “dirt” pudding; chocolate pudding mixed with crushed Oreos and layered with a few gummy worms.  Sooooooo educational!

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Farm Lesson Plan; Who Grew My Soup

One of the great things about winter is going to farm conferences.  A few weeks ago we attended the MO Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher conference.  Daddy and I learned lots from our seminars and speakers, but Brett probably had the most fun ;-).   He was finally old enough to join the grade school kids at the children’s seminars, provided by the Promotion and Education committee, directed by Diane Olson, Barbra Wilson, and Terribeth Spargo.  They came up with this fun farm lesson plan and Brett loved it.

The activities were based on the book, Who Grew My Soup, by Tom Darbyshire.

Who Grew My Soup, a Farm Lesson plan

Its a silly story with hilarious illustrations that look like something you’d create with an app on your iPad.  Basically this kid decides he’s not eating his healthy soup until he knows what’s in it.  So, because isn’t this what happens every time you declare war on vegetables, a hot air balloon (actually tomato) swoops down and carries him off to the fields where the soup was grown.

Farm Lesson Plan, Who Grew My Soup

Next they had the kids sort plastic food by plant part.  For example, the tomatoes in the soup are the fruit of plant, but carrots are the roots and corn and peas are the seeds.  This chart can get you started if you’re stuck with that one!

Farm Lesson Plan, Parts of the Plant we use for food

The kids also got to vote on their favorite kind of soup.  This, of course, would be a great thing to graph.  If we had more people (one hurdle for homeschooling!) I wanted to make a “live” graph where everyone used an actual can of soup to represent their vote and stack them on the floor as a bar graph.  If you try it, send me a picture please :-).

They ended the seminar by making their own Who Grew My Soup Mix.

Farm Lesson Plan, make your own soup

Ingredients
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried split peas (green and yellow if possible)
1/2 cup lentils (red and green for variety)
1/2 rice (white or brown but NOT instant)
1 cup tri-colored spiral pasta

Directions for Mix
Layer these ingredients in the order given into a 1 quart canning jar.  Pack each layer in place before adding the next ingredient.  Attach a gift tag with the following:

Soup Recipe
1 jar Who Grew My Soup mix
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

Remove pasta from mix and set aside.  Place the remaining soup mix in a large soup pot.  Add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 45 minutes.  Add pasta and ground beef and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Thanks so much to the P&E committee for such a fun seminar.  Especially when it comes to farm lessons, Brett prefers to learn from someone other than mom :-).  I mean really, what does she know about soup?!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

What I’ve Learned about Gardening with a Busy Family

Trial and error, what one busy mom has learned about gardening with a busy family!

I love feeding my family wholesome, fresh foods.  Of course, boxed macaroni is still one of my kids favorite treats.  If I can just balance it with meals such as from-the-garden stir-fry, well, the occasional Girl Scout cookie isn’t the end of the world.  But gardening was always so time intensive!  I would start with great intentions, but inevitably the whole garden plot would end in ruins by the middle of July.  And then, quite by accident, I learned gardening with a busy family can actually be simpler than I had ever dreamed!

It all started with decorative raised beds I spotted online.  Spring time is a farmer’s busiest time of year, so I knew better than to ask Daddy to stop putting on fertilizer or planting corn to build me garden boxes.  So I printed off the plans, drove to Lowes, and built my own raised beds.  They were FANTASTIC!  I actually harvested something more than zucchini for almost the first time ever.

What I've learned aout gardening with a busy family

The next year my mom gave me The Square Foot Gardener for Christmas and I was hooked.  I build more beds, tried new plants, canned lots for later.  And I realized I’d gone from gardening because I wanted the end product to gardening because I loved the process.  Instead of fighting weeds I was growing food!

So here’s what I learned:

  • Use raised beds!  Planting  in rows is what my husband does with a tractor.  I am not doing that much work by hand!
  • Buy seedlings from a greenhouse.  As a beginner starting with seeds that can be sown into the raised beds after last frost or buying plants can be the difference between success and burnout.
  • Plant what your family already eats.  Okay, if you find something you just have to try, sure, have fun. But don’t plant a bunch of kale or broccoli in your garden if you’ve never cooked with them.  I grew eggplant two summers in a row before I realized all my beautiful purple veggies molded in the fridge ’cause I had no idea what to do with them!
  • Plant the amount your family will eat.  Two vines of acorn squash is more than enough for my family.  Even if they store well.  Even if the plants are cheaper than squash from the store.  Even if I like sausage stuffed acorn squash.  We just don’t need a whole row.
  • Place your garden beds near a water source.  If you have to stretch a hose over the driveway and so must wind it each morning you will NOT water your garden daily.  Rain barrels are on my list for this spring.  I’ll keep you up to date on how those work out for me!
  • Place your beds where you notice them.  Out of sight means out of mind.
  • Involve your kids.  Maybe not every day, but their fresh perspective keeps you fresh as well.
  • Error on the side of smaller.  You can always get more sweet corn from a pickup on the side of the road.  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Do small the first year and add more next year.

And there you have it– everything I’ve learned about gardening with a busy family!  What’s your best tip?

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

A Healthy Holiday Recipe!

You might think there isn’t much to do on a farm in the winter.  Well, you’d be thinking wrong!  Its bitterly cold today in Missouri, but there are some garden plants that don’t really care.  Spinach is one of my favorite veggies to grow year round.  All you need is a tray of dirt, your favorite spinach seeds, water and sunlight.  Oh!  And a spot indoors!

And then you need a recipe!

But let me say that just because my farm kids help grow the veggies doesn’t mean they’ll eat them!  So I created these green Christmas pancakes to entice my little ones to consume a bit more of those leafy greens.  It was an instant success!  So here’s to healthy holiday recipes!

These Healthy Christmas pancakes use spinach for a holiday green color!

 

Healthy Holiday Pancakes

Handful spinach leaves
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1/3 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup flour (I use 1/2 wheat, 1/2 white)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

*If you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own by adding a teaspoon or so of lemon juice to plain milk and letting it set for about 5 minute.

Put spinach leaves in a blender, cover with buttermilk, applesauce, agave, egg and oil.  Blend until smooth.  In a mixing bowl combine remaining ingredients.  Add wet mixture to flour, stirring just until moist.  Add more flour if the mixture is too runny.  This will vary, based on how much spinach you use and how juicy the spinach is.  I also add about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips to mine at this point to distract my kiddos.  Then pour onto a griddle and cook as usual.  Enjoy some holiday baking without the gilt!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Taste of Farm Life

 

 

A taste of farm life

a taste of farm life

a taste of farm life

a taste of farm life

a taste of farm life

Try this taste of farm life– literally!  I’m not exactly sure why, but although anyone may can food at home, farm families tend to do a lot of it!  Fall is a busy time in the field, but it is also a busy time in the kitchen.  Tomatoes from the garden turn into salsa and crushed tomatoes for chili.  Peaches from a near-by orchard taste great as peach halves, peach butter, and peach sauce.  Apples from friends make lots and lots of yummy applesauce.  Any of these foods are readily available at your local grocery store or farmer’s market and believe me when I say they taste so much better than what you buy already canned!

Before you get started canning I suggest you make a plan.  Learn the steps for home canning from a cookbook, internet source, or canning book.  I like Blue Ball canning and Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  Check to see if you have all the supplies you need.  Most supplies can be purchased for little cost, but consider borrowing them if you have never done this before.  Then schedule a day when you won’t have to quit half way through the process.  I’m much faster now, but when I began canning it took most of the day and is still a big event in our house.

Applesauce is a great place to start, but crushed tomatoes are probably quickest.  Choose your favorite foods for best results and try a taste of farm life!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Pizza Recipe Using Produce from the Garden

Gardens are in full swing about now and gardening with your kids is a great way to learn about farming!  Are your tomatoes wilting in the heat no matter how much you water them?  Did squash bugs kill your cucumber plants and eat holes in your watermelons?  Did you plant sweet corn too late and have nothing but scraggly stalks to show for all your hard work?  These are problems farmers face each day.

But there are also great rewards to gardening with your kids– eating!  One of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy fresh veggies is the all-American favorite, pizza!  We grow cherry tomatoes and basil plants in our garden, but you can make up your own recipes, based on what you planted.

Pizza from the Gardengardening with kids, pizza from the garden

1 crust

mozzarella cheese

cherry tomatoes

basil plant

Start with a crust.  I love to bake a crust using the package mix from the grocery store, but you can buy pre-made crusts or use a homemade recipe.  Cook the crust with no toppings.

Add mozzarella cheese.  Lots of cheese.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and arrange over the cheese.  Pull basil leaves off the plant, rinse, and arrange with tomatoes.

Grill the pizza over medium heat or cook in a 450 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or cheese is melty.

Eat and enjoy the fruits of your labors!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Planting in a Square Foot

Well, I hope you’ve finished your raised garden bed, because now its time to plant!  And, conviently, this planting will require a bit of math, science, and forethought.

gardening with kids in a raised bed math lesson

THE GENERAL IDEA: Planting in long rows with lots of space to hoe between is a great example of how farmers have grown crops for years.  It is not, however, a great way to garden.  Instead, plant your veggies in a more space-saving way.  (*Side note: you will also use a fraction of the seeds in a packet with this method.  Store in a cool, dray place and save the rest for next year!)

THE SCIENCE: Plants need a certian amount of space to grow.  Their roots need to spread out, their leaves need to catch the sunshine, the fruit needs room to develope.  But, if a plant needs six inches of space between it and its next neighbor in a garden row, it also only needs six inches of space all the way around.  And since you don’t need to walk in your raised bed you won’t need to leave any rows which must later be hoed!

THE MATH: Divide your raised bed into square feet increments.  You can do this a lot of ways; I used a small rope.  Use something that will be around all season.  Then, choose a plant for each square.

Find out how much space each plant requires.  You can consult the back of the seed packet, the information pick in the seedlings, or search the web.  Then do the math!  If a plant needs 3 inches in a row it needs 9 square inches in a raised bed.  How many square inches are in a foot?  How many times will 9 go into that number?  That is how many plants will fit into your square foot.  Now on to the next plant!  Do any plants take up a whole foot?  Two?  Which plant requires the most space?  The least?

Now plant, water, and enjoy!

Categories: Science | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Why Gardening Required Math

Gardening is great for teaching kids about farm life.  Did you also know it’s also full of math concepts?  Read all about the way I garden in this book: All New Square Foot Gardening.  garden with kids math lessonNot only is it an easy, enjoyable way to garden anywhere– even the balcony of an apartment, but it also involves lots of great math!   And since it’s about time to get plants in the ground I think we’d better get started!

To begin we’ll need to make the raised garden beds which are the biases for a Square Foot Garden (that’s SFG).  Some of these steps can be done by young children, some by teens, and a few by a grown-up.  Before you are ready to hack at boards with a saw, however, you must have a plan!

How big will your bed be?  Did you know the average person can reach in about 2 feet?  Kids can reach in about 1 1/2 feet.  Where will you put your bed?  Can you walk all the way around?  If it is against a wall of fence how wide should it be?  If you can reach in from both sides how big should it be?  How long do you want it?  Try using graph paper to design your bed.  (Create your own graph paper by printing a table made in word processing program.)

Then, measure!  You can have gardening with kids math lessonthe lumber yard or home improvement store cut your boards for you, but kids will love using a simple tape measure.  I used the plans from the book above to make new beds this year, but my original garden beds came from these instructions: Sunset Perfect Raised Beds.  The ones shown on Sunset are big, sturdy, and will last a lifetime.  The ones I’ll show you are cheaper and easier!

gardening with kids math lessonSecond, measure, pre-drill holes and use deck screws to add posts to the ends of two boards.  Kids can help line up the boards like you see on the bottom of this picture so the finished product looks like the boards on top!

gardening with kids math lesson

Next, line up your two boards with posts with two more boards.  Screw the new boards to the posts while kids help you hold it all in place.

To use this SFG on a deck or apartment balcony add plywood to the bottom.  Fill your finished bed with equal parts compost, peat moss, and top soil.  Check out next week’s lesson for more math as you plant your garden!gardening with kids math lesson

Categories: Science | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.