Garden of Eady!

I entered a contest on another blog to write an article about gardening failures. I won first place and it’s published today! 🙂 Check it out!

Garden of Eady Challenge – 1st Place

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Wondering…

A few days ago I asked readers of the Facebook page to send me questions they wanted me to answer, so here goes:
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1. Leslie B Reynolds asks “Do you ever have kids that refuse vegetables?”
That’s a great question, and the answer to that is a resounding YES! Most kids begin uninterested in most of what I serve because it is unfamiliar to them. Over time as they help cook veggies, grow veggies and just the simple repetition of seeing veggies, they end up trying them and find out they like them. I just keep putting them on their plate and let them decide when they are ready to try them. Some kids that are very picky eaters never learn to like many things, but they all learn to like some new things which is a win in my book!

2. Little Big Harvest asks “What is your favorite ‘fun’ garden activity with the kids?”
There are so many things I enjoy doing with the kids in the garden. When I asked them, they all replied “picking stuff” and a few said “picking stuff and planting stuff”. For me, watching them be amazed is the very best part of gardening with them. Seeing their faces and watching their excitement is very rewarding for me. As far as activities go, my favorite is finding caterpillars. We put them in a jar, bring them in, and continue to feed them the host plant we found them on. Them we get to watch metamorphoses. Nothing can beat the amazement involved in that!

3. Yavonna Wright Bolding asks “Who are the people who test soil and do they come out or do you have to take some in ?”
Here in Oklahoma the OSU extension services will test soil for you. You can mail in a sample or take it in to the office to have it tested. Call your local county extension service office to find out where you take it in your area.

4. Sharica Cole asks, “What are some fun ways to help children tell the difference between different plants? And which garden plants are the safest?”
Repetition is the way to teach children to tell the difference between plants. Besides spending time talking in the garden, we use many pictures that we find in our curriculum, online, and in books and magazines to make it fun. Kids will pick up the information fairly quickly and I am learning right along with them. Many plants are poisonous. The nightshade family which include potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant have extremely poisonous leaves as do some other plants. I always teach the kids not to eat anything unless they ask. If I am unsure of the plant’s safety, I will tell them, since I’m not sure, we better not eat it. The safest things are plants that can be eaten from root to leaf tip such as cabbage and other brassicas or vines like peas and sweet potatoes.
I love your questions and comments, so please ask away if you want to know anything.

Mmmmm…Garlic

Growing garlic is not difficult, but it does take a long time. Patience is key. But the reward is produce that will flavor your whole year and store wonderfully. You will save a ton of money not having to buy grocery store garlic. Once you plant it the first year, you will have seeds forever.

Last Year's Garlic Harvest

Last Year’s Garlic Harvest

I stored it on this shelf.  I didn't know I needed to take it out of the sun.  We had a few cloves that weren't good because of that, but not many.

I stored it on this shelf. I didn’t know I needed to take it out of the sun. We had a few cloves that weren’t good because of that, but not many.

The end of last year's crop.

The end of last year’s crop.


Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. Here in Oklahoma we plant in late September or early October and harvest in late June or early July. I recommend purchasing a good quality organic garlic to begin with. I ordered ours online. If you want to store the garlic all year, choose soft neck varieties. They store better. Leave the heads whole until you’re ready to plant. Find an area that you are willing to commit to the garlic for the long season because you won’t be able to use it for anything else until summer.
Prepare your area. Garlic likes loose well-drained soil. Once your bed is prepared, break off one clove of garlic at a time and plant it 2-4 inches deep, with each clove 4-6 inches from the next one. One head of garlic could have anywhere from 8-20 cloves. Plant the largest ones and save the tiny ones for cooking. Mulch the bed well with about 4 inches of straw, leaves, or other mulch. Water it well. For the next few months, make sure the garlic receives one inch of water per week. You may see green shoots come up before or during the winter and you may not. Either way, no worries, your garlic is doing great. It’s pretty much a fool proof crop.
By June you should have tall leaves on top the garlic. Watch them weekly to see when the outer leaves begin to turn brown. When you have five green leaves left in the middle and the outer leaves are all brown, it’s time to harvest your garlic. Carefully dig around each head and work it loose. Don’t pull by the leaves or they could break off and leave your garlic head in the ground.
Immediately move them out of the sun to cure. A window screen, wire shelving, or something of that nature would work great to give the garlic air circulation and keep it out of the sun. My brother in law built me some awesome frames to use as compost sifters and I used those this year. It was a great help to have them! Thanks Chris! Let them cure for about 3 weeks.
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I store my garlic by braiding it and hanging it on the wall in my laundry room. If you can braid hair, you can make a simple garlic braid. You can also cut the leaves off and store it in panty hose or plastic mesh bags. Just place a head in and tie a knot and then place the next head in. Hang up your bags or braids and just cut one off as needed throughout the year. Remember to save a few heads for seeds next time!

Letting Children Lead

In a typical family, as God designed it, children are born at intervals and not all at once, like a litter of kittens. I often wonder what benefits are lost in a single age classroom such as are found in the typical daycare center or school classroom. That is one of the unique benefits of family childcare. It is arranged like a typical family in its original design with children from multiple ages interacting with one another.

Giving children the opportunity to lead and follow one another is a great way to build social skills as well as patience, tolerance, and nurturing. Children can learn a lot from each other. So why not let them teach?
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In planning the activities for this summer, I asked the older children to help choose subject matter that they were interested in. They wrote down activities they wanted to do and then together, we came up with an idea. Why can’t they teach? Knowing it is difficult in a child care setting to keep older children engaged, I thought it was a great idea. After they chose activities, they were able to choose some they would like to teach.
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As the summer began, some children showed natural leadership abilities and were able to engage the younger children with no assistance, while others needed help getting their attention. I took on the roll of facilitator helping them decide what they needed to be successful and get started if they had trouble. As they began to learn how to interest their audience in the activities they were presenting, I noticed several things.
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The younger children were very eager to have the attention and focus of the older children they look up to. They were interested in what the children were teaching. But what I didn’t anticipate was the major effect that it had on the older children.
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I encourage summer reading by having a summer reading program modeled after the one at the library. I give medals at the end of summer for participation and we have plenty of positive interactions involving reading. At the beginning of summer, I asked the older kids who wanted to read to the younger kids. Crickets…..chirp chirp chirp. The first time I asked the oldest child to read books to the kids at story time. He agreed then wanted to read to them every day. As the other older children saw the interaction between him and the younger kids, they wanted to read to them. As the days passed, I saw a noticeable increase in self-esteem and confidence in their reading that I had never seen before. Now they all want to read to the younger kids, even the one who is just learning to read.
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As the summer has progressed, I have seen increased confidence in the older kids as they have learned to teach the younger kids. They have come up with additional science experiments to do with the group. They have begun to offer the younger kids first turns at things, share more, and think of solutions to more problems on their own. The fighting and tattling has significantly decreased, and instead they are problem solving. No one is being bossy or pushy, they are working together to find solutions that they were not before. And I can see each of the kids in both age groups gaining confidence as the days go by.

Children can be great leaders and it’s wonderful to give them to chance to build their skills and get experience in a safe environment. These skills will help improve their relationships with their peers when school resumes in the fall as well. And for now we are having a great summer…

Burnout…What Does it Mean?

Child care is a job with one of the highest rates of burn out. Why? It is hard work, long hours, and little pay. Why do people do it then? I know that I do it because it’s my passion. I feel that every child deserves a great place to be. I feel that just because they were born into this world, they deserve to be built up, nurtured, and loved. Many other providers I know feel the same way. Most of us are in it to love kids, and no other reason.
Burnout comes from years of not feeling appreciated or cared about by the parents whose children we care for. Picking up late, not paying on time, and not bringing needed supplies are some ways to show disrespect. We have a life outside of childcare and when a parent is consistently late, it feels like they don’t respect care. Or how would it feel if every payday you had to go into your boss’ office and BEG them for your check? Some providers have to deal with that every week. Or I forgot my check book. You’ll have to wait until next week. Do their bill collectors wait? Mine don’t.
It means a lot to a provider when a parent says a kind word. “I appreciate what you do for my child. I see that you work hard. I want to make sure I pay you on time. Wow, this is a cool activity. I love that you do such and such with my child every day. They are learning a lot.” Anything that can encourage the provider is worth saying. It’s nice to be appreciated. I have always had a lot of parents who went out of their way to say they appreciate me and it means a lot.
As providers, how do we avoid burn out?
The #1 rule in life is take care of yourself so you can take care of others. There is no avoiding this. You HAVE to make time for you. You have to do the things you love every now and then. You whole life cannot be work.
Relax! Do some stretches, meditate, pray, write, or read something you love.
Take care of your body! Get enough sleep, get exercise, and eat healthy foods. My grandpa always said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It’s always worked for me.
Learn how to say no. Don’t let people talk you into doing things you don’t want to do. If you know it will make you miserable or you just can’t do it, just say no.
Put down the electronics for a few minutes each day and take a technology break.
Be creative and let your creativity flow. It’s a great way to center yourself.
Be social regularly. It helps you be fulfilled emotionally. You desperately need it when you give so much.
Laugh, a LOT. Make other people laugh. My kids crack me up and I enjoy those moments. I also joke around with them and make them laugh. It makes getting barfed on or leaky diarrhea diapers not so end of the world.
Be accountable. Make sure you are doing your best to be reliable for your parents, they need someone they can depend on. And if you make mistakes, own up to them. Everyone makes them, but an “I’m sorry” goes along way.
Breath. Take a minute to breathe deeply and center yourself.
Talk to others who understand. Networking is an important part of staying in a mindset of loving your job.
Treat yourself. What is something you really like? A new pair of jeans, a piece of chocolate, or a long drive with the windows down? Whatever you like, let yourself have a little indulgence.
Take a Vacation! I see providers all the time who say, I don’t take vacations, my parents need me. They do need you. As long as you give them plenty of notice, it’s better for them to have to find care for a week and have you come back recharged than for you to burn out and quit childcare completely. Or for you to try to provide care when you are miserable.
Something I heard from Tom Copeland, an advocate for family childcare has stuck with me for years. I use it to gauge situations in my life that need adjusting. It works for any job. These are your three choices in life. Be happy. If you are not happy, then change what you are doing. If you cannot change it, then quit. If you cannot quit, then BE HAPPY! There is nothing else. Think about that.
And finally, should you be doing childcare or whatever job you’re burned out in? Maybe it’s not the job for you or maybe you need a change. If you find yourself dreading Monday every Sunday and a vacation doesn’t help that, maybe it’s time to look at doing something else. If you are miserable, everyone else around you probably is too. And if you work with kids, that’s especially not a good thing. So think about something else you might like to do. If you decide to keep doing what you’re doing, LOVE it! And give it your all. Be blessed!

Super Swiss Chard: What’s the Secret?

How do I get my Little Sprouts to eat all this healthy stuff? One thing I learned when changing to a healthier lifestyle and teaching my family is that if you don’t like something, try it a different way until you do.
Steamed, baked, roasted, fried, boiled, sautéed, raw, pickled, stir fried, whatever way there is to cook something, try it! Our farmer’s market had a raw crazy day last year and the two things I LOVED raw that I thought would be disgusting were sweet potatoes and okra. Sweet potatoes taste nothing like their white counter parts when raw, they are crispy, sweet, and not at all starchy like white potatoes. They are delicious! You would think okra would be offensively slimy raw, but when you bite into it, it is crisp, refreshing, and very flavorful. It doesn’t get slimy until it has been cut for a while and the slime begins to accumulate. Surprisingly, it is very good.
Enter the greens. I know that greens are a super healthy power food. So how’s a girl to learn to like greens when she doesn’t? I had my Aunt Jodi cook them for me and they were okay, but not delicious. I had my Mom cook them for me, the same. I really don’t want to eat food that I have to make myself finish. I want to want to eat it. I tried collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens along with broccoli, kohlrabi, and radish tops. I just couldn’t get used to the flavor of them. So I decided that liking spinach and kale was enough.
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This year we decided we would try Swiss chard in some of our new space. I had never had it, but it was really pretty, so we planted a container full and a long bed full in our spring crops. The brightly colored stems and dark green leaves are just gorgeous in the garden. I cooked it up for the kids the way I had been shown to cook the other greens and it was AMAZING! Most of my kids love it. I think it’s delicious and Mr. Kent, vegetable un-enthusiast likes it as well. Score for Swiss chard.
Here’s how I do it:

Cut a slice or two of bacon into tiny pieces and cook it until crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.

Cut a slice or two of bacon into tiny pieces and cook it until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.

Cut up an onion and sauté it until it's about half done and then add the stems of the swiss chard chopped up as finely as the onions.

Cut up an onion and sautĂ© it until it’s about half done and then add the stems of the swiss chard chopped up as finely as the onions.

Chop the leaves in fairly fine while that is cooking until tender.

While that is cooking until tender, chop the leaves fairly fine.

Add to the pan and mix with the onion/stem mixture.

Add to the pan and mix with the onion/stem mixture.

Cook for just a few minutes until the leaves are wilted.  It doesn't take as long as you'd think.

Cook for just a few minutes until the leaves are wilted. It doesn’t take as long as you’d think.

Top it with the crispy bacon and voila!  I add the bacon at the end so it won't get soggy as the greens cook.  (Excuse my fancy daycare serving dishes)

Add salt and pepper to taste. Top it with the crispy bacon and voila! I add the bacon at the end so it won’t get soggy as the greens cook. (Excuse my fancy daycare serving dishes)

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Garden Glory-We’ve been pea pickin. What else are my Little Sprouts picking?

This week’s harvest has been bountiful!

Pea pickers.  These peas are huge.  The kids LOVE anything that's bigger than usual.

Pea pickers. These peas are huge. The kids LOVE anything that’s bigger than usual.

We harvested our garlic this week.  We got 88 heads.  We used estimation to weigh some tops and calculate that weight times how many cloves there were and came up with 18 pounds of heads.  Budding scientists here.

We harvested our garlic this week. We got 88 heads. We used estimation to weigh some leaves and calculate that weight times how many cloves there were and came up with 18 pounds of heads. Budding scientists here.

The main haul.

The main haul.

A few more cloves we saved for someone who didn't come until the afternoon.

A few more cloves we saved for someone who didn’t come until the afternoon.

One day's green beans, about 2 pounds.

One day’s green beans, about 2 pounds.

Five pounds of lettuce.  This is nearly the last of it.  We had been getting about 5 pounds every few days, but it's getting too hot now.

Five pounds of lettuce. This is nearly the last of it. We had been getting about 5 pounds every few days, but it’s getting too hot now.

Two pounds of peas and a few squash, hot peppers and tomatoes, plus our first ever tomatillo!

Two pounds of peas and a few squash, hot peppers and tomatoes, plus our first ever tomatillo!

Our sample plate for this year's first tomatoes and our little tomatillo!  We are excited to use a batch of them and some of those hot peppers to make some sauce!

Our sample plate for this year’s first tomatoes and our little tomatillo! We are excited to use a batch of them and some of those hot peppers to make some sauce!

Here's the rest.

Here’s the rest.

Here's the action.  Getting that tomatillo!

Here’s the action. Getting that tomatillo!

The garlic harvesting.

The garlic harvesting.

The harvest for today.  Yum yum.

The harvest for today. Yum yum.

They are so proud of what they pick!

They are so proud of what they pick!

All smiles.

All smiles.

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The kids are having a ball bringing in our scores. This week we picked about 33 pounds of produce, 18 of that was the garlic heads. Not too shabby! What are you picking from your garden?