• My affiliate links won't hurt you, but they might help feed my kids. See my full disclosure policy in the main menu.

Harvest Lessons

IMG_20150729_092538605

Today has been a lesson in harvesting.  We generally think of Harvest Time as happening in autumn, but in truth I am busy putting things up for winter from about Mid-July through Early November.  Early peas, early beans, broccoli & cauliflower, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.  Then it’s time for tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, peppers, zucchini and summer squash.  Then late peas, late beans, elderberries, more tomatoes, corn, pumpkin, pears and apples.  We stay busy in summer.  It makes my head spin.  In a glorious way.  I crush hard on this country life.

sunflowers & birdhouses

But how do I make it fun for my Littles?  Simple.  I tell them to pretend they’re Rick Grimes from Season 3 of The Walking Dead.  Survival skills, my friends… Any decent zombie apocalypse fan is all about them.  They’d rather be Daryl and go shoot stuff in the woods, but that time will come in a few weeks when the seasons we hunt start kicking in.  For now, we are learning about Harvesting! (You may have other ways of interesting your littles in this work, but feel free to use mine.)

🙂

We started out today gathering tomatoes, green beans, peppers, and cucumbers from the garden.  The Littles already know how to spot a tomato or bean that’s ready to pick, so today we just talked about the size of a good pepper or cucumber.  We looked at the zucchini plant and I showed them signs that the plant is done fruiting.

picking tomatoespicking green beans2

After we got our harvest together, it was time to prepare a couple of beds for our fall garden.  Even though I did the tilling myself, I showed the boys how to start the tiller, talked about what kind of fuel it uses, and let them feel the difference between the pre-tilled and the tilled soil.  Next year, Middle will probably take over the tilling chore.  Unless I continue to enjoy it.  Then he’ll just have to wait.

These beds are getting planted with broccoli, peas, and pumpkins.  I’m afraid I got my pumpkins out a little late because of all the rain we’ve had, so cross your fingers I get one or two for Halloween.  Or at least Thanksgiving.  If not, that will be another lesson for the boys to learn–how the weather affects the garden differently every year.  And how their mother should actually utilize the greenhouse.  That would probably help.  haha

IMG_20150729_105013019

We’ve already been seeing signs of how our abundance of rain has made things different.  Our corn tasseled before it got very tall, but we’re still getting corn on it.  One of our pepper plants completely wilted.  We’d given it up for dead but after a few days of sunshine it seems to have bounced back.  Some of our bean plants seemed to almost melt away.  For a while we thought the house was going to float away.

I digress.

morning pick

After harvesting some summer crops and planting some fall crops, we headed inside to do something with all our bounty.  I like to have the Littles help me can so they know what they’re doing, but I have listened enough to my beautiful husband’s tales of childhood woe about canning that I let them off the hook after a while.  If I have 200 tomatoes to can, even I don’t want to stand in front of the stove and do that all day.  I can’t imagine little boys wanting to do it.  So I generally let them go after the first batch is put up.

water bath

weighing tomatoesToday I had at least 200 tomatoes to put up, and I was turning them into ketchup, chili base, pizza sauce, and salsa.  I like making all those things myself because I don’t have to worry about gluten sneaking in on me somewhere, or hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup.  Just tomatoes and seasonings–and better than anything we can get at the store.  After I get enough of those things canned, I’ll start on my diced tomatoes if I have any left over.  Some years I don’t.  My kiddos love ketchup.  And pizza.

Depending on the age of your littles, there are a lot of lessons to be learned as you can food.  How to tell if a fruit or veggie is going bad.  How to weigh food if you have a food scale.  How to estimate if you don’t.  What will keep for a while and what won’t.  I don’t have a pressure canner, so we freeze things like green beans and corn, and it’s a good idea for them to realize that frozen foods don’t last as long as canned and that canned food doesn’t rely on electricity to keep.

tomatoes     canning jars

The most important thing to remember when teaching your littles about harvesting and storing food is that you have a good foreman in the kitchen, and by that I mean the cat who isn’t supposed to be on the counter but who is making sure you get those tomatoes peeled right because there is no one else on this green earth that could possibly be the supervisor that Storm the Gorgeous Grey Cat is.  Notice how Littlest is starting to laugh when he sees Storm sitting there.  The pic does not quite capture the subsequent battle between me and the Storm as I shooed him from the counter and he continued to come back to check my work.  Guess who gave up first?  It wasn’t the foreman.

peeling tomatoes

Okay, really, the most important thing to remember is to keep the harvest process lighthearted and fun.  Gardening and canning are hard, time-consuming work, but if you want to raise self-sufficient, independent adults, it’s a good idea to involve your littles in the process while they’re young.  Laugh and have fun and plan the apocalypse together.

A couple of good books about harvest are Hello, Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher (it even has a cat!) and Apples, Apples Everywhere: Learning About Apple Harvests by Robin Koontz.  As you know, books make everything fun.

Now, I have a batch of ketchup and a batch of chili base done, but I really need to go get started on the pizza sauce.  These tomatoes won’t wait on me.  I think I should get the Littles back in here.  They’ve had a long enough break.

Love wins,

KT

Indiana Boys on an Indiana Weekend

I am fiercely in love with my ‘flyover’ state.  I’ve probably not talked about it much before, but our weekend was so wonderful (barring a short, scary heat stroke problem) that I have to share it with you.  If you’ve never been to Indiana, you need to understand that I’m talking about the southern half of the state because I don’t spend much time up north and the southern half is the pretty half.  There are rolling hills and forests and, of course, a multitude of crop fields at every turn, but there are also interesting cities that haven’t outgrown themselves and forgotten where they came from.  We don’t live near any of those cities.  In fact, we live in the hills and cornfields and have to drive a good, long way to get to civilization.  Just the way we like it.  It means when we make plans to visit a city, we have a beautiful drive ahead of us.

IMG_20150716_090610544On Friday, we decided to take the day off from summer science and take the Littles to the zoo.  We live within a 2-hour drive of 4 different zoos, each of which is spectacular in its own way, but our favorite is the smallest, the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville.  So we set out on the back roads for a pleasant drive to one of our favorite spots. It worked out better for us than we could have hoped, because a slight detour took us past the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial.  Abe Lincoln spent 14 years of his youth in southern Indiana, and the cabin where he lived still stands, as does his mother’s grave site, and there’s a beautiful memorial building complete with relief sculptures of Lincoln’s life on the outer wall.  Inside, there are copies of letters Lincoln wrote to his Indiana friends and neighbors, pictures, and an information desk full of answers to all your questions.  Since this was a detour to our original plans and the day was already heating up, we didn’t hike out to the cabin but decided to go back when it’s cooler and see it.  Just looking around the memorial building was fascinating enough.

lincoln memorial

After spending about 45 minutes at the memorial, we got back on the road.  Now, my family loves all genres of music.  Rock, classical, country, folk, bluegrass, hip hop, pop–if it’s good music we love it.  But this day, spent in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, dotted with farms and corn fields, little towns and soybeans, called for a good country music station.  So, singing along with Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, and Florida-Georgia Line, we made our way to the zoo.

IMG_20150716_105242404

Here’s a gorgeous pic of an Amish hay field.  If you’ve never driven by one of these, it feels like you just stepped back a couple centuries in time.  We are so used to seeing square or round hay bales that these hay stacks always jolt us and make us feel a little nostalgic for a simple way of life.  Teachable moment.  We discussed the history of hay baling and how smart the Amish way of doing things is and how better prepared they are than most of our society to take care of themselves should the zombie apocalypse come.  And you know my Littles, they are just waiting for the day.  So it was a good lesson for them to learn if they want to grow up to be Daryl Dixon.  Which they do.

As we approached Evansville, we fell in love with it all over again.  It sits on the Ohio River, and is the third-largest city in our state behind Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.  Now then.  Here’s a pic of the outskirts of Evansville.  I’m not kidding:

Eville outskirts

Just ahead on this road is the beginning of a row of restaurants and department stores, gas stations and car lots.  I love that there is absolutely no transition.  One second you’re in the country, the next you’re in the city.  I love that it doesn’t take long to get away from the hubbub here.  I’m so glad I’m raising my boys in a place with such roots.

There are many reasons Mesker Park is our favorite zoo.  Its smaller size means we are not (usually) going to wear completely out before we’re done seeing everything we want to see.  And I’ve never been able to figure out the reason, but the animals at Mesker Park are ever so much livelier than at the bigger zoos.  We arrived at feeding time so for the first hour we were there, all of the animals were up and about, easily spotted, and fun to interact with.

IMG950261

We went to Amazonia first, which is a relatively new exhibit that has (obviously) animals and birds from the Amazon in it. Apparently we were the khaki shorts family that day.  Except for Martin, who always has to be different. haha

Here are some of the animals we saw:

How cute is this guy?  He acted like he wanted to talk to us.

How cute is this guy? He acted like he wanted to talk to us.

This gorgeous cat paced so much we had to take the pic quickly.  And we all wanted to take him home.

This gorgeous cat paced so much we had to take the pic quickly. And we all wanted to take him home.

Another thing we love about this zoo is it is rarely crowded.  You never feel like you’re not getting to see the exhibits because of all the other people around trying to look at the exhibit.  You get to actually take your time and look at each animal for as long as you want to without feeling guilty.  Here’s the path leading towards the Australia exhibit.  Notice how much room there is?  That’s because we were the only people on it.

IMG_20150717_121215682By about noon, the day had heated up to sweltering.  100 degree weather and humidity like we were walking through a wet blanket.  The animals scurried for shade or the indoors, which made the last part of the trip a little boring and the heat seem even worse.  But we still saw some really cool things like this goose family who went past us.  I guess they were enjoying the sights, too.IMG_20150717_130255064_HDR

And this peacock feather garden:

IMG_20150717_125005507Isn’t that cool?  There were dozens of them all sticking up out of the grass like planted flowers.  It looked like someone was trying to grow peacocks.  I guess it takes longer to do that than a sunflower or cornstalk.  😉

And of course, we always have to get a pic of the Littles on the giant spiderweb.  It’s like their school picture–taken every year.

IMG_20150717_133101170

We had to cut our visit a little short, because apparently I’m older than I think I am and my body wasn’t too happy with the heat.  An ice pack and a water bottle later, we headed home.  Here’s a pic of my beautiful husband, worrying about me as he drives.  Notice there are still cornfields in the background?  It’s Indiana.  There are always cornfields. And forests.  We love them or we wouldn’t live here. We love them fiercely.

IMG_20150717_111753739The day ended on a bright note despite me heat-stroking out.  Martin ran to get dinner after he brought us home and came back with a garage sale-find coffee table.  Big deal, right?  Well, we’ve been keeping an eye out for a decent used coffee table this year because we wanted to make a game table out of it.  He got this baby for $5.  Another great thing about Indiana?  Yard sales still have yard sale prices.  The table was in perfect shape except for the inserts which were missing the glass.  Which made it perfect for our purposes.  He spent Saturday cutting some of our favorite game boards down to fit into the inserts on the table and covering them with plexiglass.  The end result?  A permanent game table.  Now all I have to do is buy some seagrass baskets to keep the pieces in and our game table dream has come true.  Isn’t it awesome?!

IMG_20150718_173904078

I guess I should have cleaned the board shavings off the table before I took the pic.  Oh, well.  You get the idea.  The great thing is, all of our other game boards will sit atop these inserted babies and we can use the table for any ol’ game we want.  And we own A Lot of board games.  You can see some of them peeking out from their new home under the table.

So guess what we did for the rest of the weekend?

If you ever come to Indiana, there are so many fun and educational things to do.  If I wasn’t such a wimp, we could have visited the Angel Mounds–a thousand-year old Native American site–at Newburgh, which is just a short drive from Evansville.  We could have hiked in the Hoosier National Forest (part of which actually abuts our property, so we can do that any day).  We could have gone to the pioneer village of Spring Mill.  So much of our country’s early history happened here.  People forget that in favor of the coasts, and that’s okay.  If everybody remembered, more people would line the paths of the Mesker Park Zoo.

Love wins,

KT

 

 

11 Awesome Activities to Do in the Rain

11 Awesome Activities to entertain your littles on a rainy day

Here’s the thing.  And it’s not normal.  It has rained here–hard, like storms and heavy showers–every day for over 2 weeks.  I have complained about it on Twitter and Instagram.  I have complained about it on this blog.  I am complaining because even though I love the rain, I love it when it is sporadic.  Even though the power of good storm is one of the most awe-inducing things Mother Nature does, even that loses its attraction after 2 weeks.  I have complained because my front yard is one gigantic puddle, my garden is wilting, even the trees in my forest are looking sketchy.  It’s too much.  I want to go outside.  For more than 5 or 10 minutes between storms.  I want to see blue sky.  It’s July, after all.  There should be blue sky.  I want to feel the sun on my skin, melanoma be damned.

But the forecast for the next 10 days includes one partly sunny day and 9 stormy ones.  So I better suck it up.  ‘Cause it ain’t going nowhere.  (Total purposeful double-negative.  You have to say that in the vernacular.)

So I spent the day thinking of things we can do in the rain.  And since they’re pretty cool, I thought I’d share them with you, beautiful reader.

Continue reading

Exhausted Mama

Dear Beautiful Blog Readers,

Some days I get tired.  Some days the overwhelming overwhelming-ness of being a mother (to both an adult and littles), a wife, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, a chauffeur, a supportive friend, a farmer, a homeschooler–a Woman of Many Title–is downright exhausting.  Sometimes there are so many things to be done in a single 15-minute period that I am literally flitting from one place to the next, one thought to the next, one Me to the next.  When I really want to do is close my eyes, have complete quiet, shut off my brain, and Just Be.

IMG_20150618_141737910

For half an hour.  Just be.  Just be KT.

Who has time for that?  I decided to write to you about it, because I have a feeling I am not alone in this.  I see posts that give suggestions such as Make Time For Yourself, Don’t Overschedule, Get Up Earlier To Have Quiet Time (or Go To Bed Later).

Um, I can’t make time.  It is humanly impossible.  Goes against the laws of physics.  I don’t really even get to make my schedule.   These things need done. They are not going to go away if I don’t schedule them into my day.  They will still need done tomorrow, and chances are I’ll only be piling on more for tomorrow if I skip something today.   Also, I already get up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning and can barely keep my eyes open till 10.  So…

My blog is meant to encourage other moms and dads who are on this journey.  But sometimes I don’t feel encouraging.  Sometimes you don’t want to be encouraged.  Sometimes, we just need to commiserate.  So here’s the thing.

I am having an exhausted week.  That’s honest.  Here’s a pic of my kitchen counter Right Now.  IMG_20150618_145652239_HDRThat’s honest.  I should be doing those dishes, but the truth is I ran out of dish soap this morning and I don’t have the energy (or the hour it would take) to go get more.  I haven’t worked on next year’s curriculum this week.  At All.  I haven’t been able to find the time.  My Littles are having so much fun with their summer science class that we are doing extra work every day, and even though it’s easier than any class we’ve ever done (since I didn’t have to write the class first), it is cutting into my chore, blogging, and business time.  I’ve barely spoken to my best friend this week.  I want to.  I just don’t have time.  I’m too tired to sleep.  I’m too tired to stay awake. You know that feeling, don’t you?

I don’t have any words of encouragement.  Let’s just commiserate.  We are parents and it is exhausting, and that is okay.  Tomorrow will be better.  It always is, isn’t it?  But for today… Let’s just own the exhaustion.  Let ourselves be overwhelmed.  There comes a time when we have to stop the denial.  For an hour, maybe.  Because denial (haha) is often what keeps us living this crazy, wonderful, beautiful life.  I’ll put on my big-girl boots in the morning, I swear.  But today, my friends, I Am Owning It.

I’m tired.  Are you?

Love wins,

KT