Friday, March 25, 2016

5 Gardening Tips for Beginners

With the first day of Spring earlier this week, I think everyone has this spring and gardening on their mind.  I have seen many of my friends on Facebook are going to try their hand at gardening for the first time this year, so I thought I'd share a few tips that I have learned over the years for these first-timers.

Include Easy Plants - If this year is your first year to garden I would include at least one easy plant, or dare I say no-fail plants.  The first easy plant I recommend is radishes.  Radishes require no prep work and can go straight from seed to garden.  They are easy to care of too.  Make sure you give them adequate water and that you follow the instructions on the seed packet for spacing and depth.  The added plus of radishes is that they have a fast maturity, so you'll be able to enjoy the harvest of your efforts mid-summer.  The next easy plant I recommend is tomatoes.  There are many varieties of tomatoes and I have found good results with many.  My favorite are probably Roma.  Roma plants don't get as tall or heavy as other tomato plants, so they are easier to maintain.  Make sure your tomato plant gets plenty of light and regular water.  Now, tomato plants are susceptible to diseases, so if you start to see some diseased leaves, remove them after the plant is at least knee-high.  The final easy plants I recommend are pumpkins and gourds.  I swear pumpkins and gourds can grow anywhere and with no help at all, but the last time I gave that recommendation to a friend a few years ago we had a drought and that wasn't the case...  The main things that pumpkins and gourds need is space and adequate water.  If you plan on including any vine plants in your garden, consider having a separate patch for them, so you can give their vines plenty of space to spread out and grow.

5 Gardening Tips for Beginners - Include Easy Plants

Plant What You Eat - This seems easy enough, but when making your garden plan, remember to plant what you are going to enjoy eating.  If you don't like green beans, don't plant green beans.  Now at the same time, if you eat potatoes everyday, plants some potatoes.  Also consider what you are interested in canning.  For many years I have planted some form of a salsa garden with tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.  My family always has a jar of salsa open and we have never had a problem eating each year's salsa.  Also, my family has homemade pizza each Friday night, so I always can pizza sauce each year.  We also really enjoy canning pickles.  If you are looking for some pickle tips, check out my friend Mary of Farm Girl Cook'n's latest post with pickle tips and a recipe!

5 Gardening Tips for Beginners - Plant What You Eat

Location, Location, Location - After you have decided what you want to plant in your garden you need to think about the amount of space you'll need for it and where to locate it.  Most vegetables need direct sunlight and a well drained soil in a level area.  Also, make sure this area is away from trees or shrubs.  You won't want them to compete for water and nutrients from your garden.  Lastly, make sure your garden can be reached by a hose.  Now you might be thinking that you're going to build muscle and endurance by using a watering can for your garden, but chances are, as the summer goes on, you're going to neglect keeping your garden watered regularly if you have to do so.  Check out my Where to put your Vegetable Garden post for more tips and details.

5 Gardening Tips for Beginners - Location, Location, Location

Weed, Weed, Weed - This might seem like a no-brainer, but in order to have a successful first go-around at gardening, you need to keep up on weeding.  Keep a regular weeding schedule for the entire spring and summer.  And if you go on a summer vacation, be prepared to weed when you get home.  For some reason, it's like weeds know when you're gone and sprout up like crazy to greet you when you get home.  If your weeds get out of hand, weeding after a rain makes them easier to pull out.  Also, to help control weeds, after plants have good growth, consider laying down a mulch or straw to help give the plants a barrier from weeds.

5 Gardening Tips for Beginners - Weed, Weed, Weed

Protection, Protection, Protection - It is a good idea to give your plants some protection from predators throughout the growing season.  Depending on where you live, predators could be rabbits, squirrels, deer, etc.  When your plants are young, consider using milk jugs that have had the bottoms cut off (which also act as a "greenhouse" at the same time), or old clay tiles.  After they outgrow the milk jugs or tiles, you should consider investing in a fence or a dog.

5 Gardening Tips for Beginners - Protection, Protection, Protection

I hope these basic tips help prepare all first-time gardeners for the planting season.  Most importantly I hope your garden allows you to get a little dirty, be a little creative and reduces your stress.  What tips would you add to the list for beginners?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Looking for more tips - check out my tips and others on Wayfair!
Gardening Expert

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Shell-a-brating LP's 5th Birthday Ninja Turtle Style

I cannot believe today marks one month since our oldest, LP, turned 5 years old!  I can still remember his "birth"day so vividly, so it is crazy to think he is now 5.  As he has gotten older, he has gotten into the whole birthday party thing a little bit more each year.  This year it was so much fun planning his family birthday party with him because of all his excitement and ideas he suggested.  When LP and I sat down to start talking about his birthday after his sister JP turned one, he had the theme all ready to go - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

LP has discovered the world of Ninja Turtles since starting Pre-K.  Despite only seeing maybe three episodes of the cartoon, he thinks they are awesome!  He plays "Ninja Turtles" at recess with his classmates and the coolest part according to LP is that his Dad likes Ninja Turtles too!  That's right, back when My Farmer was a kid, he was a Ninja Turtles fan.  It really is amazing that four mutant turtles have had so much longevity.

So when we started planning his birthday party we had three main things to think through - invitations, food and decorations.  The first thing to get out the door and into the mail were the invitations.  The kids and I have always enjoyed making homemade birthday invitations, so for LP's invite we used blank card-stock cards, construction paper and markers to create them.  We made invitations of all four Ninja Turtles.  LP enjoyed pasting the construction paper to the cards and writing his name on the front of each card.  Here is a look at one of the finished Leonardo (LP's favorite) cards:

Homemade Ninja Turtle Birthday Invitation

Next, to think through was food.  LP insisted on having pizza for supper that night, because it is the Ninja Turtle's favorite food.  So we picked up some pizza from our local pizza restaurant, and served it with a Ninja Turtle veggie tray made with celery, carrots, olives and veggie dip.

Ninja Turtle Birthday Party Food - Veggie Tray

And of course cake and homemade ice cream!  The best part for LP thinking through how he wanted his cake to be, he also got to think through how he wanted his birthday treats for school to be.  For the birthday party he said he wanted a chocolate cake that looked like the sewer and had all four Ninja Turtles on it, and for school he wanted chocolate cupcakes of all four Ninja Turtles.  So I did some searching on Pinterest and kind of combined the two ideas to come up with this:

Homemade Ninja Turtle Birthday Party Cake and Cupcakes

I made a two-layer circle chocolate cake that I decorated the top of to look like a sewer cap.  I then used a cupcake of each Ninja Turtle cake to put on the top of the cake, and we made additional white cupcakes that we put around the outside.  I even researched NYC sewer caps to get my design right for decorating the top of the cake.

Shell-a-brating 5th Birthday Ninja Turtle Style

The final aspect of getting ready for the family birthday party was decorations.  Now this is where a soon to be five year old's imagination can go a little wild and big, but I think we did a good job of doing what he wanted while still keeping it simple.  We decorated our upstairs door to look like a Ninja Turtle using two table cloths, card-stock and markers:

Ninja Turtle Birthday Party Door Decoration

And then I always like to do something to showcase photos of the birthday kid from over the past year.  LP drew some Ninja Turtle pictures that we then added photos to, and we also made a Ninja Turtle face of each turtle using a paper plate, paint, felt, googly eyes and a marker.

Ninja Turtle Birthday Party Decorations - Drawings and Paper Plate Faces

We also used a couple pieces of poster board to make a Ninja Turtle #5:

Ninja Turtle Birthday Party Homemade Decorations

Overall I think LP had a great time sharing his love of Ninja Turtles with our whole family.  In the words of LP, the party was "cool"!

Shell-a-brating a 5th Birthday Ninja Turtle Style
Clockwise from the cake: LP, My Farmer, JP,
myself and MP
Were you a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  Did you ever have a Ninja Turtle Birthday Party?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Be sure to check out LP's other Birthday Parties from the past too:

1st Tractor Birthday Party
1st Tractor Birthday Party
2nd Train Birthday Party
2nd Train Birthday Party

3rd Curious George Birthday Party
3rd Curious George Birthday Party
4th Rocket Ship Birthday Party
4th Rocket Birthday Party

Ninja Turtle Birthday Party full of homemade ideas - invitations, food, cake and decorations

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Farmer

Our oldest son, LP, just turned five years old and he is asked quite often "What do you want to be when you grow up?".  He always proudly answers, "A Farmer".  So in honor of National Ag Day, I sat down and interviewed him and asked him "Why?".  His answers made me smile and I hope they do for you too.

Because my Dad and Mom are farmers.

Already at the age of five LP thinks the legacy of our family's farm is a pretty "cool" thing.  LP is the sixth generation on our farm, and My Farmer and I are doing all that we can to make sure that our farm is sustainable for him, or any of his siblings, to take over when they are grown up.

National Ag Day - When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Farmer
LP this past fall with Flat Aggie
Because I like tractors.

He's a five year old boy, are you really surprised this is one of his reasons why he wants to be a farmer?  Heck, this is one of the reasons I enjoy farming.  Big wheels, big machines, and lots of power - yep, sounds like a pretty good reason on why being a farmer is awesome!

Because you get to plant.

I thought this was an unbelievable answer to come from a five year old.  LP has already discovered to love of getting a little dirty, planting seeds, and seeing the miracle of having a crop bloom and get harvested at the end of the year.  Raising corn and soybeans on our farm is one of my favorite aspects because we get a fresh start every year.  We learn from past years to better our farms for each new year.  We are constantly learning on the farm, and that is something unique about our job of farming.

Because you get to wear a cool costume.  Now after this answer I had to ask him what a farmer costume was and he said:  It's the farmer suit.  You get to wear cool shirts, Carhartt bibs in the winter and cool boots.

I had never thought about the "farmer suit" til LP talked about it.  Our "cool shirts" are usually from different seed or chemical companies, agricultural associations, etc.  They do have some pretty fun designs and wording on them so I can see why he is looking forward to wearing his own some day.  Carhartt bib overalls are must in the winter time in order to stay warm while working outside.  These aren't just cool as LP sees them, they are practical and needed.  And the "cool boots".  Both My Farmer and I have farm boots - aka old pull on leather boots, and rubber chore boots.  According to LP both are cool and he thinks it is great that you get to wear them everyday when you're a farmer.

And lastly: Because you get to take care of pigs everyday.

LP loves helping his Dad check the pigs to make sure they are healthy and comfortable.  He loves that we have animals on our farm and he has plans on adding to the kinds of livestock that we raise.  If you ask LP, he wants to add a cow, chickens and horses.  I hate to tell him, but he might have to wait til he has his own farm to have some of those.  But I'm willing to invest in probably some chickens and maybe a bucket bottle calf as a 4-H project someday.

So from our family, to yours, we hope you have a great National Ag Day!  Thanks to LP for letting me interview him.  I hope you enjoyed his answers on why he wants to be a farmer when he grows up as much as My Farmer and I both did.  The future of agriculture is growing strong!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Comments for a Cause - First Book

Comments for a Cause - First Book
Happy March 1st and Happy New Comments for a Cause Day!  Before I share March's new cause, let me share about February's numbers.  In February I had 40 comments, creating a $20 donation to Love Your Melon.  Thank you to everyone that commented!  Hopefully some of you were able to grab a new hat for this winter while there were some in stock from their merchandise shop to support the cause!  (I did notice they are doing some pre-orders on hats right now if you're interested.)

In the month of March, I am excited to be donating $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to First Book.

Comments for a Cause - First Book

If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I'm a childhood literacy proponent, so when I learned about First Book on Twitter I had to help their mission.  First Book provides new books to children in need throughout the United States and Canada.  Kyle Zimmer, co-founder of First Book, saw the need for the cause over 20 years ago while volunteering at her local food pantry as a tutor.  She realized the children had no books - the kids who needed the most help, had the fewest resources.  Through Kyle's efforts, and her many supporters, First Book has now distributed more than 135 million books to programs and schools serving children from low-income families.  First Book's goal is to see that all children, regardless of their economic level, have access to an ongoing supply of new books and education materials, so they can achieve more in school and in life.

Comments for a Cause - First Book Shelfie #MagicOfStorytelling
Shelfie with one of my kids' favorite bedtime storybooks,
Farm Kisses #MagicOfStorytelling
One of First Book's biggest donors is Disney.  For over 15 years, these two organizations have teamed up to provide children in need with books.  2016 marks a milestone of Disney donating 50 million books through the First Book program.  To celebrate this milestone, Disney is inviting people to participate in their Magic of Storytelling campaign through March 31.  You can get involved by taking a shelfie, a photo of you with your favorite book or bookshelf, and share it on social media with the hashtag #MagicOfStorytelling on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  For each shelfie posted, First Book will direct a book donated by Disney to a child in need, up to 500,000 books.  This is also a great chance to create awareness of the program and the need of youth in America and Canada.

So get involved!  Post a Shelfie!  And make sure to comment on any of my blog posts all month long to support First Book.  Tomorrow would be a great day to get involved as it marks Dr. Seuss's birthday and Read Across America Day!  What is your favorite children's book?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Country Fair Blog Party: March 2016

Even with the extra day in February I can't believe today is March 1st!  Each month, I get together with my Country Fair Blog Party co-hosts to provide a fun Blog Hop where you as a blogger, can have your blog reach a new audience and where you as a reader, can discover some new blogs!  Before I share how you can link-up and check out all the posts, check out the Blue Ribbon Winners from the February Country Fair Blog Party:

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Best of Long Island and Central Florida's Engagement Chicken
I talk about this every month, and I guess this month isn't going to be any different...  I love all the great recipes linked-up on this Blog Hop and Best of Long Island and Central Florida's Engagement Chicken is no exception and is one of my Blue Ribbon Winners for February.  I mean, can you really not want to try this recipe after looking at that photo?!  Besides this whole chicken recipe looking delicious, it also uses simple ingredients that are pantry staples in my house.  That's a win-win for me!

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: The Gingered Whisk's The Only Party Snacks You Need
This month I couldn't stop with just one recipe as a Blue Ribbon Winner, I had to include a collection of recipes too!  I loved The Gingered Whisk's The Only Party Snacks You Need recipe roundup.  This was a great post to have pinned during February for the Super Bowl and will be a great post to keep bookmarked for upcoming March Madness.  You'll have to check out this collection of dips and hot appetizers!

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Green Grass Girl's Confessions of a Rookie Farm Wife
The last Blue Ribbon Winner for February is Green Grass Girl's Confessions of a Rookie Farm Wife.  I am an 8 year veteran Farm Wife, but I still had to smile at Rachel's thoughts from newly living on a farm and being married to a farmer.  Her fun post shares about all aspects of the farm life.

Join the Country Fair Blog Party by linking up to 3 of your favorite food, family, farming, crafts, canning, etc. posts!
I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up to this month's Country Fair Blog Party.  Country Fairs are all about food, family, friends, farming, animals, arts and crafts, canning, baking and more.  And that is what our our blog hop is all about too.  Feel free to join our Country Fair by linking up to 3 of your posts.  This blog hop is a great opportunity to check out new blogs, and if you blog yourself, have your posts reach a new audience.  Be sure to visit some other party goers and let them know you are stopping by through the Country Fair Blog Party.

Country Fair Blog Party Co-Hosts
Also, be sure to visit my fellow co-hosts:
Jan of Tip Garden
Laurie of Country LINKed and
Nicole of Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom

We're excited to see everything you share this month!  What is your favorite link from this month's Country Fair Blog Party?  Whichever post is mentioned the most in the comments will receive my "Readers's Choice" Blue Ribbon next month.  Remember to Comments for a Cause!