9 Benefits of Companion Planting

9 Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting is the practice of planting certain things together that help each other.

companion vegetable planting, three sisters.

For instance, you can plant basil with tomatoes and it makes the tomatoes taste amazing. Basil repels some pests that like tomatoes. In addition, basil tastes great in tomato recipes, so it’s easy to harvest them when they are next to each other. This is companion planting.

  1. Companion planting helps control pests.
Companion planting is a legendary art.

It takes planning, but it will help you obtain a wonderful harvest. We have been growing the three sisters method for years. It’s an ancient Cherokee Indian practice. It involves planting corn for trellises and once the corn is a few inches high, you add squash and beans. The beans feed nitrogen to the corn, the squash keeps weeds out and shades the roots and the corn gives them both something to climb on. They repel each other’s pests and encourage growth in each other.

companion planting, three sisters method

It’s a great system. I recommend growing winter squashes and drying beans so you can pull all of your crops at once after the corn is done producing because it gets pretty crowded in the bed and that way you don’t have to worry about digging around in there and knocking over your corn.

2. Companion planting helps support the needs of the plants.

3. Companion planting supports plant diversity, which is beneficial to the gardener, the soil and our eco system. Plant diversity gives us insect diversity and that decreases the overall number of parasites while it increases the number of beneficials.

There are so many different combinations of plants that can be grown together and there are tons of benefits.

Years ago, there was a book written called “Carrots Love Tomatoes”. The book went into detail about all of the plants that made good companions and all of those that didn’t like growing next to each other. It is still the best resource for this. Click on the picture below if you’d like to get a copy. I couldn’t live without mine.

 Companion planting helps with pollination.

  1. Companion planting saves space.
  2. Companion planting increases productivity.

Companion planting can help with pest control, pollination, making the best use of your space, increasing crop productivity, and providing habitats for beneficials. Typically, these days, most products are grown in a mono crop fashion, meaning there are giant fields of one single type of plant.

Obviously, this makes it easy to water, care for and harvest the crops. The down side is that mono cropping causes farmers/growers to have to use a lot of chemicals to control pests. For instance, if the crop is tomatoes, every tomato hornworm in the tri state area is going to be attracted to that field. If you mix tomatoes with lettuce, for instance, the tomatoes provide shade for the lettuce and the lettuce repels some tomato pests. 

 

Companion planting is God’s natural way.

Think about how things grow in nature, they are mixed and hodge podge. Nature knows best.

  1. Companion planting supports nature’s natural cycles, plans and behaviors.
  2. Companion planting reduces improves flavors.
  3. Companion planting allows you to grow more variety.

Basil is good for most garden crops. It improves the flavor of lettuce and tomatoes and it repels mosquitos. Speaking of repelling mosquitoes, who doesn’t want that?

Beans should not be grown near onions, but should be planted with marigolds or potatoes, both of which repel the Mexican bean beetle.

Tomatoes make a great partner with carrots and onions. They provide shade to keep them from getting too hot.

Radishes are great companions to cucumbers, lettuce, melons and peas and they deter the cucumber beetle. I have also heard white icicle radishes deter squash beetles. We are working on a science experiment about that now.

Onions deter many pests, but shouldn’t be grown near beans or peas. They do great with Cole crops, carrots, and lettuce.

companion planting, onions and peas

Intermixing herbs in all of your crops is always a great idea.

They deter many pests and don’t have plants that don’t like them. Oregano, parsley, thyme, sage (not with cucumbers), rosemary and dill (not with carrots) are all great deterrents for a number of pests. Parsley is especially good for corn, roses and tomatoes. Rosemary is good for beans, cabbage, and carrots. Sage helps cabbage, carrots and especially tomatoes. Tomatoes grow better with sage nearby. Dill is a great flavor enhancer for cabbage type plants, as well as cucumbers, lettuce and onions.

Many flowers improve growth of plants, especially nasturtiums and marigolds. They are good around all plants and deter a host of pests. Sunflowers make a great trellis for cucumbers, but they do inhibit the growth of a lot of plants, so other than that, plant them off to themselves. They still make a great addition to the garden.

Corn is a good companion for beans, cucumbers, potatoes, melons, pumpkins, squash and peas.

Cucumbers should not be grown near potatoes, but are great with beans, cabbage, corn and radishes.

Garlic should not be grown near peas or beans, but is great with cabbages, tomatoes, and fruit trees.

Peppers are great with carrots, onions, parsley, tomatoes, and basil, but don’t love cabbages or fennel.

Knowing what works well together is a great way to improve your productivity in the garden. It just takes a little research and some careful planning to rock your garden to the max.

For more information on what grows well together, check out this article from Mother Earth News

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9 Benefits of Companion Planting

Green Beans, Using and Storing Garden Produce

Green Beans, Using and Storing Garden Produce

Right now green beans are in full production at Little Sprouts.

I used to hate green beans, in fact I did most of my life, I remember hating them as a young child. About 4 years ago, when my gardening career was just budding, I asked one of my daycare families if they wanted me to water their garden while they were out of town for a week and it was 100 degrees every day. They said sure, and said I could pick whatever was ripe from it. I jumped on that, but when I got over there, I saw they had a ton of green beans ready to pick.

Green bean production, growing, using, and storing

I thought to myself, ew, but I knew I should not let them go to waste on the vines. I picked a sack full and brought them home thinking I could feed them to the kids. I cooked them up and to my surprise, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED them! They were amazing. I have been helping the kids plant green beans and enjoying eating them with them ever since.

I LOVE green beans! Yum yum!

This year we planted a variety of green beans including a purple variety we got in our seeds of the month membership. We just picked our first batch of purple ones today and they look so beautiful! I can’t wait to try them. At Little Sprouts we plant most things in succession. That way we have a longer season of harvest as well as less glut all at once of one thing. Every two weeks we put in another row of green beans. As the plants get tired and worn out, the new ones are ready.

Growing green beans is fun.

The vines and bushes are really pretty and the little beans are so cute as they come on. I LOVE growing them. When we get enough to save, it’s super exciting to think about eating them in winter too. We are not allowed to serve home canned foods in daycare, so our green bean storage choices are dehydrating or freezing.

green bean cooking, world famous green beans

If you dehydrate your green beans, cut them into one inch pieces before you start. Dehydrate them until they are totally dried. You can use them in soups and stews. They retain their flavor and most of their nutrients. Another way you can use dehydrated green beans is to put them in the blender dry and make them into powder. Then add them to dishes for extra nutrients. No one will ever know. Trust me, it works great!

We freeze our extra green beans.

To freeze your green beans you wash and snap them into one inch pieces. Then blanch them. Bring a big stock pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon or so of salt. Toss in a few handfuls of green beans, and let them cook for 3-4 minutes or until bright green. Take them out of the water and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain them and bag them up. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and get it to the freezer as quickly as possible.

Many people say they don’t like frozen green beans, but I find if you cook them right (long enough), they taste amazing and have a wonderful texture. Believe me, texture is a big ole deal to me.

There are so many ways to use your fresh or stored green beans. You can make a side dish with them. There are many green bean casserole recipes or you can just serve them plain with some salt, pepper and butter. My last post was my world famous green bean recipe. It’s so good, kids are talking about it all over the place. Click here to check it out.

world famous green bean recipe cooking

Green beans are great added to soups and stews.

They can be added to casseroles. Green beans can be used in stir fry. You can marinate them in a fresh salad, they can be pickled, they can go in pasta salad or pasta dishes. They can be used fresh or blanched in salads. You can roast them in green bean bundles. There are unlimited ways they can be served for something new and exciting.

Don’t shy away from the humble and familiar green bean. All it needs is some new perspective. What’s your favorite way to eat them?

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Green Beans, Using and Storing Garden Produce

Go for the GOLD, Summer Games for Kids

Go for the Gold, Summer Games for Kids

At Little Sprouts we love the Summer Games. There is so much to learn from them. I love using the Olympics to talk about our country, our flag, our national anthem, geography, doing your best, practicing skills, reaching for goals, and working hard for success in life.

You can put on a great Summer Games event for your kids or family without spending a ton of money.

Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make everything you need with what you have right at home.

First you need to think up some games. We do a mini Olympics here at daycare for every Summer games, so we have done many different games. This year we had rubber band archery, straw javelin, Olympic ring toss, 5-meter dash, downhill sliding, and balance beam competitions. In years past we have done tricycle-athon, weight lifting with wrapping paper tubes with pie pans on the ends, basketball throw, relay races and all manner of other games we created for the event. Use your imagination.

I made number tags for the kid’s backs and pinned them on. I just made up random numbers and printed out a bunch of different ones with the rings on them. The kids thought that was really cool.

I try to think of things we already have the supplies for or things we can make with what we have. Having events for the kids is fun, but it’s not a good idea to eat up all your profits with fancy things. The kids don’t need it and they have just as much fun without it.

Years ago I bought a cd of Whitney Houston’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and another cd with Olympic music on it. We have used those cds for each Summer Games event. When the kids arrive in the morning, I greet them with the games theme song you hear on tv between each piece of coverage of the games.

This year, we followed arrival with a Summer Games breakfast of muffins and apple rings. I just cut the apples into rounds and poked the centers out with the apple corer. Easy peasy and fun.

After breakfast, we did a parade of nations or here it was a parade of USA. The kids held small flags and walked in to the games music again. They loved it. I recorded them with my phone and let them watch it and they begged to do it over and over again. I explained how we were representing our country and showed them our town, then our state, then our country on a map. We are a part of something bigger here in Oklahoma.

Summer Olympic games for kids

Next we did an opening ceremony. We have watched snippets of the games on television and we used the music and dancing ribbons to create our own opening ceremony. We have been practicing. This gives the kids good physical activity and they also have lots of fun.

opening olympic ceremony for kids

After the opening ceremony, we headed outside with our Summer Games torch I made from discarded things around the house. I used a paper towel tube, some painter’s tape, a solo cup, and a lid to a sour cream container along with some orange tissue paper from a gift bag. I just cut the tube and then made slits in it so it would attach to the lid, and taped it on with the blue tape. Then I cut an x in the bottom of the lid and the cup and stuffed the tissue paper through to make the flame hold in the torch. Then I trimmed the cup shorter and attached it to the lid with more tape. I put a few staples in for good measure.

homemade olympic torch for summer gameshomemade olympic torch for kids summer games

Not only does making my own torch save me money, but it also keeps those supplies out of the landfill by using them again for something new. We took turns running around the playground and passing the torch off as we each made a lap around the play area. I explained to the kids how the torch is run for each games. This is so cool and they learn more about geography through this exercise.

kids running the olympic torch for summer games

Once the torch has traveled around, we begin the games.

This year, we did some activities outside and some in because it was dreadfully hot. We began with the balance beam exercises outside. Each child got to participate in any way they wanted. They practiced balance on the edging of our play area and they made up their own routines. Next we did the downhill slide where each person performed their desired techniques on the swing set slide.

balance beam event for kids summer gamesdownhill slide event in summer gameskids summer games event

The next event was the 5-meter dash in which all the kids participated at the same time. They are 2-4 years of age, so we don’t have winners and losers. They just love to run and its even more physical activity for them.

We came inside for a big drink of water and finished the games inside. We did the rubber band archery competition and saw how far we could shoot a rubber band. Next we did the straw javelin to see how far we could throw the straw. Lastly, they did a ring toss with Olympic rings. Everyone had a great time.

rubber band archery, kids summer olympic gameskids summer games, straw javelin competitionolympic ring toss for kids

 

I bought gold medals for each of the kids from a trophy company, but you could easily make them yourself with construction paper, ribbon and cheerios for some rings on the front. We had a medal ceremony. I called each child’s name and gave them the medal and then we saluted the flag and sang the National Anthem with Whitney. She knocks it out of the park. The kids love singing our USA song.

olympic gold medals for kids summer games

summer games for kids, olympics

Lastly, we played Olympic music again and used our flags to perform a closing ceremony. It was tons of fun and I was able to post pictures and short videos for parents to see how much fun we had. The parents loved it too. Pictures and videos are another way to get parents involved in your daycare. Click here to see how important parent involvement is in your program.

kids summer games

I had made lunch that morning and put it in the crock pot so I wouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of cooking. We had a nap after the games, and then snack when we got up was more rings to finish our celebration.

Olympic ring snackssummer games ring snacks

I hope you will put on an event to celebrate the Summer Games this year, there is still a week left to show the kids what it’s all about and then make up an activity of your own. It can be as simple or complicated as you’d like, but it teaches them so much. The Olympics are so special and it’s great to see your country being represented in front of the world. USA USA USA!

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Go for the Gold, Summer Games for Kids

 

World Famous Green Bean Recipe

World Famous Green Bean Recipe

My daycare kids LOVE my world famous green beans.

A few years ago, when I had some older boys enrolled in care, they would ask for these green beans all the time. I would make them as soon as we could get enough green beans from the garden. They dubbed them world famous and who am I to argue with that. Pre-teen boys know where it’s at! It’s comfort food. 

green beans, bacon, sunflower seeds, dill

I am allergic to nuts and lactose intolerant, so a large portion of nutrients that my body needs are not a part of my diet through those foods. Nuts are super important for healthy omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E as well as protein and calcium. I add these nutrients to my diet by supplementing many recipes with seeds. Seeds are super healthy food that are packed with almost as much of these vital nutrients as nuts, but with no anaphylactic shock for me. I add them to as many recipes as I can.

green beans

Green beans are awesome!

I hope you are growing green beans in your garden. They are super easy and make so many delicious meals. Check in next week to see how to store and use green beans in a ton of ways. I love using real food ingredients any way I can. Making food homemade helps you skip a lot of chemicals and additives that are in processed food. If you grow them yourself, you really know they are pure and natural. 

green bean cooking, world famous green beans

Snap the ends off your beans and snap them into bite sized pieces to start the recipe.

Then toss them in some salted water and boil until they are tender. Use as little water as possible so most of it will soak back up into the beans. You keep more nutrients if you pour less water down the drain. If you do have water to drain off of them, save it in a container in the freezer and put it in your next soup or sauce. Then you still save the nutrients. Click here to see more ways to stop wasting your food.

 

World Famous Green Beans
Mouthwateringly delicious preparation of fresh green beans with real food ingredients.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound of green beans with ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  2. 1 slice of bacon
  3. ½ tsp. salt
  4. ¼ tsp. pepper
  5. 1 tsp. dried dill
  6. ½ cup raw seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin or sesame.
Instructions
  1. Put green beans in a saucepan with water and salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Cook until beans are fork tender.
  3. Drain.
  4. While beans are cooking, cut a piece of bacon into small pieces or lardons.
  5. Cook until done and drain on a paper towel.
  6. With the fat still in the pan, toss in a handful of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or pumpkin seeds.
  7. Cook and stir them until they are lightly browned and you smell the oils in them. Watch them closely, they can burn easily.
  8. Toss in your green beans, pepper, dill, and the bacon and stir to mix ingredients.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
Green bean production, growing, using, and storingThis is a comfort food for us, check out this post about my friend’s favorite comfort food! 

My Favorite Local Comfort Food
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World Famous Green Bean Recipe

Heavenly Cabbage

Heavenly Cabbage

There are a lot of ways cabbage tastes great. If you think you don’t like it, I bet if you tried it another way, you might change your mind. It’s super easy to grow in fall or spring, click here to see how to grow it.

If you’re short on prep time, a super easy way to cook cabbage is to wash the head and slice it into one inch slices. Lay them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and some dill or other herb you like. Bake at 350 until edges are slightly browned and it is crisp-tender. You could also do this on the grill. It would add an amazing flavor. Yum yum.

My favorite way to prepare cabbage is a light sauté. It’s a delicious addition to soups, stir frys and other dishes, but as a side dish, this one will make your mouth sing! The key to cabbage is not to cook it too much. This makes it have a terribly slimy and mushy texture. When cooking green vegetables of any kind, the key is to cook them until they are the brightest green. Once they go past that, they take on sort of a grey texture, and before they are pale green. Bright green is an indicator of cooked perfection. It’s when they taste best and have the best texture.

sauted cabbage recipe, yummy

Trust me, bright green cabbage rocks!

You can cook this with bacon or without, either way it’s a winner! If you want to use bacon, cut your bacon into small pieces and brown it in a skillet, then remove the bacon and use the bacon fat instead of using the butter in the recipe. Then sprinkle the bacon on top at the end.

recipe for heavenly sauted cabbage

Heavenly Cabbage
Succulent, flavorful cabbage with a slightly crisp texture. YUM!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large head cabbage
  2. 2 slices bacon, chopped up into small pieces (optional)
  3. 1 large onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
  4. 1 tsp. dried dill
  5. 1 tsp. salt
  6. ½ tsp. pepper
  7. 2 T. butter
Instructions
  1. Slice cabbage thinly.
  2. Heat butter in a skillet. (or cook bacon and remove and use the bacon fat)
  3. Cook onion in butter until soft.
  4. Add cabbage, salt, pepper and dill.
  5. Cook on medium heat until cabbage is bright green.
Notes
  1. If you cook the cabbage too long, it’s soggy and mushy. I don’t prefer it that way.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
 delicious cabbage recipeonions for cabbage recipe, sauted cabbagescrumptious cabbage recipesauted cabbageheavenly cabbage recipe

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Heavenly Cabbage

How to Grow Cabbage

How to Grow Cabbage

I super love cabbage, it’s so delicious.

Growing up I only had it boiled and it was fairly off putting in flavor and texture. As an adult I learned to cook it in a way that I just LOVE. The recipe is coming next week, so stay tuned. My kids tear this cabbage up! It’s so funny to imagine what you think kids will like, but if you have a good attitude about it, they will surprise you. Click here to see how I get my kids to eat healthy food.

Growing and using cabbages

Cabbage is a cool season crop that can be grown in fall or spring.

It’s about time to be starting your plants indoors for this fall’s season in most places. So I want to talk about how to grow it. Cabbage is a Cole crop or cruciferous vegetable. It’s in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi and kale. The procedure for growing all of these plants is very similar so use these instructions for all of them.

Cole crops can be grown from seed or started indoors and planted as a seedling, but the times seeds need to be germinated can be tricky where I live.

Seeds should be started around February or August for the corresponding seasons but in February, it’s too cold for seeds to germinate here and in August it’s way too hot. Because of this, it’s best to start your seeds indoors if your climate is like mine. Cole crop seeds like soil temperatures around 80 degrees.

Cole crop seeds take 3-10 days to germinate and 4-6 weeks to grow into a healthy seedling. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you will need supplemental lighting for your cabbage seedlings such as a grow light. Once the seedlings are ready, plant your cabbage plants in the evening so they will have a chance to settle in before the harsh sun shines on them. Make sure to water them well to close up any air pockets that might be around the soil.

Cabbage, growing and using

Cabbage plants will form a big flower like leaf pattern and in the center, a head will begin to form. As the head gets bigger it will get fuller and firmer until it’s ready to eat. You can choose whenever you’d like to harvest the head, but the longer you leave it, the more cabbage you will get.

Cut the head out of the center of the flower shaped structure and leave the plant.

Many times you will get multiple smaller heads of cabbage on the second round of cabbage growth. It’s so fun to make your season last longer and get more from your harvest.

It takes several months for the plant to produce a head of cabbage. It’s one of the most beautiful plants in the garden to me. I look at the plants like big gorgeous flowers, meant to delight me. THEY really do!

harvesting cabbage with kids

Watch my next post for my Heavenly Cabbage recipe.

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How to Grow Cabbage

19 Money Saving Tips for the Garden

19 Ways to Save Money in the Garden

There are lots of great ways to save some serious money in the garden. You can easily spend far more than you could ever gain in the garden, but with some creativity and style, you can garden on the cheap AND get food!

  1. Use mulch! Click here to see how to mulch your garden for free. Mulch helps keep in moisture to save on water waste, evaporation, and erosion of soil materials. It also cuts down on weeding chores. straw mulch
  2. Save your own seeds. Use heirloom seeds so you can save them and replant your own seeds year after year. If you use hybrids, they are not true to the fruits and veggies you saved them from, but heirlooms are open pollinated and will be true. Learn the different methods of seed saving to save yourself tons of money in years to come. Click here to see how. 
  3. Start your own seedlings instead of buying them. Tomatoes and peppers are best planted as seedlings rather than direct sown outside. They are finicky plants to germinate and outside temps are not constant enough for them in most places. Start a few inside and transplant them outdoors when it’s time. Fall seedlings
  4. Propagate cuttings from plants you already have or can get from a friend or neighbor. This will save you a lot of cash over buying starts.
  5. Trade seeds and plants. Find a group of like-minded gardeners and trade with them rather than buying. It’s fun to see all the verities you can come up with this way too.
  6. Grow cut and come again plants. Many plants will regrow after you cut them such as lettuce, kale, cabbages, herbs, broccoli, and other crops. You can get more for your money if you can harvest more than once.
  7. Grow perennials. Many plants only need to be purchased once and they grow back year after year such as asparagus, artichokes, berries, nuts, apples, pears, plums, herbs, Egyptian walking onions, Good King Henry, and many others. picking asparagus in april
  8. Skip the gym, work in the garden instead. You can get plenty of exercise and save your membership fees.
  9. Be water wise. Using mulch, preventing runoff, and avoiding over watering will help you save time and money watering the garden. Click here to see how much water your garden really needs. 
  10. Plant things that will shade your house and save on utilities. Grow vining veggies up your house, or plant fruit trees that will also provide shade on hot summer days to make your garden save you money on your housing expenses.
  11. Feed your soil naturally, with compost, don’t spend money on fertilizer. Chemical fertilizers are bad for the water supply, the environment, and your pocketbook. Save your food scraps and old leaves and make compost to feed your garden instead. Click here to see how.
  12. Build raised beds and trellis from discarded materials. Old tin, water troughs, discarded privacy fencing, scrap lumber, old ladders, bicycle tires and so many other things can make great beds and trellises. No need to buy something if you can use something that’s lying around. do you want to be a woman farmer
  13. Collect rain water. Harvest the water that falls on your roof to water your plants instead of using municipal water. The city water is full of chlorine which is hard on plants anyway.
  14. Grow native plants that are adapted to your climate. You will have to water less and replace them less often because they will grow vigorously for you.
  15. Grow year round. Extend your seasons by doing fall and spring crops so you can utilize the space more efficiently. Also, covering a few beds with plastic or old windows can help you grow things all throughout the winter.
  16. Click here to see lots of money saving ideas for upcycling in the garden.
  17. Stay organized so you’ll know what you have. There’s nothing worse than ending up with 4 bags of one kind of bean and no watermelon seeds, or having to buy a new shovel because you can’t find the three you already have. Create a system to store everything so it’s all in its place when you go looking for it.
  18. Buy quality tools and equipment. Spending a little more on a tool that will last for the rest of your life will save money in the long run.
  19. Eat what you grow. It may sound silly, but some people grow to be growing, but you need to plant what you like to cut down on your food bill. kids picking carrots

What ideas do you use to save money in the garden?

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19 Ways to Save Money in the Garden

20 Things NOT to Do When Looking for In-Home Childcare

20 Things NOT to Do When Looking for In-Home Childcare

When looking for in-home childcare or any other childcare, make sure you know what you are getting. Lots of situations could be avoided with good communication before you enter into a business relationship with someone. 

  1. Don’t forget to ask if the provider is cpr/first aid certified. what to ask when looking for childcare
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask who will be in the home.
  3. Don’t forget to tell the provider about what’s important to you.
  4. Don’t forget the provider is unique and won’t do things like everyone else. Everyone will not like my childcare. It’s not for everyone. We are all different and every family won’t fit every care situation.
  5. Don’t forget to be respectful of a provider’s home.
  6. Don’t forget when you are in the home, you are in charge of your kids. If they are running through the house tearing things up, it’s your job to stop them, not the provider’s. They will handle them when you are at work. It’s very awkward to correct children when their parents should be.
  7. Don’t expect a provider to change their beliefs for you.

    If you want them to be something they’re not, it’s not going to work out. If they believe in play based learning and you want flash cards, you may need to keep looking. If you want vegan meals and they own a cattle ranch, it might not be a good fit.

  8. Don’t use a provider if they don’t realize your child is your whole world. They may not be cut out for the job. Searching your childcare
  9. Don’t take the relationship lightly. Your provider lets you see her dust and clutter. You see her first thing in the morning and at closing time. She is sharing a lot of herself with you. It’s a vulnerable job, don’t take advantage of it.
  10. Don’t be afraid to make decisions based on your mommy vibe (or daddy vibe). God gave it to you for a reason. That child is your number one priority, it’s no one’s job more than yours to make sure they are safe. It’s like Spidey sense, USE IT! If you don’t feel right, don’t walk, RUN to the next option.
  11. Don’t be afraid to look around and see if you think their home looks safe. Is there so much clutter you couldn’t find a safety hazard if you tried? Do they keep the floors clean if your child would put small objects in their mouth? questions to ask your childcare provider
  12. Don’t forget to think about this. Is there room for kids to play? Are they allowed to explore or do they have to stay trapped in one room all day?
  13. Don’t forget to ask if they go outside to play. Outdoor play is imperative for health and proper development. Where will they play outside?
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are quiet times and quiet, soft places for kids to rest and have a more quiet time of the day. If children are overstimulated, they need a place to take a break. Questions to ask a childcare provider
  15. Don’t be afraid to ask if the provider has pets, how they behave, if they smoke, or any other questions that may affect a child’s health.
  16. Don’t be afraid to ask for references.

    You should talk to other people who have received services from the provider so you can get a feeling of what type of caregiver they are.

  17. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can drop by. Ask if the house is accessible during care hours to you or outside people. Do they lock the doors during care? I would never let someone keep my child that didn’t allow me to drop by. (Please remember if you show up at an unannounced time, be prepared to take your child. Dropping by and leaving them there would be hard on their little feelings.) Do you want free access to the home or would you rather know the doors are always locked to keep kids in and strangers out?
  18. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about schedules, closing dates, discipline, procedures and anything else you need to know to make YOU feel secure leaving your child with the caregiver. Things to know about your childcare
  19. Don’t be afraid to take the time to get to know the provider, their beliefs and policies before you enter into this business relationship. Of course you can’t expect the provider to talk to you for 2 hours while she has kids in care, but make sure she will take a few minutes to talk with you and is open for you to text or email her further questions so you can have peace of mind before you drop your child off for the first time.
  20. Don’t forget to appreciate the care your caregiver provides.

    People who are appreciated do more than is expected. Click here to see some ways you can appreciate your provider.  

Make sure you and the provider are on the same page about what you and your child need from them. Don’t be shy or afraid to speak up. You need peace of mind to be able to be an effective employee at your job. Your provider won’t mind answering your questions. They want to give you good care. 

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20 Things NOT to Do When Looking for In-Home Childcare

10 Key Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

10 Key Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

Raised beds are fairly popular among gardeners these days. There is nothing wrong with gardening right in the ground, but raised beds offer some different options to gardeners as growing spaces. Building raised beds can be expensive and it does take time to build them and fill them. They can also fix a whole host of gardening problems and for us at Little Sprouts, they work.

  1. Raised beds help your soil warm up faster in spring and stay warm longer in the fall. Why? Because they are up above ground level. This helps the sun to reach more of the surface of the soil and warm it quicker when you are waiting for gardening season or wanting to extend it later into fall.
  2. Raised beds can be a great fix for terrible growing soil. In my area of Oklahoma, I have about a half inch of silt, then underneath there is about 6 inches of clay, then about 8 inches of shale and under that, boulders. There is not a lot of good growing medium involved there. You cannot grow in straight clay. It will drown all your plants because it doesn’t drain. I can amend my soil, but for the clay we have, which you could sculpt, it would take a lot of organic matter and a lot of time and effort. I can build beds on top of my land and have great growing medium much sooner. many benefits of gardening in raised beds
  3. Raised beds are also helpful in areas where soil is contaminated. A barrier can be placed on the ground and the bed built above the contamination so people can still grow safe, healthy food in those areas.
  4. Raised beds can keep out some animals such as turtles that would eat all our strawberries. The height of them can be a deterrent to some pesky hungry critters.
  5. Raised beds can help gardeners manage floods. I live on a flood plain, so if I gardened in the ground in our first garden area or our expansion area, that ground would be under water 1-2 months of the growing season. Raised beds are higher up and they drain well, so that lets us garden the whole growing season. Last spring, we had torrential rains for months. Many gardeners planted and watched the rains wash away their gardens multiple times and then gave up growing for the year. I didn’t have to do that because our beds protected our plants and seeds. In the area I live, this is a great help. raised bed benefits
  6. Raised beds have less weeds. Bringing in planting medium that is free of grass and other weeds gives you a leg up on the weeds when you begin. In my book anything with less weeding is a winner. You can also place a weed barrier under the bed before you build it to keep out future grass.
  7. You can take it with you. If you move, your garden can be moved with you if you should so choose. gardening in raised beds, benefits
  8. Raised beds are more accessible. Gardeners don’t have to bend over quite as far to work the raised bed and that helps save your back and knees from extra stress. Beds can even be built super tall for physically impaired individuals. That sounds kind of awesome!
  9. Raised beds are beautiful! I love the look of the cedar ours are built with. I love wood. I love decorated beds and plain ones and everything in between. They are works of art.
  10. Raised beds can be as simple or complicated as you would like them to be. They are functional, beautiful and practical for use. You don’t need to be a carpenter or have any skills to be able to build them, check out how we built ours with NO skill whatsoever by clicking here
Building raised beds is simple and effective.

raised bed gardening benefits

We have an online class coming soon that will show you step by step how to build a simple frame, so stay tuned.

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10 Key Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

How to Make Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

How to Make Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Making homemade cheese is not as hard as it may sound. Mozzarella is by far the easiest cheese I have made. It also takes the least amount of special equipment. All you need is milk, citric acid, liquid rennet, and cheese salt. You will also need a big heavy stock pot to cook it in and a heat proof bowl to continue to heat it in as you knead it.

I learned how to make my own cheese by reading Ricki Carroll’s book, Cheese Making.

Click the picture below to check it out on amazon.

The first thing you need to know about making mozzarella is you need unopened, cold milk, straight from the store. Whole milk is best, but you can make it with lower fat milk, it just won’t have a nice consistency.

I buy my milk at Braum’s because they don’t use hormones on their cows. I’m super concerned about the effects of the hormones that are passed on to kids and how it effects their development, so I avoid them as much as possible. One batch of mozzarella that may be around a pound takes one gallon of milk.

Before you begin cheese making, make sure all of your spoons, pans, bowls and everything that will touch the food is sterilized.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
Delicious, tender, flavorful, soft cheese.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ teaspoons of citric acid
  2. 1 gallon pasteurized whole milk
  3. ¼ tsp. liquid rennet
  4. 1 tsp. cheese salt
Instructions
  1. Grab a big ole pot that will hold the gallon and have room leftover, and pour the milk in.
  2. Get a small bowl and add ½ cup cool water and 1 ½ teaspoons of citric acid. Stir until dissolved.
  3. Get another small bowl and add ¼ cup cool water and ¼ teaspoon of rennet. Stir until dissolved.
  4. Heat the milk on low to 55 degrees.
  5. Add citric acid solution while stirring.
  6. Heat the milk to 90 degrees stirring constantly.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and slowly stir in the diluted rennet with an up and down motion for 30 seconds.
  8. Cover the pot and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.
  9. Check the curd. It should look like custard, but you should be able to see the thinner whey liquid. It’s almost clear. If the whey liquid is still milky, let it set longer.
  10. Cut the curd into squares with a knife.
  11. Place the pot back on the stove and heat it to 105 degrees gently moving the curds with your spoon.
  12. Remove from heat and continue to stir slowly for 5 minutes.
  13. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2-quart microwavable bowl.
  14. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off the whey.
  15. Save the whey to use in soups, or other dishes for added nutritional value. We soak our grains in whey to break down the phylates.
  16. Microwave the curds for 1 minute.
  17. Drain the whey again.
  18. Gently fold the cheese over and over like you are kneading bread with your hand or a spoon to distribute the heat.
  19. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each, draining and kneading after each heating.
  20. Add salt.
  21. Knead quickly until smooth and elastic. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it’s done.
  22. If it doesn’t stretch, it’s too cool and needs to be heated more.
  23. Roll it into small balls and eat warm or place them in ice water for 30 minutes.
  24. Cover and store in refrigerator.
  25. Curds are best eaten warm.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/
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Check out Ricki’s book for more information on making mozzarella and many other cheeses.

It’s so much fun to make your own cheese! You’ll feel like a mad scientist or a mighty warrior that can do anything AND it’s so good!

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How to Make Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

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