The garden is all a bustle in June. In Oklahoma we got a lot of rain and then the weather warmed way up. The garden is growing like gangbusters! The kids are enjoying every minute of learning the garden has to offer. We are harvesting healthy food right and left. My Little Sprouts and I have harvested about 98 pounds of food this month! So far this year, we are over 176! Wowie! Can you imagine what those numbers could be by the end of the year? We are hoping to grow most of our summer food and still have some to put up for the winter in the freezer.
Broccoli, asparagus, and sugar snap peas, yum yum!
Are these the most beautiful carrots you’ve ever seen? This broccoli thinks so.
Green beans, broccoli, and yummy kale!
The first part of our garlic harvest. Garlic stores all year, we are just using up what we planted last year right in time for this year’s harvest!
Our first little cabbage, some kohlrabi, peas, green beans, onions, herbs and carrots for a yummy dinner.
The tomatoes are finally coming on. Yum!
The last of the lettuce harvest before it got too hot.
We harvested over 50 pounds of potatoes this month. They are so good!
We have harvested potatoes, asparagus, peas, broccoli, blueberries, basil, thyme, green beans, dry beans, kale, lettuce, carrots, garlic, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, dill, cilantro, and parsley. The kids are enjoying the garden tremendously and learning so much! They learn social skills, stewardship, taking turns, patience, and even about pollinators! They are learning how to recognize plants, fruits, and vegetables as well as building knowledge about natural practices, life cycles, beneficial verses non-beneficial insects, and building their fine and gross motor skills. They are getting lots of exercise, sunshine and fresh air as well as great nutritious food to enjoy for their meals. We know where our food is coming from and we know it is not full of harmful chemicals. The kids are learning how to clean and prepare food for eating as well. The best part is every child has learned to like a wider variety of foods and has tried many new experiences. The garden is so amazingly beautiful. It’s full of so many lessons and so much information. It’s paradise on earth and it gives us so many wonderful gifts. Teaching children at a young age about the glory of the garden is a project worthy of our attention and efforts.
The May garden at Little Sprouts is rockin and rollin. Plants are growing like crazy. We are finding a lot of slugs and rabbit damage as well. Our cucumber, cantaloupe, squash, and watermelons are being eaten to the ground as fast as they germinate. Silly rabbits, there will be more food if you stop that.
Here’s a short tour of what’s growing right now.
Video produced by Ever Change Productions. Check it out here.
We’ve been picking lots of lettuce, kale, asparagus, radishes and carrots, and a little bit of dill, kohlrabi, bok choy, spinach, cilantro, strawberries, onions, and potatoes. So far, this month we’ve harvested 22 pounds of fresh produce. Pretty good for a group of preschool kids! The kids have gotten to take home greens and lettuce and a few took home cilantro. We have eaten all homegrown veggies for lunch this week. That’s a great start to summer!
This is one of our potato beds, they look great this year! Growing potatoes has been quite elusive for us so we are excitedly hoping this is our year!
Here is a close up of our butternut squash bed. Let’s hope the rabbits don’t see this!
The herb tower is going strong! There is mostly thyme growing in there. But we also have some tarragon and oregano.
This is one of our hot pepper beds. We are growing jalapeno, habanero, ancho, serrano, and mucho nacho this year. Mr. Kent LOVES hot peppers.
This is a bed of tomatoes that has several volunteer potatoes growing in it. We harvested them this week to give more light to the tomatoes and got 2 1/2 pounds of new purple potatoes. Yummy!
This is a shot of our small asparagus bed, our barrels of flowers and mint and our green bean bed. The far barrel is growing ground cherries-we hope!
Here’s a shot of one of the blueberry bushes we planted this spring. They look good so far.
This is a close up of our dwarf blueberries. They have fruit again this year. We can’t wait for them to get ripe!
Here are all four of them, they are growing in one of our front flower beds.
This is the cucumber bed. It has a couple of broccoli plants, some peas on the back that will burn up by the time they grow up, and a lot of cilantro volunteer plants from last year. I guess cilantro reseeds itself. It’s yummy, so I don’t mind!
This is the butterfly row, the first bed has tiny fennel plants, second one has dill and a few shards of swiss chard. I guess the rabbits have been eating those seedlings as well, the next bed has wildflowers, and the last one also does including milkweed for the monarchs.
This row is full of caterpillars that we can observe. It’s a very exciting part of the garden. If you want to check out what we grow for the caterpillars, click here.
This bed is supposed to be full of cantaloupes, but mysteriously from 4 different seed packets not a single seed has germinated. I don’t know if something is eating them as soon as they “hatch” or if every seed packet from every company is a dud? We reseeded again yesterday to try again.
Here are the cool season plants, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, and what not.
This bucket has Jerusalem artichokes, the bed next to it is ginger, then the following one is lettuce and onions. We have inter-planted several beds with onions for deterring pests that think onions stink such as cabbage looper worms.
This is one of our kale/onion beds. We have two of them.
This is lovage and carrots. Lovage is a perennial herb that is reminiscent of celery. The bed next to it has flowers and the next one is supposed to have pumpkins, but like the cantaloupe, we’ve had no luck so far.
The front bed pictured here is growing okra. We have lost about half of the seedlings to rabbit attacks, but half are still growing, so maybe we will get some okra. The bed next to it is empty, but will contain sweet potatoes when the slips arrive.
This bed is full of broccoli and onions. The one in the back ground is onions.
These beds are our three sisters experiments. We are growing corn, beans, and squash in them. the front bed will have black beans for drying and butternut squash, the middle bed will have black beans and zucchini, and the back bed up against the fence will have chick peas and pumpkins. Three sisters is a planting method used by the Cherokee Indians to interplant corn for a trellis that is a heavy feeder, with beans that need to climb and add nitrogen to the soil, and squash that lays on the ground shading the roots of the plants and blocking weeds.
This is another kale/onion bed with sunflowers along the back.
This is our front yard strawberry bed. We re-dug and re-planted it this year because it was overrun with grass and we couldn’t get it out. Don’t mind the toy snake, it’s supposed to be chasing birds away from our berries.
Here’s a close up of all the berries on our plants.
Our big potato bed. I really think this will be our year for potatoes. Really this time!
Here’s a close up of all the plums on our plum tree. This is the first time it has put fruit on, so we are hopeful we will be eating plums this year. We still need to do more thinning on all of our fruit trees. It’s a work in progress.
This is one of our two peach trees loaded with fruit as well. Last year the fruit on all of our trees froze in a late killing frost, so this is a hopeful time for us. We also lost our big pear tree in a wind storm that we have eaten hundreds of pears from every year. It was a sad, fruitless season. This year everything is looking great. Cross your fingers!
This bed has onions on one side. They are Egyptian walking onions that will reproduce indefinitely. The other end of the bed is garlic and the bed behind that is garlic as well. The other bed is our large asparagus bed. We have been enjoying asparagus a lot this season.
This is another bed waiting for sweet potatoes. Yum yum. We have two sweet potatoes left from last year’s harvest, so they have fed us well.
And this is a shot of some of the wild blackberries that are all over our field next to our garden. They do produce and we hope to beat the birds to a few of them this year.
Growing your own food is delicious and healthy whether you grow a little or a lot. It’s so much fun to make food happen with your own efforts and a lot of help from God. Please don’t be intimidated by all the space we have to grow, we had just as much fun in our first 3 x 10 raised bed. Even if you have just a few pots to grow in, you can do great things.
What do you have growing in your neck of the woods?
Granola is a staple in my house and I make it often. A week or so ago someone called me a granola eating tree hugger, and I was so touched. I told them that was the nicest thing I had been called in a while.
I make tons of stuff in my bread maker, but most of the time I use it to crank out delicious loaves of homemade whole wheat bread, golden goodness for my family and daycare kids. Why not just serve the kids store bought bread? Click here to see my reasons.
During the winter when our garden is no longer producing, I get a hankering for something fresh and tasty. We juice a lot of produce in winter to make up for the nutrition we are used to getting from the garden and we grow sprouts or microgreens in the kitchen window. I LOVE sprouts! They are so flavorful and easy to grow. When I was a kid, my mom grew some sprouts but we always got them at the grocery store and we tore them up!
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I have been growing sprouts off and on for the past 15 years or so, but according to our USDA regulations for daycare, we cannot serve them to the kids. Sprouts are easily contaminated with Salmonella and Escherichia. Sprouts are grown in water only, and take just a few days. You are just eating the germinated seed. They are grown without sunlight which helps them to harbor bacteria as well.
A couple of years ago, I started buying microgreens at the farmer’s market and they are fantastic. They don’t run the risk of contamination that sprouts do because they are grown in the sun, they are grown in fertile soil, and get plenty of air circulation. Microgreens are the young plants with several sets of leaves and are harvested or cut along the soil surface to remove the roots.
Microgreens have a stronger flavor than sprouts, develop more nutrition due to photosynthesis, and have slightly more fiber than sprouts. Many kinds can be grown and harvested such as kale, arugula, beets, onions, radishes, watercress, bok choy, cilantro, basil, parsley, chives and so many more. The flavor of the greens depends on the type of seed. The best combo I’ve tasted with microgreens was some garden fresh farmer’s market cherry tomatoes with a sprinkling of basil microgreens. DELISH! Broccoli microgreens are delicious as well as sunflower microgreens.
Microgreens are as easy to grow as sprouts. They take a little longer, but they deliver a fresh burst of summer flavor that floods your taste buds with delight. All you need is a little flat of dirt, less than an inch deep. I use one of the Pampered Chef dredging station trays I have. Just add some dirt, sprinkle some seeds on top, sprinkle more dirt on top of that and give them a heavy mist of water. Continue to keep them moist by misting daily and watch them sprout. Make sure they are in a south facing window for optimum sunlight or you could grow them under a grow light. Do not let them dry out! When you see the second set of leaves come out, your microgreens are ready. Just get a pair of scissors and harvest your crop!
This is after about one week
This is at a week and a half. The alfalfa microgreens are ready to harvest already!
I used some sprouting seeds I had I purchased from sprout people. These microgreens are alfalfa and mung bean. You can eat them straight from the window, or use them in salads, either way they are amazing. Click here for a tasty salad recipe.
I recommend you try growing some microgreens in your window today. Tell me about microgreens you have tried or would like to. Click the images below to check out supplies you may need to grow your own sprouts.
Making applesauce is fun and easy. Kids love to explore apples in this way!
Cooking with kids is so important. It helps them to appreciate where their food comes from and want to try new things. They are much more likely to eat healthy foods if they help prepare them.
There are many fun ways to explore apples with your kids. Try taking them out to pick apples from a tree, taking them to the store to chose apples, or having parents pick out apples with the kids and bring them to daycare to share for your projects.
We have been exploring apples at Little Sprouts. We had tons of fun cutting some up to make homemade applesauce. It’s easy, it’s delicious, and it’s good for you!
How can you make some homemade applesauce of your own? It’s super easy.
*Peel, core, and cut up about 6-7 apples. Make sure they have a great flavor so your sauce will have great flavor. I peel and core the apples and let the kids cut the sections into smaller pieces. This gives them some great practice with a butter knife and some fine motor skill building as well.
*Put the apples in a dutch oven with about a half cup of water and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.
*Let the apples cool for a bit and add a small pinch of salt to bring out the flavor of the apples.
*Place cooled apples in a blender and blend until sauce is the texture you like.
The kids gobbled up this applesauce in no time flat and begged for more. And it was fresh and healthy for us too.
A few weeks ago I asked my fellow childcare providers what they could not live without. One provider said Pepsi and chocolate. I totally agree having a vice of some kind is helpful in a high stress job. One time at a childcare conference, a presenter said childcare was the second highest burnout rate job there is. The first is disarming nuclear bombs. Dealing with a whole group of different children and parents can be stressful, and a lot of the stress involved is in the way you handle it. Late pick-ups, late payments, unreasonable requests, not calling if the kids won’t be there, and other things parents see as no big deal make a huge difference in the stress level of the provider. Sometimes people think because we work at home, we don’t have a life outside our job. We are human, we are flawed, we have different cultures, but most of us do our best to provide good care.
Another thing that makes the job super high stress in Oklahoma is DHS regulations. No, not Department of Homeland Security, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES. They add rule after rule after rule constantly, some of which are a huge time drain, and some of which are seemingly pointless. I know they add them because someone made it necessary, but the paperwork involved in family childcare is STAGGARING! In fact, 10 years ago when a friend and I started a family childcare organization in this community, we had 90 home daycares in town, today there are 28! It’s so stressful many people have just quit. So what happens to all the babies? Who will take care of them? Many times I think unlicensed providers just open up. But there is some protection for children in the licensing process. Licensed providers aren’t always better than unlicensed, but some of the rules are good. For instance cpr/first aid training requirements. So is that the best thing for our community’s children? Maybe not. But the chaos that is being licensed is stressful.
As providers, the best way we can continue to take care of others is to take care of ourselves. Remember the flight attendant on the airplane advising parents to get themselves oxygen before they put the mask on their kids? So true. If you are spent, you have nothing to give the children in your life. What are some ways to reduce stress in any person’s life?
The biggest way to reduce stress in your life is to be PREPARED! If you hate mornings, take a few minutes the night before to lay out your clothes, make your lunch and get your things together that you need for work. For me, when I don’t organize what I need for the day, my day starts off feeling stressed because I can’t find what I need or am running behind. It takes just a few minutes of preparation to avoid the catch up game all day the next day. You are totally worth it!
Eating good food reduces stress because it helps you have the energy to do everything you need to do. It also helps you think more clearly and reduces illnesses that slow you down in your busy life. You can make small changes to get there like adding fruit to your breakfast and a veggie at lunch. You don’t have to go from no fruits and vegetables to 9 servings a day overnight. Just strive to do better. I used to think eating vegetables at breakfast was weird, but now I usually have some sort of vegetable in the mornings. Right now because the garden is overflowing, I have tomatoes and cucumbers with my morning meal every day. My family still thinks it’s gross, and they don’t partake, but that’s okay, I know I’m doing something good for me. Making sure you eat regularly is important as well. Sometimes we skip meals due to busy schedules but you are much more productive when you have a good meal three times a day.
Get plenty of sleep. Staying up late might be fun at the time, but a miserable day the entire next day is not worth it. Try your best to get 8 hours a night. If you can’t, just get as many as possible. The whole world looks better when you’re rested.
Drinking plenty of water helps you have energy to face the day. Limiting caffeine, sugars, and processed foods keeps your mind and body running at optimal performance as well. Like I said, small steps toward health make a big difference.
Get moving. Some type of exercise will help reduce stress, enhance your mood, and give you energy to carry you through your tasks. Make an effort to move in a purposeful way at least 20-30 minutes each day. I know you’re busy, but dance with the kids, pick weeds in the garden, vacuum the whole house, or walk around the block. You have to make time for you.
Spending time with God is a big stress reducer. He’s my best friend. I know He loves me madly. Time I spend worshiping Him and talking to Him reduce stress in my life exponentially. I have read several studies showing prayer time brain activity matching that of rest. So physically it has been proven that prayer is calming. Prayer and meditation are an important part of your health.
Finally, take some time to do something that makes you happy. If you love cooking, or making jewelry, or skydiving, whatever it is, take the time to do something that simply brings you pleasure. I have several hobbies I enjoy, but when I fell in love with gardening, it had some amazing effects on my mental and physical health. For me it’s been the most stress reducing thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes I would get frustrated if it wasn’t perfect, but then I decided to let God take care of it and nature has balanced out. Some things we lose to pests but I just know those things weren’t meant to be. We have only so much time and weeding and harvesting take all of it, so the rest is what it is. Our Little Sprouts garden is not perfect.
Hanging out with my crazy bestie.
Family Vacations are a must for continuing to love your job year after year. Family time is important, especially when you live at your job!
Burnout is common. Taking the time to make sure you de-stress will help you in every area of your life. Like my friend Sharica always says, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Make yourself a priority. For goodness sake, take some time off during the year. Take care of you, and you will have so much more to give the world. It needs you. This world is a mess and so many people are unhappy, ungiving, and uncaring. Be the change you want to see. Make a difference in your own life so you can help to change this world.
My little sprouts and I harvested over 70 pounds of produce this week AND a table full of amazing sunflowers. It’s been a very productive week in the garden. Some of the tomato plants are turning brown and our cucumbers are dying. I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s sad to see them go.
On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control. I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying. This is thyme and oregano. I also harvested some lemon balm, bee balm, and tarragon.
This is a big CHAIR full of basil. Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer. I had over two pounds. And I didn’t even put a dent in what’s out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.
I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale. I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator. Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid’s food.
Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife. They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them. I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts. They are one of my favorites. The kids liked them too!
I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.
I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.
Monday’s harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.
We got okra and tomatillos as well.
And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley. Yum yum.
Tuesday we harvested some of our sunflower heads. We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a bit and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.
Yesterday’s harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos! (And as usual, plenty of SMILES!)
Me and my sprouts harvested over 52 pounds of food from the garden again this week, including cantaloupe. I’m amazed at how much the garden is producing right now. Tomorrow I plan to try to trim some wiley things back and open up the walkways so we can get to it easier if it’s not too hot in the morning. Wow, it’s a scorcher out there today! We picked almost 15 pounds of cucumbers this week, 20 pounds of tomatoes, 13 pounds of cantaloupe, and okra, tomatillos, peppers, and carrots. I’m amazed at what the kids have learned about growing this year, and what they have learned to like eating.
Today’s pickings. We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.
The rest of today’s score.
Today also marks the end of my time watching a very special young man. I’ve taught and taken care of him for over 10 years and it’s super hard to let him go. It’s always hard to say goodbye…
Our goal at Little Sprouts is to grow as much of the food as the kids eat as we possibly can. Could we grow 10%? That would be amazing! Could we grow 50%? Even better!
Why do I care about growing all of the kid’s food? With the amount of GMO’s in our food supply, and pesticides and herbicides that are showing up in the blood and tissue of humans, I feel that our food supply is getting increasingly unhealthy at an alarming rate.
Even if you don’t feed your kids processed foods, which most of us do, the fresh “healthy” foods we are buying at the grocery store are not so healthy any more. If you don’t know a lot about chemicals in food or genetically modified food, I would take some time to do some research on it. You will be amazed.
The only way to make sure the food I feed my family and my daycare kids is truly healthy is to grow it ourselves. So we set out on a journey to learn to grow our own! You would be amazed at the transformation in our menu here at Little Sprouts. We’ve gone from corn dogs, frozen fries, and chicken blobs made of mostly chemicals, to fresh produce and homemade bread made with freshly milled flour.
I make my own chicken strips now that just contain chicken, flour, and salt and pepper. I make my own oven fries too. I feel great about it each and every time my kids eat. Is it a lot harder and more time consuming? Goodness yes! Is it worth it? Oh my, double yes!
Those harmful chemical are destroying bodies at alarming rates with disease at an all-time high in the United States. And studies show that they are even more harmful to children as their bodies are still growing.
Are the meals I serve 100% organic, homemade, and chemical free? No, but we are working toward that and every step I take in the right direction is a good step. We started over 10 years ago with baby steps and one small change at a time. So you might be wondering what in the world do my Little Sprouts eat? You would be amazed at what they have learned to like that they didn’t before or had never even heard of. Shoot, I am eating things I had not heard of three years ago…and LIKING them!
Remember when changing your diet to healthier foods, kids have to be exposed to a food 11 times before it is no longer a new food. Is that a lot? YES! Do I have to throw away food sometimes because they don’t eat it? Yes. But I did before when I served convenience foods, so it’s not any different.
Daycares have USDA regulations for what must be served to the kids at each meal. There are parameters we must follow that are intended to supply the kids with a healthy diet, but they have a wide variety of very healthy and not so healthy choices that we can choose to feed them. I try to give my kids the very best. And growing food with the kids and letting them help prepare it are two of the ways that exponentially increase the children’s chances of trying the foods that I offer that they might not be familiar with. Another important thing about learning to like healthier foods is no matter what that food is, there is a way you can like it. You just have to find HOW you like to eat it. The same is true for kids. Take eggplant for instance. I tried cooking it every way I could find and I just CANNOT like the taste of eggplant. I want to be healthy. Eggplant is healthy. So I grilled it, fried it, roasted it, baked it, steamed it, pureed it. But I just don’t like it. So I buy eggplant, grate it up and mix it in my spaghetti sauce or meat loaf. I am eating eggplant. But I can’t taste it.
Consider broccoli for instance. I do not like it boiled to death the way that I had it served to me as a child in the school cafeteria. But my mom boiled hers just a little bit, and it was yummy. When I grew up and started doing the cooking, I cooked it like mom did and it was good. But I found out years later that using fresh broccoli instead of frozen is 10 times more delicious. And then I discovered it….roasted broccoli. Oh my, there is not much better in this world. I put a little olive oil on it, salt and pepper, crushed garlic, and a little grated parmesan cheese. Put it in a 400 degree oven until it’s bright green and just a tiny bit browned on the tips. Click here for a recipe.
It is out of this world tasty. I don’t think I have a single child who doesn’t gobble this up. I even have kids begging their parents to buy broccoli to eat at home. I promise you if you don’t give up on fruits and vegetables, you will learn to love many things and you will be able to teach your kids to love them too.
When we first tried to change our eating habits to a healthier diet, we only ate broccoli and corn. So getting 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day was really tough to do. But one at a time we added things to our diet that we now love to eat. We switched out our canned peaches for the world’s most amazing fresh peaches. We left the everyday apples, oranges, and bananas for less of those and a variety of wonderful fresh melons and other yummy fruits.
We learned to like Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, squashes and many many other healthy vegetables and our bodies are so much better for it. I think more clearly, have more energy, less mood swings and a myriad of other amazing health benefits. I eat an average of 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day in a wide variety of colors for different nutrients. I eat lots of raw produce as well. I enjoy it now that I’ve learned to prepare things the way I like them.
Remember if you badger your kids to eat, they won’t want what you’re feeding them no matter what. Nagging or begging kids to eat is not a healthy practice. Offer them a plate of food with a small amount of each thing on it. If they don’t eat it, don’t worry, they will eat when they are hungry. Model good eating habits and they will soon follow. Monkey see, monkey do with kids is not just limited to bad things.
If you ignore what they are eating, they will chose what they need to be satisfied. Remember, a toddler portion is not what you are used to eating. They don’t need that much food to get full.
If you are trying to change your eating habits or the habits of your family, be patient with yourself and with them. It’s a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. But I can tell you even the pickiest kids (and adults, eh hmm) will come around and learn to like at least some things. It’s definitely worth doing for the health of those you love and you will feel AMAZING!