Tag Archive for okra

What’s Growing on in the Garden in August?

children's garden in august

okra and sweet potatoes growing strong in the garden in august

The month of August has been riddled with disappointment in the Little Sprouts garden. We fought squash bugs that decimated all the squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and now melons. We fought armadillos, raccoons, and possums. It seems like everything that could come against our growing has. But the good news is we still grew 115 pounds of food in August.


gardening with kids, okra and watermelon

early august produce in the children's garden

Normally August would be our glut of produce month, but the animals stripped the peaches, plums and apples off the trees. In addition, they stole most of the melons and stripped the tomatoes and tomatillos bare of all green fruit.

possum damage in the children's garden

We have been busy picking squash bugs by the hundreds, and trapping live animals and relocating them in the country where there aren’t any people living. We have trapped 4 raccoons and 7 possums to date. We have evidence of an armadillo and at least one more raccoon that remain at large.

garden eating raccoon

Most of our garden has died off from heat or bugs, but we are still growing sweet potatoes and okra. Our tomato and tomatillo plants are flowering again now that temps are under the high 90s every day again. Maybe if we don’t get a frost, we will have another round of fruits to enjoy. We are still growing hot peppers as well.

We have planted quite a few seeds for a fall garden and they are beginning to germinate now. I also purchased some fox and coyote urine to try to deter any more animals from wanting to hang out in the garden. We do have one helpful creature hanging out in the garden, this cute watch kitty. She’s exterminated a few pests for us and all she asks in return is to lay in the cool dirt of the garden (sometimes on a seedling or two) and to get a few pats on the head or scratches on the ear. She’s a keeper.

watch kitty in the garden

giant carrot in children's garden

garden harvest, gardening with kids

Our total produce production so far this season is 453 pounds of healthy, delicious, chemical free food for the kids and Mr. Kent and I to enjoy. Not what we had hoped, but definitely nothing to sneeze at. We have eaten watermelon, cantaloupe, hot peppers, okra, tomatoes, carrots, tomatillos, onions, Swiss chard, butternut squash, garlic, green beans, drying beans, cabbage, spaghetti squash, peaches, figs, peas, broccoli, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, spinach, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, radishes, and Brussels sprouts. What’s growing in your garden today?

 

Transformation in 2014

Wow, 2014, you really took me for a ride! On the last day of this year, I reflect on a time of love, loss, and new beginnings. I mean, really, who could have ever known this year would be so transformative?

butterfly

Every year ebbs and flows with new life and love lost, but this year, the grief and loss I felt was shocking and shook me to the core. Was it because those lives seem so irreplaceable? Was it because they did so much good in the world and the loss was so great for humanity? Was it because they were so close to my own age? Does that make me mortal? Yes…and mortality hurts. It’s amazing how much bigger a hole in your life someone’s presence makes than you could have ever imagined it would. We take people for granted, and we need to stop and cherish every relationship and every love we have.

Our Pastor of over 18 years retired and moved away. We knew it would happen someday, but change is hard. During his retirement process, we merged our church with another, so we not only got a new Pastor, we got a new church family, a new schedule, a new style, a new way of doing things, a new order, a new mission, and a new everything.


Sometime before this year, God began to whisper to me that my time in children’s ministry was shortening. He spoke to me over and over that it was not a forever gig. I LOVE working with children and my time spent with them at church is no exception. I trust God, I want to do His will, but I didn’t know how I could leave something I love doing so much. We followed God’s leading and stepped aside from the position of Children’s Pastors and stepped away from our work there, but here we are months later just waiting. It has given me the chance to focus on my writing which I totally feel called to by God as a ministry for Him, but I still have that awkward, “why are we not with the kids?” feeling. It hurts. I know God has a plan and it’s for my good. More than anything, I want to be in God’s will. I know His plans for my future are good. Check out Jerimiah 29:11.

Our only child graduated from college this year. That’s a huge milestone for our little nest. She also moved out on her own for the first time. And she brought Jacob into our lives. She went from our baby to a grown woman in a matter of minutes. She will always be our baby of course, but our roles have changed. She’s a full time worker. She’s on her own paying her own rent. She no longer relies on us for everything. It’s exciting, and we are proud…but it hurts. Our only nephew graduated with her and moved across the country. Change is so hard.

graduation

To celebrate graduation, we went to see Niagara Falls, a life-long dream for us. It was amazing. It was fun. It was great family time for us.

niagara falls bucket list dream vacationniagara falls

I lost some kids I have kept for a very long time. They were simply too old to keep coming. Its part of this job, but it never hurts any less. One of the kids who left this year was my longest ever student. For over 10 years I’ve seen his face daily. Change is not easy. I enrolled new kids as well and am getting to know them. The journey of loss and new love cycles over and over again in this job.

We expanded and gardened a much bigger area this year which gave us the freedom to grow and learn about many more things. We worked hard and put a lot of effort into it, and we are proud of it! We planted, tended, weeded, and harvested so much goodness this year.

gardening with kids tomatoesgardening with kidsharvesting with kids

I started the blog this year. As I worked on trying to find a publisher for my book, I was told I needed to have a market for the book. It’s a story about how I learned to grow food with my kids. Start a blog….hmmm…I don’t even know where to begin. So I have written and worked and learned A LOT this year as I try to get this brand new blog off the ground. I also started a Facebook page to link to it. Another big adventure.

preschool learning

This year I have grown tremendously, I have loved, I have lost, and I have started many new beginnings. I’m in awe of it when I look at it as a whole. Let’s talk about a few of my favorite things. One of them is the smiles of my babies when they exude true joy. The kind when their eyes light up and their face beams. Another favorite thing is the look of pride on their faces when they conquer a new skill on their own. The feeling and body language of “I did it all by myself”. It’s amazing. The look of concentration on children’s faces as they make a connection for the first time is another thing I adore. It’s the aha moment, you can see it click in their brains by the expressions on their faces. I am truly blessed to have a job where I experience these things.

What are some of my favorite things to grow with the kids? Okra-it’s so tall and prickly, there are some amazing sensory experiences involved in okra, right down to the slimy liquid that seeps out of them when you cut them. Tomatoes are a favorite for their bright red color and delicious texture. The kids learn so much as they learn to only pick the red, red ones. Extra tall sunflowers are a pure joy. They are amazing, they are food, and they are stately as they sway quietly in the breeze. Zinnias are a favorite because they have such vibrant color and are so resilient they can stand up to the brutal summer temperatures in Oklahoma. In the dead heat of summer, they are usually the only thing pretty still standing. And of course peas, my very favorite thing to eat fresh from the garden. I love those delightful little pods full of sweet tantalizing flavors. And the kids LOVE to pick them and “pop” them. Peas make us smile.

zinnias

sunflower

Some of my favorite products come from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Non GMO certified seed is all they sell so I don’t have to worry about getting the wrong thing. I love Annie Haven’s Moo Poo Tea to fertilize my plants with. I love Tom Copeland’s Tax Workbook and will be ordering my 2014 copy right away to help me do my taxes for the year. In addition, I love the Oklahoma Food Co-op. They are loaded with products I am looking for from wheat berries to grind for my flour, to meat that I am confident is from animals that lived a quality, happy, torture free life. The Co-op sells chemical free home products, homemade dinners, breads, pastas, and cheeses, fresh produce, and so much more. I love getting my order each month and can’t wait to enjoy it.

I have many favorite blogs as well. I will mention a few. One of my favorite is Little Big Harvest where my friend Andrea is doing what I’m doing with her kids in the garden. I love learning along with her and her little charges. I love being encouraged that I’m not alone in my desire to teach these skills to very young children. I also love Square Foot Gardening 4 U, Gardening Jones, Vegetable Gardening, and Red Dirt Ramblings that I go to for answers to many garden questions. They are a treasure trove of great tips and information. Vegetable Gardening is really a Facebook page I follow, but there is a blog for the Average Person Gardening that has a super cool seeds of the month club that is linked to that Facebook page.  I follow them both. I especially enjoy reading advice from Red Dirt Ramblings because she lives in my state and has a similar climate to what our garden has, so I know when she’s seeding, I should be seeding. I love that! Another favorite blog I love is Juggling Real Food and Real Life. This blog encourages me on my real food journey. What I mean by real food is whole, unprocessed, healthful foods like those I strive to serve and eat. She gives many great tips about how to fit that lifestyle of eating into a real, busy, hectic life. We all need help with that. And my all-time favorite blog to read is The (not always) Lazy W. Her writing is a lovely adventure of heart that transforms me with feelings of love and joy. She writes about running, gardening, food and just life. She is a blessing of goodness in a world that needs more of it. There are many more blogs I love, but these are my favorites today.

Finally, the favorites of my readers. My most popular blog posts for 2014 were: What Childcare Providers wish Parents Knew, What Parents wish Childcare Providers Knew, How to Throw a Gingerbread Party, 7 Inexpensive and Adorable Gift Wrapping Ideas, and How to Make Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix. Those were your top picks with comments and clicks. I am more than grateful for each look someone gave anything I wrote. I love that anyone is interested at all in what I have to say. My hope with this blog is to encourage kindness, love, and understanding in people. To make the world a better place, more full of good food, and good times than it was before. I want to open hearts and minds to doing good, lending a hand up, helping others, and loving more. Be the best you you can be in 2015! Blessings to all of you, and thank you for a wonderful beginning and a wonderful year. I wish you a peaceful home, much love, a heart closer to God, and every need met.

I can definitely say on the last day of 2014, I am much stronger than I was on the first day. I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned. It was God’s plan for me and I trust Him. 2015, here we come!

I would love to hear your comments and thank you again for reading! See you in 2015…

Garden Glory-Pears!

This week my Little Sprouts and I harvested 21 pounds of food.  Our pear tree has fire blight and is dying and we didn’t see any pears on it this year.  Sad, because we usually harvest over 250 pounds of pears.  To our surprise there were a handful of pears ripe on the tree this week, hiding from us and the ornery raccoons that usually help themselves to much of our fruit. 

harvesting watermelon with kids

We also picked this lovely 13 pound watermelon this week.

harvesting veggies with kids

The kids have so much fun in the garden exploring and finding treats.  I cannot remember what our life was like before we had all this great learning and exploration we enjoy in the garden.

picking radishes with kids

ladybug in the garden

Here the kids discovered a cute little ladybug crawling up the okra.

The days are cooling and the getting shorter so the time for the garden is coming to a close, but the garden has birthed so much awe and wonder for us this year.  I can’t wait until Spring!  I love cold weather and winter, but I’m going to miss all the fun we have watching amazing things grow.  Is anything still growing around you?


 

Garden Glory-Sweet Potatoes

bumblebee wings (2)

Isn’t this lavender gorgeous?  It smells amazing too.  It’s glorious to sit near it and watch the busy bees working. 

You won’t believe our harvest this week!  My Little Sprouts and I harvested over 84 pounds of food this week!  The tomatoes and okra are slowing down, but we dug our sweet potatoes today and yesterday we harvested most of our second corn crop.

sweet potato vines

This is one of our two sweet potato beds.  To harvest the sweet potatoes, first we cut all the vines back. 

sweet potato bed


Then we started digging.  It was like hunting for treasures.  We all had so much fun doing it.

digging sweet potatoes

This was the biggest one found while the kids were here, but they tired out so we finished harvesting after work tonight.  We found a few that were bigger than this one.  It was over 4 pounds, but we found three more that were about 5 1/2 pounds.

giant sweet potato

The kids were excited.  We harvested 73 pounds of sweet potatoes total.

sweet potato harvest

sweet potato haul

73 pounds of sweet potatoes

We harvested a couple of melons this week.  The squash bugs have taken down all of our cantaloupe vines, so this will be our last one.  We still have a number of watermelons growing though.

Melon Harvest

Here is a look at what else we harvested this week.

october harvest

This is all the corn we got.  It was about 4 pounds.  I’m not sure what we are doing wrong, but the ears don’t get very big.  We figured out how to pollinate it by hand and while we didn’t do it perfectly, we got a LOT more corn that pollinated than last time.  Once the tassles formed and began dropping pollen, we took one off the stalk each day and rubbed it on the silks of all the ears of corn.  Hand pollinating is as simple as that.

harvesting corn

The kids had lots of fun picking the corn. 

The weather has cooled off here so it’s 60-80 degrees when we are in the garden.  It’s very pleasant work now that the summer heat is gone. 

What is your favorite thing to harvest?

Garden Glory-Figs

fig

My Little Sprouts and I are still getting harvests each week even though they are getting smaller and smaller.  This week we harvested over 17 pounds of food.  Included in that was our very first fig from our fig tree! 

This is Monday’s harvest:

gardening harvesting with kids

I forgot to take a picture of the harvest today, but I did get shots of the kids picking it.

harvesting tomatoes with kids

harvesting peppers with kids


We picked a total of 10 pounds of tomatoes, 2 1/2 pounds of okra, 3 1/2 pounds of cantaloupe, and a pound of green beans as well as some tomatillos, hot peppers, and other assorted goodies including one beautiful little fig.  🙂 

Is anything still growing in your garden?

 

 

Garden Glory-Green Beans

The Little Sprouts Learning Garden is starting to rebound from the super hot part of the summer.  As the weather has remained cool, the tomatoes, peppers, green beans and other plants have started to flower and set fruit again.  Also, the things we did a second planting of are starting to produce.  We replanted during an unseasonably cool week in august when it had cooled off enough for some things to germinate.  We planted carrots, radishes, corn, peas, and green beans.  We also planted seedlings for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.  The green beans have started producing now and the corn is making ears.  We harvested 18 pounds of produce this week.

garden harvest day

September harvest

This is Monday’s harvest.

It’s really nice that picking, weeding, and trimming have become bearable again.  Our temperatures lows are in the 60’s and highs in the 80’s this week and it is lovely. 

kids harvesting tomatoes

harvesting cantaloupe

gardening with kids harvesting

september harvest with cantaloupe

This is today’s harvest.

This week my Little Sprouts and I picked a pound of green beans, 2 pounds of okra, 7 pounds of cantaloupe, 8 pounds of tomatoes and a few other odds and ends. 

gerber daisy


Walking around the garden today, we discovered this perfect little gerber daisy hiding in the swiss chard.  She was just peeking out to say hello.  🙂

What’s growing in your garden?

Outrageous Okra! Growing, Exploring, Preparing

If you live in Oklahoma, it’s pretty much required that you like okra.  Here at Little Sprouts, we LOVE it.  This is our third year to grow it.  It’s not fussy, doesn’t require a lot of water, is relatively unbothered by pests, and LOVES our hot summers.

During the cooler temperatures of the summer and fall, you will not see a lot of performance out of your okra, but when the days are long and extra hot, it will out perform everything else.

Last year we planted a red okra in our front flower bed.  I find the plant to be lovely.

Early Summer

Early Summer

Early Fall

Early Fall

Okra Leaf

Okra Leaf

Okra flower

Okra flower


My Little Sprouts LOVE giant plants and miniature plants, so we plant varieties of things that are not typical sizes.  This year we planted Clemson spineless because okra spines are POKEY and they kind of hurt.  We also planted Star of David because it’s HUGE!  Last year we cut down a giant stalk at the end of the season and it was 12 feet tall.  We have to bend the plants over to pick them.  Our tallest one this year is only up to about 11 feet.  It takes about 3 kids to be as tall as okra.   🙂

measuring okra

The stalk is like a tree trunk.

The stalk is like a tree trunk.

If you have never eaten or seen okra before it is a pod.  There are large tasty seeds inside and when you cut it, it becomes slimey.  Okra is the ingredient in Gumbo that makes it slimy. 

These are okra pods on the right.

These are okra pods on the right.

Okra is very low maintenance.  Last year, we had a plague of grasshoppers in Oklahoma.  From what I can tell, we are gearing up for a repeat performance.  The grasshoppers ate every single leaf on my okra to a nub last year and the okra kept right on producing like it didn’t even notice.  I have not seen anything else eat my okra plants.  I do see a lot of ants on the okra, but they don’t eat it, they just crawl around.  They seem particularly interested in the flowers for some reason.  Ants do some pollinating in the garden, so I just leave them alone. 

okra pest

Our basic methods here at Little Sprouts include not much pest management.  We pretty much let nature take it’s course.  We don’t use any sprays, chemicals, or homemade recipes.  We just live and let live.  On occasion we will pick bugs by hand because it’s fun, but these occasions are rare. 

There are several ways to prepare okra and all of them are delicious.  You can boil it with some seasoning until it’s tender.  This is the slimiest way to eat it.  The slime puts many people off.  You can eat okra raw and it’s delicious.  It is not slimy if you leave the pods whole until you are ready to eat.  It tastes fresh and crisp.  You can roast okra with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I usually cut it in half lengthwise when I roast it.  I heat the oven to 375 and roast until browned.  The more brown you roast it, the less slime it has left.  You can pickle okra just like you would cucumbers.  This is one of my favorite preparations.  Put the whole pods in a jar tightly packed and add boiling brine.  Then place the lid on the jar, when it cools store it in the refrigerator.  It’s really yummy like this. 

Okra frying

Most of the okra we harvest is eaten fried.  That is definitely the most yummy way to enjoy it.  To fry it, slice it, then dust it with flour, salt, and pepper.  Preheat about 1/4 inch of coconut oil in a pan.  When okra placed in the oil begins to bubble, your oil is hot enough.  Place a few pieces at a time in your pan and cook until golden on the bottom, turn the okra over and brown the other side.  Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle on a little salt.  It’s spectacular.   I also dust it with flour, salt, and pepper, and then toss it in a quart size freezer bag and freeze it.  I can fry it up later, just like I did above and we have okra to enjoy in the winter time.  Good times!

fried okra

eating okra

yummy okra

What is your experience with okra?

Garden Glory-Hot Peppers

This week’s harvest has gone way down.  We had a really hot spell and then a lot of days without much sun, so some things may pick back up after these few sunny days we’ve had, but who knows?  We picked 15 pounds of produce from the garden this week including a bunch of hot peppers.

september harvest gardening with kids, hot peppers

Monday we picked 5 pounds of tomatoes and a few other odds and ends.  We picked two cantaloupes, but I forgot to get pictures of them.  I’m having some technical difficulties with the camera. 


gardening with kids harvest

And today we picked another two pounds of tomatoes, a pound of okra and a half pound of hot peppers.  I’m making some salsas for my family reunion this weekend so those will come in handy for that.

I hope you have a great weekend.  Comment and share what you’ve been picking from your garden!

Garden Glory-Okra

Gardening with kids, picking okra

My Little Sprouts and I harvested over 24 pounds of vegetables this week, including plenty of okra. Today is a beautiful, cloudy, breezy, cool day.  It’s so much nicer than the near 100 degree temps we’ve been having. Fall is in the air and it’s wonderful to be enjoying harvests from the garden still.

harvesting with kids

Okra is so yummy, but the pods are spiney and poke your fingers…

The picture above is Monday’s picks.

canteloupes gardening with kids

And we also found these four ripe cantaloupes on Wednesday.

Cantaloupe is ready when it slips off the vine, so you find it laying on the ground when you harvest it.

harvest gardening with kids

And today we picked all of this tasty stuff.

We have been having lots of insect damage in the garden this late in the season, but we are also losing a lot of produce to raccoons and even more to squirrels. Grrr…  I know they have to eat, but we worked hard for this food! It’s so frustrating to find your stuff half eaten or just a hole in it and it’s rotting.

We picked 3 pounds of okra this week, 11 pounds of tomatoes, 9 pounds of cantaloupe, and peppers, tomatillos, hot peppers and one tiny potato and one tiny onion.

What’s growing in your garden?

Garden Glory-Heat and Bugs

The bugs and heat have taken over the garden. We have been planting things for fall. We are still getting a harvest, but it has slowed down so much. My Little Sprouts harvested over 21 pounds of vegetables this week. The weather is supposed to cool down a bit for at least a few days, so maybe some things will pick back up, or some of our new stuff will take off. We are really enjoying what we are getting, and are grateful for every gift the garden gives.
garden harvest gardening with kids in the heat of summer
Monday’s Harvest

A few strawberries I found this week.

A few strawberries I found this week.

DSCN7459 (2)

Today's harvest.

Today’s harvest.

My Little Sprouts and I harvested over 14 pounds of tomatoes, 3 1/2 pounds of okra, and some cucumbers, tomatillos, onions, and hot peppers. Something is eating all the tomatillos before they get ripe, and the squash bugs have finally killed all three cucumber plants, so those are probably the last we’ll see of those.


Battling the heat and bugs in the dead of summer is a challenge, but there is still a lot of good growing season left, so we can’t give up.

What’s growing in your garden?

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