Tag Archive for sunflowers

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…

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers are amazing.  They draw pollinators, look gorgeous, and make food for birds.  Obviously the seeds are delicious as well. 

yellow flowers

This year we grew quite a few sunflowers.  We searched the internet for the sunflowers with the claims as the “biggest” sunflowers.  My Little Sprouts LOVE growing things that are the biggest or the tiniest.  We also ran out of time and money in the expansion for trellising materials, so we grew several rows of sunflowers for our drying beans to trellis on. 

Our largest sunflower ended up being 14 feet tall! 

giant sunflower stalk

The stalk was as big around as a tree trunk.  And the head was about 14 inches across.  The kids were amazed, as were many garden visitors we had.

measuring sunflower heads

When the seed heads began to droop over, we had some ornery birds who didn’t want to share the seeds.  We cut the heads off of about 2/3 of the large sunflowers and put them on a screen in the shed to dry.  We left the rest for the birds as well as all the smaller flowers.

harvesting sunflowers with kidsharvesting sunflower headsgiant sunflower head

After about a month of drying on the rack in the shed, the flower heads were dry and the backs had turned black.

dried sunflower heads

It was time to remove the seeds.  We had quite a lot of fun doing it.  It was great fine motor skill building.  Some of the kids wanted to pick seeds for a while, and some wanted to do it for a long time.  We did it next to the playground so they could come and go as they wanted and we could keep working.

harvesting seeds from sunflowers

harvesting dried sunflower seeds

We ended up with about a half a bucket full of seeds and pieces of seed head.

bucket of sunflower seeds

Next we sorted the debris from the some of the seeds.  We saved the rest for bird seed for the winter.

sunflower sortingsunflower seeds cleaned

Then we made a bowl of salt water to soak the seeds in overnight.  We used 8 cups of warm water and 1/2 cup of salt.  Next time, I will probably double the salt.  They were good, but store bought sunflower seeds are much saltier and more salt would make them taste more familiar.

salting sunflower seeds

sorting sunflower seeds

soaking seeds sunflower

The following day, we drained the seeds and roasted them at 300 degrees until they were slightly darker, dry, and tasty.  It took about 30 minutes.

roasting sunflower seeds

tasting sunflower seeds

Then it was time for tasting.  We got several thumbs up.  We packaged up the rest of the seeds, and each of the kids got to take some home to share with their families.  The kids LOVED this project.  🙂

What is a super fun project you’ve done with your kids?

Garden Glory-Sunflowers!

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.

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.

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.

basil

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.

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!

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 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.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

Monday's harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Monday’s harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley.  Yum yum.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley. Yum yum.

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 big and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

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!

Yesterday’s harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!  (And as usual, plenty of SMILES!)

Blessings…

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This is my blessing, my view as I sit quietly in the garden. What do you see?
I can hear birds chirping, and crickets cricketing, and the neighbors down the street neighboring. A light cool breeze tickles by me. I see all kinds of nature doing its job in this garden. I know there are different life cycles underground and above working tirelessly to create life. Today while doing some garden chores I discovered a swarm of cute little lady bugs scurrying in a playful party. I also saw spiders and beetles and bugs of all kinds. And BEES, lots of buzzy fat bees bumbling around to pollinate our produce and mind their own business. I used to be so scared of bees, but I’ve worked right alongside them in this garden with no bother from them. I see nutrients growing to nourish my babies and make their taste buds dance.
As I looked at the corn I thought about the times we’ve picked corn and ate the whole harvest in one lunch. I smile when I think about the two kids that ate most of it. And I thought about the advice from a little farmer I play with to not pick the corn until the thingy on the top falls completely off and wondered if he was right and I’m crazy or if he really doesn’t know.
I thought about the kid’s excitement when we picked our first Brussel sprout plant last week because it was so big and pretty and then I remembered tasting the sprouts after I cooked them and thinking it was amazing that we grew that ourselves.
Then I saw that plastic gorilla laying there and thought about the one who doesn’t get into the garden chores as much as the others. He loves those animals and spends his time in the garden pretending that gorilla is in a jungle.
I wonder if any birds will ever make nests in those bird houses and I think my hummingbird feeder needs to be filled. And the sunflowers, I’m amazed at their majesty as their heads droop over from the sheer mass of the seeds bursting forth from their centers. I wonder if we’ll eat them or feed them to the birds. I wonder if the kids will like them.
I think about all the weeds we’ve relentlessly picked and wonder how that wild blackberry could still be sneaking up the side of my windmill. It seems like we’ve picked so many weeds there couldn’t possibly be any left, but unfortunately there are many. I think about the value of the vegetables in this garden not only monetarily but for our health and I am in awe of God’s goodness.
I’m amazed that we are blessed with this magnificent garden. Sometimes It’s hard to believe it is real. How real it is indeed…

What do you see in your garden?

These Are a Few of Our Favorite THINGS….

We took a picture walk outside this morning and captured a few of our favorite things.

We found tons of pretty zinnias....

We found tons of pretty zinnias….

 

Here are some more.

Here are some more.

 

Some beautiful daylilies with a pollinator hard at work.

Some beautiful daylilies with a pollinator hard at work.

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Checking out the green beans.

Checking out the green beans.

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Our volunteer melons.  We are waiting to see what kind they are.

Our volunteer melons. We are waiting to see what kind they are.

 

Another kind of zinnias.

Another kind of zinnias.

 

Dill.  I love the way it looks.

Dill. I love the way it looks.

 

More pollinators working.

More pollinators working.

 

Some of our marigolds.  Marigolds are great for attracting beneficial insects and repelling pests.

Some of our marigolds. Marigolds are great for attracting beneficial insects and repelling pests.

 

The sunflowers are amazing.

The sunflowers are amazing.

 

This one is the tallest.

This one is the tallest.

 

Cute little brussel sprouts.  Aren't they adorable?

Cute little brussel sprouts. Aren’t they adorable?

 

This cauliflower amazes us!

This cauliflower amazes us!

 

A butterfly on the butterfly bush.

A butterfly on the butterfly bush.

 

Nastursiums.  Edible leaves and flowers that attract beneficials and repel pests.

Nastursiums. Edible leaves and flowers that attract beneficials and repel pests.

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SUCCULENT!

SUCCULENT!

What are some of your greatest pleasures in the garden?