kids

Custom Seed Packet & Holder Giveaway!

Attention savvy gardeners!  Visit us on Facebook and hit “like” for your chance to earn one of these adorable seed packet holders. 

Your choice of design, as well as a set of 15 custom seed saving packets, compliments of BloominThyme — http://www.facebook.com/bloominthyme

Don’t save seeds?  No problem.  Use these containers to hold paper napkins or plastic utensils on the picnic table, or perhaps envelopes on your desk.  How about the perfect unique gift for that gardener friend?  Or win one for the kids!  These holders are a great way to get the youngsters excited about gardening. 

Already “like” us?  Thanks!  You’ll be automatically entered to win.  When we reach 75 likes, one random winner will be drawn.  At a 100, a second will be chosen.  So enter early and increase your chances of winning.

Then, stay-tuned for more giveaways as well as gardening made easy — BloominThyme…your “cliff” notes to gardening!

Kids Planting and Progressing

For the kids, this was a week of “seed fun.”  

With the warm wave of weather here in Florida, we’re taking our chances and planting now–to ensure our crops are ready before graduation.  We do have our priorities, you know and the harvest party is top of the list! 

To begin, we toured the garden to check on our plants’ progress.  The cilantro is turning coriander.  No longer content to remain in its original form, this plant is now shooting  toward the sky, sporting lovely white blooms.  Soon, these flowers will produce coriander seeds–which of course we will harvest.  I know there’s some parent out there ready and waiting with the perfect recipe.  And if not, the kids and I will find something to do with them.  (BTW, we’re open to suggestion.)

Our baby carrots are tender and sweet.  No, they’re nowhere near ready, but their greenery is quite delicate.

And just look at those potatoes.  The kids can almost taste those healthy potato chips and fries now.  

“Wipe off the drool, kids.  We still have a while to go.  And for increased production, cover those babies with dirt!”

And production we need if we expect to have enough potatoes for a party’s worth of chips!  Healthy of course, lightly coated with olive oil and herbs and baked to golden perfection.  (Food talk keeps the kids motivated.) 

Yet more fascinating than food are our beans.  Personally, I find the early stages of bean development to be the most visual examples of Mother Nature in action than most anything else.  More than leaves sprouting and stems growing, this life cycle literally unfurls before your very eyes. 

Why, just look at them!

You can almost feel the energy as it opens from the seed, erupting in a burst…

…exploding in green bloom.  Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Magnificent.  Not into beans?  We also planted cucumber and corn seeds, as well as transplanted tomatoes.

The kids learned tomatoes are best planted deep, covering the bottom two “leaves” as they bury the base.  By doing so, they’ll encourage stronger root growth and development for their small tomato sprout.  Important–as we anticipate big strong tomatoes come spring!  And on our way back to class, we spotted this early gem.

Delectable little devil, isn’t it?  Can’t wait to make preserves out of that little pumpkin!  Oh, didn’t I mention?  We’re going to learn how to can!  Berries, tomatoes…

It’s the simple things in life.

Too Many Strawberries?

 

What!  How could you have too many strawberries?

Oh.  You took the kids strawberry picking this weekend.  Yes, I understand.  They do grab berries at alarming rates, don’t they…

And now you’ve had your fill of strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies, strawberries and cream, strawberries on your corn flakes.   What else could you possibly do with a strawberry?

How about tossing some in your salad?  When combined with a mix of velvety soft buttercrunch and crispy firm spinach leaves from the garden — they make for the most delectable lunch. 

Looks good, doesn’t it?  It is.  The secret to this salad’s appeal is the striking  contrast between fresh tangy berry and sweet mild goat cheese.  It’s melt in your mouth good.  Check my recipe section for details!

First time I realized strawberries made a wonderful addition to salads was dinner at my cousin Nancy’s home.  She added nuts along with a variety of fresh ingredients, but for me, the strawberries were the main attraction. 

Of course, the joy of picking them ourselves added to the pleasure!  This little guy just looks like he’s having fun, doesn’t he?

He was, we were…  Picking your own fruits and veggies is great fun for the entire family.  To find a u-pick farm near you–check this great website

Then you too, may find yourself in the midst of a sea of berries.   Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Strawberry Season Means Strawberry Picking!

At least when you have kids, it does!   Okay, with my kids, it does.  And grandma.  Don’t forget her.  Exciting outings are usually her idea, anyway.

December through April is strawberry season in Florida and in our area, this is code for BIG FUN.  From the Plant City Strawberry Festival to our local Strawberry Farm, we love this time of year! 

Sweetens school lunches.  “Peanut butter and jelly, Mom and make it fresh strawberry!”

And afternoon snack time.  “Can we make strawberry smoothies?  Pleeeeeease.”

Of course we can!   If that’s how I get fresh strawberries in your belly then that’s how we do it.   Beats the ice cream alternative.

We in the gardenfrisk household grow our own strawberries, though for some reason, they never turn out quite as large and luscious as the ones at the farm.   Pesticides?   Maybe.  Commercial strength fertilizer?  Could be.   But since I don’t know for sure, let’s just say the kids and I have some work to do this season to compete with Farmer Jones down the road.

Pine needle mulch is the first key.  As for food, I hope they like fish emulsion.  Stinky, but it seems effective.  So long as we don’t drench them in the stuff while the fruit is blossoming we should be good to go, right?  For a complete review on the subject of growing strawberries, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association provides a fantastic educational download for kids and adults alike.

These gems were saved from last year.  Half of the plants went into our school garden while the other half went to our home garden.   No fruit yet, but we’re patient.   Do we have a choice?

Besides, to get our strawberry fill, we simply run to the strawberry fields and pick to our heart’s content!

If you’d like to find a farm near you (this is an international source, mind you), check this link.   In addition to strawberries, you’ll be able to locate blueberry farms, pumpkin patches–all kinds of stuff!  And speaking of blueberries, just look at these buds.

Aren’t they amazing?    While they don’t seem like much now — a tad scraggly, actually — soon the leaves will start sprouting…the blossoms will start blooming…the bees will come buzzing…the birds will come biting–

Hmph.    There’s a great way to ruin a blueberry growin’ girl’s day.  The birds.  

I plan to keep them out this year and WITHOUT the horrible netting business.   What a fiasco of unintended consequences!  Netting works well to keep the birds out, but it also keeps the bees out.  Not good.  I’m sure you remember the story about the birds and the bees…

But let’s not linger in last year’s loss, no-no!  2011 is a brand new year with brand new buds and whole host of optimism.   Remember:  what you lack in skill you will make up for with enthusiasm.  Important tip for novices like me.

Butterscotch Cookies, Anyone?

Now that the brownies have vanished (okay vanished isn’t quite true — I mean, we know where they went), my daughter has moved on to cookies.   Sweet of her, isn’t it?  She’s actually baking in preparation for a family get together this weekend.   No special occasion, no particular reason, we’re simply getting together because we haven’t seen each other in a while.

Odd, when you live in a small town.   But it happens, doesn’t it?   We get so busy with our own lives, doing our thing, we forget to make the time for those we care about the most.   It’s almost as though we “assume” their presence in our lives until next thing you know, it’s been three months since you’ve seen one another! 

One of my best girlfriends pointed out this sad fact to me years ago.  Living only 30 minutes apart, we barely had time to visit, what between her three kids and my two.  Add a couple of husbands, a few jobs…next thing you know, months have passed without so much as a lunch date!   When she moved to Tallahassee, I was heartbroken.   “Now I’ll never see you.”   

She looked at me and stated quite bluntly, “You never see me now.”

While my first reaction was hurt, I couldn’t argue.   She was right. 

Thankfully, our family has a resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Family-Gatherings who coordinates such events — my beautiful stepmother.  Realizing it had been a while since our last gathering, considering the fact that my international pilot brother was in town, my cross roads trucker brother was on hand, my sister and I both without events, she scheduled dinner.  Casual, easy, a let’s-just-hang-out-together kind of evening.  The resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Everything-Else (my illustrious mom) will be there, too.  Odder still, what goes on in small towns!  

It’s actually very nice to be able to include everyone at the dinner table, and we do so, blending adult children and offspring, grandparents and friends, the new traditions continues;  my daughter is baking for said event.   Which means I’m tasting.  Well, I am Resident-Chief-Taste-Officer-of-all-Things-She-Bakes!  Where do you think her sweet tooth came from–the tooth fairy?  

Nope.   She inherited it from me, and I inherited mine from my dad (her second favorite person to bake for — after her daddy, of course).   Nibbling into the first morsel, the cookie melted in my mouth, drenching my palate with sheer glory.  The girl has outdone herself.   Using a recipe she found in Cuisine at home cooking magazine, she made butterscotch cookies and I’m here to tell you, these cookies are fantastic!   Who knew you could pack so much flavor into a simple cookie? 

I’m talking real flavor;  a mix of ginger and brown sugar, butterscotch and confectioner’s.  If you like cookies, you need to try these.  You’ll find the recipe on my blog as it’s not available online.  Plopping the remainder of the sample in my mouth, I gazed up at my girl from my spot on the couch, my shirt shamelessly covered with sweet white powder and swallowed.   “May I have another?”

She grinned.   “You like them?”

“Like them?  I love them.”

Rule number one:  if you want seconds, you’d better compliment the chef.  Cooking may be her passion, but positive reinforcement is her natural desire.   And you don’t want to be dropped from the invite list when it comes to her dessert table

Rule number two:   try to keep your cookie consumption to a minimum.   There are others waiting for the cookie dish so please move aside.   Chagrin.   Snag.  Thank you, come again!

The good news is we can always make more.   And with Valentine’s Day drawing near, you may find yourself wanting to ply your way into the heart of someone special — and these cookies will certainly do the trick!   Unless your sweetheart is allergic to butterscotch whereby I’d try a different course.   Chocolate does make for a handy backup plan, though, and comes in all shapes and sizes.

Just a friendly reminder.   Family, friends and love…isn’t that what living is all about?

Co-op Garden? But that’s MY plant!

Try and explain to a five-year-old that the vegetable plants belong to everyone.

“But that’s MY plant!”

“Yes, you planted that one, but it belongs to everyone.  We all helped.”

She points.  “That one’s mine.”

Still working on the concept of co-op gardening, I attempted to explain further,  “It’s a co-op garden which means, we all share in the vegetable planting AND the vegetable eating.”

Met by a hard-nosed glare, I decided it was best to let go of the subject.  A wise gardener knows when to let go of the vine. 

For now, we’ll simply enjoy the fruits of our labors and if that means each child is enjoying a particular plant, than so be it.  At least we’re all enjoying the garden, right?

And speaking of enjoying the garden, one of the best ways to do so is to use our sense of smell.  Take these herbs, basil and rosemary. 

Not only beautiful, you can almost smell them, can’t you? 

Can’t wait to start clipping!  And rather than rotate these lovely herbs, we can leave them in as long as they’ll continue producing — which means the rosemary will stay for an indeterminate amount of time while the basil will succumb to the freeze.

In addition to our glorious herbs, we now have strawberries, thanks to our kindergarteners.  These kids KNOW how to garden and weeded this bed in no time flat.

Once the weeds were out, we transplanted small Quinault strawberries. 

 This variety is wonderful, because it will produce numerous berries and do so well into May/June.  They’ll also spread out and fill this bed quite nicely.

Rounding out our fully planted garden is kale.  As babies, these plants can easily be mistaken for beets, but they are quite different.  Large and leafy, these small cherubs will grow to produce large nutrient-rich leaves.  YUM.

Can’t wait until harvest!  Which at the rate these kids are growing — don’t blink! — will happen before you know it.  Take these upper elementary kids.  Savvy and sweet, thinning the corn and pumpkin, they decided a little corn/pumpkin dressing might be nice around the monument built in honor of their lost tomato plant, to sort of spruce things up a bit.

Clever, aren’t they?  And the good news?  They only grow more clever with each passing year…  Yes, I DO mean middle school.  Can’t wait!

In the meanwhile, I think it’s best to simply enjoy their enthusiasm.  I mean, doesn’t matter if it’s weeds or seeds, these kids take to a task like white on rice —

— and get the job done, tout de suite!  And remember the jungle tangle of black beans?  Well, it’s a jungle no more after these kids whipped through it, pulling excess bean plants as they went.

No one ever wants to pull perfectly healthy plants, unless of course they’re inhibiting one another’s growth.  But then, what’s a gardener to do?

P.S.  What I said was kale isn’t — it’s Swiss Chard.  Oops!  My apologies — but it is just as healthy and delightful!

Kids Say the Darndest Things

My kids have completely different styles when it comes to weeding the garden.  My daughter gets in, gets out — quick as she can.  The girl means business when it comes to weeds and she doesn’t like to waste her valuable free-time dawdling among the weeds!

My son, on the other hand, lingers.  He daydreams. 

Dawdles.  It’s not his thing, he says. 

Mine either.

He doesn’t prefer to weed.

Me neither.

So while in the garden recently, my daughter long gone, the dog uninterested in sitting with us out in the full heat of the sun (spoiled boy decided a swim in the pool would be a better use of his time!), I once again noticed my son idling amongst the rows.  He wasn’t pulling anything free from the ground.  Translated:  he wasn’t weeding.

Pausing from my task of planting garlic bulbs, I calmly asked him, “What are you doing?”

“Enjoying life.”

I raised a brow.   Really, now.   “Enjoying life, are you?”

“Yes.  I’m building an arena.”

Wondering if I heard him correctly, I repeated, “Building an arena?”

“Yep.  And these are my lights.”   He looked over at me with clear invitation in his eyes.    “Wanna see?”

Of course I did, so I rose from my spot and joined him along his row. 

“See.  There’s the arena and here’s my light.”   He bent a twig-like hay strand with his fingers to simulate a street light.   “This is the light part and this is its post.”

“Ah….”   Peering down into his creation, I said, “Looks good.  Who’s it for?”

“Ants.”

I chuckled.  “Do ants enjoy going to the arena?”

“Oh, sure.  And here’s their door where they enter.” 

Sure enough, there was a hole opening in the ground forming a tunnel for the ants to enter.  I nodded.  “Perfect.”

And it was.  Creative and wonderful, it was an awesome rendition of his current priority:  sports.  Returning to my row, I pondered over his imagination.  Never short on ideas, I thought, kids sure can create anything out of nothing.  Which is a good thing.  Even better, I liked that he thought to consider a break from his chores to simply “enjoy life.”  I think it says a lot about his state of mind, his outlook and for that, I’m proud of him.

A little while later, I noticed he still had yet to weed.  Almost finished with my business in the garden, I knew he wasn’t going to take kindly to sitting out in the garden alone — weeding —  so I nudged him a bit.   “How are you doing?”

“Not great.”

“No?  What happened to enjoying life?”

“I still have to weed.”

“Yes, you do, but it’s not that much.  You can manage.”

He tossed a hay twig to the ground.  “It’s not fair.  You try to enjoy life, but it comes right back at you!”

I laughed.  Such observation from a seven-year-old!  “You’re right.  It does, doesn’t it?”  I shook my head at his wisdom.  When it comes to the “weeds” of life, it most certainly seems to — until you fully adjust your attitude cap;  a feat he’s still working to master.

“What the heck–why even try to enjoy it then?”

“It’s all about attitude.  Enjoy what you’re doing, whatever it is.”

He huffed in disagreement.  “I’m gonna go throw the football with Dad.”

“Yes you are — right after you finish weeding.”

And such goes life.  Despite his every effort to the contrary, my son learned it’s not all fun and games.  There are parts of life that feel like work, no matter how hard you try to make them feel like play.  But we push through.  We persevere. 

As a mother, it’s reassuring to know we’re not only growing vegetables out here in the garden, but building character to boot.

Growing by Leaps and Bounds!

We’re talking both kids AND plants — these students have energy to share!  And share they do; their tools, their seeds, their worm poop.

Well, some things are easier to share than others, but from what I’ve seen, these gardeners are all about sharing the adventure of gardening.  Especially these little ones.

Our kindergarten students were in charge of planting black beans.  First they amended the soil (threw black dirt and formed two rows).  “Can I use my hands?”

“Yes, if you’re wearing gloves.”

Next they dug holes in two neat lines (carved them as they saw fit).   “Are these too close?”

Spying the holes side by side, I suggested they might want to stretch them out just a wee bit further.

Then they planted seeds in an orderly fashion (wildly orderly fashion!) and pointed at their handiwork.   “Is this good?”

“Remember:  only one or two per hole!”   Not handfuls.

Ensuring a good start, they sprinkled them with fertilizer (covered them with worm poop) until finally they tucked them in for a nice fall harvest (patted them down with their shovels).

Voila —  we have our bed of black beans!  At the rate these kids planted, jungle of black beans may prove more accurate. 

But if need be, we can “thin” the growth.  At least this way, we will be certain to have a superb “bean to sprout” ratio!

Sort of like our corn.  We’re going to have a bumper crop, for sure! 

Lower elementary planted sweet peas along the fence. 

When I asked who likes peas, only one boy claimed he didn’t. 

A response to which I duly smiled.  “You’ll LOVE these peas.  Plucked fresh from the vine, they taste like sugar.”

He returned a skeptical look. 

“Really,” I assured him.  “Vegetables never tasted so sweet until you grew them yourself!”

Another child piped in, “You can eat them right from the plant?”

“Yes sir, so long as you wash them first.  You never know what night visitors you may have had or what they may have been doing.”

Ewe.  But true.

And don’t forget the herbs! 

These girls worked like the three amigos, dropping their dirt and scattering their seeds like master gardeners — all this before running off to work on their kinetic challenge!

It’s all in a day’s work for these kids.  And just look at their progress!  

The “Brownie” beans are flourishing.  These were planted first and are really doing well.

The tomatoes are thriving.

The carrots are poking free.

Why, it’s beginning to look like a real garden out there —  thanks, gardeners! 

Until next time…

Mandie’s in a bind and on a roll!

Okay.   Things are good, sort of.  Still no dirt and the weeds are sprouting.  Maybe not sprouting, more like shooting for the stars.  I mean, look at these things!  They’re taking over!  Aaaaaaaagh!

Of course they are.   They’re weeds.   That’s what they do.  But have no fear.  Mandie assures me she’s on dirt patrol.  It will be delivered any day now…

Well, I’m not holding my breath on that one but I am looking toward the positive — the other box!   Good news — these babies are growing with awesome results. 

The lettuce is fanning open, begging to be plucked for a beautiful salad, the tomatoes are blossoming, the broccoli is blooming and the potatoes are growing larger, safe and sound, tucked away in their underground incubator after being properly hilled. 

Carrots are sparse.   More fertilizer, more water and they’ll be fine.  Just give them some time.

Conch peas?  They’ve been touch and go and Mandie is concerned for their welfare, certain they won’t make it. 

Me, I think they’ll pull through, so long as she keeps an eye on the aphids.  Ladybugs, anyone?  They’re one cure, but so are insecticidal soap and finger smudging.  Either way, keep up the maintenance, Mandie!  Once they gain a little more stature and strength they’ll be fine.

More good news?  No Chihuahua tracks in the dirt.  Very good.  They can be lethal to the delicate greens struggling through the sprout stage, not to mention pure terror for those meant for human consumption!  Who wants to eat salad stepped on my the pup who’s been who knows where…???

Not me and if Mandie knows what’s good for her — not her, either.   But she assures me it won’t be a problem.  The boy is on a leash when outdoors.  Hmmm.  I have kids and I have a dog.  I know how habits slip and slide until the next thing you know, the dog is sitting smack square in the middle of the kitchen floor which is off-limits to him!  (But he’s so cute, Mom.  How can you be mad?)

Hmph.  As one who has lost this battle, time will tell if she proves any tougher.   Good luck with that girlfriend!  Where no dog seems to have made tracks, one of the boys apparently has.  Left this Easter bunny plant creation next to the lettuce (in case he gets hungry, I presume). 

They’re so smart and creative at this age, aren’t they?  And green.  Chalk up one more for Mama’s column!

Strawberries and onions

Strawberries and onions go together like sisters and brothers.  Great companions in the garden of life, but quite different from one another on many different levels.  My daughter takes to strawberries, my son to onions. 

He eats them raw actually, which is odd in itself — until you taste a homegrown onion fresh picked from the garden.  It’s nothing like the store bought kind!  Sweet and delicate and oh-so-fun-to-pick.

Must be a man thing.  My husband loves to slice them alongside his tomatoes with a little salt to boot.   Says he could eat them every day this way.  Which is a good thing, seeing as how I planted a hundred of these babies!  Literally.  I planned on braiding them for storage and hanging them for effect.  Looking forward to it actually, as I thought it would be kinda fun.  At this rate, I doubt I’ll get to try my first weave!

But that’s okay.  As long as the crew is eating fresh veggies, I’ll stick to braiding hair. 

As to my personal preference, I’m with my daughter on this one.   Gorgeous red strawberries hold the allure for me, especially when you can spy them on the vine and pluck to your heart’s desire.   Once again, there’s something about growing your own that seems to make them taste sweeter.  

Psychological?  Could be.   But then again, when I’m in the garden it’s all psychological!  

And physical.  

And emotional (when the mutiny over weeding pokes through the kid’s veneer of joy).  But i’t’s all fun!