Saturday, October 15, 2011

A New Harvest

So, the day has finally come.  My first harvest.  A month ago I planted a row of tiny seeds and they survived.

Now, if you think it's silly that I am getting so excited over a few radishes, that's okay.  I might think the same of someone else who gets excited over something that I don't think is a big deal. 

But I walk outside every morning, after my God time and before getting my girls from bed, and check on my little plants, weeding and looking for new growth.  It's my "me" thing.  And with a house full of little ones all day, I don't get much of that.

Some of  the plants in my garden I started from plants that someone else had already grown.  But these babies were from little tiny seeds.

My helper this morning, Gabe, whose entire raw vegetable diet consists only of carrots, didn't seem too impressed with my little cherry radish.

It looked like just these three were ready today.  Since they grow underground, it's hard to tell which ones are ready.

I'm not the biggest radish fan, and these were a bit hot, but I think they'll be perfect to add to our lentils and sausage dinner tonight.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday Morning Butterflies

One day when we lived in Nebraska, we were out in our backyard and in a span of about a half hour, hundreds of monarch butterflies made their migration down to Mexico through our backyard.  It was really, really cool.  I think we had three kids then and we just laid down on the soft Nebraska grass (oh, I miss that grass after the dry, poky grass of our Texas yard and the softer-but-not-as-soft grass of our new home in Florida).  Anyways, we laid down in the grass and just watched all of those beautiful butterflies flutter through our yard, not in a straight line passing through, but flying in waves and circles as they went.

So, I guess it's that time of year again because the Panhandle Butterfly House here in Navarre had a "Monarch Madness" festival this past weekend.  We decided to go on Friday because Chris and the boys had plans Saturday morning.  And we like to take advantage of the benefits of homeschooling by being able to do things when it's not so crowded. 

We had a great time.
There were so many great volunteers there that were really interested in teaching the kids the life cycle of the butterfly.  We've gone over that many many times in our homeschool curriculum and in reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar 2000 times, but to actually be able to look at the real things, was such a great learning experience.
They were able to tag their own butterflies with a tiny numbered sticker so if that butterfly happens to fly into the butterfly stations in Mexico, we'll be able to look on the internet site and see where it was found.

After we made the round of tables set up outside with the different life cycle stages displayed, we got to go inside the actually butterfly house.  The kids loved looking at the display cases and delighting in the different patterns on the butterflies.

Outside in the butterfly room were butterflies flying around our heads as well as pretty flowers and plants everywhere.

The kids also got to release more butterflies into the butterfly house area.  Gabe was too nervous to release the butterfly that he had tagged earlier, but there was a great volunteer inside that persuaded him to try it again.  He did, as well as Leah this time!

They also had butterfly crafts set up for the kids.  They divided them into different age groups and I was a little embarrassed that Gabe, who is our most vocal about his likes and dislikes, saw that he was in the younger group who was to color a picture and make a butterfly out of thumbprints, and plainly told them the he didn't want to "just color" because it's "boring".  This from the child who asks to print out 20 coloring pages a day to color.  After having him ask nicely if he could work at the older group's table, he made a butterfly life cycle mobile alongside Matthew.

Leah thought the butterfly thumbprints on the coloring page was fun though.

As did Anna, who only had to be told a few times to keep the crayons out of her mouth. 

Christopher had the older kids' station all to himself and made a pretty tissue paper and paint stick butterfly, learning about the smaller parts of the butterfly with the volunteer.

Afterwards, we walked a short ways along the boardwalk out back and the kids were just enthralled with all the turtles, and then this tugboat pushing a huge barge in the sound, under the bridge.

Fun times!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Growth

So, I had tried to grow a small vegetable garden back in our Nebraska base housing days.  I was so excited when the stems of green beans and zucchini seeds sprouted out of the ground, and day by day, their little leaves grew bigger.  I watered them perfectly and checked on them and marveled at their creation from just a tiny seed, multiple times a day.  It was when I had just one baby of my own and I was so excited to be the "mommy" of these new plants. 

In less than a week, they had all been eaten by rabbits, reduced to short green stems.  I was pretty distraught over it and decided that gardening was not for me.

Since then, I got over my hopelessness in my gardening abilities.  I've bought small pots here and there with some variety of vegetable or herb growing in them.  They didn't grow well in the house and so, each time, I'd set them somewhere in the backyard, and each time, no matter how high of a platform I found to put them on...a table, the grill, the A/C unit, our dog attacked them and their lives ended.  Darn dog and his agression towards potted plants.

That hope never went away completley though.  For some reason, a desire to grow my own vegetables is just somewhere inside of me.  I've always preferred to buy produce at farmers' markets to get it fresh and natural, but having to make that extra stop to shop, and now not even being able to find a good one near our new home, has made it seem easier to just choose from whatever the commissary has in their produce department.

All this to say...I've started a new garden.  And it's good this time.

After researching gardening websites and blogs, as well as my Vegetable Gardening for Dummies book, I decided that a raised garden bed was what I wanted.  We have a huge yard but most of the backyard is very sandy soil.  Not having to dig that out of the way would be easier, so we just put our raised bed garden right on top of it.

We found a simple way to build them on some website (sorry I can't direct you there), and Chris set out to build it.

All he used was: 3 8-foot long 2x6s (one cut in half and used on the two ends), 3 8-foot long 2x4s (as a railing around the top edges), and a 4-foot length of 2x4 cut into 12 inch lengths.  We dug up the grass and weeds in it, put down a weed barrier on the bottom and then filled it with a truckload of soil and mixed bags of compost into it.

I had started some seeds in some peat pellets I found on clearance but none of them grew, not even the beans, which usually grow pretty easy.  So I planted all of the peat pellets in the garden and they still did not grow.  It was getting pretty late into the late summer growing season here, so I dug them all up and planted new seeds as well as some plants that were already starting to grow. 

I forgot to take pictures of the garden right after I planted everything, but this is what is looked like three days ago, about two weeks later...

Starting in the back is a tomato plant (transplanted) and beans plants (grown from seeds). 
In front of those I've planted onion seeds which are just starting to come up so you can't see them well.
The big ones are broccoli, which I bought as tiny little plants and I love how big they've gotten under my care!
I planted romaine lettuce in front of those but I can't tell if it's sprouted yet. 
There is a row of carrots in there that you also can't see in the picture.
And the little plants in that front row are radishes.  I'm not a big radish fan, but I read that they are the easiest thing to grow and I wanted something that I could pick and eat!

I've been weeding the garden but I'm not sure sometimes what is a weed or not, so sometimes they get to stay for a while.

Some close up pictures...

my tomato plant with some flower buds means that fruit is to come in a couple weeks! you can alse see the bean plants in the back.

close-up of bean plants

my huge broccoli plants!  the little one in the front wasn't too happy about being transplanted but is making a comeback.  fyi, that's the size the others ones were when they started out in my garden!


This was today after some nice rain yesterday.  Something has been chomping on my radish plants and a critter fence is in the works.  But now I can see my carrots and onions sprouting! (Not really visable in the photo)

And my super hubby made another raised bed this past weekend!

When we were reading about the carrots, it said to plant them after you've let the compost enrich the soil for a few months (or something like that).  So we're going to let that one sit until the spring and start some yummy spring vegetables then. 

And as you can see, we have a lot more space if we want to add more raised garden beds. 
I'm really excited to be able to pick our first harvest and I'll be sure to add pictures of the moment!