Summer Garden Update

Someday, I want to be a master gardener. I’m not exactly sure what defines a master gardener, but I think it means you’ve spend decades playing in the dirt and tending plants as they spring up, grow, and die.

For now, I’m quite happy to play in my little patches of dirt and smile with delight when the children come running inside with crisp warm cucumbers for lunch or devour serving after serving of fresh kale chips.

2014-07-23 19.57.42

A view from my kitchen window: cucumbers, beans, kale, garlic, pansies, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, more kale, marigolds, and basil.  

In my favorite gardening book, One Magic Square, Lolo encouraged gardeners to expect a handful of plants in your garden to grow really well, most to do moderately, and a few to straggle along. (Assuming you care for the garden, of course.)

This year has not been a good one for my tomatoes, but the kale? Oh my! We’ve enjoyed dozens of panfuls of kale chips, cream of kale soup, kale in breakfast smoothies, and I’ve frozen a good bit too.

Cucumber

Cucumber close-up 

Last year, we had a horrible squash bug and cucumber beetle problem. (Imagine thousands of squash bugs swarming over the only squash plant.)

When I asked an experienced gardener at church (who shared a bagful of beautiful squash with us) for advice, she said, “Keep the plants happy. Be ahead, not behind, on watering. Bugs seem to sense a distressed plant and attack it with a vengeance.”

After a delightfully wet spring, we’ve had a long hot and dry spell. To keep the plants happy, somedays I’ve watered twice! (Time to get more mulch, methinks!)

Raspberries

Raspberries galore

When I mourned the loss of two of the raspberry canes I planted, I had no idea that the one remaining cane would be so prolific I have to weed-whack around the bed regularly to keep the yard from being overrun!

Strawberry Patch Strawberry Patch

Gardening is practice in patience. After wanting to plant strawberries for years, it was hard to pluck the beautiful white blossoms off this spring so that they could be strong for next year. But we did.

2014-07-22 14.42.20Asparagus patch: a practice in patience

Asparagus is even harder. You aren’t supposed to pick any asparagus the first year (and hardly any the second) so that the roots have time to develop.

Some of the spears are plump and look so delicious. So far we’ve been good…. master gardeners say the patience pays off in years and years of fruitful harvests.

Hidden behind the asparagus are little patches of parsley. Parsley is supposed to repel the asparagus beetle.

Since our garden seems to have attracted most of the bad (and good) bugs known to man gardeners, I won’t hold my breath.

How does your garden grow? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Four Frugal Ways to Build Your Library

Last week, I shared a growing list of our favorite picture storybooks. Stories that are worth reading and re-reading. Stories that I think are worth owning.

Because I’m a frugal minimalist and terribly picky about what books I want to read aloud 157 times, I usually borrow books from a friend, check them out from the library, or take advantage of Amazon’s awesome preview feature before adding them to my wish list.

Once a book is on the wish list though, here are four frugal ways to add them to your personal collection.

Four frugal ways to build your family library

Paperback Swap

Paperback Swap is a huge, online book-trading hub. You list books you no longer want, or you have duplicates of, or you picked up at a yard sale but don’t need, etc…. When another member requests one of your books, mail it, and earn a credit for a book to be mailed to you.

Books we received include Make Way for Ducklings, Chanticleer & the Fox and hardback copies of the Winnie the Pooh series. (I’ve mailed out a lot of good ones too!)

Click here to joinOnce you list ten books to trade, you’ll receive two free book credits to start building your library immediately! (Plus, I’ll get a credit too, so we BOTH get to build our libraries. Win-win, right?) Thanks Bekah

Shop Yard Sales or Thrift Stores

You really never know the treasures you might uncover by glancing through the books when you’re at yard sales or thrift stores.

Even if you don’t find books you want personally, you can often pick up like-new books to list on Paperback Swap to trade for books you do want!

Shop Your Library’s Used Sales

My friend Abigail, who is a queen of children’s books, has scored many great finds at our local library’s bi-annual used sale. When the library receives duplicate books as donations or retires older copies from its system, they get put in the used library sale. The prices are great and the selection is often overwhelming.

Plus, many of the older classics (the books I want my children reading!) end up here.

Give Books as Gifts

As I find books I love, I add them to a running children’s book wish list for birthday and Christmas gift ideas for myself or grandparents. Normally we give each child at least one new book for each holiday. With multiple children, it’s a slow but sure way to build the stock of good books in the home.

What are your favorite ways to build your library? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Playing Farmer

One morning a week, usually on Friday, I pretend to be a country girl.

After finishing our morning routine, the kids and I head outside to tackle “the chores”. With the rainy summer we’ve had, the grass and weeds grow quicker than I can conquer them, but it’s time to attempt it. The fresh earthy smell of cut clover fills the air as I carefully weed-eat, dodging the straggling strawberry vines or swift-spreading lavender in our seven small garden beds.

Playing_Farmer

The ascending sun beats down, so I don my straw hat to shade the sun and keep working. Once the yard is finished (or my battery runs out) it’s time to tend the garden: pulling a few weeds in one bed, staking tomatoes or asparagus in another, and wondering what on earth to do with the sage bush that threatens to take over another.

At this stage in gardening and motherhood, at least fifty percent of the planting happens after dark or at the beginning of a rain shower, but every once in a while I find time to actually dig in the dirt on a sunny Friday morning and plop a few seeds into the earth.

Hour for hour and dollar for dollar, I’m not sure the gardens are exactly worth the effort in the strict financial sense, but few things bring as much joy as watching our little garden plots bloom and bear fruit.

With dirty hands and dirt-streaked clothes, I turn to the chicken coop. Rose feeds the chickens, but refilling their five gallon pail with fresh water weekly is my job. So is cleaning out their coop. I try to think of the beautiful pile of sweet-smelling compost our garden will get next year as I scrape the chicken poop out of the pen.

Any allusions of a sparkling clean chicken coop I held when we first brought home baby chicks have met their just end. Once the coop is clean enough and our girls have fresh water and straw, I tidy up the tools.

Then I head inside for a shower, grateful to be a city girl again. Until next week.

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

Photo credit

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Picture Storybooks Worth Re-Reading

Favorite wholesome picture books worth re-reading There is one point that parents, researchers, and teachers universally agree on: reading to your children is incredibly important.

Reading enhances your child’s imagination, increases his vocabulary, introduces him to unknown lands, and provides a wonderful excuse to cuddle on the couch together.

I shared a few of our favorite picture books here and here but thought it would be fun to compile a growing list of picture books we’ve read again and again… and will read countless more times.

My criteria are simple: the books must be consistent with a Christian world-view (though not necessarily written by Christian authors) and be well-written and illustrated. Books that explore our rich heritage or introduce other cultures are extra-beneficial. Occasionally there is a line or two that I disagree with, but that opens up the door for great discussions, right?

“There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!”
—-Emily Dickinson

Picture books worth re-reading

You may notice that I don’t have any Bible story books. The Bible is the most important book to read aloud with our children, but after flipping through multiple children’s Bible storybooks, we came to the simple conclusion that reading the Bible, just the Bible, is enough for our family. (I’ve been pleasantly shocked at just how much little children can understand! The greatest theologians will never fully plunge the wealth of mystery and paradox in the grand story, but even a child can worship its Hero.)
What picture books get worn out through countless re-readings at your home? I’m always on the lookout for great books to add to our collection!
 I’ve not been able to find the artist of the image above. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know! 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Look to Jesus

After a stressful and taxing week, I had a few quiet minutes in the van alone. I was feeling worn thin with tiring projects and overwhelmed by the chaos of my schedule. I had been snappy with the kids and prideful in my expectations of others.

Alone in the car, I grew more and more depressed. The more I looked at my attitude, the more discouraged I got.

Then the words that my dad wisely shared with me when I was younger and went to him discouraged came to mind. “Stop looking at yourself,” he’d say, “Look to Jesus.”

That simple encouragement, grounded in Hebrews 12:1, is the solution to so many of a believer’s problems.

When you’re wallowing in self-pity or self-despair, look to Jesus. He promised that by beholding Him, we’d be changed to be more like Him.

When pride’s ugly head swells up, look to Jesus. He spoke the world into being, commands the worship of angels, and humbled Himself to be made man and die for us. Any cause for pride dies away at that thought.

When the needs all around you threaten to overwhelm you, look to Jesus. He’ll give His grace to keep on giving or give peace to say “no”.

In all of life’s situations, look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. By beholding His glory, we’ll be transformed from glory to glory till one day we bow before Him face to face. (Heb. 12:1 & 2 Cor. 3:18)

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking Redeemed, & Grace Simplicity

(photo credit)