Weekending & a few Notes from the Garden

This weekend has been a quiet one – hanging around home, hitting up the grocery store, playing naked in the backyard.  You know, just your usual summertime activities. 
On Friday night a monsoon blew through to the south of us.  We didn’t get any rain (can’t remember the last time it rained), but the storm did cool us down.  We took the opportunity to hit up the playground – an activity that Arizona kids usually have to wait until fall to enjoy.  
This little guys is growing up so fast.  I just can’t keep up with him.  I’m half heartedly working on weaning, but since it is beginning to look like he will be our last, I’m in less of a hurry than I used to think I was.  

This girl is my sweetheart.  She is tender and emotional, just like her mama.  She needs to be taken care of and treated gently.  I love her so.  

My rule-follower, my heart, my big girl.  She will be four next month.  Four!  How did that happen?  I remember when she was a teeny-tiny baby – my first.  I remember endless days rocking her to sleep and wondering when things would ever get back to “normal.”  And now look…..  I’m beginning to think “normal” is very, very far from what I *really* want.  
And now…. a little news from our garden….

Summer hits hard in Phoenix and takes a good garden down in a matter of days.  Eggplant is one thing that loves the heat and I do enjoy a nice eggplant.  

Unfortunately, the ants seem to love my eggplant, too……  Can you see those little jerks?  They crawl all over the plant and bore holes into the stems, sucking out liquid I presume.  I’m having a heck of a time getting rid of them.  

Pumpkin plants are taking off.  

Armenian cucumbers are getting big.  

Remember our children’s garden?  This is what it looks like now.  We had some really productive and huge cucumber vines but when we ripped those out, we found all of this bermuda grass invading from the neighbor’s yard on the other side of the fence.  We’re coming up with new plans for rebuilding (bigger and better) in the fall.  

And finally, a lone egg but don’t let it deceive you.  I’ve been consistently collecting 5-6 eggs a day from our girls.  We are in egg eating heaven. 
What’s going on in your neck of the woods? 

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Weekending

As with a lot of the country, this weekend was hot.  Temperatures reached nearly 120…. in the SHADE.  We got out early, while still in our pajamas, to get some garden work done and make sure the chickens were prepared for the heat.  
Here are a few photos that I snapped.  Hope you all stayed cool. 

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Hatching Butterflies with Your Kids

Like most, my kids are enthralled with bugs.

My oldest is particularly interested in butterflies.  So, when my mom said that one of her citrus trees with full of swallowtail caterpillars, I told her to be sure to save us one so that we could watch it turn into a butterfly.

Being the awesome grandma that she is, my mom boxed one up and sent it to us via priority mail.  The little gal arrived thirsty but very much alive and so our butterfly adventure began.

First we took our little caterpillar out of the box and watched her crawl around on a plate.  That was fun.

Then we made her a cozy little home.  Be sure that you have lots of whatever your caterpillar likes to eat on hand.  They won’t eat just anything.  Every caterpillar likes something different.  The swallowtails that we have out here in Arizona like to eat citrus.  So we clipped a bunch of citrus leaves and stuck them in our container.

Then we just kept an eye on her.  We sprinkled water in the container everyday and changed out the old leaves with new.  You may not know it, but caterpillars poop A LOT.  So there was lots of cleaning to do everyday.  Then, all of a sudden, one day she was in her chrysalis.  We didn’t see it happen and we didn’t get any good pictures.  Bummer.  
While she was in her chrysalis (which I think she was in for about two weeks), we had to be sure to keep her environment moist.  If the chrysalis dries out, then the changing caterpillar can die.  So we kept a moist sponge in the bottom of the container and we sprayed her with water from a spray bottle daily.  

Then one morning we noticed the chrysalis looking a little different.  We watched but nothing happened.  We left and went to the zoo for the day and when we came home, a beautiful butterfly was sitting in the bottom of our container!

We took the container outside and gently brought her out.  She hung around for a while, drying her wings, and then she flew off!  

It was such a fun experience and the girls were amazed.  I think we’ll do it a bunch more times as we find different caterpillars.

Here are a couple of great books about butterflies that I have read with the kids:

National Geographic Readers: Caterpillar to Butterfly - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008OBR1KY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B008OBR1KY&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20

Butterflies: Level Four (Usborne First Reading) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0794519407/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0794519407&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20   (This is Lucy’s FAVORITE book and it is so informative!)

Shared on:

From the Farm Blog Hop - http://thismindbeinyou.com/2013/05/from-the-farm-blog-hop-35.html
Frugally Sustainable - http://frugallysustainable.com/2013/06/frugal-days-sustainable-ways-75/
Wildcrafting Wednesday - http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/06/wildcrafting-wednesday-23.html
The Backyard Farming Connection - http://www.backyardfarmingconnection.com/2013/06/the-backyard-farming-connection-35.html

Menagerie Monday Linkup

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Weekending

We had a busy weekend.

Swimming, two birthday parties, and kids who stayed up WAY past their bedtime on Saturday.

Doug’s been working long hours and spent the better part of today at the office.   Trying to be grateful that he has a job and that he is doing something he loves.

Some shots from today.

And a little celebration from the week, my girl finished her first year of preschool!  It was hard for mother and daughter alike.  But we made it!  Now I think she is going to miss school for the summer.  Here’s a picture of what she looked like on the first day before we left for school and then what she looked like on the last day.  Such a difference!
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Creating a Children’s Garden

I know we’ve all done it.  You pinned an image on Pinterest - http://pinterest.com/lilhomesteader/ and thought to yourself,

“Self – you are going to do that awesome craft/activity/recipe/diet/homeschooling-thing this week!  That is just too cool to forget about.  I just can’t live another day without doing that!”

And then, lo and behold, the week ends, a new week begins and that lovely little Pinterest image moves further and further down your feed and eventually, that little project joins up with the zillions of other pinned images that you never get to.

Well friends, if this is you, you are not alone.  In fact, if this is you, then you are in the right place and you’re reading the blog of a chronic “pinner-but-never-doer.”

So, now you ask, what does this have to do with the title of this post – Creating a Children’s Garden?  Well, you see, I’ve pinned every manner of image related to children’s gardens.  I’ve had the best intentions for creating one – a lovely little place for my toddlers to play in the dirt and pick flowers without mom’s watchful eye and gentle reminder to not touch and pick things.  And you see, folks, after all this time, we finally did it.  We created a sweet little space for the kids (and apparently the chickens) to play and dig and pick to their heart’s content.

Yes, there is weeding to be done and the beans still need planting.  Don’t rub it in.

We started by placing some edging stones in a semicircle to mark an area to make the garden.  We picked up a load of compost and dumped a bunch of it in the semicircle.  Then I placed some stepping stones in the garden that would allow the kids to walk around without trampling TOO much stuff (but then again, it IS their garden and if they want to trample, mama’s just gonna have to be ok with that).

Then I went to Home Depot and picked up a couple of flats of cheap bedding flowers (some petunias in this case).  I showed the kids how to plant them and let them go at it.  Again, I turned off my “perfectionist” radar and let them do it their own way.  We also added some sunflower and squash seedlings that I had left over from the spring garden.

We added in a “tee pee” to grow yard long beans on during the hot, hot Arizona summer.

Olive used her little broom to sweep the stones.

The chickens checked out the new garden. 

Finally, we pained a portion of the fence in a rainbow pattern to add a little interest and fun to the area.

In the future I hope to:

1.  Add an outdoor chalkboard by painting a large board with chalkboard paint and leaning it up against the block wall fence.
2.  Add a “pounding” table – Perhaps a small wooden table that the kids can bang nails into with a small hammer.
3. Large river rocks that we paint and decorate with the letters of the alphabet - http://pinterest.com/pin/232850243203377598/ .  (I also think that these strawberry rocks - http://pinterest.com/pin/232850243206547884/ are absolutely ADORABLE.)

Other Resources:

  • Gretchen, from The Backyard Farming Connection, posted  this - http://www.backyardfarmingconnection.com/2013/01/planning-childrens-garden.html  great article in January about planning her children’s garden.  I need to take a few pointers from her.  
  • Isis, from Little Mountain Haven, posted  an article - http://littlemountainhaven.blogspot.ca/2013/05/gardening-with-children.html  recently about how to garden with children. 
  • This - http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/30-diy-ways-to-make-your-backyard-awesome-this-summer/  article on 30 Ways to Make Your Backyard Awesome This Summer is a great one. 
  • These - http://pinterest.com/pin/232850243204572737/  hopscotch stepping stones would be perfect.  I think I might have to do this. 
  • If you want to a birdbath, this - http://pinterest.com/pin/232850243204081119/ one would be fun to make. 
Books and Tools:
  • A Child’s Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children (Archetype Press Books) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0881928437/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0881928437&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20
  • House Of Marbles Children’s Garden Tool Set - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003B8TB9E/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003B8TB9E&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20
  • Kids Garden Tools Kids Wheelbarrow - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0052X8N0O/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0052X8N0O&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20
Shared on  The Backyard Farming Connection - http://www.backyardfarmingconnection.com/2013/05/the-backyard-farming-connection-hop-32.html
Shared on  The Homeacre Hop - http://blackfoxhomestead.com/the-homeacre-hop/the-homeacre-hop-19-and-a-fun-giveaway/
Shared on  Frugally Sustainable - http://frugallysustainable.com/2013/05/frugal-days-sustainable-ways-72/
Shared on the From the Farm Blog Hop
Shared on  Homestead Barn Hop - http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2013/05/homestead-barn-hop-112.html

Green Thumb Thursday Linkup

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Wordless Wednesday

A Caterpillar Friend

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Five Senses Friday

Five Senses Friday is a series on Five Little Homesteaders.  To see other posts in the series, click on the link to the right.  If you’re playing along, please leave a link in the comments. I’d love to hear what’s happening in your life right now.

Hearing – Squeals of excitement – Grandma sent the girls a caterpillar and they are in love. 

Smelling – Tomato Plants – They have such a distinctive scent, don’t they?
Seeing – Sunflowers – They are all starting to bloom together now.  I’m in love. 

Tasting – Squash – We’ve got an abundance and we are really enjoying it. 

Feeling – Awake and energized.  I’ve been getting more sleep and more projects done.  It took 14 months but I’m emerging from the baby-haze. 


Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

3-Bin Composting

       In my mind our composting process begins in the kitchen.  The countertop compost bin, a ceramic bucket marked “simplify”, hosts all our organic kitchen waste, including vegetable and fruit discards, coffee grinds and spent filters, peanut butter and jelly sandwich remnants, anything besides dairy or meat waste.  When full we dump it into one of three outdoor bins, where it is joined by garden and chicken coop waste.  
       There are a handful of factors that go into a good compost mix: nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, water, and heat.  Nitrogen sources are green, like food waste and garden clippings.  Also, chicken manure or urine (we’ve composted our kids’ gDiapers - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0019I6R0E/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0019I6R0E&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20 over the years).  Carbon sources are brown things like dried leaves, pine shavings from the coop, or shredded paper.  The ratio is high on the carbon side – I’ve seen as much as 25:1 – so before we had the chickens’ shavings to add to the mix we used our shredded documents.  The mix is ideally well-oxygenated, which can be done by turning the bin frequently or mixing in coarser material so the layers can breathe.  Moisture can come either by rainfall through holes in the bin’s top or by occasional watering.  The other important factor in breaking down organic waste is heat.  Compost bins are usually black or a dark material to capture the sun’s heat.  Here in the Arizona desert there’s no shortage of heat and sunlight.  
      Our 3-bin setup - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003959G9Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003959G9Y&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20 allows us to rotate the material when one of the bins fills up, which serves to aerate and mix it all together.  The third bin holds the oldest, most broken-down waste, which is (usually) ready for use in a garden bed.  The second bin has the in-between, the stuff that contains chunks of usable soil but with areas still needing more time, heat, moisture, and air.  I suppose a little bug action as well.  The first bin contains all our immediate kitchen, yard, and chicken waste and is by far the most disgusting, filled with rotting food and heaps of bugs just loving the stuff.  Some might think the process is a smelly one, but a well-balanced mix should not have any smell at all. 
       The photos here show the process of transferring the contents of our number one bin, which has filled to the brim, to our number two.  The bins are made with a removable panel at the base, which can be opened for accessing already-composted material.  This also makes it easier than digging out the top but I usually dig out a few scoops then pull the bin off altogether.  We seem to make this transfer every four to six months, or whenever the gardens die and vegetation fills one up.  Sometimes I think the contents should be mixed more often than we do it, but having the three bin setup seems to allow things to decay naturally without much intervention.  Though it’s a task I tend to procrastinate, I always feel accomplished when completed.  Seeing and handling our discarded waste that’s turned into rich organic matter is to witness the completion of a natural cycle, our own backyard’s contribution to the ecosystem.  

Bin 1 with fresh organics on top

Beginning the transfer; Beta waits to sniff

Chicken goes after bugs, Bug goes after chicken

A sample of garbage-turned-soil

Transfer complete, adding moisture

Books on the Topic:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1615640088/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1615640088&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20

Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey’s Down-To-Earth Guides) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580170234/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1580170234&linkCode=as2&tag=fivelitthome-20

Shared at  The Homeacre Hop - http://summersacres.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-homeacre-hop.html
Shared at  The Backyard Farming Connection - http://www.backyardfarmingconnection.com/2013/05/the-backyard-farming-connection-hop-31.html
Shared at  From the Farm Blog Hop - http://theadventurebite.com/from-the-farm-blog-hop-32/
Shared at  The Homestead Barn Hop - http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2013/05/homestead-barn-hop-111.html
Shared at  Frugally Sustainable - http://frugallysustainable.com/2013/05/frugal-days-sustainable-ways-72/
Shared at From the Farm Blog Hop

Green Thumb Thursday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.