As Spring rolls into the heat of summer, I wanted to continue sharing garden progress. We added new gates to our garden arch. We have to use something at the arch to keep the chickens (which we love to have free ranging because they give us delicious eggs) out of the garden. I LOVE the look of my new gate doors!
New summer colors are starting to bloom. My crepe myrtle bushes are just starting to give me new pink color!
These gates may help with chickens, but I found other unexpected guests in the garden and wanted to share them with you. Every time I walked through the garden arch I noticed a beautiful cardinal flying out from the roses that trail over the arch. I looked a little closer and found a nest just at eye level with sweet little babies! What a treat to see!
I have a small two tiered raised bed in the garden and I couldn’t figure out why the sage continued to turn yellow even though I was watering regularly. One day as I was watering I decided to really drench that particular plant. I heard little squeaking noises and watched as two little baby bunnies came crawling out from under the sage plant I was trying to save. They were so cute, I had to leave them and let the sage go. As the days went on, mommy rabbit showed herself more and more and became so bold as to stay very close to me and watch as I watered. She never seemed to do any damage eating any plants. The bunnies must have grown enough to be independent because mommy rabbit has moved them to a less busy location. My sage plant did survive.
The tilapia and the aquaponic system continue doing well. As the fish get bigger, I was having a more difficult time keeping the tank clean. Through some trial and error techniques, I think we have found a nice balance and it seems to be working well for now.
Due to the higher temperatures and some increased bug issues, I had to harvest all the potatoes and kale. The potatoes were planted rather quickly in the large black tubs. The goal was to try to transplant them later so they were planted pretty shallow, so I couldn’t add more dirt on top as they grew. At first they exploded with big wonderful leaves and looked very healthy. As the temperatures grew hotter (and I’m sure the black color didn’t help), the stems and leaves began dying quickly. This was my first attempt at potatoes and I planted purples, red and Yukon. We harvested a little over ten pounds and they have been very tasty. Next year they will go in the u-shaped large raised bed and we will add dirt as they grow.
My kale was lush, large and incredible. Bugs started stripping the leaves, and I didn’t want to spray it with any chemicals, so I decided it was time to harvest all of it. I started all the kale from seeds with several varieties. My favorite has been a purple kale. After harvesting and washing all leaves, I took scissors and cut out all the large veins. I placed all the kale in large freezer bags. After it is frozen, I crunch up the kale in the bags so it takes up less space. I use it in eggs, smoothies, meatloaf, sauces and soups. I did save some to each fresh in salads.
I replaced the kale with lavender for now. I plan to replant kale in the greenhouse to start all over again.
The u-shape has some of the lavender, and the sweet potatoes and beets are doing great so far!
The name of our farm location is South Grand Farms because the South Grand river borders our property. Technically I am WellStone Gardens at South Grand Farms. You have seen posts on events here like the ladybug and butterfly release for kids (you can see photos under Kids Korner). This past weekend we had a wonderful group of young adults come and stay. The lightning bugs presented a magical display in the woods on Friday night. We were awestruck!! It was a total blessing having them here!
I hope your summer is blessed and remember – keep growing!!
When exploring the “garden” of our gut in previous blog posts we have brought information about kombucha to the table. In these posts, we have given additional resources that have given both the pros and cons of consuming kombucha. Due to a widespread and growing support of both commercially produced kombucha and home brew recipes we are seeing a few posts that are more negative, listing that kombucha “is not a cure-all for everything from cancer to diabetes”, and I totally agree. So I started doing more research and I wanted to list more resources for others to look at.
This last one, from kombucha kamp gave a quote that I agree with.
“However, Kombucha is NOT a panacea – it doesn’t cure ANYTHING! It may help the body bring itself back into balance naturally. That is how it is able to do so much – because it’s really just your body working with nutrition, like any other food. Even though some think of it as a medicinal tonic, it’s really just a delicious and healthy beverage choice and one of many fermented food options. We love it because it’s easy to drink at any time of day and takes to flavoring and many other uses so well. Plus, making Kombucha is just fun!”
Why I Drink Kombucha
So why do I drink kombucha? I do believe that a healthy gut biome can positively impact our overall health, including improving our own process of fighting sickness and disease. I do believe that fermented foods are a wonderful way to improve gut health. Here are a couple of resources that validate that premise.
benefits of fermented foods
gut health and fermented foods
I enjoy drinking kombucha and believe it is an easy way (and often more cost effective) to continually replenish good probiotics into my system. It is refreshing and helps balance pH in my system, comparable to the benefits of drinking diluted bragg’s apple cider vinegar. I can make my own and experiment with a variety of flavors. When making my own, I know the date it was made and can try a multitude of tea combinations.
Then I remembered hearing in person, and reading posts about how garden plants thrive when introducing leftover scoby’s to your garden. I always have an abundance of extra scoby’s as well as kefir grains, so I chopped up some scoby’s and added extra kefir grain and took them out to my composting barrel to see for myself how they may help my plants. Today I found more articles of how to use them in my garden and even how my worms will love them!
Garden Use Resources:
scoby’s balance garden pH
This info came from kombucha kamp under other scoby uses as well:
How Does Your Garden Grow?
- Many plants thrive in more acidic soil environments. Grind up or coarsely chop a SCOBY and add it to your soil mix.
- Adding extra SCOBYs to the compost pile is a great way to return the culture to the earth. I throw them in my worm bin and boy, do I have a lot of happy worms! =) I use the worm tea to nourish my garden.
Why This Works
So my reasoning process is – if the scoby’s are beneficial for my plants, worms and soil in improving pH and nutrient absorption, I can benefit from ingesting this time tested fermented drink as well. Ultimately each person needs to decide for themselves. Many others who have used kombucha much longer than I, simple suggest trying it for yourself and see what you think. I love researching this process and the history behind it. I also enjoy the other information on totally different health issues I come across in my search. (This week I totally went down a Magnesium rabbit trail. So fun!) I would like to encourage others to search out all available options for your own specific health concerns. If at all possible, I prefer whole food sources as health options whenever I can. Explore the research as well as talk with your own medical professional (This week my medical professional shared with me about arnica montana as a homeopathic aid with inflammation. I always love learning). Learn much and grow your garden well!
Worms, ladybugs, butterflies and honeybees – we had a magical time with them all at our Family Fun Day last Saturday. We have so many photos and video that it will take a while to get through editing all of them, but I wanted to give you a flavor of the day and give details for how others can plan events here. This post will be a little longer than most, but it was a very action packed day.
We started our adventure with check-in, which included a bag to carry take home crafts and prizes and bug costumes (to help protect clothes from paint and dirt), with antennae to help create bug spirit. We started with a red plastic smock and added our black ladybug dots. All the children were adorable!
Our first learning station took us into the main garden to learn about aquaponics in the greenhouse. The age range of this particular group was pretty young, so instruction was limited, but they enjoyed seeing the Tilapia up close. They received a paper fish for their bag to take home.
You can buy tilapia to raise at alliedaqua
We moved out to the composting barrels to learn about dirt and different kinds of worms and how important worms are to help make good soil. Each child picked up earthworms from our worm container and placed them in our new raised bed to help the soil where beets and kale were growing. We also looked at small composting worms called red wigglers and talked about the size differences. The kids looked inside the composting barrel and we gave it a couple of turns to show how we mix the kitchen scraps we put in to make new dirt. Each child got to choose a rubber worm to take home with them. Worms are a wonderful garden friend.
You can buy composting worms here: red wigglers
The ladybug station was our next stop. There were plastic and paper ladybugs hidden all over the front yard, flower beds and garden. Kids had to hunt for them and turn them in to exchange for ladybug stickers. We made ladybug stamp paintings and set them aside to dry. The final activity at this station was our live ladybug release. Of course we talked about how helpful ladybugs are in our gardens by eating harmful pests that can damage plants. We passed out a cupful of live ladybugs to each child and let them walk around anywhere in the gardens and let them go. My favorite was watching the littlest babies delight in allowing ladybugs to crawl up their arms. These were precious experiences.
You can purchase ladybugs here: arbico-organics
We needed to transition into a new magical kingdom. Again, due to the younger age range, we didn’t go into great detail about metamorphosis. In fact, ladybugs and butterflies go through very similar life cycle stages. Here is a cute website to learn more. ladybug life cycle
Our transition included changing our red plastic smocks to orange. We walked through long orange and black streamers into the back yard that was prepared for our butterfly theme. (The painted lady butterflies we were going to learn about are orange and black, similar to a small monarch butterfly). After a brief instruction time of the life cycle of butterflies, the kids again went on a butterfly hunt for both plastic and solar hovering butterflies. They were able to keep the plastic ones to take home. We talked about the proboscis of the butterfly and each child was given a party blower to play with and take home to show how it can coil and uncoil, just like a proboscis. While the honeybee also has a proboscis, it works differently, but again that is information for an older group. We talked about how butterflies drink nectar from flowers and each child took home large tissue paper flower crafts (there were many “planted” around the yard already made, or they could take home a kit to make their own).
The magical moment had arrived to bring out the live butterflies and release them. I had nervously waited for them to emerge from their chrysalis in time for our Family Fun Day. I was also concerned about all the rain we had and the cooler temperatures. Everything seemed to come together perfectly and all but nine had emerged on time. We gently pulled out each butterfly on a small sponge soaked with sugar water. The butterflies sat nicely to take a drink as the kids held them, and then they gracefully took flight to start their new life. It was so cute to watch the little ones say goodbye just as they flew away. I’m not sure which was most magical, the butterflies or the looks on the faces of the kids. It was such a blessing to watch.
I had never raised butterflies before, so this was very new to me. I worked with a wonderful company called Carolina Biological Supply. I had purchased a variety of things from them as a classroom teacher and as a home-school mom. They were incredible to work with and patiently answered all my many questions (they even put me in contact with their specialists to help with new areas I wanted to explore). They were also very reassuring that the butterflies would in fact emerge in time. (I felt like a nervous mom waiting for delivery, and they were very comforting and kind). I would highly recommend them for any science needs.
You can purchase butterfly kits here: Carolina Biological Supply
We were ready for our last magical kingdom to learn about another wonderful garden friend – the honeybee. This also took a new costume change to a yellow plastic smock with black stripes. (I also was making costumes changes of my own at each station. That is a great part of the fun of teaching!) We touched on how the bright colors like red, orange or yellow can be warning colors for predators of insects that they can be toxic or dangerous.
We walked down a path through the woods to an area set up with two tables to learn about bees. Our neighbors, Bill and Tarey Shipley are the beekeepers here. They currently have a total of ten hives. This station started with me giving a short explanation of the life cycle of honeybees with hands on models of bees and honeycomb to pass around. I also briefly touched on the importance of pollination for our food supply and another great pollinator – the Mason bee. Crown Bees are a great resource for information and sent me a wonderful file to print. I bought this cute Mason Bee house here as well. Mason Bee House
Bill and Tarey had an observation frame of bees in glass to look at, as well as all the beekeeping gear and empty hive bodies for the kids to paint.
Tarey talked about how honeybees do a “bee dance” to communicate where they have found a large nectar location. I don’t know which dance was more fun to watch – Tarey or the kids.
Some of the younger kiddos were getting tired, so we put an end to the formal instruction. Each child had to run and find me a dandelion and bring it back to me in exchange for a honey stick. Most of them made several runs for more than one stick! Even the grown-ups were making the exchange. One of the older kids wanted to put on a bee keeper suit and go to the big hives and hold some bees. We had even had adults holding the bees with no special suit on. To end the day we found a black snake on the path and decided we also needed to experience a “snake release”. The oldest male student of the group held and carried the snake (his first experience at this) all the way back up to my garden to release it there. I have a terrible issue with voles (field mice) making damaging tunnels all through my garden flower beds. I wanted the snake there to help with pest control; another garden friend (unplanned, but very exciting!) Families were welcome to stay for a picnic lunch. We also had a box turtle we had kept in a large container that the kids could hold. We marked it with fingernail polish so we could identify it and released it for fun.
Why Do We Do This?
Part of the goal and purpose of WellStone Gardens is to educate and inspire others. This property offers wonderful educational options for families, homeschool groups and school field trips. This Family Fun Day was our opportunity to showcase what can be done here. We used it for fun, photos and videos for our Kids Korner section of the website.
With busy families and schedules, it is difficult for us to plan these types of events on a regular basis. If there are any groups interested in hands on science themes or living history experiences, we wanted to give information for how to book educational or recreational events here. We can work on the curriculum together.
For educational opportunities, the fees are $5.00 per child, plus supplies. We need to have a minimum of 10 children. (Supply costs vary depending on the subject matter and age of students). Each group is responsible to make sure there are at least 10 students present. Some examples could be learning about ants, praying mantis, gardening, composting, aquaponics, living history, more in depth honeybee or Mason bee information, local birds, etc.…. We have even hosted a bus load of kids and focused on an art theme. It was a great time!
For recreational activities we have had birthday parties, church picnics (see link here: church picnics), ladies luncheons, and obstacle course events. Fees are $15 per person plus supplies. We again need a minimum of 10 to book the schedule. Each group is responsible for their own food unless arrangements are made. (No alcohol is allowed for insurance purposes).
Let us help you create your own special fun filled event!
Call 816-738-1308 for available dates and added information.
When working outside in any variety of gardens, even front porch container gardens, there are more species of life participating than just plants. I also find it fascinating to look for personal life analogies outside in my gardens and my yard.
This week we are getting ready for our Family Fun Day activities, including releasing 9,000 lady bugs, 33 painted lady butterflies, and honey bee activities. In the midst of all of this planning, we built a little over 100 square foot raised bed in the middle of our garden, which means lots of transplanting and more seeds to start. I truly do feel “as busy as a bee”!
Raised Bed Addition
I am so excited about and delighted with our new u-shaped raised bed. It is 2 feet deep and 4 foot wide with the side being 12 feet long. I wanted to give pictures of the process so that I can continue to show how wonderfully it can be planted and maintained.
We have our potatoes and beets in containers and they are very crowded. The plan is to try and spread them out by transplanting them into this new bed. The rain this week has slowed that process down. (I’m not even sure they will make it as a transplant when they are so large already). I will keep you posted on the results. (I am such a novice at all of this!)
*Total cute side note – I found a nest of baby cardinals in the arch of my roses, right at eye level. So adorable!
Under the Surface
As we were hauling in dirt to fill this bed, we noticed lots of wonderful worms which are great for the soil. This reminded me of the importance of worms and of composting, so I added a worm station activity to our Family Fun Day. Worms truly are a garden friend that are often overlooked and underappreciated. I even posted a gummy worm recipe this week.
A personal life analogy with worms made me think about how we often have things buried beneath the surface of our lives that may need to be recognized, worked on and even appreciated. If we focus on those things that need to be worked on inside (below ground level), then it can produce great fertilizer and intentionally make great soil, that in turn will create a healthier crop that is seen on the outside (above ground level). They work at eating and breaking down rotten material and turning it into something necessary for health and life. Sometimes what we don’t see working on internally is vital to what we do see externally. Worms are a great reminder of this.
Over the years, I have done several ladybug releases in a variety of locations. They are easy to order online and easy to care for until releasing them. Ladybugs are a wonderful, natural way to get rid of harmful garden pests. Kids love this gentle bug and I love watching their excitement as they turn them loose.
Entomologically speaking, the term bugs applies to insects of the order Hemiptera. Ladybugs belong to the order Coleoptera, or beetles. Almost all ladybugs feed on soft-bodied insects, and serve as beneficial predators of plant pests. Gardeners welcome ladybugs with open arms, knowing they will munch on the most prolific plant pests. Ladybugs love to eat scale insects, white flies, mites, and aphids. As larvae, ladybugs eat pests by the hundreds. A hungry ladybug adult can devour 50 aphids per day.
What personal life analogy can we learn from these incredible creatures? Well, we do know that they protect our plants by destroying harmful predators. We all have “pest like” issues in our lives that we may need to intentionally go on the hunt for to rid them from harming ourselves or other. These may include harmful addictive issues of drugs or alcohol, anger issues, poor decisions concerning our eating habits, harmful attitudes or negative thinking or even pornography. We need to destroy these “pests” in our lives just like ladybugs destroy harmful aphids. They also have several protective mechanisms built in to help out, but you just need to come here Saturday to learn more.
This is my first attempt at a butterfly release. I started with very tiny caterpillars and have watched and waited. So far I have 33 painted lady butterfly chrysalis and am praying they will all emerge before Saturday. I feel like a mom waiting for delivery. I have learned that different species feed on very specific plants, so I had to track down a type of mallow plant called a Tall Mallow or French Hollyhock for these butterflies. (Not easy to find around here). I can plant these to attract painted lady’s, as well as put them in their habitat container to see if they will lay eggs on the leaves and continue the life cycle.
The most incredible life application with butterflies is the wonder of metamorphosis. In life we all have the beautiful ability to start out as one thing, or going in one direction, and totally change into something extraordinary – to spread our wings and fly. As a Christian, the butterfly is the perfect analogy of being totally transformed into a new creation through the power of Jesus Christ.
I started with one bee hive over 9 years ago when we moved to the country. I never really managed the hive well, so we didn’t get much honey. Two years ago, our neighbors Bill and Tarey Shipley, took over our hive as well as starting their own. They are up to 10 hives now and they have a small observation frame we will use for our Saturday event.
There are so many life analogies to use with honeybees. We need to be good “pollinators” of loves, joy, peace, kindness, and gentleness as we interact from person to person. (I also am learning more about Mason bees as incredible pollinators). We need to be intentionally focused and hardworking, being about the tasks we were uniquely created to accomplish. We need to understand the importance of working together with others as a team toward positive results. We need to be vigilant and watchful at protecting our “hive” from predators and disease. (Honeybees often give their own lives in the protection of others. I want to give a very special thank you to all the military men and women who protect our nation and give their lives for us). But there are everyday tasks all moms, dads, grandparents, single adults, and children of all ages do to share and care for others to make a positive difference. We need to share our excess “honey” with others to add “nutritious, beneficial, healing sweetness” in whatever ways we are gifted in.
I love all of these fabulous garden friends, and I want to thank all the wonderful family and friends in my life who have provided nurture, protection, and sometimes even beneficial “fertilizer” to help me grow and be fruitful. You have played a very important part in the “garden” of my life. I love you all very much!!
I want to continue to give on-going garden updates to encourage others than anyone can try new and creative ways of growing a variety of food.
The Tilapia fish in the tank in our little greenhouse are growing nicely (even though we have lost a few) and our first try with Hydroponics is still moving forward. We and our neighbors have harvested lettuce and kale for several salads. Our neighbors have even taken the lettuce stems and planted them outside. It is incredible to watch them continue to regrow. We plan to plant basil and mint to replace the lettuce and kale in the hydroponic garden as the temperatures begin to rise.
I have to share with you a cute story of a couple of precious little girls who are bringing us very large earthworms that we are keeping in a tub in the greenhouse to feed to the fish as they get bigger. These two little ones are raising money to send to Africa to help other children. They each bring their own container with the worms they have hunted for. I love to watch them count out each worm when they get here so they can get paid separately. They enjoy the fish and are curious about composting as well. It is such a joy to watch and it warms my heart.
Cabbage, beets, kale, lettuce, herbs, potatoes and tomatoes are all doing well is a variety of containers. I know some of them are a little crowded right now, but there are still plans to build a larger U-shaped bed as the weather warms up. We can then transplant to give them more room. I just wanted to show you how well things can grow in containers. You don’t need a lot of land or space in order to grow your own veggies.
May Family Fun Day
We are planning a Fun Family Event here on May 21st from 9:00 – 12:00. We will have learning stations involving helpful garden friends, including a ladybug release, a butterfly release and observing honeybees. We will be sending out more information each week. The cost will be $20 per family. Families are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and stay to play in the afternoon. Mark your calendars and join us in the fun!
Encouragement For Challenged Health
I need to ask the question, “Why do we grow our own food in gardens?” Each one of you may give a variety of answers, but the overall goal of WellStone Gardens is vibrant health. Nutrition matters whether you grow your own or not. Food is medicine. I want to share with you this incredible true story of how food and exercise helped turn a life around.
If you met this beautiful young mother of two today, you would never suspect that she had ever been anything but the picture of ideal beauty and health. What strikes me about her story is that she started her life as so many of our babies do… colic, ear infections, etc. which indicate the modern problem of poor gut bacteria… however, rather than accept the standard medical protocol, she sought and achieved optimal health through nutrition and lifestyle. There is so much more to her story, she is in her early thirties and on her second career- a nutritional coach and pilates instructor. She enters triathlons, half marathons, is raising and nurturing two beautiful children along with her most adventurous husband, Jeremy Collins. Below is a link to her story which I hope will inspire you to move out of your comfort zone and go for the best you can be. Tricia’s Story
I know this is going out on April Fool’s Day, but I don’t have any fun way to play a joke on you all, so you’ll have to be creative on your own. (One year my kid’s placed a small rubber band around the sprayer on the sink so that I got sprayed when I turned the water on. It was very surprising!)
I love springtime, so through May I wanted to follow the same type of garden themes as last month with new information. With this in mind, I wanted to give some update photos on our greenhouse plants/hydroponics and our little Tilapia. All are growing nicely.
We have had such crazy weather (we had cold weather and a little snow on Easter), that I’m glad we had our plants inside the greenhouse.
In addition to our greenhouse growing, we are re-configuring our raised bed square foot gardens, so while we are waiting to re-construct, my neighbor brought me over some wonderful large containers that he had from minerals he gets for his cattle. (Bill and Tarey Shipley are the BEST neighbors ever!) He drilled five holes in the bottom of each one and we placed a couple of inches of gravel in the bottom for drainage. We filled them with dirt we have had in a pile composting. They are wonderfully deep and they are planted so far with asparagus(green and purple), garlic and purple potatoes. These are all first time attempts, so we’ll see what happens.
Local and Organic
Gardening is fun, but it is also a lot of work. We are all about encouraging and inspiring people to grow your own, but we also understand there are many who want the healthy produce (and meats) without all the work. For those who are in this category (and who are local), I have an invitation for you. Tomorrow (April 2) there is an Eat Local and Organic Expo sponsored by the Kansas City Food Circle. It will be at Johnson County Community College from 9-2.
I will be at the table with Casa Somerset. I plan to have some fliers as well as a few organic herbs and some cute seed planting kits for kids. I was there last year and all the vendors were wonderful. This event is totally worth your time to come to. Please stop by and talk, I would love to see you! Be sure to get outside, breath deep and enjoy the beauty of Spring!