Family Fun Day Reflection

Family Fun Day Reflection

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!  0

Learning Stations:


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.  1

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.  2Each 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. 46

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.  21The 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. 13  My favorite was watching the littlest babies delight in allowing ladybugs to crawl up their arms.  These were precious experiences. 17



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). IMG_0098 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.butterfly2  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. IMG_1977IMG_0078IMG_0076butterfly1

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.hb2hb0

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 Househb6




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. hb9hb6a


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! hb11 Even the grown-ups were making the exchange.  hb12One 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.  hb14hb16To 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.IMG_0086IMG_2048

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.

Garden Friends and Fun

Garden Friends and Fun

     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.

garden u-shape raised bed 6

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.

worms 1

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.  ladybug 1

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.butterfly 3 (1)  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.

butterfy crysalis 2

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.

honeybees 1

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!!

Fruit-bearing Relationships 2

Fruit-bearing Relationships 2

Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant always gives the familiar instruction “in case of an emergency, put on your oxygen mask on first, before helping others”.  Why is this an important rule for ensuring survival?  Because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else.  oxygen-mask-solo-500

What does this have to do with “fruit-bearing relationships”?

We are all caretakers in some form or another.  You may have young children to take care of, teenagers to nurture, special needs family members, aging parents to look after or friends and extended family needing extra time and encouragement.  Added to these needs there is the requirements of everyday life; groceries, laundry, work, bills, school, church – the list can go on and on.

It’s easy to spend much of your time and energy taking care of everything and everyone else but neglecting yourself.  ( I understand the blessings and benefits of putting others before ourselves and the concept of self-sacrifice and will write about this later).  But, if we are sick or exhausted physically, mentally or emotionally, the relationships around us can suffer greatly.  I know in my own life, the relationship that can often end up lost in the shuffle due to little time and energy left,  is between my husband and I.   This is the relationship that needs to bear fruit so that we are working together in unity in all these other areas.  I need to have the peace and energy leftover to share together with him.

Consequences of Being Over-Extended  

Being too busy or stressed personally not only impacts close relationships, but this busyness can also greatly affect your physical health.  When you feel over-extended you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, depression, over eating, headaches, emotional swings, anxiety, frustration, and inability to sleep.   All of these can negatively affect your health and could lead to more serious health problems if not addressed.

Basic Stress and Health Tips

I started to research other sites as well as books and magazines and found some very generic suggestions to help combat these negative health side effects of stress and busyness.

A “put on your own oxygen mask” sort of list:

  • Get enough rest
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat right
  • Have physicals regularly and go to the doctor when you need treatment
  • Spend time every day on a renewal activity ~ sit quietly at least 10 minutes and:
    • Breathe deeply
    • Listen to uplifting music
    • Read an inspiring book
    • Write in your journal ~ for example a gratitude journal 
  • Laugh! (laughter is good medicine)
    • Read the newspaper comics or a funny story
    • Buy a joke of the day calendar (I loved Barbara Johnson)
    • Watch a funny T.V. show or movie

Focusing on Rest and Renewal

On WellStone Gardens homepage, there are  four main fields of wellness…

Nutrition: Food is Medicine Fitness: Be as Strong as You Can BeRecreation: Rest, Renew, Recharge, Inspiration: Everyday a New Beginning

All of these areas were mentioned in some form or other in my extended search for this post, but I think this concept of personal rest and renewal is most often neglected.

Anytime I have an opportunity to teach or instruct in person, I love to try to incorporate as many senses as possible (see it, hear it, taste it, touch it, do it….).  In “teacher school”  we are taught this type of instruction allows for the variety learning styles in any given classroom.  This is the way I learn best, (I am a tactile-kinesthetic learner).  In my experience,  I have found that no matter what the age, everyone seems to retain information better the more involved they are.  I know it may seem that I am going down a rabbit trail here for a minute, but stick with me.

A Method you may not have ‘heard’ of ~ The Impact of Sound

Years ago, I was an instructor in an inner-city alternative high school teaching Healthy Lifestyle Choices. I had the opportunity to attend a National Science Teachers Convention and was introduced to information dealing with music being played in classrooms specifically at 60-70 beats per minute.

Research at that time was showing the idea of the “Mozart effect” – that listening to Mozart’s music can make the brain work better – originated from a study carried out in 1993 at the University of California by researchers GordonShaw and Frances Rauscher.

Recent research by, has found that high-anxiety students who listen to classical music with 60 to 70 beats per minute while they study, score 12% more in their maths exams on average.  See more…

Several years later, when working with our youngest son who had severe dyslexia, I was introduced to a program called FastForward which worked with sound and frequency and the effect it can have on the brain. I was trained by a school district in this program and I the found research and impact over a wide range of age groups and conditions fascinating.  As we worked through this program for a couple of years, we experienced remarkable results with our son over an extended period of time.

I am convinced that sound (music) can positively impact our brains and our overall health. When we are personally needing to renew and recharge so that we have something left to pour into relationships that can bear fruit,  music (the sense of sound, and the feeling of vibrations) can be rejuvenating for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. I recently came across a new program,   Wholetones that I am very curious about and I want to try.  I’m sharing the link with you, and will let you know more as I use it. (There is much, much more research in this area out there).

Time Well Spent

One of the biggest issues in this area of rest and renewal can be finding the personal time for it.  We’ve all used the expression “I’ll make time for this” or “I need to make time for that.”   Our pastor shared in a sermon once that there is no physical way to  “make time”.  We are only able to “spend time”.  Spending time (this requires a personal decision and commitment)  refreshing yourself for at least 10 -20 minutes may be the best way for you to “put on your oxygen mask” so that you can more fully enjoy and engage in fruitful relationships. I want to leave you with this song that seems to always encourage me and reminds me to slow down for just a minute and breathe deep.

The Garden of Our Mind

The Garden of Our Mind

 Of all the creatures on our wonderful planet, we humans  have the unique ability to contemplate and think deeply about our lives and circumstances.  We have the ability to ask ourselves questions like “why am I here?” or “how can I better myself or impact others in a positive way?”  We have opportunities to to share our failures and successes to better equip and encourage others when they are struggling.

To continue with our Springtime garden theme, I would like to share a beautiful analogy of planting and harvesting.  My husband often talks about the mind and the heart and the importance they play in our physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.  He has shared many times that our minds are very fertile ground and that they will grow whatever is planted there.





The process I am continuing to work through– learning technology and social media has truly stretched me out of my comfort zone… see  “Chaos” for some background here.  This desire of wanting to stay in our “comfort zones” can slow us down or even prevent us from pushing through and striving for change in many areas, but especially in the areas of diet, exercise, recreation and inspiration.  These are the areas that can have a large impact of our overall health.

Let’s just click out of that, and start over

The same dear friend (Janice Nastav) that I wrote about in “Chaos” has given me the inspiration for this post.  She has been patiently talking me through steps over the phone of what others may understand as basic website and computer skills.  Whenever I am confused or unable to complete whatever she is trying to teach me, she will gently say, “Let’s just click out of that, and start over.”  There are times I just want to give up, or shut down for the day and try again later.  She encourages me to stick with it and continue again and again until I master the task at hand.

Worry is a weed

I giggle now every time I catch myself going to a place in my mind with my own thoughts that are negative and I apply the gentle words, “Let’s just click out of that, and start over”.  I am becoming more and more aware of when I am filled with worry or anxiety.  I can physically feel how that changes my stress level or  creates a sense of being overwhelmed.  I can use this garden analogy and understand that I have the ability to see that as a “weed” in my mind and know that I have the ability to pull that “weed”. 

A seed is a start-over

I can literally just “click out of that, and start over”.   I can replant new seeds and fertilize them with thankfulness and gratitude; hope, faith and encouragement.  This may be a cute anecdotal story, but is there any real scientific research to back up this truth and the impact it has on our health?  Yes there is.

Dr. Caroline Leaf (yes, ‘Leaf’) is a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology. Since the early 1980’s she has studied and researched the Mind-Brain connection.  She has written several wonderful books as well as many you tube videos on how negative thoughts can actually be toxic how it is possible to remove them.  Our thoughts have a very real impact on our physical health.



This also relates well to our post The Garden of Our Gut  which deals specifically with the Brain-Gut connection.

I will continue to check in and expound on all of our Garden themes through this growing season and into harvest time.  Now is the time for planting.  Choose your seeds well and diligently pull those weeds.





Three Days in the Woods

Three Days in the Woods

There seems to be a growing number of reality T.V. shows that are focusing on outdoor survival skills.  There is Man vs. Wild, Survivor Man, Alone, and Live Free or Die just to name a few.  It has always been fun to watch some of these shows and try to imagine what I might do trying to stay outside by myself.

First of all, I need to clarify that I personally am NOT the outdoorsy type.  I am a city girl to my core.  About ten years ago we moved from the suburbs out to the country on 45 acres.  My husband was raised in the country and had much experience with horses, trapping, fishing, and hunting. He can do anything outside.  Just being an hour out of the city life I was used to, was a real stretch for me.   My idea of camping includes hot and cold running water, a toilet, a real bed, heat and air conditioning.  In fact, we have such an area next to our pond that my grandson called “grandma’s wooden tent” when he was younger.

Watching some of these reality survivor shows stirred up a curiosity in me to ask myself if I could actually go out into the woods alone on our property for three days and two nights.(Only a very short period compared to any real survivalist).  We had originally thought about friends and family making sort of a contest with this, like trying to choose ten items and go out into the woods and see who does the best.  By the time the date we had set arrived, others had to back out due to scheduling, but there was something in me that really wanted to try this.  This was so far outside my comfort level and realm of expertise that it was laughable. I sleep with two pillows, very soft mattress pads, a fan running and room darkening curtains.  I have never started a fire without using a lighter and diesel fuel and I have never even considered trying to build a shelter for myself.

Knowing me very well, my own siblings and extended family were very skeptical of my safety. In fact, my brother asked me outright why I was doing this. There was obviously the personal challenge just to see if I could do it, but there were deeper motivations as well.  Not long ago, I wrote a blog about my washer and drying going out and reflecting on all the little blessings we take so for granted.  Then when I watched the news of the Syrian refugees fleeing and traveling long distances with just the clothes on their backs, as well as so many others around the world that are struggling, I wanted to go out to reflect more deeply on the abundance of blessings we take so for granted by not having them for a short while.

As well as being “unplugged” and having limited conveniences, I also noticed how we are often too busy or preoccupied to just sit and reflect on the beauty all around us.  I was filled with anticipation to be outside for an extended period and connect with nature in a way that would be very foreign to me.  I was excited to experience the woods on our property in a way I never had before.

Due to my total novice skill level and not wanting to “tap out” I was continually revising my supply list.  We originally set a ten item limit of your choosing.  The standards being that you had to build your own shelter, start your fire with a flint and steel, and find your own food.  We were going to get our water from the river and just boil it, but the decision was changed due to the chemicals from the surrounding farmland that boiling would not take out.  So water was to be hauled in and left next to the creeks and river, but still had to be boiled.

I ended up with a total of eleven items.  I took a roll of duct tape, a roll of painters plastic, a roll of twine, floral wire, a pair of loppers, flint fire starter, a pot, a sleeping bag, a camp knife,aluminum foil and a hand hoe digger. My decision was to be more of a homesteader instead of a survivalist.  I wanted the challenge of building my shelter and starting my fire and staying in the woods for three days, but I clearly understood my total lack of experience with being able to catch or snare any type of food.

I made my own type of survival powered brew that I brought in three small jewelry bags to put one in boiled water each day.  I will post the recipe I created. I brought two small Mighty Bars which are 28 grams each of grass fed beef jerky.  I split the jerky to last for three days.  I made three bullet proof coffee balls to drink one, each day, in my boiled water.  Again, I will post this recipe.  I burned a lot of calories and I tend to sort of grey out if I don’t take in a few nutrients.  Another confession is that my totally concerned and caring neighbor, who was worried about me, brought me a dozen hard boiled eggs out to the woods.  I took three eggs, one for each day.  He left a dozen out in his field across from my shelter in case I needed them, but I made it without them.  My husband wanted me to have the experience of cleaning a cooking a fish, so I had a small bluegill from our pond on my last night.

So what did a 54 year old mom of five children and grandma of seven, with no experience what so ever staying outside alone, accomplish?  I cleared a good sized area by hand of brush and debris to set up camp or my “homestead”.   I did put up a fairly large shelter made of painters plastic, twine and duct tape that kept me comfortable and safe (only because nothing large decided to challenge it).  I used leaves and plastic as chairs, pillows and bedding.  I made useable items such as a mug, spoon, a toothbrush, and fire grate out of sticks, duct tape and wire.  (I made other items as well that were a total failure, but that will be posted later on a video).  I learned a lot about starting a fire and keeping a fire going.  There will be a separate blog on just the lessons I learned from FIRE.  I foraged items from the creek or in the woods, like pieces of metal and tin.  I made ropes to help me get up and down the steep creek banks.  I cut “stairs” into the dirt of the banks.  I dug a latrine.  I stayed calm in the middle of the night when the coyotes decided to surround my camp and make the most hair raising and eerie call I have ever heard. (It got down to 39 degrees and my fire had gone out when they decided to visit me at 2 a.m.  My neighborsheard the noise and noticed even their two large Great Pyrenees dogs ran into the barn for the first time in six year).  I made it through the challenge of sleeping outside by myself without my special pillows and fan, with even a little rain.  I was immersed in the smells of dirt and leaves and smoke on a very close and personal level.  Dirty fingernails became just a part of living outside (without soap).

I learned that collecting fire wood is constant and never ending.  I understood from a very different and emotional perspective what it is like to be on the receiving end of the sincere caring and concern of my neighbor and my husband. Without being too evasive, they were making sure I was safe and fed.  I realized that refugees and others in need absolutely depend on the caring and generosity of others for provision. This experience brought tears to my eyes. I was blessed to experience so many areas of nature that can be used as analogiesin life and I will continue to write more about them.

I thought deeply as I was lying in a warm sleeping bag when it got cold about what it might have been like for soldiers throughout history that stayed outside in the elements with little or no provisions for weeks, or months.  I started with WW II and then went back to the Civil War and then to the Revolutionary War.  What it must have been like for the soldiers who fought at Valley Forge with no tent for shelter, little if any food, some with no shoes or socks in freezing, snowy conditions; with bleeding feet and maybe other battle wounds.  These soldiersweren’t in a survival reality T.V. show just looking out to take care of themselves alone. They were surviving for the soldiers by their side, for their families and for their nation.  They had to get up and fight weary and hungry in battle after battle for the dream of freedom.  There was no “tapping out” if you had enough.  They could be shot for desertion if they gave up. I was humbled and filled with renewed gratitude for soldiers.  Without them, I would not have the freedom or blessings I am privileged to experience.

I was just outside looking after myself, as many on the TV shows do.  What would it be like to have a baby with me; a two year old; several children not even my own to be responsible for their provision and safety?  Refugees and poor women and children in villages all over the world live that kind of reality every day, with a lack of sanitation that breeds sickness and disease.  I thought through what I have heard from others; that soap is medicine in these kinds of situations.

I reasoned how blessed I was that this was fall and the daytime temperatures were in the 60’s with mostly sunshine and no mosquitoes to deal with. I was filled with awe and wonder with the beauty of nature in the leaves, the sounds of the birds both at night and during the day.  I listened to all the night sounds of coyotes, owls, cows, and dogs that are blocked from inside my warm, cozy, dry, quiet home.  I focused more intently on the beauty and majesty of even our small river and all the animal tracks of creation.  The cycles of light and darkness; sunrise and sunset determined the activities of my day.  Rain, wind, and cooler temperatures needed more focus and attention.  The warmth, light and cooking properties of fire became a clearer reality.  Smoke was just a part of life that could not be avoided.

I was able to reflect quietly on the abundance of clean water, food, large safe structures to live in, cooking options, appliances, electricity, technology, media, relationships with people, sweet smells and tastes, soap and cleaning supplies, and medical availability, we take so for granted that we miss be thankful for them.  Over it all I was filled with the Presence of a Creator God who loves me and was allowing me to share deeply in things I miss out on every day.

I was happy to get back home, where my husband had a wonderful steak dinner with candles waiting for me.  I took a long soak in a hot tub with lots of soap and snuggled in my warm bathrobe and slippers.  I will continue to reflect and write more on my adventure, as well as plan to go back out setting goals to learn snaring, making my own knife, foraging all my own food, etc.… I was very blessed to have the encouragement and support of my husband or I probably would have given up.  Now that it is over, I realize I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.


Melanie Dearing




And We’re Back!

Melanie Portrait

Surprise!  We are working at trying to bring all our blog posts up to date.  So, you may be asking, “What has been going on with WellStone Gardens for the past year?”  Here is a quick and condensed version on the nutrition side.

We had a busy summer on the farm with a bus load of inner-city students and their mentors coming out for an afternoon of fun and food. We created a new name for the farm – South Grand Farms – which has its own facebook page and group, (links are below) as well as YouTube channel.  We do have a video of our church coming out for a picnic and a day of fun.  If you haven’t seen it you can log into you tube and type in southgrandfarms in the search bar;  We continued to have college kids come out on Friday Nights and Nicole organized staff members to help with all events. We completed our third annual Plunger Games with new events down on the river.  More video’s are coming soon!

WellStone Gardens hosted a six week long healthy cooking class series at the Cass Career Center.  We are now hosting those classes here on the farm twice a month, as well as in other locations as opportunities arise.  Workshops include food samples, recipes, demonstrations, instruction and interaction.  LiveBlueKC also hired WellStone to teach a couple of healthy cooking session for children in Prairie Village and Zona Rosa. It was great fun making healthy power balls with kids!

This month we had fifteen new people join our classes here on the farm. We started sending out post workshop surveys  This Saturday, February 28th, beautiful Casa Somerset in Paola, KS will be featuring WellStone Gardens Healthy Cooking 101 from 11:00am – 1:00pm! Final registration ends this Wednesday, February 25th.

We have started sending out post workshop surveys and having the participants give feedback on their favorite recipe.  The favorite chicken pot pie recipe winner this month is listed below (we tasted 3 different ones and a fabulous shepherd’s pie, as well as sides and dessert! If you want all the recipes we are working on a way for you to purchase them online.  Many are original.  To TASTE these yummy foods, come to a workshop!)

Paleo Chicken Pot Pie 

Adapted from:

For the filling:

  • 2 Tbsp grass-fed butter (I used ghee- clarified butter)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced  (I used crushed)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1.25 cups butternut squash cubes ( I have used it with and without the squash- both are good)
  • 1/4 cup chicken bone broth
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk ( I used Trader Joe’s heavy coconut cream)
  • 3 cups leftover shredded boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used organic from Costco)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (I used 2 tbls. dried)
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces (I used French cut)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery, and stir. After a few minutes, add the squash. Stir and continue to cook.
  • Stir in the chicken and add the broth. After a minute or two, add the sea salt, pepper, turmeric and fresh parsley.
  • Next, add the coconut milk and green beans, and stir well. Cook 3-4 more minutes and if mixture seems like it needs more liquid, add a bit more broth.

Remove from heat and pour mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle almond flour topping evenly over the top (recipe below) and place in oven, uncovered. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

For the topping:

  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 3 Tbsp grass-fed butter
  • Pinch of sea salt

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the almond flour and a pinch of sea salt. Mix well, until almond flour is coated in the butter (it will be in small clumps). Remove from heat and use atop of the filling, once it’s been poured into the casserole dish

Our March Healthy Cooking Workshops are moving to Tuesday nights here at the farm on the 3rd and the 10th from 6:00 – 8:00.  Our workshops are always fun and interactive!  See it, taste it, live it! Get healthy!


Friday Nights Facebook Group Link:

South Grand Farms Page Facebook Link: