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Starting Healthy Plants From Seed

March 14, 2016

Last year we decided not to buy potted plants for our garden, but to start from seed.  We tried this before, but crashed and landed flat on our faces. Starting mass quantities of seedlings requires DILIGENCE. Sure, after the first week I could have easily turned DILIGENCE into BACK BREAKING DILIGENCE to keep every plant alive, but really, it’s very rewarding and much cheaper than buying potted plants from a green house.

Some of the challenges we encountered were as follows:

 When the seedlings first come up, DON’T OVER WATER THEM. Babies are tender, and over watering can drown them. Make sure the soil is nice and moist, and they will be fine. When they get bigger, they will naturally need more water. Don’t skimp, but be careful. You know if you start seening pubddles that it's too much.

Second, as the plants get taller, they will start leaning more towards the area where there is the most sun. If they lean like this long enough, they will start to have a weak point in their stem. To prohibit this, just turn the trays around the opposite direction as needed. As far as what to start the seedlings in, we used bio-degradable egg cartons. You know, the kind that is stiff and looks like it’s made out of pressed brown paper.  These worked great and were easy to cut into individual sections and transplant once the seedlings out grew them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            







Another interesting thing that we tried was recycled newspaper pots. We had so much fun folding these as a family in our living room.   These are our heirloom tomatoes that we grew in the newspaper pots. Aren’t they lovely? We grew four kinds, Brandywine Pink, Burpee’s Super Steak, Black Krim, and Big Rainbow. Aaaaah. The Fruit of my labor.                                                                                                


These are some herbs that we were experimenting with. We planted basil, dill, cilantro, and mint. We had different success with the herbs.  Mint was a failure, and the cilantro did pretty well when we put it outdoors, but the dill and basil got absolutely huge! Success!!!

Plants in Pots

How To

Making Maple Syrup and Memories

March 20, 2015

Making Maple Syrup and Memories

The spile is inserted into the tree about 2 inches and comes with a hook to hang the bucket

Often times we have a preconceived notion about what is possible or even typical.  We tend to quickly purge the creativity out of our children just as it was removed from us when we were young.  It doesn’t matter if it is as simple as the correction a child gets during coloring time for making the grass purple or the sky green, or as complex as a systematic structure by which we place an ever decreasing value on the arts.  Either way, we gravitate toward the normative controls that make our life more uniform  and as we so often misunderstand, and misjudge, easier.  All that said, it is many times the development of the focus by which we, and ultimately our children will see and evaluate the challenges/opportunities posed to the in the world.  So, what happens when a family reads a book like “Miracles on Maple Hill” by Virginia Sorenson.  It could very well be a book that proves to be a good family read and you move on to another book that meshes well with the curriculum you have designed for your children.  What if the book spawns an interest in the application of what was read?  Well, that is exactly what happened with our family.  It just didn’t happen immediately.  It was a seed that was planted and eventually sprouted and grew. 

As a family we thought it might be interesting to look at the possibilities on the farm as far greater than what we typically see that lead to an exploration of our wooded area and a greater understanding of the opportunities that exist for a business through what is typically low to no revenue ground.  We were able to delineate opportunities for items like ginseng, gathering nuts like pecans, hickory nuts, walnuts, but it was the recognition of the abundance of maple trees that brought back to mind the opportunity from a great book. 

We found the production of maple syrup to be a fairly simple operation for a family to understand.  A great resource for us was Maple Syrup Production for the Beginner by Anni L. Davenport.  This 6 page paper from the School of Forest Resources at The Pennsylvania State University really gave us a comfort level with the process. 

Our experience producing maple syrup was fascinating and a relatively inexpensive venture for our family.  We found buckets, lids and spiles for sale on ebay for about $7.00 each.  Our initial purchase of 30 units was reasonable and was within the bounds of what we could manage on a daily basis.  Please note, once you tap your maple trees, the flow of sap will start within seconds and will continue until the temperature rises high enough that the tree starts to bud.  You will want to plan ahead and make sure you have some way to store the sap you are collecting.  It is not uncommon for a tree to provide  a few gallons of sap each day. The sap, much to our surprise was a completely clear liquid with just a hint of sweetness.  Without the help of our friends at Griffith Gardens we would not have had access to some of these very important resources as we collected, stored and began to boil the sap.  It is shocking to know that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup.  Essentially you are boiling the water off and retaining that 2% – 4% sugar content in the sap.  This can be accomplished through a gas fired, wood fired or electric system to create a boil.  Just remember that surface area is your friend. You can see in the pictures the wood fired system we used to make syrup from the sugar bush at Crawfish Creek. 

In our experience, the production of maple syrup allowed a book to come alive.  It allowed our family to take on a project that combined skills oriented learning, the liberal arts and real world experience.  Ultimately, it’s projects like this that help our children with the “exploration gap” because their learning should be built in such a way that it requires them to think and apply knowledge to complex problems.   

How To

Top 7 Ways to Use Apple TV for Home Educating

March 11, 2015

I can’t wait to do a series on how to use Apple TV with my iPad to make my home educating more efficient.  So I guess I won’t.  The past month we’ve had strep or one of its cousins passed more or less among the 9 of us and I need to decompress with some happy thoughts even though the house is a mess and it’s time for me to go to bed. 

This Christmas I got Apple TV from my wonderful husband.  He loves to get me high-tech stuff to drag me into this century.  I have been accused of wanting to live like the Amish, but that’s a discussion for another day.  I had gone to a local homeschool group and the mothers in charge of that group used the device to broadcast educational material from the computer onto the larger television screen in the room.  My head became full of ideas for the use of this same tool in my “Circle Time” a.k.a. my group classing for everybody during which we cover everything from singing in harmony to Shakespeare and chemistry.  For a look at my weekly schedule head to this link…

So Every morning after breakfast we begin our school day around the television while I, armed with the iPad in “mirroring” mode, gather all the remotes before DD age 5 tunes into Word Girl.  Then all eyes go to the screen and all mouths are silenced as we sit in awe.  Whatever I have scheduled for the morning seems to be enhanced by the technology!

So without further ado, I will throw out some ideas from my homeschool to yours.

  1. Bible Time – I use the official English Standard Version ESV sight to flash our verse on the screen while the kids find it in their Bibles.  I love to use the books of the Bible list that appears when the Bible icon is activated for use in finding the book from which we are reading.  But the real treat comes when someone asks a question like…

“Mom, what is the difference between precepts and decrees?” I can quickly bring up the definition of each word from my trusted Webster Online Dictionary.

“Mom, where is Israel?”  I can quickly pop open the 3-D like Google World and watch the kids while I zoom in on the Jordan by satellite as it presently looks.  “ooooooooooohhhh” they always say.

“Mom, what does an ephod look like?” I can quickly pull up an image of an ephod and DDs age 3 through 7 start madly sketching an ephod and coloring it.  Ok, that didn’t really happen, but things like that have in the past.

  1. Singing Hymns – I use Cyberhymnal and Caleb Hugo sites for learning our sacred songs.  We attempt to memorize the “10” verse variety hymns which need a spiritually hungry heart to translate.  These are the kinds of hymns that leave me teary-eyed by verse three.  If they happen to be on Hugo’s sight, we practice singing the piece in harmony.  Fun!
  2. Scripture Memory – Now this idea I plan on implementing next week so I can’t say it will work for us…yet…but I think it is going to be “really great” as my DH always says.  I am going to turn the iPad camera on video to record a person reciting so they can watch themselves on the screen.  I love for the kds to do self-feedback, especially when it comes to “nose picking and tush scratching kinds of things.  During recitations the children can see for themselves what is appropriate.  Then I won’t need to interrupt or embarrass anybody. 
  3. Art Appreciation – We use Ambleside for our artist selections at present, which is wonderful, because they have the links to all the works.  I really can’t say enough about Ambleside.  I can even leave the pictures up throughout the day for continual admiration.  The much larger versions of the pictures on the TV (and through enlarging the picture on the iPad screen) we can notice little things that we otherwise would have missed in a little picture in a book.
  4. Checking Our School Schedules – Simply Charlotte Mason online scheduler is the best scheduler I have found for keeping my goals for each child organized!  Now everyone can glance at their agendas on the big screen instead of waiting for a turn at the iPad or laptop. 
  5. Drawing – When I have an online resource (I now make sure I find most sketch models online because it is soooo much easier) that I want many children to replicate; I can skip making all those copies. 
  6. Classical Conversations App – I can flash the CC app on the screen while we fold laundry which is great for the visual enhancement, but even more helpful because of the generous auditory volume provided by the iPad.

These are just a few of the ways I use Apple TV as a teaching tool.  How are you using technology to facilitate learning in your homeschool?

How To

Teamwork In Your Garden

February 24, 2015

Teamwork In Your Garden by Emily Fowler

This year my parents have decided to let each kid have his or her own garden. I was very excited at this, for there are so many plants that I thought would be fun to grow. We separated off into teams, which were

Team 1 – Anna (14) and Lydia (3)  

Team 2 – Emily (12) and Kate (5)    

Team 3 – Luke (10) and Leah (7)

Team 4 – mom, dad, and baby Adah (4 mos.) Adah probably won’t help much.

Mom said we need to have a plan for our gardens. So one day during circle time she handed out some graph paper and plastic sleeves. First we had to decide how many squares equaled a foot. Then, we had to look up how much room each plant needed. This part was time consuming. Instead of gluing the squares of graph paper to the big piece of graph paper, we attached them using tacky. This way we could move them around. This comes in handy when you suddenly find out that peas cannot be next to tomatoes. Then you don’t have to rearrange your whole plan.

Kate and I where interested in growing lots of herbs. I spent a lot of time researching all the different kinds of herbs and what they do for you. Because we wanted herbs so much, mom ordered a mix of all different kinds. Here is our herb garden.                  

How To, Uncategorized

Developing a Family Schedule

January 30, 2015

Developing a Family Schedule

Now that I have seven precious children, scheduling is more important than ever!  Scripture says in Psalm 103: 15-16:

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it and it is gone and its place knows it no more.

 Every moment counts towards the building of the kingdom of God, but there are so many mundane things, inconsequential things, seemingly unimportant things to be done!  How do we ever get to the meat and potatoes of life if we get stuck in the side dishes?  How does a person ever do the important if they can’t get past the spilled milk, dirty diapers, and meal preparation? 

I was about to deliver my fourth child and was meeting with a group of women as part of a mother’s ministry we organized.  As we left, I walked out with Shannon, a dear friend of mine, and in desperation told her my fears about running the household with another little one coming!  She told me about a website called which blessed me greatly and really transformed my approach to homemaking.   Sometime after I delivered our fourth precious daughter, I heard about Managers of Their Homes, a series of manuals with lots of great structure for setting up life for large families.  These 2 blessings along with the Simply Charlotte Mason Online Scheduler truly shaped me into a semi-organized person which is essential for life in the big family world.

  • Grand projects my husband and I to desire accomplish,
  •  Character traits we want to see in the kids
  •  Habits we want to form….

All these need to be prayed over, prioritized, and scheduled or they won’t happen.  This is a daunting process to say the least! We begin with simple objectives or principles for everyone….not goals, mind you, but what the end product is in our vision.  You don’t even have to write these down if your will is strong enough to pursue them.  I have given examples for myself. 

Cast off idols in my life….Evangelize and disciple others….Manifest a mother culture….Form the Habit of forming Habits in Children as a Science….Practice healthful living

Next is to list all the things each person does each day.  Are the activities matching the objectives?  If not, then change your activities or change how you do the activities.  If an objective for a child states that they will learn to be diligent, but their activities consist of playtime and TV watching, where will they learn this diligence?  In essence, the activities become my goals for the objectives I want to accomplish.  Below I have our family’s activities for a typical Monday.

Final Schedule1Final Schedule2Final Schedule3

Most of what I get done may seem monotonous and pointless but when I keep my objectives in mind, I get to the “meat and potatoes” of what I want to accomplish.

Featured, How To

10 critical steps to prepare your bees for winter

September 22, 2014

A Critical Checklist In Preparing Your Hives For Winter

What separates beekeepers is their attention to detail.  You can quickly tell if a beekeeper is going to be successful in the honey business based on their attention to small, ever-so-slight nuances that need to be done.  You'll notice the beekeeper that has all the frames lined up with equal spacing, or the special marks that designate the front and back of a frame, super, and inner cover.  These little details are important.  Of major importance for the beekeeper is the preparation for winter.  That being said, it is important to take care of a few higher order items with your bees as we get into the month of October in the midwest. 

1. Check your hives and make sure you have a laying queen.  You should have some brood in your hive.

2. Check the size of your colony and remove any supers you have added that didn’t get filled. If you have some frames that have honey stores on them, simple set the frames next to the hive for a day or two and let the bees clean them and store the honey in the remaining space. 

3. Check the amount of honey your hive has stored.  If your deeps are light, you need to start feeding your bees heavy syrup.

4. Reduce your hive entrances.  It is that time of year when mice and other unwanted critters are looking for a nice winter home. 

5. Clean the area around your hives.  Don’t allow weeds and piles to become perfect walkways for critters to visit your hives.

6. Make sure you have an inner cover in your hive to add a little insulation.

7. Secure your outer cover (lid).  Nothing can be more devastating than the exposure of the entire hive to the elements during winter.

8.  If you have an open field or unobstructed area for your bees, you may want to consider a wind break to keep winds from whipping through the hives ventilation areas.

9. Maximize your sun exposure by turning your hives to face the southern sun

10. Keep a journal of what you did to winterize your hives.  If something works well or needs changed you will know when and what you did next year. 

Featured, How To

The Abundant Farm Fall Watercolor Card Project

September 21, 2014

Abundant Farm watercolor card project

by Anna Fowler

What I like about this particular fall themed card is that it is quick and easy to make.  It probably takes me about 5 minutes to create a few of these (I normally do around 5 when I sit down, because I already have all my stuff out.)  Alright let’s get started, first you’ll need:

Stamp pad (black)

Leaf shaped stampCard Necessities




Watercolors (green, red, orange, yellow, and brown)

  1. First take your card and unfold it with the front side up.


  1. Then take your pencil and make a wavy branch-like line up at an angle from the edge, till you’re about ¾ of the way through your paper.

Center Line of Fall Card

  1.  When your branch is drawn you may stamp the leaves along each edge.  I wouldn’t be too particular about where you put the leaves, because it looks more real if you have some leaves overlapping and/or irregularly spaced.

Fall Card Stamp

  1.  Once the leaves are in place, erase the “branch” (because the watercolors won’t completely cover the line).Branch For Fall Card


  1.  Now you can mix the water into the paint…remember, the more water the lighter the color.  Before I put the color on the leaves I normally dip my brush in plain water and skim over a leaf (I usually go outside the edge of the leaf), this is done to let the color spread further than it would have.

Where to Paint

  1.   Next you can finally add the color, yay!  Take a color of your choice and with a brush spread it lightly over the leaf (again I don’t follow the bounds of the leaf).  If you have more leaves than colors then I would suggest you darken/lighten your pigments or, for example, paint one leaf yellow and add green streaks to it for variety.

Sample Painted Leaf

  1.  After your leaves are dry enough not to bleed then it’s time to paint the branch.  Make sure your brush is dry enough not to drip, then run it back and forth across the brown pigment.  Then run the brush in between your rows of leaves to the tip (you want your branch to be fairly dark and wavy). Tip:   Try to make your branch thicker at the bottom and smaller at the tip. 

Finished Fall Card

Good you’ve completed your card!  Just put it somewhere out of the way to let it dry before then you use it!   I hope this worked out for you, even though it looks time consuming because once you try it you’ll see it’s very simple.

 Thanks for reading!