Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Today apparently a reader found this blog by typing the question “tomato shoots have come up now what?”  into a search engine.  It’s a really good question, so I’ll answer it as a follow-up to my Little Green Shoots post.  My knowledge on planting tomatoes comes from learning from my grandfather, from reading, and from my own experience.  The summer that my grandparents had to give up their place, Granddaddy planted his tomatoes in April and then hurt his back in early May.  By early June, my grandparents were living out of state. I did the last clean-up on the house in late August.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Despite months of complete neglect, Granddaddy’s tomato plants were all full of big, juicy, ripe tomatoes, some of the biggest, most flavorful I’ve ever seen.  I’ve included some of his techniques here.

Once you’ve successfully started tomato plants, you’ll need to make sure that they have three–okay, maybe four–things:  strong light, room to grow, and adequate water (but not too much!).  They also need wind to make them strong.

Let’s start with your light source. If you live in a warmer climate (so that the temperatures are at least 70 degrees F during the day), you can put your seedlings first in dappled sunlight and then gradually in full sunlight during the day.  If your climate is a bit cooler, you’ll either need grow lights or a greenhouse or grow tent.  Grow lights should be full spectrum lights designed specifically for growing plants, and you need to make sure that the light source is no more than about 2 inches from the tops of the plants.  Otherwise the seedlings will be leggy–tall and spindly.  Grow tents or a greenhouses should be warm–around 75 to 80 degrees F but not much warmer than 90 degrees F–and should have southern exposure.

When I say tomatoes need room to grow, I mean their roots.  Tomatoes rely on big root systems to feed lots of fruits at once with lots of liquified nutrients.  The root system helps them do that.  As soon as your tomatoes get their real leaves (the second pair of leaves), plant them in a bigger container–at least the size of a pint milk carton.  I use old plant pots I got with nursery plants, plastic cups with holes cut in the bottom:  you name it.  If you can drain it, you can use it.  And every year I end up giving some plants more room than others.  The ones with more room always grow better.

Seedlings need constant but light moisture.  Too much water and you’ll get damping off, where the stem shrinks and withers and the seedling dies.  Too little water and, of course, the seedling will die.  Always water from the bottom to avoid leaf problems. I use old salad containers for my saucers.  Seedlings have everything they need to start, so you only need a tiny bit of light fertilizing (like fish emulsion) every two weeks or so after your seedlings are a few weeks old.  If you are using a potting soil with fertilizer already included (yes, you can get organic mixes this way), you won’t even need to add fertilizer with water.  Over-fertilizing can also kill your plants.

The only problem with using grow tents or green houses for seedlings is wind.  A light breeze pushing on the stem will help it grow sturdier.  If you don’t have wind available, make some using a fan.

What if you do get spindly, leggy seedlings?  Re-pot them deeper.  Tomatoes and other nightshade plants like peppers and eggplants have a remarkable ability to grow extra roots along their stem.  Some plants suffocate if you plant them deeper than they were originally, but not tomatoes and their close cousins.  Just be sure to gently strip off any leaves that will be under soil, as un-stripped leaves can rot and kill the plant ultimately.

Finally, when your daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime temperatures are in the 50s, you can plant out your seedlings.  If you are able to plant now and live in warm area, by all means plant!  Dig a very deep hole–at least eighteen inches–and fill it with peat, organic compost, manure, blood and bone meal, and soil. (Your county extension agent most likely offers free soil analysis; he or she can tell you specifically what you need to add.) Now strip off all of the leaves except the top two splits of leaves. Plant your tomato so that only the top two splits of leaves are showing and everything else is underground.  Your plant will develop a very strong root system that will let it survive dry spells without your watering much.  Fashion a collar to go 2 inches above and 2 inches below the soil around the plant.  This collar will protect against cut worms. (I use half-gallon paper milk cartons cut in half.) Next, plant a marigold or two next to each tomato plant. Marigolds secrete a substance that confuses tomato parasites like cut worms–and the flowers are pretty!

Happy harvesting!

Do you have favorite methods for planting tomatoes?  Share!  Do you have questions?  Feel free to ask them here, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please ask for permission to use photographs.


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I suppose I could have called this post “Someone Else’s Kids,” but that might have been misleading, since I’m thinking goats.  Our off homestead schedule prevents us from keeping animals other than the cats for now. In the meantime, we get our eggs, chickens, and milk from local, sustainable sources we know well, and I live vicariously through other bloggers who do keep animals.  Today I want to introduce you to Polly and Polly’s Path.  Polly, her husband, and her daughter live further south and east of here, several states away, but she can make her readers feel the rhythm of her farm as if they were there.  Recently, for example, she took us through milking her goat China for the first time.  Of course, before that, we got to be there for the birth of Tardy, whose late arrival is also available for you to enjoy.  (Seriously, I was on pins and needles waiting for that kid!) And between the birth and the good milking, Polly chronicled in several hilarious posts how she succeeded in milking China (finally).  Her goat photographs always make me smile.

We’ve also witnessed the arrivals of chickens, turkeys, bread from neighbors, and the area’s first strawberries along Polly’s Path.  We’ve seen bread baking, egg dying, and cheese making–oh, those red-wax covered cheese wheels are to die for!  You name it; it’s happening on Polly’s Path.

You may also want to visit Polly’s site this week for another thing. After Polly won great nesting boxes, she decided to pay it forward with her own giveaway.  Register here for some beautiful pottery bowls! (Yes, I know I’m decreasing my chances of winning by telling you about it, but it’s worth it to make sure you visit Polly.) Be sure to go there by April 14!

Polly’s is not the last blog I’ll be highlighting here.  In the near future, expect a posting on bloggers with greenhouses.  I promise it’ll be an adventure!

What are your favorite blogs that touch on homesteading, cooking, raising farm animals, gardening, and sustainable living?  Do share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please use the comments section for permission to use photography.

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Spring is spinach season, so today I offer you spinach lasagna.  Chances are if you grow or if you buy veggies through Community Supported Agriculture, you’ll have spinach soon, if you don’t already.  We’re going to just barely wilt the spinach before we bake the lasagna, so it will remain as green as Spring, with no bitterness!

Some people think they can’t get their kids to eat spinach, but with no bitterness in this recipe, you may find it’s easier than you think.  If they’re still not believers, tell them that you’re serving “Great Green Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts,” and teach them the song!  (Yes, there really is a song.  Just Google it.) Given kids’ desire to gross out other people, you’ve just made spinach lasagna a hit.


  • 4-5 whole-grain lasagna noodles  (you may need to trim them to fit the pan measurements)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • several leek leaves (green part):  about two loose cups–If you don’t have leek tops, use 1/2 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (or a little less or more) milk–start with about 1/4 cup and go up to 1/2 cup
  • about 8 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 1-2 ounces parmesan cheese (I use real Italian parmesan cheese.  Even though it’s not local, it’s so special that nothing else compares.)
  • optional:  select fresh oregano (about two teaspoons-1 teaspoon dried) or basil (2 tablespoons fresh, thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Remember:  try to buy organic and local if you can.

Prepare whole-wheat lasagna noodles according to package directions. (I used 5 noodles for this recipe, prepared in a 6-cup Pyrex dish, about 6 inches by 8 inches.)

Slice the leeks very thinly across the grain and saute in the olive oil.  Crush the garlic and add it too.  Let the leeks and garlic sweat but not caramelize for about 5 minutes.  Now add 1/4 cup milk and heat gently.  Add in about half of the spinach and start to wilt it.  Add the rest of the spinach.  Cut the parmesan into small pieces.  Using a food processor, process everything you’ve prepped up to this point, pulsing to chop the spinach.  Add a bit more milk if you need it.

Lightly grease a baking dish.  Spoon some of the most liquid of the spinach mixture into the bottom of the pan to cover it.  Now put down layer one of lasagna noodles.  Spoon on spinach mixture and spread out.  Dab on ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle on grated mozzarella.  Repeat twice more, so that you have three layers. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.  Let sit for a few minutes before you slice and serve.  Enjoy–and be sure to sing the song!

Do you want to make lasagna while camping?  You can do it!

Do you have a favorite variation on lasagna you’d like to share with readers?  How about a special way to prepare spinach?  Share in the comments section.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts are welcome, as long as you include the full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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I’m going to keep this simple.  It’s dessert time.  This recipe makes a small pan of lower-fat brownies.  We’re starting with cocoa powder in lieu of chocolate.  Instead of butter, we’re using peanut butter and yogurt.  How about some whole-grain oat flour?  Put them together and you have an easy sweet treat that’s much healthier than a traditional brownie–but the kids will never know it.  You can also get all of these ingredients in organic form.

Pan:  I used a 3-cup rectangular Pyrex to create 6 servings, each about 2 inches square.  You could double this recipe and bake it in an 8×8 pan.  If you double the recipe, you’ll need to increase baking time by 5-10 minutes.  (Thanks to Shoopee for reminding me about the increased time!)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup whole-grain oat flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • optional:  handful of dark chocolate chips

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter, softened and mixed with
  • 1/4 cup plan nonfat yogurt
  • 1 egg (or 2–see variation*)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and grease (or use spray oil on) your baking pan.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, stir together the softened peanut butter, yogurt, and sugar.  Mix in the egg and vanilla.  Add in the dry ingredients.  Spread into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.

This brownie is extremely rich and dense, so I like to serve it with a small glass of milk.  Do you want a brownie with a bit less density?  Try using two eggs instead of one egg.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts are welcome with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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A century ago, Progressive reformers who thought that urban children were becoming disconnected from the soil and their food encouraged the development of community gardens for kids in empty urban spaces.  Children got at least three benefits from urban garden projects:  first, they got out in the fresh air; second, they got fresh vegetables that their families might otherwise not have had access to or been able to afford; third, they learned from where food comes.

This week, we learned that American children now snack almost every waking hour, and more and more of their calories are coming from snacking.  More programs like Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard across the United States could bring back the Progressive impulse and healthy eating and activity for children.  Applications for educators and administrators (and maybe parents) who want to bring the Edible Schoolyard to their schools are due on April 15.  You don’t have to live in California, where the Edible Schoolyard was born.  For FAQs, see here.

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A few weeks ago, the Arkansas Department of Education made available a comparison, school by school, of students’ grades and standardized test scores.  Not surprisingly, almost all schools’ grades of A and B were higher than the students who had been judged proficient in basic subjects, and some schools’ disparity was shockingly high.  And schools were only considered to have grade inflation if 20% or more of students with As and Bs didn’t make proficient on the standardized test, a rate that ignores the fact that any student with an A or B who can’t make proficient on the standardized test probably does not deserve the grade that he or she got.  You can read more about the analysis here and here (PPT download–beware; it’ll start automatically as soon as you click the link!).

News like this should serve as a warning to students, parents, educators–and colleges that may now view applicants from grade-inflated schools with suspicion.  The student has not really been doing A and B work.  The student may not be ready for college.  The student may not be ready to graduate from high school.

If you are an educator or administrator at a school with grade inflation, your task is simple.  Grade harder.  Teach more.  Either help colleagues who are inadequate or lax to be better, or help administration to remove them from teaching.  Otherwise your whole school will continue to suffer, and ultimately everyone’s jobs will be at stake.

What if you’re a parent?  Learn how to ask the right questions of your child.  Don’t just ask, How was school today? or Do you like Mrs. X? Ask detailed questions about how your child’s teacher teaches, about how your child spends time in school.  Don’t complain about homework.  Do your best to help with it–but not do it.  Check to see if your child’s school system has grade inflation.  If you see signs that your child is spending more time playing games and watching movies in class than learning, that he or she never has homework, that the student isn’t progressing academically, ask at your child’s school what’s going on in the classroom.  Ask how you can help make it better.

If you don’t live in Arkansas, check with your own state department of education to find out whether your school system has grade inflation.  If the department does not track these statistics, contact your state legislator about making tracking a requirement.  Then follow through.  American education has been on a slow decline since the Reagan years.  If we don’t turn it around, all of our children’s futures are doomed.

Have you been successful in helping to turn around your child’s school’s performance?  What did you do?  Did you enlist other parents?  Did you volunteer at your child’s school?  Did you contact the media?  Let me and other readers know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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In the depths of winter and cabin fever, dreams of spring keep me going.

As I look on my snow-shrouded bean teepees, I remember how beautiful they looked this past summer, so laden with beans and pushing their way to the sky.  One person who saw them recommended if I heard a NASA countdown start, to take cover.  Yes, they sort of looked like rockets on the launch pad.

Bean teepees can add architectural interest to a largely linear garden.

Bean teepees can be constructed of rustic, sturdy limbs or, like mine, milled lumber.  Each of my teepees include 4 pieces of 1×2, 8-foot long lumber.  The 8-foot length on an angle really helps people like me who are vertically challenged pick veggies off tall vines.  I’ve added nails at regular intervals for stringing twine on three sides (and the upper area of the fourth side) to help the beans grow up.  Here, you can see a newly planted bean teepee. I always position them with the open side to the north, so that kids and pets can crawl in to get relief from the summer heat.  The fancy twine pattern on the north side (the opposite side in this photograph) gives the structure extra strength.  I push the legs into the ground well before I do the planting but then give another push to stabilize them in the wet earth.  Here, each leg spreads four feet from the other legs, but you could use a three-foot or five-foot spread too (although the three-foot spread is less stable than a wider stance).

I typically plant each bean teepee with different varieties of beans.  In this way, I’ll have a longer harvest with more options for use. I’m also much less likely to get tired of any single kind of bean night after night for dinner.  

In 2009 I created some combinations myself, like the one you can see in the teepee above,  green yard-long asparagus beans from Botanical Interests and red yard-long beans from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seed, available from several other sources too.  I also grew wax (yellow) and green French beans from  a combination packet at Renee’s Garden.  The combination is not available in 2010, but I’ll be ordering her green filet and wax filet together this year instead.  I’ll be ordering her Tri-Color Pole Bean Trio too.  Other pole beans you may want to try include Kentucky Wonder.

Do you photographs or your bean teepees or bean teepee plans you’d like to share with readers of Ozarkhomesteader?  Do you have favorite varieties of pole beans?  Do you have questions about bean teepees or finding pole bean seeds?  Let me know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  Short excerpts with full links are welcome.  Please contact me for permission for photographs.

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