Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

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One of the great things about winter is all of the new seed catalogs. These colorful magazines start coming in the mail around the end December!

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Ok, I’ll admit I don’t have much of a green thumb, but when it comes to research and planning I’m a professional. This year we are giving a garden a real try. The last time I had a real garden I was a kid. As an adult I’ve had herbs and that’s about it. I have great memories from my childhood sitting in my garden eating right off the plants. I want my children to have those same memories. I have spent the last year searching seed catalogs and researching gardening techniques, and this spring I think I am actually ready.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Our first catalog of 2013 came in the mail Friday and Big B and I have had a blast looking through it already. Big B really loves looking through seed catalogs. He points to all of the fruits and vegetables that he wants to try and it’s hard not to allow our order to get completely out of hand in hopes that maybe he will actually try them if we grew them. He looks at the beautiful photographs and asks what each plant is and what it tastes like. We talk about the colors, shapes, flavors, and different recipes we can make with each. It’s amazing how much value one can find in a free catalog that comes in the mail.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs



Cooking With Your Kids: Gingerbread Cookies

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So, I am a day late with my “Cooking With Your Kids” series post. On Friday Big B and I made gingerbread cookies, but they needed to be refrigerated for 3 hours and we wanted to wait until Dad was home today to decorate them. We wanted to make it a family event.

Gingerbread Cookies

I’ve never made gingerbread cookies before, but I thought it would be a fun holiday activity to do as a family. I found a really great recipe from Food Network here. The link has directions for Royal Icing that I have not including since we used store bought cooking decorating icing. It allowed us to have multiple colors, and they came in nice neat bags that made it easy for Big B to use.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
Whenever we do more difficult recipes I will premix all of the seasoning into a very small bowl so Big B can just dump them into the mixture all at once.

Gingerbread Cookies

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper and set aside.

Gingerbread Cookies

Using an electric mixer at high speed beat the butter and vegetable shortening together until well-combined. Add the brown sugar and beat for about 2 minutes. Finally beat in the molasses and egg.

Gingerbread Cookies

 Big B was not a fan of the constant loud “beating” of this recipe.

Gingerbread Cookies

Using a wooden spoon this time gradually mix in the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

Gingerbread Cookies

Divide the dough into two disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled. About 3 hours. The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Gingerbread Cookies

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Deal with one disk at a time allowing it to warm for about ten minutes before trying to roll it out. If you attempt to roll it out too soon it will crack. Lightly dust the counter with flour to prevent the cookies from sticking. Roll out the cookies to about 1/8 thick.

Gingerbread Cookies

This is where my camera battery died, so I don’t have any images of the cutting of the cookies. Use the cookie cutter and put the gingerbread men onto a non-stick cookie sheet about one inch apart. Once on the cookie sheets Big B and I added raisins to the cookies. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.

Gingerbread Cookies

 Now the fun part… decorating! This is the example I did for Big B…

Gingerbread Cookies

 

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

We had a great afternoon decorating cookies together as a family! I think this will be a new holiday tradition.


Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

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I have loved hearing from you guys about your farm dreams, farms, and the ways your children contribute. It’s so amazing to hear that so many children out there are having the same experiences, and have many of the same chores as Big B. Since I have gotten to hear about several of your children’s chore routines I thought it would be a great time to outline our daily farm chores.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

My husband generally does the morning chores before he leaves for work. He opens the hen house door so the chickens have access to their run, he opens the barn’s side door so the goats can go out to pasture, feeds the goats their morning grain, replaces the water if it is frozen, and feeds the dogs.

Any chores that happen after that are Big B and my responsibility. We check on the animals throughout the day, but the real chores don’t start until the end of the day. Around 4pm everyday Big B, Little B and I go out to do all of the evening chores. Little B sits in her stroller and watches, while Big B and I move our way through the farm caring for the animals.

Our first stop is the chickens. We start by letting them out of their coop so they can spend time pecking through the yard eating bugs, grass, and weeds. Their water gets nasty, so it has to be totally cleaned everyday, and because it is so nasty I don’t let Big B handle it. I take their water out of the coop, dump the old dirty water, spray down the waterer, and refill it. On the weekends I try to give it good cleaning inside and out with soap. Big B puts food in their feeder and will spread some sort of treat for them on the ground of their coop. I then check (if I hadn’t done it earlier in the day) to see if we have any eggs in the nesting boxes that need to be collected.

Next are the dogs. I generally care for the dogs alone while Big B marches around the yard with the chickens. Like all of the other animals they get fresh water and food.

Finally, there are the goats. Sometimes we let them out of the pasture so they can snack on honeysuckle and other treats that our yard has to offer that the pasture doesn’t. They generally follow us around while we finish our chores.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

I dump the goats’ water buckets and hand them over to Big B. He puts apple cider vinegar into both buckets, then fills them with water.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

This chicken (Blanche) loves Big B. She follows him around while he does his chores. They are best buds! As you can see he put some treats into the goats’ grain bowls for her. It might be why she likes him so much.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

While Big B is doing this I am adding fresh hay to the goat’s poly hay feeder.

The last goat chore is to get them their grain. Big B knows the mixture they require and recently he likes to do it himself. I help him get the grains that are too deep in the bin for him to reach. We are currently giving them grain, beet pulp and black oil sunflower seeds. When it gets colder we will add rolled oats and crumpled parsley.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

After about an hour to an hour and a half (or more if it is warmer) we close all of the animals back into their pins and head inside. We herd the chickens together, a job that Big B is quite good at, and lead them to their coop and make sure all of the locks on each pin are secure. In the evening, when my husband gets home, he locks the goats in the barn to keep them safe during the night and closes the hen house door so if a predator is able to dig into the coop they still can’t get to the chickens.

Weekends add special chores to our list. We have more time outside, and an additional person to help. The chicken run generally stays pretty clean. They scratch the poop back into the dirt, but we do rake it occasionally, especially when they are molting. Every few weeks we will scoop any poop that has accumulated in the hen house (generally, it only piles up under the perch) and lay new bedding. Since it is winter, and we are doing the deep bedding method, every weekend we lay new bedding on top of the old bedding in the goat barn. Once spring comes we will be mucking the barn several times a week. Once a week we also replace the goat minerals.

Farm chores change throughout the year, and these are only the chores that include the animals. Weekend yard work fills our schedule starting spring and continues into the fall. Spring also brings chores involving the garden, and as anyone who has had a farm knows there is always some project going on. There will be a time when we have goats to milk twice a day, and kid goats that need to be bottle fed every few hours. As our farm business grows… and turns into a real business… our chores will grow and grow. I, for one, welcome this growth.

This may seem like a lot but really everything is incredibly satisfying. I love to watch my son caring for the animals, and I get so much pleasure out of it myself. Farm work is some of the most gratifying work I have ever done.


Preparing for Big B’s First Dental Cleaning

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Big B turned 3 a few months ago and I have been meaning to take him to his first dental cleaning. He has been to the dentist for a check up before, but at that appointment they simply looked at his teeth. Big B is generally well behaved at doctors appointments. He does what his doctor asks, has no trouble answering her questions, and never puts up a fight when it comes time for shots. The difference is that he is very familiar with his doctor and nurse. He has never been to this dentist, and has never had a teeth cleaning, so in order to help this appointment go smoothly I devoted some time to explain what was going to happen and to teach him about dental health.

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

The week leading up to his appointment Big B and I talked a great deal about dental health. I allowed him to brush my teeth and well as his sister’s, so he could get a better look at what he was doing. I even finally got around to doing a great dental health activity from Sense of Wonder that I ran across a while ago and have been meaning to do (there are other dental health activities on her post that I didn’t do, so you should check it out).

For this activity I created a mouth using a piece of cardboard and an egg carton. I took the bottoms off the egg holders and glued them in the shape of a mouth on the cardboard. I painted the teeth white and the tongue area pink. I then stuffed the spaces between the teeth with green tissue paper.

I talked to Big B about how the green tissue paper represented the nasty germs that get stuck between your teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach, and that you need to use floss to get rid of them. It was also good that the egg carton I used had crevices throughout them so I could explain how our teeth have lots of peaks and valleys and that you have to be very careful when you brush to make sure that you got them all. You could use the same mouth, dirty the teeth and teach your child how to clean them properly and throughly.

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

A day after I introduced this activity to Big B I found him in the dinning room/classroom doing it on his own. I asked him what he was doing and he said “getting the germs out of my teeth”

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

Big B did a great job at his appointment yesterday. I held his hand while the dental hygienist cleaned his teeth. I was so proud of him. I think the time we spent going over the the procedures helped him the most. He was confident going in, and there weren’t any surprises.

If you are interested in reading more about first dental appointments and how the parents prepared their children check out these links:



Snowman Family Display

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The Snowman Family Display is our third, and final winter window display for our classroom/dinning room. First, we had the Popsicle Stick Snowflakes. Then we had The Three Jewels (which can be found at the bottom of the Bodhi Day post).

Snowman Family Display

This fun display features an image of each of our family members’ faces on the head of a snowmen. Each family member made their own snowman (except for Little B, who is too young to participate), so that personalities were able to show.

I didn’t get a lot of photographs of the process of this craft. We were having too much fun. I realized after all was said and done that I just had a huge mess and no pictures… Although Big B was very happy to pose for a “process” picture for me.

Snowman Family Display

Materials:

  • Pictures of each family member. Make sure the images are relatively the same size.
  • Glue (stick and bottled)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Construction paper
  • Random art supplies that can be used to decorate the snowman; buttons, beads, string, etc.
Start by making the background scene on your window or board. I did a snowy ground with a winter tree. I put everything up with tape. I did use the glue stick to keep the skinny branches on the window. I am sure you could use the glue for the whole display though. I have seen people use glue stick glue effectively on glass before.
Snowman Family Display

Cut the faces out of the photographs

Snowman Family Display

Cut three circles out of white printer paper or construction paper, making each piece larger than the last. Do this for each family member. Keep in mind the size of the person in real life, and make the snowman family proportionate… as best you can. To put the snowman together use the glue stick and slightly overlap the circles.

Decorate your snowman. For paper decorations use the glue stick. It will hold the piece stronger, dry faster, and wont cause the paper to wrinkle. For heavier decorations use the glue from the glue bottle. It holds the heavy decorations more securely.

Snowman Family Display

Allow your snowman to dry completely. If you put it up too soon the heavier decorations will fall off.

Snowman Family Display

Add your snowmen to your background. I put them up with tape.

Snowman Family Display

As you can see my husband got a little carried away with his snowman. He rarely gets to do our crafts or homeschool activities with us because of his work schedule. He liked getting the chance to join in on the fun… I think I might have to plan more crafts for times when he is home.

Snowman Family Display



Celebrating Bodhi Day

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I love learning about other cultures’ and religions’ holidays, so I thought some of my readers would be interested in hearing about a holiday that is important to our family. We are Buddhist. Our friends and family all know this, but it’s not something I often talk about on the blog or online in general, but I did want to share our family’s celebration of Bodhi day.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Bodhi Day is a holiday that celebrates the day that Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. This holiday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th month (December 8th on our calendar).

Prince Siddhartha left the luxuries of his life in order to search for the root of suffering, and how to be liberated from it. Siddhartha spent six years living as an ascetic under six different teachers. During this time he was unable to find the answers that he was searching for, so left his practices as an extreme ascetic and vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until he found them. He meditated under the tree for a week and on the 8th day, upon seeing the morning star, he reached enlightenment.

There are many ways to celebrate Bodhi Day, and it generally picks up traditions that are common for the area of the followers. Many use this day for remembrance and meditation. For our Bodhi day traditions we also try to incorporate activities that are interesting and engaging for our children.

Eating Vegetarian

Many Buddhist are vegetarians, but this is not something we practice in our everyday lives. We do however, eat vegetarian on the Buddhist holidays.

Rice and Milk

Rice and Milk is an important tradition for Bodhi day. It’s said that Sujata offered rice and milk (or Rice-Milk, which I am assuming is a mixture of rice and milk) to the Buddha in order to help him regain his strength. For one meal on Bodhi day we consume rice and milk in remembrance of that gesture.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Our Holiday Tree

Many religions incorporate a tree into their holiday traditions this time of year. It all started with the pagans for winter solstice, and was later pick up by the Christians. Generally Buddhist decorate a Bodhi tree with multicolored lights to represent the many paths to enlightenment, but we do not have access to the Bodhi tree and because we celebrate some of the secular traditions associated with Christmas we use an evergreen tree instead.

We talk to Big B about how Buddha was sitting under the Bodhi tree when he reached enlightenment. We explain to him that Bodhi trees are very common in India, so children in India are able to decorate the Bodhi tree. Evergreen trees are common for our area, so it is easier, and makes more sense, for us to use an evergreen.

Candles

At the end of the day we light a series of candles at our main Buddha alter. We have three candles set up behind our Buddha. Each one represents one of the Three Jewels; The Buddha, The Dharma (Natural Law), and The Sangha (The Community). As we light the candles we explain what each one means. We have one candle sitting in front of our Buddha. This candle symbolizes enlightenment and is lit each day for 30 days starting on the 8th.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Jewel Craft

I wanted to do a Bodhi Day craft with Big B to represent ‘The Three Jewels.’ We recently did a popsicle snowflake window display. I loved the way they turned out, and I thought doing something similar for our jewel craft would be nice in one of the other windows in our classroom/dinning room. I made three jewel shapes with popsicle sticks and had Big B paint and glitter them. I then put a layer of tissue paper on the back so they would be pretty and colorful when the light shined through.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

The Buddha

Finally, PBS has a documentary on the life of The Buddha. Each year we end the night watching this documentary. It’s beautifully made and narrated by Richard Gere.

This is such a wonderful time of year with all of the different holidays. I hope you enjoyed learning about one of the holidays that is so important to us.


Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We’ve Got Eggs… Finally

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Back in June we welcomed our first chicks to The Freckled Farm. People generally don’t get chicks in June, but Little B was born in April and we didn’t want to be taking care of chicks with a brand new baby in the house, or expect someone to care for the chicks or chickens while I was in the hospital. So, we waiting a little longer than we would have liked. On average it takes pullets 6 months to reach maturity and start laying. If you get your hens later in the year, like we did, you run the risk of them coming into maturity when the days are short and cold. If this happens the hens may end up waiting until spring to start laying.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

Over the last few weeks I could tell that several of our hens had reached maturity, or at least were getting close, but they still weren’t giving us anything. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to buy eggs when you have hens at home that should be laying. I gave up, and resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t get anything until spring and on the 1st (the day the chickens turned 6 months old) I went grocery shopping and bought 2 dozen eggs. I was tired of buying a dozen at a time in hopes that it would the last eggs that I would have to purchase, and then having to run to the corner store to get more. Later that evening I was in the yard doing farm chores, the chickens had been roaming around the yard for several hours, and I was trying to herd them back into their coop. I put my hand over Sophia and she sat/submitted to me as if I were a rooster, which I read was a sign that chickens are ready to lay. I was excited for this new development, but for some reason I didn’t bother to check the nesting boxes at that time.

On Sunday the 2nd when I went to let the chickens out I decided to check the nesting box. I opened it up, and there, nestled in the straw and wood chips were two brown eggs! I can’t describe the feeling to seeing those eggs. I grabbed them add ran to show Big B, who was following the chickens around the yard, then ran to show my husband.

Because I hadn’t checked the box the day before and I didn’t know how many hens where laying, I did a float test (if they sink they’re good, if they float they’ve gone bad) to make sure they were both still good. Both sank so I decided that we would eat them before dinner and celebrate our farm’s growth.

I cracked them open to find these two beautiful yokes. Look how bright they are..

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

I made scrambled eggs. It was the quickest and easiest thing that I could think to make, that would allow us to taste the egg alone.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

For week we got one egg a day from one chicken, Sophia. The rest looked like they were catching up to her, maturity wise, but none were really showing signs of laying. This past Saturday we had a friend over and I let the chickens out so she could see them. She put her hand over Topanga, and like Sophia had done to me the week before, she submitted. I looked in the nesting box to find an egg. An hour or so later we watched Sophia walk back into the coop, go into the nesting box, lay an egg, then go back to scratching for food with her sisters, proving that we now have two hens who are laying.

It’s Big B’s job to collect the egg(s) each day. What could be cuter than a little farm boy in his boots, doing chores?

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

The nesting box is a little high, so I still have to help him get the eggs out.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

It’s so exciting, for us all, to get that egg(s) each day. Collecting eggs will one day lose it’s magic, but I hope he remembers what it was like to experience seeing those eggs for the first time. These are experiences that I want him to hold on to.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: We Have Eggs... Finally

 Now if everyone else would catch up with Sophia and Topanga…

 



Cooking With Your Kids: Banana Bread

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Banana Bread is one of my favorite things to bake. It’s something that I make often, and because of this I already have a “go to” recipe, but since we have been cooking out of my favorite childhood cook book, Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook, I decided to use the recipe out of the book instead.

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

I do have to give a little disclaimer when it comes to the banana bread recipe in the Alpha-Bakery book; when I make banana bread, or really any bread for that matter, I mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and dry in another, then mix everything together. It allows you to mix all the ingredients thoroughly. This recipe however, instructs the baker to mix everything in one bowl. I’m assuming because it’s a recipe geared towards children, and they want it to be as easy as possible. We decided to go along with the recipe and mix everything together in one bowl, and when I was eating a piece later that night I got a nice bite of what was either baking soda or baking powder… not pleasant. Determine what is best for you and your child. Either mix everything in one bowl or mix the wet and dry ingredients separately first, but know that with one bow you will have to take extra care while mixing.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 Cups of Sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 Cups of Mashed Banana (About 3 large bananas)
  • 3/4 Cup of Vegetable oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Cup of Chopped Nuts (Optional. We didn’t use nuts)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 2 Teaspoon of Vanilla
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

Preheat oven to 325

Grease a loaf pan – 9x5x3 or 8.5×4.5×2.5

Mash bananas

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Mix sugar, bananas, oil and eggs in a large bowl.

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Mmmmm… Smells good!

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Stir well, especially if you are doing all the mixing in one bowl. Then pour into pan.

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Bake until a toothpick poked into the bread removes clean, about 60-70 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

You can’t go wrong with banana bread! It would be a great gift for your child to make for friends, family or neighbors.



Puffy Snow Paint

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It’s starting to get chilly here in Central Virginia (although we have had a few warm days in a row recently), so Big B and I have been talking about winter quite a bit. We have been exploring the changes outside and reading winter themed books. This past weekend while in search of more painting projects that we could do I ran across this recipe from education.com for snow paint. I was so excited to try it out.

Snow Paint

Materials:

  • White Glue
  • Shaving Cream
  • Paint Brush
  • Paper

To make the paint mix equal parts white glue and shaving cream.

Snow Paint

Paint like you would with any other paint and allow to dry.

Snow Paint

The paint is smooth, puffy and firm enough to give you nice texture. Even when dry it maintains it’s texture and soft/fluffy feel.

It wasn’t the easiest painting project to photograph but here are two examples of paintings that Big B did with the snow paint

Snow Paint

Snow Paint



Our Winter Window Display: Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

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Well, it is time to take down our fall leaves window display and put up something more winter themed. I have plans for several window displays for our classroom/dinning room this winter. Today we are starting with popsicle stick snowflakes. If there is anything I have learned during my time as an art teacher it’s that you can’t go wrong with glitter!

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Materials:

  • Wood popsicle sticks
  • Glue
  • Paint (we used blue and white)
  • Glitter (again, we used blue and white)
  • String or yarn

It’s an easy enough craft with really great results.

Start by gluing several popsicle sticks into a snowflake shape. We used 4 sticks and I made 4 snowflakes for each of us.

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Paint one side of the snowflake:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

While the paint is still wet sprinkle the snowflake with glitter:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Set aside to dry overnight:

My snowflakes:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Big B’s Snowflakes, which I think are MUCH better than mine. The mix of the two colors on the one snowflake had a really beautiful result:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

On day 2 turn the snowflakes over, and paint and glitter the backside. Once again allow them to dry completely:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

We glued a strand of white yarn to the back of the snowflake, but you could also poke a hole through the stick and tie the yarn or string off.

Hang and Enjoy!!

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

I was a big fan of our fall window display, but I am already loving our winter themed ones so much more. I can’t wait to share our other ideas!