Here’s another Stay-Cation idea for those who need a healthy alternative to the traditional family vacation.
Every spring we took our kids to a favorite garden store. They each were allowed to choose one vegetable or fruit to plant and one flower or ornamental plant.
Someone always chose corn, of course. Tomatoes were our daughter’s absolute favorite. Everyone wanted melons and strawberries.
Gardening gives wonderful life-long lessons. It teaches:
• Patience and effort can produce a harvest
• How to differentiate the good plants from the weeds
• How to work for something you want
• How delicious your own homegrown food tastes
• Pride in accomplishment
• Joy can be found digging in the dirt
• Gardening is therapeutic (Hoeing and weeding are good ways to weed out your problems)
Summer garden lessons can extend into the fall season and into the kitchen. Children can help prepare their freshly picked food or if old enough, they can be in charge of the preparation all by themselves.
Some foods taste great fresh from the garden. Others should be preserved. They can be blanched, then frozen or canned for winter use. County Extension offices offer advice on safe methods for food preservation.
Children can be rightly proud when their food is served straight from the garden this summer and fall. Or they can be reminded of their accomplishment when their produce is served from the pantry or freezer this winter.
U-Pick Gardens & Orchards
Check your area for availability and best time to harvest these:
• Green beans have tiny little “hair” that act like magnets. Everything sticks to the bean pod—dirt, hair, grass clippings, etc. I taught the kids to cup their fingers around the beans and quickly brush off the unwanted debris as they picked them. It’s a lot harder to clean them after you bring them inside. Green beans were not a favorite for my kids because they didn’t like the taste of the fresh ones. Nor did they like picking them. However, my husband loved fresh beans. It was good for our kids to show love for their father by gathering and preparing something he liked.
• Plant marigolds around the perimeter of your garden and among your tomatoes. The marigolds seem to discourage garden pests plus they had beauty.
• Some plants are invasive. Be certain you like the plant and its habits before purchase. Unless you want to use it as a teaching tool for your children. Example: One of my sons chose Lamb’s Ear for his ornamental plant. He liked its velvety soft “ears” which truly did seem like lambs’ ears. However, its blooms weren’t particularly pretty. Afterwards it looked stringy, brown, and limp. The plant proved to be one of our most vigorous ground covers. It took over one whole flowerbed.
• Some plants require longer growing seasons (like sweet potatoes) or warmer and longer growing seasons (like sweet potatoes). Be sure to check planting instructions or ask a knowledgeable gardener or sales clerk. (Beware: some garden centers hire spring/summer help for their brawn, not their brains. Make sure you talk to someone who truly knows the answers you seek.)
• Determine your planting zone. Your garden store, online research or garden catalogs can help you with this.
Strawberry Jam is one of the most delightful winter rewards of gardening. What other favorites have you made? Or what do you plan to do with your produce? Leave your reply in the comment box below.
Our son, Tom Sawyer loved spicy food. (You remember him, I shared another of Tom’s adventures in Stay-Cation, The Plan.) Tom researched until he found the spiciest pepper plant available. Once he’d planted it, he tended it daily and rejoiced when the flowers developed into tiny peppers.
I warned him to be careful not to touch them. If he accidentally touched his eyes afterward, it would be painful.
Daily he checked to see if the peppers were big enough to harvest. He couldn’t wait to taste them. Finally, temptation overruled sense.
I was inside when I heard the outside water faucet turn on. The water kept running and running. I was about to go check on it when my daughter ran inside.
“Mom,” she said. “Tom ate one of his peppers even though you told him not to and now he can’t stop crying.”
I swallowed my laughter.
Seems like there’s always one child who prefers to learn the hard way.
Until next time…Travel Light,
© 2016 SuZan Klassen