Just For Fun

  • Battle of the Beans

    The season of beans is in full swing and boy, is it a busy one!  We thought we'd give y'all a little break from all that picking, snapping, and canning and throw a Green Bean Giveaway!

    Match each of the pictures below with its proper variety name to win 2 FREE PACKETS of YOUR CHOICE of beans. (All varieties below are available on our website.)  The gardening season isn't over yet.  The lucky winner will be able to plant the seeds right away and get one more harvest before fall!

    Leave your guesses and email in the comments below. (The first person to guess the most correct answers wins. )  Winner will be announced via our Facebook page and notified by email on August 1st. May the Battle of the Beans Begin!

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  • A Thanksgiving Tradition

    The week of Thanksgiving has finally arrived. Families everywhere are cleaning their houses for company, checking Thursday's forecast for traveling, and shopping for the perfect turkey. It's the beginning of my favorite time of year. I imagine each of you are as busy this week as we are, so I will try to keep this short. I want to quickly share with you a small tradition of mine.

    While the month of November certainly does its job in reminding us to be grateful, I've learned that the “showers of blessings” in my life deserve sincere gratitude every day of the year.  It's not hard to see why we should give thanks– God's mercies are new every morning, the Scriptures say¹ – but it can be hard at times to remember. So much of our lives are lived in fast-forward that simply standing still can be downright difficult.  That is where my little tradition becomes a helpful reminder.

    I first heard the idea of a Blessings Jar a few years ago. The concept instantly intrigued me. The act of writing down things I was thankful for sounded simple enough, but I was quickly surprised at how great an affect it had on me. I started with a simple basket I found lying around and grabbed some sticky notes from my desk in the office. I'd read that some people wrote down a blessing for each day in November, but I preferred the idea of others who scribbled notes throughout the year. I've never been very consistent with the “daily entry” thing, beyond a few days in a row. Instead, I waited for the right time and the right heart to put my gratitude to paper.

    It doesn't matter what you decide to write down, even if it was important to you and nobody else. I  included a “Thank You” note for a particular summer rainstorm one day and another for my comfy bed after a long day's work.  In my blessings basket, there is a reminder of a phone conversation with a long distance friend of mine next to a note about our canned goods filling the pantry shelves.  Attending a great concert, receiving a helping hand, and finishing a wonderful book are among the moments that would be forgotten long before Thanksgiving were they never recorded.

    Savanna and her nephew, AustinIt may go without saying, but still take the time to write down the more memorable blessings as well. Reading them over will only deepen the memory and the gratitude. I, for example, had to give a note of thanks this year for my nephew's quick recovery in the hospital just recently. What a miracle that was! I also could not refrain from writing down the date that my sweetheart asked me to marry him. That is one blessing I will never forget! I hope you'll discover – as I did – how writing these joys down only blesses you more.

    Some people like to record theirs in a book or journal. I've seen others use a jar or shoebox to store their folded notes. To each their own. There's so many ways to have fun with this and inspire your whole family to share in it. Don't worry if you have to start out small either. In my experience, some days there might be multiple notes as I think back, but I know that many days I took too much for granted and forgot to write anything at all. In my house, the tradition grows a little more every year. Give yourself time to get into a routine.

    The best part comes when you finally can read back through your blessings box.  This can be done at any time.  I personally like to find a quiet corner on Thanksgiving night after all the food and festivities have been shared.  It seems like the perfect ending to the holiday.

    I really believe every family should have at least one special tradition to call their own during the holiday season. Do you have any favorite tradition? Tell us about it! The more, the merrier! What about the Blessings Box? Would you like to give that a try?

    Here's the fun part... Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page and you will be automatically signed up for our Thanksgiving Day Give-Away for your very own Blessings Box pictured here. Gift will include the necessary box, pen and paper, along with 5 packets of heirloom garden seed for inspiration and 2 fertilizer samples to help those ideas grow!! The perfect gift to inspire a new tradition or give away to a friend!! Drawing will end at midnight on Thanksgiving.  Winner will be announced on our Facebook page on Friday, November 25, 2011.

    This coming Thanksgiving night I plan on looking ahead to the coming year with excitement, but I also plan on looking back on the past year with much gratitude. Want to join me?

    ¹(Lamentations 3:23)

  • Gardening Crafts

    What can I say? I love doing crafts. Every fall, my aspirations sky rocket and I add more ideas to my list. There is the unfinished throw I continue to knit more on each winter, countless pictures needing to be scrapbooked, flowers to be pressed, a quilt to make, and Christmas gifts to think of. While the others in my family laugh at my over-enthusiasm, I'm too stubborn to quit.

    My favorite part about crafts is that I can include my love for gardening with it. I've discovered that growing a garden can spark a lot of creativity. The countless opportunities are really quite inspiring. In hopes that I'm not the only one who enjoys making things homemade, I thought I'd share some of my projects with you.

    Anyone who enjoys gardening and/or crafts is probably familiar with birdhouse gourds. They're as easy to grow as they are easy to make. Plus, the birds love them! However, this year I tried something different.

    Having grown more peppers this year than ever before, we quickly found ourselves overloaded with all sorts of sweet and hot varieties. Our family prefers sweet peppers so it was no surprise that those disappeared rather quickly. The prolific hot peppers, on the other hand, were quickly growing to waste. After photographing each plant, I decided to do a little experiment with the extra veggies. I would take the Candlelight and Cayenne Long Thin hot peppers and string them like popcorn.

    I started by picking bright red peppers on a regular basis and storing them in the refrigerator until I had a large amount. Then I sat down, threaded my needle, and got to work. Since both these varieties are fairly small and slender, they were easy to string. I made each string a different length, but their spicy red statement was the same. Then I hung the pepper strings to dry in my bedroom for a few weeks. It's interesting to see the fresh peppers wrinkle up and turn a dark red. After that, they're ready to use. How? Well, I can testify to them fitting perfectly in any kitchen, adding just the right amount of “spice”. I've also hung them on the wall and across tables. Or if you're looking for a real unique look, replace the popcorn strings on your Christmas tree this year with pepper strings! I'm certainly going to try it!

    Just be careful when playing with these hot peppers. Too many times after I've strung Cayenne peppers together I have forgot to wash my hands before touching my eyes, causing them to water and even burn. That's definitely not what you need when working on a project! Wash hands immediately after you're finished.

    Another very simple craft is the familiar art of drying flowers. Nearly every month of the year there is some flower, leaf, or even weed that is worthy to be pressed. I usually practice the basic method of pressing cut flowers within the pages of a dusty book. I leave them there for a few weeks until they are completely dry and then I paste them onto blank greeting cards to send to friends.

    Other people cut bouquets of flowers in bunches and hang them upside down in a dark, warm room to dry. Last fall I purchased some dried flowers from Rosewood Farms and made flower wreaths for Christmas gifts. That was one of the funnest projects I've tried. You take simple vines, which you can either grow yourself or purchase at Hobby Lobby or Wal-Mart, and turn it into this bright, beautiful creation. Almost any kind of flower will work. Lavender, of course, is one of my favorites.

    I'll share one other easy project that you can try with the kids. Every year I reserve at least a few raised beds to grow my herbs. While each of them offer their individual benefits, many of them are good companion plants as well. Borage is one of them. It's highly grown for medicinal purposes, but I also planted it to improve my tomatoes, spinach, beans, and strawberries.

    The plant itself is quite beautiful with blue, white and pink star-shaped flowers. This is where the fun begins. Since the flowers are edible, I cut a handful of them and brought them inside. They're too small for a vase, so I filled an ice tray with water and then dropped the tiny flowers individually on top. With the borage blooms afloat, I carefully returned the ice tray to the freezer for a few hours. When I returned to check on it later, my little experiment had turned out quite pretty. The star-shape flowers were embedded in the frozen ice. They made a perfect addition to the refreshments at my nephew's baby shower.  *Note: If you try this project, just be sure to use edible flowers.

    I hope by reading this simple blog that you were inspired to try one of these projects or maybe even invent one of your own. Fall is never complete without a craft or two. Keep your eyes open to the possibilities, grab a friend, and be creative! I think I'll go pick up my knitting needles.

  • A Photographer's Garden

    During the winter, the trees are stripped bare, the wind seems harsher, and the grass is withered brown. The lively days of summer seem hard to recollect. Why is it that our memory always fails to fully paint the landscape so green, the birds so boisterous, or the ponds so blue when the world lies dormant before us? I guess we tend to get used to the way things are and wind up forgetting what things were like before. That's why the changing of seasons is such a miraculous thing, for we change along with it – a new perspective practically knocking at the door. Creating a keepsake of all these changes around us is something every person, especially gardeners, should try. The best part about it is, it's so easy. Simply photograph it!

    There are so many things a gardener has to carry with him to the garden throughout the season – a spade, a watering can, a rake, seeds, trellises, buckets, and don't forget a hat! However, there's one more tool for harvesting you must not forget. It's your camera!

    In a garden, your options are limitless. Just think what you can capture. With just a bit of preparation, you could document your plant's entire life cycle, photographing it from seedling to final maturity. Any problems such as a disease or pest could be recorded in a flash and used in researching a remedy. The best zucchini crop you've ever grown could always be remembered. Those helpful insects that make frequent visits to your flowers could create a stunning photo to submit in a contest. And don't forget to photograph the best scenes of all – of your family in the garden. There's nothing sweeter to remember than your child playing beneath the sunflowers or your husband's grin over a juicy slice of watermelon. Don't miss out on such memories by forgetting your camera.

    Create a garden that's not only wonderful to spend time in, but also one worth looking back on. Sow seeds which will grow the most beautiful blend of colors. Vibrant plants such as Basil, Rat's Tail Radishes, Potatoes, Marigolds, and Okra speak for themselves.    Study the countless shades of green around you. Bet you would lose count of the different types. Establish a warm haven you'll love to hate to leave. A stone pathway alongside your herbs will add a quaint atmosphere. If you have the room, a bench is another beautiful addition. Put it right in the middle of your garden's glory and you won't regret it. Together, your garden and your photos will certainly shine. We each have different perspectives and different sources of interest. Find your own and reap a tremendous keepsake for years to come.

    Andrew, Carissa, and I absolutely love to take pictures. We have images of almost everything under the sun. Whenever we're fighting “spring fever”, we turn to them. That's another reason we're so delighted to share our photos through our website, Facebook, and Flickr. We hope our customers enjoy seeing ours as much as we enjoy seeing theirs. Our site would certainly be missing a lot without the great contributions of other such enthusiastic gardening photographers. Why not become one yourself?

    As your next garden sprouts this year, don't just focus on what you'll be eating. Remember there's another kind of harvest ripe for the taking. Before you step out into this green world, just don't forget to take extra batteries!

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