Too Many Tomatoes…100 Wonderful Pounds!

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Titanic Tomato in August from Our Garden

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We first started growing tomato plants 18 years ago in large pots on our patio.  The vines would take off for the sky and even then we would say that we had too many tomatoes!  The way the vines grew we would call it our tomato tornado.  Back then, this was our only edible.  Our vines would get attacked by green tomato worms.  After work we would come home and literally hose off our two plants.  It rained green worms!  Our patio would be covered by dozens of crawling ugly green creatures.  After getting our backyard hens and using the Permaculture philosophy, we began to expand our edible garden into the ground.  Our black adobe clay soil was transformed into a worm filled garden delight!  We compost mostly all of our green waste and turn it into gorgeous sweet smelling rich soil.  We have had difficulty with our tomatoes in the past few years with black bottom rot and a limited harvest.  This year we began crunching all of our egg shells and adding it to the base of our tomatoes.  No more bottom rot and an overwhelming harvest.  We have so many edibles now that the birds visit and eat all of our tomato worms…leaving the fruit (botanically tomatoes are classified as berries) for us.  It is a delight just to sit on the patio in the cool of the day and watch the amazing abundance of life in our small garden.

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So Proud of this Cucumber!

Our foot long cucumber!  It was absolutely delicious! boat sale 001

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Last Look at our Summer Garden

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Disneyland: Entertaining and Educational

“I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” Walt Disney

I was blessed to be an employee at Disneyland decades ago when the price was right ($13.00 for a passport) while getting the enjoyment of storytelling on a boat in the canal of Storybookland.  Recently, we visited the park and were delighted to learn that there were educational opportunities everywhere while being entertained.  We particularly enjoyed the Agrifuture in Tomorrowland.  Every plant in that land is suppose to be edible.  While riding Autopia, we noticed wild strawberries, citrus trees of varying varieties, and sage growing along the track.  We also noticed rosemary near Tomorrowland Terrace and Swiss Chard across the way.  It would have been nice to be able to visit a farm to table restaurant in the area or some kind of attraction like that.  We do know that Disney in the past has had special events promoting that concept and has given garden tours around the park.  The foliage in all the lands was particularly amazing.  We really enjoyed the bamboo forest in Adventureland, but all of the living trees and plants were an enjoyable feature at the park.  While waiting in line at Autopia, we liked the Honda robot giving us a geography lesson of California using a map and showing us landmarks in the state on a computer screen.  An employee told us that the Honda cars are gasoline powered.  In the future, it would be nice to see cars that are powered with clean energy.  We learned that the Monorail is the fasted ride in the park at 30 m.p.h.  The engines on Disneyland Railroad are authenitic steam engines that run on biodiesel.  One engine is as old as 1895.  The conductor informed us that the engine powering our train was found on a corn field in Iowa in 1927.  While riding the train, our child learned that it snowed at the Grand Canyon.  We all enjoyed seeing the Indian village and lifestyle while chugging along the backside of the river in Adventureland.  He learned about the Caribbean and the pirates that attacked coastal towns.  We had a unique dining experience at Rose Tavern in Fantasyland where we enjoyed French faire, some rest and relaxation, and explained the history of taverns to our child.  We thoroughly enjoyed the beef poutine (slowed cooked beef in gravy over waffle fries covered in pickled red onions and cheese) and a lemon berry mousse dessert shaped into a rose with delicious filling and some type of crust on the bottom.  It was so tasty, we got a second one.  Our child enjoyed seeing stories like Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh come to life on the rides.   Our day at Disneyland was not only entertaining, but educational.

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How to Keep Cilantro Fresh-A Farmer’s Advice

There is nothing more disappointing than going to the refrigerator, reaching into the vegetable bin, and pulling out a bag of rotten cilantro that was purchased not more than a week earlier.  A few weeks ago we visited an outstanding farmer’s market-the best we have ever been to.  At one of the stands we purchased, fresh, organic cilantro. (I should have taken a picture, but I will explain in detail how to preserve your herb.)  I must admit, I was a skeptic, but not anymore.  The friendly farmer, after I had paid for my purchase, put my cilantro into a clear plastic bag and put air in it like it was a balloon and tied it off at the end.  She cheerfully, with a big smile, told me it would make my cilantro last longer.  She was right.  I recently used the remainder for some salsa I made with tomatoes just harvested from our garden.  I was regretting going to the refrigerator thinking that it would surely be rotten since it had been 11 days since my purchase.  It was as fresh as the day I bought it.  Not one leaf was rotten.  I had opened the bag a few days after purchasing and used about half for another recipe and resealed the way the farmer told me at the market.  Air in the bag really helps keep cilantro fresh longer!

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Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Backyard Gardening

Backyard bounty

Using permaculture philosophies we are healing the soil. We used chicken manure and compost to fertilize.

Our garden began with two tomato plants in 15 gallon pots and a naval orange tree. Once established, the tomato plants in pots would become infested with tomato worms. We used many types of methods to rid the plants from worms. They were minimally effective. At the end of our work day, we would manually pull the worms off our plants. Finally, in frustration, we turned the hose on them and sprayed them off our plants. It literally rained worms. We did have amazing tomatoes, in fact, too many tomatoes. Each vine grew very tall to the top of its cage and beyond; producing hundreds of tomatoes. Over time, the raccoons destroyed our lawn in our backyard. In frustration, we tore the whole thing out and planted raised beds. We began composting, planted more trees, had backyard chickens, and the gardening adventure developed. We were known as “farmers” by our friends and neighbors. We learned about permaculture and “Back to Eden” gardening methods. We brought in wood chips, top soil, organic mulch, and used our own compost. We really did begin having our own “garden of Eden”. The birds come every day and eat the worms off our plants. They do not eat our fruit, the raccoons, opossums, and skunks do. There are a variety of insects and the whole yard smells great and is green all year. It smells earthy. The soil has changed over time- from black adobe clay to a spongy airy type. We began with raised beds, but pulled most out since our soil has changed. We have learned to grow certain foods in the micro climates of our yard. We tried crop rotation, but that did not work. There are certain plants that enjoy growing in particular locations of our yard. We perk up the soil every year when we begin our spring planting. We sprout seeds in the spring and fall according to what grows in those seasons. We enjoy tomatoes year round in the right location of our yard. We save seeds as much as possible and like to buy from Seed Savers and heirloom organic varieties. We have a small milkweed patch for the monarch butterflies. Lizards eat the insects too. We use companion gardening methods and have found onion and garlic work well to keep pests and critters out of beds. Our neighbors enjoy hanging out on their balcony and watching the life in our living garden.  The food we grow tastes much better and makes the work worth it.

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What to Teach for Home School Science

Many parents ask me what to teach for home school science.  Well, the possibilities are really endless.  You are surrounded by science since all of creation is observable “Science”.  At an early age, plant seeds and study the life cycle of living organisms like butterflies, bees, insects, plants, animals like chickens, etc.  Plant seeds in pots or in a garden.  Document the entire cycle in pictures/and or writing.  If you are allowed to have chickens (I cannot see why not since chickens are very “green”, but this is another subject) hatch chicks and raise chickens.  If lifestyle does not permit this, visit a farm and draw pictures about the process.  At the farm, milk a cow or watch a cow being milked.  Make butter.  Plant milkweed or consider purchasing a butterfly hatching kit.  Visit an aquarium.  Visit an aeronautical museum.  Go to a used bookstore and buy used science books.  Visit the library and check out books about the solar system or watch You Tube videos about the solar system, human body systems like circulatory, nervous, respiratory, etc.  Build a robot.  Go rock digging at a specified site or visit a geologic museum.  Take a fishing trip.  Visit tide pools if you are able.  Check out Scholastic and buy science kits:

Consider edible science:  Visit a craft store and paint a volcano onto a wooden canvas, make a collage, etc.  You may want to consider buying a microscope kit, etc.    These are a few considerations for you and your family as you enjoy the process of teaching science at home.

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We want our snacks!

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Our first female Monarch butterfly just hatched!

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