Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

Gardening: Your Backyard Oasis

Friday, May 29th, 2020

gardening-your-backyard-oasis

How would you like to create a backyard oasis? Everyone needs more of nature, and gardening is calming for your body and mind. When you sit on your porch, what do you see? With a little effort and a few tips, I will show you how to improve your outdoor space.

Gardening: Your Backyard Oasis (video demonstration)

Make a beautiful haven where you can sit and pray or think about life, and get away from it all. I started filming this video near the end of April, and now it’s the end of May. So I show the progression of the backyard, awakening from the winter, and blooming into the spring and summer.

We also hung lights around the backyard deck for the first time, changing the atmosphere in the evenings to a festive experience, which I will show you by the end of the video.

Vegetable Garden Tips

The first tip for vegetable gardens is to have raised beds so that you can dump really good soil into them. When I first moved into this property 20 years ago, I didn’t know that the soil was not good for growing anything. Not only was it too sandy with rocks (look at the dirt that I’m sitting on in the video), but the 23 pine trees on our property make the soil acidic. Furthermore, most of my backyard is in shade because of the trees.

I love the fact that my backyard looks like the woods. But eventually I realized that the only way to improve my yard was to grow mostly shaded plants. Tip #2 for a vegetable garden, then, is to try to find a place where there is sun. We finally found a place (that used to be a dirt pile) to the right of our deck.

vegetable-garden

Last year we only had one raised bed, as you can see in the picture below. I didn’t know how large the plants would grow, so I overcrowded it. For this reason, even though there were lots of leaves, the plants didn’t produce much fruit.

So tip #3 for a vegetable garden is not to overcrowd the plants. Leave space between the plants. Then the roots won’t be competing for the nutrients in the soil with any other plants, and the sun can shine on all the leaves of each plant.

Tip #4 would be to give the vegetable garden a good watering every day, especially when the plants are young.

Tip #5 is to have tomato cages for the tomatoes, and if you are growing beans or other vines, place the raised bed next to a fence so they have something to crawl up. Next year I might add a third bed next to the chain link fence just for this purpose. This year all I needed was the tomato cages to re-enforce the stems of the tomato plants, so they don’t topple over or break with the wind.

Tip #6 is to pick off any dead leaves that you see. This keeps the plants healthy.

overcrowded-garden

Perennial Garden Tips

At the beginning, the perennial garden didn’t look like much. When removing the pine needles and dead leaves, we saw a few green perennials coming up. (Perennials are flowers that come up year after year.) We trimmed the bushes, pulled some weeds, and amended with good soil. After a month of watering the garden, it looked beautiful!

This perennial garden is right outside the bay window of my dining room, so it can be enjoyed every time we sit down to eat a meal.

perennial-garden

Rose Garden Tips

My rose garden is in the front yard, but I thought I would include it in the gardening that we do. I show you in the video how to prune the rose bushes after uncovering them from the winter. We also put rose fertilizer on each bush. Roses are my favorite flower, so I really love this garden!

rose-garden

The back porch looks lovelier this year than ever, since my husband hung lights on poles bolted down to blocks of cement. (I show you a close-up of the base of these poles in the video.) My husband placed a hook on the top of each pole, and strung white lights. It feels like I am in Europe, where I traveled and lived before I was married. It makes me feel so much joy!

garden-evening

Here are some other gardening posts you might like:

Camping: Great for Family Bonding

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

camping-great-for-family-bonding

If I had known how wonderful camping would be for family bonding, I would have gone camping with my family a lot sooner. Yes, I find it nearly impossible to sleep outdoors because of all the noises and light, a feeling of not being protected, and the constriction of a sleeping bag which is way too hot and tight for comfortable sleeping. During the day in the summer months, the outdoor temperature induces sweating and wilting, not the ideal conditions for a pleasant experience.

inside-the-tent

Notwithstanding the aforementioned drawbacks of camping, I still have to say that the beauty of nature, the delicious food cooked over a campfire, and the deep conversations without any electrical devices can be refreshing and invigorating. And it helps if there is a lake or river nearby to dip your feet into to cool off.

marshy-area-camping

Years ago we were given a family tent that was big enough to sleep our whole family, back when our kids were young. We used this family tent for church camps because we couldn’t afford a cabin. During those church camps when my children were toddlers and preschoolers, the sheer amount of work to take care of the children was enough to bring me to the brink of tears out of sheer exhaustion.

braid

Now that the kids are older and starting college, we took a weekend to re-connect as a family. I found a new 2-person tent at a yard sale for $5, so we even had separate quarters for us, the parents. My sons immediately started whittling sticks with their pocket knives. It had been years since they had learned to use their pocket knives at Cub Scouts, which my husband and I used to lead.

whittling-while-camping

We set up the tents and threw our backpacks into the tents and settled into our canvas chairs around a campfire. We had brought food to cook over a campfire for each meal, and of course, we brought S’mores. As we sat around the campfire in the evenings, we would talk and talk. It was wonderful! My kids are interesting and their thoughts run deep. They have opinions about everything, and they are hilarious. We laughed a lot while sitting and telling stories the second night around the campfire. My kids all have active imaginations, and their conversations reminded me of when I was young and all of life stretched out before me.

roasting-marshmallows-campfire

During the day we went exploring the area, finding beautiful other-worldly places. The marshy ground revealed long-necked birds and more exotic insects than are found in the city. A small lake reflected the blue sky and was surrounded by low mountains. It was a beautiful sunny day, both days that we were camping.

hiking-while-camping

It was nice to smell bacon and eggs in the morning, especially when cooked by someone other than me. My son Stephen made pancakes the second morning, and we were always ravenously hungry. Maybe the fact that we were outdoors caused us to expend more energy through exercise, causing us to need more food. And the food always tasted wonderful.

breakfast-at-camp

The conversations we had as a family enabled us to bond in a beautiful way before we sent two kids off to college. One of our sons left to Oregon for Bible college, while our second son is commuting from home, but both have definitely matured into godly men. Sitting and sharing our hearts over a campfire is definitely an experience I would not have traded for the world!

Nature Study

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

 nature-study

Have you wondered how to incorporate nature study into your homeschool? A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be a panelist on this very topic, where several homeschool moms shared ideas for how to do nature study with children.

Why is nature study important for homeschooling?

Nature is science–plants, animals, rocks, weather phenomena, etc.–all of this is science. To be educated, you need to understand science. And to know it well, you need to see it and experience it first-hand in the great outdoors.

When can you start nature study?

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can enjoy nature. Here are some nature activities that small children can enjoy:

High school students and adults can also enjoy nature through nature journals, drawing and labeling intricate details of God’s creation. So all ages can enjoy nature study, especially because you can get fresh air and sunshine on your face while you relax and take it all in. You don’t have to rush when you are doing nature study.

What do you do back inside to follow up on nature studies?

Look inside an insect identification book for the insect you just sketched. Try to identify a tree by its leaves, or look up what kind of rock your son found.

I also like to take out drawing books, especially for younger children who might have trouble drawing straight from nature without seeing a pencil sketch. I describe more about how to do this in my workshop Using Journals to Teach Writing.

How directed should a nature study be? Is mom in charge or do you just let your kids cavort outside?

Most of our nature studies are open-ended, where the kids can decide what they want to write or draw. But if we are studying a specific topic in science, we might look for that topic. For example, if we are studying spiders, we would try to find spiders and spider webs to draw.

Tell us about nature study during the winter months when it’s too cold outside.

You can easily do a winter scavenger hunt, where you find different objects in nature, and snap pictures of them. You can also pay attention to what animals are doing this time of year, and you can study snow and weather. Here are a couple of winter nature activities for you to enjoy:

Also, if you want to set up nature collections during the other seasons, you can continue to study nature from your home. Here is a fabulous workshop that shows you how to bring the outdoors into your home:

Here is the panel of homeschool moms who share what they do for nature studies:

Croquet

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

croquetCroquet is a fun game to play, especially in the summer. It’s a lawn game, where you hit a wooden ball with a mallet through wickets. The wickets are the iron squared-off loops that you stab into the ground. I remember playing croquet as a kid, setting up the wickets randomly around the lawn, and trying to hit my ball through each one, taking turns with my sisters.

croquet-2The game actually has a specific pattern for placing the wickets. It looks like two diamonds stacked on top of each other, with double wickets on the top and bottom. Refer to my pencil drawing to see the arrows, as to how you go all the way down the two diamonds on one side (zig-zagging as you go), and then go back up the double diamond. The first person to hit the stick at the top wins. (You also need to have your ball hit the other stick at the bottom when you’re halfway through the game.)

croquet-3Make sure that when a kid is swinging his mallet, that the other kids are far enough away not to accidentally get hit by the mallet. It hurts.

If you don’t have level ground in your backyard, go to a local park that has a grassy level area, and set up your croquet game there. Each person has a mallet of a different color, with a ball to match, so as not to confuse people as to who is winning. That would be me, of course. (I’m kidding.)

croquet-4Many famous artists have painted games of croquet, including Norman Rockwell and Winslow Homer, who painted women in fancy dresses, playing croquet. Lewis Caroll also wrote about a crazy game of croquet in his novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. So the game of croquet is worth playing at least once. You can borrow a set from someone, if you’re not sure you will like the game. Children enjoy this game particularly, and it’s good for hand-eye coordination.

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