Guest post by Debbie Steinberg Kuntz, founder & editor of Odyssey Outdoors.
If you want to know where your food comes from, there’s no better way than to grow it yourself! That’s just what we did with a group of families last weekend in the outdoor family group we formed about a year ago. We followed these 10 easy steps.
1. Gather supplies.
We started with newspaper, some beautiful organic seeds that would grow in early spring in our area, organic potting soil, popsicle sticks and markers for labeling, and shoeboxes for transporting the seedling bundles back home.
The beauty of using newspaper is that we didn’t need to buy pots, and the newspaper can be planted directly in the ground and will quickly biodegrade.
2. Discuss with kids where our food comes from.
First we talked about how our food is grown. How do we know how many chemicals were used? We explained to the kids that the best way to know is to talk to people at the grocery store, form relationships with farmers and best of all, grow it yourself!
3. Demonstrate how to create the origami newspaper pot.
Before beginning, a couple of the adults watched this video. Note that the woman in the video is in Germany and she uses a different size newspaper than in the U.S. In the U.S. you will need to trim about 2 inches from the long side of your newspaper before folding.
Here one of our group moms demonstrates how to make the origami newspaper pot.
4. Work in adult/child pairs if possible.
Research shows that it’s an asset for kids to have non-parent adults who they can trust in their lives. In our outdoor group we often work in non-parent adult/child pairs to build community long term.
5. Color popsicle sticks to label each seed pot.
We used a background color similar to the vegetable, and then spelled the name of the veggie on top.
6. Fill the origami newspaper pots with organic potting soil.
7. Label each pot with the popsicle stick labels.
8. Put the seed bundles in a shoebox for easy transport and watering.
9. Time to plant the seeds!
Make sure to use organic seeds that grow well in your area.
10. Your seedlings are ready to grow!
Bring home the seedlings and water them just enough so that the soil stays damp, but the newspaper doesn’t fall apart. Wait until sprouts appear and then bring them outside during the day, in a shady spot for a few days. Then gradually move them into the sunshine. Then, they’re ready to go in the ground! Tips on planting them in the garden can be found here.
And that’s how we start growing, and soon eating, our super-local, organic food!
Unlike a lot of moms in the natural parenting blogosphere I don’t really harp on media and electronics too often. We are not a TV free house and never will be. My kids all have a TV, an xBox, and a computer in their bedrooms. We are plugged in and I quite enjoy it that way. For me it is more about balance and making sure we stay connected as a family and to the outdoors and other screen-free pursuits whilst still enjoying our screen time. I think our approach has worked pretty well.
My oldest plays video games with a historical bent and comes to me daily to tell me what historical things he learned on the game and then confirmed online for accuracy. These games have helped him discover that he LOVES history, especially as it relates to military and world wars. He just finds it all fascinating. My middle child plays a game daily that is all about architecture and world building. Both have gravitated towards educational games so I count myself lucky. Neither of them watches very much TV and both will happily spend 5-6 hours outside after school if the weather is nice. My youngest is my TV watcher and he watches a little more than I would like but happily he loves to watch Netflix documentaries about dinosaurs, prehistoric time periods, and animals.
I watch a handful of shows via primetime and cable network…they keep me from cancelling our cable. Though I always watch them later via DVR because I refuse to sit through commercials. I love True Blood, Justified, Game of Thrones, Dexter, Grimm, Person of Interest, Burn Notice, Lost Girl, and Elementary. I also love to watch Netflix and the amount of conscious and inspirational documentaries on it is amazing. For only $7.99 a month we are able to stream all of their content to our TVs…via xBox, Wii, and Roku. Sometimes it sucks me into TV that does not better my mind…like when I watched the first episode of Gossip Girl (just to see what the hullabaloo was all about) and then spent a week watching every single episode of every single season. :) Mostly though it enables us to watch all kinds of documentaries.
I recently asked fans on the NaturesMoms fan page what documentaries they were streaming via Netflix and here are some of the standouts…
No Impact Man
Vanishing of the Bees
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Super Size Me
Forks Over Knives
Hungry for Change
Growing Food Documentaries:
The Business of Being Born
The Vaccine War
Loving Lampposts (about autism)
This is only a teeny tiny sampling. They have just about every kind of documentary/movie you could want from animals and national parks to religion and human rights stories. If you don’t have game consoles and you don’t want to watch on your computer I suggest a Roku. It is about the size of a deck of cards and allows you to stream all sorts of content …Netflix, Hulu, TED talks, exercise videos, etc.
What are you watching?
One of the biggest environmental problems we face is packaging waste. For most of the public every shopping trip they take results in lots and lots of packaging…cereal boxes, cans or bags of nuts, bags of rice and beans, plastic milk jugs, etc. There are quite a few steps we can take to reduce our contribution to the packaging waste stream and one huge one is to simply eat real, local foods and not the processed foods that are more typically found in boxes and plastic bags. Yet there are always going to be exceptions. These might include your favorite cheese that comes wrapped in a thin layer of plastic or the almonds you buy from your local grocer that come in a plastic bag. Eating real foods as opposed to processed is a big step in the right direction but it might not help you eliminate as much packaging as you’d like to.
Think about all the resources (energy, water, money) used to make the packaging that ends up going straight to a landfill where it may or may not biodegrade (mostly not, if it’s plastic). What can we do besides eliminate all our food favorites that come in a package? Well, buying in bulk enables us to keep buying the products we love while simultaneously reducing the amount of packaging. You buy less often but in more quantity. This enables you to save money typically but also reduce the packaging by shocking amounts. For some data on just how much can be saved check out the Bulk is Green Council (BIG), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the environmental and economical benefits of natural and organic bulk foods. They have a report on their site with some figures that show just how big of an impact you can make if you buy all the coffee you need for a year or all the peanut butter you need, in one purchase. Here is an infographic with some of the stats:
Tips for Buying in Bulk
- Shop the bulk bins at your local grocer as much as possible
- Fill muslin or cotton produce bags with loose rice, beans, cereal, flour, grains, seeds, nuts, etc.
- Purchase foods from co-ops in large amounts (10-25 gallons or more)
- Use a freezer & dehyrator to preserve foods so that you can buy in more quantity
- Bring your own buckets, jars, bags, etc to your local farmers and farmer’s markets and stock up
- Use large mason jars for storage
- Use small stainless tins for loose spices and herbs
- Shop your own pantry and use up what you have before buying new
- Budget for large quarterly “bulk” grocery bills as opposed to weekly/monthly bills
- Buy up-wrapped “wheels” of cheese instead of cut sections wrapped in plastic
If you are ready to make the commitment to do better about buying in bulk then you may want to sign the Love Bulk Foods pledge. They will be awarding bulk good gift baskets throughout the month of April to random people who have taken the pledge.
I wanted to share this counting app for either iPad or Android devices because it is free at the moment, possibly only for today. I downloaded it myself for my autistic seven year old and I was just so pleased with it I had to share this deal. My kiddo, while advanced in age, is still only in Kindergarten and he has been having great difficulty with much of what he is learning. It is going to be a very long road I imagine but one thing we have already identified that helps him is having a tablet. Other than me, he is the only one in the family that has their own tablet device and it has been such a blessing. We got him a relatively cheap Android 4.0 in case you are also looking. It works great and it is super affordable.
He can play video games on it and feel somewhat like other kids because game consoles and computer games are a bit beyond his capabilities. He needs that touch screen. I also download educational apps for him and to him they ARE video games. It makes learning fun.
Anyway the Very Hungry Caterpillar Counting App is based upon the artwork of Eric Carle. It is fantastic! It has 5 levels of difficulty and from what we have tried so far it is very high quality. Regular price is $2.99 and well worth double or triple that price in my opinion but you can’t beat free you happen to read this in time. Enjoy!
Get the counting app for iPad or iPhone
Get the Android counting app