No matter where you live, there are crops and gardening techniques that allow you to enjoy homegrown produce year round. Sure you can go to just about any supermarket, even in the dead of winter and buy all sorts of vegetables, but they won’t be as good as what comes right out of your own garden. Being more self reliant, independent, and living more sustainably also means trying to grow as much food as we can, all year long. Here are some season extending ideas, as well as a discussion on which crops do well when days get short and temperatures dip low.
One simple technique for extending the season is the use of floating row covers. At the beginning of your growing season as well as at the end, covers made of very thin lightweight fabric will protect your crops from cool weather damage, while still allowing 90% of sunlight to reach the plants. This will add about two weeks of growing time at either end of the season and it is an affordable solution.
No matter where you live, succession planting is also really smart. If you plant all your beans at the same time, they will all mature at the same time. This is perfectly okay if you plan on canning most of your harvest, but if you want to eat your beans right after picking, it is best to spread out your harvest. New beans, greens, veggies, etc will mature with each week, making sure you have a steady harvest all summer long and even into fall. With beans, carrots, lettuce, peas, etc. sow your seeds about a week apart from early spring to the beginning of July, and you will enjoying fresh produce well after summer has ended.
Photo Source: Agora Gardens
We always plant what we like to eat, but you should also consider what varieties do well in your particular area. Leeks and brussels sprouts for instance, take a very long time to grow, but do really well in cooler climates because they actually sweeten a bit after enduring a late fall frost. Planting brussels in late summer means a yummy harvest for Thanksgiving and even Christmas. Carrots and potatoes can remain in the ground for months after maturity and harvested while the ground is still workable. There are broccoli, lettuce and pea varieties that can be sown in mid summer for harvest in late fall. If frost or snow is a concern it is time to look into cold frames, a greenhouse, or grow hoops using supports and plastic covers. Supports and cover plastic can fit over your existing garden beds.
Finally, preserve your harvest. Freezing vegetables is easy to do and allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor throughout the year. Grow some herbs and they can be dried and saved for years. Learn about canning. While you may not have the time or space to grow a variety of fruit, canning peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, etc. from a local farmers market will supply you with healthy produce all year long.
You would be surprised at how long gardens will be produce, well into the fall and even early winter. Some plants are delicate while others can be pretty tough! Get those fall peas and lettuces going. Plant some garlic and shallots in November for next summer’s harvest and watch leeks really thrive as the temperatures drop!
I recommend picking up a copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour. I absolutely lover her books and this one is especially awesome. She lives in Canada where she endures some of the harshest winters around and yet she grows food all year long. This book gives you an excellent step by step overview of how she does it and what she grows. It teaches you how to get a jump on spring, harvest warm weather crops well before you would normally, succession planting into fall, and harvesting throughout winter.
Over the years we have had it drilled into our brains that too much sun exposure is bad for us. Sun bathing? Bad, gives you cancer. Tanning? Way bad, gives you cancer and makes you look like a saddle bag by the time you are 30. We have also heard throughout our lives that that the best way to protect our skin and health is to lather ourselves in sunscreen every day, frequently. The American Cancer Society has stated that 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs within the first 18 years of life. This means that children in particular are at risk and that by the time an individual become cognizant of the damage they may be doing due to sun exposure, it is too late. Perhaps this is why children are probably the most likely to be to be smothered in sunscreens by well meaning parents. All that slathering though may be of concern as well. What exactly is in sunscreen? Is it helpful or harmful?
Let’s be real. Protection from the sun is very important but the chemicals we put on our skin can be harmful, especially to our children and that means we need to be concerned about what is in these sunscreens we are putting on ourselves and our children throughout our lives. Typical sunscreens have LOTS of chemicals. Many of those chemical ingredients are pretty nasty. The skin care industry has had to increase the level of chemical compounds in sunscreen in order to raise the sun protection factor (SPF). These compounds soak into the skin.
Upon absorption into the skin, sunscreen can actually form the very dangerous compounds it was meant to block. Researchers found that some commonly used ultraviolet (UV) filters actually soak into the skin’s layers and from there can generate harmful components called reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are substances that can cause skin cancer. Cancer from the product meant to protect from cancer? Yikes.
In addition to the cancer risk, many sunscreen chemicals also have estrogen-like effects. Estrogen is a hormone that affects many aspects of the female body development and functions. Too much exposure to toxic estrogenic chemical sunscreens can increase cancers and cause birth defects in children. Children’s organs are more sensitive to estrogen exposure and can develop abnormalities at their early stages (including embryo, fetus and toddler stages) if exposed. Estrogen mimicking chemicals can also cause other conditions such as fibroids, miscarriage, breast cancer, man-boobs in boys and men, thyroid problems, diabetes, etc. Here are some of the common sunscreen ingredients and their associated “issues”.
So what do we NEED to know before we buy sunscreen so that we can stay safe from the harmful effects of too much sun exposure AND the harmful effects of conventional toxic laden sunscreen products? Here are three tips…
Sun Smarts Come Before Sunscreen
Before we reach for a bottle of sunscreen we need to use our noggin and think about ways we can minimize harmful exposure. Sunscreen will always have a place but we can use less of it if we also utilize sun hats, coverups, wraps, scarves, shade umbrellas, and shades areas outdoors. We can’t forget that sun exposure is a GOOD thing. We need sunlight exposure for good health so I will rarely apply sunblock to myself or my kids unless we are going to be in the sun for a prolonged length of time. Otherwise I just let them get some sun and/or use protective clothing to diminish risk. So for a few hours at the zoo…not likely to use it but I will have hats and sunglasses for them and we will be mindful to seek out some shade when we need it. But for an all day trip to the beach…yes I will bring some sunscreen.
Sun Protection Can Be Enhanced By Diet
Good health comes from eating healthy foods. A diet rich in processed foods, grains and sugar will not provide our bodies with the building blocks needed to regenerate healthy tissues, organs, and skin. Sun exposure on a junk food diet is surely going to result in burns and skin damage because the skin just isn’t healthy and resilient the way it is meant to be. We need to be eating foods that give us all the best building materials for healthy cells and skin. This includes lots of saturated fats (yay for coconut oil!), foods rich in omega 3s (fish!), nutrient dense foods like eggs and organ meats, and lots of leafy greens. Summer is also a great time to supplement with cod liver oil, fermented butter oil, vitamin D3, and Vitamin C.
Choose Safer Sunscreens
Avoid the sunscreen isles at drug stores, it’s pretty much all crap. I highly recommend checking out the EWG Skin Deep database for suncreen ratings. All the ones you grew up with are likely on the naughty list but there are several companies make good sunscreen products nowadays. One company that rates very well is Goddess Garden Organics sunscreens. A quick search of the database reveals that most of their sunscreens rate as a one. The lower the number the better and there is no zero, so an excellent rating. Compare the unsavory ingredients list pictured above to the one below with the ingredients found in Goddess Garden sunscreens. It is very refreshing!
I have been using three of their products in my own home for awhile now. I have the Lavender Mint Daily Lotion (SPF 15), the Sunny Face natural sunscreen (SPF 30), and the Sunny Kids Sport Spray (SPF 30). The continuous spray is the only mineral sunscreen in a spray on the market. Additionally, the facial sunscreen is one of two sunscreens on the market with Immortelle Essential Oil, and anti-aging element that evens out skin complexion and makes your skin look more radiant. Both of these aspects make the products pretty special.
Lots of people love to use continuous spray sunscreens because they are so much easier to apply than lotions, especially where wiggly kids are concerned and when multiple applications will be needed throughout the day. Facial sunscreens are often used to protect our facial skin from the signs of aging and skin damage so one that actually helps improve your complexion while it protects it is awesome. Goddess Garden Organics has a full line-up of sunscreen products for every need. I love the Lavender Mint daily lotion. It is perfect for applying when you will be out for shorter periods of time… a 5K, a hike on your favorite trail, a trip to the zoo, etc.
They are high quality, they work, and they are safe. I feel good using these products on myself and my kids. A safer sunscreen is just one part of a three part plan to stay safe in the sun but it is an essential part and these sunscreens have us covered…literally.
Goddess Garden Organics provided products for this review. All opinions are my own.
Attn: Giveaway at the bottom of this post! This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneBar.
I am not a big fresh fruit eater. I just don’t usually care to grab an apple or an orange, or any fruit really to snack on. Maybe occasionally I might grab a banana or a slice of watermelon (if I am cutting it for the kids) but that is about it. I prefer to eat my “fruit” in some kind of nut/fruit bar or in a green smoothie. Sometimes I have to consciously try to get some fruit into my diet and that is when some kind of snack bar is perfect. That way I can just toss one in my lunch bag or grab one on my way out the door for a quickie snack and I don’t have to feel quite so bad that I am not eating fruit. I also get the benefits of diversity when I eat fruits I would almost never grab for fresh…apples, pears, cherries, mango, etc.
This is why I have been enjoying OneBar. Each bar has a full serving of fruit and the ingredients list is minimal and simple, mostly just fruit and a bit of fruit juice. No added sugar, gluten, or wheat. The bars also contain Baobab, a super fruit new to the US, but well loved for centuries in Africa (especially among nursing mothers). It is fair-trade sourced and full of antioxidants and this fruit product is one of the few that you can get here with Baobab in it. It is said to have more nutrition packed inside it than any other super fruit. Baobab has nearly six times the amount of potassium found in bananas, lots of vitamin C and is a great source of fiber and magnesium.
I love that OneBar fruit works with a paleo diet and that they are small enough to take with me if I am going to be away from home for a spell. Having a snack bar on me means I am not going to cave and get something from a vending machine. Nothing good comes from a vending machine. Plus they are super tasty! The cherry is my fave.
OneBar is offering my readers a chance to win three boxes (all three OneBar flavors, including Apple, Cherry and Mango). All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter form below. The giveaway will end on Thursday, June 19 at noon PST. If you don’t win, or you can’t wait… you can use coupon code EasyFruit – good for 25% off your total order placed by August 31. Enjoy!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneBar.
This is a guest post from Aby Nicole League
Children, it seems, are losing childhood.
It’s a story I hear too often from my friends. Much to my surprise, this story has been passed to me and now that I’m months away from my firstborn, I’m quite feeling the pressure of juggling things perfectly to raise my kid.
I want to raise my kids the way my parents raised me – playing in the nearest residential playground, running, screaming, playing under the rain, catching frogs and insects like I used to when I was a kid.
Modernity and technology are only bits of the puzzle when it comes to fast-tracking childhood. Learning and growing are accelerated across the board, but so is childhood in general. As we all experience plodding cultural change, children of the newer generation are losing childhood because they aren’t given the time for outdoor play. I couldn’t agree more.
I often see children aged 3-10 years old holding smartphones, tablets, Nintendo and other gadgets – those we haven’t even imagined possible by the time we we’re kids. And this trend never seems to stop. Alarming isn’t it?
Today, your child wants a new video game console. The next day, your child wants the newest cellular phone available in the market. The following days, your child wishes for a computer and join an online community with a monthly fee. In the newest research conducted by a child advocacy group, Common Sense Media, the use of portable gadgets has exploded over the past few years from 38% in 2011 to 89% in 2013. Furthermore, the amount of time kids spend with their devices has mounted triple. These happened in spite of the reiterations from several different medical organizations about the negative effects of too much screen exposures of kids to screens.
You might wonder, what kids do on these portable gadgets? Mostly play games, others use app and watch videos, further studies have found.
It is 2014 now, preschoolers don’t know how to climb a tree but they can win a life and death games using the electronic gadget.
I don’t want to raise my child too tied in modernity. I want an exceptional childhood experience for my firstborn and future kids, with the right balance after all.
Parents and soon-to-be –parents should encourage their kids to drop their gadgets and play at the school or community playground instead. Playtime which involves a lot of moving around obviously has several health gains and could cause you, parents, and priceless benefits as you interact with your kids in playground.
So, with the competitive attraction of modern gadgets, how would you make outdoor play more engaging than video games?
1. Travel Back in the 90’s
Who could have foreseen time flying kite could provide hours of endless entertainment? Get your kids outside by making their own kite. Let them design it and fly it by themselves. Use different colors of papers and sticks to make this activity more attractive to kids. Bring them to a wide open space. Give them the reign to control once they get the hang of flying the kite. Just watch over them and let them be on their own. You can also let them play other games – those which you enjoy when you were kids.
2. Bring them to play paradise
Play is for playground. Paradise is for nature. Try to have an uninterrupted playtime in nature-themed playgrounds. In a 2011 newsletter of Nature Action Collaborative for Children (NACC), nature-based playtime is defined as more than just outdoor play. It happens in a natural space and is child-initiated and directed. In short, it is children playing with nature. Being closer to nature also helps in overall child development. The wholesome goodness of nature and play makes kids smarter. Children have the opportunity to decide for themselves, stimulate their problem solving skills and creative thinking. They learn to work with other children. When they explore the outdoors, they feel freer to wander. Seeing such scenario is just priceless, go create your own nature-themed play project for you and your kids.
3. Treasure Hunt
Encourage group cooperation, problem solving, following directions, thinking and reasoning with this extremely exciting game – treasure hunt. Prepare colorful costumes and props. Make it look like the real treasure hunt they see in the movie. Let them play in the mud, make mud pies and solve problems while keeping cooperation with his/her teammates. You will get to see who the leader is and who the problem solver is, the trickiest and who the organizer is. Make sure to prepare something special for them after the hunt.
4. Set a Friendly Puppet or Talent Show
Invite other kids from the neighborhood. Bring out chalks, papers, radio, chairs, toys and other art materials. Set up a mini stage for this cute little event. This will be a good opportunity for parents to see their kids’ talent. It will help you gauge what sport and activities fit your kids – basketball, singing, art, painting, crafting and many others. Prepare healthy snacks for them too and invite other parents to help you assist the kids. With this, you do not just bring your kids outdoor, but make him open for friendship and conversation.
5. Introduce Outdoor Science
Children love to play and experiment to discover new things. Bring the science of play and the science of science outdoors! You can use simple and easy concepts of science to make kids drop their gadgets for a while and be the next Einstein. Awe them with –do-it-yourself rainbow or the mentos-coke experiment or the all-time string telephone. After accomplishing each simple experiment, explain the basic concepts behind them and let them asks questions. Answer each patiently.
6. Get Your Kids (and Gadgets) Outside
Kids don’t have to choose between gadgets and outdoor play. You can get the kids fall in love with nature through bighearted photowalk or make a family video, while having picnic outside. Let kids use their gadgets to capture the most amazing nature shot. Let them look for birds and flowers to take pictures of it. Prepare mouth-watering and healthy food and prepare mindful and nature-based games. Put a balance between nature and technology because after all, we have to embrace what the future really is.
As parents, we cannot not worry about our child safety but sometimes joyful abandon of what’s “safe,” you can reap the myriad of benefits for your kids. Pretty soon, I’ll have my baby and I won’t be ashamed if I raise my child in traditional way and by nature’s rule of thumb. More than the benefits of bringing kids outdoors, I wouldn’t want to see my kids live with the bots and eventually be one.
Written by Aby Nicole League of AboutPossibilities.com
One of the biggest hopes you can have as a mom and an environmentalist is that your kids will want to take up your causes as they grow and mature. I could not be prouder of my oldest child (nearly 14) as he grows into a stellar young man. He is kind, empathetic, smart, a great cook and fisherman, and very much interested in sustainability and homesteading practices. He helps me in the garden and listens relentlessly to my babbling about political issues, food integrity, and saving the planet.
In an attempt to be more sustainable himself and grow greens for his three reptiles he decided he wanted to have a small scale aquaponics system in his bedroom. Actually he said something about a 50 gallon drum but I had to nix that idea and instead talked him into using his existing fish tank. He has a lovely 30 gallon tank and quite a few fish, all of which he purchased second hand on Craigslist by himself, using money he earned helping someone with a roofing project. With a bit of guidance from his Dad (who told him what he needed) he managed to rig together this pretty awesome little system. He spent about $40 for the materials. I love how easy this system is to put together. So many people have fish tanks in their home. It would be super easy for them to start using the nutrient rich tank water to grow greens, herbs, and other food items in their home. Plus when you clean the tank you can use that water in your outdoor garden. We do! Here is the fish tank:
You can see the aquaponics grow bed in the upper right hand corner of the photo. He took a small plastic storage container (which we already had) and he cut holes in the lid so that he could fit it with eight small baskets or hydrofarm net cups commonly used for hydroponics. In the baskets you find hydroton expanded clay pellets… no dirt or soil in sight. The baskets hang down inside the storage tub and the bottoms dip into the water which is continuously filled using a small aquaponics circulation pump inside the fish tank. The water is pumped up into the aquaponics grow bed, it is filtered for debris, and then once is reaches a certain height it overflows back into the fish tank via a plastic tube (got it from Menards).
And of course he added a grow light over the top of the grow bed to help the seedlings grow. And boy do they grow! A seed wrapped in a tiny bit of cotton ball will sprout and shoot up in a day or two, much faster than the those same seeds grown in soil outside. It is amazing. I can’t wait to post pictures of his mature greens and lettuce.