COUNTRY FUN

an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

August 10, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Zucchini Jam?

Zucchini Jam?

Our zucchini seedlings germinated really well this year and I find it hard to throw seedlings on the compost pile. I gave some away to families to plant and the rest ended up in our garden. With the weather this year the zucchini plants are really producing. We’re baking, dehydrating, freezing and eating both raw and cooked. There is also only so much zucchini you can give away, so…… what else can we do besides the compost pile? Have fun with a zucchini recipe online search 🙂

I found a couple of interesting ideas and settled on Zucchini Jam. After watching YouTube videos and comparing recipes I combined with my other jam recipes and settled on the following:

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini – I left on peel, seeded completely and shredded with multiple grating plates to get a variety of sizes/textures.
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice – I always have this on hand vs fresh lemon
  • 1 – 20 oz can crushed pineapple (with natural juice) – do not drain
  • 6 oz regular jello, any flavor works – I tried strawberry first as I know it’s liked by everyone here. Does have food dye for those with allergies.

Placed everything, but jello, in a saucepan that would hold ingredients with an extra 4 inches to cover splatters as it boils. Boil for 20 minutes. Stir almost constantly to prevent sticking and browning. Also cuts down foaming. Zucchini goes transparent, but maintains texture.

While cooking zucchini mixture get canning jars and lids ready. (Loving my electric water bath canner. Heats quicker and maintains temperature really well. Also frees up much needed stove top space.)

After 20 minutes remove zucchini mixture from heat source and add in jello. Stir it in really well and get it into hot jars. (I used a mix of jelly jars that I had on hand.) Process in water bath for 5 minutes.

jam

Always seem to have a bit left over whenever I make jams, relishes, and pickles so we enjoyed this new jam this morning on homemade whole wheat toast. Texture was more like a marmalade and not too sweet. Will definitely make more of this zucchini jam. It was super easy, reasonable cost and pretty healthy for a jam – zucchini and pineapple.

June 7, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Anyone Want to Make a Mess?

Anyone Want to Make a Mess?

All I have to do is ask if “anyone wants to make a mess?” and my young group comes running.

2016_06_07_IMG_0171The seed boxes for our mixed lettuce and kale germinated so well that we have a lot of leggy seedlings. Not the greatest for planting out directly into the garden, so we needed to thin them out and repot in 6 packs. (For “we” I mean “me” for the actual repotting. These seedlings are needed for food this summer and fall. Little hands love to help, but are not always gentle.)

2016_06_07_IMG_0172Thinning lettuce is a perfectly messy inside activity for a rainy day. (Kale is more pull up and replant, so no real mess.) Doing this inside means my young learners can get their hands into the dirt for a different purpose, put magnifying tools to work, ask lots of questions, and explore a plant’s structure (Roots on a lettuce seedling are many and easy to explore.),2016_06_07_IMG_0175 all while coming and going throughout their morning play.

Seedlings into the 6-packs and ready to head back under the grow lights. We’ll be monitoring to see how they do. A good bit of counting: 1 tray, 6 packs in 1 tray with 1 pack left over, 1 seedling per cell. 7 x 6 means we have a lot to count. 42 seedlings repotted.

2016_06_07_IMG_0177 2016_06_07_IMG_0178

Then it was time to pick up our mess and get ready for lunch.

It also means we have fresh mini/micro greens for our lunch salad after pinching off the roots, rinsing and spinning dry. Spinning vegetables dry is always fun, great muscle work and allows for natural exploration of centrifugal force. 2016_06_07_IMG_0176(The roots were added to the compost pail.)

May 23, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on 2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

Last year I received a grant from Opportunity Alliance for extending the gardening season. With it we built a seedling grow station, a small hoop house and purchased row covering materials. We also purchased materials for supporting a lot of tomato plants. Everything except the hoop house worked as hoped for last year. The hoop house didn’t take us through the winter as hoped, but it did lengthen the season some. This year I changed up the usage of these materials some to really support growing our own food source and not just experimenting.

Decided to grow only seedlings we had success with last year and ate: cabbages, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squashes, kale, lettuce and herbs. I’ll support our local farmers with some seedling purchases of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and early crop of lettuce.

2016Garden

Some seeds were early into the garden and sprouting under row cover. Our warmer weather seedlings are hardening off outside during the day and in at night this week. They’ll make their way into the garden shortly, as frost date is past and warmer regular weather. Also have a good variety of seeds that like the warmer soil and onion sets to get in the ground. The onion sets and larger seeds are very small hand friendly for my young planting helpers. The herbs are into the hoop house this year to see if we can lengthen their harvesting season.

We also have last year’s leaves to mulch the rows with, mixing in newspaper we’ve recycled and been using for scissor practice.

Gardening with children of any age offers so many learning opportunities. At the preschool age the following indicator areas of the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS) are supported:

  • Emotional Development – self concept, self-regulation
  • Social Development – building relationships with adults
  • Approaches to Learning – initiative & curiosity, engagement & persistence
  • Early Language and Litaracy – comprehension & collaboration, presentation of knowledge & ideas, vocabulary acquisition & use, integration of knowledge & ideas, research to build & present knowledge-writing
  • Physical Development and Health – nutrition, fine motor, gross motor,physical health status
  • Math – mathematical practices, counting & cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, geometry, measurement & data
  • Science – earth science, life science
  • Social Studies – civics and government, economics, geography, history

May 16, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on It’s Rhubarb Time!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

We’re back in the garden! Harvesting from the rhubarb bed has started. That means lots of kitchen time with the children here. We’re using some of our favorite recipes which you can find in postings on Countryfun is Cooking. Just search “rhubarb”.

This morning we made the Rhubarb Muffins to have for our afternoon snack.  A quick, easy and tasty recipe that also freezes well.

I enjoy being in the kitchen with the children. So many learning opportunities and there is usually something unexpected. Let’s start with Reading – idea of written directions in a recipe, names on ingredient containers, alphabet identification

Team work – gathering of materials, positioning to watch and help, working with peers and adult

Language – ingredients, tools, techniques, questions raised and answers provided

2016_05_16_IMG_0110

Math, science and social studies –  measuring ingredients and counting. We also compare measuring tools and talk fractions. Smell for vinegar and vanilla. Taste brown sugar.

Where do eggs come from? Love getting the store as an answer:) More discussion on eggs coming from chickens with the farmer bringing to the store. Even better answer of “Ducks!”

More science as oil and milk blend. Then brown sugar dissolving in liquid. Flour going from dry to wet as we mix ingredients together and finally the baking. More math when we set oven temp and time the baking.

2016_05_16_IMG_0114

Did you notice we used 3 different sized spoons in today’s baking? One of the children did. Thankfully he commented on the difference size handles, so I could take advantage of the observation for more learning. So of course we had a closer comparison of the 3 spoons for bowl size, handle length and a discussion on why they worked better for the reasons used for today. Largest for mixing. Middle for scooping dough for muffins. Smallest for scraping dough off scooping spoon.

2016_05_16_IMG_0113

Last counting for this morning equaled 24. The recipe made 2 dozen muffins loaded with rhubarb – one very healthy and underused early spring vegetable.

2016_05_16_IMG_0115

May 16, 2015
by countryfun
Comments Off on We Have a Mini-Hoop House!

We Have a Mini-Hoop House!

I had hoped to involve the children in helping to construct the mini-greenhouse for the garden, but found it was better to get it made over the weekend myself. It was not a structure that little hands would have supported the construction of. Instead we’ll explore it together and use it together as we plant, tend and harvest through the winter.

I started with a garden area that would accommodate a 4′ x 6′ mini structure. This size will allow us to work from both sides 2′ in which works fine. That means I needed 2 – 4′ and 2 – 6′ pieces of cedar 1″x6″ to make the box frame.DSC06569

The frame was supported with corner bracing that left space for the 3/4″ pvc piping to fit behind.DSC06571  DSC06572

There are to be 4 hoops spaced 2′ apart with the ends held in place with the bracing that left the 2 middle hoops to be held in with clamps. DSC06573

It was easiest to get everything that needed nails or screws together in the garage, carry the finished frame out to the garden, place and fill with soil before placing the hoops. DSC06574

Next it was time to cover the ends with clear 6mil plastic. I used clear plastic we had on hand, although special garden plastic is suppose to last more years. The end plastic was stapled to the frame and then taped up and over the end hoops.

I then cut a length of plastic to cover the whole mini-hoop house. This was laid out and a 6′ piece of strapping was used as the ridge pole laying it over the plastic covered hoops. I screwed through the strapping and plastic into the hoops. This will not only help hold down the plastic, but ties the hoops together and adds stability to the structure. The hope is it will also help hold up to the snow we get.

I cut the plastic oversized, so I could attach 2″x3″x6′ board along each side. I rolled the plastic around the boards that were laid tight to the frame and stapled the plastic in place. DSC06578 This will both hold the plastic down tight and allow for it to be easily rolled up the hoops to make working within the hoop house easier. It will also allow for keeping the hoop house open once summer weather gets hot. I’m also trying out black foam tubing for clips to hold the plastic tight. If this doesn’t work I’ll be hunting for something like chip bag clips.

I’m thinking we’ll plant the cucumbers in here to start the season. They are suppose to like the enclosed environment. They will also be done growing in time for a fall seeding of kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, beets, spinach. All these crops should be able to handle the winter cold and provide a fresh harvest. Maybe we’ll also add a tomato plant or two when we do the cucumbers……..

 

Subscribe

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Skip to toolbar