Thursday, May 29, 2014

E is for EarthBox Gardening

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know how much I really love gardening with my EarthBoxes (aff). When I first learned about them, it was from a homeschool forum I used to frequent. With my Bermuda grass-filled backyard, it was never possible (though I certainly did try) to grow a decent garden that did not get swallowed up with weeds. I thought - do these things really work? I received a single one to review. It was many many years ago that I reviewed it and over the years I added one or two to the group. I now have ten. They are prolific and fun to use. This is the science behind the EarthBox and this is how you use them!

First you buy one. (Smile.) And some plants.

Then you buy the potting mix to go in it. The EB site sells it, but to ship it to you is more expensive than I am willing to pay so I buy local potting mix. I bought this to add to what was already in my box from last year so I did not need as much. You cannot use potting soil as it it dense and will not work. I have tried various kinds, but this mix was what was at the local Home Depot so I bought it.

If I am refilling an EB I have already used, I dump out the last year's soil into a black plastic mixing bin we also bought from Home Depot. I break up all the solid soil, add some of the new potting mix, and then add a lot of water. Mix well and break up the clumps!

Once the soil is ready, I start adding it to the EB. There are specific directions that come with the box and if you are doing this for the first time - definitely follow them!!

Next up, fertilizer. If you buy a new EB, it comes with your first fertilizer. If you are replanting from a previous use, you need replacement fertilizer. If you are growing tomatoes, you will want to buy the Replant Kit as it has a special additive for tomatoes. They will not grow as well if you use anything else. (Ask me how I know!) For any other vegetable, you can use something like this:

It just has to be the kind specifically for veggies. You will fill the EB about 3/4 of the way full and then you will lay the fertilizer strip. Depending on what you are planting, it may or may not be in the middle. The EB Planting Guides explain what you can plant and how you plant correctly for the best harvest. It should look something like this:

Once this is done, you will mound the potting mix on top of it so that when you put the cover on, the water will run down from the top, rather than pool there. The EB does not feed water to the plant from the top, but from the reservoir in the bottom of the box via a wicking system. (See the science of the EB above.) The final mounding should look like this:

You definitely want to make sure the fertilizer is covered well enough that your dogs or bugs will not smell it. You won't like the results if it is lightly covered. (Ask me how I know!)

Once you have done this, you put the cover on and plant your plants! These are three honeydew melons that should grow like the wind this year. We have grown them before and they are the sweetest most delicious melons I have ever had.

I have six boxes planted and two waiting for me to get it together to plant. I even have plants ready! (And two more just staring at me.) Below are two tomato EBs in the early growing stages. Once they are planted, they grow pretty quickly. I fill up the reservoir troughs every few days. I do it more often when we have a heatwave.

We have planted a ton of different things over the years, but the best success has been had with the regulars: tomatoes, melons, cucumber, green beans, snap peas, zucchini, crook neck squash, peppers, and herbs. 

Does this sound like the kind of garden you'd like to have? Living in the city, with a yard like mine, it is the only way I can actually grow anything successfully. It is a delight to be able to grow anything at all, but the EBs definitely give more than less. 

If you had an EarthBox (aff), what would you plant in it?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

D is for Do the Next Thing

I don't know about you, but there are days and sometimes whole periods of my life that have left me feeling empty. At these times, everything feels hard and scary and I don't know where to go or what to do. I wonder, Where are you, God? Are you here anymore? I know that at different times in my Christian walk, faith has been an act of will. And even then, the will is given through the mercy of the Holy Spirit, but it doesn't always come with the feelings I wish it would. Sometimes I think, Oh Lord, please help me to feel more than I feel in this life of faith. I feel like I am alone.

However I know that I am not alone.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-4)

No darkness can overcome Him.

Sometimes we let the darkness overcome us though, don't we. Sometimes I don't know where to go or what to do so I pray. I pray and then I do. This poem came into my mind this week because it is the story of my life. I can't stop doing what I do, but it is not always easy. No one said this life would be easy, but some days it is harder than others. So I do the next thing. God is there in the details of my life. He is there in yours. So I do the next thing. May this poem help you to see that you can too.

Do The Next Thing

From an old English parsonage,
Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight,
A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend,
Deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me,
Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours
The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration-

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment,
Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity,
Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows,
Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus,

Do it immediately;
Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence,
Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence,
Safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all resultings,

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering)
Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence,
The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance
Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee,

-Author unknown

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

C is for Creation through the Fall of Rome!

We are at the end of our history year. We have covered so many different times, places, people, and events. It has been a wild ride! To go from creation all the way through the fall of Rome - that's a lot of stories of men, women, children, and ancient life. It is a little haunting to me because there is no way to cover all the things I want to cover, no way to meet all the people I wanted to meet, and no way to visit all the cities, temples, rivers, villas, mountains, and homes I really wanted to visit with my children. History really is HIS story, but it is His story working among men and women, times and places, and in each and every life that has ever lived. And we are only up to circa 400 AD!

This week, we ended our long study with a Timeline Challenge. I printed off page after page of my Home School in the Woods, Timeline Figures, and unrolled a long piece of butcher paper. Each of these timeline figures represents an important event or person and has the date. That didn't make it much easier as I cut out 115 figures and handed them out, entirely mixed up, to all eight kids and told them to get going!

Here they are sorting the figures.

Here they are starting to place them on the timeline.

It took a lot of team work, and then at the last, the work of the two most dedicated. 

It was really neat to see at the end! We covered so much this year, and this was only a little bit of the whole.

Some of what we used for the year (some affiliate links):

Dough maps of Egypt that we made during this study:

I love her exuberance for all things history! She was the one that told me about this fascinating book:

Pharaohs And Kings: A Biblical Quest

(This is SUCH a cool game! I have the free version and I love it. What a challenge, but a fun one!)

(Jim Weiss does this in CD format and I always recommend Weiss!)

Great video and info on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Persecution under Roman rulers. There are some powerful stories linked here! 

Etruscan video and information in this post. 

The Truth of Troy (video at link) and making cookie maps of Greece. Delicious!

(This book and its companion below, are beautiful. It is hard to find these anymore, but they are around and often found in libraries. One of mine is super special to me because it was signed by Rosemary Sutfliff!)

The Assyrian ~ Samaritan connection. Fascinating!


(Super fun game that helps you learn the areas. Definitely not specific to ancient cultures, but still a great tool for fun learning on a Friday night!)

(These are *so* useful! From full coloring pages to wall-sized timeline figures to the small ones you see in the photo above--you can use these in so many ways from your little ones all the way up through high school.

(Review of this product here.)
Gilgamesh the King (The Gilgamesh Trilogy) 
(Series of full color picture books with amazing artwork! Check your library!)

(One of the most interesting stories in the study of history! After the find of the Rosetta Stone, they could not figure it out. This is the story of the main man who did.)

(One of the most interesting books about the flight of the Israelites I have ever read. I highly recommend it!)

(These are parental watch first (IMHO) because there are, as they are in the real story of Joseph, some spicey bits. However, it is entirely possible to watch this with the kids and it is a really interesting recreation of ancient Egypt in one of its various heydays. Well worth watching!)

(I offer the same warning with this DVD. I only watched this one with the oldest two. Please watch it first and decide for your family. It offers a very realistic view of the times, multiple wives and the strife therein, the conflict with Ishmael and Issac. It is definitely worth watching.)

(This is a DK book. [All the more strange since its focus is Creation!] It has lovely illustrations though and I have always been glad I owned it.)
There were other resources we used, I know, but today, I cannot remember any more than this. I hope these give you some ideas and help get you going on your own ancient history journey! Studying this time period is one of the most fascinating of all. Ancient times and places - they hold magic that has yet to even be discovered by archaeologists. I can't wait to find out in the future!

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