Archive for the ‘Yard’ Category

We prefer to not have too many store bought decorations because we do not like to store them until the next year.  Partly because it is clutter and partly because once anything goes down the stairs to the basement I will never be able to find it again, but that is something to tackle for another post.

Decoration Ideas

  • Put pumpkins out that were grown at a local farm or grow your own
  • Use different sizes (tall and skinny, round, mini) and colors (white pumpkins, not just orange)
  • Carve jack-o-lanterns or paint them
  • Fresh apples from a local orchard in a bowl on the table
  • Use different colored leaves, pine needles, pine cones, acorns, branches, rocks, or seeds from your yard in a basket as a centerpiece
  • Branches of bittersweet in a vase
  • Use lots of candles – put tea lights in hollowed out gourds
  • Put different Halloween candies like sugar pumpkins, candy corn, or orange and black jelly beans in different size glass jars
  • Blow up orange balloons and use a black permanent marker to draw jack-o-lantern faces on them

No Sew Costumes

Just because you do not sew does not mean you cannot make your child’s costume. Find a picture of the character you want to create online and use it as inspiration. Be creative.

Last year my son and I put together his Handy Manny costume. It consisted of his work boots, jeans, a green t-shirt, a brown belt, yellow rubber dishwashing gloves (size XS), a red baseball hat, and he carried a toy tool box with tools in it.

This year he is going to be Bob the Builder. His costume consists of overalls, a red checkered flannel shirt, a tool belt, a toy construction hat we found at a consignment store and his work boots again.

Thirteen Ideas for a Green Halloween that is EEK-cologically Friendly

Laura M. Brown is the owner of P’lovers of Texas (www.plovers.us). P’lovers, originally established in Canada, stands for both ‘Planet Lovers’ and ‘Piping Plovers’, which are small Nova Scotia shore birds which were declared an endangered species in 1985. P’lovers eco-friendly items are available in store and online and can be shipped anywhere.

Laura provided the following green tips for Halloween for parents and families that are fun, hip and sensitive to Mother Earth:

1.       Decorate your pumpkin with vegetables. Use a carrot for the nose, green peppers or small cauliflower halves for ears…corn silk or other vegetables for hair. Afterwards, compost the vegetables along with your unused pumpkin parts.

2.       Serving cold beverages? Tickle your guests by using On the Rocks – Granite Ice Cube Drink Chillers (available at Uncommongoods.com) instead of ice cubes. They won’t dilute your drinks, make for great conversation and come in sets of six.

3.       Treat bags can be anything.  P’lover’s bamboo shopping bags are great…and so are pillowcases (great for big trick or treaters!)

4.       Use white pillow cases for making small ghost decorations.  Place a balloon or ball on lamp base, (unplugged please.) Then drape a white pillow case over it. You might use twine or rope to give your ghost a belt. Make a scary face if you wish with fabric scraps.

5.       Serve those Halloween and harvest treats in recycled glass or bamboo servers. You can create a wonderful “eye ball salad” using one of P’lovers olive servers. Just alternate large pitted black or green olives with small mozzarella balls that you have given eyeballs using slices of pimento stuffed olives.  Spooktacular!

6.       Give fun, useful and hip treats instead of candy. Stickers, recycled erasers, bamboo pencils and our chubby “tree” crayons make great surprises. Beautiful shells, polished rocks and other natural surprises are loved by children!

7.       Decorate oranges with food coloring markers to make tiny jack o ‘lanterns.

8.       Stay in the neighborhood. Rather than driving the kids, walk to your destination and celebrate with your neighbors.

9.       Light your barbeque, fireplace or outdoor fire pit with Holy Smokes™ fire starters made from recycled church candles.

10.   Give golfers on your trick or treat list golf tees made from corn. It’s a hole in one for Mother Earth!

11.   If you are hosting a party, avoid disposable items such as napkins, drink stirrers, plates, etc. Better yet-have guests bring a glass or goblet from home and supply items to decorate the glass with for a personalized holiday party favor. Check out our eco-friendly line of hemp napkins, plates and serve ware.

12.   Planning ahead can cut down on the number of trips you make to the store.  Make a list before you go and shopping on-line saves time and gas!

13.   Buy local. Purchase locally produced pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks and other natural decorations from local farmers markets. Host a neighborhood contest for the most “naturally” decorated home!


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Growing Pumpkins

A pumpkin stem.

Image via Wikipedia

Jay’s parents grow pumpkins in their garden and Colby recently got to pick two; one for him and one for Sawyer. He picked the biggest one for him and the tallest, skinniest one for Sawyer because it reminded him of his little brother.

At Halloween it is great to have home-grown pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns with. Jay’s Mom also uses the fresh pumpkin to make pies and roasts the pumpkin seeds.

What I found out about growing pumpkins:

Pumpkins are gourds. They grow on vines and need a lot of space. They also need a lot of sunshine and water to stay healthy. For most families, one or two plants would be plenty.

Pumpkins need protection from wind so a sheltered warm spot is the best. Do not plant until you are sure there are not going to be any more frosts and do not plant pumpkin plants too close together. Also, do not plant them too close to potatoes, cucumbers or squash. Watch out for plant attacking slugs and snails.

Pumpkins need to be planted on a mound. If you are starting out with plants rather than seeds, plant in early June. Be sure to pick them before the first frost in the fall.

I told Colby we could plant our own for the first time next June. He does not understand why we can not plant some now. I am afraid he is going to have a long wait.

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Apple Tree

Image by Steffe via Flickr

A sign that fall is right around the corner, Colby is going apple picking with his grandparents this week.

It has been such a beautiful long summer so I am sad to see it go, but I also love fall. I really enjoy the leaves turning and all things pumpkin – muffins, bread, pie.

Fall means lots of work to do around the yard before winter comes. Last fall was the first year we planted a ton of bulbs. Unfortunately some sort of animal helped themselves to half of them. We have four huge hydrangea bushes in front of our house. Jay is hoping to transplant one or two of them, but I do not see how he will be able to do it without a backhoe.

Fall also means fair time. Most years past we have gone to the Fryeburg Fair, in Fryeburg, Maine (www.fryeburgfair.com) but I would like to try some different ones. There are so many good ones in our area. When we used to live in Connecticut, we used to always go to the Big E (www.thebige.com). Funny thing is our favorite part was the Maine house and eating the Maine baked potatoes. Go figure.

This is Colby’s last week at his old daycare. I am taking him out to pizza with his best friend and his Mom on his last day to celebrate. I am thankful that he has had such a great experience there. He is really going to miss all the great teachers he has had and all of the good friends that he has made. Sawyer will still go there so at least Colby will have opportunities to visit.

Next weekend is Labor Day. We have no real big plans. I think I will use the long weekend to try to get organized for the fall season and to get outside and enjoy the last of this beautiful summer.

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Compost Pile

A handful of compost

Image via Wikipedia

Compost encourages earthworms and other critters. It provides nutrients and improves the soil. Starting a compost pile in your yard is convenient and it keeps lawn clippings and food scraps from filling up landfills.

How to Make Compost

  • Start with a layer of leaves, grass clippings and kitchen waste like banana peels, eggshells, old lettuce leaves, apple cores and coffee grounds.
  • Keep adding materials until you have a six-inch layer, then cover it with three to six inches of soil, manure, or finished compost.
  • Alternate layers of organic matter and layers of soil or manure until the pile is about three feet tall. A pile that is three feet tall by three feet square will generate enough heat during decomposition to sterilize the compost.
  • Your compost pile may benefit from a compost activator. Activators get the pile working, and speed the process.
  • Keep the pile in a semi-shaded area to keep it from drying out too much. If your pile is near a tree, turn it frequently to make sure the tree roots do not grow into it.
  • If your compost pile has a strong odor, try turning it more often. Odors are often caused by poor air circulation or a pile that is too tightly packed.

Jay has started a compost pile in our yard. It is way in the back just in case it starts to stink and so it is out of sight. They say the process should take about two months, but our pile is not big enough so we have not made any successfully yet.

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Camping with Kids

Camping is a great way to spend time with your kids while enjoying the outdoors.

We have never taken Colby and Sawyer camping, but Jay and I used to go before we had kids. We are going to try it as a family for the first time this summer.

First we are going to “camp” in our backyard. We will set up our tent, sleep in sleeping bags, and make smores using our fire pit.

A woman I work with who camps with her children a lot suggested two campgrounds. They are Winslow Park in Freeport, Maine and Camden State Park in Camden, Maine. We are going to go the one in Freeport first since it is closer to our house, but we really want to try the one in Camden too.

I have started thinking about what we should bring. So far my list of things is warm clothes (especially important since we will be camping in Maine), insect repellent, sunscreen, first aid kit, rain gear, games and flashlight.

Does anyone have any suggestions for other campgrounds or any tips for camping with kids?

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I do not know about you, but I am thankful that it is Friday and the start of a weekend. C loves to play games so I was trying to think of some simple games that we can play outside this weekend.

So far I have come up with jump rope games, water balloons, Cat’s cradle, hopscotch, marbles, tag, hide and seek, wiffle ball, dodgeball, Red Rover, obstacle course and treasure hunting. Some things I thought of that are not really games, but that are simple and we could do outside are biking, sprinkler, painting rocks and paper airplanes (Jay and C made a great one last night actually.)

For those of you who have forgotten the rules about how to play marbles like me, here they are courtesy of www.gameskidsplay.net:

  • A relatively smooth playing field is required, usually on dirt. A small hole is made in the center of the playing area.
  • Each player antes up a marble, and they are randomly scattered around the playing field.
  • Each player uses a large marble (called a shooter) to try to knock the other marbles into the hole (much like pool.)
  • Players take turns shooting, and if a player knocks a marble into the hole with his/her shot, they get to keep the marble they knocked in and shoot again.

If you have forgotten the rules to any other games, you should check this website out. They have the rules for over 250 different games.

What simple things will your family be doing outside this weekend?

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Image via Wikipedia

Gardens improve your quality of life and fresh vegetables enhance your well-being. When you buy produce at a grocery store it is usally not fresh since it is grown far away and then transported. You can buy organic, but that is expensive.

We have a pretty large yard, but it does not get much sun. There are too many trees so most of our yard is shady. Jay has taken down some trees and hopes to take down more, but in the meantime we do not have a large sunny area for a garden. Instead the past two years we have been doing container gardening. We have had great luck growing lettuce, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, swiss chard, broccoli, and peas. It has been very convenient to step out our door and grab some vegetables. It has also added some more green to our yard. C has been very excited to be able to pick and there is nothing like having fresh vegetables in the summer.

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