Dandelions, the Super Food

Dandelions!!!

It seems that many will do whatever it takes to rid their yard of those little yellow flowering weeds. For a matter-of-fact, we were once in that same camp. Then we moved over to the “I don’t care” camp and just mowed right over them when we cut the grass.  I have now moved into a new dandelion camp.

For years, I’ve heard of people making dandelion wine, but since I don’t drink wine,  I had no desire to give it a try. I had also heard of using dandelion greens in cooking, but again, I never had a desire to give them a try. Recently, I came across an article touting the benefits of dandelions and I was amazed!!!  This little weed that many try to kill has awesome health and healing benefits.  For example, it can prevent or cure liver diseases, such as hepatitis or jaundice. It will act as a tonic and gentle diuretic to purify blood, cleanse the system, dissolve kidney stones, and improve gastrointestinal health. Having trouble with your weight? Eat dandelions for weight reduction. Dandelions can also be used to cleanse your skin and eliminate acne. Constipation or diarrhea? Dandelions can help both problems by improving bowel function. This little yellow flowering weed can improve blood pressure, prevent or cure anemia and has the ability to lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half. Eat some dandelion to reduce acid indigestion and/or the buildup of gas. This super weed can even prevent or cure various forms of cancer, diabetes and has no negative side effects.

All these years I’ve tried to kill dandelions when in fact, I should have been protecting them, picking them, and feeding them to my family.

With my new-found knowledge, the girls and I headed outside to pick dandelions.  We picked only the flowers to make Dandelion Blossom Bread.

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2 c flour

2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c dandelion blossoms, all green sepals and leaves removed

1/4 c oil

4 T honey

1 egg

1 1/2 c milk

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, including petals making sure to separate clumps of petals. In separate bowl mix together milk, honey, oil beaten egg. Add liquid to dry mix. Batter should be fairly wet and lumpy. Pour into buttered bread tin or muffin tin. Bake 400F. For muffins 20-25 min, bread for bread up to twice as long. Test for doneness

I did add a little glaze to the bread, for some added sweetness, but it really didn’t need the glaze.  The bread tastes of honey and my 4-yr-old loves it.  My 6-yr-old ate several bites, then decided she was done.  She isn’t a big fan of honey though and her little sister was more than happy to finish her piece :-)  Hubby chose not to partake.  Next time I think I’ll cut back on the honey a bit, but overall, I thought it was a delightful bread.

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Without a doubt, I will be including dandelions as part of our diet.  With all the wonderful health benefits, how can I not.

Posted in Baking, Eat Fresh, Health and Weight Loss, Nature | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Landscaping

Slowly, but surely, we’ve been working on our patio landscape project. It’s come along nicely and my hope is that by the end of the weekend, it will be complete.

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I put grass seed down as well and we are due for another spring shower tomorrow, so hopefully new, beautiful green grass will fill in the bare spots around the new landscaping.  I also have a new hydrangea bush arriving any day now.  It will make its home just on the other side of my new Mock Orange bush.  Granted, it will take a couple of years for everything to really fill out, but I think it will look lovely.

The other empty space will house pots of fresh herbs.  My goal is to not only have wonderful herbs for cooking, but I will learn how to make my own salves, teas and tinctures.  I’m so excited about the possibilities!!

Once the project is completed, I’ll make sure to post before and after pictures.

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Amazing Vegetable

After several unfulfilled forecasts of rain, we finally got a nice little shower yesterday.  We had above normal temperatures for several days.  Above normal as in 15 – 20 degrees above normal, which my cabbage plants were not enjoying at all.  On top of that, the ground was getting pretty dry.  With seeds in the ground I found myself watering the garden a little bit in the evenings, so a nice rain shower was a very welcome sight.

The sky was clearing, so after the dinner dishes were done, I headed outside to take a look at the garden.  Finally, my kale, spinach, lettuce and carrots are emerging.  The onions are growing well and with the rain and cooler temperatures, the cabbage and broccoli look happy and content.

Then I looked at the asparagus patch.  OMG!!!  This vegetable is amazing.  Just a couple of days ago I found the first little spears beginning to pop thru the soil and last night this is what I cut.

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As quickly as asparagus grows, there will be at least this much more to cut today and we’ll continue to have beautiful stalks of asparagus to cut for the next few weeks.  With a beautiful sunny day in the 60′s, I think some grilled hamburgers and asparagus will make a wonderful dinner tonight :-)

 

 

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Happy Easter

As kids, Easter was a day of celebration beginning with my sisters and me running downstairs in excitement to find our Easter baskets full of small toys and lots of candy.

I’ve carried this tradition forward with my children and just like Easter mornings of my childhood, my girls ran downstairs this morning with excited chatter as they discovered the Easter Bunny had brought each of them some fun Easter treats.

As I thought of Easter, I realized that I really didn’t know how the Easter Bunny came to be part of the celebration.   I don’t remember questioning the Easter Bunny as a child. He was just part of my Easters growing up and I was just grateful that he saw fit to bring me a basket every year.   I was raised to believe that Easter was a Christian holiday.  A celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So how did a bunny become part of this holiday.  Somehow the two just don’t seem to go together, so I did a little research.

It seems that prior to Christianity being introduced in Europe, festivals were held in celebration of spring. They celebrated renewal, birth, rebirth, and fertility.

The Goddess Eostre was the goddess of fertility and her symbol was the hare. What better animal than a rabbit as the symbol of fertility. Tradition states that Eostre cast the hare into the heavens and when we look up at the stars now, we can find the constellation, Lepus the Hare. There are also stories that state Eostre gave Lepus the ability to lay eggs once a year. Eggs are also a symbol of fertility.

One thing that was quite common for Christians was the attempt to take pagan celebration and incorporate them with Christian celebrations and traditions. So as Christianity began to spread into Europe, the pagan celebrations of spring and Eostre were crossed with the ideas and rituals of Christianity.

The first stories of the Easter Bunny comes from Germany in the 15th century and in the 1800′s it was a German tradition to make chocolate bunnies as part of the Easter celebration. So when German settlers came to the United States, they brought their own traditions with them. Part of that celebration was the Easter Bunny or as the German’s called him, Osterhase, who layed brightly colored eggs. He would make special nests in the caps and bonnets of good children. Eventually the tradition grew to include chocolates and candies with the caps and bonnets being replaced with baskets.

So it appears that Christians decided to change things up a bit and added their own twist to a pagan celebration of springtime.  A big part of those pagan festivals celebrated fertility and since the symbol of fertility was a hare, we now have a bunny introduced as part of the celebration.  Mix in a little German history of Easter and the Easter Bunny and now I understand how a bunny became part of Easter.  The story is a bit crazy, but I do want to give a special shout out to the Germans for introducing chocolate bunnies into Easter  :-)

My girls certainly enjoyed their Easter celebration, although they didn’t get any chocolate bunnies this year.  We did do something a little different though.

I years past, I have always purchased the little colored tablets you put in vinegar or water to dye the eggs.  This year I decided to go natural and used beets, blueberries, turmeric, paprika and spinach to color our eggs.  It was a great experiment and other than the spinach, the girls and I really liked the results and will continue using the natural dye method in the future.

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Lili got to work on a little puzzle she got for Easter.

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Naomi with her Easter basket.

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Overall, a good day!

 

Posted in History, Holidays, Kid Stuff | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What a Wildlife

The girls and I were out enjoying another beautiful day here in Central IL. We took homeschool to Wildlife Prairie Park just outside Peoria for a few hours of exploration. This is such a great resource for us here in Central IL that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit we haven’t been there is a few years. For a matter-of-fact, I couldn’t remember if Naomi had ever been there, but if she did go, she was maybe 1 and that’s been almost 4 years ago. Needless-to-say, they have made a few changes since then and did I ever get excited to see what they are working on now – a Pioneer Farmstead!!!!

It’s still a work in progress with plans to put in farm animals that kids will be able to visit and pet, but what I did find there was my future homestead garden.

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Mine will be bigger than the one at the park, but I saw it and knew this garden set up was in my future.  I can see me spending a great deal of time locked up in my garden cage :-)

We saw so many animals at the park today.

Bison grazing

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These animals are just amazing and I love watching them.  They are so majestic!

From there we moved to see all the other animals that roam the State of Illinois – the gray wolf, black bear, red fox, silver fox, cougar, bobcat, lynx and more.

We read about the animals, learning much along the way.  Then, as we returned to the entrance of the park, I saw another animal out grazing with the bison. We headed over to check it out and there stood a herd of elk, eating corn.

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They were maybe 5 feet away from the fence, standing there eating and watching us as we watched them.  We examined the way the dominate elk kept the others away from the corn.  We waited and cheered on the under dog as they stood at the sidelines awaiting their opportunity to come in and get a few kernels for themselves.  We watched nature up close and personal for probably 20 minutes and eventually pulled ourselves away.

As we left the park, the girls and I decided that we needed to make regular visits to Wildlife Prairie Park this spring, summer and fall. It’s a great place to learn and explore many of the things nature provides us here in Central Illinois. Plus, I’ll need to go back and more closely examine my future garden :-)

Now I leave you with some pictures of our little field trip and some of the amazing animals I captured in picture.

Giant Monarch Butterflies.

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Bison and Elk

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Beautiful girls with horse.

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The Great Horned Owl

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Red Fox

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The cutest bison at the park.

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And I saved the best for last.

Happy, happy girls!!

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Posted in Homeschool, Kid Stuff, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Education Brought to Us By Nature

During warmer weather, many member of our local homeschool group have a weekly get-together at a local park for fun and exploration.  There is play equipment for those who want to play.  There are some woods with trails and a small creek for those who want to explore.  It’s a big beautiful park, just perfect for our group.

We were only able to join the group a couple of times last fall before the weather got too cold and everyone retreated to warmer meeting places. Last week we joined the group for the first time this year and all three of us looked forward to being there again today.

It’s been very good for my girls, especially my oldest, who needs time to warm up to new people and new situations. She definitely enjoys staying in her comfort zone. Her safe place. Unfortunately, staying in that place isn’t always the best and last week, when her little friend didn’t show up to the park, she became a bit anxious. That someone, who makes her feel comfortable, was not there and she was not happy. She was being forced to move outside that box of security and I wasn’t sure she would leave, but she did. It took some time, but she began engaging with other kids and by the end of the afternoon she had created new friendships.

This week she was a different kid. She seemed to have a new-found independence and she began to soar. She ran off with kids she had not played with in the past and there were many smiles and much laughter. One of the boys was celebrating his 8th birthday and brought some fun equipment for exploring nature.  With my girls and some other kids tagging along, they headed down to the creek in search of natures treasures.  Several minutes later excitement exploded like fireworks on the 4th of the July.  They had caught a snake.  Okay, my girls didn’t actually participate in the catching of the snake, but they were there watching as the snake was caught and placed in a net and brought back for the moms to see. My oldest was beaming with excitement, while my youngest was beaming with uncertainty.  Should she be excited or frightened?  She just wasn’t sure.  My oldest touched the snake and allowed it to wrap itself around her hand.  My youngest sat back watching and talking about the danger of this non-venomous snake as the adults explained all the positive attributes of this particular snake.

These are the kind of homeschooling experiences I want for my girls. Experiences that allow them to learn thru childhood exploration. Experiences that leave an impression. I want them to look back on their education and remember that day at the park when the snake was caught and how they examined the snake, one up close and the other from a distance. These are the kind of experiences that  trigger interest and that interest creates opportunity for learning.  Today’s experience most certainly leading to a study of snakes.

We will continue to meet at the park as often as we can. My girls will build friendships, create memories and experience education brought to us by nature.

Lili closely examining the snake.

Lili closely examining the snake.

Posted in Homeschool, Kid Stuff, Nature | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Start to Our Weekend

We had some big outdoor plans on tap for the weekend and since Sunday is calling for storms, today was our day to get as much of it done as possible.

My primary goal was getting all my cool weather vegetables in the ground.  It really has been cool here, unseasonably cool.  Of course the day I decide to plant, it’s in the upper 70′s, which is unseasonably warm.  Not to worry though, next week is calling for colder than normal temperatures and this afternoon I read that we have a possibility of a rain/snow mix early next week.  That should be cool enough for my onions, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, carrots and peas.  Once we get past the really cool stuff at the beginning of the week, I’ll put my cabbage plants in the ground.  I’ve never grown cabbage before and am very excited about my attempt.

After I got everything planted, hubby and I got busy working on our big landscaping project.  We are putting edging around the deck and patio.  It took us a few minutes to get our system in place, but once we got it going, it began going faster than we expected.

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Once we get all the edging done, I’ll come back and put more weed block down, with mulch on top.

The little plant in the corner of the first picture is a Mock Orange bush that I just planted a couple of days ago.  I have also ordered another Hydrangea which will be planted next to the Mock Orange.  There are two new Peony bushes by the deck as well, but you can’t see them in the picture, since they were just bare root plants that have not been in the ground long.

When the weather warms up, I will add pots of various herbs to help fill in the space.

We were able to make it over half way around the patio before quitting for the day and are very pleased with our progress.

During all the landscaping, the girls took advantage of our nice warm day by entertaining themselves with the hose.

They had a big Rubbermaid container and buckets for filling.  I also got one of their little sprinklers out and they played in the sprinkler for a while.

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Then they got creative.

We have a pile of sand they had been playing in earlier.  They decided to sit in the sand and then go rinse themselves off.

That turned into seeing just how much sand they could get on their wet bodies followed by a rinse off.

Before long, they were carrying buckets of water back to the sand pile, which is nothing but dirt underneath.

Here is the result of their creativity.

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I have a small, ornamental tree that should be delivered early next week.  I really should thank them for helping me prepare a spot for the tree.

They had an awesome afternoon in the sun getting dirty and even though it took me quite some time getting them cleaned and then cleaning out the tub, they made some truly wonderful childhood memories today.

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Posted in Gardening, Kid Stuff, Weather | Tagged , , | 2 Comments