Scarecrows, like Dorothy’s friend in the “Wizard of Oz”, have been around since people started to farm.To keep birds from eating their crops, ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks made statues of their harvest gods and set them in the fields to protect their food. Over time, different countries made different kinds of scarecrows. In Germany, farmers built wooden witches with potato sack clothes and metal wind chimes to frighten the birds and keep away the evil spirits from their new seedlings. In Japan, they tied smelly oil rags and fish bones to sticks with bamboo wind chimes and placed them in the rice paddies; they also made scarecrows dressed in peasant clothes and hung shiny metal objects that reflected the sunlight to frighten the birds. Native American tribes hung strips of cloth, animal skins, and bones from rawhide thongs or carved wooden hawks on top of pillars to guard their farmlands. Sun reflector wind chimes made from metal, mirrors, tin cans, and CDs, are a good way to protect individual fruit trees and small garden plots.
Kids can make a scarecrow from traditional materials, burlap sacks, buttons, old clothes, and straw. Start with a wooden T frame with two pieces of 2 x 4 wood beams. Attach the 2 foot shoulder board 8 to 10 inches from one end of the 5 to 6 foot long support beam. Kids can connect pieces of wood to create arms or make a fun pose, and dress the scarecrow in any creative way they may like. Lay the frame on the ground, slip one leg of the pants over the bottom of the support beam, with the other leg hanging free. Stuff the clothes with straw, newspaper, or rags. Slip the sleeves of the shirt over the cross piece, attach to the pants and pin on gloves for hands. Old burlap feed bags are an ideal material for a head with dried vines or a mop for hair. Tie twine around the open end of the head and attach it securely to the shirt. A hat can be glued or tied to the head. Kids can decorate their scarecrow with sun reflectors and noise makers to keep birds from gobbling up their new sown seeds and eating the tender green sprouts in their fall garden.
Freshly cooked organic dried beans are more nutritious, firmer, less expensive, and more flavorful than anything from a can. Kids can check the date on the package of organic dried beans to make sure they are fresh. As dried beans are not washed before packaging, kids need to rinse and sort them before cooking. For most bean varieties, 1 cup dried beans makes 3 cups of cooked beans. Kids can make wraps, tacos, and quesadillas with them all week. To make them easier to digest, kids can strain and cover the beans with water. By soaking the beans in water, the enzymes that cause intestinal gas are leached out. Kids can soak the beans overnight or, to make them even healthier, soak them for a couple of days to encourage them to sprout before cooking them. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans. Use fresh filtered water to cook the beans, as hard water causes the beans not to cook through or to cook unevenly. Cover the beans with 1 – 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, and slowly simmer. Smaller beans like navy beans will be done in an hour; larger beans like chickpeas can take 1½ to 3 hours of simmering over the low heat. Kids can have the beans simmering while they are doing homework in the afternoon, happy to get up and stir the beans occasionally. When the beans are almost cooked add sea salt and herbs to infuse the beans with flavor. After the beans have finished cooking and let them sit in the salted water for at least 30 minutes before serving and refrigerate them in their cooking water for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.
When families grow an organic raised bed garden where they live, they have easy access to fresh organic food and benefit from a sanctuary that restores them mentally, physically, and emotionally. The raised bed can be a 5’ x 4’ wooden container in a site that gets 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, away from trees and high winds. A planter box of cement or rocks edging a wall is a productive raised bed as plants growing off the ground aren’t as easy a prey for pests and disease. Raised beds warm up quicker for earlier planting and extended growing season. Staggering the plantings of veggies is accomplished easier as kids can reach, rotate and harvest crops over an extended growing season in a small raised bed. Kids can terrace their veggie plants to capture the most sun and grow a bigger harvest by putting the tallest ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. A trellis can be attached to the raised bed to keep vines weed and water free. Kids can fill their raised garden bed with organic soil and compost from their compost bin, garden center, or local organic soil company. To save time, money, and water, kids can easily add a drip watering system or a soaker hose with a battery run timer so that watering takes place at the best time of day for maximum absorption and minimal evaporation. Filling the raised bed with fresh balanced organic soil creates a perfect start to growing abundant fruit and veggies. Kids can add castings from Red Wriggler worms that create the highest quality compost with nutrients and micro-organisms for water retention, air flow, and minerals and make the best fertilizer for the soil and the best food for the plants. Kids can hardly wait to taste the healthy variety of homegrown fruit and vegetables that they have grown in their organic raised bed garden.
Kids can be detectives and protect their families from unsafe food in their kitchen by checking the expiration dates on the perishables in the refrigerator and the pantry. Kids can read the labels on the cans and boxes in the pantry to find preservatives, additives, and other artificial ingredients manufactures have added to food products to change the food’s shelf life, color, appearance, and taste. Kids can discover if the food crops were sprayed with pesticides and herbicides by looking for the organic label on the produce. Another clue kids can look for is the temperature of the refrigerator, which should be between 35 and 38 degrees, to keep food from spoiling too fast. Kids can read the list of ingredients at fast food places, which serve highly processed foods filled with added fats, sugar, salt, chemicals, flavorings, and dyes.
Because of these additives to our food, too many kids today have developed serious diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and asthma. There are several healthy methods that ancient peoples developed to preserve their food that kids can use today. Kids can dry food in the sun, dehydrating it and removing the moisture that allows microorganisms to grow. Kids can pickle food in vinegar, soak fruit in honey, and use salt and other spices to slow food decay. Kids can use yeasts (living microorganisms naturally occurring on the skins of fruit and the surface of grains) to leaven bread and make sourdough bread using fermentation, a chemical reaction releasing of carbon dioxide that is used to make food last, as in sauerkraut or yogurt. By growing an organic garden and preserving what they grow, kids can make a huge difference in the health of their family and their environment.
Kids can make the best use of their small space organic veggie garden and available light by growing vertically: terracing, trellising, and using hanging planters. Kids can terrace their veggie plants to capture the most sun and grow a bigger harvest by putting the tallest ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. Kids can arrange containers of herbs and veggies on three or four steps so that each plant gets plenty of light. Kids can design the garden itself at layered heights, using raised beds, planter boxes, and cinderblock boosters, so that plants of the same height will get enough light.
Another vertical garden technique is to use trellises, arbors, and lattices on walls. Many veggies love to climb up a trellis, such as cucumbers, peas, beans, and melons. Kids can grow fruits and berries on arched trellises, which support growth upward, across, and outward, producing more fruit. A sunny wall with a lattice is another way to grow veggies and maximize space. Trellising enables kids to keep their veggie plants clean with good air circulation.
Hanging planters from the eaves, window ledge, railing, gazebo, pergola, and the ceiling of a sunny room is another way to use vertical space. Hanging planters are usually limited in size so kids can choose smaller veggie varieties with a trailing habit. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, and bush beans grow beautifully over the edges of hanging planters. Kids can grow a vertical organic fruit and veggie garden anywhere and provide fresh organic food for the table right where they live.
How we experience food in our homes and environment, changes our bodies and our metabolic process. Modern hectic lifestyle has eroded family meal traditions. Recent research shows that the family meal can uplift the mental and physical wellness of parents and kids. Families eat healthier, communicate better, and become closer. Healthy habits for a lifetime can be created for kids while enjoying a nutritious meal with loved ones. Family mealtime can be made special by including the kids in the family meal planning. Kids can help planning a menu, making a shopping list, and preparing a dish. Depending on their age, they can measure, pour, and stir ingredients for the meal. Kids that grow an organic veggie garden can pick their produce at the height of freshness and add it to the menu. Proud of their offering, they learn to wash their hands, clean the produce, set the table, and keep the kitchen cleaner than when they started. Parents can discover what is happening in their child’s life at school and play, as kids will want to communicate. Family mealtime can bring beauty, value, and meaning to everyday life for both parents and kids.
Table manners help create that special environment for parents and kids to show gratitude and respect for the meal. Kids can swallow their food before talking and use their napkin to wipe sticky hands or to cover their mouth when coughing. Kids can speak kindly at the table: “Please pass the bread,” “I’m sorry for bumping the table,” “Excuse me for spilling,” “Thank you for the mashed potatoes”. When parents set the example of using good manners to enjoy healthy homemade food, kids will too. The wonderful aromas of home cooking and the laughter around the dinner table are the making of happy kids and fond memories.
Korma is a comforting, creamy curry. This ancient vegan, gluten free dish originally comes from India, has traveled around the world, and gained different vegetables and spices in the mix. The healthy secret to preparing yummy korma is the order of the ingredients added into a large stainless steel pot with a lid, which keeps all the vegetable nutrients in the simmer sauce. Sauté ½ cup chopped organic red onion in 2 tbsp coconut oil, add 1 minced organic garlic clove, 2 tsp grated fresh ginger, cook 1 minute. Stir in ¼ tsp organic ground cardamom, ¼ tsp organic dried red pepper chili, ½ tsp curry powder, ¼ tsp turmeric, and sauté 1 minute. Add ¾ cup water, 1 chopped organic potato, 1 sliced organic carrot, ½ cup chopped organic cauliflower, 1 cup chopped organic eggplant, ½ tsp sea salt, and bring to a simmer and cook 12 minutes. Add ½ cup chopped organic zucchini, 1/3 cup organic peas, and ¾ cup coconut milk and simmer 12 more minutes. The sauce should be thick and creamy and pale yellow. Korma is traditionally served with rice.