This fall garden was my first time growing anything on our new property, and especially at this scale! Our garden is currently 20 x 42, and it took my poor husband days to turn this large chunk of lawn into my new playground. I've definitely had some failures this season, but also some great successes - I'll highlight them all here and hope you can learn (and laugh) along with me!     DO mix in as much compost as you can while planting, and add as necessary while growing. I know this is not going to be my most fertile go-around with this particular patch of land. It used to be lawn, so the soil is very clumpy and clay-like. I added some manure/compost and did the best I could. This winter we will have pigs and chickens spending all of their time in a hoop house on top of my garden. Can you imagine what our soil is going to be like next spring with all of that free fertilizer!? DON'T plant rows of lettuce and kale all in the same day or week. I planted so much kale, it is really beautiful and abundant. However, it's all about the same level of maturity. Since kale can keep going until it's 20 degrees out, I should have successively planted so I'd have a continuous crop into the colder months. Since I know I will have so much excess, I will probably cook it down and freeze it. DO plant flowers in/around your vegetable garden. I planted marigolds all along the perimeter and they have attracted SO many bees. The bees are also LOVING the squash blossoms. When I see them they are usually buzzing around, absolutely covered in pollen, and probably super happy about it. I know it's dorky, but knowing the dire state our bees are in because of conventional agriculture, I am glad to be doing my part! DON'T underestimate cabbage worms and other pests. I've had a tough time with the white moths laying eggs on my kale leaves. Some of the plants remained healthy, yet others have leaves that look like Swiss cheese. I've purchased some diatomeceous earth to spread around, but I have not been as diligent with my pest control as I should have. So far, after a couple weeks of consistent application of the DE, I've noticed some plants appear healthier and are carrying less eggs. In the future, I plan on using row covers for my crucifers to prevent the moths from laying as well. I was lucky that I did get an excellent harvest before the pests really made my kale their home. DO grow butternut squashes in mounds. These plants' vines are so far reaching, that placing them in mounds at each of the corners of the garden has afforded them enough room to grow. They are still creeping up on my other plants and beyond my garden fencing, but that's OK! DON'T plant a bunch of turnips just because they're easy and available. For some reason, I went crazy with the purple/white globe turnips. They have been growing beautifully, but I hate the greens (they are weird and spikey?) I also have no clue what I'm going to do with the rest of these random turnips roots, as we've found out we don't particularly love them either.  Oh well. DO plant squashes - all the squashes! I started my garden in July and I thought it was too late for some varieties. Turns out, my zucchini were prolific and my butternut and spaghetti squashes are thriving as well! I had no problem with pests in my squashes, and I am literally growing some of the largest spaghetti squashes I have ever seen. Considering organic spaghetti squash is $1.99 a pound at the grocery store, my 8.7 pounder is worth quite a bit! Spaghetti squash is also one of my favorite and most versatile low carb foods that I know my daughters will eat. DO install mini sprinklers or drip tape vs. using a hose to water. I try not to water too often, but on hot summer days with no relief in sight, you need to give your plants a drink. Save yourself the sanity and endure a couple hours of agony by setting up an autonomous system. The mini sprinklers are particularly great. I found them on amazon, they came in a pack of 6. You do have to cut up a hose in order to set them up, which I was more than happy to do until my husband showed me just how expensive hoses are (eek!). Anyway, it has worked well, and I'll run them for 10-15 minutes at night if I feel the plants need a drink. DON'T water your garden in the peak of day. The best time, I've found, is early morning or later in the evening. You will lose so much water to evaporation, and also water on the leaves may attract more heat from the sun than your plants like. [AdSense-A] DO replant if you don't see sprouts within a couple of weeks. I think I planted my cauliflower and broccoli a bit too early. I replanted and now have healthy plants growing. I was worried that I was doing something wrong, but it's obvious that there are too many factors at play. Not every seed is going to sprout, and that's OK! DON'T go crazy weeding all the time. I thought this whole garden thing was going to be so much more maintenance than it actually is. A pristine, weed-free garden is gorgeous - but your time is important, and costly, too! I've been working full-time and taking care of two toddlers. I have a miniscule amount of time to spend weeding. I think the amount of weeds will also improve by using no till methods in the future! DO buy this book Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener. My sweet husband bought this for me last Christmas, and all I can say is THANK YOU! It covers every topic you can think of in a very concise, easy to understand manner. The internet has so much information, that it's almost too much. You can't weed out people's opinions and you are usually directed to some random forum topic circa 2006, which is only sometimes helpful. This book is a gem! I am so not an expert on all of this. I'm actually getting nervous about my Spring garden. What will I plant!? When will I plant it? Will I do transplants or direct sowing? I have no idea what the answers are. I'm planning on spending the winter season checking out the seed catalogs and figuring out how to best accomplish it all.   Now, I'd love to hear from you! Comment if you had a fall garden this year! What are you looking forward to planting in the Spring?   Thanks for reading!      

If you're anything like me, you might be a little bit sick of zucchini or summer squash. I have these big, beautiful zucchini plants that I was so excited about in the beginning of summer. Then, they started going wild - growing huge, huge squash constantly. I'm pretty proud of my novice green thumb, but if I eat one more piece of sautéed zucchini, I might cry. First world problems, I know. I often will turn them into zucchini fritters, but this is very labor intensive and time consuming (albeit delicious). This recipe is a very easy way to use up this last harvest of summer squashes. It is comfort food, but pretty [...]

Our new hens laid their very first egg! This home is really starting to feel like a farm. The chickens know us and get so excited when we bring them scraps to eat. The girls really feel like it is their "job" to take care of them. We waste so much less food, as every edible scrap goes right back to nourishing our sweet hens and making eggs!  I said "new" hens, because last week I came home from a day out, only to find that two stray dogs killed all of our chickens, including our beautiful rooster.  We lost 9 chickens that day and it was pretty discouraging, as we (my husband especially!)  put so much hard work into providing the right environment, food, etc to keep our hens healthy as they matured. They were probably only a few days away from starting to lay! That same weekend, we also had a very sweet, abandoned cat that came meowing over one night. She is the sweetest kitty and obviously loves people. She is all black, which made me think that she may have belonged to someone but was given up. We quickly realized she was pregnant, and that while we lost 9 lives, we gained (at least) 9 more! We will be keeping her as a barn cat, and getting her and her babies fixed when they are old enough. She came by this morning to eat her breakfast and was no longer pregnant! I cannot seem to find where she delivered her little ones, but I'm hoping she will bring them to us so we can help them out. After having to explain to the girls that all of our chickens went to heaven, and imagining my poor chickens in that brutal moment, we decided to get an electric fence to keep the next batch safe. It was an investment, but now I have the peace of mind to know that any animal - whether it is a dog, fox, etc., will be greatly deterred from eating the poor hens! I would highly recommend any products from PremierOne. It is a very well made netting that is electrified by a battery that is solar powered. We have 100 feet of fence that my husband set up in a circle around our coop, so that gives our chickens 795 square feet to roam. That is roughly 60 sq foot per bird, and we will move them every few days to give them a new patch of ground to explore and forage.  I guess that is farm life. Some days you lose lives, some days you gain. In the end, it's all about learning, growing, and venturing out into something new. You are constantly thrust outside of your comfort zone, only to find that the borders in which you've confined your ideas may have been too stringent in the first place. We hated to lose our chickens so senselessly, but in the end, the girls and I will have to learn that animals will come and go.  The only thing we can try to ensure is that every day they live on my farm is a good day.  Fall is in the air, and we have a lot on our to-do list before winter! My husband will be working on building a hoop house/greenhouse for our chickens and pigs to live in during the winter. We are also hoping to get a puppy, and harvest lots of veggies from the fall garden before the first frost. I have already successsfully harvested some tomatoes, zucchini, kale, and lettuce. Stay tuned for more updates, and thanks for following along! 

Let me start off by saying I am very blessed. I have two healthy, beautiful, and thriving little girls. They embody all of the goodness that exists in this world. They are truly special and unique little specimens that amaze me with their ability everyday. They won't, however, go on the potty. I write this as the very thought of changing another dirty diaper or soiled pull-up consumes me. Before you ask, yes, I've tried everything. First, it was raisins. It may seem strange, but my little ones love dried fruit and they seldom get to consume it. Plus, honestly, what better a way to reward them for a job well-done than something relatively healthy that feels like a treat? I am well aware that the "authorities" tell you that you're not supposed to use food as a reward. But, I can say with confidence that 99% of the people I've spoken with (including my own mother,) used M&M's as a potty training bribe. With that in mind, I was not about to feel guilty about offering some natural sugar to two, very active toddlers. The biggest problem I anticipated was having one who deserved a reward, and one who didn't. Based on their maturity levels and their proclivity for tantrums, I decided that we would celebrate each success together with rewards for everyone. Despite not being a huge fan of the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality, I really felt there was no other option. In this house, if someone goes potty, everyone is getting raisins.   [AdSense-A]   The raisins would have been the perfect solution if my children at ALL responded to food as a reward. Turns out, they couldn't care less. This is especially strange because my daughters positively worship food. If you spent a day with us, I have no doubt in my mind that, at some point, you would incredulously say, "wow, they're eating AGAIN?" But alas, my tiny foodies quickly decided that they would forgo raisins for all eternity if it meant not spending another second sitting on the potty. Naturally, my next thought was to up the ante. Enter the gluten free cookie aisle. Have you ever seriously looked at this section of the store? All I can say is, I'm impressed. Whatever you crave is available gluten free, dairy free, nightshade free, grain free, and nut free - free of everything, basically. Well, except the mommy guilt I felt when I carefully selected a box of GF ginger snaps that seemed enticing enough to encourage elimination. Plus, 32 cookies per box? At that quantity/cost ratio, I'd buy multiple boxes per week if that guaranteed potty success. In fact, I bought two boxes right away. So, I bribed. And, I bribed again. Turns out, my little mostly paleo, cave-kids love cookies! Who knew? If left alone for a second with the 2 boxes I purchased, I'd bet confidently that both would be rapidly consumed and licked clean of crumbs. So why, I ask, do the cookies DO NOTHING to motivate them to go potty? I asked the pediatrician about why my kids are (seemingly) the exception to the rule. Why wasn't food working? She simply explained that some kids do not respond well to the "reward" mentality. Ok, then. Now what was I supposed to do? I had to try something else. So, we moved on to bigger and better crutches of modern-day bribery. The included my old iPad equipped with unlimited amounts of Daniel Tiger themed potty training vignettes. Despite memorizing the words to every brain-washing lyric + getting a cookie when they coincidentally happened to potty, we were still as unmotivated as ever. In fact, one twin decided she was just going to get a free ticket to the show by just sitting next to the potty with no pants on. Great. I put a smile on my face and tried again. This time portable desks with coloring books. That has got to excite a 2-year old, right? Markers, crayons, the world has never seen so many art supplies! It captured their interest for a day. A day that I spent approximately 55% of sitting on the floor next to two potties while my twins happily made pictures, and seldom relieved themselves. I was desperate. Next onto the store, where I purchased stickers and tag board. Yes, a sticker chart, at last. Turns out, not only are they not super excited about stickers, but they're also not really mature enough to understand earning a sticker and then not getting to have it on their person. Instead, they spend the majority of their time trying to peel the stickers off of the chart. Epic fail. Currently, the most common response to suggesting they go potty is, "I don't like the potty..." As if that's a choice you get to make in life. I wish I could explain to them the joy that is getting to the use the restroom alone once you are an adult who successfully procreated, but I digress.   [AdSense-A]   We wear pull-ups instead of diapers now, although I have no idea why. I do far more changing than rewarding. The gluten-free cookies are going stale next to the bathroom sink, and I've been giving stickers out for no apparent reason. I've tried real underwear, but I fear they are just not ready yet. I finally realized, after all of the interventions that I imposed upon my sweet girls, that they are very stubborn little creatures. In fact, they are just as stubborn as their mommy (and let's be honest: daddy, too.) Their adamant minds and bold personalities have started an anti-potty campaign that is far too well-managed. I'm actually impressed. Plus, we all know two is better than one. My efforts have been outnumbered from the start. So what's the plan? I'm not sure. Lately we've been running to the potty urgently only to find out that "potty" has already happened. We still "don't like" the potty. The truth is, I don't need more time - but they do. I read a statistic somewhere that in the first year with twins you change 4,000+ diapers. After 2+ years of that and approximately 8,000 diapers, I am more than ready for a little change of lifestyle. But they lack maturity, and maturity takes time to develop. I need to dig deep, channel Michelle Duggar, and find my long-lost patience. I have such a "type A" personality that it is difficult to not impose a deadline on a milestone likes this. But this accomplishment is not mine, it's theirs. It is not my job to force them to potty; it's my job to guide them as they navigate through toddlerhood and learn to understand their bodies. Until then, I'll put the cookies in an airtight container, and we'll buy ourselves some more time to learn to potty.