Spinach: a cool crop in a hot climate

In Hew Hampshire, growing spinach was as easy as 1-2-3. We started seeds in the greenhouse, moved them outside as soon as the snow melted, waited a few weeks, and ate spinach. We succession planted every 4 weeks or so, moved the plantings into the greenhouse about August and had a crop all year long.

ABDUL NAHAZ NOOHO: Spinach: This Green has Powerful Healing Ability

Not so in South Carolina where all it takes is a day length longer than 14 hours (between about May 1 and mid-August) and some slightly warmish temperatures, over crowding, or under watering to signal the crop to bolt.

Look for varieties that are slow to bolt and downy mildew resistant like Melody and Space. Bloomsdale Winter and Bloomsdale Longstanding are great choices for winter growing. I especially love them because they are open pollinated. This year we are opting for hybrid varieties to attempt a longer, more successful season. We went with Olympia (all year) and Avon (winter planting).

Clemson extension recommends sowing between February 1-25 in the central part of the state without any season extension tricks like row cover. The row spacing is 3″-12″ apart, with 4-6″ between seeds in the row. Sow seeds 1/2″ deep and firm the soil to help with seed to soil contact. These seeds can be direct sown in spring. This is a crop that requires fresh seed each year as germination in seed more than a year old drops below 80%.

There’s a whole lot that goes into choosing the best temperatures for germinating spinach. The long and short of it is you get the best results between 50F-59F. Plan your spring sowing with that May 1 date in mind as pretty much any spinach still in the ground will bolt then. We start sowing for fall again the end of August after day length has dropped back below 14 hours and frost is about 8 weeks out (as long as its not still too ridiculously hot!).

For many reasons we start our spinach in soil blocks, though many growers are successful with transplanting bare roots. It just works better for the tools and help we have at planting time. 

Water spinach in the morning so leaves will dry completely before dark to help discourage downy mildew. Do not allow the soil to grow dry as water stress will effect yield. Cultivate lightly to void damage to roots and do not pull soil onto leaves as they will decay quickly. I prefer to lightly mulch rather than risk damage.

When we plant our spinach, we leave a little extra space down the middle of our beds. This is where we stick our double rows of peas. We use the same row cover to protect both crops in spring. It’s a great little trick I learned from Pam Dawling’s Sustainable Market Farming. 

Pests & Disease
Description Aphids May 2010-2.jpg      Aphid Damage
–Aphids: Sow alyssum, clover, dill, and yarrow to attract beneficial predators like ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and lacewings. Use rowcover (ensure you haven’t trapped any inside), water jets, insecticidal soap, hot pepper wax, flour, or diatomaceous earth.

Cutworm - image courtesy Wikimedia      Image: Cutworms 2
–Cutworms: Use collars or sulphur around plants.

Cabbage Looper | Publications and Educational Resources | Virginia ...–    Cabbage looper
-Cabbage loopers: Use row covers to prevent egg-laying in the early spring, handpick, or attract beneficial predators with marigolds, calendula, sunflower, daisy, alyssum, or dill. Insecticidal soaps will also help as will cleaning up the garden well in the fall.

Leafminer, Beet and Spinach | Center for Agriculture, Food and the ...      Leaf Miners - Urban Farm Colorado
-Leaf miners: Exclude adults with row covers in early spring and watch for tiny rows of little white eggs on underside of leaves. Pull these leaves and trash-don’t compost-them. Control growth of dock and lamb’s quarter as miners love these. Neem sprays work in severe situations. Attract beneficial predators.

downy mildew
-Downy mildew: I believe it is most effective to plant varieties that are resistant rather than try to battle. The days are long enough.

White Rust in Spinach |
-White rust: I believe it is most effective to plant varieties that are resistant rather than try to battle. The days are long enough. 

Damping-off by Pythium .
–Damping off: Try not to water in chilly weather. Plants use much less water when its cold, so only water if you MUST. Use a fan or some other method of moving air around. Try feeding with compost tea or seaweed extract weekly.

Most varieties are ready to harvest somewhere around 40 days after sowing. We prefer to pick or cut individual leaves starting from the outside of the plant and moving toward to inner, newer leaves. When we find ourselves stretched for time, we just take the whole thing off about 1″ above the soil. The plants take longer to recover, but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Rinse the leaves and store in the fridge. We harvest just leaves until the plants begin to bolt. Then we take the whole plants with us.

Seed storage
We stick our seeds in baggies in the freezer between spring and fall sowings.

on Growing Lettuce

When I started this series, “Beans” came first. Mostly because they were the first set of seeds in the front of my dorky alphabetized seed bin. HOWEVER! We most certainly don’t plant beans first in the season. And since I’m writing this as I’m planting along with you, it just makes so much more sense to write them as I plant them. So, here it goes: lettuce. 

Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix

In order to feel successful growing lettuce, let’s start with an understanding of the different types:

Cougar Batavian (Lettuce)

Batavian lettuce was virtually unknown to me until one year ago when Pam Dawling’s book introduced us. Living in the north, I never had to work quite so hard to find a suitable summer lettuce. Things are different in the south. And here is one, one type of lettuce that stands up in the heat! These are thick-leaved and might be confused with iceberg if you didn’t try it first. They tolerate both heat and cold well and germinate happily in warmer weather. Here are some varieties we love for the warmer days of spsummer: Cardinale, Cherokee, Concept, Loma, Magenta, Nevada, Pablo, and Sierra. 

... Blog » Vegetables » Lettuce » Lettuce – Butterhead, White Boston

Butterhead lettuce is also known as Bibb or Boston. These have full, tight heads that are harvested. For spring try Buttercrunch, Pirat, and Nancy. In the cooler days of fall and winter Tango, and Winter Marvel take the cake.

Description Iceberg lettuce (IJssla krop).jpg

Iceberg lettuce types are those watery, bland, nutrient empty leaves that no one is really interested in anyway, right😉

Description Green Oak Leaf lettuce J1.jpg

Leaf lettuce add loft to lettuce mixes, include many types of leaf shapes. I usually harvest these for leaves as a cut and come again, but it wouldn’t be horrible to take the whole plant. These are usually the fastest to produce an edible crop and have better heat resistance than romaines. For spring check out Oscarde and Panisse. We love De Morges Braun for the summer. North Pole, Vulcan, and Lollo Rossa are the go-to in fall and winter.

Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce are the crisp, green, flavorful types you can easily find at the grocery store. You know these. We love Green Forest in spring, Jericho in the summer. Outredgeous and  Rouge d’Hiver are our favorites in fall and winter.

Crop Requirements
Lettuce seeds need light in order to germinate. We sow them in the soil blocks, then just barely spread a fine cover of soil on top. Germination can take anywhere from 2 to 7 days depending on the temperature (68F – 80F is ideal). Lettuce is a challenge in the south because we have to keep it growing along quickly in order to avoid that horrible bitter taste of bolting. However, too much nitrogen seems to increase the chances of E. coli growing. Lettuce and I get along perfectly. 60F-65F weather is just right for growing. Anything above 85F will bring an end. In NH we accidentally proved that lettuce can take a frost as long as it grew while the temperature gradually cooled off. It will eventually die in the cold and wind, but it lasts much longer than we thought it would. Plants with stems thicker than 1/4″ plus 50F nights for two weeks or more followed by warmer weather will also do lettuce in.
big day, the first seed sowing of the 2012 gardening season. Lettuce ...
Lettuce can be direct-seeded or transplanted. I prefer to transplant for a few reasons. It allows more time for whatever is already in the field plus I can plant the stand thickly and perfectly without having to go back and fill in the holes. It matters to me! I can also control the weather quite a bit more for transplanted seedlings in our hoophouse than I can in the field. I have never successfully weeded around lettuce seedlings in rows. If you insist on direct sowing, don’t say I didn’t warn you.


We move our babies to the rows at some point between 3 and 6 weeks. We are looking for about 5 true leaves. It is important not to handle lettuce seedlings by their roots or stems as they become damaged easily and never recover. (One more reason for soil blocks!) We plant them 6″-12″ apart depending on the variety and what we plan to do with the heads. We water them in with a seaweed solution. I strongly suggest making some kind of planting template to speed up the process of planting at the right spacing. We transplant lettuce so frequently (as often as every third day at peak) it really makes a difference. Water daily for three days, then once per week (1″).

This is so important as weeds easily get mixed in with a beautiful lettuce mix. Carefully, shallowly cultivate! Lettuce roots live near the surface. If the weather is cool, be sure to water in time for the leave to dry before nightfall in order to prevent fungal diseases spreading. A weekly dose of seaweed extract can definitely speed things up.

It has been suggested that lettuce beds could be interplanted with tomatoes, peppers, or peanuts down the middle to help reduce the need for cultivation and increase bed yield per square foot. This is something I am eager to try (and hope to this year!). Because we suffer from serious nightshade pest and disease challenges, I intend to use peanuts. I don’t have space in my crop rotation to squeeze any more tomatoes or peppers in and not suffer major challenges.

Pests & Disease
This is not meant to be a complete explanation of organic pest control. Just an overview of handling bugs and lettuce crops in general.

Description Aphids May 2010-2.jpg      Aphid Damage
Aphids: Sow alyssum, clover, dill, and yarrow to attract beneficial predators like ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and lacewings. Use rowcover (ensure you haven’t trapped any inside), water jets, insecticidal soap, hot pepper wax, flour, or diatomaceous earth.


Saturday, 25 August 2012        How to Identify Slug or Snail Damage
Slugs: Trap in sunken lids full of beer and sugar water or use Sluggo bait.
Grasshopper - Enemy - My friends & I will eat all of your vegetable ...        Grasshopper Damage to Soybeans
Grasshoppers/crickets: Include praying mantis or bait containing Nosema locustae.
Cutworm - image courtesy Wikimedia      Image: Cutworms 2
Cutworms: Use collars or sulphur around plants.
Thrip Control: Controlling Thrips in The Garden         thrips feeding damage on peas feeding damage on tomato
Thrips: Use insecticidal soap, rowcover, ladybugs, lacewings, or Neem (a last ditch effort that will also kill beneficials).

... Musings by a MadJellyfish: How did that groundhog get the job      groundhog damage « sorta like suburbia
Groundhogs, rabbits, deer: You can fence, deter, trap, and shoot according to your convictions.

Damping-off by Pythium .
Damping off: Try not to water in chilly weather. Plants use much less water when its cold, so only water if you MUST. Use a fan or some other method of moving air around. Try feeding with compost tea or seaweed extract weekly.

Butter lettuce destroyed by Sclerotinia fungus [b255136] > Stock ...
Lettuce drop: This happens most often in greenhouses, but you can face it in the field. PlantShield or SoilGuard can prevent this if applied before planting. Otherwise, soil solarization my be your best bet.

... and rot (Rhizoctonia solani ) on lettuce (Lactuca sativa ) - 1571641
Bottom rot: Is especially challenging in the cooler weather. Again, solarization is going to be your best friend.

... lettuce tip burn november 1995 image type laboratory image location
Tip burn: Shield or shade the plants on especially sunny, windy days when transpiration is likely to be faster than water uptake rate.


Well, that was depressing. Let’s get on with the exciting part: harvesting!! You lettuce plants will be ready anywhere between 21-70 days from transplanting depending on your varieties and the time of year. Leaf lettuce im summer will be faster, romaine in winter will be slower. They key is to be sure you harvest lettuce no less than every three days in the summer to avoid bolting. How you harvest will depend on your variety. Head lettuce is best done with a //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theparhou04-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B007KIGMD4&asins=B007KIGMD4&linkId=BHX5T2BQIFJI6AZT&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>harvest knife at the base. Scissors or a //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theparhou04-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00062AF34&asins=B00062AF34&linkId=R7MBCFG5DRWPBGQR&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>small serrated knife are my choice for harvesting leaves. There is also the option to shear the tops off for a baby salad mix. Be sure to leave the growing tip intact.

Post Harvest

Lettuce requires immediate cooling or it wilts. We harvest right into plastic buckets of ice water. When its time to wash, we prefer nylon bags to keep the leaves and lose the dirt. Plus, that bag becomes a fun toy to swing over tops of childrens’ heads in order to dry the leaves. If bugs are a problem, you can leave them sitting in a basin of water long enough for the bugs to sink, then lift the leaves off the top. Once dry, refrigerate.

Succession Planting

There is no simple explanation if you are sure you want lettuce all the time, all year round. Pam Dawling explains it briefly in such a fantastic way: “to harvest every week you need to have sowing gaps of more than one week in the spring, less than one week in the summer (in our climate) and decreasing intervals down to as few as two days in the fall” (Sustainable Market Farming, 254).  You really just need to check out //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theparhou04-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0865717168&asins=0865717168&linkId=GZTUS4FCDJC7KYC5&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>her book if you want to successfully grow lettuce year round. Another fantastic book that frequently finds itself in use is //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=theparhou04-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=093003175X&asins=093003175X&linkId=7522ST45A6N4GEI6&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower.

Tips for Growing in the Heat

First, start with heat resistant varieties! My first two summer in the south, I stuck with my tried and true northern varieties because there were still seeds in the packets. I’m done with that nonsense. Some of my attempts to save money, end up costing so much more in frustration that its just not worth it.

Second, store the seeds in the fridge. Then soak in cool water for a day, drain and store in fridge for two days before sowing. Sow thickly in the evening, put ice on top of the soil covering the seeds (1/4″) and cover with shadecloth (nylon screen for windows will do). Water with cool water in the middle of the day until the seeds germinate. Transplant in the evening.

Third, use younger seedlings than you would in the spring. Cover them with shadecloth laid on hoops (use any material you have) and held with clothespins about one foot above the soil.

Tips for Growing in the Cold

First, start with cold resistant varieties! Choose a spot that’s not too windy as cold plus wind can do lettuce in.

Second, use rowcover to increase the temperature about 5F. Younger plants (not seedlings) do better than full grown plants. It has been said that spraying with seaweed a couple days before real cold can help as well as saving watering for a more mild evening.

Final Thoughts
A simple hoophouse like my homemade 12’x20′ cost me less than $500 and keeps us in vegetables all year long. Johnny’s carries the bender and all the information you need on this. You might look into it.

Happy lettucing!

Everything you Never Wanted to Know About Growing Green Beans


Beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. They are delicious fresh, frozen, and canned and are easy to grow.

If you’re using fresh green beans, wash and snap the ends off ...

Provider: (50 days) sow for early and late crops
Bush Blue Lake: (57 days) main season crop
-Contender: more flavor, but less productive than Provider
-Jade: very delicious, likes the heat, fails in the cold
-Romano II: reliable, flat bean for hot, cold, wet, and dry
-I loved Maxibel, Rocdor, and Velour when I grew up north.

Choose between bush and pole varieties. Dark-seeded varieties resist rotting in cold soil best (especially for that first sowing).
Pole varieties will bear all season, take a few days longer to mature, allow you to stand while harvesting, but require trellising.
Bush varieties bear for a shorter time, require more plantings to make a full season, mature a bit quicker, don’t need a trellis, but require the harvester to crawl along the ground, searching through bushes to find the beans. Make your choice wisely!!
There is a such thing as a half-runner. I haven’t loved any.

Crop Requirements
soil temperature of 70-90F for germination (55F-60F and rising works for dark-seeded varities)
air temperature of at least 60F, 65-85F are best for plant growth
fertilize before sowing at 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre. You won’t need this in already fertile soil as too much nitrogen creates lots of plant but little fruit. (Beans and all other legumes produce nitrogen  in their root nodules which may peak after beans are harvested. Best practice is to turn the plants under and leave these in the ground for fertilization  of the next crop.)
Innoculating with bacteria is a great idea, especially if your ground hasn’t grown beans before. I do it each time I sow beans. You can soak your bean seed, then coat it with a tiny bit of the black powder (think: pepper on your meal).
-plenty of sun and well-drained soil

first sowing: 10 days before last frost and cover with row cover
last sowing: mid August for beans to mature before first fall frost (can cover with row cover if frost threatens early)
avoid irrigation for two weeks after sowing
soak the seed overnight (up to 8 hours) in room temperature water before sowing; unless its an unusually cold, wet spring
-sow 1″ deep (a little less in spring, a little more in hot weather), 2-3″ apart (Pam Dawling suggests using the smaller spacing for one-year-old seed and the wider spacing for new seed)
-don’t bother with seeds more than one-year-old because of poor germination rates
-best spacing for yields is 36 square inches per plant (2″ spacing would be 18″ apart; 3″ spacing would be 12″ apart) however if your area is as prone to fungal infections as mine, consider leaving a bit more space
-here’s how the sowing looks at our place: 3/26 (Provider), 4/23 (BBL), 5/18 (BBL), 6/8 (BBL), 6/29 (BBL), 7/25 (BBL), 8/20 (BBL), 9/10 (Provider)

DO NOT mess with those beans when the leaves are wet or you are to blame for the spread of disease among plants
-you only have to worry about cultivating when the plants are small; once they bush out the weeds are no competition
irrigation is of most benefit during bloom, pod set, and pod enlargement; if you are irrigating overhead, time the watering so the leaves dry before nightfall
-need about 1″ of water per week until mid-May, then up to 2″ in the heat of summer

-perfect for following a winter cover crop like rye, which would be turned in 3 weeks before sowing the beans; wheat needs to be turned under just 2 weeks before sowing
avoid a legume cover crop just before beans; probably a mix that includes a legume isn’t rally the biggest deal
-try not to grow beans where legumes have been in the previous 3 years

Succession Planting
-depending on your pest and disease load you may need to sow a new crop of beans as often as every other week. The decision will ultimately be yours about frequency. I sow every 21 days or so to help save time sowing and space in the garden.
-to calculate succession you’ll need to know the last and first frost dates (for first and last possible planting dates), the first harvest date from your first sowing, the number of days you plan to pick from the same plants. Then do some math to determine the number of sowings and the dates that work best for you.
-in real life: if the weather is great and there’s no impending frost, I’ll plant my earliest crop as early as possible. If I can manage, I also try to get the last sowing in as early as possible to ensure the longest possible harvest window

-no one like to, but these beetles must be talked about. Mexican bean beetle (MBB) is a crafty bugger. Here he is in all his shapes and sizes.

Entire life-cycle of Mexican Bean Beetles.

-adults overwinter in the soil, making good fall cleanup and crop rotation a must. The emerge on a cloudy day in the middle of May.
Pediobius foveolatus (a parasitic wasp) can be purchased and released into your crop
-flaming the planting when the numbers of MBB become unbearable is another option (the smartest way to do this would be to plant a small, early crop near the last bean crop of the prior year and flame it when there are larvae but no pupae). Plant your production crop as far away as possible.
bean leaf beetle, potato leafhopper, seedcorn maggot, European corn borer, tarnished plant bug, and Japanese beetle as well as mites and slugs are all pests that might make an appearance

bean leaf beetle this insect attacks all beans adults feed on the ...
bean leaf beetle damage
Bean Leaf Beetle - Cerotoma trifurcata photo - Tom Murray photos at ...
bean leaf beetle
potato leaf hopper damage
Potato leafhopper nymphs that have begun appearing around
potato leafhopper
seed corn maggot delia platura maggots feed on developing seeds and ...
seedcorn maggot and damage 
European Corn Borer | The European Corn Borer
European corn borer damage
Corn Borer Control – Information On Corn Borer Treatment And ...
European corn borer
What's Bugging Your Garden? Sucking Insects-The Creative Vegetable ...
tarnished plant bug
Japanese beetles like green bean leaves a lot.
Japanese beetle damage
Japanese Beetle | Pests | Soybean | Integrated Pest Management | IPM ...
Japanese beetle


-KEEP THE LEAVES DRY. Pretty please.🙂
-most fungal disease are furry looking

Micelio della muffa grigia (Botrytis cinerea) su baccelli di fagiolo ...
Botrytis mold

Botrytis is handled with neem extract


Sclerotinia on mold

-Sclerotinia can be avoided by rotating susceptible crops with corn or grass crops; avoid lettuce, nightshades, brassicas, or other legumes before your bean crop
-Serenade (Bacillus subtilis) can help with an outbreak

-bacterial diseases cause brown spots on leaves and pods
-virus diseases cause mottled, blistered, and curled leaves
keep your eyes open while harvesting for small problems: they are so much easier to deal with before they become big ones!

every other day (3 time weekly) to keep beans from growing to large and tough
-important to take off the entire pod (even the cap) as neglecting this can signal the plant to stop producing and focus on ripening
– be sure to pick and discard all over-sized pods

-keep temperature above 40F
-store for 7-10 days at 90% humidity
-temperature above 45F will lead to yellowing and fibrous beans

All of this information is perfect if your garden grows in the south. A great book for more information is Pam Dawling’s Sustainable Market Farming.

If your dirt happens to be of the northerly experience, check out Elliot Coleman’s books. All of them.

For even more fantastic information, look at Cornell’s 2011 Production Guide for Organic Snap Beans for Processing. Thrilling stuff…it’ll keep you up at night. For real, though, it’s a super helpful 45-pager.

A Little Friendly Vintage Rainbow Mosaic Contest

Every once in a while Rachel at Stitched in Color runs these friendly mosaic contest.

I LOVE them. When I sit to sew, it is always on the best fabric I chose to purchase within my own self-imposed maximum of $4 per yard. Alriiiiiight. I’ll be honest. If I happen across a fabric that I convince myself I just can’t live without, I’ll spend $5 a yard. But NO more. And it doesn’t happen often. One of the ways I maintain this spending limit is by not shopping. I don’t often peruse the fantastic sponsors on her blog because I might like something I can’t have.😉

BUT! when Rachel runs a contest, I treat myself to an hour or so of window shopping. It’s such a treat. (And I’m so lame.)

Since I think it’s such fun, maybe you will, too. Here’s what I came up with. I always make two, since one is just not enough fun for me.

One that’s a little flowers gone crazy.

vintage rainbow1

And the other that’s more monochromatic blooms.


Give it a shot! You’ve got nothing to lose. And some great fabric to gain.

Spring 2016 Vegetable Seedlings for Sale

I LOVE to start vegetable seedlings. Mostly I just love everything about vegetables: growing them, planting them, harvesting them, taking pictures of them, eating them, canning them, freezing them, dehydrating them, pickling them, storing them, cooking them, taking pictures with them, looking at them, thinking about them, talking about them, learning about growing them.

You know you want some. We’re going to make sure you can have them! We…Ashley and me.

This poor kid’s been diligently studying her driver’s manual and has passed the online practice test. All in preparation for her 16th birthday in March. Then reality hit: she has no money for driver’s ed without a job and no way to get to a job even if she’s able to find one (which proved to be near impossible for Chasitty 2 years ago) without a car. She’s been spending her night brainstorming ideas to earn a few bucks and get herself over the hump. She made a list of resources she has available to her and skills she has. We’ve come to an agreement. We’re going to grow a bunch of extra vegetable seedlings (52 varieties in all!) to sell to lovely people. That’s right. I taught my kid a skill that she’s using to make money.😉

Here’s how this will go. We sow the seeds into individual 2″ soil blocks (more than twice the soil volume of a 6-pack cell). They are a great start for the plant and they make it possible to sell plants individually. No dealing with more plants than you need. We will start them organically (but don’t call it that because we haven’t paid the Department of Agriculture for rights to use that word) and you can finish them as you wish.

$2 each plant. Mix and match at will. We will offer volume discounts of $.50 each when you spend $20.

We will contact you about timing the pick up of your plants. They will be ready at the appropriate time to sow them outdoors. If you aren’t sure about timing, do a search for planting dates in your city, or let me know and I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

You may place your order any way you like, just be sure we have your name and a way to contact you for pick up. Please remember, we do our best, but crop failures are a thing that happens sometimes.🙂

Without further ado, 52 varieties!

Asian Green:

Yokatta Na

Yokatta Na: (21 days baby; 45 days mature) Brassica rapa Quick-growing and versatile, tolerating both heat and cold, Yokatta can extend your season at either end, while simultaneously broadening your culinary range. Use it either raw in salad mixes or cooked in stir-fries. The deep green tender leaves, though flavorful, lack the mustard “bite” found in so many Asian greens and can be harvested as a cut-and-come-again crop or at maturity.


Shuko Pac Choy: (45 days) Baby pac choy with green stems likes cool temperatures but resists bolting for a long time, even in heat. Vase-shaped 6–12″ plants have broad green petioles with beautiful dark leaves. Tender and creamy when steamed or stir-fried.

fun jen

Fun Jen Chinese Cabbage: (45 days) A good lettucy-type Chinese cabbage featuring fast-growing undulating leaves with a slightly wrinkly surface. Semi-loose conical very light yellow-green ruffled 6×10″ heads of crunchy texture and very mild delicate flavor somewhat like lettuce. The thick white ribs are tasty with a pleasing light tangy sweetness. Excellent frost resistance but will bolt in heat after standing 2–4 weeks. Stores very well.



Boldor: (55 days) Beautiful, bright yellow flesh. Very similar to Touchstone Gold in terms of vigor, performance, and flavor, but Boldor has brighter interior color. Keeps its color when cooked. Excellent, sweet flavor. Green leaves and petioles.


Green King

Green King: (85 days) Exceptional tenderness made it the best-tasting. Consistent yield of high-quality 8″ heads. Vigorous plants bear thick blue-green domed heads with rather large beads. Side shoots are big enough to be marketable but not plentiful. Green King stands heat well.

Waltham 29

Waltham 29: (85 days) Standard type, produces 4-8” green heads that are nicely flavored. Compact plants also produce some side shoots. Introduced in 1954.


Brussel Sprout:

A 6880

Gustus: (99 days) The absolute pinnacle of the brussel sprouts breeder’s art. The quality of the sprouts is amazing, very dense and sweet. No other sprout compares with Gustus. The sprouts are medium-sized, slightly oval, remarkably uniform and grow large farther up the stalk after the plants get topped. A representative sample of 10 weighed a respectable 6 oz.


Long Island Improved

Long Island Improved: (100 days) The standard open-pollinated variety since the 1890’s. Heavy yields of delicious sprouts.




Gunma: (110 days)  Named for a prefecture on Honshu Island in Japan known for its cabbage production. Choice for a superior flat-topped green cabbage ideal for cooks and gourmets, good for kraut and kimchi. Its large heads (avg. 5–7 lb but can get up to 11–13 lb) grow nearly 1′ across, yet remain almost coreless. These cabbages sat in the field for two months without splitting. Sweet tender wrapper leaves suitable for cabbage wraps and rolls. Outer leaves can’t hold up once nighttime temperatures plummet to the 20s, so not for storage, but great for early kraut. Resists FY, TB.

golden acre

Golden Acre: (62 days) The best choice for those preferring an early open-pollinated cabbage that’s not pointy-headed. A selection of the Copenhagen Market type billed as “new…the earliest of the round-headed cabbages” in the 1928 Jerome B. Rice catalog. Grey-green heads, some with a faint reddish tint in the outer leaves, average 3–5 lb. Big, round and solid with white interiors. Delicate but crunchy texture, sweet and spicy flavor that developed buttery undertones after cooking. Short stems with sparse wrapper leaves and medium-sized core keep plants compact. Not long standing.

super red 80

Super Red 80: (80 days) Super Red 80 ripens well before Ruby Perfection, with smooth tight round medium-dark red 3–5 lb heads. Splendid appearance. Resists splitting, holds well. Tender and crisp with a pleasing flavor. Tolerates BR and TB.



Snowball Self-Blanching

Snowball Self-Blanching: (70 days) An old, white type; ivory heads, good size. The standard American favorite for over 100 years.

charming snow

Charming Snow: (50 Days) Vigor and uniformity bring it in ahead of the others with 7 to 8″ rounded heads of exceptional firmness and quality. Snow Crown must be tied for best quality and may show a light purple blush on the underside of heads when grown under stressful conditions.



Champion: (70 days) Selected to hold in the field up to two weeks longer than other varieties for an extended harvest. Rich blue-green cabbage-like leaves. Plants are bolt-resistant, productive and hardy. Waxy leaf surface provides natural protection from cabbage worms. Improved Vates-type · 24-36″ tall. Compact habit.



Marketmore 76 Slicing: (58 days) Long, slender, dark green cucumbers. The slender, refined “Marketmore look” has long been the standard for slicing cucumbers. 8-9″ fruits stay uniformly dark green even under weather stress. Begins bearing late, but picks for a relatively long time. High resistance to scab; and intermediate resistance to cucumber mosaic virus, downy mildew, and powdery mildew.

National Pickling

National Pickling: (52 days) Short, thick cukes with blunt ends are perfect for pickles and delicious in salads. Fruits have striped, medium green skin and a slightly tapered shape to fit in a pickle jar. A heavy producer with black spines. Developed by the National Pickle Packers Association. Productive 5″ fruit.


Black Beauty

Black Beauty: (90 days) Standard old type, large black fruit of excellent quality. Very tasty but is lower yielding and much later than many types and needs a long season.


kale mix

Kale Mix: (60-65 days) If it’s hard to pick just one or two kale varieties from so many tempting choices, here’s the solution: enjoy the whole medley of diverse colors, patterns and shapes.

Nero di Tuscana Lacinto

Nero di Tuscana Lacinto: (60 days) This loose-leafed cabbage dates back to the early 1800’s at least. It has beautiful, deep black-green leaves that can be 24” long. They are heavily savoyed. This Italian heirloom is popular in Tuscany and central Italy for making fabulous soups and stews. One of the most beautiful and flavorful types you can grow.



Lancelot: (90 days) This new, fast growing variety of leek matures much earlier than the standard and can be harvested in early fall. Mounding soil around the stems encourages more white stem in leeks. Under the best conditions, the thick white shafts can reach 12 to 14 inches. Leeks have a mild onion flavor and are good in soups and salads.

King Richard

King Richard: (75 days) Remarkable earliness and length. Beautiful full-sized leeks. In favorable soil and culture, the white shanks are over a foot long to the first leaf. Upright, medium green leaves. Will withstand medium-heavy frost (32° to 20°F/0° to -7°C) without losing its healthy appearance.

Bleu de Solaize

Bleu de Solaize: (110 days) This hard-to-find French heirloom is so named because its dark green leaves sometimes develop a tinge of blue during cold spells. Hardy fat medium-long shanks with mild flavor good in soups. Dates back to the 19th century. Has been successfully overwintered with only straw mulch for protection.



Arugula: (47 days) Musky green and its piquant blossoms will spice up your salad. The best-tasting and most bolt-resistant.

Lettuce Mix

Lettuce Mix: A high-quality mix consisting entirely of certified-organic seed. Light up your salad patch with contrasting colors and leaf forms! At least a half-dozen different lettuces, all suitable for cut-and-come-again culture.

Mustard Mix

Mustard Mix: The same mix found in Mesclun Mix plus lettuce and spinach. Includes mizuna, chervil, endives, sorrel, Red Giant mustard, arugula and tatsoi.

Speckles Butterhead

Speckles Butterhead:  (43 days) A great-tasting lettuce for any season. Holds longer in the heat than Slo-bolt or Buttercrunch, yet still grows quickly in cool weather. Attractive light green leaves are spotted with red dots. Crispy heads often self-blanch in the center.

Blushed Butter Cos

Blushed Butter Cos: (49 days) A combination butterhead-romaine with ruffled savoyed leaves dappled in an attractive palette of reds and greens. Blushed Butter Cos was judged to be #1 for taste out of more than 100 lettuces. Remarkably crisp for such a buttery taste.

Back Seeded Simpson

Back Seeded Simpson: (60 days) Introduced in the 1870’s by Peter Henderson & Co. Sweet and tender leaves, light yellow-green; very popular.


Blacktail Mountain Watermelon

Blacktail Mountain Watermelon: (73 days) Small-fruited, earliest of all. An excellent small, fast maturing, highly productive watermelon that can be successfully grown in cool short season areas or southern hot, humid, areas. The earliest of 114 varieties. Round 9 in. fruits have a dark green rind with small brown seeds. Orange-red flesh has sweet, rich flavor. When harvested just underripe, melons will ripen in storage and keep up to 2 months.

Green Flesh Melon

Green Flesh Honeydew: (115 day)  A smooth skinned melon with a thick rind that turns from pale green to ivory when it’s ripe.  It is a very sweet green-fleshed melon with a small seed cavity.  It is best grown in the south.

hales best

Hales Best: (86 days) Heavy producer of oval-shaped fruits with old-fashioned juicy flavor. Heavily netted and slightly ribbed with juicy salmon flesh. This great variety has stood the test of time and is still loved by many for its classic muskmelon flavor. Thin rinds do not hold up well to shipping. Developed in 1920 by a Japanese farmer in California. 4-5 lbs.

Pepper, hot:

Tam Mild Jalapeno

Tam Mild Jalapeno: (70 days) A very tasty mild Jalapeno type, with the same delicious flavor, but a lot less heat. Great yields.

Pepper, sweet:



Yolo Wonder

Yolo Wonder: (75 days) Improved strain of California Wonder, larger and more mosaic resistant, 4-4.5 x 3.75-4 in. diameter, thick flesh, 3-4 lobes, dark green to red, pendant, compact spreading 24-28 in. plant, dense foliage protects against sunscald. Thick skinned holds up well  for baking or stuffing. Sweet, delicious and eaten raw in salads.


Carmen: (60 days green, 80 days red) Best tasting sweet Italian frying type. A beautiful pepper of the Italian “bull’s horn” (corno di toro) type. Carmen has a lovely, sweet taste for salads and roasting, especially when partially or fully red-ripe. Tapered fruits avg. 6″ long x 2 1/2″ wide, 5 oz. (142 gm), and ripen from green to deep carmine red. Maturity is early on an upright, medium-size plant. Suitable for outdoor or indoor production. AAS winner.


Flavorburst: (85 days) Capsicum annuum. Plant produces good yields of 5″ long by 4″ wide golden yellow sweet bell peppers. The peppers start out with a light apple green color and ripens to a clear golden yellow. Peppers are crisp and sweet. Plant produces continuously all season long.



Red Kitten

Red Kitten: (23 days baby, 34 days full) Medium green leaves with red veins. For baby leaf production in the early spring. Uniform, smooth leaves are borne on fairly upright plants.  High resistance to downy mildew.


Donkey: (30-45 days) Dark green semi savoy spinach suited to warm season.

Winter Bloomsdale

Winter Bloomsdale: (47 days) Adapted for late summer and early fall plantings and overwintering. The slow-bolting plants are resistant to blue mold, blight, and mosaic. Dark green, well-savoyed leaves.


Space: 50 days. Whether eaten fresh or cooked this smooth leaf, slightly savoyed spinach is a slow-to-bolt garden standout. It has an upright growth that produces clean, dark green leaves. It is recommended for spring, summer, and fall sowings, and has an extended harvest period.

Squash, summer:


Saffron: (42 days) A 4–6″ yellow semi-crookneck that excelled in trials and has developed a strong following. The real producer this year with huge vines and countless squash so sweet and delicious raw. Less warty than straightneck squashes. Small single-stem bush with open structure but very large leaves gives good sunburn protection. They call it mellow yellow.

Black Zucchini

Black Zucchini: (50 days) The classic dark-green summer squash that has made modern zucchini of this type popular. Introduced in the US markets in the 1920’s, and seed companies started listing it in the 1930’s. Delicious fried or baked; best picked young.

Squash, winter:

Burgess Buttercup

Burgess Buttercup: (95 days) Dark green fruits with golden orange, stringless flesh and sweet, rich flavor. Typically produces 10-12 fruits per plant, with vines reaching 15′ long. This improved strain has a high percentage of clean, non-warty and uniform squash. Fruits have a gray button on the blossom end. Uniform fruits · Large, prolific vines · 3-5 lbs (Cucurbita maxima)

Waltham Butternut

Waltham Butternut: ( 100 days) C. moschata. An old favorite. Good yields with excellent-tasting, rich, orange-colored flesh. Great baked!

table queen

Table Queen Acorn: (90 days) Cucurbita pepo Black-green ribbed 1½–2 lb fruits good for baking. Dry flesh is best eaten within 3–4 months after harvest. Introduced by the Iowa Seed Co. in 1913 and once known as Des Moines, Queen began a trend away from monster squashes in favor of smaller fruits. A similar squash was grown by the Arikara tribe in North Dakota.

Howden Pumpkin

Howden Pumpkin: (95 days) C. pepo.  A large, more uniform Connecticut Field type pumpkin. A hard, orange rind makes this an excellent carving variety. The 22 lb fruit have thick orange flesh; a great keeper, and popular commercial variety.

diablo pumpkin

Diablo Pumpkin: (100 days) Beautiful dark orange. Excellent mid-size Jack O’Lantern. Strong, dark green handle that is well attached, making it great for carrying. Round and blocky shape. Size is well suited for home gardeners and small market growers. Weighs 18-22 pounds. PM tolerant.



Opalka Paste: (85 days) Lycopersicon esculentum Plant produces high yields of 6″ long by 3″ wide red tomatoes. Tomatoes have a excellent sweet flavor, grow in clusters of 3 to 5, holds well on vine, and has very few seeds. One of the best paste tomatoes on the market. Very few seeds. A heirloom variety from Poland. Indeterminate.


Roma Paste: (65 days) Productive plum tomato with great disease resistance! Vigorous and strong, producing heavy yields of picture-perfect, thick-walled fruits with deep red color and mild flavor. A good choice in the garden. Determinate · Vigorous

yellow cherry

Yellow Cherry: (75 days) First offered in the Seed Savers 1993 Yearbook by Bill Minkey of Darien, Wisconsin who received the seed from Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, Tennessee in 1992. Produces indeterminate, regular-leaf, vigorous and tall tomato plants that yield copious amounts of 3/4-inch, round, yellow cherry tomatoes that are loaded with delicious, fruity, sweet/tart flavors. Rare tomato seeds. The perfect snacking tomato that is wonderful in salads or culinary dishes. Children will love the sweetness of these snacks.


Lillians: (95 days) Moderate yield potato-leaf tomato. A beefsteak heirloom from from Robert Richardson, who received the seeds from Lillian Bruce of Manchester, Tennessee. Produce big indeterminate tomato plants that yield 10-16 oz., clear to orangy-yellow, fragile, thin-skinned, beefsteak tomatoes that have mildly sweet, citrusy flavors, juicy flesh and very few seeds. A perfect salad tomato.


Rutgers:   (75 days) Heirloom. A top canner famed for full bodied flavor. Red, globe shaped 8 oz. fruit. Large erect vines protect fruit from sun. Developed by Rutgers Univ.

Purple Tomatillo

Purple Tomatillo: (70 days) Beautiful purple fruit, large size. Many are a bright violet color throughout their flesh. Much sweeter than the green types; it can be eaten right off the plant. Turns purple when ripe; rare!

That’s all folks.

What Happened with our Pig (don’t read this if you don’t like gore)

I know you’re dying to know the gory details of what happened with our pig a few weeks back. Since I had to take the time to write it all out for the Sheriff’s Department, I decided to share it here. Mostly because it’s actually a good story. Not good like you’ll-be-feeling-all-warm-and-fuzzy-after but good like you-just-finished-watching-a-shocking-news-report-on-starving-children-in-Madaya.

our happy piggies

During the weeks around the flooding in October 2015, our property went 26 days without direct sunlight. Because we run our livestock fencing off solar-powered electric chargers, we lost power in the fence about eleven days in. Somewhere around October 5th our two Ossabaw pigs realized there was no kick in their fence. They began a daily escape about 5 am. Their typical path was straight to the grain shed where the stood making noise until someone came to throw grain back in their paddock. They would go in, we would close the fence and they would sneak back out at some point. We placed an order on October 8 with our fence company for a second set of batteries. Our intention was to charge one set on the trickle charger overnight and the other during the day. We hoped the charge would last the 12 hours we needed it to and we could go back to containing our pigs. On Monday, October 12, our batteries were delivered and our plan seemed to be working.

One week later, on October 19, I packed my kids up and we went of to our weekly homeschool coop for the day. We left about 8am and returned about 4:00 pm. I knew something was wrong when I pulled up the driveway and saw one pig standing in our sweet potato patch. The kids worked to unload the car while I went to see about the pigs.

Normally, both pigs would come running to us because they expected to get grain. On that Monday, the one pig screamed and ran away from me when I approached him. While he was running from me I realized he was dragging something that looked like a rope or small wisteria vine. I persuaded him into his paddock with some grain and got close enough to realize he had a wire snare wrapped tightly around his front left leg. There were also some scrapes on the inside of both his front legs. I realized he had been caught in a snare set somewhere at some point that day. My 17-year-old daughter and I worked to free his leg and were eventually successful in loosening the slip knot in the wire enough that he was able to get the wire off his own leg.

our boy’s owie

The other thing I noticed while putting him back inside the fence was that the fence had been disabled. Since pigs have no opposable thumbs to remove the alligator clips from the fence, I find it hard to believe they let themselves out. The fence was still kicking 8000 volts when we got home, so clearly it hadn’t lost its charge. That only leaves me to believe a person was responsible for the pigs’ escape.

As soon as he was contained and free, I began looking for our other pig. While wandering the property I began remembering that the last couple days before our second set of batteries arrived the pigs had made a beeline straight across our property as soon as they had escaped. They had seemed to be heading straight for the shack that sits on a neighboring piece of property. Because of the way our property is situated, we have only one real neighbor, let’s call him Sketchy Neighbor (SN for efficiency). The rest of our property is wrapped in a 600-acre piece of land that is undeveloped. My husband had come home during this process and he went right over to that neighbor’s house to see if he had seen the pig. SN denied he had seen the pig and my husband returned home. We talked and agreed we didn’t believe SN. I made a call to the RCSD dispatcher about 5:30 pm on October 19, 2015.

The dispatcher who took my call listened to me explain that we have had trouble with our neighbor in the past, that there are trespass orders in place, that we have one pig missing and one pig with a wire snare on its leg and my fence was disabled. I requested a car to SN’s property to see if his story changed. The dispatcher informed me that a missing animal was an animal control issue, not a RCSD issue. I explained that this wasn’t an animal issue, it was a people issue. My one pig had obviously been purposefully trapped, I assumed my other had as well. He gave me the number to call animal control and told me to have a nice day. Animal Control told me this wasn’t something they could get involved in. We waited and hoped our other pig would free herself and return home. We didn’t hear anything until Monday, November 23, 2015.

On November 22, our teenage daughter went missing. When she hadn’t returned the following day, I enlisted the help of friends in finding her. One person who joined the search was our landlord. I received a call from her about 2:30pm that she had found my pig. From my understanding, she had ended up at SN’s house and had a discussion with him about my pig. She had asked SN about having our pig and how he was going to get it back to us. He said we could “come and get it.” I thanked our landlord and told her as soon as we had found our daughter and settled all that dust, we would go get our pig.

Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 10:30am I called in to the dispatcher to request a deputy escort us to SN’s property to recover our pig. The deputy spoke with SN and my husband and me, at SN’s property. SN agreed the pig was ours, but informed us that he felt we owed him $15 for feed he had given the pig. There was an exchange of words and the deputy told us he couldn’t help us. He informed us that since there was money involved, this was a civil issue and we needed to seek the magistrate’s help. He gave us SN’s information that we would need to file a Claim & Delivery and wished us luck. We didn’t see the pig on that day.

The morning of Monday, December 7, 2015 I drove over to the magistrate’s office to get some help. The clerk at that office heard the story and told me it would be $65 to file the C&D paperwork and another $20 if the magistrate ruled in our favor. Additionally, if the pig wasn’t available to be delivered when the deputy attempted, we had no recourse. I left frustrated and decided to talk with my husband on his lunch break before making a decision. I also called our landlord again for some clarification since I was feeling so confused by all this lack of help in returning my property. When I finished that phone conversation, I felt much less confused. As I had previously thought, SN holding my property was criminal and his claim on our owing him money was a civil issue. I decided to make another call to RCSD to ask for help again. I needed my husband to have another day off and the weather to cooperate.

Sunday, December 20 we canceled lunch plans with friends and decided to go get our pig one last time. My husband placed the call to the dispatcher and we waited. We also called a good friend and asked him to join us as we anticipated needing additional help in loading the pig into our trailer. When the deputies and our friend arrived, one deputy (let’s call him “L”) went over to SN’s property to speak with him while everyone else waited in our driveway. There was a call back from SN’s property that he was demanding $20 for feed to the pig. We replied that we were denying owing him money and he was welcome to file with the magistrate. At that point, the two deputies still with us, my husband, two teen daughters, our friend, and I loaded up in two vehicles and headed to SN’s property.

When we got to SN’s property he was outside speaking with Deputy L. We were told he did not deny the pig was ours, and we could recover her. One deputy, let’s call him “S”, stayed with SN while the rest of us picked our way through the piles back to the area the pig was being kept in. I don’t believe any of us were prepared for what we found. Deputy L took the pictures and video of the pig’s living conditions as well as her physical condition while the rest of us worked to get her loaded in our trailer and off SN’s property.

We found our pig lying under a hut inside a chicken wire fence. When I approached her, she didn’t move our make a sound and I knew there was something wrong with her. I assumed she was suffering from being alone. However, I quickly noticed a chain running across the floor of her pen and to the top of the fencing. The other end of this chain was running under the hut where the pig was laying. When our friend got in with her to attempt to get her up, we realized the chain was attached to her in some way. We got her out of her hut and moving before we realized it was around her rear left leg. That rear leg looked to be in rough shape: she wasn’t putting it down to walk on. I assumed she had injured it at some point. We drove her across the property to our trailer without incident. While passing in front of SN, I realized he was yelling something. When he started yelling again I understood him to be saying, “Pull on the chain you idiot.” I responded, “I think you’ve done enough of that.” We loaded the pig in the trailer and SN approached us to say that we couldn’t take his chain. We cut the rope that was around the pig’s leg from the chain and left his chain with him. At this point, Deputy L returned with us to our property.

When we parked in our driveway and got out to look at her, we noticed she was bleeding heavily. Also, we had thought she wasn’t putting her leg down due to injury, but when we looked at her more closely we realized she wasn’t putting that foot down because she couldn’t SN had tied that leg up so with her knee bent to prevent her from putting it down. He had effectively disabled her to make containing her more simple. Otherwise, the chicken wire fence he had erected wouldn’t have contained her. Over time, that rope around her leg had cut through her flesh, causing major injury. I made a phone call to the pig farmer we bought her from to get his insight on what to do next. We weren’t sure whether she could be expected to recover or if she was a loss. While on the phone, my husband and I noticed there were maggots crawling on her leg. We decided to put her down. Here are some really yucky pics of our girls’ big owies. We obviously took these after she was put down.

After she was shot and we were able to get a better look at her leg, we were glad we had made that decision. Her flesh had grown back over the rope cutting into her leg. That leg was rotting away while she was alive. Her back leg was one of the worst-looking things I have ever seen. The knowledge that someone intentionally inflicted that amount of damage makes the whole thing worse. I am also frustrated by the lack of assistance offered to us on two occasions by RCSD.

This has been a difficult situation for multiple reasons. First, we have a financial loss of the pig. We are a family of 10 with one wage earner. We raise our food because we need to. We paid $100 for the pig back in September. It had another full year to grow before we expected to process her at her full weight. Her weight at death was only about 150 pounds.

Second, we now have to live next door to someone who clearly has no problem causing incredible pain and suffering to a living creature. This knowledge is enough to prevent good sleep and to leave my kids feeling they are unsafe to play outside on our 4 acres. That is unfortunate and unnecessary as there should be plenty of space out here for kids to play safely.

The good news: we are moving forward with prosecuting SN to the full extent of the law. Currently, he has been charged with animal cruelty which is a felony charge. We are also putting a lot of pressure on to charge him with anything else that we can. The longer SN is away, the better.

our happy boy

Why We Don’t Love Rosetta Stone (but we still use it daily)

rosetta stone
This kid loves learning Spanish

We purchased our Rosetta Stone software in 2011, almost 5 years ago. Our favorite-homeschool-curriculum-company-ever, Sonlight, was having a fantastic sale that we couldn’t pass up, especially after hearing so many fantastic things about their program. And especially since we had unsuccessfully intended to teach Spanish in our homeschool for three or four years at that point!

We dove head in, bit the bullet, jumped off the cliff, we bought the entire 5 levels of Latin American Spanish for a pricetag of somewhere around $400. We have used it at a pace that works for us for the past four years. My most dedicated student has made it to level 3. She has definitely learned TONS of conversational Spanish. We’ve also had our share of challenges with the software. Truthfully, more than I care to have had.

-I don’t have to try to fit one more teaching subjects into the day. RS is completely independent work, no matter the student’s age.
-Their “language immersion” program has done a fantastic job of teaching conversational Spanish in a fun, effective way.
-Because the kids listen to native speakers, their pronunciation is fantastic.

-MAJOR software functionality issues. I’ll go into these more in depth later, but they are SOOOOOOOO frustrating.
-Higher pricetag. Sonlight is having a sale through the end of January. ALL five levels are just $219!! That’s a crazy low price.

I’d like to explain the tech issues so you can go into your experience with both eyes open. Twice now, we’ve had some kind of malfunction where the program won’t open. Both times have been in the last 18 months. When I called the tech support hotline, I was told that because the software is more than twelve months old, I can pay $19 to speak with someone or I can access the live support chat option on their website for free. I’ve opted for free both times and had the same experience twice. Here’s how it goes.

The techie tries for a really long time to fix the problem. There’s lots of restarting the computer and renaming folders involved. In the end, the techie tells me to delete the progress file and create a new one. My kids’ progress is lost and they have to take a placement test and start over. This is especially challenging because they lose all the grading they’ve earned to that point as well.

I’ve looked at other options and haven’t seen anything I’ve been very excited about. I’ve thought long and hard and decided that this program is working for us. The kids ARE learning Spanish, which is the intended outcome. We already own the program and have no ongoing costs if they keep using it. So we stick with RS. And I DON’T love it.

If you’re feeling brave, or crazy enough to be frustrated along with me while your kids learn Spanish, here’s that link again for the great $219 sale.


Also, you are welcome to use my referral code to get $5 off your order of $50 or more when you create a new account. EM20221484

Ten Years Later: Why I Stuck with Sonlight Curriculum

We are Sonlight veterans. We are in year 10 using their curriculum. I own everything we have ever bought and it is a great fit for our family. However, it is NOT for everyone. Over these years, I’ve answered the “why do you choose Sonlight” question at least twice every year. Sometimes more often. It’s time to write it all out, once and for all.😉 (Then come back and edit it 100 times because I think of something else.)

Our collection

Sonlight has “reasons to love us” and “reasons not to use us” pages. They are super honest and helpful. Basically, if you want to spend much of your school day on the couch reading to your kids, Sonlight is great. Please don’t go imagining kids snuggled under blankets while Mama sips tea. It’s more like this:

Mama: “We’re going to read now. Please listen while I read.” {commence reading for about 67 seconds before being interrupted}
AM: “Can I go get something to do while you read?”
Mama: “Sure, just make it something quiet that won’t distract.”
AM returns with a Nerf gun. Mama suggests something more along the lines of Legos. AM stomps off and returns with the Lego bin. Mama begins reading again.
AI: “AM! I wanted that piece and you knew it! YOu only used it so I couldn’t! MAMA! Make him give me that piece back!”
Mama: “If you can’t play quietly with the Legos you can put them away and just sit while I read. What is your choice?”
AM & AI: “We’ll play quietly.” Mama begins to read again, this time for 123 seconds.
AI: “I need to go to the bathroom.” AI leaves and returns. Mama begins reading again. This time fora  whole 3 minutes.
AM: “I need a piece that I left in my room. Can I go get it real quick?”
AI: I want to sit over here but the Legos are over there. Can we move the Lego bin over here?”
J: {who is supposed to be playing outside with her little sisters} “Mama, can I have a snack?”
A child can be heard screaming from somewhere outside and the puppy starts barking from her crate because she’s just woken up and wants to be taken outside. Ten minutes later, we settle in to begin reading again.

Usually, we do this dance routine every day when we first sit down to read. It normally takes about 15 minutes for them to work their wiggles out and get themselves in read aloud mode, but when they do, oh when they do! The boys (4th and 6th grade) will sit and listen for a solid 90 minutes or so before they check out. When I say listen, please remember they are boys in the middle grades! They can always answer my comprehension questions and that is my only goal. The littlest girls love to sit and read still and we almost never battle about it, but if we did, I would follow the same pattern above until they settled. They learn that I expect them to settle and they do it eventually.

The current view at 7:30am from my vantage point.

If you prefer a less hands-on approach, it probably won’t work well. There are sooooo many ways to modify their curriculum to make it fit your life. We have used every Core year when our family was made up of one baby and three elementary girls. Now we have three high schoolers, two middle boys, and three little elementary girls again. And every year in between! Some years I have worked full time outside our house, some years we have run a vegetable farm with a CSA (talk about a LONG work week!). Some years we babysat other young kids and they joined in. Some years it was just us and the books. Some years we read all the books out loud, others we listened to as many of the audio books as the library could find for us. Some years we skipped half of what was assigned and made the best of what books we did get to.

-non-consumable curriculum!! (We use page protectors for workbook pages so we don’t even buy those again)
spans across grades easily. I’ve even combined high school and elementary world history cores and had my oldest read to my boys to free up time.
sooooo many hours reading with my kids
all real books. There are no textbooks until high school.
high resale value
laid out instructor guide removes need for planning. Unless you like to plan, like me, then feel free to do whatever feels best for you.
-they offer both sides of a story: the study of history is mostly just our interpretations of what has already happened. There are always at least two perspectives. Think about a war: who is the “bad” guy and who is the “good” guy? It depends on whose side you are on. They make a great attempt at this even with American history and all its scandals.
no testing in the younger years. Practice for the high schoolers.
hands-on activities aren’t the core of the curriculum. I don’t have time for them. However, they have created a CD with all kinds of fantastic project ideas that correlate to what’s being studied each week. If you like that kind of thing.
a focus on the world outside of America. We are not the center of the universe. There’s a whole world out there and Sonlight focuses on studying it.
adaptable to whomever and however. I really don’t think there’s a person who can’t use Sonlight’s pre-picked books unsuccessfully. You may not use their instructor’s guide, or you may need to add to it or take from it, but all of that works!

Consider this a suggested course of action, not a rule book


-can be very time-intensive for parents unless you come up with other ways to get the books read, like audio books. Or, just skip something if you can’t keep up! This is especially true if you are a person who feels inclined to check every book every day. Don’t, just don’t. Instructor guides are just a suggestion. Do what works for your family right now. That’s why we homeschool, isn’t it?!
seems to be pricey up front. For our family, its a no-brainer. With eight kids to get through, a few hundred dollars is nothing compared to something consumed eight times. Don’t forget the money-back guarantee.
-Sonlight runs a different time table than most curriculum options, so your kids won’t study the same things at the same times as many other kids.
-potential discomfort at having hard, sometimes unsettling or impossible to answer conversations with your kids. This doesn’t happen so much with the little guys, but definitely by the time they are finishing up elementary there is ample opportunity. I think these talks are beneficial, but we all make those choices for our own families.

My referral link, should you choose to purchase is: EM20221484

Finally, the reason we ultimately decided to make that first purchase: Sonlight offers a “love it or return it” guarantee. You can use the first 18 weeks of a curriculum and return the whole schebang if its not a good fit. You have one year to make that return for a full refund!! Insane.

So, what about you? Experiences with Sonlight? 

I’d love to hear from you.

Dividing Perennials

It’s a few months late to be doing this task in South Carolina, but truthfully the weather has been reliably in the 80s most days until a cold front set in late last week.

Freshly divided lillies

Normally, spring-flowering perennials do best when divided sometime around the end of September in zone 8. You want to still have about 4-6 weeks before the ground will freeze. Fall-blooming plants do best when divided in the spring. If you are dividing in the spring, you want to give the plant to come back a bit before the hot weather arrives. This practice gives each time to grow fresh root systems before they dedicate energies to flowering.

An important rule of thumb, no matter when you are dividing: never do the job on a hot, sunny day. Don’t allow the plants to dry out while dividing. Prepare your new bed ahead of time and keep plenty of water nearby. An ideal division situation is a cloudy day with a few upcoming days of light rain. But that almost never happens, let’s be real.

About half of the way-too-many-plants that needed dividing

How will you know when the plant needs to be divided? The best telltale signs are when the plant begins to produce smaller flowers and if you can see hollow clumps in the middle of the plant. If the plant is happy, growing, and flowering you can probably leave it be. You want to go ahead and prepare the bed you will be planting into and water the parent plants well the day before. Then trim the stems and foliage to about 6″ above the ground. The trimming will help prevent moisture loss.

Why go to the trouble of diving? You don’t have to! In fact, some perennials like Bleeding Heart and Hosta rarely if ever need to be divided. Others resent you actions. Species like Baby’s Breath, Columbine, Christmas Rose, Lavender, and Rosemary will be a bit put out if you take to them  like you would an Aster or Chrysanthemum. Look for new ground shoots, or low branches that have put down roots in these types of perennials. For those who will and do appreciate the time you take in splitting apart, there are three main reasons to divide. First, dividing helps to control the size of the plant. Second, dividing helps to propagate new plants. Last, dividing helps to rejuvenate old plants and keep them flowering.

But! Back to the business of dividing those crazy babies who must be tended to. Use a sharp spade and dig into the ground about 4″ from the plant on all four sides. If the plant is too heavy, feel free to cut it into manageable pieces with your spade. Once the beast is lifted out of the ground, go ahead and remove any dead leaves and stems and knock off all that dirt you brought up. You want to be able to see what you’re doing with the roots. Different root systems need to be handled differently. Here’s your own personal cheat sheet.


Spreading Roots are those plants like asters and coneflowers. They have tons of tiny roots coming from everywhere. Just pull those apart and you’re good to replant. If the clump is super-sized, just use a couple of forks to pull them apart in the ground. Make sure to leave 3 or so happy shoots in each clump.

Clumping Roots are things like hostas and lillies. These can by cut apart with a sharp knife through the clump. Keep at least one good growing eye on each clump.

Rhizome Roots include irises and cannas. They send roots along the top of the soil. These must be cut apart at rhizome intersections, saving one good shoot with each rhizome. Be sure to discard any that look diseased.

Tuberous Roots are plants like dahlias. Separate these into individual tubers. Make sure there is a piece of the original growing shoot attached.

With all plants: plant at the same level they were originally growing at and pat down the soil to remove air pockets. Don’t forget to water them well! If you’ve divided in the fall, mulch with something loose like pine straw or leaves.

A tribe of workers makes every job happier


Other helpful links:

Clemson Extension: (chart for dividing frequency of each species)  http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/flowers/hgic1150.html

About.com: http://landscaping.about.com/od/maintenancesavingmoney/a/dividing_perennials.htm

Garden.org: http://www.garden.org/howtos/index.php?q=show&id=1649

Of course, you can always use old trusty YouTube for all kinds of great videos. Some great because they’re helpful and others, well, because they’re entertaining.

Grace Lin, Tree Climbing, a Formal, and a Food Swap

We started this fantastic weekend off with a bang. Our local library invited the fantastic Grace Lin to visit for the weekend. This was the first book signing my kids have attended. We almost missed it, our at least we thought we had.

We arrived at the library about 6:15 for a 7 o’ clock event. The parking lot was empty. My alarm bell started ringing and only got louder when I remembered the library closed at 6 on Friday nights. Instantly, I started running through the possible sources of of error. Was I wrong about the location? The time? The date? All were a possibility! I unloaded the kids and we realized the doors weren’t locked. Thankfully, a security guard at the door welcomed us and showed us down to the auditorium.

We were a bit early, but the next thing I noticed was I didn’t hear the hum of children I was expecting. As we rounded the corner, we were met by a serious looking group of adults, dressed in business formal. Quite a few sideways glances and raised eyebrows came next. I smiled and guided my rambunctious crew (who may have been chanting “Grace Lin! Grace Lin!”) to the auditorium door. We were definitely the only family there. I whispered, “Let’s sit in the back.” you know what I was thinking: if we need to make a quick exit!!

Within ten minutes, the room filled with families! The expected hum ensued and my blood pressure returned to normal. Whew! The rest of the night was fun. Grace told stories, taught a little Mandarin, led a how-to-draw-a-lucky-Chinese-dragon, and made the kids laugh. Ahhhhh. I love books. And the story tellers who create them.

Did I mention the night was catered? The yummy snacks while we waited in line were icing on top of my literary cake.

Grace Lin
Kids with Grace Lin

My kids really, really enjoy her books. We were introduced to this author while purchasing for Sonlight’s Core F. This is the core the boys and I will be reading through this coming school year. We are completely sold out to using Sonlight as a fantastic tool to educate our children. But, more about that later. On to our crazy Saturday!

We left the house with a full cooler and headed to Charlotte in the early morning. My husband is studying to be an arborist and has been blessed to work for a great company. After having a different working situation our entire married life, this is a welcome change. This past weekend two co-workers were competing in a tree climbing competition that we were excited to watch. The events included aerial rescue, a throwline challenge, a work simulation, and footwork (essentially a 63 foot race to the top). We really enjoyed them all.

As a bonus, a great group of guys came out and rigged a tree for kids. Here are the cutest kids I saw climbing.

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The event was at Charlotte’s Freedom Park. If you’re ever in the area, stop by with a picnic. The park is humongous, so beautiful, and very nicely set up.

When the clock struck 3, we were rushing back to Columbia to prepare the lovelies for their high school formal. When we chose to homeschool in high school we knew one experience our kids might not have is a high school formal. It was a risk we were willing to take.😉 But when the opportunity came along for them, we decided it would be fun.

To me, the neatest part of the whole night was having our local community volunteer their dresses, shoes, jewelry, and even hair accessories to my girls. Between the three, we spent under $20. That makes me happy!

A HUGE shout to Melissa at Fraylick Farm for the flowers. They were so nice. With just 24 hours notice, she really pulled it off. (But please don’t anyone else do that to her!!)




A few more pics cause they’re just so purty.



And don’t forget Spidy. She makes her way into so many pictures.

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Once the girls were out the door, I grabbed my boxes of goodies for the Midlands Food Swap and flew out the door with oldest boy. Whew! What a weekend.