Creating Your Own Victory Garden

Create Your Own Victory Garden

est 2020

What is a Victory Garden?

Some of you may have been hearing the term Victory Garden lately, or you may have heard of it many, many years ago. This is something that is making more of a comeback now, especially with being home and quarantined due to the Coronavirus. The National Garden Bureau (1920-2020) is celebrating their 100th anniversary. They are reintroducing the concept of Victory Gardens once again.

During World War II, a victory garden was a way that citizens at home were able to help and be a part of the war effort. There were more than 20 million Victory Gardens that were planted across the United States with more than 1 million tons of produce grown. This was a means of improving nutritional value in diets and releasing food to the armed forces. The Victory Garden program was supported and organized by local groups and citizens through committees. In Pennsylvania, County Farm Agents and the college, Penn State, provided services and technical information that were needed, such as: soil tests, cultural information, and seed selection. Many people preserved and canned foods not only for themselves, but for school lunches, food banks, and hospitals. There was also a 236 page Victory Garden Committee Handbook that was created. This handbook is amazing with how much valuable information is it in dating back to this time period.

https://archive.org/details/victorygardensha00mack

Steps and Tips for Creating and Growing Your Own Victory Garden

Growing Zone

The first thing you will want to do is determine your growing zone. This will help you understand what will grow best in the area where you live. It will also inform you of what types of annuals or perennials to plant. You can find what zone you live in by typing in your zip code on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map website. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

Think of What You Enjoy Eating and Make a List

Start writing down a list of foods that you enjoy eating. Think about how much of that your household usually will consume. This will determine how much or how many seeds or plants you will want to plant of that specific item. Also, think of herbs you enjoy using in cooking or adding into beverages. If you have space, you may be able to preserve or can foods for later use. Once you determine what you want to grow, start researching different varieties. You may prefer San Marzano Tomatoes over Cherry Tomatoes, or choose your type of Basil: Genovese, Lemon, Cinnamon, Thai, or Purple. You can always experiment and may discover a new variety you enjoy better, one you’ve never tried before.

Seed or Plant

Decide how much work and money you want to put into your garden. Although seeds are more cost efficient, they also take time, nurturing, and space. You will also need to check temperature and lighting. Hardening off will be important when it comes time to transplant. You can always buy transplants or starter plants that will be ready to plant in the ground. These will cost more than a packet of seeds, but are also easier to plant where you want when you are ready to start your garden.

Knowing When to Sow or Plant

Researching when to sow or plant will be important. You don’t want to plant something into the ground when the soil temperature may not be warm enough for your plant to survive. It is good to know when your first and last frost dates were to help you figure out when it’s safe to start planting. There is a tool on Bonnie Plants website that will help you figure this out. https://bonnieplants.com/gardening/first-and-last-frost-dates/ Another helpful tool to use figure out planting dates will be on the Johnny’s Selected Seeds website. They have a seed starting date calculator. https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/seed-planting-schedule-calculator.html Another idea to think about is whether or not you will want to do succession planting to have produce to harvest for a longer period of time.

Soil

All soil is different. It is very rare that you will have nice soil if you dig straight into the ground. Some options you may consider are purchasing soils to use or add into the soil that you already have. I also like to add compost, manure, peat moss, and perlite and create a mix to add into my existing soil. You may want to have a soil test done. You can request soil kits through your local Penn State Extention office. Things are being done differently due to closures currently because of the Coronavirus. If you would like to learn more about soil testing, visit this link: https://agsci.psu.edu/aasl/soil-testing.

Garden Space

You can start a garden no matter where you live! You may plant straight in the ground or consider raised beds. If you don’t have a lot of space or don’t have very good land to plant in, consider container gardening. This is a great option because you can move it wherever or whenever you want and it’s easier maintenance for weeding and watering.

Add Pollinator-Friendly Flowers

This is my favorite tip of all! If you are planting vegetables and herbs, add some flowers to help pollinate all plants. Pollinators are so beneficial to your garden. Birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects are necessary in the garden. They are needed to fertilize a flower, which then will produce fruits or nuts. We all know how important pollinators are to have in your garden and how some are on the decline. A few of my favorite pollinator friendly plants are: Bee Balm, Echinacea (Coneflowers), Black-Eyed Susans, Shasta Daisies, Lavender, Canna, Salvia, Zinnias, Jacob’s Ladder, and I could go on and on with a never ending list of my favorite flower additions.

Enjoy What You Have Created

Gardening is therapeutic for me. There’s something unexplainable about putting your hands in the soil and creating and watching something magical appear and grow. It brings a sense of peace while being out in nature. There is no perfect gardener. In gardening, there are experiments and experience. Educating yourself and learning new techniques are always happening year after year in the gardening world. There’s so much pride and enjoyment in watching what you’ve created grow! Make sure once you plant your Victory Garden, you find the time to sit there and enjoy it! You may even want to plant a foodscape by mixing plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetables together. Remember, it’s your creation and the possibilities are endless…

Educate Yourself

If you are interested in learning more, Penn State Extention is offering a free webinar series called, “Victory Garden Reinvented!” There was so much interest, they had to expand the room for the number of registrants. You may find the link here: https://extension.psu.edu/victory-garden-reinvented-webinar-series if you are interested in refreshing your garden knowledge or if you have interest in learning more. The first one webinar was wonderful and I highly recommend registering and watching this series!

Share with Me

I would love to hear your thoughts on a victory garden. Share with me some of your favorite things to plant!  Lots of love and happy planting!

Resources and Websites

Victory Garden Committee Handbook (1944) Link

https://archive.org/details/victorygardensha00mack

https://www.facebook.com/notes/franklin-county-pa-master-gardeners/1944-pennsylvania-victory-gardens/1429736513745199

https://extension.psu.edu/victory-garden-workshop

https://ngb.org/2020/03/23/victory-garden-2-0/

https://extension.psu.edu/victory-garden-reinvented-webinar-series

Penn State Soil Testing

https://agsci.psu.edu/aasl/soil-testing

Johnny’s Selected Seeds-Seed Starting Date Calculator

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/seed-planting-schedule-calculator.html

Bonnie’s Plants-Frost Dates

https://bonnieplants.com/gardening/first-and-last-frost-dates/

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

It’s Been Awhile…

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It’s Been Awhile…

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is safe and well during this surreal time. It has been quite awhile since I have written or posted anything. My heart has been there, though my mind and time haven’t. I’m opening up and being honest. The last thing I want is for this post to be doom and gloom, as there is enough of that in the world going on right now. I’ve debated back and forth whether or not I should even post this. I’m not sure what even set anything off, but I had another emotional night tonight.

Let’s start off with a few positives! My birthday this past year, turned out to be a really nice and special day! (Besides turning another year older) Weddings will be all around this year and next year as I’m in my cousin’s wedding in July and both my brother and other cousin got engaged over Valentine’s weekend this year! My other cousin is graduating from Penn State! So there are many celebrations coming up in the near future!

Creating this blog about 4 years ago, was one thing that I’ve always been proud of! I often get upset with myself for not keeping up with it more. (It’s far from some of the top notch bloggers out there, I know, but it’s mine, and I still love it!) I’ve tried to keep the blog updated through quotes and short posts on Instagram over the last year, as sometimes, that is the easiest and fastest way to stay in touch. Life is always, and has always been busy. I love my job, but working close to 12 hours a day from start to finish all week long, sleeping about a total of 4 hours a night, trying to meet requirements and deadlines (which I’m still working towards), life and its surprises, ups & downs, and myself-being my biggest critic, I pretty much have been wearing myself out. I’ve felt exhausted and burnt out, mentally and physically. I started to sit and write the other night and then just stopped because I wasn’t sure how to express any of what I was feeling.

The last four months especially, have personally, been an emotional roller coaster for me. Now, we are all up in the air with our lives due to the coronavirus. Overall, if you know me, for the most part, I’m a very private person. Let me apologize if I have seemed off, more on edge, or some days just more quiet. I want to personally thank my family, work family, and friends that have been here during some very difficult months and days. Without faith, prayers, friends and family, I don’t know how I would have gotten through many of the days that I did. I’m not going to go into full detail other than as many of you already know, my dad has had some health issues that we found out about in November. There have also been some unexpected things along the way through all of it. For months, I have not been myself. Nothing really mattered other than getting my dad well again. These have been some of the hardest, most difficult and emotional days that I’ve ever experienced. Some days, there weren’t even words. It’s almost like I had no voice and couldn’t even talk. I’ve had times where I experienced straight up anger, shock, hurt, and tears (both happy and sad), many, many tears. I would try my hardest to be happy and tell myself, there are good things in life going on. Nothing mattered other than having my dad well and getting him home. No one will ever be doing a good enough job for that person you love. Believe me, my dad has had amazing and wonderful doctors along the way. There’s always those few times where no one is doing enough for your loved one at that time. I’ve never felt so helpless. All my family and I could do was pray, have faith, and be there. I try to wake up and live life normally, but many days, more so than not, I feel like I’m struggling with emotions and falling apart. I try really hard to be positive, strong, and repeat to myself, “It’s going to be okay. You are keeping it all together and are doing the best that you can.”

I am very close to my dad. I always have been. It’s a father/daughter bond that is unbreakable. I strive to make him proud daily. I try to live up to his work ethic. He has the biggest heart and would do anything for his family. He is strong, and a fighter. He’s my hero, even though sometimes (in my heart), I think I bring out the light in his eyes. When I started finding out about everything, I just remember years ago, him always saying how important time and health are. I’m getting older, and I want my dad to walk me down the aisle one day, I want him to meet his grandchild if I ever would become pregnant. Life is moving too fast! As important as these things are to me, there’s nothing more important currently, than having my dad here, home, and well. I can’t even imagine everything he’s gone through, and still is going through. I can’t really explain a lot of what I’ve felt daily for the last four months. I know a few weeks ago, it felt like I was completely alone in the entire world. My brain empty, not quite sure how I drove and got myself to the hospital, I just needed to get to my dad, see him, and be with him. Some days, I often wonder if life will ever be close to being what it was. I know that I can talk to the people that I’m close to. Some I know have been in similar situations and understand and make feel like I’m not crazy.

Growing up, I grew up in a traditional family home and family has always been everything. Still to this day, morals and traditions are still strong within me. Many days, I feel far from the norm of the world. We live in quite a different world today then when I was growing up. So much has changed, things I never thought could or would happen. I’ve always been an emotional person, even as a child. These last few months, it has really hit me hard how fast life can change. How it can test you. I’ve felt things I’ve never felt before…

I will say with all the craziness, social distancing, staying safe…Right now all we can do it take it day by day. Try to live as normal as possible. Do what you can, the best you can at the moment. I’m not sleeping much more or better, but I’m home longer to catch up on laundry, work on webinars for hours/credits, started seedlings which is therapeutic and rewarding (aka quick fix of calmness), and I’ve been trying to read for enjoyment.

This slow down makes everyone realize not to take anything for granted. Although normally, the hours and weeks are long, I miss my job. I miss my work family, I miss my students-their giggles, their stories, watching them grow day by day, their families…As silly as it may sound, I miss taking my time, strolling and taking my long walks through Target, haha…Tonight, I needed a break so I wrote…I feel guilty many days for feeling so down. I know life could always be worse. I keep telling myself that better days are ahead and I will be smiling and laughing a lot more. I’m trying to be positive and patient and let time work it’s magic.

As for now, stay safe and healthy and take care! I’d love to hear how you are all coping with staying in, so feel free to share how you are handling life these days!

XoXo,

Melissa

A Visit to Red Fox Winery and Lounge

A Visit to Red Fox Winery and Lounge

While sitting here waiting for the snow storm that we never got, it reminded me of when there was snow on the ground and it took me back to the day that we went to Red Fox Winery. Looking for a new winery to try? Red Fox Winery is located in Hickory, PA. This had been a winery that I had been curious to visit for many months. They had purchased cabins from my Dad through his business, Ultimate Structures, awhile back and I was excited to see where they were located and how they looked in place in person. The cabins are available to rent.

Finally, before Christmas, I picked a date and invited some friends, plans were made, and we spent the afternoon at this rustic, spacious, yet cozy winery. Red Fox has a large selection of both red and white wines to samples from, as well as a loaded bar where you can order a beer or sit and enjoy a glass of wine.  There is an outdoor pavilion, and an event space as well. The Sangiovese and Cherry Bomb were two of my favorite wines, but there were a few others that I enjoyed just as well!

If you feel taking a ride out into the country and sampling some wine, or just want to chill and watch a game at the bar, I would suggest visiting Red Fox Winery!

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Tis’ the Season to Sparkle and Shine!

Tis’ the Season to Sparkle and Shine

(My Favorite Items for Entering into the Holiday Season!)

(All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by any additional outside sources.)

Goodbye to a calm and relaxing Thanksgiving. (I could really use a 4 day weekend every week!) Hello to the “Most Wonderful” time of the year! The beautiful lights and decorations make the cold weather (which I’m not too fond of) a little bit more bearable this time of year.  My calendar is filling up with with fun and traditional (both new and old) events this month. I’m starting a bucket list, but not sure how I’ll fit everything in. I’m trying not to stress and just enjoy each day, one day at a time. The important stuff will get done, it always does…

One of my favorite times of the year will be here soon! I feel there are never too many decorations or too much glitter, sparkle, or shine during this final month of the year. It just brightens the days. My days during the work week often seem quite long as I start my day leaving while it’s dark outside and leave work to drive home in the complete darkness. It’s nice to see the bright lights and creative designs that people come up with to decorate their homes.

Things that I’m loving right now on a personal level are scented and flavored lipsticks and glosses. The more holiday tees, the merrier! I need to stop myself from purchasing anymore holiday inspired tees, although I still keep adding to my collection. Metallic, faux fur, and faux leather also seem to be a favorite of mine.

Here are a few of my favorite items that I am loving this holiday season! Many of these items are on sale for better prices now. The prices listed below are the original prices of the items. Let me know which items are your favorites!

tis the season items 1tis the season items2

  1. The Sweet Smell of Christmas Melted Matte Lipstick Set

I love these lipsticks! All of the colors are great and they smell amazing, plus the lipstick is long lasting!

https://www.toofaced.com/shop/lips/melted-lipsticks/the-sweet-smell-of-christmas/90694.html?cgid=melted-lipsticks#start=1

  1. Santa Baby Sweatshirt

This sweatshirt caught my eye from the minute I saw it! It’s a comfy sweatshirt made by Grayson Threads found at Target.

https://www.target.com/p/grayson-threads-women-s-holiday-santa-baby-crew-sleep-sweatshirt-red/-/A-53868237?preselect=53738429#lnk=sametab

  1. Sheeny Metallic Gunmetal Leggings

Let me just say, these leggings are a bit bold for me, but when I put them on, I smiled so big! Completely a bold statement for me, but they are comfortable and I think you can dress them up or down to make them fit into your style! It is the season to “Sparkle,” so why not be bold and beautiful and remember to “Shine!”

https://www.forever21.com/us/shop/catalog/product/f21/bottoms/2000299402

  1. Apt. 9 Christmas Tees from Kohls

    This shirt was one of my favorites. I like the casual grey tee with a little bit of metallic and I liked the wording on this one. There are many other Christmas tee prints that you may fall in love with too.

https://www.kohls.com/product/prd-3568842/womens-apt-9-graphic-v-neck-christmas-tee.jsp?color=Christmas%20Nap&prdPV=1

  1. Revlon Kiss Sugar Scrub Lip Gloss

My lips get super dry from the cold weather and wearing a lot of matte lipstick (for long wearing, long days). This lip sugar scrub isn’t too rough on your lips and has a light minty flavor! It is a great moisturizer as well!

https://www.target.com/p/revlon-kiss-lip-balm-with-spf-111-sugar-mint/-/A-52466941

  1. You’re the One that I Want, High Waisted Leggings in Burgundy

These are also a little bit bolder than I’m use to…They are definitely form fitting and they are quite warm. You can also dress these up or down. Perfect for a night on the town!

https://shopthemint.com/collections/leggings/products/youre-the-one-that-i-want-highwaisted-l?variant=17194617602106

  1. Junior’s Checklist Fleece Sweatshirt

This sweatshirt is so soft and comfy. Cute, metallic wording and great to throw on for a chilly day outside. Pairs nice with a warm cup of hot chocolate!

https://www.kohls.com/product/prd-3419988/juniors-christmas-checklist-fleece-sweatshirt.jsp?prdPV=27

  1. Philosophy Holiday Lip Shine

I loved these years ago, they were one of my favorite glosses to use! I liked how they smelled and tasted and weren’t too sticky. They are a nice additional shine on your lips. I originally looked for one of my favorites and then I saw this holiday collection, which actually is a great deal on QVC compared to buying just one and having it shipped.

https://www.qvc.com/qvc.product.A341871.html?colorId=000&sizeId=000&ref=GBA&cm_mmc=GOOGLESHOPPINGFEED-_-GShopping|

DIY Photo Frames

DIY Photo Frames

This is such a simple DIY Project! Create your own customized photo frame. The holidays are right around the corner and this could make a perfect personalized gift for someone or create one for yourself to match your holiday decor. If you want something more permanent, create one for everyday use!

Materials

  • Wooden Frame/Wooden Clip Frame ($1.00 each Michaels)

  • 1 Sheet of Scrapbook Paper per Item ($0.69 each Hobby Lobby)

  • Mod Podge (I use clear matte.) ($5.99 Hobby Lobby)

  • Foam Paint Brush ($1.99 Hobby Lobby)

  • Acrylic Paint ($1.99 Hobby Lobby)

  • Ruler

  • Scissors

  • Glue (I use Elmer’s.)

  • Pencil

  1. First, choose scrapbook paper and acrylic paint to your liking.

  2. Second, measure the paper needed for each item that you are making. I place the paper on the object and then I trace around the frame or any places that will need cut out.

  3. Next, cut out the border for each frame.

  4. Then, paint the sides and the back of your frame with the paint color of your choice.

  5. Use glue on the paper and place on the wooden surface to fit your frame. Smooth out any creases. I usually will let it dry for about 12 hours. Add a second coat of paint if needed.

  6. Take your foam brush and use the mod podge to seal your scrapbook paper to your frame.

  7. Finally, choose a picture and add it into your frame!

diy frames

Pumpkin Chili Recipe

Here is a new fall recipe to try on one of these chilly nights that we’ve been having lately.

Pumpkin Chili Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1lb Ground Turkey

  • 2 Tbsp EVOO

  • 15oz Can of Pumpkin

  • 15oz Can of Kidney Beans

  • 15oz Can of Pinto Beans

  • 15oz Can of Diced Fired Tomatoes

  • Onion Salt

  • Garlic Salt

  • Nutmeg

  • 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

  • 2 Tbsp of Brown Sugar

  • 1 Cup of Water

  • 1 Chili Packet

  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese

  • Tortilla Chips (0ptional)

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan pour in about 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Add your ground turkey and cook on medium-high heat until cooked thoroughly.

  2. In a stock pot, add your pumpkin, brown sugar, kidney beans, pinto beans, diced fired tomatoes, chili packet, and pumpkin pie spice.

  3. Cook on medium-high heat and stir to blend the flavors. Once your ground turkey has finished cooking, add that into your chili mixture.

  4. I added one cup of water to loosen the mixture. Then, I added the garlic salt, onion salt, and nutmeg to season my chili to my liking.

  5. Set on simmer and let all of the flavors blend together for at least 30 minutes.

  6. When ready to serve, add some shredded cheddar cheese or whatever cheese you like on top of the chili. I also added tortilla chips to mine!

  7. Enjoy your pumpkin chili!

 

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Back to School Teacher Favorites

(All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by any additional outside sources.)

Hey friends! Sorry that I haven’t posted in a few months. I’ve had that blogging itch and all summer long I have wanted to post articles, but while starting a new job in May on top of still working two part time jobs from time to time, there are many nights that I’ve been completely exhausted and too tired to write. As the summer school program that I taught is coming to an end, I decided that a great way to get back on track would be to write a new blog post, so why not share some of my favorite items for going back to school if you are a teacher!

It’s that time again…Summer was here and flew by and now it’s time to get ready for “Back to School!” One of my favorite places to shop for items for the classroom would have to be at Target in their “Bullseye Playground” section. Fun classroom items that are sold at such a great price! You will see some of the ones that I chose below.

One of my favorite subjects to teach is reading, along with children’s literacy. I love introducting new books and authors to my students. Kohls has an awesome program called “Kohls Cares.” When you purchase one of the select items from “Kohls Cares,” 100% of the net profit is donated to charitable organizations. Each item is only $5.00. Some of the items this year are Pete the Cat, Biscuit, Batman, Pinkalicious, as well as others. I also love how there are stuffed animals that go along with the books.

Here are a few of my favorite purchases to start off the school year!

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My Favorite Gingham Picks

My Favorite Gingham Picks

You can never go wrong with a black and white print.  I’m loving anything that is gingham print lately!  Whether you are going to a farmer’s market, having a picnic, or meeting up for brunch, this pattern is a perfect pick!

Here are some of my favorite gingham picks for spring.

My Favorite Gingham Picks-1My Favorite Gingham Picks-2My Favorite Gingham Picks-3

How do you feel about gingham?  What are some of your favorite gingham printed items?

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

One of my favorite plants and scents would have to be lavender. Last year, my lavender bush tripled in size and I harvested a ton of lavender from it. I really enjoying cooking with lavender. It’s not a super common herb used in cooking, but I love the unique flavor that it can add to any recipe.

If you love the taste of lavender like myself, these cupcakes need to be put on your “To Do List” to make! They were delicious! Here is the recipe for Lemon Lavender Cupcakes. (It’s actually quite simple and easy to make!)

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes approximately: 24 Cupcakes                                                        Time: 30-40 Minutes

  • 1 box of Pillsbury “Lemon” Cake Mix

  • 3 Eggs

  • 1 Cup of Water

  • ½ Cup of Vegetable Oil

  • Dried Lavender (1-2 tablespoons, depending on how strong you want the lavender flavor to be.)

  • Pillsbury Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Muffin Tin

  • Cupcake Liners

  • (Pre-made Cream Cheese Frosting) or substitute with your favorite frosting

  1. Set your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, line your muffin tin with cupcake liners.

  2. In a large bowl, add your lemon cake mix, eggs, water, and vegetable oil. Beat and mix well.

  3. Add your lavender and gently stir into the mixture.

  4. Pour batter into your cupcake liners until about half full in your muffin tin.

  5. Place in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for about 19-23 minutes.

  6. You will want to allow your cupcakes to cool for about 10-15 minutes so the icing will not melt on them.

  7. Finally, ice your cupcakes with cream cheese frosting or a frosting of your liking.

  8. Enjoy your Lemon Lavender Cupcakes!