Essential Gardening Books for Kids

I’m so glad you joined me today.

I have a big list of some of my favorite gardening books to teach and inspire the little ones.

And no, they are not really essential, but they are good activity starters and worth checking out of the library.

Linnea’s Windowsill Garden by Bjork and Anderson.

Charmingly drawn Linnea invites you to join her gardening adventures. This offers lots of information in an entertaining way. Elementary and young tween appropriate. You may already be familiar with Linnea in Monet’s Garden. Yup, I recommend that one, too.

Vegetables in Patches and Pots: A Child’s Guide to Organic Vegetable Gardening by Lorelie Miller Mintz.

Black and white illustrations. Seems to offer a well rounded approach. Everything from planning and placement to problems and pest. I’m guessing a 4th grade reading level.

Best Kids Garden Book by Sunset Publishers

Typical Sunset Publishers- you probably have something by them already. Color photos and illustrations. A nice beginner guide.

Grow It for Fun by Robson and Bailey

Color photo heavy. Little project for rainy days. Mushroom, air gardens, bottle gardens, etc.

Growing Things by Morris and Morris

Nice, short beginner guide. Color photos and illustrations. Glossary, resources, further reading, plant anatomy along with projects.

Kids Garden: The Anytime, Anyplace Guide to Sowing & Growing Fun by Hart and Mantell

From Williamson Publishing Kids Can series. I love all the books in this series on any subject, gardening, crafts, cooking, science. Black and white line illustrations. Loads of projects and simple explanations. These are also the people that publish the Little Hands series for 2-6 year olds. Warning: these series are addictive. Keep a sharp eye out for them at library book sales, because you’ll go broke when you realize you want everything they publish.

The Youth Gardening Book: A Complete Guide for teachers, Parents and Youth Leaders by Lynn Ocone

Fantastic! Truly complete. I also recommend this for any adult beginner gardener. Love, Love Love it! Super hard to find.

For some vegetable container gardening ideas to get students diggin’ in check the beginner gardening category to the right. Encourage your students to leave a comment and let us know how they’re growing.

What is your favorite kid’s gardening book?

I loved The Secret Garden. And I wore through an entire Anne of Green Gables box set. I still ache to visit Prince Edward Island. Oh yes, and I actually referred to Farmer Boy the first time I planted potatoes.

Oh, and for little ones … Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. I have a crazy amount of soft fruit in my garden from reading Jamberry every night of my son’s childhood so far.

What is your favorite garden inspiration literature?

Need some container gardening ideas? Click any of the articles below.

4″pot vegetables

Vegetables for a 6″ pot

8-10″pot vegetables

Hanging Basket Vegetables

Windowsill Herbs

Strawberries for the Apartment Dweller or Suburbanite


Canning: Where to Start

If cooking is an art, then preservation is an an extension of that art. It tastes great, but will it last? Can you cook something to perfection now and enjoy it to the same extent in one year?

Two basic fears go alone with canning:

1. You will die due to botulism.

2. The pressure canner will blow up and that will be your demise.

The resolutions here are this. Follow the directions, pay attention, and don’t waste your money on a crappy canner. Read reviews. Do your research. I am a bubble head and no one has died yet.

It’s easier than you think.

Let’s begin.


a good book about canning (see bottom)

canning jars



stock pot ( for most fruits, sauerkraut and tomatoes)

pressure canner ( for low-acid foods like veggies and meats)

Note: With out the lid, a pressure canner is a stock pot.

Nice, but not essential:


Jar wrench

Jar lifter (like giant tongs shaped esp. for cans)

tomato sieve

So the jars can be found at the supermarket, Walmart, Target, Kmart, online, etc. If you have eyes like a hawk, watch for them on places like Freecycle or the freebie pages of Craig’s list

Same for the pressure canner, although more thought should go into this investment.

Pressure Canner Considerations:

Seal or no seal:

Personally, I prefer the no seal. seals wear out. I don’t want to discover the seal finally died, while my garden harvest rots, waiting for the new seal.


If you are familiar with pressure cooking, you will probably be fine without the gauge, watch the weight rock. If you are unsure, a novice or like the security of being able to read a gauge get a canner with one.


Small : 15- 16 quart canner – will generally hold 10 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

Pros: lightest available, good if your out of shape or have a bad back or canning for two. Take note: A pressure cooker is a very small canner. It might not fit quarts jars, but the little jars should fit.

Cons: small means less canning at once. When you see the unbeatable price for a bushel of peaches at the farmer’s market, it will take you a while to produce all your little Xmas gifts of Spiced Peach Jam.

Medium: 21-23 quart canner – will process about 19 pint jars or 7 quarts.

Pros: You can still lift it. It will process about twice as many pint jars, due to extra headroom

Cons: Getting heavier… You can still only process 7 quart jars at a time

Large: 30 qt. – will process 19 pint jars or 14 quart jars

Pros: you’ll be done soon

Cons: the price is really climbing now as is the weight. Think about it. Full– the filled jars alone will be like lifting 3 and a half gallons of milk. Oh and don’t forget the water in which they are boiling and the canner itself.

Giant: 41.5 quarts- are you insane?

Call in the Marines cause you are not going anywhere with this one filled by yourself. I inherited one. It barely fits in the bathtub. Yes, that is the only place I can fill it. Unless you like running pots back and forth forever. Also, your gonna have to wait for this beast to cool on the stove.

The beast does, however, hold 32 pint jars or 19 quarts.

Canning alone? I wouldn’t go bigger than the medium unless you’re very strong or like a lot of running around and waiting.

Canning with a partner? I still wouldn’t go bigger than the large. Unless you are wealthy and very strong.

Recommended Canning Books:

Ball Complete Guide to Canning by Kingry and Devine — popular, but not one of my favorite

Preserving Summer’s Bounty — focus on stuff you grow

Putting Food By — considerate of the small batch cook

Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by The US Dept. of Agriculture — That’s right from your government. Wow! The basic textbook. Afraid to can? This will keep you from blowing things up or poisoning anyone. How, why and basic recipes. Click here to read the information online for free

Preserving (1981) Time-Life Books — My favorite is out of print so you may have to dig. Fantastic step-by-step pictures. Interesting recipes. I guard it with a carving fork and a 10″ Wüsthoff.

Holy Toledo! Thanks for reading all that. I need a nap, before I check how the maple sap is flowing. But that is another advenutre.

Maybe, I’ll go daydream at Well Preserved and drool at their pictures.

What would you like to try?

What will your first adventure be?

Filet Mignon for $3.99/pound

There is a secret to getting this fantastic price. Most trained, working chefs have the skill but lack the timing. You can have both.

Every savvy cook should know how to handle large quantities of meat.

No kitchen should be without “Cutting-Up in the Kitchen: The Butcher’s Guide to Saving Money on Meat & Poultry” written by Merle Ellis. Published in 1975 by Chronicle Books.

Hm… new and used for 1 penny a copy…guess where.



The bag was the size of a king sized pillow and I could just barely heave it onto the counter. This moster bag of steaks contained contained: Porterhouse, New York, Filet Mignon, Chateaubriand, just to name a few.

At $3.99/pound, it sure as hell wasn’t staying in the store.

What was wrong with it?


“There must have been something wrong with it,” you insist.

Nope. Off the truck this very morning.

There was, however, a twist. Inside the bag were two uncut Short Loins.

That’s it. Two massive slabs of uncut, boneless beef.

By Friday afternoon, any possible skilled, professional chef bought their meat hours ago. And tomorrow? They will be standing there for the fresh stuff off the next day’s delivery. By 5, the meat cutters ran out of time and have gone home.

What do they do with it. Sell it at remarkably reduced prices.

This is where you finally win over the store, but you must have some skills and eyes like a hawk. Not that you could miss a pillow of beef.

The average home cook has no idea what to do with gigantic slabs of meat.

Oh, this is where you save the really big bucks, dear reader.

The book covers knife choice and sharpening, tricks of the trade, how to cut beef, lamb, pork, veal, poultry, stockpot, carving, sausage, preserving and freezing.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing is a more valuable skill in the kitchen.

Get the book. Learn the skill. Lend it to absolutely no one!

So the next time the co-op says,” anybody want a side of beef?”

You reply how?

Essential Cookbooks for Kids

Note: 3/23/09 — Welcome parents and educators. Hope you enjoy this. The Essential Gardening Books for Kids, which is a far more descriptive post, is now available, too

Don’t forget to check the freebie category at the right for free seed offers.

–Neighbor Nancy

Back to our regularly scheduled post:

I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. My first “job” as my mom’s assistant chef was performed while standing on a sturdy, barn red chair at the side of the chopping block.

As a bibliophile, I feel the need to own a gazillion cookbooks.

Here are my favorites for the young cook:

Better Homes and Gardens: Junior Cook Book for the Hostess & Host of Tomorrow— reprint of the 1955 original– also, a good gift for the older chef that may have used it as a kid

Easy Bake Party Planner — Easy Bake oven recipes

The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Children’s Cookbook

The Spatulatta Cookbook — look for it in the scholastic book papers sent home from school

Rookie Cookie Cookbook

Just for Kids

Usborne Farmyard Tales Children’s Cookbook

Alpha-Bakery: Children’s Cookbook & The Rainbow Bakery: A Color-Full Adventure Children’s Cookbook — send for these two in the mail. Look for the form on Gold Metal Flour.

Curriculum based cookbooks:

Book Cooks: Literature-based Classroom Cooking — for K-3rd grades. I believe there is another one for older students, also. Hm… not sure. You’ll have to dig.

The Little House Cookbook — the cooking adventure inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series. A personal favorite … I have worn through two copies growing up.

The Pooh Cook Book –the cooking adventure inspired by A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh”

Perhaps, another time I will give a more in depth review of each in turn.

Why should kid cook?

Getting-by Together: Little Kitchen Helpers

What can they do?

Find out with Coach Trish’s Blog article “Kids in the Kitchen

Have fun!

Dig in with Essential Gardening Books for Kids

Do you have a favorite childhood cookbook?

Living Off the Fat of the Land — Learning to Live Through Hard Times

As the Great Depression survivors disappear, taking their valuable knowledge with them, we are left to rediscover getting by. We, each in our own way, will find our way.

My way, the way which allows me to sleep at night, is to grow or raise as much food as I can. Live off the fat of the land, so to speak.

No matter if you live in the city or the country there are ways to get by.

My favorite book on the subject?

The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. Published by Dorling Kindersley Limited. Text copyright 1976. Edition copyright 2003.

With beautiful illustrations, Seymour covers everything from urban gardening to wine making, from raising livestock to weaving.

His book covers everything you could want to know about doing it all yourself, whether you are growing your own grain or baking your first loaf of bread.

He insists that integration is the key. For example, if you are an apartment dweller with a rooftop garden, why not add a hive of honeybees? You get bees wax for candle and soap making, honey, and more pollination resulting in much more food from your garden.

He discusses this approach with varying sized situations: the urban garden, the allotment, the one and the five acre holdings.

His experiences read like an adventure book and from these he draws his authority.

I have never seen someone flip through this book that didn’t find something that fascinated them. From cook to carpenter, there is something for everyone.

I could live in the pages of this book. I highly recommend it.

Warning: Don’t leave it on your coffee table or you will loose any guest that touches this book to its pages.

The “Have-More” Plan

The basic idea is this:

The more food you grow or raise yourself, the less money you have to shell out at the grocery store. The more you do yourself, the less money is spent on household outsourcing.

After all, that is what I am trying to share with you here. Little ways to get by on less.

It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment in the city with sprouts on your counter top, herbs on your windowsill and chickens or honey bees on you roof top, in a suburb with a manicured lawn decorated with edible landscaping or have a few acres in the country. There is always some way to grow at least some of your food yourself.

Today’s book review is “The ‘Have-More’ Plan: A Little Land-A Lot of Living” written by Ed and Carolyn Robinson. Published by Storey Publishing, LLC. copyright 1973.

This charming book in its 38th printing is for the beginner– the person just trying to figure out how to grow or raise some of their own food.

Originally, published in the 1940’s, it offers much wise advice for providing for yourself in today’s economy. Their target reader is either planning to move to the country or perhaps already has an acre or two on which to grow.

While here and there some advice is obviously outdated–like the liberal use of DDT–most of it is still rings true.

Topics range form choosing and laying out your land to planting and canning your own vegetables to raising a few livestock animals to earning a living in the country.

Their expertise come from their life. They have lived their adventure.

I recommend this short book to anyone who would like to be a more self reliant and just needs a few ideas to help them plan their own adventure.

Check out last week’s book review of Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times. Appropriate for city, suburb and country dwellers.

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Your Local Warehouse Book Sale-Heaven on Earth

Grand choruses of Handel’s Messiah sing in my head as I enter the warehouse book sale.

So it turns out that with a little search engine digging, you can find the distribution warehouses for various publishers. These warehouses are spread all over the country. Chances are there is at least one somewhere reasonably close to where you live.

Some are very organized. Others have huge, chaotic boxes filled with the full spectrum of topics.

Currently, my favorite is the Scholastic Warehouse Sale, ’cause I have a 6yr. trying develop his love for books. Last Xmas, Santa brought him a huge box filled with books. I suggested that Santa must have had a blast at the warehouse sale, too.

Once you get to your favorite publisher’s site, sign up for the sale and usually, there will be a printable coupon.

I know that Scholastic, for example, will actually allow you to sign up as a sale volunteer. Best part…you earn credits to spend at the sale. Four hours of volunteer work will trade for a nicely heavy box or two,filled with your choices of reading material, posters, weird little pencils, etc.

Also, the sale usually lasts an entire week, so everyone can find a time to go.


Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 9:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Low Budget Gardening

So, the family needs to eat, but so many gardening books recommend methods way beyond your budget?

You could start with sprouts.

Have you bought spices lately? Try a 10 cent seed packet from You-know-whatMart in a sunny window. Oh, the huge amount of money you’ll save! In my humble opinion, nothing saves more money than growing your own herbs in a sunny window.

My best friend sees it as entertainment. Her Rosemary and Oregano are like little bonsai trees. But as previously mentioned, she belongs in the Boobie Hatch. I just let my herbs do whatever they please and take snippets, as needed.

If you would like to start or expand a garden, may I recommend:

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon. Published by New Society Publisher. copyright 2005.

Okay so I would get it at the library, but if you want to support the author…

I hate gardening books, love the pictures, hate the text. I actually like this one and read it cover to cover.

There is loads of great advice: from whom to purchase your seeds and why, preparing your soil on various degrees of tight budgets, getting the most bang for your buck.

I find the book well organized, very informative with the occassional touch of humor. His authority comes from years as a seed grower/supplier, so he knows his material.

Check it out.

Grab a bag of potting soil this week, save those egg cartons and yogurt cups. Like this…and grab a 10 cent seed packet of your favorite herb.

Next Monday, we will start a sunny window herb or two or twenty. Just the basics. Nothin’ hard about it.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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