Tag: Journals

10 Gifts for Gardeners
The Garden

10 Gifts for Gardeners

10 Gifts for GardenersChristmas is just around the corner! If you are looking for a few ideas to bring a smile to the face of that gardener in the family this year, allow us to make a few recommendations.

  1. The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal. Our garden journal is a great way for a gardener to celebrate a year of growing plants. It features 366 pages with room for to-do lists, observations, harvest records, and other notes, and it even includes a shopping list, a map, a planting table, and other useful tools for planning a garden. Makes a great keepsake. Read more.
  2. Heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are sure to delight! Choose varieties with a compelling story and an attractive appearance. If the seeds come from your own heirloom garden, that makes them even more special.
  3. The Christian Kids’ Gardening Guide. Looking for a gift for a budding green thumb? This delightful little book offers both practical growing tips and fun activities to foster a love of gardening. Read our full review.
  4. All New Square Foot GardeningAll New Square Foot Gardening. If your fellow gardener does not already have a copy of this revolutionary book on gardening, do him a favor and get him one. Even those committed to traditional row gardening can pick up many useful tips for making the garden more productive and attractive. Read our full review.
  5. Oxo Good Grips trowel. Every gardener needs a trowel. If the trowel has a comfortable handle, a sharp stainless-steel blade, and handy measuring marks, so much the better.
  6. Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Another classic work on gardening that deserves a place on every gardener’s bookshelf. This one is an indispensable reference for those who garden naturally. Read our full review.
  7. Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test KitLuster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit. Does your gardening friend know how to test his soil for pH and NPK? If not, this kit will make it easy for him. Read our full review.
  8. Gardening gloves. Even a gardener who already has a pair probably won’t mind an extra pair.
  9. Seed packets. This is another good choice for an heirloom gardener. These seed packets seal to protect their contents, and they can be used with a home inkjet or laser printer.
  10. Sweet potato beetle. This hilarious craft is a great way to use that overgrown sweet potato! Warning: The laughter will be heard for miles around!
10 Handy Weather Resources
The Sunflower State

10 Handy Weather Resources

10 Handy Weather ResourcesDo you want to get better acquainted with the weather? Perhaps you just need to know the average precipitation for your area or when to expect the last frost of the season. Or maybe you’re a little more ambitious—you would like to be able to predict the weather over the next 24 hours or so.

Whatever your level of interest, you may find these 10 weather resources helpful for digging in deeper:

  1. Zone and Frost Maps
    Perfect for you gardeners out there, this post includes links to freeze maps and USDA plant hardiness zone maps.
  2. 30-Year Normals
    Want to know what to expect in the way of temperature and precipitation in your area? Find the answers here.
  3. What Type of Climate Does Kansas Have?
    If you have lived in Kansas for any length of time, you know the answer to the climate question is not simple. Here is our in-depth discussion, complete with maps.
  4. United States Drought Monitor
    While some years flooding is more of a problem than drought, if you need information on drought and its impacts in your area, the U.S. Drought Monitor is the definitive source. Drought forecasts are included.
  5. Kansas State University Weather Data Library
    For the serious weather enthusiast, this site offers a wealth of information on climate, records, recent weather events, agronomy, and more.
  6. The Weather Wizard's Cloud BookThe Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book
    This is a helpful, well-illustrated way to get to know the clouds with an eye to forecasting the weather. Read our full review.
  7. The Book of Clouds
    Want to improve your ability to identify clouds? The lavish photography in this book can really help. Also makes a great book for the coffee table. Read our full review.
  8. Weather Folklore
    Our own series on weather folklore. Find out which sayings are fact and which are fiction.
  9. The Weather Wizard's 5-Year Weather DiaryThe Weather Wizard’s 5-Year Weather Diary
    If you really want to familiarize yourself with the weather in your area, you should consider keeping your own weather records. This diary makes it easy. Read our full review.
  10. A Field Guide to the Atmosphere
    Do you ever wonder how clouds form? What causes different types of precipitation? Why unusual optical effects sometimes appear in the sky? Find out in this clear but thorough book. Read our full review.
Keeping a Garden Journal
The Garden

Keeping a Garden Journal

Keeping a Garden JournalGardening season is finally upon us! If you’re like most gardeners, you are looking forward to planting seeds with the full expectation of making this the best gardening year yet.

While much of gardening comes down to experience, diligence, and creativity, having the right tools makes a big difference. One handy tool is the garden journal.


Advantages of Keeping a Garden Journal

  • Permanent record. While you can keep gardening notes on loose sheets of paper or sticky notes, the chances of you finding and referring to these notes in the future are slim to none. When your notes are in one place, whether that is a binder or a real journal, you have access to valuable information.
  • Memory aid. Really, are you going to remember what’s going on in your garden from one year to the next? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably not. Write down important information. It will save you a few headaches.
  • Simplicity. Writing in a garden journal gives you an opportunity to condense your thoughts and observations into key information that you can use.
  • Learning tool. By noting our successes and mistakes, we have a road map to use in future years. This helps us build expertise quickly, since we are not wasting time repeating mistakes.
  • Sharpen observation skills. Part of becoming a green thumb is observation. If you have a journal that invites you to note your observations, you might just find yourself looking for new ways to fill the pages. Your powers of observation improve, and so does your understanding of your unique garden.
  • Proof of progress. You really are developing a green thumb, and your garden journal contains proof. A review of past journals can keep you motivated and spark ideas for overcoming current challenges.
  • Gardening memories. If you have gardened long enough, you have undoubtedly made some great memories. A glance through an old journal can bring recollections back as though the events happened yesterday.


What to Write in a Garden Journal

  • Garden plans. Did you know that a garden journal can double as a planning tool? You can use your journal to keep track of seed lists, garden maps, and planting dates. This is an especially good use of a journal, since it keeps all of your gardening information in one place.
  • Frost dates. While you can find average first and last frost dates for your area easily enough, you will have much better results if you track the frost dates in your own garden. After several years, calculate the average. Does your garden tend to be warmer or cooler than the surrounding area? It makes a difference!
  • Signs of the seasons. Let nature be your guide. Every spring comes a little earlier or later than the last one. With practice, you can learn to plant in sync with the seasons. A journal can help you keep track of signs to look for.
  • Crop rotations. Don’t let diseases or nutrient deficiencies build up in your soil! Hang onto your map and planting records. Having access to last year’s information is a big help. Having access to the last three years’ information is even better.
  • To-dos. Keep track of gardening chores and how often they need to be done. While you’re writing down what you observed today, jot notes on what you need to do tomorrow or in a week. Staying organized is suddenly quite easy!
  • Experiments and their results. Are you trying something new this year? Write it down, and be sure to note the results as they arise. Not only does the process of writing cement information in our heads, but even if we do forget we have a permanent record to refer to.
  • Notes on favorite plants. Need to remember when to cultivate the asparagus bed? How to prune the blackberries? Where to plant nasturtiums to take advantage of their pest-repelling properties? Keep pages in your journal specifically for notes on plants that you grow every year. Now you don’t just have a journal—you have a personalized reference book!
  • Favorite varieties. Likewise, keep track of your favorite plant varieties. Note which tomatoes were the easiest to grow and which lettuce tasted the best. When it’s time to buy seeds again, you’ll already know what kinds to get.
  • Pests and diseases. Every gardener (particularly every organic gardener) has a list of “bad guys” that they count on battling every year. Improve your warfare strategy by recording the habits and preferences of the bug or fungus in question, then list ways to deter or destroy it.


A Final Tip

The most important thing to remember about keeping a garden journal is that it should be simple. If wrestling with a bulky binder feels complicated to you, you may very well give up on your journal before the season ends. If writing a detailed essay on your garden every day feels complicated to you, you probably will avoid the task like the plague.

Find a journal that invites you to jot down your thoughts. Then write down only what you are interested in remembering.


Helpful Resource

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal
Our 466-page journal offers room for both planning and observing, featuring a shopping list, a planting schedule, a garden map, a maintenance page, a daily journal, and pages for notes on plants, pests, and diseases. Preview sample pages and more information here.

The Family Garden Journal
The Garden

Family Garden Journal Introductory Price Ends January 2017

The Family Garden JournalThe new compact edition of The Family Garden Journal, published by Homestead on the Range, is currently available for $19.99 at Amazon.  This offer will end at the beginning of the new year!

This beautiful paperback journal can help you or a loved one develop a green thumb while creating a keepsake:

  • Start by planning for success with our Step-by-Step Gardening Guide.
  • Check items off of your shopping list as you collect seeds for the growing season.
  • Mark each plant’s place on your garden map.
  • Build a customized schedule to ensure that each seed makes it into the ground at the proper time.
  • Divide the work among several family members with one handy table.
  • Build your own gardening manual with attractive reference pages and a 366-day journal—now in a handy, compact size.
  • Find out with the turn of a page which plant varieties were your favorites, which pest control methods worked best, and how much produce you harvested.

The Family Garden Journal makes a great gift, so take advantage of the introductory pricing and order a copy or two before Christmas.  Don’t forget to buy one for your own family!

Sample pages are available for preview here.

5 Gifts for Birdwatchers
The Sunflower State

5 Gifts for Birdwatchers

5 Gifts for BirdwatchersIs there a special birdwatcher in your life? You know, that person who never travels without binoculars and who remembers a location by that rare bird he added to his life list while visiting?

Here are a few ways to bring a smile to his face this Christmas:

  1. The Backyard Bird Feeder's BibleBackyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: Every birdwatcher needs a copy of this handy guide to species, seeds, flowers, and more. From DIY projects to landscaping tips to identification helps, just about everything a birdwatcher could want to know is included. If they don’t have one yet, by all means, complete their library! Read our full review.
  2. Field guide: If your birdwatching friend or youngster is just starting out, give him a copy of the Peterson guide for either eastern or western North America. More seasoned birders probably already have a field guide they rely on; supplement their collection with a guide specific to their state. Try The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots, or search Amazon for guides for other states. Read our reviews for the Peterson guides and The Guide to Kansas Birds.
  3. Squirrel-proof feeder: A good squirrel-proof feeder can do more than just keep squirrels at bay. It is sturdy enough to last for years, and it may even lock out undesirable birds like crows and blue jays. This excellent hopper-style model holds quite a bit of birdseed, and can be either hung or mounted on a pole.
  4. All-Weather Birder's JournalBirder’s journal: This may be the best journal your birdwatching friend has ever tried. Compact size, waterproof cover, sturdy paper—what more could an all-weather birder want? Read our full review.
  5. Complete Book of Birdhouse Construction: Do you know a birdwatcher who is also handy in the shop? This little book may give him a few ideas on how to tailor his projects to his favorite birds. Read our full review.
Get Ready for December 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for December 2016

Get Ready for December 2016Christmas will be here before you know it! Prepare tasty treats and heartfelt gifts from your own homegrown offerings, and snuggle up on the couch for a little storytelling.

  1. Retell the story of Sod Corn Jones.
  2. Read Scripture passages about the meaning of Christmas.
  3. Make a sweet potato beetle.
  4. Encourage your child to start an EcoJournal.
  5. Give a weather diary this Christmas.
  6. Create homemade gifts from the heart.
  7. Cook up some stovetop apples.
  8. Put a sweet potato casserole on the table.
  9. Visit the Christmas City of the High Plains.
  10. Check out our favorite posts from 2013, 2014, and 2015.
6 Great Birdwatching Resources...and a Bonus!
The Sunflower State

6 Great Birdwatching Resources…and a Bonus!

6 Great Birdwatching Resources...and a Bonus!Don’t let that summer heat turn you off of birdwatching. Fall migration season is just around the corner! Are you ready?

Stock your birdwatching bookshelf with good identification tools before you need them. Here are a few that we’ve enjoyed:

  1. Peterson Field Guides to Birds: Every birdwatcher needs a good field guide, and these have stood the test of time. The accurate color plates and concise species descriptions point out exactly what you need to know. The eastern/central guide and the western guide have been combined into a larger book covering all of North America, but we recommend the smaller regional guides for portability and ease of use. Includes a life list. Read our full review.
  2. Online Bird Guide: When you’ve used your Peterson field guide to whittle down your choices, check out this site from Cornell to compare color photos and audio recordings. Also fun just to browse.
  3. Birdwatching Glossary: What is a casual species? A speculum? A passerine? Find the answers fast in our glossary.
  4. All-Weather Birder’s Journal: We can’t say enough about this handy little journal! It’s compact and sturdy, but with plenty of room for notes and sketches. It’s great for recording those memorable finds and as an identification aid. Read our full review.
  5. How to Identify Birds: Find out how to use your journal and field guide to advantage. Our step-by-step explanation of zeroing in on critical field marks can help you become a birdwatching expert.
  6. The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: This cheerful little encyclopedia makes attracting passing birds fun and simple. Find out how to tailor your offerings to the tastes of your favorite species, and how to landscape the perfect birdwatching paradise. Highly recommended! Read our full review.
  7. Bonus: Kansas Outdoor Treasures: Those of you who enjoy birding in the Sunflower State will probably find this book to be a real boon. Explore the varied parks, byways, and other wonders of Kansas. This guide will tell you just what to expect as you travel. Read our full review.
The Family Garden Journal
The Garden

New Compact Family Garden Journal Available

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal published by Homestead on the Range is now better than ever!

We have released a new compact edition that is easier to carry, but still contains plenty of room for logging your family’s daily plans, observations, and harvests.

Develop your green thumb while creating a keepsake:

  • Start by planning for success with our Step-by-Step Gardening Guide.
  • Check items off of your shopping list as you collect seeds for the growing season.
  • Mark each plant’s space on your garden map.
  • Build a customized schedule to ensure that each seed makes it into the ground at the proper time.
  • Divide the work among several family members with one handy table.
  • Build your own gardening manual with attractive reference pages and a 366-day journal—now in a handy, compact size.
  • Find out with the turn of a page which plant varieties were your favorites, which pest control methods worked best, and how much produce you harvested.

Along the way, you will enjoy inspiring quotes, practical gardening tips, and beautiful black-and-white nature photography.  And there’s still room for your family’s sketches, photos, and pressed flowers!

By the end of the year, you will have created an invaluable reference book, tailored to your unique needs and growing conditions.  But that’s not all—your family will be able to look back on a year of shared gardening memories.  Your completed journal will become not just a book, but a cherished keepsake.

Learn more here.

5 Steps to Birdwatching Expertise
The Sunflower State

5 Steps to Birdwatching Expertise

5 Steps to Birdwatching ExpertiseEvery truly dedicated birdwatcher wants to perfect the art of bird identification.  He wants to be able to look out the window and say with complete confidence, “Yes, that’s a female Prothonotary Warbler.  Rare in these parts.”

So how do you master your craft?

Take heart!  There’s no magic formula or special talent needed to get to know the birds:

  1. Watch birds.  Become intimately familiar with your local birds.  Get to know their habits, their songs, and their appearance.  When a rare species or migrating visitor passes your way, it will stand out to you.  Something about it will strike you as different, providing you with the key to identification.  You will probably even be able to roughly classify it as a finch, a warbler, a sparrow, etc.
  2. Study the field guide.  Get a good field guide—not a pocket guide, but a complete identification aid (we recommend the time-honored Peterson field guides).  Then sit down some rainy day and thumb through it from front to back and from back to front.  Find out how the birds are grouped so that you will be able to look up any species quickly.  Also spend a little time browsing the introductory material.  These pages often contain useful information on the parts of a bird, comparing beaks, feet, and silhouettes of different bird types.
  3. Listen to bird calls.  There are many sources of bird recordings.  Cornell’s online bird guide offers you free access to a comprehensive and varied collection, but for convenience you may decide to spend money on an audio CD or a customized handheld bird-song player.  Whatever you choose, spend a little bit of time enjoying it.  Later, when you hear an unknown bird singing from a tree, you will remember if you have heard it before and can go back and check your bird-song library.
  4. Write it down.  Keep a bird journal, and take it with you when you go birding.  When you see a new bird, draw a quick sketch of it and note its distinguishing characteristics.  Some detail you have observed may prove diagnostic when you compare your notes against the field guide later on.  (Read more on this method here.)
  5. Research your challenge.  Do you struggle with sparrows?  Worry about warblers?  Fume over finches?  Spend some time studying the bird species you have the most trouble with.  Start with your trusty field guide and your favorite online resources.  Learn about the songs, habits, field marks, and pattern of occurrence of each of your trouble birds.  Look for simple ways to remember crucial differences—even if your mnemonic is silly (the Downy Woodpecker is dinky, but the Hairy Woodpecker is huge).  If you are really dedicated (or desperate), you might be able to find a book specializing in your problem birds.

Birdwatching expertise is not something that money can buy (although good binoculars help).  It is a skill that must be studied and practiced.


Helpful Resource

Birds of KansasBirds of Kansas
Our own guide to Kansas birds, including field marks, occurrence, behavior, similar species, and other information you need to clinch an identification.

Get Ready for March 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for March 2016

Get Ready for March 2016Get ready for spring!  It’s time to plan new projects, start a garden, and get outside to enjoy nature.

  1. Start a new garden or orchard.
  2. Plan your farm water system.
  3. Take on the 5-minute brainstorming challenge.
  4. Learn more about growing your favorite vegetables.
  5. Learn about the breeding birds of Kansas.
  6. Start a farm journal.
  7. Find creative uses for all those extra eggs.
  8. Discover the power of humus.
  9. Become a weather wizard.
  10. Revisit your favorite gardening resources.