Raising More than Peas

Last spring my four-year-old daughter and three of her friends offered to help me plant the peas. The only rule I made was that the children put the seeds in the furrow I had dug and that no two seeds touch. They were delighted. Later I told my husband I didn’t know how neat the pea patch would look this year. He smiled and said, “We’re raising more than peas.” We have found that children and vegetables grow quite well together, and that the experiences the children have in a garden can last a lifetime.

Here are a few projects we have enjoyed with our three pre-school children.

Each spring we start a few seeds inside the house. Although our home-grown tomatoes are seldom healthy enough to survive outdoors, our children have experienced the excitement of watching seeds sprout and grow. We always buy extra plants from a local nursery, so the success of our seedlings is not important to our summer harvest.

Each year our children help us plan the garden. Using catalogues, they help choose what we will plant. Once we ordered a packet of “mystery” seeds and planted a “mystery” row in the garden. We found we had beets, carrots, and assorted unusual greens. We also had one turnip and a soybean plant.

In planning, we often choose small varieties of plants. The children seem fascinated with eating an entire cantaloupe all by themselves. My son, who wouldn’t touch a standard tomato, pops cherry tomatoes into his mouth with great delight.

Every year we grow something new. We have found that we really don’t care for eggplant, but the purple blossoms are beautiful. Growing sugar-snap peas introduced us to many delicious oriental recipes. And my children discovered they love spinach when it is fresh from the garden.

We let the children help plant the garden. We have found that vegetables grow just as well in crooked rows as in straight ones. If the seeds are planted too closely, we can always thin them later. We set out delicate plants during nap time or let the children plant beans with Daddy while Mommy plants tomatoes. Sometimes our children dig a hole for us to set a plant into.

We try to mark out paths through the garden with grass clippings or black plastic. The children know they can walk there without hurting the baby plants. The mulch also helps to limit weed growth.

We give the children free access to certain sections of the garden. They know they can snack freely as long as they don’t waste what they harvest. Ripe raspberries in our small patch seldom last a morning. After the first big picking, a few peas ripen slowly to reward the child hunting for something to nibble on. Carrots always need thinning. And I would rather have my children snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables than asking for candy or cookies.

When I do need the produce, I give the children chances for tasting. “If you help me pick the peas, you can have some to snack on.” “You may have any strawberries you can find near the house, but please don’t pick any in the patch near the roses.” Our children have been pretty good about following our rules, especially when they can see why we have made them.

Our plot is not a gardener’s dream. We always end up with too few strawberries and too much spinach, and sometimes a few small vegetables get trampled by tiny feet. But our children love gardening. They thrill to see the first green leaves push through the soil. We’re raising more than peas, and we hope our harvest will be a rich one. Loretta L. Evans, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Painless Year’s Supply

Seven years ago our family started gathering a year’s supply of food by simply spending an extra $3.00 each time we shopped for groceries. Today our food storage area looks like the shelves of a supermarket. It has variety, and it contains the things our family often likes to eat. I look at it in amazement—because we pulled it together during the most impoverished years of our marriage.

In the beginning, we decided firmly that no matter how poor we felt, each time we shopped for groceries we would buy twice as much sugar as we needed. Since our family went through ten pounds of sugar a month, I would buy ten pounds of sugar twice a month and store one bag. I stayed with that commitment.

Then I began to calculate how much our family used of other food commodities and started buying double of those items too. I also started buying double of nonfood items: hand soap, dishwashing soap, bleach, paper goods, and toothpaste. I was adding these extras to my shopping cart and never going over my food budget.

As 1976 drew to a close, we decided to make that Christmas a food-storage Christmas. We were so poor we couldn’t afford more than six or seven dollars per child for presents anyway, so we thought, how perfect to give each of us a 50-pound sack of wheat for Christmas! That would help fill our wheat supply. (The recommended amount of wheat and other grains is 300 to 360 pounds per person.)

Surprisingly, the children went along with the idea cheerfully. With this Christmas project they became part of the goal and saw the urgency of the situation. We did have nice Christmas presents that year, I should add—thanks to grandparents.

The following February my girlfriend called and said a local store was running a great special on tuna. “Would you like to split a case with me?” she asked. Would I! The price was the lowest I’d seen in a year, and I jumped at the chance. This would complete our year’s supply of tuna.

In what now seems a very short time, we were able to build up our year’s supply of food and commodities. How grateful I am that, when we thought we could least afford it, we started our food storage program—on only $3.00! Brandy McCuen, West Jordan, Utah

Jiffy Books

A fun way to utilize teaching moments with small children is to use a modified quiet book. These “jiffy books” keep a child’s attention during church meetings and reinforce basic gospel principles. The book I made for my daughter used pictures to focus on the family and the Church.

The books are easy to make. To start, buy an 8-by-10-inch vinyl photo album in your child’s favorite color. The kind with self-adhesive plastic pages works well. To apply straps for easy handling, purchase a small amount of vinyl or slicker cloth. (Slicker cloth has cloth backing and is stronger.) Cut two strips 1 1/2 inches wide and 10 inches long. Turn the edges to the inside lengthwise, overlapping slightly, and top-stitch on the sewing machine. Using a heavy-duty stapler, attach the ends to each side of the album. Letters to title the book may be cut out of the same fabric and glued on the front cover.

For the inside of your book, you need a package of decorative paper and an assortment of lace doilies for mounting, narrow ribbon or rick rack for edging, magic markers for labeling, and glue. Items that teach the importance of the family and the gospel include a picture of your child and the words “I am a child of God”; a portrait of Jesus; photos of mother and father, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents; pictures of the Prophet Joseph Smith; keepsakes the child has cherished from Primary and other Church meetings; a favorite poem or story clipped from the Friend; pictures of one or more of the temples; a photo of your meetinghouse; and, on the last page, another portrait of Jesus. Exactly which items you include is up to you and your children. The self-adhesive pages keep the pictures clean and in place.

As the children grow older, the books can be modified to teach other gospel ideals. You can make a book to include only the life of Jesus, the prophets of the Church, or just one of the prophets with his pictorial history. The book can focus on pictures of all the temples, or on a gospel principle such as reverence, faith, love, or sharing. I compiled one jiffy book for my daughter which includes poetry, counsel from the General Authorities, a special letter from a grandmother, copies of favorite Church songs, and articles with messages to prepare her for temple marriage. These jiffy books are one of the many ways we can implement the gospel into the lives of our children. Joan H. Evans, Salt Lake City, Utah

[photos] Photography by Michael M. McConkie