Stones of Gratitude


Two gratitude stones made by Eloise.

We just got back from our trip to NYC and I was looking for a very simple, but not too cheesy, Thanksgiving activity for our play group.  I came across  this activity here

We had the toddlers collect the stones and then pick out a pre-cut paper heart to place on the stone.  The adults pasted them on and then we let them dry as we collected more sticks for the fire.

One of the girls got upset about something and we brought her the stone she had made.  As soon as she had it in her hand she stopped crying.  Wow! Talk about grounding 🙂  We all then talked about what we were thankful for while holding our stones.

Some of the kids decided to make an extra stone for a parent that wasn’t with them – showing gratitude.

This is straight from the link I posted above…

How to Use Gratitude Stones

The gratitude stone is a physical reminder to remember your blessings! There are many ways to use them.

Family Dinner
Pass a gratitude stone around the dinner table before eating. When holding the stone, you must share something or someone you feel thankful for.

To Calm Down Strong Feelings
Thinking and talking about the good things in our life can calm down angry or sad feelings. Teach your child how to hold the stone in their hands and list everything they feel thankful for.

At Bedtime
Pass your child the gratitude stone and ask him, “What was the best part of your day?” Reply with your answer when he passes the stone back to you.

Share a Stone
Create extra stones and share them with the people you feel thankful for! Include a little note expressing your gratitude.

A Grateful Community
An attitude of gratitude is contagious! Scatter gratitude stones around your community. and neighborhood to spread joy to others.


The stone that Eloise decided to make for her dad.



A walk in the rain

Our playgroup meets rain or shine. Today it was a constant downpour while the kids were here. We started the session hanging out on the porch of the cabin. The kids played with musical instruments while the parents had hot coffee and candyroaster squash and craisin muffins. (

Then we went for a rain walk. When I was taking my permaculture course we had to go for walks in the rain to observe the water flow in a design. Rain walks are truly amazing! Yet it seems a little weird to say “oh boy! It’s raining, let’s go outside.” Trust me, your kids will love to be out in the rain.

Observations we made today…

  • The rain makes everything shiny.
  • Look at the ripples in the water when the rain hits its surface, do you see the bubbles?
  • Can you find any mushrooms popping up saying thanks to the rain?
  • Are there any new streams in driveways or paths?
  • Do sticks, leaves, acorns, and other forest floor objects look and feel different?

Today’s playgroup was all young toddlers. For older kids, it would be fun to test the ph of the rain that is falling. Is it more acidic than it should be? How does that affect the plants and animals?

Corn Inspired Play Group

Corn Husk Dolls

Corn Husk Dolls

Tis the season for corn.  After meeting around the fire for some rock painting, it was time for an activity.  The oldest kid we had was four and this activity was a little advanced for him too, but the finished product was perfect for him and all the younger ones.  We made corn husk dolls. While the process was mostly me making them in front of the kids, I think it’s important for the kiddos to watch something being made.  It required time and work versus just appearing into their lives.

Native American Gardening  By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

Native American Gardening By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

Image from Native American Gardening  By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

Image from Native American Gardening By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

Earthways By Carol Petrash

Earthways By Carol Petrash

Image from Earthways By Carol Petrash

Image from Earthways By Carol Petrash

Yesterday we found a couple arrowheads on the paths in the woods so it was a really cool item to show everyone.  It is amazing to think that there were people roaming these woods thousands of years ago.

Later in the session I told the Native American story of Does Nothing, who finally did something by finding the corn plant and sharing it with all of the people. I got the story from a wonderful book about Native American gardening.  It was a nice story to tell after we made the corn husk dolls.

Excerpt from Native American Gardening  By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

Excerpt from Native American Gardening By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

"Sharing the Corn" Image from Native American Gardening  By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

“Sharing the Corn” Image from Native American Gardening By Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac

Our session ended with Hannah, another (awesome) mom, leading a song.  The kids were jumping, clapping, touching their noses, and smiling big.  Endorphin levels are running high today!

Back Home & Spring has Sprung

It has been just over a month since we arrived back to our home in Virginia.  Wow!  Everything moves so fast in the spring.  We have been up to quite a lot since our arrival.

1) We got a new puppy dog.  She is a mixed breed; aussie shepherd, chesapeake bay retriever, and who knows what else mix.  Her name is Ara.



2)  This year has been a bounty morel mushroom year in our area.  We found many in different locations, but it is the first year we have found some on our own farm.



Here is a quick relaxed recipe.

Soak morels in salt water for a couple minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Melt a bit of butter in a sautéing pan.

Add a clove or two of garlic.

Then add the morels.

Cook until thoroughly limp.

In another pot, make spiral pasta.

Mix the pasta with the morels.

Add some fresh spinach, the heat from the pasta will make it nice and tender.

add some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.


Morel & Spinach Pasta

3) We have been planting tons.


4) Enjoying all the Spring flowers.

PawPaw blooms

PawPaw blooms

Spring flowers

Spring flower in the woods.



Our Blue Ridge Mountain Kitchen Garden


We have finally planted all the seeds and starters in our kitchen garden for the 2013 summer growing season.  This is a classic list of veggies that seem to fill surrounding gardens in the valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This year I wanted to try a few different varieties of the regulars to add color and spice up our dinner table.

Our veggie list includes…

Garlic:  We planted our garlic in the fall of 2012; November 1 is the best planting date.  Since this is the first year that we haveplanted garlic we decided to try four different varieties; Nookta Rose, Music, Red Toch, and Georgia Crystal.  It was nice to have the greenery in the garden for the winter and spring months.  They all seem to be growing healthy and happy.  I am a little anxious about pulling them up this summer and curing them correctly.

Potato:  From year to year our potato production has varied drastically.  This year I only ordered a small amount of Yukon Gold seed potatoes, and decided that we weren’t going to plant too many so we could figure out what was wavering with their care.  Well, as all things farm go, plans changed when a good friend gave us two boxes of extra seed potatoes so we ended up planting five rows instead of just the one.  The green tops have been coming up nicely and we keep mounding the dirt as they grow to make sure there is ample growing space for the potatoes in the earth.

Sweet Potato:  One of the most mysterious plants in my mind is the sweet potato.  This will be our first year growing sweet potato.  While researching I found that you can eat the greens of the sweet potato, as long as you don’t take too many that it will interrupt the growth under the ground.  We got Bradshaw slips and planted one small row.  I am already wishing we planted more.

Tomato:  What to say about tomatoes?  No garden is complete without them.  We usually do a few different kinds that are unique in some way, but also are great for canning.  Tomatoes were the first vegetable that I learned to can and I don’t believe I will be stopping that anytime soon.  The varieties we planted this year were Goliath, Abe Lincoln, Persimmon, Thessaloniki, Roma, and San Marzano. We also planted Sungold and Matt’s Wild cherry tomatoes.

Eggplant:  My husband, Randy, did not grow up with eggplant and only had the mediocre store bought lifeless purple football before we were together.  Thanks to the Rosa Bianca variety I have been able to make a few dishes that he genuinely likes to eat.  I will have to share some of those recipes this summer when the eggplant comes into season.

Bell Pepper:  The first few years I have planted the green peepers that turn red if you wait long enough.  This year I decided to forgo the waiting and bought yellow and red colored pepper starters.  The extra color is useful in so many different recipes.

Serrano Pepper:  Every year I choose a different hot pepper to plant.  Hot peppers are not only great for the table, but they are a great companion plant to keep pests away.

Beet:  We love beets in our household.  Every year I try to plant more beets than the year before so that I can can some for the winter and every year we seem to not have enough.  Beet greens have been another useful ingredient as well that a lot of people forget about – Eat your greens!

Radish:  These colorful gems are a nice spicy treat for on top of salads or for munching for a boost of energy while weeding thegarden.

Carrot:  Randy was a skeptic the first year we started growing carrots, and I still not sure if he truly loves it.  The truth about growing carrots is that they need plenty of water, tons of time, and will never grow to be as long as the carrots you buy in the store.  With that aside, they are the tastiest carrots you will ever eat.  Once a child asked me at an outdoor function if she could pick a carrot from our garden.  I conveyed to her that we were about to have cake so she may not want to have the carrot.  She so politely informed me that she would prefer the carrot.  Kids love veggies that come out of the ground, it’s like magic.

Cucumber:  In past years we have grown the regular long green cucumber.  I have nothing bad to say about this fellow, but I am just bored with him.  This year we are testing out two new varieties an all white long cucumber and a lemon cucumber.  Not only will the fresh eaten cucumbers be great new colors, but also so will our pickles.

Squash:  There always seems to be too much summer squash and not enough winter squash so this year I doubled our winter squash plantings.  We have Yellow Crookneck, Candy Roaster, and Butternut planted.

Corn:  Corn is a crop that is overlooked.  Fresh cobs from the summer garden can make a meal.  One variety that we planted this year will be a surprise for visitors.  Martian Jewels is a sweet yellow corn, but when you bite down to the core you will find it is purple.  This variety is also good for keeping for decoration if you let it mature fully on the stalk.

Bean:  Selma Zesta and Dean’s Purple were the pole beans we planted this year to add some more color to the garden and canning.

Lettuce:  As our early spring greens begin to get too bitter to eat, we have a heat tolerant salad mix for the summer.

Watermelon:  We had to put in a couple watermelon plants, because come on what is summer without a fresh juicy watermelon?

So there you have it, a full garden in need of water and sunshine.  Happy Planting!