Rediscovering Sunday Night Suppers

Somehow I missed it!  January is National Sunday Night Supper Month!  Unbeknown to me, the movement began in 2016 as a time to begin Sunday night family meal time.  The second Sunday of January is designated as the Sunday to celebrate it by starting family Sunday night suppers if it is not already part of your family tradition.  Noting that family time on Sunday nights had become a waning tradition, Isabel Laessig, a mother of four, is credited as the founder of the Sunday Supper Movement.  The Sunday Supper Movement’s mission is to “create a better future for families, by partnering with brands and services that help families feel good, eat better and interact with each other.”

family sitting around table

As a kid growing up in a large family, Sunday night supper was always a special time for my family.  We ate together at the table, talked, and after the meal played games or cards; usually we were at home, but at least once a month, we shared this time with either my maternal grandmother or paternal grandparents.  I have no recollection of what we ate as I’m sure it was whatever my mother fixed or warmed up.  The important thing was that we were together after a week of many farm family activities.

With our fast-paced lifestyles and technology changing all aspects of family life and communication, perhaps it is important that we rediscover shared family time with a meal and set aside a month to remind us or get us started.  January may well be a good time for observance, too, as it comes with a “starting a-new” mindset or a time for resolutions to make positive changes.

If having to come up with a family meal at home is overwhelming or an unwanted chore as one wraps up weekend chores and activities and prepares for the week ahead, reduce the pressure by ordering out, have a potluck if extended family is involved, rotate meal responsibilities, make or reheat soup, make a pizza together or bake a frozen one, or simply go with what it is in the refrig.  The Sunday Supper Movement’s website offers a recipe index, cookbooks and reviews, contests and giveaways, and a community section to help anyone get started. The food doesn’t matter as much as the time together as a family and carrying on traditions that we had as kids with our kids and/or grandkids.  Regardless of where or how the meal and time takes place, the best advice is to do it without technology at the table, too.

So gather your family or friends and have a meal together. Savor each other’s company around the supper table. And just maybe, if January (or February since January is nearly past) Sunday night suppers go well, they may become a way of life for your family.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Beware of Halloween Decoration Dangers

‘Tis the season to be scary . . . fa, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .

Halloween has become as festive as Christmas with string of lights, blow up decorations, animated displays, fog machines, and other electric-powered decorations.  Any and all create a scare-worthy porch or yard for any trick-or-treaters that dare to ring the doorbell.  But like Christmas decorations, Halloween decorations can be a source of dangers that could spoil the holiday that is suppose to be fun.  Remember a safe celebration is the best celebration.

So as Halloween decorating approaches, here’s some safety tips from Safe Electricity to make sure Halloween is safe and fun for all:

  • Carefully inspect decorations that have been stored for cracking, fraying or bare wires.  Do not use if any of these problems are found as they may cause a shock or start a fire.
  • When replacing or purchasing decorations or cords, make sure they are Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved and marked for outdoor use.
  • Unless specifically indicated, keep electrical decorations out of water or wet areas.
  • Be mindful of extension cords.  They should not run through water on the ground.  Use only cords rated for outdoor use.
  • Don’t overload plugs or extension cords.  Be sure to use a big enough gauge extension cord to handle the decoration wattage without getting hot.
  • Use insulated staples to hold strings of lights or cords in place.  Fasten securely.
  • Plug outdoor lights and decorations into GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupters).
  • Keep cords away from walkways or anyplace where they may be a potential tripping hazard or entanglement hazard for pets.
  • Consider using a timer to have decorations or lights on for a specified amount of time.  Turn them off while away from the home and before going to bed.

By following basic electrical safety guidelines, you will  avoid real scares or dangerous tricks and keep Halloween a fun and safe event.  Get more safety tips at SafeElectricity.org.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Fall Fun Ideas

Fall is here!  Here’s some ideas from my family to yours to make fall a special time for the family.

Rake and play in the leaves—assuming it doesn’t stir up allergies.  After the leaves fall, pile the raked leaves and let the kids and dogs jump and scatter.  Of course, you may have to re-rake a bit before bagging or composting.

Watch for slow-moving vehicles.  Harvest has begun so motorists need to be watchful of slow-moving vehicles and farm equipment.  Make it a safe season for everyone by sharing the road and slowing down.

Make a pot of soup.  Chili is especially good on a cool day.  Stews are a good way to use up the last of the vegetables harvested from the garden.

Pick apples.  October is national apple month and what a fun outing it can be to harvest apples either from your own trees or at a nearby orchard.  Some orchards provide entertainment as well as picking opportunities.  Use the apples to eat fresh or make apple crisp, apple pie, or apple butter.  Be sure to get a candied apple, too!

Search for a pumpkin or two for decorating or carving.  There are lots of pick-your-own pumpkin patches and some come with entertainment options, too.   Pumpkin carving or decorating parties are a lot of fun for all ages.  Carving pumpkins don’t make good pumpkin pie; instead choose a small pie pumpkin for cooking and baking.

Plant mums, bulbs, grass, shrubs, and trees.  Fall is the perfect time to plant as the cool days and nights allow plants to settle in without stress.  Water thoroughly until the ground freezes.  Consider mulching to keep new plantings from heaving during the winter months.

Build a bonfire.  The warmth from the fire is so special on a cool night and even more fun when s’mores are on the menu. Be mindful of fire safety.

Catch the football spirit.  Take in a local high school Friday night game or play touch football with the kids. Catch your favorite team on TV!  Tailgate with friends either at a game or before watching a TV game.

Try out an amazing corn maze.  Traversing a corn maze in search of the end or prizes is guaranteed to become a fun and exciting tradition for years to come.

Decorate for Halloween.  String up some lights or plug in the fog machine for a festive spirit.  Be sure all lights or electrical decorations are UL approved and plugged into GFCI outlets.  Add some carved pumpkins and maybe a big spider web.

Watch a scary movie.  Nothing sets the scene for Halloween more than a little “fright!”

Take a road trip.  Check out the changing scenery in your area as the farm fields go from green to golden brown to harvest empty and the leaves on the trees turn.  Or travel to the various parts of the state to see the “colors” at their peak time.

Take a hike.  Follow a path through the woods at a state or local park.  Hear the leaves crunch and smell the damp fall ground.  Pack a picnic to enjoy along the way.

Drink hot spiced apple cider or hot chocolate.  It just wouldn’t be fall without cider and hot chocolate to warm up after an outing on a cool fall day or evening.  And either beverage really goes nice with a fire in the fireplace!

Take a hayride.  Watch local listings for community hayrides.

For more ideas and where to find fall entertainment options, check out Travel Iowa.

Happy Fall!

 

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Collecting and Fall Planting Milkweed for Monarchs

In recent years, we have heard and read much about the declining monarch butterfly population due to eradication of milkweed in agricultural and urban areas.  Milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs.  It is the only host plant for the monarch caterpillars which feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed.  And besides providing food for caterpillars, the leaves of the milkweed plant are the only place that the female monarchs lay their eggs.  As milkweed plants gradually disappeared from the landscape, the monarch populations gradually declined.  With the decline, there is urging to plant milkweed to support and increase the monarch population.

Back in the 1990s, I began an initial planting of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) along our creek banks with seeds from a single pod that I found along the road side. In the 20 some years since, those few seeds have fostered a nice habitat for monarchs as they not only spread along the creek bank, but also into the surrounding pasture.  This year I am once again on a mission to collect some pods, harvest the seeds, and eventually plant them.  However, this time I have a partner; my 9-year old granddaughter loves monarchs and wants to do her part in helping their survival.

Fall is the perfect time to collect and plant milkweed.  The first step is to acquire seed.  Most milkweed species grow particularly well in undisturbed areas, so start by checking out roadsides, pastures, creek and river banks, railroad track beds, bike paths, highway medians, agricultural field margins, vacant land, cultivated gardens, and parks.  In September the seed pods begin to turn brown, split, and open.  The seed pod looks like a spiny, bumpy fruit. They begin light green in color and gradually over the summer turn yellow-green and eventually sage green to sage grey-brown.  As they get to this later stage, they will start to split.  This is the stage that you want for harvesting seeds. When the pod is opened, the seeds inside should be dark brown. If they’re green or light brown, they’re not mature yet and won’t sprout when planted.  If you don’t see the split or aren’t sure about the color, you can gently push on the pod; if it splits easily and the seeds are brown, it is ready; if it won’t pop open easily, leave it for another time.

Remove the entire seed pod from the plant and place it in a paper or organza bag.  Attached to the seeds is the coma, (white, hairy fluff also known as floss, silk, or plume) that is essential to the natural propagation of milkweed in the wild.  The fluff enables the wind to scatter and disperse the seed over a wide area.  Whether the seed is saved to share or use later or planted this fall, the fluff should be removed and it is best to do this before the pod fully opens and explodes.  When the seeds are all compact inside the pod, it is easy to do by carefully removing the spine holding the fluff and running your fingers down it; as you do, the seeds fall out easily.  Check out the Monarch Butterfly Garden website for a great video on how to do this.  If the pod is more mature and already opening with the fluff beginning to take flight, place the pod in a paper bag and shake it vigorously; sometimes it helps to add some coins or washers to the bag to aid this process.

Milkweed needs a period of cold stratification to germinate so that is what makes fall an ideal time to plant milkweed as Mother Nature will do the work during the winter months. November is the best time in the Midwest to plant.  The soil needs to be cold enough that the seeds won’t germinate, but not yet frozen.  The location chosen should be sunny and an area where you can allow the milkweeds to spread naturally over time as they can become invasive in a perfectly manicured yard or flower garden.  A bare patch of moist soil is best.  Poke a shallow hole and drop in a seed or two.  Cover, water, and lightly mulch for winter protection, and wait for spring.  For more tips on planting, see Fall Planting Milkweed Seeds – 10 Simple Steps from the Monarch Butterfly Garden website.  Another method of planting  is by making and throwing out seed balls.  To learn more about this method, see the article by the Iowa DNR.

If you miss the window for fall planting, the seeds can be planted in the spring, too.  For additional information on keeping seeds over the winter and planting in the spring or other times, check out the Michigan State University publication, How to Collect and Grow Milkweeds to Help Monarchs and Other Pollinators.

Lastly, I would be amiss to not suggest that this would make a great 4-H project for any young person interested in monarch habitat.  And for crafters, there are any number of ways to use the dried pods.  In all cases, please be advised to wear gloves or wash hands frequently when working with milkweed or pods.  Milkweed sap (looks like milk) can be an eye irritant, so take appropriate precautions to avoid this kind of discomfort.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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College Bound

The end of July always signals a new beginning for another school year to me. It is an exciting time for students, teachers, and parents.

Many families are preparing to send a student off to college for the first time. That whole experience can be an emotional roller coaster for both the students and parents. With a plan in place it is easier to ease college-bound students, and their parents, into the next phase of their lives.

An important part of that plan is keeping the lines of communication open between parent and student about the realities of college life as a college freshmen. There may be more or different pressures as new social situations are encountered. Many college freshmen feel pressured into deciding what they want to do, picking a career path and planning for their futures. Students and parents both feel pulled between the past, present and future. It is important for parents to remember the foundation they have worked to build and provided their child with for the last 18 years will stay with their child. Provide wings they need to develop but also trust they have strong roots.

As students head off to college, parenting styles will change. Teenagers still need love and support but both sides are working on building an adult relationship with each other. Parents especially, but students too, need to accept there will be a void. The joy everyone is feeling may also be mixed with longing. Parents and college students may both feel left out at times. Parents will be less privy to all aspects of their child’s life but again it is vital to keep the lines of communication open. It is a good idea to make a plan about how and how often you are going to stay in touch. It is a time in your student’s life when they are wanting to assert their independence but also feel connected to family. As parents make changes at home after the student moves out, it is helpful to keep the student informed. This gives them a sense of security and belonging.

College life for both students and parents is not harder or easier than high school – it is just different.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Summertime Tips

In just a short time, school will be out for the summer. Educators say that children lose some of the skills they learned over the summer. If you want to help your child retain more of their skills, we have a few simple suggestions for summer activities.

If your family is planning a vacation, your child can do some age appropriate research on the sites you may visit. I remember my children reporting on Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. They were mid-way through elementary school at the time, so the reports were not terribly detailed but they each had a chance to see photos of our destination and learn a few interesting facts. We made a trip to the library and they looked for references, took notes, and then made a one-page report for the family that they read to us in the car as we headed out on vacation.

Children can also help with grocery shopping. Even young children that have not mastered spelling can write down the grocery list. As long as they have mastered the alphabet, you can spell out the items on the list. Have them look through the kitchen to decide what foods need to add to the list. Help them understand fractions like half, thirds, and quarters. Visualization helps make fractions real.

Once you are shopping for groceries, provide a calculator to older elementary students to track total spending or explain how to figure unit pricing to know which size cereal box is more economical.

Sometimes we do not realize all the reading, writing, and arithmetic skills we use in everyday life. Help our child maintain their skills and have fun, too.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Edible Landscaping – Landscaping with Taste

Creative landscape made with assorted organic vegetables.

The modern trend is to no longer banish the vegetable garden to the far corner of the back yard.  Rather, homeowners are now putting vegetables and fruit trees or bushes on display as part of an elegant, edible, landscape design.  So while this is a modern trend, an edible landscape is really an ancient practice dating back to medieval monks and ancient Persians growing a rich array of vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs for edible, medicinal, and ornamental virtues.  It was also a long practice of English gardens which was reinstated in 2009 by Queen Elizabeth when she had an organic edible landscape installed within the Buckingham Palace Garden which includes heirloom species of beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and other edibles.

While an edible landscape doesn’t need to be as elaborate as the Queen’s, an edible landscape does use attractive, food-producing plants in a well-designed garden plan around the home and/or living area in the same way that ornamental plants are used.  It may also incorporate ornamental plants. As a result, the edible landscape offers fresh, affordable food, a variety of foliage and colors, and sustenance for bees, butterflies, and birds.  As this trend grows, there are a growing number of professional landscape companies getting into the business of helping homeowners plan their landscape to include edibles, courses for certification as agriscaping educators and professionals, and any number of books and online articles providing information.  Interestingly enough, some subdivision developers now offer buyers a choice of either traditional landscaping or agriscaping for their new home.

Design is what separates edible landscaping from traditional vegetable gardening.  Whether ornamental or edible, design should be pleasing to the eye and draw one into the garden to experience it.  Instead of rows of vegetables which lead one away like a highway, the same space can be made very attractive (and edible) by incorporating basic landscaping principles  starting with a center of interest and then curving other plants around it—the same way one would plan an ornamental garden.  Add a few flowers, a trellis for beans/peas or cucumbers, an arbor for grapes, a bench, a bird bath, a fruit or nut tree, garden ornaments and voila!  It’s an ornamental edible landscape!

Planning an edible landscape incorporates the same design values of traditional landscapes. Carol Venolia writing for Mother Earth Living, says start small, choose plants appropriate for your climate zone, and offers the following design tips:

  • Create primary and secondary focal points.
  • Use plantings and hardscaping (such as paths and patios) to define spaces for various uses and experiences.
  • Work consciously with color, texture and seasons of blooming and fruiting when choosing your garden’s palette.
  • Pay attention to how you lead the eye from one part of the garden to another.
  • Except for featured specimen plants, create groupings of plants to avoid a busy, random appearance.
  • Explore the aesthetic potential of plants: Grow vines on arbors; create edible landscape walls with vines and shrubs; espalier fruit trees; use containers as accents; grow decorative borders of edibles.
  • Make plants do double duty by shading your house in summer and admitting sunshine in winter, reducing your home’s energy use.

For inspiration, one need not look far.  Following recent trends, many public gardens have incorporated edible gardens into their landscapes.  One of the best can be found at the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden at the Chicago Botanical Garden.

So whether to save money, provide better-quality food for the family, know what you eat, reduce carbon footprint, involve family, or simply to try something different, edible landscaping is a trend that provides environmental benefits and returns a bit of sanity and security to chaotic times.  However you do it, Happy Gardening!

A few resources for further reading or to help get you started:

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg et al.

Edible Landscaping: Now You Can Have Your Gorgeous Garden and Eat it Too by Rosalind Creasy

Edible Landscapes (The Seed) by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension et al.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

The Incredible Edible Landscape by Carrie Wolfe, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Landscaping with Fruit: Strawberry ground covers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors, and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise by Lee Reich

Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables by Fred Hagy

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Prepare Now for Safe Summer Boating

Summer will be here soon and with it will come many outdoor recreational opportunities.  If boating is something you or you and your family will do, then it’s time to think or rethink boat safety.  ​According to the National Safety Council, about 74 million Americans engage in recreational boating each year.  Most boat outings are fun times, but the good times can quickly turn otherwise if boaters are not vigilant about safety at all times.  The most common boat tragedies occur when someone falls overboard or a boat capsizes or collides with another boat.  The US Coast Guard statistics show that 7 out of 10 boating accidents resulting in death occurred due to operator error or lack of boating safety instruction.

The good news, though, is that saving lives and reducing injuries can be as easy as taking a boater safety course. That way, you familiarize yourself with operation basics and etiquette, as well as state and federal waterway rules. And, by taking the course, you may even be able to lower your insurance premium.  Some states actually require completion of a boat safety course in order to operate a vessel on lake and streams within the state.  Since this blog is written largely for audiences in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota, I will make reference to requirements for these three states only.  (Additional information can be accessed at Boat Ed®.)  For these three states, the requirements are as follows:

Iowa – Education is required for those 12 to 17 years old who will be operating a motorized vessel over 10 hp or a personal watercraft (PWC) in Iowa.  Cost of the course is $29.50 with an additional $5 state fee.  Permits are issued by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  The course may be taken by anyone 12 years of age or olders, non-residents included.  Anyone under the age of 12 years may operate a vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower, including a PWC, only if he or she is accompanied by a person 18 years or older who is experienced in operating a vessel. Anyone older than 18 years of age may operate a motorized vessel or PWC without any restrictions.

Minnesota – Education is required for those 12 to 17 years old who are unsupervised and will be operating a boat over 25 hp in Minnesota. Education is also required for those 14 to 17 years old who are unsupervised and will be operating any personal water craft (PWC).  Anyone under the age of 13 years may not legally operate a personal watercraft (PWC) in Minnesota.  Those 18 years of age or older may operate a motorized vessel or PWC without any restrictions. Cost of the online course is $22.50 and may be taken by anyone 12 years of age or older, non-residents included.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will issue the permit to those who complete the course.

South Dakota – South Dakota does not require boating education.  The course may be taken to save on insurance or to operate a boat in states that require a card. Cost of the course is $19.50 with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks issuing the permit. There is no minimum age or resident requirement to take the online course. Anyone under the age of 12 years may operate a vessel powered by a motor of more than 6 horsepower only if accompanied by a person 18 years or older. Anyone under the age of 14 years may operate a PWC only if accompanied by a person 18 years or older.

Boat Ed® offers courses and tests recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and meet individual state’s certification standards.

Besides completing safety courses and being familiar with federal, state and local laws, life jackets should be worn rather than just stored onboard.  While most states have a mandatory life jacket law for youth, the Just Wear It Campaign advocates that everyone in a vessel should be wearing a life jacket at all times.  Life jacket requirements for the three states are as follows:

Iowa – Iowa law states “a person shall not operate a vessel in Iowa unless every person on board the vessel who is age 12 and under is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.” A life jacket must be worn when the vessel is underway, which means when a vessel is not at anchor, tied to a dock or the bank/shore or aground. A child age 12 and under in an enclosed cabin, below deck, or aboard a commercial vessel with a capacity of 25 persons or more is exempt.  The law became effective in 2008.

Minnesota – As of May 2005, Minnesota law requires a life jacket to be worn by children less than 10 years of age when aboard watercraft in Minnesota when the craft is under way (not tied up at a dock or permanent mooring).

South Dakota – Every person on board a PWC must wear a certified personal flotation device (PDF) at all times.  Children under seven years old must wear a PDF while on any vessel operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed” unless below deck or in an enclosed cabin.  Requirements do not apply to boats 12 feet or less in length without a motor of any kind.

There are many styles and kinds of life jackets available.  For more information on how to choose an approved life jacket appropriate for you, check out How to Choose the Right Life Jacket from the US Coast Guard.

To further reduce risk, the Coast Guard offers these tips:

  • Don’t drink: Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination
  • Get an annual vessel safety check
  • Know about carbon monoxide; this odorless, colorless poisonous gas is emitted by all combustion engines and onboard motor generators

The extra effort that goes into taking these kinds of precautions will help create fun-filled adventures for you and your family on the water.

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Gardening for Food Pantries

Food insecurity exists to some extent in nearly every community.  People who are food insecure not only experience food shortage, but they usually are unable to include fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet because they are out of reach.  Either produce costs too much or is not available.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  By sharing our garden or orchard surplus or planting a dedicated giving garden, home, community, and school gardeners can help food banks, pantries, and community food distribution programs provide fresh produce to ease this problem.

A giving garden can be a whole garden, a row or two as championed by the Garden Writers Association’s Plant a Row for the Hungry, or even one container dedicated to growing healthy (organic if possible) vegetables or fruits for those in need. Or it can be a planned effort such as a Master Gardener garden program done alone or in conjunction with another organization. Every donation, no matter how big or small, makes a difference to someone in need.  Besides helping to fill food banks, pantries, and programs, raising vegetables and/or fruits to donate is rewarding for everyone involved, including children, so it can be a family affair.

Before planting, you will want to do a little research.  Contact local food banks, pantries, or distribution programs to find out if they will accept local produce, what fruits and vegetables they prefer, and when and where to drop off donations.  Once you know the details of donating, purchase seeds or plants for the preferred produce, plant, and tend your garden.  Often the most sought after produce is some of the easiest to grow.

Harvest your produce at its prime as you would for yourself and practice safe-handling.  Many who are served by food banks and pantries are at a higher risk for foodborne illness as they include children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.   Here are a few tips from Michigan State University Extension to minimize food safety risks when donating produce:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before handling produce.
  • If pesticides were used on the product, be absolutely certain that you have followed the instructions on the pesticide label for application and safe harvest times. If you are unsure, discard the produce in the garbage—do not compost, eat or donate it.
  • Inspect each item of produce carefully. Discard any items that have signs of insects, bruising, mold, or spoilage. If you wouldn’t buy it, toss it!
  • Brush off as much mud and soil as possible from the produce.
  • Only use clean, food-grade containers or bags to store and transport produce.
  • Keep different types of produce separate.

If you have to wait a day or two to deliver your produce, refrigerate the produce so that it will stay as fresh as possible.

Some food banks offer donation receipts that you can use at tax time so remember to ask for a receipt if that is something you want. Gardeners who donate produce from their gardens or orchards to nonprofit organizations for distribution to people in need are protected from criminal and civil liability by the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Under terms of the act, donors are protected from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient.

For additional help on donating and handling produce, download these free fact sheets from Michigan State University: Donating Produce  and Safe Handling of Fruits and Vegetables. If you are interested in a Master Gardener program, contact your county extension office.

Mother Teresa said it best, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  Donating garden surplus or harvesting from a giving garden can do just that.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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4-H Exhibit Ideas

If you have a 4-H member at your house, you may want to take advantage of the long Iowa winter and begin working on exhibits for the County Fair. When I judge at fairs, I talk to so many 4-H members that have really only baked their exhibit once or maybe twice. It is hard to see how much learning could occur when finding a recipe and baking a product for the first time the night before the fair. During this time of year, we often have snow days at school, or weather that makes it difficult to do much outdoors. What a great time to begin thinking of an exhibit the member wants to take to the fair.

The 4-H member can look for recipes and make the product a few times to ensure that the product is suitable for display at the fair. If the member makes a mistake, needs to alter the recipe, or even change to a different recipe there is still plenty of time. Remember that all this learning will make a great addition to the write-up. Regular practice of the recipe or technique will ensure the member can make the final product for the fair with confidence. Taking notes or making a rough draft of the write-up will also be helpful.

If the 4-H member wants to exhibit some sort of home preserved food, they have time to can some jars of the food and compose a write up or notes for the judge. Having this completed early takes some stress off the member at County Fair time. In addition, working on the fair exhibit this far ahead of the fair allows the member to look at the Inappropriate Foods for Exhibit at 4-H fairs publication or the time to call or email us at AnswerLine to determine the safety of the exhibit. If it is determined that the product is not safe, the member still has time to find a safe, tested recipe and preserve more of the food or correct any other errors that make the exhibit unsafe.

Members considering preserving food can go on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website and take an on-line course in home food preservation. They also have time to look at various recipes on the site and read up on techniques and different canners. There is also a section on the website with FAQs about canning problems. Even research about canning techniques and recipes could make an interesting exhibit for the fair.

We are always happy at AnswerLine to discuss County Fair exhibits especially when a member is working this far in advance of the fair. Call or email us, we would love to help.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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