Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Harvesting SunflowersCaden’s sunflower seeds were ready to harvest, so I had his mom and dad (my son) bring him over to cut the heads off the stalks.  The sunflower plants were more than twice his size, so he cut the stalk in half first, then cut the stalk closer to the head of the actual sunflower.  We set them in an open paper bag outside to finish drying.  Harvesting Sunflowers

I also cut down the four sunflowers that I had growing.  The largest head turned out to be 15″ across!  These were the Mammoth Sunflower Seeds I was given for free from Barra Vineyards in Mendocino County.  I can still taste their Moscato ……..mmmmmmmm

Anyway, I also put these sunflowers in a paper bag to dry a few more days.  From what I have read, it is very important to thoroughly dry the sunflower heads by keeping them in a warm, dry place (outside in an open paper bag), turning them over once or twice a day, until the seeds start to fall out by themselves. The last thing you want is for the seed heads to start molding!Harvesting sunflower seeds

Once I could tell the seeds were dry, I sat in front of the TV one evening and literally rubbed over the seeds with the palm of my hand and they just fell out of the seed head. It was this easy because once the seeds are dry they shrink just a little and the head releases them.  I did have to pick out just a few, but not many.  The seeds were all placed in a colander so they could dry on the kitchen counter just a bit more for a couple of days, giving the seeds a quick stir every time I passed by.  I left the center of each head intact because those seeds were pretty small, and I figured the birds would benefit from them more than I would, so I gave them to Caden to place on the bird feeder in his backyard.

Soaking sunflower seeds

I had to put a pie plate over the seeds soaking in the salt water so the seeds would stay submerged.

I tasted a couple of the seeds and they were pretty good raw, but I decided to roast them with some salt because that is the way my dear hubby likes them.  I found some simple directions on the National Sunflower Association‘s website on how to salt and roast the seeds.  I soaked the seeds overnight in two quarts of water with 1/2 cup of sea salt, as directed, then roasted them at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes the next day.

We had a lot of seeds and I didn’t want them to go bad before we could eat them all, so I decided the best thing I could do with all those seeds was to share them!  I thought it might be fun for Caden to give away two bags of the roasted, salted seeds – one to Ms. Stewart, his 1st Grade Teacher last year, and the other to his dad for his birthday. It was in Ms. Stewart’s class that Caden first planted his sunflower seeds, that we later transplanted into my garden.  You can see those poor, sun starved seedlings HERE.  Those spindly plants survived thrived in my backyard garden, growing two decent sized seed heads!   Harvesting and Processing Sunflower Seeds

To present the seeds, I thought it would be fun to make a label that could then be attached onto the front of a closable sandwich baggie.  I used the computer to print “Caden’s Sunflower Seeds”  and underneath “Roasted and Salted” (see below), overlaying his picture, essentially making a custom label!  The label was printed on paper that is sticky on one side.  All Caden had to do was to stick the label onto the sandwich baggie and then fill the baggie with the roasted and salted sunflower seeds.  This was a fun way to finalize his experience growing sunflower seeds.  I think Caden is proud of his final product and I hope Ms. Stewart likes her gift!  I know his dad will.Harvesting and Preparing Sunflower seeds

Hmmmmm…… This was a such a fun project for me and my grandson, perhaps we can do something similar with pumpkin seeds next month!



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White Carrots and Red Potatoes

Two of my precious grandchildren, Caden and Emery, helped me harvest some produce from my garden a few days ago.  I had a couple of beets ready, more squash (and more, and more squash) and there were also a few carrots that needed to be thinned out – again.  It was fun to pull up some carrots.  I had planted a rainbow mix – white, yellow, orange, red and purple – so until you pull them out you really aren’t sure what color you are going to get!  Life is like a box of chocolates   carrots ………    oh you know the rest!

red and white carrots, beets

Here are Emery and Caden helping me harvest some vegetables from the garden. I planted a rainbow mix of carrots, so it is a surprise to see what color we get when we pull one up! Today we got a red one and a white one. We also pulled up a couple of beets, one red and one golden, and another yellow summer squash.

Caden is so proud of his sunflowers. I wonder if any of his classmate’s sunflower plants are doing as well?  When I asked Caden if he wanted to harvest the sunflower seeds when they were ripe, or if he wanted to let the birds eat them, he replied that he would rather the birds get a good meal.

Blooming Sunflowers
One of Caden’s sunflowers in bloom. You can see the other just ready to burst into color next to it. The plants are about ten feet tall at this point. Caden would enjoy allowing the local birds harvest the seeds. Perhaps we can allow the birds to have one head to enjoy!

His dad (my son) has other ideas, however, because he is fond of eating sunflower seeds!  After all, sunflower seeds are an excellent source of calories, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Since it looks like there might be two good heads of sunflowers from Caden’s plants (the third one is kind of scrawny), perhaps we will harvest one head for dad and let the birds harvest the other.  That should make everyone happy!


On Sunday morning we traveled up to the future homestead to refill water tanks and check up on the orchard, which is doing well. We have been so busy with weddings and birthday parties the past few months, we have had precious little time to spend working up on the future homestead.   We found that some of the potato plants in the compost heap were dying, however, and I assume their demise was due to the lack of water.  So, I pulled up one of the withered plants that had died and a small red, round potato popped out and rolled down the compost heap!   I decided to poke around with a pitchfork to see what else I might find.   Lo and behold, I found a bigger bright red potato peeking out at me!

Growing potatoes in compost

Here is what I found when I started to dig around in the compost pile where a potato plant had once been – a nice red, round potato! It was so exciting to see that pieces of a potato I had discarded in the compost pile last fall made a whole new plant and more potatoes! Potatoes from heaven?

I am absolutely amazed at how easily these potatoes grew!  Until this year, I have never grown potatoes before – either by accident or intentionally.  I did plant some purple fingerling potatoes in our backyard garden this year as an experiment, in one of those cloth-type bags that are just for potato growing.  However, the ones in the compost heap were not planted there on purpose, but instead were cast-off end pieces from a meal last fall.  When I noticed them growing a few months ago they were already pretty big and I wondered if they would be safe to eat.  Several people assured me that they would indeed be edible, so I decided to water them every week or so this past spring and see if we could actually get any potatoes.  Unfortunately we don’t have an automatic watering system for the compost heap (of course not!) and a few of the potatoes succumbed to the summer heat we have been having lately while we were away.  So, I pulled up one of the dried up potato plants and off rolled a little red potato!  I quickly ran to the shed to get a pitchfork so that I could see if there were any more in the heap.  I had to be careful while digging around, however, because there was a colony of red and black ants right in the middle of the compost heap, and boy were they mad!  I found several more little red potatoes and one little white one! I think there may be a few more potatoes in there, but after getting some painful ant bites on my feet and ankles,  I gave up digging around in the heap.  I will have to try digging some more out later, but I’m not sure how to deal with the ants. Any suggestions?

Heaven sent potatoes

Here are the potatoes I found in the compost heap! I’m pretty sure there are more, but I will have to figure out a way to fight off the ants before I can get any more potatoes. I can’t believe that these volunteers look just as good as, or even better than the ones I get from the grocery store!

Have you had success with “recycled gardening”?  Apparently it’s a way to garden that is extra frugal – where you replant a green onion after chopping off most of the top, or the bottom end of celery, and the plant will re-grow for another harvest!  I guess just about any type of onion can be re-grown as long as the base, where the root comes out of, is intact. In fact, I am trying this technique with a leek, and it’s working!  Now I see how this can also be done with potatoes!  Eat the whole potato except for one piece of it that has an eye, plant it, and you get a whole bunch more!  Of course, I know mankind has been doing this for eons, but it’s pretty new to me – and exciting!

The red and white potatoes, together with the red and white carrots, along with cubed beef will make a great crockpot meal!

white carrots and red potatoes

Red and white carrots and red and white potatoes! What could be better than this with cubed beef in the crockpot! We’re having beef stew for dinner tonight!

Wouldn’t it be great if I could harvest more of the red and white potatoes from the compost heap, along with my purple fingerling ones in the bag, and have a patriotic red, white and purple blue potato salad! 

Don’t  judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you  plant.
                                          Robert  Louis Stevenson


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Hobby Stick Horse

How to make a hobby horseLast spring I was busy helping Nikki, my daughter-in-law, make birthday party favors for her daughter (my granddaughter) Emery.  The party theme was “My Little Pony” and instead of buying a whole bunch of candy or cheap little trinkets that would be thrown away and forgotten, it was decided to make a stick horse for each child.

How to make a hobby horse

These are all the pieces and parts you will need to cut out. I have already sewn the ears and the gusset together.  All you need for the head is about 1/2 yard of fabric and stuffing!

Nikki found a wonderful tutorial online and it’s called the “strapping stick horse”, click here to see it.  This is where you get the pattern and a full tutorial with instructions and great pictures on how to make a “strapping stick horse”, or hobby horse, as I call it!

I am showing how we modified the horse a bit from the original, as you will see in the pictures, to make it easier to put together.  In our version, the mouth is not open, and we didn’t take the time to embroidery the eyes and nostrils (too much embroidery, too little time, too many hobby horses!), but instead used buttons and googly eyes.  If you are making only one or two of these you will have plenty of time to embroidery!

How to make a hobby horse

First things first – sew together the ears, iron them flat.

After I sewed the first one together, I realized that I could make them faster using an assembly line: all the ears first, then all the gussets, etc..  I also realized that it was easier for me to change around the order (from the original tutorial) each part of the face was sewn together.  I found that if I sewed the ears together first, next sewed the gusset in, next sewed the ears into the slits, then lastly sewing in the mane while closing up the back of the head – this was the easiest way to make sure the ears were even.

DIY hobby horse

This is where the ears are sewn into the slits. I waited until the gusset was sewn in before I cut the slits so that they would be even on the head.

The first one I made in the order of the original tutorial, and I found that it was really hard to get the ears even on the forehead.  Once you have the sewing done, you can follow the tutorial for embroidering the eyes and nose (or using buttons like I did) and then stuffing the head, inserting and securing the stick.  Probably the easiest way to secure the wad of stuffing and fabric on the end of the stick is to  drill a hole (or two) through the stick as well as the groove around the stick,  Use thick quilting thread and once you have secured the fabric in the groove, pass the thread through the hole once or twice also.  I have found that after a short amount of use, unless you drill the hole and pass the thread through it, the stick may come out of the head.

How to make a hobby stick horse

Once the ears are sewn in, you will be making the yarn “mane” and then sewing that in down the back of the head. Pin, pin, pin! That’s all I can say.

You can make the horse’s gusset a different color so it looks like a Palomino, and you can even use a pinkish color for the inside of the ears!  I think the horses “mane” looks best when two or more colors are used.  As far as customizing these, another thought would be to buy fabric and yarn to match your child’s favorite “My Little Pony”!

After having made several of these, I can tell you that it is hard working with very “stretchy” fabric, unless you are a sewing pro.  Also, when you are finished sewing the head together and are stuffing the head, try to stuff with as big a wad as possible at a time.

How to make a Hobby horse

This is the horse all sewn, ready for stuffing. If you are going to embroidery the eyes and nose, you should do that now. If you are using buttons for the eyes and nose, you can either sew them on now or after the head is stuffed.


Little wads make the head look a bit lumpy and bumpy. 😉  When sewing on the halter, again, we went the easy route.  You can see in the pictures below that we did a simplified version of a halter.


Let me tell you – those things were a hit and when all was said and done cost less than most party favors!  They also make great Christmas presents!  You don’t have to buy any batteries for it (your kids are the batteries), it doesn’t make any noise (but your kids certainly will), you don’t have to feed it and you can “park” it behind the door!


  • Caden Caden My grandson, Caden, all smiles with his stick horse. He picked out one with a curly blonde mane and a red halter. Yes, that is a jump house in the background. No, we didn't allow them in the jump house with their horses! 🙂
  • Mia Mia Mia, my wonderful first grandchild, with her yellow haltered stick horse. Each child got to pick out their own horse and I don't think there were any that were exactly the same! Looks like there some ridin' going on in the background
  • Amanda Amanda Amanda, my beautiful grand-niece, enjoying her stick horse. I loved that the horses had different colored halters and manes. Some of the manes were curly and some were straight. Some were only one color of yarn and some had multiple colors.
  • Group shot Group shot Here are some of the kids with their stick horse party favors! That's my little granddaughter, Emery (the birthday girl), in the front wearing pink (what else?)
  • My sister My sister This is my sister, Machell, trying out one of the horses! Sometimes I claim her, sometimes I don't, but I love her anyway!


But here’s the funny part – the whole time I was sewing these horse heads together, I had a song stuck in my head. Don’t they call that an “ear worm”?  Anyway, let me explain.  Any of you who have seen the series of “The Godfather” movies will remember the scene when the guy wakes up in the morning, throws back his bed covers and discovers the head of his very expensive racehorse.  Remember?  (eeewwwww)  Well, as I was making these horse heads the theme song for “The Godfather” was on a continuous loop through my head!  So, if you’ll forgive me, I just HAD to reenact that scene:





For any of you who would like to have a stick horse similar to this one but don’t want to bother making one, I am going to make several and place them in my Etsy store soon, so stay tuned!

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