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“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Happy summer, readers! I hope your summer has been lively, fun, and relaxing, maybe crossing off bucket list activities, taking that fun family trip, or catching up on sleep. Summer has certainly been busier than anticipated in this plant-loving household—to the point that some plant care has been neglected…I’m ashamed to say. Despite some free days present in my calendar, I’ve slowly been running out of summer fun ideas since most of them are rather time-consuming. Visiting the local carnivals, checking out state/local parks, strolling about Thurmont square, and spending too much time in any library or bookstore I stop in to.  But I started exploring small ways to sprinkle in summer adventure without grand events or long trips.

Here are some  of my favorite small summer activities for those of all ages—ones that I’ve had fun trying, from when I was a young chap until now.

Plant a storybook-themed garden. Take time to read any garden-themed books, such as Peter Rabbit (Potter), Grow Happy (Lassar), or The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle), then write down all of the plants pictured or described in the book. Or, base fictional plants and veggies on real plants. Select your favorite plants (especially ones that can be harvested in fall) to put in the garden. Draw or print out a character from the book you chose with the plant you selected, then laminate the paper to serve as a colorful stake to mark which plant is which. You can start seedlings indoors so that the whole family can watch the plant grow and (hopefully) share watering responsibilities. Finally, decorate your garden to match the theme or show the characters in the story you’ve read. It could be with statues, more garden stakes, or collecting rocks—the possibilities are endless!

Pick your own fruit. Catoctin Mountain Orchard hosts the harvesting of blackberries, cherries, blueberries, and more. Butler’s Farm (a bit of a drive to Germantown) also hosts the picking of blackberries, raspberries, flowers, and more! Requires reservations. This is a fun and tasty activity for the whole family.

Play in the rain, with or without rain gear! Host a puddle-splashing contest, water fight, or just dance in the rain!

Go on a clean-up hike. Bring gloves and enjoy nature while also giving back: by cleaning up a trail or other public space.

Try a rainbow walk. Task the family with finding objects to create your own rainbow, whether by taking photos, drawing what you see, or collecting objects for a colorful project.

Visit a farmers market. Thurmont Farmers Market is open every Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to Noon (Thurmont Community Park, 21 Frederick Road); Emmitsburg Farmers Market is open every Friday, 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. (302 S. Seton Avenue); Frederick Farmers Market is open every Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (1215 W. Patrick Street, Frederick).

Hold your own outdoor concert/talent show. Let everyone’s passions shine with an outdoor concert! Invite friends, family, or keep it small; no matter the craft, let them act! Make unique awards for every act, queue up fun music as an introduction for every performer, or do anything that brings the theater to your backyard.

Host outdoor or indoor family movie nights. The whole family can chip in and turn your house or backyard into a fancy movie theater! Draw your own tickets, “sell” concessions, create fictional advertisements, or re-arrange furniture. This is great for spending rainy days inside or for having a fun evening with family and friends.

Let your creativity shine. Make a backyard obstacle course or fort or bouquets, flower/leaf crowns, and natural jewelry to embrace nature’s beauty. Sun prints using leaves, flowers, feathers, moss, and sun print paper for some of the best cards and artwork. Light-sensitive cyanotype paper will “print” as white in areas blocked by shadow (thus objects of nature and household items can be used to create the preferred shadow and shape), while negative space (exposed to the sunlight) will “print” as a brilliant blue. Arrange your objects in a dark room first and place a heavy acrylic sheet or glass to flatten organic objects if needed. Then, expose it to the sun. In full sun, the print will be ready in 2-5 minutes; during a cloudy day, this time varies from 5-20 minutes. When the paper is devoid of color (except for white), your print is ready for the next step: rinsing your paper. The longer the paper is exposed to water, the deeper the color blue you’ll get! To dry, place on a paper towel or cloth (something to soak up the moisture, so you don’t have to deal with water spots) and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Then your print is done!

Host a “car” show or parade. Decorate bikes, scooters, skateboards, and wagons to a theme or however your kids want to, and show off your vehicles; play in a band, twirl a baton, and throw a parade!

Camp in your backyard. Don’t forget a campfire, s’mores, and spooky ghost stories while you’re at it.

Geocache. There are locations all over Thurmont, Emmitsburg, and Frederick. Check out the Thurmont Park and Trolley trail! You will need to install an app and bring some small prizes (the size of a golf ball or smaller) to trade with you, but some of the things left behind by others are well worth the exchange!

Host a bug hunt and give out various prizes. The most courageous bug hunter (within reason, no poking at a beehive with a stick, please), most colorful finds, most creative pictures, and so forth.

Finally, take time to just be outdoors. Read, dance, do a puzzle, play baseball, kickball, (any sport, really), eat, swim, sunbathe. Anything to enjoy the summer before the cool autumn months roll in. Despite the act of merely walking into a store now, resulting in unwanted school stress, try to relax and enjoy whatever summer brings. Not every day has to be full of major events, such as the zoo or amusement park—it can be whatever you make of it, whether that’s showing off your talents or making art as a family. Live in the moment, enjoy togetherness, and have fun!

Photo Credit to Run Wild My Child

The various shades of sun-print paper throughout the process of soaking the sunbathed paper.

Credit to: Run Wild My Child.