There is a beautiful cottage garden growing in my head. Everything is a little messy looking – flowers and vegetables growing everywhere. No lines. No perfect symmetry. Just flowering goodness mixed with food to feed my family. I have books. Magazine pages torn out. Pinterest boards. And yet I just can’t seem to get my garden growing. It probably has something to do with growing kids and ridiculous amounts of time spent sweeping my floors and doing laundry. But someday…..

Each spring I get a little discouraged. At this point in the season, my sister and dad are already harvesting things. My grandparents were the same way. I’d ask grandpa, “when can I plant______?” His response was always, “you should have planted that last month.” And, thus is my life as the reject gardener in the family.3.15garden-02

I decided to look back at some old garden pictures. To my surprise, looking back at old pictures reminded me that I actually have made some progress with my garden. How easy it is to forget.

This was 2 years ago.3.15garden-03

And this was a year later (last year). My vegetables may not have been impressive, but those sunflowers sure were!3.15garden-04

So here we are this year. A semi-blank slate. I might be the family reject gardener, but by standards outside of my extended family, I think we might have a pretty great garden this year.3.15garden-05Here are a few of my favorite books related to gardening. Only one is really a ‘gardening’ book. The others we use as part of our homeschool curriculum, but I highly recommend them.

Nature Anatomy ~ The Edible Garden


Our Year in the Garden Journal ~ Farm Anatomy3.15garden-08For years, I asked my grandpa, “When can I plant _______?”

Then, I started asking Lesley (my sister), “When can I plant _______?”

This year my friend Natalie gave me one of her gardening calendars for our region. Natalie, my sister thanks you.


The gardening journal is produced by a local non-profit. They asked for my input on it. It took me about .5 seconds to get super excited about it once I opened the first page. I so wanted to be able to share with you all how to order your own, but it is a small in-house production right now. Hopefully soon they will be ready to take larger orders. It looks like next week I can give you more information on pre-ordering one if you are interested. This will be our ‘science’ book for the rest of spring and summer!3.15garden-12




3.15garden-17As I was writing this post, I noticed his first answer. “What is a garden? Something you plant something in.” He did go into great detail creating a garden sign for us. Each letter is made up of vegetables. I’ll give him some grace on his garden description! Next week we’re going to make his garden sign design come to life!

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  • Jody - You don’t see much maybe but I see a gorgeous coop, lovely vast land , raised flower beds, a lovely full life. Count the blessings. And never stop planting! (Even if it should’ve been done last month).

  • Christi {Jealous Hands} - I feel like I’m always running behind in my garden. I can NEVER catch up with keeping Bermuda grass out of my raised beds. But our boys love being out there and we get vegetables all summer, so I’ll consider it success. Even in August when it looks like a jungle.

    I love how yours in fenced & the coop INSIDE the garden. Can’t wait to see that garden design!

  • Karen Davis - I adore the Nature Anatomy and Farm Anatomy books… we use those alongside our watercolor nature journal!!! PLEASE share details about this Gardening Journal for kids… my daughter would love it… and this homeschooling Mom might just get as excited as you!

  • Nicole - I’m jealous you are able to plant! I still have more than a foot of snow covering my yard and just itching to be outside working on the garden.

  • Jenny B. - The garden journal looks so cute! And I agree that your garden has come a long way. I can barely keep a potted houseplant alive, so I’m in awe. 😉 Your garden and coop remind me of the one at the Gaines’s farmhouse on Fixer Upper (love that show). :)

  • Stephanie - I have a science idea to do with your kids in the garden—add about 4-6 inches of compost to one of the raised beds, work it into the soil and then plant your seeds. Then, plant an identical raised bed without the added compost. Throughout the garden season, measure to see if there are differences between the two beds. If you don’t have a compost bin started yet, start one now. There is so much fun science to learn from a working compost pile: mixing browns with greens, keeping it aerated, measuring the internal temperature,etc. A fun picture book I like to share with kids is Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth. I have become a compost nerd and find it as much fun as working out in my garden! Now if I could only remember when to plant vegetable seeds in the Pacific NW!

  • suzy - I love that your garden is part of your curriculum. I also love to see your sons answer! Made me giggle just a bit, since my kids do the same exact thing, and I make them be more descriptive. Thanks for sharing, and I am sure your garden will continue to improve year by year.

  • Jess - Ashley, be nicer to yourself. Start with buying plants, not seeds. It’s so much easier and it still counts for growing your own food. <3

  • AshleyAnn - Jess – thanks! I actually have much better luck with seeds and like the showing the whole process to the kids. I do get a few plants…tomatoes and peppers :)

  • Elissa Roberts - Ashley-
    I love your blog, especially your ideas for out of the box homeschool curriculum. Do I remember reading that you guys do Classical Conversations? This is our first year. Thanks again for all the fun ideas!

  • bethanyblntn - I find this both inspiring and hilarious. you see… my husband and I (and our little man now) have been gardeners since we tied the knot almost five years ago… but we have always lived in apartments, or stayed with family, or in a rental property in the middle of DC. So our gardening has almost always been limited to pots in the window and patios packed FULL of veggies. You said you always asked “when you do plant____” which I thought was so funny because I’m the exact opposite, I tried to learn and plant everything RIGHT on time…. but have no garden space to plant the 70 something seeds I want to :P. I really think the things we choose to plant and how our gardens look really do reflect each of our personalities for sure!

  • Angela - This entire post is drool worthy. Girl, your garden is gorgeous! Currently we have a few raised beds in our (front) yard, but our house is for sale because we want LAND! I can’t wait!!! I totally just pinned your garden to show my husband later. Happy gardening!!! :)

  • N - You would feel REALLY good about your gardening skills if you saw my garden!! It is a pitiful little plot that gets a minimum of sun – but my kids get SOOO excited to see something they planted themselves actually grow. It really is lovely to start the day by seeing what is new in the garden!!

  • Amy - Ooh, I would love to find out how we can order that gardening journal! Also can’t wait to see his garden sign!

  • Jolene - I love this post! Your garden looks wonderful!

  • Lisa - Thank you so much for this post! I was trying to think of something creative for my sister’s birthday gift…I ordered every book you linked and that calendar! So excited!

  • Amy K. - I LOVE that definition of a garden… sometimes the simplest answer is the best!

  • Heather Oakley - LOVED seeing your kids using our Global Gardens journal!! SO fun!! I’m so glad you like it :)

  • Caroline - One of the things I just love about you is that you are teaching your kids REAL skills and info they can use for the rest of their lives to be well-rounded and pretty darn self-sufficient, practically speaking! You make a better case for homeschool than just about anybody I’ve ever seen!

  • Friday Favorites – Makin Me Smile | Jerusalem Greer - […] Spring planting with the family reject gardener […]

  • Erin B - This is awesome! What a great space! We live in the city and our neighbor next door has chickens. I’ll have to pass this idea on to her :) What’s cool is that they have a “chicken cam” set up by the coop so they can watch their chickens from wherever they are (in their house/at the grocery store/away on a trip) on their phones. Have you ever considered a chicken cam?? Kind of a fun idea! Happy Spring to you & your family.

  • jenny - sometimes that is exactly what i have to do to get a little perspective… look back. when i’m feeling like i never get anything done around the house or in the yard… i look back at old posts and pictures… then i am reminded how far i have come. also, you always inspire me. i LOVE that coop and your garden space… and so in love with those sunflowers!!!

Printed cards are one of my favorite surprises in the mail. When Artifact Uprising asked if I wanted to offer a giveaway for a set of their new Everyday Cards Collection – I jumped at the chance. My samples arrived and I might have been a little giddy flipping through them. One of the best features of the card packs is you don’t have to pick one image for the whole pack. You can use a different image on every card!

Here are a few of the cards I ordered. I tried to go with more generic photos, but I added a few family photos in the mix with very specific recipients in mind.

3.15ArtifactUprising-013.15ArtifactUprising-023.15ArtifactUprising-04The cards come as 5×7, 4×4 and 4.9×3.5. There are also several ways to layout the design. Below you can see some of the options using the same photos.3.15ArtifactUprising-05I am trying to be more intentional about sending cards in the mail and I would like to help my kids do the same. For now, our cards are in a little basket that is close on hand. My hope is that by seeing them daily, I’ll be reminded regularly to send them.3.15ArtifactUprising-063.15ArtifactUprising-08This little girl might end up sending the whole basket. One things she loves to do is send mail – to anyone and everyone. She inspires me.3.15ArtifactUprising-09

How about a giveaway for your own set of cards to start this week? You can use the widget below to enter the giveaway. I do want to note that your email address is required and you will get an email from Artifact Uprising (but it is a good email, hint. hint.) Enjoy!

Giveaway Details:

Prize: 1 pack of 20 Everyday Cards from Artifact Uprising

1 winner chosen at random

Giveaway ends Monday, March 30th 11:59pm MST

To enter – submit  your email in the widget below

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  • Tanya - Thanks for sharing and giving the chance to win. Either way, I’ll be ordering!

  • michelle hill - they are gorgeous!! I love receiving cards in the mail, just as much as I love sending them. Please tell your darling daughter she is more than welcome to send one my way :)

  • Natalie @ Being Mrs. Olson - So cute! I love the different layouts. I recently put all of my cards into a picture box and organized by occasion. I love receiving mail so I do my best to send cheer up, congrats, and happy cards to friends and family.

  • Rebecca - I’ve been wanting to order cards from Artifact Uprising for a few months now…so when I saw the heading of your blog title today I had to jump on the chance. Glad to see they are as beautiful and of as nice quality as I was hoping…maybe I will pull the trigger now and just order!

  • Jhoanna - Love the cards!

  • suzy - Lovely cards. I too am trying to send more, especially to the grandparents. Since we live so far away from family, I think it is nice for them to get letters from grandchildren. However, my intentions are always better than my actions!

  • Lori - I’ve ordered photo albums from Artifact Uprising and they’re beautifully simple :]

  • marie - Snail mail is the best…love these little note cards!!

  • Krystle Detwiler - Awesome! :) I’ve been meaning to try AU for some time! :)

  • Linnea - Love these!!

  • Joy Hartman - Is the end date really April 30th? Just thought I would check!

  • Heather - Love the cards! Totally unrelated but I love that full wall bookcase!! We need another house tour!

  • Olli Etheredge - I love snail mail!! My penal and I have been writing each other since the MySpace days and its the biggest thrill to see that package arrive in the mail :) Also, I’d really like to know where you got that butterfly calendar from!

  • Olli Etheredge - **Penpal**

  • AshleyAnn - Joy – Nope, it is March 30th! Thanks for catching that!

  • Sara - These are so cute. AU has so many good products!

  • Courtney - Such a fun giveaway!

  • Carrie - I love these little cards!

  • Cristy - Fun! Those cards are adorable!

  • angie webb - sending cards is my favorite!

  • Sarah - how cool!!!

  • Jude - I have been wanting these SO much!

  • Rachel N. - Your cards look awesome! & mail time is still my favorite time of day :)

  • christina larsen - These are great!

  • Caitlin - How cute!

  • Lindsey - These sound great – love this idea!

  • Katherine - So very sweet! :)

  • Nicole - These are just what I need to send to my niece.

  • Jennyroo - So lovely! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sharla Stockwell - Love these! I follow them on instagram and am always amazed by their photos.

  • Brenda A - these cards look great!

  • Lynae - Love them! Clean, classic, and beautiful! I’d love a chance to win them, but I don’t see the widget… ?

  • Diana G - I love these!

  • Tracie M. - I LOVE sending and receiving cards. How fun to have ones personalized for your family.

  • Lisa McCracken - Thank you, Ashley for offering this amazing giveaway! I follow Artifact Uprising on IG and have been eyeing these cards for some time now. I have just been too lazy to go and actually order them. Now that I’ve seen yours it’s really prompted to get to it! Thanks again!

  • Robin Follette - Wow! I found your website today and am very excited to be able to enter for a set of cards. I am an old fashioned, pen and paper put a stamp on it letter writer.

    I’ll be exploring your website after dinner. I think I need a workshop or two!


  • Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered - Wow!! Love these, love this!! Thanks for the chance!

  • Emily - Those look great! Thanks for sharing :-)

  • emily - These are fabulous! I have a feeling your pictures make them much cuter than mine would though!

  • Elisha - Hi there, I was just wondering if there is anyway I can contact you as I can’t see an email address??

  • Ari - I’m in!!
    Thank you for the opportunity

  • Laura | Artifact Uprising - Ashley!

    This is as beautiful as ever. We are always so impressed with how you see the world!

    Appreciate all your support!

    With gratitude,

  • Charity Boehm - What a great giveaway! I love sending and receiving “snail mail”!

  • Ashley E - Would love to have some to send to my friends and family who are way more thoughtful than I am!! Trying to be better and more purposeful in small acts of kindness/thoughtfulness. These would be perfect!

  • amy - these are some CUTE cards!

About a year ago, I made the jump to buy a mirror-less camera, a Fuji X-Pro 1. As much as I like my Fuji, it has not replaced my DSLR. I am just so familiar with my DSLR – it is like one of my kids. Mirror-less cameras are becoming more popular and common. I have seen a big jump in the number of people asking if a mirror-less camera will work for my SnapShop DSLR course. I’ve wanted to practice and try to get a little more familiar with their pros and cons.

I randomly received an email from Olympus asking if I would like to take a couple of their cameras for a test drive. To be honest, I don’t want to send them back. Maybe they’ll forget they sent two to Oklahoma! Probably not.

Let me note – I am not paid or compensated in any way for talking about these cameras. This is not an official review. I jumped on the offer to test them out simply for my own learning experience.

Olympus sent me two cameras: the E-PL7 and the E-M10.

3.15olympus-013.15olympus-02Two of the coolest features on the cameras are the different ways the LCD screens move. I am not accustomed to shooting using a LCD screen. I like using a viewfinder, so the switch to using a screen is really difficult for me. However, the movement of these screens provided me some fun new ways to shoot. The E-M10 has a screen the swivels up & has a viewfinder, which gives it versatility. There are so many times I am laying on the ground attempting to get a shot, but I have to twist my head in an attempt to look through the viewfinder. This feature makes capturing tricky angles much easier.

The E-PL7 has a LCD screen that rotates down – basically making ‘selfies’ really easy on a great camera, but it does not have a viewfinder. 3.15olympus-20The rotating down LCD was by far my kids favorite feature. They immediately began asking for a camera of their own. It also took a while for me to get it back from them.3.15olympus-03They are watching themselves on the LCD. While it was fun for them to see themselves, it was really hard for me to compose the shot because the camera does not also have a viewfinder for me to use.3.15olympus-04One of the greatest assets of mirror-less cameras are their size. They are tremendously smaller than DSLRs! I took the E-PL7 on a hike to experiment with it. Right off the bat, I appreciated how small and light it was.3.15olympus-093.15olympus-10The boys ran off ahead and it was too hard for me to keep up with them and try to learn how to use a new camera. Thankfully, there is a little girl that likes to always be by my side…so I practiced with her.3.15olympus-113.15olympus-123.15olympus-133.15olympus-143.15olympus-153.15olympus-16

I still have a lot of practicing and learning to do with both cameras. Here are a few of my initial thoughts:

Size: I REALLY like the small size and light weight

LCD screens: I prefer using a viewfinder. However, for many learning to shoot seeing on the LCD exactly what you are capturing is big benefit. My 8 year old (who uses my old DSLR) is begging for one of these cameras now.

Touch screen: I am a creature of habit, so I like traditional focusing. However, the option to touch the screen where you want to focus is perfect for so many…my 8 year old loved this feature too.

Controls: I had a difficult time navigating the controls simply because they are new to me. The control dials are limited, which could be a great thing…it just takes some time to get used to.

Overall, I am going to have to put more time into using the cameras to really understand all they offer. I do think for someone looking to invest in a new camera (that has not owned a DSLR), these could be really great options. Changing the manual settings are a little tricky at first, but the Auto modes are very user friendly. For someone wanting to take their photography to a new level, but wanting something much smaller than a bulky DSLR, the mirror-less camera is the way to go.

So when people ask if a mirror-less camera will work for my SnapShop course, my answer is “yes” and “no”. The course is set up for DSLR users. For examples on how to change certain settings, I use my DSLR. Mirror-less cameras function much differently in regards to where and how to change settings. The bulk of the course (what the manual settings mean, composition and storytelling) all apply to both DSLR and mirror-less cameras.

Well, it this wasn’t a review, but more a ‘hey, I’m experimenting with another camera” post. For those of you already shooting with mirror-less cameras, what would you like to add?

For more information on what I regularly shoot with, click here.


Registration for the April/May SnapShop courses is currently open.  For more information on the courses and how to register, click here.


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  • Kelleyn - Looks like the quality is as good as my mac daddy camera and might be nice to have something lighter to tote around. Sometimes the big camera is so heavy.

  • Fee ist mein Name - I take all my pictures with a Olympus OM-D E-M5 and I love it. It has a viewfinder and you can focus traditionally. It is a bit more on the pricy side, but I would never change to a DSLR :)!

  • Meg - I bought a fuji x100s a couple of months ago for traveling, and I’ve fallen in love with it. Despite it’s limitations (fixed 35mm, slow autofocus) the quality actually beats that of my canon 5d mark ii, and I find myself reaching for or more and more even at home.

  • Christi S. - I have the first generation Olympus PEN and took your SnapShot class with it. I was familiar enough with the camera that I still learned a lot from the class, but at the end of the day, I ended up buying a Canon DSLR. I found it so much easier to quickly manipulate the settings and realized I prefer a viewfinder too! I still use the Olympus when we travel because it so light, and I look like less of a tourist with a smaller camera. 😉 I will say it looks like they’ve made some great improvements to the camera though!

  • Jenny B. - I don’t have any experience with mirror-less cameras, but I’ve been thinking about DSLRs a lot lately. I have a Nikon D40 that I’ve used for several years, and lately, it just isn’t taking great pictures. I can’t figure out if it’s me (have I just gotten lazy?) or if it’s the camera (is it just getting old? does it need something fixed?). Anyway… I’m frustrated enough with it, that I find myself reaching for my iPhone a whole lot more often. I keep thinking that I need a new camera. I want something that will take great, fast pictures in low light, so I’m leaning toward a Canon 6D, but I can’t decide if I can justify the price. I would be willing to replace my D40 with a newer low-end DSLR, but only if it would give me great low-light results, and I just think I’m going to have to upgrade to really get what I want. So, now I’m wondering… How are the mirror-less cameras in low light?

  • Yolanda Lockhart-Howe - I switched to a Canon G1X Mark II about a year ago after 5 years of shooting with a Rebel XSi. I absolutely love it and would not invest in a new SLR unless I was planning to work as professional photographer. For personal photo groans memory keeping the G1X offers everything I want, including the ability to shoot in RAW, high ISO range, manual mode, great burst speed, and an f/1.4 aperture. To have all of that in a compact package has been perfect for my needs.

  • Jenny B. - I just came across an old post of yours while searching for info about upgrading from my Nikon D40 to a Canon 6D. I think the search must have picked up on the comment I left then. Ha. :) Anyway, I completely forgot that you also shoot with a 6D. :) They’ve come down in price lately, so I’m getting really tempted. I appreciate you sharing camera reviews. It’s so helpful to read thoughts from a fellow mom who uses her camera the same way I do. For anyone else who might be interested, here’s that post:

  • AshleyAnn - Jenny – I love my 6D. I am forcing myself to shoot with my mirror-less camera and the Olympus ones because I know part of my issue is that they aren’t familiar. However, I am a huge fan of my 6D! The 6D and my Fuji both work so well in low light. I’m still working on understanding how to best use the Olympus cameras in low light.

  • Shivaun M - How is the LCD display in bright light? I know on my poor old Canon, the display is so dim in bright light it’s next to useless. I would assume this display would have to be much better.

  • Melissa D. - This has nothing to do with cameras…I am wondering where you got your poppy print? Thanks!

  • Judy G - Ashley, I have owned the E M10 almost a year. Like anything new it takes time to get comfortable with a new camera. I love the weight and size. The setting options are almost limitless and not being a professional, some settings are puzzling to me. The documentation is technical but over time my comfort is increasing. I typically use the view finder rather than the screen but think I should take advantage of the screen more often now.
    Your shots are great.. Clear and bright. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not certain if my E M10 will remain my primary camera but I enjoy having it with me while traveling.
    Did you always use the cameras in manual mode?

  • Laura@Ms Smartie Pants - Oh my what happened to the “little” firecracker! I started following you when she just turned 1 and look at her now! They are all growing, so beautiful!