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Get Out and Explore Iowa’s County Parks!

If you’re looking for amazing places to visit in Iowa, you’ll find lots of adventure at Iowa’s many county parks. From boating, swimming, hiking, exploring, biking, and more, so there are so many fun things to in Iowa! Here’s a sampling of the fun that awaits in Iowa!

sunset over the mississippi river

*This post is sponsored by Travel Iowa for the #99Parks program. All opinions are mine.*

Get Out and Explore Iowa’s County Parks!

We didn’t have to travel far from home to have fun outdoor experiences with our family. Sometimes, a getaway in your own backyard is just what you need. We were excited to explore two lovely Iowa parks earlier this summer. We experienced stunning views, beautiful cabins, a fun boat ride on the Mississippi River, and so much more. If you haven’t explored outside in Eastern Iowa, here are several adventures you shouldn’t miss! Grab this Family Fun Car Activity Kit and hit the road in Iowa!

sunset over rock creek marina

Rock Creek Marina & Campground in Clinton County

Rock Creek County Park outside Camanche (37 miles upriver from the Quad Cities) is great for families and kids of all ages. Home of the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center, Rock Creek Marina is a lovely destination on the backwaters of the Mississippi River.

Younger children will enjoy exploring the Eco Tourism Center where they can crawl through a mock beaver’s den, touch animal furs and live fish, and solve animal puzzles. The kitchen offers home baked goods and home cooked lunch specials! And they have lots of water rentals everyone will enjoy.

kayaks at rock creek marina

We loved exploring the Mississippi River backwaters while we were at Rock Creek Marina. We took at kayaks and paddle boats to explore the water. Rock Creek Marina also has hiking trails and plenty of great fishing spots too. Make sure to download this handy outdoor guide for kids to take along on your trip to Rock Creek Marina or any of Iowa’s county parks!

kids walking down the road at rock creek marina

One activity we were really surprised by was watching the bats on their evening flight to the river! Every evening, hundreds of bats wake up and head out for their nighttime breakfast, and they fly right over the road near the Rock Creek Marina campground. We had a lot of fun walking out to their flight path and watching them head for breakfast. So amazing and what a beautiful sunset!

blue heron eco river cruise

Blue Heron Eco Sunset River Cruise

The real highlight of our time at Rock Creek Marina was the Blue Heron Eco River Sunset Cruise on a 26-passenger pontoon boat. Free and open to the public, everyone should jump on board the Blue Heron to learn about the Mighty Mississippi, its wildlife, ecosystem, barges, and most importantly, watch the sunset over the Mississippi River! 

Blue Heron Eco Cruise at Rock Creek Marina

Led by informative and fun naturalists from Rock Creek Marina, this cruise happens every Thursday evening from May to  October, weather permitting. Cruises are free but reservations are required. Learn more here!

pin tail cabin rock bridge marina

Cabin Rentals at Rock Creek Marina

Not only does Rock Creek Marina offer camping, they also have cabins for rent. We stayed in the Pintail Cabin on our visit and appreciated the attention to detail that went into making this cabin ADA accessible. It has beds for four and a sleeper sofa for two more. 

pin tail cabin camanche

You will need to bring your own bedding, towels, and kitchen supplies as nothing in the kitchen is supplied other than appliances and a coffee maker. Rock Creek Marina also has smaller cabins and campsites for rent as well. Learn more about these Iowa cabin rentals here.

go fish marina bar and grill

Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill

If you’re looking for a place to eat while you’re at Rock Creek Marina, we recommend the Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill in Princeton, Iowa. At 10 minutes from Rock Creek Marina, we found it to be a great close choice. We enjoyed sitting on the deck overlooking the Mississippi River while we ate. With a full service menu and fun drinks, you’ll all find something delicious to eat here!

sunset over scott county park pool

Scott County Park

Another one of Iowa’s amazing county parks is Scott County Park. Located nine miles north of Davenport, Iowa, at 1280 acres there’s plenty of fun places to explore here. It’s only about a 20 minute drive from Rock Creek Marina, so you can hit them both in one long weekend! 

We headed out to Scott County Park after spending a night at Rock Creek Marina. The weather was hot and the kids were looking forward to the Scott County Park Pool and ice cream at the Pioneer Village. Scott County Park also offers hiking and biking, nature trails, equestrian areas, and lots of lovely picnic spots as well.

scott county park pool slides

Scott County Park Pool

My kids really enjoyed the pool at Scott County Park. Featuring an Olympic size heated swimming pool, water slides, diving boards, and a spray pad, the pool was the perfect place to cool off after a long day of exploring. We found the best time to go to the pool was late evening. Fewer people, lovely sunsets, and good natured lifeguards made our time at the pool one of the highlights at Scott County Park.

walnut grove pioneer village collage

Dan Nagle Walnut Grove Pioneer Village

Step back in time at the Pioneer Village at Long Grove, just outside Scott County Park. Featuring log cabins, a historic church, and a small village, the Pioneer Village buildings all feature period furniture and accessories so you can see how people used to live. The dental and hospital clinics are always scary hits. If you time your visit right, you can see working demonstrations by blacksmiths and other craftspeople.

ice cream at the pioneer village

But the real draw to the village is the Walnut Grove Soda Fountain. Open on the weekends only, this old fashioned soda fountain / ice cream parlor is a must stop! The ice cream was cold, delicious, and very affordable – the perfect treat during really hot weather. Make sure to ask for the monthly ice cream special. I had the Train Wreck which included every topping they had and was surprisingly good! We also sampled the banana split and old fashioned sodas. Everything was delicious.

buffalo bill cody boyhood home and homestead

Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead

Another interesting and quick stop near Scott County Park is the Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead. Built in 1847 by Bill Cody’s father to be the farm for a senator, the Cody family ended up living here instead. This limestone home has been restored and is furnished in period pieces as it would have looked when the Cody family lived here. The adults enjoyed this walk-through more than the kids, but two live buffalo on the grounds were a real treat! 

bald eagle cabin scott county park

Bald Eagle Cabin

Scott County Park also offers several really nice cabins for rent in Iowa! We were thrilled to stay in a brand new, cozy cabin on our trip. The Bald Eagle Cabin is a very nicely appointed cabin with comfortable beds for 10! You’ll also need to bring your own bedding and towels to stay at the Scott County Park cabins, but this cabin was equipped with a fully stocked kitchen so you can leave your cooking supplies at home. Learn more about Scott County Park cabin options here.

family fun packs from travel iowa

Make sure to download the Family Fun Guide activity packs from Travel Iowa while you’re planning your trip to Iowa’s fun state parks! With lots of activities to get the kids moving outside, entertain them in the car, teach them about fishing, and Iowa trivia and wildlife information, there’s something for everyone in these packs! Parents, you’ll find the recipes and packing lists helpful too!

I’d love to hear which Iowa parks you’ve visited and what you loved most about them! Tell me about your Iowa favorite adventure! 

If you liked this post on fun things to do in Iowa, you will like these posts full of more amazing places to visit in Iowa!

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America Gothic House in Eldon

Visit the I-80 Trucking Museum and Rest Stop

Pella Tulip Time – Holland in Iowa



8 Ways Even Large Families Can Embrace Minimalist Living 

Minimalism isn’t just a trend; more and more people are starting to embrace minimalist living to get real mental and practical benefits. Here’s how to become a minimalist family – 8 tips you can implement today. 


8 Ways Even Large Families Can Embrace Minimalist Living 

Minimalism is associated with lower stress, better productivity, and a higher sense of well-being. That makes sense. After all, clutter free areas equal less time cleaning, organizing, and making decisions. Minimalists often rave about the increased mental and physical space and enjoy a more meaningful life.

Embracing a minimalist life can be a challenge for anyone. It involves letting things go, and not filling up every square foot of your home. It also involves changing your habits to allow fewer items to come into your life in the first place. As with anything else when you have a large family, those changes are compounded even further since you’re changing the habits and belongings of many people instead of just one. 

We’ve been trying to be as minimalist as possible. While we have along ways to go, we have made some progress and it sure does make life easier! I do believe it is possible to embrace minimalism as a large family. Here are 9 tips so that even large families can start a minimalist journey.

girl on swing in front of minimalist house

How to become a minimalist family

Start With Laundry

Many people in the home means a lot of laundry. Streamlining everyone’s wardrobe can make a big difference. Cull everything down to just what everyone needs. A few shirts and pairs of underwear and pants and one or two nice outfits is a general guideline to start with that works for most people. Capsule wardrobes are very popular for people living a minimalist lifestyle.

Consider sharing socks to go minimalist even further! Buying all plain white or black socks for everyone saves time matching them up. Depending on your kids’ ages, there might be other clothes they can share, too. 

Even if you’re saving clothes for younger children to wear in the future, it should be stored away when it’s not being used. (Store by size!) The same goes for seasonal items like heavy coats, and sweaters.

Keep Artwork In Check

Artwork and projects can really take over in a large family, so start decluttering. The fact is, keeping everything is just not practical – even though it can be painful to get rid of kids’ creations! One compromise is to take photographs of projects before discarding. That way, you have the memories without the clutter. Aim to keep only the most extra special pieces. Simplify your life by keeping only a few quality items. 

Create Systems

Your family will be much more empowered to keep clutter at bay if there are good systems in place to do so. You will save time and money if you can find items quickly when you need them. Consider implementing some of these in your home: 

  • Set a standard. When surfaces and storage spaces are free of clutter, make it known that this is the standard. When these places begin to build up with junk again, start decluttering.
  • Donate bin: designate one place for items that can be donated to a local thrift store and set a reminder to bring those items in regularly. A box in the garage, for example, is one idea.

Embrace a Minimalist Lifestyle

One of the most difficult aspects of minimalist living is letting go of items, particularly those with an emotional attachment. Consider the big picture and look for ways to encourage a minimalist culture in your family. This includes habits and ideas such as:

  • Enjoying items for awhile, then letting them go.
  • Thoughtful gift giving, rather than exchanging items just for the sake of it.
  • Learning to “make do” and use what’s available instead of acquiring specialty items.
  • Valuing relationships, freedom, and time more than things.
  • Reduce waste by making more meaningful purchasing decisions.

If possible, live in a small space. Today’s houses have really gotten out of hand and we really don’t need so many square feet to live a meaningful life. In addition to huge homes, lots of families fill up a storage unit or two too! Smaller homes will you save money by being cheaper to purchase or rent, and heat and cool too. Decluttering for minimalist living will save you money. Letting go of storage units will also save you money.

become a minimalist family in the kitchen

Learn How to Cook

It’s possible to cook delicious from scratch meals without owning every appliance under the sun. I’m a big believer that good knife skills and cutting board will serve you better than so many different gadgets you could spend your money on. Instead of investing in all the latest and greatest kitchen items, get a good knife, a good cutting board, and a good dutch oven. Then take a class and learn how to use them! Here the 13 items I find most useful in my minimalist kitchen.

Share Common Items

There are certain items that serve well as community items. Every family is different, of course, but look for ways you can cut back on duplicate items. If you never go on family bike rides, for example, maybe your family can get away with having just one of each size. Electronics can often be shared. Everyone in your family does not need their own television or shampoo bottle either.

Use Color Coding

For items that do need to be specific to each person, color coding can be a lifesaver. Having a color assigned to each person helps everyone stay accountable and organized. Dishes, towels, backpacks, water bottles, and electronics are all examples of items that can be color coded. You can buy items that are those colors or use colored stickers in the meantime. 

Declutter Frequently

Large families may need to declutter more frequently, simply due to the larger number of people but also due to moving through ages and stages at a higher rate. Baby items need to be stored or donated once the baby grows out of them, for example. 

Have a declutter day: every month, plan a declutter day. Everyone can go through their papers and other items and donate or discard anything that is no longer needed. You might find that your family needs this declutter day more or less often, but once a month is a good place to start. Declutter can become a full time job if you let all the things build up, so set a good strategy.

Embracing minimalism as a large family might seem difficult at first, but it will ultimately make your life so much more peaceful and joyful. If you’re wondering how to become a minimalist family, these tips are a great way to start!

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21 Best Travel Apps & Websites to Help Families Save & Organize

If you’d like to save money on family travel and be more organized and methodical with your plans, these 21 best travel apps and websites will help! Download them today and start making amazing memories with your family!

money saving travel apps

Finding reasonably priced flights and hotels is key, but there are so many more great travel tips for saving money. Here’s what we think are the best travel apps (on ios and android) to help families keep costs down while on vacation.

21 Best Travel Apps & Websites to Help Families Save & Organize

Traveling with the family is one of our favorite past times. We’ve been to Europe together, and we’ve driven across the entire United States from East to West without breaking the bank. One way we have managed is to travel frugally. The following list contains what we consider to be the best travel apps and websites to help families save money and be organized. If you’re looking to save money on family travel too, check out these apps!

row of suitcases

These apps will help you stay organized on family trips

Having what you need when you’re traveling is a great way to save money on trips. I’m sure you’d love to hear about the time we took a road trip to Colorado and ended up with not a single pair of shoes for my daughter. Last minute purchases you weren’t planning on can really add to the cost of travel!

Save money on family travels with these awesome apps

Saving money while traveling is always on my mind. Since we have a large family and like to travel, we have to find creative ways to save money or we simply can’t afford to take trips. These 21 best travel apps and websites help us save and be more organized! I hope they help you too.

Best Travel Apps & Websites to Help Families Save & Organize

Looking to save money on your next family trip? This list of best travel apps will help! Also included are apps to help you organize your crew as well.

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Do you have a favorite travel related app that I didn’t mention? Please share in the comments!


How to Care for Sun Tolerant Hostas with Beautiful Flowers

If you’re looking for sun tolerant hostas with beautiful blooms, here are a few of our favorites to add to your garden.  Plus, learn these seven hostas care tips to keep them looking their best!

sun tolerant hosta plants

How to Care for Sun Tolerant Hostas with Beautiful Flowers


While most hostas are shade loving plants, there are some full sun hostas. In general, hostas that flower also have some sun tolerance as well. If you’d like to add sun tolerant hostas with beautiful flowers, here’s what you need to know.

Hosta plants come in many sizes, shades, and varieties, but blooming hostas with fragrant flowers can be a gardener’s favorite. Blooming hostas don’t just add color, but they add interest and depth to your landscape for the entire growing season as well. When cared for properly, blooming hostas can provide garden appeal for years to come. Here are some helpful tips on how to care for blooming hostas, so you can enjoy these plants in your own landscaping design!

giant hosta with lovely white flowers

Full sun hostas

A note that full sun in hostas doesn’t mean you can plant them in spot that gets zero shade. Full sun hostas are more generally accepted to be sun tolerant. A spot that gets morning sun but provides some afternoon shade may be your best bet and you might end up with a little bit of sunburning as you can see in the picture above. You’ll have to experiment to see if your hostas can tolerate full sun, but in general, these are the best sun tolerant hostas:

green leaf heart shaped hosta

  • Rhino Hosta – with extremely thick, cupped, and corrugated chartreuse and blue leaves, the Rhino Hosta is often considered a must have hosta! Bonus points for being slug resistant if slugs are a problem in your area!
  • Thunderbolt Hosta – large hostas with extremely wide blue-green and yellow leaves. They’re also slug resistant.
  • Liberty Hosta – This giant sun tolerant hosta  has leaves with blue-green centers and a neon yellow margin. 
  • Fried Bananas Hosta – This lovely hosta can tolerate a lot of sun which helps it achieve its bright golden color. They also have lovely fragrant blooms in the summer.
  • Garden Delight Hosta – This hosta is a very common plant in Eastern Iowa and we have several along our barn. They have and lovely medium sized green leaves with creamy white margins and pale lavender flowers appear in August.
  • Hosta plantaginea – This hosta has beautiful heart shaped, apple green leaves and some of the most fragrant flowers of all the hostas.

green hosta with purple flowersHostas with beautiful blooms

Lots of people love hosta leaves. But hosta flowers? You either love them or hate them – I know gardeners in both camps. Elephant ear hostas, fire and ice hostas, and guacamole hostas will all provide you with colorful blooms. It can be hard to know which type of hosta produces which flower because many gardeners cut them off before they bloom! 

Favorite types of hostas that have beautiful flowers include:

  • Elephant ear hostas – These giant hostas are some of my favorite! I typically don’t think of flowers on elephant ear hostas, but they do have pretty white flowers!
  • Fire and ice hostas – The white leaves rimmed with green are also very beautiful garden additions and its purple flowers are stunning! 
  • Guacamole hostas – These hostas have apple green centers rimmed with dark green and tall white flowers.
  • Blue Mouse Ears Plantain Lily – these gorgeous miniature hostas have small heart shaped leaves of soft blue-gray with faint white edge in early spring. They also have beautiful purple flowers. 

large lime green hosta

To keep your sun tolerant hostas and blooming hostas in the best shape, here are seven hosta care tips you need to know.

1. Provide some shade.

Even hostas that tolerate sun however, prefer to have a cool down period from the afternoon sun. Plant your blooming hostas where they will get afternoon shade and have the chance to recover from the heat. The blooms will appreciate this as well, and you will experience less browning on the foliage.

2. Keep the water coming.

In order to create those gorgeous blooms, hostas will need at least 2 inches of water per week. If you aren’t getting this in a weekly rainfall, be sure you water appropriately. Apply the water directly at the base of the plant so you don’t burn any foliage.


3. Mulch to keep roots cool.

A cool plant is a healthy, blooming plant. Apply mulch around the base of your hostas to help keep moisture in and help keep the roots cool. This will allow the plant to bloom to its max! Reapply mulch as needed throughout the season as rain and wear can cause it to disperse away from the plant base.

4. Dividing hostas.

Hostas grow fast, and this means they can quickly become overcrowded. When this happens the plants can smother each other and growth can become stunted. In order to give them the room they need, divide plants as needed so each original plant is at least 2 feet apart. The best time to divide hostas is in the spring or early fall. When you divide, try to take as much of the rootball with you as you can.

sun tolerant hostas

5. Remove spent blooms.

As your blooming hostas start to put on a show, remove dead foliage as you see it. This will help the plant direct the nutrients to where it needs it most. Simply toss the dead foliage into your compost bin when done.


6. Attract pollinators.

Bees, birds, and butterflies will love the blooms on your hostas. By choosing brightly blooming hostas that grow a trumpet shape bloom, you will attract more of these pollinators. These pollinators can help spread the plant to other areas of the yard and neighborhood. Pollinators are attracted to purple blooms especially, so guacamole hostas are ideal.


7. Be patient.

Your hostas may not bloom during the first or even second year. If you don’t see blooms right away, don’t panic. As long as it is a blooming hosta, the flowers will show up.

Consider these tips on how to grow sun tolerant hostas with beautiful blooms, and see how fun and easy it can be to enjoy these colorful, leafy plants in your garden and landscaping design. What’s your favorite sun tolerant hosta?

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Instant Pot Beef with Garlic Sauce and Vegetables

If you’re looking for a quick garlic beef recipe, here is one you will love. Made in the Instant Pot, this beef with garlic sauce and vegetables is delicious and heathy!

Instant Pot Beef with Garlic Sauce and Vegetables

This quick beef recipe tastes better than Chinese take-out, and doesn’t really take all that much longer to make if you do some prep work ahead of time. Head to the grocery story to get the ingredients, or if you garden, get on out there! 

Serve this beef with garlic sauce over leftover rice, cauliflower rice if you need a keto friendly recipe, or just eat it as is. Keep this garlic beef recipe handy! It’s sure to be a favorite.

instant pot garlic beef

Do I have to make it in an Instant Pot?

Absolutely not! You’re actually not bringing anything to pressure in this recipe, so the Instant Pot isn’t necessary. It’s handy because you can make everything right in one pot without having to dirty your stove, but you can make this on the stove top too. 

To make it on the stovetop, I recommend using a cast iron skillet. First you’ll cook the beef over high heat in avocado oil , and then cook the vegetables right in the same pan. Stir to combine and serve over rice of your choice.

beef with garlic sauce

Tips for making this beef with garlic sauce even quicker

You can cut down on prep time by doing a few things:

  1. If you have leftover rice, this is a great recipe to use it on! I often make extra rice for planned leftovers. It’s easy to reheat the rice in the microwave or stove-top, you will just want to add a bit of water to steam it warm.
  2. If you don’t want to chop the vegetables, most grocery stores sell pre-sliced vegetables. Just give the vegetables a good rinse in a colander, and dry them on towels before cooking. 
  3. Another way to cut down on prep time is to ask the meat department to slice the steak for you when you buy it! You can also buy pre-sliced steak as well. 

instant pot garlic beef

Yield: 6 servings

Instant Pot Beef with Garlic Sauce and Vegetables

Instant Pot Beef with Garlic Sauce and Vegetables

A quick and healthy recipe for a popular take-out meal. You will love this flavorful dish that's ready in about 30 minutes.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground garlic salt with parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 can baby corns - 12 to 15 ounces
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced bok-choy
  • 1 cup snow peas, or sugar snap peas
  • 3 green onions - chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked rice

Garlic Sauce

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup tamari sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon stevia
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


    Press the Saute button on your Instant Pot, and add the avocado oil, and add the steak, and stir to coat steak in oil. Sprinkle steak with garlic salt and seasoned pepper, and continue to stir until steak is brown, and no longer pink, about 10 - 15 minutes. 

    When steak is cooked, remove from Instant Pot to a plate and cover to keep warm.

    While the steak is cooking, cook rice, if desired, according to package instructions. Also, make the sauce. In a bowl, mix the sauce; water, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and garlic, and stir to blend.

    Leave the Saute setting on, and add the sesame oil. Then add the onion, red pepper, green pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, and bok-choy, and stir well to coat in oil. Saute until vegetables are tender. (about 5 or 6 minutes).

    Add the baby corns, snow peas, and garlic, and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. 

    Add the steak back into the Instant Pot, and stir to blend. Cook for 1 minute, and turn off Instant Pot. Turn off Instant Pot, and plate rice with steak and vegetables, and top with chopped green onion. Enjoy


Omit rice or serve with cauliflower rice if looking for a low-carb option.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

2 cups

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 492 Total Fat: 21g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 12g Cholesterol: 104mg Sodium: 1612mg Carbohydrates: 36g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 5g Protein: 39g
Nutritional data is not always accurate.

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Why We Love Raising Turkeys on the Homestead

If you’re curious about raising turkeys on the homestead, here’s what we’ve learned over the last few years of having free-range heritage turkeys. Turkeys are curious, fun, and very inquisitive, and we can’t imagine not having them!

bronze turkeys outside

Raising Turkeys on the Homestead 

I heard horror stories about raising turkeys from my dad and father-in-law, so when I came home one day and found a turkey on our homestead, I was a little skeptical. 

They have not so fond memories of turkeys on their farms when they were growing up, claiming they were attacked by turkeys and recounting horror stories of having to search for turkey eggs. This has not been our experience, but we are raising them primarily for amusement. People also raise turkeys for eggs, meat, or to breed and sell.

why we love raising turkeys

Raising Turkeys – How are they different from chickens?

This is our first year raising turkey poults, but we have had an adult free range turkey, Tarzan, on our homestead for several years. We enjoy keeping a mixed flock of birds and are excited to share what we’ve learned so far about turkeys versus chickens. If you’re already familiar with raising chickens, turkeys are similar, but there are a few differences you will want to be aware of.

Tarzan came to us after his original owner was busted by his city for having backyard birds in an area where they are not allowed. He needed to re-home his birds and brought them all to us. Originally, he thought he would pick the turkey up around Thanksgiving and eat him, but that did not come to pass. 

Instead, this turkey started roosting in the trees, my kids named him Tarzan, and he became a permanent fixture. We only had the one turkey and he hung out with our chickens until the next year when a similar situation happened and we ended up with a peacock named James. 

peacock and turkey on a roost

Tarzan and James became fast bird friends, following each other all over the place and playing games like ring-around-the-rosy and catch. Since adding the turkey poults this spring, Tarzan has become even funnier, thought his relationship with James has suffered. He struts all the time for the little turkeys and is very regal and majestic looking.  

This year, we started several turkeys from poults and even had an injured turkey in the house with us for a while. That experience taught us much more about raising turkeys. Here’s what we’ve learned.

Heritage Turkeys

First, a little background on our turkey flock. Our turkey flock consists primarily of the heritage Bronze turkey breed. We have five young turkeys, and the patriarch, King Tarzan. They are very beautiful breed of turkey and often raised for meat. Bronze turkeys are broad breasted turkeys and they are very large! 

We prefer heritage turkey breeds because they better foragers, better mothers, they can mate naturally so they don’t need artificial insemination, and have longer longevity compared to commercial turkeys. The broad breasted bronzes that we raise are also just plain gorgeous!

turkey poult

Other heritage turkey breeds include Bourbon Reds, Royal Palm, White Holland, Slate, Narragansett, Bourbon Red, Beltsville Small White. You can read more about the different breeds at the Livestock Conservancy website.

young turkeys in a brooder

Turkey Poults

Turkey poults are actually more fragile than chicks. They are started in a similar brooder to chicks but are very sensitive to heat and light fluctuations. The first three days are critical for turkey poults and they’ll definitely need heat lamps and a lot of supervision initially.

Baby turkeys also need more encouragement to drink water than chicks. We found that adding a few colored marbles to the waterer helped make sure the turkeys got enough to drink. They are very curious about the marbles and pecking at them helped them drink more.

bronze turkey in the winter

Turkey Housing

One big difference between turkeys and chickens is that turkeys get much bigger. That means they also need more space if you plan to keep them in a coop / run. They don’t scratch around as much as chickens and many people who keep turkeys think they keep their houses cleaner as a result.

That said, our turkeys prefer to roost outside. They like to roost high up, and as they get bigger, they may need help reaching their roost. Tarzan has roosted in trees or on high fences and he only sleeps in the coop if we lock him inside during brutally cold weather. Otherwise, he prefers a lean-to roost with wind protection during normally cold Iowa winters, or an open roost on a fence post during the summer.

Do Turkeys Lay Eggs?

Yes, they do! While chickens start laying around five months of age, turkeys are a little slower, taking from seven months up to a year to reach maturity. Chickens lay an egg almost every day, but turkeys only lay two to three eggs a week.

You can eat turkey eggs if you want – all egg types are actually edible. They are bigger than chicken eggs and are usually a creamy white color with speckles and tougher shell. Turkey eggs have a higher protein content than chicken eggs and many people who eat them think they have richer taste. Our female turkeys have not started laying, so I haven’t personally tried one yet.

What do Turkeys Eat?

Turkeys are supposed to eat a high protein food and game bird feed is the preferred turkey food. If you are raising turkeys for meat, it is important to feed them the proper protein content, but we honestly feed our turkeys the same food we feed the chickens. They are good free-rangers and foragers, and they supplement their diet naturally.

In all, we have found turkeys to be a very fun addition to our homestead. They are curious, talkative, and almost dog-like. If you’re on the fence about raising turkeys, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Did you enjoy this post on raising turkeys? Here are a few more you might like!

How to keep birds cool in the summer

How to keep birds warm in the winter

Prepare for mail order chicks

Treats your backyard flock will love

Instant Pot Quick & Easy Taco Dip with Meat & Beans 

Taco Tuesday is a staple in our house and I’m always looking for creative ways to serve up tacos. My quick and easy instant pot taco dip with meat and beans is a new family favorite recipe.

taco dip

Instant Pot Quick & Easy Taco Dip with Meat & Beans 

I used my instant pot almost daily. It’s especially great for hot summer days because it’s a way to cook without heating up the kitchen. There really are few limits for what you can make in your instant pot, and this hot taco dip recipe is no exception!

This taco dip with beans and meat is a very versatile dish. Not only does it make a great appetizer for game day, but it also makes a delicious quick summer lunch that my kids can make themselves! 

Ingredients for the hot taco dip

To make this hot dip, you need ground beef, beans, homemade taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, green chiles, taco sauce, garlic, and onions, and taco sauce. Salsa works in place of the taco sauce too, if you don’t have taco sauce on hand.

hot taco dip appetizer in blue bowl

Why I always add beans to taco meat

I love cooking with beans. It’s a frugal way to stretch ground beef and my family thinks you really can’t taste them as they take on the other flavors of the dish. 

According to Medical New Today, beans offer a lot of nutritional benefits. They’re a great source of complete protein, fiber, zinc, magnesium, and folate. Research suggests that eating beans can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease as well.

While I’ve been cooking with dried beans for a long time, I rarely use canned beans. Not only are canned beans more expensive than dried beans, but they’re usually really high in sodium as well. 

I’ve found it to be so easy to make a bulk batch of beans in my Instant Pot and then freeze them in meal sized portions. A can of beans has about 1 ¾ cups of beans so I freeze them in 3 ½ cup portions, which equals 2 cans. I almost always add at least 3 ½ cups of beans to my taco meat.

TACO dip with meat and beans instant pot recipe

Can I make this recipe if I don’t have an electric pressure cooker?

Yes, of course! All you really have to worry about is cooking the beef and that’s so simple! To make it on the stove top, just brown the beef completely in a large skillet, add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes or until the onions begin to caramelize. Then add remaining ingredients and cook until warm. Remove the dip to a large bowl, and serve with tortilla chips. 

What should I serve with this delicious taco dip?

I recommend serving extra shredded cheese, sour cream, olives, fresh cilantro, diced fresh tomatoes, and of course, tortilla chips with this beef taco bean dip. To be perfectly honest, my kids also like to put the dip in a tortilla and turn it into a burrito!

Are you ready to make this Instant Pot Taco Dip?

steps to making the instant pot taco dip

Yield: 12 appetizer servings

Instant Pot Quick & Easy Taco Dip with Meat & Beans 

Instant Pot Quick & Easy Taco Dip with Meat & Beans 
This taco dip in the Instant Pot is crazy good!  It's super easy to make, is done really fast, and ready to serve in no time.  You will love this when you're in a hurry for something healthy and delicious, and it's also great for an appetizer if you're having guests, or for game day.  This one is sure to become a favorite.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1 pound ground beef 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 ½ cups cooked pinto beans or 2 cans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup taco sauce (I have also used salsa in place of the taco sauce)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of sliced black olives - for garnish


  1. Press the Saute button on the Instant Pot and saute the ground beef until it is mostly browned, about 5 minutes.  
  2. Toward the end of the beef cooking time, add the onion, crushed garlic, and taco seasoning, and continue cooking until onion starts to caramelize, about 6-8 more minutes. 
  3. Add the rinsed and drained pinto beans, tomatoes, green chiles,  water, and taco sauce to the beef mixture and stir well.  
  4. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and make sure the pressure valve is set to  SEALING, and press the MANUAL button, and set the time for 2 minutes.  
  5. When the Instant Pot is done, beeps and goes to OFF, do a quick release, by turning the pressure valve from Sealing to VENTING. 
  6. After all pressure has been released, and the float valve has dropped down, remove the lid and stir the taco dip.  
  7. Serve immediately, topped with cheese and black olives.  Enjoy!


You can use other beans instead of pinto beans if you prefer. We also like this dip made with black beans instead.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274 Total Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 52mg Sodium: 459mg Carbohydrates: 18g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 2g Protein: 20g
Nutritional data is not always correct.
If you liked this quick instant pot recipe, you might like these too:

Homemade Taco Seasoning

How to Cook Beans in the Instant Pot

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Our favorite taco meat – freezer friendly recipe

No Mayo Cole Slaw

If you’re wondering how to make coleslaw without mayo, it’s your lucky day. I’ve been making this quick and easy coleslaw recipe – no mayo – for years. It’s my go-to slaw recipe and I know you will love it too.

coleslaw without mayo

Delicious No Mayo Coleslaw Recipe for Your Next BBQ

My trusty Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book includes a recipe for a Vinaigrette Coleslaw which I love. It’s super easy, delicious, and much healthier than mayo laden coleslaw. I love coleslaw, but I’m not that crazy about mayonnaise – especially when we’re outdoors and it’s not being refrigerated. Call me crazy, I’m just a little worried about spoiled mayonnaise.

I adapted that recipe by making a few changes that I think makes it taste better. Instead of the sugar in the original recipe, I changed it to honey. I also upped the salt and think the addition of sesame seeds is a nice improvement.

coleslaw no mayo

Coleslaw without Mayo

I grow a lot of cabbage and carrots in my garden this No-Mayo coleslaw, and I’m always looking for creative ways to use them both. This vinegar based coleslaw is perfect on pulled pork, pulled chicken, and makes a great hot-day side dish.

Here’s how to make this coleslaw recipe – no mayo!

What I love most about this recipe is that it is so quick, especially if you have a food processor.

Using that handy-dandy kitchen appliance, you can easily shred the cabbage and carrots in minutes. If you don’t have a food processor, you can always buy pre-shredded slaw mix and make it that way too.

The dressing comes together super quickly too. I just measure out the vinegar first, then the oil, and finally the honey, right in the same angled liquid measuring cup. Measuring the honey after the oil helps it come out of the measuring dish easier that it would if you measured in a different order because the oil coats the measuring cup and makes the honey slide right out.

Putting all dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar makes combining the dressing so easy. Just shake for about 30 seconds and you’re good to go!

coleslaw recipe no mayo

A note about the cabbage and carrots

This recipe calls for green cabbage, but you can use red cabbage too. I grow both in my garden and use whichever I happen to have on hand.

Did you know that carrots come in all colors? They are so fun. You can use traditional orange carrots, but if you see purple or yellow carrots at the farmer’s market, don’t be afraid to use them either! They taste delicious and I guarantee your kids will be fascinated by them!

Mayo Free Cole-Slaw

Yield: 5 cups

No Mayo Cole Slaw

No Mayo Cole Slaw
Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes



  1. To make the vinaigrette dressing, combine vinegar, sugar, oil, and spices in a screw-top jar. Cover and shake well.
  2. In a large bowl combine the shredded veggies. Pour the vinaigrette over the cabbage mixture. Toss to coat.
  3. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. This is an important step - it softens the cabbage and makes it taste better.
  4. Enjoy!


While you don't have to chill this recipe for two hours prior to serving, it will taste a lot better if you give the flavors time to meld! This is a great recipe to make ahead, up to 24 hours before!

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 60 Total Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 78mg Carbohydrates: 9g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 6g Protein: 1g
Nutritional data is not always correct.
coleslaw without mayo recipe

Here are a few more recipes you might like:

Homemade Ranch Dressing from Scratch

Pulled Chicken in the Slow Cooker

Perfect Greek Chicken Marinade

Delicious New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe

Do you like coleslaw? Mayo or no mayo? What’s your preference?

How to Keep Chickens Cool During Summer without Electricity

With temperatures in the 90s and heat warnings well over 100 degrees out here in Eastern Iowa, it looks like hot summer days are finally upon us. If you have backyard chickens, it’s important to know how to keep them cool during summer. Here are a few ways to make sure that your chickens stay cool in the blazing summer heat. 

keep chickens cool in summer

How to Keep Chickens Cool During Summer without Electricity

Someone turned up the heat and it’s finally hot! Did you know that summer heat is harder on chickens than winter cold? You definitely need to know how to keep chickens cool during summer to keep them healthy. 

Recognize signs of heat stress or heat stroke in chickens

Because chickens don’t have sweat glands, they can’t sweat so it’s important to recognize signs of heat stress. You may notice your chickens spreading out their wings and panting when it’s hot. Panting in chickens is similar to a dog panting. It’s how both types of animals cool off.

This is perfectly normal behavior during hot weather, but if they become lifeless, lethargic, or their combs start to discolor, you will want to cool them off as soon as you can.  Cool them off by putting them in cool water, but don’t submerge their heads. Then, keep them in a cooler spot until they are completely recovered and running around as normal. Read more about hot weather management for poultry here.

During extremely hot weather, many chickens cut back on laying eggs. So keeping them as cool as possible may help with egg laying as well.

Make sure your chickens have lots of water

Fresh, cold water during hot weather is so important not only for chickens, but for all of your animals. A well hydrated bird is much more able to regulate its body temperature than a bird that’s thirsty, so make sure to check water often and keep it cool and fresh.

It’s a good idea to add ice cubes to the water if you can. Double check water throughout the day as chickens drink a lot more during hot weather. You might also want to provide electrolytes to help them cope better.

Give your chickens lots of shade during hot weather

Make sure your chickens have access to shade. I check on my chickens more often during hot weather and move food and water as necessary to keep it in the shade. If you don’t have shade of tall grass or around trees, making temporary shade with tarps is also an idea.

Change your feeding schedule

During hot weather, you may want to change when you feed your chickens. Feeding them in the morning or evening when it’s cooler will be better for them than feeding them during the hotter afternoons. Your chickens will also appreciate cool treats like watermelon or frozen treats like fruit and veggies when it’s really hot out.

Use misters or wet the ground

Using misters is a great way to keep your chickens cool during summer. If you don’t have misters, you can wet the ground with a hose to give your chickens a place to wet their feet. Burying a frozen bottle partway in the ground to give them a spot to rub on is another good idea.

backyard flock in a kiddie pool

Give chickens swimming opportunities 

Okay, you got me. Unlike ducks and geese, chickens can’t really swim well. They don’t have waterproof feathers or webbed feet, and they’re not able to right themselves in the water. But, they do like to splash around in shallow water containers,  and they can swim short distances when they must.

We have little pools of water out in the summer. Primarily the ducks and geese swim in them, but the chickens do drink water from the pools and if they are shallow enough, they will walk around in them too.

Make sure the chicken coop has adequate ventilation

Make sure the windows are open in the chicken coop. If you have fans, you’ll probably want to run them during very hot weather. Air flow in the chicken coop is always important, but it’s even more important on hot days. Here’s a solar powered fan that costs under $25 on amazon.

Dust baths help keep chickens cool during summer

Dust baths are very good for chickens for a lot of reasons, but they are especially important during hot weather. Not only do dust baths help chickens rid themselves of parasites and bugs of all sorts, but bathing in the cool dirt is another great way to help them cool off. Dust or sand from dust bathing absorbs oils and moisture from the chicken’s skin.

While there are lots of ways to keep chickens cooler without electricity, if you do have electricity to your coop, you may want to run an electric coop fan. Fans can help with flies and gnats in the coop and also help air flow and keeping the coop cool. 

If you liked this tip on how to keep chickens cool during summer, you might like these posts too:

Keeping chickens warm in winter without electricity

Beginner’s guide to raising baby chicks

Treats your chickens will love

How to Choose the Perfect Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead


Quick & Easy Homemade Ranch Dressing Makes Life Taste Better

A great salad dressing recipe will take your kitchen to the next level and this healthy ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt is just you need! It’s true that this Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing makes everything taste better.

chopped salad

This post is sponsored by Kalona SuperNatural Organics. All opinions are mine.

 Healthy Ranch Salad Dressing Makes Life Taste Better

I often hear from people who want to start cooking from scratch or eat organic without breaking the bank. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. Today, I’m excited to share this fabulous dressing from scratch to show you how easy it is to start from-scratch cooking and also share our money saving tips for eating organic without going broke.

This Homemade Salad Dressing Recipe is the Gateway to From-Scratch Cooking

If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of cooking from scratch, I recommend starting with something easy. Recipes that don’t require a lot of equipment or ingredients are easy to tackle. Admittedly, this dressing will be easier if you have a food processor, but you can make it with only a lidded jar, knife, and cutting board. 

homemade ranch dressing from scratch recipe

I also recommend starting with a recipe that you know your family will love. And who doesn’t love Ranch Dressing? Perfect for salads, dipping vegetables, wings, burgers, French Fries, and more, this flavorful dressing is a huge hit at my house.

Why Make Whole Milk Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing?

You might be wondering why I use Kalona SuperNatural Organic Whole Milk Greek Yogurt in my Ranch Dressing. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find whole milk Greek Yogurt? Almost everything at the grocery stores around here is non-fat! Blech!

According to Mario Kratz, Ph.D., associate member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and co-author of research published in the European Journal of Nutrition,  “consumption of full-fat dairy products is pretty consistently associated with lower body weight, less weight gain over time, and a lower risk of obesity.” It fills me up more and tastes better too.

I am a big fan of Kalona SuperNatural’s organic whole milk dairy products. Not only are they made locally with milk from small Amish farmers, but they are also non-homogenized and pasteurized at a lower temperature than other dairy products. I think they are a great compromise between raw milk and ultra-pasteurized.

I prefer to use whole milk greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise and sour cream. We’re not big fans of mayonnaise and I think the yogurt is healthier. It also tastes better, so sign me up!

greek yogurt ranch dressing recipe with fresh herbs and saladStore Bought Salad Dressing

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on store bought dressing? If not, you should. A popular brand of ranch dressing contains MSG and artificial flavors, has 240 calories, 14 grams of fat, and only 1 gram of protein per serving.

To compare, my recipe contains 28 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 3 grams of protein! You guys, there are only 224 calories in the ENTIRE recipe, so EAT UP! 

Okay, I’m sold. Tell me how to make Homemade Ranch Dressing!

I promised this recipe is easy to make, and it is. If you have a food processor, start with the fresh herbs and garlic. Pulse them a few times to mince the garlic and easily chop the herbs. Then add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.

steps of making ranch dressing

If you don’t have a food processor, that’s ok! Get out a cutting board and knife. Finely chop your fresh herbs, put all ingredients in a jar, and shake to combine. Done!

If you prefer to use dried herbs, that works too! Then you don’t need to chop anything at all and it still tastes great.

How Long Can I Store this Healthy Ranch Dressing?

Store your homemade ranch dressing in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. It never lasts that long in my house, but it will keep for a while!  

How We Eat Organic without Breaking the Bank

My tips for eating organic without breaking the bank are pretty simple, but not without effort. I’m a firm believer that you can do it if you want! Here’s how we save money on an organic diet for my family of six.

  1. Grow a garden – it can be as complex as my 2400 sq ft garden, or as simple as a herbs in your kitchen!
  2. Reduce the amount of meat you eat. I think it’s really important to eat organic meat, but it’s so expensive. To make it more affordable, I find creative ways to stretch organic meat. Adding beans or mushrooms or lots of veggies are great ways to use less meat! I also get multiple meals out of one single chicken instead of buying much more expensive boneless chicken pieces.
  3. Obviously, cook from scratch! My husband complains that we have a lot of ingredients, but no food. Cooking from scratch is more work for me, but a win for the family.
  4. Cook in bulk, and always try to have a ready to-go meal in the freezer for busy days when you just can’t be bothered. 
  5. Keep a well stocked pantry / kitchen / freezer so you have what it takes! You can find detailed lists of what I always try to have on hand here – Time & Money Saving Kitchen Essentials.
  6. Invest in a few quality kitchen tools. It’s true that cooking is easier with the right tools. I don’t think you need every appliance under the sun, but there are 13 Time Saving Kitchen Utensils that make my kitchen time more productive. 
  7. Prioritize organic based on the Clean 15 / Dirty Dozen list. While it would be wonderful to buy only organic, that’s sometimes not possible. Instead, I make sure to buy the dirty dozen organic and don’t sweat the clean 15.
Yield: 1 cup

Quick & Easy Ranch Salad Dressing Makes Life Taste Better

Quick & Easy Ranch Salad Dressing Makes Life Taste Better

A fresh and flavorful garden-to-table salad dressing that will take your kitchen to the next level!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 1 cup Kalona SuperNatural Organic Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Kalona SuperNatural Organic Whole Milk, or to desired consistency


If using a food processor, pulse the fresh herbs and garlic several times until well chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. A slightly mounded palmful of unchopped fresh herbs should equal about one tablespoon chopped. I eyeball it.

Add one tablespoon of milk at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. I added about 3 tablespoons for a runnier salad dressing, but would add none to turn this into a creamier dip.

Store in the fridge for up to one week.

To make without a food processor, combine everything in a jar. Mix well or shake to thoroughly combine.


Feel free to use dried spices in place of the fresh spices in this recipe, but growing your own herbs is a really easy and fun undertaking! I highly recommend growing your own.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

2 tbs

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 28 Total Fat: 1g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 3mg Sodium: 127mg Carbohydrates: 3g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 1g Protein: 3g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

I’d love to hear what you think of this Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing! If you liked the recipe, please share on social media and give me feedback! 

Many thanks to my sponsor, Kalona SuperNatural. Please head here to learn all about this wonderful company! How do you eat organic without breaking the bank? I’d love to hear your tips too!