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Shop Local & Online to Support Iowa Artisans & Farmers

Shop local from the comfort of your home by checking out this curated list of gifts regionally crafted in Iowa. You can feel good about shopping when you support the many local artisans and farmers represented on the 2019 Made in Iowa Gift Guide.

made in iowa gift guide

*Thank you to Travel Iowa for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.*

2019 Made in Iowa Gift Guide

made in iowa gift guide

Shop Local & Online to Support Iowa Artisans & Farmers

From handmade jewelry and pottery, knitted hats and scarves, and personalized home decor items, you’ll find the perfect gift for everyone you need, and support local Iowa independent businesses in the process! Feel good about the gifts you buy from Travel Iowa’s curated list right here and finish up your holiday shopping from the comfort of your home. 

I’m not sure how long you have to live in a state to claim it as your own, but I claim Iowa since I’ve lived in this state longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. Saying I’m from Iowa is just much easier than answering “it’s complicated,” when someone asks me where I’m from. 

As a former military brat who married a military man, I’ve lived all over the world. It’s nice to have a home base though, and Iowa is it for me. It’s only natural that I’d want to support the business owners, amazing artisans, Iowa shops, and craftspeople from my adopted state. We have so many talented people right here in Iowa!

While I highly recommend that you visit the individual stores listed in this post if you can, it’s even more awesome that you can support local businesses even if you’re too far away by shopping online. Shopping small online still helps support the local economy! How cool is that?

Support these 7 Iowa Small Businesses

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of small businesses to support in Iowa, but here are seven small Iowa businesses that work together in a big way to support local farmers and artisans. Check out each of these seven businesses and finish up that holiday shopping today.

If you want to avoid big box stores, or balance out your purchases by finding a few great locally produced items, you’ll really find something for everyone on this list of small Iowa businesses. Support Iowa business and shop local this year – even if you can’t make it to the stores in person!

How are you supporting local this year with your gift purchases? Please share a comment about your favorite Iowa made or Iowa inspired gift!

made in iowa gift guide

carver's ridge engraved sign

How would you like to win an awesome prize from the Made in Iowa Gift Guide?

I love my new engraved sign from Carver’s Ridge, an Iowa Made company featured in the Made in Iowa Gift Guide. Carver’s Ridge makes beautiful personalized gifts for every time of person. From home decor to kitchen items to garden items, you’ll find something on their website that you can’t live without!

For your chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Carver’s Ridge, please enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US residents 18 years of age and older. Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, December 15th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You’ll Find the Best Christmas Trees at these Iowa Tree Farms

Cutting down our own Christmas tree at Kelly Tree Farm is one of our favorite family activities during the holiday season, but finding the perfect tree can take some work. If you’re wondering where to go this year, here are ten Iowa tree farms where you’ll find the best Christmas trees!

cutting down a christmas tree at up north pines in davenport iowa
You’ll Find the Best Christmas Trees at these Iowa Tree Farms

We like to support our local farmers who understand that a tree helps provide Christmas memories for families. They make the trip to the Christmas tree farm an experience our kids will remember for years. There are dozens of Christmas tree farms in Iowa, with lots of opportunities for creating memories. One of the best things about the holiday season is finding the perfect Christmas tree, taking it home and decorating it.

In our family, that means I have to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies and remember to put up the fragile ornaments. I have a hard time doing both, but somehow we still manage to have a good time hunting for the perfect tree each year. Here are some of the Iowa Christmas Tree farms we’ve been to, plus a few more across the state!

Kelly Tree Farm - one of many iowa tree farms where you'll find the best Christmas trees

Kelly Tree Farm – Tipton

My kids adore Kelly Tree Farm. From the barn, to the rabbits, to the search and cutting, we always have a great time there. The only problem for us as late Christmas decorators, is that we sometimes don’t make it there in time. Christmas tree hunters will likely have only two weekends to search for that perfect fir at the Kelly Tree Farm outside Clarence (near Tipton).

With almost five decades of raising trees, the Kelly plans to open for the season Nov. 23-24 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and anticipates trees will be sold out by the following weekend, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. While most people enjoy finding and cutting their own tree for the holiday season, the farm will have plenty of precut trees ready for purchase.

While at the farm, don’t forget to visit the Kelly Tree Farm’s rabbits. They’re eagerly awaiting your arrival. Kelly Tree Farm’s Clarence location will have evergreen available for holiday decorating too. So, while you grab your coat, gloves and saw, remember that Kelly Tree Farm accepts cash and checks only. Credit and debit cards cannot be used for purchases. And make sure to get there early in the season. Kelly Tree Farm often runs out of trees!

kids hugging a tree at up north pines

Up North Pines – Quad Cities

Quad Cities-area residents can bundle up the kids, grab a thermos of hot chocolate, and head off to Up North Pines in search of the season’s Christmas tree. With 10 acres of pine trees available, Up North Pines has a lot of trees available to cut fresh from the ground. As they march through the rows of trees, it’s common to see cattle! We have found fun trees at Up North Pines too, and my kids love the animals there as well.

Opening Black Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) for their 20th season, Up North Pines will be open 1-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends until Dec. 15. In addition to Christmas trees, the farm sells wreaths.

Barnes Tree Farm – Iowa City

Selling pines and firs in the Iowa City area since 1991, Barnes Tree Farm offers visitors a charming view of the countryside. With about 10 acres of trees available, visitors can enjoy a walk while they search for the perfect tree. They open Thanksgiving Friday (9am-4:30 pm) and then Saturdays (9 am.-4:30 pm) and Sundays (10 am-4:30 pm). Barnes Tree Farm’s dates will be Nov. 23-25, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9. You may want to check their Facebook page for any changes.

With Iowa having dozens of options for you to find THE tree for your holiday, make it a fun outing by taking advantage of the activities and attractions offered by area Christmas tree farms. The experience you have today will create a holiday memory for years. So, stay warm, have fun and good luck in finding the perfect Christmas tree.

Strautman Tree Farm – Cambridge

With thousands of trees to choose from over 90 acres, finding the perfect fir or pine to decorate for the holiday season may be the most challenging part of a visit to Strautman Tree Farm in Cambridge, about 30 minutes north of Des Moines.

The family farm ranks among the most popular Christmas tree farms in Iowa. Strautman Tree Farm opens for business Saturday, Nov. 17 and will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Dec. 23. Precut trees are available in a heated shed for people who don’t want to cut their own.

As you stroll around the farm, you may want to warm up with hot cider and cookies at the gift shop. You can also purchase ornaments and wreaths at the holiday gift shop, which is open daily until 5 p.m.

Aldrich Christmas Tree Farm – Belmond

Visitors to the Aldrich Christmas Tree Farm in Belmond can expect a “hassle-free” tree cutting experience. The farm’s owners encourage visitors to drive their vehicle through the tree plantation, so they can stay warm as they browse the 15,000 fir and pine trees for that perfect tree to decorate and display for the holidays. Visitors can bring the tree back to the processing center or have farm employees do it. Then, customers can enjoy  hot cider and popcorn as they browse vendors’ holiday wares, while their tree is prepped with netting and tied to their vehicle. You may want to watch as they drill the tree for the Answer Stand.

Located about 40 minutes southwest of Clear Lake, the Christmas tree farm is open noon until dark daily, from Friday, Nov. 23, until Christmas Eve.

THE Christmas Tree Farm – Maxwell

You can leave the saw at home, as customers are given a handsaw to use during their visit to THE Christmas Tree Farm in Maxwell. With about 4,000 trees, featuring Fraser and Concolor firs, THE Christmas Tree Farm has opened its land to customers annually since 1998. The first trees were planted in 1992. Precut trees are also available.

THE Christmas Tree Farm opens its 2018 season 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 23. Then, it will be open 3-5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends through Dec. 18. Kids can get an early start on their wish lists, as Santa Claus will be at the farm Thanksgiving weekend and Dec. 1-2. Families enjoy making a trip to the Christmas tree farm a daylong treat. With games and treats, including free hot cider and lemonade, families can relax before heading home after they’ve found THE tree for the holiday season.

Miller Tree Farm – Runnells

For more than 60 years, Miller Tree Farm has greeted visitors seeking the perfect tree for the holiday season. With three fields used to raise a variety of trees, the Runnells farm actually opens two of them – Home Farm and the larger Deer Ridge –  for customers to cut down their own Christmas tree. The East Field is used to harvest precut trees and isn’t open to visitors.

Open noon-5 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Miller Tree Farm opens for the season Nov. 23, and plans to close Dec. 24. However, in recent years, they have sold out of trees and closed around Dec. 15. So, you will want to check before planning your trip.

In the holiday spirit, the farm gives children candy canes and a gift bag with each tree purchase. The farm also sells wreaths, ribbons and other swag items.

Walnut Ridge Farm – Indianola

Hop aboard a miniature train (weather permitting on weekends) and enjoy a ride around the Walnut Ridge Farm before looking for your dream Christmas tree. Located near Indianola, Walnut Ridge has been selling trees since 1983. With more than 40,000 trees available – from White Pine to Blue Spruce – you’ll be hard-pressed not to find the perfect tree.

Opening on Thanksgiving Friday (8 a.m.-6 p.m.), Walnut Ridge Farm is open weekdays (3-6 p.m.), 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 18. After that date, you’ll want to give the farmers a call to see if they’re available for sales. If you prefer a precut tree, they have plenty available in a heated building featuring a holiday light display. Wreaths and greenery are also available.

Deal’s Orchard – Jefferson

Apple cider. Take a family picture at Santa’s sleigh. Gift shopping. These are some of the things you can do in addition to finding and cutting down your Christmas tree at Deal’s Orchard. The Jefferson tree farm invites visitors to stick around and enjoy the area before heading home to decorate the tree. Check out the model train as you sample apple cider and popcorn inside the Apple Barn.

Located about an hour west of Ames along the famous Lincoln Highway – aka US Highway 30 – the Christmas tree farm opens for the 2018 season mid-November and will close Christmas Eve. The tree farm will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday. You can cut your own tree or buy precut trees.

Howell Tree Farm – Cumming

Planting their first grove of trees 55 years ago, Howell Tree Farm started selling Christmas trees in 1970. Since then, the Howells have added thousands and thousands of evergreens to their 50 acres of Christmas trees. The Howell Tree farm uses a unique approach to Christmas tree hunting, as they will cut the tree once customer decides which one they want. Remove one of the tree tags and take it back to the gift shop. For an added charge, they will also place it in a stand for you – nicknamed the “Marriage Saver” – so all you have to do when you get home is remove the netting and decide how to decorate it (adding water is something you’ll want to do).

Howell Tree Farm opens Nov. 17 and will be open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Dec. 23. The farm will be closed Thanksgiving Day.

Whether you head to Kelly Tree Farm, Up North Pines, Howell Tree Farm or another Iowa Christmas tree farm, I hope you’ll consider making fun family memories cutting down a tree this year! Do you know more Iowa tree farms that I didn’t mention? Do share!

If you liked this post on Iowa Tree Farms, you might like these posts too:

Healthier Christmas Cookie Recipes (refined sugar free)

An Iowa Christmas Tree 

Homemade Christmas Decorations made with natural items

Homemade Gifts to Make from Photographs


Stocking Stuffers for Teen Boys & Girls – that they’ll actually use!

Looking for stocking stuffers for teen boys and girls? This holiday season, stuff your teens’ stockings with fun gifts they will actually love and use! While gift cards and candy are great stocking stuffer ideas, here are a few more creative gift ideas we know your teens will love. 

stocking stuffers for teens

Stocking stuffers for teen boys & girls that they’ll actually want

In our house, the stocking is the last gift we open. It’s always a lot of fun for me to come up with what to stuff! While it usually includes practical items like deodorant and toothpaste, we also always strive to include a few things that our teens would really appreciate and love to use!

This list includes items that teen boys and girls will both love. You’re sure to find at least a few great stocking stuffers for teens on this list! 

stocker stuffers for teens

Stocking Stuffers for Teens

Stocking Stuffers for Teen Boys & Girls - that they'll actually use!

A list of stocking stuffers for teen boys and girls that they will actually be excited to get and will use on a daily basis!

Are you shopping for teen boys or girls this year? What are stuffing their stockings with? Please share your ideas too!
stocking stuffers for teen boys and girls

If you like these eco-friendly gifts, you might like these holiday gift ideas too:

Eco-Friendly Gifts that Make it Easy to Go Green

Wine Gift Baskets Made Easy

Useful and Beautiful Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers

The Best Eco-Friendly Gifts that Make it Easy to Go Green

Looking for ethically sourced, green, or eco-friendly gifts? This list of gift ideas will help you feel good about giving Christmas gifts this year. Check out the best eco-friendly gifts that make it easy to go green in this green gift – gift guide!

This post was written in partnership with Nakturnal and others. I received free products to facilitate this post, but the opinions are all mine. Rest assured that I only promote items I genuinely like!

The Best Eco-Friendly Gifts that Make it Easy to Go Green

It's possible to find gifts you can feel good about giving this year. Gifts that help reduce our dependence on single use plastic, gifts that have been made from recycled materials, and / or gifts made from the softest organic cotton are all gifts you can feel good about giving.

The best eco-friendly gifts are as beautiful as they are functional, which is why you will love all the items we've complied in this list. Check out some of our favorite eco-friendly gift ideas that make it easy to go green this year! It is possible to feel good about your gift choice!

eco friendly gifts

I’d love to hear about your favorite eco-friendly gifts! Do you have any ideas that I didn’t share? Please leave a comment and let me know.

If you like these eco-friendly gifts, you might like these holiday gift ideas too:

Stocking Stuffers for Teen Boys & Girls

Wine Gift Baskets Made Easy

Useful and Beautiful Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers

lotus trolley on cart

Want to win a Lotus Trolley Set Shopping Bag Set?

I love these eco-friendly shopping bags and I’m excited to give a set away to one lucky winner! They make it so easy to stop using single use plastic and every time I shop with them, someone stops me and asks where I got them!

I’ve been using them at ALDI and Costco and like that the bags attach right to the front of the cart. After checkout, I simply hang them in the cart and fill up with groceries. The rods come out very easily for easy placement in the car and then bags roll up for storage!

Enter to win one 3-bag Trolley set and 9 produce bags using the rafflectopter form below. Contest is open to US residents 18 years of age and older and ends at midnight Sunday, December, 15th.

lotus trolley bag system

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wooden Wrist Watch

6 Tips for Beautiful Wine Gift Baskets Made Easy

If you want to make beautiful wine gift baskets, here are six tips to consider before you rush off to the store. These tips will help you help you make the perfect wine and cheese gift that even the most discerning person on your list will love.

wine and cheese gift basket (1)

This post is brought to you by Tervis. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own. 

6 Tips for Beautiful Wine Gift Baskets Made Easy

What could be better for a wine lover than a gift basket filled with consumable and reusable gifts? Pre-made wine gift baskets are all the rage. Sometimes paired with cheese, chocolate  and more, they make great corporate gifts, hostess gifts, or gifts for any wine-loving family member. 

Since I love homemade gifts, I want to create my own beautiful wine gift sets instead of buying something that’s already made. Homemade gifts are so much more meaningful, even if you’re just compiling items in a gift basket. It’s always a lot of fun to consider the recipients and really tailor the gift to their preferences.

My family prefers to give consumable or experience gifts. It gets more difficult every year to find the perfect gift, but giving consumables always works. 

Gourmet snacks, a delicious bottle of wine, reusable and environmentally friendly items are gift ideas I go back to each and every year. And since wine baskets make great gifts for lots of different people, I’m putting a few together for the holidays this year.

items for wine and cheese gift baskets

Let’s Make the Perfect Wine and Cheese Gift Baskets 

Here’s how to make perfect wine and cheese gift baskets – a thoughtful, consumable gift that I would also love to receive. Anyone who enjoys gourmet gifts will really appreciate the love and consideration that goes into making this type of present. So let’s get started and make the perfect gift!

wine and cheese gift basket (2)

1. Find the Right Basket

First, find a great basket that your recipient will love to use over and over again. Wicker, jute, and galvanized baskets are my preference. I have good luck finding baskets at Goodwill (second-hand purchases can save you money and are environmentally friendly choices too!), TJ MAXX, Homegoods, and Amazon. 

For this basket, I was thrilled to find a festive basket woven from jute that says CHEERS. How perfect is that?

2. Consider the Recipient

Next, think of the recipients. What type of wine do they prefer –  red or white wines? Do they like gourmet food, artisanal cheese, chocolate? Maybe they’re concerned about the environment and prefer gifts that have a positive environmental impact as well? Think about all of these things as you decide what to include in your gift basket.

choose the wine for the wine gift basket

3. Choose the Right Wine

Wine is an important consideration, of course. Choose red or white based on the recipient’s preference, or perhaps you’d like to include a mixture of both. 

Red lovers might like a nice Merlot, Malbec, or Cabernet Sauvignon. White lovers might enjoy  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or a sweeter Pinot Grigio or Riesling. When in doubt, ask a wine clerk for popular recommendations and don’t be afraid to try something new!

cheese board

4. Add Gourmet Snacks – Cheese & Chocolate

Every wine gift basket needs more than wine, of course. I like to add in a few different types of gourmet cheeses, cheese straws, and also some chocolates. If you have a little extra money to spend, find a new cheese board to include in the gift basket as well.

5. Don’t Forget a Few Fun Trinkets 

I love the scene in Mary Poppins when she reaches into her carpet back and pulls out item after item. I like to take a similar approach with my gift baskets when I can and there are a lot of useful items to add to wine gift baskets. Here are a few of my favorite items to include:

  • Quality wine bottle opener
  • Fun cocktail napkins
  • Personalized wine bottle stopper
  • A wooden or metal sign with a funny wine saying 
  • Cheese board

Adding a few of these items just makes your gift basket even more fun and personal for the recipient.


6. Add the Perfect Wine Glass

Last but not least, don’t forget wine glasses! After years of breaking glass wine glasses, we have finally switched over to stainless steel, stemless glasses. They are perfect for taking outside or camping. I don’t have to worry about them breaking or getting water spots from washing. Stainless steel, stemless glasses have become my favorite in the last year, and these stainless Guy Harvey Tervis Tumblers are so cute!

Tervis Tumblers

We learned about Tervis Tumblers years ago while visiting dear friends in Florida. At the time, we had young kids who managed to break almost everything. We were drawn to Tervis’ high quality reusable plastic drinkware with fun, colorful designs. Over the years, we realized that they hold up very well. 

We love that Tervis ensures quality and also upcycles returned products into new, usable materials! The company is passionate about our oceans and cares about the creatures who call it home. They are committed to making the world a better place and have been doing so since 1946. They don’t do the right thing because it is trendy or helps sells tumblers, but because it’s the right thing to do.

tervis tumbler collage

For this basket I chose two Guy Harvey items to support the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. I like that my purchase also helps support important conservation work. The GHOF conducts scientific research and hosts educational programs aimed at creating a naturally balanced ocean environment. The GHOF also funds scholarships and so much more. 

Not only does Tervis make these amazing stemless wine glasses, they also offer a lot of other fun products: 

Which Tervis Tumbler would you like to give or receive this year?

tervis wine tumblers

Put it all Together! 

Now that you have everything for the perfect wine and cheese gift baskets, put them all together and give with pride! 

Do you prefer to make your own gifts or buy items that are pre-made? What do you think is one item that must be in a homemade wine gift basket?

How would you like to win $50 cash via paypal?

As a thank you to my blog readers, I’m giveaway $50 cash via paypal. Make your own DIY wine gift basket with the $$! To enter, use the rafflecoper form below. Contest is open world wide and ends at midnight on Friday, Dec 20th. Thank you and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you like these eco-friendly gifts, you might like these holiday gift ideas too:

Eco-Friendly Gifts that Make it Easy to Go Green

Stocking Stuffers for Teen Boys & Girls

Useful and Beautiful Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Family Game Night Stocking Stuffers

Best Way to Cook a Turkey – upside down, high heat, no basting!

By doing everything wrong over the years, I’ve found the best way to cook a turkey is to toss out everything you may have heard about the “right” things to do. High heat, upside down, no basting. These are the secrets to the best turkey you’ll ever eat. Keep reading to learn more!Toss out everything you may have heard about cooking a turkey. The best way to cook a turkey is to use high heat, cook it upside down, and skip the basting! Learn how here.

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my site!*

Best Way to Cook a Turkey – upside down, high heat, no basting!

I know this information might be shocking, but the best way to cook a turkey is not low and slow, breast side up. It does not require basting. (It doesn’t even require washing and patting the turkey dry, you guys!) These out-of-date methods make a dry and yucky turkey for your beautiful Thanksgiving table. If you want a delicious, crispy skinned turkey with divine meat, the best way to cook it is to start upside down, using high heat, and no basting. Bonus! Your turkey will cook quicker too.

In full disclosure, I learned this completely by accident. The first year I cooked the turkey for our huge family thanksgiving meal, I accidentally cooked it upside down. It was embarrassing at first because everyone laughed when they saw it. When they tasted the meat, however, it was immediately clear that cooking the turkey upside resulted in a better product. Here are more tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way about cooking turkeys.

To cook the best turkey, make sure you:

1. COMPLETELY THAW your frozen turkey

  • 12-16 pounders need 3-4 days to thaw. (Put in fridge on Sunday or Monday BEFORE Thanksgiving.)
  • 16-20 pounders need 4-5 days to thaw.  (Put in fridge on Saturday or Sunday BEFORE Thanksgiving.)
  • 20-24 pounders need 5-6 days to thaw. (Put in fridge on Friday or Saturday BEFORE Thanksgiving.)

2. Remove all innards (neck & giblet)!! You might laugh… but not everyone knows to do this.

3. Cut off all plastic pieces on the bird – ties holding legs together and the pop up timer. That dumb plastic timer doesn’t work anyway so get rid of it before cooking your turkey.

Now that you’ve done that, here’s the best way to cook a turkey!

Remove all extra racks in the oven, leaving only one in the lowest position. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees a half hour before cooking time. Double and triple check that you have removed the turkey neck and bag of giblets, cut off any plastic ties that may be holding the legs together, and removed the pop up thermometer, if there is one.

separate the skin from the turkey and rub half the butter under the skin.

Carefully, separate the skin from the turkey and spread melted butter under the skin. Then, brush the outside of the turkey with the remaining butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. A silicone basting brush makes spreading the butter easy. If you don’t want to use butter, feel free to use oil. It’s your call. You’ll probably want to tie the legs together with kitchen twine instead of inserting them in the skin as pictured above.

stuff veggies in turkey cavity. Add butter, salt and pepper

Place all vegetables and apple chunks in the turkey cavity.

Now bake that turkey

roast your turkey upside for best results.

Place turkey breast side DOWN in a roasting pan. I forget to take a picture after I put it in the pan, so refer to the picture above for proper breast side DOWN position. Tuck the wing tips under the bottom of the turkey so they don’t over brown. Put water in pan around the bird but not over it; you don’t want to wash away the butter or seasoning.

Cook turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Then, turn oven down to 350 and cook for 1 1/2 more hours (without opening the oven).  Turn the oven light on and check from time to time to make sure the turkey is not browning too much. If it is, loosely tent the turkey with foil. Realize, though, that every time you open the oven door, your turkey dries out a little more. That’s why basting does more harm than good. So really resist opening that door if you can help it.

finish the turkey breast side UP.

Flipping the bird!

After the turkey has cooked for about 2 hours, take it out of the oven. Using silicon oven mitts, flip the bird breast side up so the breast can brown nicely. Now it’s time to insert the oven-safe remote thermometer in the thigh, without touching the bone. Make sure the wings are tucked underneath. Cook the turkey for 45 minutes to one hour longer, or how ever long it take for the meat thermometer to reach 165 degrees. (Just to reiterate, the turkey in the above picture is breast side UP).

The total cooking time ranges from 2 3/4 hours to 3 1/2 hours for a 12- 16 pound turkey. Add about 13 minutes more for each additional pound if your turkey is over 16 pounds.

If you don’t have an oven safe thermometer, you can use the stick variety too. Just realize that every time you open the oven to check the turkey, it’ll dry out the meat a little bit more. 🙁

cover cooked turkey with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carvingFinally, when the turkey is fully cooked, remove from oven. Loosely tent with foil and let turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This is very important!! Don’t slice it for at least a half an hour.

Kitchen tools that make cooking a turkey very easy!

Want a free turkey this year? New Butcher Box customers can get a free turkey with their first order! We tried Butcher Box and were very impressed with their completely customizable or lovingly curated meat subscription boxes that can include 100% Grass-fed & Grass-finished Beef, Heritage Breed Pork, and Free-range Organic Chicken. Grab your free turkey (for a limited time only!) using my affiliate link. You won’t be disappointed! 

Best Way to Cook a Turkey Printable Directions

Yield: 12-16 servings

Best Way to Cook a Turkey – upside down, high heat, no basting!

Best Way to Cook a Turkey – upside down, high heat, no basting!

The best way to cook a turkey! High heat, upside, no basting!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes


  • 1 12-16 pound turkey
  • 1 carrot, chunked
  • 1 stalk celery, chunked
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 green apple, quartered
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ C. water


  1. Heat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Remove the turkey neck and bag of giblets. Cut off any plastic ties that may be holding the legs together. Remove the pop up thermometer, if there is one.
  3. Place all your vegetables in the turkey cavity.
  4. Carefully, separate the skin from the turkey and rub half the butter under the skin.
  5. Rub the outside of the turkey with the remaining butter.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Place turkey breast side DOWN in a roasting pan.
  8. Put water in pan around the bird but not over it.
  9. Cook turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, turn oven down to 350 and cook for 1 1/2 more hours.
  10. After the turkey has cooked for about 2 hours, remove from oven, carefully flip over so the turkey is now breast side UP. Insert a remote safe oven thermometer in the thigh, without touching the bone and continue cooking until the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
  11. Remove turkey from oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.
  12. Carve & Enjoy!


Add about 13 minutes cooking time per additional pound of turkey over 16 pounds.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1/2 pound per person

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 446Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 251mgSodium: 256mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 65g
Nutritional data is not always correct.

Now that you have figured out the best way to cook a turkey, here are some more options for delicious side dishes!

Easy Baked Camembert with Pomegranates and Hazelnuts

Pear & Pecan Salad with Parmesan Crisps

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts

Pepper Jack Mashed Potatoes

Delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake

Have you tried cooking a turkey like this? I’d love to hear!


Visiting the Madison County Bridges & More Fun in Winterset Iowa!

Winterset, Iowa is a quintessential Iowa town you won’t regret exploring. Whether you’re a native Iowan ready to explore the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway, or looking to check Iowa off your 50 state tour, you need to head to Winterset. Many people visit for the beautiful Madison County bridges, but Winterset offers much more!

cedar bridge, winterset iowa

Many thanks to the Madison County Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring this post.

           Visiting the Madison County Bridges & More Fun in Winterset Iowa!

I’m always surprised when people tell me they’ve never been to Iowa. I suppose it’s not a state high on most people’s travel bucket list, but it does have quite a few redeeming qualities and some of the nicest people you will meet, if I do say so myself. 

Since I live in Iowa, I just take for granted that North Dakota is the last state people visit, but I suppose Iowa might be one of the last as well. 

But the truth is, there are so many wonderful places to visit in Iowa – Winterset and the Madison County Bridges are just the tip of the iceberg! Full of history, a charming downtown square, delicious restaurants, and plenty of luxurious accommodations: these are just a few of the reasons your entire family will be excited to explore Madison County, Iowa!  

bridges of Madison county movie specs

History of the Movie – The Bridges of Madison County

Many people are familiar with the movie that helped put Winterset on the map. Based on the best selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County was filmed entirely in Winterset in 1995 (except for one scene that was filmed in Adel, Iowa!). The story is set in 1965 when professional photographer Robert Kincaid, played by Clint Eastwood, travels to Winterset to photographic the iconic covered bridges for a National Geographic story. 

Kincaid meets Italian war bride Francesca Johnson, played by Meryl Streep, who is married to an Iowa farmer and lives in rural Madison County. While her husband and children are away, Kincaid and Johnson have a brief four-day love affair. The movie is a testament to true love and the need to also consider the implications of this love on other family members.

While the movie theme (let’s get real here, it’s adultery), might not be appropriate for younger kids, my kids still enjoyed visiting the bridges as part of our trip to Winterset. My two younger kids (ages 11 and 9)  know there’s a movie about the bridges that was filmed in the town, but they didn’t ask for specifics and we didn’t offer. 🙂

Hogback bridge covered bridges of madison county

How to get to the City of Winterset, Iowa

If you’d like to plan a trip to Winterset, it’s pretty easy to find. Just southwest of Des Moines, Winterset is easily accessible from both Interstate 80 and Interstate 35. From I-80, take US Highway 6 / 169  south for about 13 miles. From I-35, take County Highway G50 toward St. Charles and drive for about 13 miles to Winterset. 

At 40 minutes from Des Moines, 2 ½ hours from Kansas City, just under 2 hours from Omaha, and about 2 ½ hours from my house in Eastern Iowa, Madison County is the perfect location for a quick weekend getaway!john wayne drive winterset iowa

About The City of Winterset

Winterset is the seat of Madison County in rural Central Iowa. With a population of just over 5,000 people, it’s a quintessential Iowa farm town. Don’t let its small size fool you though! Winterset absolutely offers visitors plenty of fun: lovely farms, rolling hills, historic museums, delicious restaurants including several wineries and a cidery too, plus independently owned and operated stores and gift shops. 

In fact, Winterset won the “Outstanding Retail Experience” award at the 2019 Iowa Tourism Conference! Kids and adults alike will have plenty of fun in Winterset.

Holliwell covered bridge

Finding all of the Madison County Bridges

One of the biggest draws to Winterset is of course the covered bridges. And if you’re heading to Madison County, you will definitely want to see them all. While they do have similarities, they are different enough to warrant at least a quick stop at each one. 

Remember when families used to have time to go on weekend drives? How did life get so busy that we can’t do this anymore? Or maybe it’s just my current lot in life as a busy mom of four insanely busy kids. If you live in Iowa and haven’t explored the scenic byways, you really should make time to bring those weekend drives back! Iowa’s scenic byways are simply fantastic.

5 of the madison county covered bridges

Here’s a map with locations of the Madison County Covered Bridges

A. Imes Bridge – 500 E Main St, St Charles

B. Holliwell Bridge – 123 Holliwell Bridge Rd, Winterset

C. Cutler-Donahoe Bridge – 300 S 9th St, Winterset

D. Cedar Bridge – 1874 Nature Ct, Winterset

E. Hogback Bridge – 1879 Hogback Bridge Rd, Winterset

F. Roseman Covered Bridge – 2451 Elder Berry Ave, Winterset

G. Town of Winterset

inside the roseman bridge madison county bridges

Facts about the Covered Bridges of Madison County

Many people wonder why the bridges were covered in the first place and the answer is pretty simple. It was to protect the large flooring timbers from the weather. They were the most expensive parts of the bridges so county officials covered them out of practicality and frugality. 

Originally, there were 19 covered bridges in Madison County but only six are left today. All six remaining bridges are within an 11-mile radius of Winterset and they are all part of the beautiful Covered Bridges Scenic Byway

Some of the bridges are in their original location, and others have been moved. You can still drive across one bridge, the Cedar Bridge, and I recommend that you do!

The Cedar Bridge was originally built in 1883, but has twice been the victim of arson. It was recently rebuilt for the second time and now contains a state-of-the-art fire suppression system which you can see in my video. Itt;s all of those the yellow canisters hanging from the ceiling of the bridge.

Winterset Iowa Hotels & Beautiful Places to Stay

Winterset has many types of places to stay including The Cobblestone Inn & Suites, the Covered Bridge Inn, and several Bed and Breakfasts and Airbnbs as well. We stayed at two different places and loved them both. 

harriet house airbnb winterset iowa

Harriet’s House Airbnb 

This lovely home is a completely remodeled 70s ranch that sleeps eight with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s situated on ten beautiful acres just north of town. Stroll through the gardens, check out the chickens, and enjoy the beautiful views of rolling hills. We loved our night at Harriet’s House! 

An Airbnb can be a great accommodation for families or larger groups who want kitchens and lots of room. New Airbnb guests get $40 off a $75 stay or $15 off a $50 stay credit when booking with my link!

judge lewis house b & b

Judge Lewis House B&B 

If you prefer to stay in the town of Winterset, check out the Judge Lewis House. With wonderful hosts, luxurious beds, delicious breakfast and an evening snack, you’ll be glad you did. We really enjoyed meeting hosts Kayla and Mark who accommodate kids as much as they do adults. My farm kids fell in love with the dog, the fainting goats who wouldn’t faint, and horses living in town at the Judge Lewis House.

Location: 1145 W Summit Street Winterset  | 515-462-5141 

john wayne table at the northside cafe

Restaurants in Winterset Iowa and Madison County

Bring your appetite and stretchy pants to Madison County because you’ll need it! We prefer to try out independently owned and operated restaurants when we’re on the road and here are a few places you’ll want to stop!

chicken fried steak at the northside cafe

Northside Cafe

There’s good reason the Northside Cafe was named one of Iowa’s 99 Restaurants to Try. Located on the downtown square and also featured in the Bridges of Madison County movie, this cafe features locally sourced from-scratch cooking by owner / chef Walter Jahncke and is known for its “creative twists on Iowa comfort food.”

We were treated to a wonderful meal at the cafe and loved everything we tried! Some of our favorites were the from-scratch onion rings, the homemade Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken Fried Steak, and the sinful Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte. Enjoy a meal at the long counter, or sit in the John Wayne booth. But whatever you do, don’t miss having a meal here!

Location: 61 East Jefferson Street Winterset | 515.462.1523

The Hare and Hound Earlham

The Hare & The Hound in Earlham 

Located in a restored historic building in the Bricker-Price Block, The Hare & The Hound serves quick-fired artisan pizzas, sandwiches, salads, homemade soups and more. They offer vegetarian and vegan options as well. 

dessert pizza cookie at the hound and the hare earlham iowa

It’s a family-friendly restaurant that my family really enjoyed. My kids say don’t miss the dessert cookies and I liked the shrimp scampi! The Dessert Monster Cookie topped with ice cream was probably the hit of the meal!

Location: 105 S. Chestnut Ave Earlham | 515-758-3980

Winterset Iowa Square

The Bakery Unlimited 

Located next to the theater on the old-fashioned square, you won’t want to miss stopping here! This cute, old-fashioned bakery features home baked donuts and delicious apple fritters made with apples hand picked from their own local apple trees! Make sure to stop in if you need a quick breakfast or snack. 

Location: 119 John Wayne Dr, Winterset | 515-462-2261

The Cellar 

Need a cup of coffee? Head to The Cellar. When I asked where to get coffee after buying donuts at The Bakery Unlimited, several people recommended The Cellar. We were not disappointed. Located just around the square, it was a quick walk and The Dark Side of the Farm Roast from Pammell Park Coffee Company was delicious!

Location: 111 South 1st Ave Winterset | 515-462-4776

A couple places that we didn’t get a chance to try, but would will – Covered Bridges Winery and the Winterset Cidery. If you like wine and hard apple cider, stop and see what you think! Then let me know. 🙂 

clark tower winterset iowa

What to do in Winterset Iowa and Madison County

Winterset City Park – Clark Tower and the Hedge Maze

The Winterset City Park is where you’ll find the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, Clark Tower, and the Hedge Maze. You can hike out to the Clark Tower or drive there if the weather is bad or there are mobility issues. 

Location: 330 South 9th Street, Winterset | 515-462-3258

Des Moines Skydivers

Is skydiving your jam? If so, head check out Des Moines Skydivers. Located at the Winterset-Madison County Airport right outside town, Des Moines Skydivers offer tandems, jump courses, and skydiving for experienced skydivers too. 

Location: 3405 N 8th Ave. Winterset | 515- 243-1711 

Pammel State Park

Located near Roseman Bridge, Pammell State Park is part of Travel Iowa’s 99 Parks campaign! Remember all the fun we had promoting that campaign this year? Dedicated in 1928, Pammel State Park is one of the oldest state parks in Iowa.

Head out to Pammel State Park for lovely hiking, geocaching, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, yurts, camping sites, some of the oldest oak trees in all of Iowa, and the only highway tunnel in Iowa, dug out of the limestone backbone!

Location: 1818 Pammel Park Rd, Winterset | 515 462-3536

piece works quilt shop winterset iowa

Courthouse Historic District Award Winning Shops

We did not get to explore the stores that much, (to my chagrin) but I am excited to go back to Winterset to explore them soon! Piece Works Quilt Shop in the Winterset Historic District was named one of the top ten quilt stores in the entire US in 2018 by the Quilt Sampler magazine. 

And I have heard a lot about the 1st Avenue Collective, an artisan market in Winteret’s old jail house! From flowers, to fibers, cloth, clothes, gifts, and more, you’re sure to find something in an independently owned shop in Winterset.

Learn more about the shops here.

John Wayne Museum

Did you know John Wayne was born in Winterset and that Winterset is the home of the only museum solely dedicated to him? Located next to the home where John Wayne was born, this 6100 square foot museum is filled with artifacts all about John Wayne, and over 1 million people have visited since it opened in 1982.

Location: 205 S. John Wayne Dr. Winterset | 515-462-1044

Iowa Quilt Museum

If you’re a quilter, you’ll have to stop at the Iowa Quilt Museum. Located on the Square in the old JC Penney store, the Iowa Quilt Museum showcases the craft of quilt making. If you are lucky enough to have a quilt hand sewn by your grandmother or great-grandmother, you will know what a special gift it is.

Location: 68 E. Court Avenue Winterset | 515-462-5988

chasing chickens at the madison county historical complex

Madison County Historical Complex

If you enjoy Living History Farms in Des Moines, you will also enjoy The Madison County Historical Complex. The museum reminded us a little of House on the Rock in Wisconsin (but a much, much smaller scale). It just kept going and going and included lovely collections of fossils, Native American artifacts, early farm equipment and household items, clothing, vehicles and more. 

Don’t let the word “museum” scare you from visiting with your kids, though. It’s so much more! We really enjoyed walking around a few of the 18 acres this complex encompasses. It includes 14 historic buildings that have been moved there and restored. Other fun exhibits included the 1856 Bevington-Kaser House, the brick two seater toilet house, and the barn complete with broody chickens and chicks! 

Location: 815 S 2nd Ave Winterset | 515-462-2134 

madison county bridges - roseman bridge

Covered Bridge Festival

Every second full weekend in October, Winterset hosts the annual two-day Covered Bridge Festival with live music, a parade, old-time demonstrations, arts and crafts, a food festival, car show, bridge tours and more. 2019 marked the 50th Anniversary of this festival! Bookmark this page or call the Madison County Chamber of Commerce to learn more about next year’s festival. 

Madison County Chamber of Commerce: 73 Jefferson St Winterset | 515-462-1185

inside the corn maze at the pumpkin ranch

The Pumpkin Ranch 

If you visit Winterset in the fall, you’ll have to go to The Pumpkin Ranch, open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in September and October. Your admission fee includes a hayrack ride to the fields to choose your pumpkin or gourd (there is an additional charge), 10-acre Mega Corn Maze offering checkpoints and a mystery game, jump pillow for big kids and a little kids area for the tykes. 

girls sliding in fall

Zip lines and two tunnel slides await your arrival, as well as my kids’ favorite: Warrior Ninja Course! The loved this course so much that our family was inspired to build our own! The pumpkin patch also offers horseback rides and a petting zoo on  special dates, so you’ll want to check The Pumpkin Patch’s Facebook page.

Location: 2425 Hiatt Apple Trail Winterset |  515-490-9281

simple life farms goats in the barn

Simple Life Farms

If you’re into goats, goat milk beauty products, and goat yoga, make sure to stop by Simple Life Farms! This working goat farm makes award winning aged raw goat cheese as well as goat milk soaps and lotions which they sell online and also at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market. Check out their event calendar for goat yoga dates! Their farm store is open Saturdays from 12 pm – 5 pm, or other days by appointment.

Location: 2945 220th Street, Winterset | 515-720-1378

bison in the field at bare bison ranch

Bare Bison Ranch

We were excited to take a tour of Bare Bison Ranch, but sadly the weather did not cooperate. Nonetheless, we stopped by to see bison in the fields. They are such majestic creatures that it was fun just to stop by to say hi and tour their beautiful event space and gift shop. We’d love to head back one day for the farm tour in their side by sides. Learn more about their tours and schedule your own Bare Bison Ranch tour here

Location: 1374 Badger Creek Rd Van Meter, IA | 515.351.9730

There you have it! Where to eat, where to stay, what to see, and how to find the bridges on your next trip to Madison County, Iowa! I hope you’re inspired to make the trip!

Have you been to Winterset, Iowa? Are you planning to go? What are you most excited to see and do there? And if you made it through the whole post,  THANK YOU! Please leave me a comment and share this post with a friend who may be interested too! 

If you’re looking for more amazing places to visit in Iowa, go here!

Unwind in Charles City at the Red Cedar Lodge

America Gothic House in Eldon

Visit the I-80 Trucking Museum and Rest Stop

Pella Tulip Time – Holland in Iowa

Get out and Explore Iowa’s 99 Parks

Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter Made Easy with 8 Quick Fixes

 Wondering how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity? These easy tips on keeping chickens warm in winter are a must read. Quick and easy changes to the winter chicken coop are helpful with or without electricity.

Wondering how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity? These easy tips on keeping chickens warm in winter are a must read. Quick and easy changes to the winter chicken coop are helpful with or without electricity.

Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter Made Easy with 8 Quick Fixes

While a lot of what I’ve read says chickens will be fine in the cold, I’ve learned that precautions are necessary in brutally cold temperatures to keep your chickens safe, warm, and healthy. It can be daunting, but these easy changes to the winter chicken coop are really helpful for keeping chickens warm in winter. If you need quick ideas for how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity (and also with electricity if you desire), then keep reading!

This is the fourth winter we’ve been raising chickens in Eastern Iowa. The first winter was brutally cold. The next two winters were much more mild, but this winter is shaping up to be another brutally cold winter. My poor chickens need all the help they can get, so we made many quick changes to our winter chicken coop and have found effective ways to keep our chickens warm, happy, and healthy this winter.

Unprotected chicken coop vulnerable to brutal winds

Our unprotected chicken coop vulnerable to brutal winds.

Our chicken coop was a seriously drafty old two stall hog shed that my husband drug out to our homestead when we first got chickens. I love the way it looks, but it’s not very practical during the winter. It’s not insulated and it’s full of holes that the wind just whips right through. The result is frostbit chickens and in extreme cases, dead chickens as well.

While coop ventilation is a crucial aspect of chicken health, too much wind in the winter has been deadly on some of my birds. It’s horrible to find backyard chickens frozen to death inside their chicken coop! Keeping chickens warm in winter became a huge priority this year with our brutally cold temperatures. Here are several ways you can keep chickens warm in winter too!

1.Winter Chicken Coop Location

The location of your chicken coop can impact how easy it is to keep your chickens warm in the winter. The first major change we made to our winter chicken coop, was to move it to a more protected area to help keep the bitter northwest winds from slicing right through it. If you’re able to move your chicken coop to a more protected location, that’s the first step I recommend taking.

2. Deep Litter Method

Another thing you must do to keep chickens warm in winter is to make sure you have deep litter inside the coop. A deep, loose litter will be better insulation for your chickens than a compact litter and will help keep them warmer. Start with a 3- to 4-inch layer of clean litter, such as dry grass clippings, leaves, straw, or wood shavings and add fresh litter each week. If you add a few scratch grains in the coop every day, the chickens will scratch and peck and help the layers decompose. In early spring, clean the majority of the litter out – it makes great fertilizer for your organic garden! You can read more about deep litter at Mother Earth News.

How to Keep Chickens Warm in Winter Without Electricity

This winter we have also found a few additional ways for heating a chicken coop without electricity. Here are a few of the things we did to help. Keeping chickens warm in winter takes a bit of planning, but it is possible, even if your chicken coop does not have electricity.

3. Make the coop smaller

The first thing we did when cold weather set in was to make the coop smaller by closing off a portion of it with boards. We made sure to move roosting bars as necessary. Ideally, the ceiling will be within two feet of the roosting bars. You know heat rises, right? You probably also have noticed that your chickens roost together to help keep each other warm. We wanted to make sure that the chickens still had enough roosting bars inside the smaller space. Keeping the roosting bars close to the ceiling helps them get even more heat.

4. Double Check Roosting Bars

Chickens need to be able to cover their feet with their bodies to protect them from frostbite during winter. Double check that your roosting bars are wide enough. A 2×4 board is the ideal roosting bar because it allows the chickens to sleep flat-footed with their feet covered. Make sure the 4” side of the board is up so they can protect their feet.

5. Make the Nest Boxes Cozy

You can make the nesting boxes a little cozier by hanging curtains in front of them. I’ve always questioned the reason for chicken curtains, but they do help keep warm air in the boxes. Warmer boxes can help keep those fresh eggs from freezing – important to us chicken keepers in cold climates Also, filling the box with a little extra bedding will help too.

Wondering how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity? These easy tips on keeping chickens warm in winter are a must read. Quick and easy changes to the winter chicken coop are helpful with or without electricity.

6. Insulate the Coop

Your coop needs to have good ventilation to keep the chickens’ combs and wattles from getting frostbite, but it also needs insulation to keep it stay warm. Another easy way to keep chickens warm in winter is to add extra insulation. After we closed off a portion of the smaller winter chicken coop, we covered the boards (the outside of the boards)  with a bunch of moving blankets, tarps, and extra insulation foam boards we had on hand. 

If you don’t have any tarps or blankets to donate to the cause, you can always find some at Goodwill or other second hand shop. Just make sure your coop still has fresh air! It’s vitally important that your coop always has fresh air.

We’ve also used thick black plastic, empty feed bags, leftover foam insulation pieces, and spray foam to help insulate the coop.

straw bales insulating the winter chicken coop

As the temperature kept decreasing, we also added a lot of straw insulation to the outside of our drafty old coop to provide even more insulation. It’s just another barrier between our brutal winds and the chicken coop and an effective way to help keep as much heat as possible inside the coop.

Heating the Coop with Electricity

While many chicken owners strive to heat the chicken coop without electricity, sometimes we just have to add heat for our chickens. Chickens seem to suffer less in winter unless their coops are damp or drafty, but they still get cold. You can see by their behavior that they get cold! I’m a firm believer that no animal should be left to freeze if I can do things to help. 

When our temperatures drop under about 10 degrees and wind chills kick up to negative (-10 and colder), we turn on an electric heater. If you use an electric heat source, you do want to be careful as a shattered light bulb can cause a coop fire or harm a chicken. Consider a chicken heater or an infrared bulb instead of a glass heat lamp.

Winter Chicken Care

Winter Chicken Care 

Another crucial element to keeping chickens warm in winter has to do with winter chicken care. You’ll probably need to change the way you feed and water your chickens in the winter compared to how you tackle this chore in the summer.

7. Winter Chicken Feed

While my free range backyard chickens usually find plenty of food during warmer months, they need extra help with food in the winter when everything’s frozen or gone. They sure do have a hard time finding bugs in the winter! 

Make sure to feed your chickens a good quality chicken food a few times throughout the day and also at dusk to help them increase their body warmth at night. Cracked corn is a great winter supplement and source of energy, but it must not be all you feed your chickens. It’s not a complete source of nutrition.

Some chicken keepers really pamper their chickens in the winter by bringing them a warm mush to eat. It’s a great way to stimulate their appetites if it appears that they aren’t eating well and they really enjoy it!

8. Winter Chicken Waterer

Just as it’s important to keep chickens hydrated in the summer, it’s equally important in the winter. It’s actually easy for chickens to get dehydrated in the winter when the water freezes. To keep them hydrated, bring your chickens warm water twice a day if you don’t have a heated waterer to keep the water thawed. 

They’re most likely to drink at dawn and dusk. I’ve used a number of heated waterers, and by far my favorite is this plug in bucket. It does take electricity, but it’s so much easier to fill and clean than the bell type waterers.

If you liked this information on how to keep chickens warm in winter, please check out these posts too:

If you liked this information on how to keep chickens warm in winter, please check out these posts too:

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety)

How to Keep Your Outdoor Dogs Healthy this Winter

Rescue Chicks & Ducks (why not to buy live animals at Easter)

I’d love to hear your tips for how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity. What tips for keeping chickens warm in winter do you have that I didn’t share?

Wondering how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity? These easy tips on keeping chickens warm in winter are a must read. Quick and easy changes to the winter chicken coop are helpful with or without electricity.

German Pancakes Recipe Perfect for Breakfast, Brunch & Dinner!

Need a quick breakfast idea? This German Pancakes recipe has long been a staple in our house. We almost always have the ingredients on hand and my kids love it every time. If you’re looking for an easy recipe that’s perfect almost every time, try it!

german pancakes recipe

German Pancakes Recipe Perfect for Breakfast, Brunch & Dinner!

I was drawn to this recipe because it’s quick, easy, and frugal. You really only need eggs, milk, and flour to make these pancakes, though vanilla and salt make a nice addition too.

This recipe quickly became a family favorite.  My kids love watching the pancake puff up in the oven and they also love any excuse to eat pure maple syrup. When I first started serving this recipe, I made my own buttermilk syrup which was also super delicious! 

What is a German Pancake

I originally got the recipe for German pancakes from my dear friend Stacee. You may have heard of a Dutch baby pancake, and honestly, I think they’re pretty much the same thing. It’s kind of a custardy popover that we all love.

Making this recipe is really easy! Although I have shared it many times, I’ve  adapted the recipe somewhat as I learned a few things over the years. 

One thing I learned recently is that preheating the oven is not necessary! I’ve found they rise better when they are placed in a cold oven that slowly comes to temperature. So, don’t preheat your oven, and do use room temperature ingredients to get the most rise out of this recipe!

german pancakes with caramelized apples

How to Make German Pancakes

First, using warm melted butter in your pan is key as it helps them rise in the oven. I like to melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet over low heat while I whisk the eggs and prepare the other ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk 6 large eggs. I’ve seen recipes that call for fewer eggs, but using 6 eggs really gives this recipe a nice custardy texture. Mix in milk and pure vanilla extract too.

Since we have backyard chickens, ducks, and more who lay us eggs, we always have eggs on hand. Duck eggs are especially tasty in this recipe too, if you have them!

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. If you’d like to add a bit of sugar, you can, but I usually omit. Add about ⅔ of the egg mixture and whisk well to combine. Then add remaining egg mixture and whisk it in too, trying to get all the lumps out of the batter.

pouring the german pancake batter into the pan

Be careful pouring the batter in the hot pan you melted the butter in, place it on the bottom rack of your oven, and then turn your oven on and let it slowly heat to 375 degrees. Depending on how long it takes your oven to heat up, this recipe could take anywhere from 30-40 minutes to bake.

Once the pancake is really poofy and a lovely golden brown color, remove it from the oven. Cut into slices, top with powdered sugar, and serve warm with your choice of toppings.

Here are answers to a few questions people have asked me over the years about this recipe:

german pancakes with apples

Are German Pancakes really German?

Having spent almost ten years in Germany, I can tell you that I never had a recipe like this. German pancakes are pretty identical to Dutch baby pancakes – perhaps being called Dutch baby because of the similarity of Dutch to Deutsch (the German word for German). 

Upon research, I learned that German Pancakes originated in the 1900s in a restaurant in Seattle called Manca’s Cafe. Wikipedia has the story, if you’d like to read more about it.

Can you freeze German Pancakes?

You can absolutely freeze German pancakes. They don’t normally last that long at my house, but feel free to wrap and freeze. When you want to eat them, just pop them on a baking tray and bake at 350 until heated through. Of, you can heat them in the microwave if you prefer.

Why won’t my German Pancakes rise?

If you’re having trouble getting your German pancakes to rise, make sure that your ingredients are at room temperature before baking (including your eggs). Whisk the eggs before combining with other ingredients, and make sure your batter is well mixed before pouring it into the baking dish.

Unfortunately, whole wheat flour will not rise as nicely as all-purpose flour. I’ve also found that melting the butter ahead of time produces a better rise than simply dotting a 9×13 pan with cold butter and then adding the batter.

how to tell when german pancake is done

How to know when the German Pancakes are done

Your German pancakes will be done when they are really poofy and nicely golden brown. Sometimes you may see melted butter on the top, and that’s ok, as long as the center is set. Do know that they will deflate pretty quickly when you take them out of the oven – perfectly normal!

custardy german pancake with caramelized apples

What to put on German Pancakes

Lots of toppings are fabulous for this recipe! We love all of the following toppings:

  • Maple syrup
  • Homemade buttermilk syrup
  • Jelly
  • Sweet apples
  • Berries, fresh lemon juice, whipped cream
  • Nutella
  • Pie filling
  • Apple sauce

What to serve with German Pancakes

We generally serve our German pancakes with fruit like the caramelized apples in the photo above, but bacon always makes everything taste better, amiright? 

Yield: 8 slices

German Pancakes

German Pancakes

A deliciously perfect recipe for breaksfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner! It also makes a great after-school snack. Baked "pancake" - custardy popover.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted in an oven safe skilled over medium-low heat
  • 6 eggs, whisked
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Melt butter in cast iron skilled over medium-low heat. Remove from heat.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, them combine with milk and vanilla extract.
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  4. Carefully pour 2/3 of egg mixture into dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the remaining egg mixture and whisk until lumps are gone.
  5. Pour mixture in cast iron skillet over the butter and place in a cold oven.
  6. Turn the oven on to 375 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes, or until the pancake is very poofy and golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven, cut into slices, and serve with toppings of choice.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 235Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 155mgSodium: 244mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 9g
Nutritional data is not always correct.

Want some more quick breakfast ideas? You might like these posts too:

Leftover Eggnogg Waffles

Almond Milk Pancakes

Egg casserole that’s not mushy

10 Amazing Pumpkin Patches In Iowa

Fall means all things pumpkin, apples, pie, and spices. To help you make the most of your fall, we’ve put together a list of 10 amazing Pumpkin Patches in Iowa! You won’t want to miss any of them, so start planning your fall trips now.

Pumpkin Patches to visit in Iowa

10 Amazing Pumpkin Patches In Iowa

Finding the perfect pumpkin is a family affair. The days of  running to the store and picking up a pumpkin to carve for the Halloween season have passed. Instead, take a trip to the local pumpkin patch for a fun way to spend quality time with family and friends!

Pumpkin patches know they need to go above and beyond to make visits memorable. Instead of just finding pumpkins, we can look forward to attractions beyond taking the hayrack ride to the field as we search for that perfect jack-0-lantern canvas. Pumpkin patches offer sand boxes of corn for kids to play in, corn mazes that challenge our navigational skills without the help of GPS, as well as slides, swings and even haunted houses.

happy pumpkin season sign

Iowa has dozens of fantastic pumpkin patches, each providing a wonderful experience for families. Here are 10 family-friendly pumpkin patches around Iowa where you’ll not only find a great pumpkin, but the family will have a grand ol’ time too!

1. Buffalo Pumpkin Patch in Buffalo

Buffalo Pumpkin Patch has called the Kurtz farm in Buffalo home for 20 fall seasons. Open daily from early September through October, admission is free. However, you’ll need to purchase tickets for each activity in which you want to participate, including a hayrack ride to the pumpkin field, playing in a straw castle, as well as finding your way through a sorghum maze. Additionally, you can play laser tag or maintain your farm roots by milking a goat.

2. Colony Pumpkin Patch in North Liberty

Colony Pumpkin Patch in North Liberty offers a variety of fall fun for the family. Opening mid September and running through October, your family can enjoy the season with a hayrack ride to a pumpkin field to choose the perfect gourd. Admission includes the hayrack ride (weekends only), access to a 10-acre corn maze, as well as additional play attractions, such as a corn box and low zipline. In addition to the pumpkin patch, you can take on a zombie invasion (Friday and Saturday beginning Sept. 28). Purchase an add-on and ride a transport that takes you through the zombie field where you fire mounted paintball guns at zombie characters.

3. Pinter’s in Decorah

More than “just” a pumpkin patch, Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins in Decorah is “agri-tainment.” Open weekends between Sept. 21 and Oct. 27, visitors can enjoy a tractor ride to the field and choose a pumpkin. Pinter’s also invites visitors to take a trip through its giant corn maze. Play areas include an inflatable jumping pillow, pedal go-karts, a big slide and an old-fashioned game of tetherball. Enjoy concessions offering Pinter’s famous baked goods and drinks.

Harvestville Farm Pumpkin patches Iowa

4. Harvestville Farm in Donnellson

Open from spring to the holiday season, Harvestville offers more than 40 acres of pumpkins and other gourds on weekends mid-September through the last weekend of October. Along with the pumpkins, you can take a stroll through a 10-acre corn maze or enjoy fun and games, such as a giant corn pool, tire pyramid and bean bag toss. Enjoy fresh apple cider treats, including “dipkins” donut balls.

5. The Pumpkin Ranch in Winterset

Winterset is home to more than covered bridges. The Pumpkin Ranch opens its doors to visitors Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays Sept. 20-Oct. 27. Your admission fee includes a hayrack ride to the fields to choose your pumpkin or gourd (there is an additional charge), 10-acre corn maze offering checkpoints and a mystery game, jump pillow for big kids and a jump kids for the tykes. Zip lines and two tunnel slides await your arrival, as well as an obstacle course and toddler town. The pumpkin patch also offers horseback rides and a petting zoo on special dates, so you’ll want to check The Pumpkin Patch’s Facebook page.

6. McCurdy’s Pumpkins in Atlantic

Open weekends Sept. 22 through Oct. 28, McCurdy’s Pumpkins in Atlantic invites you to take a tractor ride to the field to pick out your favorite pumpkin among the dozen or so types available. While not large, a two-acre corn maze offers family fun. Your group will enjoy the play area, which includes a corn pool.

7. Pioneer Trail Orchard and Pumpkin Patch in Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs Pioneer Trail Orchard and Pumpkin Patch has been greeting visitors for nearly a quarter century. Open weeknights and both weekend days Sept. 28 through Oct. 31, Pioneer encourages you to take a hayrack ride to find your favorite pumpkin or gourd. Your family and friends can also participate in a variety of attractions, including searching for riches in the Gold Barn, finding your way through the maze in the Dark Barn and jumping around the hay pit. With Halloween around the corner, you can also visit the haunted farm house (for older children and adults) or the child-friendly haunted barn.

8. Scarecrow Farm in Lawton

Scarecrow Farm in Lawton is about a 15-minute drive from Sioux City and provides a fun visit for the whole family. Enjoying a hayrack ride around the farm, you have several options for selecting your pumpkin, gourd or squash. Open weekends in September beginning Sept. 14 before opening daily all of October, your visit also includes playing in a five-acre corn maze, corn-filled play box, or on large tire swings. You can also play on a 70-foot pirate ship with cannons and nets. You may also want to check out the singing chicken show.

9. Geisler Farms in Bondurant

While it doesn’t provide a wagon ride around the pumpkin field, Geisler Fars does the field harvesting for you, and offers the pumpkins near the entrance. This saves you time and allows you to take advantage of the fun and games between Sept. 1 and Oct. 28. The corn maze is a major attraction, offering a professionally-designed route that can take up to an hour to complete.

You’ll receive a map at the beginning of the 10-acre maze, which includes 20 fence posts. Each post contains a number and has a paper punch design. You can get a coupon for a slice of pizza with a completed map. You can also enjoy the fun zone, which includes 20 family-friendly attractions, such as a giant slide, jump pad, a tractor tire swing and a corn hole toss game.

10. Enchanted Acres near Sheffield

This fun Pumpkin Patch in Iowa offers fun pumpkin adventures Friday-Sunday Sept. 14 through Oct. 28. You can enjoy a hayrack ride to the pumpkin patch or you can choose from dozens of pre-picked gourds. The pumpkin patch also provides entertainment options, including a corn pool dig, a pumpkin cannon and a kids playground. You can also meet and pet goats, rabbits and more animals in the petting zoo.

Have you been to any of these pumpkin patches? Which was your favorite?

For more Fall Fun in Iowa, check out these posts:

American Gothic House & Things to do in Eldon, Iowa

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum at I-80 Truck Stop

Historic Hills Scenic Byway in the Fall

Fall Harvest Tour in Franklin County, Iowa

Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns

Easy Ways to Decorate Pumpkins without Carving

Healthy & Fun Snacks for the Perfect Halloween Party

10 Amazing Pumpkin Patches to Visit in Iowa