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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
  • 3 tablespoon sugar, if desired (I usually omit)
  • toppings of choice!


  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: 235 Total Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 155mg Sodium: 244mg Carbohydrates: 28g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 5g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 9g
Nutritional data is not always correct.

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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

50+ Fall Bucket List Ideas Every Family Should Try

It’s fun watching the weather change. While it’s back to hot and humid out here in Eastern Iowa, I KNOW the weather will change. Soon, we’ll be enjoying crisp fall air, falling leaves, and apple pies.

Fall Bucket List Ideas Every Family Should Try

We’re making fall goals this year to make sure we do some fun things with the kiddos. It’s so easy to get stuck in the rat race and forget to enjoy life. If you need inspiration for fun fall activities, here’s a long list of ideas you should accomplish this fall. 

50+ Fall Bucket List Ideas Every Family Should Try

    • Go to a pumpkin patch with your family. If you’re in Iowa and need recommendations, here are some of our favorites! 
    • Go apple picking – again, here are some great apple orchards to visit around Iowa.
    • How about a weekend drive in the crisp air to check out the fall leaves? It looks like peak fall color will be delayed to October for much of the US this year, but be sure to hit the road soon! 
    • Make a fall recipe using pumpkins or apples, like these delicious pumpkin scones.
    • Check for fall activities at a local county park! Need inspiration in Iowa? Here’s a post with lots of ideas.
    • Ask your kids if they’d like to help plant spring flowering bulbs. Let them pick out some beautiful flowers they might like to help plant!Rake a pile of leaves and then jump in it with the entire family.

Harvestville Farm Pumpkin patches Iowa

  • Go to your local high school football game.
  • Tailgate in your garage.
  • Have friends over for breakfast.
  • Create a fall scape on your front porch using pumpkins and mums. Then keep those mums looking great with these tips.
  • Get lost in a corn maze!
  • Buy a pie pumpkin and make a homemade pumpkin pie from scratch.

fall foliage hike at wild cat den

  • Leave the cell phones at home and go on a nature walk together as a family.
  • Host a bonfire and eat s’mores.
  • Make hot chocolate over a campfire.
  • Pop popcorn the old-fashioned way – on your stove or over a campfire.
  • Go on a hay rack ride. 
  • Enjoy a fall themed drink like pumpkin spice lattes, hot apple cider, or a local fall beer brew.

halloween costumes at goodwill

  • Try on Halloween Costumes just for the fun of it. If you get really crazy, make your own costumes while you’re at it.
  • Gather pine cones and acorns. Fill mason jars and make a pretty fall tablescape for your home.
  • Read the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert and make your own leaf art – together as a family.
  • Go to one last farmer’s market and buy a new fall squash to cook for dinner.
  • Find some spooky stories and tell ghost stories at dark.
  • Go outside after dark and look at the stars. Compare them to the summer stars and see if you notice a difference!

Hotel Transylvania 3 Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns

  • Carve a pumpkin. If you don’t want to use knives, here are several fun non-carving pumpkin decorating ideas too!
  • Save the pumpkin seeds and roast them in your oven.
  • Decide on one homemade gift idea for Christmas and get a jump start on your gift ideas.
  • Have a dance party and dance to the Monster Mash.
  • Go geocaching.
  • Pull out a map and head to a town nearby that you’ve never been to before.

family photo in old barn

  • Take a family photo among the changing leaves.
  • Make a wreath out of sticks.
  • Watch a family friendly movie – Ghost Busters, Harry Potter, Hocus Pocus, The Addams Family. What would you add?
  • Make a cornhusk doll.
  • Complain about daylight savings time. LOL
  • Collect leaves and make leaf prints by painting the leaves and pressing them Host a on paper.

  • Make a scarecrow.
  • Play flashlight tag outside.
  • Learn about the Day of the Dead and watch Coco to celebrate.
  • Think of something fun trick for Halloween and then make sure to demonstrate it when you go trick or treating.
  • Visit a haunted house and get scared out of your mind (or as much as you can handle)
  • Make (or just eat) candy apples.

happy pumpkin season sign

    • Bob for apples
    • Find a fall festival to attend – balloon festival, renaissance fair etc.
    • Gather food for the local food bank.
    • Start a gratitude jar with your family.
    • Plant radishes in a pot and harvest before winter! Here are several ideas for quick growing fall plants you can still harvest before winter!
    • Host a Harvest Share Party and invite friends to share and trade their bounty.
    • Eat a candle-lit harvest themed meal outside.
    • Bake family deserts while making a scrapbook of the recipe and its history in your family.
    • As a family, reflect on the most fun fall activities and create a winter bucket list too!  

Creating a fall bucket list is a great way to stay connected as a family, learn about the changing seasons, and get outdoors off electronics. What fun fall activities would you add to our list?

Fun Things to Do in Panama City Beach, Florida with (& without) Teens!

Visiting Shell Island, jet ski rentals, airboat rides, and swimming with dolphins are just a few fun things to do in Panama City Beach, Florida! Here’s info on it all and our favorite Panama City Beach Restaurants you will enjoy with (and without) your teens!

panama city beach florida

SimplifyLiveLove occasionally receives complimentary products, hosted travel, and/or compensation related to the content shared here. This story may contain affiliate links which means we receive a small commission on your purchase.

Fun Things to Do in Panama City Beach, Florida with (& without) Teens!

Last fall I was invited to visit Panama City Beach with one of my teenagers for a Real.FUN.Thrills press trip. The two of us hadn’t gone anywhere on our own since she was a toddler and when I asked her if she would like to go, she was 100% ready!

Shell Island at St. Andrews St Park

As winter grabs a hold of us here in Eastern Iowa, I am thinking how warm it was in Florida and all the fun things we did. I’m ready to go back! Here were just a few of the fun things Anna and I were able to do in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Shell Island Panama City Beach

Shell Island in Panama City Beach is a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay. Part of  St. Andrews State Park (the most visited state park in Florida), it’s completely undeveloped and absolutely stunning!

shell island panama city beach

There are no concession stands, restrooms, picnic tables, trash cans etc to spoil your views, so make sure you take everything you need when you visit this beautiful island. And don’t forget to take your garbage with you when you leave.

playing in the water at shell island

To get to Shell Island, you’ll have to take some sort of water craft as it is not accessible by car.  We took the Bay Point Lady boat shuttle from the Sheraton Bay Point Resort where we stayed.

Learn more about Shell Island by clicking here.

Adventures at Sea jet ski rentals Panama City Beach

Jet Ski Rentals Panama City Beach

Not only did we take the resort shuttle to Shell Island, but we also drove there on jet skis one day, which ranks right up there as one of more terrifying things I’ve done. Marine Family Go-Cart Rules stipulate that once you step on the gas, you can’t let off, you see. No matter what, keep on the gas.

Adventures at Sea jet ski rentals Panama City Beach jetskis

When the jet ski rental people told us to hit it and go, I listened. In retrospect, that might not have been the best course of action since this was really my first time on a jet ski in the ocean. We did not tip but it was very bumpy, and I have to admit that more than once I feared for my life. After we got to Shell Island my screaming teenager (who clearly also feared for her life) said she’d find her own ride back. And she did. You know what – the ride back to the marina was blissfully quiet and not nearly as choppy. LOL!

Shell Island from jet skis

And just look at the views from Shell Island! Learn more about Adventures at Sea jet ski rentals in Panama City Beach here.

Airboat Rides Panama City Beach wild thang airboat tours

Airboat Rides Panama City Beach

While Anna’s favorite part of the trip was playing at Shell Island with her new best friends, my favorite part was the airboat ride. I loved can’t tell you how much I enjoyed skipping over the water and touring the West Bay Marshes with Wild Thang Airboat Tours.

wild thang airboat tours panama city beach florida

Our knowledgeable guide taught us a lot about the marsh ecosystem as he pointed out birds, an Osprey nest in a power pole, and took us on an alligator hunt. He was as entertaining as he was knowledgeable and we really enjoyed our first airboat ride!

West Bay Marshes Panama City Beach

Ride the SkyWheel Ferris Wheel at Pier Park

Pirates of the High Seas Fest at Pier Park in Panama City Beach

We happened to be in Panama City Beach during Columbus Day weekend and were super excited to attend the Pirates of the High Seas Fest at Pier Park. Featuring all sorts of pirates, parades, fireworks, live music, and more, you have to go if you’re PCB at the right time!

SkyWheel Ferris Wheel at Pier Park in Panama City Beach

While we were at Pier Park for the pirate parade, we decided to take a ride on the SkyWheel Ferris Wheel for a lovely view of the sunset! The ferris wheel is not for the faint of heart as you’ll ride 200 feet up in an enclosed gondola. The stunning views of Panama City Beach are totally worth it though!

Swim with Dolphins Panama City Beach

Swim with Dolphins Panama City Beach

Another very amazing experience we had on our press trip to Panama City Beach was a dolphin encounter at Gulf World. You can swim with dolphins, penguins, harbor seals and stingrays at Gulf World. They also have educational shows featuring dolphins, sea lions, tropical birds and more, indoor and outdoor exhibits with a variety of animals, and a pool where you can touch and feed stingrays.

petting the dolphins Gulf World Marine Park Panama City Beach

As part of a small group, we participated in the Dolphin Encounter where we touched, kissed, and hugged a dolphin. Anna really loved this experience – it was one of her favorite activities on the trip.

parrot at Gulf World Panama City Beach

Learn how to swim with dolphins in Panama City Beach here.

Our Favorite Panama City Beach Restaurants

Of course, you’ll also have to eat! Fortunately, you don’t have to look far for delicious places to eat in Panama City Beach! We liked everywhere we visited – from popular local spots to more upscale seafood restaurants. Here are a few of the Panama City Beach restaurants we really enjoyed.

Andy’s Flour Power

Andy’s Flour Power was voted the best cafe and brunch spot in Panama City Beach for good reason!.Featuring pastries, omelets, cake, live jazz and more, we all really loved this stop. If you go, make sure to try the Hummingbird Cake. I’ve never had it before and it was oh-so good. Made pineapple, banana, pecan, and cream cheese frosting. I suggest going with a group and trying a lot!

Liza’s Kitchen Panama City Beach

Liza’s Kitchen

Another favorite local breakfast place, Liza’s Kitchen doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s located in a strip mall but don’t let that deter you! I can personally recommend the Hippie Hash, and if you like eggs benedict, breakfast sammies, and homemade biscuits, they serve all that up too!

Thomas Donut & Snack Shop PCB

Thomas Donut & Snack Shop

Sadly, we didn’t get to try the donuts at Thomas Donut & Snack Shop (located right off the beach at Laguna Beach)- but if the line was any indication of how good these donuts are, I highly recommend that you go. Several of my Iowa friends mentioned to me that they always stop there when they go to Panama City Beach, so I’m going to go ahead and recommend it! If you’ve been let me know what you thought!

Finn's Island Style Grub

Finn’s Island Style Grub

Finn’s Island Style Grub was really one of my favorite places to eat in Panama City Beach. Another unassuming restaurant, Finn’s has a huge outdoor patio and more a food truck vibe. Featuring tacos, bowls, wraps, and salads, my favorite was the ahi tuna tacos! And the ceviche was lovely too.

Finn's Island Style Grub PCB

Next door was gift shop with some great souvenirs I’m still kicking myself for not buying and a coffee shop that also sold smoothies and kombucha on tap! If you end up with a sunburn, we found a great sunburn spray called Solar Recovery Hydrating Mist. Several people in our group were quite red and were thrilled to have found this spray and the instant relief it provided.

The Grand Marlin Panama City Beach

The Grand Marlin

If you’re looking for a fancier meal, The Grand Marlin will not disappoint. Don’t worry – it’s still a casual atmosphere, but the most fancy of any of the spots I’ve mentioned here. We had a variety of food at the Gran Marlin from oysters to Grouper and local Red Snapper. We were told they also have beautiful views of the Florida sunset, but we were too late to see it, sadly.

Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grille

Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill

Runaway Island Beach Bar was the last place we ate before heading home. Located right on the beach, it’s a lovely beach bar and grill. The food was fine, but I think the bigger reason to go here is for the amazing atmosphere! It’s not that often that we get to eat with such beautiful views of the ocean!!

With all of these fun things to do and delicious places to eat, it’s easy to see why Panama City Beach is a favorite Florida getaway destination. I’d love to hear you favorites about the area too!

Sheraton Bay Point Resort Panama City Florida



7 Fast Growing Fall Vegetables to Plant Before Winter

Growing a fall vegetable garden is a great way to keep on enjoying fresh produce during cold weather. Here are 7 fast growing fall vegetables to plant before winter plus must know tips for growing the best fall garden yet!

radish bouquet - quick growing fall vegetables

7 Fast Growing Fall Vegetables to Plant Before Winter

Normally, I am done with gardening by the time fall rolls around. After so much work in the heat, killing all the bugs, and then all preserving all the summer garden bounty, I’m ready to take a break from garden tasks.

This year, however, I did not get much of a summer harvest. From the super cold and wet spring, to the hot and dry July, but mostly because my new geese and turkeys just ate everything they could, I got pretty much nothing other than herbs, potatoes, and garlic. 

This year, it’s time to finally grow fall crops! Fall is a lovely time to grow food.There are fewer garden pests to worry about and cooler weather is much nicer to work in outside compared to the heat of the summer.

The only negative to fall gardening is that you are limited in what you can grow. As fall comes along, the temperatures get cooler and the diminishing sunlight causes summer plants to slow down their growth making the summer crops start to wind down. 

Summer plants that need a long time to mature are not possible to grow in the fall garden, but that doesn’t mean gardening has to end!

Thankfully, there are some quick growing fall garden vegetables you can grow during fall and harvest just before winter. By choosing plant varieties with fast days to maturity, you can still sow seeds in the late summer or early fall for lovely and delicious fall harvests.

covered raised garden bed

How to Get Started on a Fall Garden

There are two main ways to grow a fall garden. You can plant seedlings or you can direct sow quick growing seeds. I find direct sowing seeds the easiest way to grow a fall garden, especially since I am a procrastinator and not usually prepared early enough in the season to plant seedlings.

The first thing you need to know as you consider cool season crops are your frost dates. Every gardener should know when to expect the first frost of the fall and when to expect the last frost in the spring. 

Of course, it’s impossible to predict with 100% accuracy when it will frost, but there are some established guidelines to follow. As the frost dates approach, keep an eye on the weather forecast. That way, you can cover any crops to protect them if you should happen to have frost outside the established dates.

Understanding Frost Dates

The frost dates for my zone 5 garden in Eastern Iowa are October 12 and April 22. I can be reasonably assured that we’ll have frost between those two dates. To calculate your own frost dates, head over to the Old Farmer’s Almanac and simply plug in your zip code.

For fall garden planting, it’s important that any vegetables you plant will be ready to harvest before the first frost, unless you plan to use row covers or cold frames. Using row covers or cold frames can extend you fall garden into a winter garden – and you might want to consider that exciting possibility! 

Knowing that frost is likely in my area around October 12, I’ll want to sow seeds with a quick 30 – 45 days to harvest if intend to start seeding in late August to early September. 

Using my approximate first date frost date of October 12, I can count backwards to determine the last possible planting date. For quick plants, I can continue to directly sow seeds with a 30-day maturity until around September 12. Your dates will change based on the first possible frost dates in your area.

Quick Growing Seeds to Sow Directly in Your Fall Garden

Fortunately, there are several options for seeds with quick growing times! Here are several of my favorite seeds to sow directly in the fall garden.


One of the easiest plants you can grow during this time of the year is arugula. This is a spicy green that will only require 30 days to harvest. You can use arugula for your hearty winter soups. I also love adding arugula to fresh salads.

Consider planting different varieties such as Dragon’s Tongue, Salad Rocket, and Wild Rocky. Make sure to harvest arugula before it flowers or it will get very bitter.

Bok Choy

Another plant that you can grow and harvest in 30 days is Bok Choy. During this time, you can also use the baby stage of the plant for cooking. 

You can use this for soups, salads, and stir-fry. Just make sure to snip the lower, older leaves so that the plants can continue to produce more. 

Depending on the variety of Bok Choy you choose, days to harvest can be anywhere from 30-60. A fun variety to try if you like colored vegetables is Dark Purple Leaf Bok Choy


To give a peppery flavor to your soups and salads, you can add some radishes. Thankfully, you can harvest radish in as little as 15- 30 days, or when the radish has grown to about an inch in diameter. 

The good news about growing radishes is that you can also eat the greens they produce. You can try Easter Egg, French Breakfast, Watermelon Mantanghong, and Cherry Belle varieties. I love this multi-pack of different radish varieties on Amazon!

Baby Carrots

Carrots are able to withstand even light frosts and some light snow. But you need to harvest them before the ground freezes. 

When planting baby carrots, make sure to choose the early maturing varieties like Little Finger, Thumbelina, and Tonda Di Parigi. These will be ready in around 60 days.


If you’re fond of eating salads, you’ll want to plant lettuce in your garden. The good news is that these plants mature within 30 days. 

You can choose from the many different leaf shapes and colors to include in your garden. The cooler weather can even intensify the reddish hues.

Consider Mesclun Mix and Oak Leaf Blend to make the most out of your plant. Lettuces are also excellent plants to keep growing under row covers or cold frames!


You can plant kale and see it ready to harvest in as little as 30 days. Kale makes a nice addition to a fall salad mix. Just remember to snip the bottom, older leaves so that the plant can continue producing more. 

Opt for Red Winter, Dwarf Blue Curled, and Redbor varieties. 


Spinach is also good for salads and winter soups. You can harvest this leafy green at the baby stage within 30 days. To get mature leaves, you’ll need about 45 days.

Try out Space, Tyee, and Bloomsdale varieties. 

Setting out Transplants 

If you can find fall seedlings at your local garden center, you can plant even more fall plants like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, swiss chard, and kohlrabi. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to find fall seedlings at my local garden center. I have seen them at the farmer’s market, though, so check there if you’d like to find seedlings!

It’s also important that broccoli and cabbage seedlings are set out before the temperature starts to cool or they won’t grow quickly enough to produce a crop. Usually the end of July is the deadline for setting out cabbage and broccoli transplants in my area.

lettuce seedling

Starting your own fall garden seedlings

You can also start your own seedlings at home, but that takes a little more time and effort. You’ll want to start those seeds 12 to 14 weeks before your first frost. Once they’re three weeks old, you can set them out in the garden on a cloudy day.

Using my first frost date of October 12, I would need to start seeds by early to mid July to have them ready for transplant. Honestly, that just never happens in my world! But if you have time to start your own seedlings, set a reminder to do that in the summer!

Other important fall gardening tasks

Not only is fall a great time to sow quick growing cool loving vegetables, it’s also time to do a few other important garden tasks.

You’ll want to plant garlic, shallots, and flowering bulbs for spring blooms in the fall.

Fall is also time to prep your garden garden for spring. If a raised bed needs repairs or attention, doing that in fall can make garden prep easier. It’s also a great time to cover your garden to kill off weeds or establish a new garden bed for spring! Read all about fall garden tasks here.

Now is the perfect time to start a new crop of easy to grow cool weather vegetables!  Make the most of your fall planting with these quick growing, cold tolerant vegetables. Now that you know how to grow a fall garden, do you think you might want to grow a winter garden too?

More Posts About Fall Gardening

Want more information on growing a fall garden? Here are several posts that might be helpful. From fall garden tasks to planting garlic, here's what you need to do in the fall garden.

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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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!