Growing up in a family of five kids, you can imagine the kind of chaos that embarking on our summer camping trip created.
As my mother frantically filled our industrial-sized cooler with enough hot dogs and baked beans to feed a small country, my siblings and I scurried about looking for lost swimsuits, fighting over beach toys, and trying to coax our stubborn dog into the back of our ancient Volkswagen van.
“Bus is leaving!” my Dad used to holler, honking the horn as we scrambled to get in - fishing poles sticking haphazardly out the windows, and our dog naughtily sneaking nibbles from the picnic basket. This chaotic routine greatly amused our neighbors, along with our inevitable return to the house to retrieve whatever beloved stuffed animal someone had forgotten – and just couldn’t do without.
You’d think this yearly circus we went through to go camping would have gotten tiresome, but it never did. To me, it signaled the long-awaited start of summer – but more importantly, it was a rare chance for my whole family to spend time together. Whether we were relaxing around the campfire, hunting for frogs in the lake, or playing card games, these moments are the ones I will always remember and cherish.
Whatever your own, fond recollections of summer may be, the truth is this time of year has a wonderful, effortless way of bringing us closer to the ones we love. In this spirit, American Family invites you and your family to join us for our 30 Days of Summer celebration.
Throughout the season, we’ll feature ideas for family fun and safety with our communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus. We’ll also offer opportunities for you to share your own summer experiences with us. Whether it’s catching fireflies, a day at the ball park, or waiting for the neighborhood ice cream truck, 30 Days of Summer seeks to celebrate and protect the little summer moments that can inspire lifelong memories.
Visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer celebration with your own comments, stories and pictures!
Ever since I called myself a “lazy gardener” earlier this spring, I’ve been wondering if the word “lazy” comes from the French “laissez faire,” or “deliberate abstention from direction or interference…” In my case, the less I have to interfere in my garden, the more time I have to prepare and eat the food from it.
Here are two more areas where I significantly decrease work, increase fun and grow more vegetables.
Some vegetables are harvested or die mid-summer. Succession planting can make sure your valuable garden space doesn’t go to waste for the rest of the season.
- Create a planting scheduled so you don’t forget to get those seeds in on time.
- Watch the maturity time on seed packets. It’s no fun planting 50-day beets 30 days before the first frost.
- Plant fast-growing plants near slower growing ones. For example, plant garlic (fast) near peppers (slower) - after your mid-July garlic harvest, the peppers will fill out and take up the empty space.
- In late July or early August, plant beets, carrots or radishes, all of which will grow before the first frost hits them.
- In September, plant lettuce.
- In October, plant garlic for harvest next season.
Water once a week, even when it’s dry:
- If your garden is well-mulched, plants only need water once a week. Take rain into consideration.
- When watering, soak the plant for 30 seconds to a minute per plant on a low to medium water flow. The point is to deeply water occasionally rather than shallow water frequently.
- Stick your fingers under the mulch, if it’s moist, your plants are happy – no need to water that day.
- Overwatering can drain soil fertility, cause erosion and in many cases, makes for unhappy plants.
- When watering, avoid wetting leaves or watering in the evening. Damp leaves lead to sunburn during the day, and fungal disease when damp overnight.
Editor's note: If you garden, consider taking the American Family Insurance Pledge to Plant a Row to Fight Hunger. Go to our Facebook page, take the pledge to plant a row of vegetables in your home or community garden. When they're ripe, donate them to your local food bank. For every pledge received, American Family will donate $1 to Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity.
I never grow tired of stories from those who’ve served in our Armed Forces.
As a young newspaper reporter, I met one of the last surviving veterans of WWI. Though 90 years had shriveled his frame, he stood tall and proud as I took his photo next to an American flag.
On another occasion, I interviewed one of the few surviving crew members of the U.S.S Indianapolis, the last American ship sunk by enemy forces in WWII. He recalled with vivid detail four days floating at sea until rescuers arrived.
And as a child, I listened intently as my father and uncle relived their war experiences from the Army and Navy, respectively. Though serving in a foreign land may not have been the optimal way to spend their youth, they never regretted the role they played in defending our nation’s freedoms.
I’ve met a good share veterans from my own generation as well – men and women who’ve served in numerous capacities, for many different reasons. Some, like me, were stateside in the Reserves, fortunate to have stayed out of harm’s way. Others weren’t so lucky – separated from their families for many months and by thousands of miles to serve our nation’s call.
As part of our 30 Days of Thanks, American Family recognized veterans for their service. We were pleased to hear from numerous people who have worn the uniform. Here are just a few comments we received:
- “I served in the Korean War on the front lines from late Feb 1951 until Dec 31, 1951, A VERY cold place – much like Minnesota – and we had no overshoes or winter sleeping bags....Brrr.”
- Sometimes we’re all forgotten about, and what we give up for our country. Family, health and life.”
- "I am a veteran – 4 years active duty, Security Forces USAF. I show my appreciation to Veterans everyday by acknowledging them when I see or meet them."
- "Yes, I am a Veteran of WWII – one of the few still alive. I was a medic and worked in a large Veteran's hospital as a surgical tech, so I saw the terrible results of war. I also lost some of friends I trained with."
- "Having served 21 years myself, I thank God everyday for these young men and women who keep us safe today. We must never forget however, all our veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and all the other victories forged by our gallant men and women in uniform."
Thank you to all those who took the time write. And thank you everyone who has served in the Armed Forces – in war, in peace, at home and overseas. We live the results of your service every day.
P.S.: Want to thank a veteran? Leave a comment, or head to our Facebook page and post a message on our Wall.
Ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed of becoming a Madison firefighter.
Growing up, I was mesmerized by the stories my great-uncle, Mel Troia, told about his experiences as a Madison firefighter. It wasn’t hard to picture myself riding fire trucks, fighting the flames and most of all – helping people. As a firefighter, I’d save people’s homes, their possessions and even their lives!
First though, I had to grow up and prove I was firefighter material.
I was raised by a single Mom who worked three jobs to support us. She wanted to give me a good life and she led by example. She showed me no matter what your dream is, with hard work and dedication, you can reach it. Armed with her guidance, I was convinced my dream was always within reach. I didn’t realize though, that along the road to achieving my dreams, I’d have some bumps to contend with.
As a high school student, I attended a career day and met recruiters from the Madison Fire Department. That sealed it for me – I knew from that point on I wanted to become a Madison firefighter.
After high school, I enrolled in the Fire Science program at Madison College and landed an internship at the Maple Bluff Fire Department. My goal quickly became a passion.
I admit I didn’t have the world’s best background. I had some trouble in high school and my initial applications to MFD were turned down. I was also a single father of two wonderful kids. Like my mother did for me, I had to support them. Fortunately, I was able to find work in construction which allowed me to support my kids but I was away from home a lot and missed them desperately.
My goal of being in the MFD was now even stronger. My kids were the extra motivation I needed. I turned to the lessons my Mom taught me and applied again. A rigorous physical agility test and interview designed to reveal one’s core identity and character were my chance to prove who I really was, rather than be shadowed by a few questionable events in my past.
I’ll never forget the day when Chief Steve Davis called to offer me the opportunity to become a Madison firefighter. I couldn’t believe it. I called my Mom first and could barely keep it together. The proudest moment for me though, was when my 11-year-old son, Garrett, pinned my MFD badge on my uniform at the Madison Fire Academy commencement ceremony this past January. I did it! I reached my dream.
Although the road had a few bumps along the way, I never lost sight of my dream. With hard work, determination and dedication I reached it. If I can, you can. Your dream is out there. Don’t ever stop trying to get it.
Editor’s note: This is part of a Dream Protectors blog feature called Stories From DreamBank, which showcases real-life dreams from visitors to the American Family Insurance DreamBank in Madison, Wis. Visit DreamBank on the Square or online at www.amfam.com/DreamBank.
I’m getting into the gardening game, and I’m a little nervous. I’ve signed up for a 10x10 garden plot in our American Family Insurance community garden.
It’s a little intimidating because we’ve got some very talented home gardeners around here. They’re talking about straw bale gardens and raised bed gardens. Josh Feyen on our social media team even has a blog about urban gardening – and he just planted an orchard in his small, urban front yard!
Me? I’ve had a few tomato plants around the yard. A few herbs. Some ailing blueberry bushes. But this is the first time I’m plotting out a garden.
My family loves the farm-fresh produce we can get in the summer, and we bike each summer Saturday up to the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wis. So it’s natural for us to expand our own gardening effort.
Having our own garden is also going to be a way for us to give back to the community. Local food pantries want donations of fresh produce, and we’ll share some of our garden’s bounty with them.
Over the next several weeks, American Family Insurance is working to raise awareness of the opportunity to donate produce through our Pledge to Plant a Row effort on Facebook. We’re asking people to take that pledge, set aside a row of produce and donate it to a local food bank. For every pledge made between now and June 20, we’ll donate $1 to Feeding America, up to $5,000.
This is part of our ongoing effort to help fight hunger in our communities and help raise awareness of this important issue. It builds on last fall’s effort to support the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger, which was backed by more than 20,000 of our Facebook fans and funded 50,000 prepackaged meals.
Whether you’re a veteran gardener or just getting started, I hope you’ll join us in this pledge, and connect with us on Facebook, where we’ll be sharing information about supporting local food pantries, statistics on the impact hunger has in our communities, and ways for you to help.