Happy Earth Day

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Happy Earth Day to all. Usually I like to do something to celebrate Earth Day. It seems a very educational thing for us homeschoolers to do. In the past we have organized trash pick up parties with friends and neighbor kids, this year we are alone. And there is no trash.
This year we will be planting lettuce, so that in 30-40 days we will be able to forgo purchasing lettuce that was grown in uni-crop fashion and shipped from who knows where. It’s a pretty small contribution, really. What I have learned to be very true, is that what’s good for me, is good for the Earth. So anywhere I can make, even a minute difference, is still a difference. As a mother, I believe that the greatest gift I give to the planet is by sharing these experiences with my children. My prayer is that they will be inspired to make greater changes.
I have many Earth friendly projects going right now. First is my super strange passion for composting. Don’t ask where this came from, but it has me fascinated. We fill a large mixing bowl of fruit and veggie scraps and egg shells to add to the pile every other day. That is a lot of waste not going into plastic garbage bags headed for the landfill. AND I will be using that compost to grow next year’s lettuce¬†(and beets, beans, peas, squash, cauliflower and tomatoes, and hopefully asparagus). I now get to add chicken and cow waste as well, which is even more exciting. Did you know you can even add dryer lint to your compost? As soon as we get our rain barrels set up I will also be making compost tea, which is rumored to be the ideal addition to the garden. You gather some compost in muslin and tie it off to “steep” in the rain barrel. After a period of steeping you can use the tea, diluted 50/50 with water, to shower the garden with growing power. I can’t wait!! On to water, we use a lot of water. Animals need it, people need it, gardens need it. I have been talking a lot about water conservation with my family. If the sink is running, my goal is to have something catching the leftover. Because down stairs we have no water source, the extra water I collect goes down to water the chicks. It also waters the dog and is used for soaking dishes if they don’t get rinsed right away. My plan is to get a bucket and put it into the shower so when the water is heating up, I can be collecting water for use wherever it’s needed. Water is something that we really take for granted. It is also essential to our survival. Practicing water conservation is practicing being conscious of what we have and being considerate and grateful. It helps me to learn compassion for others who are not as fortunate to have clean water coming from a faucet.
I do have a couple hangups, one is plastic zip lock bags, the other, grocery bags (guaranteed I have many more). Imagine me hanging my head in shame. I have a serious problem remembering to bring the reusable grocery bags. Sure, I could buy 8 $0.99 bags each time and then I would have a collection of…about 80,000 reusable bags. I have not done this, I don’t see the point. What I can do as I am standing in line, realizing that I forgot the baaaagggssss aaggaaaiiinnn, is ask for paper AND when I need to clean out my chick habitat (doesn’t it sound so much better to say habitat?) I put all of the waste into paper bags and then COMPOST THE WHOLE BAG. YAY! So, it makes up a bit for habitually forgetting the reusable bags. I have not given up on myself and I am starting to remember them sometimes. It’s all we can really ask for, isn’t it?? Oh, and the zip locks, I kind of wish I hadn’t brought that up. They’re just so darn easy. I would very much like to significantly cut down our plastics exposure and I would rather not add more plastic to my garbage can, but it’s a tough thing to give up. I like the wax paper sandwich bags, but they’re not the same. I have lofty aspirations of cleaning out the bags and reusing them…but, that seems to be for another day. We live in a world, here in the United States, of convenience. It’s very true that convenience, “if it’s easy for me”, is king. I do understand how we got here. Our grandparents, great grandparents, and before worked for EVERYTHING, hard, back breaking work. They also worked very hard to create conveniences for us. Many of which I am very grateful for. But if everything is so easy, like packing lunches in zip lock bags, then why are we so unsatisfied? Ok, this just took a turn, sometimes essays just write themselves, you know.

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The moral of the story is there are important ways we can care for the gift we have been given, this temporary human habitat, the Earth (it is pretty fabulous, after all). Caring for it teaches us to CARE. We can all do better and we can all be proud of the ways in which we make steady progress towards working with the place we live instead of against it.
Tell me, how do you all celebrate Earth Day??

P.S. I had a lot of trouble using the correct “there” today, all of you grammar police, please forgive any mistakes I missed.ūüôā

Jump and the Net Will Appear

“Jump and the net will appear” is the title of a chapter of a book that I read about a year and a half ago, The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living by Wendy Jehanara Tremayne. It pretty much catapulted me into my current lifestyle. It helped give me the courage to jump. That’s pretty much what I have been doing the last 18 months,¬†a lot of jumping.

I have also learned that it’s true what they say. If you want something, speak it into existence. I spoke something into existence by accident. Alpacas. About 10 years ago, when my first two kids were very little, I came up with the idea that if we could just be alpaca farmers, everything would be alright. If you’re at all familiar with the fog of parenting new babies + toddlers, you may understand. Or any kind of parenting, really. Or sometimes just living. Well, anyway, somewhere I came up with this alpaca farming idea and so for 10 years I talked about it. And for about 9 of those, my husband thought I was down right crazy and my friends smiled politely, but I guess I just kept speaking this wild idea into existence, because, guess what???? I am now the proud owner of 3 lovely alpacas.

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Loki and her mom Lily. These two are inseparable and I can’t wait to look out my window and see them everyday.

 

The current joke now is “be careful that you actually want what you say you want, because it’s going to happen if you keep talking about it”. ¬†I would also recommend doing a bit of actual research while doing the “speaking”. Of course a series of fortunate (pretending very hard to be unfortunate) events occurred in the 10 years. Also, my husband came around to my way of thinking….that following your heart will lead you to…following your heart. And it doesn’t mean all rainbows and lollipops are in store, but it means that your heart and your head can be one.

So as we were talking about what the next chapter in our lives entailed, we decided that it meant some jumping was in order and that alpacas had to be on the list. Truth is, I kind of tried to back out of the alpaca thing, shyly and selflessly attempting to give up my dream and you-know-who wouldn’t have it. He said “OH, NO, you’re getting alpacas. “We” (suddenly we) haven’t been talking about this for 10 years to wait. You’re getting your alpacas.” Plus they cost less to feed than a dog, or that’s the what the brochure says.

Here we are. Three alpacas richer. Our hearts beating with the energy of jumping. Will we have just the three as pets? Shearing them and spinning their fiber once a year? Will they support us one day as we develop an actual farm, breeding for high quality fiber and showing? Will people come from all over to visit my therapy alpacas, breathing deeply as they hum their calming greeting? Oh, I don’t know, but isn’t it exciting to know that when traveling the direction you need to, the net…appears. Because when the heart says “jump”, it’s time to jump.

Annabelle Rose

Annabelle Rose

Confessions of a Newbie Farmer

I am not quite a “newbie” farmer yet. My heart is half way there, though. We are doing things like ordering seeds, making verbal agreements to purchase cows, strengthening our poultry flock and meeting alpaca ranchers, so it feels pretty close. I am not at all sure I have what it takes, although animal husbandry is not totally new to me. As long as the animals just mind their business, do what they are supposed to, stay healthy, I am fine.
Yes, I am feeling nervous.
I was inspired to write this because I had one of those looking-myself-in-the-mirror kind of moments. We have a new batch of chicks, 5 little darlings, that are about 3 weeks old, all with a name. We got caught up in the moment and purchased 2 breeds that I hadn’t done much research on, but sounded pretty good. If you are not familiar with the fact that different breeds of chickens can have very different personalities, temperment, laying frequencies, tendencies to go “broody”, health issues, etc. Consider yourself introduced. So, yes, I was researching chicken breeds. We got two Americauna’s, the “easter egg” chickens, and two Dominiques. It turns out they both are a bit flightier than I was hoping for. The Dominques are curious and and friendly on top of that, so they like to fly up your arm. Long story short, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment when I attempted to clean out the chick tub and was bombarded by flying, pecking fluff balls. It may not sound too intimidating, I think that’s the problem.
I was squealing “Help!!” “Help!!” No one seemed to think this was a cry for actual help, so I was ignored. My family was wrong. Every time I put my gloved hand into the enclosure two chicks would run for my hand and two would go flying all over trying to get away from my hand. The fifth, who knows, but she was in the kerfufffle somewhere.
No, I really needed HELP. More yelling and dodging freaky baby birds, more “Help!!”. Now they’re laughing, because it’s pretty funny to watch a grown women be spooked by 5 chicks that could be held in two big hands, apparently. Those things have beaks and claws, CLAWS!!
I am also the women who slips carefully into the big poultry pen with a long stick in hand. You actually have no idea when a bird may turn on you. You really don’t. I for one am going to be prepared to…defend myself with a stick…or something. The good news is the adult birds will follow me until I turn around and then most of them scatter, so they have pretty much earned my trust. So, I am making some great progress, just this week I pet one of the girls, a Speckled Sussex, her feathers feel like silk.
The matter of cows and alpacas is going be another issue altogether. They don’t fly, so that may be an advantage. Alpacas CAN’T bite, so, YAY! Cows, I think are more into butting than biting. I should look that up. I am also very inclined to want to name our steers Leonardo DaVinci and Shakespeare or maybe Spot and Polka Dot, but I have heard this is a cardinal sin when it comes to raising beef. It makes sense. But it will be really hard for this person who says she is a farmer and still gets to jumping and yelling when 3 week old chicks start flapping and pecking, someone who has a list of cute chicken names in the back of her “Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry”.
You may think I am better suited to a stuffed animal collection.
But I am going to give it all I got and hopefully we are well on our way to providing a good chunk of the food we eat and to a sustainable life that allows for following your heart and also a bit of screaming and jumping around.

My Pilgrimage

In June or July I signed up for the “Grow Your Own Food” summit. Everyday I had 4 new recordings with experts on growing food to listen to right in my email inbox. I have learned to sign up for these things, because the ones I have, have changed my life. Weirdly enough.

One of these experts is Paul Gautschi. He is the “star” of a documentary Back To Eden.¬†Immediately I enjoyed listening to him and only a couple of days later I went to the website backtoedenfilm.com¬†and watched the 1 hour and 45 minute documentary. And then I watched it with my kids, then my husband, then my kids watched it again on their own. We were fans.

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Even the kids were enthralled…for most of it.

Here’s the greatest news ever….his garden and home is only a 2 hour drive from me in WA. Here’s even better news, he does tours every Sunday from June-November. I sent him a letter, he called me the very next day. I love this guy.

Why? Why do I love this guy who grows his own food and responds to letters the very next day? A few reasons, a few reasons that I hope I can write as poetically as I feel them, because there is something intangible and indescribable about these few reasons.

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Cabbage the size of beach balls.

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1) Paul, in my opinion, is a very spiritual and faithful person. If you watch the film, you will understand exactly what I mean. He quotes bible scripture the whole time and discusses his conversations with God. Some people will be totally turned off by this, but what I enjoyed is that there didn’t seem to be any religion involved, no doctrine, no converting. Just a faithful person sharing his spiritual experience. He asked a question out of desperation and the rest of the story is about what the answer was.

2) It is very, very common sense. I don’t mean conventional common sense, those two words don’t really mean anything to me any more. Except when they really do. He describes growing a garden and providing your own food as something we were all born with the knowledge to do, something that we have the common sense to do.

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The fruits and vegetables he grows are so juicy and sweet.

I have taken his tour, it was 3 hours long, and I think we left early. So, I have gotten some additional information about his philosophy. He means we have the ability (the common sense) to listen to the earth, pay close attention, think deeply about and care deeply about what is already here for us. We aren’t inventing anything here, with our cute little gardens.¬†If we can do this with respect for the dirt, the water, the micro organisms, the sun, with patience and a quieted spirit, we will have all the knowledge that we need.

This is important to me because…it mirrors how I have always felt (about a lot of things, not just growing food) and not really known how to express.

3) He doesn’t pull any punches. Usually this is not my favorite trait in another person, but this time I really like it. He expresses how he feels and that’s it. Take it or leave it. And considering he has had many PhD.’s try his technique and test the ph of his soil and many people test his food with conventional wisdom defying results, I will take it.

4) This is just a frivolous reason, one that validated me personally as a homeschooling mom. He thinks school is making us dumber. Now, I will say, I don’t believe school is making us dumber. But as a society we have gotten very far from knowing and trusting what is hard-wired into us. He talks a lot about the earth having a skin, just like us. The earth needs a skin, something covering the vital organs and life of the earth. Most of the farming and landscaping is stripping the skin right off the earth, exposing it to the elements and therefore killing it.

5) He obviously cares very much about what he is doing. He is not making any money, he never sells anything he grows, but he has a following, me included, and he doesn’t take it for granted. He knows something bigger than himself is happening here, and he wants to be a good steward of the process.

This kind of schooling…teaching us to strip everything off, instead of the paying attention and learning from the earth, is what he is against.

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We have started our Back to Eden garden. It consists of four layers.

1) The ground, a grassy spot in our side yard.

2) Construction paper from Home Depot. Newspaper or something similar also works.

3)Compost. We purchased some because ours isn’t ready.

3 1/2) fresh lawn clipping

4) WOOD CHIPS. Whole branches, green needles and all, free from the neighbors freshly chipped tree. A combination of green and brown is important.

We have also covered our existing garden beds with some wood chips and already it is protecting our young lettuce, broccoli, kale and swiss chard.

In the spring we will hopefully have the perfect setting for all of our seeds.

Paul also believes you can’t get life from death, he lives almost exclusively on a vegan diet from his garden and eggs from his chickens. He also eats what can be grown where he lives. It just makes so much sense to me that what can be grown where we settle is what will feed our bodies in the healthiest way.

My problem??? How do I give up avocados, oranges, or chocolate (cuz those things aren’t growing where I’ve settled)? that’s for another day. But it gets me thinking and I believe the whole point is to get back to thinking if we are to get back to Eden.

I made a pilgrimage to the Back to Eden garden to meet face to face a place where growing is as it should be, everything is growing together with respect for the earth, the plants, health and faith and each other.

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Everyone loved the cucumber!!!

 

“Better World Shopper” Kicked My Butt

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I am just really into sunflowers!

I am homesteading again today, this means Jason is canning tomatoes and applesauce from our trees. It’s super-duper homesteady. And I am making gluten free/grain free/dairy free snacks for the week (I am praying they last till Monday). I am making a quick grocery list of things that I am out of, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, egg protein powder and chocolate chips. Somehow the chocolate chips slowed me down a bit. We are pretty limited on the chips we can use because of gluten and potential cross contamination, BUT I have found it a bit hard to find certified gluten free AND fair trade chocolate (if you know of any, let me know in the comments). So this got me thinking of my betterworldshopper.org experience.

I have been frequenting a “fair trade” store, Ethical Choices, that is locally owned, for about a year and I have gotten to know the owner. So when ‘back to school’ came around I asked him about where to get clothes, he directed me to betterworldshopper.org.

That’s when everything went down-hill.

It is a very user friendly site, among other tabs it has “the rankings” and “the top twenty” (along with the worst 20). You can see just about anything you would ever dream of purchasing ranked from A-F based on it’s social (does the company use things sourced from places who use child labor, slave labor or pay their employees an unlivable wage) and environmental responsibility. The companies are evaluated over a 20 year period and range from airlines, beer, banks, cereal, clothing, dairy, gas stations, office supplies, sea food, toilet paper, and water and EVERYTHING in between.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of shopping ethically, you’re not alone and if you haven’t checked out the rankings yet, your in for a LOT more of that feeling. I was very overwhelmed and went down the little path of “I can never avoid ALL of this, so I will just live my life”. Then I texted a few friends who can handle hysteria and are walking with me down this fair trade road and I felt a little better. Also, I am a “student” of Brene Brown and she teaches to lean into discomfort and vulnerability instead of shutting down, so hear I am leaning.

EVERY DOLLAR MAKES A DIFFERENCE

That is The Better World Shopper’s tag line. If that is true, then I can pick myself up off the floor of frustration and guilt and I can start with one dollar. Chocolate is a decent place to start. It has been said that chocolate is not a necessity, but who really believes that?? It is for me…yes, I am low in magnesium… so I need to look up the rankings of chocolate and have a few easily accessible brand names in my brain, so that I can get what I need when I need it. RIGHT?? Coffee is another easy one. There has been a lot of attention on fair trade coffee in the media, so some prolific establishmentsūüėČ have worked to do fairly well.

The Top 20 list is my favorite because it gives us a positive way to turn, it validates what we have already been doing. We can be sure when we buy those brands that we are “purchasing in the direction of freedom”. The Worst 20 makes me feel¬†the opposite, it is mostly composed of BIG corporations that touch many of our lives whether we like it or not…like one of the cars sitting in my driveway…shame. The worst 20 is scary and it’s very sad if you allow yourself to consider the planet we live on and the people who inhabit it.

But if every dollar counts¬†then I can buy one chocolate bar over the other and chose one brand of organic yogurt over the other and pump gas from one station or the other and I have VOTED, I have made a difference. A small one to start, but when you know better, you do better (right, K?) Even if you are shopping in a most necessary and favorite store that ranks low, you can make choices within that store. Even if you are driving a car that is ranked very (very…very) poorly, I can fill it with gas from a company more responsible and maybe choose something better next time.

There is always a next time, there is always tomorrow, always another dollar to be spent. There is always a second chance. So if you are still reading, if I didn’t lose you at “I am homesteading again…” then check out betterworldshopper.org¬†and pick one thing that you think you can avoid, or incorporate. Then pick another.

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The Girls and boy! Tracey, Agnes, Waddles, Sunie (the boy) and Quack. Sunie was supposed to be a girl, but you win some, you lose some. He sure takes very good care of “his lady”.¬†But he won’t be laying any eggsūüė¶

My adventures in pioneering continue. Or it could simply be backyard farming, but it feels like pioneering, that and the baking (from my previous post).

When we started using Almond and Coconut flours, we started going through a ton of eggs. Like 4 dozen a week, so we thought “hey!!!! Let’s get chickens….and ducks…”and it all sounds wonderful and it is wonderful. And it will be highly rewarding when the eggs start to come, but there is some major poop involved.

I wish I wasn’t so much of the squeamish, screaming type. Maybe farming life is more suited to the sturdy, stoic kind of person. But I believe in “fake it till you make it”. So, I have chickens and ducks. Every once in awhile you may hear me scream “Jason, $%&+, the chickens are on the FENCE” and see me run screaming around in breathless bursts. On the other days, I am getting to be more of a farmer, at least on the inside, everyday.

I have developed some pretty solid rules that could be helpful to some of you urban farmers. Learn from my mistakes, if you will.

1) Don’t get dressed in your “let’s go into town” clothes until after your farming chores are done.

2) IF you ignore rule #1 be sure that you have done enough laundry to have a second “going into town” outfit.

3) IF you ignore rules #1 and #2, think of me and remember that I told you so.

Just trust me on this.

We decided to jump in with both feet on the bird thing, because we just want eggs that come from birds that are fed well and are treated well, that have room to roam and can have minimal stress. Actually, it’s probably the ducks and chickens who live the best lives around here. We are working on the rest of us. So, we do some things that may be a little difficult. Our end game isn’t “easy”(my sister just said that to me the other day), our goal is “healthy” for mind, body, spirit and soul. We have a ways to go, but it’s worth the effort.

We have a store bought coop, we got carried away, but we are happy with it. Super easy to clean (a MUST for me, I am not climbing in any tight coop to clean it out) and it’s easyish to move and collect the eggs…provided they know where they are supposed to lay them.

We also have a “chicken tractor” that is framed with PVC pipe and covered with chicken wire. My husband made that. We can move the birds from the bedtime coop to the tractor that can be placed anywhere in the yard. For the last week or so, we have abandoned the tractor in favor of total free range girls (and boy). Mostly because¬†the dog is scared of the ducks, so she can go out with them unleashed. When the weather starts to cool down, we will move them everyday back and forth again.¬†I don’t know why it has to with weather, don’t ask.

They are eating lots of yummy bugs and plants and slugs and keeping the grass at a reasonable length and aside from the necessity to always wear shoes in the back yard, it is really going well.

We feed them a Grower called Scratch And Peck Feeds, it is organic and non gmo and also soy free and grown and milled in the PNW on a sustainable farm. Yes, it’s pricier than Purina feed, but we feel like it’s the most reasonable way to get the quality of eggs we are after. In a bit we will switch to the Layer version of the feed and hopefully we will get a great harvest of eggs until the dead of winter.

Someday when we have more chickens I would love to be able to sell high quality eggs to people for a fair, sustainable price so that more people can benefit from healthy eggs. For now, we are limited by the city as to how many we can have and we’ll do what we can with what we’ve got.

Not all of us appreciate the flavor of duck eggs, so we plan on using them mostly for baking. I am happy with that, considering grain free cookies require 4-5 eggs a batch. Quack’s eggs will be greatly appreciated that way.

Overall, the chickens have been easier just because they are not as messy. Those ducks make more mess with water and poo than I could have imagined, but they make up for it with their hilarious antics and slug eating capabilities. You may find us sitting out with them just watching and giggling. If we had more space, say a dedicated yard, and I didn’t have to share with the ducks it would probably be a wash.

We are making our way one bitty step at a time to a more sustainable and freer lifestyle, with eight little girls and one little boy waddling after.

So Not Normal

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Sometimes frustration, or a bit of anger, is what is needed to make changes happen. Road blocks are just the thing to inspire the desire to build new or alternative roads. My road block happened to be organic apples. Now, if you have heard me talk about this in a bit of an intense fashion, you will know that the price of organic apples became somewhat of a road block for me. Like many other issues in life it was just a front for the deeper issue. The story goes that about a month or so ago my favorite warehouse store stopped selling MYYYY organic apples, a major staple in our grain free diet. So, I kind of passively stewed over this until I realized they may not be coming back any time soon, I went to another local store to get my much needed apples…$3.98 a lb…..what???? yes, even the red delicious were $3.49….seriously. Now I am starting to panic a bit. If you are thinking “Lady, buy some conventional apples, will ya”, you may have more sense than I, but much less perseverance (substitute stubbornness for perseverance if you must, either is fine with me). There are a few things I just will not buy conventional and apples are among them. Well, I started to look around, some other stores had cheaper organic apples and I went nuts. But at check out, I had 3 bags of groceries for $60. That has become the new norm. for my stop-in-to-pick-up-a-few-things shopping trips. Does that sound ridiculous to anyone else? Those 3 bags last us about 24 hours worth of “comfortable” eating, that is when everyone just eats when they are hungry instead of throwing themselves on the ground as if they are literally withering away in hunger, wailing for “something good to eat”.

This is where the back story, the deeper issue comes to light….We can’t quite fit this healthy eating thing into our budget and I don’t know what to do. BECAUSE I just wanna go to the store and….BUY FOOD FOR MY FAMILY LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Oops, I said it. I just want to be normal. What’s normal? It really is an illusion, normal, but in this case it means to me eating the easy, yummy food that you just dump in your cart and get on with the rest, the stuff we have decided to not eatūüė¶

So, I take a step back with a real question in my brain WHAT DO I DO? And you know what showed up in my brain? the answer I have been desperately trying to avoid (and didn’t even know it) I have to start MAKING. the. food. I have to put in the time and the effort. The stuff that my family needs is either non existent in the grocery store isle, or it is just too expensive. And I can’t just be angry about it any more.

I enjoy the recreation of baking, not so much pioneer style baking, like when it’s an absolute necessity for life. But, here we are, at the road block. I can take an alternate route to a full belly or I can turn back (although not really with a medical need for a gluten free diet in my house). I cannot turn back and I cannot sit down and cry in the middle of the construction site, for any time longer than a couple minutes, anyhow. Because I am a creative and determined person, I got started right away. I figure I have 21 days of forcing myself to be a pioneer before I will delight in the HABIT of creating delicious food for my family…sigh!

The thing is, we just do what it takes, don’t we? For me it’s the way we eat, for you it’s something different and the person next door is something different all together and so on all around the world.

So, if you are interested in what I am baking, and in the one-step-at-a-time way I am just trying to make this life enjoyable and healthy for my kids, here’s a recipe I made yesterday. This is not my recipe, it’s from a friend of a friend. I call it “Ginger’s Friendship Chocolate Cake”

1 1/4 cup cooked black beans (mmmm hmmm, you’ll be so glad you just jumped in and did it)

5 eggs

1 TBSP. vanilla (although I am going to play with this a little)

1/2 tsp. salt

6 TBSP. butter or coconut oil

1/3 C honey

Optional 8-10 drops/packets of stevia…I say optional because I don’t use stevia, I haven’t used any replacement, but the kids do think this cake could use a bit more sweetness, so I included it.

6 TBSP. cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Combine everything except the baking powder and soda in a blender and blend until the black beans are little tiny specks and it’s the consistency of cake batter. Then add the powder and soda and blend another several seconds. I have made cupcakes and also used a loaf pan, and one batch is perfect for either.

We also made peanut butter frosting this time, a tiny secret…we ate the cake for lunch, so peanut butter seemed fitting.

Yes, I know comparing myself to a pioneer is dramatic, my apologies.

 

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

IMG_0557              Not all who wander are lost.

I really love this phrase. It speaks to me and gets to the heart of how I feel sometimes. It means to me… Not all who make mistakes are failures, not all who get an F are stupid, not all who are fat are unhealthy, not all who are grumpy are mean spirited, not all who are airheads are thoughtless, not all who do weird things are crazy.

I have been “wandering” a lot lately concerning homeschooling. Actually since I have been homeschooling I have been wandering. And if truth be told, I have been wandering forever. Is this best for children? To have a mother who is a wanderer, especially a mother who is responsible for their education? It’s a valid question. But the way I can rationalize through this is to say that I am not one who believes that what I see initially is always the way things are going to be. I continue to observe, wander, if you will and analyze and try to dissect the personalities and learning styles and preferences of my family. We just got a new math curriculum at the beginning of May, this is just about as ridiculous as it gets. But I knew we were just hamsters on the math wheel and something had to change. So I thought a bit outside the box and I uncovered something wonderful. New curriculum changes everything, even in May and maybe in November, January and April, I will let you know. I even sent one kid to take a break at the “school table” and she actually opened her book and did a page of math. So sometimes wandering pays off.

I read two articles today about food, one about gluten and one about farming. Both were great examples to me of how we are doing a lot of wandering, as a society and as individuals, trying to find our way. The Farm-to-Table movement hasn’t actually helped the local farmers nearly as much as it’s supposed to have done, maybe because we haven’t quite figured how to really use the concept yet. Maybe because we just really want things to be easy. Big, industrial farms are still growing and small, local farms are still struggling. There is a real complexity to farming that a lot of us don’t quite understand, to do it well there is a lot of knowledge and intuition needed. The farmers who do it well are Dr.’s of the earth (I am NOT a dr. of the earth, the only thing really growing in my garden are peas and some plants in the squash family, we don’t even remember what).

The other article was about the relevance of the “gluten free fad”. Media does a great job of getting such hype going and then throwing all of us followers under the bus when the fads’ time has past. Obviously I believe wholeheartedly in the reality of gluten intolerance. We live with Celiac disease, but this area is changing so much so quickly that it’s important to understand what’s going on, I wouldn’t listen to any of the media ridiculousness though. Gluten free has been a go-to diet for awhile for many reasons, but we kind of know now that there isn’t a one-size-fits all…in any area of life!? You may need wander a bit more to figure it out for yourself.

Doing some wandering in our lives to find our way has got to be ok. Even if it looks careless and impulsive or flighty or unrealistic. I am giving myself a pep-talk as much as anything else. I am not lost, we are not lost, we are seekers of meaning and wholeness. In our families and our communities.

See, I added in some homeschooling, farming, gluten free living and warm fuzzy all in less than 600 words.

oops 650 words

Eating well for Mother’s Day

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I just had to share with you what we ate on Mother’s day.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, one of my husbands strengths happens to be cooking. It’s a match made in heaven since most of my mother’s days are centered around eating. Last year I had homemade maple bacon cinnamon rolls, the kind that takes hours to make, so there was a high bar set and I wasn’t sure it could be met on a grain free/refined sugar free diet, but I was very, very wrong!!

My day started out with this delight pictured above. Two waffles with cream cheese frosting in the middle (his unique creation sweetened with grade B maple syrup), topped with fresh whipped cream (sweetened with syrup) and strawberries. The recipe came from Against All Grain. Here it is…

3 eggs

1 cup raw cashews

1/3 C almond milk (or any dairy free milk) he used 1/2 and 1/2

3 tbsp. honey or maple syrup

3 tbsp. melted coconut oil

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. baking soda

3 tbsp. coconut flour

Combine the eggs, cashews, milk, honey or syrup, and coconut oil in the blender until very smooth and creamy.

Add the salt, soda, coconut flour and blend for about a  min.

This is a belgian waffle recipe, so I don’t know how it would work with a regular waffle iron. She recommends checking the waffles after about a minute as the grain free version cooks a bit quicker than normal.

What I loved about this recipe is that it was fluffy and flavorful without being overly eggy as I have experienced before. Also I ate about 2/3 of that plate and I didn’t feel bloated, overly full or icky and I didn’t experience the crash in blood sugar later in the day that made me feel light headed and nauseous. And I wasn’t hungry again for about 5 hours.

For my next meal I requested fresh grain free, gluten free pasta from Cappello’s. I wanted lasagna!!!! This is a special treat for me, because we rarely have it. One of the members of the family says lasagna is her “worst enemy” (I hope that remains always true).

My husband made a great sauce that was some eclectic combo. of organic tomato sauce, paste, onions, garlic, olives and white cheddar cheese. He then layered the pasta sheets with additional mozzarella cheese. It tasted as good as it looks and was a fabulous grain free treat.

I was so excited about how well I ate on Mother’s Day that I had to share, there are certain things that have to be given up forever like oreo’s, store bought donuts, delivery pizza, etc. But with some planning and researching it can be a full and satisfying culinary life.

This is how we eat now…part 2

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This is the fun part. How have we changed what we eat since the Celiac diagnosis?

After getting some education about inflammation and autoimmune conditions I was very inspired to go grain free and refined sugar free. I like to call this “not quite paleo”. We aren’t ready yet to go real Paleo which eliminates grains, refined sugar, dairy, legumes and processed foods.

I just knew this is what I had to do at this time in our lives. And I also knew that whether or not it was a popular decision that my children had to go along with us.

Well, it was not popular, in case you were wondering. Now we have had a decent amount of experience with special diets, my oldest 2 girls had fabulous diets for the first several years of their lives while my oldest was completely off dairy. When that allergy “went away” we got way more normal and ate much of what everyone else eats, the Standard American Diet. Then along comes daughter # 3 and I realize that I have been blessed beyond belief with two children that allowed me to believe I was some kind of mommy genius in the food department (a department with no small amount of mommy trauma associated with it). Now even more crackers, chicken nuggets, pizzas and mac n cheese (the organic kind…at least) were being served at our table. So we had some work to do, even if we were to just turn to the Standard Gluten Free American Diet.

There was a lot of complaining about leaving some of their favorite foods behind, I felt that too. I had to get some replacements in our kitchen fast. I ordered two life saving cook books that the girls regularly pull out to peruse and request the next trial recipe, Wheat Belly 30 Minute (or less) Cook Book by William Davis, MD and Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry by Elana Amsterdam. I have been thrilled and relieved to find recipes using Almond flour, coconut flour, flax meal, hemp seed, chia seeds, honey, maple syrup, veggies, dried fruit, nuts, coconut milk and coconut oil, eggs, butter, etc. My rule is that in our home this is how we eat, but outside our home they get to use their own judgement. I am ¬†hoping that they will be inspired to start making choices consistent with mine (hahahahahaha), actually what I really, really hope is that they will take ownership in their life long health.

A question I get asked all the time is…What do you eat for breakfast? Important question for the most important meal of the day.

Is it still the most important meal of the day??? Was it ever???

Anyway. My favorite breakfast is plain whole milk (traditional) or 2% ¬†greek yogurt, sweetened with raw, local honey or maple syrup. I add all sorts of things, this morning was hemp seeds, diced apples and cinnamon. Often times I will add walnuts, sometimes it’s thawed frozen fruit and almonds or dried fruit and almonds or pecans or walnuts. Eggs are another great option, but for some reason they don’t fill me up, I need cheese and some kind of veggie added to them. Sometimes I eat apples with almond, peanut or sun butter. The main thing is to get enough fat and enough protein in your breakfast. When you are cutting out a major staple in your diet, you have to replace it with something that will be satisfying, we have “cheated” a couple of times and purchased gluten free granola for the kids, but other wise there are no cereal options and unless it’s homemade grain free bread, that’s out too. Plus we had to ditch the old toaster and haven’t replaced it. Our old staples for quick, get-out-the-door breakfasts are gone.

For lunch…blah, lunch. I home school my children, so I am making lunch at lunch time for the four of us everyday and honestly it drives me nuts. It always has, some days I just say “eat what you can find”. Because our kitchen has very few snacky or processed items in it, this is even more difficult. No such things as grain free mac n cheese (yet, and you better BELIEVE I will buy that, you know if it’s organic and non GMO…) We do smoothies about twice a week for lunch with something like apple slices, celery and peanut butter. My A+ lunch is a salmon patty with salad or sauteed vegetables (a brilliant idea I got from a friend). Tomato soup is another good one and yes, it does have sugar and it also has rice flour in it. I would love to make my own, but that along with homemade condiments have taken a back seat so far. We also use bibb lettuce wraps a lot for tuna or lunch meat or tacos. We have a great local butcher that does all uncured, nitrite free, gluten free meats, that’s another decent way to get protein at lunch.

Dinners are “easier” to accommodate the grain free, sugar reduced lifestyle. I put that in quotations, because I don’t consider making meals virtually from scratch every night easy. It was hard figuring out what to substitute for the starch or grain on our dinner plates for awhile, but now we don’t even hesitate. It’s just stir fry with no rice or noodles, more veggies, more fat like butter, sour cream, coconut oil, nuts, olives. We do eat potatoes and sweet potatoes, but pretty infrequently. I even made spaghetti with sweet potato noodles and it was really good (only one kid ate them, but I am hopeful), we eat chicken lettuce wraps, meat loaf, fish sticks breaded with coconut oil (that needs some perfecting), taco salad, smoked salmon salad, crustless quiche or omelets, homemade chili (my specialty) and soups.

We have been eating this way for 3 months. The hardest part was converting our kitchen and it still takes a lot more time in the grocery store finding the stuff that we need. Part of that is just finding gluten free items that are also grain and refined sugar free, but also not processed with wheat (try this sometime, just for fun).

I would not be able to convince you that this is an easy lifestyle to choose. There are many things that are pretty tricky (say, Easter candy and snacks) but my husband and I had a transformation of heart and somehow something that may seem impossible became a necessary challenge (as is spelling necessary). I do believe that everyone is lead differently in the way that they eat, but I think most of us would agree that taking the road less traveled will lead to better health. With Celiac disease in the family I could not ignore the harm that gluten was doing to one child, but I had a choice to isolate her or to join her and make the hard decision to toward better health for all of us.

I have noticed a few really positive differences since changing our diet, one is that our moods have been more even. I have noticed this in myself and my two oldest children, we feel more relaxed and don’t get as frustrated as easily. We are more sensitive to sugar, my youngest (the recovering carb addict) mentioned that something she ate made her feel icky because it was too sugary. Less snacking, there have been a handful of days that the children have not snacked at all through the day, they had four meals spaced out voluntarily. The fact that this has only happened a few times may seem insignificant, trust me it’s not. The major sugar cravings and desperation for food NOW has all but completely stopped for me. I would go through periods of intense sugar cravings and also bouts of feeling nauseated if I didn’t eat between meals, taking out the grain and sugar has almost completely eliminated that feeling. Then of course, weight loss.

We have made a choice to be much more conscience of what we are eating and therefore I spend a lot more time in the kitchen, this is not my natural habitat, I would be lying if I said I love it. Hell no, I don’t love it, but what I love is feeling better, watching my children feeling better, doing something better for my family. ¬†I made two batches of “cookies” on Tuesday and it took 2 days to get my kitchen back in order and for me to even want to go in there, but I did it and made another meal, and that’s all I have to do. I am NO super mom, but…

“Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo

P.S.

There are times when I really need chocolate and I do have a stash of very dark, fair trade chocolate for when that comes up, I am not dead, I still need chocolate.