Wednesday, December 16, 2009

T'is the Season...


...for cabbage!


I have certainly been learning a lot about menu adjusting since having joined our local CSA. We are inundated with greens and lettuces and cabbage has occupied space in my refrigerator for 3 weeks now (not the same head - I've gotten it twice in my weekly share).


I have learned that I prefer the white to the purple or "red" cabbage when it is cooked, as the white (or green) is sweeter and more flavorful to me. My favorite way to enjoy it is simply steamed with Earth Balance or vegan Smart Balance margarine on top. Like carrots, cabbage is sweet and to me, tastes better without salt. That said, I steamed up some red last night and had to add salt; it seemed more lacking in flavor than the white.


More cabbage has gone into soups too and my family, who do not care for it, eat it best this way. A newer way for me to try cabbage has been to saute it with garlic. I thought this meathod was okay, but then it takes away from the sweetness that I enjoy so much. Finally, one way that I really enjoyed it was to saute it with balsamic or apple cider vinegar, garlic, onions, and pieces of marinated, smoked tempeh. Delicious!


A new vegetable for our family to enjoy has been the kohlrabi that we have recieved in our share a couple of times now. Everyone seems to enjoy this in dishes - especially when it is roasted - and Eve even likes it raw! Whenever we get it in our shares it will be sure to find its way into my roasted vegetable medley as well as pot pies and soups.


A few of our tangelos have fallen from the tree. We are CLOSE to being able to begin the harvest, but they are still sour yet. Things will pick up after Christmas and I can see that I will be canning loads of juice in January. Have I told you that I was going to try canning the juice this year rather than freezing it as in years past? It will save on energy and space in my freezer. We'll see how this experiment goes. I plan on doing the same for the lemons that I'll get from Mom's & that will probably start sooner than the tangelos. I don't know about the limes, though. They are abundant right now, but I don't find myself using them as much. Perhaps just a few pints in the freezer will suffice for the year.


In the garden, the lettuces are happy. There will be no lack of greens in our diet for some time to come I believe. The swiss chard seems to be picking up the pace now that the weather has cooled somewhat (cool being relative - it is still in the upper 70's/low 80's and more humidity than usual).


I found that I don't particularly care for one of the kinds of radishes I planted this year, as they were almost inedible in their spiciness. However, I may still plant them from time to time, as I found that I do enjoy their greens and cooking the radishes gives them a very different flavor. They could be a worthy addition to the aforementioned roasted vegetables and pot pies. The nice thing about them is that they can be grown quickly and also grown around (on the outer edge) the square foot spaces of the slower growing vegetables.


Carrots and a few other new additions will find their way to the garden come January. I'm saving a few available squares for them. With the CSA giving me so many greens, I don't feel pressed to fill up all my garden squares with something at this point.


And speaking of CSA's you might think of joining one yourself in the new year when your growing season rolls around. Not only is it a great way to keep money in your community and support sustainable agriculture practices, but it's also educational for yourself by introducing you to new foods and the different ways they can be used. My CSA offered gift certificates this year for one week's share for Christmas gifts. One lucky person in my circle will be receiving this gift. It's one I feel great about giving and one I know the recipient will enjoy! I love gifts that combine both a gift and an experience. I think that a CSA certificate is one that can do that on many levels: the experience of the CSA itself, the gift of the food, the potential introduction to new foods, and the experience of preparing and enjoying the food.


Hope you're enjoying the holiday season!
Cabbage print available at allposters.com

Friday, December 4, 2009

Time for Camping!

There's a steady, cold rain out there tonight... and we're going camping tomorrow. I, for one, haven't been camping, save for backyard overnights, in 19 years. So, the idea that this time - this first time for my girls - has to start in the rain, is not one that I am thrilled about. So many of our family vacations/events (including our wedding) have involved rain. The forecast, though, is for the showers to end sometime tomorrow afternoon. We check in to our site at 3 p.m., so I am praying that the rain will stop by then. Sunday is supposed to be glorious after a night with lows in the 40's (I know you northern people think that's balmy, but sleeping in it is something different), so it's all sure to be interesting! At this point, I won't begrudge the rain, though - there's always the garden to think about! :)

Speaking of rain and the garden, about two weeks ago, one of our neighbors showed up in our backyard with a rain barrel he'd purchased for us! While I was surprised, I think he was even more surprised at how tickled I was with his thoughtful gift. We've still go to find time to actually get it all put together, but I'll be thrilled when we can begin conserving some water to use on the garden when we do get rain in our dry season.

The garden is producing nice patches of greens and radishes so far. The zucchini and cucumbers are done for this season. The tomatoes are small and green and not too many yet, save for the potted cherry tomato plant that has a lot of little green babies on it. I think our orange and oak trees have just grown too wide and shade our garden more than I would like; the tomatoes are not getting enough sun I think. Beets are getting bigger and the lettuce is doing well. The arugula is perfect! So, I know that I can grow those things for sure. I'll be trying a few more things after the holidays. It will be time to start sprouting those warmer weather crops.

In the meantime, we've nicely filled out our menus with lots of other local food from the CSA (LOVING IT!!) and the farmers' markets. I love looking down at the table and seeing all the things that are grown right in my own garden or town or the next one over. I even noticed that the nearby grocer carries tofu that is made less than 50 miles away from here. That makes this vegan so very happy!

Wishing you all a warm and dry weekend (us too) and I'll talk with you all again after we return from our camping adventure!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Practicing and Preserving

Sorry to have left whilst in freak-out mode. Things are much calmer now. :) I really don't want to give the impression that I'm having a great deal of anxiety about the things I'm learning about concerning Peak Oil. I'm not really, but I do take the issue seriously. I guess I'm not one to want to put the "happy ending" on everything. I know that that is usually how its done when presenting a tough message, but I don't know that I always agree with it.

For example, shows about endangered species, environmental problems, etc. usually end with the progress that is being made and technologies that are helping, but "there is still a lot of work to be done." Honestly, I find that seems to make a lot of people sit back and sigh and then say to themselves, "Oh, well, thank goodness they're taking care of it," and then go back to living exactly as they have been living.

I just wonder what would happen if, instead of profiling the scientists in the field or the volunteer organizations, an educational show would end with: "The situation is serious. We have x amount of time to make these changes. Here are some of the things every person needs to be doing to secure a healthy environment for our future: ..." Then, give a practical list and links to further information and leave it at that.

At the same time, as a Christian, I am thankful that God is in His heaven and is working out His plan and purposes. I rest confidently in that. By rest, of course, I do not mean that I do nothing. He wants me to care for my family. One of the ways I am doing this, I believe, is to continue to be prepared for a future with less energy by practicing now. Yesterday was a good day of doing this.

I had my first pick-up from the CSA this past weekend and also made a stop at the farmers' market on the way home. My intention, like so many who can and put-up food, is to be using some of what I'm getting - hopefully each week - to set aside for the summer months when less grows here. I am learning, of course, that there are some things that can grow in FL in the summetime, but they are fewer than what is grown from November to May. So, like my northern friends who prepare for their winters, I am preparing for my summer. I am thankful to have a larger window of time in which to do this. At the same time, unlike summer harvesting, in which I would not be teaching, my canning time takes place during our school year and therefore has me juggling a few things. So, yesterday, math was pushed aside so that the girls could help with some preserving.

Preserving is a great lesson to teach children, so I wasn't concerned at all when substituting this into our curriculum. It is a skill that is helpful and fun today and may become more necessary in the future. The citrus season is upon us here in the Gulfcoast and we are practicing saving as much as we can. Maia zested limes and lemons for me yesterday, while Eve juiced them, and I prepared tomatoes for canning. I froze the jar of lime juice, as I already had one in the refrigerator. I put the one jar of lemon juice in the fridge, because it is my first of the season. To save room and energy, though, I believe I will be canning the citrus juices this year, instead of freezing them. Ultimately, canning requires one-time energy and can be done without electricity if that were necessary. When my mom's lemons and my tangelos and grapefruits really start to come in, I hope to be steadily filling up my shelves with juices.

In the meantime, I am also experimenting with a few new recipes, since our farm share this week included bok choy and kohlrabi. We had a good lunch with the bok choy today and will try something with the kohlrabi tomorrow. The internet makes this so easy with so many recipes available upon doing a simple search. Then on Thursday, we'll be at my mil's for Thanksgiving. I'm bringing a vegan pumpkin pie using the pumpkin I froze from Halloween, homemade stuffing, veggetarian gravy, and some of the freezer pickles I made a couple of weeks ago.

To all of my U.S. readers/friends, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peak Oil Overload

So, I'm reading Sharon Astyk's book, Depletion and Abundance, and I have to say, I'm getting a little freaked out. I'm sure that things will settle down for me as I let all the information I am taking in settle in my brain a bit, but right now it's all a bit overwhelming.

As I said on a message board today, " I have long practiced voluntary simplicity and, to be honest, while I believe strongly in a lifestyle that focuses on walking gently on the planet, I must admit that I preferred believing that it was voluntary - to a degree. I guess that I'm learning that it is not anymore and I'm more than a little concerned for our future."



Astyk writes,

We have already begun to experience supply constraints, and just about everything that is made or transported with oil has begun to rise in cost. Virtually every purchase we make involves oil at some stage (often at every stage) - from the shoes on our feet to the houses we live in. Our food is grown with oil [did you know that chemical fertilizers and pesticides were petroleum based??? YUCK. Yet another reason to grow your own, shop locally, and go organic. - ed.], packaged in oil, and transported to our grocery stores with oil. Many of us have an instinctive assumption that Peak Oil is mostly about gasoline, because that's how we think about oil. But in fact, oil is everywhere, and our whole economy floats on a sea of oil and other sources of fossil energy that are reaching their peaks.

One of the other fossil energies is natural gas and I'm sure many cold-climate friends can attest to the high, high prices they are already facing. In addition, alternative energy sources also rely on oil for their production or for mechanical parts; I learned a lot of this last night watching the film, The End of Suburbia.

Astyk has seen The End of Suburbia too and I appreciate that while the film leaves us feeling like the real and perhaps only solution is for the "New Urbanism" to save our cities, she at least gives a little more hope to me as to how one might begin to make changes while still residing in the suburbs. There has to be this kind of hope, because there's no way we're all going to fit into the cities and, at least in the shorter term, there's no way to afford it either.

One of the men interviewed in the film was talking about the great marketability of cities and towns using New Urbanist principles. He noted that they were going for premium rates. Well, that's great incentive for developers and any new development we have should lean in that direction. But he also said that he felt that suburbia may actually be where the future slums are. And I can see that too, because already the beautiful, walkable communites that are voted every year as great-quality-of-life places to live are waaaaaaaaaay out of my family's price range. So, for those of us left in the suburbs, we are going to have to think about doing things differently - way differently.

Consider that as oil depletes and becomes harder to convert into fuel, prices will continue to rise. Not only will we be wanting more oil, but the rest of the developing world that wants and is driving more and more cars, will be wanting more gasoline too. So, consider that the average 40 minute round trip to work will no longer be feasible. Given that the suburbs are rarely set up with reliable sources of public transportation, this becomes a greater problem and may eventually require people to find different work altogether.

Consider, too, that food will no longer be available year-round in the abundant variety we have all become so used to. We will have to know what grows around us at the very least and learn to grow more of our own food as well.

These are just two of the many, many factors that the coming age seems to herald. I am really trying to listen and to learn while it still appears that there is time to do so. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly when the effects will multiply exponentially.

Quite simply, it is only a matter of time before we are no longer going to be able to be a global economy and will return to much smaller, regional (if we're lucky) and local economies. We will be required to live more similarly to the ways our grandparents and great-grandparents lived. I don't think it necessarily has to be a horrible thought, (in fact, I welcome much of it and have longed for many of the community aspects of this type of smaller living) but it is a different way of thinking and we would greatly benefit ourselves and our children by learning some of the basic skills that many of us have neglected to learn. Astyk's book, two others she has written on growing and preserving food, and a myriad of other books on self-sufficiency, which may have appeared to be aimed only at a hobbyist audience at one time, now seem required reading for a successful future.

So, I am concerned and yet, I am hopeful. I am afraid that many, many people will continue to wait until they really must act; we are such a reactive as opposed to proactive country. But I am thankful for the amount of information that is out there and that I can take the time that is now to learn what I can. And I look forward to the time when there will be more people who are ready to work together for a healthier future. Right now, I'm sure that I sound alarmist to some, but I think the evidence is on my side. Heck, even the U.S. Army is making preparations for Peak Oil. In the meantime, I will be practicing and continuing to learn more about what it means to live locally and more sustainably. I want to be familiar and comfortable with it - and I want my children to be familiar and comfortable with it - when the time comes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just Something You Haven't Thought Of


Have you ever had one of those moments when you kind of give yourself the palm-to-forehead smack, saying to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?" Sometimes those moments do not necessarily involve new inventions or even revelatory ideas, but they may just be simple things - new ways of doing things - that seem so obvious once you see it, but for some reason it has alluded you.


For example, years ago when I first started making my pizzas from scratch, I would press all over the dough with my fingers and pull and stretch it until it fit the pan or the stone I was using. I really have no idea where or why I decided to do it this way, but I did and I did it that way for at least two or three years. Then one evening, at a Pampered Chef party a friend of mine was hosting, the woman selling the items was making us a pizza and she pulled out her handy dandy Pampered Chef rolling pin. Was I sold on that particular rolling pin? Well, no, but I just couldn't believe that, for whatever reason, it had never occurred to me to roll out my dough instead of using my hands. Crazy!


I think the same idea can be applied to voluntary simplicity and living environmentally consciously. We often get so ingrained in the way we do things that we sometimes don't think there is any other way to do something. Actually, these types of discoveries are one of the things I really love about living lightly. I'm always amazed and inspired to learn how to do something better for the planet and the people and animals that live here. I am inspired by the creativity and ingenuity that goes into engineering, for example, rainwater catchment systems or composting toilets or new desings of bicycles and other alternative forms of transportation.


Some things, however, are so very simple that they are often overlooked. The beauty of their simplicity, though, is that they can often be done by anyone and even done immediately, with no real learning curve whatsoever. As an example, yesterday as I was walking into the grocery store I saw a mom with her two kids diligently placing plastic bags into the plastic bag recycling bin. Fabulous! Really, it was very good. But then less than a minute later this same woman is standing in the produce section filling up a new plastic bag with produce. I was very tempted to try to kindly say something, but I knew it would come across all wrong (hence this blog post!). :)


Without being critical, because I do applaud her efforts, this seems perfectly illustrate what I'm talking about. She wasn't even thinking about what she was doing, really, and much of the time we just don't; we just continue to do things as we've always done. So here's the thing. Obviously, she could have just used some of the plastic bags she'd brought in to put her produce in. But, taking it one step further, she could simply not put her produce into any bag. I have done this for years and I promise you it is absolutely doable.


If you are purchasing small fruits, loose, in bulk, like say, cherries, then you may want to use a bag you've brought. But otherwise, apples, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, etc. simply do not need to be put in a plastic bag in order to travel to your home. This is just one of those things that may be completely obvious to some people, but not to others.


And here is something you might find interesting in regard to all those plastic bags. Perhaps you have heard of the massive, swirling, as-big-as-the-state-of-Texas, collection of plastic out in the Pacific ocean that is regularly killing sea birds, fish, and mammals as we speak. Perhaps you have heard of the sea turtles that mistake discarded, wind-blown plastic bags for the jellyfish that are a regular part of their diets and ingest them, making it eventually impossible, due to all the trapped air in their bellies, for them to dive and they then starve to death. Perhaps you are not as moved by these stories as I so easily am. But Colin Beavan pointed out something new that I didn't know in his book, No Impact Man.


Although the plastic bags do not completely decompose, they do begin to disintegrate in the sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces. Those pieces get ingested by fish, which get ingested by humans. Chemical compounds that make up these plastic bags, never before found in humans, are now being found in human blood. For me, of course, this is just one more reason I'm glad I don't eat animals, but for those who do, I think bringing cloth bags to the grocery store and the department store and the hardware store just became a little more inviting to do. As Beaven points out: we really are what we eat.


Another example of something maybe you just haven't thought of is bringing your own bags to purchase in bulk. Used bread bags are great for this. Again, it may be obvious to some, but I can't begin to tell you how many times the cashiers at Whole Foods tell me, "Oh, hey, that's a really good idea. I never thought to bring my own bags for bulk items too." And bonus: our Whole Foods gives 5 cents off for every bag you bring and all those bulk bags count toward that too. :) You can do this with coffee that you grind too. If your bag is still in pretty good condition, why throw it? Take it back with you and refill it.


These are the kinds of things that keep the whole lifestyle of voluntary simplicity endlessly interesting to me. It's not rocket science and the ideas won't win you any sort of prize, but I do think everyone loves a good idea - especially those that are free and easy.


Instead of getting discouraged, I'm trying to remember not to judge and to consider that maybe some of the changes people need to make are just things they haven't thought of yet. I'm trying to extend a little grace, practice a little patience, not complain (we're taking a family challenge this week to not complain for a whole week!!), and remember to be thankful to the grace that has been extended to me. Because I never know the next time I'm going to be slapping my own hand to my forehead! :)
Image available at Allposters.com

Monday, November 9, 2009

Garden Update

Just a quick post.

I took a well-needed Sabbath yesterday and have decided that I reeeeeaaaally need to do this more often: guard my time and prepare so that I really can have a day of rest once-a-week.

We are currently waiting for our bicycle head and tail lights to arrive, so that we can be riding more and not feel time constraints even with the earlier setting sun. I was not able to find these used, but had to order them online instead.

I've shopped the farmers' market the past 3 weekends in a row and we've been enjoying lots of local food. The CSA I joined will begin sharing the harvest on the 21st of the month. Also, our own garden is still giving us some things, but recently the zucchinis and crook-neck squashes have been dying on the vine and the healthy ones had some little holes in them. Ugh!! Worms!

I knew they were there - I could see their stupid, little droppings everywhere, but could not find them. Thanks to Paul, though, - my husband and research specialist - we've learned that they are what are commonly referred to as, "pickle worms." The night moths that lay these eggs arrive at night and lay their eggs in the flowers. Then the flowers, once fertilized close up and you can't see the gross buggers until they've eaten their way out of one fruit or put a hole into a healthy one. SO frustrating, but the key seems to be to plant the squashes earlier in the season. I may try it again next summer, but I don't know... we'll see. Seems if I'm not battling the worms in the flowers, I've got other nasty worms eating the leaves. It may be that I'm not going to be a zucchini farmer.

I confess that I get dramatic in my mind when things like this happen. I told Paul that with every garden failure I think, "What if I had to survive??? I don't think I could do it!" My much more logical husband pointed out to me (and I swear he is such a great yang to my yin - or whatever, just such a great match for me - always manages to calm me down and put things into perspective) that if we were trying to survive 1) we'd have many more plants than the few we have, so that if a few of the plants went down, we wouldn't be wiped out, so 2) we'd have a much larger garden and 3) we'd be out there every day really keeping an eye on things instead of checking every other day or so and then being surprised by mishaps and 4) there would be others sharing knowledge with us or we'd have been raised with a certain amount of knowledge that would help us.

As it is, we learn as we go and that is okay for a society such as ours. I suppsose I can be thankful that we are not in an emergency situation where I must have these skills right now. Still, Florida gardening is much more challenging to me than Minnesota gardening ever was and it leaves me wondering just what I would be eating if I truly grew nearly everything... and what a true, local diet looks like around here. For example, there certainly wouldn't be pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but more likely key-lime pie instead. I'm thinking about these things. I'm looking at key-lime recipes. Yes, I have frozen pumpkin in my freezer, but I think I ought to begin some new, more regional, seasonal traditions if I really want to learn to live smaller.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Frayed, But Still Trying



Now here's an exciting picture, eh? Well, not all that exciting, I know, but it made me happy enough. This is Maia's jack-o-lantern - or what remained of it. I cooked and froze it and Eve's, since we carved them Halloween day and they were just fine to cook they next day. I managed to get just over 4 quarts of pumpkin cooked, pureed and frozen. We've already enjoyed some pumpkin muffins and some Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. I also enjoyed just eating some hot with Earth Balance and salt on it. I prefer roasting pumpkin to steaming or boiling it, as it gives mild pumpkin a slightly richer flavor. I find doing either of the other to leave it a bit too watery for my taste. The pumpkins weren't local, but at least they didn't go to waste!


This week finds me kind of burning the candle at both ends and has me planning for a Sabbath proper. I have been needing to better guard my Sabbath rest; I have not been doing a good job of it and I am feeling frayed around the edges. For me, this will mean even passing up fellowship this Sunday; staying home from church to read and pray and just rest. I am looking forward to it.


Feeling frayed has led to feeling crabby and something I have been feeling kind of crabby about is this: People have hobbies. I have hobbies. I love to knit, enjoy journaling, making some art, etc. But to me, being concerned about the environment is not a hobby. I confess that I get a little discouraged when people tell me they read or saw something about climate change or recycling or composting or something like that and then tell me, "I thought of you." I know that, certainly, they only mean something kind when they say that, but really? You thought of me? Why not think of yourself... or for heaven's sake, your children or your grandchildren?
I have had people say things to me like, " Well, I know you're really into the environment..." I can't help thinking that I'm into the environment like I'm into breathing or into having my heart beat. We can't live without it, folks. Oh, there will still be an environment if we screw this one up, but ultimately, it will not necessarily be able to sustain life as we know it.

Feeling frayed leaves me feeling discouraged and less hopeful. I am hopeful when I read, on this vast internet, what others are doing, actions people are taking, and the wide variety of voices from around the world who are moving toward less wasteful, harmful ways of living. But, I confess, that when I look around me locally, I see little that impresses me and few that inspire me and that always leaves me feeling sad and even weary from time to time.

Quite often, in the places I have lived, I have felt like an island in a great sea of people who simply choose - yes, choose - not to pay attention to what is happening in and to the world around them. They know to recycle, but just don't. They know it would be better to bring shopping bags, but they just don't. They know it would be better not to take the disposable cups, plates, napkins, etc., but they just still do. It's all just so convenient. And so I swim upstream amidst even people that I love and risk being the wet blanket if I say too much. I try not to say too much too much most of the time and hope that my actions will speak for me. But when I hear that my actions simply make others think of me when they think about caring for this planet that we share, I do wonder why? And I wonder just what it will take - or rather - why it seems that it will have to take something catastrophic to happen before people will act?

I am sorry that we are such a reactive nation rather than a proactive nation on so many things. It seems true to form that our nation is like an addict that will have to hit bottom before it will pick itself up and begin to work to change. And yes, it takes work. It just does. Why do we believe that life ought to be convenient and easy and throw-away for us, when the greater majority of the world works very hard every day just to live? Why do we feel we deserve this? Why do we buy into the idea that we deserve this? Because it's easier and the alternatives are hard. But I continue to believe that the alternatives will one day - sooner than we may want to admit - no longer be alternatives, but will simply be the way - the new way - we must live or our children must live in order to adapt to the rapidly changing climate.

I am doing some things. To some, I am doing a lot of things. But really, I am doing some things. And I need to be doing more. I am just looking forward to the day when I will not be alone in doing these things. Doing things together is almost always easier. The new ways of living that will be a necessary part of our future will not be so difficult when there are more participating, more adding their creative juices to the pot. I do hope to see that day someday in my future.

I am ready and willing to change from a society that values the individual to one that values strong, involved communities. I look forward to the day when cities, towns, and neighborhoods will be planned around or retrofitted to serve the people that live in them instead of the cars that drive through them. I look forward to the day when people will have to (because of lack of fossil fuels) get out and walk or ride bikes or scooter or skate or share rides to their destinations. I look forward to the conversations folks will have when they will actually see their neighbors outside, because walking or biking is necessary. I look forward to the day when I see actual neighbors at the farmers' markets or CSA's, because this will be where we need to get most of our food - from local sources instead of 2,000 miles away. I look forward to the day when people will grow fruit and nut trees in their yards instead of ornamental trees and have gardens that can feed people instead of shrubs. I look forward to the day when these people will talk with neighbors and share foods with those that live around them.

These are things I look forward to and things I hope for. They are things I dream of and a vision that is dear to me. These are the things that I cling to when reality is so different around me and I'm feeling like an island. These are the things that I hope for when I hang another line of laundry or compost or bike instead of driving. I think it's a pretty great vision and this is why I am willing to try and why I wish - so much - that instead of others watching me try, they would step in and join me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IDC : October 27, 2009

A quick and easy format for a Tuesday post via Sharon's "Casaubon's Book" Independence Day Challenge.

Plant something: Nothing this week yet, but there are still a few squares in the garden, since the spinach refuses to grow.

Harvest something: two cucumbers, a yellow summer squash, arugula, oregano, and two "sampler" radishes came out of the garden today.

Preserve something: I'll be skimming all the leaves off the oregano and drying it tomorrow for future use.

Waste Not: the regular recycling & composting, cutting up t-shirts from Goodwill to aid in Halloween costume making, using coffee filters more than once, using the light over the stove as opposed to overhead lighting (seven bulbs) in the kitchen during the day, passed on buying the big jar of prepared garlic and instead made my own jar with the girls helping me peel 8 heads of garlic, hung the whites out a day late, but at least I didn't throw them in the dryer, found a like-new bike and a pair of rollerblades that I had specifically been looking for at Goodwill yesterday

Want Not: cooked and froze pinto beans this weekend, finally juiced all the limes Mom had given me, chopped all that garlic in the food processor and stored it in a jar with a bit of water in the fridge

Build Community Food Systems: Joined the CSA!!!!! SO excited about this. Also shopped the farmers' market on Saturday.

Eat the Food: homemade bread, still cooking all breakfasts except for Saturdays from scratch (lunches too, but I was already doing that!), think I'll make some granola tomorrow

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Impact Week Outcomes

Woo hoo! I just clicked on the "pay now" button on my Gamble Creek Farm CSA membership! I'm very happy about this; it's something I've been wanting to do for years now. We'd actually signed up in 2008, but had to retract our membership when my husband was laid off in the midst of this recession. He's been steadily employed for over a year now and we're ready to dive in with our commitment to supporting local agriculture once more.

Trying to shop and eat locally as much as possible is a challenge and a twist on the usual way of doing my shopping. To get the most out of our membership, it's going to mean that instead of making out my menu and then going to get the food, I will be getting the food and then figuring out what we can make from it. This should make things interesting to say the least. But I'm all for interesting when it comes to the kitchen. I've got years and countless hours under my belt in the kitchen and anything that livens things up in there is most welcome!

My mom, Jerry and I toured the farm yesterday at a membership orientation. Before that, though, we did some early morning shopping down at the downtown farmers' market. The crops won't be ready at the farm until the second week in November, so I picked up a bunch of lovely things grown right in our area. I bought: potatoes, watermelon (fabulous flavor!!), mustard greens, onions, cantaloupe, tomaotes, cucumbers, green beans, and sweet potatoes. Wonderful stuff. Today I'll be making out my menu and figuring out how to use all of these things in a timely manner, so that nothing goes to waste. The greens, for example, will need to be used up before they wilt, so they'll be used first. The watermelon has already been carved and is in the refrigerator, etc.

The results of my No Impact Project participation have been enlightening and, I'll confess, somewhat draining. It takes time to develop new habits before they become easier. And these new habits are also, specifically, taking more of my time too. It's not a bad thing, but just different. Making breakfasts for my family every morning, for example, has taken more of my time and energy. But one benefit that I didn't foresee was that not only are we not going through the boxed cereals so quickly and my family is getting better nutrition, but we also aren't plowing through the soy and almond milk like we ordinarily do. The only time soy or almond milk is used in our household is when it's poured on cereal or used in cooking; we're primarily water drinkers here. So, I was pleasently surprised when I saw that there will be fewer milk containers to bring home this week. This not only saves us more money, but continues to cut down on waste.

Even though my No Impact Week has come to an end, you can be sure that I will be continuing to make changes, little alterations here and there as I continue to strive toward walking ever lightly. One project this week will be to find a good recipe for homemade burger buns. I've used my bread recipe in the past, but I'm looking for something just a little lighter.

Finally, as if I needed any more reasons to spur on my actions, I watched this on Friday night. Sea levels have already risen for this village in Bangladesh. The effects of global warming, of climate change, are not just coming for this village, but have already arrived. I was stunned to see these people walking in waist-deep water trying to go about their business of rebuiliding their homes, of moving, and of children using hours of each day to fetch fresh water - a boat ride to higher land - for their families. The girl in the story fetching the water is my daughter's age. What would it be like to see my child doing this every day instead of working on her education? What would it be like to see my child having school in a boat - which is what these children now do since their homes are under water? What would it be like if these families, as the story suggests, become more and more displaced and became refugees in parts of the world farther in and farther up... or if they came by the thousands as more and more homes are swallowed up to the very places that caused these catastrophes in the first place. Because these are not the people responsible for climate change, but they - like the rest of poorer, more impoverished peoples - will be the first to pay the price.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thinking

Did you ever see the Walt Disney version of Winnie the Pooh? Do you remember how he would sit and poke his little head and go, "Think, think,... think, think..." That's how I've felt this week. The No Impact Project has been doing exactly what I'd hoped it would do and that was to cause me to really look at almost everything. There are many things that we do already, but I needed a fresh view, new or renewed reminders of new ways of doing things.

I haven't actually done a whole lot different this week, but because of these eye openers, I'm planning. For starters, I'm going to be looking around my area for a groomer for our dog, as I'd mentioned, so that I can get her there by bike instead of driving. Next, while I won't be able to not drive to the farmers' market or CSA, I plan to use those for more of my food needs and my food won't have traveled the average 2000 miles to get to my plate. I don't mind driving for that.

Today was the day to focus on energy consumption in the Project. All week I have been working in my kitchen with the lights off during the day. My kitchen is a bit dark, but there really is enough light to work in there via the light from the window if I don't rush to turn on the lights and just let my eyes adjust. I've been using the light over the stove if I need extra light for something, since it's one light as opposed to the 7 canister lights in my ceiling. At night, I turn on the lights. But during the day, I can keep them off. I can tell you, though, I'm reeeeeaaal interested in one of these for both our living room and kitchen. I have to look into it more to see if they are cost effective for us, but I think that would be fantastic.

I didn't have anything planned for lunch today like I normally do. So, I was standing there trying to think about what to make. If I'd planned better, I could have made something raw and that would have saved on cooking energy. I decided to bake some potatoes in our toaster oven instead, since I didn't really have the ingredients for a complete raw meal. As I was preparing the potaotes though, I started thinking about solar cookers. It seems pretty silly that I live in FL and hadn't really considered the possibility of using one of these until now. But as I said, I've been thinking...

I'm currently reading The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. It's an incredible resource and of course I found info on solar cookers in it. They pointed me in the direction of Joe Radabaugh, the designer of the Heaven's Flame solar cooker. He says you can build one for under $10. That's my kind of oven! :) I can't say I'll be building one right away, but I'll be on the lookout to collect materials and then one day, I'm going to just give it a go!

Well, I'm off to bed now though. All this thinking has worn me out. Oh, but before I go, I did harvest a beatiful zucchini from our garden today! That'll be incorporated into lunch tomorrow. Can't get more local than that!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Changes at Hand

Yesterday was Transportation Day in the No Impact Project. There wasn't too much I could do about it yesterday, since I had an appointment for my dog to be groomed and it is a necessary drive to do that. But it did have me thinking that I could call around to places nearer to me, say in biking distance, and see how the prices compare. My dog is fine to ride in the trailer we had for the kids and now use primarily for grocery runs. I'll need to look into it.



Overall, though, I am looking at ways of riding more often and taking the bikes whenever we can. The kids and I have been biking every morning, sometimes joined by my husband (he works second shift, so he's not always completely awake or ready to go when we are), to increase our endurance for longer rides as well as windy days.



Today is Eat Local day. I don't know how well this one will work out for me immediately, because I'm not going to junk the food I already have and purchase something different just to eat local today. That said, we will be visiting a CSA farm this weekend and are likely to purchase a share. You can learn more about CSA farms at LocalHarvest.org.



There, you can also find out about farmers' markets in your area, co-ops, and more. I noted our downtown farmers' market hours and read some reviews - all good! I've never been because it has been an off and on thing and seems to have been revamped of late. So, I hope to visit it soon (by car, not bike... still too far...sigh).



Another thing I am doing food-wise, to not only eat more whole foods and boost our immune systems, but also decrease the grocery food bill with an eye toward more fresh food, is to make breakfast 6 days of the week for my family, cutting out all cold cereal, save for Saturday mornings. Even the "healthy" cold cereals at average grocery stores are loaded with high fructose corn syrup. They may be cheaper, but at what other cost? I decided I wanted to purchase the cereals at Whole Foods that are actually made from whole food. They are, of course, more expensive. But when we have it only once a week, the cost evens out. Yes, it's more work for me, but I am looking at it in a couple of ways:



First, living intentionally simply takes planning. It doesn't always take more time, but you have to be prepared. The time is taken in the planning so that you're not caught off guard missing a necessary ingredient or something of the like. This week when I planned for tofu scramble breakfast burritos, I took the tortillas out of the freezer the night before. Likewise, I prepared the dry ingredients in advance for Tuesday's morning muffins. Menus are essential. While I rotate meals for lunches (that is our big meal of the day, since Paul works evenings), breakfasts will be different each day, but the same breakfast for the same day, i.e. breakfast burritos every Monday, muffins on Tuesday, pancakes on Wednesday, etc. There is variety within those things: different muffins, different hot cereals, but it takes the guesswork out of planning.



Second, I feel like I'm practicing for the future. The years of cheap oil are fading fast and even if we don't completely wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, the oil that remains will be - and is already becoming - harder and harder to acquire. I don't believe that a year-round variety of all the fruits we currently see on grocery store shelves is going to be a reality for too much longer. We won't be eating food from New Zeland and Chile when it's not in season in this hemisphere. Seriously, we won't. And if it's not our generation that sees these changes, then it will be our kids or our grandkids. Wouldn't you rather practice and be prepared, be equipped to know how to operate in a future that is surely going to happen?

Like the current economic recession, I feel that making these changes now - trying them on for size, tweaking them and getting used to them while there is still room for error is going to benefit myself and my family in the long run. For example, we have been living debt-free (save for our mortgage) and frugally now for almost the entirety of our 14 years of marriage. Despite the fact that my husband was unemployed for 3 months in the summer of '08 and then found a job that pays him substantially less, we have still managed to save money this year. I'm not trying to toot my own horn; I was actually pretty surprised! I think I was surprised because, while for a few months there we really tightened our belts, our style of living did not drastically change. We are used to saying, "no" to certain things. We are used to saying, "no" to unnecessary conveniences. By the same token, I want to get used to shopping locally and get used to using alternative forms of transportation and get used to not relying on convenience foods. I want to get used to this before I have to get used to it and I'm ending up reacting to an emergency-type situation. I believe that is how some people who believed they could live their lives on rotating credit feel now. I don't want to feel that way when these energy choices are going to be made for us.

And I want my children to know how to do this too. I want to prepare them for the kind of future they very likely will face. Can anyone do that with a constant stream of Healthy Choice frozen dinners, or other packaged "foods", or even meals made from whole foods, but that are shipped literally thousands of miles to make it to my dinner plate?

It is hard doing this now. While I have always had an affinity for voluntary simplicity, I think that I am beginning to learn that time is limited for the actions to remain voluntary. Now don't get me wrong; I don't necessarily see a bleak future. While I do think things may be challenging, they will be challenging because they are new and different and not what we're used to, but I don't believe it will be all bad. The very fact that there will simply be others joining in the effort (by that time, perhaps, by no choice of their own) will ease the growing pains. Learning to work together for the benefit of all the planet - its people and its resources - together and for each other could make the future I see one that is very rewarding. I simply want to be able to walk confidently into that future with my family and be prepared to lead, at least in some way, rather than to follow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Garden Progress and Proliferation

This year we are gardening again. Hopefully, this year, we are gardening more wisely.

At the end of August I actually tested my soil before beginning the new garden, a new garden by the way, using the Square Foot Gardening practice. My soil was sorely lacking in many nutrients. In fact, the only positive thing that could be said about my soil was that it was PH neutral. But for all the compost and manure we have laid in past years, the simple fact was, with our torrential rainy seasons, the soil never holds those nutrients for long and the garden would simply need fertilizer - organic fertilizer, mind you, but fertilizer, nonetheless, in addition to the compost we continually create in our back yard bin.

So far so good! I've got arugula that will be used today for the first time (!) in sandwiches at lunch, baby cukes, zucchini, and crookneck squash on the vine. Thanks to a blend of 50% milk and 50% water, I've been able to fend off the fungus that likes to destroy my tomato leaves; I've got 3 healthy, growing plants so far. Beets, chard, radishes, nasturtius and parsnips are all babies in the garden right now too. My packet of spinach left much to be desired, though. I have very few sprouts.


The garden project is proliferating this year too as you can see from the above photo. The boxes behind mine are my neighbors' and are a project of our house church youth group. The kids filled the boxes, picked out the plants they wanted and the seeds, and planted them. They are helping to tend to the gardens regularly as well and all will share in the harvest! If our garden is successful, extras will go to share with other neighbors or even a food bank. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, though. So far we've got baby sprouts, but it's a start and everyone loves it!

Here are some photos of the kids on planting day. It was HOT, but two hours of labor left us with nicely watered beds and tired, but happy kids.





Square Foot gardens are an easy way to garden with your children... and even your neighbors. What a beautiful sight it would be to see boxes like these in backyards across the country: feeding people, working together, and eating locally.
A peek at my crookneck squash babies:


And a view of my back yard from the vantage point of the neighbors' yard and the south side of the garden.


The latest photos of the prickly, baby cukes! It's amazing to me how something so small can make me so very happy! :)


And pretty zucchini looking healthy so far:


Monday, October 19, 2009

Thou Shalt Create No Trash

Today as part of the No Impact Project we are challenged to look at the trash we are creating and consider ways to eliminate it. Already, my family practices what I consider to be moderate practices of reducing our waste: we compost, buy in bulk, shop with cloth bags, reuse bags for our bulk purchases, and recycle cans, glass, and paper, including paperboard. And our efforts are visible in the rate that we drag our garbage to the curb and the actual amount that is in the bin.
Still, there is more that can be done which, I am noticing, will entail more effort on my part. I am not adverse to this, but I know that it will require not only physical effort, but mental effort as well.
You see, one of the things that Colin talks about in No Impact Man is that we often are in a great hurry to get so many things out of the way, to get, it would seem, much of our life out of the way.
Now it just so happens that I was sitting on the beach this past Friday enjoying what may well be our last really warm day of the year here in southwest Florida, and I was reading a book about slowing down and creating more happiness in our lives by remaining in the moment.
This is not news to me. I have known about and have practiced time and again, reamaining in the present moment. Yet, unless I am in dire need of it - such as to avoid anxiety - I often forget this practice and allow myself to get swept away by my circumstances. When a theme begins to repeat itself in my life, I attribute it to God tapping me on the shoulder and asking me to pay close attention... and so I am.
The mental effort I mentioned above will entail just this: remaining in the present moment - living in my life and not trying to escape even the drudgery that may come from many kitchen chores. The more I pay attention, the more I am living with intention and often (though not always) the drudgery is elevated from something I might rather avoid to something I may even esteem.
Paying attention today to what is happening in my kitchen and how much waste may be created has me rethinking habits and looking for alternatives.
Today for breakfast I made everyone tofu scramble breakfast burritos with lettuce and salsa. We had orange juice to drink. The orange juice was from frozen concentrate; all parts of the can, save for that little plastic band you use to pull off the lid, can be recycled. The tortillas are from Whole Foods and come six in a plastic bag. I've tried making tortillas. I do NOT care for it, though I can say my family LOVED the fresh ones. Don't know if I'll go for making them homemade again any time in the future... but never say never.
The tofu came in a plastic tub that can be recycled. I won't be making my own tofu, I'm afraid. I may even say never to this!
The salsa came in a glass jar, which can be recycled, but I am seriously thinking that I should try making fresh salsa again. I haven't liked some of the salsa recipes I've made in the past, but I have tried others' fresh salsa and loved it. I'll do some experimenting here and see if I can find a good recipe. Feel free to share if you have one!
I used garlic this morning too - chopped from a plastic jar. I have cut fresh garlic for years and only recently took to using the convenient, large jars already prepared from the store. Let me tell you, I hate peeling garlic! But I'll go back to doing it in large batches to store for myself in a reusable jar. Throwing it in the food processor is not a problem (until I get to no electricity... is that coming this week? I better get it done before then!), but the peeling is still a pain. Maybe I can think of something pleasant to do while I'm doing it. Perhaps I'll sit down at the table instead of standing and listen to a book or podcast on my iPod if I'm alone, or perhaps I can do it with one of the children at the table visiting with me.
A few other things I noticed today:
* While my tea bag is compostable, the little paper that wraps my Twingings Earl Gray is not, though I suppose it is recyclable. But the paper used is not post-consumer, so switching to loose leaves will be a goal of mine.
* I am frustrated that I can't buy peanuts in bulk anymore since the peanut butter scare last year. I was happily making my own peanut butter, but now I am buying again: glass jar, non-recylable plastic lid.
* I do make our own tofu mayo, but the tofu is in aesceptic packaging that is not recycled here. It's 1/4 the cost of Vegenaisse though, so I'm sticking with it for now. I'll look for silken tofu in the recylable plastic tubs I guess.
So, those are some of the things I've noticed in regard to trash today. I plan to ask my small house church I attend next door to practice using non-disposable items for coffee, etc. I'll be reminding my friends to bring their own mugs.
A few other non-trash choices for today:
* Took the van to get its oil changed. Took my bike in the back and rode home after stopping at the store with cloth bag for some fruits and veggies. Skipped the grapes in the plastic bag and took plums without packaging instead.
* The kids and I walked the two miles back up to pick up the van when it was done. A great afternoon in the cool air and sunshine!
* We'll be perusing Craigslist and Freecycle for the bike and some rollerblades for Eve, who's outgrown both of hers.
So, a fulfilling and thoughtful Day Two to my No Impact Week! :)
Photo credit: Steve Winter; print available at Allposters.com

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Impact Week : Day One

Crazy. Here I am again! I didn't delete the blog, because I thought I just might need to come back and I didn't want to wipe out 2 1/2 years of my life in one fell swoop. But I'm ready to be back - at least for now. Ready to record and share my path and days of growing, stretching myself, challenging, changing and just being a witness to life - my life. More than that, though... or perhaps less than that, I hope to limit my focus somewhat to my continued efforts at living lightly, healthy, and sustainably. I will likely still have pieces to share about my family, homeschooling, and creative efforts from time to time, but the whole if it feels too broad to me at present and is more fodder for my personal journals rather than my public blog.

Today is the first day of the No Impact Experiment and I am taking part along with a few thousand others around the globe. I have enjoyed Colin's blog over the last couple of years and was excited to see the release of his book and movie. Unfortunately, his movie doesn't seem to be playing in our area yet, but perhaps it will arrive via the Sarasota Film Society sometime in the future. If not, I will be waiting for its release on Netflix.

In the meantime, I'm listening to the audiobook version of his book, No Impact Man, that I picked up from the library and I'm also waiting for the print version of it to arrive at the library via interlibrary loan, so I can copy down a few things I'd like to remember. I can't buy anything new this week, so certainly, his book was out of the question! :) I actually do plan to purchase a copy, but really... it will be a used one.

So, today, looking at the No Impact How-To Manual, I am supposed to begin by reducing my consumption. I am to try to purchase nothing other than food and if I do need something, I ought to try to buy used first.

Initially, I was thinking, "Easy, peasy." I went 9 months two years ago without buying anything new for myself and I try to maintain this as a habit. Looking more closely, though, which is what I am attempting to do this week, I can already see the challenges ahead.

My younger daughter needs a new, bigger bike. I continue to want to ride our bikes more wherever it is safe to do so around here. The girls and I have been biking every morning for exercise and as part of my plan to increase our strength and endurance for more regular riding. It is evident that Eve needs something bigger. Trying to find used will simply take longer and this may interfere with the goal of riding more and regularly until that happens. Maybe not, though. She's been riding her present bike well-enough for a while now without much complaint. Its me that feels uncomfortable for her when I see that the bike doesn't fit her properly. But truly, a couple of weeks shouldn't matter if that's what I give it to try to find her something via Freecycle or Craigslist before we buy new.

Another challenge I see is finding headlamps for our bikes. I'd like us to ride our bikes more often over to my mil's house when we visit her Sunday evenings, but, of course, I want to be visible and safe. The route primarily has sidewalks and uses back roads that are less frequently traveled, but that also means it is less well-lit. While I think finding a bike for my daughter is likely on the used websites, finding 4 bike headlights for my family will be a further stretch. I don't know if I'm willing to wait to find them, since the trade-off would be that we would drive until we do.

Ah, suburbia. The land dedicated to the automobile instead of the humans that live there. Well, we can't just up and move, so I've got to work with what I've got. "Peak Moment" is a YouTube channel that particularly inspires me. They discuss many issues related to the "peak oil" theory, but the videos I enjoy most of theirs are the ones where people are transforming their suburban homes and traditionally non-productive property into something more self-sustaining. One of my favorites is entitled, How Much Food Can I Grow Around My House and another featuring suburban permaculture. There are many more and not all are about growing food. But growing food in our yards is something I strongly believe in. Can you imagine how much food could be made available to our familes and communities if every suburban lot had at least a kitchen garden in it and chose to have food-bearing trees instead of so many for aesthetics alone? It certainly doesn't take a lot of space, as the Dervaes family proves every day (they have a YouTube channel as well).

Sometimes I believe that it would be easier to be "no impact" in the city, since there are so many places you can get to via bike or mass-transit. I am an urban-oriented person; I have come to learn that over the years. But my husband is not and so we meet halfway: in suburbia. It's not my first choice, and niether is it for him, but we compromise and are making the best of it. Don't get me wrong. We live on some beautiful property, for which I am extrememly grateful and I suspect there would be many things that I would miss if I lived with less land or as much elbow room as we have.

Still, there are things that I am continually frustrated with and one is, namely, as I mentioned above, access to necessities (doctors, dentists, libraries, etc.) has mostly to be gotten to by car. I continue to look for alternatives though. Recently, a new health food store opened in biking distance (and on a safe bike path) from our home. It's about 5 miles one way. But it's very expensive (more than the Whole Foods store I drive a half hour a way to about once a month) and so I don't know how much regular shopping wil will be able to do there. I am also considering a CSA membership that would, perhaps, decrease my need to travel too far for food and would be supporting a local food source. It seems I am continually reassessing our choices and hope to track some of the progress we make and the challenges and compromises we make right here. Participating in the No Impact Project is not a start for me, as I have been following a path toward greater simplicity for the last 20 years. But there is always room for improvement and re-focus. I am looking forward to a fresh commitment and the insights and change that it brings.

Monday, June 22, 2009

June is Mine

Obviously I'm not posting like I used to. But, I'm just going to keep this up for now to track my projects progress.



This first painting is mixed media with watercolor, watercolor pencil, gouche, collage, and embroidery.



This second is of my daughter, Maia, using only gouache.

I'm continuing to learn about these paints and having a good deal of fun. My knitting is suffering, of course, being just the one person that I am. And next month I have to buckle down and get school plans rolling for next year. I have most of it planned; just need a few things ironed out.

But June is mine. :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

You Can Tell It's Summer...

... more painting!

Yesterday fruit, today peppers!


I'll have to get to back to a few more chores tomorrow, but next week I'm hoping to start some portraits. Fun!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Day for Art

After a few days of cleaning and de-cluttering, today is for playing with paint! I did the pear and apple this morning in watercolor. I thought about adding more to the background, but I like the simplicity of it better. I'm working on some peppers now.

I did this sketch of my husband on Sunday night as he worked in his puzzle book with our daughter, Eve. I was going to draw her too, but she was just too wiggly as usual! I am SO disappointed though in the ink from the other side of the page that crept through. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this journal now... I reeeeeallly don't like that things are bleeding through. I also hate leaving things undone and I've already started in this book. :( I could just use if for collage, but I'm not much of a collage artist. So, what to do? I could also use it as a primarily written journal. *sigh* It's not what I originally wanted, so I'll have to see. I definitely have learned that I prefer using watercolor paper. So much of what I do is with watercolor or watercolor pencil or gouache. I don't know what I was thinking... I guess I was thinking that at least the ink or markers wouldn't bleed through, but they do. Grrr. Live and learn.


Finally, below the sketch of Paul is one of my dog, Lucy. She is lying like that right now. She's always snoozing somewhere nearby me. And nearly always with a bit of her tongue sticking out! :)
Hope you're have a good Thursday!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Plans

Maia loves to bake. Her interest has been growing for some time now, as well as her ability. In the past year or so, she would pull out the cookbook she got a few years ago at Christmas and would make one of her old favorites. She's gotten old enough and familiar enough with kitchen basics to handle all that baking entails - including kitchen cleanup!
Unlike her mama, she actually enjoys wandering into the kitchen to throw something together just for fun. I know that plenty of folks unwind in the kitchen by making goodies for their families and friends, but I am just not one of them. I do it, but it is not the thing I think of and turn to when I want to have a good time. I head for my art and knitting.

So, we were talking about summer plans the other day and it dawned on me to mention to her that she could bake us things all summer long. To all of our delight, she was thrilled!
I confess that a teeeeeny part of me has to let go of that mystique that "all good things come from Mama." I have been doing this for 12 1/2 years now and I do love being the one to feed my family yummy dishes and treats that they cheer to have and that they now connect with tradition and memory.
But part of that memory will be me passing on all that I know in the kitchen to my girls. A few days ago I sat them down as I planned my menu for the week and explained why I chose certain meals for certain days: We'll eat this meal first, because it's got corn on the cob and you need to eat that quickly so that it doesn't get starchy and stays nice and sweet... The zucchini dish will be next, because the zucchini is fresh too... We usually have one day of soup a week; we'll put it here... Let's not have two days with pasta too close to each other... We're busy this day, so we'll have an easy meal... and on we went.
The girls will be helping me with one meal a week just as they did two summers ago. This year, though, they will be making copies of recipes they like the best and will begin filling their own recipe binders. They will definitely include the incredible peanut butter chocolate chip cookies Maia's making in the photos here from The Joy of Vegan Baking! I'm putting that one in my recipe book too!
It didn't take me too long to decide that me not spending an extra hour in the hot summer kitchen was really quite okay with me. Both Maia and I were more than satisfied with the plan of her perusing the cookbook for treats, coming up with a list, and I would buy the ingredients. Especially when I can use that time sketching in my art journal or playing with my yarn!
And that leads us to some of my summer plans. We'll not be traveling anywhere this summer, as we are still trying to move forward with our plans to save and move back home to Minnesota. A lot of my time will be spent de-cluttering closets and under cabinets. The craft closet, for instance, has bags of embroidery projects, bags of fabric, puzzles and games and a shelf of pet supplies. As it turns out, my girls are not nearly as crafty as I am and so those bags of scrap fabric that I have saved for rainy days are not viewed as a bag full of possibility, but instead, just a bag full of fabric that needs to be moved every time we open the closet door! :) So, out it goes. And the same will go for things pushed under the t.v. cabinet, into the coat closet, etc.
For fun, I have started a new art journal and will be filling its pages with an odd assortment of things that make me smile. I've written a story that I plan to illustrate and we'll see where that goes. It's just for fun - no pressure.
I'm unravelling another two sweaters - white and off-white - for dyeing. So far, the one sweater I've started on is actually coming apart pretty easily. A few sweaters I've tried recently have been nightmares of frustration and it's tempting to quit trying, but it's just golden when it does work and I know I can make something for so little and be recycling at the same time.
Between these things and planning and organizing for our next school year, they ought to keep me pretty busy and pretty frugal all summer long. I plan to begin posting some of my art journal work here from time to time and will certainly post other projects we're doing. Do you have summer plans in and around your home? What do you do for inexpensive enjoyment? Hope you're all having a great week, and here's to summer!



Friday, May 22, 2009

Vegan:Extreme?

Last night, an old friend of mine responded to this video that I'd posted on Facebook:



She wrote,

I'm glad when anyone is happy and healthy, but my non vegan children are also happy, healthy, veggie loving kids who don't live on diets of Happy Meals and white flour. Not letting the child have a cupcake at a one off birthday party seems a little extreme in my book. I think there is a happy medium to be found in most things, and extremes at either end.

I didn't really feel I'd have enough room to respond the way I'd like over on FB, so I am posting my response here, because I'm sure there are others out there who feel just as she does.

First, I do believe that your children are happy and healthy. But I also believe, from the huge number of studies out there, that a plant-based, whole foods diet, is the best one for us. High cholesterol is being found more and more in younger and younger children (another friend of mine has a son who was diagnosed with high cholesterol when he was four) and heart disease and others are diseases that develop over a long period of time. I believe they are diet related. Heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. have been called "diseases of civilized man." They are highly preventable and many doctors (Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Neal Barnard are some )believe the best way to do this is through a plant-based, whole foods diet.

As for extreme diets, if one is defining "extreme" as "going to great lengths" or "far from a normally practiced standard," I think there are a few things to consider regarding this matter. One, is that the American diet is culturally and habitually based, rather than being based on health or necessity. Using it as a standard of normal is not one that I want to choose.

In the video, they talk to a little girl (around age 4) who says that she thinks a vegan diet is hard because she sometimes doesn't get to have cookies or cupcakes at a party. While I know that it may be challenging for a 4 year old to see brightly colored, frosted goodies at a party and want them, I think there are a few responses to this:

1) The parents have the responsibility, same as the parent who brings the cupcakes for the celebration in the first place, to provide a vegan alternative. There is absolutely NO reason for that child to feel left out, because there are amazing baked goods and other treats available to vegans. I make a number of these snacks myself for my family and friends and regularly get asked for recipes, including some awesome cupcakes! :)

2) There are plenty of other people, for various reasons, who also cannot or do not, eat all the food this particular culture uses for its celebrations. For health or allergy reasons, there are those who avoid all sorts of things and have dairy-free, peanut-free, shellfish-free, gluten-free, tomato-free, etc. diets. There are others, such as Orthodox Jews or Hindus, who, like vegans, avoid certain foods by choice. I wonder if all of these people are considered extreme?

If, on the other hand, we are thinking of word, "extreme" to mean, "existing in a very high degree," then I would consider a meat-based diet to be extreme in regard to risk. There are the health risks inherent in consuming animals that are not only dietary, but also sanitary. The conditions of the slaughterhouses are to be considered. The sanitary habits of the low-wage, slaughterhouse workers ought to be considered as well.

Then there are the preparations necessary for cooking the meat to be sure that it has been cooked well enough to destroy the various bacterias that live in animals, ie. salmonella, e. coli, mad cow, influenza, and many, many others (have a listen to the latest Vegetarian Food For Thought Podcast in my sidebar for further and fascinating information). Then, of course, while one shoud be careful not to under-cook meat, one also should not over-cook the meat, because then carcinogens are know to form.

Finally, I guess I would like to say, that yes, I have an agenda. That agenda is one for promoting the best diet I believe is available to everyone as well as the most compassionate to everyone, human and non-human as well. When I share this information here on my blog, on Facebook, or with my family and friends, it is not meant to insult or judge anyone, but instead inform. I do this because I care about the health of family and friends and because I feel deeply about the unnessecary pain and suffering of the animals that occurs daily on a global basis. It seems illogical to me that the diet that is the best for our bodies, for the environment, and for all life, should be seen as something less desirable, lacking in flavor or nutrition (consider, for a moment, that we use primarily plant food to flavor all our dishes, including meat ), or extreme in any way.

So, I will continue to share here and there from time to time and I hope that we can continue to engage in discussions as friends regarding these issues that seem to ignite such passion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Color, Color, Color!

Oh, gee, it's just been TOO long since I've posted. But, I guess that's what can happen when you've been at this blogging thing for nearly 3 years. I know others are much more prolific than I, but this is what it is and I just haven't felt up to it of late. That said, here I am!

I hadn't felt inspired by too much of late - not enough to post anyway, but color always inspires me and I came across this fantastic deal today and it just made me SMILE.

I was out running errands in the rain and stopped in at Goodwill to pick up some sweaters for unravelling when I spotted this wonderful valance:


Yay for color! It really livens up our little eat-in/schooling area and was an inexpensive addition at only $2.99 per valance. I actually thought it was homemade due to the fun color combination. It kind of put me in mind of Anna Maria Horner's things. Seeing as I don't sew, none of her fun fabrics have found their way into my house, but I can tell you I was thrilled with these! At home I finally found a tag: JCPenney Home Collection. Hmm. Who knew? I'm impressed, JCPenney!
More color, but this time we're wearing it! I gave myself a couple of blue streaks in my hair this weekend and then got it cut on Monday. Just needed something different... something unusual... something more me.

You can see a little of the front blue streak by my left ear in the picture here.
And then the bigger one in back.



Eve got in on the fun too. She was so excited with my color and wanted to do it too. I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of us both having blue at the same time and I also told her that she'd need to pay for the color herself. I had bleach leftover from my kit, so that wouldn't be a problem.
She was disappointed until I remembered that you could dye your hair (as well as yarn!) with Kool-Aide. At .25 a packet, that was something she could afford and so she's got a strawberry streak now too! Fun, fun. It fits her sweet personality to a 'T' and will go with nearly all her pink, pink clothes! :)



I finally finished my Kepler sweater about 2 weeks ago from the yarn I recycled in February. It fits beautifully and I'm so pleased with it. Of course, now it's way to warm to wear it, but it gives me something to look forward to this autumn.
Here is the sweater the way it was before. It was a man's sweater, so that I could ensure I would have enough for a sweater of my own. And indeed I did; I have a bunch of it leftover.




And here's the finished product. I may get around to putting it on for a picture one of these days, but this will have to suffice for now.



I'm currently working on a tank top out of some bamboo yarn I bought about a year and a half ago at a yarn sale. And I just picked up those sweaters at Goodwill to unravel today. One is brown with some other colors laced through it - kind of a heathered brown with little flecks of reddish orange. The other two are white which I'll use for dyeing this summer. Two different fiber blends, so it will be interesting to see how the colors take. Fun for experimenting!
Hope you're all well. I haven't even been out in the blogosphere much of late. I've just been popping into Facebook for a few moments. I'm okay with that; it means I'm busy in the "real" world and that makes me happy too.





Friday, May 1, 2009

VEGANniversary!

It's my 2 year "VEGANniversary!" :) There are SO many reasons I am vegan: humane treatment of animals, animal's rights as sentient beings, the concern I have for the people we pay to do the dirty deed of slaughtering 10,000,000,000 animals a year to feed a gluttonous appetite, concern for the environment, and the care and keeping of our bodies (which God has called our temples and house the Holy Spirit).

So many of the diseases our nation faces are often called "Western diseases," or "diseases of 'civilized' man." If you have 14 minutes I would highly, HIGHLY encourage you to watch this video, featuring Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Give it some thought. And have a happy May Day!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Poems

Every Friday - or nearly every Friday - we work on creating poetry in our happy, little homeschool. We've skipped a few days, but other Fridays that we don't write, the girls will type and then illustrate their poems. At the end of the year I will compile them into booklets of some sort and I think we'll just put them on our bookshelf for easy access and enjoyable reading instead of filing them away with the rest of the year's schoolwork.

As we near the end of another school year and I think ahead to next, I think I'll keep the poetry writing. Sometimes it proves frustrating as we grapple with new concepts/new formulas; quatrains proved especially challenging for some reason this year. But I love, love, love the surprises the bloom from the wordplay. And Maia, especially, continues to stoke her passion for words in general. She is referring to herself these days as artist and writer. Am I thrilled? Am I THRILLED?! Oh, yes, you bet I am!

Occasionally, depending on the day and the duties at hand, I will jump in and write with them. I have written poetry on and off for years. Compiling my own is not a bad idea either, now that I think of it.

Today, the poem formula was a "sestina." Click here for Ms. Rogers' explanation of just what a sestina is. Her lesson plans are some of the majority of what I used with the girls this year. I'll likely cycle back through them again too; the ideas are fun and excellent!

According to Ms. Rogers,

A sestina has six unrhymed stanzas with six lines in each stanza. The last words of the first six lines ccur in a definite pattern in all of the other stanzas... Remember, it is the WORD that appears at the end of each line, NOT the entire line itself.

Again, click on over there to see just what she means. It's cool.

At first this felt so daunting, but, as often happens, the words really provided the poem somehow. So here is mine:

Nowhere

A whole week of nowhere
that I had to be.
I almost couldn't believe -
kept checking the calendar -
that I could spend the days
watching squirrels and sitting in the sunshine.

Sunshine lay in pools among the shadows of the branches.
Nowhere serenaded me with the promise of
days stretching out before me.
Be a writer or a prophet or an artist, the
calendar is quiet here.
Believe that there could be more time like this.

Believe that commerce isn't everything and that
sunshine deserves a place on your
calendar.
Nowhere is a wonderful place to
be...
days moving into days.

Days filled with space to let your mind wander and
believe in posibilities again.
Be an idealist, if only for a few hours.
Sunshine can do that if you have to be
nowhere on a day in the spring, April on your
calendar.

Calendar squares seem so innocent
days appearing limitless, blank space to be filled.
Nowhere feels frightening; unproductive. Without pushing we
believe we have no worth. Work ethics and
sunshine do not seem to mix. Do we need permission to
be?

Be an outsider. Maybe DON'T be a success.
Calendar blanks appear for all, but
sunshine can be few and far between.
Days can become choice morsels of memory if you
believe in the seduction, in the value, in the power of
nowhere.

nowhere be
believe calendar
days sunshine



Inspired by my morning poem, I wrote another this evening, in the midst of running errands!

Can you write a poem
about pushing your shopping cart
back to your car
in the parking lot of Wal-Mart,
the gulls all circling and crying overhead?

They are not seagulls here;
there is no sea. Just
cement and cars
and rap music
from that truck that just drove by.

Can you write a poem about that?

I bought bread
and crackers for my kids.
I bought rechargeable batteries
because we need them.
But I also bought a sketchbook
and watercolor paper

because I still want to have a voice.
Even if I have to write a poem
on the back of this receipt, even
in suburbia.

It's surprising how fun a little poem can be. You should try it. Poems are little; you have time for one. Really. Just one. A haiku is especially small and words are free. You have something to say, you really do. :)
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