Thursday, April 30, 2009

First CSA Delivery of the Spring

Tonight we got our first CSA delivery of the season.

In our basket we got-
1 large green cabbage
5 large radishes
Small bunch of greens (not sure what type, I’ll need to ask the farmer)
1 ½ lbs of new red potatoes

Because a lot of the spring greens were damaged in a hail storm we had last month, the early CSA veggies are going to be somewhat sparse. According to the farmer, the summer pickings should offset the sparseness of the spring, helping to even everything out in the long run. Like my mom always says, “It will all average out.” And I’m sure it will.

If you are interested in finding a CSA near you, or other locally grown or produced goods, check out Local Harvest. They have a searchable site that allows you to find local farmers, bakers, dairies, and more.

Purchasing Locally Grown Produce

As many of you know, we signed up for a half share of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to supplement the vegetables that we will be harvesting out of our garden. We will be getting a weekly delivery of in season vegetables, right to our door. Not knowing how our first year gardening in Florida will result, I figured it was a good idea to supplement our efforts with the CSA. I have paid $15 a week for our weekly half share, which will continue for the next thirteen weeks and will be delivered on Thursdays.

In addition to the weekly CSA delivery and our garden, we are still going to the farmer’s market each week to see what the farmer’s have in stock. I am finding my weekly farmer’s market trip to be very relaxing and educating. I talk with the local farmers, find out about their produce, and learn a bit about what grows well locally. I have met a wonderful organic seedling farmer (who gave me a “new” type of tomato to try last Saturday) who is very knowledgeable and has beautiful herb, vegetable, and flower seedlings. She is one of many local farmers who are interested in getting to know the people who are purchasing their goods and to share their philosophies, background, and little tips to boot.

To cover all my bases, last week I also signed up for a local “buying club.” This buying club is for organically grown local veggies. I paid $10 to become a member for the year and will be able to purchase in season vegetables each Saturday as I need them. This farmer has a website that will list the weekly offerings and prices, so I will know ahead of time what is available for pickup each Saturday. My friend and I both had trouble finding his farm last week, so he has generously offered to specially pick strawberries for us this week, which are no longer part of his weekly offering.

Because my CSA delivery is on Thursday, and I can check on my buying club offerings at any time, I will know before Saturday’s farmer’s market what I will need to round off our fruits and vegetables for the week, hopefully allowing me to frugally buy locally grown, in season produce each week.

I feel that it is important to support local farmers and local businesses. Buying locally grown and produced goods help reduce the need for transportation of such goods. Take for instance a bunch of collard greens. Buying locally grown collard greens eliminates the need for fossil fuels to be used to transport collard greens thousands of miles from another country, or even from another part of this country. Buying locally also helps the local economy. If my dollar is going to the local farmer, that farmer is then able to spend the dollar at a local restaurant or to purchase clothing from a local retail shop, keeping the money circulating in the local economy.

I know that we won’t be able to purchase all of our produce locally, but we are sure going to do our best. I have decreased our purchasing of produce such as bananas (which for some reason don’t seem to be grown in abundance locally) and avocados (from Mexico). I try to stock up, in particular, when I see locally grown fruits. For instance, I’ll be getting three pounds of strawberries from the buying club this weekend. I’m sure the kids will eat quite a few, but I plan to freeze a good portion of them for use throughout the summer. When our garden’s vegetables are ready, I’ll be canning and freezing them so they too can be used throughout the year, rather than buying the same item later in the year from another country.

I’m looking forward to the challenge of buying locally, or if necessary, at least produce grown in the USA. I’m going to start having the kids look at the labels on fruit and vegetables at the grocery store and talk to them about where our food is coming from and see what they have to say. I’m betting that they will choose to buy local goods rather than those from another country, and may even choose to walk right on past the grapes from Chile.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Slowing Down a Bit

The last few months have been pretty busy around here for some reason. We’ve been running here, there, and everywhere to participate in all sorts of activities and events. Many of the activities have been homeschool related…park day, art class, PE, Lego club, Roots & Shoots, co-op, fieldtrips, etc. Each and every activity is loved by one or more members of the family, making them all seem like “needed” activities.

I am finding, though, that the more time we are spending out and about, the more tired and irritable each of us is becoming (not to mention the house is also suffering in our absence). I am truly coming to realize just what a homebody I really am. Because of this new revelation, I have decided that it is time for my family to slow down a bit (and trust me, Justin agrees).

After speaking with my co-op friends, we’ve decided to combine some of our activities to coincide with co-op, and to switch our meeting day to Thursdays (Fridays are our “pizza and a movie” night, and I just wasn’t getting home early enough from co-op of Fridays to get our pizza ready). We should be able to create a diversified offering of activities throughout the month that will be enjoyable for all of the kids (i.e. Lego building, arts/crafts, nature study/community service, fieldtrip), and cover most of the outside activities we’ve been participating in.

As of right now, the summer weekly plan is as follows:

Monday – Park day (rotate park location each week around town)
Tuesday –
Wednesday –
Thursday – Co-op (rotate location and activity each week)
Friday –
Weekend – Family activities (farmers market, beach/park, yard work, church, etc.)

Do you see those blank spaces? They bring a smile to my face. Actually, they probably won’t be blank for long. I need to fill in baking, grocery shopping/errands, canning (when the veggies are in season), etc. It would be great if I could pair grocery shopping/errands with our Monday and Thursday events. Because they each rotate around town, I should be able to get quite a bit of my shopping done before or after those outings, saving time and gas.

This has been our first week trying out our slower paced schedule, and I think it is working well. We are all getting back into our regular routines (i.e. exercising, chores, etc.); the house doesn’t look like it’s falling apart anymore, the kids are getting to bed on time (except Jensen because he just doesn’t go to sleep on anyone’s schedule but his own), and I’m not nearly as stressed as I’ve been.

I think spending some much needed time at home will be good for all of us…especially me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sloppy Sandwiches All Around

Today we had Sloppy Joes for linner (Justin is working evenings, so we have our main meal before he leaves for work). Traditional sloppy joes aren’t a big deal unless you are vegetarian, making the meat-filled sloppiness a bit unappealing.

There are currently three vegetarians living at my house, so I am learning to revamp some of our family's favorite recipes to be meat-free, offering meat on the side several times a week. Or sometimes I just make two main dishes, one with meat and one without. Today was one of those “with and without” days.

Last month I discovered a vegetarian sloppy joe recipe that looked promising. I’m not a big fan of tofu (I will eat it, but it isn’t one of my favorites), so I was looking for a recipe that was tofu-free. I found Sloppy Sams on and fell in love. I was able to freeze half (from last month) and reheated them today. Not only is the sloppy sam mixture good on buns, but I've enjoyed spreading it on romaine lettuce and eating it like a taco. I also found a wonderful (I am told) regular sloppy joe recipe as well. This recipe is super easy and went over really well with the masses…Justin ate three sandwiches just himself.

To round out our meal, I attempted some baked curly fries and honey glazed carrots. The carrots were amazing (recipe below). Just enough sweetness without being overwhelming. Now the curly fries could use some tweaking. I neglected to follow the recipe exactly, so they didn’t come out quite right. The recipe calls for boiling the potato curls for three minutes before coating them with the seasoning mix and baking. Well, I set the potatoes in the water before it was fully boiling and didn’t start timing until the water was boiling. Oops, my bad. The flavor was still great; the potatoes just didn’t hold their shape. I’ll definitely make them again, but will follow the recipe exactly next time.

This meal used a few pans (Justin hates when I use every pan in the house) because I made two main meals, but was worth it, I think. The kids all ate their sloppy sandwiches and loved the fries. My kids aren't big fans of cooked carrots, so those just sort of sat on their plates. I need to find another way to get some orange veggies into their system…ooh, sounds like a mission.

3 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed
salt to taste (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped tomato
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons molasses
salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 hamburger buns, split

Combine water and lentils in a saucepan; season to taste with salt if desired. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook onions with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the onions have softened and turned translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, and molasses; simmer 5 to10 minutes until thickened.

Drain lentils and reserve cooking liquid. Stir lentils into sauce mixture, adding cooking liquid or water as needed to obtain the desired "sloppy joe" consistency. Serve on buns.

Honey Glazed Carrots
1 lb. baby carrots
2 T butter
1/4 C honey

Boil baby carrots in slightly salted water until tender. Drain.
Melt butter and honey in pan; add carrots. Simmer on low 2-3 minutes, stirring to coat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Fabulous Farm Fieldtrip

Today we celebrated Earth Day by going on a fieldtrip to a local farm. This farm is actually the one I get our free range chicken and eggs from, and starting next week (as well as in the fall), where I will be getting my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetables.

The kids got a chance to walk around the farm and see the raised vegetable beds, which they weren’t overly thrilled about. Mr. Farmer and one of our homeschool moms got to chatting about some organic/natural farming methods and the kids were not interested, so they wandered around, climbing on wood piles and playing with the farm cats. I enjoyed seeing how Mr. Farmer planted the vegetables in his raised beds so close together; having some vegetables “share” the same space. An example was turnips and carrots. Mr. Farmer explained that since the turnips would be harvested much sooner than the carrots, they could occupy the same space because when the turnips were ready to come out, the carrots would be ready to start rooting more deeply and would then have the space needed to thrive. I didn’t plant my seeds as closely as Mr. Farmer did, but did utilize more of a wide row planting method as opposed to traditional rows. I’ll have to do some more research and see if maybe next year I can have some of my veggies “share” the same space, thus saving me precious garden space.

The laying chickens and sheep were a huge success. There was a four day old lamb and a twelve day old lamb that the kids took a liking too. Mr. Farmer let the kids into the pen with the laying hens and let them feed the chickens some fresh grass. I was proud that none of the kids chased the birds, but instead respected their space and crouched down to feed the birds, allowing the birds to come to the kids if they were interested. The meat chickens weren’t as interesting. They were kept in smaller pens that are moved every day to allow them fresh “grazing” space. We had some vegans in the mix, so I’m not sure that the talk of utilizing animals for meat was very popular.

Mr. Farmer showed the kids a wild blackberry that had vined itself around a small hedge and the kids went to town. I don’t think my kids had ever had blackberries before, but let me tell you my boys loved them. Jolie wasn’t a big fan, but enjoyed picking them for her brothers. We also went mole cricket hunting, with no success.

The kids wrapped up the fieldtrip planting seeds of their own in small peat pots. Jake and Jensen planted watermelon, and Jolie planted watermelon and sunflowers. I have some watermelon plants ready to go in the ground, so we should have plenty of watermelon to go around this year. I also got to take home some goodies. Mr. Farmer had some left over pepper and tomato plants, so I grabbed two large red cherry tomato, two banana pepper, two jalapeƱo pepper, and two bell pepper plants. I need to try to get them in the garden tomorrow.

My kids left saying that they all wanted to be farmers when they grew up. I said I too wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. Jake spoke with Mr. Farmer about coming back at some point and doing some work around the farm. I think that might be a great plan. Mr. Farmer offered to have us back again soon, maybe to see one of the other plots they have…either cows, timber, or some other wonderful farm area.

I think it the farm fieldtrip was a wonderful way to spend Earth Day. Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Updated Garden

Okay. So I'm still slacking in the blogging department, but the garden is coming along.

Here is an updated view of My Garden Design. The items off to the side have yet to be planted.

I hope to get a bell pepper plant this week and get the pumpkin, watermelon, and cucumber planted. I still haven't found a place for the vining plants. They will probably have to be planted outside of the fenced garden because of spacing issues. My herbs have not yet arrived from the organic grower. I'm not pleased thus far with that particular seed company, so we'll see if I order from then again. Hopefully the herbs will arrive this week. I've decided to plant them out front, again because of spacing issues. My garlic will be arriving this fall some time. The last thing I need to do is to order my sweet potato slips. I could/should have started them on my own, but I want several varieties that aren't available at the natural foods store.

Let me know what you think. I know the garden will be crowded, but I'd rather use every square inch rather than loose out on precious gardening space.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still Alive

I'm still alive and kicking (in case anyone was wondering). I've been staying busy out in the garden, rearranging bedrooms, proof reading political science papers, and running the kids all over town.

I have a lot on my mind to blog about...I hope to get back in the groove tomorrow.

Until then, hope you all are doing well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tilling Begins

The garden is coming along. I went ahead and started tilling on Saturday. I worked until I ran out of gas, tilling about 50 sq. ft. I estimate the garden will be 500 sq ft. or so. The tilling wasn’t hard. The soil isn’t as sandy as I thought it would be. It isn’t nearly as fertile as our soil in central Washington, but I think it will work. I decided to wait on the mushroom compost (I don’t have a truck readily available to get it here and delivery costs as much as the compost itself!). I will use what compost I have out of my composter as mulch once the plants are established. We’ll see if I’ll need something more to supplement.

My fence was finished yesterday, and looks wonderful. Thanks, Big Al.

Today was beautiful, so I was able to get half the garden tilled. It took some time and I got a workout, but I got it done. I was so excited when I finished that I went ahead and planted about ¼ of the garden. I redesigned my garden on I’m not done with the remodel…it’s a work in progress. After printing out my original plan and taking it to the garden, it just wasn’t flowing well.

I decided to plan my peas between the different varieties of corn. Since peas tend to like cooler weather, I thought that some shade from the corn stalks might be helpful. We’ll see. I’ve not had much success with corn before, so I’m hoping they will do well.

I plan to plant another ¼ of the garden tomorrow and will hopefully get some more tilling done. We have freeze watch in effect for the next two nights, so I’ll be bringing in my tomato, pepper, strawberry and cucumber seedlings to ensure they don’t sustain any damage. As soon as the warning has lifted, I hope to get them in the ground, hopefully before the end of the week.

Let the gardening begin!

She Finally Lost It

Jolie lost her first tooth on Friday. It has been holding on by a thread for the past few days. Late last week, she pulled me aside and asked me to look at a "cut" in her mouth. It was no was her adult tooth coming in behind the baby tooth. That puppy was ready to come out. She wouldn't pull it herself. I got the honor this time.

Jolie was blessed with the "first tooth bonus" from the Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy brings $5 for the first tooth and $1 for every subsequent tooth. Saturday morning I actually had to ask her what she had gotten from the Tooth Fairy. She joyfully ran out of her room with her wad of cash. Not long after, she wrapped her arms around me and whispered, "Mom, you're the best Tooth Fairy ever."

That's right. She's hip to the jig. Last fall she asked if fairies were real, and I asked her what she thought. She said no and seemed satisfied. A few minutes later she asked, "What about the Tooth Fairy, then?" As Justin whispered, "Don't lie to her," I asked her again what she though. She pondered again for a few minutes and said, "No. I don't think she's real. Do you give us money?" And from that point on, the innocence was broken. I asked her not to tell Jake because he didn't know yet, and we agreed that it would be our secret.

About a week later, Jake came out of his room and said, "So, the Tooth Fairy isn't real, huh?" I asked him where he'd heard that, and he plainly said, "Jolie." Of course, he decided to take it one step further and the inquired about Santa. I in turn asked him what he thought, and he said, "No, I think you and Daddy get us gifts." Well there you go. But wait. He had to clarify all mystical beings that bring him gifts, including the Easter Bunny. Again, I asked him to keep Santa and the Easter Bunny a secret from Jolie and Jensen, since they were still young...and as you can imagine, that didn't last long.

I'm not sure how much Jensen knows as of yet. I do know that he was sitting at the table the other day saying to his Legos, "Mommy and Daddy are Santa." I wonder who he heard that from...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting Started on the Garden

After what seems like forever, we were able to get started on the garden today.

The weather has not been cooperative the past week or so, preventing any real outside work. Tornado warnings and flash flooding tend to keep home gardeners inside. The rain was much needed, though, and helped to green up our no longer dormant lawn. My rain barrels runneth over and are eager to be of assistance during the dry weeks.

We have also been waiting on our “fence guy” to get started on our fence. We debated back and forth for several weeks about what type of fence we wanted to enclose our garden. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t need a fence at all. But as you saw, my angelic puppy and his little sidekick enjoy making landscaping adjustments without prior approval, necessitating a garden enclosure. I originally thought that a simple poultry fence would be fine, but after looking at one at a friend’s house, I wasn’t sure that it would hold up to the dogs. I then thought that maybe a chain link fence would work. It would allow plenty of light through and keep the dogs out. My fence guy suggested a wood picket fence, which he felt would add much more value to the property and didn’t cost much more than the chain link. I decided on a short, wood picket fence. Fence Guy is going to hand make it so that the slats will be wider apart than a standard fence, allowing the most light through without letting Chester in. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product…hopefully before the end of the week.

Jake, Jolie, and I spent the morning digging up and transferring piles of last year’s pine needles and oak leaves that we saved from last year. Well, actually they just didn't fit into our composter, so we had to pile them all up next to the composter and add them to the mix as the compost broke down over time. We spread the partially decomposed material over the garden area, having just enough to cover most of the garden. My goal is to have the area tilled before the weekend so that I can add one more layer. I will be getting one cubic yard of mushroom compost from a local garden supply store this weekend to spread over the top and till it one more time. If the weather holds, hopefully I’ll be able to start planting Sunday after church.

Here are some photos -


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