Thursday, February 28, 2013

A "Number" of Updates

Well, it's the last day of February (where did this month go?), so it seems like a good time to update you on some general goings on and NY resolutions progress:

# of cranky, momma-to-be goats in the backyard . . . 2
# of impatient humans inside . . . 2 (Girl 2 and I have had about enough of this waiting game!)
# of tomato plants growing in guest room . . . 24
# of cats who are welcome in our backyard . . . 2
# of cats we currently feed in our backyard . . . 7 (this is one less than yesterday. Poor black neighbor cat. The kids were oddly intrigued rather than disgusted by the road kill, though.)
# of new garden boxes painted . . . 0. because . . .
# of degrees it's been outside this week . . . about 35
# of laying hens that currently reside in our backyard . . . 11
# of eggs they produce per day, on average. . . 4 (it seems they're taking a little winter vacation)
# of rooms I've deep cleaned so far . . . 1 (Ugghh. The family-wide flu threw me off, and I can't seem to get back on schedule)
# of miles I've run so far in 2013 . . . 115 (the deep-cleaned-rooms statistic had me a little down, but this one makes me feel less like a total slacker!)
# of minutes it took me to type this post on my phone since our home Internet is down . . . 15
# of typos it contains because it was typed with only my thumb. . . I'd rather not even know! ;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Um.  Seriously.  So good.

As an adult I've found I'm drawn to a few things on the buffet line that never would have interested me when I was younger.  One of those things is salad.  I LOVE salad.  I love tossed salad, chopped salad, tuna salad, Elizabeth's chicken salad (if anyone would like to make me a really happy girl, ask me to lunch at Elizabeth's -- please), pasta salad, potato salad.  I think you get the idea. 

And, this salad, which I whipped up at the beginning of the week and stored in the fridge, has got me looking forward to lunchtime every day. 

Here's what you need:

1/2 box whole wheat bow-tie pasta (cooked)
large head of broccoli, florets cut into small pieces
1/2 c. light mayo
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/3 c. sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/3 c. diced red onion
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
2 c. seedless red grapes
6 turkey bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. chopped pecans, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, yogurt, sugar, onion, vinegar, and salt.  Toss with broccoli, still-warm-from-cooking pasta, and grapes.  Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.  Stir in the bacon and toasted pecans just before serving. 

Because I've been eating this a little each day, I kept the bacon and pecans out and just sprinkled them atop each serving. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Backyard Garden Box Construction

 Sunday afternoon was just beautiful here!  We took advantage of it and worked in the backyard, constructing our 3 new garden boxes.
Look who loves power tools!  (Not that we should be surprised.)

"These screws are as long as my finger!"


Not going to be outdone by little sis ;)

The kids got ahold of the camera, so we got lots of fun, silly shots -- like this one.

And, this one.  Our backyard doesn't have any good climbing trees, but that's not about to stop Girl 2.  Here, you can see the elaborate system of jumpropes that she's tied to this Bradford Pear.  They allow her to hoist herself up to the higher branches.  Innovative, huh?

Finished product.  Three garden boxes.  They are each 4x8 feet long.  Two of them are 6 inches deep, and one (for growing root veggies) is 12 inches deep.  Here, they are propped up on rocks so that they're ready for painting.  With the forecasted rain and/or snow, that may have to wait a few days, though.  We'll see.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Week 2 of Lent: Love Your Neighbors

Well, I decided to extend Week 1 of Lent and am just getting started now on Week 2.  (Because Lent begins on a Wednesday and ends on a Saturday, one week was going to be longer anyway, and I was so enjoying Week 1!)  I absolutely loved my Week 1 emphasis of Enjoying Creation.  I visited with the goats a lot, enjoyed the sounds of outdoors even when I was indoors (using the baby monitor), trimmed back the roses, and learned a bit about hanging laundry on a clothesline.  Just because the week is over, though, doesn't mean I intend to stop these things.  I've just enjoyed them so much!
It is time, now, though to move on to Week 2, which is Love Neighbors (for anyone who's a very careful reader of my blog, yes, I did change around the order of the weeks.)

Doing my "poop chores" while enjoying the beautiful weather!  (The kids had the camera ;)

This week, I will . . .
1.  Complete one random act of kindness per day for someone outside our home.  (You never know, it might be you!)
2.  Eat cheaply so that money saved on groceries this week can be donated to Heifer International and used to feed neighbors far from here who do not enjoy our food bounty.
3.  Pray -- Pray for God's eyes so that I may see others as He sees them and that I may be aware of ways in which I can help the plight of the needy.  And thank God for the many who devote their lives to providing for and loving on "the least of these."

Want to join my in Loving Your Neighbors this week?  What will you do?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

National Day of Unplugging

Get ready to unplug!  The National Day of Unplugging is sunset to sunset March 1 and 2.  Here's some info, straight from the official website for the event:

"Do you have multiple cell phones? Take your ipad to the beach on vacation? Ever find it hard to get through a conversation without posting an update to Facebook? Is your computer always on?

"We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerry’s, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of 'silence' that our earphones create.

"If you recognize that in yourself – or your friends, families or colleagues— join us for the National Day of Unplugging, sign the Unplug pledge and start living a different life: connect with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child.

The National Day of Unplugging is a 24 hour period – running from sunset to sunset – and starts on the first Friday in March. The project is an outgrowth of The Sabbath Manifesto, an adaption of our ancestors’ ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones."

Hmmm.  I read something the other day that talked about how we are taught from a young age not to interrupt -- it's rude.  And, yet, we interrupt ourselves (or allow ourselves to be interrupted)  all the time.  So true, right?  I'm engrossed in a book  in the evening and my phone dings to let me know I've got a new email.  (Insert bookmark and swipe finger across phone screen.)  Oh, good, it's a shipping notice for my soap making supplies.  Then, I notice the little icon hovering over my FaceBook button. Oh, look -- someone tagged me in a FaceBook post.  (Click on FaceBook tab.)  30 minutes later I'm all caught up on how everyone I've ever known has spent their day.  Now, what was I doing?  Oh, yeah, enjoying a book.

Those tabs in our internet browsers or app buttons on our phones or the equivalent, sure do make it easy for us to switch gears and cover a lot of mental ground quickly.  And, there are some times that that's great.  Other times, though, it would be good to be a little less distracted. 

Agree?  Want to unplug with me?  Check out the link below to sign the pledge to unplug on the National Day of Unplugging.

Friday, February 22, 2013

We've Got Growth!

Well, we survived yesterday's ice storm and luckily had no major damage.  A few downed limbs and a brief power outage are all we really experienced here.  The kids were very disappointed to be out of school and not have any snow to play in. 
But, while it's been pretty cold outside, it's warm and sunny in the guest room.
Eggplant and peppers are going strong.  Tomatoes have been planted and are just beginning to sprout.

A look at the set-up

The lid is on the closest box, holding in the moisture until the seeds have all sprouted.  The other box contains the more mature seedlings -- no lid for them.

It's hard to believe it looking out the window, but spring is around the corner.  I don't know about you, but I'm ready!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Super Easy CrockPot Spinach Tortellini

I don't know what the weather looks like where you are, but it's pretty icy and wet here today. This kind of weather merits some belly-warming dinner!  Here's a recipe that definitely fits the bill!

Throw all of the following into the CrockPot:
1 lb. turkey sausage, browned
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
1 box frozen spinach (or one bag fresh)
2 cans tomatoes with italian seasoning (I used my canned tomatoes -- my very last ones --sniff, sniff--, so I had to add my own italian herbs)
1 block fat free cream cheese, chunked up
4 c. (one box) chicken broth

Cook for 5-6 hours.

We loved this soup!  It actually made enough to feed us twice.  John remarked that it was interesting because it had a creamy base but still felt light (he can't stand for his food to feel "heavy").  I'd credit the fat free cream cheese for that.  Another thing I like about this meal is that (other than the cream cheese, which will last awhile in the fridge) all the ingredients are freezer or shelf stable, so I can have them on hand for a day like today when I wouldn't dare leave the house without a 4-wheel-drive!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Any Time Now!

We have now reached the stage in awaiting our goat kids when it really could be any time!  In their own ways, both gals are showing signs that they're nearing delivery.  Razz, is spending more and more time in the goat shelter-- nesting, perhaps.  Supposedly, they do actually dig a bit of a nest for birthing.  Meanwhile, Honey is 'bagging up."  This unseemly terminology means that her udder it starting to enlarge.  For "first fresheners" (1st time mommas, like Honey), this can happen as much as a month before birthing, whereas more experienced mommas don't tend to "bag up" until just before delivery.  At the risk of giving a little too much information, we've also noticed some mucous, so that's a good sign that the time is drawing nigh. 
I've trimmed my fingernails down to the nubs (and am now useless when it comes to getting bananas and cuties "started," which I'm asked to do at least 6 times a day).  If I must don those OB gloves and assist with a breech kid, I'll be ready and won't risk scratching the girls in the process.

Here's our birthing tool kit all stocked and ready to go.  We purchased some nipples for bottle feeding that fit neatly over the top of a pop bottle, making use of something most people already have on hand (but, ironically, we had to especially buy).  It's definitely a cheaper option than purchasing bottles as well as nipples.

And, this box (holding items too large for the tool box) is waiting by the backdoor.  Old towels for cleaning and warming kids, newspaper to wrap up and discard the afterbirth, wipes for all manner of nastiness that could be involved, molasses to reward the mommas, and a box in which to nestle the first-born kid while momma is thrashing about in the throws of delivering a second (should there be one).

I've been re-reading the birthing sections of our goat books, trying to be sure that we'll be prepared for anything.  One book mentions that the momma "may drift away from the herd to seek a private birthing spot, sometimes in the company of her dam (mother) or a daughter, sister, or best friend."  I love that!  When the time comes, she wants her mom or gal pal by her side in the delivery room.

When I was pregnant with Girl 1 (my only experience with pregnancy, remember), I was very patient right up to her due date.  At that point, though, I was ready!  I'd been walking nearly everyday, but, having heard that it would prompt labor, I was determined to walk that girl out!  I think that John and I walked about 7 miles over the course of that day and into the night before she was born the next day.  I wonder if that might work for goats, too.  The gals usually follow me when I go out into the field.  Maybe I'll go walk the fenceline to try to get them moving!  Or maybe I should hold off on trying to hurry things up until after the impending ice storm has passed.  ;)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Simple Living

Some of the bloggers I read regularly were featured in the February/March issue of Mother Earth News.  It was fun to see some familiar faces. 

"Hess and Hamilton have also learned that living simply (and loving it!) is a mindset that can be cultivated.  Spend time with others who share your beliefs, she says, and limit media consumption, especially TV.  Most of all, 'Be mindful of the things that bring you bliss and don't cost money -- the tree that bore its first fruit, having long dinners with your spouse, having a happy marriage. . . . You can't pay for those things.'"

Seems like excellent advice to me!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Experiments with the Laundry Line

In keeping with this week's Lenten Observance, I've rigged up a temporary clothesline to put to use.  If all goes well, I may erect a more permanent one later.
Here are some thoughts on the project thus far:
1.  Obviously (as pictured above), I didn't have the line taut enough at first.  Girl 1's jeans were dragging the ground!  I re-rigged it and now have a much more efficient line. 

2.  The current location is both good and bad:  I like that it's right outside the kitchen window so I can see the clothes easily from the house (and know, for example, when a cat has pulled down a towel and is using it as a bed), but one side of it doesn't get good sun until the afternoon because it's so shaded by the house.  I may have to rethink the location for a more permanent line.
3.  What to do with the skivvies?  You see, we live right next door to church -- and not just any church -- OUR church.  While our laundry is not viewable from the road, it is viewable to anyone who pulls into the church parking lot.  I have this fear that Girl 2 will walk into Sunday school and hear from a friend "I saw your 'Sunday' panties on the line this morning.  Shouldn't you have them on today?" 
4.  What to do with John's dress shirts?  I pretty much only get out the ironing board when I'm working on a sewing project.  I pretty much only work on a sewing project when Little Boy is sleeping.  Come to think of it, he may not even know what an iron is.  This has been made possible by John's choosing non-iron dress shirts and my refusal to buy anything for myself or the kids that requires ironing.  But, the non-iron dress shirts require the dryer to get them in perfect shape.
5.  Even with these hindrances, I've found that I'm able to drastically cut back on drying.  For example, yesterday, I washed 3 loads total.  As they came out of the washer, I tossed the undies and dress shirts into the dryer and carried everything else outside.  So, I washed three loads but only dried one in the dryer. 
6.  Even though it's cold, the clothes do get dry.  I wasn't really sure about this.  Obviously, if it were below freezing, this wouldn't be the case, but on a breezy but cold day, I can put clothes out mid-morning and bring them in late-afternoon.
7.  I DO enjoy the additional outside time hanging the clothes allows me.  I chat with the goats and chickens, and watch Little Boy run around.  I expected to enjoy this part of it, but I was surprised by how much I enjoy bringing some of the outdoors in.  As I was washing my face with a washcloth fresh off the line, I found myself deeply breathing in that fresh outdoor smell.
8.  I DO NOT like how Milkshake, our smallest kitten, keeps jumping into the laundry basket full of wet clothes while I'm working.  This morning I counted 8 times that I had to toss her out of the basket.  Suggestions?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Razz Wants It All!

Each morning, our preggo goats get some grain to supplement their hay and grazing.  They were being fed in a shared trough, but Razz, the herd queen, refused to share, so we went to separate bowls. 
As you can see in this video, Razz (the one first pictured) refuses to be limited to just one of the bowls.  Poor Honey gets basically nothing! 
This video may not be viewable on a mobile device, so you'll have to pull it up on your PC.  Ahh, technology. 

While it does seem a bit harsh (Honey is pregnant, too, after all), I can definitely relate. I wouldn't have wanted anyone to stand between me and my strawberry Pop-Tarts back when I was pregnant.  ;)

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Peek at Our Valentine's Day

My children are still reeling from all the sugar they ingested yesterday.  Little Boy perhaps had the most, since he hit both sisters' school parties with me yesterday afternoon.  They may enjoy days like this more than the average kid since we don't tend to stock many sugary goodies at our house.  Girl 2 even told me, "Mom, I got to have lots of sugar today.  And, you didn't even tell me not to!"
We didn't want our Valentines to friends to add to the sugary high of the day, so we opted for these pictured above (Thanks, Pinterest!).  Girl 1 gave the ones on the left (her name is on the back of the flag).  While Girl 2 made use of the leftover cake icing bags we used for Cocoa Santas back in December and gave out bouncy balls. Since we keep labels and craft paper on hand, we were really only out the cost of balls and pencils -- about $5 total.
Each kiddo received a balloon from Mom and Dad.  When Little Boy's was delivered to the house, he smiled all over himself (you know what I'm talking about if you've seen it before) and cried out, "For me???!!!!", cracking the delivery person up. He then proceeded to play with that silly balloon for 30 minutes solid.  He's still toting it around the house with him.

Girl 1's favorite combination

For dinner, we had build-your-own, heart-shaped pizzas.  Homemade pizza is always a big hit at our house.  So often, dinner is a you-get-what-you-get-and-you-don't-throw-a-fit affair, so the kids welcome having a say about what goes on their plates.

Here are the recipes (in my late mother-in-law's handwriting) for our go-to pizza crust and sauce, a family favorite (thus the 5-watermelon rating):

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day yesterday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What? You Don't Take Pictures of Goat Rumps?

So, even though we're still about 1 week away from official "on alert" time, I am obsessed with waiting for our new babies to arrive.  The mommas are getting increasingly cranky the bigger they get.  I guess that's normal.  Razz will not tolerate Honey getting any of the grain they're fed in the mornings and protects the bowl visciously.  Honey, who normally loves up on me, is keeping her distance.  Thankfully, Razz was kind enough to allow me these pics of her hindquarters this morning, though.
Apparently, as they get nearer to delivery the ligaments in their rumps will loosen dramatically.  So, if you're accustomed to what they feel like normally, you'll be able to gage how close they are to delivery as the ligaments loosen.  The two ligaments I'm feeling for run on either side of the backbone/tail making like a peace sign.

They are the ligaments that allow goats to do this -- raise their tails.  At delivery time, the ligaments will be so loose that they're basically unable to raise their tails.

Here, I am feeling for the ligaments which still feel pretty tight on Razz.  Honey's are actually looser, even though she still doesn't look as large as Razz. 

So, you may be thinking that this is an odd post for Valentine's Day.  Maybe tomorrow I'll post about the kid's Valentines and how we celebrated.  But, for today, what says "I love you" more than my sweet goat thinking, "you know what, I'm pregnant and tired and fat and just generally not loving life today, but, yes, I will allow you to feel around on my rump a bit and even photograph it, if that's really how you want to spend your morning.  I just love you that much."  I mean, really, how many of us would tolerate such?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shhh! Don't Tell the Kids It's Healthy!

Girl 1 wanted to make heart-shaped biscuits with gravy and a Valentine's cake for her dinner this week.  It turned out that she had a buddy here, so he helped with the project, too. 
Here they are with their lovely creation.

Now, if you see them, feel free to tell them what a lovely job they did.  But, please do not tell them that the cake had zucchini in it! 
 Because I knew we'd have our friend over and that she wouldn't want to spend their entire after-school time in the kitchen prepping dinner, I helped her out by baking the cake before she got home, leaving them to deal with the icing, biscuits,  and gravy. 
This, of course, allowed me to experiment with a healthier-than-traditional cake.  It was surprisingly good (and I'm not a big cake person).  In fact, it was rich enough that it would have been great with just a dusting of powdered sugar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine all dry ingredients:
1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cocoa powder

Then, mix in the rest of the ingredients:
2/3 c. applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. shredded zucchini
1/2 c. chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate)

Pour into a well-greased bundt (if you plan to dust with powdered sugar) or, as we did, a square and a round to create the heart.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean (ours took about 25 minutes).
Allow to cool about 10  minutes before turning out of the pan.


One of the things I love about this recipe is that I already had all ingredients on hand.  When we'd had our fill of zucchini back in the summer, I shredded some and froze it for future use.  I think these might also be good as cupcakes.  Keep in mind, though, that it doesn't rise a whole lot, so you'll need to fill those muffin cups pretty full if you go that route.  For the link to the original recipe, click here

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lenten Observance

When anyone from around here hears that John and I once called New Orleans home, they inevitably ask about Mardi Gras.  It seems that many people misunderstand the whole concept.  I learned a lot while we lived there about what Mardi Gras really is.  In fact, as I found myself immersed in the Catholic culture of New Orleans, I learned a lot about Easter and the many weeks leading up to its celebration.  Most  notably perhaps, I took part in my first Lenten obvservance while living in good 'ole NOLA.

Lenten observance was really pretty new to me, and I found it fascinating.  Now, that our family is plugged into the United Methodist Church, our understanding of the liturgical calendar I was first exposed to there has served us well.  For those who may be less familiar with lent, the season which begins on Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras), here is a brief explanation from Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

"Lent is a forty-day season of reflection and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a time of repentance, of considering Christ's sufferings and rethinking how we are called to take up our own crosses.  Some of us give up things like chocolate or television during this season as a sort of fasting and others try to integrate something new into their lives, like visiting folks in prison, sewing clothes, exercising, or praying.  It is a good season to rethink how we live and to let some things go, or maybe even to develop some new holy habits.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  Traditionally, the palm branches from Palm Sunday of the previous year are burned and the ashes are placed on the foreheads of Christians as a sign of repentance."

In past years, I've observed Lent in various ways.  We've given up meat, chocolate, cold cereal, after-dinner snacking, and more.  A couple months ago, I ran across the "Planning for Easter" section of the United Methodist Reporter.  It mentioned Tear Fund's Lenten Carbon Fast.  Some quick research revealed that The Carbon Fast "provides daily actions and prayers for Lent to help you and your church protect poor people from the changing climate and care for God's good creation."  Essentially, for each day of Lent, there is an activity.  Examples include removing one lightbulb in your home and living without it during Lent as a reminder of what you're doing, registering to stop junk mail, starting a compost pile, and carpooling.  While I find the Carbon Fast interesting, looking over the list, there are just too many things that we've already incorporated into our lifestyle to make it challenging day-to-day. 

If you are interested in further researching the Carbon Fast calendar, check it out here.  What I love most about its set-up, though, is its weekly emphases.  These I intend to follow this Lent.

Week 1 -- Enjoy creation.
Week 2 -- Care for the earth.
Week 3 -- Love neighbors.
Week 4 -- Act justly.
Week 5 -- Walk humbly.
Week 6 -- Live contentedly.

Don't those sound great?  So, for each week, I will give up and/or add something to my daily routine that is focused on that week's theme. 

So, Week 1 -- Enjoy creation.
From the Carbon Fast site:  "In the beginning God created the world. . . Majestic and wonderful, it reflected God's greatness.  He created us to enjoy it -- to marvel at its beauty and enjoy the creatures that dwell on it.  He created it so we could glorify him.  This week's actions help us to enjoy creation and glorify him through it."

The prayer focus for the week is to pray for a global response to climate change, giving thanks for individuals and churches across the world who are helping by reducing their emissions through the Carbon Fast, and thanking God for the gift of his beautiful creation.

This week, I intend to . . .
1.  visit with my goats more (something I need to do anyway as their delivery approaches).
2.  turn on the baby monitor when inside (I've set up a baby monitor in the goat barn so that I can hear when they start to go into labor.  I've noticed, though, that I love all the other nature sounds it brings into my living room).
3.  continue to prep the garden including constructing/painting/filling the new garden boxes.
4.  trim the rose bushes to prepare for spring's new growth.
4.  try drying some clothes on a clothesline.  I'm reading a book right now titled Making Home.  In her discussion of laundry, the author actually claims to enjoy hanging her laundry out to dry (and not just because of all the emissions she's saving). She claims that the quiet moments outdoors actually help to slow her day and steady her heart.  I will probably just rig up something temporary for this week, and if it goes well, contemplate a more permanent addition to the backyard.  

Does this whole weekly emphasis approach to Lent appeal to anyone else?  What are some other ideas for how to enjoy creation during this first week of Lent?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Garden Prep Work

This past weekend, John and I enjoyed a weekend away from it all.  Once a year around our anniversary, my father-in-law double gifts us by allowing us his cabin on the river for the weekend while he keeps our kiddos.  Because we plan to be bottle-feeding some goat kids on our actual anniversary next month, we decided to go ahead and have our getaway early. 
We had a great time and were able to get a couple things done that we really needed to do.  First, we were able to clock 14 miles running hills and dirt roads, helping us prep for our upcoming hilly race in May.  Also, we were able to make a quick trip to the farm co-op in Mountain View.  I'd called ahead to be sure they'd have everything we needed.
In all, we bought 10 bales of Peat Moss and 10 giant bags of Vermiculite.  AND, we fit it all in the back of our van!

Last year, we filled our raised garden beds with a mix of compost, peat moss, and rice hulls.  However, we were underwhelmed by the performance of the rice hulls, so we decided to try vermiculite this year in it's place. 
Vermiculite is actually what's recommended for use in the square foot gardening method that we use, but we had a hard time finding it last year.

Also, peat moss is much more cost-effective when purchased in these big, compressed bales.

Another change we plan to make this year is in how we create the grid.  This picture, taken last year, shows the faux wood blinds we used to create the squares.  I was able to get them on sale and thought they really looked nice.  This year, however, I need more since we're adding three more beds and haven't been able to catch them on sale.  Now, that I've had some experience with the gardening method and know that the only purpose of the grid is to provide order and division, I'm planning to use twine held in place by nails this year instead.  Obviously, this is a much less expensive option that should be just as functional.

Now, we need to get those three new boxes constructed so that I can plant some more kale already!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Melons Won't Grow

Okay, this excerpt from a book I read recently is just too funny.  Happy Saturday.  Enjoy!

"Garden update:  My melons won't grow.

"The last time I said this was seventh grade, with an eerily similar angst. 

"If I understand this problem like I think I do, Watermelon Vine is sick with envy, wondering why Tomato is ripe with plump, round fruits while she is still flat as a Kansas highway, developing gawky, awkward shoots everywhere, but no freaking melons.  I bet she does a self-examination every morning hoping, hoping for development, a promising bud at least, only to discover a lengthening of her skinny vine in another clumsy direction, impossible to maneuver with any grace.

"I keep telling my melon vine that her day will come; we develop differently, that's all.  It's basic biology, nothing to fret about.  Some vines sprout early, requiring wires and string to hold up their bulging fruits sooner than others.  Not to worry, Watermelon Vine, soon you'll need your own wire and string, and your melons are going to be waaaay bigger than Tomato's.  Trust me.

"I know she looks smug, what with her perfectly rounded bounty that everyone admires while you're just a skinny vine without so much as a bud, but believe me, Tomato will be yesterday's news once your sweet fruits develop.  I've seen the gene pool you came from; the future looks bright for you, WV.  Your kind grows them big.  (If you want, we can get you a wire and string like your more developed garden friends so Basil will quit mocking you; like he's so awesome -- he's just a bunch of leaves.)

"Parenting my garden requires way more emotional energy than I expected.  It was easier when they were just little seeds and all they needed was water.  Sure, I worried about them in their infancy, but at least it was simple.  Now there's all this drama and competition:  Who's sprouted, who hasn't, who is independent, who is more -- how shall I say it nicely?  -- needy?  Wow.  It's a good thing we don't know all that is involved in raising a garden when we first conceive it, or none of us would bear any fruit."

This hilariousness is excerpted from Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Friday, February 8, 2013

Let Us Ponder a Shocking Statistic

In John Pilger's book, Freedom Next Time, he writes:  "On September 11, 2001, while the world lamented the deaths of 2,974 innocent people in the United States, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation reported that another daily mortality rate continued:  36,615 children had died from the effects of extreme poverty."

36,615.  A day.  Everyday.

What are you doing about it?

What am I?


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Maternity Ward Up and Running

John put in a few hours of work around the backyard yesterday afternoon.  Among other things, he readied the goat pen closest to the house for use as the maternity ward. We're now within a month of kidding and need to ramp up the grain for the expectant mommas. 
Razz, one of the mommas-to-be, is an experienced Momma and milker  She's showing quite a bit more than Honey right now. 

Here's a view from above.  That lump on the left in the photo is where I think I've been able to feel some movement lately. 
This brings me to one of the great things about goats.  I absolutely love being able to put my hand on a belly and feel the new life inside.  I've had pregnant friends/sisters who've been pretty indulgent and allowed me a quick feel now and then of the kicks they detect.  But, I'm too self-conscious to ask them if I can just leave my hand there while we watch a show or carry on our conversation.  I mean that would just be weird.  But, Razz doesn't seem to care a bit.  Maybe, since I've spent so many early mornings pulling on her teats, she feels we're beyond being self-conscious around one another.  Anyway, so long as I give her enough head-scratches, she'll let me stand, pressing my hand all over her swollen belly for long stretches at a time.  It's great!
I told John that I was tempted to feed the gals some orange juice.  I remember when I was pregnant with Girl 1, that always seemed to really get her moving.  I could tell by his reaction that he disapproved of the idea, so I'll try to restrain myself.

The shed -- all cleaned out and ready for birthing.

Here's Honey.  She's not nearly as filled out yet.  Hopefully, she'll put on some weight in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Drama in the Checkout Line

Okay.  It's been over a week now, and I think I'm ready to talk about it.  Before I begin relating the dramatic events that transpired last Tuesday, let me first say that I know that I've had it pretty good in terms of child-centered drama.  Sure, we've had the usual topples and falls, the paper wads up the nose and BBs in the ear.  But, nothing serious.  Last Tuesday, however, was my most fear-filled moment thus far as a parent, and I'd like to recount it for you now.

Tuesday started like any other day, only Girl 2 came down the stairs with pink cheeks.  A quick check with the thermometer revealed that, yep, she was running 102 degrees.  She said her throat hurt but otherwise had no complaints.  She popped some Tylenol while I whipped her up some Cream of Wheat.  About 20 minutes later, the fever had broken, she'd eaten two bowls of hot cereal, and was chasing her brother around the house laughing.  It seemed she was feeling better.  Obviously, she couldn't go to school, but could we still run the Wal-Mart errand I'd planned for today?  We were in desperate need of some groceries AND I'd spent 30 minutes searching the price-match adds and generating our meal plan accordingly, and those adds expired today.  She was tackling her brother, surely she could handle a quick trip to Wal-Mart!  Right?  (In retrospect, I admit this was not my finest parenting moment.)

In the store, she was a big helper, running up the aisles in search of granola and the like.  In the checkout line, she jumped in line ahead of me and paid for her TicTacs with her own money.  The cashier handed her the receipt, Girl 2 turned to put it in her purse, and then  . . . she fell down.  Onto the floor.  Just collapsed.  With no warning whatsoever.

My first instinct was that she'd tripped or something, but then I saw it . . . her eyes.  Wide open, glassed over, and rolling back into her head.  She was unconscious.  I was immediately on the floor, holding her and yelling like a crazy person.  "Help!  Help us!"  I was yelling her name.  I was shaking her.  I was slapping her cheeks. 

When we got to the doctor later and the nurse asked me how long she was unresponsive, I wanted to say 5 minutes because it sure felt like it.  In reality, it was long enough for me to freak out (as described above), then attempt to pull myself together enough to start to check pulse and breathing and try to remember my CPR training.  Maybe 15 seconds?  The longest 15 seconds of my life. 

And, then, suddenly, she was awake and on the floor of Wal-Mart with her Mom in her face and about 8 Wal-Mart employees hovering nearby.  Needless to say, she was scared.  The Wal-Mart employee who went on record as a witness claimed that she saw Girl 2 smack her head on the floor, but there was no knot and her head didn't hurt. 

After getting her comfortable, filling out the official Wal-Mart accident report, and being escorted to our car, I drove her to our family doctor who'd agreed to see her right away.   We must have looked pretty funny.  I carried this 50-lb. first grader like a baby as Little Boy walked alongside us into the doctor's office.  But, how could I let her walk?  The last time she did, she passed out without warning. 

The doc ran all kinds of tests and did bloodwork.  She tested positive for Flu type B and was dehydrated.  The dehydration probably led to her fainting spell.  She showed no signs of head trauma, and the doctor suspects her fall was cushioned by her arm.  In the week that followed, she so generously, passed that flu around to the rest of us (except John, so far - knock on wood). 

But, in the days that followed, as I was cooped up in the house caring for all of these sick kiddos and pushing liquids, my mind kept reproducing the image of Girl 2 splayed out on the floor with her eyes rolling back into her head.  It seemed that everytime I closed my eyes, there it was, haunting me.

That first day, I didn't let her out of my sight.  I set my rear view mirror so that it was looking right at her face on the way home.  I lay next to her as she napped that afternoon so that I could listen to her breathe.   My mind was so stuck on that moment of terror in the floor of Wal-Mart . . . that moment when I was thinking "this is it.  This is the moment that every parent fears.  I'm losing her.  I'm losing her right now!"   I became overwhelmed by the responsibilty given to me by God to care for her to the best of my ability.  Lord, what a daunting and humbling task! 

But, later, a breakthrough happened.  I was running on the treadmill in the garage.  John was home and watching the kids inside.  But, I couldn't listen to music or an audio book because I was too busy waiting . . . listening for the shriek. . . waiting for John to cry out for me to come inside because she'd collapsed again.  That was when I realized the fear that had overwhelmed me.  I was tip-toeing around, waiting for disaster to strike.

I've prayed similar prayers before, but it was time to pray it again. . . Lord, I know that they are not my children, but yours.  Thank you for honoring me with the task of providing for and loving on them.  Equip me to be best mother that I can be.  But, help me to know that there is only so much I can shield them from.  I give this burden, too great for me to carry, to you.  Please bury this fear and let me rest in the peace that comes from knowing that you are in control.  

And, you know what?  The ever-present image subsided.  And, when I look into her eyes, I see them full of life.  And, when I dropped her back at school for the first time once she was better, I did so knowing that she wasn't going in alone. 

I know a few "over-protective" parents.  I'm sure you do, too.  Here's the thing. . . there are things that as parents we can do (and should do) to protect our kids, like washing hands before eating and not allowing our kids to eat rusty nails and stuff like that.  But, we are surrounded by dangers.  Any moment could be "that moment."  I now know that Girl 2 could be running across the yard kicking a soccer ball and then suddenly collapse to the ground.  But, we cannot live in fear.   Parenting is a high calling.  It requires a lot from us -- some days more patience than I can muster. But, fear is not one of those things.  Pray protection, and then let the fear go.  Besides, the safest place for them to be is in His arms anyway. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dehydrating Your Own Fruit

So, John and I have signed up to run this CRAZY race in May.  (More on this topic later.)  But, as we train, we are making an effort to eat in a more conscious, healthy way.  Sugar has basically been drastically reduced.  But, I LOVE sweet things (I have an entirely inappropriate relationship with strawberry fruit roll-ups)!  The other day at the grocery store, I spent way too long reading labels on dehydrated fruits.  Everything seemed to have extra ingredients-- preservatives and sweeteners.  I decided it was time to bust out the old dehydrator.

I got mine for Christmas a few years back, but when I looked it up for this post, my dehydrator was selling for $29.99 on Amazon.  This is not a major investment.  I'd guess a lot of hunters may have access to dehydrators (deer jerky, right?), so you're good to go.  Now, my version of the dehydrator does not get excellent reviews.  And, I wouldn't use it to dehydrate meats.  It gets the job done, though, for fruits.

Apples and pears were on sale this week, so I decided to start there.  For apples, I'd suggest Granny Smith, as they make delightfully sweet yet tart apple chips.

Just peel, core, and slice (my handy-dandy apple corer slices mine into 8 equal pieces.  I, then, slice each of those in half.  That way I know that 16 slices is equal to eating one apple) .  The apples need to soak a couple of minutes in a lemon juice/water mixture to prevent browing.  Lay them out on the trays of the dehydrator and in 1-2 days, you'll have yummy fruit snacks that will be shelf-stable indefinitely and are easily packable for snacks.

Dehydrated apples -- still a little chewy, which means they're just right!

Pears are supposed to be dried until nearly brittle.  They were okay, but couldn't compare to the tangy apples!

Wonder what the kids think of them?  Hmm.  Me, too.  I guess I'll have to share them to find out.  ;)

Monday, February 4, 2013

The KP Project -- Has There Ever Been a Cooler Idea?

Shane Claiborne (you already know I love me some Shane!) wrote,

"I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. . . . I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other. . . . I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning.  And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end."

Powerful concept, huh?

The KarpophoreĊ Project based in Austin, Texas, is making it happen!  I recently finished the book 7:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker (thanks, Justin!).  It's a good one.  Anyway, Jen makes mention of the KP Project, and I fell in love with the idea.  According to Jen (you'd feel like you were on a first-name basis with her too, if you'd read the book), here's the concept:

"Willing partners offer KP their land for a backyard garden and/or backyard farm (the farm involves chickens, and I'm sorry, but I can only handle so much, ya'll), and the KP folks BUILD AND PLANT THE WHOLE GARDEN.  Their team includes regular volunteers as well as formerly homeless men and women. 

"Then, they come out weekly and prune, treat, and harvest.  Half the produce stays with the homeowner, and the other half is sold at farmer's market or in CSA boxes.  The formerly homeless who work the gardens keep 70 percent of the profit.  Bam.  Sustainable income from locally grown organic produce with nearly zero overhead. Genius.

"What a creative use of privately owned land in lieu of costly public property!  What vision to connect privilieged landowners with the chronically homeless, building relationships and making something beautiful together."

Ummm.  Seriously.  Has there ever been a cooler idea?  I mean, how many people have you met who "would love to garden but have no idea where to begin"?  Maybe you're even one of those people.  This amazing concept teaches organic gardening as it helps lift its employees out of poverty.  Empowerment for all!

I may just be really out of the loop, but I've never heard of anything like this.  If I had a little more gardening experience, though, I'd probably be trying to figure out a way to copy-cat this right here in my community!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Year's Resolutions -- Progress Report

Too often, I've stumbled upon a list of New Year's resolutions mid-year, only to have the thought, "oh, yeah, I forgot I was planning to do X this year!"  So, this year, I decided that I would review resolutions monthly so that I can refocus my efforts.  And, in case you're wondering, no, I do not plan to subject you to this every month.  I'll just make a note on the 1st of each month in my planner to do a progress check.  Here's how things are going so far.

1.  Teach the kids skills to make them more confident and independent.  Girl 1's once-a-week cooking has been a big hit!  Also, Girl 2 has stepped it up in the kitchen and has been a big help in garden planning and prep work.  Little Boy is getting his shoes on the right foot almost every time (on the inside of each shoe, I drew a profile of a person and told him to make them kiss to get the shoes right).  He's also carrying his dishes to the table and putting on his own clothes (albeit, he consistently puts his undies on backward AND inside out -- baby steps).

2.  Run at least 365 miles, including all area 5K races.  So far so good.  We've not had any area races yet, but we're registered for the one later this month, and because of training for the crazy race we have coming up in May (more on this later), I'm well ahead of my mileage goal.

3.  Pray through Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals.  This is going really well.  I'm loving this book.  John is doing this, too, so it's nice that we can discuss the readings together.

4.  Pray consistently with the kids at bedtime.  It turns out that one of John's resolutions was to read to the kids at bedtime, so we've been able to work these two in together.  With the girls, we are reading a chapter a night then having a quiet prayer time.  Little Boy enjoys reading the books he's chosen from the library each week.

5.  Market some homemade wares (soap, probably).  Nothing on this yet, but I'm in the planning phases.

6.  Eat/serve more raw and whole foods.  We are definitely doing this.  In fact, as I was searching the pantry for canned goods to use as the molds for my newspaper pots, I could only find one lone can of soup.  The rest of the "canned" goods in the pantry were actually mason jars.

7.  Support local businesses with my dollar.  Umm.  Well, I'm buying my gas locally, and we all get our hair cut in town.  Other than that, I've not done so well with this one yet.  Well, this is what today's post is all about -- renewing the focus.

8.  Learn more about farming (goat kidding/cows/organic gardening).  With it's limited daylight hours, winter provides a natural rest time on the farm.  Because we enjoy very little screen time around here, that's meant lots of quiet evenings spent with books.  I'm now all read up on goat kidding.  I plan to do more research on bee keeping.  And, I've finalized my list of books I want to buy with the Amazon card I got for Christmas.

9.  Volunteer some of my time to a worthy cause or two  (??)  The Bethany Project hasn't hosted any events yet this year, but I'll definitely be involved with that when they do.  I did notice a church in Batesville yesterday had a sign up regarding their soup kitchen lunches.  Hmmm.

10.  Eat lunch at the elementary school once a week.  We love doing this!

11.  Replace more personal hygiene products/ household cleaners with homemade/cleaner versions  Well, the baking soda shampoo effort didn't turn out so well, but nearly all household cleaners are now homemade.

12.  Maintain an active/interesting blog.  You'll have to be the judge of this one!  ;)

How are your resolutions going?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Coconut Oil Hair Treatment

Okay.  I would like to begin this post by reminding you that I do sometimes have good ideas.  Right?

I wanted to establish that because part of the way I employed this hair treatment was NOT a good idea.  I freely admit it.
While I was "washing" my hair using baking soda, I noticed that my ends got overly dry.  To combat this, I decided to try a homemade hair treatment that I read about in Mother Earth Living.

To make it, as I did, you'll need  . . .
2 Tbs. coconut oil
2 Tbs. honey
1 large egg yolk

If oil is solid, warm it over low heat until melted.  Then, whisk in the honey.  Once combined, whisk in the yolk. 

It will look like egg, but, thankfully, it smells more like the honey.
Apply it to dry hair, massaging well into your ends.  I ran a pick through my hair at this point to be sure that I had the goo evenly distributed.  The directions I had said to cover with a shower cap for "as long as you can."  If you can stand it, you may even sleep in the shower cap (be sure to cover your pillowcase with a towel in case of leakage).  To help the oils penetrate, you could apply some heat.  Maybe forgo the shower cap (it might melt) and use a thin towel instead as you sit under a hair dryer with a diffuser. 

It's at this point in the process that I had the bad idea.   I still needed to fit in my run for the day.  Little Boy was about to go down for a nap.  Hey!  I could borrow Girl 1's Turbie Twist (see below), wrap my gooey hair up, run on the treadmill, and thus generate the heat needed to really activate the oils and help them penetrate.

Click on photo to visit the product page on

So, I ran 3 miles or so on the treadmill with my hair covered in oil, honey, and egg.  (As I'm typing this, I'm wondering what in world would make me think this was a good idea.)  What smelled like honey as I put it on my hair, started to smell more like scrambled egg around mile 2.  Thankfully, the Twist absorbed most of the sweat and hair run-off, so that I didn't have any yellow smears on my sweat towel during the run.  That probably would have sent me over the edge. 

And, no, I will not show you any photos of myself running with a Turbie Twist on my head.  You'll just have to use your imagination.

Okay, enough about my bad idea. 

Once you can stand it no longer (or just need to move on with life), jump in the shower and rinse out the goo.  Then, wash as usual. 

Despite the cooking egg aroma surrounding my afternoon run, I think the hair treatment did a great job.  It left my hair surprisingly soft, and I definitely plan to use it again (maybe on a cross-training day).