Archive for September, 2010

Today I almost witnessed a rumble.

Luckily both parties were mature, and no one threw any punches.

The near rumble was over one person’s reasons for becoming a vegetarian.  He explained that he is a vegetarian because he wants to know where his food comes from.  He wants to know that his food he is eating was not raised in a closed, cramped, dark and dirty barn.  He went on to explain that as a vegetarian, he has more control over the food that he eats, and its origins.

Across the table from him, sat a hog farmer and agricultural advocate.  She asked him if he knew where all that food came from.  He said that he tries to buy things at farmers markets.  He also explained that he does eat tofu.

That’s where the rumble ended.

Jeremy, the chicken ark, and our raised beds.  In the distance is our neighbor’s garden.

This is a conversation that should happen, but doesn’t. We have folks involved in big agriculture, small farmers, and the consumers that are eating the products, that should be talking.  But we don’t.

The last several years have been a journey of learning about the food that goes into my body.  The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I want to control as much of the food that goes into my family’s mouth as possible.

We have issues of too many chemicals on our food.  Nutrients have been selected out out of our food and replaced with long shelf life.  Genetically modified foods change the composition of the foods that we eat, increase the resistance of pests and weeds, the long term effects of their consumption are unknown, and more importantly, these strains are being released into the wild where they cannot be controlled (tofu comes from soy, 91% of the soybean crop in the US is genetically modified).  Big agribusiness controls the family farmer and can shut down any of their “customers” (the farmer) at any time.  Not only do we import fresh fruits and vegetables from foreign countries, but canned and frozen ones too.   Most of the apple juice we consume comes from China; not only does add thousands of food miles to our food, but it also jerks around with the world water supply.

Becoming a vegetarian alone will not solve these issues.  Knowing exactly where our food comes from, how it was raised, and what is in it will.

Here is my current food mantra.

My step-daughter raking in the garden.

-We buy meats for our freezer from local farmers.  We buy lamb.  It can be fed out easily and quickly on grass, is gentle on the land, and is easy for small farmers to raise.

-I only use home raised eggs from chickens raised in the grass and sunshine.  Vegetarian eggs are bunk.  Chickens are omnivores, they love bugs and should eat them.

-We raise as many veggies as possible in our small raised bed garden.  We freeze and can tomatoes, beans, broccoli, and carrots.  We also raise potatoes, garlic, and onions.

-What we can’t grow, we buy from our local farmers at the farmer’s market.

-I try to buy cereals and breads made from organic grains.  This limits my family’s exposure to genetically modified foods.

-We are avoiding high fructose corn syrup even if it means giving up some of our favorite treats.

-We buy very few processed foods.

Vegetarians have the right idea.  Trying to reduce our carbon footprint is a good thing.  Trying to eliminate animal cruelty is also a good thing.  But, we need to know the WHOLE story.  It is so difficult to know the whole story.  As Americans we have slowly given away our choices and food freedoms for the “ease” of food preparation.  It really hit me the other day when I heard two girls talking about the flavoring they put in coffee at their fast food place of employment.  They aren’t serving up food at all.  Just something that sort of resembles food.

I want to eat real food.

I won’t try to kid anyone.  I still drink Diet Coke, and we have frozen pizzas in our freezer.  A couple of times a month, my hubby and I hit the local burger place.  This transition has been a long and slow process.

Canning and freezing does take time.  I do have to cook from scratch quite a bit.  But, I’ve learned to cook too much and freeze some for busy days.  It’s difficult because I work full time.  On the plus side, I seldom have to go to the grocery, and that’s just for yogurt and milk.

If you want to start a safer food journey my advice to you is to remember that it is a continuum.  You don’t have to become a vegan-treehugging-bark eating-hippie overnight.  Small steps will get you on your journey, and you can learn as you go.

Start getting acquainted with your food in three easy steps:

1.  Give up plastic water bottles for a reusable water bottle and carry it with you.  I love Diet Coke, but when I carry my water bottle, I drink more water.  By drinking water from the tap, you save food miles, lower your ecological footprint, and keep water in the ecosystem in which it belongs.  It takes 3 gallons of water to produce one gallon of bottled water, not to mention the wasted gase to get it to you.  Trucking water disturbs the water cycle.

2. Visit a farmer’s market and find one new vegetable, fruit, or vendor that you like.  Surprisingly, I don’t grow lettuce.  I have a favorite vendor that makes a great salad mix.

3. Start reading the labels on the processed foods you buy.  Find at least one substitution next time you go to the grocery.

If you are getting excited about learning more about what goes into your foods and products visit www.goodguide.com to check out the environmental impact of your purchases.  (This is a super-favorite site of mine-I’ll talk more about it later.)

No rumble today.  But I may be ready to step in and fight for my real food rights.

Bean and Goldie, the best chicken ever.  

Read Full Post »

Bean and I got two new chickens today.  Cuckoo Marans.  They lay chocolate colored eggs.  We spent all kinds of time trying to think of names.  Bean thought that we should name one of them Fudge (they are black and white).  I thought we should name them Monkey and Green Dress after the Barenaked ladies song, “If I Had a Million Dollars.”

My new chickens came from a shed where they were housed in cages.  The cages were large, and they had plenty of room, but I think they will be happy to be able to scratch in the grass, and eat rotten tomatoes in the sunshine, like the rest of my girls.  None of them need a million dollars, and neither do I.

I need my family.  I need a roof over my head, and I need my health.  I would want to have fresh food, a simpler life, and more time for the people and activities that I love.  I lust after new camera lenses and shiny new books, but I don’t really need any of that.

If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t want fancy cars, or new furniture, or new clothes (although I could use some new tennis shoes soon).

I would want fresh salsa.  I would want time with my kids.  I would want to slow down and read more books and plant more flowers.  I would want time to spend with my friends.  I would cook more and feel guilty about not keeping things cleaner (we all know I won’t actually clean), and I wouldn’t worry quite so much if the transmission falls out of my car.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fresh eggs from The Go Go, Goldie, Poochie, White Out, Splash (not fudge), and Pony–because everyone wants a pony.

Read Full Post »

When was the last time you were feeling torn?  When there was something you could do that would be good for you personally, and maybe even professionally? That might make your family life a little easier in the long run, but more difficult in the short run?

The last nine years and loads of energy have been spent trying to eek out a better future, and sacrificing the present with poor results.  I tried to save money, make good financial decisions, be responsible, be creative with a low amount of risk, and think ahead to plan a more flexible career. 

I haven’t gambled away my earnings, bought a new car, wasted money on shopping sprees, or married someone after only a short time (wait, so I did that one, but it worked out).

I’ve ended up with time wasted chasing after dreams; debt from what should have been a safe real estate investment; and time down the drain that could have been spent with my kid. 

Hard work pays off for some.  Investments help some people save.  And some people do end up with lucky breaks every now and again.

I am not bitter or resentful.  I just don’t trust my own judgement and need to figure out how to read a crystal ball to make better decisions.  How does one get a step ahead without having to take two steps back each and every time?

Maybe I just need to think less about the future and more about the present.

Like, I am seven minutes past my deadline.

Good night.

Read Full Post »

I am terrible at being idle.  I can’t watch a movie without sorting socks.  I can’t sit at the computer without researching something important that I need to know, like what kind of soil does Rosemary like, or what is free on Craigslist today.  If there are tomatoes on the counter, then obviously they should be canned and stored for the winter, this afternoon. 

I am definitely an ant, and not a grasshopper.

My weekends have revolved around getting food around for the winter: starting tomato plants, building raised beds, planting starts, tying up tomatoes, harvesting tomatoes, canning tomatoes, and freezing broccoli (I froze tomatoes too).

This weekend, I had my daughter around for the weekend, but the step kids were with their mom, so it was time for some Mommy and Bean time.

First, we cleaned the litter box, because the bathroom was stinky.  Bean had never done that before and said that it was kind of fun.  (Super!)  We organized the books on her bookshelves and even found one that belongs to the library that has been M.I.A for three renewals now.

We convinced Jeremy that he should come with us, and had to drive around trying to find the entrance for what seemed like an eternity, give or take 10 minutes.  The three of us spent the noon hour at the Bonneyville Mill festival walking around, eating hotdogs, buying rock candy, and watching the Bean walk round and round in circles to dip a candle.

Later in the afternoon, we went down to the church on the corner to listen to some live bluegrass music.  Bean read her book and I graded papers.  When we got home, I was treated to a concert by my own little fiddle player.  She played the G major scale, hot cross buns, and then some improvised fiddle music of her own.

Bean came outside and read on the stoop while I potted herbs we bought at the festival.

We made pizza and smoothies, and ate it all in front of the t.v. while watching Reverend Alden marry Mary Ingalls and Adam Kendall after the dust storm that nearly knocked Ma out.

Beanie went to bed pooped, and I am going to bed satisfied.  We spent a fantastic day together doing everyday average stuff, just like old times.

I’m greedy.  I want more of that.

Read Full Post »

I’ve lived in the country for about 5 years now, and this first year in this home, and I’ve never had a clothesline. Not a real one anyway. At my old house I strung a line between two trees and hung out some of my wash. The biggest problem with that method anyway was the trees. It was completely shaded. I know it was dumb, but that’s all I had at the time.

This year I wanted a real clothesline: the really sturdy pipe kind that my mom used to have. The kind that bees make their nests in to torture small children. I wanted something sturdy that would last until I was old with just a fresh coat of paint every now and again.

I went to the local home improvement store thinking that they would either have strong metal poles, or some sort of kit to make a wooden clothesline. After all, they sell readymade mailboxes. The selection was disheartening. They did have clotheslines. My choices were the pop-up umbrella kind made of flimsy metal, a more traditional clothesline made of flimsy metal, or a $90 clothesline made of a bit less flimsy metal. I checked every store around and no luck.

It’s not like I live in New York City or Downtown L.A.; I live in a rural area. I was getting frustrated. I drove 40 minutes to the touristy Amish town, where the Amish Craftsmen sell their wares. I found a great store that sold outdoor items like porch swings, little wooden wishing wells, backyard chicken coops, and lanterns. They had clotheslines, but the same wimpy ones that the big box stores had. I asked at the counter if they new of anyone at all that might be able to make one custom order. The man at the desk referred me down the road to another Amish man that made outdoor play equipment and deck furniture.

When I arrived, I asked if he did custom orders. When explaining what I was looking for, he sounded like he didn’t necessarily want to do it. But, he was willing to give me some tips to build it (I’m handy, but not when it comes to a saw). He pulled out his notepad and began sketching what the design should look like if it were to be sturdy enough. I was beginning to think I would have to measure angles and learn about bracing.

My seven foot studs with wash that I left out last night.  Oops!

As he got into his design I think he convinced himself that it might be fun, “I think I have some 10 foot 4x4s back there, and I think I already have bolts long enough.” He agreed to my project for 40 bucks a post.

Hip hip hurray!

Two weeks later I had my posts. I proudly dug the holes and filled them with quickcrete and strung the lines. Since then, I think we’ve only used the dryer three or four times. I strung a line low enough for the kids to hang their own clothes. At first it seemed like a lot of work, but I think that the girls are getting into the swing of it now. They help one another hang their clothes, and will willingly come out to help me with sheets and towels. I think my 13-year-old stepson is a little less enamored by it, but he doesn’t complain.

We have 6 people in our house. With about 8 loads of laundry per week, we’ve saved probably about $25 so far this summer, but more importantly kept about 350 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. I think many Americans have forgotten that nature can really do a lot for us, if we let it. We can fit about 3 loads on the lines, so there is never the Saturday morning laundry back up that we often have.

In our effort to slow down and simplify, the clothesline has given us all an excuse to get outdoors and slow down a bit.

Read Full Post »

In my teens and early twenties, I dealt with depression like countless other young women.  Since then I’ve learned so much about myself.  I have learned to embrace my weirdness and use it to my advantage.  All-in-all, with just a few minor exceptions, I accept who I am.

In my late twenties and early thirties, anxiety set in.  Not the kind anxiety that was bad enough to stay home and bolt the doors.  It’s the kind that makes my arms itch and gives me the feeling that there is too much to do in too little time.  In my twenties, it started as anxiety toward money issues:  How will we pay the bills? Will we ever get out of debt?  When my daughter was two-and-a-half, it became: How will I find enough time for her if I go back to work?

Since then the passing of time makes me anxious.

It’s not that I mind working.  Really, I’ve always been happiest working a two or three part-time jobs at a time to keep life interesting.  It was that I would have to leave my daughter at home, and try to juggle the demands of work and the joys of being a mom.  I just never wanted anyone else to raise my kid but me.

As my daughter got older, and I was beginning to see that there was no way to save my marriage, I began to get anxious about missing out on time with her.  I made the choice to leave the marriage and have to sacrifice my time, when I realized that if she were in a unhealthy marriage like mine that I would cry for her.  And that’s what I was modeling, so that’s what she would get.

Me and my kid at the dunes

It’s very weird mommy-ing on some days, and not on others.  I’m always her mom, but when the kids aren’t here, it’s quiet and haunting.  There is no homework to help with, no violin to practice, and no sit-down dinners to be made.  Their stuff is usually on the coffee table, shoes in the hallway, dirty clothes on their floors, and it sits there until they return.

I hate feeling like a part-timer.

I love every minute that my daughter is with me, but it is filled with all kinds of guilt.  I feel guilty when I have to spend time grading papers.  I quit going to yoga because it took away time with my kid.  I feel guilty when I need to spend time cleaning or in the garden or doing one of the million things moms need to do to keep things going.  I feel guilty when I’ve told her “just a minute,” and it becomes twenty.

I feel so much pain for her because she has to split her heart and her time between the two people that mean the most to her.

About that time anxiety…

On Thursday night right before bed, I sang her lullaby.  As I was singing, I got all choked up because I hadn’t gotten to spend much time with her this week, and she was going to Dad’s the next day for the long weekend.  I couldn’t finish singing.  When she asked what was wrong, I said that I was thinking about how I was going to miss her.

“I’m not gone yet, Mom,” she said.

“You’re right.”  I apologized, and hugged her, and just kind of breathed her in.

Sacrificing my time rips my heart out.  I’m pretty sure I did the right thing.  I know that I am now modeling a healthy marriage for her.  Her dad has remarried, and it seems like it is a much healthier relationship for him too.  She now has a brother, and sisters, and new grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles that think she is the cat’s meow.

I don’t think or maybe I don’t know if this will ever get easier.  I kind of feel like I am sending my kid off to college at age 8.  In the meantime, I will try to slow time by enjoying the time that I have with her and trying really hard to only miss her when she is really gone.

Read Full Post »

I am a very happily married woman.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  In my past life, I was not-so-happily married for a little over 10 years.  It was a time filled with self-doubt, poor communication, and a dedication to trying to fix something that was never really properly functioning to begin with.  I won’t complain about that time in my life, because it was a tremendous period of growth and learning for me.

I was the one that finally said the words, “I can’t be married anymore.”  But, I am not one that thinks divorce is a good idea.  In fact, it is a truly terrible idea.  Divorce is hard, especially when there are kids involved.  But there is a time, and there is a place for it.

Today I was thinking about it again.  If one of the parties cannot forgive, forget, and move on, then there is no hope for reconciliation.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t stay married, it means that the hope for a healthy relationship is out the window.  I was not able to forgive, forget, and move on.  I held on to the “wrongs” committed against me and took them personally.

A few years ago I got some really great advice. “Life is so much easier if you realize that everyone is an idiot, but you have to include yourself in that”, says Lisa, buddy, former roomy, and naturalist extraordinaire.

It really does make things easier.  At the end of my marriage, I carried around a slip of paper in my wallet, and had it on my computer screen.  It had a symbol of a heart and a peace sign on it.  It was to remind me that I should have peace, love, and understanding to my now ex-husband.  It helped lighten my heart toward him.  It was the point in the relationship that every little thing the other person does, makes you want to scream.  Having the reminder that we are all a bunch of idiots (self included) was helpful during this time.

My husband, and I often lament that we didn’t find one another first.  It would have been so much easier to have one set of children that didn’t have to be shuttled from place to place.  It would be so much easier to not have outside forces that are annoyed by us.  But, on the other hand, we may not appreciate one another as much.

I realize that I married an idiot.

Instead of holding grudges, and clinging to my “rightness”, I am able to let the little stuff go.  It is surprisingly easy.  Jeremy does dumb little things all the time, and they are not even a blip in the radar.  When I squirt ketchup on my shirt for the hundredth time, he trips over my shoes, and I forget to get my oil changed, he just shakes his head and says, “Oh Jenny.”

Jeremy definitely knows that he married an idiot, but he loves me anyway.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: