Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Our diet

I always find it interesting reading about what other people eat. So, I thought I'd write about our diet, it may not be of any interest to anyone but me ;). About 2 years ago I started switching our diet from mostly pre-prepared packaged foods to organic whole foods. I started cooking and cutting back on our meat consumption. I've read a few things lately saying that eating healthy is too expensive, but as I've stopped buying convenience foods our grocery bill has gone down even though I buy mostly organic. Most whole foods aren't that expensive, rice and grains are pretty cheap. Veggies don't cost much, even the organic ones. It is meat that is expensive so that is something we've been cutting back on.

For the last year and a half we eat beef once a month. Usually it is half a pound of ground beef in spaghetti which lasts about a week. Occasionally we will have hamburgers as our monthly beef. We eat almost no pork, sometimes I will get ham for sandwiches. We do eat chicken, usually 3 nights a week but it is always in something, a pasta dish or a stir-fry. When we do have chicken in our dinner, we use only 1 chicken breast for the whole recipe. So generally 4 nights a week are vegetarian nights. We do eat a lot of pasta and rice but Mark and I seem to have no problem eating a lot of carbs without gaining weight. We do eat only whole wheat pasta and bread. Overall, I feel happy with our diet. I wish more of it was locally grown. I would like to eat more beans but in general I haven't found many beans I like or at least I haven't liked the way they were cooked. We don't eat much fish because I find the whole fish thing very confusing. Should I eat wild caught or farmed? It seems that it varies by the type of fish. I'd like to eat more fish, but that is definitely something we can't get that is local.

Our last weeks of dinners has included:

vegetarian chili with kidney beans (the first time we had made that, we really liked it)
Cajun crawfish pasta (with crayfish tails from LA, not local but good)
Veggie stir-fry over rice
Red curry with chicken (1 breast for the whole dish) and potatoes, also over rice
Vegetable bowtie pasta with olive oil, garlic and pine nuts

And left-overs on the other nights, every dish made enough for 2 dinners. We almost never eat breakfast and lunch for Logan and I is usually sandwiches (grilled cheese, egg, or PB&J) or pita pizza made on whole wheat pitas. Every other week or so we have organic mac and cheese (yes, it is from a box). I also eat left-overs for lunch often.

I'd like to make more bread and the last few things we eat out of a box I'd like to learn to make myself. I'm looking forward to growing more of our food this year.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Save the Butterflies

Monarch caterpillar and eggs on a milkweed plant

Butterflies are really struggling to find food and places to lay eggs as more native habitat is being lost. As a backyard habitat steward, I recommend everyone I visit put in a small butterfly garden. You don't need more than 4 or 5 plants in a small area to make a big difference. Putting in a few of the recommended plants and a water source, like a birdbath is enough to get your yard certified as a backyard habitat by NWF if that is something that interests you. We have 2 butterfly gardens and that is the extend of what we've been able to do here but we get tons on butterflies and bees all summer long.

This needs to be in a full-sun area:
Joe Pye Weed (eupatorium maculatum)
Butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa)
Milkweed (asclepias syriaca) - the only plant monarchs lay their eggs on
Bee balm (monarda didyma)
Cardinal flower (lobelia)
Coneflower (echinacea)
Goldenrod (Solidago) - a vital food source for monarchs during their migration in the fall.

I have all the above plants in my butterfly garden and they grow like, well weeds! I planted them in May and didn't have to water or anything all summer. These are plants that are good for the east coast, if you live elsewhere you may need different plants. I'm going to try growing Butterfly weed, Milkweed, and Coneflower from seed this year. If I can get some seeds going, I'm going to give away plants to friends in hopes they will also put in a butterfly garden.

We love to sit by the garden and watch the butterflies for hours. It truly is an easy way to make a difference for wildlife.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I've been tagged too.

I'm supposed to say 6 weird things about myself.

1. I used to collect mouse poop for a living.

2. My toes curl under, Mark says it is because my shoes were too small when I was a kid.

3. I have to open the shower curtain when I use the bathroom at night, you never know what might be hiding in the shower.

4. I'm seriously addicted to Chap Stick, and I do mean seriously!

5. I build combat robots and quilt, sometimes on the same day. Add in baking cookies and it seems like a weird combination to me.

6. Um...sometimes I eat 2 bowls of cereal for dinner and nothing else. Is that weird?

This is hard because the things that make me weird with most people I know aren't weird in this group. Things like unschooling and wanting to raise chickens are weird with most people I know. Oh, and studying to be a kitchen witch and worshiping Mother Earth. Again, things most people consider weird but not here.

I think everyone has been tagged so I'll skip that part.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I finished my first quilt. I guess it isn't technically a quilt since it doesn't have any batting or backing, but I made the squares and put them together with a border. Logan picked out the design and all the fabrics, it is going to be a wall-hanging for his room. I hand-sewed the squares but used my new sewing machine to put the squares together with the border. I'm now working on a real quilt for his bed that will have batting and such.

Next month I'm going to take a sewing class and learn to make clothes. The pattern they having us doing at the class is pajamas that consists of a T shirt top and elastic waist pants. I'm excited by this pattern because what I want to sew is clothes for Logan and all he wears is T shirts and elastic waist pants. He will have so much fun picking out fabric for his shirts and pants! I just hope DH doesn't have a heart attack when Logan wants pants with butterflies all over them. My boy does love the beautiful things in life!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My New Barn!

I got a new barn this week. Logan helped me build it. I'm sure the chicks will be very happy in it!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Seed catalogs

I'd never realized the joy that seed catalogs could bring! I've spent hours and hours pouring over seed catalogs in the last month. Circling what I want, dreaming of what I could plant, drooling over the pretty color pictures. It is such a pleasure. I wasn't really into gardening this time last year so this is my first experience with seed catalogs. I'm not sure if it is making winter easier or harder to bare. It is nice to be able to dream and plan, but I want to plant NOW. I don't want to wait.

I can only do my food plants in containers at this house so that is determining what I can order. Although I've read some good books about growing all sorts of things in containers, even potatoes. I never would have thought you could do potatoes in a container. I'm waiting for 2 more catalogs before I place my order, I've heard they are cheaper than the catalogs I currently have. But I sure love the pretty color pictures in the ones I have. I'll post a list of what I ordered once I place an order. I think I'm going to go in with 2 local friends on what we order.

Last year I grew tomatoes, hot peppers, cilantro, beans, basil and oregano. Not much, I plan to grow quite a bit more this year. Especially herbs since I want to start making my own herbal products. Logan really want to grow purple veggies this year so I know we will be doing purple beans, potatoes, and basil. Maybe a few more, I'm not sure yet.

I need to do a pot inventory to see what I have. I bought a bunch in the fall when they were half off and I need to start making paper pots for my seedlings. Come on spring!

Monday, January 15, 2007

A nice day

Today was a really nice day. The weather was great, around 55 degrees. We had a habitat visit with a man that lives less than 2 miles from here. His property was gorgeous! He had 5 acres, about 4.5 of it was wooded. He had birds and critters everywhere. I felt so at peace there, Logan didn't want to leave. I can't believe there is a place like that less than 2 miles from here. There is no way we could afford a place like that here which is why we are moving south. When we got home from the habitat visit we wanted to spend more time outside so we spent almost 2 hours removing Japanese Honeysuckle from the common land behind our house. Japanese Honeysuckle is nasty stuff, it wraps around trees and suffocates them. We freed 3 trees from this menace today. It was a very satisfying day.

I was thinking more about what I had accomplished in 2006. I have a few more things to add to the list that don't look like accomplishments but are laying the groundwork. Mostly involving research.

I've read about chicken care, coop building, chicken tractors

I've researched different growing methods including square-foot gardening, self-watering containers, biointensive gardening, cover crops, rotation, row covers, and a few others

I've read quite a bit about herbs, herbal remedies, how to best grow herbs

I've done tons of research on native plants, wildlife plants, invasives and how to remove them

Research on self-sufficiency and the skills needed to obtain it

Again, I know there is more but I've been trying to get my knowledge base in place so that when I get my place I can hit the ground running.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Accomplishments for 2006

Reading Danielle's post http://touchtheearthfarm.blogspot.com/ about what she accomplished in 2006 got me to thinking about what I had done to get closer to my goal of sustainability in 2006. So here is what I came up with:

Replaced my old 25 mpg car with a hybrid (45 mpg)
Built a rain barrel and used it for all my watering this summer (it is still full of water)
Grew tomatoes, hot peppers, green beans, strawberries, blackberries, basil, oregano, cilantro
Replaced part of the lawn with a native butterfly garden
Removed invasive plants from common land behind my house
Convinced DH to stop using herbicides in the yard
Switched to worm castings for fertilizer
Learned to quilt
Bought more food locally and vacuum sealed to store it
Found a local source for meat and eggs
Replaced light bulbs with CF light bulbs
Got a solar powered fountain for the birds
Switched to more natural cleaners (I'm going to start making my own cleaners in 2007)
Became a certified backyard habitat steward

I'm sure there is more but my brain isn't coming up with anything right now.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nature Deficit Disorder

I'm currently reading 2 books that are basically about the same topic. One is called Noah's Children by Sara Stein, the other is Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv. Both books argue that kids today are out of touch with nature and that it is negatively affecting their lives. They both say that kids need time to just be in nature, alone with their thoughts, unsupervised to do what kids in nature do. I've been thinking about this a lot, thinking about my childhood compared to Logan's. When I was a kid, my brother and I would go to the creek by our house and explore for hours. We did this with no parental supervision. I would sit by a local lake and just think and dream. We'd build forts in the woods. We had a lot of time to ourselves to get to know nature and get to know ourselves. Compare that to Logan's childhood. We don't live near any woods or creeks or lakes he can explore. He pretty much is always with me, he doesn't go outside exploring without me. He really doesn't go outside exploring at all. Outside to him is a playground. He has never had unsupervised free time to get to know nature. This really bothers me! I do think it is valuable for children to get to know and explore nature, to have quiet alone time. Logan spends most of his time in the house with the TV or video games going. I don't think he gets any quiet alone time.

I'm not sure what if anything to do about this. He likes being outside and with nature when we do it but to do it here we need to drive to a sanctuary or state park. And to me that sort of defeats the purpose of having relaxed alone time to be with nature. It is better than no nature at all but not what the books are talking about and not really what I imagine when I imagine time in nature. I hope when we get our place that it will have a creek or pond and some woods that Logan can go explore. I'd like him to have that free time in nature that I had as a kid.

When we last went to visit my dad we went down to his creek. He has 5 acres with a creek in the very back. Logan found tracks and scat by the creek. We watched the fish swim and looked at the ferns and mold. Logan threw rocks in the creek and jumped over it. It was a nice time exploring. It wasn't alone time for him with nature, but at least he was in nature.

I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Backyard Habitat

Logan and I were in an article in the local newspaper about backyard habitats. He loves going on site visits with me to help people design their habitats. He is very passionate about invasive plants and how terrible they are. He's given a few people a good lecture about it! We both can't wait until we have the land available to really put in a nice backyard habitat. The one we have now is pretty small. We get lots of butterflies and bees to it but it doesn't really provide for mammals or reptiles at all. We also really want a pond.

Here is the link to the article: http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006612310314

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

My introduction

This is my first blog, I'm not sure how interesting it is going to be, but I wanted to give it a go. I currently live in the suburbs of Delaware but for the last year have been longing for a simpler life that is more in touch with the Earth. Mark, my husband put in for a tranfer so we can move somewhere where we can get some property. We are still waiting to hear from his company but have it narrowed down to 3 possible locations: Kingsport, TN, Spartanburg, SC or Winder, GA. If anyone is familiar with any of these locations I'd love to hear your input. Ultimately, it won't be up to us, it all depends on where an opening pops up. Kingsport is our first choice but also the least likely to happen. I've been really practicing my trusting the universe with this one! I have to trust that wherever we end up is where we are meant to be.

We are hoping for 5-10 acres where we can have a vegetable garden, set up a medicine wheel, and raise some chickens. We also want to revert some of our land to native habitat. I am a backyard habitat steward with NWF so native gardening is a passion of mine. I dream of having a place where I can rip out all the non-natives that have moved in and replace them with native plants that benefit wildlife. I have a small backyard habitat here but drean of doing much more!

Well, that's about enough for now!