Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some of the Delicious Food We've Been Eating

We have been eating well here in NW Iowa. I wanted to share some of the recipes, for anyone interested. As well as a batch of recent pics. Here's a shot from Thanksgiving, we're pretty low key about it.

Roasted Pork. This one was fun because I used dry sherry for the first time. Turned out really good. RECIPE it's called Chinese Roast Pork, probably because of the soy sauce and ginger.  We used a big 4lb tenderloin instead of the shoulder that recipe calls for. Mostly because I thawed the wrong piece of meat. Still good.

Orange Sweet Potatoes
I can't find the recipe we used for this. But we made thick coins out of some long skinny sweet potatoes. (Skins removed) We layered them in a pie dish, (prettily, because this was for Thanksgiving) and put in orange zest, some orange peel, and butter and brown sugar. Then we baked them for 40-50 minutes until the sweet potatoes were soft.

Cranberry and Citrus Salad
I boiled a cup of cranberries in some water and sugar with a cinnamon stick. Not long, just a few minutes. Then I poured the hot syrup and soft cranberries on top of a bowl of nicely cut and arranged citrus slices. I had grapefruits, oranges, and clementines in mine. Put in the fridge to chill.

Of course I've made my annual batch of Pumpkin Chip Cookies. We've had endless varieties of apples/butter/oatmeal. Various soups. I had a GREAT crop of leeks this year. So we've had a couple versions of my usually made up on the spot Potato Leek soup. 

Now Yule is coming up fast. We may need to switch things up and do a chicken for that holiday, I'm a little bit tired of pork. :) Dave has informed me that stuffing is de rigueur if chicken is to appear at a holiday meal.  lol

From NW Iowa, me and the family wish you and yours all the best. May your new year be a bright one! Full of good food and family.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Missouri Vacation!

Well, we made the journey to Hannibal MO over labor day weekend. All 4 of us strapped into the FestivaCivic. lol

And we drove.. and drove.. :-) We arrived so early at the campgrounds we couldn't even get into our cabin. So the boys played on the playground equipment and we had a pleasant picnic lunch.
 The meadow behind the playground had a couple of young deer in it when we showed up, Rowen got a kick out of watching them bound away.  We did eventually get into the cabin. It was a great cabin, I'm so glad we went that route. I didn't get any pictures while Dave's family was with us for swimming and dinner, his sister is a shutterbug, and I'm hoping she shares those pics soon. Here are the boys at breakfast time the next morning.
And here is an exterior shot of the cabin. Mark Twain Lake has GREAT cabins, I can't rave enough about how great it was.
We left the lake on Monday and went to Hannibal for the Mark Twain Caves. I love me some spelunking. I may have abandoned my geology dreams, but my love of rocks and caves and dirt remains. :-D We took the easy hour tour, what with the toddler and 4 year old lacking experience underground. They mostly enjoyed themselves. Logan got bored about 80% of the way through. :-D

 Logan stayed in the sling the whole time, this is one of those caves that's a maze of passages, and our little one is such a fast escape artist, that this was the ONLY way I was going to take him underground. It worked out really well.
 He's chewing on the top to the glow stick necklace, not the glow stick part, just the plastic bit where the stick attached to the necklace. The glow sticks were a good idea, but ruined one of the tour stops where the guide turned off all the lights. :-D Our little group was still glowing. Oh well.

 Logan was telling me something here... who knows what.

Isn't Rowen a cutie in that one. :-D
We had a lovely dinner at a park overlooking the Mississippi river. Again our camera went unused as Julie captured the time with her lens.
A parting shot here of Rowen as Tom Sawyer.
Yay for vacation trips. Hope you enjoyed the pics.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My first 5k!

Well, I  (sorta) did it. I ran in my first 5k this weekend.
The Sioux Falls Glow Run.
I asked an old friend, and experienced runner, to run it with me, and he graciously stayed by me the whole way. Thanks Schwenk!  I had fun. I think he did too, in spite of everything.

It was disappointing in some ways. I didn't get to really test myself for the 5k distance. The organization was too poor, and there were multiple choke points during the run that we had to slow to a walk to squeeze through. It took us 42 minutes to get back to the finish line, and I had only trained for a time of 26 minutes.  So, the last 5 or 10 minutes I was just tired, and had to do some walking to give my legs a rest.
I didn't have a bit of trouble with my asthma though, and I'm not terribly sore today, so I think if I do another one, I'll be pretty close to running the full thing. It would be nice to run another one just to try again at running the full thing.

Have I mentioned I may have become a runner? I have never liked it. Ever. I was one of those students in high school that intentionally scheduled enough AP courses that I could opt out of PE and the running that would entail. "I'll run when someone is chasing me," was a favorite line. So, I've never ever gotten this far before. And training the last couple of weeks was ... dare I say it.. fun. Every run, it seems like, something hurts. Something is tired, or crampy or sore, and I have to get past it. And every time I do, I feel great. 0-5 minutes, always feels disjointed, ungraceful. 5-10 minutes is when I usually have to let go of whatever is paining me, run through it, but I'm starting to feel warmed up and not so disjointed.. And then there's this time period from like 20-26 minutes where it just feels great. I have my pace, I have my breath rhythm, and I'm just running, and I've never experienced that before. It's peaceful in some ways and cleansing in some ways, and triumphant because I've overcome my lazy inclinations, my little pains and I know I've done good for my body. 

I thought running would be more similar to my biking, in that I would just feel like I had a good workout.  But it's more than that, and that's been a nice surprise.

So, I'm going to keep at it, at least for now. Will I buy expensive shoes? Go without shoes? Try for something longer? I don't know. Maybe not.. but I'm not ruling anything out at this point. 

Thanks to everyone for the support. 

Official run time: 41:32   (lol, and by official, I mean that's what my watch said, as this run had no tracked time keeping.)
- Jennie

Friday, August 9, 2013

Apparently I'm Still Not Feminine

I've been married to Dave for over 5 years now. This morning we were having a frank discussion about something and I used a turn of phrase that literally made him double take. Followed by a comment on how I still surprise him sometimes with my less than feminine speaking ways.  And a smile, because he loves it, and me. But still, it surprised me.

I speak how I've always spoken. Perhaps with a bit more confidence now than in my awkward teenage years, or bookish childhood. But honestly, I don't feel as though my verbal and written communication has ever been described as feminine. "Strong," or "advanced for my age" were used when the speaker was being polite. (I can remember a conversation with a teacher in 4th grade when she mentioned that she spoke to me like she would an adult, knowing that I would understand what she was saying.)  I was always yelling out answers in class, especially in math and science lessons. It took me years to get in the habit of raising my hand to speak, and by the time I'd figured that out, I had also figured out how to read a different book under my desk or read ahead in the book the rest of the class was struggling to get 1 chapter into, completely uninterested in what was going on. By the time I hit 7th, I was adept at keeping one finger on the page the class was working on, and reading ahead to the things I was actually interested in.

I feel that, as an adult, when I disagree with something and I speak vehemently or passionately about it, I get accused of being mad, or yelling. I can pepper it with smiles and consciously keep my voice tones low, and I still get the accusation. WTF is up with that? And why do I feel like if I was a man my counter points would be accepted without the complaints about my tone?

August is an interesting month for me this year, probably heightening my awareness of these things. I'm turning 30 this month. Control of my fertility is high on my priority list right now. The onslaught of state, national and religious groups fighting to take away my control of my reproductive organs is upsetting. Honestly, I find it hard some days to deal fairly with my Christian neighbors, it can be difficult to divorce them from the larger religious organizations trampling my human rights. But, that's fodder for a whole 'nother post.

As some of you know, I stopped shaving years ago. I was/am tired of the media saturation promoting their airbrushed, unattainable version of femininity. One of the best things about the lack of a television in our house if I don't have to see that crap on a daily basis.  Hair, stretch marks, freckles, wrinkles and fat are all part of reality. Yet women embracing those aspects of their feminine reality are scarce. Armpits4August is a group of women doing just that. Encouraging women to grow their own under arm hair and to love it and rejoice in the perfect hair that our wonderful bodies grow. Not to shave it away, wax it away or hide it under sleeves. They are mainly in the UK right now, which is too bad for me, no rallies near enough I could get to one.

Also this month, much nearer to home, is the August 25th National Go Topless Day. I ask you this, my American readers, why is it my male neighbor can mow his lawn topless and I can't? Why is my husband so sure that I would get arrested if I tried something like that? There are no laws about it on record for my town. Just the vague sort of indecent exposure type laws. In New York City, law enforcement and community activists annually remind citizens that such displays are completely legal in that city. Male or female, equal treatment, everyone can show nipples in public.  Does the constitution not extend to Iowa? Does my equal treatment depend on my geographic nearness to one of the coasts?

So, if you hear of my arrest on the 25th, you'll know why.

I guess I should just resign myself to the comments about my less-than-feminine traits. Especially since I flaunt pretty much every societal norm for my gender. Proudly. With one finger in the air.
I have opinions and I'll say them. I have hair, and I'll grow it. With any luck my boys won't grow up with the current bullshit view on what feminine is. Maybe they'll have more freedom in expressing their own uniqueness. Maybe their wives and/or daughters will have more freedom because of it.

Here's something fun to end today's post.

---------------Jennie Fun Fact
Perhaps the single most feminine aspect to my communication is the circle I put over my lower case 'i' in my stubbornly not-cursive handwriting. I learned cursive enough to pass the 3rd grade requirements, and I knew then that I was never going to use it again, and I haven't. But even that circle, has its roots not in girlie doodling, but in logic. It was because of that same 3rd grade class, in our daily cursive exercises, with a teacher who was sloppy about her 't' crossing and 'i' dotting. Because of that sloppiness her cursive 'l', 't', and 'i' all looked a lot a like. I thought, that's just a recipe for miscommunication, I'm going to make sure my 'i' are clearly 'i's and not stumpy 'l's. So I used the forced daily cursive writing practice as a medium for changing my handwriting, and I taught myself the circle over the 'i' and I've never gone back. 

Take care y'all,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Recently Completed Sewing Projects

I made the cutest little crayon roll-ups this past week. One is going to my eldest. And one is going in the market basket for sale. 

Also done is a cover for the computer chair. The seat had just about worn through, and the boys were pulling out foam. No beuno. So I made a simple cover out of some spare minkee.
Looks beautiful!
There was also a batch of diapers that got finished, but they went directly onto baby butts and I didn't snap a pic.
Mom and I are go for a charity quilt! I have a small start on things, need to get a wiggle on though, so I can mail the top to her with plenty of time for the long arm quilting.
Do you have any finishes to brag about? Hollar in the comments!

Breastfeeding - The End

Baby and I are are officially done nursing. I guess I should stop calling him baby. :-(  :-( Nah, I don't wanna, and you can't make me.
We made it till 15 months, that's not too shabby.  We made it through supply issues, work trips, a nursing strike and teething. Whew!

Part of me is sad. I miss our intimate snuggles. His little gurgles, hums and coos. Part of me is happy, my nipples are no longer teething rings! I can wear whatever shirt I want!

Sadly I didn't have enough supply to build up a frozen milk stash for donation. I was really hoping I would, but it just didn't happen. Oh well, no one is perfect.

I'm really happy with how much support I got at work for breastfeeding. Never a derogatory word. Never any problems with customers. I had to find places to pump at two different job sites. Hard hat construction sites. No problem. I'm planning to make some simple little thank you cards for my managers.

The following are some breastfeeding stories I found online, and I liked them enough to share here. Enjoy!

"In Mongolia, instead of relegating me to a "Mothers Only" section, breastfeeding in public brought me firmly to center stage. Their universal practice of breast feeding anywhere, anytime, and the close quarters at which most Mongolians live, mean that everyone is pretty familiar with the sight of a working boob. They were happy to see I was doing things their way (which was, of course, the right way).

When I breastfed in the park, grandmothers would regale me with tales of the dozen children they had fed. When I breastfed in the back of taxis, drivers would give me the thumbs-up in the rearview mirror and assure me that Calum would grow up to be a great wrestler. When I walked through the market cradling my feeding son in my arms, vendors would make a space for me at their stalls and tell him to drink up. Instead of looking away, people would lean right in and kiss Calum on the cheek. If he popped off in response to the attention and left my streaming breast completely exposed, not a beat was missed. No one stared, no one looked away - they just laughed and wiped the milk off their noses.

From the time Calum was four months old until he was three years old, wherever I went, I heard the same thing over and over again: "Breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby, the best thing for you." The constant approval made me feel that I was doing something important that mattered to everyone - exactly the kind of public applause every new mother needs.

By Calum's second year, I had fully realized just how useful breastfeeding could be. Nothing gets a child to sleep as quickly, relieves the boredom of a long car journey as well, or calms a breaking storm as swiftly as a little warm milk from mummy. It's the lazy mother's most useful parenting aid, and by now I thought I was using it to its maximum effect. But the Mongolians took it one step further.
During the Mongolian winters, I spent many afternoons in my friend Tsetsgee's yurt, escaping the bitter cold outside. It was enlightening to compare our different parenting techniques. Whenever a tussle over toys broke out between our two-year-olds, my first reaction would be to try to restore peace by distracting Calum with another toy while explaining the principle of sharing. But this took a while, and had a success rate of only about 50 percent. The other times, when Calum was unwilling to back down and his frustration escalated to near boiling point, I would pick him up and cradle him in my arms for a feed.

Tsetsgee had a different approach. At the first murmur of discord, she would lift her shirt and start waving her boobs around enthusiastically, calling out, "Come here, baby, look what mama's got for you!" Her son would look up from the toys to the bull's-eyes of his mother's breasts and invariably toddle over.

Success rate? 100 percent.

Not to be outdone, I adopted the same strategy. There we were, two mothers flapping our breasts like competing strippers trying to entice a client. If the grandparents were around, they'd get in on the act. The poor kids wouldn't know where to look - the reassuring fullness of their own mothers' breasts, granny's withered pancake boasting its long experience, or the strange mound of flesh granddad was squeezing up in breast envy. Try as I might, I can't picture a similar scene at a La Leche League meeting." source - check out the rest of the story, it's AWESOME.

"The Nyangatom tribe resides in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley.
They are known for  for their heavy (beautiful) necklaces.
Women wear the necklaces with long goatskin skirts.
Breastfeeding is celebrated, and given the culture’s attire, babies seem pretty happy about the easy access to their mother’s milk. :-)" source

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meeting Goals

I'm counting down the days till my 30th birthday.  1 month exactly is all I have left of my fabulous stint as a twenty-something. Honestly, I'm fairly proud of the last decade. It's been an amazing journey, I've had a lot of fun, and I've worked really hard. The start of my 20's I was a stripper, trying to make my way through my last couple years of college. I dodged a bullet when my roommate's pot growing operation got busted, and that was a tricky year that followed. But, I fought to stay in school and graduate, and I made it, albeit with few prospects for an engineering job at the time I walked across the stage. The troubles kept me in Ames for one more year, and that was the year that saw love blossom with the man I'd eventually convince to handfast with me.

This weekend we'll celebrate 5 years together as a common-law married couple. <3 nbsp="" p=""> Two kids. Two beautiful boys. The eldest is already accelerating towards the big kid ramp. The youngest, just yesterday he was a babe in arms, and now of course, he's chasing after big brother as quickly as his chubby little legs will take him.

Some goals have fallen by the way-side. I'm not a rising star in the salsa scene. I haven't left the country since my study abroad trips in college. My kids aren't bilingual. I'm not a xenogeologist. Although, technically that last one died before my 20's.

Some goals are works in progress. My student loans are still massive. But I've paid off the car and 98% of the credit card debt. Home-ownership seems like a pipe dream at this point, so far away and so unlikely, it's not even worth the title of "goal." How can we save for something like that? I get 4 checks a month, one of them goes to rent, one of them goes to student loans. That leaves me 2 checks for everything else. And we do save. We have a savings plan. But all it does is keep us from drowning during normal emergencies, (car repairs, family visits, root canals..) we can't seem to hang on to any of it for long enough to build on it. ...   That got depressing, let's move on.

Some goals are being met. I ran a full 20 minutes last weekend. That's 2+ miles, and definitely 1 mile farther than I've ever run in my life. That same day I set up at the farmers market and sold out of everything except bok choi. It was only 30$ worth of garden bounty, but it was MY garden bounty. Urban farmer... it's not an organic CSA with regular paying customers.. but I'm proud of the start and determined to build on it.  The small start also helps to defray the costs (in time and materials) of growing my own food. Having non-GMO food, free from pesticides, herbicides and fungicides is worth the trouble, but it's nice that I can finally make some money from it too.
I've learned to quilt, and learned to knit.
I've learned yoga, belly dance, and lots of salsa moves.
I live with people I love, in a house full of things that I've created, surrounded by green growing things that sustain us all.
I've found my footing as an engineer. The road for this one has been rocky from the beginning. I don't know why 17 year old Jennie got so scared of the geology path. I don't know why I thought computer engineering would be a good fit. It never really has been. Sure I have the smarts for it, but let's be honest, I don't have the passion for it, and probably never will. I don't care about technology, I'll pick hand tools over gas powered anything, every time. I haven't missed my personal cell phone, and feel no need to get a smart phone. So while I have found that I can competently start up giant factories, pumping out consumer goods and pet food, I find I have little interest in the work, or the goods produced. I'd rather be digging in my gardens. How that dichotomy will play out over the next decade remains to be seen. 

I'll be running a 5k to celebrate my birthday next month. You're all invited. :-)
Sioux Falls Glow Run
August 24th, 9pm at Falls Park.

I may do some tweaking to this blog, just to keep it current, so don't be surprised if the look changes a bit.

I may set some goals for the next 10 years, any thoughts on something I should add to that list? :-D

Take care y'all.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Excuses from the Farmer's Market

I would never say anything like this to someone at the farmers market. I still think it though. And to preserve my sanity I'm going to offload it here on my blog where we can all giggle about it. These are all actual comments, heard by me at my first farmer's market.

"I have to ask my wife first."  Yes, sir, I bet your wife is really going to get anxious about the 2$ you could have spent on some tasty green onions. I know I check with my hubby before I buy a head of lettuce. Every head of lettuce gets a green light before I proceed.

"I'm just here to snap a picture." Ah, I see, you "Support" the farmers market. We'll get a click-able petition to your email for next week. You can show your "Support" on your Facebook page and not even bother to come out.

"I live alone, can't seem to get through produce fast enough."  Sir, from the looks of your physique, I'm going to make a crazy assumption and guess you don't actually eat much produce. Regardless of who you are living with.  Taking your statement at face value, still bullshit. My lettuce heads were small and dainty, one would have been enough for you alone to have 2 salads. One today, one tomorrow. That's 1$ each day, for tasty local salad greens.  Yup, no way is that possible when you are living alone.

"I'm just looking for tomatoes today." (Variations heard include, potatoes and green beans; mostly shouted from car windows as they slowly cruised by in the parking lot.)  Ah yes. It's just barely July, we haven't once hit 90 yet, the rains were never-ending this spring, and oh yea, we live in NW Iowa!  Why don't you get out of your car and walk over and see what IS available? Are tomatoes the only thing you eat? Ew. Not healthy.

"3$ a pound is expensive, would you take 1$ for a pound?" This was said to Sue, in regards to her GORGEOUS basket of yellow wax beans. Flawless, evenly sized, beautifully colored wax beans, that she picked by hand the day before.  Needless to say she told him no politely, he drove off, (another cruise by shouter) and she sold out of her beans within the next hour. (And rightfully so, I was tempted by those beans.. Mmmmm)

Things I didn't hear but dream of hearing one day:
"I have 20$ this week for veggies for me and the kids. I see you only have 2 bunches of green onions today, any chance you have more at home? I'd love to buy another bunch or two, to go with the 3 heads of lettuce I bought."

"My mother is an invalid and home bound, I'd love to make sure she's getting enough fresh veg, do you do any delivery?"

"I love that I don't have to drive 45 minutes to Sioux City's farmers market. "

"Jr loves the sweet little carrots we got last week. He keeps asking to visit the farm, is there any way we can come watch you harvest next week?"

I'll keep hoping.  Thanks for letting me vent a little. :-D
Next week is bound to be better!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Charity Quilting

There's been plenty on this blog lately about me and my struggles.
Let's spend some time talking about others.
Better yet, join me in spending some sewing time dedicated to others. 

100 quilts for kids
July1- Sept 30th 2013 
Ready to get started?
1. Make a quilt.  Great time to use bee blocks, try a new pattern, or experiment with a design of your own.
2. Donate it to a child in need, locally if you can.  Consider donating your quilt(s) to a local foster care program, domestic violence center, homeless shelter, children’s hospital, or to a local military family support organization.

Slabs for Southern Alberta
Just make a 15.5x15.5 slab and snail mail it to her, and she'll combine them into quilts, and send the quilts to long-armers who are volunteering their time. The quilts are headed to Calgary and Southern Alberta to help in recovery from the flood there.

"How do you make a slab? If you have the book, [Saturday Morning Quilts] refer to the directions on pages 48-49. If you don't have the book let me summarize how to make a slab:

Take two pieces (scraps) of fabric and sew them together. Do that a few more times. Then start sewing more pieces to those first pairs. Sew groups together. Add additional pieces of fabric as necessary to get up to your finished size. Start with small bits or big ones, it doesn't matter. Raid your scrap bins and go with what you've got.

Feel free to grab that top image and share it on your blogs/web-sites. Tell the world about how you made your slab. Link back to this post if you do.

DEADLINE - July 30, 2013.

I plan on assembling the blocks, with the help of some local friends, in early August. "

I know I can get a slab done this month.  A whole quilt for charity, by Sept 30 may be more challenging. Anyone want to team up with me? Mom?
- Jennie

My First Farmer's Market!

Well, we did it. :-D It was not the grandest farmer's market offering ever.  It was a sincere effort though, and I think the first one was memorable and wonderful and a stepping stone to greater things.

Dave was gone from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon with our only car. So, I had to rush home from work and get the farthest gardens harvested so I could use the car to transport the goodness back to my kitchen.

After Dave was off on his way, I got everything washed and trimmed and put into bags* and back in the fridge.  Then I harvested the home garden, and processed those vegetables. Then I started to try to figure out how me, the produce and my two small boys could all get to the farmers market ~ 1 mile away. I called some friends, but none of them could make it work. So, I quit looking for fossil fueled methods and started looking at what I had.  What I had was a sturdy wagon.  So, I grabbed the pop-up cooler, (It's round with spiral supports and it flattens down to a disc when not in use.) and checked that it would fit in the center of the wagon. It fit! So, then I checked my display baskets in the wagon, and picked out 3 of them that fit well and looked good.

Saturday morning I was up early, and left the boys in bed. I got the produce out of the fridge and into the cooler. I got some breakfast for me and boys made and packed into the wagon, along with the diaper bag and toy bag.  And if it sounds like there was more bags than vegetables in the wagon...well that's not far off.  I woke the boys, did some potty/diaper time, and then sent them straight out to the wagon. We left the house around 7:45, 15 minutes later than I had hoped, but still really damn good for a first market day with 2 under 4.

Rowen was so sweet and helpful! I was worried the early hour would leave him crabby, but he surprised me. Logan was his usual cheerful self, and quite happy to be strapped to me in the sling.
So off we went, and I imagine we were quite the sight.  Me with the 1 year old in a sling on my hip, pulling the wagon which was overflowing with baskets and bunches of green. Trailed by a 4 year old jabbering away about everything.

We made it to the farmers market right at 8am, and were set up by 8:05, the only plus side to the tiny offering and wagon-setup.  I giggled at Sue's pronouncement that she had already made 3$. And got the boys settled in the grass with their breakfast of toast and milk. My breakfast was coffee and toast crusts, I'll have to work on that next week.

Sue and I ended up being the only two sellers for the opening weekend of the farmers market in LeMars. Which was disappointing. But, it means my suspicions are accurate about the dire state of the market, and it means I was 100% right to push forward with my own market selling attempt. (To compare, a few years ago there were a half dozen regular sellers.)

I made one sale, my first sale! I sold a bag of the May Queen lettuce, (gorgeous stuff, so tasty and such pretty little heads,) for 2$. Thanks to Mama Pat for the seed. :)

*Why bags? you may be asking. Well, here's my thinking. Give customers what they want. The average American buys produce in plastic bags at the store, the average citizen in LeMars won't bring a reusable bag to the farmers market. Plastic is what they are used to. By washing and trimming and bagging things like lettuce, I may be skirting the edge of what I'm legally allowed to do, but it gets the produce into a state that's comfortable to the customer. It makes the high cost produce I'm offering closer to the convenience vegetables they are used to seeing in the super market.

The boys had a surprisingly good time.  I shouldn't be surprised, they both love outdoors, I planned for food and drink and toys, of course they had a good time. Rowen had a couple of conversations with Sue that I think both enjoyed.  From the adult side, it was nice to have kids to play with in the long spells between customers.

Next week I'm looking forward to bringing a table and the pop-up shelter. I'll probably not bring a ton more in the way of veggies, not until I start seeing more customers.  I will bring my cloth goods though, just to have more on display.  I need to touch base with the local food pantry too, and see if they would be interested in unsold produce, I can't make enough soup to keep up if no one is going to buy anything.

Speaking of, that's what I did this week, I'm calling it Farmer's Market Soup.

Farmer's Market Soup 7/6
4 cups of water
1 bunch of swiss chard, torn from spines and roughly chopped
1 bunch of green onions, diced and divided in two piles
4 garlic scapes, chopped to green bean size.
1 kohlrabi, skinned and shopped.
2-3 carrots chopped
1 can of white northern beans
1 can chicken stock
1/2 pound of beef

Bring salted water to a simmer, add the kohlrabi, scapes, carrots and half the green onions, simmer for 4-5 minutes or until things are soft.
Brown beef in a skillet, with half the green onions and some salt/pepper. Set aside.
Add beans and chicken stock to simmering water. Simmer for 5 or so until the beans are nice and soft. Add in the beef and the chopped swiss chard. Simmer until the chard is soft. Done.

Family loved it. And it's a big batch of soup, we're still eating on it 4 days later.

That's all for now.
- Jennie

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nervous Ramblings Before My Farmer's Market Debut

Well, this afternoon I'll head out to my gardens. I'll harvest some of the veggies that I planted a short couple of months ago.

Then I'll try to sell them Saturday morning. 

It seems weird. It seems unbelievable. Like, maybe if I close my eyes I'll wake up in my bed and it will be a dream.

But it's not a dream. I've already had obstacles. The market usually starts midway through June, but veteran market sellers thought this spring was too cold and wet, and they wouldn't have anything to sell, so the city moved back the starting day to this weekend. My begging and pleading that I HAD VEGGIES TO SELL did not sway the city gal in charge of market stuff.  So, I watched a couple of crops get too big and go to seed, and that was frustrating. Tossing good produce into my compost pile because I hadn't thought to arrange for an alternative, because I hadn't even dreamed that they would move the starting date.  I guess I'll chalk that up to my first lesson.

More obstacles yet to overcome. Dave is working in Des Moines all weekend, and of course taking our only car.  So, me and the 2 babes will have to figure out a way to transport all of us and my market stall to the market, with no car. :-D Thankfully it's only a mile or so away.

The things I don't have, seem to outnumber the things I do have.  No money box, no scale, no table even yet!

Will it be enough? Will I be an embarrassment to the Farmer's Market?  I'll be taking pictures for my own records, and I'll report back.

If you're in the area, stop by and wish me luck, or buy some lettuce. 8-noon LeMars Olsen Outdoor Center.

Leaving a Garden Space

Some of you may know I've been gardening with a local church for the past couple of years.
I was looking to start a community garden in my town, and the local Ag Extension gal heard from the church group that they were trying to start a community garden. So she connected us, and I got on board, thinking I could help them with their project, and save myself the trouble of finding a bit of city park or corporation land.
I've had internal misgivings from the beginning. I thought, "I'm supporting a church, even if it is indirectly. Am I really comfortable with that?"
And at first I was comfortable with it. They had me and another gardener that weren't church members, and the level of proselytizing was low, and based mostly in one-on-one conversations, and I know, meant as kindly outreach. They were serving community members, and there was talk of sending the excess veggies through the local food pantry.

The food pantry never saw anything. Instead, time after time, the excess was distributed among gardeners and church members.  This bothered me a little, but I knew at least some of those gardeners and church members were on fixed income, or raising families, and I thought, at least it's getting to someone.

Then I hear this year, they turned away a local family that was looking for gardening space. Because it "would take too much organizing," and I'm not sure why that is, except that they didn't belong to this church. But I don't either, so why they got turned away... I don't know. And that bothers me a lot!

And they've been spraying chemicals. Roundup for what I considered a small weed problem. Some other herbicide (unnamed, see communication note below) on the patch of sweet corn, that's right next to one of my plots.

Communication has been lacking. They make plans to till something or spray something, but then if those plans don't pan out, they just do whatever they want when the whim takes them. I lost my hill of watermelon this year because someone decided that June was a great time to till, so they just did it one day, and they disregarded my plot markers and just tilled right through the middle of it.That bothered me a lot, and led to a angry email exchange.

I didn't feel like I was part of a community garden, I felt that I was part of a church garden, for church friends to garden in. I talked with the lead about my concerns, and she admits that the Community she was wanting to serve with this "Community Garden" was the church community, and not the neighborhood/town.

How insular. How disappointing.  I guess I should have known better... should have listened to my conscience.
So I told her I'm not returning next year.  I don't want to use my precious time and energy to promote and assist a garden that's only going to serve a small church group.  Nope. I'll finish out this year and harvest what I have planted, but no way am I putting more of my time or energy into this project.

What does this mean for my gardening? The community garden space is about half of my gardening space right now.
The short answer is, I'll find land elsewhere.  I found more this year through friends. If the farmers market EVER OPENS I'll have a card at my table explaining my need for more land, and I can distribute those amongst my customers. Hopefully I can find more growing space that way. If I have to put out an all-call to my friends this winter, I can try that too.  If I have to scale back my operations, I can do that.  I might, maybe, if I can find the time to take off work to do it, talk to the city council about a city sponsored community garden. (The city council meets at the oh-so-convenient time of 10am on Thursdays or something like that.) I may need some time off from community gardens though, even secular ones. So no promises on that one.

- Jennie

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Into the Abyss

This comic has been open on my laptop for a week now. Chris Hadfield was a great astronaut, from Canada, and he sent back a lot of really nice photography from his time on the ISS. His advice seemed apt as I feel like I'm taking a winding path to get to where/who I want to be.
I checked out the latest one today, and needed to share it.

The artist has a lot more where this one came from, and a lot of the are really cool.  Any Carl Sagan fans? Malala supporters?

Friday, June 21, 2013



So, I thought the LeMars Farmers market started this Saturday, but apparently it doesn't.

The other seller I chatted with yesterday said that it used to open in June, but the veteran sellers were worried that the cold wet spring would leave them with nothing to offer, so they moved it back to July 3rd this year.

JULY!!!  FFS people!

I asked the Chamber of Commerce person in charge of the market if I could sell MY stuff early, because I DO have veggies to sell. She's avoiding the question. *sigh*

I have lettuce and peas and rhubarb and scapes ready to GO! I was so stoked for this weekend.

Now what am I going to do?

Put up a table in my lawn and sell from there? :-D Put an ad in Craigslist?  Sell door to door?
.....  This is so frustrating!

On a funnier note, I was visiting one of my favorite sellers last night. She's originally from Korea, married an Iowa farm boy and raised two daughters in LeMars. She walked us home and was introduced to my front yard garden.  Guess which crop she totally flipped over?

Scapes of course. :-D The hardneck garlic is the star of the garden again this year. And the scapes are perfect for harvest this week. She couldn't believe that I had some. Apparently green garlic with scape attached is a prized veggie in Korea. She had become resigned to Americans not knowing what it was. I had to promise to order her some this fall and help her plant. And then I had to cut 4 scapes off so she could cook up a BIG dinner with them. :-D She's lucky I like her.  I was planning a big order of garlic this summer.  I have saved my seed for 5 or 6 years now, and not had any problems. But if I want to grow more next year, I'll either have to eat NONE of this year's garlic or order some more heads from Seed Savers. Yea, we're just going to order more heads, because garlic fresh from the garden is too heavenly to abstain from. So, ordering some for Su won't be a problem.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
:-D I will eventually sell some veggies.  This is only a setback.
Have a good weekend everyone. Go support a farmer's market.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Millenial Women Do Not Hate Their Children

I'm at the tippity top of the Millennial cohort that is starting to receive increased attention in the media. 18-30 year olds, also known as Gen Y. Reading some of that media has been interesting. I fit a lot of the statistical norms for this generation. I'm not impressed by or interested in cars. I don't own my home. I'm buried in student loan debt. And I'm the female breadwinner for my family.
Among Millennials, 18-30 of age, 78% of moms are working outside the home. For some reason that small statistic sends conservative commentators into hyperbolic spasms.

Kevin Swanson: 78% of moms are working outside of the home. 17% dad is the primary breadwinner. 61% the mom is the primary breadwinner. 29% are single moms. Okay there it is. That's it. 17% of dads, 61% of moms. Friends, it's over. it's over, it's done. That's it. That's the end of it. It's the end of manhood, it's the end of men, it's the end of fatherhood, it's done, we've gone over the cliff.. ... There will be no more mothers and of course there are no more fathers. It's over. source
Ah yes, because women work outside the home, society is coming to an end.  Kevin goes on (and on and on) about this and eventually gets around to equating the trend with this little gem, "Women do not love their children as they used to."

Wow. How deep into your crazy do you have to be to think that female breadwinners are some sign of familial apocalypse?

My husband is no less a father or a man because he's home with the kids instead of me. I'm certainly not less of a mother because I'm working outside the home. We certainly don't hate our children. 
The poor things don't even know how abused they are....

We love our children enough to take the best road we can. The best road right now means I need to work because I have a larger earning potential than hubby. Not that he can't support us, he did when I lost my job, but he can't support us AND pay my student loans AND supply health insurance coverage. I can do all of those things, so I do.  I also manage to love my children. Every bit as much as my mother loved us 3 kids, and every bit as much as my grandmothers loved their children. I cook them meals, nurse them as babies and snuggle them to sleep.

Why do conservative (mostly christian, let's be honest) commentators go to this level of crazy?  Do they make more money or get more power when their flock of listeners are in fear of society crumbling? Probably.  Do they honestly think the things they are saying are a form of truth? Probably.  And are they still confused about why Millennials are abandoning organized religions? Probably.

A full quarter of us have no religious affiliations, and that number is on the increase.
Millennials also hold less traditional or orthodox religious beliefs. Fewer than one-quarter (23%) believe that the Bible is the word of God and should be taken literally, word for word. About 1-in-4 (26%) believe Bible is the word of God, but that not everything in the Bible should be taken literally. Roughly 4-in-10 (37%) say that the Bible is a book written by men and is not the word of God. source
 In a nutshell, over half of my age cohort doesn't really give a shit what that dirty old book says. We're not bronze age goat herders. We don't care what their views on gender relations were, including marriage customs, and rules about division of labor along gender lines.  Just. Don't. Care.

Economic realities trump fantasy, myth and dogma. Technological increases like the milk pump and refrigeration and birth control means women can control their fertility and take care of infants' needs while working away from the infant.

Raving and ranting about the death of manhood, and the evil feminist who killed it and how those same feminists are likely to kill their children too, is just going to drive more of us away, into the open embrace of secular organizations around the world.  

Actually, I like how that sounds.  Keep ranting Swanson, as loud as you want. You're doing the secular world a favor.

Edited: In case Swanson's name sounds familiar, he's active in the homeschooling community, and the guy behind the 'graveyard of dead babies' comment that exploded earlier this year in opposition to a birth control mandate.
Kevin Swanson:
I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.
Because there are so many women in the work force, the women’s hearts are not home. There are far more men who say it would be better if moms could stay home because apparently the dads still care about the kids. The - See more at:
From the Pew Research, Pew social trends survey that came out just this week. Friends, this is the most telling story of all. We’re going to look at the millennial generation alright. We’re going to put aside the baby boomers, t - See more at:
From the Pew Research, Pew social trends survey that came out just this week. Friends, this is the most telling story of all. We’re going to look at the millennial generation alright. We’re going to put aside the baby boomers, the ‘Gen-Xers’, we’re going to look at the millennials who are 18 to 30 years of age. Here’s the most telling story of all: 78% of moms are working outside of the home amongst the millennials.

Buehner: I’m sorry how many?

Swanson: 78% of moms are working outside of the home. 17% dad is the primary breadwinner. 61% the mom is the primary breadwinner. 29% are single moms. Okay, there it is. That’s it. 17% of dads, 61% of moms. Friends, it’s over. It’s over, it’s done. That’s it. That’s the end of it. It’s the end of manhood, it’s the end of men, it’s the end of fatherhood, it’s done, we’ve gone over the cliff. 61% of moms are primary breadwinners, 17% of dads among the millenialls, and 78% of moms are working outside of the home. It’s over. There will be no more mothers and of course there are no more fathers. - See more at:
From the Pew Research, Pew social trends survey that came out just this week. Friends, this is the most telling story of all. We’re going to look at the millennial generation alright. We’re going to put aside the baby boomers, t - See more at:
From the Pew Research, Pew social trends survey that came out just this week. Friends, this is the most telling story of all. We’re going to look at the millennial generation alright. We’re going to put aside the baby boomers, the ‘Gen-Xers’, we’re going to look at the millennials who are 18 to 30 years of age. Here’s the most telling story of all: 78% of moms are working outside of the home amongst the millennials.

Buehner: I’m sorry how many?

Swanson: 78% of moms are working outside of the home. 17% dad is the primary breadwinner. 61% the mom is the primary breadwinner. 29% are single moms. Okay, there it is. That’s it. 17% of dads, 61% of moms. Friends, it’s over. It’s over, it’s done. That’s it. That’s the end of it. It’s the end of manhood, it’s the end of men, it’s the end of fatherhood, it’s done, we’ve gone over the cliff. 61% of moms are primary breadwinners, 17% of dads among the millenialls, and 78% of moms are working outside of the home. It’s over. There will be no more mothers and of course there are no more fathers. It’s over. - See more at:
From the Pew Research, Pew social trends survey that came out just this week. Friends, this is the most telling story of all. We’re going to look at the millennial generation alright. We’re going to put aside the baby boomers, the ‘Gen-Xers’, we’re going to look at the millennials who are 18 to 30 years of age. Here’s the most telling story of all: 78% of moms are working outside of the home amongst the millennials.

Buehner: I’m sorry how many?

Swanson: 78% of moms are working outside of the home. 17% dad is the primary breadwinner. 61% the mom is the primary breadwinner. 29% are single moms. Okay, there it is. That’s it. 17% of dads, 61% of moms. Friends, it’s over. It’s over, it’s done. That’s it. That’s the end of it. It’s the end of manhood, it’s the end of men, it’s the end of fatherhood, it’s done, we’ve gone over the cliff. 61% of moms are primary breadwinners, 17% of dads among the millenialls, and 78% of moms are working outside of the home. It’s over. There will be no more mothers and of course there are no more fathers. It’s over. - See more at:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gardening, and vacationing!

The gardens are coming along nicely. Even if I just planted part of the lower garden Sunday. That "lower" garden plot is called that for good reason, and it has been more creek-like than garden bed for most of this spring.  But, I got a couple of hills of squash planted yesterday and a hill of watermelon, and there should be sufficient garden season left to see those to maturity. I think I'll make one more hill this weekend in that plot and stick the Butternut squash there.

Radishes are in harvest mode, as are the green onions and lettuce.  Salad season! Mmmmm.
I have so many radishes I'm going to try to make a radish relish. :-D

We went on family vacation this past weekend. We all had a ton of fun.

I love sharing pictures, so here are some of my favorites from the trip.  Baby boy is 14 months old, and Big boy is 4 years now. 

Have a great summer y'all!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Planting at a Run

Well, Memorial Day approaches, and we've finally given winter the boot.  My garlic plot is the only block of plantings that doesn't look behind. Although, some of the early radishes are coming along, and one of my pea plantings is looking vigorous, even if its neighbor planting is a little behind where I'd like.

Snowstorms well into May meant that my usually busy spring of planting cold hardy crops was delayed for the most part. Thank goodness for my cold frames! The lettuce that was under those has had a great spring, the ice and snow slowed them down, but the frames did their job, and hubby and the boys helped with some of the on-and-off as our weather did its crazy dance. (On and off refers to the taking frame tops off when we hit 70+, and putting them back on when we dip below 35 or so.)

So this past weekend saw me planting at a run, trying to get greens, peas, onions, potatoes, corn and kale into the ground, before the rain that was expected Sunday. Oh, and getting the lawn mowed, because by the time the snow melted, the grass was 5-6 inches tall. And installing the new rain barrel, and fixing the old barrel. :-D And of course, all of that was on top of the normal weekend work of the dishes and laundry that we do every weekend.

I don't mean this to sound like I do EVERYTHING and hubby does nothing. :-D Quite the contrary, I am able to do all I do, because he does so much. He was watching which-ever kid wasn't with me in the garden, and cooking us some meals and doing his share of the dishes and laundry. He did at least half the lawn, and got the new rain barrel installed (AND LEVELED!)

I did manage to get a LOT planted before the rain started Sunday. Enough that I feel almost back on track.  Memorial Weekend usually sees me planting out some of the heat loving plants. I'll probably check soil temps before doing that this year. It may just be too cold still for me to put out my little tomatoes.  I started them a little late indoors, so it's all strangely working out.

I'm already running out of space in my gardens. :-D
I've left some room for the beans and peppers and tomatoes, but probably not enough.  I may have to get creative.
I'll be back with a full rundown after this weekend. I imagine I'll have every last inch planted by Monday. :-D


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exercise is a Pain in My...

Well I did my first run post-babies this week.  Not that I was a huge runner pre-babies. I wasn't. Asthma and an injury to my right knee curtailed what little jogging I did, and I never made it further than a mile at any one time.  I'm starting with a couch to 5k training regimen, even though "couch" perhaps isn't the best description of my level of fitness. (But, maybe that's just ego talking.) It's mostly interval training, with the first couple of weeks being just 20 minutes at a time, consisting of an alternating run/walk. The easy lead in will hopefully allow me to get my lungs and knees worked up to the unfamiliar tasks of running. My legs are telling me quite clearly today that running uses different muscles than walking and gardening and biking. But, the pain is low level muscle ache stuff, and not sharp-hurt knee pain.

Why run now?  It's a combination of things. 1. I found a blog written by an asthmatic runner, and it has given me some techniques to try to mitigate that drag on my running enjoyment.  2. There's a wellness challenge at work to run a 5k this summer. 3. I need something intense I can do for 20 minutes in the morning, because that's the best time I have for non-garden related exercise.

So, I'm registered for my very first 5k, in August. It's going to be my 30th birthday present to myself.   Of course, I picked a glow run. :-D For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a glow run happens at night, on a course with both regular and black lights.
Registration is now open on for August 24th, 2013.
Register Now

What is Sioux Glow?
Sioux Glow promises to be one of the most talked about 5K Run/Walk experiences in South Dakota. On August 24th, participants will wind through downtown Sioux Falls starting and ending at Falls Park. We light up the dark with glowing runners making their way through this scenic 3.1 mile course. The 5K is followed by a post-race after party featuring live music and a beer garden (for those participants who are 21 and over). This after party is open to runners and for a small cost to non-runners. This evening promises to be a BLAST so grab your friends and come GLOW with us!
What about the route?
This course consists of 3.1 miles of glow in the dark fun where you will find multiple black light zones, glow stations and thousands of runners decked out in their best glow gear. The Glow Run will also feature DJs cranking out “fist pumping” music to keep you motivated along the way. The course ends at the Falls Park where the band will be playing and spectators will be cheering, welcoming you to the after party.
This will all take place outdoors in Falls Park.

 Doesn't that sound like fun!
 Hopefully the next couple of months of training will go well.
I have some cute new running clothes headed my way to help motivate. The old maternity lounge pants and 5 year old sports bra are barely cutting it right now.  I want to go get a medical alert bracelet that has my asthma listed on it, just in case. Even on the first run, the new strategies really seemed to help, I didn't wheeze at all, and I got pretty huffy-puffy. Still, the medical alert bracelet will give me and hubby ease of mind.

I'll keep y'all updated as the summer progresses. Come and join me if you feel inclined! The more the merrier.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Farmers Market Dreams

Yea, I had my first Farmer's Market dream last night.

Things are moving along on that front. I'm still waiting to get the market seller form/signup thing from the city chamber of commerce.
I'm still trying to figure out what's legal for me to do, and what's illegal for me to do. And by that I mean I'm trying to navigate the murky legalese surrounding "food processing." Iowa's Food Code if you're interested, is here.

I've found out that I could add some baking to my offerings quite easily under Iowa law. And it's looking like if my sales are under 20K, I don't have to have much in the way of licensing. I think I'm not allowed to cut my fruits/veggies though.  I can't seem to find that exact wording anywhere in the Iowa Code, but other states are very clear that while selling cabbages or carrots is fine, grating them to make a cole slaw base, is not allowed without a commercial kitchen.

Will I cut my veggies anyway? Take a copy of the code with me to the market to argue that I don't see that wording anywhere in it? What are the chances I will even see a food safety person up here in NW Iowa at the tiny little market I'll be at? Slim I think.  I know there are market vendors here that sell things that are outside of whole fruits/veg or baked goods. And I doubt that they have licenses for anything.  My brain is still working through all the variables, check back with me next month for my decision.

In spite of the chilly weather, I have a lot growing already, and I'm busy putting as much into the ground as I can, as quickly as I can. I've noticed that I'm a bit quicker than I used to be with some of the basic tasks involved with planting. Familiarity and what not. Hopefully that will help me manage the work load associated with my 1000+ square feet of garden space.  Again, check back with me in a month for an update. :-D

Baby number 2 is already finding his groove in the garden. Yesterday he was eating dirt and sticks and rolling around in the freshly tilled earth. He was so cute he stopped traffic when we were at our new corner garden. I literally had conversations with passing drivers about how I got my kids to like gardening. Hint: Start them young, preferably at birth. 

I have records about what is going where, and as soon as I get everything in, I'll do a bit of a roundup about what all I have planted and how I'm dividing things up. It's a lot! At least for me. :-D

Time to get back to it! Posting will likely be scarce until everything is planted. Just the way of things.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ode to the Civic

Well, I have, in my grubby little hand, the official title to my Honda Civic.  It only took 6 years... *sigh*... but it's mine now!
This is the first car I've really owned. I bought it after college. Well, I put down a payment and took out a loan after college. It was used, but only a few years, and only one owner during those few years. It's an '03 2 door Civic and I bought it in '06.

I did a lot of research before deciding on a late model Civic. I had a couple of non-negotiables:
  • It had to get 35+ mpg.
  • It had to be reliable and easy to maintain.
  • It had to have manual transmission.
  • It had to fit into my just-graduated-from-college budget.
The kelly blue book confirmed that several models of Honda Civics met those requirements, and it listed out the proper pricing for year/model/miles, so I didn't have to go into negotiations blind.

True story, I had been saving up for a couple of months, dancing extra shifts at the bar and eating cheap. I had test driven a couple other Civics, but I wasn't quite satisfied with them. I got a call from a local dealer that said he just had something show up on his lot that was pretty close to what I was wanting. I sweet talked a friend into driving me down to the dealer.  It was exactly what I wanted, (except for the boring color) and I made him an offer on the spot. We wrangled a bit, I got a sunroof and extended warranty added, and we settled on the price. I had told him I had a downpayment of 2K.  I guess most people use checks for such things, but I was a stripper, so it was all in cash. My friend's eyes nearly popped out of his head when I tossed the cash roll on the car salesman's desk. Mostly hundreds, but probably more 20's than was polite. It was funny, because he knew what my job was, he was a regular in the bar, I guess he just hadn't realized how cash oriented a lifestyle it is. The salesman had to call in a secretary to help count it.   :-D

A week later, the car was clean and the sunroof was in place and the dealer called me back to sign the last bit of paperwork and take her home.

I've not regretted the purchase; not once in the past 6 years have I fallen out of love with this Civic.
It's been a reliable, mostly maintenance free car that has driven me 200,000+ miles.  To job after job, and vacation after vacation.
Is it a little small for my hubby? Yea.  Is it way too small for the rear facing baby seat? Yea.
But those small inconveniences are very small when compared to the excellent gas mileage that the car continues to get. And the years of flawless commutes. And the savings we see in our insurance/tax payments.

I've been in an icy ditch twice with this car, and both times I've driven right back out of said ditches with no trouble and no damage.

I've taken this car on many a pheasant hunt.  It can handle a dirt road next to a corn field just as well as any 4-wheel drive truck chassis.

I've hauled hay bales (square ones) and giant tomato cages, and 8 foot long lumber, with no more trouble than popping down the back seats.

I'm a firm believer that more Americans need to downsize their vehicles to more closely match what they do with them. Sure it's nice to have a truck when there's a queen sized bed that needs moving, but why pay for the truck's shitty gas mileage 365 days of the year, just so you have it that one day of the year when nothing else will do?  Most people would find themselves ahead, financially speaking, if they would downsize to a commuter car, and rent a truck/SUV for the few times they need to haul something. But of course, most Americans don't think like that, and the parking lots at work, and at the grocery stores are all packed with giant vehicles that drove one person somewhere and used a crap ton of fossil fuels to do it. 

Oh well.. they're literally burning money, but it's a free country.

Anyway, it's a great relief to be done with the payments on her. It's nice to have that title that says she's 100% mine. 

Now of course I'm itching to do some custom work to the old gal, spruce her up a little to more closely match my personality. Let's be honest here, the boring silver color has never appealed to me, and the black interior could be SO much cooler looking with some modification.

Raver fur covering the seats?
Some custom paint?
A cold air intake to the engine?

What should I do? :-D
I will of course report back if I end up doing any of that.

If you've made it this far, thanks for letting me gush about my car and the debt milestone.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The 97%

I heard on the radio this morning that 97% of all American homes have cable/satellite subscriptions. The cable companies are worried, because 2 years ago that number was 99%.  My heart goes out to them.

Seriously though! My little family hasn't had a TV or cable subscription since 2009. I hardly feel "cut off" or "out-of-touch." I get 90% of my current event/news through the radio, and yea, I'll admit it, that's heavy skewed towards NPR, because I get the most news for my 30 minute drive time. Local stations do some talk/news in the mornings, but then I have to sit through the fart jokes and inane banter to learn that a local manufacturer is letting 100 people go. The rest of my news comes from blog reading and occasional Daily Show episodes.

We do watch some "TV." But, not through the legal and heavily commercialized methods. (Hulu, Amazon and Netflix streaming, things like that.) We're pirates. Straight up. We stream from independent sources everything we want to watch. No commercials, no country boundaries, we like our limited viewing time to be self directed, and free from commercial messages. We watch a bunch of BBC shows, and have been known to check out Australian, Irish, New Zealand and Canadian shows too. There are even a few American shows that have a writing level above the 3rd grade and subject matter than doesn't offend us and we'll watch those occasionally. We watch a lot of documentaries, and cooking shows, with a healthy smattering of adult animated shows, (Adult Swim type stuff, Bob's Burgers and Archer and Southpark, etc..) Come to think of it, we're not even bound by the current year of programming, Dave watches reruns of Dr Who and Red Dwarf from the 80's.

The toddler watches a lot of YouTube cartoons. He watches train cartoons in Russian, and an animated  toddler show called Pocoyo in Spanish. He loves to watch kid-made videos with Thomas the Train toys. He loves the old silent Pink Panther cartoons too. And the classic Donald Duck stuff.  Between the ad blockers on our Linux Mozilla browser, and the methods we use to watch programming, I'd say Rowen has seen only a handful of actual ads in his first 4 years of life. That does make me happy, even when I would rather see him with a book or outside. :-D

Dave and I don't see many ads either. And we don't watch any of the mainstream news.  (And yes, Fox is as mainstream as media gets.) It makes for a surreal experience when we go to a friend or relative's house and get a dose of actual TV programming. It's really weird.  The commercials seem hyperbolic, and disturbingly repetitive. The "news" shows seem more cartoonish than anything else, with their equally hyperbolic pitch and the spastic pop-ups selling other TV programming, and those weird scrolling tickers with random twits of information. I'm always itchy to turn it off after the first 5 minutes of it.

I'm telling you folks. CUT THE CORD.  If you want to live a simpler, more productive life, CUT THE CORD.  If you want more time for projects and exercise and family, CUT THE CORD. If you want to lessen the corporate and governmental influence on your life, CUT THE CORD!

You'll likely go through a withdrawal period as your brain, your habits and yes, even your hormones, adjust to the quieter, slower, more pleasant pace of self directed media consumption. It's totally worth it though. Your wallet will thank you, your butt will thank you, your brain will thank you, and perhaps someday your children will thank you.

Live your life folks; watching shows on a TV doesn't count as a life, it barely counts as an activity. Mostly, it's just brainwashing, and a waste of your hard earned money.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sew and Tell - Space Skirt!

Got my Blue Nebula skirt done, I think it looks cute. As usual, I totally winged it. I knew what I was aiming for in the finished skirt, and I did some measurements then just started cutting and sewing till it looked close. :-D These shots aren't the best, inside lighting and a shirt that's too long, so you can't see the nice looking waistband I put on it. But, I'm sure I'll wear it this summer and get some better shots up for your viewing pleasure.
 Baby did not want to be put down.
 Here's a side shot, you can see the under skirt which is a light eggplant color. And my oh-so fashionable wool socks. (Because it's not quite time for skirt wearing here.)

Also recently off the sewing table -
A couple of bundles of cloth wipes for the Market stall, and one for our own use.

Bags and decorations for the 4 year old's birthday party! I made a string of pennants for Rowen's birthday party at the end of March. I was a rock star with these. More of my cutting and sewing till it looked right. Literally, in the 15 spare minutes before the party started, I cut out an old lining from a wetbag that bit the dust, and then cut triangles out of it, and matching triangles from some scrap fabrics, and voila! I used a strip of light green to sew it all together and tie it to the wall.
  Rowen thought it was great decoration, promptly declaring the party was started when he saw them. "Mommy made me a party!"  -Rowen
Gift bags for the kiddo. Nothing fancy here.

Well, that's about it for my sew and tell.  I have cute stuff in the queue for the sewing machine already. Some matching shorts for the two boys. Because how cute is it when little boys match? lol Then diaper sewing, hard core, we need at least a half dozen for the boys, and I'd like to have a couple for sale in the market stall. And I need to finish the second curtain for the large window in the living room.  Will I get it all done before the last frost date on the 27th?  :-D Nah, probably not. But, I'm happy with where my sewing is as winter gives us a final blow. I've wrapped up a lot of WIPs, and the organization in the craft den is much better than where it was at the beginning of winter. There is now a lot of wall space open that can be used for homeschooling projects, and there is a lot more stuff out of baby's reach for safety.  I feel like the organized space has made me more productive already. :-D

Thanks for reading! Link to your own finished projects if you got them! We like show and tell's.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How we afford local pasture raised meat

It's popular to compare prices on "the same" meats and complain about the prices of local pasture raised varieties. Only the rich can afford it, is the cry leveled at local producers.

I don't believe that to be true. I'd like to share how I justify local pasture chickens in our thrifty grocery budget.

1 local pasture raised chicken - 5 pounds at 3$ a pound. (I got a slight discount from my favorite farm because I was picking it up on farm and I didn't want it quartered. They sell for 4$ a pound quartered at the farmer's market.) That's 15$ worth of local pastured chicken.

Roasted Sunday night.  There is something primal about pulling out a whole roasted bird all golden and crispy. Mmmmm. We had half the breast meat, along with the bed of root veggies I roasted under the bird.  Dinner for 3.

Roasted chicken on salad for Monday night.  The other breast half went onto a giant pile of greens Monday night.  Dinner for 3. (No, the 4 year old didn't eat salad, but he did eat chunks of the chicken dipped in ketchup. My apologies to the chicken for that bit of blasphemy.)

Tuesday chicken salad.  I made chicken salad for my lunch on Tuesday. I used a leg and thigh for that. Lunch for 1.

Weds chicken soup. I cut up the other leg and thigh, and tossed it in some broth with an organic carrot, some garlic and onion and spices. Dinner for 1, Lunch for 1.  (Dave was tired of chicken by this point and opted for a different dinner.)

If I had been on my game, and not dealing with a cold-stricken baby and getting the house ready for a 4 year old's birthday party. I could have concluded the week by tossing the carcass/wings/etc into a few cups of water with veggies and making a hearty broth. I usually end up with a quart full of goodness when I do that.

So, from one bird, I got 7 dinner portions and 2 lunch portions. If we divide the cost of the bird equally among the portions we end up with $1.66 per portion.
So, that means Sunday's dinner was $5 worth of chicken, and maybe $1.5 worth of veggies. Making the Sunday night feast a $6.50 affair.
The salad Monday night used another $5 worth of chicken and again $1 worth of veggies, with $.50 of dressing and cheese. Monday's dinner comes in at $6.50, for THE WHOLE FAMILY.
How much would it cost to go out somewhere and feed those two meals to your family? $30 each meal? $40 each meal?

Could you do it cheaper with the bargain birds from the grocery store?
Yes, obviously, if you start with a bird that's only $1 a pound, every portion is going to be cheaper. The nutrition breakdown is going to be worse though. There are measurable differences between pasture raised animals and feed lot animals. Differences in the amounts and types of fats. And differences in the levels of healthful nutrients. (Like vitamin E, folic acid and B-12 as well as more omega-3s.)
If you are buying a bargain bird from the grocery store, you are likely getting a feed lot bird. That bird probably never saw daylight, or dirt or anything other than the cage in the farm. You are also paying for a high % of pumped in salt water solution, meant to keep it "juicy." Also at issue in the last few years is the widespread use of arsenic in chicken feed, which can both promote growth and help prevent disease. This arsenic additive, although not the most toxic form we associate with poisoning, nonetheless shows up in the poultry meat (PDF) and the people who eat chicken products. Despite the less toxic form, no one is arguing that is good for people.
I almost feel like this post is Home Ec 101 stuff.  Not that I was taught anything like this in Home Ec, but I feel like I should have been. This shouldn't be radical or new. This is the way my grandparents probably cooked. Every time I hear someone say that they can't afford to buy quality local meats, I just have to grit my teeth. I know they only say that because they aren't thinking things through. With just a small amount of foresight and planning, I can stretch $15 worth of chicken into 9 portions of flavorful, healthy protein. I don't have to resort to the cheapest bird I can find, and you shouldn't either! -Jennie