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