Monday, June 20, 2011

shifting gears - the walk that unlocked summer

The last week of school is always a whirlwind-tests, conferences, picnics, parties, and endless forms to fill out. The children's anticipation builds.

Okay, we're ready – bring on summer!

After hosting an end of year party and a trip to the springs things started to wind down. We are not a family that will fill the entire summer with a string of camps. Each child has a couple activities, but I think it's important (and economical) to be able to switch gears and spend some time off of a full schedule for a while.

Well, there we were on that first day with nothing going on. Everyone was stewing in their juices. If I had some sort of app that could count how many times the word “Mommy” was called out I'm sure my high scores would have unlocked the “She/He won't leave me alone” level. Ugggg...

They were having trouble switching gears.

“Get your shoes on.” I said, “We're going on a walk.”

There was a storm brewing at the tip of the mountain, but being poured on was a small price to pay to break-up the funk.

I ignored complaints for the first five minutes. As we listed to the creek rush under the bridge our eyes cleared and our ears seamed to shift on our heads, like a fox or a pony, picking up the subtle sounds that escaped us before. Summer greeted us – not carnivals, airplanes, boardwalks and diving boards (those are great by the way) but the summer of the countryside that you can get lost in 'till you're called for dinner.

A stream to dip your toes in

a roadside lined with daylilies

A storm passing

sun breaking through

wild berries


a jar with quartz, tadpoles and snails

ending the day perfectly dirty

Friday, June 17, 2011

portrait finished - new project started

I just finished this piece

This is the third and final portrait in a series of three siblings.

It feels good to have been working on a portrait because my next project will include 6 of them. If you read the blog you know I think about food quite a bit; this project is about food. More precisely, our presumptions re: people and their relationship with food. I have quite a ways to go. I finished this one this morning

These 6 x 6 inch oil on canvas portraits are half of the project - I'll share the other half as it develops.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

my weeding partners (pastured chickens)

The chicks are almost to the age where they can be let out on pasture with the big guys, but not quite. We had a trial run for about 40 minutes and one of the barred rocks was carried off by a hawk. Until we are able to buy a rolling hen-house for trips to the back field, I've devised a contraption to let the chicks graze with me while I'm in the garden. It's a dog crate with the pan at the bottom removed. The weave of the wire is very open and allows grass, weeds, and bugs to come through. As I move through the garden, I move them down the rows with me. The little guys love it! When I'm in the run I set down the crate, open the door and yell, "geeeeet in the craaaate" like a hog caller (it's very funny to hear our youngest try this)they all run in ready to be carried off to the field.

This is our baby turkey; he stays close to my ankles so he's allowed to leave the cage.

Why go through all the trouble? Because we want to get these birds on pasture as soon as possible.

Pastured eggs have • 1⁄3 less cholesterol• 1⁄4 less saturated fat• 2⁄3 more vitamin A• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids• 3 times more vitamin E• 7 times more beta carotene You can read more here

If you're eating eggs that were produced in a factory farm, not only are you supporting tortuous conditions for the hens, but you're not providing yourself, or your family, with the wealth of nutrients nature intended.

Depending on where you live it might take a little time to research who is providing pastured eggs in your area, but it's worth it. Maybe you can care for your own hens? Let your search for good food weave its way into your life. I can't think of many things more important than being an active participant in procuring your own food.

I like the way Farm Forward puts it, "...each one of us is a farmer 'by proxy'* helping to shape the world we live in through the food choices we make." The extra time and money involved in finding foods that reduce animal suffering, decreases the negative effects of farming on the environment, and increase our personal health is actually a good barometer for how much of these animal products we should be eating. There's no doubt the amount needs to be decreased. I like to think of the fair exchange of money between myself and the farmer, or my sweat caring for the animals, as a reminder that these are precious foods. Government subsidies have warped our perception of what should be on a plate every night and what it should cost to get it there. Maybe it's going to be a little less animal product, but you're going to feel good about what's there.

So yes, at first carting juvenile birds around to graze in the sunshine may sound silly, but then you start thinking about it...

*"The idea of “farming by proxy” comes from writer and farmer Wendell Berry, who uses it throughout his writings on rural life, agriculture, and conservation".

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"the fungus of charity" I finally give making kombucha a try

I love these Kombucha drinks

but at around $3.50 a pop they seem too much like a luxury. When you consider the health benefits of this ancient  “Immortal Health Elixir" it seems fitting that it be enjoyed on a more regular basis. One of kombucha’s health benefits is its ability to detox the body. It is rich in many of the enzymes and bacterial acids your body produces to detox. This cleansing reduces the pancreatic load and eases the burden on your liver. I also find it satisfies the appetite. I'm always looking for ways to take items that enhance healthy, happy living off the luxury list, so I've decided to make some, I wont get the pretty label, but I do get to send sparkly pro-biotic to my gut flora more often.

First I purchased a kombucha starter. You can get a whole kit, but I'm pretty sure you can scratch up what's needed around the house. If you ask around you might even find a friend who can give you a starter. I used Cultures for Health's starter. Take some time to peruse the site - they have lots of supplies for the real food enthusiast.

This is what the starter looks like

One of the good things about using the Cultures for Health starter is that it comes with very thorough instructions, trouble shooting, and suggested variations.

If you plan on giving it a try DO NOT use this outline as your only information re: making kombucha tea! These instruction will show you that it's not that difficult, or time consuming, but you should still make sure you understand the process thoroughly. I looked at a couple sources and talked to people who make their own before getting started. A plethora of beneficial bacteria makes its home inside your body and we're looking to add to their ranks. As we support the growth of beneficial bacteria we need to be careful not to introduce harmful bacteria. Anytime you use fermentation pay very close attention to cleanliness-wash your hands and sterilize everything!

Here are the basics:

To rehydrate the kombucha starter, take approximately 2.5-3 cups of water. The water should either be filtered or should already have been boiled for at least 5 minutes.

During the process do not use metal for anything.

After boiling pour in a sterile glass jar and add .25 cups of sugar and your tea, stir it until the sugar dissolves, then infuse for about 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, strain out the loose tea (if used) or remove tea bags.

Let the brew come to room temperature - if it's too hot you could kill your new culture very quickly.

Once cool, add  half a cup of vinegar.

Once at the right temperature, place the culture in the liquid. It may float or sink, it doesn't matter which.

During fermentation, cover the glass jar with a towel, or coffee filter - it should not have an air tight cover. Keep the jar in a warm spot (70-85F degrees) and out of direct sunlight for 10-28 days until a new culture forms.

As you near the end give it a taste (being careful not to contaminate) You are looking for a slightly sharp, not sweet taste. If it is not quite there yet then put the cover back on and leave it for another day before tasting again.

The length of brewing time can vary quite a bit, but it is normally between 10 days to 2 weeks. The time can be extended, especially if your room temperature is on the cool side.

You can choose to drink most of this batch or take the entire contents of this batch and the mother and baby culture to make two half gallon or gallon jars of kombucha. If you drink most of the batch remember to reserve half a cup for the next batch - you will use this starter tea instead of the vinegar that you needed the first time.

I'll follow-up with information on the baby culture and the second batch.

Monday, June 6, 2011


The first time we brought home chicks we all hoped they wouldn't turn out to be roosters. Our little urban set-up couldn't hide the inevitable crowing, so any chicks that looked like they were male had to return to the farm. One little guy remained ambiguous for a few months until one September morning when we (and our neighbors) awoke to quite a few loud cock-a-doodle-doos. I quickly brought him inside, but he would not stop. He was determined to show off his new talent and I was determined not to have a visit from animal control. He stayed in the closet until he joined a large flock later that evening.

Now we are lucky enough to have plenty of space for our barnyard explorations and think it would be rather nice to have a rooster to protect the ladies while they're foraging around the property. 

We have three Ameraucana chicks that are close to being sexed. The Ameraucana roosters are beautiful, so we're hoping one of these might be a male.

picture courtesy of Hidden Falls Farm

The kids have been guessing, I have a pick, how about you? Which of these chicks will be a rooster?

Leave a comment stating which chick you think is most likely to be a rooster:

chick #1
chick #2
chick #3
none of the above

The people who pick correctly will be entered in a drawing for a Tangelo Studio, Papier-mâché Hen. The chickens have an inspection coming up, so I'll post the results on July first.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


This morning I watched the kids run out to the maple tree in back field - roughly the same relation in height to each other, but one year older than in the picture below.


Sibling system orbiting.

"Our siblings. They resemble us just enough to make all their differences confusing, and no matter what we choose to make of this, we are cast in relation to them our whole lives long."

What to make of this little nation of three...

re-post:When I took this picture today, my children appeared to be seeds carried away by the wind, or small animals venturing away from a nest.

This, I wish for them -

May the atmosphere we breath
breath fearlessness into us:
fearlessness on earth
and fearlessness in heaven!
May fearlessness guard us
behind and before!
May fearlessness surround us
above and below!
May we be without fear
of friend and foe!
May we be without fear
by night and by day!
Let all the world be my friend!

- Atharva Veda XIX, 15

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

summer resolutions

Some people start thinking about New Year's resolutions in November, or December; I've always noticed that summer brings change. Maybe it's a cycle that gets imprinted during our school years when we all get a break to go off and return as someone else. We've grown and made choices about the person we want to be without the constant reinforcement of who we are to other people. Maybe we've taken a trip...maybe it's just all the sunshine.

I read this the other day:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~ Harold Thurman Whitman

What a perfect summer resolution!

...I might add that a sketchbook/journal would make a perfect companion. Take a peek at Diana Trout's blog for some excellent ideas.


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