baby chicks take two!

Well, we picked up our newest little ladies this past week.  What a difference it is to see these day old chicks next to our 3 week old ladies.  They change very quickly!  The new ones we got are Easter Eggers.  I figured it would be fun for the kids to go out and find blue and green eggs.

I love the way these chicks look.  They have the most amazing markings, which is the complete opposite of our other chicks, which seem to be all white.  When we bought the first batch of chicks, we weren't entirely sure which breeds we got, but it almost seems like they are all going to be that classic white chicken.  Not that I mind, they are still very friendly, yet a tad afraid of the new chicks.

We were certain that the larger ones would scare the new babes to death, it turned out to be the other way around.  As soon as the bigger ones saw the little ones they started trying to get away from them.  It was really funny!  We have them in two very large box type brooders next to each other.  They can't see each other, because the sides are solid, but they stand and chirp at each other all day.

The chirping!  That is another thing.  The first batch, quiet as anything.  I couldn't figure out why people had left comments about how loud they thought the chicks were.  I was patting myself on the back for getting quiet ones.  Well, then Matt brought home the newest ones, and they are LOUD.  Seriously loud.  I think it is mainly one, and I think she might be calling for her mama, because as soon as Emma or myself get within viewing of the box, she quiets right down.  Which of course makes Emma want to sit next to the box all day long :-)

All of the chicks seem to be healthy and happy, so that is good.  Now we just need to work on getting the coop built.  We have some scrap wood coming, and hopefully we (meaning Matt) will figure out how to build a coop pretty quick.  I think that in the next couple of weeks our older ladies are going to be too big for their box, and will need to move outside.

I'm linking up at the Barn Hop and Rural Thursday!

Green Week - Food

Welcome to Green Week!  Because Earth Day was my birthday, all week I will be sharing some ways in which to "green" your life.  I have been working on my journey towards a more sustainable life for several years now.  No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you are able to use some of these ideas!

We have made it to the final day of Green Week!  I hope you have enjoyed reading some ideas on how to make your life a little more green, and not spend a lot of money!  Today, I want to talk about something very important to me, and that is food.  Food is what started this whole sustainable living journey of mine, and it is also one of the hardest changes to make.  Nothing is as personal as food choices for your family.

The first green idea I have is one that is fun, it can be done with kids, it can be done just about anywhere, and that is to garden.  You might have tons of land, great, grow a lot of food, see how much of your family's diet you can provide for.  You may only have a sunny window in an apartment, also great, grow sprouts and herbs. Or, you may be like me and have a sizable garden that you can try a bit harder with :-)  Growing your own food, especially from seed is one of the easiest and cheapest green changes you can make.  Dig up some earth, grab some potting soil and a few pots from the garden center.  Seeds are very inexpensive, even heirloom and organic seeds. What you end up with (hopefully) is something that will nourish your body.  Gardening also lets life slow down for you.  At least it does for me.  The act of pulling weeds is very much a meditation - well until August comes around :-)  No matter what space you have, try to grow something.

The next idea?  Buy Local!  I almost always recommend that over buying organic from away.  I could write an entire post on local vs. organic vs. conventional.  I can't stress enough how important it is to know the farmer that grows your food, whether it is vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, all of it, know where it comes from.  Now, buying local can definitely be an adjustment.  What does one have available locally in the middle of winter?  Or maybe you don't have a farmers' market close by.  Is there a farm that offers a CSA share in your area?  Local Harvest is a wonderful resource for finding what is close by to you for food.  When I started looking for local sources of food six years ago, I had no idea the amounts available to me in Maine, in February!  And over the past few years we have now gotten a year round farmers' market open, and are hoping to open a local co-op in our little city in the next few months.  Awesome!

If you find that there isn't anything available, or it is so far away it isn't worth your time to get to, maybe you could talk to the town office about starting a community garden on an open space in the area.  Or perhaps you could try and contact some of those far away farmers, and find out where they sell there food, and if they would be interested in coming to your area once in a while.  Obviously these ideas take a lot more involvement than just running out to the grocery store, but the benefits of knowing where your food comes from are endless.  It is healthier, tastes better, and it gives you food security.  I think a lot of people don't realize that grocery stores only have about three days of food in them, and if there is an emergency - some type of power shortage, another ice storm (we seem to get these a lot), a natural disaster - if you know where you can get food other than the grocery store, you are better off.

My final suggestion is to eat less meat.  I am not saying give it up.  I am saying eat less of it, especially if it is conventionally raised and finished at CAFOs.  This is not the way nature meant for animals to be raised.  It isn't healthy.  All of those recalls that we have that are food related?  Well, a lot of them can be attributed to waste management at CAFOs, there are too many cows in a small area, instead of their manure spreading around and enriching the soil, it piles up and leaks into our waterways, which are then used to water our plants.  If you don't want to eat less meat, eat grass finished meat, real, honest to goodness free range chickens, pigs that get to forage and are treated well.  For my family, this type of meat is not really in the budget, so we eat a lot more beans and legumes, lots of fruits and veggies, and a lot of eggs :-)  Once in a while we splurge for a good pastured chicken, and it is amazing!  We choose to eat less meat because we don't want to buy conventional, but if you do, then try replacing one meal per week with beans/legumes/grains/veggies, it makes a difference in the environment, and you might find that you like it.

Thank you all so much for joining me on this little Green Week journey to celebrate my birthday being on Earth Day :-)  If you have other suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comments!

I am linking up at Fresh Bites Friday and Your Green Resource.  Welcome if you are new!

Green Week - Inside the House

Welcome to Green Week!  Because Earth Day was my birthday, all week I will be sharing some ways in which to "green" your life.  I have been working on my journey towards a more sustainable life for several years now.  No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you are able to use some of these ideas!

There are so many ways that you can green your home.  It definitely takes baby steps, and a very willing family, to do all of these things, but they are definitely worth it in the long run.

My first suggestion is to make your own cleaning products.  First of all, it is cheaper to do this than to buy commercial, and way less expensive than buying actual green products.  Most of my recipes use very few ingredients - baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, borax, tea tree essential oil.  I feel that if I have these ingredients in my house, I am able get just about everything I need cleaned, clean.  You can find my all purpose cleaner recipe here, and my laundry soap recipe here.

The second idea is to use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and paper towels.  Now, I know that some people love their paper towels.  I used to be one of them, my husband definitely is one of them, but it costs A LOT to keep a continuous supply of paper towels in our home, in money and environmental impact.  Most paper towels are made with virgin wood, and bleached.  And did you know that the US has the highest consumption of paper towels in the world?!  50% higher than Europe, and 200% higher than Latin America.  That is insane to me!

It won't be easy to give them up, you are constantly going to look for them for several weeks.  I like to keep a drawer full of rags in my kitchen, and the kids know right where to go when they need to wipe something up, like themselves :-)  There are always times that paper towels will be needed.  If you have animals that make messes, it is nice to have something you can throw away.  But, you could also keep a bag of cut up clothes that you were planning on getting rid of anyways.  Keep them in a bag you know is specifically for serious messes and will be thrown away afterwards.  You are still throwing something away, but at least you got a bit more use out of something before you do toss it.

The next green idea?  Drive your car less.  I know that it is difficult to drive less, especially if you live in the suburbs where you seemingly have to drive to get to everything.  But, do you?  I won't lie, our grocery store is only maybe 3/4 of a mile away, very easy walking distance.  However, it is down the steepest hill imaginable.  Getting there is fine, it is walking home with groceries that isn't...and don't even get me started about the farmers' market which is 2 hills away!  But, it can be done.  Trust me, I have done it, with two kids.  You definitely need to make an event out of it, and it takes an awful lot longer than running out for one thing at the end of the day, but, it can be fun, and it is good exercise.

Are there activities that you can do within walking distance?  Are they already within walking distance, but you are rushing around so much it is easier to drive?  One of my biggest complaints recently has been how quickly time is going by me, this is definitely a way to slow life down.  At first you are more rushed because you know how long it is going to take to walk to the library with a 2 and 4 year old, but then you realize that the kids love pointing out the different birds, they like to sing songs, and look at rocks.  There is joy, you are saving money - gas is expensive - and you are building memories for yourself and your kids.  And if you don't have kids, well, it is just plain old good exercise to do all that walking :-)

Do you do any of these things regularly?  The one I struggle with the most is driving the car.  We need to make all of our errands on one trip, instead of going out constantly because we have forgotten something.  We are starting to buy more stuff in town too, instead of driving to the next city.  It might be a little more expensive, but my time is starting to be a lot more valuable than it used to be, and that small cost savings isn't worth my time anymore.

Emma's sweater - done!

Oh it has taken quite a while to get to this point!  I am so happy to be done *almost* with Emma's sweater dress.  It is definitely a little big, but that is what I wanted since I want it to fit her for a while.  This will be perfect for the spring and fall.  I still need to weave in the ends, but you now have an idea of what it looks like.

Now I need to figure out something easy and quick to knit.  I think I might have to go back to baby socks!  Or maybe a dishrag, I can always use more of those!

As far as reading goes, yesterday I finished reading The Compelled.  Loved it, of course I love all things Vampire Diaries, so it works out well.  Now if I could just find out if they are going to write anymore books!  I think there are so many stories that can be told.  I have several books I am waiting on from the library, well they are waiting on me to pick them up I guess. Learning All The Time, Your Money or Your Life, and Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac.  All of which seem very interesting, and completely unrelated!

I also got a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday, so I have a few new books coming in the mail. A Charlotte Mason Companion, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, and Putting Food By: Fifth Edition.  Clearly I have a lot of reading in my future!  As I like it!

Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is knitting and reading at this week's yarn along!  And just a note, I cannot get that child to stand still for a picture for anything!

Green Week - Crafting

Welcome to Green Week!  Because Earth Day was my birthday, all week I will be sharing some ways in which to "green" your life.  I have been working on my journey towards a more sustainable life for several years now.  No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you are able to use some of these ideas!

I definitely think that crafting can sometimes get a bad rap.  There are so many supplies to buy, and a lot of people don't see the products as useful - ie how many pieces of art work do you keep from you kids?  And what do you do with the pieces that you don't want to keep?  However, there is an entire world of useful crafting out there, and I am hoping to show you some ideas to take it a bit further.

Anyone who comes here often knows that I have a love of knitting...and yarn...oh glorious yarn.  Of course, this can become quite the trap if you are trying to "green" your life.  Going out to the yarn shop and purchasing whatever you can find isn't necessarily a good idea.  Here are some ideas (that I need to follow) in order to green up your knitting.

First, use up your stash!  Too often, when I go to the yarn shop, I see a beautiful color yarn, or Emma pulls three balls off the rack that I was not aware of, and we end up with yarn that has no purpose, it is just pretty.  Recently, I have been trying to use up what I have before going out to buy anything new.  Of course, when you are making something - like a sweater - and don't have enough yarn, you will need to go get some more.  Or, if you have an old sweater you have made (or gotten from good will), unravel and use the yarn in a new project.

Here are some ideas for using up small bits of yarn, and fabric as well, that would go unused otherwise.

Make dish rags
Make a patchwork quilt
Make baby socks to give away
Make a coffee cozy
Donate unused balls of yarn or fabric to good will
Make a bag for the bulk bins at the co-op or grocery store
Make a patchwork skirt (i love this one!)
Make doll clothes and donate, or keep for your little ones

Now what about all the paper in your life?  Well, if you have kids, there is definitely a lot of it.  I think that we could probably go through an entire ream of printer paper in a week if my kids had their way.  They are still young, so their art isn't quite top quality, but it is fun to watch Emma write her name over and over and then draw our little family as stick people.  And Jack drawing a lot of squiggles and then saying "tada" is just plain cute.  But what do you do with all that paper?

First, I would say to make sure you use both sides.  Often times, my kids will *need* fresh paper, instead of turning over their masterpiece and using the other side.  So we now have a rule that both sides need to be covered before they can move onto a new sheet.  If you are making an actual craft, like my friend does so well with her babes, this probably won't work, but for normal drawing absolutely.  Another idea is to use your old crafts to incorporate into new crafts.  You could do this by cutting up an old craft and making a puzzle of it, or even using pieces as decorations for a new craft.

The other paper in my life?  Books, a lot of them.  Now, I absolutely love books.  I tend to buy books for no reason other than I haven't read them yet.  Definitely not good on the wallet.  And not entirely necessary. Most people have access to the library, and we need to use that resource.  I got a nook color last year, and I love it.  I have realized that reading on it is a lot easier, especially while nursing a babe.  And, having my fiction on that is great, it holds way more books than could ever fit on my book shelves.  I still like to have resource, and non-fiction, in my hands.

How do you make your crafting green?

I am linking up today with Ginny and her yarn along, so if you are visiting and wondering where Emma's sweater is, well it is currently being sewed up, and I hope to have a post done later today with pictures of that...and the many books on my reading list this week.  You can find my post on Emma's Sweater here.

I am linking up at Your Green Resource and the Barn Hop too!

Green Week - For the Family

Welcome to Green Week!  Because Earth Day was my birthday, all week I will be sharing some ways in which to "green" your life.  I have been working on my journey towards a more sustainable life for several years now.  No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you are able to use some of these ideas!

What if you are the only one in your family who is concerned about the environment?  That may sound kind of harsh, but as a wife and mother, I have taken it upon myself to be the one to figure out ways in which to green up our lives.  My husband is not completely on the "green" wagon.  In fact, I think that he secretly makes fun of my more extreme ideas, and definitely harasses me on some others.  I am lucky that he goes along with it all though.  When I can show him a cost savings, that is all he really needs.

My first green change for the family?  Use cloth diapers and wipes.  I have talked a bit about my decision to use cloth diapers with our children.  At first, I only used cloth wipes for my babes.  But one day when I was doing our budget, I realized the cost of toilet paper was insane.  Instead of continuing to purchase toilet paper, I decided to make some wipe solution, and let the toilet paper run out.  We haven't gone back since, and that was over 3 years ago.  And as far as the cloth diapers go, we didn't and still don't use 100%.  When we are traveling, it is easier to buy disposables, around the holidays, disposables are easier.  But, for all the blowouts that were had wearing disposable diapers, and ruining precious little clothes, the cloth diapers were definitely the choice overall :-)

The next green idea is to Involve Your Kids with Green Changes.  I think that it is great if you are working to move your family in a greener direction, but if you do all the changes without involving your kids, how are they going to bring sustainability into the next generation?  Obviously, a lot of these changes will involve the whole family.  And when a child sees you doing something, they of course want a part of it.  At least, this has been my experience.  My kids know to turn the water off while brushing their teeth, they enjoy taking the kitchen scraps out to the compost pile, as well as finding leaves to put on it.  It is a great learning experience for them, and will help them be better citizens of God's creation when they are older.  At least that is my hope!

There is a wonderful old saying, Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make Do, or Do Without.  While this is a saying from the Great Depression on the message of frugality, it definitely applies to being green.  When we take a step back and look at what we are buying, why we are buying it, and whether or not we could use something else, fix it, or do without; it gives so much more insight into our lives.  Do we really need to have those new jeans, or could we make a fun patch to make the jeans we have last longer.  I need a new skirt for church, can I just make a new patch on a beautiful patchwork skirt, or add some length to my daughter's dress instead of buying something new that won't hold up in the washing machine?  It may take a little more effort at the forefront, but overall, it always saves us money.

I think that my main tip with regards to family, and more specifically kids, is to keep the lines of communication open.  No, you don't need to tell your children about a potential TEOTWAWKI, but you could easily instill the importance of reducing their need for some of our resources, like water and electricity.  Make them aware that just because they can go to Wal*Mart and buy the latest and greatest, doesn't mean that it is going to last very long, or that it is going to bring a large amount of joy to their lives.  Encourage your family to find joy in nature.  Try to spend one day per week unplugged, you can find ideas at Unplugged Sunday.

I am sharing at the hip homeschool hop and Your Green Resource today.  How do you find ways to encourage your children to use less of nature's resources, and instead enjoy the beauty that is around us?

Green Week - For the Homestead

Welcome to Green Week!  Because Earth Day was my birthday, all week I will be sharing some ways in which to "green" your life.  I have been working on my journey towards a more sustainable life for several years now.  No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you are able to use some of these ideas!

The first green idea I have is very current in my life right now.  Keep chickens!  We recently started our chicken adventure a couple weeks ago.  So far, I highly recommend it.  The chickens bring a lot of joy into our lives.  And in a few months they will start to reward our love for them with eggs.  Lots and lots of glorious eggs!  We have a smallish flock of 6 (soon to be 10) and are going to try and feed them mostly with vegetable scraps from our garden and worms and bugs from our yard during the summer, while supplementing with chicken feed.  We hope to be able to sell some of the eggs that we get to friends and family, which will bring our cost of keeping chickens down to around the zero mark.  If you have space, I definitely suggest getting chickens.  Regardless of the eggs, they are incredibly fun to watch and play with!  And their manure is great for the garden - or so I have been told.  This leads right to my second green idea.

Start a compost pile.  I had been nervous about this one for some time.  We live in Maine, is it too cold, does it make sense to start one, how the heck do I do that?  There have been a lot of great posts on starting a compost pile, but I was always still a little nervous.  Then, one day, I just decided to put all of our veggie scraps in a bowl, and then dump them in a corner of our yard where I threw weeds and old plants from the garden.  Voila!  Compost pile.  The key to the compost pile, for us, is to just put veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags.  No meats or oils.  We haven't had any issues with animals, although they may not be aware of the pile yet.  And we also bury the food in the pile.  Cover with leaves, and let it be.

My next green idea for your homestead is Hang Your Laundry!  Seriously, the easiest thing to do.  Yes, it certainly takes a bit more effort, but the money savings is definitely worth it.  I put my laundry outside for two weeks this past month, and was able to trim about $20 off our electricity bill.  Now, granted, we do a lot of laundry.  When you are pretty much a paper free household, keeping up with the rags and napkins becomes a chore in and of itself.  But, there is nothing better than pulling off laundry from the line and smelling the sunshine.  Not to mention the sun is about the best stain remover I have ever seen :-)

Finally, Keep a Rain Barrel.  This isn't one that everyone can do.  I know that a lot of cities and towns have laws against harvesting rain water, but it is a very important step in living a sustainable lifestyle.  Of all the earth's water, over 96% is salt water.  That means that the most precious resource that we need for life is not as abundant as we all may think here in the US.  Keeping a rain barrel will help us reduce our need for pumping new water from a well or the city who provides it to us.  You can use a rain barrel to water your garden, or if you have the setup, even to wash your laundry!  If you aren't able to harvest rain water in your neighborhood, try to cut down on your water usage in the home.  Use old water from water cups to water house plants instead of dumping down the drain, turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or washing dishes, put a bucket in your tub if it drips and use it to flush the toilet, or better yet fix the leaky faucet!  Make sure you always run a full dishwasher of dishes, or a large load of laundry instead of a small load.  Any ways that you can conserve water are a plus!

Do you practice any of these on your homestead?  Do you have experience with a grey water system in your home?  That is something we don't have right now, but I would love to in the future!

I am linking up at the Barn Hop.

Happy Earth Day!

And Happy Birthday to me!  When I was younger, Earth Day wasn't really on my radar.  But, now, it means so much more.  I think that it is amazing that my birthday has always been Earth Day, and that we are able to celebrate something that is so important (to me and the world) while also celebrating my birthday!

This week I decided I would make "Green Week."  I always try to live green, and have made so many changes over the past several years to live a life with a smaller foot print.  However, I also realize that not everyone is at the same place as me.  You may just be starting on your green journey, or you could be the next "No Impact Man."  Wherever you are in your journey, I hope that I can add a couple interesting ideas to your thought stream.

Most of what I do is not only green, but also helps our budget.  That is a big part of my decision making when it comes to going green.  I don't think it makes a lot of sense to go green, but then purchase an entirely new wardrobe made of only organic fibers; or to buy a new car because it gets better gas mileage, when there isn't anything wrong with your current car.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Earth Day today, and are able to do something green!  Come back this week for some ideas on being green!  And I would love to hear suggestions from you all as well!  What works for your life?  What small changes are you making to live lighter on this earth?

curried black beans, sweet potato and coconut soup

I was having trouble figuring out what I would make for dinner yesterday.  I guess that is why people need meal plans!  I have a lot of black beans in the freezer, which I made at the beginning of the week.  But, I didn't want to have something tomato based.  I am at the point now where I don't want canned tomatoes (even though they are my own), I am looking for fresh tomatoes...but still have several months to go.  Instead I decided to try something different.  I have never had curried black beans, but I figured why not go for it!

Curried Black Beans, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

1 quart vegetable stock or whatever stock you have on hand
1 pint water
2 sweet potatoes
1 sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon (or more!) red pepper flakes
2 cups black beans
1 can coconut milk (I use full fat - not lite)

Peel and chop sweet potato and onion, put it in a pot with the stock and water, add curry powder and red pepper flakes.  Let the sweet potato and onion cook.  When the sweet potato is soft, add the black beans and let cook a few more minutes.  Blend it all with a stick blender, or in a regular blender in batches.  Add coconut milk and let it come to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste!

We ate this as the soup only, but it would have been awesome over rice.  Both of my babes loved this soup, having multiple ladles.  And my husband came home and ate the rest of the pot...which I thought would be for dinner today.  Success!

I am linking this recipe to the barn hop! The Mommy Club!  And Your Green Resource!

Home Binders: Part One

Welcome to my series on home binders!  I hope that you find it useful.  Over the next several weeks I will be going through my home binder organization, what I use for tools to help make my home binder successful, and hopefully some useful printouts for you to incorporate into your own binder.

Have you heard of home binders?  I hadn't until right before I had Jack, about 2 years ago.  Home binders are and organizational tool to keep your household on track, and to work for your family in case of an emergency.  Being a bit of an office supplies geek, and really wanting to get a handle on my house and everyone in it, this immediately appealed to me.

There are many different ways to organize a home binder, and I think most people want to make it their own.  Over the next several weeks I hope to explain my home binder, what has and has not worked for me.  The most important part of a home binder is the usefulness of it.  If you don't use it, what is the point in spending time putting it together!?

When I first decided I would make a home binder, I knew I wanted a binder that would make me happy to look at.  I didn't want something boring.  So, I chose a binder in my favorite color - lime green.  Such a small thing, but to me it was important.  If my eye is drawn to it, I will be more likely to look at it and then, in turn use it.

I decided that the first section should be a calendar.  I mean, everyone needs a calendar, right?  However, shortly after making nice monthly calendar print outs, I realized I much prefer the old school planners that I used to use.  I like that it is easy to take with me, so it is always available.  I know some people have amazing results with online calendars - such as Google calendar.  I am not one of those people.  I couldn't get into it, and it seemed too complicated to try and make different colors for the many different things I put in my calendar.  Now, my planner is my life.  It holds my blog posts for the week, special occasions, when I need to work in the church nursery, appointments, ie everything.

My planner is not quite a pocket planner, it is actually quite large, but fits nicely in the front of my binder.  More often, my calendar is open right on top of my home binder, so that I can easily flip back and forth.

Do you use a planner?  Have you had luck with Google calendar, or another online resource?

Linking up at The Mommy Club

so close!

I had grand intentions this week.  To show you all the sweater dress I am knitting for my babe's 4th b-day (eek!).  Yet, here I am, with an unfinished piece...still!  I'm sure you guys are just loving all of my rectangle pictures every week!

I am so so close to those decreases though!  And then it is pretty smooth sailing from there.  Plus, I have a niece who has a birthday a couple days before Emma, and she needs another handmade from auntie :-)

I think the fact that we have been having the most beautiful spring (summer) weather ever has something to do with it.  Yesterday, I brought my knitting outside while the kids played.  I did half a row and then had to go look at my garlic, which is growing beautifully right now.  And then I meandered over to where our main garden is, and started turning some more soil.  All of a sudden it was time for lunch and we were back inside and I was busy again!

As far as books go, last week I saw both of these books on other yarn alongs.  And they definitely did not disappoint!  The top book, The Forgotten Crafts, is awesome!  It amazes me how innovative we used to be.  What happened?  I mean, I understand it is easier to go to the local store and buy whatever you need, but to see what was used in the past is so fascinating to me!  It isn't a how to guide, but it does give a general outline of each task.  You should pick it up just to look at all the pictures!  The second book is Small-Plot, High-Yield Gardening, which was also great.  I don't have a huge amount of space to garden, so I try to cram as much as possible in as small of a place as possible.  This book has some good tips to accomplish that!  I am also still reading Depletion and Abundance, which I think everyone should read, especially if you don't really follow climate change and peak oil.

The other books I am going to be reading over the next couple of weeks are part of the Simplify Your Family Life e-book sale.  I wasn't sure I would like e-books, because I love real books - flipping through the pages, feeling the weight in my hands.  But, I do love them.  I especially love the books that are written as e-books.  They tend to be short and easy to get through, but packed with a lot of information and personal story - which I love.  I don't get anything for recommending this to you, but for $29 you get 35 e-books plus some other features, and to me, that is definitely worth it!

I am joining up with Ginny and her yarn along again this week!  

Nature Walks

We have started up our nature walks again  I think it is a great way to get the kids interested in being outside.  In the winter we tend to stay inside, it is cold and not much is available to bring home besides snow.

Right now, our nature walks tend to be in our yard or down the street to my mom's house, but it is still fun.  I think that the experience of the different bugs and insects help the kids to not be scared of said bugs.

Last year, Emma was incredibly afraid of worms.  It was mildly entertaining for me, but I thought for sure she was traumatized; screaming whenever I picked one up.  This year we have been doing a lot of digging in the gardens already, which of course means a lot of worms.  Enter the addition of cute little baby chicks, and all of a sudden Emma has the intense desire to bring her babies a snack, and now welcomes the chance to dig up worms in our yard.

Another part of our walks is to choose a couple objects to investigate further when we get home.  If it is a bug, I like to take a picture instead of bringing it home.  When we get home, the kids draw what they saw.  Eventually I would like to bring journals with us so the kids can draw while we are outside, but I am not sure that would work right now.  Then I try to find out a bit of info on what we discovered so that the kids have a couple of fun facts to learn and then memorize.  It is amazing what kids will learn if put in a hands-on situation like being outside.

Overall, it is a great activity for my active littles, while still calling it school!  We plan to continue this throughout the summer and fall, although we may spend a lot of time picking bugs and weeds out of the garden, and learning why they are bad :-)

Do you take nature walks?  Do you have a nature table?  Is it part of your education plan for your children?

I'm linking up at the Hip Homeschool Hop today :-)

amazing weekend!

What a wonderful weekend we had in New England!  It was absolutely gorgeous outside.  Warm, sunny, and no bugs!  Perfect weather.

I was able to get quite a lot done, which is always a good thing - and doesn't happen often enough!  I was digging in the garden and able to get peas, bok choy, spinach, and rainbow swiss chard planted.  I hope it will all grow wonderfully well, but realize it may still be a bit early to set stuff out.  I know the peas will be fine, and I can replant everything else since I still have plenty of seeds.

I dug up some day lilies right next to the side steps to our house.  The can get really unruly during the summer.  There is some type of ivy that climbs up the day lilies and makes an awful mess.  I decided the best idea was to just rip them all out.  I still have tons more in my side garden, in the front of the house, in the back of the other random spots around the house, clearly they grow well where I live!  I found a couple large pieces of stone behind our one tree (and some other junk), and plan to put those where the day lilies were, then put a potted plant or a hanging plant in there somewhere.  Plus, maybe then my beautiful irises will have more of a showcase since they will be the only growing flowers right there next to the door.  I found a volunteer along the side of my house as well.  I'm not sure where a daffodil came from, but it is very pretty!

Our chickens are doing amazing.  Everyone seems to be healthy and happy.  They seemed to have doubled in size overnight, and it is crazy to see how much they change each day.

when we brought them home

We made the brooder larger as well.  They are flying about quite a bit.  I came in from playing with the kids to see them on top of the screen I thought would keep them in the box.  Apparently the couple of inches of space still open (over their feeder and water container) were enough to let them explore a bit.  Luckily none of them decided to hide.  Now I have a piece of wood covering the open part.

I am linking up with the Barn Hop today!  Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is posting about!

rice pudding

We have been eating a lot of rice lately.  I love it with broccoli and green beans and some toasted sesame oil...or my favorite mongolian fire oil.  It seems to be hit or miss with everyone else though.  Either I don't make enough, or I make too much.  And since I am the only one that really looks in the fridge at the leftovers, I need to find something to make with day old rice.  Rice pudding is the favorite right now.

My kids love rice pudding.  Seriously, they would probably eat it breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I let them - I don't.  This recipe I really like because it doesn't use a ton of sugar.  I don't think that rice pudding really needs to be that sweet, but that is just me!

Rice Pudding

~2 cups of last night's brown rice
4 eggs
2 cups milk (i have used everything from skim to whole milk - it all works)
1/4-1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Mix eggs and milk in a bowl.
Add rice and mix together.
Add sugar and spices and salt, mix well.
Pour in an 8x8 pyrex baking dish and then put the 8x8 dish in a 9x13 pyrex baking dish.
Boil some water - a tea kettle full.
When the water boils, put both baking dishes in oven, pull out rack and pour water in the 9x13 baking dish about halfway up the 8x8 baking dish, to create a water bath.
Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.  Today mine took about an hour.

I make this for breakfast a lot with the left over rice, but it would also be great for dessert.  I have wondered about making a savory rice pudding, but I am not sure how that would work with the custard...maybe I will try that next time :-)  I hope you like it!

I'm linking up at Your Green Resource and the Barn Hop.

playing with the chicks

They seem to have doubled in size over night.  Their tail feathers are starting to come in, and they are still as cute as the day we brought them home...I'm wondering when that will change.

And we have a couple of very curious girls here too.  Emma and Jack love to sit and feed the little ladies and they like to climb up into my and Matt's hands just to lay down it seems.  Such a fun animal to have!

Sorry for the short post today folks, sickness has hit my house again - right in time for the warm weather this weekend!  Hopefully the babes will be on the mend in a couple days, but in the meantime, a lot of watching is going on.  Hope you all have a wonderful day!

movin' right along

Well, I have to say that my neck is feeling much better.  Thank you for all the wonderful thoughts last week.  I am not sure what the heck I did to it.  And, it is still sore, but I can at least move around a bit, which is definitely a help with two littles and a house to run :-)  Not to mention little baby chicks to take care of as well!

I have made a bit of progress on the back of Emma's sweater dress.  I am doing garter stitch for most of the length of the back.  I will eventually start my decreases, and then move into stockinette stitch for the bodice.  At least that is my plan, we will see how it goes.  I am happy with any progress at this point, since last week there were approximately 4 rows done :-)  When I was thinking about posting for this week's yarn along, I thought of the above song and figured I would put it in here to encourage anyone else who seems to take an exorbitant amount of time to knit anything!

In the book department, I am still reading Wendell Berry.  I am definitely enjoying it, but I am also savoring it, and thinking about the timing of his essays.  It is really interesting to see what he has written years ago, and then look at today and say "why didn't anyone pay attention?!"  Or maybe that is just me.

I am also reading Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front.  I started reading this a couple years ago, and I really enjoyed it, but put it down for one reason or another.  Now, I feel the need to read it again.  It is about moving toward a lower energy future.  I think this is incredibly important for every person to think about at this point in time.  When this book was written, it was just the beginning of housing crisis, the recession, the high oil and gas prices.  To imagine that there was so much information available, and yet we still are in such a rough patch as a country. I try not to be too political here, but at some point we really need to wake up and see what is right in front of us.  To me, that is a lower energy future.  More dependence on our neighbors instead of our government.  More self-sufficiency.  I definitely recommend it!

I am looking forward to everyone's posts on what they are knitting and reading today!  If you want to see more, please visit the yarn along :-)

teaching your kids to love learning

This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately.  It seems like such an important aspect to any child's development, whether they are homeschooled or not.  But, since I am planning on homeschooling, I have become totally preoccupied with it.  I don't want to screw up my kids!  I'm sure that is what every parent is concerned about though, I can't be alone :-)

I recently listened to a great podcast between Tsh from Simple Mom, and Jamie from Simple Homeschool.  One of the parts that resonated with me the most was when Jamie said that she didn't think it was necessary to make kids do math everyday.  I hadn't really thought about it before.  I grew up loving math, and ended up in advanced math classes.  I worked with math drills a lot.  That is how my mom learned, and that is what I knew.  It was all very enjoyable until calculus...and then I kind of lost interest!

She went on to say that she thinks that you need to demonstrate how you use different subjects to your children.  If your kids see you using math in everyday life, then they will realize the need for it, and they will want to learn it.  The same with reading.  If you are showing your children that you read (not just to them), it will demonstrate your desire for self-education, and a love for reading.

I have had a couple of conversations with my mother since I listened to this podcast.  We were talking about my choice in math curriculum for Emma, and how it wasn't so much about drills as it was about learning critical thinking.  Eventually I came to the understanding that my mom loved math growing up, just like I did.  She wanted to be a math teacher when she was younger.  This made me wonder how much her love of math was passed on to me, and also my brother who excelled at math.

It made me re-evaluate what I do in my day, and what I should be showing my children.  I think that a child's natural curiosity is extremely helpful.  And I hope that I don't cause my kids to dislike a certain subject because I am not interested in it.

Do you find that your kids mimic your own interests?  Is their a subject that you don't enjoy that you notice your child doesn't like either?  Or is the opposite the case, where you don't like a subject and your child loves it?

This week I am linking up at the Hip Homeschool Hop!

We did it!

We got chickens!  I can't tell who is more excited me, or Emma.  She has declared herself their adoptive mama, and watches them CONSTANTLY.  Jack is also really great with them.  He reaches in to touch them, but doesn't actually touch them.  It is very cute.  And the little babies are cute as well!

If you recall my post from last week, I had all of these grand ideas about how many chicks we would get, what breeds etc.  Well, some of my wonderful readers gave me much to think on, and we scaled back a bit.  We ended up getting 6 chicks from the tractor supply store.  They are mixed breeds, but the breeds that were on the list were all ok with me :-)  I brought my Keep Chickens! book, so that definitely helped.  We also ordered 4 araucanas from a feed store.  So that will be a total of 10.

I think that 10 is a good number for us to start with.  And after having them for one whole day, we (including my husband) have deemed them the most enjoyable and easy pet.  Although, they do definitely poop a lot.  I had read that, but I guess I didn't expect as much as is actually there!  Matt has said "I now know why everyone used to have a few chickens, even if they didn't have a farm."  That made me happy.

We are now considering meat chickens.  I am not at the point where I want to butcher them myself, although I think over the years I have become a lot less squeamish.  The part that scares me the most is not the killing, it is the cleaning out, and the fear I have of messing it up and ruining the whole bird.  So, if we do end up getting meat chickens, I think that the first time around we will bring them to a butcher.

I was slightly unprepared for bringing the chicks home from the store.  I don't think Matt and I expected to pick them up just that second, but Emma was in love...and the fact that they were selling out fast, I knew we needed to get them right then.  We drove home blasting the heat in the car, and almost passing out from all that heat (it was kind of warm outside as well).

When we walked in the house we were trying to figure out where we could put them.  Did Matt have time to build a brooder right this second?  Nope.  Instead, I happened to see an old shelving unit I have had since I graduated college...a while ago.  Well, if you lay that baby down, it is the perfect brooder, and has a shelf in the middle that separates two sides, so if we need to separate the new chicks from the older chicks, we can.

I ended up putting some linoleum down, which is very easy to clean.  And then I put paper towels down for them to walk around on.  When we picked them up, they were in pine shavings, but I read that they shouldn't be in pine shavings for the first week, at least until they know what is food and what isn't.  So I decided to just put the paper towel down for the week, and then I will change over to the pine shavings.

Now I need to figure out what a good chicken feed is.  I picked up what they had at the store, but I have been thinking about what they should be eating, and I want them to be eating healthy, organic, non-gmo food.  Eventually I would like to be feeding them mostly what is available from the garden and yard, and supplementing with chicken feed.  I wonder what people did before there were feed stores?  Any ideas?  And what a perfect time to get baby chicks, right before Easter!  Now we just have to wait until the end of April to pick up our 4 little easter eggers, and then we will be in business.  I am curious as to whether I can put the new chicks in with month old chickens, or if that is a bad idea?

I am linking up with the barn hop again!  Thanks for all the encouragement with the baby chicks!

new smoothie recipe

I recently watched the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer.  I had seen this woman speak in the documentary Hungry For Change, which I watched a couple weeks ago, and really wanted to see what she had to say.  What she did say was a lot of really interesting things about the links between her cancer and the food that she was eating, her blood and the differences you could see under a microscope when she ate differently.  If you haven't seen it, I would definitely recommend it.

In the documentary she talked a lot about juicingraw foods, and smoothies.  Now, if you have been following my blog, you know that I love a green smoothie.  In fact, my whole family loves them.  But, after I saw this movie, I saw them in a different light.

I know that a lot of people like green juices, made from kale, cucumbers, celery; with a bit of fruit maybe added in as well.  Then I saw her make her green smoothie.  She started with cucumber, added avocado, sprouts, coconut water.  It was very interesting to see her put things I wouldn't consider.  This of course got me thinking about my green smoothie - which is the same just about every time.

My new go to recipe - well until we have fresh spinach :-)

1 cucumber
2 celery stalks
1 banana
1/2-1 cup frozen blueberries
1-1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup orange juice*
1-2 cups of water (until it is the consistency you want)

Blend it all up in the blender.  This makes a blender full for me.  The celery adds a bit of spiciness to the smoothie, which I really like.  And my kids love it too.  I think if I blend up any type of smoothie they would drink it.  You could definitely do this without orange juice too, I just happened to have some in the fridge, so I threw it in.  And all the frozen berries make it into a very thick slushy type smoothie, which to me feels like eating sorbet for breakfast :-)

Do you practice juicing?  After watching a couple documentaries I am seriously considering getting a Breville :-)  So do you have an amazing green smoothie recipe I should try?

Linking up at Your Green ResourceThe Mommy Club, empty your archive

*edited to say that I no longer use the orange juice, we don't typically buy it and it is fine with fruit and water :-)

organizing the outside

This past month of Project Simplify has been awesome for me.  I have been evaluating, and then re-evaluating everything in my house, and it feels great.  My kids seem happier to have fewer toys to play with downstairs, and I am super excited that our fridge is still as organized and clean as it was a few weeks ago.  I am still working hard at getting the rest of the house figured out, but recently I have been pulled to the outdoors.

It is still cold, the ground is still quite wet, but I am dreaming of the days when I can be outside puttering in the garden.  Planting seedlings, feeding the chickens.  It is really exciting all the plans I have this year!  Not that all of those will work out wonderfully.  And honestly, by the end of July I am no longer puttering in the garden, instead I am ignoring the growing weeds :-)

This weekend we have a bit of time off.  Matt is going to be off for four whole days, seriously excited about that since we haven't had any time off since Christmas.  So we will be turning our eyes to the outside.  We have some major cleanup to happen out there.  We need to figure out some sort of organizational structure outside.  We don't have any type of shed or garage, so it makes keeping things orderly a tad difficult.

I also want to get some sort of a fence up around our yard.  Not the most exciting thing, but from the few days that we have been outside, I realize that my youngest really enjoys making a run for it...right through the neighbors rototilled garden...right to his very large dog.  Let me mention at this point that a 25 pound baby running through soft dirt is not nearly the same as his much larger mama running after him.

But the most important part of this weekend of outside time will be the chickens.  Everyday this week Emma has asked if it is Friday yet.  Because tomorrow will be the day we get least that is the plan.  Once we get to the feed store we will have to see what is available.

Are you cleaning up the outside of your house yet?  Is it still too cold?  Or too hot?  Any ideas for people without outside storage (besides getting some - believe me I am working on that!)?

not so yarn along

I had planned to have an amazing post ready for today.  You know, the one where my precious Emma actually models the sweater dress I have been knitting.  I was all ready to finish it this weekend.  My hubby was going to be home, we were going to have a relaxing weekend with not a lot of extra work going on.  What happened?  Well, I got some sort of a pinched nerve or something in my neck/back, and I have had the lovely experience of not being able to move much over the past several days...since Thursday of last week.  It has been awesome let me tell you.  I am finally able to raise my arms up (which is helpful when you have a 19 month old that needs diaper changes, and a 3.5 year old that needs to be lifted over the gate to use the potty).

My neck and upper back are still in a lot of pain, but being able to move my arms has made a world of difference.  I probably should have called the dr.  But, really, what are they going to do for me?  Most likely not much.  I thought about going to the Osteopath, but didn't really want to pay a co-pay to go to my dr. just to have her refer me to the osteopath who would then require the specialist co-pay.  Gotta love health care in America.

This was the long winded explanation as to why I have only gotten about an inch done on the back of Emma's dress this week.  It isn't a difficult pattern, but it is difficult when you can't lift your arms.  While there has not been a lot of knitting, there has definitely been a lot of reading!

This week I finished up Radical Homemakers.  I loved this book.  I will definitely be adding it to my library.  What I liked most about this book was the justification almost of removing yourself from the formal economy.  To be able to step back from the day to day grind of a desk job, and do what you love to support your family. I think a lot of times, we need someone to give us that permission to be at home, to knit sweaters and socks for our family, to make our meals from scratch, to go to thrift stores instead of the mall to buy clothes, or even to sew our own clothes.  It isn't always accepted, but it should be.  Just because I don't make cash by being at home, doesn't mean that I am not contributing to society.  A very awesome book that everyone should read.

I also was able to finish The Art of Simple Food and Feeding the Whole Family.  OK, technically they are both cookbooks, but they had a lot of good information in them as well.  It was nice to see the combinations of flavors in the recipes.  I generally gravitate towards tomato based mexican bean dishes, which all seem to have the same flavors.  I started branching out with curries, but to see other flavors is definitely awesome.  Also, to see the vegetables of the season take center stage, without a lot of seasonings, just letting the vegetables shine on their own.  I think that we have gotten away from that in the US quite a bit.  Our taste buds are numb to the wonderful natural flavors of foods now, instead craving the artificial flavors of processed food like substances.  I am trying to let the natural flavors shine more, and let the seasonings take a back seat.  I'm not saying get rid of salt, but maybe take a step back a bit and let your taste buds become what they used to be.

Yesterday I picked up a new book at the library.  Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry.  I have never read any books by him, but I have heard great things.  I also haven't started the book yet, but it looks to be promising!  I will let you know of course :-)  And the last book that I have been reading is Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces, which is a great book if you are thinking about getting backyard chickens.  You can read more about our journey in this post.

Today I am linking up at Ginny's yarn along.  One of the best parts of my week!  Thank you to all the wonderful people who comment!  It certainly makes me smile to see my inbox filled with encouraging comments :-)

2012 curriculum

New homeschool catalogs are out.  I love this time of year.  I'm not sure if I am in the minority on this or not.  I think a lot of homeschoolers seem to feel a drag on the end of the year.  I'm always looking ahead though :-)

This year the curriculum we were planning to get Emma in March ended up going through an overhaul.  I wanted to wait and see what the new changes were before I went ahead and made the purchase.  Luckily, we like the changes, there are more books, and it ends up being about $80 cheaper overall.  Score one for us!

We are getting Emma the Core A program through Sonlight.  We will be getting Language Arts K with K readers, although we may end up going to the grade 1 readers towards the second half of the year, depending on how she is doing.  Luckily, we already have most of those books, so we won't need to purchase anything different.  We will be getting Science A, which I plan to do with both kids.  I'm not entirely sure how you would separate science for two kids.  Jack wants to do everything that Emma does, so I don't think it would work well to try to keep him out of the science.  For Math we will be getting the Singapore Earlybird program.  I think that this will last us for maybe a semester though, so we will most likely end up getting the Singapore 1 Math program later on in the year.  Her handwriting program will be Handwriting Without Tears K.  I am happy with these choices, and the fact that I can get it in a multi-subject package for additional savings makes me super happy!  The only thing I am changing in the multi-subject package is the math program, because I have heard great things about Singapore Math.

Jack will be listening along to a lot of the read-aloud books from Emma's core, but we will also be incorporating the P 3/4 program that I bought for Emma a couple years ago.  These are all stories that both kids really enjoy, and we read them often as it is.  I think it will end up being a great year.  At least that is my hope!

I am a little nervous about getting into "formal" teaching with Emma.  I don't want to stifle her creativity.  But, I am also concerned that Jack will make getting much done impossible.  She is pretty good about working on her own once I give her instructions, but we will both be moving into an entirely new realm of teaching (how am I supposed to teach her handwriting when mine is horrible?!)

Any tips on homeschooling with a 20 month old at your feet?  Are you planning out your next school year?  Do you wait until the fall?  Or will you start as soon as possible (like me)?

In which I talk about chickens...again

It is that time of year.  When I start to think about chickens.  I think that we are about ready to take the plunge into chicken ownership.  I have been reading book upon book about chickens.  How to raise baby chicks.  How to build a coop.  What breeds are great egg layers.  Which ones will attack you when you aren't looking :-)  My favorite book right now is Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces.  It seems to have a good amount of information in it, all of what I need to know.  It has all been a lot of information to take in of course, but I think I am ready.

Emma is definitely ready for baby chicks.  I may have made the mistake of talking about baby chicks to Matt at one point.  She definitely overheard.  And since that time we have been talking about it quite a lot.  Pretty much everyday she asks her daddy when she can get the very cute baby chicks which she will hold and take very good care of.  There is nothing quite as convincing as her little voice asking for baby chicks "please daddy, please!"  And when I said mistake before, I totally meant on purpose :-)

The breeds that I have decided on are:

Buff Orpington:

They are great layers.  Have a friendly disposition.  And are hardy in cold weather.

What appealed to me about this breed is that it has a friendly disposition, and of course the fact that they are cold hardy.  Since I have young kids, I want chickens that will behave and be nice.  I am hoping that raising them from chicks will help that.  The fact that they will be around the kids from the beginning should help.  At least that is my hope!


Plymouth Rock:

They are also great layers.  Are friendly, yet curious.

Again, I was looking for great layers.  While I eat a mainly vegan diet, the rest of my family tends to enjoy eggs (and I like them as well).  I want to have chickens that lay a lot of eggs.  I am hoping that we will be able to sell some of the extra eggs to some friends, hopefully making our chickens and eggs pretty much free.



These chickens are good layers, and they are cautious.

Let's be honest.  The real reason we are getting this breed is because they lay blue and green eggs.  Who doesn't want an easter egger as a breed in their flock.  Emma loves to get blue and green eggs from the farm, and since I know they tend to survive well enough in our cold Maine winters, I am going to go for it :-)

Technically we are only allowed six hens.  But, I am thinking of getting many more than that, maybe 18.  I know that we will probably lose a couple, and I would prefer to have enough at the end of the day, rather than too few.  We live in an area that I doubt will be checked on, and even if we did get in trouble, since my mom lives down the road we could easily put half down there and be fine I am sure.  Hopefully we won't lose any though.  It would be a much better situation not to have to explain to Emma that we have lost a baby chick.  Although, that is life with farm animals, and I am sure she would take it well.

So, it will be happening soon, probably this week.  Hopefully this means that I will be getting eggs in the fall, although I am not entirely sure how that all works.  I know it usually takes 6 months or so before you start getting eggs, but since this will be in the fall, with a lot less light, I am not sure they will continue to lay or not. Any ideas on this?  Should I keep light in their coop?  Should I let them have a natural cycle and not have the light?  Does it matter?  We are also considering meat chickens.  I think Matt would be very happy to have a roast chicken every week or so...those would definitely have to be at my mom's.  Exciting times here!

I am linking up at the barn hop and Your Green Resource.