The Fun of Living Locally

Last week I was thinking about how much abundance we have in our area for food.  I often forget, or think that the grocery store is where I have to get my food, mainly out of convenience.  But, when summer comes, that is the time that I am reminded of the bounty that Maine provides.  This past weekend we had the opportunity to fully engage in the local lifestyle that I love.

We went to a new Farmers’ Market.

I feel like a Farmers’ Market is a perfect local living environment.  They encourage community and local everything!

I love a Saturday morning Farmers’ Market because it gives our family something fun to do that is inexpensive, and we can also spend time getting food that we will need for the week.

This particular market is located at the greenhouse where I love to get my seedlings.  Since I am notplanting a garden this year, I am decidedly visiting the greenhouse more often to see everything that they have, and to think about next year’s garden!

My brother and sister-in-law were up this weekend with my nephew and niece, so it was a big family affair.

The kids were able to get a brick oven pizza and donuts for dessert.  I was able to purchase some honey that I needed, and look at all the local greens available right now.

The adults (mostly) watched as the kids ran around in the grass, and listened to the musical entertainment.  It was fun to just be able to relax in the shade, watch the kids play, and eat delicious food.

I feel like basing our food around what is locally available is healthy, but beyond that it creates relationships and community.  We live in a society where everyone wants to be left alone to do their own thing (I am included in this statement!), and often community building is left to few.

I wonder what would happen if we were all more engaged in our community; if we shopped downtown instead of going to the big red bullseye the next city over.  What would happen if we were less concerned about everything going on in our individual family, and we made it a point to step out into our communities to support the local artisans, and to engage in community with those around us?

It is definitely something that I struggle with.

I like to keep to myself.  I like to run to the grocery store and grab what I need and then get out and get home to continue on with whatever I need to do.

I admire the men and women at the Farmers’ Market.  They seem so comfortable to be out there, fully available to build relationships.

What would happen if on Saturday mornings we were out in our communities, building those relationships, instead of staying at home trying to get stuff done around the house, or doing something only with our family?

Oftentimes I will run to Target to get whatever I need, because who doesn’t love Target!?  But, then I realize I probably could have gotten what I needed from the downtown store instead of driving to Target.

I am trying to live a more local lifestyle.  I want to buy things from the local artisans, I want to shop at the co-op and farmers’ markets, and I don’t want to run to the big box stores as soon as I think we “need” something.  Will I be 100% local?  No.  I’m not sure how realistic that is these days, but it would definitely be a fun and challenging project!  I do want to try harder at seeking out local first though; keeping our local economy strong.

How local is your lifestyle?  Do you seek our local shops over the big box stores?  How about food, do you have a farmers’ market in your area?

What is Simple Living?

Simple living is something that I am constantly striving for.  I want experiences to be at the forefront of our home instead of things.  I want to live a debt free life, only using cash to purchase items that we need.  I want the food that we eat to be simple, wholesome, whole foods; preferably local and sustainably raised.  I want to be a producer, instead of a consumer.  I want my children to love nature, and play in it daily.

This all sounds great to me, but your idea of simple living may be different. 

So what exactly is simple living?

I love the definition that Tsh of The Art of Simple uses –

Living simply means living holistically with your life’s purpose.

It seems so easy, right; living holistically with your life’s purpose.

I have to say that it isn’t easy, not easy at all.  Why though?  It doesn’t make sense, considering you are essentially trying to simplify your life, why is it not easy?

I have realized that it is because we live in a complicated world; one that has instant access to everything, one that demands us to make choices constantly.  We no longer feel the need to wait to buy items, we no longer see want vs. need; it is all translated as need these days.

I started Townsend House as a way to express living simply in a complicated world, at least my journey in it.  And after writing here for 4 years, it seems like I have made great strides in some areas, and not so much in others.  There are things that we used to do, that we no longer do (like keep chickens – although I hope to bring new chicks home next spring).  There are things that I want to do more of (menu planning).  And there are new things that I want to try (more sustainable living practices).

What does that mean?

Well, I will continue to take you all on my journey toward a simple life, mine and my family’s version of it anyways.  I hope that you will continue to walk this journey with me. 

I want to branch out on what I write about.  My blog is definitely more of a lifestyle/memoirist type blog.  I write about what is going on in my every day, the challenges, and what I am attempting to use to change those challenges into positive situations in my family’s life. 

I hope you will be on board as I branch out a bit from my normal gardening/knitting/food posts (especially since the garden is not in service at this time).  I need to move back to some of the old ways – like getting back to the farmers’ market and co-op.  Plus, with three little ones, two of whom I am homeschooling, there will be a lot more about organization, rhythms, and general parenting craziness.

Now, I want to know.

What does a simple life mean to you?  Are you an urban homesteader?  A minimalist?  Someone who loves the nomadic lifestyle?  Someone who is adapting in place in the suburbs?  Or are you in between all of those, not quite knowing where you want to be, or where you expect your simple living journey to take you?

Top 4 Internet Safety Tips

I am a member of the US Celluler #BetterMoments Blogger Brigade.  I am compensated for this post, but all opinions, as always, are my own!

Did you know that June is Internet Safety month?  It seems like a great time to have it, right at the beginning of summer, when kids are fresh out of school.

The internet has opened up a whole new world to all of us, especially kids.  There are so many learning and social opportunities when it comes to the internet, whether you are taking a new online class, or sharing your latest beach pictures on social media, the internet is right at our fingertips, always.

With almost half of parents (47%*) reporting that their children have cell phones, and the average age of receiving the first cellphone is 12, it is no more important than ever to make sure we are keeping our kids safe, and having that conversation as to what is appropriate and what isn't.

Here are 4 Tips for Internet Safety - for your kids and for you as well!

1.)    Make an agreement with your child.  I think the best place to start is to have a conversation with your child about what is appropriate when it comes to internet usage, whether that is on their cell phone or tablet, or on the home computer.  You need to set expectations, and monitor their usage.  Obviously you want to give your child some freedom, and setting the expectation in advance is part of that.  By using the US Cellular Parent-Child Agreement you both can sign on what is OK and what is definitely not OK.
2.)    Use Protective Apps.  The US Cellular Family Protector app provides safety and security by monitoring your child’s location and mobile usage.  You can review your child’s calls and texts, block websites and restrict certain apps.  Children are even able to send a special alert to their parents if they are in trouble or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.

3.)    Discuss Online Sharing.  This is the age of social media.  We are constantly sharing information.  I know that I love using my iPhone to post Instagram pictures all.the.time.  What can I say, I love it.  But, we also need to know what is OK to post, and what we should definitely not post.  I like to tell my kids that once they put something on the internet, it will always be there.  They may not think about it right now, but in 10 years, they may be rethinking what they put out there!  It is something that I am constantly thinking about as a blogger as well.  You don’t want to share personal information, where you live, your phone number.  Some of this stuff seems common sense, but kids really don’t think about it in the same way.  If you have the conversation, they will be more likely to resist the urge to share something that should remain private.

4.)    Share photos appropriately.  This is similar to above.  You don’t want to post inappropriate photos.  You also don’t want to post photos that can easily identify your kids’ location. 

The bottom line is to have open communication with your children.  Don’t forget to download the Parent-Child Agreement to help get the conversation started.  And keep talking.  Open communication with your kids is extremely important in everything, not just internet usage.

What ground rules do you lay out for internet usage?  Does it change once summer arrives?  How old was your child when they received their first cell phone?

*According to a recent US Cellular Survey.

One Local Summer - Introduction

Way back when I started looking for local food in my area, I found a wonderful blogger named Liz who had a very cool blog called Pocket Farm.  That blog had a summer challenge to create one meal each week using only local ingredients.  Local was defined as something that traveled no more than 100 miles to get to you.  Some things were allowed, even though they may be from away; spices and salt come to mind, but the challenge was to make it as local as possible.

Did you know that the average American meal travels 1500 miles from farm to plate?

That statistic always seems uncanny to me.  How can we not be able to feed our families with food closer to home?  What happens if there is a total crop failure at one of these farms from away?  What will that do to our current food system and how we normally feed our families?

As I started on my local food journey, I realized that so much was available in our area.  And I didn’t need to travel 100 miles, or 50 miles, I only needed about 20 miles to be able to get the majority of the foods that we would ever need to eat.  I am incredibly blessed to have such a wealth of local foods available to me.  I know that in some areas it is difficult to find even fresh food, let alone local.  But, when I began I didn’t realize even a small percentage of the offerings we have, so I encourage you to search your own area.

In the spirit of the now retired Pocket Farm blog, I plan to do another One Local Summer.

I started to do this last year, however pregnancy had other plans.  While we were still eating a ton of local food (a lot of which came from my garden), I was no longer tracking my meals; instead going with whatever foods I felt I needed at the time – read pregnancy cravings!

I would love to have you join me, if you would like, to create at least one meal each week made up of only locally grown food.

Some of the meals that we have enjoyed in the past are homemade pasta, made with local flour and eggs, and fresh tomato sauce, using local tomatoes, local sausage, local onions and garlic.  Since it is still early in the growing season here, you could prepare a local salad, with local spring greens and grilled chicken breast from a local free-range chicken.  Grill up some hamburgers using local ground beef and steam some delicious rainbow chard.  These are some of the options that I have floating around my head right now.

Do you ever make a meal with only local ingredients?  Would it be difficult for you to do?  What types of meal ideas do you have using all local ingredients?

knitting and reading

Guys, I have to be honest, I absolutely love the chevron pattern that I started last week!  I am still knitting washcloths using this pattern, and it is making me happy to see the progress!

I think that after seeing so many people comment about how they like to have them on hand for gifts, I realized I needed to do the same thing.  And while I think it would be nice to give a bunch of washcloths with different patterns to someone, I also think it would be lovely to have several of the same.  I think most people like to match when it comes to towels and such – although I am just happy if I have something to use!

I think that I am going to try and knit a scarf with this pattern as well, but maybe find some different yarn, maybe something in a lighter weight.  I’m not sure how it will come out though.  I might have to try some different swatches to see what would work best with the chevron.  I want the pattern to come through, but I’m not sure a heavy winter scarf would work with it.  We shall see!  I guess a trip to the yarn store is in order…I wonder how many times I can come up with an excuse to go shopping for yarn?  It seems to be often recently!

As far as my reading goes, I finished up LivingWell, Spending LessI really enjoyed it.  I especially liked the parts about contentment.  I find that oftentimes, with all the social media, it is hard to be content.  You see friends going on amazing vacations, and realize you haven’t done that in several years, or pictures of the latest gadgets and fun electronics (I’m a bit of a nerd) are always in the news and it is a struggle to realize it isn’t something I need, far from it actually.

I have seen a bunch of people post about the Outlander series lately, and I think I am going to start reading the first book.  I started it a while ago, but wasn’t immediately sucked into it, so I returned the book to the library and moved on.  But, I know that I only read a couple chapters, and am sure that if I try a few more I will probably get sucked in like everyone else!

In the meantime, I am reading Harry Potter to the kids still, and have been thinking about making my way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I have never read.  I also started Time Management Mama, which I saw on another blog.  I’m not sure I like it yet, but am only a little ways into it.

I think I need an easy novel to read, just to get my reading back on track, it has fallen off lately.  Perhaps more trips to the library are in order!

Joy Williams - Venus Album

I participated in the Joy WIlliams Venus album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

I absolutely love music.  It is something that I turn to when I am upset, when I am happy, and every time in between.  It helps me to get chores done around the house, it helps calm me when I feel at my wits end – I do have three little ones after all!

I was so excited to have the opportunity to listen to the new album by Joy Williams.  It is hauntingly beautiful.  I love her voice!  It is the kind of music that I love to belt out while having my headphones in and no cares in the world!  The album has just enough upbeat and slow music to make it well rounded. 

Venus is a story of one woman’s journey out of darkness.

It is such an honest account of Joy’s past two and a half years of life.  She wants to show how she came to live her truth, and wants us all to be able to do the same.

Here is one of the songs off of the new album:

Overall it is a great album, and I definitely recommend it!  It is available on June 29th!

Buy it on iTunes or Amazon.  And you can connect with Joy Williams at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Get Results Early with First Response!

I participated in a Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for First Response. I received product samples as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Making the decision to have a baby is an incredibly exciting time for any couple.  I know that when Matt and I decided that we wanted to try for number three I was nervous and happy and I really didn’t know what would happen.  There is something about drawing that line in the sand…and then waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

Waiting to find out whether or not you are pregnant probably feels about as long as that last month of pregnancy!  The stress and anxiety (both of which are not good for pregnant mamas!) seems to immediately be upon you as soon as you make the decision to have a baby.

And then you know you want to take the test, as soon as possible, admit it.

I have always used First Response pregnancy tests.  The reason?  Well it says right on the box that it can detect 6 days sooner than your missed period.  Who wouldn’t want that?!

I remember with my last pregnancy – OK all three of my pregnancies – I bought a ton of tests, and just kept taking them, even when I knew that it was 99% accurate.  I wanted to double check, and then to make totally sure. 

Like I said, the waiting to find out whether or not we were pregnant was the hardest thing for me.  I am not a patient person, so having the test able to tell me so much earlier is great in my eyes.  Of course, I didn’t just take the first one, I proceeded to use them all up in the 6 days before; you can never be too sure about these things!  Also, am I the only one that doesn’t wait the entire 3 minutes to look at the test?  I just take the test and stare at it…

I was really excited to see that First Response has redesigned their advanced Early Detection Pregnancy Test.

I love that it is curved now with a longer handle.  I wish someone had thought of this sooner.  I mean, it isn’t exactly fun trying to pee on this little stick without making a mess.  They also thought to widen the tip by 50%, which makes not missing easier as well.

It is designed to detect all relevant forms of hCG throughout pregnancy, so using at any time of day isn’t a problem, meaning you don’t have to remember to take it first thing in the morning as soon as you wake up, before you have coffee.

When the test is negative, it can be a bit of a letdown.  I know that now, with the three we have, I feel like my family is complete, but it is a little sad to think that I probably won’t see those two pink lines in the future.

You can find First Response at all major drugstores and grocery stores.

How did you tell your husband you were pregnant?  Did you start taking pregnancy tests as soon as you could?

Homeschool Planning - Choosing Curriculum

When you begin to think about homeschool curriculum it can be a daunting task, especially when you are first starting out.

This will be our first year reporting to the state for homeschooling, and for me that has become a little nerve-racking.

How do I know that what I am teaching is being absorbed?  How do I make the decision on what should be taught, and what can be skipped over.  How do I make sure that we are fitting it all in?

These are questions that I am constantly asking myself.

For the past several years we have bought the boxed curriculum from Sonlight.  We absolutely love it.  I love all the great books that come with the cores, and I love that there are teacher’s plans included.  Who wouldn’t like to just open up lesson plans and start teaching? 

Actually me, I am not so good at following the included lesson plans.

This year I knew I would be taking a different approach to our homeschooling.  First of all, we have the portfolios that we need to think about.  But, then there is also the fact that we school all year, so the included lesson plans don’t quite work for us – I am constantly modifying the first few weeks we start a new core, and then I throw the plans completely out the window. 

The last bit that I needed to think about was whether or not Emma was ready for the next core.  She is on the young end of the cores every year, in fact she has been a year earlier than what is recommended.  I know that she can handle the content that we have done, and she has excelled at it, but moving into Core D at seven wasn’t going to work.

So what do you do when you have a bit of a gap year?  You make it up for yourself!

The first place I started was the Sonlight catalog.  Even though I knew that a lot of Core D would not work for her this year, I knew that I wanted to start out with early American History.  I love that Sonlight focuses on history, and then builds around whatever part of history the child will be studying.

The book lists that Sonlight has available are amazing.  I was able to figure out which books would be appropriate for her, as well as what would be way over her head, or not really applicable to what we will be doing this year.

I have to point out that there are some amazing resources as far as homeschool curriculum.

If you are looking for book lists, I would suggest checking out Sonlight of course, but also Ambleside Online has entire curriculum lists and plans available for free.  Another great resource is CBD.  You can find just about any kind of homeschool curriculum on that website.  I also love the Simple Homeschool blog.

I think that when you are making up your own path, it can be confusing, and scary!  What if I miss something? 

It took a lot of thought and prayer in order for me to come to some decisions on homeschool curriculum this year.  And that is my biggest piece of advice.  Pray.  Make lists.  Think about what you want your children to know at the end of the year.  It is an incredible undertaking, and I think that is why I am so happy with having resources like Sonlight available.  I know that they have gone through a lot of research already, and because I have used them in the past I can trust a lot of what they say regarding good quality books.

If you are struggling with finding things like math and language arts programs, you can find assessments and samples of most of the major curriculum choices.  Download samples, and look at them all to figure out what might work best for your child.

Remember, you know your child best.  If the child is a little older, ask them for help.  What would they like to study, how do they feel like they learn information best.  Is it through reading?  Is it through projects?  Is it through video?  There are so many different options available to us now, whether we are homeschooling, using public school resources, have our child in private school, or something else entirely.

Another place that I look every year when evaluating the kids’ needs for school is our local public school.

We are lucky that the public school puts out what the kids will be learning throughout the year.  I am able to go online and download all of that information, so I know the scope and sequence they are using to teach.  I might not have all the information that they are using, but at least I know about what Emma’s public school grade will be learning.

That isn’t to say that I use the public school curriculum choices, or even follow their scope of learning for the year.  But, I do like to know that we have touched on things that the kids of the same age are learning in the community. 

I think that I have come to some decisions with regard to what we will be doing next year, which is a good thing since we school year round, and are wrapping up the past year now!

I have a lot of book orders to place, and some new math books to buy, but I am excited about the new year!  Now to finish up the old year so we can keep going!

How do you choose curriculum for your homeschool?  Do you look to the public school resources, get a boxed curriculum, or make up your own?

Finding Local Food in Your Community

Last week I talked about my decision not to have a garden this year.  Well, it wasn’t exactly a decision that I wanted to make, it was more or less made for me when I had a stupid muscle spasm.  I realized that a lot of people are unable to have a garden for one reason or another, and so I decided that this year, in keeping with my theme of getting back to basics I would search out the wonderful local offerings that are provided in my area.

When I started my local food journey eight years ago, I had no idea where to begin.  How do you find food grown where you live?  Can’t I just go to the grocery store and call it good?  Well, yes and no.

We are lucky that the grocery store local to us offers a lot of products that are sourced in Maine.  I wanted to go deeper though.  I wanted to know who my farmers were.  I wanted to see their farms; I wanted to be able to ask them questions.

The first place that I turned to was Local Harvest.

This website has so much wonderful information.  You can find farms, farmers’ markets, co-ops, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), and everything in between.

I absolutely love Farmers’ Markets.  They are a wonderful place to build relationships with your community, as well as with the farmers that provide the food.  It doesn’t hurt that it is a positive economic experience for your community.

Keeping those dollars in your community is so important, especially with the nature of the economy today.  For every dollar that you spend at a local business (farmer or otherwise), 68% stays in the community, whereas at a non-local store only 43% stays in the community.

Why so much emphasis on local?  What about organic?

I’m glad you asked!  The thing about organic is, it is still a large scale operation and certified by the USDA.  Do I think organic is wrong?  Absolutely not!  But, I do think that most people don’t really understand all the information that comes attached to that “certified organic” label.

The top of my list is that it is very difficult and incredibly expensive for a small farm to get an organic certification.  The red tape that is involved is lengthy, and it is usually cost prohibitive for small farms to even bother trying.  I know that a lot of the farms that we buy from are not certified organic, but they use methods that are organic.  They rotate where they plant different vegetables, they use compost from their own farm to add nutrients back into the ground, they don’t spray pesticides, but they are still not “certified organic.”

I always choose local first, because then I can talk to the farmer, find out if what their farm is doing matches up with my concerns, and I am even able to visit the farm if I want.

Now, I do still buy organic.  I’m not saying to not buy organic, but you need to know what you are buying.  A lot of people associate organic with no chemicals, but that isn’t the case, there is an approved list of chemicals that organic farmers can use on their plants.  Also, there is an entire list of non-organic substances that can be included in the organic label.  It is all about educating yourself!

Now that I have gone on an entire tangent about organic food, let us get back to local!

If you don’t have any local farmers’ markets or CSA’s available in your area, the next best thing to do would be to try and start some sort of bulk buying club with some other families or people in your area.  You can often find great options for local food, but maybe there isn’t a way to get the local food to the people.  Of course, this takes a lot of leg work, and can be incredibly time consuming, but if you are passionate about local food, and are unable to start with your own back yard, a bulk buying club is a great idea.

Local food has come a long way in the last five years.  New farmers’ markets are springing up every year, and I think it is wonderful for the communities that are lucky enough to have one.  I believe that good food helps to build a community, and it can be the backbone of yours as well. 

Do you support local farms?  Are you a member of a CSA or do you attend a farmers’ market regularly?  

knitting and reading

I started another washcloth!  I am actually really enjoying this short spurt of washcloth knitting right now.

It is satisfying to have such a small project to work on, and complete them easily.  Plus, it helps that I get to try out cute little patterns to see what I like.

I have an enormous amount of cotton yarn in my stash, and when I saw this off white cotton I knew it needed a pretty pattern that would stand out.  I am loving chevron right now, and decided that would be perfect for a pretty little washcloth!

Most of my patterns come from my mom's Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework - which I confiscated from her home several years ago (along with the Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening).  It is my go to source for cute patterns for knitting a scarf or washcloth, or for whatever else I think I need a cute pattern for.  Her versions are from the 70's and I don't know if they have updated versions or not, but I love to look through these older books, they have so much interesting information!

As far as reading goes, I have been reading Living Well, Spending Less, which I am enjoying immensely!  It is amazing how much culture has changed over the past 20 years or so.  Now we are living in such an instant gratification society, not waiting for anything, thinking that it is normal to have car payments, student loans and credit card bills.  No one saves money anymore because it seems like you have bills enough to match your income!  

We are a one income family, which is definitely challenging, so any encouragement to be content with less and utilize the money we have is always welcome in my home.  I love to be able to find ways to make do with less, and finding deals on things that we do need.  I definitely recommend it!

What are you working on this week?  Do you have any simple living tips to share?

Homeschool Planning - What do you Keep?

Here we are in June, the end of the school year for most children.  Most people see the end of the school year as the beginning of a lovely summer break, a time to relax, undo some of the rigid schedule, and just plain ol’ have fun!

As a homeschooling mama, I have a lot of these same desires.  One may be different though, the planning of the next school year.

Every year about this time, I start to get the itch to build next year’s curriculum.  While the school year is fresh in my mind, I want to be able to go through what worked and what definitely did not work.  I also start to plan what our schedule will be like when we start our new year.

We school all year, so while June is typically the end of the school year in most schools, it marks the end of one curriculum for us, and moving onto the next in July.

June becomes a planning month of sorts.

We are still doing school, but I am thinking about what is next for our kids.

For the last several years we have purchased a whole box curriculum from Sonlight.  This has been perfect for us because it takes a lot of the planning out of the equation for me.  I get a set of books that we are going to read and an awesome schedule, which we loosely follow, to go through our year.

This year is going to be a little bit different.  This year will be our first year reporting to the state that we are official homeschoolers.

Reporting to the state seems a little scary to me, I’m not entirely sure why.

Because we have to report to the state next year, I am taking homeschool planning a little more seriously than I have in the past. 

Sure, I keep track of what the kids are doing every week, but I feel like I need to have better records.

I want to make sure that I have good records for myself, so I know that we are accomplishing what we need to.

One of the options that we have is to do a portfolio to show progress in each of the subject areas. 

This seems like a great idea on the surface, it will become a scrapbook of sorts, but how do you figure out what exactly needs to be in the portfolio? 

I have been researching and trying to figure out what to keep, what to throw away, what to stick in a box in the attic for when the kids have graduated from high school.  It seems a little overwhelming!

I reached out to some homeschool Facebook groups that I am a part of, and the answers were very encouraging.  While I often think of a portfolio as a comparison of my child to another homeschooled child, that is not what they are looking for.  Instead, the person evaluating the portfolio is looking for the student to make progress.  They want to see writing samples, book lists, pictures and videos of projects and field trips.  Whatever you can use to demonstrate that your child is learning throughout the year in the different subject areas the state requires.

It probably is an odd place to start for planning the next homeschool year, the end, however, I think it is important to know what I should be keeping and what I can let go of throughout the year. 

I would love to hear what you do. 

How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of with regards to your kids’ schoolwork?  Do you put together a portfolio for your homeschool year, or a scrapbook for your public/private schooled child?

That Time I Decided Not to Plant a Garden

When we moved into this house 8 years ago, I planted a garden.  It wasn’t an “in the ground” garden, but I planted something.  Actually, I planted a lot of somethings, all in pots, and all on the upper deck of our home. 

I was so proud of myself for finally growing something! 

My mom has always been a gardener, growing a huge vegetable garden when we were growing up, as well as the most beautiful flower gardens every year.

Every year my garden got a little bigger, and then a little bigger.

It’s funny how that happens, the garden expanding every year.

This year was no different.  I wanted to plant potatoes, and needed to dig up more of our yard to do so.

The typical planting time around here is Memorial Day weekend, but while I knew it was going to be a nice week following Memorial Day, I thought it was a bit too early, so we didn’t plant.  The following week was incredibly hot with no rain, followed by several days of frost warnings and frigid cold temperatures.

As luck would have it, last weekend, while trying to cut my incredibly large rhubarb plants, I had a muscle spasm in my back.  Something I have never experienced, and hope to never experience again!

I think that was the moment I realized I wouldn’t be planting a garden this year.  My window was closing, and I knew that I wouldn’t heal as quickly as I needed to in order to be bent over garden beds planting and pulling weeds.

So there you have it folks; the first year we will not be planting a garden.

I have to tell you that I feel a bit like a failure.

Local, organic food is such a passion of mine.  I felt like the best place to find local food was in my backyard.  I still feel like that is the best place, but this year I will be exploring the many local options available to me.

Instead of sharing what I am growing this year, I will be sharing what I can find locally for food.  I know that there is an abundance of local food in my area, and for that I am thankful.
I want to encourage you to find local food this summer as well.  I know that a lot of you are not able to grow a big garden, whether it is living in an apartment, or feeling as though your thumb is black instead of green; because of time, or a lot of travel.  While I still believe everyone should try to plant something I know that isn’t always a possibility.

Here is to a summer of local food that isn’t coming from my back yard!  I look forward to finding more farmers in our area, and supporting their endeavor to grow and provide food for our community.

How is your garden growing this year?  Have you searched for local food in your area?

knitting and reading

Last week I asked if you ever purchased yarn online, and overwhelmingly you answered yes!  I was encouraged by that and decided that I would have to start researching on ravelry to see what yarn I wanted to buy.  I am still in the research stage, but I am really excited to get some new yarn!  

In the meantime, I am still knitting washcloths.  It will pass the time until the new yarn comes.  Although, I don't actually have any projects in mind for when I do get the new yarn...

I was thinking perhaps a summer shawl, although with the time it takes me to knit things, I probably should just make it a fall/winter shawl.  I also thought a table runner would be pretty, and maybe some new little bags for my daughter (and me too!).

In the reading department, I finally purchased the kindle version of Living Well, Spending Less.  

I have downloaded the sample so many times, and then I don't want to spend the money on a book that talks about spending I don't buy it.  But, I figured I keep coming back to it, I might as well read it.

I did have a couple people comment and e-mail about borrowing e-books from the library.  I do that sometimes, but unfortunately, our library system does not have a huge selection of e-books available, and the ones that I really want to read end up being on incredibly long waiting lists.  I do still borrow from there occasionally, but I use it more for the kids.

What are you working on this week?  Do you face long waiting lists at your library too?

Preserving Rhubarb

My garden is not doing so well.  I have planted exactly zero.  I am lucky that I have kale growing out there (apparently it re-seeded itself last fall), and then I have strawberries growing and of course my rhubarb plants are doing extremely well.  It is probably good that I haven’t planted anything yet though, since it is a lovely 44 degrees out right now.  While there are several cold weather vegetables that would be fine with this weather, I tend to grow more of the tomatoes/peppers/cucumbers, and they don’t enjoy the cold as much!

But, my rhubarb, well that is growing extremely well. 

I planted three plants several years ago.  They were separated from a friend’s plants.  Actually the same friend that gave my mom her rhubarb when I was little – which also is still growing really well!  Glad to know the rhubarb will stand the test of time!

I knew I had to get out there and pick some to start preserving, so this past weekend I did just that.  I picked a little bit to try my hand at canning it.

For all the rhubarb I have eaten over the years, we never ended up preserving any of it.  It always went into delicious pies and rhubarb sauce for ice cream that was immediately eaten.

I love rhubarb though, and thought that preserving some, when we have such an abundance of it, would make sense.  Especially in the middle of winter when I am looking for a taste of spring again!

I didn’t realize how easy canning rhubarb was.  You literally chop up the rhubarb, add ½ cup of sugar for each quart (4 cups) of rhubarb, and let it sit for several hours to draw out the juice of the rhubarb, boil for one minute, then pack in hot jars and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.  It was the easiest canning I have ever done, and I wish I had picked more rhubarb before the deluge of rain started.

My mom told me to let the rhubarb sit for a couple days to sweeten up and dry out after the rain, and then pick it again.  So that is what I plan to do.  And then I will pick a lot more for canning. 

Matt, the kids and I sampled some of the warm rhubarb last night, and we all decided it was delicious and could be eaten straight from the jar as our dessert after dinner!

As long as the rain continues intermittently we should have plenty of rhubarb for me to make some strawberry rhubarb jam, which is something I have wanted to do the past several years, but never got to making.  A few more weeks before strawberry picking time, and then we will be in full swing of the preserving season here at Townsend House.

Do you grow rhubarb?  Do you use it for anything besides pies?  Rhubarb sauce over vanilla ice cream is one of my favorite desserts!

Homeschool Book Organization

I love books, and so do my kids.  That is a large part of why I use a literature based curriculum.  However, with all the new books that come into my home (and all of the old ones I am holding onto for life), I need a good organization system.

We have some beautiful built in shelves in our dining room, unfortunately they are not large enough for all of our books.
Last summer I moved all of our rooms around; the kids school books were now in need of a home, and I decided to incorporate them into the built in shelves in the dining room.

The problem with that was that the books did not stay organized.  It was too easy for the kids to grab books off the shelves and then they would disappear and when I needed a specific school book, I couldn’t find it.

Of course I want the kids to be able to take books off the shelves to read, but it was not staying organized, and that was an issue.

I knew that I needed the homeschool books separate.

I finally took a small shelf that I originally bought at WalMart – in college – out of my bedroom and moved it downstairs to shelve the current books we are using for school.

It really works out perfectly; the shelves are just the right size.

The top shelf holds all of my teacher binders, as well as my home management binder.  Then the next shelf down holds Emma’s current curriculum, and below that Jack’s current curriculum.  The bottom shelf holds the P 3/4 and P 4/5 books that we keep out to read whenever the kids want a quick story.  They both like to pull those books out to read to Lucy, and they are perfect for rest time or stories at night.

The book shelf is tucked in the corner, so it is accessible for the kids, but not right out in the open so they will grab a bunch of books at random.

I have a feeling this summer I am going to be moving the doll house upstairs, and turn this room into more of an office/school room for the kids.  I’m not sure about you, but if there are toys around when the kids are “doing school” they tend to need a lot of breaks.

I think a fresh school room would be a perfect way to start our new school year.  Now to start planning how to arrange all the furniture, my favorite thing to do!

How do you store school books?  Are you thinking about next year yet?  Do you have a dedicated school room?