Here it is almost midnight and it's the first chance I've had to sit down. We had a great day - busy but great. Not a lot of sibling fighting today (wow!) and a whole lot of love and creativity and helpfulness. I took the girls to a homeschool art class this morning and they enjoyed themselves there. I love the way the teacher sets up the class and I love the materials she chooses. Today's topic was the Iroquois Indians and the moons they had throughout the year. I didn't bring my camera because it's not the kind of class that's open to visitors so.... sorry, no visitors!

The rest of the day was spent preparing for an upcoming vacation and included lots of food processing. I blanched and froze all of the squash we got from the farm today (my goodness, a few years ago I wouldn't have known how to blanche food!). I made and froze two different kinds of veggie burgers. I cleaned and packed and when Jeff got home, we laid several feet of soaker hose in the garden. And of course since it's Wednesday, we went to the farm to pick up our vegetables.

Now I'm going to get some much deserved rest!

finally some squash!

Finally those first squashes I pollinated by hand have grown to full size. These are Ronde de Nice squash, something I didn't choose purposely, but am happy with anyway. They were sold at our Unitarian Universalist plant sale and I bought two plants, thinking, "why not?" They're round and are perfect for stuffing.

The girls just pushed their chair away and went to play. They had pulled the chairs around me and asked me to tell them a story, to which I said, "why don't I start the story and pass it on to the two of you to finish?" We were Ma, Mary and Laura (from Little House on the Prairie, of course - as if we would pretend to be anyone else!). They're so cute right now. They're not always cute - sometimes 'A' gets very physical and bossy, and sometimes 'H' gets very whiny, but if I can get past all that, I can see that they're very cute.

I'm reading "Diet for a Hot Planet: the Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It" by Anna Lappe and sure, we don't eat factory farmed meat (or any meat, for that matter) and we try to eat locally (and we do, as far as our veggies and fruit is concerned, 95% of the time - 'A' loves frozen corn and peas and buy those at the grocery store), but there is something more to be learned from this book than just the importance of eating low on the food chain. It's startling to see the real numbers... to see what our current food system is really doing to our planet. If we (Americans) don't stop eating so much meat and processed food, it's a matter of time - a very short amount of time (within my lifespan, long before I even become a grandma) - before our environment caves under the pressure we put on it. So much food is fertilized, processed and shipped with help from the oil refineries. Unless your food comes from an organic farm, it's made with oil. Gross! When I connect all the dots - risky deep water oil production, long-distance food supply, the obesity epidemic, the steep rise in food allergies, ADD and the like, high pesticide use, fractured families, stressed out individuals, and our threatened water supply, it's sometimes too much to think about. At the risk of sounding too spiritual (which is funny because I'm a UU and some of us are pretty skeptical of that phrase), I would add the decline of spirituality to that list. Definitely the decline of a sense of local community. And yes, I do put stressed out individuals and fractured families in with the food issue because I do believe that you are what you eat, and you are how you eat. And if you're eating chemically-treated stressed out animals and chemically-treated stressed plants grown in stressed soil, gobbling it down while you're doing 100 other things, then it's just a matter of time before the stress comes to you. And by "you", I mean all of us, not you specifically.

What is going on here?
Where are we - the collective we - going?
What is our children's world going to look like?

Yes, we made more strawberry jam... our last batch of the year. And speaking of food, I found something to do with all those radishes I had. I've been looking for vegetable cookbooks that give me new ideas. I can tell that the cookbook has potential when the recipes for radishes call for something other than chopping them up and adding them to salads. I can do that on my own, I don't need a cookbook for that! I took "Vegetables Every Day" by Jack Bishop out of the library and I think I might want to purchase it and keep it forever. I made Braised Red Radishes for dinner this weekend and they were good! Try it, I hope you'll like it!

20 medium radishes, with leaves, stems and rootlets removed (about 1 pound when trimmed)
1 T unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced (substitute minced onion if you don't have shallots on hand)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 T honey
1 T minced fresh parsley leaves (optional, in my mind!)

1. Unless very small, halve the radishes lengthwise from stem to root end.
2. Reduce the stock by one half by simmering in a saucepan or the microwave.
3. Melt the butter in a large lidded saute pan. Add the shallot and saute over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the radishes and stir-cook until well coated with butter, about 1 minute.
4. Add the stock and honey, cover, and cook until the radishes are tender but not soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover, season with salt to taste, and simmer to allow any juices in the pan to reduce to a glaze, about 1 minute. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.

We all went to the "Hands across the sand" rally near our home on Saturday to protest off- and near-shore drilling, and to promote renewable energy. I wasn't surprised to see a few fellow Unitarians there.

The squash plants in the garden are very happy now that I've taken over fertilization. I get up every morning and head right out, putting the pollen from the male flowers on the female flowers. The squash are getting big and are almost ready to eat. This morning I found evidence of aphids on the squash and some cabbage looper caterpillars on the brussels sprouts, so I'll pick up some "Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew" and spray things down. Ahhh, the joys of gardening! Just when I start to think it's all going along okay, something comes up.

This weekend we ate squash blossoms for the first time and I have to say, I think it's just an excuse to eat fried food. That's essentially what it was - flavorless fried food. Now we can cross that experience off the list. We also ate veggie burgers, salad - lots and lots of salad, and sugar snap peas. This time of year is wonderful - there's so much food to choose from.

screaming vegetables!

Here is our current "available vegetables" list. There are four veggies that are practically screaming at me to use them while they're nice and fresh, so I decided to make them scream at me on the chalkboard, too. By the way, we actually call these our "slates" - the girls have a few to use too. Laura and Mary, of Little House on the Prairie used slates so of course, my girls do too!

If you're wondering why I write the current veggies on my kitchen slate, it's not because I want to feel like I live at a restaurant or at the farmer's market. It's because my refrigerator looks like this (see below) and I can't for the life of me remember what is in there and what needs to be used up.

Of course, this is all in addition to the items that are in our garden and also are begging to be harvested such as: mesculin, romaine, mustard greens and herbs of all sorts.

I tried my hand at pollinating the squash today and I was able to work with a total of two squashes. One Ronde de Nice and one crookneck had both a male and female flower open this morning, so I took some pollen from the male and put it on the female flower. We'll see what happens!

I also harvested a lot of basil, thanked myself for having the foresight to plant so much this year, and brought it in to make pesto. We may not have a lot of squash this year, but we'll sure have a lot of pesto to eat!

It was so hot today that the girls and I decided to have a picnic lunch under the cool shade of our backyard trees instead of sitting on the warm deck. What a nice way to beat the heat! We also took a trip to our library to sign 'A' and 'H' up for the summer reading program. They handed out snow cones and 'A' sucked hers down pretty quickly, while 'H' dumped hers out and said it was so sweet it burned her mouth. I agree with her! The snow cone sweetness is a bit much.

I did so much laundry today, and I'm starting to think I should receive a medal for the amount of laundry I'm doing lately. Either a medal or a huge slap on the wrist for wasting so much water. I switched both girls to cloth diapers during the nights. The problem is that they leak! I keep trying to use different fabric for the diapers but I haven't found the right ones yet. Behavioral changes aren't working for us. They don't drink before bed, I wake them up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and I put them in dry diapers after they get up. It doesn't fail, I'm waking up in the morning and washing two sets of sheets and a total of four diapers. Then I have the privilege of making up the beds at night. There has got to be a better way, and I know that disposable diapers aren't it.

Speaking of things that are more complicated than they need to be, our summer squash plants aren't doing well. We're growing Ronde de Nice (small, round and green); yellow crooknecks; zucchini; and patty pan squash. They're producing little squashes but the squash stops growing at 2 or so inches in length and rots on the vine. I called our county extension agent and spoke with my sister today (she's an experienced gardener) and after several phone conversations we all agree that the squash is facing a pollination problem. The squash develops and then needs to be pollinated, but we don't have any bees or enough butterflies this year to do it. Whether or not they come to our garden this summer, it is a fact that the bee population, which is so critical for pollinating and producing food, is declining at an alarming rate. No one knows why, but it's not hard to look around at our lifestyles and wonder if the electricity and electronics, the fertilizers and pesticides, the chemicals that we find everywhere are somehow to blame.

In the meantime, I'm left to hand-pollinate the squash. I'll be out there tomorrow morning with my cotton swab and my steady hand. I hope it works!

wake up
make granola
prepare dinner in the slow cooker
clean up
workout at the gym
grocery store
raid the toy closet: put some away, take some out
farm for vegetable pick up and a wade through the creek
home for dinner

Coming up:

Hands Across the Sand on Saturday

The start of the summer reading program at the library

One more evening of jam-making for me and Jeff

I feel like today has been such an agricultural and cooking day for us, but really, what day isn't anymore? The girls and I went strawberry picking for the last time this season today, so yes, we're looking at another round of fresh jam, another strawberry cobbler, more salads with strawberries and toasted pecans, and another week of strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'm holding tight to this short season.

Speaking of food seasons, I've learned a lot from this past year of eating seasonal produce. I've learned about the importance of preserving as much as possible so we can enjoy today's treats during the cold winter months that are going to be here before we know it. Today I harvested several herbs - thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage and oregano - and prepared them for drying. I froze handfuls of chopped chives to use in soups, sauces and salad dressings. In a few days, when the thyme and rosemary are air-dry, I'll add them to a bowl of table salt and we'll have herbed salt to use in cooking. I tied the sage into smudge sticks that we'll burn on buggy gardening days. The lavender is so pretty and I hesitate to chop it up, but I may use some of it in an herbs de provence mixture. More herbs will be harvested soon for flavored salad vinegars, and even more for tea.

Have I mentioned how much I love having a garden to tinker in?

I had a wonderful weekend with great people, great weather, and great scenery (the beach!). How about you?

If I had taken my camera to the beach, I would have taken a photo of 'H' playing in the sand. What does a girl who loves to play in the sandbox do when she gets to the beach? She lays down and rolls around until her body is covered with sand, of course! She's a cute one!

I saw my dad & his wife, my grandmother and one of my sisters. Ate good food, soaked up good sun, and relaxed quite a bit. Today is the first day of summer and we're going to celebrate by playing outside in the sprinkler and hanging a load of laundry on the clothesline. Fun, right? Yes, I think so too.

Good morning to you! I'm looking forward to seeing my grandmother today. She's my last living grandparent and she recently moved from her small group home for ambulatory older adults to a nursing home after a fall that has left her unable to get up and walk much. Ugh, a nursing home. I'm looking forward to spending some time with her this afternoon.

Here is some interesting info on the concept of "peak oil" and why we should even care about weaning ourselves off of it...

here is an article about how we're taking extreme measures to get the oil we're addicted to...

and here is an article by Michael Pollan about his experience with Polyface Farm and Joel Salatin and a glimpse at life outside the oil-based food system.

Enjoy your weekend!

More strawberries. More jam. More strawberries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour.

I continue to feel just awful about the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico. The only answer is to reduce our oil addiction, and by doing so we have to cut down on purchasing and consuming, cut down on driving, cut down on eating meat and produce that is grown using oil-based fertilizers and pesticides, cut down on using so much energy to heat, cool and light our businesses and homes.

This article voices my thoughts exactly.

I took out the garbage Tuesday night and was surprised to see that our household used one-half of a 13 gallon garbage bag during the entire week. Half of a bag! That's it! We don't produce a lot of garbage overall, but this was a first for us. A wonderful first.

I made this granola recipe yesterday (without the nuts because 'A' eats it) and although it was a tad salty, it's pretty good. It's sticky and clumpy and sweet. Yum!

Jeff finally found a bike on Craigslist for a decent price, and he's looking forward to riding it around the neighborhood this weekend. I'm looking forward to a quick trip to the New England coastline to see my father and my sister. I'll see you back here sometime soon.

more strawberries...

Hi there,
If you feel like you're seeing a lot of strawberry photos lately, it's because you are! We went picking again today. I drove to the organic place and found that it was closed for the day (I should have called in advance, right?). Jeff said that there was another pick-your-own place down the road, but he didn't know if they sprayed with chemicals. I went over there and asked, and found out that they sprayed a fungicide last fall, but nothing since. I was faced with a dilemma. Pick the sprayed strawberries today, or go home and not pick again this week, and possibly miss the rest of strawberry season? I decided to pick, since the fruit wasn't sprayed directly. And here we are, sitting on another six quarts of fresh strawberries.

Today the girls and I ate them during all three meals: granola, coconut milk yogurt (I have to learn how to make that at home - it's expensive to buy), and strawberries in a big bowl for breakfast; sliced strawberries during lunch; and with dinner, the girls has them sliced while Jeff and I enjoyed a salad made with fresh mesculin mix from our garden, sliced strawberries, and toasted pecans with a red wine vinegar-honey dressing. Mmmmmm!

I have to say that the coconut milk yogurt is delicious, but I wonder where it comes from. It's obviously not a local food. Is it grown in the United States? Are the communities that produce it economically stable? Does the farming process hurt the planet? I have a lot to learn about it.

I have so many library books on my bookshelf just waiting for some attention from me. I finally dove into Wendell Berry's "Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food." Berry writes about farming and sustainable agriculture, and his writing is brilliant. There's a piece in the book about what our country would look like if we moved toward a local food economy, with each town and city dotted with diverse farms that would supply meat, vegetables, grains and dairy products. Not only would the number of farms increase, the number of businesses that support the farms would rise, the amount of fossil fuel used to transport food would fall; the soil erosion would decrease, and the quality of water in the streams and rivers would improve. All of this is possible, he says. The thing that's questionable is the human factor. Are humans willing to choose this lifestyle? Are they willing to give up convenience and year-round fruit options?

I'm willing to support the local food economy. Strawberry season has once again reminded me of all the reasons I love eating locally. It's easy to love local food when it's good and plentiful. But the real reason I love local eating is because of the "hungry months" of March and April. The months when we don't seem to have that much variety. Going without makes me so much more thankful for these times when we have more than we can eat and enjoy. There are very real seasons in nature and we're tied to them whether we try to be or not. Eating in season is an easy way to get in touch with the cyclical nature of... nature.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!