Monthly Archives: February 2010

Midwest Organic Farming Conference

We are back from the Midwest Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, WI. This was our first trip down there and though everyone told us it was an amazing conference we really weren’t prepared.
The whole Crazy Boy Farm family went down together. Our fun began on the way down. We chose the slightly longer scenic route of highway 61 along the St. Croix river all the way down. At Lake Pepin and Wabasha we started seeing bald eagles–so many we just had to count them. Seven on the way down, 5 on the way back. On the way down it was mid day so most of the eagles were just perching on trees near the highway watching the open water. On the way back it was getting close to dusk and they were out hunting–that was a sight. We also saw a flock of 13 wild turkeys and 3 bulls. Two was our little wildlife spotter. I told Proeun one day we will have to get a really good camera to take all these wildlife pictures.  

One great quote from the trip down came after a stop to buy snacks. Mavis had been fussing for about a half hour and we couldn’t take it anymore so we decided she needed a distraction. We stopped at a grocery store in Red Wing and when Proeun came back with a bag of chips and lollipops (not my choice) there was much excitement in the car. Two gleefully took his first bite of chips and said wistfully, “we got chips and the power of love.” Proeun almost choked on that one.  

Over 2,000 people attended the conference which is the largest one  in La Crosse according to one of the workers who said, “no one is allowed to take vacation for this one.” Moving the children from place to place with that many people around can be an adventure.


Our plans also changed frequently during the conference to accomodate the children. Avril was sick the first night in the hotel so taking them to the children’s area was out of the question until we figured out if it was a virus or something she ate. We also had to change plans to allow her to rest and recover. Of course the workshop Proeun really wanted to take was early the next morning. So he went and I took the shuttle from our hotel later when the children woke up. Then later in the day we again changed plans to allow for nap for us  which was totally worth it and it really helped us enjoy the evening more.

The class Proeun took was on organic mushroom production.

I love oyster mushrooms.

One of the best things about the conference was meeting other farmers who were out there living the dream and doing the good work.

Here’s the Cowsmo man. His family runs a dairy farm. They came up with a new, unique and healthy use for all that cow poo and now produce a really popular organic compost and potting soil, all from thinking outside the box. We used their compost to start our seeds last year and plan to again this year.

The dining area was another great place to network. I guess I have been neglecting my children’s culinary education though, they weren’t too keen on the quinoa and couscous. Luckily they had good old mac and cheese and organic pulled pork sloppy joes.

I even got to attend a workshop on media relations. Since I am also sort of media I thought it would be a good one for me to attend. I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing it would be. Through their directed exercises I was able to hone our business philosophy and mission–“Family Friendly Farming: for our children and yours.” Lisa Kivirist and her husband John Ivanko run Inn Serendipty, a bed and breakfast where they produce their own food organically. Lisa said “we have to look at the big picture. This is more then just about our businesses. As our businesses improve, the movement [sustainable agriculture] grows and the world becomes a better place. . . we are changing the world by changing the food system.” Wow talk about a pep talk!

We did take time to allow our own little portion of the world to take a break. Our hotel had a pool and game room and by the second day Avril was much improved and was able to go to the children’s area, supervised by one of her parents. Here’s a picture I will really remember from what ended up being more then a farming conference but also a great family trip.

The box is back

After a week or so of ignoring the box suddenly interest reemerged this week. We have been turning the TV off early to have a quiet evening and all of a sudden the imaginations of the kids are coming out.

By now the box is pretty beat up. The cats have been using it while the children were ignoring it. Somehow the children got the idea to open up the back of the box not understanding that this would cause the box to fold flat. So I came up with the idea to prop it up with chairs.

A 2nd box came out of the basement. They wanted to open this as well. We had been reading Danny Meadow Mouse By Thornton Burgess. Now we had 2 run ways a a little den all under our kitchen table.

At night the cats get their box back.

What I learned from wolves

The last 2 days we have had playdates. Both families have 6 children. One mother and I were chatting about the reactions she gets when she goes out in public. With our 4th baby now on the way I wasn’t really sure what to expect. She said, “oh you will get negative comments, but also positive.”

I shared with her about a recent nature documentary I had seen on PBS. It was the story of wolves in Yellowstone. Particularly two packs. Each pack had their own territory: until Pack 2 forcibly drove out Pack 1. Pack 1 moved to the far reaches of Yellowstone where food was harder to come by, however it ended up being a blessing for them. Pack 2 had problems in the new territory now forced to maintain control over twice the area.

To make matters worse their pups started dying do to an unknown virus. Of the 15 pups born that year only 3 survived. The 2nd year the problems continued. A third pack entered the picture. They killed one of Pack 2’s males and another disappeared. Then one day when Pack 2 was out hunting Pack 3 camped themselves outside of Pack 2’s den. Pack 2 made no effort to try to reclaim the den and all the pups in the den died. No pups at all the 2nd year. The documentary went on to say that without pups to unit the group they floundered and lost focus. They became weak.

Pack 1 was sheltered from the virus in their remote location. And while in exile 15 pups were born to just 2 females. The pack nurtured these pups, spending all their energy on them. The next year when the pups were grown they were a large and thriving pack and were able to take back their original territory from Pack 2 who was now fragmented and weak.

I read a great a quote in Parenting Your Child by the Spirit, By Sally Hohnberger, “Parenting is truly giving ourselves to our children, as completely as the wheat plant gives its life for the next generation. Parenting must consume our best time and energies.” I would go so far as to say without the next generation we like the wolf pack are a lost, fragmented and weak people.

Mother by Kathleen Norris

I love history! As I entered college that was my declared major until I discovered a secondary interest in English. At which point I decided that history would always be a part of my life and to instead hone my craft as a writer. One of my favorite venues to study history is popular stories written during that time period. Historical fiction is nice too but it often has difficulty really capturing the breadth of the philosophies encompassed in a time of the  past.

For my Christmas reading list last year I requested Mother by Kathleen Norris. The book was originally published in 1911 and reprinted in 2002 by Vision Forum (see their catalog in the side bar).

It is the story of Margaret Paget, a young woman from a large family. She is the oldest girl with one surviving older brother. A second brother had passed away before the story begans. There are 5 younger siblings. She works as a school teacher, helping to support her family. When an unusual turn of events gives her the opportunity to move to New York City as the personal assistant of Mrs. Carr-Boldt.

The story says of her mother–Mrs. Paget

        She had married, at twenty, the man she loved, and had found him better than her dreams in many ways–‘the best man in the world.’ For more than twenty years he had been satisfied to work diligently behind a desk and to carry home his salary envelope twice a monthh. Daddy was steady, a hard worker and so gentle with the children. He delighted in Mrs. Paget’s simple, hearty meals and praised her in his own quiet way. ‘God bless him,’ Mrs. Paget would pray, looking from her kitchen window to the garden where he trained the pea vines, with the children’s yellow heads bobbing about him.

    She welcomed the fast-coming babies as gifts from God, marveled over their tiny perfectness, dreamed over the soft relaxed little forms with a heart almost too full for prayer. She was in a word, old-fashioned, hopelessly out of the modern current of thoughts and events. She secrealy regarded her children as marvelou treasures, even while she laughed down their youthful conceit and punished their naughtiness.

Margaret was not interested in following their path, instead she wanted to get out and experience life. And she did through traveling and working with Mrs. Carr-Boldt. She saw the distance between Mrs. Carr-Boldt and her daughters who spent little time together. She saw the empty relationships. The empty lives and mental illness.
At one point she wished her parents had had fewer children so that they could afford more nice things. Even at that time in history 2 children appear to be some hidden ideal of the wealthy for that is exactly what she wished for, just 2 children. Thinking it would include her. Then she remembered that she was the 3rd child and would not have existed if her parents had followed her ideal course.

Over the course of the book she sees the emptiness of the life she had idealized and the beauty of the one she had nearly turned her back on and she finds her way back to her mother.

It is an old fashioned book, unapologetically. And I am an old fashioned girl unapologetically. I highly recommend it.

A New Addition

While at the Farming Conference on Friday Avril leaned up against me and then said, “I don’t want to crush the baby.”

“What baby?” I said.

“The baby in your tummy.”

“What do you mean the baby in my tummy.” At this point I was having symptoms but an early pregnancy test came back negative so I fully expected to receive confirmation that I was not pregnant any day.

“I know you’re pregnant” she said with her confident side look.

I wasn’t so sure. After our 3rd child which was an unexpected surprise our whole philosophy of family planning changed. After seeing the amazing little being that we would have missed out on if we had our way we decided that there may be more children that are supposed to come into this world through us. We decided to allow the Lord to bless us as He will.

So while it was certainly possible we were pregnant and we would like to be pregnant I didn’t think I was. But on Sunday we decided to take one more test (our 3rd) and it came back positive. Avril was right! She is now predicting that it is a boy and Two is really hoping she is right.

My husband’s brother and his wife are also expecting a new addition. This one is particularly exciting for the family because due to medical problems after their 2nd child she was advised not to have any more children. They took precautions which they reversed last October, without telling any of us in case it didn’t work. They are now overjoyed to have this opportunity again. And the cousins will be very close in age. She is 8 weeks and I am 5 weeks.

When we found out about the new cousin Two joyfully told his dad, “I have a new friend–Romeo’s little brother or sister. That’s great news!” When he found out he was going to have a new addition to his own family he told his grandpa, “My little brother is coming.” Apparently he is not leaving room for the possibiltiy of another sister.

By the end of this year my in-laws will have a grand total of 11 grandchildren. Luckily our addition  will come after the growing season. We couldn’t have planned it better.

5th Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference

Another part of our really busy weekend was attending the 5th Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference in our hometown of St. Paul, MN. We attended for the first time last year and knew that this would be on our yearly to do list. We both attended Friday and Proeun on Saturday. The event was hosted by many non-profits including the Minnesota Food Association.

Sometimes when you are out there trying to make a way for yourself in the world that is not popular and sometimes misunderstood surrounding yourself with people on a similar path is invaluable.

While I am not an immigrant I am married to one–a refugee actually. There is a big difference. My children are the first generation born here on one side of the family. While the people attending the conference came from all over including Nepal, Mexico, Burma, Laos and Cambodia they were all joined by a connection to the land and a desire to work it. A passion many Americans do not share. We are eagerly awaiting next year.

A group of Karen (ethnic group from Burma) farmers.

Half Shares Now Available

At the Smarter Living Fair we realized that we were neglecting a large group of people who are passionate about health and eating organically–small households. While a full share is perfect for our family many may find that much produce overwhelming. If you are in this boat we have decided to offer half shares.

A half share will consist of full boxes delivered every other week (9-10) weeks for the season.

The price is $295.

Smarter Living Fair

Today was the Smarter Living Fair in Roseville. A friend of mine described it as this really cool, small town, festival feel. When you live in a city finding this kind of laid back feel so close to home is a welcome relief. Mavis and I spent the majority of the day there at our very own booth representing the Crazy Boy Farm Family. Thanks to all of those who stopped by to say hello and gave me an opportunity to chat about my two favorite subjects–family and farming.

Two and Avril divided their time with Bpa (Cambodian for daddy) at the Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference and grandma and grandpa who thankfully stepped in to give the children a little break from too much sitting still.

The whole family came out for the afternoon to enjoy the great things the fair had to offer–notably the children’s area.

Hard getting him to stay still long enough for a picture.

Face painting is so much fun!

The goal of the day was to share what we are doing to make this world a green, better place and that as citizens we can live Smarter. I am so thankful they included us in the day! And thanks especially to grandma and grandpa.

Personal Improvement–a pesky thing

“Like plants if we are not growing we are dying.” Ellen G. White paraphrased

Since first reading this it has become my motto. I try to remember it when new and challenging circumstances are presented to me. My not so new but challenging circumstance this week is a teething baby while in the midst of multiple development stages including but not limited to learning to talk and walk. My youngest darling has been clinging to me to such a degree that the only way I am making it through the day is getting out the old baby carriers which hadn’t been used much since she reached her independent stage.

Nights have been really difficult. Add to that a crazy schedule with 1 conference and 1 fair this week and 2 stories for the newspaper I write for a deadline for the next paper and you get the picture.

Oh then there is grocery shopping and keeping the house in order. Last night about 7:00 I was finally ready to crash. All I wanted was to veg out in front of the TV. But then I had a gentle prodding, this is the time I set aside to turn off the TV and spend the evening with the children winding down. It was the last thing I wanted to do. But if I am going to make raising children my priority then it needs to be just that even if it is not convenient.

So off went the TV. We had dinner and a bath, then what to do in the last hour before I had to pick up Proeun? A game? Yes that’s it. I am not so good at this area but I remember “hot potato” and figured it was one we could all play. Then Two wanted to play bowling, but what to use for pins. Then I remembered plastic cups we had downstaitrs and we bowled. Then the cups became soldiers in a line and something to balance on your head.

Or not.

Mavis’s favorite was stacking the cups up, not a popular activity with her brother and sister but what can you do?

Then Two said we need a needle and string. It was great to see him coming up with ideas but we were out of time unfortunately.

In the end it was a wonderful evening and totally worth it getting out of my comfort zone and stretching myself a bit.


On days like today when the baby has kept me up all night I am so thankful for all the healthy food I “put by” last fall. Lunch is a cinch with bags of frozen Pesto around. I can even enlist Proeun’s help. While I try to recover the Pesto thaws and then it is as simple as cooking pasta. Here’s how we did it.


small handful walnuts
2-3 garlic cloves
1 cups or 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
dash of salt

blend walnuts and garlic together to make course grind. Add basil leaves. Remove center piece from blender lid or leave lid off and slowly drizzle in olive oil to make smooth paste. Stir in salt to taste.

Originally I had more solid numbers I was working with but when you are trying to preserve several plants worth of pesto in a afternoon measurements just slow you down. I would make a batch, put it in quart size freezer bags and move on to the next one. Since they were all the same thing I didn’t even take the time to wash the blender in between. Working this way you can put away about 5 batches in less then half hour. That’s a lot of meals for the winter. Just make sure to seal the bags as soon as you add the pesto as it tends to discolor quickly. Freeze right away.

My only problem is I love to eat my pesto with a thick slice of fresh tomato on the top. I haven’t had a fresh tomato in such a long time.