Monthly Archives: July 2010

Baby Girl!? Doeun

Here is one of the first pictures of Baby Girl Doeun. We had decided this time around that we would have an ultrasound done. Two is still waiting for his baby brother and we wanted to know before the joyous event what to expect since last time he was a little disappointed and confused. We were still a little disappointed and confused as we had an ultrasound done at 17 weeks and it looked like a boy. But we thought it best to follow-up and surprise, it’s a girl.

Two handled it OK saying he loves baby girls (he will have a lot of experience with them). But Avril was in tears saying, “I wanted it to be a baby boy.” By the time we left though she was OK. Her baby doll has changed back to a girl (it was a boy for awhile). But I noticed her imaginary family has returned and there is a baby brother in that family.

Now we have to come up with a girl’s name. I don’t know why but these names are always the hardest for us. We have 3 boy’s names waiting to be used. Oh well, I am trying to tell myself God gives us what we need at the time. Apparently that is another girl.

The pump house pond

Where we farm there is a pump house near the road. The pump house is near one of the big walk-in coolers and washing and packing area, “the Pack Out” as we call it. Outside the pump house is a perpetual pond from over exuberent well water that just can’t wait to be put to use. Whenever we are near or around the pack out the children do put it to use.

On very hot days it is hard to keep the clothes on and the mud off.

Even Mavis enjoys playing in the water or just sitting and watching.

I have to remind myself when the children are crazy dirty and soaking wet and we still have boxes to deliver and food to cook and I told them not to get dirty that this is why we are doing what we are doing. So that our children will have clean water to play in, good food to eat, parents that are present though sometimes exasperated,

a close connection to wildlife, and the interest in it and so much more that I feel I lost as a child and hope to reclaim with my children. Every time he is near the pond Two looks for his friend the frog, (I am not sure how many of them there are or if the same unlucky frog is getting all the attention). Since Avril has discovered that she likes frogs as well there have been a few disagreements which sometimes leads me to say the strangest things like, “Don’t run with the frog.” Our farm manager overheard me today and said, “that’s something you don’t hear every day,” and I guess I hope to have more opportunity say that and similar crazy things for years to come.

Spring. . .er Summer Cleaning

I am going to be lazy today and not attach any pictures, this will also save me some embarrassment since my topic today is cleaning. I tend naturally to be a clean and tidy person but I have also always tended to have a lot of stuff like a stack of books on the floor by my bed and an overflowing desk (this was in my teenage years when I had time to read a stack of books). When we first moved into our 900 square foot house I was all about the whole “not so big house” movement and I loved the closeness of all of us within earshot of each other all the time. However now with the 4th baby coming it is time to cull again. . . and dream about a 3rd bedroom. With 2 boys (the baby is supposedly a boy) and 2 girls it would be perfect right?

Anyway we won’t be adding on another bedroom anytime soon but it is time to cull. A trip to the thrift store–to drop off items–is scheduled for Wednesday. Until then we are working on culling and cleaning. Mondays we stay home from the farm and today’s task was to tackle the porch, which always seems to become the catch all of the house. Now I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. It makes such a difference if when you walk in your home you aren’t greeted with a mess.

I went through all our books yesterday taking out all the ones I wouldn’t want the kids reading or ones with questionable topics (even among kids books). Tomorrow I am going to tackle the kids room–toys and clothes. I have never taken toys to the thrift store when they knew about it before but I feel they are of an age to know we can’t keep everything and sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Luckily the family has stopped buying them so many toys.

Wednesday I will work on “the big bedroom” and deliver the goods.

Next Sunday and Monday are slated for the living room and basement workroom, oh and I need to reorganize the freezer today. So much to do but I am simply giddy that it is finally getting done and Proeun is totally on board. In 2 weeks it will be the garage. I know it sounds silly planning so far out but we don’t have much time to do it so this is our lot.

My Support

Yes I am going to be corny enough to write a blog post in praise of my husband. A sort of “Ode to Proeun” though that would be really corny so we won’t call it that.

A few years ago I was talking to an old acquaintance. We were getting caught up on each other’s lives and I was sharing the vision Proeun and I had of moving to the country, living more self-sufficiently and simply and enjoying our growing family. She said, “Wow Amy you are so lucky that you met your soul mate.” While I do feel that Proeun is my soul mate, it’s not that easy, really, marriage is work and hasn’t always been smooth but luckily the rough patches have bonded us together in ways only tough times can.

Honestly when we married I still thought I wanted a suburban or urban home, a career in publishing, 2 children and plenty of time for plays, book readings, museum trips and book stores. Slowly my vision changed and now I am so happy it did. It’s been ages since I have been to a book reading or museum (other then the Children’s Museum). The only plays I have been to were for work and honestly I really didn’t “get” the last one. Oh and I have been reading the same book for about 2 months now. But I couldn’t be happier, though I could be better rested but that is a different story.

Anyway this blog is not about me it’s about him. I could never do this without him. He is the back bone of our farming operation–helping plan the fields and the successions, managing pests and weeds, doing the majority of the harvesting and all the lifting. In an effort not to strain my already stretched abdomenal muscles I call him over to help me whenever I come across and obstacle more then 20 pounds. This often means leaving his task to help. But he does it cheerfully and willingly every time. He even supports me in some of my more “quirky” (at least to the mainstream) ideas like spending the morning harvesting mullein and yarrow to make medicinal oil while he dutifully weeded.

Oh and did I mention that after he does this for about 3-4 hours in the morning he goes to drive a city bus for 8 hours before coming home and being a great dad and then staying up late with me talking about plans and dreams for the future. OK now you know a little bit about why we are so tired. We have been trying to go to bed earlier really.

Anyway supermen do exist. One time I was telling my dad how much I appreciated Proeun and he said, “I hope you tell him that.” I do every day but I wanted to be public in my admiration as well. As I said we have had to work at our marriage, it has been a humbling experience and one for growth but the feeling that we are in this together, we are each other’s best friends and soul mate and that we can accomplish anything is something every marriage can have.

Basil Pesto

This is the week when things are really getting done (read preserved). My aunt had given me a couple shelving units which I finally set up. I organized and arranged my canning jars and realized I have plenty of quart and pint jars, but I do want to add some 1/2 pints to my collection more for gifts and the toiletries I am making.

Today on the preserving agenda is basil pesto. Though our basil plants are still not very big and sturdy yet we had to “top” them this week to encourage growth. Topping is pinching off the tops so that it will branch off in more directions. So I had a few leaves and made our first batch of basil pesto this morning. It is so easy.

Pesto Basil

1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup walnuts (toasted if you like)
1 bunch basil
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Put garlic cloves and walnuts in blender and grind to meal consistency. Pack in the basil and add a couple tablespoons olive oil. Turn on and drizzle more olive oil. Continue adding oil and packing (when you turn off the blender) until you have a thick paste consistency. Add salt last and stir.

I like to put this in quart size freezer bags and freeze flat for winter.

I still have more preserving to do and I realize I have to run to the store. I use a lot of oil olive oil and I am gathering herbs for my first herbal rememdy which i hope to use this winter–or not have to use. More on that later.

Blueberry Buckle

I had 3 little pints of blueberries left in the frig. I could freeze more or make jam, but I decided to bake. I love blueberry baked goods and I remembered a recipe from the The Country Life Vegetarian Cookbook. I couldn’t find a direct link at the website but if you are interested you could probably call. The book is literally stuffed with wholesome breakfast recipes. Normally I am not a breakfast person but with all these recipes I could eat breakfast all day, which I guess I am kind of doing since that’s what’s for dinner.

Mavis is getting to be quite the helper. Of course for her any addition to the recipe after honey was superfluous. At first she didn’t understand why I was adding the blueberries to the batter, then she decided to add more while my back was turned. Oh well I guess you can’t have too many blueberries.

Blueberry Buckle

3 cups oat flour (can make your own using rolled oats and blend)
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 cups warm water
2 TBSP honey
2 1/2 TBSP yeast
1/2 cup oil
1 TSBP Vanilla
1 cup honey
1 cup blueberries

Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl and stir together.

In a small bowl mix together next 3 ingredients. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to bubble in draft-free area to make sponge.

While sponge is bubbling, beat together next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

When sponge has fully bubbled add liquid ingredients and blueberries to dry ingredients. Stir well together. Immediately pour into greased 9X13 inch baking pan and spread evenly. Do not let rise, but bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25 minutes more the center will spring back when touched. When cake is slightly cooled top with blueberry topping and Streusel topping.

Blueberry topping

2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup water with 1 TBSP honey
1/18 salt
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
3 TBSP corn starch

Put first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and boil stirring frequently, until berries give off juice. Blend or whisk together cornstarch and apple concentrate. Add to boiling berries while stirring and cook until clear. Stir and cook 1 more minute.

Streusel topping

1 cup granola
1 cup coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
 1 1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp anis

Blend first two ingredients on high 15-20 seconds until finely ground. Pour into a bowl and add remaining ingredients Mix together well with hands.

So so yummy and virtually guilt free. You can make it the night before for breakfast.

Herb Walk at Lake Como

When we first started farming I had much difficulty telling the difference between the plants. This was especially a problem in direct seeded (seeds planted directly in the ground versus transplants) crops where the weeds would be coming up at the same time as the plants. Luckily it doesn’t take to long to figure out which plants are good to eat and which ones not.

Now I have decided to take my plant education to the next level in identifying wild medicinal plants. To help me out I went back to my herbalist friend Erin Piorier. She teaches classes locally and last night she had one at Como Lake, a beautiful urban park.

Here Erin points out Bee Balm this is an excellent anti-fungal herb and good for the kidneys. You make a tincture out of the flowers which were just about at peak last night.

Hoary Vervain is a relative of the very useful nervine, antispasmodic Blue Vervain. Both are used medicinally for relaxing tension, menstrual cramps, IBD, pms and more.

Yellow Dock if you remember correctly this was Avril’s favorite herb at her treatment. This is a great “normalizer” meaning it can be used to treat opposite symptoms like diahhrea and constipation. It is also very cooling, works broadly and gently, is a great skin rememedy, good for acid reflux and used in some anti-cancer treatments. It has a sorrel like taste in the leaves. Roots are used to make a tincture when the plant is past prime.

Motherwort very very bittter. Good for the entire life cycle of a woman, also fevers, helps you relax when tension is in your core. Erin said that if you have only 6-8 herbs in your family medicine kit this should be one of them.

Medicinal echinacea/purple cone flower notice that its leaves are a bit stringy. Erin does not use this plant much.

Butterfly weed also called pleurisy root used as an expectorant and good for whooping cough. Make a tincture from the roots in the fall.

All in all I think we saw and identified around 15 plants. I also know mullein, plantain, golden rod and yarrow confidently. As Erin said we are no longer trained to learn this helpful and useful plants–even just the ones we eat. Learning can be such an empowering thing. I intend to build up our family herb kit, but we do get sick so infrequently I am not such what I will use probably, purslane, yellow dock, motherwort, mullein (good for ear aches), plantian and yarrow.

Danish Cherry Sauce

Last night I was up late canning. It was warm during the day so it was probably almost the best time, except not. Anyway I had 18 lbs of cherries to put by. Most I froze but then I decided I wanted to do something unique and interesting with them. So In addition to plain sugar free jam (which still tasted fabulous by the way) I made Danish Cherry Sauce from my Ball Blue Book of Preserving. I have a little left that didn’t fit in the jars so I will try that one of these days. I did try the sauce right after it was done and oh so yummy, though I do have to admit that with the cinnamon and almond it seems a little more of a cool weather treat. Here’s the recipe.

Danish Cherry Sauce
4 1/2 pounds cherries (3 pitted)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 sticks cinnamon
1 1/2 TBSP almond extract
1 cup water
3/4 cup corn syrup 
Wash and pit cherries. Combine sugar, cinnamon sticks, almond extract, water and corn syrup in large saucepan. Add cherries and simmer until hot through. Remove cinnamon sticks. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head room. Process 10 minutes in hot water bath canner.

I decided this winter I will have to do lots and lots of baking. I have plenty of blueberries and cherries now so I could make oodles of pies and tarts and coffee cake. Not to mention the cherry and soon to be apricot (a project for this weekend) jam that could be spread on all sorts of scones and biscuits. Yum.

A trip to the herbalist

Yesterday we took our first real dive into alternative medicine. Though we have used chiropractic care for awhile now it is almost more mainstream (after all it’s covered by our insurance). Honestly we do most of our healing at home with diet, rest and water, this has worked really well for us. Every time one of us gets sick I feel so blessed that I am able to be home with my babies and help them heal naturally at home.

My sister works at a daycare and the previous one she was at parents were always trying to sneak in sick kids just because they couldn’t afford to take the time off with them.

Anyway I digress. Yesterday we all went to our local herbalist. I had met Erin Piorier through Le Leche League and taken a couple classes with her before life got crazy. Now I am renewing my interest in herbs and am planning no less then 4 classes this fall. I am really hyped about it. Avril had been suffering from eczema for awhile behind her knees and in her elbows. Mavis also seems to have some of the same but less severe.

The first part of the appointment was the consulfation and medical history. We are fortunate both girls are very healthy, “robust” as Erin called it. Avril’s body type tends to be more hot and dry. So Erin felt that increasing the moinsure was important for Avril.

After the consultation Erin began selecting herbs from her tincture supply. Erin makes her own medicines and each tincture is hand crafted from wild or organically grown plants.

Then Erin began the “taste test” so to speak. With her hand on Avril’s pulse she tested each one by one on the inside of her arm to see which would have a beneficial result. She said, “until you have it done to you and you feel the reaction you wouldn’t believe it.” She was looking for a noticeable relaxing of the pulse.

Avril is enjoying all the one on one treatment even with her siblings playing in the backyard. She even selected her favorite one–yellow dock. When Erin put one drop of this tincture on her arm she got all peaceful and said, “I like that one.” This was after about 10-15 herbs and she selected it.

Erin refills a tincture bottle from a fresh batch.

After going through the herbs she selected once and taking out the positive ones we washed Avril’s arm for a 2nd try before finally selecting 4 to be mixed into Avril’s very own medicine.

Elderblossom–increases circulation to the periphery, opens pores
Yellow Dock Root–cooling and moistening skin needs (also a blood cleanser)
Chickweed–moistening and cooling
Burdock–moistening and cooling

Mavis wouldn’t sit for the consultation but Erin said since they were sisters we would make a similar mixture for her. Erin just left out the yellow dock for Mavis’.

Avril colors her own label. For those we haven’t indulged in more holistic medicine it is such a treat and so relaxing. The children are getting used to it and not worried at all about going to the doctor now. 

Our medicines. Erin did a joint 1 hour long consultation for the girls. She charges $35 for children. The tinctures and salves were each $6 (not bad for hand made personalized medicine!). and she threw in the soap because I mentioned I was running out of the soap that I made last year. Our co-pays for “1st tier” doctor’s office is $15 otherwise it goes up to $25 for like 15 minutes.

All in all it was a wonderful experience. No fussing going to the doctor. Her house was laid back and comfortable and smelled wonderful. Birds visited at her bird feeder outside and we drank delicious cold tea. I could have stayed much longer and talked herbs, but I’ll see her again tomorrow for class.

Preserving Time Again

What a busy, busy weekend. In addition to all the weeding and harvesting at the farm we celebrated Two’s birthday and had our first shipment of fruit arrive. We are getting better at making the birthdays more low key and enjoyable for parents as well. So that was more fun then anything. And then there was the fruit.

Looking back it was fun and something enjoyable to do together but last night not so much. It would be a very long story to explain how Proeun and I ended up unloading our bulk fruit order from a refrigerated semi parked outside our house at 12:30 am this morning. But this morning the children woke up to boxes and boxes of fresh fruit in the living room–almost like Christmas.

We haven’t had very many real meals today since most of us can’t stop eating the fruit. I have bought fruit with my aunt for years now we are a dropsite also. Last year I only order 1 box of cherries, 1 of blueberries and 1 of Apricots.

This year I increased that to 2 boxes of blueberries. I have already put one away for winter in little freezer bags. Last year I tried dehydrating them but didn’t get enough moisture out and they spoiled. Someday when I have a bigger kitchen maybe I will buy my own and learn the process. For this year it is freezing. Oh so simple with blueberries, just label the baggies, wash them quick or check them over for steams. I like to use quart bags and put 1 pint in them.

I bought a full box of rainier cherries for fresh eating, my goodness they are amazing. About 3 weeks ago Proeun was telling me, I was just thinking about eating a big bowl of cherries.

I got 2 boxes of dark sweet cherries for freezing. I was thinking I might try some jam also if I find a good recipe. I also bought a cherry “stoner” at Fleet Farm–so much easier then doing it yourself.

Finally I bought a box of apricots. Last year I dehydrated some, canned some and did jam. I loved the jam but wasn’t really happy with anything else. Of course I can’t find the recipe. Maura if you are reading this do you have an apricot jam recipe?

So the next couple of days in my “free” time I’ll be working on my first preserving of the season. So so much fun.