Monthly Archives: August 2010

A new Family Bed

We have been a co-sleeping family from the very beggining. Well the 2nd night after our oldest son was born. He spent his first night in intensive care due to a slightly premature birth. Everything worked out OK and by the 2nd night he was with us. I remember I just wanted to touch him. I couldn’t sleep if he was awake and I couldn’t sleep if he was asleep so I brought him into the hospital bed with me and had him sleep on my chest. I remember feeling like I had to hide it from the nurses.

Our next 2 children were born at home so the family bed was an easy transition. I remember how pleasant and easy it was to add a new member to our family and how easily they fit into our lifestyle.

Our bed is getting a little crowded though.  With baby number 4 on the way we began looking for options. In our 2 bedroom house with 3 soon to be 4 children of both sexes we decided on bunk beds with a twin up and double down. The day we picked it up was very exciting for the children.

Avril and Mavis really enjoyed building their bed.

Mavis helps Avril put on the finishing touches. Avril took her job very seriously. Two kept himself aloof until the top mattress went on. During the day the top mattress is a definite favorite.

Unless mommy is sharing the bed.

Honestly I am not too enthused about the sleeping situation, nothing new for us of course, but I love our old bed. We did invest a little more in the bottom mattress though knowing that me and my pregnant belly would probably be sharing it with the children. Eventually we realize that mommy can not sleep next to everyone. Avril and Two were planning on sharing the top, mommy, daddy and Mavis on the bottom but alas the “boy” sheets are on the top and “girl” on the bottom so you know how it goes. Proeun gets the old family bed to himself, unless I can sneak away during the night. Though one night I tried that and one by one they all came back in. So for now I guess this is the sleeping arrangement. Two is very proud that he sleeps on the top on by himself, but not so proud to turn down Avril or Mavis is they ask to sleep with him.

Best Friends

Good, solid friends are such a grounding force in a life. I am so fortunate to have Jenelle, my best friend since 3rd grade, when we started attending school together, before that we had weekly meetings at Sabbath School but it wasn’t until school came around that we really bonded.

Proeun has several, one from 3rd grade and a couple from a bit later. But when friends are there that you keep your whole life it grounds the individual. The need for companionship and understanding is met and so there is less need for things like “popularity” which means very little anyway.

This week Jenelle was in town visiting her parents, she has since moved away with her husband. The visit was extra special as it was an opportunity for me to meet Emma for the first time. Life stages are important and it is so nice when a good friend joins you. Emma is awaiting siblings but had a good time borrowing my 3 children and Avril got lots of practice in with a baby sister. Though Emma wasn’t always sure what to do with the attention. Avril is a slight 32 pounds and Emma over 20 so we were a little nervous with the holding and carrying. Oh well.

You know you have a good friend when you can sit and talk for hours about nothing in particular. Also it is not so important to clean your house. Late last night we set the time for the visit as this morning. I was tired and looking at my house thinking what should I clean first, then I remembered, this is Jenelle, she’ll understand.

Charlotte Mason’s “Mother Culture”

Several months ago I ordered A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola from our local library. It took several weeks, even a couple months to get it and though I tried to read as fast as I could I wasn’t able to finish it before my 3 weeks was up. So I ordered it from Amazon and have been reading it ever since. I am going on 2 months now but it is such a great book giving so many tips on homeschooling.

Basically the book is rewritten by Andreola and features Charlotte Mason’s ideas in modern english. Charlotte Mason lived in the late 1800s, early 1900s and it is so amazing to see how many of her ideas are applicable today.

Lately I read the chapter on “Mother Culture.” While I like all the ideas about homeschooling I loved this chapter and felt like I found what I was missing. See it is so easy to get wrapped up in tasks and duties and not continue life long education in my own life. This chapter says that it is absolutely essential for the mother to continue growing and learning for a successful homeschool. Another woman ahead of her time, Ellen White, said in paraphrase, “like plants, if you are not growing you’re dying.”

Mason and Andreola recommend at least 10-30 minutes a day of outside reading for the mother and that she have 3 books going at once, a hard one, an easy one and a novel. In addition to reading mother field trips, listening to music and stimulating conversation all work to revive the mother and Andreola says adamantly that by taking some time for yourself to better yourself your children will think better of you.

A fresh wind of change will revive you when you participate in Mother Culture. Some may say, “I simply have not time for myself.” Others, “I don’t think it is right to think of myself.” Such mothers are stuck in a rut of self-sacrifice to the extent that they are starving themselves spiritually, mentally and consequently, emotionally. Their children grow up with that “oh it’s only mother,” tone in their voice. Some children will eventually carry the attitude that they know more than mother on all points. But this can be altered. . . “  pg. 344.

I am beginning to make a conscious effort to follow this program. It is not easy to change your ways especially when time is such a premium. But I am seeing some good change. I will keep you posted on progress. I recommend the whole book heartily.

A Perfect Morning

My mother always subscribed to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I always loved the articles about outdoor living and entertaining, dreaming of eating a meal off a table spread with real tableclothes, bouquets of wild flowers and under the trees. This weekend we had an opportunity to do just that. The Minnesota Food Association, which runs Big River Farms of which we are a part was having a “donor breakfast.” They requested that we share our experience as farmers in the program.

We arrived early in the fog and there the table was. Breakfast appetizers were fresh strawberry and coconut muffins made with strawberries grown on site. We talked for awhile, ate muffins and drank carrot/cucumber juice made with a juicer while we waited. After a brief tour of the farm and our little talk is was back to the table to eat.

Proeun and Mavis enjoy the lovely food provided by Good Life Catering.

Quiche with fresh corn, basil, tomato and Black River Gorgonzola

Potato hash with green beans, peppers, eggplant and red onion

Yogurt with fresh peaches

All the produce except the peaches came right from Big River Farms. Everett Fruit provided the peaches from sustainable family farms and the grain was local as well from Whole Grain Milling.

The yogurt came from Lilly, the neighborhood goat. The eggs from the chickens that continually romp the farm on the lookout for food scraps. As we were eating one was prowling under the table someone said, “I thought that was a dog, then I realized that we don’t have a dog.”

Of course my favorite was the wildflowers. What a beautiful morning!

Cooler Weather=Preserving

Yesterday if was pretty nice and cool we had a ton of produce and I was feeling good so we did a marathon of preserving and baking. Our agenda included baking bread, making and canning tomato salsa, making and freezing basil pesto and freezing sweet corn.

I love getting homemade gifts. Last year my aunt, who has been a mentor at preserving, gave me a jar of apple butter and one of salsa. I had been looking for a cooked salsa recipe I could preserve and here it is.

15 Large tomatoes
7 medium onions chopped
5 large bell peppers chopped
12 cloves garlic diced
2 12 oz. Can tomato paste (I added only 1 can)
2/3 cup lemon juice (I added 1 cup)
1-2 Tbsp. Honey
1/2 tsp. Cumin (I added 1 1/2 tsp.)
1 bunch of cilantro (I added 1 tsp. Oregano instead)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Salt
Put all ingredients except cilantro into a kettle and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Add cilantro for last 1/2 hour. Put in sterile jars. Makes about 8 pints.

It smelled wonderful bubbling on the stove. I addded coriander instead of oregano and though I didn’t do it this time I think it could handle a hint of heat with a jalapeno or two. I also processed it for 30 minutes in my steam canner.

We also worked on sweet corn. Here I blanched some of our sugar pearl sweet corn for 3 minutes before taking it to the “cutting station.”

Avril liked putting the corn in bags, she is really getting to be a great helper! and we had plenty of corn for dinner.

At the end of the day we had 2 loaves of good brown bread, 3 bags of pesto, 6 quarts of corn and 7 pints of salsa. A good days work.

Home Canning–Diced Tomatoes

It is the season of home canning–at least if you have discovered the superior taste of items from the home kitchen and you really don’t want to rely on the grocery store this winter. This week is cooler so I am slightly more motivated to can–slightly. I have put away 6 quarts of my freezer tomato sauce. Since I am the only one in the family who likes this that will probably be it for the season. I have 8 gallon freezer bags of grape tomatoes. We add these whole to a family favorite from my husband’s family, chicken sour soup, and so don’t have to eat winter tomatoes from the grocery store.

Today the agenda called for something only slightly more complicated–diced tomatoes.

I’m serious, it’s not that complicated, or time consuming, the planning is really what makes the time. I had a couple bushels of tomatoes, uniform round ones work really good for diced tomatoes.

The first step is to blanch them in boiling water, this makes it easier to peel.

Then I just cut the tops off and peel the skin off. Avril asked for a job and so I let her cut them up and put them in the jars. She was so funny she said, “I want to help you because I love you so much and I don’t want you to get too tired.” She did a really good job for quite awhile before the acid from the tomatoes got to be too much for her.

I wash the jars in hot soapy water with a bottle brush right before packing. Then attach new lids and reuse the rings from last year.

The kind of canner I use is a steam canner which is basically an inverted hot water canner. It uses less water and so boils faster and the steam in the dome works like a boiling water canner. Some day maybe I’ll get a pressure canner so I can do soup and other vegetables and stuff like that.

I put my diced tomatoes in pints so once the steam starts coming out the hole I time it for 35 minutes.

Then it’s done. So far I have 18 pints. I would like 30 but I also want to do tomato sauce, salsa and soon I will have peaches and pears coming so the diced tomatoes will have to wait. I am trying not to get so task oriented I exhaust myself. Even with the cooler weather it was pretty hot in the kitchen.

More Projects in the Northwoods

It has been nearly 6 weeks since we have last escaped the city for a little R and R in the country and believe me it is so rejuvenating. Though this trip had lots of projects getting ready for Proeun and my in-laws favorite time of the year–hunting. Now when I met Proeun I was not enthused to find myself in love with a hunter to be quite honest. But since then I have come to see the great ecological and family benefits or such traditions especially when combined with gathering activities.

We are still working on identifying plants and learning to gather. I brought my Peterson’s Guide to Herbs and Medicinal Plants plants with me to start working on being aware of the plants around me. I guess I should have bought the mushroom guide as well. 

Honestly I would have walked right over this if my mom hadn’t pointed it out. I need to work on awareness that’s for sure.

This is my favorite picture of the weekend, our little caravan of women and children, “guarded” by the dogs as we hike out to see the progress the men were making on THE big project–a new tree stand for Proeun.

Here Proeun and 2 of his brothers are attaching the legs to the foundation–buckets filled with cement. Junior, the oldest of the next generation is securing them with bolts in the lower right hand corner.

Next the ladder, floors and frame go up.

And the roof. The walls had to wait for another trip. It’s not easy building a tree stand in the middle of the woods with no access to electricity.

Proeun designed the tree stand himself. Today he only half jokingly said, “I can build anything,” I said, “yes you can” not joking at all.

Heat Wave cooking!

Today the heat wave that has settled over the Twin Cities for nigh unto a week is beginning to lessen. By next week predictions of early fall weather are coming. It’s not a moment too soon for me. This heat has been incredibly tough. We have one window air conditioner in our living/dining area and it has been working overtime. But really if you aren’t sitting right in front of it you don’t feel the effects.

This has been  particularly difficult with cooking. I am so burned out from working in the fields and during pregrancy I often have a hard time cooking. I am only half joking when I saw my cravings are for something someone else has cooked. Add to that the intense heat of the kitchen as soon as I turn anything on and you see why mac and cheese, chips and crackers have been the order of the week.

Finally yesterday I hit on a winning solution that I didn’t feel guilty about.

Soybeans (edamme), sweet corn, carrots and cucumbers from our field accompanied with fried eggs from our chickens and lots of ranch dressing–for me my favorite is “goddess” dressing from Trader Joe’s. I only had to boil one pot of water and I cooked the corn first in it then took that out and added the soybeans. I cooked rice at the same time. From Mavis’ hair you get an idea how intense it has been.

Here Mavis is chowing down on her favorite, soybeans. Two loved the corn and eggs and Avril liked the cucumbers (my favorite too). Today it’s more of the same, maybe with a few tomatoes thrown in. I really wish we could figure out how to grow lettuce that didn’t turn bitter in the heat. I guess that is a good project for the off season.

High Summer Treats

Now is the time of year when farming is really rewarding. Think tomatoes and basil, fresh salsa, cucumbers made into refrigerator pickles or just sprinkled with salt. Yum. This weekend we had a community work day on the farm, for pot-luck most of the dishes came right from the field, fresh basil pesto, grape tomatoes and sliced cucumbers, sliced heirloom tomatoes and so much more.

Today though it was all about watermelon. We didn’t contribute a watermelon to this weekend’s festivities because we weren’t sure if they were ready. So today we gave it a try. It wasn’t at peak but still sweet and oh so fresh. We tried a muskmelon next and that was much better.

I should have got a picture of the look on the children’s face as they waited to see what the inside looked like then danced around singing a made up song about watermelon.

Also on today’s agenda was sweet corn. The children wanted to help pick but some of those stalks were pretty tough so they satisfied themselves with sampling. We grew white (instead of bi-color) sweet corn at my mother’s request and were blown away. It was awesome, eaten raw, right in the field.

Our CSA customers will get a nice treat this week.

So happy eating, get out and enjoy the summers bounty! Feel free to share some of your favorites also.

A trip to the Midwife

I was talking with another homebirthing mom friend of mine. She was talking about how she was switching from disposable feminine pads to cloth. She said, “I already cloth diaper my children it just seems to make sense,” then she went on to admit that she felt she was really turning into something–“a crunchy hippie.” No matter what you think about hippies personally the term is normally either very negative, as in anti-conformist threat to society, or positve, in touch with the earth, then there is everything in between. The homebirth, homeschool movement used to be the realm of the fringe cultures now according to the home birth consultant at the Minnesota Department of Health they are getting 20 requests for birth certificates from homebirths a week. My midwife says the numbers for homebirths in Minnesota are up to 5%.

This afternoon I had a prenatal appointment. For those of you who don’t have any idea how an appointment like this would go let me explain (it will probably vary by midwife). I go to my midwife’s, Jane Kirby, home downtown. She normally has tea ready and a play area for the children just to the side of where we meet. Her apprentice, Tracy LaPointe, is always there with a hug and a cheerful expression. We sit down and get comfortable and talk about how things are going. Not necessarily just with the pregnancy or medically but she wants to know if I am doing too much, am i eating enough, am I happy with my life or are there things I am stressing about? And so on. It’s a very calm, relaxing experience. The children come with and enjoy playing.

Or having a snack.

When it gets time to measure the tummy and listen to the heartbeat they love being involved.

Sometimes the girls hold the lifesize models of growing babies. 

Jane our midwife checking the heartbeat.

Our appointments are normally about an hour then with hugs all around it is home again until next month, though soon I will be meeting with them more often. They are always available for questions and if I want to meet more often.

I have a lot of respect for moms who have homebirths with their first babies. I think most of us try the traditional route first before seeking alternatives. I have been so pleased with this alternative I could never imagine going back.