Just for fun: Big Baby

Our little Blueberry has been asking for a little brother or sister for about a year now.  I keep explaining to her that we have closed that factory, laid off the workers, and burnt the buildings to the ground, but she will not listen.

Ok, so I will show her.  Enter in Big Baby.

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Big baby is was a 5 lb zucchini that got away from us while we took a few days off away from home.  Before shredding this monster, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to draw a little face on it and call her out from her bedroom to look at her new sibling.  She came running out excited to meet this little human only to end up both disappointed and thrilled.  She gave it a few caresses, a kiss, and then threw me a mad look and told me that wasn’t nice.  She was probably right, but I am pretty sure that it’s my parental right to poke fun from time to time.  Bon voyage Big Baby.  Thanks for the laughs!

And now for something completely different: fun family activities

Blueberry goes back to school within the next week and both Sheldon and I find ourselves scratching our heads wondering where this shortened summer went.  As relatively new farmers, we haven’t been able to take a vacation since the great vacation of 2012 (because visiting family does NOT count as we all know!!), but we do try to do little day trips here and there.  In the last week, we have tried to visit a few places that were within driving distance from the homestead including:

Fantastic Caverns

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As you all know, Wilbur crossed the “rainbow bridge” last weekend.  Blueberry and I were in charge of taking care of his remains in a humane and legal way.  On the way back, she talked me into a last minute side trip to Fantastic Caverns.  I’m glad she did!  If you are ever near this part of the country and want to take a very easy tour through a lovely cavern originally explored by a group of twelve brave ladies in the 1800’s, I recommend it!

Woolaroc

Woolaroc is a pretty cool little (ha!  3700 acres little) historical site that includes a wildlife preserve, old buildings, lots of art (including quite a bit of Native American art), and some fun stuff for the little humans like a great play area and a small petting zoo.  Woolaroc isn’t quite as great as say Promised Land Zoo in terms of getting close and personal with the animals, but it’s pretty interesting all the same!  And since you are going to be in the area, you might as well check out…

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Bartlesville

Bartlesville is an interesting town much like any small city with a large corporate presence.  Interesting mix of people, some good restaurants, and lots and lots of artfully decorated Bison statues including this one.

disco bison

Blueberry couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with his undercarriage, but we had a laugh about his “disco balls.”  Well played Bartlesville!

So, that is the extent of this year’s summer vacation.  It’s not quite as exciting as going to Europe or visiting the House of Mouse (depending on your perspective), but for budding homesteaders, it’s enough.  Now, on to our next adventure…first grade!

Happy homesteading!

 

Trying some new things this month: a working parents guide to not medicating with wine

Well, it’s July 1st.  That means that here at Blueberry Acres, we are sliding downhill (fast) into August where our little Blueberry will start her first day of “real” school.  I began to get misty eyed about it as I thought through the month of June and decided to take her out of the part-time preschool that she has been attending.  Seemed like a good plan at the time.

However, that means that now in addition to working from home part-time, taking care of Blueberry Acres full-time and occassionally shaving my legs…I need to find a way to provide care for the squirt 24/7 while working to keep that balance without having to sneak into the kitchen to fortify myself with wine on days that end in a Y.

Enter in quiet time.  We have decided that we will follow the advice of oh-so-many other bloggy moms and dads with structured quiet time.  While I wish my little Blueberry still slept in my arms, the reality is that those days are gone.  However, I still need (crave, depend on, am crazy for) that quiet time in the afternoon where I feel like if I have to answer another question from a 5 going on 23 year old, I will lose what is left of my mind.  As a result…we’re going to a post lunch regimen that involves the kiddo going to her room for exactly one hour each afternoon.  What she does when she gets there doesn’t matter to me as long as no cats are involved, she doesn’t blow the roof off the house and no hour ends with a fun ride in an ambulance.  Beyond that, she can read Dostoyevsky, play with her guys or paint her toenails blue..whatever.

Beyond the solitary confinement quiet time, we’re trying to be a little more loose on bedtime so that she can enjoy more evening farm time.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a more beautiful fireworks display than the one the fireflies put on around here at dusk.  We’re also asking her to be more involved with the evening poultry routine.  What’s that you ask?  Well, often it’s where I stand in the various poultry yards trying to convince everyone to go into their coops while cursing their moms and telling them I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, etc.  It’s not my finest moment.  But, add in some Blueberry, and well things get a lot easier…that kid is the dang chicken whisperer.  She has had an almost magical pull over these birds from day one whether they were chickens or turkeys and she can wrangle them into the coop with limited effort.  It helps reduce my workload and stress…but also gives her a little extra shot of exercise after dinner.  While it means that she goes to bed a little later, it also means that she is sleeping in a little more.  That works nicely for me!  While Sheldon would prefer to be strict with the routine, I’m finding that a little flexibility here is going a long way.

Introducing regular chores of her choice.  We have struggled with this for a while now.  We want to introduce the concept of a weekly allowance, but we don’t want her to think that money will always be handed to her without work.  When we have tried to introduce chores for dollars in the past, it’s fizzled out fairly quickly.  Especially when she gets her piggy bank and tries to pay me to do some of her chores because she doesn’t want to.  Obviously she has mastered the concept…it’s just not of interest.  So, now we are going to one unrewarded chore per day (in addition to picking up after herself) and we’re hoping that by doing so, we’ll continue to get her to invest in how things operate, look, etc around here.  Plus, if she is doing more then we are doing less.

But, I’m curious…for the other bloggy moms/dads out there….what do you to balance your day?

Happy Homesteading!

All Women are prissy, backstabbing cows: A rant on farmgirl tough

Ha!  Made you look.  Don’t you hate those types of statements that make it seem as if we can all be shoved into one specific box?  Some of my very favorite stereotypes and flawed logic statements (courtesy of Buzzle) are:

I’m Christian, so I must hate homosexuals.
I’m German, so I must be a Nazi.
I’m an atheist, so I must hate the world.
I’m Mexican, so I must have hopped the border.
I’m rich, so I must be a conceited snob.
I’m a guy, so I must only want to get into your pants.
I’m young, so I must be naive.
I’m from the Middle East, so I must be a terrorist.
All Italians are in the mob.
All Irishmen do is drink and beat their wives.
All Farmgirls are tough.
Whoa…wait a minute.  What about that last one?  All Farmgirls are tough.  Why is that on the list?  Well, let’s talk about it and my difficulty with the word tough.
courtesy of wikipantings.org

Rosie-totally farmgirl tough
courtesy of wikipantings.org

A few weeks ago, our houseguest Mr. C., Sheldon and I were all sitting around the kitchen table playing cards.  Suddenly out of the blue, Mr. C. asks me if I have a tattoo.  I reply that I don’t (I’m sure with a whatyoutalkinboutWillis kind of face) and go on with the conversation.  But, something about that exchange sticks with me.  Finally, a few days later, this was the convo between Sheldon and me in bed (hot steamy scene NOT about to ensue):

 

Me: Hey-why did Mr. C. ask me about a tattoo?  That seemed really out of the blue.  Where did that come from?
Sheldon: Well, sometimes you come across as tough.
Me: Tough?  What the FDashDashDash does that mean?
Sheldon:  You know.  Tough.  I don’t know.  Tough.
Me: You say that like it’s an insult.  Like I must have a tattoo because I’m rough, tough and barely a woman.  Where is this logic going anyway?
To which I think Sheldon responded by snoring.  End of convo.  To be fair, it wasn’t his argument.
But, I cannot tell a lie.  This whole interaction first with Mr. C. and then with Sheldon just grated on me.  I’m not a dip swillin, curse word flinging (well not every day), hard chargin broad.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with tattoos but I have no interest in them.  I have a handbag collection that I refer to as “my precious babies.”  I can’t stand it when my eyebrows are ungroomed.  I love pink and would wear it daily if I didn’t look like an idiot trying to cram into my 4 year old’s clothes.  I love manis, pedis and kleenex commercials.  I often drive the tractor singing the theme from Green Acres in my head all the while imagining myself as Eva’s character.  Why the flock is someone calling me tough????!!!!
courtesy imdb

courtesy imdb

Fast forward many weeks and I’m still masticating on this idea.  Let’s face it-if you want to homestead on a quarter acres or a thousand acres, you must have a degree of mental and physical fortitude.  Why just this morning I killed a spider in my kitchen without even squealing.  If that doesn’t show development along those lines, I don’t know what does.  However, the word tough seems to have a connotation in this exchange that I simply cannot wrap my mind around-like it’s an insult.  And to be fair-it’s not just this exchange.  Go Bing the words tough farm girl and click on images.  The amount of weirdness that comes up from the web is a bit off-putting, to say the least.  Which to be fair to Mr. C. tells me that lots of folks hold a similar viewpoint when faced with someone who doesn’t exude softness on a daily (sigh, sometimes not even weekly) basis.
So, what’s a homesteading girl to do?   I cannot imagine how anyone-male or female could live this life and still maintain that 24/7 stereotypical idea of feminine beauty.  Much like baseball, there’s no crying in homesteading.  But for women, I think the standards can be incredibly unfair.  Yes, I haul 40 lb bags of dirt along side my husband.  Yes, I spend hours cleaning the chicken coops.  Yes, I drive the tractor, move the rocks and Lord help me, have participated in the demise of farm animals.  I suppose that makes me tough, but why does being tough carry the implication that I am not soft, lovely and womanly?  I do not know.  Sigh.  Why do I keep writing these blog posts that have no real solution?
For me, it all goes back to why we do this…The Blueberry.  A lovely little girl who loves tutus but has no compunction about picking up a worm and shoving it in my face.  Hopefully she will be better equipped to face a world where dichotomy in women is more embraced and we don’t all have to fit into a specific box to be pretty, womanly, smart or capable.  My hope is that one day someone will refer to her as tough and she will smile and say thank you while changing the oil in her tractor in her couture gown.  Seems totally realistic, right?  Let’s hear it for #farmgirltough!

Talking to our kids about tragedy: One homesteader’s take

Well, my goodness.  It’s been a helluva week.  First the tragedy in Boston and now when I turn on the news, I hear about the fertilizer plant in West, Tx that killed multiple people, injured countless others and leveled many many homes and businesses.  It is enough to make a parent want to put their kids back to bed and shut all the curtains until ..oh, forever?

While being a hermit may sound appealing, the hard truth is that this is the world we live in now.  Horrible people do horrible things on a massive scale.  Dangerous facilities that aren’t supposed to be dangerous can erupt in a mountain of fire when conditions are right.  As I thought about this, I have to draw upon my own professional experience.  I’ve counseled hundreds of people through loss, grief, sadness and change.  However, I’m not a counselor by education or trade…it’s merely part of my “day job”, so instead, I want to share with you decisions as parents we made in our home.  Regardless of terror, nature or accident, the bottom line is that innocent lives are lost every day for various reasons….and we need to be prepared for how to talk to our children about that.

Earlier this week as the news of the Boston Marathon broke, my first thought was to a couple of my oldest friends whose son runs the marathon every year.  Typically they go to Boston to cheer him on and my gut reaction was for their safety.  As Blueberry attempted to look over my shoulder as I looked up race checkpoints and tried to figure out when their son might have crossed the finish line (he’s just fine btw), I realized that she was picking up on my worry even if she didn’t see any of the video or pictures of what was happening.  And then this morning, she was sitting with Sheldon and I as we watched the morning news when they broke in with an update on West.  As much as we want to shield and inoculate our children against the horrors of a modern world, we simply cannot.  It’s everywhere…and even if we go on a no TV/Internet diet, let’s face it-our kids all know how to read worry on our faces.

So, as I think about how to address these horrors with our little Blueberry, I try to think about a homesteaders spin.  I cannot speak for all homesteaders, but generally speaking, those I have talked to seem to be straight shooters who are interested in educating and communicating with their children in a direct way.  Most of the homesteading parent blogs/articles that I have read lead me to believe that many are like us-we want to protect our kids but still understand that they need to grow up informed, educated and prepared to face a world without mommy and daddy constantly hovering like a helicopter.  That kind of parenting outlook needs to bleed into how we address tragedy.  If you’re struggling with this concept, I can’t give you the perfect answer.  Only a parent knows what their child can/cannot take.  But I can tell you how we handled some events over the last two years or so.

In some cases, we opted to not mention it at all.  For example, the case of Sandy Hook.  That was a tragedy that as a Mom, I simply could not bring myself to talk about without a high degree of emotion.  Both Sheldon and I agreed that we would not expose Blueberry to any of that coverage, nor would we discuss it as a family.  Articles like this one from PBS agree that you have to make a determination by age if it’s even appropriate to address.

In some cases, we talked in generalities.  For example, the Boston Marathon bombing.  I discussed that something had exploded in Boston and some people were hurt.  I also took that as an opportunity to talk about police officers, fire fighters and countless others who were doing whatever they could to help make people safe.  Boston’s Children’s Hospital has some excellent yet simple advice for walking through this process with your kids from talking about tragedy to helping them cope with frightening events.

In other cases, we talked openly.  As the story of West broke this morning, we didn’t restrict it at all.  At the time I’m writing this post, it sounds like it was an accident caused by just some really unusual circumstances coming together.  It’s a huge tragedy, but one that needs to be understood so that conditions aren’t repeated.   I think it’s important that if our kids can handle it, then they hear about things like this.   Modern, industrialized commerce comes at a cost and this one was a terrible, terrible cost.  The thing that I don’t want to do is get up on my homesteading bandwagon and talk about “we shouldn’t be producing this kind of crap!  It’s too dangerous!  Curses to chemicals!”  Sigh.  It’s too easy to do that when you hear about terrible stories like this caused by chemicals that I wish we weren’t using, but I truly believe that it disrespects the humans who were just trying to make a living and lost their lives for it.

In addition, we’ve had a number of family losses over the last 18 months through the death of a parent to the loss of multiple grandparents.  This has caused us to expose our little Blueberry to death much sooner than we would have anticipated or liked.  With each event, we were able to talk about what happened typically without too much detail, how we hoped that person was at peace and headed to Heaven-that’s our own belief system.  It’s led to a ton of questions, which we have welcomed.  These are often out of the blue and typically are related to death as a process.  The Child Development Institute suggests that parents encourage questions and reassure kids that it’s ok to feel however they feel.  In our case, we have done this, but an unexpected joy that has been born about these questions has been that she has wanted to understand more about Heaven, Hell, The Holy Trinity, birth, love and more.   She’s rarely sad when she asks these questions-it’s more of a desire to understand than a desire to be morose.  As a result, I’m not sorry we approached it the way we have.  At almost 5, our kiddo has a sensitivity that is appropriate for her age, but also understands a little more that life is precious and death is inevitable.  And let’s face it-a handle on death is a necessary attribute for even the littlest of homesteaders.

So, that’s how we have handled both the distant and local tragedies.  Basically the same way we work to approach homesteading.  Directly, honestly, with respect for the beings involved and with the understanding that we don’t know it all.  Would love to hear from some other homesteading parents about how you handle this “messy” part of parenting.   And our prayers continue to go out to everyone who was impacted by the tragic events this week.  Take care y’all!

 

A common fig tree…MY heritage breed

I’m a second generation American.  My Dad’s family hails from miscellaneous parts of Italy from the north to the south and while we grew up a very very proud fairly typical American family, there are still times where I find myself thinking and referring to my slightly more homogenized friends as “you white people.”  For those of you who grew up in any kind of culture that wasn’t all wonderbread (black, white, brown, red, polka dots-whatever), I bet you know what I mean.

 

As I have gotten older and the less desirable aspects of this sometimes old fashioned culture have fallen away, I find myself left with the warm and fuzzy memories of a family who still maintained some identity of their roots.  These identities are often tied up with individuals, as with my Great Grandfather.  I was lucky to know him as a teenager although to be fair, our language barrier was a pretty big one.  But to hear stories of him through my Dad now that my Great Grandfather has been gone for a couple of decades, well it’s something special.  I have learned that he was a mason and gardener at Kykuit (the Rockefeller Estate in NY) for pretty much his adult life.  I have learned that the shovel that my Dad now uses was one that my G-Grandfather “liberated” from that same estate when he retired (sorry Rockefellers!) with an explanation to my Dad “Bucky-he got lotsa money.  He no miss this“.  But, I also know that his own garden was important to him.  Enough so that when he came to America almost 100 years ago, he brought with him a fig tree.

 

Now, I don’t think we know how long he (or his family) had it in Italy, but I do know that my Dad has maintained his own cutting from it for at least 20-30 years.  And this spring, we get our cutting of it for Blueberry Acres!  Something that I look forward to planting in our ground with my little Blueberry beside me. A fig tree that has been in my family for at least 90+ years and 2 countries.  I’m having a hard time putting into words how cool I think this is, but with all of this talk of native seeds, heritage breeds and heirloom produce…to be able to grow and enjoy delicious figs from a tree that was hand carried by my Great Grandfather on a ship across the ocean all those years ago.  Well, I think it’s pretty cool that I will be able to pass that kind of heritage breed down to Blueberry one day.  I wonder what heritage our grandchildren will talk about when we are long gone….it’s something to think about on those frustrating homestead days.  We are creating a new heritage for our kids!  Happy Homesteading!

Is skim milk making our kids fat?

I saw this article this morning on my FB feed and forgive me whoever posted it, I can’t even remember who did it!  Anywhoo…this NPR article talks about a potential causal link between skim milk and heavier kids.

I think the NPR article was a little too light on facts for me and for some reason, I can’t pull up the BMJ article, but it does make me wonder more about this link…especially considering that we made the pediatrician recommended switch to skim at age 2 like so many other parents.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with a parent making a choice to continue to give full fat milk at any age.  However, I think at times we as parents (specifically parents who crave a more natural lifestyle) can jump on the bandwagon too quickly when we think that the “establishment” has led us astray.  Do I think that full fat milk could be more healthy than skim?  Sure.  Do I think that there is enough evidence in this study to prove without a doubt that previous advice on skim vs. full fat is wrong?  From what I have seen….Nope.  And until then, I’m going to continue to follow what I think to be right as a Mom.

What about the other parents out there…how do you separate the hype from the fact when it comes to making changes like this for your kids?  I would love to hear from you!

Happy 3.14159 day!

Although I guess I should have really wished you a Happy 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679∞ Day if I were to be accurate, right?

 

Picture courtesy of University of Iowa

Picture courtesy of University of Iowa

In honor of Pi Day, I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for Pie Crust along with one of my favorite filling recipes courtesy of AllRecipes.  While I would love to take pictures of me baking it, that ain’t happenin today, so instead, hopefully you will bake it and deliver it to me.  Wait…that was too bossy.  Bake it and deliver it to me please?  🙂  Seriously-I hope you and your family enjoy some geeky math fun today!

Ideas for teaching kids about pi:

http://www.teachpi.org/

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/exploring-pi

 

And my favorite “Pi” recipe:

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 Cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 Cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 tea salt (mix it into the flour in advance)
  • 1/4 tea to 1/2 tea freshly grated nutmeg (can also substitute cinnamon)
  • 1 Cup ice water

Measure everything out in bowls and then stick EVERYTHING (including your mixing implements-I use a stand mixer with dough attachment for this) in the fridge for an hour.  Get it all nice and cold after you have prepped it.

After it is all chilled, begin to mix the butter into the flour a piece at a time.  Basically, you are looking for your flour to begin to look like clumpy sand.  It doesn’t have to be uniform and the butter doesn’t have to be all broken up, but it should be at least semi evenly distributed.  Try not to work it with your hands-let the butter stay cool so if you can’t use a mixer, use a fork to cut in the butter.  If you see the butter is starting to melt while you are working it, stick the whole thing back in the fridge.

Once the butter is mixed in, start to work in your water 1 TEASPOON AT A TIME!  I can’t stress this enough.  I don’t pay any attention to recipes when it tells me how much water you need because there are so many variables when working with crust.  If you live in South Florida, chances are you are going to need a heck of a lot less water than someone who lives in Tucson.  Humidity, heat, environment, drafts-they all matter, so just get to know your dough.  You can always add more, but honey-I haven’t ever seen a pie crust that can be saved when you add too much, so start slow.  When you start to see your dough come together, slow down on your water.  It should be able to hold together in a ball when you smoosh it with your hand.  If it crumbles still, you need more water.

Once mixed, let it rest in your fridge covered for another hour.  After the hour, you should be able to roll it out (wax paper on both sides of it helps) into crust for 2-3 pies depending on whether they are covered pies and how big your pie plates are.  Again-try to handle with your hot little hands as little as possible.

One of our favorite all time fillings is for Buttermilk Pie.  Allrecipes has some great ones in their collection, including this one.  But, I would love to hear from y’all…what is your favorite pie?  Happy Pi Day!

 

 

Another quickie: Going to be a busy weekend

Well, not much to say today because it’s MOMMY FUN DAY!  That day where I try to work as little as possible and me and The Blueberry just do fun things, so we have several things on our agenda today which means I won’t be online much for the next day or two.  But hopefully by the end of the weekend, we will have multiple trees planted, our greenhouse built, dogs trained more and lots of fun family memories to boot.  Hope you all have a great weekend-see you next week!

Sneaky foods: Cauliflower mac n cheese

We are pretty blessed by the fact that The Blueberry has a fairly diverse and at times, refined palate for a 4 year old.  She has tried and enjoyed every kind of fruit and vegetable that we have, every protein product under the sun, a variety of stinky and non-traditional dairy products as well as cultural specialties.  You know what she doesn’t like?  Pickles and mustard.  That’s about it.  However, that is not to say that she is a perfect eater.  Far from it.  There are days that I fear she would starve if cheese and peanut butter didn’t exist.  During those times, she typically eschews any kind of fruit or vegetable product instead driving us crazy by constantly requesting what she considers to be the four basic food groups: chocolate, candy, milk and butter.  Not exactly a balanced diet.

During those times, I am happy to be inspired by books like Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef whose sole mission seems to be to feed our children the way we want them to be fed without them knowing it.  Sounds like ridiculous parenting, no?  Well…no.  I mean-think about it.  Of course I want my child to prefer a carrot stick to a chic-0-stick but it isn’t always going to happen.  Despite the efforts I put into making a variety of healthful, veggie filled meals, there are going to be times where her stubborn nature rises and she says “Actually, momma.  I’m a dragon and I don’t eat vegetables anymore.”  (Sigh-quote from lunch yesterday.)  During those times instead of forcing her to come to a joy of veggies and fruit on her own, I’m going to give them to her while letting her feel that she has won the food battle.  Enter in sneaky mac n cheese.

This is a great recipe for days where you have too much going on and not enough time.  I’d love to give you a totally healthy scratch recipe for mac n cheese, but that ain’t happenin today.  Instead I give you Annie’s white cheddar mac:

picture courtesy of Annie's

picture courtesy of Annie’s

And God’s awesome creation.  That crown of cruciferousness.  That casanova of caulis.  That babe of brassica…Cauliflower.  Also known as “I’m not eating that crap” in my house.

pic courtesy of God.  Oh, and health.com

pic courtesy of God. Oh, and health.com

So anywhoo…cook your mac and cheese according to the box directions.  In the last 30ish seconds of cooking time, drop in a few pieces of frozen cauliflower.  It could also be fresh, but dang, that stuff is expensive in my part of the country and almost impossible to get organic, so we go with organic frozen.  While your mac is draining, take those now nuclear hot pieces of cauliflower (owwie, my hands) and drop them into a blender with 1-3 Tablespoons of milk and the cheese flavored packet.  Well, not the whole packet..you know, the contents….blend well.  Return the smoothish (as smooth as cauliflower can be) back to the pan to warm up.  Once warm, incorporate your mac and voila…healthier mac n cheese!

I typically sprinkle “shreddy/sprinkley” cheese on here to disguise the slightly lumpy texture, but The Blueberry eats it up like crazy.  And I’m crazy about the fact that despite her efforts to the contrary, I have just provided a more nutritionally sound meal with not a lot of extra time/effort.  If you get a chance, I’d love to hear what you are doing to sneak in some health for those “no way” days!  Happy cooking!