Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top Five Posts of 2016

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As 2016 comes to a close, many people naturally find themselves looking back at the year. These darkest days are marvelous for reflection as we light our way through the winter. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

(Closer to) Zero Waste Holiday Season - Five things to improve your holidays

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Another installment in our (closer to) Zero waste series:

(Closer to) Zero Waste Holidays


As we approach the darkest day of the year, many are busy buying and making presents, decorations, treats, and feasts. 

Our home is no different.

Whether you celebrate Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, Kwanzaa, or any combination of those and others, here are some easy things you can do to lower the environmental impact of your celebrations, keep a little more money in your pocket, and have less trash for anyone to deal with afterward. 

1.) Reuse ribbons, paper, and even make/find reusable wrappings! 


T-shirts, pillow cases, pieces of fabric, or simple cloth bags make great reusable gift wrap.

The wrapping can even be part of the gift.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Getting Ready for Advent and Kraut and More! - WIP Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


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Creating is my passion, my sanity, my sense of being "up to something", my way of contributing a little bit. I always have a few projects going, many left to the side for months or even years before I pick up the best and carry on. Here's some of what I'm working on this week:



A year ago I posted about our lovely pocket Advent Calendar. This year it's getting some updates! I wrote out some mini gift tags with the dates which I'll attach to each pocket. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Beginner's Guide to Buying from the Bulk Bins

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So you're interested in getting closer to Zero Waste, you want to reduce your grocery bill, reduce the amount of wasted food and packaging you have to deal with? You want to lower your environment impact and help keep our world cleaner and our bodies healthier?

Did you know that the individual transport and packaging can make the same items cost up to 20% more? Sometimes even more that that!

Did you know that you don't have to buy large quantities to save big at the bulk bins? If you only use a little bit of something, you can buy just a little bit. Keep it sealed in an airtight container it'll keep for longer!

Want to save money and reduce waste while living in an apartment with a hardly any cupboard space? 

Buying from the bulk bins and storing in clear glass containers or jars actually cuts down on the amount of space taken up by packaging - plus you can actually see what, and how much you have! 

Once you figure out what you like and use, you can save even bigger by buying more of what you know you'll use.

You've seen the bulk food bins, but how the heck do you get started? 

Brattleboro Coop photo courtesy of Brattleboro.com

Beginners Guide to Buying from the Bulk Bins

Even if you're a seasoned pro, you might find some tips in here. And if you have any other tricks, please share them with the rest of us in the comment section below.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Deep Litter Bedding or Gathering Leaves for Chickens

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We've kept our own flock of chickens on and off for more than six years.

My best discovery was the deep litter method - rather than shoveling out (or at least attempting, once frozen) their poop, you leave a thick layer of organic matter and keep adding more layers throughout the winter. The girls will naturally scratch and peck and stir things up. The deeper layers will start to compost before you even shovel it all out in the spring. 

Our first coop was portable. During the growing season we moved it all around our property, giving them a new patch to work every few days. If you leave chickens in one spot for too long, the concentration of their poop will essentially make it so that nothing will grow there again.

Over their first winter, we parked the hen house end under our back porch that led to the kitchen. It was lovely to step out the kitchen door and toss any scraps right to the chooks.

For bedding we bought pine shavings. Even though they're not that costly individually, it certainly brings up the cost of keeping the girls

Monday, November 21, 2016

350th Post and an EcoJarz giveaway and review!



To celebrate my 350th post, I'm so excited to share a review and host a giveaway for EcoJarz! (giveaway closed - details below review)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Etsy Shop items in time for the Holidays

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I figured if I'm really going to give this Etsy Shop thing a try, I should put some of the little things  I enjoy making in there.




There's a new spot here on the sidebar (if you're reading this in an email or feed reader you'll have to click through) with a few items. 

As I make and photograph new items I'd be happy to make lots of, I'll add them as I go.

Some things will be familiar (as I've done posts on them) and others are either brand new, or haven't been seen in years! 

I'm looking forward to making treasures for anyone stopping by!



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Monday, November 14, 2016

Farewell to Nursing - And some things that helped us wean

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I've been writing and editing this post in my head since before my older daughter stopped nursing, more than two years ago. 

Now that my younger daughter has ended the portion of our life where we share "mama milk," I find the end more bittersweet than I'd expected. 

I was ready.

I was really ready, and it was time.

Turns out, even though she would have happily continued nursing for more of her young life, she was pretty well ready too. 

Once we passed the age where her sister stopped nursing (right about when A was born) I started the process of weaning. 

"Don't offer, don't refuse." 

When babies are little, soothing connection, a little something in their bellies, skin contact, warmth from mama, are some of the best things to care for a tiny being. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

More Love - thoughts on current events and enduring goodness

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One of my great-grandmothers was helping long time family friend William Meredith to sort through a pile of mail following his stroke. She came across an invitation to The White House.

Sitting in an unassuming house in a little town in New Hampshire, she asked "William, you've been invited to The White House... Why do you come here?" 

Struggling with the loss of speech, (even more of a struggle for a poet), he stumbled over his words and responded ".... more love." 


While my faith in our country has been shaken, my conviction that love will move us forward has never been stronger. Love will keep. 

Love, our inclusivity, our connection, our gestures of kindness and compassion must be stronger than the hate coursing through our country. 

So my dear friends, neighbors, fellow humans of every color, gender, creed, faith/non-faith, and orientation, in the face of vitriolic current events, I see you. 

You belong here just as much as I do. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Felt Ball Garland - SaturDIY, November 4th, 2016

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If you're on Pinterest, you've seen all the crafting beauty - seemingly impossible DIY things that no one with any real level of ability or time (never mind children) can actually accomplish.

Here's one that looks amazing and is incredibly easy.

Felt Ball Garland


Materials and Tools:

Felt Balls (I purchased these.)
Yarn or string.
Large eyed needle (sharp helps but isn't necessary)



Directions: 

1.) Sew yarn directly through the middle of the ball and do a slight backstitch to hold the ball in position on the yarn.

2.) Repeat. 


I chose to alternate colors and size. I am immensely thrilled about how it came out and am excited to see it on our Christmas tree! 

Apologies for the night photos - when the intended recipients are only distracted long enough while sleeping, night is the only time for such endeavors.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Two steps forward, One step back.

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In the past couple of weeks we've lost another loved one, the motor burned out on our most used power saw, our washer died (this time a more spectacular, less workable death), yet another replacement muffler for Joe's car didn't work, and this morning the battery in my car didn't want to work. Thankfully a reset got Joe on the road just as the delivery truck with our new washer arrived. 


We will have very clean clothes to face the onslaught. 

Thankfully we also have a very handy cousin that can repair the busted muffler, and have some very attentive butterfly-fairies that can help out with anything. 


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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Waxed Leaves - SaturDIY October 29th, 2016

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Beeswax Dipped Fall Leaves.

In the midst of preserving the harvest, we took a break to preserve some of the stunning colors.

Our maple trees have been in glorious color and full display.

One way of preserving the color of fall leaves is to dip them in beeswax, this seals in moisture and the beautiful colors so that they turn to brown much more slowly. 


Supplies:

Melted beeswax, clean and dry fresh fall leaves, and baking parchment paper.

Directions: 

1.) Melt the wax.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WIP Wednesday - Harvest

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Creating is my passion, my sanity, my sense of being "up to something", my way of contributing a little bit. I always have a few projects going, many left to the side for months or even years before I pick up the best and carry on. Here's some of what I'm working on this week:



Flower crowns (green band for a gift without its flowers)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Let's work together, you and me.

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Early this summer I sent out a couple of pitch letters to companies I respect. One responded positively, and coming soon, I'll post a review of some new products of theirs.



In recent months I've traded paintings for a marvelous double stroller, a hat for a birthday bike (shh. don't tell C), and arranged to trade a painting for a big-girl carseat. 



In most of these cases, we each would have happily given the other what we traded.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Extra Together-days.

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Last week my husband took a few days off. *GASP* Apparently, he can actually survive a bit of downtime. Because of all the extra hours he's put in over the past months, he only had to take one day of leave for us to have the whole week together. That means he'll HAVE to take more time off soon. Oh darn. 

We definitely didn't just lay around.

We designed, built, stained, and hung a new mantle.



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

For Halloween: The Teal Pumpkin Project

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We moved into our new home last year, in the week before Halloween.



Almost a year later, we are thick in the daydreaming and planning for halloween costumes at our house. 

Halloween is lauded as being one of the most inclusive "holidays" we celebrate here in the states. Kids of all faiths and non-faiths can join together. Unless they have food allergies or other medical conditions that prevent them from participating

Navigating halloween treats, trick-or-treating candy, and even activities can be a minefield waiting to explode, at best. Food allergies, medical conditions, and more, prevent many kids from being able to enjoy this holiday.

Did you know that small sized versions of many popular candies actually have different ingredients than their well-marked larger counterparts? This makes it very difficult to navigate what a child can and cannot enjoy. 


From their own website:

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Satur-DIY - Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

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Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce - Satur-DIY

It's been a long time since I've purchased tomato sauce - not that we don't eat or enjoy it, just that canned, processed stuff from the store is such a paltry substitute for homemade. Throughout the years I've made big batches for canning or freezing - often with a glut of gleaned seconds. So many almost-over-ripe tomatoes have such a marvelous flavor, if you're willing to cut out a few bad spots. 

In recent years I've discovered roasted tomato sauce. Instead of a bubbly, splattering, molten liquid in a pot on the stove top, you can roast the ingredients in the oven and then blend them up. 

Roasting them in the oven brings out a depth and sweetness to the flavors from heating them to a higher temperature than possible when boiling them in a pot. 

How to:

1.) Cut.

Chop your veggies (all of them!) Pictured below are tomatoes, onions, and peeled garlic cloves. You can add carrots for sweetness, peppers, eggplant, squash, and so much more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WIP Wednesday, October 5th, 2016


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Creating is my passion, my sanity, my sense of being "up to something", my way of contributing a little bit. I always have a few projects going, many left to the side for months or even years before I pick up the best and carry on. Here's some of what I'm working on this week:

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ten Things for September - 2016



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As September comes to a close, I find myself settling into fall. It always feels like coming home. The stifling heat and biting insects have gone. The afternoon sunshine invites a cup of tea, and the cool evenings welcome blankets and silk scarves. 

September is slowly becoming one of my favorite months of the year and leads into several months of celebrations and beauty. 

What's bringing me joy:

1.) New strings on my guitar (thanks to my dad for stringing) - the shiny new strings and fresh clean sound is a welcome break from the old strings (one broken) that lingered for many months longer than were lovely to play.

2.) Apples. I've never understood buying apples in April, either trucked in from far away or, more likely, refrigerated since the fall. It's finally apple season. Apple picking, drying, saucing, canning, eating, peeler/slicer/corers, and trips to the orchard.


3.) After Apple Picking by Robert Frost

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Etsy Shop is now Live!

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I've "had" an Etsy shop for six years. 

In that time, I've almost listed so many things. I've had pinterest boards of inspiration and ideas of things to list. But never actually listed anything.

Until today. 

Starting with paintings displayed at my show in June, and inspired by my most recent painting:


I'm excited to market my paintings in a new forum, and excited to do more custom, commissioned pieces! 

Contact me with your idea, your photo, your once in a lifetime moment! 

Looking forward to working together.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Yarn From Rags - WIP Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

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Creating is my passion, my sanity, my sense of being "up to something", my way of contributing a little bit. I always have a few projects going, many left to the side for months or even years before I pick up the best and carry on. Here's some of what I'm working on this week:

We have a bag hanging in the closet where we tuck worn out clothing - holes, stains, tears. We could easily just throw them away but much of the material is still perfectly good. From using old socks for doll clothing, making your own fiber fill/stuffing, cleaning rags, to yarn!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Five Articles That Have Challenged The Way I Think - Summer 2016

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I read a lot of articles. Every once in a while I come across one that really makes me think, that challenges me in a new way. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Saying Yes - What's Working Really Well Right Now

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I get it, I also have a to-do list a mile long. 

There's laundry piled everywhere in various states of cleanliness. There's flotsam and jetsam from art projects. The big ak-mak box (say that five times fast) and others that are a car/boat/house/present/fort/suitcase/rocketship/safe-from-lava are strewn about. The dishwasher is ready to be unloaded and refilled. There dried noodles on the floor of porch from a lovely dinner eaten out of doors while we still can. That's just what I can see from here.

I even get tired of hearing myself grump and stress and say no in all kinds of ways. Many days I feel like I can barely breathe under the load of work and responsibilities that are my lot at present. As with many a parent of young children, I often feel as though I've lost myself. All that's left is a wiper of bottoms, a personal servant, a house-keeper, with nary a piece of clothing worn for even five minutes without someone else's boogers or who knows what on it.

When these sticky, sometimes dreadfully behaved, buckets-of-need come to me during a minute I've tried to eke out for my own sanity with yet another completely NOT necessary request, I'm not always at my best. 

Turns out that when you say "Yes!" anyway, magical things happen. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

August Break - See you in September!

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Between a road trip for a memorial service, a few days at one of the great lakes (picture from last time we were there while I was pregnant for the first time) and a certain someone turning two (TWO!) I'm taking a couple weeks off. 

I haven't responsibly written ahead. I haven't gotten anyone else to post for me. Just a break. A rest. A recharge. 

Wishing you the very best for these last days of summer and looking forward to seeing you in September!
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Toddler Meals - food tastes better when it's pretty

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Feeding toddlers small portions of real foods is important. It not only develops a wide range of "what food tastes like" or palate, but it is the start of lifelong healthy eating habits. 

Like I've said before (No. 3.), a variety of healthy options guarantees that no matter what they choose they will feed themselves well.

As a species, we are wired to appreciate beauty. I've long believed that food tastes better when it's pretty. My girls eat more when their food is well presented, prepared with care, and in portions they might actually be able to finish. 

Here are some of the girls' meals over the past few months. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bathroom Makeover Pt3 - Medicine Cabinet

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Bathroom Makeover Pt3 - Medicine Cabinet

Before you get TOO sick of hearing about my bathroom, at least I assume you're not as excited about it as I am, I want to leave you with the final installment. 

The medicine cabinet is a builder grade oak number that had three mirror doors inset
which made the sagging shelves inside too narrow to be used for many things we wanted to keep there - like normal sized product bottles, etc.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Infused (Flavored) Water - Satur-DIY, August 13th, 2016

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It's hot. It's humid. 

It's sit-in-the-shade-and-drink-something-cold-and-delicious weather. And occasionally spray-oneself-with-the-hose weather. 

While I can't help you with the hose, I can help you with the something delicious to drink.

Infused (Flavored) Water

Combine fresh fruit, veggies, and herbs in water, let steep. Chill, and enjoy.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Walking To Town - One Car Family

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Joe's car suffered a fatal injury on his return trip

After crunching numbers, taking a good hard look at our needs, wants, and plans, we have decided to be a one car family. At least for now. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Moving Upstairs - WIP Wednesday August 3rd, 2016

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Creating is my passion, my sanity, my sense of being "up to something", my way of contributing a little bit. I always have a few projects going, many left to the side for months or even years before I pick up the best and carry on. Here's some of what I'm working on this week:

Amidst the drastic shifts in weather, drought to days of rain, overwhelming heat to slippers and sweaters, uck/sickness and final passages, we squeezed in enough time to finish painting and move upstairs. This allows little A to have her own (little) big girl bed. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Together Again - sending off dear grandparents

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Both of my maternal grandparents, GrandmaJo and Maynard passed away this year. My grandmother died in February. Five months and two days later, my grandfather passed away this past Friday afternoon. 

The day after my husband and I got married, my grandmother told me "I've been married for thirty-two years so don't you give up yet!"  She'd been married over fifty years at that point. This side of my family is filled with love, joy, and enough humor to make up for a bit of fuzzy accuracy. 

The above photo was from our last Great Lakes vacation, four years ago while I was pregnant with C whose middle name is the first name of both my consanguineal grandmothers.

We went out the following year for a dear cousin's baby shower. And now are making plans to go out for the memorial service and to celebrate their lives by doing things we loved to do together.

They were both cared for and deeply loved until the end and still. 

Our once or twice yearly trips to see them and other family out in Michigan instilled me with a love for travel by train, sailing and all things boats, marinas, picking cherries and apricots, nighty-nights (meringue cookies), walking around the neighborhood, dark (preferably homemade) maple syrup (deemed "axel grease" by my grandfather), pounding nails and building things, bicycling for pleasure, picnics on the beach, and the ultimate pizza sunset cruises on their sailboat. 

Sending so much love to my dear grandparents and glad for the ease of their passing.

"I love to walk, down the dock, with my grammygrammygrammy" -sung with accompanying a funny side by side walk that really only works if you're arm in arm.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bathroom Makeover Pt2 - Bathroom Floor, Stenciled Linoleum

Bathroom Makeover Pt2 - Bathroom Floor

(For before pictures take a look at Bathroom Makeover Part1)

After taking on the challenge of redecorating the bathroom and sink, I tackled the floor. 

No, I didn't trip. It did involve some magic though.

For this week's edition of "Why Yes! You can paint that!" we will feature my bathroom floor.

After looking into flooring options and figuring out what the heck we actually had (one of the mysteries of buying a house) I determined that, once again, painting would be the best option. 

Inspired by floor painting projects of my mother in numerous houses throughout my childhood, I got to work.

After much research, I decided to try my hand at stenciling, thus preserving some of the blue from the floor - a most beloved color to our dear C. As our bathroom floor has a lot of area and few features to work the work around, I chose a large stencil. 

Add in pewter porch floor paint (for durability), and surprisingly little time, our floor is marvelous!

Monday, July 25, 2016

(Closer to) Zero Waste - Five things you can do right now

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(Closer to) Zero Waste - Five things you can do right now to cut your expenses, increase your self-sufficiency, and make the world a better place for all of us.

What is  "Zero Waste"?

From the wiki page:

Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. No trash is sent to landfills or incinerators. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature.

Instead of just throwing stuff in the trash, what do we do?

Bea Johnson, author of bestselling Zero Waste Home*, whose family generates just one small jar of trash per year, talks about the five Rs:

Reduce
Reuse
Recycle
Refuse
and Rot (compost) 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Holding the Balance - Hooray he's home!

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The girls' Daddy, my beloved husband is home.


One of the things I couldn't tell you is that Daddy was away for a month. 

One of the primary tenets of OpSec (Operations Security) is to not broadcast/publish/post/announce/etc travel dates, plans, absences etc. As a somewhat somewhat small female with two little ones in tow, we don't announce to the world that we're on our own for a month.

A month is a long time. I even read my own article on solo parenting in a few times of desperation.  Waitaminit. I know how to do this. I wrote about it. Didn't think I was writing it to help future-me, but hey. Oh right! That's what we do.

While it wasn't a deployment and his stateside training made regular contact possible, he was gone long enough that we had to form new patterns, routines, and lots of extra snuggling wherever they could get it. 

With extra treats, lots of toddler meals, and so much love and support from friends and family, we are back together. And little worse for the wear.

Now if we could just get through this heat we will get back to making this space home! 

I'm looking forward to showing you all the marvelous things we created, built, planted, spread, stenciled, painted, and spruced while Daddy was gone.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The best $5 I've ever spent - buying not so perfect produce.

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Recently I've been seeing lots of articles about "ugly" vegetables - ones that don't meet the perfection standards held by many grocery stores.

They aren't any less nutritious, they aren't even necessarily damaged in any way. 

For anyone looking to eat well for less, try looking in the "day old" bin or reduced price cart at your local grocery store.



There's a local market that's a little farther from our house (but closer to Joe's work) that has a wonderful discount shelf. Often it's just "ripe bananas" 3lbs for 99c but occasionally there are lots of other goodies. 

They may have a soft spot. They may be the last of the batch, or they may just need to be peeled. 

2lbs of asparagus blanched and individually quick frozen (IQF)
Tomatoes eaten raw and in fresh pasta sauce
Broccoli to a friend and yellow flowered ones to the chooks
Cucumber salad
Bananas for snacks and the freezer.

For $5.

Our favorite local bakery almost always has goodies in a day old bin. The only difference in taste and texture is the same as you get from buying food and not eating it all the day you buy it. If I buy a couple of scones I'm not going to finish them completely within a couple hours. I'd much rather get a couple goodies at half the price and enjoy them just as much.

See what you can find! 
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Silence and Surprises

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We've been very busy, but I can't tell you about it.

A certain someone hasn't seen our work yet. But I can't tell you about that either. Not yet at least.


What I can tell you is that there have been lots of plants, dirt, painting (rolled, sprayed, brushed, and stenciled), designing and building, wiring, lugging about, adventures, pretty skirts dresses and fantastic hats,

Monday, July 4, 2016

Preserving Our Farmshare

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Before learning that my husband would be gone for more than a month over the course of this summer, we signed up for a CSA farmshare. 

Most CSAs have "small" or half shares which would be plenty for our family of two adults and two quite littles.

We decided to go with a full sized share to challenge ourselves to eat more vegetables and to put more food by for the winter.

Photo courtesy of New Dawn Farm
While I haven't found a way to preserve lettuce other than use it as social capital and spread the wealth, I've been busy chopping, freezing, canning, and prepping.

So far we have: 

2gal bags of frozen kale
1gal bag of frozen mixed greens - beet tops, kohlrabi greens, chard, etc.
1qt bag of frozen scallions
1qt bag of frozen green onions
qt jar of frozen small white onions
1gal of frozen hulled strawberries
4 x .25qt jars of strawberry jam
2 x .25qt jars of black raspberry jam (berries picked from a friend's patch)
2 x .5 pint jars of pickled radishes (we ate the third to see how they were. Yum!)

We have beets collecting for pickled beets and have been pretty well keeping up with everything else. 

 
"We eat local all year 'round because we can."

What are you preserving, canning, freezing, drying, fermenting, putting up or putting by?
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Monday, June 27, 2016

Busy washing EVERYTHING.

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Thank you to a very dear cousin, we have a working washing machine. 

Almost two months ago our washer broke. We called the repair guy (knowing there was a diagnostic fee) and were told it was a faulty drain pump. We decided not to pay the more than $350 to have him replace it. 

Three orders from three different companies later, we had the part in hand. 

A little more than a week later, one of my very favorite cousins arrived with another of my very favorite cousins (who played with the girls ALL day) and put in the part. 

Turns out it wasn't the only thing not functioning, but at least now we can wash on hot. 

Doing laundry by hand (foot?) or borrowing the washers of relatives during our visits there meant we only did the absolutely necessary laundry. 

We didn't wash the bathroom rug. Turns out it actually still is a creamy white color. :) Who knew? 



So happy to be back in the clean laundry business.

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