Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cherry Picking

Cherries are now out of season, but we enjoyed them while they lasted!  I had plans to make all sorts of yummy cherry treats, but we just ended up eating them as they came.  And I'm okay with that.

Beautiful cherries at Tougas Farm, Northborough, MA

My helpful helpers

Super fun playground at Tougas Farm in Northborough

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 Vacation Highlights

We have made camping every summer a family tradition.  Every year we trek up to Maine and enjoy the life up there for a bit.  While vacationing with small children is rarely relaxing, the change of pace and scenery is definitely what we needed.

Where do you go for a change of scenery?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sugar is like Smoking

I gave my kids some ice cream today.  Two hours later I hear, "Can we have the rest of the ice cream for dinner?"  Nope.  "Whyyyy?????" Whines a child, or two and then three chimes in.  I let them know that they need to make healthier choices, blah, blah, blah, body nutrition, blah, blah.  Eli then follows up with, "Sugar is like smoking, mom!  If we have just a little, we want more and then we're making unhealthy choices. You gave us sugar in the ice cream...now we want more!  It's your fault we're addicted to sugar!!!"
Great.  Yet another thing they'll be in therapy for when they're older. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My First Homebirth!

Worlds collide... I want to send you to this blog.  It's my other blog and I'm so excited about the birth of wee little 9lb James at home.  It was such a truly amazing experience.  No matter the circumstances, any birth is absolutely beautiful, but to bear witness to and be a part of a home birth was brilliant and humbling.  This momma is gorgeously strong - a 9lb baby in no time at all.  Welcome to the world, sweet James!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Boys and Their Guns

Forget about bugs and introduce more boo boos than I can even imagine.  Or not. 
Each of my sons has his own jackknife.  They carve sticks with them.  They are kept well out of reach, unless the husband is around to oversee the carving operation.  I can't watch them because it makes me nervous, which, in turn, makes them nervous.  They have each cut themselves once.  I am very okay with giving my children tools, teaching them how to use them and letting them use them.  They each have their own hammer and box of nails - real wood and metal hammers and a real box of sharp 2" galvanized nails.  There are specific areas where they are allowed to hammer in nails.  They are readily accessible whenever they are outside and would like to use them. 
The husband played paintball this weekend.  Here comes the question..."Mom, when can I play paintball?" 
I pointed to the large red and bloodied boo boo on the husband's arm -"See that?  When you think you can get hit, bleed and not cry about it."
Oh.  Never mind.
Yesterday was Odin's birthday.  The husband asks, "How would you feel if I let the boys shoot off rounds with the paintball gun?"
Deep breath.
"There can only be one gun loaded, they shoot at a target in wood pile and you are right there with your hand on the gun at any given moment."
"Yes, dear."
Deep breath.

It was required to wear a mask.  The husband isn't all fun and games, thankfully.

The birthday boy in a fabulous mask created by the husband.

The husband is prepared to defend our actions if DSS should come knocking on our door.
 I have to admit, it was fun watching the boys' little bodies take the kick of the guns and say, "woah!" and laugh.  Wait, they said, "woah" and laughed, not me. 
It's times like these that I am grateful that we live in the woods.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Garden, July 2011

Lots of posts today, I know.  I have some free time. 
I love my garden.  I love working in the dirt and caring for plants I know will yield beautifully delicious and nourishing food for my family within a short amount of time.  I love watching these lovelies flower and grow and produce. 
I also enjoy finding strange wonders.  This year we have sunflowers we did not intentionally plant.  I can only assume that the kids, or the husband, spit out sunflower seeds in the garden and the right conditions produced an amazing life form.  I would guess it's over eight feet tall right now. 

My compost started sprouting various plants.  I'm pretty sure at one time it was sprouting beans that I had thrown in there.  This compost pile (I have 4 small piles) started showing signs of life back in May.  Today, it's showing signs of being a pumpkin.  I can only assume it's from the seeds I discarded after actually planting pumpkin seeds in an area of the yard I thought would yield something...nope.  They sprouted and promptly died.  These ones are doing very well. 
I can only assume this will be a pumpkin. 

This year Odin wanted me to plant corn.  So, as a good mother would, I did.  I also planted pole beans and squashes, as per the native americans' three sisters plan.  And, a sunflower, as the four sisters, some talk about.  I did this purely by accident, though.  Well, I planted the pole beans in between the rows of corn, as per my mother's instructions.  The rest is definitely by accident. 
Pole bean and flower amongst the corn stalks.

I planted lettuce last year.  I let it flower because I just couldn't consume that much lettuce.  It came back this year.  How beautiful.
Lettuce amongst the sugar snap peas and carrots.

Every year we plant sugar snap peas.  We don't actually store them or eat them at meals.  My kids just like to pick them, while playing outside, and snack on them.  Perfect.

Another thing I chose to do, as you can see, is use newspaper and cardboard boxes for weed prevention.  It works fabulously.  When the growing season ends, I will till the naturally decomposing paper into the soil, mixed with composted chicken poop and some veggie compost.  Yumma.
In certain areas I have used composted pine shavings and chicken poop to give my veggies an extra boost.  Around my carrots, some corn and a cucumber plant that wasn't doing so well.  They are all doing brilliantly now...in case you're wondering.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Homemade Raw Sour Cream

We didn't go through as much milk as I had anticipated last week.  For some reason, the boys just aren't into drinking milk as much as they used to be.  Perhaps it's because I now refuse to add things into their milk to sweeten and change the flavor of it.  Hmmm, that might do it.
Our milk was going to sour on it's own, so I decided to turn it into sour cream.  I had to freeze one gallon - there was really no need for that much sour cream.  I did an Internet search and found this article on how to make sour cream from raw milk, which is what we buy.  I poured the milk into two large Mason jars, left the lids askew and placed it where it wouldn't get disturbed.  This is what I found after 36 hours:
What you're looking at, I'm assuming, is raw sour cream on the very top, clabber in the middle and whey on the bottom.  I found this article on how to make buttermilk, but clearly the pictures do not resemble mine.  However, they used a starter and I didn't. 
Almost every article or post that I find regarding buttermilk or sour cream seems to start with a starter, like this one.  I actually really like this blog.  I am really loving the recipe for Dandelion Jelly with Lemon.  I now have a new, nutritious and delicious recipe for my growing dandelion garden!
I finally found a video that sort of makes me feel better about my product.  It certainly helps that this young man is easy on the eyes.  I didn't even think of consulting my Nourishing Traditions book. 
The cream definitely smells and tastes sour.  I'm used to store-bought sour cream, but for $3.89 for a pound of it, I'd like to create my own.  I'll keep you posted...

Update 7/10, later that day:  I tried to eat the soured cream.  I wanted to throw up.  It reminded me of finding the baby's bottle under the couch who knows how many days later.  I'm headed to the farm today, so I want to get a gallon of fresh raw milk, still warm from milking, to try this with.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Some of My Favorite Things Summer 2011

I have all these random photos that I could blog about individually, but really, is that necessary?  Here's just some highlights from this summer that I just have loved. 

New England Aquarium, Boston
Harbor Seals

Napping with Grammy

Ninja paintings

Boys passed out after the fireworks
(it was just easier to put them on the table while
getting them all out of the car and into the bathroom)


Somethin' a brewin' in the compost pile...

3 Days of No TV...

We spent 3 days without the television on.  No video games, as well.  We played with Playdoh, painted, read a lot of books together, played outside, went to the beach, and worked the garden.  We also had some nice quiet time and played board games, while Silas was napping.  Then, yesterday happened.  I needed to actually pay attention to our home, do some laundry - actually putting it away included and clean some surfaces.  There's this gigantic pile that mysteriously grows by the computer desk.  Printed out recipes, homeschooling filing, books, Mapquest directions I forgot at home, bills...  On went the t.v.  The Smurfs, season 1, to be exact.  Man, did I love The Smurfs when I was little!  G'nap, G'nap!  Eli sat in front of the t.v. for 4 hours.  And I let him.  The other two were in and out, finding something else to do if they got bored or hungry.  The instances of "Mom, he hit me!" easily quadrupled yesterday in comparison to the cumulative 3 days prior.  I watched the progression happen...they'd all be sitting on the couch watching t.v.  One would get bored and somersault over a nearby sibling.  Or one would reach over and poke the other.  It's interesting to watch the differences in a day with t.v. versus a day without.  I got a lot done.  Laundry was washed, dried, folded and put into the respective rooms (not necessarily in drawers, though).  The toilet was scrubbed.  The desk area was eviscerated and dust was removed from crevices I didn't know existed.  The rugs got vacuumed and some toys got put away.  And I made a pasta salad and a bean salad.  Today is another t.v.-free day.  I was going to extend it a week of absolutely no t.v., but man, it's hard.  In order for me to be an attentive mom, I had to sacrifice the home.  I had to meet with a client last night and I knew if the house was chaos, the husband would have had a rougher time watching the boys. 
I'm okay with sand all over the couch and Playdoh on the floors - it's what childhood is about - but I need to actually maintain our living space so that the couch does not turn into the sandbox and we're relaxing in the empty wooden square outside.
There's always a balance needed.  Absolutely no t.v. is one extreme.  For us, t.v. all the time is the other.  I'm still experimenting with tipping the scales and finding the balance that works for our family.  I love that physical assaults were lessened, but we do need clean underwear...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blog Searches

I don't have that many followers that publicly follow.  And two of my followers are myself. 
I'm actually surprised anyone at all reads my blog.  I've always kept a journal or diary, so a blog is like a natural extension of that. 
I am not ignorant or naive. 
I know predators exist. 
I just hit the "stats" button on my blog account and found that a lot of blog hits were because of the words "naked, boy, children, potty, poop." 
I think I might throw up, cry and scream.
I felt like I had to delete a picture of my son and his little bum using the potty for the first time.  I deleted it. 
I can't make my face stop scrunching..it's so involuntary. 
I can't and don't want to even begin to imagine what these people are using these pictures for. 
I love writing and this won't deter me from doing so.  However, I now have to be careful of what pictures I post.  This makes me so sad.  This was such a happy place for me to be and share my thoughts.  Honestly, it's going to take a little while for me not to associate blogging with predators trying to look at my little boy.  And I know I can't look at my stats again. 
This is such a weird feeling...to feel violated by people you don't know, who are across oceans and using a computer to do so.  Ugh.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 1 of No TV

When my first baby was born I was determined to not let him watch too much tv.  I knew little ones, less than a year old, who have "favorite" tv shows.  I can't remember when we first introduce a children's show, but there were no favorites for quite a while.  Here comes the second child.  Still not a lot of tv...for them.  I was home with two littles and nursing.  I watched a soap opera and some bad doctor show.  The kids started to have some preferred videos and PBS time.  We moved into our first house and I became pregnant with number three.  Hello, world of tv!  They had very favorite PBS shows and videos.  The  tv was on almost all the time.  I heard contrasting opinions regarding tv.  Some said they would regulate themselves, that if they watched what they needed or wanted, they'd play if other things were available.  Others believed in no tv, believing it rots the brain.  I gave my children trust and let them watch tv whenever.  They did regulate themselves.  They didn't watch just to watch.  When they were bored with tv, they moved outside or onto toys. 
Last Christmas, the boys got MobiGos.  Then, the husband let Eli use his portable Playstation.  And over time, we introduced them to Lego.com/Games.  Now they were hooked.  Between the tv, video games and computer, their toys were being neglected.  The light of day was passing them by.  When I tried to regulate, I was confronted with fits of yelling and angry words.  I'm no stranger to being "the bad guy", but this was ridiculous.  Then, their sleep started to be affected.  They couldn't settle down at night.  They were getting up at a decent morning hour and taking one to two hours at night to fall asleep, with no naps for the older two in the day. 
They were being innundated with flash screens and movement...not their own bodies, either...unless you count their fingers.  I have a child who is excessively physical with his brothers and people in general.  He was watching Power Rangers, Lego Star Wars games and Kung Fu movies.  Hmmm...see the correlation?
Yesterday was day 1 of no tv, video games or computer time for them. ( I'm kind of a hypocrit because I use the computer for blogging and email, though. )  They woke up and wanted tv and video games.  Nope. No tv today.  They played with toys they hadn't played with in almost 6 months.  We played more games as a family, like Monsteropoly.  They played relatively well together all day.  They were moving, their minds and bodies...a lot.  They still took over an hour to settle down at night, but they had slept in yesterday morning until 9 a.m.  The overall feel in the house was a lot calmer. 
We'll see how day 2 goes...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Our "New" Camper

1987 Coleman Columbia

So much nicer than sleeping on roots and rocks.  I'm all for camping in a tent, but with 3 little ones and being OLD-er, I'm liking the camper. 
There are no amenities, so we're still cooking over a fire with a cooking grate, stick or with a small camp stove.  I can cook on a grill in my backyard, as I'm doing right now.  I want the feel of camping while camping.  I don't want the backyard-feel in someone else's woods.
We still will be using a cooler and ice to keep our food cold.  We'll still be peeing in a potty a walking distance away from our site.  Yes, I'm a mom and said, "peeing in a potty." 
After a year of craziness, I need a change of scenery...and a never ending supply of s'mores.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Processing Chickens

This is not for the faint of heart.  If you get queasy at the sight of blood, please move on...

Today was chicken processing day.  We were totally anxious and nervous.  I was worried about how the kids would handle it.  I was anticipating getting super grossed out.  I was just waiting for the husband and I to get so frustrated that an argument would ensue.  I thought something horrible would go wrong.  I thought maybe the chickens would be infested with crazy worms or some disease and the meat would be green.  I expected to get sprayed with large amounts of blood.  I thought the cats would turn super-carnal and start attacking the innards. 

What I didn't expect was children who watched for a minute and then simply walked away because they took in all they needed and were okay with it.  I didn't expect this amazing community feel to the day because some wonderful friends showed up and helped and kept us company.  I didn't expect to be completely clean, except smelling like chicken.  I didn't expect the cats to go far, far away.  I didn't expect kids to want to help out, kill and eviscerate.  I didn't expect to learn that much about the anatomy of a chicken.  I didn't expect my bare hands to be pulling the innards out of a chicken. 

Here come some pictures:

This is the industrial chicken feather plucker.  I have no idea what the actual name is.  We borrowed it from the husband's cousin. 

Our first chicken...alive and in the cone...it starts to get yucky...so last warning...

It takes a harder hand than expected to cut through the skin.  And the chicken flops around some. 
The husband fashioned the cones with some hard plastic ( I have no idea what it came from ).  The then put a ladder over two saw horses and put the cones ( 4 of them ) in the openings between the rungs. 

To help an easier release of feathers, hold chickens in 140 degree water for about a minute.  We used our burning can, a camping grate and a lobster pot.  We are not big time chicken farmers.

We hooked up the hose to the plucker and watched the chicken spin around and around.  It was weird and splashy.  It got all the feathers off, but split the skin a little. 
The chicken was not as big as we thought it might be.  It's all a learning experience...

Our work space:  A desk covered in a tarp with Rubbermaid container covers.  I scrubbed the station down with vinegar because I thought it mattered.  After the first few, there were flies everywhere.  Gross.

Eli was initially "all set" with everything.  After an hour or so, he put on gloves.  By the end of the day he was running around wielding a chicken foot trying to hit an egg-laying chicken in the butt, making jokes about chickens kicking themselves in the butt with their own feet. 

Our 9-year-old helper, eager to carry and process chickens. 

Our 6-year-old helper in the background.  These girls were amazing!

Yes, that is the 6-year-old helping out.  While I was taking a break earlier, she let me know that she understood that I'd need a break because gross work like that wasn't really for girls. 

  • We started our adventure at 10 a.m. this morning.  By 11 a.m. we had 3 chickens done.  We spent a lot of time staring at the flapping chickens and marveling at the whole process.  We had a lot of discussions about the process.  A little after 11 a.m. our first helpers arrived.  By noon, the next batch of friends came by.  We were done, everyone gone, everything cleaned up (including ourselves) and put away by 4 p.m. 
  • We did not eat chicken tonight. 
  • I saved the heads and feet for a broth-making, GAPS diet-following friend.
  • I composted the innards, blood and a couple of chickens who were boiled too long and ripped apart in the plucker.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the day - loving that these friends and families could come and witness and take part in our adventure, fostering the feeling and presence of community in our lives and contributing to what we feel is important as a somewhat food-conscious and responsible homeschooling family.
Things we're going to do differently:

Instead of keeping the chickens in this coop for four weeks...

...and in this pen
( By the way...those are Cornish Cross and the brownish are the Araucana's...same age.)

  • I'm building a chicken tractor out of hardware cloth, 2 x 4's and plywood, possibly similar to this one.  This was our first go at chicken farming.  We've learned a lot and we're still learning. 
  • I'd also like to build a brooder outside instead of housing one in our kitchen...
  • We'll be investing in a scalder.  Trying to keep the temperature at 140 degrees was difficult.  Also, having a pot of hot water on the ground kept me on my toes with the kids around. 
  • We'll be investing in a plucker, but not a fancy industrial one.  Something a bit simpler... maybe like this one.
  • We're also tossing the idea around of how we'll process.  Today we killed, eviscerated and chilled two birds at a time.  Once we got half our flock done, then I took them inside and bagged them and tossed them in the freezer.  Next time around we might kill, parboil and pluck them all...chill them, then eviscerate, bag and freeze.  We're trying to figure out the best system for us to use. 
Having our friends there really made the difference, as it always does.  But the husband and I really needed to focus.  Having friends available for our children to play with kept us free to focus.  Our boys are really young and were enthralled for about an hour.  Chances are if we had done this alone, we would have had to spread the processing out over the entire weekend.  Having friends there to help really helped.  It also lightened the whole mood.  It turned into a real community feel.  I loved it. 

We thought we wouldn't do the Cornish Cross again.  When we first researched we read a lot about health and heart problems.  We read about these birds not being able to fly for risk of rupturing internal things (sorry, I can't recall exactly what they'd rupture).  They're a high risk for heart attacks if you're not careful and don't process on time.  We read that they weren't bred to move a lot.  Also, since I was kind of wiggy (yes, wiggy) about this whole thing, being a new chicken farmer and all, I didn't want to like these birds.  I love, I mean love, my hens. They are my girls.  They follow me to the garden.  When I dig, they know to come.  My baby boy can pick any one of them up without fear of being pecked.  I just couldn't even think about eating a beautifully amazing, egg-laying chicken.  After raising these birds the way we thought we should raise them, I would do it completely different.  I read some blogs regarding raising the Cornish Cross birds differently.  I would raise them like Joel Salatin does with his beautiful grass-loving chicken tractor birds.  I'd care more about them because they can be delightful birds, if raised right.  Raising the Cornish Cross is more cost and time efficient than raising an heirloom breed, I believe.  We've got ten more Cornish Cross chicks in the brooder.  I'm building the tractor this week.  We'll see what prevails.
And no, we did not have chicken tonight...