Large Family Chores: Mopping

I’ve been reading a wonderful resource lately…

Kim Brennenam’s Large Family Logistics (visit her blog here).

The book is good for me. Most is common sense and stuff I’ve heard or already knew but the key to this book is how she takes all that knowledge and brings it together into a workable solution for your family. Kim has 9 kids, homeschools, and lives on a working farm. Her similar interests means she is a woman I can glean from…especially being a woman of God who puts that above all else and wonderfully shows how to put it above all else in your own life in spite of a large family that produces daily chaos and mess. This has been sobering and refreshing for me all at the same time.

Today we are practicing one of her tips: Listening to audio books while mopping.

With six little kids 9 and under, our floors are filthy no matter how many times a day we sweep. I even try to spot mop after every meal to keep things manageable. Six little feet drag dirt, sand and grass onto the floor daily. Six little mouths miss food as it falls into puddles of stuck-on gunk on our floor.

So today we put on a story, got out six rags, made our own floor cleaner, put the baby in the play pen and set to work. The kitchen smells lemony and wonderful. While they have not perfected the art of mopping, it is MUCH cleaner than it was before and there was no complaining or grumbling…just giggling while they worked on their chore. I think I will use this tactic for other once-a-week chores!

What are we listening to today?

Ivy and Bean

 

A good story for Halloween and one of my children’s favorites!

How are we cleaning our floor?

  • scoop of baking soda
  • splash of vinegar
  • squirt of dish soap
  • sprinkle of essential oils: lemon and rosemary
Mix in a bowl with warm/hot water and deep clean, disinfect your floor.
Happy Mopping!
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The Green Thing

A good friend from church sent me this email. I thought this pretty much sums things up. I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thank you!

 The Green Thing

In the line at the supermarket, the cashier told an older woman that she
should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the
environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing
back in my day.”


The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not
care enough to save our environment.”

He was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to
the shop. The store sent them back to the factory to be washed and
sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So
they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every department
store and office building. We walked to the grocery shop and didn’t climb
into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the
throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling
machine burning up 240 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the
clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not
always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the
green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room.
And the TV had a small screen not a screen the size of Western Australia.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have
electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used a wadded up old
newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn.
We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we
didn’t need to go to a gym to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a water fountain or tap when we were thirsty instead of using
a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we
replaced the rasor blades in a rasor instead of throwing away the whole
rasor just because the blade was blunt.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the train, tram or a bus and kids rode their bikes to
school or walked instead of turning their Mums into a 24-hour taxi service.
We had one electric outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power
a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerised gadget to receive a
signal beamed from satellites thousands of kilometers out in space in order
to find the nearest pizza place.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks
were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Real Food Part One: Dinner and a Movie

Maybe some of you remember the $5 Food Challenge invitation?

Yesterday was the big day. I admit, I was a little worried. Because of time and money restraints I wasn’t able to go shopping until the day before.  But due to the generosity of friends and being able to go shopping at a new wonderful all local food store, Tomato Tomato, everything came together beautifully!

The Challenge ~ Can we eat a local, real food meal for less than the average value meal ($5 per person)? Do we have to sacrifice nutrient-dense healing food for processed, mass produced pretend food?

How did we do?

People attending: 20

Challenge Food Budget: $100

Actual Spent: $50.73

Per Person: $2.54

~ Dinner Menu ~

Herbed Arm Roast

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Buttered Green Beans

Smoked Bacon Swiss Chard Gratin

Fresh Baked Bread

Local Fresh Farm Milk

~ Dessert Menu ~

 Fall Apple Crisp with Fresh Whipped Cream

Locally Roasted Coffee: Columbia Sierra Nevada

~ Movie Snack ~

Local Stove Popped Popcorn

The biggest challenge was deciding how legalistic I was going to be about the whole event. Does every little thing have to be local? Does it all have to be organic? It is easy to fall into a trap in every ideology, whether religious or worldly, that one must adhere to strict rules and never fall off the path. But the biggest life lesson I am learning is that grace abounds and that allows flexibility and freedom while seeking the heart of an issue.

The heart of this challenge for me was two-fold. First I wanted to bring people together to share in food and good conversation. That is so key to what my family believes in. Second I wanted to offer up fodder for conversation on the food war front. We can only change things if we are making informed decisions. I was excited to share a film that would spur debate and critical thinking that we greatly need right now about our food industry.

Some of my local, real food challenges for this dinner…

I needed butter. I wanted vitamin-rich grassfed butter. There was none to be found. So I had to settle for butter at my regular grocery store and just made sure I picked the most local vendor.

I decided to go ahead and use the spices already in my cupboard…salt, pepper, garlic, etc…and not stress about whether they were local or organic.

Price Breakdown ~

Arm Roast$17.85 (3.50 x 5.10 lbs – Range West Grass Fed Beef)

Potatoes free (neighbor’s farm)

Green Beansfree (neighbor’s farm)

2 Onions$ .96 (Spring Valley Gardens)

Swiss Chardfree (own garden)

Herbsfree (own garden)

Apples$8.74 (4.5 lbs)

8 oz Smoked Bacon Cheese$4.60 (Jisa Farmstead Cheese)

Gallon Whole Milk$6.22 (Burbach – $4 credit for bringing back bottles)

Pint Cream$2.87 (Burbach – $1 credit for bringing back the bottle)

1 lb Butter$4 1lb (Highland Dairy)

Flour –  $2 for 2lbs (Grain Place Foods)

Oats $1 for 1lb (Grain Place Foods)

Popcorn$.49 for 1/3 bag ($1.49 bag – Hilger Agri Natural)

Coffee$3.00 for 1/3 bag ($9.30 16oz – locally roasted at Midwest Custom Roasting Inc.)

   

After a delicious dinner that everyone felt was much more like Thanksgiving rather than a usual evening meal, we retired to the living room to watch the controversial documentary Food Inc. The first time I watched this movie I literally walked out of the theater crying. I was already much more in the know about the food industry then most people I knew yet I was still shocked by what I saw. Having studied much more extensively about food since then, watching it this time just made me very angry. My first viewing left me wanting to change and I did make small baby steps. This viewing left me with a steely resolve that I need to get this food thing figured out for my family. We had some great conversation starting points and I think most everyone left with something to think about.

It was a great night of delicious food and even greater fellowship.

And it gave me much to talk about and share here in this virtual space. So I will be picking my own brain and hashing out thoughts throughout the next couple of weeks in a Real Food Series. Be sure to check back for more discussion and how your family can start making changes.

In the meantime, watch the movie Food Inc. Start reading (your local library is a great resource) and thinking. And check out Slow Food USA and “like” them on Facebook for real-time news stories. Let’s stop pretending that our world is fine and that we don’t need to change. Let’s start taking a real look at food and get back to eating food as God intended it to be.

Want to hear about our night? Listen to my husband on a radio podcast on in-season eating over at Judy A La Carte’s radio talk show.

Take the $5 Challenge


This showed up in my email today:

I want to eat healthy, local food but I have no time, not much money and no clue how to pull it off. What can I do?” – pretty much everyone

Yes..yes…have heard this SO many times, often from my own mouth. I’ve done A LOT in the past year to actually make this a reality for our family. It isn’t easy. It takes time and thought and research and experimenting. It takes baby steps and small changes. But it can be done.

Things I do to put real (unprocessed), whole, nutritious (preferably local) food on our table:

  • Cook from scratch. Refuse to by boxed despite the temptation. Yes, there may be some questionable meals in the beginning experimenting stages but it does get better! 😉 My biscuits are now bomb.com (as my hubby would affectionately say!).
  • Make my own bread. This is still touch and go for me. With the amount of work on my plate this one sometimes falls by the wayside.
  • Cook a whole chicken and then turn the bones into broth. This has saved us the most amount of money. A $6 chicken can feed our family 2-3 meals and I get about 8-10 cans (baggies) of broth out out of the deal…an extra $6-10 savings.
  • Use in season vegetables from a local farmer. We sourced one who is selling us produce for $1 per pound. Beat that supermarket!
  • Grow a garden. This one seems like a no-brainer but if you want to actually grow one and NOT waste money check out this book: Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 an Acre.
  • Learn to can. Put up food in it’s season while it is the most inexpensive. Sometimes this is as simple as chopping and freezing. Or it can be elaborate as making wonderful preserves or marinara’s.
  • Buy in bulk. No, not the warehouse clubs. I’m talking take that tax refund check, run it down to your local CSA or meat farmer and buy a share when the bulk money is there. Pre-order CSA veggies to be delivered weekly. Bring home 1/2 a cow and freeze it. Order a side of pig and have bacon, chops, ribs for the whole year!
  • Learn to waste nothing. Chopping veggies? Onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and herb ends can go into a freezer baggie and be used when preparing stock. Other veggie/fruit waste can be turned back into rich soil through compost. (Who wants to buy compost?) Fat from your pig you ordered can be turned into lard and put up for the year for delicious biscuits, pie crusts, cookies and for popping popcorn. Kids don’t like bread heels? Chuck them in the freezer until you have enough to make bread pudding or dry them on the counter top and turn into bread crumbs. I even came across a lady who turned her extra chicken feet into stock!!!
  • Source Raw Milk. Still working on this one. But when we do…oh man. That same money spent on not-so-nutritious pasteurized milk can be used on super nutrient dense milk that can also be used to make cream, butter, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, farmer’s cheese, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. This is the largest percentage of where our grocery dollar disappears to so I am excited to try and shave in this particular area.
  • Learn to hunt. This is a new skill my husband will be taking up this fall. Permits are usually low cost and this is a self-sufficiency skill that is a lost art. Possible deer meat for a year? Maybe a turkey? This is meat you can take to the bank.
  • Eat your local weeds. Did you know purslane is a wonderful addition to salads? And it is probably growing right now in your front yard. What about dandelion omelletes? Chicory root coffee? Have fun experimenting and exploring your own back yard. Read: The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
So I decided to take on this $5 Challenge! What is the $5 Challenge you say? Glad you asked. Most fast food value meals are $5 or under. We will be attempting to feed a dinner meal at under $5 a person using only local, real food to show that it can be done for the average family! As Slow Food USA says:
Together, we’re sending a message to our nation’s leaders that too many people live in communities where it’s harder to buy fruit than Froot Loops.”
I will be hosting a dinner party at my house on Saturday, September 17. All (in my local area) friends and family can come and partake. Please R.S.V.P. in comments or via facebook or email by September 10th. I will email you with the time and details. We will be watching the movie Food, Inc. while eating the delicious fare that my chef hubby and I will cook up. I hope much fruitful discussion can take place afterwards. Dessert and coffee will be included. I will be typing up a sheet with a break down of our dinner food costs on the front and local sources of food on the back for all who are interested and will be back here to blog about our yummy meal and discussion highlights within that next week.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE!”
And for all those who aren’t in my local area, please visit the $5 Challenge site and sign up to host your own dinner party!

Canning No-Chunks, Kid-Friendly Strawberry Jam

Mmmmm…..

I’m sitting here smelling strawberries simmering down on the stove top. There is no other smell like it in the world. I can only describe it as scrumptiously heavenly. The childhood memories it evokes…grandma’s house, strawberry shortcake dolls, summer playtime, childhood foraging…is probably as strong as the deliciousness of the smell. And today it reminded me that I had taken some previous pictures of canning strawberries and forgot to post about them.

My strawberry jam is kid-friendly…by that I mean no chunks!!! You know how texture-oriented kids can be. But the best part about this jam is its versatility in my kitchen. Not only is it good on PB & J sandwiches, biscuits, or morning toast, we also use it on pancakes, in crepes, and as our natural sweetener for homemade yogurt and ice cream. The no chunks translates well to all other applications making them kid-friendly as well. So I’ve tweaked the original recipe which I swiped from the book Jams and Preserves under Classic Strawberry Jam (lovingly given to me as a gift from my mother in law) and have made it my own.

I’m not going to go into all the canning process…you can read about that in any good canning book or visit Freshpreserving.com. I’m just going to share the process of my recipe. And, I must note, this jam is ideally made with strawberries that are locally in season where you live…not the grocery store chain variety. But, I will sheepishly admit, mine are made with the grocery store variety due to price prohibitions. I am taking baby steps to that local, food-sustainable living thing but that is not the baby step I am on. I buy my strawberries when they are in season and go on sale for 99 cents per pound. That makes canning them economically work for me. Canning is cheaper than store bought jam and avoids that nasty high fructose corn syrup…the greater of two evils at the moment. (My cost is about $2 per pint jar. I try to buy my sugar on sale too.) And yes, I know strawberries is one of the dirty dozen yet I also can’t afford grocery store organic variety. So you work with what you have. This I will garauntee  you…it will still be the best tasting strawberry jam you’ve ever eaten! My kids won’t eat any other variety.

Now…on to making jam!

Step 1 ~ Get all your equipment ready to go.

Step 2 ~ Wash your fruit thoroughly. I use about 4-6 one pound containers.

Step 3 ~ Cut the tops off your strawberries (a steak knife works great for this), cut away any bruises, and halve or quarter. I know, I know…what a waste…use a strawberry huller! A) I don’t have one. B) I’m lazy. I put my diced strawberries straight into the pot I’m going to cook them in. One less bowl to wash. Did I mention I’m lazy?

Step 4 ~ Compost your strawberry tops (or let your little ones play garden with them!) and rinse and recycle your containers. (See…those tops didn’t go to waste. They are soil builders…yeah, soil builders!)

Step 5 ~ Dice up (with skin on) into 1/4 inch pieces 2 granny smith apples. This creates natural pectin. Have you seen the price of pectin? Outrageous. With kids we always have apples on hand. You can make your own pectin which I’d like to try some year…not this year. You can also use rhubarb if you have it available. It is the in-season fruit to use but I never have it on hand.

Step 6 ~ Add a splash or two of lemon juice (acidity helps with preservation) and simmer the whole thing over medium heat for about 20 minutes…or until berries collapse. Take the opportunity to clean your kitchen while inhaling this oh so yummy aroma. Or blog like I am. You know…whatever.

Step 7 ~ Blend your berries in a blender, food processor or with an immersion wand. Just a quick blend will do. This helps further mix that apple in with the berries and obliterates the chunks making it kid-friendly.

Step 8 ~ As you add it back to your pot, measure it. Then add 1 and 2/3 cup sugar for ever 2  cups of strawberry liquid gold. You don’t have to be super precise with this part. Ball park it.

Step 9 ~ Simmer again for 15-20 minutes. Skim off the scum. This helps the jelly to be clear, not cloudy. I don’t know if this is kosher or not but, yes, it is okay to lick the scum spoon. It tastes heavenly and why let a good thing go to waste?

Step 10~ After about 15 minutes check temperature with a thermometer. If it is just at 220 (setting point) then you are ready to can. You can do the gel method test but I’ve never been good at this and ended up way over-cooking my jam so I just stick with a concrete temp. Allow to cool on stove top about 10 minutes and skim again.

Step 11 ~ Ladle into jars with a canning funnel. Make sure to wipe rims clean and check for air bubbles. Lid jars with new lids…learned this the hard way! Although, I’ll be checking out these new reusable canning lids soon! If you have a jar that is only half full then allow that one to cool instead of canning and use first (refrigerate).

Step 12 ~ Water bath can in boiling water for 10-15 minutes (start timer after your water comes back to boil when putting jars into the water).

Step 13 ~ Turn off heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so. Take out with canning tongs and move to cooling rack. Allow to completely cool before putting away. Remember to check for proper sealing. If one didn’t seal right, just stick that one in the fridge and use first.

This makes between 2-4 pints.

Step 14 ~ Enjoy for lunch on fresh homemade bread and stirred into plain yogurt. Use again on biscuits at dinner because it was so good that you thought that making breakfast for dinner was a good idea. Plus, you were too tired after canning to think of a clever dinner.

Gardening Woes

May I just say that I suck at growing cilantro.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but there are no other words to describe it. This is the third year we’ve tried growing this supposedly easy-to-grow herb. The first year it died within the first month. I thought, ‘too much shade…more sun next year.’ The second year it bolted too soon and died within the first month. Too much sun? This year I tried it in two different spots. I planted one in a container with rich dirt. The second I planted among the other herbs in full sun with compost worked into the existing soil.

Results: bolted and died.

Sigh.

My other plants? Doing fabulous. the thyme next to the cilantro in the container is thriving and so is the endive on it’s other side. The basil and parsley in the ground…nice and bushy.

How is it that I can’t seem to get this one plant right? I’m up for anyone’s advice.

You Are What You Eat

They say you are what you eat.

We joke about it with witty quips about not wanting to live till 100 if it means cutting out all the fun stuff.

Until you see it literally staring you in the face.

I first noticed it when I made a quiche out of the lovely free fresh farm eggs we received the other day. It’s not like, in my head, I didn’t know they were better. I had occassionally splurged on some cage free eggs at the store. Yes, they were a bit deeper in color than regular eggs. But even a store cage free egg can have many meanings and not necessarily mean a chicken free to eat its natural vegetation. Which is why I couldn’t justify paying triple the store price for a very small, almost impercievable difference. (Watch a video from the Cornucopia Institute here.)

But this…

Oh these eggs were beautiful. All shades of brown, some light, some dark…no bland uniformity here. The yolks were fat and plump and this deep golden butter yellow. They made me happy to be making dinner instead of dreading it. And the quiches…oh my. What a rich golden color it came out. They looked (and tasted) like I had added all this cheese. Nope. Just a small sprinkling of parmesan and mozzerella in one and a smidgen of feta in the other. Not a drop of cheddar. But the taste…oh the taste was divine. Even my kids, who are not huge quiche fans (they are skeptical of anything that is not a scrambled egg), loved these eggs.

So I decided to capture the difference on camera. I wish you could’ve seen it in person. I actually think the picture shows the store-bought eggs reflecting the color of the fresh eggs. But even so you can tell the difference. My kids noticed it. They said they wanted the yellow eggs. They were sure I had screwed up making the other eggs despite them being the same eggs they have eaten for years.

“Did you put cheese in these eggs?” asks Gabe, my cheese lover.

“Mom, how come those eggs don’t look right?”

“Mom, can I have the yellow eggs, not the sick ones?”

Out of the mouths of babes…but very smart babes!

So, what makes the difference in color? And is it nutritionally superior?

Check out these stats for yourself.

Mother Earth News did a study with fourteen farms and compared it to the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs. They found that the pasture-fed, free range chickens had these qualities compared to conventional store-bought eggs ~

  • 1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene.

A side by side average looks like this:

                                  SuperMarket Egg          Pastured Egg

Vitamin E                        .97                                     3.73

Vitamin A                       487                                  791.86

Beta Carotene                10                                      79.03

Omega 3                          .22                                        .66

Cholesterol                    423                                      277

Saturated Fat               3.1g                                      2.4g

That’s some good eating!