Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook, Awards and Amoxycillin

Guten Tag!

It's a chilly start to the day here in Peaceable Kingdom. We're very ready for spring and it's coming, I just know it...or, I keep telling myself this to get me through another cold and windy day here in NH. We've had wind for 5 days straight, and this is cold wind that takes your breath away. The boys have not wanted to play outside at all. We finally relented and let them ride their bikes about 2 weeks ago because the road pavement is clear and so it gives them a way to burn off their cabin fevered energy. Round bout this time of year, we're all just sick of winter and ready to get on with spring already!

The peas we planted a couple weeks ago are going strong. Maestro's "Leo" is in the lead with 6 sprouts from 8 seeds. Leo is also the tallest and growing like crazy, tiny little vines forming, so cute. I think that Little Red and I overwatered ours and they are not doing quite as well as I wish they would be, hoping for the soil to dry out some. I may have to punch a hole or two in the bottom of our containers to let some water evaporate from the bottoms of the cups. Little Red's "Henry" is next with 4 sprouts and my "Matilda" is hanging in there with two sprouts. It's so fun to me to see the boys hootin' and hollerin' everytime they look in their respective containers to see their little seeds growing away. I'm going to have to devise some sort of trellis the plants can climb up on, I'm looking forward to having a window full of pea vines and blossoms soon.

Well, I finally put a page on Facebook. I really am not behind this stuff at all, I think it's how we're losing face to face contact with other human beings. But, I figured one of these days, my boys are going to want to do this and so I better learn how it all works. It's very scary as a parent to have all this cyber stuff now. Parenting used to be a much less complicated matter when you could somewhat control who your children associated with. Now, the whole world has access to them, and let's face it, the whole world doesn't always have the best intentions. I've learned that a facebook page is not something I will allow the boys to have until they are much older, like maybe adults! So easy for anyone to request to be their friend and then it can just go from there because though you may tell them, they don't really know what can happen to them when someone who means them harm lies their way into your child's life. Scary prospect to all parents, I know. I don't really care about technology myself, but I'm not a parent with her head in the sand and so I better get up on some of it anyways.

Now, one of my favorite new authors, Jenna Woginrich, just won an award for Made From Scratch. I talked about it in my last post, and it's a fun read. I was proud of her for this, it was the "Books For A Better Life" award. She's in some pretty impressive company, like Michael Pollan for instance, and so for someone who's only 26, she's accomplished something here. Kinda cool.

Maestro went to the pediatrician last Friday because he's had a cough that won't quit, very wet, gross and nasty. So, after a few days of this, I was worried about him having pneumonia (it's going around his school), so brought him in. Lungs nice and clear, but he did have a double ear and sinus infection along with the flu, so the poor thing was not well. Never had an ear infection before and he gets slammed with all that mess. So, he's on amoxycillin, which is wreaking havoc on his digestive system. He's not at all a complainer when it comes to being sick. In fact, sometimes it's just a mother's observation that I know he's sick at all, not because he's said anything. So, we know that Maestro had been suffering more then he was letting on and that made me feel guilty as can be. But he's recovering now and he and Little Red are back to bickering more, so I know he's feeling better.

That's about news from Lake Wobegon. We've been recovering mostly (we've all had something going on the last three weeks) from being sick. Spring is always the season that knocks this little family flat, not sure why.

Wishing you spring breezes in your days, soon! ~Peacemom

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Working my way to homesteadah!

Howdy All,

Well, for some insane reason, 9 days has gone by since I last posted. I am not sure how that happens, but when I looked at this blog this morning, I saw the picture of the pumpkin plants from the last post. That's when I realized it had been 9 days because the peas that the boys and I planted that long ago have sprouted! We've got growing going on like gangbusters, though I do find some poetic justice somehow that they each have more sprouts then mine does. Maestro's "LEO" made the first appearance, and he has 5 shoots coming up in one cup. Little Red's "HENRY" followed quickly on his heels with 4 sprouts and my "MATILDA" is showing a meager 2 sprouts. It will be really fun to have our window covered in vines and blossoms and peas in no time now.

Monday's adventures for me included making my own butter. I have read that this is not a hard thing to do, it just takes some time and a lot of shaking. Shaking? you may be asking. Yes, no fancy equipment needed, you just need to put cream in a jar and shake. Now, this seems easy enough on the surface, but I did have some learning involved in this. After quizzing the woman at the farm who makes her own butter about how exactly she does this, she gave me great instruction. BUT, she failed to mention one crucial thing...the cream needs to have room to move in the container. She told me to take a quart of cream and shake for awhile and it would become first chunky looking milk, then more solid until if finally makes a ball floating in the middle with the buttermilk all around it. Yeah well, here's a known fact about me that those close to me already know...when I set my mind to something, it's very hard for me mentally if I don't accomplish it. So, I shook...and shook...and shook the heck out of a quart of cream. I shook it for over an hour with no changes. My arms were falling off, well the part near the wrists that have the tendonitis anyway. I was getting seriously grumpy, thinking this is something soooo simple in process and I can't seem to make it work. So, I reviewed the steps in my head...make sure the cream is at room temperature, check. Make sure the cover is tight, check. You don't need to go crazy with the shaking, a nice steady gentle shake is all it takes, check. So, my mind is screaming, WHY CAN'T YOU ACCOMPLISH THIS? Pioneer and colonial women made their butter this way all the time, this can't be that hard, right? My mind is very self punishing, yes, I know, I really need to work on that.

So, the next thing I did was pull out my copy of "Made From Scratch" by Jenna Woginrich. In this book, she talks about many homesteading skills that people can learn easily to make a more handmade life for themselves. None of the information is earth shattering in there, but for people who don't know where to start when wanting a more authentic and homemade life, it's a great place to go. Plus, she's funny and that always adds to the information for me. So, I remembered in reading it that she talked about using this method to make her own butter. So, I opened the book, I'm not kidding, right to the page about making butter. I took this as a good sign that someone was appreciating my efforts and also knew how annoyed I was getting over this seemingly simple process gone unfulfilled. I love it when the universe gives me these little gifts, don't you? In this, I read quickly and found that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, she had all the steps listed that the farm owner told me. EXCEPT, when I went back and read it again, I noticed that Jenna talks about putting one cup of cream into a pint size jar...ahh, the light begins to dawn on my sleep deprived brain. Put half as much liquid in the jar as the jar will hold and see what happens. So, I took out half of the cream, and started to shake, really hopeful that this was the answer. Simply that the cream needed more room to get it's groove on. I shook and shook and shook for 15 more minutes, when suddenly, I noticed it was getting to chunky milk stage. I was so excited, I could barely contain myself. This renewed the efforts and in another 5 minutes or so I had the butter ball both helpful mentors told me about.

I scooped it out, and put it in a dish, pressing out the excess milk. It looked a whole lot like butter once I stirred it up some. Whipped butter, you know the gourmet kind. Not only had I made butter, but I made the gourmet kind! I was giddy, seriously, I was. So, I followed another of Jenna's suggestions and kneaded it (well, I stirred it in a bowl, but same difference) while running cold water over it. This got out the excess milk that couldn't be pressed out. Jenna tells us that it helps the butter last longer in the fridge.

At this point, with great expectation, I tasted the fruits of my (well, and Brownie's, after all it's her milk) labor. Hmmmm, creamy, delicate, nothing like butter I've eaten most of my life from the store. Also had a faintly grassy taste, which I'm going to attribute to Brownie's diet being all grass. She's an organically grass fed cow, no grains, just the way nature intended it for her. This stuff was amazing. And once I added a little sea salt to it, because let's face it, that's the way we are used to eating it, aren't we? it was beyond beyond. We had some sesame bagels in the house and so I made half (not really on my eating plan, but come on, it's gotta be done), slathered it with this wonderful concoction and took a bite. I was almost drooling, really, it's that good. I did manage to share half of the half with Music Man, and he raved about it. That night's supper was whole grain apple cinnamon pancakes (with real maple syrup, I live in New England after all!) in honor of Brownie's butter as the kids call it. They may have been the best pancakes I've ever had.

You really have to try this, just make sure your cream is room temp and that you're using a container double the size of the amount of liquid. It's so simple and one more step closer to a handmade life for yourselves. All these little experiments I'm making are not new to the universe, after all, they've been done for centuries, but they are helping me feel closer to the authentic life I want to be living. Some day, we hope it will include chickens of our own, perhaps a goat or two, but for now, until we can be in the right situation for that, I'm contenting myself with learning the skills generations before mine learned. I told the woman at the farm, I'm a 19th century girl, living in the 21st century. I really feel this way, like somehow time left me behind. I'm happiest when I'm making my life more simplified and learning how things were done in a time that did not ruin the planet for convenience.

Creamy butter on apple pancakes to you, ~Peacemom

Monday, February 9, 2009

Give Peas A Chance...

Hello All,
Well, we've decided here to poo-poo winter and grow something green. The boys and I planted our own sugar snap peas on the window sill in some recycled Stonyfield yogurt containers. At the urging of another blogger, Jenna Woginrich, we decided to get spring's arrival here in our home a little sooner. Jenna presented a challenge to get peas growing on windowsills all over America, and since it was a great idea, and hey, just sounded fun, we're in. The boys had an outstanding time playing in the potting soil and planting the seeds. Now, mind you, they are old hat at this since they've been in the garden since they could walk, but it was fun to see their amazement at the fact that not only were they planting when there was still snow on the ground, but also that Mommy was letting them play with dirt in the house. On newspaper of course, but they thought that was great fun.

We've decided to name our peas. Maestro's is called "Leo", Little Red's chose "Henry" and mine is "Matilda". Not earth shatteringly poetic or anything, but we thought it was fun just the same. We even Sharpi-ed their names on the respective containers so we can keep track of whose little plant makes a break for the surface and sunlight first. I'm betting it will be "Henry" since his seeds were scattered and poked totally precariously (Little Red is 4 after all and not all that adept at following examples I've set yet). Sometimes it's the lack of planning that produce the best plants.

Besides being a fun way to spend an hour or so, planting gets your brain in a better state. It is helping me look forward to spring, which this time of year is incredibly necessary. For those of us enduring this long and not always easy winter in New England, I urge you to plant a little pack of your own seeds. Even if you don't like peas (but, WHAT? Who doesn't like sugar snaps, they are like candy on a vine), try something else. Herbs grow really well in pots on the windowsill, and are very useful all year round. You could start a tomato plant or two, which will grow great even on a deck in a pot if you've not got room for a garden. I loved Jenna's urging to just grow something you can eat. Even that little pot of tomatoes smiling in the sun on your deck is food you grew with your own two hands. The food that tastes the best is the food you've grown with your own love, I guarantee it. It's not hard to do at all, takes little tending once the planting is done and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor in a salad or on a burger.

It's best to read up on how to grow things in pots. We've planted them in containers that are big enough to give them room to spread their roots, and premoistened the soil before planting the pea seeds. Top this off with a little plastic wrap and once the green starts to show it's smiling self, you can remove the plastic wrap, it's just to keep moisture and heat in. A couple of years ago we did some pumpkin seeds that we had saved from our pumpkin from the fall prior. They were doing so wonderfully until we actually transplanted them outside and the powdery mildew took their little lives. "Devil's Sneeze" is my pet name for that horrid wilt, but I tell you this not to discourage you from planting, but just to encourage you to plant at all. The pumpkin vines looked stunning on the sill climbing all over the place. We even had a ladybug that took up residence on them. You can just see her in the picture above, she's small, near the leaf. She loved those plants and made them her home. We even transplanted HER when we moved them outdoors, she went on to (we hope!) take out some aphids in the garden.

Anyway, just plant something edible. You won't be sorry and you'll feel just a little closer to short sleeved shirts, bike riding and robins bobbing on the lawn. So, go, now, plant something.

Pea shoots and soil fun to you, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's a sick day

Hello Everyone,
We'll, we've experienced our first of what I am sure will be many sick days here for our kindergartner. He's got a fever, ear ache, sore throat and sniffles...poor little man. And to top that all off, he's not sleeping well at night (so neither are mommy or daddy, you parents know what I'm talking about). I felt so bad for him yesterday, and after reading a Jigsaw Jones mystery to he and Little Red (yes, the whole book, and it's a chapter book, so about 90 whatever pages), Maestro just wanted to sleep. Luckily, Little Red does not (yet) have the bug. BUT, he's also lost his playmate during normal playmate hours and he's just not happy about that. Glued to his mama, pestering me the whole day and being as this is the second day of this, it's wearing a little thin. I think I'm going to try to interest them in some play do action today, they both like it and it's not too taxing. All Maestro wants to do is lay on the couch and watch tv. Which is something he's restricted on during most days, but when either one of them is sick, I pretty much throw that out the window. When I was little I was allowed to watch tv all day when I was sick and it was all I felt like doing. So, I'm gonna pass on that tradition. Sometimes, you just have to do what the kid wants to do, right?

So, Little Red is all registered at his preschool for the fall. He's going to the one we had him originally registered with last fall. When we went in to register, the secretary saw us coming and said to him. "Little Red, it's so good to see you again!". I told her I couldn't believe she remembered us after all this time. And, not only that, but since I had explained the situation last fall, she kept our paperwork, so I didn't have to fill that out again either. Love that small school personal attention! You may remember me writing about him not being quite ready last fall to go to school. We did the right thing by keeping him home, because now, he's all for it. They let him go into the classroom for a little bit and play and he did NOT want to leave and then when we got in the van, he must have told me 10 times, "Mommy, I can't wait to go to school, it's gonna be so much fun!". Which you better believe I'm wholeheartedly agreeing to for him because although I'm still just as scared to send my boys off into the world, it's a good soft place for him to land. The surroundings are great, the teachers are engaging and kind and the other children aren't so numerous that it's overwhelming, but enough so that he will feel better prepared to join kindergarten the year after that. He's going to have a good time, and that's so important for his first school experience.

Not much else to report here. Maestro has started piano lessons, which he really seems to be enjoying so far. I'm very happy that he's able to do that and that he wants to. I wished I could have learned to play an instrument in my youth, but I'm contemplating picking up the violin and seeing if I can teach myself a thing or two. I've always wanted to learn to fiddle, so it would be fun to see if my 40 year old brain could still learn a new thing or two. I think fiddlin' a tune to the full moon sounds like grand camping fun, don't you?

Wishing you your own learning adventure, ~Peacemom