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Thursday, December 31, 2009

My January 3-16 Menu

To start the week strong, I decided to spend New Year's Eve drinking wine and planning our menu for the first two weeks of the new year.

Sunday, January 3 - Dirty Risotto
The kids LOVED this!

Monday, January 4 - Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
This was delicous and so easy! I substituted yogart for the sour cream and it was just as tasty! Even better, I divided it into two baking dishes and stashed one in the freezer for a rainy or a least a busy day.

Tuesday, January 5 - Shrimp Pad Thai
I LOVED this. It was super easy, too.

Wednesday, January 6 - Leftovers
I had planned on making the Baked Ziti but we has so much food we did leftovers instead.

Thursday, January 7 - Crock Pot Roast
I paired this with macoroni noodles and green beans. It was very salty, just like I like it!
Since I had the ground beef thawed and the onions chopped, I made the Baked Ziti tonight. I divided it up into two containers to put in the freezer. We will have this on a busy night when I don't have time to cook.

Friday, January 8 - Homemade Pizza
I plan to cook the rest of the bacon and use up the mushrooms left over from the dirty risotto.

Saturday, January 9 -Leftovers

Sunday, January 10 - Swedish Meatballs

Monday, January 11 - Taco Bell Quesadillas, Mexican Rice

Tuesday, January 12 - Pizza Casserole

Wednesday, January 13 - Coconut Curried Chicken

Thursday, January 14 - Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Friday, January 15 - Homemade Pizza

Saturday, January 16 - Leftovers

Meet Pete!

Santa surprised us this year with a new puppy! Pete is a 12 week old golden retriever.

We are still adjusting to having a dog and a new baby (the dog) in the house but are doing well. Pete lives in the basement in his crate. He loves the snow and jumping on the kids. Kiddo 2 loves having someone to boss around.

So far Pete can sit, lie down, sit down while he waits to come inside and stay for 5 seconds. Now if we could only get the potty training down.

We still miss Frank. We didn't realize how lucky we were to get a dog that was already so well trained and behaved. He was such a sweetie.

Pete has helped our hearts heal.

A Fresh Start

It's New Year's Eve, another jammy day and I'm feeling a bit reflective.

2009 was a busy year. We did basketball, an indoor waterpark, Mexico, another indoor waterpark, spring soccer, late planting, little league, Vacation Bible School, a garage sale, Indiana shopping, northern Michigan camping, 4-H fair, the Ericson Extravaganza Wiffle Ball Tournament, four wheeling in Bushnell, fall soccer, tackle football, a murder mystery party, Thanksgiving at our house, a late and long harvest, Illinois Farm Bureau Conference and Discussion Meet, a weekend in Chicago, wrapping up my old job, Christmas, new puppy, a new job and two weeks off.

With all that was going on, I was in survival mode much of the time. I didn't realize how much I was in survival mode until this week. I guess clarity comes with two weeks of jammy days.

Being so busy, many important areas of my life were neglected. In the new year I want to do a better job:

1. Meal planning: I hope this will lead to healthier eating, more deliberate grocery shopping, a lower grocery bill, less weekday stress and more family meals. I plan to use some of simplemom's resources to help.

2. Character development in my kids: Too often I just do 'it' so I don't have to fight with anyone, it gets done when I want it done and it's done my way. I need to stop this and set some expectations about the responsibilities associated with being a member of our family, i.e. helping out around the house. This is even more crucial now that Santa brought a new puppy. More on him in another post. Simplemom is going to help here, too.

3. Asking for help: Because my husband is extremely busy in the fall and spring, I get used to being the one who takes care of everything with the kids and house. I need to stop this, ask for help and deal with the grouchiness that comes with asking. I can not do it all while staying sane and gracious.

4. Exercise: I used to run. I used to teach aerobics. I used to be extremely disciplined. Once we moved and I had my second child five years ago, it's been hit or miss. Now, 12 pounds later, I am struggling. This year I plan on enrolling in an exercise program at work. Since I will be starting a new job with a new office location, I'm hoping that starting this new habit will be easier. Also, since I need to take care of the puppy early in the morning, I am hoping that I will take time to exercise after taking him out.

There are a few other areas I would like to work on: my spirituality, not signing my kids up for every activity they want to participate in, cleaning my house, reading for pleasure - but these will have to wait. I need to focus.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Love at First Site


I fell in love with Frank the first time I saw him. I went to the shelter hoping to find a Border Collie. The dog that had been advertised was gone but there was this beautiful dog standing with his paws up on the pen. He looked so happy and so soft.

When I asked about him the shelter staff said Body had just been brought in by the children of his elderly owner. His owner had been walking Body and had a heart attack. He had not been cleared for adoption but would probably be available the next day. He was a one year old pure bred golder retriever.

The next morning I drug my husband, three year old and infant back to the shelter,and Body, or Frank as we renamed him, came home with us and became part of our family.

Since he was still a puppy, Frank was very rambunctious. He got into everything, stole whatever he could and fell in love with the farm cats. It was amazing to see how rough and how gentle he was with the cats. One minute he would be carrying the cats around by the head and the next licking and cleaning them as if they were his puppies. It always warmed my heart to walk into the garage and see him cuddling with one or more cats.

Goldens are known for their gentle nature with kids and Frank certainly carried this trait. We were his people as much as he was our dog. My daughter grew up tackling, hugging and trying to ride him. He was my son's escort to the road every morning to wait for the bus.

About eight months after Frank came to live with us he got sick. We went to a few different vets and not one could tell us what was wrong. Overnight, his joints quit working and he could hardly move. After multiple vet visits and many prescriptions, we put him on a high dose of prednisone. It seemed to work and he got about 50% of his spunk back.

Over the past three years he has had short relapses lasting a couple days but nothing serious. In fact, the last year he has been in such great spirits and very active. He and his cat, Steve seemed to be getting along great and he even was stealing anything and everything left around.

Until the last couple weeks. Steve ran away and Frank started going down hill. He relapsed this week and within days his systems started to shut down.

Frank died this morning and I am so sad. He was such a good dog and we were so lucky and so blessed that he was part of our family.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wasn't it just Halloween?


Is it really the middle of November? It feels like Halloween was just last weekend. I am so not ready to embrace the fact that Christmas is only SIX WEEKS AWAY.

Maybe its because we are no where close to being done with harvest. We're usually just about done picking corn and well into tillage. Most years I have my husband back by now. Or, he's at least home before 2 a.m. with a more positive outlook on life.

Maybe its because the weather FINALLY straightened out and we've had some really nice fall days. The past week has felt like Indian Summer. Later today I get to clean flower beds at my GMIL's house. I am actually looking forward to being outside.

Maybe its because I have no idea what we are doing for Thanksgiving. I'm in a bit of denial about how close we are to this holiday. I'm not worried about Thanksgiving day. That day will work itself out. I'm worried about the day after. We usually get our Christmas tree that Friday. Its a tradition I want my kids to grow up with, remember and one day cherish. This year we will most likely not be able to do this because my husband will be in the field and it has been a heavy weight on my heart. I need to remember that it is not about the DATE, its about the experience of the DAY: going as a family, picking the perfect (or not so perfect tree), bringing it home, decorating it and watching Christmas movies together that night. Easier said then done.

Maybe its time for a new tradition to take my mind off of it. When dad's still on the field on that Friday, maybe we can have a cookie bake fest with grandmas and aunts to kick off the Christmas season. Or, maybe we can make homemade ornaments. Or, maybe we can just have a jammie day, watch Christmas movies all day and eat popcorn.

What do you do to create holiday memories with your family?




Thursday, November 5, 2009

Random Thoughts

This entire week I feel as though I've just been spinning my wheels. I have started a few big projects at work. I've even made pretty significant progress on them but there is so much left to do. I am so overwhelmed.

Football has been over for two weeks and I've gained ten hours each week at home. It's been nice not having to rush around but there is so much to do around here, too.

The next three days are packed full of fun, yet busy things. Tomorrow I have my last advisory board meeting for my old job. I need to organize the lunch before hand, get all the printed materials and the room ready, attend, present, get a networking reception ready for our students after the meeting, and clean up. Then, I volunteered to help set up for my son's school's vendor fair. Then, I need to come home and pack for a night away. Saturday I am going to help set up for our college's annual gala. Saturday night I get to attend the gala and dance. Then Sunday morning I will get to briefly sleep in before driving an hour home to return my son's football pads and attend his end of the season football party. Whew! I like being busy but this weekend is a bit too busy.

I have a very smart mouse living in my house. We have about 12 traps set.

Just writing this has decreased my stress. Now, off to get something accomplished...

Monday, October 19, 2009

What I Learned This Week: Fresh Pumpkin Pie is the Best

What I Learned This Week

I planted sugar pumpkins for the first time this season. I was a bit skeptical in July as the vines overtook the section of my garden devoted towards viney crops. They quickly drown out my watermelon, muskmelon, and honeydew. Now I am glad they did!



Here's a sample of the 25 pumpkins coming from three vines.



I wasn't sure if I was going to do anything with my pumpkins until I saw an article about a pumpkin puree shortage. Knowing that others may not have canned pumpkin to make yummy muffins or pie, I figured I should use mine up! So, I made pumpkin pie from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com, Pumpkin Butter from Smitten Kitchen and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins.


It was so much easier than I would have ever thought!


Step 1: Wash the pumpkin, split it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Put all the guts in your compost pile rather than the trash can.

Step 2: Lightly oil a baking sheet, place the pumpkin open side down, cover with aluminum foil and roast at 325 degrees until tender.


Step 3: Let cool until it is warm, but not quite room temperature. Scoop out the flesh and press it through a sieve.


Step 4: Substitute the fresh puree in recipes calling for canned pumpkin. One 15 ounce can equals 1.75 cups fresh puree.

Step 5: Store fresh pumpkin in a sealed container for one week or in the freezer for three months.

The pumpkin butter is divine. I can't wait to make a spiced pumpkin pecan milkshake or spoon it over cheesecake.
The muffins were also good. I took those to my daughter's preschool bake sale.

But the pie. OMG! It was super sweet and by far the best pumpkin pie I have EVER had.

And, as if a higher power knew I was planning this post, my son came home with more pumpkin facts today. Did you know Illinois grows more pumpkins than any other state? Or that you can use pumpkin puree to thicken chili, spaghetti sauce, soups and stews? Or add it to oatmeal? I think I may be trying that last one in the morning!

*Facts courtesy of University of Illinois Ideas for Eating Better for Less, October 2008 edition.













Thursday, October 8, 2009

What I Learned this Week: I Need to be a Better, More Vocal Spokesman

This post is in response to blogger I follow, Musings of a Housewife. She recently published a post regarding modern corn production. My response was too long for the comment box. I encourage you to read it before reading my response.


It takes more than one acre, one season, one book, and one hour to learn and teach others about corn production, family farms and a safe, renewable commodity that feeds and fuels our world. I've been married to a grain farmer for ten years and an active participant in the agriculture industry for almost 20. I learn something new about our food system every day.

I've enjoyed reading your blog the last few months and learning about your perspective on food. I wish everyone around the world was a blessed as you to have the resources, both money and time to cook from scratch and support labor intensive farming practices. It makes me sad to write, that even if there were more people (consumers) with the time and the money, there are not enough industrious people (producers) or land in the northeast (This is where the Musings author is located, look at page four: Researchers will Explore...)to meet that demand and live a financially comfortable, comparable life to the people they feed.

Today, fewer farmers feed more people and fuel more cars with less land, less fertilizer and less pesticide than ever before. And, 98% of those farms are family farms. They may not look exactly like our great grandparents farms but everything changes over time. (Think back to my
I'm not your typical farm wife post. I am not the same farm wife as my mil was or my gmil but I am still a farm wife:).)

Today's farmers still work hard; really, really hard. I can't imagine having to give up the technological advances we employ today, especially the ones that ensure a safe, consistent product. I want my husband to live long enough and be healthy enough to retire, pass our farming operation on to our children and enjoy life.

I applaud your efforts to feed your family in the most healthful way you can. It has made me think more about our meals and helped me strive for greater balance in what I feed them. Have I given up HFCS? No, and I don't plan to. But I am more attentive to making sure we balance fresh vs. processed, eat out of the garden more and not over snack. I love the granola recipe you first posted and eat it for breakfast most mornings. I also realize that eating like this takes a lot of time, a lot of planning and a desire for cooking; things that not everyone has. There is a need for processed easy to prepare meals.

Before you turn up your nose at the amber waves of grain, keep this in mind - only 3.8% of the 2008 corn crop (look at page 8-9) went to making HFCS. 30% went to decreasing our dependence on nonrenewable foreign oil and 44% went to feed livestock. Everyone has their preference, but I prefer corn fed beef over grass fed any day. The keys are parental control, personal responsibility, a balanced diet and an active lifestyle.

I am incredibly disturbed that your picture of farming has been shaped by the clip you presented in your post. Knowing that you often go on PR junkets, I invite you to visit our family farm in northern Illinois. Learn about commercial farming from a family that has seen and been part of the evolution of farming practices and market creation for our crop for over four generations. Maybe you can join us for Thanksgiving. We will likely be having a picnic on the tailgate of a truck in a field because the weather hasn't allowed our crop to mature and we will not have finished harvest. A sacrifice we will gladly make to feed and fuel our world.

One last thought: I can't speak for all farm families but I would venture to guess that over 90% have a patch of sweet corn and garden they eat from in season and freeze the abundance for winter. Many of our farmer friends also raise a few head of cattle or pigs to freeze and eat throughout the year. Farm families can, and do feed themselves.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hot Damn Pepper Jam


My house is hot! I have been canning tomatoes and making Hot Damn Pepper Jam all week. Hot pepper jam over cream cheese is one of my favorite appetizers and an easy dish to pass. I made about seven dozen jars this week. What I didn't make was a dent in my hot pepper harvest.


The recipe below is adapted from The Jam Lady Cookbook.



4 cups sugar
1 cup chopped seeded sweet green peppers
1 cup chopped unseeded jalapeno peppers
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped, fresh seeded problano peppers
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 3-ounce pouches liquid pectin (6 ounces total)
1 slice onion (or equivalent amount of garlic cloves)
1/2 teaspoon butter (optional to reduce foaming)

"Blenderize" the peppers, onion vinegar and lemon juice. Transfer to a heavy pot, pour in sugar and butter and boil hard for 1 minute. Add the pectin and boil hard one more minute. Transfer to jelly jars, put on two part lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I always play with the combination of peppers and the level of heat. This year I used red chilies, banana, Anaheim and jalapeno. I use cider vinegar instead of white wine because its less expensive.

The first person to comment gets a free jar!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009 Garden Recap

video

I tried to take before and after pictures this year. Here's the result!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The tomatoes prevail!


The warm weather was just what the tomatoes needed. We finally have vine ripened, super sweet tomatoes to enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blessings

Today was a perfect day! There was so much to be thankful for.

- A wonderful, warm clear day.
- A great message at church.
- A fun t-ball game with our church family.
- Talented friends who played at the first, and hopefully not the last, Music in the Park.
- Root beer floats.
- A good friend to enjoy both with.
- Friends who are raising patient, kind children who take time to play with younger kids.
- Kids born under the same sign. They couldn't be anymore alike. It's almost as if they were twins.
- A gentle, loving dog.
- A large yard. Mowing isn't so bad.
- A new baby. Welcome baby Ben! I can't wait to meet you and give your mama a hug!
- A friend who is blessed with the unwavering support her husband.

I hope you find the blessings in your day!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Care Tags

Most plants come with tags containing instructions on how to care for them. Life would be a whole lot simpler if people had tags, too.

Overly Sensitive: Requires extreme amount of empathy and agreement, Does not respond well to opposing view points
Rule Breaker: Requires constant flexibility
Rule Follower: Requires unwavering consistency
Know it all: Thrives as the center of attention

Balancing personalities and egos is not fun but it sure makes life interesting and dramatic. As a people pleaser I need to find my balance and my voice. I need to remember that people may not always like the decisions I make, but if I believe I am making them for the right reasons and can articulate those reasons, it's OK. I need to stop taking it so personally.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Beginnings

August is such a funny month. Everything outside is winding down. The sweet corn is done. The zucchini plants look tired. The beans have been decimated by Japanese beetles. The flowers are beginning to look leggy and spent. But things on the inside are just starting.

Kiddo 1 started school yesterday. We love his teacher and are excited about the new year.

Kiddo 2 started her second season of soccer yesterday, too. I don't know where my brave little girl disappeared to. She would not go out on the field unless I went with her. Definitely not what I expected. If I had, I wouldn't have worn flip flops.

Today I helped welcome the 1,900 students in the freshman class to Northern Illinois University. A team of students in the program I work with were chosen as one of two in the entire university to be featured at our academic convocation. They presented a project they completed for McDonald's last fall and did such an amazing job! Watching the university leaders and faculty present and singing 'Forward, Together Forward' in the NIU fight song gave me chills. 'Forward, Together Forward' became the university mantra after the 2/14 tragedy and the last time I saw the university leadership in that kind of context was for the memorial service.

Tomorrow I will run my first fall 10K. I challenged my 26 year old male colleague to the race. I know he's going to win and I'll have to reward him with his Monster Energy drink. My real challenge is to beat my own time. Hopefully all my training will pay off.

Monday my students will return and I'll start my last semester working closely with students. It will be bittersweet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My CSA Project



For a long time I have been trying to figure out how to make money from my garden. Eventually my plan was to have the kids help and earn money for college. My first though was to do farmer's markets. After researching a bit I decided that I did not want to deal with all the regulations and have to spend a day sitting there each week. My next thought was to do a road side stand. After all, we plant way more sweet corn then we will ever use. Then I looked around. There are people selling sweet corn and other veggies up and down our road. There is too much competition and little that can be done to differentiate our corn from the neighbors.

Then, last summer I stumbled upon the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSAs are designed to ensure a local food source and connections between people who grow and buy food. This concept guarantees a market before the crop is planted and each customer receives a half bushel basket to a bushel basket of fresh fruits and/ or vegetables every week or every other week according to the subscription. This was perfect!

I decided to start small this year. I donated an every other week subscription to my sister's foster parent organization's auction fundraiser. So far it has gone better than I could have ever expected. My recipient has gotten baskets with lettuce, spinach, radishes, green onions, onions, red potatoes, Yukon potatoes, cabbage, green beans, yellow wax beans, jalapeno peppers, mixed hot peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, herbs, and sweet corn. When they are ready, she will also receive Roma tomatoes, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, and pie pumpkins.

Along with the basket, my customer also takes on some of the risk of unpredictable weather, pest damage and disease . For example, this summer has been extremely cool. Without the warm weather to push them toward maturity, the melons are very far behind. If we experience a frost in early September, my customer may not enjoy melons this season.

Also, not using pesticides to control insects or diseases means some of the produce will have visible insect damage. In most cases, the ‘nibbles’ are just cosmetic and do not harm the plant. You can eat the scarring or eat around it. Sometimes this damage is an entry point for diseases that can kill the entire plant.

This test has been so successful that I now have five people wanting information for next season. As I look at my priorities, my increase in hours at my 'real job', and all the running around I do for the kiddos, I'm a bit terrified. How much more can I take on before I reach a breaking point?

I'm definitely getting a housekeeper.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away My Lawn Needs to be Mowed Today!

I just finished mowing half of our three acre yard, in the rain. It may look a bit 'clumpy' but clumpy is better than knee high. I'm praying the weather forecast is wrong and I will be able to finish mowing the back half tomorrow or Tuesday night.

As much as I love summer, I'm always happy to put the lawn mower away in the fall. That's when I get to reclaim the three plus hours I had spent mowing each week. As a self proclaimed type A personality I thrive on my 'to do' list and those three hours are quickly used up on other tasks. Since my college kids come back next week, kiddo 1 starts school this week, and my 10K throw down is this weekend my list seems a mile long. I don't even know where to start.

No more wandering around. What a difference a week makes!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Lazy Days of August

I'm getting lazy. I have lots I should be doing: weeding, watering, mulching, picking and freezing sweet corn, making cherry jam, labeling the jam I've already made. I've been off this week so I really have no excuse for not doing any of this, except that I've been lazy.

Here's what I've been up to:

8:30-9 a.m. - Wake up. I love waking up when my body tells me its time rather than to my annoying alarm clock.

9-11 a.m. - Watch the Today show in bed. Drink coffee. Wander around my house thinking about all that I should be doing. Tinker with my leaky hot tub.

12:30 p.m. - Make lunch for the kiddos. Wonder why kiddo 2 is still in her nightgown.

1:30 p.m. - Tinker some more with the hot tub. Wander around my gardens thinking about all I should be doing. Read. Sit in the sun.

4 p.m - Get kiddo 2 dressed. Get kiddo 1 ready for football practice. They really need a class for first time football moms. Lots of pad in strange places. And, who knew that you had to wear shirts under and over the pads? And that you were suppose to boil the mouth piece to shape it? They need a class.


5-6:30 p.m. - Run while kiddo 1 is at football practice. Nicole, Thanks for the advice on embracing the hills because they're good for me. It's all about perspective. I am now thinking about the my soon to be nice bottom because of the hills rather than dreading them on approach!

7 p.m. - Get all the pads off kiddo 1. Run to Wal-Mart to pick up last minute things I might need should I choose to cook dinner this week.

8 p.m. - Return home and wander around.

10 p.m. - Put the kids to bed.

11 p.m. - Shower. Go to bed.

Not such a bad way to spend my week off after all.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My tomatoes are out of control

Tomatoes are one of the last plants I put in the garden each year. This year, I did not leave much room. I planned on having nine seedlings. The seeds I started in the basement were not thriving so I bought Roma, Slicing and Cherry tomato seedlings at Shopko. When it came time to plant them, I knew it would be tight but I though two feet apart was plenty. Little did I know that I had purchased the jungle hybrids.

These plants are at least 4.5 feet tall. They've long since grown through their cages. I had to put up a fence to keep them separated from the cucumbers. (Also planted way too close together.)

I'm a bit worried about how I am going to pick in between the plants and what the tomatoes will look like with so much competition.

Lessons learned for next year:
  1. Dig up more of my lawn to make the garden bigger. Darn.
  2. Plant the tomatoes at least three feet apart.

I am not your typical farm wife, or am I?

Lately whenever anyone learns that I am married to a farmer, they reply, "Really? I would have never guessed." This really struck me when a second cousin who I hadn't seen since I was 13 said it to me a few weeks ago.

Does this say more about the image I project or their stereotype of what a farmer's wife should be?

I don't think I have a prima donna persona. I consider myself to be pretty versatile and down to earth. I can wear a business suit to work, then two hours later be covered in dirt and sweat working in my garden in cut off jeans. I like to have my hair styled, jewelry on, and be clean because it makes me feel good about myself. At the same time, I have no qualms about running errands with wet hair and no makeup in my yoga pants and flip flops. I like to tent camp and my dream is to reclaim the jacked up 1979 jeep wrangler with glass packs my dad gave my sister, brother and me to drive as teenagers.

I am not meek. I believe in being self-sufficient, working hard and paying your dues. I have my own specific professional and personal goals and I am part of the goals for our family farm.

The above description sounds a lot like my other farm wife friends. We are all strong women with careers; some linked to agriculture, some not. We are all moms. We all support our husbands and our family farms in our own ways. (No, I do not bring meals to the field. The only person who brings meals to me at work is the Jimmy John's delivery guy. If you are hungry, call him.) I think I am your typical 30 something farm wife.

So why is this incredulous "Really" happening? Is it because I am surrounded by people who have no real link to those who grow our food, fiber and energy? Since I was around people from small towns and people related to the agriculture industry through college and in my first five years of work, have I started to take for granted that people know that farming is a serious profession? And, that I, as a farm wife play a part, both on and off the farm?

So my question to you: How should farm wives look, act, live? What am I doing so wrong?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Overwhelmed

So it's been about two months since I have posted. A lot has happened in and around the gardens. There is a lot to update! So tonight, I will steal a thought from my friend and fellow blogger, Nicole: I'm not behind, I'm just getting started!


I started delivering the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) basket I donated to my sister's foster parent fundraising auction in early June. Every other week I deliver a half bushel basket to the family that purchased it. So far they have gotten lettuce, spinach, green onions, rhubarb, radishes, sugar snap peas, potatoes, green beans, yellow beans, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, squash, carrots, onions, and gooseberries.





Each week as I deliver the produce I am reminded how lucky I am to be able to garden and have such easy access to fresh fruits and veggies. When I am working outside and need a snack, I simply walk over to my peas and pluck one off. When I am wandering about the yard, I can stop at my red raspberries bushes and have a couple.



I am truly lucky that my parents instilled in me a love of fresh food, whether they realized it at the time or not. I grew up watching my parents garden, eating out of their garden and transforming their backyard into an oasis. I am a lot more like them then they realize. I hope, someday, my kids will feel the same way.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Center of Attention

I spent the day pulling and digging out a weed. It was either Cowbane (highly poisonous) or Queen Anne's Lace (a beautiful, edible weed when placed where you want it). Whichever it is, I'm not sure how it got to my husband's grandmother's flower bed, but it quickly took root and took over. It literally drowned everything else out in the six weeks it's been growing. It's mission was to be the center of attention. The one thing in the flower bed that garnered all of the attention of passers by.

Ever been around a person like this? I seem to be surrounded by them lately.

Don't get me wrong, I love to be the center of attention. But I am also a middle child. I am used to having to share attention. I know that others enjoy it, too.

So today as I dug and dug and dug I thought about my options. I can go quietly, withdraw and be drown out. I can compete ferociously and leave a tangled mess. Or I can be gracious and graceful like the daffodils. I can find my niche and bloom in the quiet, in my own time when it is just right. Then take a back seat and let the others enjoy the limelight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Other Therapy

The weather here as been extremely crumby the past week. It's been really windy, cool and rainy. I haven't been able to get outside as much as I would have liked. Thankfully, my gardening is about caught up so I'm not stressed about it.


But tonight I had so many things on mind I needed my therapy. I needed some thinking time. Time to process all that was going through my head and put it into perspective. So, tonight, I returned to my other form of therapy: running. It seems like the harder I push myself, the better I feel, and the more I am able to work out in my brain. So here's where I've returned to:


I am blessed to have two healthy kids I adore. I am blessed to have a husband who loves us, works hard and provides for us. I am blessed to have friends I can confide in and love to be around. I am blessed to have a family who loves me in spite of me. And, I can not control other people's actions. I must give them the benefit of the doubt because they are not malicious. They do not set out to hurt others and they rarely realize the consequences of their actions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I am a plantoholic.

I love the rush I get from seeing plants I don't have and thinking about how they would fit into my landscape. It's a great feeling. It's an even better feeling when I purchase and plant them.

I am going to stay strong for the rest of this season and not buy anymore. But since I will fall off the wagon next fall and spring, I thought it would be smart to start a wish list. This way I can keep track of all everything I need, prioritize and set a budget for next year.

Here's my start:

Jonquils - white with red centers
Iris - yellow and white
Clematis - red
White Flowering Crabapple Tree
Clump Birch Tree
Buckeye Tree
Redbud

I see more sod digging in my future. The chiropractor will be pleased!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thank You Mr. Brown Thumb!

When I started this blog, I was a bit cautious and very skeptical. Cautious of over sharing and hurting someone in the process. Skeptical if anyone would find it, read or heaven forbid, follow it.

As I started reading other blogs I started to learn tricks from other gardeners. Like paper tube seed collars for direct sowed seeds from Mr. Brown Thumb. You see, spacing has always been a challenge for me. I always seem to plant on a ridiculously windy day so I direct sow very thickly just to get it over with. Then I never go back and thin things out because in the process I always uproot half the row. This trick allowed me to lay out my planting board (thank you Martha Stewart, although my board doesn't have notches yet) with the tape measure and place the collars then plant the seeds. Now my lettuce and herbs won't compete with one another and I will know where to weed!

You can see two tiny lettuce plants starting to peek through! As soon as I figure out which is stronger, the other will be removed.

Since I have learned so much from the garden bloggers of cyber space, I have decided to loosen my restrictions on who I tell about this blog. Last week I gave my mom the address. Tonight, I will send it to my mother in law. That makes five people total! Progress is good!

On Edge

I'm a little on edge. Literally. Yesterday was the first nice, almost windless day we've had in a while. I spent the day edging my foundation gardens. Thanks to Margaret at A Way to Garden I found a handy edging tool that helped control my depth. Bye, bye spade, I've found another!




I'm on edge for another reason. It stems from my inability to sense when my opinion does not count even when the sole reason for my being in a situation is to give it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tulips


I love my tulips. I wish they lasted longer. This has been one of the better years for tulips on our farm. The wind hasn't been as hard on them.
I work at a university and last night we had a send off party for some of our students. After five years, I'm still not used to saying goodbye to the good ones. I will truly miss a handful of students that always brightened my day with their visits and conversations. I have to trust that just like my tulips, they will come around again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Running Behind

I know it's early. It doesn't matter. I'm still stressing about getting all my seeds planted. I have so much to do in the yard and at work. And, my house is a wreck.

We planted 25 Norway Spruce to form two seperate windbreaks on Saturday. Sunday was filled with running around. We accomplished a lot. It all had to be done. It's just not what I wanted to be doing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Seed Junkie

I am a seed junkie. I can't help myself. Every time I go to a Walmart, Menard's or Lowes, I end up buying more seeds. I don't need them. I don't have anywhere to put them. But I buy them anyway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Patience

I am not a patient person. I don't like to wait and I don't like surprises. Well, I do if I'm not anticipating them. I like to be in control. Waiting for the seeds to sprout in my basement has been painful. Every morning and every night I carefully inspect each flat to see if anything new has emerged.

Now that I've direct sowed some seeds into my garden I can't wait to see them pop up in rows. I love how my garden looks from our overpass on the approach to my house. It makes me feel so accomplished. Orderly rows just do something for me.

Even though patience is hard, it is sometimes the best thing for me, exactly what I need in a given situation. It's suppose to snow tonight. Not good for newly emerged seedlings. Tonight, I'm happy everything is still underground and wasn't in a big hurry to come up.

After five months of waiting patiently, I finally reaped the rewards of patience in handling a difficult situation. Even though it killed me not to, I did not rush the process. I did not try to present my case but let things unfold naturally. In their own time. And it worked. God has a plan. I just have to remember that and trust in it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Little Ms. Fixit

I woke up early this morning and after getting my son on the bus, I got to work. Before 9 a.m. I had replanted two potatoes that a critter dug up, fixed a broken hose and set up sprinklers on some grass I'm trying to get to grow. It was such a peaceful, amazing morning.


It's suppose to be 70 degrees today!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A little bit of everything from my March planting is up! And, last night I planted more:

Watermelon
Honeydew
Cantalope
Squash
Zucchini
Dill
Basil

Even though it refuses to warm up, I know spring is just around the corner. We rototilled the garden on Easter Sunday. Thursday morning I will plant potatoes, lettuce and spinach directly into it. I have more sod to dig in order to expand my garden. My next step is placement so I can get a crop rotation going. There is always so much to do this time of year. I'm off to a great start!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Banished

Sometimes lines need to be drawn for protection. Currants and Gooseberries are banned from some states. Many people in other states don't plant them because they are carriers for a disease that affects White Pines. I planted both without knowing. My currents have since died but my Gooseberry is going strong.

I've been working with my seven year old son on thinking about the risk and rewards of his actions. I planted the Gooseberry bush so I could make Gooseberry jam and so my husband's grandmother could make pies. Is the reward of pies and jam worth the risk of killing the White Pine trees in my neighborhood?

What about people? Is the risk of exposing my kids to unacceptable, disrespectful behavior worth it? Is the risk of being ridiculed worth it? Is the risk of getting fantastically red in the face mad worth it? What's the upside of having that person in your life?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Growing

Plants have it easy. Their future, for the most part, is mapped out. Their purpose is defined. A seed turns into a seedling then a plant. It does it best to reproduce then it dies. Sometimes I wish it were that easy for me.

What is my purpose? What do I want to be?

Professionally, my list keeps growing: a lavender farmer in Provence, a vegetable farmer in Ashton, a corporate trainer, a marketing executive, a nursery owner, a jam maker, a development officer, a farm produce coop farmer, a higher ed administrator.

Personally, I want to be a good wife and a good mom. I want my kids to be independent but have strong roots in my home and in my heart. I want to have a few great friends that I adore rather than many on the periphery of my life. I want treat our earth with respect. I want to be a contributing member of my community, nation and world. At the end of my life, I want God to say, 'You fulfilled the purpose I set for you. Well done.'

I used to think I could do anything I wanted. I'm smart enough. I have the drive. Lately I'm not so sure. Somewhere along the line something changed. I got married. I had kids. I bought a house. I got a dog. My time is not my own. It's not just about me and what I want anymore. Along with responsibility comes the need to prioritize and put others before myself.

My sister believes the purpose of life is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate. Above all to matter, to count, to stand for something. To have your life make some difference.

It's a good reality check to think about who I want to make a difference to and in what order. I'm hoping that will drive my priorities as I plot my course.



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seedling Update

Here's what's up:

Napa Cabbage
Regular Cabbage
Roma Tomatoes
Regular Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Oregano
Broccoli

Here's what's not:
Little Pumpkins
Hot Peppers
Jalapeno Peppers
Eggplant

As soon as I can get outside, I'll plant the potatoes, lettuce, spinach and radishes. Hopefully the snow will melt and it will warm up soon! I am not a patient person...

Make it stop...

One of my gardening goals for 2009 is to work my vegetable plants into my landscape rather than just my traditional vegetable garden. I'm working on the path and transition from the garage and foundation gardens to my large vegetable garden.


I started with peas. I planted 17 seeds in a circle. As they grow I will tie them together in the center, hopefully adding some visual interest and height. I saw this at a garden shop in Indiana and it looked really neat. It's worth a try. So yesterday I planted two circles in the spaces flanking our LP tank in front of my Korean lilac bushes.

I'm considering taking out the hostas that line the existing path and planting lettuce in its place. I'm just not sure how it will look as I harvest it and the lettuce bolts.

I'm in no rush. As you can see, it's snowing.





Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Awakening

I broke down. I put the space heater in my basement next to my seed starting table.


Within hours my oregano came up.


Tonight, the cherry tomatoes emerged! And, the house did not burn down. I need to listen to my intuition more.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rocks

Each spring I rake the rocks that were pushed from the driveway into the grass with the snow out of the grass. If the rocks are left, they will drown out the grass and dull our mower blades. I used to think it was just my husband's family that performed this spring ritual. As I've met more and more rural families, I've learned that I am not alone.


Raking rocks at my house is no small feat. We live down a long, long gravel driveway that curves around the back of our house. I use to take every rock personally as I raked in the cool spring air. This year, I'm trying to do it with a more positive outlook. It is a really, really good abdominal workout. I've given up running for the month and am raking instead.


So far I've spent about 25 hours raking. Today as I put in my time, I started thinking about all the rocks in my life: obsessing over things that I can't control, making comparisons, blaming, and thinking that I need to be in control. I know that I will never get all the rocks out of the grass or out of my life. But this spring, I will try harder to get a few more of them.





Our tulips survived the few inches of snow this weekend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Loving care.

I started tomato, pepper, eggplant, rosemary and oregano seeds last week. Today I planted broccoli, cabbage and little pumpkins. My growth lights are hung and ready for the first seed leaf to emerge. But I'm worried.

I'm not sure it's warm enough in my basement. And, I don't really know what to do about it. I don't really want a space heater running when I'm not home. Those things scare me to death. I know the growth lights won't emit enough heat. I really don't want to spend $40 on a germination mat. I am full of uncertainty on what to do to get these plants germinated and off to a good start.

This sounds like parenting. With each new stage, however confident I am on the outside, I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Am I being too strict and taking away some of their independence? Am I right to nurture my son's competitive spirit? How do I reign my daughter in without breaking her extraordinary and strong spirit? Are they involved in too many things? Should I set high expectations? What if they fail? Will they be destroyed? How do I give them everything they need to be happy and well adjusted in our world?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Perfection

I am not perfect. I never will be. But I like to try.

Neither will my gardens and that's why I love them. Each spring as the tulips begin to emerge, I start making plans. And, my gardens get bigger. Plants get moved around. Summer bulbs are purchased. Seed catalogs are scoured. This is all with the goal of finding the perfect balance in color, weight and texture. The perfect look to accent our farmhouse and yard.

This is so much like my life. My goal is balance: family, work, friends, God, housework, volunteer stuff. I need to remember, just like my garden, I am a work in progress. And, just like my garden, there will always be something to add, move around, rip out and split. I need to take time to enjoy the blessings in my life and accept what is happening in this season, because things will be different in the next.

As I experience the next two weeks of lent and prepare for the resurrection of Jesus, I hope I can remember that He was the only one to ever achieve perfection. And he accepts me anyway.