Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sick of Drugs

A very important thing I do for my family to keep us all safe and healthy, as well as saving a ton of money on medical costs, is staying the heck away from doctors.  It's true.  We almost never get sick and, when we do, we take care of it ourselves.  I attribute our health largely to lifestyle, but in the case of the children, I think it also has to do with choosing not to vaccinate, since vaccines actually damage the immune system.  Living in Michigan, we are well within the law to do so, even if I were to want to send the children to school.  (I don't want to get into all the reasons that, after educating myself and my husband on the issues, we made this decision, so if you want more information, I highly recommend my friend's blog, The Daily Guggie Daly, where she frequently discusses these issues and shares a lot of informative links.)

This is a large part of why this case has me so incensed.  This mother was just trying to keep the government from stepping in and telling her she had to drug her daughter and it escalated to a standoff with police and her being arrested!  For trying to protect her daughter!  And this kind of thing isn't that isolated either, even though I'm sure it doesn't get this out of hand that often.  Here is another very recent case of a baby being taken from her parents because some meddling person on a power trip decided that they had more of a right to say what happened to the child than the parents did.

I'm actually shaking right now, I'm so upset about these attacks on parental rights.  I've actually experienced CPS's meddling in my parental rights first hand, but I kissed their butts and told them what I wanted to hear in both cases (yes, this happened twice) and made it go away before things got out of hand.  Obviously, not everyone is so fortunate to have it work out so well.

The first instance was after my second son was born.  He was born at home and we had a beautiful unassisted childbirth.  He was a bit premature, but was fine.  He did develop a little jaundice, which isn't at all uncommon, especially in premature boys, but it was mild and nothing to really worry about.  I was treating him by breastfeeding and exposing him to sunlight as much as the winter sky would allow and although it wasn't clearing immediately up, it wasn't getting worse either and it was just a matter of time before it cleared all the way up.  Someone disagreed though, never proven who (although I have my suspicions), and reported me to CPS for medically neglecting my son.  I was completely shocked when a caseworker came to my door about it!  I played along though, and took him to a pediatrician they recommended, since I didn't have a regular pediatrician for him.  When the doctor prescribed him to be under a biliblanket for a certain amount of time each day at home, I didn't argue, just got the biliblanket and only used it when my mother-in-law was looking (like I said, I have my suspicions--if it wasn't her, it was someone she told about the situation).  I knew enough about jaundice, having done my own research to realize that the levels of bilirubin in his system were no where near a level to be concerned about, but was concerned he would become dehydrated if left under the lights like directed.  The jaundice went away in a timely fashion, despite my hardly using the "needed" biliblanket and the case was closed.

After my last baby was born, we had another situation.  The baby had some fairly severe jaundice (his doctor and I think he was actually up to 7 weeks premature, even though the ultrasound said he was due right about when he was born) before even leaving the hospital, so I was actually discharged from the hospital several days before he was, but I stayed with him in the hospital even after I was discharged to feed and take care of him.  Basically, I let him stay for observation.  Eventually, he was "allowed" to go home, pending daily bili-checks to make sure his bilirubin levels were going down.  During these bili-checks, it was noticed that not only were his bili levels not going down, but his weight was!  The hospital wanted to readmit him, this time to the NICU, which wouldn't let me stay with him.  As his sole source of food, obviously this wasn't an option.  We declined to admit him and worked out a plan with the hospital's lactation consultant to get his weight back on track.  I was to let him nurse, then pump milk while he drank from a bottle from the previous pumping session to make sure he was drinking enough, since the problem seemed to stem from him being a "lazy sucker" that would just take a couple sucks from the breast then fall asleep, denying himself the nourishment he needed.  This plan was working and he gained 4 ounces for each of the next two days!  On that second day, a CPS worker showed up to my door to make sure I wasn't starving him to death since I'd taken him from the hospital AMA.  In this case, I had the subsequent documentation from both the hospital and doctor's office showing his weight gain, so I just told the caseworker where she could find the relevant proof that he was doing well, and she went away, never to be seen again.
My little baby glowworm
In either of these cases, if I'd reacted differently, I might have lost the kids.  I know this.  I sometimes still have nightmares about it, but I know I did the right things for my kids, just like I know I'm doing the right thing if they get the sniffles and I don't give them any medications to reduce the fever or I don't rush them off to get antibiotics at the first sign of a possible ear infection.  All these things, as well as the myriad of other situations where I use natural treatments instead of pharmaceuticals, save us a ton of money as well as being healthier (which is why it is relevant to this blog, in case you were wondering what the connection is).  Drugs, and pharmaceuticals are simply another class of drugs, are not something my family needs and we reap health and monetary benefits from staying clear of them.  Cases like I mentioned make me fear that this freedom to keep my children clear of drugs is becoming more and more threatened--and that makes me sick.

If you want to take action, to help Maryanne Godboldo, and protect all parents' rights to raise their own children, if you click on the picture of her above, it will take you to her support webpage, where you can find out about upcoming events to help her out, donate in support, or find out more information about the case as new developments unfold.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday--busy day on the farm-like trailer park lot

Goodness, I've been busy!  I got the whole house picked up, ran the sweeper, took the kids to tap class, went to the library, made yogurt, made laundry detergent, transplanted the lettuce to a planter box, did a ton of laundry (why I needed more laundry detergent!), put grids on my raised beds, and made chicken stew with dumplings for dinner!  All in one day!  I still need to do dishes, but I'm getting pretty pooped, so I think rather than writing a lot today, I'll just take you on a visual update of how the garden grows.
This is the garden box that sits right outside the front door.  The grid is to accurately plan and place plants or seeds for maximum effective space usage, per the square foot gardening method.
I peeked under the tarp I had set over the garden bed I overzealously planted on St. Patrick's Day and, to my amazement, there is stuff growing!  I think pictured here are onions, but there were also carrots and spinach peeking up in places!
The leaf lettuce was looking a bit sad to me today, so I decided to move it into a planter that will be just visiting outside for a little bit, then probably moving outside permanently once the weather starts behaving more.  If it works out, I may use this planter to give me lettuce year round (fresh plants at all times, of course)!

These are beans that I saved from last year.  A Facebook friend initially sent me a few last year that had been in her family for generations.  They are pretty cool beans, so I was hoping to get a really big crop of them this year and saved way more than I originally had.  I was storing them in the fridge, but then I noticed to my horror that some were growing mold (despite being stored with a desiccant packet) the other day!  I took them out and disposed of the moldy ones, so I'm hoping that these will be okay!

This is a new addition to my weekly photo updates.  These are my tomatoes!  In the back are the Beefsteak, the middle are the Brandywine, and the Ace 55 are right up front.  Not pictured are the peppers I tried to germinate at the same time.  They seem to be a little slow and I think it is just from the cool temperature we keep the house at, so I put them in my top dresser drawer today to see if the warmer temperature helps.
My broccoli and cabbage that weren't massacred a couple weeks ago (story posted on Facebook at the time).  I'm thinking they are looking antsy to get outdoors as well, but I think it is still a bit early, especially since the soil in my garden boxes is barely thawed (actually still a little chunky in places with ice!).
It looks like the cold snap we've been having should end soon.  It's even starting to get up into the 40s during the day now, so I think by the end of the week, I'll be golden on getting the cold hearty stuff set up outside, since the lows are only going to start dipping into the upper 20s at night, instead of the teens and lower 20s we've been having.  It's slow going this time of year, but when that warmer weather hits, I'll be ready!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brakes and Bread

The other day, my husband and I were discussing what to do with our van.  It needed new brake pads, which he was fully capable of changing, but he was trying to claim he didn't have time.  I suggested he call around a few places to see how much it would cost to have it done.  He agreed.  After calling a couple places, he reported that to do both the front and back brakes, it would cost nearly $400.  I asked him how long it would take him to earn that much at his job and pointed out that it would take a lot longer to earn the money to pay someone else to do it than it would just to do it himself, so he did have time to do it, since it would be more cost efficient to take an unpaid day off work if necessary, rather than working nearly all week to pay for something he could have done himself in a few hours.  He fixed them Sunday afternoon, having miraculously found the time.  The parts cost about $80, so he saved about $300 in one afternoon!
Can you tell he takes a dirt road to work?

You hear people saying this a lot when taking about doing things to save money, this nonsense about "not having enough time".  Just like the business about not being able to afford to eat healthy, it generally is a load of manure.  People will argue that they don't have time to garden, when you can have a gorgeous garden in about 15 minutes a day using the square foot gardening method.  People say they don't have time to make their own bread, when you can make a loaf that would cost $4 or $5 in the stores in about 5 minutes!  I don't know too many people that make $60 or more an hour after taxes, the amount you'd have to make in order for it to not be worth your time to make your own bread.  I'm thinking anyone making that kind of money wouldn't be too worried about being thrifty anyway!  There are lots of great recipes in the books Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking (I prefer the later, partially because that's the one I own) and I've posted a basic bread recipe before, but here's a recipe that one of my friends swears by to show you how easy it is:

No-Knead Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp honey or molasses
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup orange or apple juice
1 cup warm water
2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients.  Pour into a bread pan, cover and let rise 90 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

The figures I'm throwing around are based on the idea that you can work as many hours as you'd like to in order to make as much money as you need, but that isn't the reality for most people.  You tend to have a set number of hours you can work, or a set salary you can earn.  If you need more money beyond that, too bad.  But, in your free time, rather than plopping your hind end on a couch in front of the boob tube, you can be saving money and saving your health at the same time by doing some of these other activities!  You may even find, like my family has, that you can save more by one partner being home doing these things and many others full time, than you could if both partners were working outside the home!  If I worked outside the home, I'd have to make over $60,000 before it would even break even, from a figure I calculated a couple years ago!  And I would probably be miserable doing it and would hate to pay someone else to raise my kids while I was off doing other things.  I'd much rather be at home, teaching my kids valuable skills and really living life, fixing brakes and making bread!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meatless Monday--Black Beans and Rice with Fried Plantains

I spent a summer in Miami years ago, where I experienced a lot of Cuban food that I loved!  Unfortunately, I didn't cook at the time, so I didn't think to get the recipes.  In years since, I've longed for some of the same dishes, but my taste buds don't remember well enough what exactly they tasted like to get the exact same food.  Fortunately, except for the bread, which I have no idea or even leads on, I managed to find some food that I really enjoy that bears enough resemblance to keep my memories, such as they are, happy, even if it is probably strongly lacking in authenticity.

Black Beans & Rice

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups beans (prepared from dried or canned, drained and rinsed)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes.  Add the rice and saute for 2 more minutes.  Add the vegetable broth, garlic, cumin, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, let stand for 10 minutes then add beans.  Serve topped with sour cream, if desired.

Fried Plantains
Plantains are basically giant bananas.  You can find them next to the "normal" bananas at most grocery stores.  You probably could make this recipe with regular bananas and get pretty similar results, but I've never tried.

1/4 cup olive oil 
2 tbsp butter
3 very ripe plantains, peeled and cut in 1-inch thick slices
3 tbsp brown sugar

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until butter begins to sizzle.  Toss the plantain slices with brown sugar.  Gently place slices in the hot oil.  Fry until the plantains begin to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes, then turn over.  Continue frying until the plantains have caramelized, about another 2 minutes.  Drain plantains on a paper towel lined plate before serving.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekly Earth Hour?

Last night's observance of Earth Hour got me thinking.  How much money could we save if we made this a weekly thing?  It could be another kind of family fun night even.  I know growing up, I was especially fond of power outages, since it meant that everyone sat around and read, told stories, or played board games.  So why not do this intentionally?  I'm sure it would save something on the electric bill too, although I don't know how much.  I know I was amazed at how much we saved last month by my leaving the heavy door open during sunny days, even with near or below freezing temperatures outside, since the sunlight coming in through the storm door would act as a solar collector and heats up the whole house, sometimes as much as 10 degrees.  In February!  It saved $30 of our gas bill last month!

I'm pretty sure having a weekly Earth Hour wouldn't make that much of an impact on our electric bill, but what about a daily one?  What about just making a more conscious effort to go to bed earlier and get up closer to dawn so we have lots more "Earth Hours" while we are sleeping?  What about turning the television off and spending time with the family every night?

I don't know how I'm going to implement some of these ideas in my family, or even if I'll be able to since I'm pretty sure to meet some heavy resistance by my husband and kids over the TV watching thing, but I'm going to be reading Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology with the folks over at Crunchy Chicken, so it will be interesting to see what sort of effects it has on me with this seed of thought already planted in my head.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good Eats in the Winter

"Do you have any tips or an entry on winter-feeding or winter growing when not so much produce and such are available?"

This question was left as a comment on yesterday's blog post about eating well and cheap.  Well, ideally, you don't need to worry much about it because you'll have put up enough by freezing, canning, or drying lots of goodies when food is plentiful, depending on what it is that you have to store and where you have to store it.  I mostly have freezer space and almost no cabinets, so I mostly freeze.  I just started canning this past year and still have a lot to learn about it.  I also hope to acquire a small dehydrator this year so I can start playing with drying things in order to make best use of my limited storage.  These are the books I've been using to learn about these things:


Anyone who has read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle can see exactly how big of a challenge it is to start eating locally (and thereby frequently more cheaply) in the winterish months. It isn't impossible though, so even if this is where you're at, you aren't completely out of luck.  One way to get some good nutritious food for very cheap in the winter is by sprouting.  This isn't an area that I've really played with yet, but I probably will be starting next winter.  These are the books I have that I plan on using to help me on this adventure:

From what I've read, it is also possible to do a fair amount of gardening inside.  If space is an issue, like it is for me, small containers can be used to grow any number of crops including  lettuce, carrots, a variety of herbs, beets, and, if you have enough space for one large container, even some tomatoes!  I was hoping to do this this winter, but since we just moved in the fall and were still getting settled in and used to our new surroundings much of the winter, I didn't get around to it.  I plan on making good use of my shoplight/growlight this winter, though.  I miss having fresh, homegrown food in the winter!  The best book I've found about indoor gardening is The Apartment Farmer.  If you have a lot of space, like a basement that you could hang some low shoplights in, you could have a full-blown square foot garden in that space, but, seeing that I currently have a trailer park homestead, I obviously don't have this option.  I might see if I can get part of the garage warm enough to at least grow some cold weather crops inside next winter though!
Lettuce seedlings in the house
So far, my experiments in producing fresh food in the winter have mostly been in the areas of making bread or yogurt, so I look forward to playing with some of these other areas of food production next winter!  I am hoping that it will be a matter of playing though, since I am hoping to get enough out of my trailer park homestead this year that I'll be mostly set for those long, cold, winter months!

Friday, March 25, 2011

"I Can't Afford To Eat Healthy"

I've heard this so many times and, to be frank, it strikes me as a pile of well composted manure in the vast majority of cases.  What always boggles my mind is that some people make this claim of not being able to eat healthy, yet they'll be munching on some chips and drinking a Pepsi while they say it.  Huh?  I feed my whole family a meal for what they probably spent on that snack.  I think three types of people make this kind of claim:
  1. People who don't know how to make healthy food
  2. People who genuinely can't afford to buy any food
  3. People who are too darn lazy to make the effort
If you are in the second category, I'm sincerely sorry and if you send me a private message with your address, I'd be happy to send you some seeds so you can start growing some food.  If you are in the first group, I hope that I'm giving you the skills you need to change that through this blog and if there are any holes in your knowledge that need patched up before you really get going on eating better, please speak up and I'll see about writing some posts to help you out.  If you are in the third group, I hope you start being honest with yourself and shut up about not being able to, since it might be discouraging to people in the first group, since it makes it seem harder if others say they can't.

Since I can't do anything for the people in the second and third groups besides what I mentioned in the last paragraph, the rest of this post is geared toward people in the first group.  Maybe the problem is a lack of understanding of what actually is healthy.  There certainly a lot of different opinions out there about what is healthy and what is not.  To me, healthy is a diet largely composed of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and relatively free of chemicals, either in the growing of the food, or afterwords as added ingredients like preservatives.  Meat and dairy are optional, but to be healthy, these should be from happy animals, not factory farm critters who spend their lives wallowing in their own filth and likely drugged up on antibiotics to keep their infections from killing them before they are harvested for meat.  Yeah, not very appetizing, I know.  That's why our family predominantly eats wild game or chickens from Amish farms where they are well cared for.  Our dairy is also lacking in quality since most of it comes from WIC, and the government doesn't see the benefit of giving people healthy food, so we get what we pay for on that one.  I'm hoping to change that once we upgrade to our own land, since then maybe I can get some goats for milk.  With this model of healthy eating, the meat and dairy are the most expensive parts by far and, if you notice, a lot of my recipes show ways to make that meat go a lot farther than most recipes do, so you still only end up paying a buck or two for meat for the meal for the whole family.

For grains, buying things with the least amount of ingredients as possible is also a plus.  A bag of 100% whole grain flour, for example, opens up a world of possibilities.  Some of these, like wholesome cookies or no-knead breads, are pretty easy, but you can also get quite fancy with baked goods.  A bag of flour gives you a lot of power--and you can get a bunch of things out of one for less than the cost of a single loaf of whole wheat bread!  Pastas and brown rice are easy ways to get whole grains into your diet, if you aren't quite up to making your own baked goods yet. 
Carrots, purple potatoes, onions, and beans from last year's garden
Fruits and vegetables you can get really, really cheaply, since you can grow them!  As I mentioned in my post on gardening in small spaces, you really can garden just about anywhere!  Using the square foot gardening method, you can actually grow enough produce for a year for a family of 4 in 12 4'x4' boxes, probably even less space if you manage it particularly well and grow primarily things that produce a lot in a little space and stay away from space piggies, like broccoli.  If you don't have that much space, you may be able to find space in a community garden or even someone else's yard.  Two years ago, a gentleman at my church offered to let anyone interested use his garden space, since he spends a lot of time away in the summer and didn't want the land to go to waste!  It was an excellent opportunity, but unfortunately not one I could take him up on that year, since I was extremely pregnant at the time and couldn't handle more than my garden boxes at home.

Another way to get lots of free fruits and nuts is gather them yourself.  In the fall, it always amazes me how many fruit and nut trees I see just littering people's yards, since the people have no interest in what they have growing in their yard!  A lot of times, if you ask these people, they'd be happy to let you take what you'd like from their trees, and in the cases of some nuts, they may even be willing to pay you for taking them out of their yards!  Acorns are a good example of this.  A lot of people just think of them as something messing up their yards, but they are good eating, if you know what to do with them (and don't worry, come fall, I'm sure I'll tell you things to do with them.  If I forget, just remind me).

Wild foraging is another way to get lots of free, healthy food, but unless you know what you are doing, it can be risky, so I'm not going to get too much into that here.  If you can find someone to teach you locally, that's best, but there are some really great guides on the market, so it would be a really good idea to look into some of these if you can't find someone in person.  Again, I'll probably be sharing some things to do with some of them here at some point...or ask.

If these ideas don't quite cover your needs, another way to get cheap healthy food is by going to farmers' markets.  A lot of people have the impression that farmers' markets are expensive and elitist, but I've found the opposite to be true.  Yes, if you want some of the first, fresh local tomatoes of the year, you are going to pay a premium for them.  But if you are buying things that will just feed your family and getting them at the peak of the season, you can get a lot for quite a tiny bit of money.  Once, last year, I got seventeen large zucchini for $2 at the close of one farmers' market.  Seventeen zucchini!  For two dollars!!!!  That was a lot of zucchini!  The farmer that I bought them from didn't want to mess with taking them back and trying to sell them at another market when there were plenty more where they came from, so I was able to get an amazing deal.  At another farmers' market I went to a lot last year, there was one lady that was charmed by how much my kids loved vegetables, so she was always throwing in a little extra when I bought from her.  She even took me aside at one point and told me that if I was short of funds sometimes, she'd be happy to give me some food for free.  I never had to take advantage of her offer, but it was comforting to know that it was available if needed!  You don't get that kind of service at Walmart!

The average American family spends something like $150 a week on groceries.  I spend about $30 and eat far healthier than most of the people spending far more.  So, yeah, if I can do it with that little, you can afford to eat healthy too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bribery--A Mother's Best Friend (And speaking of prizes.....)

It seems to me that an awful lot of parenting advice revolves around giving kids "rewards" for doing good things.  Now, I don't know if I agree with this in general, since it seems certain expectations ought to be met without bribes, but, when it comes to doing extra chores, bribery works really, really well!  Last night, for example, I wanted help getting the house cleaned up.  Really, I wanted to hire someone to come and make the mess all go away, but that wouldn't be very thrifty of me.  So, instead, I recruited my 6 year old to do it.  He didn't make most of the mess, since he just got back from staying with his grandma for almost a week (another plus of homeschooling!), but he still did most of the cleaning.  Now, that may seem cruel to some, but I made him want to do it!  How?  Bribes, of course.
It's never too early to get the kids involved with cleaning!

Some advice I've seen centers on giving an allowance or earning points toward some big prize, but, to be frank, I can't afford either of those.  I've tried, but on weeks that you can't even afford to buy a gallon of milk, how are you going to squeeze in even a meager allowance?  And, once you start something like that, it isn't really fair just to stop it.  With the lack of funds that abounds here, I've come up with a number of other cheap "prizes" that seem to work well.  Some of the ones that I've used recently with good results include:
  • A random prize drawn from a bag of prizes that I have lying around that I add a little to when I do have the funds or find a really great deal on something the kids would like.  Usually, these prizes are about 10 cents each, but they seem to like them.
  • Something silly, like ice cream for breakfast.  They'd probably get the ice cream at some point anyway, but this way it is extra special.  And I'm actually hoping that frozen strawberries blended with homemade yogurt will pass as ice cream so it isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.
  • Extra television shows.   I allow each child (except the toddler) 3 shows a day, with one being taken away for each hour past their bedtime that they aren't settled down and at least making a good faith effort to go to sleep.  For our cleaning game tonight, I put anywhere from 1 extra show to unlimited shows for a day in the mix for a bribe.
  • Staying up late.  A delayed bedtime is a popular prize with the kids, but I don't give out a lot of these, because I need my "me-time!"  And, if the kids weren't being homeschooled, this would have to be limited to a weekend prize.
  • Getting to pick dinner.  My two oldest kids are my two pickiest eaters, so this works well as a prize, since then they know they'll get something they like!
  • A trip someplace free.  This one doesn't so much work this time of the year, since most of the free places like the park for a picnic or to the zoo (we have a membership) are too dang cold to enjoy.  But a trip to the museum (also have a membership) also can work, if we haven't been in a while.
  • Another special food treat.  Sometimes, I'll make the winner's favorite cookies as a prize.
How the prizes are decided on or distributed varies too, since sometimes one works better than another, depending on the children's moods and my own.  Last night, I wrote the prizes on slips of paper and the kids were allowed a draw from the prize bowl every time a room was cleaned.  Other times, it is picking up a certain number of things off the floor, or having a certain amount done by a certain time that will win prizes.

I hate cleaning so much and the kids aren't fond of either of course, this is just one way that we can try to make it more of a game and less of a chore.  How about you?  Do you have any bribes you use with your kids to get them to do things?  Or, if you don't have kids, did your parents bribe you to help out around the house?
And speaking of bribes, er, I mean prizes, we have a WINNER for the first giveaway of this blog!  Congratulations to Tywonna!  She has been contacted to arrange receipt of her books.  Don't worry, everyone else.  I'll be having another giveaway sometime in the next few weeks, so you'll have more chances to win.  In the meantime, be sure to tell your friends to "like" the Facebook page and follow this blog, so they don't miss out on any of the thrifty fun!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Books That Made Me

In nasty weather like what we're currently experiencing, there is little I like to do more than read.  I thought now would be a good time to share some books that have been extremely influential in my life and have, to some degree, made me who I am.  While none of these books expressly deal with living a simple or thrifty life, the end result, for me at least, of reading them all did that very thing.  I think so highly of these books, that if I had the authority to create a "must read" list for everyone, this would be it.  I'm presenting them here in the order I read them.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn:  This book made me look at "civilization" a whole new way and opened the door for me to start questioning everything "Mother Culture" had taught me my own life.  After reading this, I started to feel more free to do things the way I thought was right, regardless of whether society deemed it the norm.  Other books along a similar vein also worth the read are the sequels to this, The Story of B and My Ishmael, and Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan.
Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, New Tenth Edition
Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today:  It was actually an earlier edition for me, but Betty Crocker's big red cookbook is how I learned to cook.  The terms used were all described, so I could stumble through a recipe, even before I knew what I was doing.  Since then, I've learned so much about what works and what doesn't and what flavors mesh well, that I can make my own recipes.  I still turn to Big Red quite a bit though, anytime I have something new I haven't dealt with, or need some fresh inspiration.
The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition)
 The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William and Martha Sears:  This book helped me trust my instincts.  When my first child was born, I listened to people that I thought new better that said things like "put that baby down" or "you can't sleep with your baby" and I feel that my relationship suffered irreparably because of it.  I read this around the time my second child was born and used it to fight off attacks on my parenting.  As a result, I have a much stronger relationship with my kids born after I read this, I learned I didn't need so much baby stuff!

Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work by Mel Bartholomew:  This book (and its sequel All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!) got me to quit stalling on starting to produce my own food.  Even though I lived in a trailer park, I learned that was no excuse not to grow at least a small garden, since I would be able to grow quite a bit using this technique!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver:  This book strengthened my resolve and gave me the idea that I could do it.  I can produce a lot of my own food, even though I don't have a nice set up in Appalachia like she does.  And it helped me see the importance of doing what I could to do just that.

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood:  I love me a good dystopian novel for some fun, light reading.  That's not so much the case with this one though.  This book scares me to death!  To me, it is so close to the direction that our society is moving, that I fear for our future.  To a large part, I see what I'm doing as a rebellion against such a future.  I actually enjoyed the sequel, The Year of the Flood, even more, since that was focused on some of the "God's Gardeners" and that's kind of what I see myself as at times.

Speaking of books, don't forget today is the last day to enter to win the books I'm giving away!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Return of Winter--A Trailer Park Homestead Update

Well, now they are forecasting a whole lot of ice to be deposited on the ground over the next couple days, so I covered the garden bed I (foolishly) planted outside already.  I hope that the seeds have more sense than I do and don't sprout just yet.  Cold hearty as they may be, I don't think they would fair well as seedlings frozen in a block of ice.  I put a tarp over the plastic sheeting for now too and weighed it down with bricks, so I think the whole thing should be fairly protected from the ice sheets and I'm pretty confident that no seedlings will break ground until it warms up, so it should be okay.  I hope.  I'm not doing anything special to the peas in the buckets at this point, but since they are right outside the front door, I can pull them in quickly if I change my mind and decide they need rescuing.

On the (more sane) indoor front, as I reported on this blog's Facebook page the other day, several of my seedlings succumbed to children's curiosity and were plucked before their time.  I've made the decision not to replace them at this time, since I planted enough extra that I don't think it will be an issue.  I did rearrange things, so hopefully their will be no future incidents though.  I elevated the shop light all the way up as high as it could go, then I put the seedling tray on top of a grow light my mom gave me after I bought the shop light (I haven't even tested it to see if it works, but it works to get the seedlings to safety!).  This has freed up a ton of counter space, and hopefully gets the seedlings out of temptation's way when it comes to the kiddos.  

In other news, since I used up all the carrot seeds (or maybe I spilled some of them; doesn't seem like I could have really planted that many!) I had already, I ordered some more from a different source.  Same variety, just a lot, lot more of them!  I think Scarlet Nantes are definitely the way for me to go, since they still have that normal carrot shape that makes it easier to process, but they are still short enough to work well in my garden boxes.  Last year, I tried Parisian carrots, which were as cute as the dickens, but hard as heck to process when it was time to harvest them!  Since carrots freeze pretty well, at least for use in casseroles and such, I want to grow as many as possible.  I know we'll use them all.  I'm already almost out of last year's carrots.

I was hoping to have the grids laid out with twine on the garden boxes by now, but when I had the time to do it, I couldn't find the nails I needed to secure the twine and, once I found the nails, I didn't have the time!  It was an absolutely gorgeous day out yesterday too, if you don't mind the clouds, so it is a real shame I haven't done it yet.  I'm thinking about doing it today if the ice storm holds off as punishment for not doing more outside yesterday, but, I'd probably be better off waiting another week or so until the next warmish weather hits, so the twine doesn't get worn out as quickly by being in that ice.

So, in summary, in case you are keeping score, outside I have peas, carrots, spinach, and onions planted.  Inside, I have cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce seedlings, as well as three kinds of tomatoes and some peppers trying to germinate on paper towels inside plastic bags.