Sunday, November 3, 2013

November Garden Update

After several weeks of glorious fall weather I woke up today to gray skies and chilly breezes. The brightly colored trees are starting to fade and the yard begs to be raked. I have a strong desire to hunker down on the couch under a fuzzy blanket, sip cocoa, and hide from the world till spring.

The gardens have been put to sleep for the year. I didn’t get around to planting the fall and winter seeds so there won’t be a winter harvest, leaving the garden open and bare. We pulled up the dead and dying summer plants, tilled, and planted a cover crop of clover. A few kale plants and a row of carrots are all that is left, both will survive through light frosts and will be a welcome addition when our CSA share ends in three weeks.

The flower beds have been heavily mulched and left to their own devices. The squirrels are enjoying burying acorns in them and next year I’ll have a handful of oak seedlings popping up around my dahlias and snapdragons.

The last few garden chores consist of putting down fall/winter fertilizer on the lawn, keeping the leaves raked up and dumped in the compost heap, and planting the bare root fruit trees I bought last year but never got in the ground. The grass could use aerating and fertilizing but after that there isn’t much to do outside.

As I sit and watch the storm clouds darken the sky I think about the past year of gardening. I accomplished more than expected (my first ripe pumpkin!) but didn’t quite reach all my goals. I didn’t preserve the sudden onslaught of tomatoes, nor did I succession plant at all. I ended up relying more on the CSA box than on the garden for our veggie needs and the chickens enjoyed the overflow. Yes, I was pregnant and had a hard time dealing with the heat, but I still hate missing the year's goals.

But there were high notes as well: putting down several yards of cow manure that broke up the clay, discovering that spaghetti squash loves growing on the trellis, getting the cover crop in, and of course, that beautiful pumpkin. I learned a bit more on what works and what doesn’t for my patch of dirt, and next year will have a new and improved game plan.

I feel a little sad to be shutting the garden gate and focusing my time and energy indoors, but grateful as well. Its been a long year and I could do with the rest.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Introducing...Tadpole!

Look who is here!


We are all healthy, back home, and doing great. Posting will be a little sporadic for the next couple weeks though.

How are your gardens doing? Do you have your garlic planted? Check out Northwest Edible's garlic post, its time to get those alliums in the ground!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book Review: A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving

  


Its that time of year again-pumpkin everything!! My favorite caveman has written a handy recipe book full of pumpkin-y goodness that you have to try. George Bryant's A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving shares seven easy recipes that perfectly fit in with the autumn season. From Pumpkin Spice Lattes to Pumpkin Pot Roast there is something for every meal, even snacks!

The book is cleanly laid out with easy directions and beautiful fall-themed backgrounds. How easy are the directions? My Hubby, Mr. Terrified of the Kitchen himself, whipped up a batch of pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and they turned out awesome! He and Munchkin scarfed them down so fast I wasn't able to get a pic. Hubby loves pancakes and found them easy and fast to make.

For supper I planned to give Pumpkin Spice Chicken Cacciatore but was sidetracked by contractions. I will be off-line for a couple days-enjoy the pancakes!

Pumpkin Pancakes
A recipe from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations

Makes 8 pancakes

6 eggs
6 Tbsp Coconut Milk
2 Tsp Raw Organic Honey
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
1/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Nutmeg
1 Tsp Allspice
Pinch of Sea Salt
Coconut Oil for pan

1. Combine all the  ingredients EXCEPT coconut oil
2. Using a whisk or mixer (Hubby used the stand mixer), beat until there are no lumps
3. Preheat a griddle to 350 degrees or pan over medium high heat
4. Drop coconut oil in the pan, swirl to coat, then spoon batter in. Batter should be pourable as like traditional pancakes.
5. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side
6. Serve and Enjoy (try not to eat them all at once!)



You can get your copy of A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving in the Harvest Your Health Bundle, on sale now for only $37. Not only will you get A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving but 15 other paleo cookbooks (not to mention real food cookbooks, meal plans, fitness books, and many others.)


Monday, October 7, 2013

Check It Out!!! Harvest Your Health eBook Bundle On Sale!

 ~Sale is now over~

With the holidays just around the corner its time to fire up the oven and get cooking. Plus, its a good idea to develop a game plan for the influx of treats and goodies that are off-diet because you KNOW those will be stacking up everywhere. Want to get a huge bundle of goodies that covers everything from recipes to meal plans to workouts, not to mention tons of coupons for paleo/primal goodies?


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Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Recipes: Carrot Cupcakes

I woke up this morning to cold mist and the smell of woodsmoke. The yard was foggy and the occasional breeze caused the leaves to rattle on the branches-summer has truly given way to fall. The leaves have begun to drop and the rains have begun, turning everything green even as the fall reds, yellows, and bronzes are ramping up. If you are in Oregon check out Oregon Fall Foliage to see where the colors are best in your area.

The garden has died down and all that remains is putting the cover crop in (something that should have been done back in August but I've been rather side-tracked). Seeing the empty ground makes me a little sad, I had planned to have the garden stuffed full all year long but it just didn't happen. I still have several rows of carrots and Italian (dino) kale going strong, we shall see how long they will last us. I am starting to look over this year's plant choices and deciding what I will plant again next year, and what we could do without.

Tadpole remains happily in her little apartment, ignoring all suggestions to come out. She has until the 10th to enjoy her very cramped digs before we will induce her out into the world. While we have both been very healthy throughout the entire pregnancy I am starting to have some minor issues that could quickly become big, and scary. As much as I was hoping to avoid induction this time if she doesn't make her move soon we'll have to go that route to avoid them. Oh well, as long as we both get through the birth healthy and whole I'll be happy.

With the cold, damp morning settling into my bones I was very tempted to build a fire and snuggle down in front of the flames with a blanket and a good book, but I knew from experience that the house would quickly become a sauna. Plus, the weather report said the sun was supposed to burn off the fog and it would become warm, so it seemed kinda silly to waste the firewood. I had a desire to whip up something fallish and as I threw together a quick breakfast I noticed the veggie drawer was full of carrots.

Mmmmm. Carrots

Carrot cake seemed like the obvious solution, one with lots of warm cinnamon and cardamon, but I wanted to do something a little fancier. I opted to make cupcakes using The Cupcake Project's Paleo Diet Carrot Cupcakes recipe.

I cranked up my Halloween Classics playlist and started shredding and mixing. It is that time of year after all. While the cupcakes baked we decorated the house with pumpkins, ghosts, and lights.


Since we have no issues with dairy I made a cream cheese frosting from the Food Lover's Kitchen but The Cupcake Project also has a recipe for whipped coconut icing that looks tasty if you don't eat dairy.


The cupcakes turned out wonderful! The texture is exactly like flour carrot cupcakes and the flavor is delicious-delicately carroty with hints of sweetness and spice. For myself I would add more cinnamon in the next batch, but I like strong, spicy, carrot goods.  The cream cheese icing was a little tangier than expected but I did run out of maple syrup so it wasn't as sweet as the recipe means it to be. All in all a nice little treat to go with a cup of tea while I watched Hubby spread mulch around the gardens.

Ohhh I can't wait for this kid to be born so I can easily bend and lift and move things again.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quick Update

Hi everyone!

We have been rushing around trying to get some last minute things done before Tadpole's big debut and I haven't been writing much-sorry for the lack of posts. Tadpole's room is finished and Phase 1 Bathroom Remodel is almost complete (just need to put the top coat of paint on), while organizing closets and desks has been completed. I can finally walk into the pantry and find anything I want in seconds! Of course, this makes me realize just how little canning I did this year. Oh well, the tomatoes are still waiting for attention.

The gardens are winding down and I've started pulling plants to make room for the winter cover crop. My big plan to fill the space with winter veggies never came together so I'm trying something new. A cover crop helps put nutrients back into the ground, control erosion, and provide green manure in the spring when the crop is tilled into the soil. There are many different types of cover crop out there, from legumes to brassicas to grains. I decided to go with a legume, the crimson clover. Legumes can take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the ground, providing as much nitrogen as fertilizer. And the red blossoms are very pretty. The garden still needs some clean-up before I can start planting though-I really need to get on that.

We've hit 37 weeks and have, officially, reached full term-yay!


My toes are down there somewhere. It'll sure be nice to see them again. Any day now the Tadpole will arrive!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Emotional Eating and Growing Up

And so begins our next phase of parenthood: school. 


Munchkin had zero issues leaving us in the dust to play with other kids though I can't say the same for me, I spent most of the morning wandering around the house, mentally making lists of all the stuff I could be doing but really just trying to keep the tears at bay. Not that preschool is a bad thing, but if she's old enough for preschool then she will eventually be old enough for elementary school, high school, *gasp* college! It means she can (and will) grow up and leave the nest.

Yes, you can say I was an emotional mess with all these thoughts racing through my head. At times like this my first reaction is to grab the cookies, ice cream, cake; anything that's high in sugar.

When I caught myself scarfing handfuls of dark chocolate chips I knew I was in trouble. 

Emotional eating is something I have fought against all my life. Growing up food was important-we raised beef cattle and pigs, hunted and fished, planted large gardens, and cared for fruit orchards. Being a farm kid most of my non-school hours were spent dealing with food or food production in some form. The nearest grocery store was 30+ miles away so it was a big deal to drive into town once a week and pick up what we couldn't/didn't grow or raise ourselves. Eating at a restaurant was a big deal, even if it was just McDonald's. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations were often centered around feasts of specially prepared foods that were rarely offered the rest of the year.

Food, for me, became important, not as a substance that kept me healthy and active, but as a means to instant happiness and comfort.

Sometimes its hard for other people to understand this. My brother, who grew up in the same house and exposed to the same situations, has no issues with food at all. To him a cupcake is just a cupcake, tasty but that's it. For me its a reward, a warm hug of chocolate icing. Nothing can send me into a bad mood faster than having a meal I carefully planned and prepared fall apart-not because all that hard work was wasted, but because of the disappointment in taste and flavor.

Why is this?? Research has shown that throughout life certain foods will develop certain associations and in times of stress we reach for these foods to remind us of those associations. So grabbing a slice of chocolate cake when depressed may trigger happy memories that help fight the depression. Which may explain why my brother-in-law can't stand applesauce: it was the go-to item for when he was sick as a kid and has tons of negative memories attached to it.

Another reason may be what's in the food. Few people want a steak when they are feeling down, more often they reach for pasta and chocolate. Carbs can boost serotonin, helping to make us feel calmer and happier for a short period of time (before we need another carb fix). Sugar is another key comfort food (can we say Ben and Jerry's?), combined (to some extant) with fat. All of these work on our serotonin levels, which make foods high in them more appetizing when we are down.

So, what can we do?

1. Recognize why you are eating what you are eating. Are you really hungry? Are you sad? Stressed? Happy? Sometimes a cookie craving is just that-a desire for a cookie. Sometimes its a need for comfort. Learning which is which has been my hardest food obstacle.

2. Identify your triggers. When I had a corporate job I could juggle several intense projects and be stressed to the max without any issues but have someone casually mention that my house was messy and I'd be in tears and reaching for the ice cream. Knowing what stresses make you reach for food is a great learning tool to changing the habit.

3. Develop new habits. Go for a walk, call up a friend, switch the cookies for fruit, find something else. Emotional eating is a habit and, like any deeply ingrained habit, it is hard to break. Substitute for something else. For example, when I caught myself scarfing the chocolate chips I made myself eat an apple, just in case I was actually hungry.  Sweet, crunchy, but eh, it just didn't have it the way the chocolate did. When I realized I was back in the kitchen reaching for the bag again I made myself take a warm bath. By the time I got out I no longer craved chocolate.

4. Stay strong. Its a habit. Habits can be hard to break, especially the ones developed to cope with sadness and negative emotions. The important thing is to realize what you are doing. I ate nearly a cup's worth of chocolate chips before it dawned on me what was up. To some that would seem like a failure (you ate chocolate!) but to me its a small victory. I didn't eat the entire bag and I realized that I was eating out of emotion rather than need and took steps to stop it.

Little victories like that lead to overcoming obstacles.

What is your favorite way to deal with stress?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy Back to Work Day!

Summer is now technically over for most people. Summer vacation has ended, the kids are back in school, and many parents are breathing sighs of relief. Munchkin starts preschool tomorrow and while a part of me is looking forward to the child-free half-days another part wants to sob "How did she grow up so fast!?". My teacher friends are already planning evil ways to torment their students, and we are taking bets amongst the parents with older children on how fast school will become hideous torture.

Officially summer ends on September 22nd at 1:43pm PDT. Even though the nights have been cool enough lately for some of the trees to start changing colors the garden is still perking along, the warm days are keeping everything happy and growing. The zucchini have started to slow down though, and I've been busy shredding and freezing it for winter.

After years of trying I have finally raised a pumpkin. Ain't it purty? I hadn't planned on putting in pumpkins this year but I had so many volunteers pop up where I had piled last year's Halloween leftovers that I decided to allow a couple to stay. Of course, one pumpkin won't be enough for my fall decorating obsession, but I'm rather proud to say I finally got one to grow.

Over the weekend we cleaned the pool and put it away. It seems early but the last week of cloudy weather and occasional rain showers helped us along. Better to put it away too early (and get it completely dry) than to try and dry it out once the fall monsoons have started. Without the pool hogging so much yard space it suddenly feels as if we have an acre or two out back.

To celebrate the 'first-ish' day of fall we went out to the U-Pick farm and  stocked up on early apples and late summer fruits.

We always have so much fun at the farm. Their corn and pumpkin patches are growing wonderfully and I can't wait for the Harvest weekend activities to start. They'll have a corn maze, wagon rides, pumpkin throwing, apple bobbing, and loads of other activities starting later in the month.

U-Pick farms are awesome for autumn/Halloween activities. In my area there are several fairly large farms that host fright nights, gigantic corn mazes, and other spooky holiday fun. Check out Pick Your Own to find a local farm near you.

It was fairly warm out today and I opted not to pick my own. As much as I wanted to wander the orchards I knew I wouldn't make it past the second row of trees.  At this stage of the pregnancy I can't handle the heat at all-which isn't surprising considering I'm roughly the size of a small sea mammal.

Instead we picked a selection from the already picked boxes: Asian pears, Bartlett pears, Early Red apples, MacIntosh apples, Gravensteins, some plums, and a bottle of apple cider. My counter is piled high with all the goodies-not to mention the stack of tomatoes picked from the garden. I love this time of year!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Introducing: Gourmet Grassfed

I am very lucky in my area. There are several farms and ranches who work hard to provide the community with healthy products, including grass-fed, pasture-raised meats. The local farmer's markets carry delicious, lovingly handcrafted food items, and there are always classes of some sort going on so you can learn how to make it yourself.

There is only one thing I can complain about: finding tasty sugar-free, soy-free jerky. Oh, I can make it myself but then that whole laziness thing kicks in (plus slight distractions in the form of small humans. Meat smoked to a powder just isn't appetizing). And while my dad makes some of the best venison jerky around the amount of brown sugar that goes in the marinade would make your head spin. There are some stores that carry specialty dried meats but many contain odd ingredients that I can't spell, let alone say.

What's a girl to do? (Especially a pregnant one that needs her salt fix).

Enter Gourmet Grassfed.

Their range of products includes a Whole30-compliant jerky that ranges from Bold Original to Ginger Teriyaki (yum!), just the thing to keep on hand to ward off potato chip cravings or snack attacks. Personally, since I'm not on Whole30 right now, I'm looking forward to their Grassfed Beef Sticks. Its basically a Slim Jim but made from much healthier ingredients. The Jalapeno flavor is calling my name even as I type!

Gourmet Grassfed is a small business that strives to produce tasty snacks with the best of the best ingredients. Their products are free of gluten, soy, dairy, and GMOs. They are processed as little as possible to keep all those healthy vitamins and nutrients in the product. They source their meat directly from the farmers so not only are you getting an awesome product but you are helping to support real people rather than big businesses. I had a blast clicking on the farm pictures and checking out the farms-seeing the cows all fat and shiny reminded me of those long-ago days growing up on the ranch.

Need more of a reason to give these guys a try? They received two thumbs up from the Whole9 team! (check out the Whole9 page for a special Labor Day discount).





Check out the Gourmet Grassfed blog and give them a like on Facebook. Don't forget to swing by Whole9 as well!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September Morning Still Can Make Me Feel That Way

Ahhhh…September 1st.

While technically it’s the end of summer today is the day I don’t feel guilty putting up autumn decorations and lighting the pumpkin spice candles. Normally I like to stick with the calendar, dragging out holiday gear early grates on my nerves (I’m talking to you Costco, with your Christmas decorations already on sale), but bringing out the fall decorations on September 1st is an allowable exception in my rule book. 

Fall is my favorite time of year. 

Growing up autumn meant hunting season, distant friends and family visiting, late nights telling stories around the fire, feasts of delicious foods, and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. It meant riding into the high country to bring the cattle herd from the summer pasture-hours leisurely climbing up and down steep trails while watching the panorama of the Hell’s Canyon unfold before us; seeing the fat and shiny cows with their yearling calves bucking and playing, chipmunks and timber tigers scampering everywhere, the bugle of elk through the early morning mists and the smell of wood smoke drifting on the breeze. 

Today it means the return of the school bus (and Munchkin's first day of preschool), squirrels growing fat on stolen sunflower seeds, and trips to the U-Pick farm for apples and pumpkins. It means our annual trip to the coast for crabs (which, due to Tadpole’s eminent arrival, has been canceled this year), ordering cords of wood, and jealously thinking of Grandma’s spacious root cellar and pantry while I shove garden goodies into any free corner.

According to the Farmer's Almanac it is going to be an early and cold winter so we have started prepping early. The flower beds have been mulched and I'm starting to watch the nurseries for sales on fruit trees and spring bulbs. We've also put up two cords of wood and plan to get two more, just in case. We'll be checking the windows and doors for drafts, getting the chimney swept, looking for water leaks, adding more insulation, and finishing the bathroom remodel-and all hopefully before Tadpole makes her grand appearance. Its going to be a busy month!

(Internet bacon strips to any who can guess the song and artist of the Post Title. Yeah, I'm dating myself.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Testing...Testing...1...2...3...



Sorry for the interruption folks. We have been very busy with home remodeling projects, preparing for the baby, Hubby's business, and a pile of miscellaneous items. For those of you on Facebook I hope you have enjoyed the blips and blurbs over the past month, I promise to have more exciting information available soon. What!? You aren't friends on Facebook? Click here and join in on the fun. I hope you all had a wonderful August.

And now...back to our regularly scheduled program of recipes, crafts, and garden activities! 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why I Still Buy Sugar

A couple weeks ago I was at Costco. As I was waiting in line I was discreetly checking out the other carts and playing little mind games to keep myself occupied. Ooohhhh look at all the beer and chips! Someone must be having a party! Hey look, I bet that person is a paleo/primal peep too (should I grab some sausages while I'm here?)-you know, the same stuff the rest of you do (admit it).

I was pretty proud of my own choices until the 10 pound bag of sugar in my cart caught my eye. What card-carrying member of the primal tribe buys a TEN POUND bag of sugar. The Paleo Police would have me arrested and put into solitary, and even the more relaxed primal peeps would be shaking their collective heads in sadness.

Don't worry folks. Its not for me.





At some point I will start up the kombucha brewing system again (and we'll start using sugar to feed the SCOBY) but until then the tiny feathery bombs are the only ones in the house enjoying the stuff.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Good bye Ol Man

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. We lost a family member and we're all a little in shock.

Rest in peace Koda. You were always there for me and my heart is empty without you here.

Surefire's Kodiak Bear "The Ol Man" December 2nd, 2002-July 23rd, 2013





Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Budget Review- Week 4

Its that time of the week again!

Total: $125.89

Breakdown
Produce- $15.73
Meat- $0.00
Canning- $33.42
Dairy/Eggs- $10.67
Non-Food- $0.00
Misc- $66.07

Still not where I want to be but its getting better. I know Hubby is working on curbing his sugary/carby fixes (notice the Misc is going down?) but its still an area that needs some work. I went over budget in the canning department since it was the last week of U-Pick cherries and we ended up picking way more than we needed. Thankfully they freeze well and once it cools off I'll turn them into jams.

This next week looks to be expensive, what with almost all our non-food items (such as laundry soap) are running low. Today we'll make a run to Costco to stock back up and I cringe at what its going to do to the budget. Buying bulk does save quite a bit though, we'll just have to keep that Misc category down to balance things for the week.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

July Garden Update

The garden is slowly coming along. The past few weeks of hot weather has brought on tons of flowers of even some baby squashes. No doubt in another week or two I'll be up to my eyeballs in zucchini.


Spaghetti squash blossom.This year I'm trying more vertical gardening techniques and so far the spaghettis are doing AWESOME! Better than they've done in the past 3 years of planting. 


Little baby spaghetti. I'll have to figure out someway to support the weight as they get bigger. I've seen others use mesh bags, or even knit little purses. My knitting skills are non-existent so its doubtful they'll get the cute fuzzy treatment.


One of the zucchini plants. I only planted three thinking that would be just enough. Maybe I should have stuck to one.


The potatoes did extremely well. So well in fact they were choking each other and everything around them out so I pulled them early. Got quite a bit of taters for how few plants I put in though.

The leafy plants are doing fairly well, if growing very slowly. The tomatoes are starting to flower and I took the first cutting of broccoli yesterday, while the carrots and onions are looking lush and strong. 


In the flower beds the bees are busy, busy, busy.




And best of all Hubby started on the blueberry bed. Which is awesome since Munchkin denuded the two poor bushes we already have. Time to add more bushes. (And fix the fence *sigh*.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Budget Review- Week 3

Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays!! Between the nation, the family, and friends we spent a good chunk of this week celebrating. Which was fun, but...not great on the wallet.

Total: $227.43

Breakdown
Produce- $21.16
Meat- $12.01
Canning- $0.00
Dairy/Eggs- $6.59
Misc- $187.67

Actually, if you ignore that horrendous Miscellaneous category we were BELOW budget this week by almost $10 bucks! Whoo-hoo! Unfortunately, a lot of that Misc stuff was off-road food (about $88 bucks worth *ouch*) as well as non-food items. Ugh! Must work on keeping that crud out of the house, even if its a holiday/party!! (Hubby, are you reading this??)

A late Happy 4th of July to you all!!

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Budget Review- Week 2

The last week of June was rather spendy for the household, but it was expected:

Total: $746.27

Breakdown:
Produce- $304.33
Meats- $313.77
Canning- $32.14
Dairy/Eggs- $9.14
Misc- $86.89

Yeah, $700+ bucks was a lot to pony up at once but I now have a freezer stuffed with meat (at least 3 months' worth) and the CSA will last till December, which means our veggies are covered for the next 5 or so months. So...its a lot at once but when you look at the numbers spread out it made sense to go this route. 

We did manage to stay closer to the grocery lists this week, but still went off-list a couple times. That Misc. category really needs to be controlled. Some of those items were non-food, but many were *cough* off-road items that I hadn't thought to budget in. Slight wrinkle in my plans, I didn't even think about the occasional off-road adventure (because, you know, we were going to perfect for the next 3 months without ANY off-roading. Ooops, welcome to the real world.). Hmm...how to budget that in?

Joining the CSA really freed up some cash and I'm now going to include non-food items (like toilet paper, ect) into the budget. Right now I'm shooting to stay under $84 a week, which at the moment seems more than do-able. Am I nuts? Well, lets see what the next two weeks brings.

By the way, Hubby has started a fitness program and is tracking his progress over at Martian Fitness, check him out!

Edit-OK, y'all know I'm horrible at math. Hubby pointed out that since we'd used up all our meat budget and a chunk of our produce budget then from now till September our weekly budget would be lower. 

So, after doing the math again, our weekly budget is actually around $50. If I did the math correctly this time. : )

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Benefits of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program

Ever year I say I'm going to join a CSA. Each spring (after I've obsessively plotted my garden, ordered seeds, and become stuck in the mud attempting to till early) I search the internet and local ads for CSAs in my area. I narrow down the list based on farms closest to me and within my budget and sometimes even call or email to see if they have openings for the year.

Then I wuss out.

I start wondering what I'll do if I get a box full of stuff no one will eat. Won't I save money just buying what I know everyone likes (and that I know how to prepare) rather than take the chance of having a mess of plant matter that will end up going to the chickens. What to do? What to do! I always end up talking myself out of joining.

With this summer's experiment of staying out of the box stores and sticking to a strict budget I decided to look at a CSA program again. In Week 1 and (so far) of Week 2 the only produce we haven't gotten from the farmer's market were bananas and a couple hothouse tomatoes. Hmmm....we don't really need the box store, do we? So I went back to my notes and looked at all the CSAs I had decided on earlier this year. After weeding out those that were full for the season, or that would put me over the current budget, I was left with a two farms, one nearby (and that I usually hit at the farmer's market) and one a bit further away.

I ran the numbers.

The nearby place, Winter Green Farm, offers a half share program. The program lasts till the end of November (24 weeks) and costs $326 with delivery to a local drop-off point (in my case it would be the farmer's market). That ends up being $54.33 a month.

Wait. My plant matter budget is $120 a month. $120!!! That's a savings of $66ish bucks! True, I may still need to buy something from the farmer's market, but in theory the CSA share would have most of what we'd need. Hmm...

The farm offers a variety of organic veggies and meats (certified by Oregon Tilth), is owned and run by three local families, and works closely with local programs to provide produce for those in need. The farm is designed to leave plenty of area free of development for wildlife and has won several awards. Definitely people I want to support, with the sustainable production practices and high quality produce. The second farm was about the same in goods and pricing but after figuring in the added cost of driving into the city I decided to go with Winter Green.

So I signed up. 

We got our first box today and...wow. Just. WOW. Hubby came in packing three STUFFED grocery bags full of veggies:



Look at all that! I could barely get it to fit in the fridge. Munchkin tackled the carrots as soon as I unpacked them and ran off with two (she doesn't do that with store bought). Was this a good deal? I certainly think so.

Are you part of a CSA? 

There are so many benefits to belonging to a CSA I'm kicking myself now for not joining years ago. What are some benefits? Well...short of U-Pick its the best way to get the freshest, most local, fruits and veggies around. Many CSAs pick for their customers first, then for their market stalls (or so I've been told) so the very best produce goes in the CSA boxes.

It forces you to try something new. I'm already eye-ballling the fennel, trying to figure out what to do with it. Its an interesting looking plant and I've often used the dried seed, ground, in pizza dough but the plant itself? I feel rather excited at the challenge.

Buying from a CSA ensures that your dollar stays in the community.

You know where your food is coming from. Most farms have no problem showing customers around their acreage and talking about their growing practices. Its almost like growing it yourself!

Saves on time... Sure, you might get a box full of beets (Hubby's fear) or have to figure out what to do with something you don't care for (that Swiss Chard looks so tasty, yet my taste-buds hate it) but considering what an adventure it is to get everyone up, dressed, and out of the house early on Saturdays to hit the big city market I'm willing to give up the fun of picking through many different stalls to find what I want. Heck, by the time we usually make it to the big market its so crowded that all the joy of talking with different farmers are gone-they are just too busy to chat. Its crowded, hot, and within 15 minutes I'm getting cranky. I've tried going at different times but I've yet to find that quiet time. Its worth it to me to go to the small market in our little village, pick up a huge box of produce, look over the few other stalls and chat with the farmers (I really wish our market was bigger), and have a fun, leisurely trip. And not having to drive into the city? Bonus!

...And money. I'd budgeted $120 a month on produce since that's what I've been spending, on average, going to the two farmers' markets. I've NEVER brought home 3 grocery bags stuffed full. Now, our grocery bags aren't standard, they're a collection of cloth bags we've slowly picked up over the years but each one is at least the equivalent of a standard brown paper bag. My usual haul from the farmer's market is 1 1/2 bags full for an average of $25. The CSA is about $14 a week and we got 3 bags full. Come on, that's math I can do!

Need help looking for a local CSA? Try searching Local Harvest or Organic Ag Info. Your local Extension Office or Food Bank would be another good place to start. My Food Bank provides a free guide called Locally Grown: Guide to Sourcing Local Food that provides a list of farmer's markets, farm stands, U-Pick, CSA, and other local food interests. its outstanding! Look and see if your local organizations carry something similar.

If you still aren't sold on a CSA then I highly encourage going to the farmer's market and talking with the farmers. I've been buying from Winter Green Farm for two years now and so I knew they had good produce. It made moving from buying at the farm stall to the CSA easier (I knew I was getting quality).

Now to find a recipe for that fennel. Know of any good ones?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Budget Review-Week 1

Oh...goodness! Am I ever glad that Hubby's last day is this week so we had a week to "practice" and do any tweaks needed to the budget because...well...

This is just flat embarrassing but here goes:

Farmer's Markets: $29
Farm visits: $34
Grocery Store: $85
Total:       $148


So the weekly budget is $84.25. Yikes! I mean....YIKES!!! We spent that just at the box store! Well, I know what the issue is, I walk in with a list but something (I don't need) is on sale, or there's a new product that looks interesting, or I walk past a display of something shiny and decide to add it to the menu. Half the time that new item doesn't taste as good as expected, or fit in with the menu like I hoped, and ends up becoming mush in the back of the fridge till its dumped on the compost heap.

Sticking to the list is going to be this week's main budget goal.  No detours!

The week was cool and rainy but we managed to get out to the farm and pick cherries on Sunday. In about 20 minutes we picked close to 24 pounds of cherries and I've been busy pitting and packing them for winter. So far I have put up 3 quarts of whole cherries in a light syrup (water, cherry juice, and a touch of honey), made a huge cherry cheesecake, and have plans for a mess of cherry jam and liquors.

The garden is coming along. The pumpkins and other squashes are doing great and the pole beans are climbing up the trellis. The tomatoes seem to be at a stand-still, just like they do every June when the weather is rainy. I really need to get out there and weed though.  Right now the weeds are only a half inch high but I know next time I turn around they'll be a foot or more if I ignore them much longer.

I haven't been cooking anything exciting lately, mostly your basic grilled proteins and steamed veggies. At the moment the fridge is so full of bags of cherries awaiting the jar that I'm trying to not have leftovers-there just isn't room for another container! Its times like this I really wish I had a second fridge. It would be a waste, but it would sure be nice.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (The New Food Budget)

After nearly 9 years working for the same company, and with no forewarning (not even a rumor) Hubby got the news that he, as well as quite a few others, would be let go. His last day is the 27th and he's scrambling to get all his stuff organized, turned in, cleaned up, and cleaned out.

On one hand this could be a good thing. Change is always stressful but maybe there's something better waiting just over the horizon. A better job with a more stable company, maybe a move to a different location, maybe this...maybe that. Maybe something just in general 'good' will come out of it. On the other hand I feel slightly panicked at the thought of the baby coming and no steady income. How will we pay the mortgage? What about this bill or that? What can we give up to stay afloat? Will anyone hire a waddling pregnant woman so I can help bring in something while Hubby is looking?

I was talking with a friend online and the first thing she wrote was "Are you going to give up that silly, expensive, diet now? Mac n cheese is so much cheaper than bacon." Um, no. No, we are not. (And who in their right mind gives up bacon for powdered cheese???)

The paleo/primal lifestyle is not expensive.

Let's look at my newly planned food budget for the summer/early fall (now till mid-September):

I'd been planning on purchasing a bulk meat order before we got the news and I am going to continue with that. The total will be around $300 but we'll have enough meat for 3 months (at least). Yeah, its a lot to pay all at once, but it averages out to only $100 a month for 3 carnivorous appetites.

Its summer and all the farmer's markets are going strong, plus there are the U-Pick farms. On average I'll spend $20 to $30 a week filling the fridge with greenery, fruits, and roots. Figure $120 a month for plant matter.

We are lucky that we have chickens and normally we don't have to worry about buying eggs. Lately though, the girls have not been producing as much for some reason so we've had to supplement. Figure $15 a month for eggs (2-3 dozen, $3 to $5 a dozen depending on which farm we are able to get them from). Dairy-wise we eat butter, cheese and heavy cream; I'm going to guess and say about $35 total a month for dairy items (just to be on the high side). At the moment I have 3 pounds of different fats (duck fat, bacon grease, goose fat, coconut oil/butter, and tallow) hanging out in my freezer. I would like to add lard to the mix but I'm actually set for cooking fats for now.

That makes up the core paleo/primal food groups.

Then there are the extras-stuff that is mostly for treats like almond and coconut flour, arrowroot powder, dark chocolate, maple syrup, other baking type items. We don't do a lot of baking during the hot summer so for now I'm not going to budget them in With tons of different types of local fruits coming ripe I know the family won't be lacking for sweet treats. I have some baking supplies already so those will just have to be stretched out over the next couple months.

During the summer we often buy produce in bulk to can or freeze. I really have no idea how to budget these since it has varied so much over the years and I really haven't paid that much attention. Some years we've purchased already-picked, others we've done U-Pick (cheaper than already picked), and sometimes friends and relatives have given us extras from their garden/purchases. I'm going to set aside $200 to cover these types of expenses ($67 a month). That may be rather high but better safe than sorry.

Where are we at? Meat- $100. Plants- $120. Dairy/Eggs- $50. Canning/Freezing-$67. That's a food budget of $337 a month for 3 people over 3 months. Granted, the bill for June is going to be closer to $500 because of the meat purchase, but then the bills for July, August, and September will be much lower since the meat will already be paid for.

What am I missing folks? I have to be missing something.

OK, yes, I may go to the farmer's market and have no desire to eat cabbage or chard. Tough! If that's what's in season that's what we're eating. Thank goodness for the internet and all the awesome paleo/primal chefs out there that share their recipes. I will NOT allow something to waste away to mush in the bottom of the drawer just because I'm not in the mood to cook/eat it. What is bought will be eaten!!

Yes, there may come a time I'd happily trade the car for a slab of chocolate. Tough! Right now strawberries are coming ripe and after them are all the other berries, then peaches and nectarines and melons (oh my!). Not only are they healthier but for the cost of a decent candy bar I can hit a U-Pick farm and get a pound of fruit. Thankfully I bought that ice cream maker a few weeks ago so we'll be able to make healthy cold treats for the hot summer days without buying anything off budget.

No, not everything will be organic. The meat will no doubt be a combination of grass-fed/finished and grain-fed/finished items from free-range animals. The plant matter will be purchased from local growers so it may be certified organic and it may not be. I'll no doubt trade some of my garden produce with a friend or neighbor who may or may not use organic methods. Does this bother me?

Not one bit. 

I could purchase only grass-fed and finished pastured animals. I could be a stickler and only hit the certified organic farms. I could be that 100% perfect paleo person. But why? I know where my protein is coming from, I know how its raised, slaughtered, and processed. I know my critters and plants are grown locally so my dollar is helping my community. I know it all tastes delicious. These things are more important to me than only putting "perfect" food in my mouth.

For the summer I will have to be very strict with myself. To be honest I've been doing a horrible job following any type of budget, even though Hubby and I constantly say that we need to put more into retirement and savings. Well, now we HAVE to stay on track.

It is going to be a very interesting summer.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Depression, Hormones, and the Dread Pirate Roberts

Having dealt with severe depression and anxiety when I was younger (and to some small extent every winter) I should have realized last Wednesday that my grumpiness was out of character. At my 21 week appointment the next morning the "wonderful" ultrasound tech managed to make things worse, turning what should have been a happy time into a mishmash of sadness, stress, and flat out angst intertwined with joy and confusion.

For a fleeting moment I wondered what would happen if I punched the woman in the face. And not just a little girlie slap either, my dad didn't raise no weaklings. Yeah, that's how bad it was.

From then till last night I had major sobbing fits, zero appetite, a strong desire to do nothing but sleep, and a long list of thoughts that started with I'm A Horrible Mother, wandered past I'm A Horrible Person In General, made a pit stop at Life Sucks, and finally came to a halt at Must Eat Chocolate (And I'm A Horrible Mother Who Shall Forever Be Fat).

Somewhere around Life Sucks I realized that this wasn't just preggie hormones gone wild and started making an active attempt to strangle every I-hate-myself thought that tried to join the party. And finally I let myself cry it out, call it the Ferber method for grown-ups. (Did I mention that, even though all I wanted to do was sleep, I couldn't sleep? Yeah. However, after sobbing for almost an hour I finally fell asleep and slept straight through the night.)

Lets face it, as The Mom I rarely let myself feel unhappy stuff.  There's just too much to do, not enough hours in the day, and whining and whinging in the corner doesn't get shit accomplished, no matter how much I just want to sit and bawl at times. Happy feelings? Allowed to show. Angry/frustrated/ sad feelings? They can sit in a mental box till I have time to deal with them.

I think its a woman thing, I mean, Hubby has no problem complaining about work problems, and I don't remember my dad or brothers having any issues but I can remember my mom flipping out over something tiny, only to learn later she was still upset about that incident a month ago.

Lisa Simpson: But I'm so angry.
Marge Simpson: You're a woman. You can hold on to it forever
Anyhow.

ALLOWING myself to feel like utter crud helped, as odd as that sounds. And once I got the feelings out of the way I could try and figure out what was causing them. Which...well...I could list everything but in a nutshell? Pregnancy jitters, second-guessing, and all that other stuff most preggos go through. Basically-WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING HAVING A SECOND BABY??? Only to a higher anxiety level than normal. I also had to re-visit (and re-feel) the loss from last year (thank you insensitive bitch of an ultrasound tech) which, no matter how much I think I'm completely over, seems like a wound that never truly scars over.

Today I knew things were getting better. Munchkin and I were watching The Princess Bride at the scene where Wesley fights the ROUSs. As the rodent knocked him to the ground Munchkin exclaimed "Oh MY!" (complete with hand to her cheek and (I swear) a slight southern accent).  I burst out laughing.

I have no idea why I found it hilarious but I did. When I finally got it under control I realized it was the first time I'd really laughed all week. As I wiped the laugh tears off my face Munchkin turned to me, patted my arm, and said "Its OK. Its OK."

Yes, Munchkin. Its OK. Your mom is a little crazy and emotional right now but its all going to be OK.