Saturday, March 23, 2013

On an Growing Obsession (Part 1)

A seed: One very tiny object with more potential than anyone can fathom. Hold one in your hand and think of the plant it could become. Will it be a giant oak tree? A savory herb? A plant that produces fruit for you to enjoy? Something so small can become something so big and amazing!

Yes, it is the start of growing season again. If my mind is not on work or writing, it is on our garden. This year I find myself even more obsessed with making us self-sustainable for our food. I guess it is the thought of all homesteaders. Mixing soil, shoveling manure, finding ways to reuse packaging as containers to grow seedlings in, discovering innovative ways to make our house look nicer without breaking the bank or the planet - it all swirls around night and day. I've seen some concepts websites such as Backyard Diva and ones that people post on Facebook from places like Pintrest (which I still am not on) and have used a few of these idea. 

Why this obsession with growing food? It seems I was born with a green thumb. My mother had us out in the garden from the time we could follow basic directions. Some of my earliest memories are picking strawberries, asking about cucumbers, and those hot summer days we spent making seemingly endless containers of tomato sauce from scratch. I was just seven when she gave me my own small plot of the garden to grow whatever was the current whim. Flowers, gourds, herbs and more were raised by tiny hands over those years.

Then, there was Old Ben. He was our neighbor and was a farmer. The back acre of his property was lined with rows of veggies. Sometimes we helped him pick the harvest, and occasionally he would pay us for the work. As I got older though, my afternoons were spent sitting on his picnic table, all legs and questions, listening to him talk of the earth, days of old, and how to make food grow. Those were lessons never forgotten, just put aside until the right time.

Even when all I had was a small back deck or front porch, even in the wild weather of Colorado, I was trying to make things grow. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots and more popped out of containers and into the kitchen. The moment we rented a house with a pre-existing garden, I had the ground tilled and a variety planted. Now that we have our own home and land, six beautiful raised beds have been destined for yearly vegetable growth, and two smaller beds are exploding with strawberries. Even a couple of blueberry plants and fig trees are coming around.

In a day and age where people are so disconnected to what they eat, I feel it has become a mission to help others reconnect. It saddens me when students cannot tell me what is in their favorite foods or even where it really came from. Reports of what pesticides, refined sugars, and GMO foods are doing to our bodies are coming out weekly. With Owen having PKU and needing as much fresh food as possible - due to most of what is out there for his condition being processed beyond recognition - there was a need to make a big change. As my own health deteriorated due to Ehlers-Danlos and several secondary disorders, the desire to eliminate chemicals and additives from our diet became urgent. Just as urgent was figuring out a way to grow our own food without aggravating my condition. It has taken several years with a lot of success, and a few failures, to reach our goals. We are more connected to the land, know our food is being grown safely, and have been told by several specialists that I would be a lot worse off right now if those chemicals, additives and sugars were still part of my diet. Part 2 of this series will be about raising organically grown foods in containers or beds without breaking the bank or your back. 

#homesteading, #PKU, #gardening, #organicgardening, #ehlers-danlos,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Too Small To Ignore Book Review (cross post)

In January I was asked to write a book review for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy. They were looking for someone who had experience with child advocacy and who knew of a good book about helping impoverished children. As a long time trained Advocate for Compassion International, I fit the first qualification. With my love of Wes Staffords books, the second was filled the moment I told my supervisor about it. Here is the review, which was sent to parents in a February newsletter.

Children are the smallest and most vulnerable of humanity. They have no control over their circumstances and have little knowledge about the world around them. In developing nations, their situation can be quite desperate. In developed worlds, they are often the most neglected among those who serve. They are our future and yet so little is being done for them! Too Small To Ignore is one of the most well written books about children on both sides of the poverty line. It is written in a way that will leave you hungry to help and shows you ways to do so.
The author, Wes Stafford, was born to missionary parents. Most of his early life was spent in the Ivory Coast, where he learned how to deal with death. Every year many of his playmates died, most from preventable causes. It had a strong impact on the small boy, yet he thrived in the environment. When it came time to start school, Wes and his sister were sent to a boarding school that was said to be much safer than living in the untamed mission frontier. This was not to be the case. Those who were sent to teach and protect them, did the exact opposite. Wes had to survive in a world just as harsh as the one where his parents lived. However, he learned to stand up for himself and the other children affected. He came out of the situation with a strong sense of responsibility for the “least of these.”
  Wes' vivid language and descriptions brings out the plight not only of extreme poverty but of children in the developed world too. His heart is on his sleeve as he describes how his past affected the future of millions of children.
Too Small To Ignore chronicles how Wes Staffords' determination to help the young led him to Compassion International. This child advocacy organization has blossomed under his intense desire. The idea of one small child influencing an entire community becomes reality daily through the actions of Compassion. Wes, with his big heart, tender smile and eyes prone to tears, has influenced churches, youth facilities, businesses and families around the globe. As the reader will learn, he is an advocate in the truest sense. In his words “Children are the next big thing!” In the pages you will see how very true this is and your life will never be the same, I promise.

Too Small to Ignore can be found on, and other online sites. 
#bridgewayacademy #wesStafford #TooSmalltoIgnore #CompassionInternational

Friday, March 8, 2013

On Blessings in the Dark

The day started off like any other. We heard a storm was coming and did the necessary preparations. Living rural and being homesteaders, the tasks change by season. Up until the night of the storm, most forecasts had us getting about 6 inches.

I woke up at 3am to take pictures with my new camera and we were at 8 inches. The sound of snow falling, the peace of a world suddenly asleep, it makes me smile and I stood outside for far too long. Then, the electric coming into our house became like a creature possessed: zapping, surging, fluttering out and coming back again. It was difficult to sleep in it, but I had some good thinking time. At 8:30 we had a foot of snow and it was still coming down. The heavy white had trees bending and it wasn't long before the telltale snap-crack was heard. Trees and branches gave in under the weight. I contacted work, crossing fingers and toes that the internet held out long enough for me to send a broadcast message to my students. I got as far as logging into Skype and telling my supervisor. All went black.

No problem! We live for natures challenges and hauled out our camping gear. After making sure things were in place and laughing about how the power would be back on in a flash, we curled back up in bed. It was then we discovered that the cell phone tower was out too. That was really bothersome Lunch came around and I cooked soup in a cast iron fondue pot over a sterno can and we talked. The tiels were getting chilled, so I layered them up in blankets and gave Erwin a handfeeding of warm formula. He is the cutest ball of feathers when he's eating like a fledgling. We rested some more, read, typed,and played outside with the dogs. Hobo loves snow and was bouncing and prancing all over the place! After some hot tea, we went outside to dig the car out. Learning early on the value of parking at the front of the property when one has a multiple acre driveway, we were dug out in no time.

Evening approached and the house was getting cold. Candles were set up and, as I was working on dinner, the thought came to me. Peace. I had been at peace just about all day. Where normally there would be panic at falling behind with work, being out of touch with the rest of the world...there was peace. The day had been full of blessings. Owen and I spent much needed time together. We worked on what had to be done and even had some fun moments. Not once did a snippish tone show or a emotion rolled up too high. My daily list of the little things that are good went on. We had blankets, candles, the right gear to handle the lack of power. There was food, hot packs, flashlights and things to do. This was so different than what most of the world experiences. Even those in town were lined up at the fast food places the moment power there was returned. They weren't prepared, and they have so much!

It is the end of day two of no power now. I drove Owen to his parents so he could help them out and I went to Starbucks to log-in at work. A co-worker had taken care of one crisis that arose and the others laughed with me at the hilarity of it all. After catching up on emails and being brave enough to put the essay grading on hold, I had lunch with Owens' family before heading back into town for a haircut, wash and dry. My hair needed all of the above so badly and it made the situation feel more under control. We returned to a cold house, two singing birds and two hyper dogs. After changing out the three hot packs and adding more towels to the stack already surrounding the birds. They are my only real worry in this situation. I need to rely on the One who knows when a sparrow falls to keep my feathered children safe. Owen tried to build a rocket stove, but alas, needed power for a tool and got stuck. We settled in for a bit of a rest before starting the evening meal. Dinner was the best yet, as He showed Me how to make “Grandma Morgan's Omelets.” Time around a camp stove has never been so good. The blessings keep coming, even in the dark.

#blessings #thankful #nopower #homestead