Vernal Equinox & Eggshell Seed Starters

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We celebrate the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox today. The sun and earth are celebrating in style with their warmth calling little ones to run about in bare feet and cats to laze in the sun. I believe that I shall fold my laundry outside in the beauty of it all.

We celebrated the first day of spring by starting some of our seeds. I’m not sure how great our garden will be this year as we haven’t a prepared garden plot but we are going to give it a go. With starting seeds in mind, I have been saving eggshells for the past couple of weeks to start my seeds.

I’ve used eggshells for a few years and always find that it works well. Not only are they a free pot, but the calcium in the shells is good for the growing plants, they are the perfect size for starting plants, and they break down completely in the soil while still providing essential nutrients to the plants.

This idea is not in any way original to me, even though I was the first person I know to do it, and I think there are probably plenty of other how-to’s on it but really I just want to share pictures of the fun that we had together. That is the fun, when I remembered to let go of control and not stress about it being done exactly as I would do it.

You will need:

  • Eggshells ~ when you are using your eggs for cooking, just crack off the top third and save the bottom portion. It’s a good idea to give them a little swish with water but I often forget.
  • Egg carton ~ to store the egg shells and to hold them once you have planted.
  • Seeds~ I ordered my seeds from Hope Seeds this year. They offer local seeds with a commitment local and sustainable agriculture, which includes the avoidance of genetically engineered seeds. I’ve also heard lots of good things about Salt Spring Seeds, based on Vancouver Island.
  • Dirt ~ I use a seed starting mix.
  • Pen
  • Needle
  • Scissors

How to:

  1. This is the step where you should carefully poke just one hole in the bottom of the clean eggshell using the needle. This is for drainage. I forgot. I’ve forgotten before and the seeds have been fine because I just water lightly. So if you remember, great. If you forget, don’t stress.
  2. Fill the eggshells with soil. Fill them full and even compact the soil just a little. If the soil is dry you might want to lightly wet it (a spray bottle works well).
  3. Plant your seeds. I usually do one or two seeds per egg, depending on the size of the seed.

    This is a very good opportunity for practical math

  4. Cut the most of the top of the egg carton off, leaving enough to write what you have planted in the rows. Actually, it would be a good idea to do this as the first step but I had some eager planters that got a little ahead of themselves.
  5. As was implied in step four, write above each row what you planted. I try to do it as I plant each thing otherwise I forget. I also record it in my garden log with the date, how many, and other info that I want to remember.
  6. Lightly water. My little water girl occasionally soaked them but I wouldn’t recommend that too often. The idea with seedlings is to always keep them damp, especially as they germinate. I find that a spray bottle works well.
  7. Keep the egg cartons in a warm sunny location. Once the seedlings have sprouted and grown enough to be transplanted in the garden or a larger pot, gently crack the shell before planting. It will biodegrade, the roots will grow out into the soil and the shell will continue to provide calcium to the plant. 

May you experience Light and Life on this first day of spring!

Gluten free or a Traditional Food Diet?

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Every once in a while I think that I should give a little update on Aneliese’s health. And then I forget again because mostly, I don’t think about it anymore. Well, except when we eat out anywhere. About a year ago, I wrote about Aneliese’s health issues and how we began a gluten free diet. Within weeks she began to show signs of improvement although it took several months before she was as healthy as she needed to be. During that time we have only had one serious episode of illness after eating out. She is now growing well, has healthy skin and hair, and is overall thriving.

We have seen one pediatrician who strongly suggested that she have a biopsy of her small intestine for an official Celiac Disease diagnosis but because she had already been off any gluten, it could have taken months for damage to reoccur in her intestines causing more harm to her body. So at this point, we are strictly gluten free without the official diagnosis. It’s inconvenient at times but not really a problem.

As I have mentioned before and as would be gathered by any of my recipes, we all simply eat the same way (other than if we eat out or if Dan and I have a snack or treat when the kids aren’t there;). We keep Cecily to the same diet as Aneliese and will do the same with Kathleen.

Really though, I don’t actually consider our food choices to be gluten free as much as we focus on eating traditional foods. The reality is that a gluten free diet has the potential to be extremely damaging and unhealthy, especially when the packaged and processed foods are used, because of the excessive use of sugar, additives, and the many things often used to make it more palatable. I often share weekly meal plans which would give an idea of how we eat, but by traditional foods I mean lots of meat, eggs, vegetables and saturated fats (low/no fat is a bad word in our house:). I have a grease pot in which I store and use bacon grease. We have been known to eat a dozen eggs between us for breakfast. We use sea salt and butter quite liberally. We don’t supplement much other than cod liver oil and Vitamin D and A during the winter months. There is a large pot of chicken bones simmering into broth on the stove and a grass fed beef liver thawing in the fridge (mmm). We drink things like nettle tea. I try not to use a lot of grains even gluten free ones.  Sugar is limited to special treats and even for those, I would prefer to use honey or some other sweetener.

I’m not much of a soapboxer, I prefer to just quietly live how I do and answer questions gladly in this department so I was excited to see my friend Lola’s excellent post on a traditional food diet. Basically, she says what I would like to say only better and more concisely than I could. She also has lots of links for your reading pleasure. I am going to share part of her post here but I would really recommend that you read the rest as well. Even if you think we are crazy, it is worth your time to look into and to consider. And if I am preaching to the choir, then you can be happy knowing that you aren’t alone!

Just say NO! by Lola

To pretty much any child-feeding advice that you get promoting a low fat, low cholesterol, high grain fiber diet.

1.  Children need cholesterol, saturated fat and fat soluble vitamins in their NATURALLY occurring forms (you know, the foods they are found in and NOT a fortified grain product)

2.  Iron is vital to a child’s development so  …  feed them foods rich in Iron.  No, oatmeal, rice cereal, and wheat cereal are not foods rich in iron.  They are foods incredibly low in iron that are fortified with a hard to absorb supplement that causes constipation.  Babies don’t even produce the digestive enzyme needed to break down grain until they are over two years old.  These same grains actually contain phytic acid that drastically reduces mineral absorption.   But guess what is rich in iron?  Egg yolks (you don’t have to give them the white which can cause allergic reactions in some babies) liver, and meat.  If babies need iron, and the foods that are rich in iron are eggs and meat, then babies probably need eggs and meat.  

3.  Skim milk is not good for children.  It isn’t good for adults either.  If you drink milk, drink it whole.  The fat in milk is what holds the vitamin A and K2 which are incredibly vital for bone formation and immunity.  Vitamin K2 takes minerals and directs them to where they are supposed to go.   For instance, the bones rather than the soft tissues.  And, while I don’t think milk that is grass-fed and unpasteurized is bad for you, I also don’t think milk is essential to good growth and development if you are willing to feed your children tradition foods like bone broths,  nettle infusions, fish with bones and greens.  You can be exceptionally healthy with or without dairy if you use it in its original form.  

4.  Saturated fat is Good!  I promise you it is.  Vegetable oils go rancid quickly after processing and all omega 6’s and 3’s should be obtained from the actual foods they are present in while still in their original form.  This would be foods like almonds, walnuts, vegetables, meats and avocado.  Vegetable oils have been associated with cancer and inflammation for decades now (go ahead, look into it.  It will probably surprise you how obvious it is).  The exception for this is a very high quality cod liver oil.  The mixture of cod liver oil with pastured saturated fat is what good bones are made of 🙂

Saturated fat is required for a healthy brain and body.  That means lard, butter, fatty meats, coconut oil and eggs must be eaten.   These foods all have other health promoting qualities as well and they will give your children a healthy brain, a strong body and a beautiful glow.   The use of organic cold pressed olive oil that is NOT cooked is okay on salads.  Even olive oil goes rancid quickly when heated.  

5.  Choline is VITAL.  Saturated fat is good for you but without Choline, it’s bad for your liver.  If you eat a high saturated fat diet that is also high in fructose, sugar and insulin spiking foods, your liver will accumulate fat because it doesn’t have the right tools to break it down into bile and eliminate it from the body.  But all your liver needs is choline.  This makes sense because our original diet prior to fifty-ish years ago was high in saturated fat and also high in choline.  Choline is found in egg yolk and liver.  Few people eat liver these days and many people eat eggs rarely or even worse, without the yolk.  For children, this is crucial for not only the liver but also the brain.  Choline during pregnancy and early childhood affects memory and intelligence.  Feed your babies egg yolks as a first food and keep on giving it to them until they move out of the house.  

6.  Babies need bacteria.  We all need bacteria.  Our whole immunity starts in our guts and antibiotics wipe out our entire beautiful ecosystem.  Give babies and children fermented foods and vegetables such as homemade kefir and yogurt, unpastuerized sauerkraut and fermented pickles.  And that’s not all.  They need bacteria from everything around them.  From dirt and from people.  I’m really serious.  Do not sterilize your children because you are doing their long term immunity a huge disservice.  I’m not telling you to let some sick kids sneeze all over your baby.  I’m saying that normal transfer of germs is beneficial. 

7. Sugar is hard on your immune system.  It just is.  It makes you sick.  When you mix sugar and grain and vegetable oil (pretty much any cookie, cake or treat) you get a body wrecking trio.  So, limit sugar to very rare occasions for OLDER children and you will help avoid many an illness.  Babies never need sugar.  

To read the rest and for the links go to Lola’s blog, Nearer Still…

I’ve been working towards eating this way for about four years but dealing with Aneliese’s illness made me realize that I needed to be even more proactive. And it has paid off. Dan, my loving skeptic agrees. Our daughters are very healthy, are rarely sick even mildly, and seem to have quite strong immune systems. I, who have always been the illness magnet, have only had a couple of short lived bouts in the last year. It has been this way even though we have been around people who are sick. **I should note that I am currently taking several natural supplements to right some imbalances that my diet doesn’t seem to be overcoming right now.  I also want to say that I’m not sharing this to give myself a pat on the back because we still have times where I have a hard time sticking with it. And I am not the sugar police. Nor do I share this to promise that if you eat this way that all of your problems will be solved, even health wise. But, I will say that it has been worth it and that I fully believe that you and your children will be better equipped to fight off illness and such. I am certain that this is why Aneliese has recovered so well and in a short time.

I also know that this way of eating is more costly and takes more time but in the long run, it pays off. Two years ago, when Aneliese was at her sickest, we had to spend fifty dollars on antibiotics that she needed to take for just a few days and that was just the one time. That adds up. Lest it sounds like I am advocating eating this way only if you have visible unwellness, I would honestly think most people would benefit in so many ways from this way of eating. For children especially, it is both a preventive and proactive diet.  And there are ways to save pennies and get bang for your buck but this is already getting quite long and almost a rant. So my last thought is this, click on Lola’s blog, check out some of the links, and let me know your thoughts or questions.

Applesauce Pancakes

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I mentioned that we took a trip to the apple orchard. Well, those lovely apples were mostly planned for applesauce and we made one large batch yesterday. All of us, together. I peeled, Dan cored and sliced, Cecily passed the apples to Dan, and Aneliese washed them, put the sliced ones in the bowl, and tossed the cores. Cecily may have taken bites regularly as she was handing them over and Aneliese may have take a slice from each ones as she put in the bowl but it still only took us about an hour to prep 40 lbs. The cooking down is so simple since you just fill the pot, turn to medium/low heat, and give a stir every so often until it has turned to mush. Usually I freeze some and can some but this year I am going the canning way (it will likely be the only thing that I can this year). I splurged and finally picked up two handy (and inexpensive) little gadgets that made canning the applesauce so much easier and faster. Seriously, why have I said I need them for six years but not bought them?

Fancy gadgets that every one who can MUST have: a funnel and jar lifter/tongs...so important.

some finished jars of applesauce

Sadly, the towel that I set down was apparently not thick enough and now our table shows some canning evidence. Oh well.

The spots now on my table.

And finally, with the remnants of applesauce that didn’t fit in a jar, our morning pancakes were made. I imagine that there are many recipes out there very similar… I basically followed this one but made up my own GF mix and a few tweaks. Truly they were fluffy and delicious.

tasty applesauce pancakes

Applesauce Pancakes

Ingredients (Makes about 18-20 4″ ish Pancakes)
Time: 30 minutes

  • 280 grams GF flour mix  (I did 130 g Sorghum, 120 g Tapioca Flour, 30g Sweet White Rice Flour) or 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp Cream of Tartar  (I had run out of baking powder so this was the substitute but I really liked how it worked; you would just use 3 tsp of baking powder)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In a smaller bowl, lightly mix together the eggs, applesauce, and buttermilk. Add the applesauce mixture to the dry mixture. Stir just until everything is moistened, taking care not to overmix (not that this is really a problem with the GF mix) the batter (lumps are okay). Allow it to rest for a few minutes.

Use a lightly greased griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup pancake batter for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot with your favorite toppings; we used some applesauce and maple syrup.

Apple Day

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Being that Monday was a holiday, being that we wanted apples, and being that holidays are meant to be spent with others; we headed to an orchard with these lovely friends (notice how they play a prominent part in our Nova Scotia life?).

It was a truly perfect day for picking apples. Once we arrived at the orchard, we discovered that it was some what busy as they were having special events, we had the unsprayed heritage apples in mind for our picking pleasure anyways.

Finding the BEST apples!

Beautiful.

finding the perfect one (she was going for green)

I think that Cecily only picked the one that she was happy to eat.

Mostly, I am just putting this picture because I like knowing that I don't look quite as massive as I feel most days!

checking out the apple wagon.

taking a break for a family picture!

Sharing secrets on the way back

And they all loved the merry-go-round

No fear, this one.

Dancing while waiting for the wagon to take us around the farm.

You might not know it from this picture but Aneliese was almost beside herself with excitement about getting to ride behind the tractor in the big wagon!

 

Blueberries for Sal and a tree swing

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The day that Aneliese discovered our blueberry bushes with ripening berries she immediately knew that those berries must be picked using their little tin bucket. Just like one of our favorite books; Blueberries for Sal! A few days ago, after several hot, hot summer days, the blueberries were ripe. As I watched Cecily picking berries, I knew that Robert McCloskey must have watched a small child berry picking before writing that story!

"Little Sal picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail...kuplink, kuplank, Kuplunk!"

...And then....

"she picked three more berries and ate them...and dropped one in the pail, kuplunk!"

"Little Sal ate all four blueberries out of her pail!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did actually end up filling the little bucket almost full…after Cecily had eaten her fill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on swings:

The girls love swings! In our little prairie town, we had multiple parks within walking distance and so we often would go at least once if not more a day. Here though, it is more of a chore to load up in the truck and go to the park. But, the trees close to our house are still kind of small for a swing if some one bigger sits on it. So innovative Daddy decided that he would make a only small child friendly swing from our apple tree (apples are scarce on it)

the first attempt required a little too much arm strength...

Although Cecily was still impressed and made a valiant effort once it had a knot to hold.

The next one; just right. Both girls can sit on it by themselves and can give each other a push if needed.

1 year

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I realized a couple of days ago that I have been writing this blog for one year today.  This was my first post. I had wondered if I would regret starting this blog and one year later, I am glad that I did. It has helped me process a lot and I have connected with people that I might otherwise not have. I have been encouraged and I hope that I have encouraged others.

Of course I have to celebrate this occasion with a give-away. Actually, I had decided to do this already before I realized that I had been writing for a year but that is not the point. I have been told that it is sad to never win a give-away so I decided to do one where everyone wins. My dear friend gifted me with a jar full of little acorn caps and I made a bunch of these little guys. I think they are pretty fun.

Felted Acorns

Until tomorrow evening if you would like one, just leave a comment sharing what creative outlet you have. Now, before you think, “but, I’m not crafty.”, let me just say that I have friends whose creativity run more towards areas like organizing. And they do it beautifully. It seems to me that creativity in some form or another is just part of how we are made.

My creativity tends to run in seasons. In the colder months, I do things like sew or felt but right about now my brain switches over to gardening. I start thinking about dirt, compost (so beautiful, so creative) and seeds. I draw up garden plans. My search history starts showing things like companion planting and square foot garden plans. This year I won’t be doing that so much as we will be moving so I am just holding this in my memory.

Dreaming of a garden

A completely happy day

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Fall Apples

Time spent with my little family. Enjoying the fall air and the fruits that we have been so blessed with. Laughter and good conversation. Singing and sweet smiles. Rosy cheeks and crunchy apples. A completely happy day.