A hodge podge update


  • After last week spent in the hospital with Kathleen, this week is just zipping right along. Kathleen is doing well although the antibiotics aren’t sitting so well with her and so she is much fussier than normal. But we finally got an almost decent sleep last night so I almost (not quite) feel sane today. Dan does so much better than I on less sleep.
  • It’s turned a bit colder again and since the girls can’t reconcile themselves to pulling on hats, boots and coats, they have been spending more time at inside arguing play. Actually, they mostly play really well, but there are definitely sibling squabbles when they get a little stir crazy. Lately they play fairies, dress “their children”, raid my kitchen to stock their kitchen (sounds like something I did back in BC), climb furniture, and slide banisters. I should mention that their kitchen is a garbage can, a mop bucket, and our little red electric stove. Their house is the mud room.Two nights ago they were friends coming to visit me for supper and so I was Marissa to Aneliese and as Cecily was her child, I was Auntie Missy to her. We were friends for about 1.5 hours with only an occasional slip. This morning Cecily was upset at Aneliese and getting mad until as Aneliese said “I just gave her some time to take some deep breaths and we worked it out.” and Cecily wasn’t hitting, by her description, she was “patting”. Oh my.
  • We are getting a goat at the end of the week. Well two actually, a doe and a baby. We are going to attempt to drink goats milk as our raw cow’s milk source is gone. I am hoping that we like it but not too sure. I love goat’s cheese though. And goats are fun, provided they don’t get into my garden.
  • I’m also realizing that just because I grew up with animals and worked with them my entire life, I don’t know as much as I need to. Which why I really appreciate sites like this one to fill in the things that I need to know about goats.
  • Dan is building a barn in his spare minutes (?). It’s just a little one that we can add on as we are able. Right now it will house our goats and the fifteen chickens that we have on order for the end of the month.
  • We are also getting a steer in a couple of weeks so that we have our own beef for next year. We are almost a little farm don’t you think?
  • We have our first guests coming at the beginning of May to stay in our very unfinished guest house…for a few weeks. My good friend and college dorm room neighbor. I am so very excited.
  • I love pussy willows and I spied some in our neighbors orchard the other day. I was very brave (for me) and asked if I might have some.And on that note, I bid you good night.

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!

Reggie the Squirrel & the gift of stories

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Reggie the Squirrel Puppet

 

Reggie the Squirrel came into being over two years ago when one day Dan told Aneliese a very simple story about him while out walking. Apparently she fell in love because later that night she asked me to tell her a story about him. She liked him so much that we decided to make her a puppet two Christmases ago; although she was very pleased with Reggie, we find that she still prefers the stories without the prop.

Reggie traveled to Nova Scotia with us and experienced many new things while we drove. It worked beautifully to talk about him before naps while driving rather than reading books.

Since arriving here, his family and he have taken up residence in a beautiful, huge old oak tree. They have enjoyed exploring the area, seeing the ocean, and how they love acorns. Reggie has even used acorn caps for the hats of his snow squirrels.

About the same time that Kathleen arrived, Reggie and his sister Rhonda were waiting for their new little squirrel sibling to be born. How excited they were when baby Cindy was born. They have learned so much about having a new baby. They loved her so much that they were just thrilled when Mama Squirrel told them that they were going to have two more babies, Cally and Chea (it all goes so much faster in the fictacious squirrel world of course). I am a little concerned that Mama Squirrel will have a hard time keeping up if she has too many more babies this close together; it also becomes a challenge for the story tellers to keep the names straight, hmmm. Mama Squirrel birthed at home with the whole family as she is very earthy like that. Reggie was worried about how much it hurt, but Mama assured him that it was worth it.

In all of his adventures, Reggie learns about lots of things that his little friends Aneliese & Cecily are also dealing with, things like changes, moving, babies  and other such things. He also deals with learning how to treat others kindly, how to treat those who are unkind, making good choices, caring for others, and even what to do when things don’t go his way.

Mostly though, Reggie is just a growing, happy little squirrel who has lots of fun with life. One of his very favorite things to do is collect acorns with his family every Saturday. Did you know that they carry the acorns home in their mouth and the his Daddy can put as many as six in there? And that time that he climbed on the yellow bus and went to school, oh, that was fun. He loves that there are some little girls who love to hear his tales and he really appreciates the two storytellers who are willing to share his stories even if there are often “um” and pauses as they are sure where to take it next.

Who knows, maybe Reggie is the next Winnie the Pooh ;).

Does your family have any special characters or friends who walk through life with you?

 

 

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.

The Growing Trees

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The weather has been so absolutely beautiful the past few days that we have been enjoying a lot of time outside. Today, before supper our little family (Daddy, Mama, three girls, two cats, and a dog) headed out on a walk through our forest in search of our boundary lines that Dan has been marking out.As we walked, we enjoyed the sounds of squirrels calling to each other, the stream gurgling near by, and the branches cracking underfoot. At one point Aneliese stopped to say, “this is so nice, I am just taking a deep breath.”. My thoughts exactly. We are so blessed by this little bit of land that we have been given to care for.

Near one of our boundaries is a bit of a clearing with small “Christmas Trees”. It’s delightful to discover a tree smaller than ones self. These trees are now the girls growing trees. They each chose one and we marked them so as to find them again. And each time we will see how they grow in comparison to their trees. (Kathleen will have to choose hers later!) This simple spontaneous activity today was meaningful to me because it spoke of setting down roots. I have no way of knowing where the future could lead to and we try to be open to anything, but this is the first place in which we have lived that we intend to remain indefinitely. It’s the first place that we have put down roots that did something more than skimmed the surface.

And today we chose trees to grow with…

Choosing

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It’s a beautiful morning; the sun is shining through the dining room windows (that sparkle because they just were washed yesterday!) and I can hear the girls’ happy voices as they enjoy the warmth and their swings outside. I woke up tired even though I had an early night and a 5.5 hour stretch of sleep before Kathleen needed to eat. It’s one of those days where I have to choose to be a “good” mama. Meaning that I’d like to be somewhat selfish, seeing to their needs while indulging in my own little world in a somewhat detached manner. But, I’m not going to, really. The hope and prayer in my heart is that I will continue to choose through out the day to laugh, to listen, to guide, and to love my daughters wholeheartedly.

I used to measure my daily success as a mama by how easy the day had been, how smoothly it had gone. So on days when I felt tired and just didn’t feel like it, I felt guilty, even if I had pushed through and actually had done well. Something in my head said that wasn’t enough, that I was only a good mother if it came easily. And I have mentioned before that being a mama doesn’t come easily to me. I love my daughters, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything but there are still lots of days where I have to choose delight and where I have to choose to give myself. Slowly, I am starting to realize that perhaps the days when I have to make a choice to parent well are actually the best days and the days where my daughters and I experience the most grace.

In case you are wondering, there are days when I admit that I don’t make the best choice and I don’t give the girls the best of myself. Today, though, I am focusing on renewal and the desire to continue to grow in living life well. I also wanted to share this article, The ABC’s of Toddlerhood (I think it applies to more than toddler though).