Rocking in the CSA

Noah is jazzed about the upcoming party in his belly…

You would be, too, if your family just became proud owners of a small share in the Colvin Family Farm’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for the 2011 harvest season (May-October)!

There were several options, surprisingly, in the 100-mile radius of our bustling metropolis. I researched most of them from what I could find – they are farmers, not internet gurus – and there was something about this simple family (if you can count having thirteen children as simple) that I was drawn to, that I could relate to (give or take twelve children), that I could appreciate.

A few things that I deemed important that set them apart:

  • More convenient pick-up location – about thirty-five miles rather than sixty.
  • Maw Colvin provides recipes for the goods in the box each week – now I will know what to do with three pounds of parsnip and arugula.
  • All of the children are an integral part of their family business. We eat well because of them, they eat well because of families like us. It’s a win-win.
  • The farm hosts various events where their CSA members can come out to the farm, meet them, feel the dirt under our boots, put a face and a handshake to a name, take hold of a unique situation and nurture the relationship of farmer-locavore.

With our cow being ready sometime this month, the CSA, Farmer Joe down the road, fresh breads made at home, the chickens, & our non-chemical cleaning supplies – our monthly grocery bill will be cut in half by our projections. Sure, there are start-up costs and care for the birds, upfront payments for both the cow & farm, and bulk orders for various herbs and plants – but the improvement in our family’s health and lifestyle and the relief – though small it may seem – on the earth’s resources is worth every penny, whether it’s more or less pennies in the long run. Though the beauty and reality is that we have more pennies at the end of the day to put toward other things. Good things. Good people doing good things.

So…between now and harvest season my plan is to collect recipes, stock up on canning supplies, find a second-hand pressure cooker, start seeds for our garden, build our chicken coop, and make new friends to invite over to share in our bounty. Here is your official invitation, friends, to join us for a meal this summer/fall – just give me a day’s warning and bring your favorite dessert.

If you are interested in finding a CSA in your area, please visit Local Harvest. You will find information there about CSA, farmers’ markets, local produce, and a host of resources to help navigate your decision.

Local agriculture – it’s the new black.


What Came First?

Forget the egg or the chicken, the pox came first at our house.
There are many things I like and desire about chickens, but this my friends, is not one of them.

I think he is handling it way better than either one of his parents. We just want to take the pain away, the confusion away, the multiplying red bumps. We have never felt so helpless… this is definitely the first real trial as parents, to be patient and know that God will heal his little body in due time. Say a little prayer for our little guy – and maybe one for his mama and pops, too.

Noah shows us how he really feels about those pesky bumps –
or he’s trying to lick the oatmeal bath off his chin.
Daddy always makes everything in my world much better.Can’t nobody hold me down, oh no…

The crazy thing, or at least what I find wild, about Chicken Pox is that there is a vaccine for the infection but there are no antibiotics or salves that will speed the healing process, only things to make the child less itchy. I know it’s a viral deal, but still, one would think that with the sickness that effects millions of kids and adults each year, there would be some glimmer of goopy hope.

And what better than to have Noah’s very own, very special, personalized cape (handmade by the wonderful Liz) arrive during his first oatmeal bath of the day!

Yes, that’s right – the wonders of this cape will bring super speedy healing powers and will have Noah bouncing off the walls again in no time! And he will be very cute doing it… But for real, go check Liz out and buy one of these for the little dude in your life – Etsy, everyone else is doing it.

We are on the outs right now, chickens and me, but I still think I want them in my backyard (I don’t really have a “yard” per-say, but I like to think of it that way…). I will have to sleep on it. The thought, not the chicken.

Holy Cow: Part Two

And finally what you’ve all been waiting for.
All four of you who read this (thanks, Mom).

We are buying a cow! Yep. As in meat on the table, not Pet Bessie in the backyard (though if Chris would let me I would do it in a heartbeat). That means ground beef, steak, burgers… you name it, we will have it in our freezer by the end of the summer. And by “we” I mean our family and three others are going in on the heifer because frankly we can’t afford the whole thing by ourselves, not in one fail swoop anyway. Can you taste the freshness in your mouth… ohhhhh yes.
We were originally thinking of going with River Ridge Farms down the road from us to help support local economy…the huge and bustling economy of Ten Mile. We will likely purchase other things such as chickens or eggs from them, but after casual conversation with one of our summer staffers we learned that his family has a farm outside of Knoxville. It’s a small family-run farm that has about fifty head of cattle right now. Forrest, whose father owns the farm, told me that those cattle would likely pay for his college. I was sold. Hands down, these were the folks that we would get our slab o’beef from. I was elated and began to ask several questions of the poor boy who graciously humored me with answers and repeatedly told me he would give me his dad’s number and I could talk to him… I guess I just couldn’t contain my excitement and got a little bit of tunnel vision – eyes on the prize, if you will.
Our beef is free-range, grass-fed up until the last two weeks before it’s sent to slaughter, in which those two weeks it is given corn in addition to her regular diet to fatten her up. I can live with that. And even better, Mr. Stroud has a relationship with the folks who process the meat, his family has used them for years, so theoretically we will “know” the hands that have prepared our food. God bless them.
In other food news, I am reading this book:
 I’ve also read this book of hers:
This woman is my hero. Seriously. She kept me entertained through the first book and now has my complete and intense focus on the story of her family’s life-altering decision to move across the country so that they can eat (mostly) locally and tend a garden themselves. Hero.
Chris and I have been tossing around the thought of doing this ourselves, even before picking up her book, and now I just feel affirmed in the decision. Now, I know this isn’t something that can change overnight or without a ridiculous amount of planning and calculating, but I wish I could start tomorrow. I think we will start after a rest from our busy summer season. Here are some things I am considering and loopholes we may create:
1. Noah won’t be totally included in our “local only” harvest, at least not at first. There are certain things he needs and enjoys that I don’t feel is right to cut out for him right now (e.g. Yo’Baby from Stonyfield, whole grain cheerios, etc.). But I am considering figuring out how to make my own yogurt…could be interesting.
2. We live in the country. We have a local farm right down the road that sells produce six months out of the year which could potentially cut out our once a week grocery runs… which the closest store is seventeen miles from our house. That’s a big deal.
3. Local equals in-season produce and Barbara’s website provides seasonal menus and recipes. Score.
Now, I will likely have to alter her meat selection because of the whole cow we will own in a few weeks.
4. We are considering joining a local co-op, Three Rivers Market. This will help us in the local and in-season part.
5. Chickens. I really really really want chickens. You all should message Chris, phone or facebook, and push for chickens for me. ‘Preciate it.
6a. I’ve already canned (halfway) my first mess of beans. I’ve learned that one bushel is equal to twenty quarts… I opted for half a bushel. I don’t like green beans, but my boys love them. I am giving two away, but the other eight should last us a good while. Next up on the canning menu: tomato sauce. Six to eight quarts of it. This will be my trick: stock up now, can, enjoy in the winter when there isn’t much “fresh” to choose from.
6b. If anyone has a pressure cooker they would like to donate I would gladly take you up on it. Or a deep freezer.
Whew. I am wearing myself out and the work is just beginning. We will be busy in the upcoming weeks sorting out the details, making a plan, and hopefully we can hit the ground running after the summer heat. Lots to do. Maybe there will have to be a Part Three to this saga.
So I will leave you with a thought from my dear friend, Barb:
“It is not my intention here to lionize country wisdom over city ambition. I only submit that the children of farmers are likely to know where food comes from, and that the rest of us might do well to pay attention. For our family, something turned over that evening in the diner: a gas-pump cashier’s curse of drought was lifted by a waitress’s simple, agricultural craving for rain. I thought to myself: There is hope for us.”
Taken from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, page 8

Fair Warning

Warning: I am about to try out my hippie crystal for the first time in the hot Florida sun. Now we will really put it to the test. It’s worked so far in hot and sticky situations (literally) but it could meet it’s match with the southern heat. Let’s have faith and hope not.
I will conjur up the hippie spirits to be with me and my armpits this afternoon.

But just in case they aren’t listening, I will go ahead and apologize in advance to any family or friends in my close proximity if it fails miserably.

Consider this your first and final warning.

Bring it, Florida.


In the spirit of homemade and crafting, I just finished my first batch of chlorine and bleach-free laundry detergent. Mostly I thought it would be entertaining and something to fill my creative itch, but hello, affordable. I will explain cost-effectiveness in more detail in a moment, but the ten gallon yield of suds would cost around eighty dollars, conservatively, if using ready-made detergent.
Yes, sign me up please. Twice.

Ingredients: Borax, Washing Soda, Fels-Naptha Soap, Water
Top to right: Melting Fels-Naptha, Stirring in Borax & Washing Soda, Finished Product (thickens overnight)
Love it. And it works… even on poopy cloth diapers.
I will have to say that I am a little embarrassed about where I found the recipe… You know the family on TLC that has a bajillion children and counting? Yes, I admit, I swiped this recipe from their family website. Probably the only thing that I will “borrow” from their approach at life, but for the soap, I am thankful.
So here is the cost breakdown:
20 Mule Team Borax                                            $6.75
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda         $3.79
Fels-Naptha Soap                                                  $.99

5 Gallon Bucket w/ Lid                                          $4.00
Essential Oil (optional)                                          $7.00
Water                                                                     FREE
10 Gallons of Laundry Suds                                $22.53

So when you compare that each gallon costs about $2.25 each of homemade suds versus most basic suds (conservatively) range anywhere from $6-14 for the same amount of soap. Also, it’s natural and “free & clear” as far as chlorine and bleaches are concerned.  I win.  And the only thing that I will have to buy more of each time, for a while, is the Fels-Naptha soap. The other ingredients will last several batches…but it will take me a while to even go through the first batch, and we do a ton of laundry around here! I win again.

Chris questions why we use soap at all after listening to the folks on NPR tell us that it’s unnecessary, it only makes your clothes smell good. If you don’t mind the smell of water, suds are just bonus.

The Breast Choice

I get a weekly email from Babyfit’s Natural Mother that is full of helpful and useful information on topics I can relate to: composting, activities for baby, organic choices, diapering, baby food, etc. Like any other advice and information, I take it with a grain of salt and usually do further research if there is something that catches my attention. I was rifling through emails that I haven’t had a chance to sit long enough to give a thought to this morning and came across an article about “self-weaning”. Now, I have vowed to myself and Noah that I will breastfeed him for at least a year and will begin to wean him after his first birthday, given that he doesn’t wean himself first. I am not opposed to going longer, however, I think that beyond a year is just bonus nutrition and often an emotional need for baby and mama. I love to spend this time with little dude, but I can also imagine the freedom that must be unleashed when the baby no longer wants the boob. I am sure I will miss the bonding time, but I also don’t want to prolong the inevitable, potentially making it even more emotional and damaging the older he gets.

Disclaimer: I am not seeking approval or criticism, simply stating the way I feel about the topic of breastfeeding. If you choose to take the advice of what I am about to share, more power to you. You are an amazing and dedicated mama. For me, I could not fathom it.

As I mentioned, I received this article based on breastfeeding and self-weaning:

Self-weaning, or child-led weaning, describes the natural, gradual process that inevitably occurs when a child no longer has a nutritional or emotional need to nurse. Somewhere between the ages of two-and-a-half to four years, the child will begin to ask to nurse less and less often, gradually tapering off over a period of months until they are completely weaned.

Some people worry that, without a strong parental push to do so, their child will never wean. This worry is unfounded, however, for when children are allowed to follow their own weaning timetables, they all wean. According to Katherine Dettwyler, PhD, a professor of anthropology, “In societies where children are allowed to nurse ‘as long as they want’, they usually self-wean, with no arguments or emotional trauma, between three and four years of age…The minimum predicted age for natural weaning is 2.5 years, with a maximum of 7 years.”

Holy cow. Literally.

I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around breastfeeding Noah for another two years beyond this, let alone until he’s SEVEN! There is something about the thought of him getting off the bus from school and having mama’s milk and cookies that doesn’t quite sit right with me.

I will say that the “emotional trauma” of weaning is probably very tiring and terrifying for all parties involved, and I think there is truth to allowing the child to lead the way. I can assure you there will probably be many emotions spilled all over this blog about said subject in the future.But I also feel that there could be more psychological repercussions if a child nurses until he is in elementary school…I mean, he is old enough to have vivid memories and recollections by the age of four. Can you imagine the torment from other children if they knew? And what do you tell the kid…don’t tell your friends that I nurse you to sleep at night? Then it potentially becomes a shameful occurrence, which launches into a whole separate ball of wax.

I hope to take an approach to mothering that is as natural and as non-traumatic as possible for Noah and potential other littlefords. I hope to try new things and be open-minded to new adventures. I hope to step outside of the box to show my family that I love them uniquely and immensely. I hope to tackle obstacles, big and small, as a team with Chris that will only grow and strengthen our relationship. I hope to teach my littleford(s) to make good choices and be individuals.

I hope and pray that Noah weans himself at a year or a little later.
I really hope and pray that he doesn’t still “need” me in the above capacity until he’s seven.

Lord, help us all if that’s the case.

And for anyone who makes this choice, let me know how it works out for you.

And your little one.

And your little one fifteen years from now.

A Hidden Gem

Warning: If your knees weaken and stomach quivers at the topic of bodily functions and odors, please stop reading now.
You’ve been warned.

As I have mentioned before, Chris and I have been trying in the last couple of years to make good and healthy decisions for ourselves and our growing family. We are up for just about anything (if we can afford it) and will try most things at least once. For example: gardening, one-car family, cloth diapers, homemade baby food, etc… Well, when we lived in Carolina we became “regulars” at the Mast General Store downtown, specifically befriending the guy who works in the gear section. He’s a nice guy – asks about Noah, where we are now, checks in on the latest adventure – super friendly.
Friendly enough to talk body odor and remedies. 
Time-before-last when we were there Chris started chatting with him about the new Burt’s Bees line of deodorant that they had recently put out on display. Asking questions about if he’s used it, what he thought of it, does it smell good… you know, the usual small talk with an almost stranger. Apparently he was not impressed with the deodorant, it didn’t really work for him. So he starts on this mumbo jumbo about some magical crystal that you wet and rub under your arms… it lasts for a year with daily use and can be found at most grocery stores for around five bucks. I didn’t really pay that much attention until he said how long it last for what it costs…because most of the time these sorts of things are a little more out there than I am willing to go. But when “saving money” is involved, my ears perk immediately.
So what did I do?
I went out and bought it.

It is my new favorite thing. Ever.
I’ve been using it for about three months and so far, so good. No stink, no stick, no residue.
Now, we are about to get into the heat of the summer and I make no promises about the condition of my underarms, however, I am not sure I will care. You see, not only does it work but it is clearly better for you than other deodorants – no fragrances, no aluminum, basically nothing that will clog your pores (which some believe the aluminum can cause cancer, hence the pink ribbon on the bottle). And supposedly you can use it on your feet, too.
All I am going to say is don’t knock it until you try it. Because it works.
And I apologize in advance if I stink, but it’s just my armpits shouting joyfully at their freedom.

Look into my crystal ball…

Feed and Water Three Times Daily

My boy likes to eat. He enjoys his food a lot…in large amounts at times.
And baby food is expensive. Especially when you take into consideration that you have to feed and water children at least three times daily, usually more.
And like our doctor randomly, unsolicited-ly soap-boxed: “You are paying (insert baby food company here) to water it down for you. By the time the baby eats it he’s consumed more water than fruit or veggie. So you pay them to cut down on the nutrients and it doesn’t even taste that great.”
Thanks, doc.
So we make our own most of the time. It’s super fun, super easy, and Noah hasn’t complained about my cooking yet! For the most part it goes like this: peel. heat. mash. freeze. Not all things freeze, but most will and it keeps for three months. We freeze them in OXO ice trays with lids that are perfect…four cubes is one meal for little dude right now. I usually make a big batch that will last us a few weeks but I plan to go nuts this summer and make a whole bunch of yummy goodness that I score from the Farmers’ Market.

Anyway. So far we’ve made butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, blueberries, parsnip, broccoli, and a combination of several of these together. He likes them all, so I keep making them and trying new things. It’s very rewarding I tell you…to know that he is eating my cooking, that he likes my cooking, that he will hopefully have a diverse pallet, and to know exactly what it is that he’s ingesting. And I don’t have to study any labels on jars…which would probably take more time to dissect what each thing is, means, and does than to just mash up a mango.
Now, I am not opposed to food in the jar, please don’t hear that. We use it when we are on the go or need a quick fix (read: Noah is flipping his wig with hunger and there ain’t no time for mashing or microwaving). I choose this simply because I enjoy it. And I think Noah does, too. It’s one more thing that I can do for him and hopefully one day do with him, as in cooking and making yummy creations like this:

Hummus pizza with kiwi & corn

So cute, right?
But for now I have to be creative on my own, in the midst of peeling, heating, and mashing:

Did you know butternut squash looks and smells like a pumpkin on the inside?

Next on the menu: homemade finger cookies for the little teether.
Wish me luck.

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate

Let me start with that.
We’ve not really had a strong opinion one way or the other regarding vaccinations for Noah. I figure that it is the responsible choice to provide him the healthiest path we can choose for him while he can’t make his own decisions. We figure we will do all the mainstream ones – measles, mumps, rubella, pneumonia, hepatitis B, etc. – and discuss as it occurs whether we will do the new/optional ones – rotavirus, chicken pox, flu, etc.
I should also say that the Peds group that we go to requires the traditional shots or they will not treat your child. We really like/trust them as they are the largest and most accessible practice in Knoxville, and they didn’t get that way because they are terrible doctors & nurses. But to that I also say that just because all the other cool parents are doing it does not mean that it is for us and our child. I am sure we will make many different choices for Noah than a lot of mainstream folks choose…not because we’re better, just because we are different.

Which brings me to my recent frustration.

 We opted to have Noah take the Rotarix vaccine which prevents the rotavirus – vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration –  in children. We did this in part because my niece, AL, was very sick with it when she was a baby and had to be hospitalized due to dehydration. Scary, right? And protectively, we didn’t want this for the baby boy.
We went in for Noah’s six month well visit and for his next round of immunizations and lo and behold, they tell us that Rotarix (which he already completed at four months) has been pulled off the market by the FDA for further research.

Now, I try not to overreact, they pull things on and off the market all the time…and I would much rather they research it more than just turn a blind eye. So I did a little research of my own…Seems as though there are portions of  a pig virus, PCV1, present in the vaccine that the company doesn’t know how it got in there. Supposedly PCV1 is non-threatening to humans, but PCV2 can be. They have only found PCV1, but the troubling part is they don’t know how it got in there.
And this isn’t the first time that a rotavirus vaccine has been pulled… in 1999 the CDC pulled RotaShield off the market because it was linked to some sort of fatal infection.

As a parent, what the heck do you do about that? It’s not like Noah can untake the vaccine. Chances are it is harmless and nothing will come of it, but the fact that he has something inside of him that even has the potential to be harmful makes my skin crawl. I can assure you that we will research and think twice before we go vaccinating him with anything anymore, regardless of what the AAP recommends. (Sorry, Erika, I know you will strongly disagree, and that’s okay.)
I hate to think like that because I consider myself a pretty level-headed and practical person, but it’s just not safe to sign the dotted line until you know all the details.
Not when my baby is involved.

The lesson here?
Be informed. Know what you are signing up for. Consider your options. Weigh the pros and cons and decide what suits you and your family best. Try not to overreact when things don’t go as planned. Prepare yourself when it goes awry. Because most likely, it will happen at least once.
You may just have to go against the grain. If you are educated on the matter and feel strongly about it, do it. It’s your life, your children, your choice.

Side-note: If it were up to me we would live deep in the woods using natural and homeopathic remedies, eat non-processed foods, and live off the land. Oh, to be one with nature and our Creator…