Tag Archives: guest post

Down on the Farm… Brooklyn Style

My husband and I were born and (mostly) bred in small farm towns on the outreaches of Chicago’s suburbs. My high school had a thriving FFA chapter and tractors were not uncommon sights around town. His family, just 5 miles up the road, grew a huge garden and raised pigs. Somehow, though, we ended up as yuppie city-folk, living and working in America’s largest city… and loving it.

We welcomed our daughter to the family last October. She was born at home, in our small, dingy, overpriced Brooklyn apartment, and 11 months later, it still sometimes shocks us to realize that she’s a native Brooklynite. A city girl. Although still an infant, her existence revolves around subway rides and skyscrapers and concrete. Lots and lots of concrete.

Lucky for her, we are still tied to nature and try to live as sustainably as we can. We have a vermicompost bin in our small kitchen, tend a vegetable plot in a local community garden, and have been members of local CSAs for the last 4 years, even helping to launch one in 2007. We also try to get out of the city as often as possible – partly for her sake, but mostly for ours – to stretch our legs, breathe in some fresh, crisp air, and dig our toes into some grass and dirt. Lucky for us, our current CSA provided us the perfect opportunity to do just that last weekend when we headed upstate to spend a day with our farmers.

 The CSA we joined this year partners with The Farm at Miller’s Crossing in Hudson, NY. We got up bright and early on Sunday morning, caught the subway to our meeting location, and boarded a chartered bus with fellow members of our CSA, as well as two other local CSAs also partnered with the same farm.

 When we arrived, the farmers had picnic tables set-up and ready to go. We all gathered for lunch, which was a combination of the sack lunches we’d brought as well as a couple of pot-luck style dishes provided by the farmers and others. We mixed and mingled and had a good time, and as soon as lunch was over, headed off on a hayride around the fields. Poppy seemed to enjoy herself, even if she did appear a bit confused.

After the hayride, we all had some time to relax and explore a bit. We wandered about the farm, let Poppy toddle through the grass and chase the farm dog, and even pitched in on some chores – trimming garlic.

Once the chores were done (or, at least, our photo opps were), we gathered around our farmer, Chris, for a walking tour of the operations. We started near the buildings, where he explained how each had been retrofitted and repurposed for their current crops, then into the fields where our food is grown. He discussed the rotation system they use in order to preserve the soil and keep it healthy, explained where and how they get their seeds each season, and answered all of our questions as we strolled.

We crossed the farm’s creek on a bridge Chris and his crew had built just the day before for our visit and headed into the upper fields, where Chris talked a bit about the irrigation systems they use through the farm, and finally, across the street to find the cows.

Being a city girl, Poppy had never encountered livestock (I’m pretty sure her beloved farm animal toys don’t count here). Yeah, we have a couple of cats that she enjoys chasing around and whacking, I mean… petting. But a cow? This was a whole new adventure. As we all gathered at the fence in anticipation, Farmer Chris started yelling.

 “Hey, girls! Girls! Hey, girls! C’mon now, girls!”

 Seriously? I’d seen a lot of things on farms before, but cows that come when they’re called? Like housepets? A few minutes later, as Chris kept yelling, and just as the crowd seemed to be getting a bit skeptical that this would work… the first signs of movement appeared over the hill. And another minute later, here came a whole herd of cows, happily strolling over to say hello.

 Ha.

 All us city folk gathered near the fence – close, but not too close – to admire the big gentle beasts.

 

They stared at us, we stared at them, and everyone was happy. Except Poppy.

 Well, to her credit, she was ok at first. And then they started moo-ing. Loudly. And she was so startled that she burst into tears. We all got a good chuckle out of it (sorry, kid), then we quickly walked away from the group to calm her and tried again. And I wouldn’t say she was happy to see them this time, but she held it together. Barely.

I’m pretty sure her suspicious look above says it all.

(Also, note the two scenarios behind us… to the right, a calf nursing from its mama. To the left… Nature is grand.)

On the walk back from the cow pasture, we strolled through a couple of more vegetable fields and were thrilled to be able to show Poppy where her favorite food in the entire world comes from. Oh, swiss chard, you are a beloved treat in this house.

After the tour ended, it was time to get back to the city. The farmer’s had set up a small farm stand on our way out, so we all stopped, bought some extra fresh food to take back to the city with us, and piled back onto the bus. Several hours – and Sunday night/weekend traffic – later, we arrived back in Brooklyn, exhausted, but inspired.

Knowing where your food comes from – down to meeting the men and women who grow it for you – is such a blessing. We can prepare dinner each week knowing that we’re not only feeding our families the freshest, healthiest foods possible, but that we’re supporting small, local, family-owned farms in the process and setting a good example for our daughter and her peers. And that is delicious.

To find out if there is a CSA near you, visit www.localharvest.org. If you’re in the NYC metro area, check out www.justfood.org for information on workshops and events related to sustainable agriculture and/or to learn how to start a new CSA in your neighborhood.

Jo is a new mama as well as a doula and childbirth educator in NYC. She blogs at Outta Jo, Onto You and can be found on Twitter @outtajo.

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Six Items or Less

Today’s guest post comes from my friend and former student Kayla.

As a fashion merchandising student, I’m supposed to constantly be on the lookout for new styles and designers. Also as a student in New York City, there is an expectation to look put together every single day. Beautiful fashion captivates me; well-made, timeless clothing is what I love about fashion. What I don’t love is the growing amount of “fast fashion” we are all being exposed to. Sure Forever 21 and H&M produce cute clothing at great prices but as a general rule of thumb, if the price is too good to be true then you are hurting someone. There are thousands of people quite literally slaving away to produce $5 t-shirts. Fast fashion has gotten the best of men, women, and children all over the world and has become the only affordable option.  

 In May 2009, a young woman named Sheena Matheiken began the Uniform Project. For a whole year, she wore the same little black dress—but accessorized with vintage and handmade items. In this exercise of sustainability, she was able to raise over $100,000 for the Akanksha Foundation, which provides education to children living in the slums of India. The project is now in its second year and features a new girl and dress every month! On this same note of sustainability, I recently came across the website Six Items or Less. For this project, people could sign up to wear 6 items of clothing (undergarments not included!) for a month and document their experience. I loved this idea and decided to try it for a week.

I looked in my clothes for pieces I knew I’d love to wear repeatedly and that would last. So I chose a purple Uniqlo tank top, a gray American Apparel v-neck, a seafoam Pacsun v-neck, a pair of black Zara shorts, a pair of Seven jeans, and a pair of black Uniqlo trousers. Three tops, three bottoms.

    

Overall, I really enjoyed this project. I loved not having to think too hard about what to wear everyday. And no one at my job even noticed I was wearing the same six items. I took it a step further and used only six makeup items for the week: two mineral eyeshadows, mascara, mineral powder, mineral blush, and lipstick.

 

While it is tempting to indulge in cheap retail therapy (we’ve all done it!), we should try to remember where our clothing comes from. Just think about how much fuel it takes to produce and ship one single t-shirt to a store near you! While investing in higher quality organic or sustainable clothing might cost more money up front, classic styles will last forever.

Kayla is currently in her third year of college in New York City. She enjoys the beautiful aspects of fashion, as well as delicious food from her farmer’s market and small restaurants. Cupcakes, traveling, and exploring the city make her happy.  Follow Kayla on twitter.

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Breastfeeding – Approaching a transition

Today’s guest post comes from my friend Michelle, who blogs at The Ahouse Adventures.

It was always my goal to breastfeed Sophia through her 1-year birthday. From what I’ve read, and with the routine we’ve got down, it’s the best option for us. I particularly enjoy our morning time together – it’s a nice way to ease into the day for both of us. With 10 months down already, I’ve started to think a lot about the transition.

Right now, I feed her directly 3 times a day and she gets a bottle of pumped milk before bed. We started the bottle before bed because my supply was at its lowest at the end of the day (as is most women’s) and we wanted to make sure she had a nice, full tummy for sleeping.  It’s also a great opportunity for Dave to participate in the putting to bed process. The other two feedings occur when she wakes up after first and second nap. She is eating lots of solids, so the stress from the beginning of her life of not being quite sure how much milk she was getting has eased up entirely.

What is funny is that the more active she is become (crawling, pulling up), the less interested she is in eating. Yesterday, we made it about 8 minutes before she was completely distracted and disinterested. (Note that we were sitting quietly in her room with nothing really to distract her – no music, people or anything. She manages to distract herself! with trying to move all around) I ended up pumping and giving her about 3ozs because I knew she was still hungry. We’re working on beefing up the solids even more, but much like breastfeeding, it’s hard to know exactly how much they’re eating (vs throwing on the floor!)

One thing I won’t miss is the pumping. I’ve been fairly dedicated to pumping 3 times a day. Once in the morning after her first feeding and twice at night – when she gets her bottle at bedtime and once before I go to bed. That has covered the nightly bottle with some extra to increase our freezer supply. My hope it to be able to stop pumping the end of this month, with enough “banked” in the fridge to cover her nightly bottles through the 1-year mark.

Come November, the plan is to move her onto cow’s milk for 2-3 feedings and to continue to nurse her for the morning feeding for awhile longer until she’s ready to give it up. We’ll see how it all plays out. We’ll probably start with a nice half mommy milk, half cow milk transition and go from there. I do love the fact that I can soothe her at a moment’s notice (especially in the middle of the night with teething) so I’m not willing to give up breastfeeding entirely. Breastfeeding truly has formed this bond that we’ll never lose; it will just evolve.

Michele is a full-time stay at home mom. She lives in Somerville, MA with her husband & daughter, Sophia, who was born in November of ‘09.  You can follow their adventures at: http://theahouseadventures.blogspot.com/

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A Glimpse of Farm Life

Today’s guest post comes from my dear friend Jena of Married to the Farm.

True friends helping so us girls could get off the wagon for awhile

A real heavy duty tractor, no frills

My husband, working on the tractor that pays the bills

A beautiful sight at the end of a long day

One of Brian’s best investments, our baler

A close up of our big tractor.  No cab or A/C here.

The local fairgrounds, all cleared out for the year

Back at the farm Pooh Bear says hello

Fall is coming but the dogs don’t mind!

Jena went from being a country girl to a farm wife when she met and married her husband Brian.  Since then she has learned to put up most of their food, keep the books, raise all kinds of animals and pitch in wherever an extra hand is needed.  She writes about all that and more at her blog Married to the Farm.

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What IS Normal?

Today’s guest post comes from Dea-chan who blogs at Craziness and More!

Although I’m a fairly solid doomer at heart, and would love to be completely self-sufficient food wise, want to eliminate paper and have a composting toilet, I still have yet to Walk the Walk, as it were. Some of my failure to achieve this lies with me, as I work on breaking my attachment with paper and flushing toilets, but a lot of this lies with how it’s received. Part of the problem involved in this is how differently I think from the average American these days.

I’ll never forget the frantic email that I received from a roommate about someone leaving “trash” all over the kitchen, and that they “thoughtfully” cleaned it all up for this person. That was when it hit home: I’m really on a path that will eventually be non-compatible with the average American without much explanation. So I followed her “thoughtful” email with one explaining the pros and cons of compost, where our compost bucket was, and what can and can not be put into a compost bucket. Problem solved!

Next is the thwarting of my jar hoarding. I manage an ice cream store, and we go through 10 oz. jars of peanut butter weekly, and 3 gallon food-safe plastic tubs of hot fudge regularly as well. Being a proper doomer, I believe strongly in the power of storage and glass jars. So, I will wash, collect and bring home these fabulous items. However, tops to peanut butter jars will disappear. They will disappear at work if I’m not careful — one coworker recycles the jar and throws out the top. He helped me for 10 minutes last night during closing, and in that 10 minutes, the top to my peanut butter jar disappeared! I of course only noticed after taking the trash out. So one culprit discovered. Another is at my apartment. I’ll come home and there will be jars in the drinking glasses section, with nary a top in sight. I’ve taken to shuffling tops as needed in that house. Spices: definitely need it. Leftovers in the fridge: definitely need it. Jar of nuts: well, they’ll get shortchanged this time around. The last crusader against my jar hoarding is my fiance. If I don’t get to the jars first, and stick them somewhere he won’t find them (currently under the sink), they just might disappear because “you don’t really use these, do you?”

Luckily, some preps are obvious, and I do learn, if slowly. My jars of pickles? Surprise, surprise, they look like jars of pickles! There isn’t a person in my world who will go “what are these sealed jars full of stuff on the counter? Looks like trash, so I’ll kindly throw it out for the person who is too silly to do so.”

I recently made Lemon Balm Cordial, and without proper warning, my fiance would have had no idea what was hanging out in his fridge.

Looks scary, doesn’t it? Notice it’s in a peanut butter jar. Granted, my fiance would probably have been smart enough to go “well I didn’t put it there…” and ask me what it was. He’s surprisingly more on top of things than I give him credit for. Now if I could just get him to drop paper products…

The last item in my Show and Tell is my (sadly) failed starter. There were layers upon layers of sneakiness involved in this. Firstly, I had assured my fiance that I wouldn’t do starter until the kitchen was cleaned. But who needs a fully clean kitchen when you’ve got a clean jar and measuring cups?

And thus, I started making starter. But because of my failure to clean the kitchen, I hid the starter under the sink. If my fiance hadn’t noticed me feeding it, he might have only discovered it with the slight smell it gave off (the wrong thing grew, and it promptly died). Look honestly at that jar. If you found a jar that looked like that under your sink, would you toss it? More than likely, yes. My fiance merely went “… is that a starter you’re poking over there?” with my guilty reply of “um… no?”

So I guess to round up my collection of stories with a nice moral: always make sure that the people you live with know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you may end up with trashed, destroyed, or failed experiments and unhappy people.

Dea-chan is a newcomer to the ranks of food preservation and preparing for emergencies, but is enthusiastic about the projects she has been involved in and those she is considering.  Typical daydreams involve dairy goats, farms, and yarn stashes.  You can find her semi-weekly at Craziness and More!, her blog about forays into the world of sustainability, green living, and having a good time in the Greater Boston Area.

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A Simple Toy

Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen.

While I was pregnant with my son, I spent a lot of time reading.  I read everything I could get my hands on concerning pregnancy, child-rearing, education, green lifestyles, the list was endless.  While I was reading, I picked up a few books on the marketing game that is played against parents.  Even though I read about it and knew what I was going to be up against, I am honestly surprised at how there are days when I feel sidelined by my choice to lead a simpler life. 

 

I’ve never considered myself to be tremendously materialistic or trendy.  The only reason why I bought a new pair of shoes this past fall was because the pair I was wearing at the time fell apart.  While I was walking.  I’m not concerned about appearing to have it all together.  It doesn’t bother me in the least bit to shop at garage sales and thrift stores.  I have no problem making my own meals and clipping coupons.  These things don’t bother me.  My husband works a typical day and I pick up a few hours a week tutoring math.  We garden, use cloth diapers, cook from scratch and recycle.  There aren’t grand vacations on our calendars and we don’t have the newest cars.  We spend time together as a family as much as we can and our ideal weekend is one that has no obligations so that we can stay at home, moving with the flow of the day.

When I registered for my baby shower, I was shocked at all the absurd products on the market geared toward making my life as a new mother “easier”.  Since I don’t like clutter and chaos, I eschewed the battery operated snot sucker for a tissue.  We bought 2 dozen cloth diapers and a laundry basket.  I didn’t have one bottle in the house since I planned to breastfeed until he was at least 1.  The toys were cloth or wood.  I felt good about my choices until my friend registered for her shower.  Then I started to compare.  This being the inherit downfall of society, I fell prey to its allure and started to feel bad for my son.

For the first time ever, I felt bad that my son’s toys were wooden and didn’t have bells and whistles as I watched the other baby play with an obnoxious toy that wouldn’t stop asking us to come out and play.  As our children got older, the toys got more involved and flashier.  I felt worse whenever a play date would end.  All this time, I had been going under the premise that I had survived just fine without fancy toys and had learned to role play and imagine without having all sorts of prompts and mechanized voices telling me what to do.  Suddenly, I wondered if my own growth had been stunted by not having a play laptop.

Being a simple parent isn’t what society is geared toward these days and if you choose to be simple in your lifestyle, people act as though you are depriving your children of all the joy life has to offer.  Of course, post-partum hormones play a big role in these feelings, but it is also due in part to whether or not you have found support.  I am gathering my community of mothers around me who understand why I’ve made my choices and encourage me.  We compare our diaper results and trade recipes for dinner.  Together we ooh and ahh over locally crafted puzzles.  And they helped me to see that my child is healthy and happy without all the hoopla.  Now, I realize when I come home from an overstimulating play date that he’s been stressed, not that he’s missing the toys.  Watching his face light up when he sees his favorite dump truck makes me realize that when it comes down to it, he’d rather be at home with me, playing with his puzzles or building with his blocks or chasing the dogs around the house. 

It’s taken me a while to reconcile both sides of the toy store.  Being a parent for me is now about finding balance.  We have lots of cloth and wooden toys, but we also have Tonka trucks made out of plastic.  My boy loves trucks; wooden, metal, plastic, and recycled plastic.  None of them do anything; they are powered by imagination and little hands guiding them down the path of their dreams.  So in the end, my home-birthed, cloth-diapered, local-foods-eating son is learning how to use the incredible mind he was gifted with and how to make his own fun instead of waiting for a toy to flash its pretty lights.  For me, this is a simple success.

Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels.  Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read.  Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion.  Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.  

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The End of Dirt Days

Today’s guest post comes from Summer who blogs at Finding Summer.

Autumn is nearly here. Part of me is rejoicing in the fact that the smothering heat of summer is nearly gone. To finally be able to go outside during the day and not begin melting into the sidewalk. I cannot wait.

And yet, part of me still wishes it would hold off. I know what autumn means in the long run. Kids go back to school, the days grow shorter and cool breezes make way to freezing snow. Suddenly the never ending summer, ends. I cannot help but be a little sad about that.

My kids have made a point every day this summer to get dirty. They have built forts from left over pieces of wood and the old tractor tires in the side lot. They have roamed through the tall grass of the empty field behind us, gathering wildflowers and grasshoppers along the way. They’ve tracked off down the dusty road that leads to the cows near our house, coming home covered in dust and full of excitement. The summer has been a parade of dirt days that they have rejoiced in having.

So the end of summer is somewhat bittersweet. Soon enough I won’t be mopping muddy footprints off the kitchen floor, which is good. But that means the kids won’t be making mud bricks in the backyard, which is bad. Before I know it, we will be trapped inside, hiding from the snow, and dreaming of next spring when the grass begins to grow again.

Knowing that our days are limited means we are making an effort to enjoy it as much as possible now. Staying out late to chase fireflies, eating as many strawberries and watermelon as we can, and following that old dusty road as far as it will take us. We are trying to get minutes to creep out into hours so we can savor every moment.

It is nearly the end of the dirt days around here. I never thought I would be sad to see the summer go.

Summer is a mother of three and freelance writer taking it slow and easy in the red dirt of Oklahoma. She writes about life at her personal blog FindingSummer.  

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