...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Doing my Duty

"Red Finger Berries" from the Westown Farmers' Market

A couple of weeks ago I was summoned for jury duty for the first time ever.  It caught me off guard, of course.  As I think many people do, I frowned upon the assignment, mostly because I was concerned about my childcare situation, especially if I was assigned to a trial that went beyond the two days for which I was originally called and had Vera-sitters lined up.  So yesterday morning I found my way to the Milwaukee County Courthouse, through the metal detectors, and into the jury management room.  After our orientation I promptly transferred to the "Quiet Room" where I used my laptop to get quite a lot of preparation done for my upcoming Urban Homesteading series at the Urban Ecology Center and my gourmet preserving classes at Timothy J Kitchen and Bath.  I also gnawed away at a couple more chapters in my library book and took care of some other online business.  The universe must be looking out for me because I was not selected and dismissed from my civic duties by noon.  My friend who was watching Vera said that if I got out early I should go run an errand or something before heading back out to pick her up.  As I was cruising around downtown looking for a place to eat, I remembered that the Westown Farmers' Market was going on at Zeidler Square.  I whipped into a street parking spot then meandered the city block admiring the beautiful strawberries, raspberries, and other vegetable goodies for sale.  Picked up lunch from the Tigerbite food truck (I love how our city is finally catching on to the awesome food truck culture!), sat and read a magazine, then strolled around to make my purchases.  It was a lovely afternoon all by myself.  How wonderful!  Made me realize how much I still need another staycation, but I'll take any personal time I can get right now.  Whew!  (Two can be a challenging age with which to keep up!)

Purslane growing in the tomato bed
Homegrown "Mountaineer" Yellow Wax Beans
Once V and I got settled back at home and had some fun playing outside, it was time to prepare dinner, a late one because Ben had a meeting after work.  Along with our homemade bratwurst and (admittedly store-bought) kraut I knew I wanted to prepare a side dish with all the purslane filling in as a ground cover in our garden.  My husband had recently heard from a local "gardening expert" that purslane in one's garden is a sign of good soil.  It's certainly become more prolific since last year, especially in the beds where I made amendments to last year's crusty topsoil.  It's also extremely nutritious as it contains the omega-3 fatty oils found in fish oils as well as loads of Vitamin A--more than any other leafy green.  Last year I tried this succulent in a potato salad.  I made the same one this year, but used the yellow wax beans that just started to pop in our garden.  It's the first time I've grown them and am very excited to use them for this year's dilly beans.  Didn't plant Provider variety like past years because I ran out of the seed and since I vowed to buy no new seeds this year (and forgot to save any seeds from last year's crop) I was forced to try something new.  We'll see if the yellow wax are as prolific, but at least it will be something different.  With the loads of bush and pole beans thriving out back right about now, I'm sure I'll have a significant yield to put up in my salty dill brine.  (Dilly beans are one of or main bartering tools in the off-season so I rely heavily on preserving them.)

I'm just about finished with a library book called Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot, Ph.D.  After reading a review I knew I wanted to check it out.  It's a fascinating, though heavily research-based (and therefore science-jargon-laced) account of the differences between boys and girls from prenatal through adulthood.  I feel like I'm better understanding myself, my husband, and my female child as well as my nieces, nephews, and other family members just from what I've read thus far.  It's changed my perspective about what toys I want to buy for Vera to encourage the parts of her brian that may not get used as much as a "standard" female and has also made me think about what gift toys or books I want to purchase (or make) for others.  I've learned more about how to perhaps nudge her as she begins school and how to help her confidence levels as she gets into subjects at which girls don't typically excel.  On that note, I was thinking about mathematics, science, and visuospatial matters, which are more often subjects and ideas at which males, on average, do well and become more highly successful than woman. I never considered myself to be good at math, but now I wonder if it was just my self-esteem because I wasn't "supposed to" do well at it.  I did enjoy science very much and pursued a highly science-based major in college (Nutrition--lots of food science, chemistry, biology, and biochemistry...NOT that I got all A's--or even close--but I did, in fact, enjoy my coursework).  So as I was reading this book and thinking about how I could encourage my own child to exercise her brain outside the normal realm, a part of me was secretly--and selfishly--wishing she wouldn't get too interested in chess, science team, or the like because I wouldn't have anyone with whom to craft.  I took this thought to my sewing table the other day and as I began a new pattern I realized that there is a TON of math involved in sewing--measuring, calculating, adapting patterns and, of course, LOTS of opportunities for stretching the perhaps otherwise flabby visuospatial-oriented part of her brain.  Then of course there's an endless amount of science with gardening and cooking--though sometimes I try to ignore that and just have fun.  It seems like I could teach V a lot about both of these subjects through the work I routinely do around here without sacrificing my crafting/gardening/baking buddy.  Maybe the Easy-Bake Oven isn't such a bad idea (not that anyone said it was...though I still think more boys should have one) as long as it's accompanied by blocks, toy "machines," and other playthings that can get her thinking outside the box.  Right now she's outside closely observing an army of ants attacking a piece of celery from her morning snack of "Ants of a Log" (how ironic).  I have few concerns about this child getting interested in science at least.

In other news, I was recently interviewed by the blogger from Heartland Living on a Budget.  Here is the link to the interview about basic composting.  When she first approached me I was hesitant because I never thought of myself as a composting expert (and I still don't), but I guess it's a good basic guide if you're interested in starting.

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