...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.


The Beauty Around Us

Paradise Springs, Kettle Moraine South
Still digesting all the natural beauty and mystery we've consumed in the last few weeks via a couple of treks in our gorgeous state parks.  Labor Day weekend we took a day trip to Kettle Moraine South to hike and hit the beach at Whitewater Lake.  Then last weekend we went on a much anticipated camping adventure with one of my old college chums and his family to Devil's Lake, one of the many geological gems in our fair state.

Hiking around Rice Lake, Kettle Moraine South
Finding geometry in nature, Rice Lake
My husband and I have always felt it's extremely important to get our daughter out in nature--seeing, tasting (within reason), touching, hearing, smelling it; these recent jaunts have been exciting for all of us in that regard.  I know it's a lot to ask a three-year-old to do a major hike (let along a second little gal in the case of our camping trip), but we believe it's best to start building their endurance at an early age.  Even though there was plenty of whining to accompany the hike at both parks, I truly feel the girls enjoyed exploring and feeling like they were on an adventure.

Hiking at Devil's Lake
Daddy Ben, V, and our friends up ahead
Breathtaking vistas
Are we still in Wisconsin?
Canoes and boats on Devil's Lake on a glorious Saturday
The campfire viewed from inside the tent
We're settling into the new school routine a little more each week.  Had a very minor emotional setback this past Monday, but are powering straight through till Friday now.  Last week after Thursday drop-off I went to the co-op to shop for camping food and found myself with two other mom-friends fresh from drop-off wandering around the produce section in the very quiet hour after the store had opened.  The silence was nearly deafening; I had to giggle.  We're all trying to adjust to this new "freedom."  I'm learning how to manage my spare time a little better and am finding it's not too bad.  We've moved library trips and errand running to the afternoons and V and I have worked out a deal re: after lunch rest/quiet time in lieu of a nap.  I have yet to figure out a new gym/yoga routine, but that will come.  With the uphill climb to school twice a day, at least I'm getting a wee bit of exercise.

I'm finding little pockets of time to work on more creative snacks and tried this recipe yesterday from the current copy of Taproot magazine on which I'm catching up.  Had originally planned to make them for our camping trip, but gave myself a break as last week ended up busier than originally planned.

Coconut Date Bon Bons
Makes a couple dozen tiny bon bons.

My little one gave this treat a very honest try (twice!), but still decided she didn't like them.  I believe it was the orange zest, which can be pretty intense for a young palate.  My husband said they tasted like the holidays.  I finally had a chance to use the precious pecans I bought at a roadside stand on our SC trip.  I also used South River brand chickpea miso I found at our co-op; it's a good alternative to a soy-based miso if you have dietary limitations.  And if no one else decides to love them, I'll eat all these little goodies myself.

3/4 c. pecans, toasted
1 orange, zest only
1/2 c. pitted dates, chopped
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. white miso
1 T. maple syrup
1/4 c. shredded coconut

Put toasted nuts, zest, dates, salt, cinnamon, miso, and maple syrup in food processor.  Pulse until you have an even mealy texture.  Remove food processor blade.  Scoop and roll mixture into 1-inch balls (I made mine half the size.)  Spread coconut on a plate and roll each ball in the coconut, covering each one evenly.  Serve leftover orange sections from the zested orange with the bon bons.

And though I've felt like I haven't done nearly as much canning as last season, I've realized that late summer/fall is a much more motivating time for me to preserve food.  I don't know if it's the sudden realization that our fresh, local food will soon be a distant memory or that there are more fun things, in my opinion, to preserve this time of year: tomatoes, carrots (pickled), beets (pickled), green tomatoes (sauced and frozen).  Last night I tested yet another of Marisa McClellan's fabulous recipes from Food in Jars.  Can't wait to sample her Lemony Pickled Cauliflower after a few weeks of marinating in a brine with fresh lemons and whole spices.  Yum!
I love using whole spices in every way possible.
Reminds me of the variety pack of cheesy and regular popcorn
Lemony Pickled Cauliflower
Through all of these changes and ongoing transitions it's been really fun and important to listen to my child and observe how she's dealing with it all as well.  I had to thank her for putting up with me one day this week when I'd been anxious and stressed and grouchy most of the afternoon.  And today as she came in from playing in the yard I heard her say something to herself that I've been trying to get her to practice for months, "breathe in, breathe out."  Made me realize 1) that they'll eventually get it if you keep repeating it--despite the initial resistance and 2) I could take some of my own advice now and then.  Sigh.

Stopping to "smell the roses" (rather, check out something
super gross on the forest floor.)
Enjoy this transition into the next season; savor the little things and take time to breathe deeply.

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