...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 Calm Before the Storm

Early Fall calm
Was walking home from school drop-off this morning with a neighbor/friend and we established that these next few weeks could be the "calm before the storm."  Even though our little family has pared way back on the holiday craziness of shopping, gifts, decorations, hosting parties throughout the month there is still much unavoidable busy-ness.  Even if we choose to take the upcoming season more slowly,  it doesn't mean everyone else will. There are still plenty of obligations to attend events, concerts, parties, and other celebrations.  And we look forward to doing so, but will have to do our best to rest and breathe deeply in these weeks leading up to it all.

Yesterday was a wonderful slow, quiet, and somewhat spontaneous day with my daughter.  It is rare that I can put all those words together when describing how she and I spend our time with each other Since I've started working before the crack of dawn on the two days I work outside of the home I've found that I hit a wall early in the afternoon.  Therefore I try not to schedule much on those afternoons.  Yesterday after an appointment following mid-day school pickup we ran an errand then found ourselves lingering in a used book store in our neighborhood, hanging out at a local coffee shop reading books and sipping "warm chocolate," running into friends/ neighbors and spending time catching up with them.  The only thing pressing was my parking meter outside.

Although my daughter rarely takes naps anymore we try our best to have "rest time" in the afternoon.  When quiet time in her room didn't work out I pulled a new trick out of my bag.  I'd been referred to them a few times before, but finally tried yesterday after a push from a friend last week--Sparkle Stories!  (There are currently a whole bunch of free Halloween stories one can download.)  V has long loved being read to, paging through books by herself, following a short audio book at home, and listening to some longer audio chapter books on long cars ride lately.  But Sparkle Stories are a little different in that she's encouraged to sit still--not going anywhere like in the car when one can look out the window, not futz with anything, and just picture the story in her head.  She sat for more than 45 minutes yesterday curled up on the couch just listening to a story.  I took the opportunity to curl up next to her and read a library book I'd just picked up.  It was beautiful.  So quiet, so still except for the steady rhythm of her breath from across the couch.  When she finished I asked her some questions about her story.  I can only hope this will continue to improve both her listening skills and imagination.  And it will most certainly give me a chance to regularly read and be still--I find that if I'm home alone with an opportunity to read I get easily distracted and am up and down a lot.  Yesterday I felt more compelled to be still myself.

Time together in nature
After our mom-daught story-time we both felt an amazing calm.  It lead right into making dinner together, which she's been asking me about more recently.  Actually, I believe the question was "how come you always have to make dinner every night all by yourself?"  I explained that A) I don't HAVE TO make dinner--I do it because I love my family and B) I would love to have some company.  We worked together on a recipe I'd come across last week and had in my queue after hearing many rave reviews about the "cauliflower pizza crust."  Bacon Cauliflower Cheese Sticks--they were fantastic!  Not only a great way get more crucifers into my little one's belly, but the closest to a "healthy" version of the "original cheesestix" we so frequently gorged on in college.  To make this cheese-laden meal a bit healthier we added a salad, which V made entirely by herself: cutting/tearing, washing, spinning the lettuce, cutting the carrots, green peppers, and black olives to garnish is.  I was full of joy the whole time she was helping me.  Perhaps it was the great day we'd had already together which added to her willingness to help or maybe we've hit a certain point in her four-ness where she's much more interested and competent.  I'm willing to deal with the extra mess if it means she can start learning to cook at a young age.  I told her maybe in a couple of years she can make a whole meal herself (a la Free-Range Kids).  One of the best parts of our joint efforts in making dinner last night is that I was able to work on cleaning as we went while she prepped.  We had the dishes cleaned up more quickly afterwards and had time to all snuggle up and watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on this Halloween week.

Hoping for many more of these kinds of slow days very soon.  And hoping we can make them last well into the busy holiday season that will soon be upon us.



I'm back!  (Let's see if I remember how to do this.)

I've had just over a 2-month lapse in posting.  Where have I been?  Did I fall off the face of the Earth?  Not quite.  What have I been doing?  Lots.

As I alluded to in my previous post I've been juggling various aspects of life: parenting, gardening, preparing healthy food, travel, freelance work, friend time, and me time.  The summer was loaded with fun and also a lot of work.  I just didn't find time to keep all the balls in the air AND journal about it.

The biggest (as in, most time consuming) thing that happened this summer was that I spent (and continue to spend...as the growing season goes on) hours and hours at a private preserving gig for a client who has a 17th century hobby farm in Ozaukee County.  I was fortunate to spend time every couple of weeks at this Monticello-like homestead harvesting vegetables, checking in with the livestock (doves, hens, bees, geese), and enjoying the beauty of the place then bringing all the produce home to preserve for him. (Getting to work out of my own kitchen is fantastic.)  So I've been doing a TON of preserving this year, but just not for myself.  I'm still managing to put up the bare essentials: jams, tomato puree, dilly beans, applesauce but come winter I'm sure we'll be missing the plethora of home-canned options in our pantry.

We also spent loads of time this summer doing fun things like concerts in the park, the zoo, playgrounds, bike rides, and other outdoor activities.  My daughter took up violin lessons and ballet so that's been on our regular schedule.

Where do I stand right now? At this point in time my urban homestead is looking sorely neglected.  It was an amazing year for fruit and we picked and put up lots of cherries and blackberries, but I was never able to stake my tomatoes, keep up with picking beans, manage the deadheading of flowers, or eat all the greens in our garden before they bolted.  When I planned/planted my garden last spring I had no idea how much time this incredible freelance opportunity would require so I powered ahead and ordered seeds, started seeds, planted seedlings, planted, planted, planted.  It's been more than I could handle and at this point I welcome colder weather when I can put it to rest.  As far as I can tell I'll be doing this freelance work again next year (it's proven be be very flexible and sustainable) so I will have to scale back on things at the homestead.  But at least it offers me a starting point.  I've been reigned in and I'm okay with that.

I'm continually asking myself  "where do I go from here?"  Along with the aforementioned activities I've been having fun giving our daughter all sorts of experiences.  We love to go to musical events and theatre together and that plan continues well into next spring.  I've also been trying my best to keep up with world events and politics and industry trends and parenting ideas and since we got rid of our TV in June I've had to find other avenues for doing so (never so thankful for PBS live streaming online and other remarkable news sources/blogs.)  I've settled into a good groove and am now devouring information as fast as I can.  I feel more in tune to the world than I have in 10 years.  But that also takes time.

I've given myself plenty of guilt the past couple of months for not living up to the standards and goals I originally outlined for myself (and it's taken a lot of admit that.)  But I like where I am right now in terms of family time, experiences, my opportunities to cook/preserve, the time I have with friends, and me time so I'll go with it.

This summer was incredibly pivotal in that regard.  I began to identify the shape I want my life to take.  I continue to consider how and where my blog will go, but in time I know I'll figure that out too.

I certainly haven't abandoned any ideas and values I hold about sustainability, but that's just it.  I have to make this all sustainable for it to grow and thrive.  We're at a stage in our daughter's life, as parents, in our "careers," where the universe is telling us that this shift (even temporarily) is okay.

Some day soon I may get back to posting recipes and photos and gardening/homesteading ideas, but for now I am taking a small step back and breathing and shifting gears a bit.  If nothing else, just to see what it feels like.  I figure as long as I can still do that while cooking healthy food for my family and satisfying my needs for growing things and crafting a little every now and then, I'm okay.

It's a process.