Our System

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When we created our garden five years ago, we sectioned off a very small portion of our gardening space with chicken wire and created a compost pile.  Since that time, our composting operation has been evolving because to be perfectly honest…it never really worked as well as we felt it should.

When we visited Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin a year and a half ago, we were inspired by the vermicomposting system Will Allen set up, but we were never able to get the results from our worms that he seemed to be getting.  It was not until this past winter when I read Will Allen’s book Good Food Revolution, that I realized our mistake.  We were overworking our worms.  We were filling our vermicompost with loads of food and paper scraps and they simply were unable to keep up.  While reading Allen’s book, I discovered Growing Power’s secret:  Growing Power allows their collected food scraps to partially decompose first, then add the worms to the mix.  Bingo.

IMG_3524So, after many a year of trial and error, I believe we finally have a system set up that will work.  Because as Will Allen says in his book, he can predict a garden’s growing success based on “how much attention has been paid to creating fertile soil.”

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We place our compostable materials (food scraps, grass clippings, leavings, paper shred, egg cartons, coffee grounds, etc.) in the wooden boxes.  (We cover our boxes with burlap just to cut down on the bugs and smell, but it still allows the compost to breath.)  We try to turn this pile over every couple of weeks.  Once the scraps begin to brown and break down, we move them to the red garbage can, and/or the blue plastic bin, and/or the black tower.  These bins have some holes drilled on the sides for aeration, and this is where our worms are.  (The black tower is an actual vermicompost bin we purchased a few years back.  The benefit of this type of bin is that liquid can drain off the bottom and can then be used to make compost tea.)  Once the worms do their work we are left with compost the consistency of coffee grounds.  This compost can then be added to our garden.

A Year In Review

It is hard to believe that this blustery day in February marks the one year anniversary of Making of a Home.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been following my musings over the course of the last year!  I am deeply grateful for each of you.

Today I would like to share with you some of my favorite (and your favorite) posts from this past year.  Thank you again, and be on the look out for some new and exciting changes and additions to Making of a Home over the course of the next year.

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Chocolate Anyone?

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Inspiration

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Laundry Day

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Upstream

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Let Them Read

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Rhubarb Goodness

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Spring Soup

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It’s In My Blood

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Pastaless Lasagna 

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Fuasa—Italian Easter Bread

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Generational Wealth

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Farm Fresh

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Ode to the Strawberry

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Retreat

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Grandma Dit’s Carrot Cake

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Canning Day

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New Chapter

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Suburban Homestead

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Walk with Us

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Thanksgiving 2012

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Musings

Farm Fresh

This weekend, the littlest of our clan turned three.  In order to celebrate this day, our entire family gathered in our backyard for some farm fresh eggs and local bacon cooked up over the campfire by my hubby.  We also devoured birthday cake at nine in the morning, which was my favorite part of the early morning eating festivities.

After everyone was well fed and revved up with a bit of coffee in their systems, we loaded up into a few vehicles and headed to Krusen Grass Farms.  We have been ordering organic grass fed, grass finished beef from Sue and Altfrid Krusenbaum  for three years now.  We have spoken with them via phone and email many times over the course of the past few years, but had yet to visit their farm.

I spoke with Sue several months ago about a visit and since we have small children, she suggested we come and visit in May because that is when their cows are calving, and the girls would get to see a bunch of calves.  And see calves we did…over 80 of them!  And of these eighty young calves, we were even lucky enough to have timed our visit as such that we were able to see, touch, and snuggle two calves that were just a day old.

I’m telling you, I could have plopped myself right down in that barn and stayed there all day long.  Those little ones were the most friendly, lovely animals I have ever come across.  It was just amazing for the girls (and the adults for that matter) to experience.

But that was not the end of our visit, in fact it was only the beginning.  Sue was so incredibly kind and gave up over two hours of her day to show us her family’s absolutely gorgeous land, animals, and explain to us their sustainable farming practices that make the farm an absolute wonder to behold!  Our next stop was the egg mobile, where the girls were able to gather the day’s eggs.

I think the egg gathering was my oldest daughter’s favorite part of the day.  As she climbed down the steps of the egg mobile, she looked at me and said, “Mom, I think I want to start my own business.  I want to buy chickens of my own and have them lay eggs and then I’ll sell them.”  Love her.

Following the egg extravaganza, we made our way out into the pasture to visit with some of the other cattle.  After growing acclimated to our large group, these beautiful animals meandered our way and we were again able to “visit” with them for a bit.  Such fun!

Of all things I’ve done in my life, including our recent visit to Growing Power, which I touted as one of the greatest days in recent memory, this day now also tops my list.  We were once again able to forge relationships with the people that raise the food our family consumes, see the magnificent landscape on which this food is grown, and also witness a family acting as true stewards of the land.  We had such a fabulous day, and we thank you very much Krusenbaum family for a wonderful visit!

“I want to make my own thing!”

These are the words that ring throughout our home at least three times a week.  My girls just love to cook and/or bake “their own thing” and yesterday was quite the large step for my oldest daughter.

In the past, she had been content to mix random ingredients together, put it in our counter top convection oven (with Mommy’s help of course), and eat her creations.  Now with that said, she has done quite a bit of experimenting with various flavors and has come up with some delicious combinations, but the creations were random none the less.  But yesterday she said to me, “Mommy, I want to make my own thing, and I want it to be an actual recipe.”

So I decided, why not throw caution to the wind and let her completely take over the kitchen.  With a little bit of my help reading the measurements, she made cut out sugar cookies completely on her own!

Now the crowning moment of this adventure was when it came to the topping for these cookies.  My little five-year old gazed up at me and said, “Mommy I think I am going to sprinkle a little sugar, cinnamon and rosemary  from our garden on top of the cookies.  That way we don’t have to use food coloring or sprinkles with the yucky chemicals.”  (Oh she had just made her mama’s day with that one!) And an fyi…the cinnamon and rosemary combination is one of those flavor combos she came up with during her previous food experiments.  And let me tell you, it is really delicious!

Once she was done with her sprinkles, she sat back, looked approving at her creations and said, “Perfect.  It’s just like Jamie Oliver’s pumpkin muffins when he sprinkles lavender flowers on top for sprinkles!”  (My how this little one impressed me yesterday!)

Inspiration

Last week in my post about our Red Wigglers, I mentioned that we purchased our most recent batch from Growing Power, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Growing Power is truly one of the most amazing places I have been in my lifetime, and it is no wonder why there were only a few people on our tour who were even from the Midwest. People travel from all over the globe to visit founder Will Allen’s urban garden, situated in a food desert on the north side of Milwaukee. If anyone reading this post is ever in the area you must, must, must stop by for a tour.

For my birthday, my husband told me that my present was going to be a family trip to Growing Power. Now that is my kind of present! Love it!

I’m not sure what exactly I was anticipating going into this trip, but Growing Power far exceeded every single one of my expectations! Not only were there thousands upon thousands of plants being grown in this facility, there were mushrooms, fish, chickens, turkeys, bees and goats. Solar cells and cisterns. It was unbelievable.

And what is more amazing than all of this is their outreach programs. Growing Power sells their food at a store front food stand, sources their food to local restaurants, collects waste from local breweries and coffee houses for use in their compost bins, and they have unbelievable youth education programs. One man on our tour was there with his three young children and he was from Milwaukee. He told my husband and I that Growing Power even does a CSA-type food drop off for many of the local schools. He said that on Mondays parents can turn in a sheet if they want a box of food on Friday, and then on Friday the students are sent home with their box filled with vegetables from Growing Power and a new order form for the following week. I was floored.

Why can’t every community do something of this nature? All children deserve to have their bodies nourished with this healthy food. All children deserve amazing educational opportunities like the ones that Growing Power offers to youth of their community. I believe with every fiber of my being that something like this is possible in every city in our nation. Growing Power reaffirmed my belief that this is actually possible. I am truly inspired.