I Stand at the Ready

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Thoughts from yesterday:

I am sitting outside of my northern Illinois home, in a tank top and shorts. Sweat trickles down my back and my hands ache from the garden work I have done. It is just 11:30 am. In February.

While working in my garden, many thoughts swirl through my mind. Why am I able to work in my garden right now? Why is the sun so warm upon my skin as I sit here on my deck, less than one week post-Valentine’s day? Why are there already green lilies breaking the surface of the soil in my garden beds? Why are their insects crawling and flying about? Am I terrified by this extreme weather streak in February?

The answer to that last question is, yes. There was record-breaking snow on the East coast this week, torrential rain in the West, and balmy weather in the northern Midwest. A definite climate shift is upon us.

Now, the way I see it, I have two choices: Option one is that I can allow myself to become paralyzed with the fear of what is to come. I can fear for the future of my children, and allow that anxiety to cripple me into inaction. Option two:  I can use the gifts God has given me and leap into action. I can strap on my garden boots and stand at the ready to teacher my own children, and others, the skills they need to grow their own food in a world of changing environmental factors. I can help them to see these changes with optimistic eyes, not ones clouded with fear. I can equip them in the ways they can help themselves in times of trouble, and also how to reach out and use their talents to help others in need.

Recently, I have found myself looking to St. Francis of Assisi for wisdom and motivation to help guide me on my journey. Today I came upon this passage, and I believe it will become motto in days to come:

Lord, help me live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously.

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The Apothecary

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About a year ago, my husband bought me this fabulous piece of furniture for a late birthday present.  I had been eyeing it for a couple years at a great local shop, and I knew exactly what I would use it for if ever I was lucky enough to take it home with me.  So, when it finally made its way across the threshold and in the confines of my house, I immediately went to work at crafting my vision: my very own apothecary cabinet.

Since establishing my apothecary cabinet in my kitchen, I have experimented with a slew of tonics, tinctures, and the like.  One of my most recent favorites is my “Homemade Refreshing Face Mask.”  This mask is made with bentonite clay, known for its healing and detoxifying properties.  To this clay, I add some invigorating organic non-alcohol witch hazel with aloe vera, and frankincense essential oil, which in my option is one of the best oils you can use on the regular.

So this weekend, pamper yourself with this treat 🙂

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Homemade Refreshing Face Mask

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons bentonite clay, 1 drop Frankincense, and enough witch hazel to form a paste.  Mix slowly until a paste forms.  With your fingers, smooth the clay over your face, being sure to avoid your eyes.  Allow the mask to rest on your face for 5-8 minutes.  Wash off with warm water.

 

From Dawn to Dusk

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One of my favorite times of the year arrived this week!  In the wee hours of Monday morning, we began pouring over our 2017 seed catalog (We order our seeds and transplants from The Seed Savers Exchange, based in Iowa.) and envisioning what it is we want our garden to look like this year.  Now that the girls are older, they too have taken on an added interest in this task and our day was filled with talk of which herbs would grow best inside their cinder block garden boarder, and whether or not we want to skip growing cucumbers again this summer.  (My girls no longer eat pickles.  Say what?!?)

We normally peruse the seed catalogs in February because this seems to be an especially difficult month to get through for us.  So dark.  So very cold.  This year, however, proved to be a bit strange in that this particular February day was unseasonably balmy.  So, we packed up our seed-browsing-paraphenalia and headed to the backyard.  There we started a nice fire and continued our quest for garden goodness outdoors, well into the evening.  Such an incredibly nice treat.

A Subtle Shift

It seems that at each turn of the season I feel the need to start anew.  I think this has become even more of a necessity now that I stay home and homeschool my girls.  Because our home is where we work, play and educate, there is a more constant need to refresh, even if it is just a subtle shift.

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As a means of bridging our transition between summer and fall, the girls and I have been trying to bring in fresh flowers each day from our garden.  It is a true blessing to have this beautiful, natural color in our sights as the mercury begins to dip.

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A quick family room face lift has also helped usher in this new season.  It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to change the entire mood of a room.

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As I mentioned a few weeks back, we have an abundance of home-grown pumpkins, so those gorgeous orbs are finding their way into many indoor and outdoor arrangements, as well as into many new recipes.

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Our reading material has also been refreshed.  With a little help from Ms. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has whisked our whole family away to a magical land each evening.

And after the girls are asleep, Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior fills my heart in a way no other book has.  As I wrote about here, when my mom was ill, her book Carry On, Warrior shone a light on my experience that helped me through those most difficult, excruciating months of my life.  But I believe her new novel, although raw and often emotionally difficult to get through, is giving me the tools I need to make it through the next fifty years of my life by imparting me with a whole new outlook on life, love, truth-telling and grace.

I hope each of you feels refreshed as you enter this new season, ready to embark upon many new fall adventures.

 

 

Craft and Science

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img_3209 img_3212img_3233 img_3303 img_3302 img_3272Last Sunday, we gathered with friends in our late summer garden for some fermentation fun.  My husband (and his trusty brewmaster side kick) concocted a nice autumnal nut brown ale, while I worked with some of the other littles on cabbage sauerkraut.

I just love the craft and science behind fermentation.  I love the look of amazement that crosses their faces when I tell kids they are working with millions of living organisms when they ferment.  I also adore the slow and deliberate pace of fermenting.  The fact that the process cannot be rushed is what pulls me in the most to this craft.  We are all so rushed in our daily lives, that at times it is just so therapeutic to slow down, gather with friends, and enjoy that slow gait together.

Kale Cubes

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Every November, we find ourselves with an overabundance of kale that gets hit with a hard frost and dies.  It always makes me feel just sick to know all of that healthy vegetation has gone to waste and ends up in the compost bin.  This year my husband came up with a great idea:  kale cubes.

When my oldest daughter was a baby, we made her baby food.  We threw a bunch of fruit and veggies in a blender with a bit of water, pureed it, and then froze it in ice cube trays.  Once the cubes froze, we popped the cubes out into a gallon-size freezer bag.  That way, at mealtime, we would just take out the cubes we wanted, heat them up, and viola…ready-to-eat baby food.  So, last week my husband came up with the brilliant idea to do this same thing with our kale!  Then that way, once winter settles in and we are longing for some healthy greens, we can pop a couple of our kale cubes into our blender to add some nutrients to our morning smoothies.

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All I did was harvest and wash some of our kale, threw it in our Vitamix with about one cup of water, pureed it until the mixture was nearly smooth, poured the puree into ice cube trays and popped them in the freezer.  The next day, I popped out the cubes and put them in a gallon-sized freezer bag.  Now they are all set for those February morning breakfast smoothies 🙂

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The Most Amazing News

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Oh friends, I just received the most amazing news.  My favorite blogger/author, Amanda Blake Soule, will be featuring my garden photos and writing on her blog tomorrow.  I invite you to check out the post tomorrow (Friday, July 22) at www.soulemama.com.

I am completely overcome with excitement and gratitude at being given this wonderful opportunity to share with those around the world, what wonderful things are going on right here in Rockford, Illinois.  A true blessing indeed.

And, this news does not come on any random day either.  Today we celebrate my mom’s birthday.  If this is not a true sign of a guardian angel mama always looking out for her babies, I don’t know what is.  You always told me to keep writing, Mom.  And I have been.  Just for you.

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Change

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Summer 2012

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Summer 2016

We hosted our first “summer family dinner” of the year this week and I couldn’t help but look around me and take note of the changes that have taken place over the last four years since we began these gatherings.  One very special person is no longer present, and four more are moving on to exciting new life adventures and will shortly leave our table as well.

When these thoughts of change began to surface, I started to feel that all-too-familiar sense of anxiety, sadness and dread seeping into my veins.  I wanted to push those feelings down deeper, think about them another day.  But then I thought to myself,  No.  I want to be fully present in this moment right now.  I want to feel the rawness of these feelings of loss and change, because it is out of these feelings that I am able to also experience real and true happiness.  For it is not until we fall down into the earth, that we are able to grapple and stand erect again, with our feet firmly rooted in the soil, stronger and more prepared for what lies ahead.

Growing Food

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I love growing food. Love. It.  There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than seeing the food I have grown, grace our plates at meal time.  And while this time of year requires a lot of physical demand (Who needs a gym when you are working 6 yards of compost and mulch into the soil?), the rewards are definitely worth the effort.  The perennials are already popping up, and the cold tolerant vegetable seeds are in the ground.  We are not far away, friends.  I can almost taste that strawberry rhubarb crisp now.

But perhaps the most rewarding of growing my own food, is sharing this passion with others.  I have the absolute pleasure of working with the students of Cathedral of St. Peter School in their school garden for the forth growing season.  And as I worked with students last week in the garden, I was reminded of why this project is so very important.  Many have lost their connection to the food they eat.  They view food as coming from the grocery store and have no idea how it is grown, or the work that goes in to growing it.  Working with these students allows them to connect with their food, see how it is grown, and become an active participant in that growth process.  Our garden project enables students to try new foods, and learn about the importance of consuming healthy foods and how that translates into fuel for our bodies and minds.  Most importantly, our school garden work illustrates how to be stewards of God’s creation, and to value and cherish all that the Earth and God provide for us each and every day.

IMG_2542Happy 2016 growing season, friends!

Our Undervalued Friends

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Oh, the dandelion.  She is so often picked, sprayed and just plain despised by so many.  What did this little lady ever do to deserve such harsh treatment?  For in fact, it is her ability to pop up everywhere and withstand the harshest of treatment that makes her so wonderful!

Our little dandelion friends act as a detoxifier for our liver; are high in calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin C; help tone the kidneys; and restore a general vitality to our bodies.  It is for all of these reasons, that we try our best to harvest these beauties when we can and take advantage of all their undervalued greatness.

Last week the girls and I needed to clear our strawberry and asparagus bed of weeds, and there were lots of dandelions.  So we picked and picked, trying our best to keep that lovely taproot intact.  Then we rinsed those little gals a lot.  (I think we ended up doing about 10-12 rinses to get all of the dirt off.)  We then chopped up the roots, stems, crowns and some leaves and placed them in 1/2 gallon mason jars.  Next we boiled apple cider vinegar and poured the boiling vinegar over the dandelions inside the mason jars.  We placed the capped jars in a cabinet where they will stay for 3 weeks.  After that time, we will strain the vinegar through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate the vinegar for use over the next several months.  This vinegar is great in salad dressings, but we also take shots of it when we feel a bit under the weather, or when we feel we need a pick-me-up.

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***Important note:  Because so many people spray dandelions with poisons chemicals, it is of the greatest importance that when picking dandelions to consume, you only do so in an area where you are assured they have not been spayed!  I don’t even pick the dandelions around the perimeter of our property just in case a neighbor has sprayed their yard and some of those nasty chemicals may have leeched over the property line.