Monday, November 2, 2009


This was the bi-weekly distribution from my CSG (Community Supported Garden) last Friday.
We got 2 Acorn Squash, 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, 1 1/2 lbs carrots, 2 Daikon Radish, 1 head curly endive, 2 heads radiccio (there were other options on the salad front - those were my selections)
a head of chinese cabbage(again there were options), a green pepper, broccoli shoots, a small head of cauliflower, 4 radishes, 1 1/2 lbs onions, a head of garlic, and 1 1/2 lbs of cooking greens - I chose .5 lb of kale, .5 lb Collards and .5 lb of braising greens, 6 turnips with their greens, and fruit!
Yes, again we got apples & paw-paw - which I'll be turning into fruit sauce at my house....
AND my favorite autumn treat - hearty Kiwi!
They are a PYO item and WELL worth it.
The orchard is on the hill behind the distribution house and is BEAUTIFUL.
I can remember the first time I picked kiwi...with Ronnie in the snuggli 6 months old.
The memories just make them sweeter!
This time Evan was with me - running around the orchard and exploring the paths.
The CSG is awesome because even when we get one veggie that doesn't do so well - this year the tomatoes - generally there's something else that balances it out. This year we've been getting truckloads of greens. Over the winter we get to try all sorts of root veggies. Sometimes it's hard finding ways to use it, but soup is usually a good fallback :)
I could never grow the variety we get from the farm in my own home garden...
Over the past couple of years additional pay-in items have been appearing on the CSG shelves....we were bequeathed an adjacent property...another small farm...and with the additional space, our farmer has been busy!
We can now purchase WW flour grown on the farm and we can purchase eggs from our own hens! We used to be able to buy eggs from another farmer who would bring them on distribution days...but this is even better!
We've already eaten half of the eggs. They are quite delicious!

Blessed Samhain!

Hope this weekend found you and yours happily dressing in otherworldly garb...or at least role playing as a super-being/hero.

We had a whirlwind of activity over the 3 day holiday. My eldest son is in 1st grade and had his Halloween parade on Friday. He had been vascilating between going as a pirate this year or wearing the Buzz Lightyear costume one last time. The younger boy's pre-school doesn't do they learned some autumn flavored songs and had a little concert complete with sign language interpretation of the songs.

Following the pre-school concert he and I went to pick up our CSG farm share - another appropriate activity for the final harvest holiday.

On Saturday there was Soccer a friend's birthday party and TRICK or TREATing! Ronnie stayed with the Buzz costume and Evan became a SPIKEY DRAGON RAWR! He had been Woody for his dance/gymnastics class earlier in the week, but one of the favorite aunties had brought both boys Spikey hats with tails from her summer trip - and suggested that they were DRAGON hats. Evan decided that was way cool and needed a costume to go with Auntie D made him a pair of fleece pants with a spikey dragon tail built in! We addd a black sweatshirt and away we went. If he decides he wants to re-play this costume next year we may add a chest piece and shoe covers, but it was a last-minute operation this year - and it was WET anyway.

On Sunday - more soccer and the BIG EVENT for me. Our Samhain Supper.
This ritual has been a tradition of mine for 12-13 years. I had participated in it with dear friends who eventually moved far away. I have continued it with my friends and family. The group has swelled and diminished over the years, as I have come to the conclusion that the smaller and more intimate the group the better for this ritual. Our current group is 7 adults and my 2 kids.

The ritual is basic; performed around the dinner table with a candle-lighting portion where we remember our beloved dead, then we use the symbols of pomogranate and apple to talk of about their path and ours. It is short and child-friendly. This year, my eldest lit the candle to remember our Uncle Ray, who died a couple of months ago. Ronnie and Evan had come with us to visit him in the hospital a couple times before he passed, so Ronnie had clear memories of him. Ronnie also helped perform the pomogranat and apple ceremony. Evan, on the other hand still didn't quite understand...
Directly following the ritual we had a pot-luck-supper that we shared with the ancestors, and ate by the light of the candles we had lit.

Blessed Samhain all. May the memories of your ancestors warm your hearts this season.
Blessed Be.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Buy Hand for the Holidays Challenge

* This is cross-posted on all my sites. It seems I've been busier on them lately than here...

When I was a child, I was so excited by Christmas and gift giving. I loved finding what I thought was the 'perfect', gift within my limited means, to give people I loved. As consumerism has become rampant and it has gotten more and more difficult to find and give a meaningful gift I have been more and more unhappy with holiday shopping and gifting.

About 10 years ago I went through a financiallly rough year and gave hand-made toilettries for the holidays. Some people liked them more than others, but the desire to give and receive "consumables" not dust-catching gifts from the $20 and under or $10 and under tables so pervasive in the malls, has spread throughout my group of friends.

For many years now, this group of friends has exchanged gifts that you can't buy at the mall; and some years I've extended that and given hand-made gifts to family as well.

Sometime things that have been given are: concert/event tickets, home prepared meals, jar mixes, toilettries, jams and jellies, home canned salsa, pickles, hand made clothing, quilts, and much more.

Well, this year Deanna over at Crunchy Chicken has posted the Buy Hand for the Hollidays Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to have you do one or more of the following:
* hand-make your gifts
* buy your gifts that are handmade by someone else (like from Etsy or a local craftsperson)
* buy it used either at a thrift store, yard sale, Craigslist or Freecycle, etc.
* barter for your gifts

I'm going to attempt it as much as possible, and I invite you to do the same. To add your voice and officially join the challenge, just click the picture in my side bar.

I personally LOVE home made gifts, and I know my friends do as far, even though my kids do want all the "usual" stuff for the holidays, they also like receiving gifts that were made "just for them".

Let me know if you sign up for the challenge, or if this is something you already do.How do your friends/family receive these gifts? Happily or not?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saying Good-bye to Uncle Ray

It's been a while since my last post...sorry about that. I'll try to catch up over the next few days.

Late-summer was a whirlwind of activity of all kinds, but one thing that made us stop and think was Uncle Ray Yaros, my husband's uncle.

When my husband and I met, both his parents had been gone for quite some time. So, when he introduced me to Uncle Ray and Aunt Eve, it had the same kind of weight as "meeting the parents". At the time, Uncle Ray was in his 70's but looked and acted far younger. He still had a 14' fishing boat that he took out on the bay to himself, he still had a decent sized garden and cooked regularly.
In 2003 Uncle Ray and Aunt Fran (his twin sister) turned 80. That was also the year Ronnie was born, Clark and I got married, and Clark's cousin (Uncle Ray's granddaughter) was married.
Then, between Christmas and New Year, Aunt Fran died, and soon after, Uncle Ray started his down-turn.
Over the course of the last 5 years he had several small strokes, falls, and generally a down-turn in his health and according to him, his quality of life.
We hadn't seen Uncle Ray and Aunt Eve regularly for a while, they had made it to Clark's 50th birthday party, but not Clark's niece Missy's wedding.

We got a call Memorial Weekend, that Uncle Ray had had another fall, and was in a rehab center recouperating and could we come visit. Of course, we did. We brought the feisty boys with their leapsters and a ton of photos and visited.

Uncle Ray was sad, depressed really. There was nothing wrong with his memory, he told me clearly how much turning 80 had been a terrible thing. Dispite having been able to witness granddaughters' graduations from college, weddings and two great-granddaughters' births. He was tired of living with the pain, and with the physical limitations.
It was not an overly optimistic visit, but neither was it overly pessimistic. We figured Uncle Ray would be home in time for his July birthday and we'd go have a nice dinner with him.
It didn't work out that way.

He did go home, but only briefly.

Clark called the house to wish him a happy birthday a day or so after the date. Aunt Eve told him that Uncle Ray was back in the hospital, so we decided to go for another visit.

What Aunt Eve left out, was that Uncle Ray was on a feeding tube and was mostly not with us anymore.

Clark and I don't want to overly sheild our boys from death. It is a part of life and it is good for them to understand it. But, I think we probably would have left them with a sitter for this visit, had we known. We did give our love to Uncle Ray; held his hand, spoke the words, smoothed his hair...
We did get a couple of moments of eyes opening and clearing as if in understanding.
We went home understanding that Aunt Eve was already alone. After 65 years. And just wanted the pain to be done for her lover, her friend, her life companion.
We lit 2 candles in the window every night for two weeks with clarysage, lavendar and rosemary. One for each of them....asking Bridgid to heal, to love, to embrace.

Uncle Ray passed from this realm on August 6. We said our goodbyes on August 9 & 10.

Ray Yaros - a good man, who lived a good life. 2 great-granddaughters, 2 granddaughters, 2 sons, 1 wife for 65 years, and an assortment of nieces and nephews. The last of his siblings to go (I think there were 5 or 6).

You will be missed, you will be remembered, by Clark and I of course, but even more importantly, by Ronnie and Evan.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy Harvest!

August 1 or thereabouts, we celebrate the 'First Harvest'. Symbolized by the harvest of grains (corn/wheat etc), but certainly represented by any harvest ocurring now (early vegetables...beans, zucchini, cucumbers etc).
This year, however, mama nature and the spirit of the maple had an additional harvest in mind at my house.

This was about 1/3 of the canopy that came down...but it is highly likely that the whole tree is too diseased to stay.
He came down on Lammas eve ( overnight Friday - Saturday). My husband and I were awakened by the crack and swoosh...
Funny thing is...that when I heard that crack/swoosh I recalled having heard it the previous night too...but my husband doesn't have that same recollection. I wonder.....
Anyway, when we were looking at the photos we had taken, we found this....
Look closely at the bare wood...and see the sad old face.... so we thanked the tree for its shade, its witness over the passage of time and for the harvest of wood it would be bringing us.

My oldest had a harvest of his own this weekend too...his first "naturally" lost tooth...
Happy harvesting!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Summer Music "Tour"

So, in the past, I've mentioned our family tradition of compiling a list of free summer concerts within easy driving distance...this is our third summer of concert going, after attending one or two free musical events/festivals the summer of 2006.

Some of the concerts take place at historical this colonial manor:
(Shippen Manor, Oxford,NJ)

This site hosts Sunday evening concerts on the terraced lawn. In the past the programming has been primarily olde timey and blue grass. This year they seem to have branched out a bit...still with traditional music, but they have some other ethnicities represented.
We attended a Celtic performance.

This venue is the most "serious" we've attended.

It is - as I said - at a historical site, so there is no playground...the kids attending do run around, but it is not as accepted as at other sites.

Many of the concerts take place at local parks that have band shells, gazebos or other small shelters to use as performance spaces. Most of these also have play areas close by.

This is one (above) that we go to frequently. The kids love this park and the play area. It's very family friendly, close to a small lake, and you can see the whole park from wherever you sit.
This play area is at a new venue for us this year. The band shell and play area are close together, but the town planted big bushes between the "viewing" area and the play ground, so you can't watch your kids AND the band.

Sometimes the boys even sit and listen to the music- while multitasking coloring or playing with matchbox cars, of course! Especially if we are at the Sparta concerts where the playground is at least 50 feet away, behind the viewing area, through a grove of trees....

There are so many wonderful things about these concerts:
Exposure to all kinds of music...the kids don't care how good the performers are, they just like dancing to the music!
Outdoor dining opportunities!
Making new friends at every turn....
Interacting with weather, cool weather, sunset time changing, fireflies lighting up the dark - and sometimes crawling on our fingers (above pic).
In the past 3 weeks we've seen 10 FREE performances at 7 different locations, and the concert schedule for the coming weeks is full.

Will we see all of them? Probably not, but what a wonderful adventure!

If you're looking for some other good reasons to go check my first post about this family tradition.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Water Conservation - Serendipity

I always love it when things come together in mysterious and magical ways.

Earlier this week, it felt important to me to write about water conservation this week. Enough that I had 2 or 3 posts worth of information that I wanted to write about. And that's a lot for me.
And, when I started to write my first post I almost stopped, because it seemed weird to be writing about water conservation during a month-long deluge.

Today, I had an oppertunity to listen to one of my favorite NPR talk hosts interviewing Robert Glennon who has written a book called Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It .

He was talking about many of the things I have concerns about, but certainly did not touch on everything. You can listen to the podcast of the interview HERE if you are interested.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Water Conservation - If it's Yellow let it Mellow!

Ok...I've got two young boys so potty humor is at an all-time high in our house.

Truth be told, though, when it's just the four of us at home we definitely try to conserve water by making multiple uses of the water in the bowl - as long as it's yellow - before flushing it down.
It started as an overnight noise curtesy, but we don't have the most modern water-efficient fixtures and really can't afford to replace what we've got at the moment, so it has evolved into a water conservation habit.
And besides, even if we had the 1.5 gallon per flush fixtures, why waste 1.5 gallons when all four of us need to go at the same time

BUT, with the kids being little, getting it across to them, that when we've got company the multi-use rule is NOT in effect, is sometimes problematic.

Also, since implementing the multi-use rule, I've come up with some additional corollaries about single use flushing:
* If you use an upstairs bathroom and no one else is immediately using it, FLUSH.
* If you use the downstairs bathroom and we're leaving the house, FLUSH.
Because, letting it mellow all day long is just too yukkie for words and means more frequent cleaning will be needed.

Along with intentional flush frequency reduction, I have collected a number of links which use grey water or rain water for feeding a toilet. Some are quite ingenius! Enjoy!

Rain Barrel to Toilet Installation - a practical how-to guide
I really want to do this someday!

Grey Water Recycling systems for the Bathroom
Sink-Toilet Combination fixtures

Here is a system available for collecting grey water from the kitchen sink.

There are also systems available for washing machine and shower water...just google Greywater System or Greywater Recycling.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Water Conservation - Washing the Veggies

I'm going to start a weird topic for my area this week....Water Conservation.
This June has been one of the wettest I can remember. I don't think we've had more than 1 or 2 days where we didn't get at least 1 shower, and most days were completely grey and rainy.
Gardens are waterlogged, Lake Hopatcong is actually full...when on Memorial Day there were many lamenting how empty it still was from the winter lowering.

So, before June, we were in a drought.

And, summer drought has become common in our area in the last 10 years, I've heard announcements about lakes and reservoirs being at record lows frequently. And the building boom of the late 1990s and 2000's has not helped.

I have posted on my garden site about wanting a rain-water capturing system that we just haven't been able to afford yet, so that I don't have to feel nervous about watering our garden from our well. Nor have we been able to find a source for clean used barrels...

We've never had a problem with our well, and as far as I know, no one around us has either.
It's just that when you think about the dryness around, lakes lower, less rainfall in the highlands, etc it makes you take note, so I'm going to blog about conserving water, even after a month with 10+ inches of rain.

We get most of our produce from the biodynamic Community Supported Garden (CSG) at Genesis Farm.
Some of it comes home pretty dirty, and for years I was washing it all under running water.
For the past year or two, though, I've been trying to do as much as I can with less water.
I start by putting the veggies in a big bowl or use the salad spinner and letting it fill half way, scrubbing the veggies using the water from the bowl; setting aside each scrubbed veggie until the dirt is off and I have a bowl of brown muddy water.

Then I use that water to water plants, and get the benefit of all that biodynamic soil, rather than letting it run down the drain along with gallons and gallons of water....
After getting rid of the "mud", I give the veggies a final rinse, now free of most of their dirt, it only takes a slow stream of running water, again captured in the bowl...and use that for the plants too.

There have been times when I've been "too busy" to do it this way, but when I don't capture the wash water and let it run even a little, I feel guilty.

Water is a precious resource.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Music Season 2009

This will be our third year of doing the summer "Music in the Parks" scene.

I have been busy this week making the tour of local town websites to put our calendar together, and the excitement begins this friday night!

In the past two years we have enjoyed dozens of free musical performances...some exquisite and others just average, but under clear skies and with a picnic dinner and fun-bag for the boys all have been wonderful family experiences.
Some towns do outdoor movie nights as well...we saw Madagascar that way last summer....although that was a tad later as it required full-dark to get going. The musical programs usually start around 7.

Some towns don't have their calendars out yet, but some do - enough for us to get started!!!

Look for these programs in your town or nearby towns. They are almost always free (or very inexpensive) and child friendly.