Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Tuesday again, time to get all random with the Un-Mom...


Anyone participate in Boobquake yesterday? I wore a tank top in support of the silly day (which isn't much different than most days for me or is it very revealing anyway, but immodesty is immodesty right?) although I didn't leave the house except for when I ran out to get eggs but even then, I threw on a sweatshirt before leaving because it was cold and windy outside. (If you're scratching your head and didn't happen to see this on any blogs or on Facebook, it's worth a click here for an explanation and here for the results.)

Spring is being stubborn.

Yesterday I chased 2 loads of CLEAN laundry across our gravel driveway after they escaped the grip of the many carefully placed clothespins on the clothesline. Once, the basket full of clean clothes even blew away from at my feet. Ridiculous wind! At least it's not coming from the direction of the pig farm across the road.Tomorrow Mae has appointment with her immunologist (just a check up) down at Children's Hospital. We decided to make a day of it and go to the Art Museum while we're in the city since I recently won 2 tickets from the local public radio station! Mae also wants to use the book store gift card she won last week. Gift cards and free tickets are even more fun to use when money is tight!

Money may be tight but I seriously needed a haircut, so I finally gave in today and went in for a trim. It's not much different than before, just past my shoulders and a few layers but cleaned up and not so "fried" looking. That's at least how the hair stylist described my hair pre-cut.

I'm getting better at taking photos of myself in the mirror. At least they are pretty much in focus. I have a friend who can get a perfect shot every time by holding the camera out in front of herself. It's a talent really.

That's it for me today. Be sure to stop by Keely's blog for the whole Random Tuesday line up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Garden Club

Monday again, and after an entire weekend of rain, almost 3 inches to be exact, I was so happy to see the sun shining this morning. I'm sure my little greenhouse is loving it too. The poor thing didn't get above 50 degrees all weekend. This morning after we wheeled it out of the garage and uncovered it, the plants looked awfully droopy and sad but once I gave them all a big drink and the temperature and humidity started climbing because of the sunshine, they all started to perk up.

Only 2 flats left under the lights in the basement. So far this year I have been very careful about starting plants at the right times to make sure that they are just right when I plunk them into the garden about a month from now. Come to think of it, I could have even waited a little longer with some of the stuff I started last week because it's already getting huge. I'm pretty sure that the heat mats have shortened the germination times so the info on the seed packets is a little off. Not that I'm complaining, the heat mats have turned out to be the best investment so far this year and are great for a gardener like me that likes to see results every day.

Last week I started Cantaloupe, watermelon, honey dew, cucumbers, giant pumpkins (the girls are really excited about these!) and another batch of broccoli.
Almost time to find some room for these guys in the greenhouse and shut down the basement operation until next year.
I found these tall clear covers at Menard's of all places after searching for them at every garden center in the tri-county area. They are perfect for seedlings (or cuttings, if you're into that) that get tall right away but still need the protection and humidity that a cover provides. These even have sliding vents to control the temperature and were only about a dollar each!
Tulips are still blooming like crazy. The girls have been enjoying cutting some for their rooms and were astonished the other day when they noticed that their cut tulips had grown and were tipping over their little shot glasses vases. Did you know that tulip stems keep growing even after you cut them???

Now for all you gardeners out there who wish to participate, either leave a comment on what's growing in your basement yard, or post a Monday Garden Club update on your blog. Don't forget to drop your link in the comments and I'll add it to this post.

Participating Bloggers:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Controversy In The Squeak

Something from this week's issue of The Squeak (our local small town newspaper) has me all fired up, again.
Here's what's going on:
WITI-TV, MILWAUKEE - It is a hot topic in rural Sheboygan County near Oostburg. A Muslim doctor and several others are looking for a permanent place to worship. Some people in the area are not happy about having a Muslim Mosque in their community.

Manitowoc Dr. Mansoor Mirza and several others living in Sheboygan County have purchased a building off Sauk Trail Rd. near Oostburg in the Town of Wilson and want to turn it into a Muslim mosque. "The closest place to Appleton...We wanna place to teach out children for social gatherings, so it's important to us."

While Christian leaders FOX6 spoke with in Oostburg realize there is a freedom of religion in our country, they have safety concerns when it comes to the practicing Islam in rural Sheboygan County. Rev. Wayne Devrou said, "There's some people that are afraid and their afraid for a good reason, because Islamic philosophy and ideology starts in a mosque and throughout the world Islamic terrorism comes from its roots and worship in the mosque."

Muhammad Isa Sadlon is the CEO and Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Milwaukee. He says while this is a unique situation, patience and acceptance is needed. "Neighbors have questions. People in the community wanna know somethings about us. It will take a little bit of time. It will be a process, but god willing it will move forward."

FOX6 has been told small groups have been holding worship services in the building for about a month. Wilson town leaders decided to extend the conditional use permit time for another two months, a decision is expected then. The area is currently zoned highway commercial.

A former Muslim turned Christian is scheduled to speak at the First Reform Church about Islam in the coming weeks.
I figured there would be some people who don't understand and have a hard time recognizing that religions other than the many flavors of Christianity exist and are practiced right here in our community, but calling another religious group the Anti-Christ and carrying on about terrorism is completely over the top. This isn't some rogue Islamic group straight out of the Middle East looking to set up a tire and monkey bar obstacle course to carry out extremist views. No, this is a doctor trying to create a place of worship that is within a reasonable distance for his family and others in the community.

It wasn't even me that saw the ad and muttered "what the fuck?" The Gardener, a former Catholic and altar boy during High School turned agnostic in recent years was enraged to read such bigotry while scanning the pages looking for a deal on a used roto-tiller. Of course he handed me the paper and said "here's a number I think you should call." (The Squeak requires all people placing classified ads to include either their name or phone number.) I didn't call because I know I can't change the mind of someone so opposed to religious diversity. Just makes my skin crawl that in the US, a nation with religious freedom, people can be so disrespectful to their neighbors.

I know not all local Christians feel this way and I do not intend to irritate anyone by posting this. I just feel that we should be respectful to all religious beliefs as long as they aren't infringing on the rights of others.

What do you think about this?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mae's Globe

Here is Mae's finished Earth Day project . Not bad for a 7 year old (with a little help from Daddy) and an assortment of old junk destined for the landfill. Now we'll have to find a special spot in the house to display the beautiful sculpture.

Her winning prize was a gift card to a bookstore and a unique metal bookmark with 3 interchangeable charms.
Congrats Mae!

First Place!

I was going to post these pictures yesterday being Earth Day and all but I felt like actually writing instead of just putting up a bunch of pictures, so I'm a day late. Anyhow, a few weeks back the girls went to the local library after a half day of school (end of quarter teacher work day or something like that) to watch a movie and on the way out of the library, Mae stopped at a table full of sandwich bags with puzzle pieces in them and picked one up. It was a contest to make a project out of mismatched puzzle pieces to help celebrate Earth Day. They could be used to make anything but the idea was to recycle and use found objects with the puzzle pieces to make something new.

As soon as we got out to the car Mae was already planning out what she was going to make and how she was going to make it. She knew right away that she wanted to make a globe out of wire but wasn't sure quite how to do it. After a couple Google image searches she decided that she would model hers after the Universal Studios globe and attach the blue and green puzzle pieces as the continents and the oceans.

With some help from the Gardener (We don't let our kids uses torches on their own quite yet. That would be dangerous...) Mae soldered together some old copper wire to make the framework of the globe.

They coiled up some old copper with patina on it (I think it was harvested off of the outside of the barn) around a funnel for a spring and soldered it to an old lawn mower pulley as the base.

After the framework was made it was time to trade in the torch and solder for the hot glue gun. The Gardener squeezed out the molten glue and she stuck the puzzle pieces to the globe.
I don't have a photo of the finished product with all of the puzzle pieces (damn!) but I'll get one once we bring the sculpture home.

All of the projects were to be returned before Earth Day so that all of the people who attended the Earth Day potluck last night could vote on them. We brought in the globe earlier in the week but couldn't make it to the potluck. Besides not really being potluck people, (unless of course it's a mandatory family function) we had other plans last night so we didn't get a chance to vote on Mae's globe or see any of the other projects (or eat some crappy potluck food).

The library called today to say that Mae won first place with her globe sculpture! She won a prize and we can go pick it up this afternoon! Plus now all of the other projects will be on display to look at too. She's going to be so excited when she gets home from school today. I can't wait to tell her!finished globe

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Last night I caught the last 20 minutes of the movie Food Inc. on PBS. By the way, I love PBS, have I mentioned that before? Their documentaries are fantastic and who doesn't love Nature on Sunday nights? Great family television and NO commercials. Gotta love that! Anyhow back to Food Inc., I'm sure I'm one of the last people to watch the very revealing and widely promoted food industry documentary, but better late than never right?

I have heard many reviews and discussions about the film over the last year on NPR and even several bloggers have written about it after watching it and understanding how our food is made and where it comes from, so I was thrilled when I heard it would be on PBS. Like I said, I only caught the last 20 minutes or so (I thought it started at 9. The online listing said 9 but when I turned on the TV at 9:05 it was almost over. Boo! Hopefully they will re-run it this afternoon on one of the PBS digital channels.) and missed most of the film but the gist was that more and more food today is being grown on a huge scale, using LOTS of petroleum, with genetically engineered seeds and animals that have been cooped up in pens and feedlots fed lots of unhealthy hormone laden feed and sold to manufacturers to process the hell out of it, wrap it in shiny packaging and sell it to consumers out of gas stations and drive through windows. For the most part, they are absolutely right. Their message was for consumers to make healthier choices not just for the food industry but for their own families that are buying and eating so much processed and preserved food that is making them overweight and unhealthy. Um yeah. Have people forgot the saying, You are what you eat? Of course Doritos and soda aren't good for us. Of course eating McDonald's french fries and a Big Mac on a regular basis can't be good for your heart. Hello! How fucking brain dead have we become that we need a documentary, A MOVIE to tell us that our food sucks and that it's unhealthy?

It wasn't that long ago that milk and butter (the real stuff, not that margarine crap) were delivered directly to homes from the dairy and you would go to the butcher shop to buy your meat (generally local meat) and grow your own garden and take the time to can and freeze the food that was grown right in your own yard to feed your family for the winter. All without using genetically engineered seeds and animals, and fertilizers, and tons of petroleum to haul it all . How shitty is it that we as a nation have decided that instead of growing our own gardens (not me of course) and buying eggs and meat from local farms and butcher shops that we will now leave all of the prep work out of it and swing by the grocery store on the way home and see what's hot in the deli case. Granted I sometimes will swap the work for the convenience and I have certainly driven my car up to a speaker and shouted out the names of some food items that are not so healthy, then paid money for them before shoving a handful of french fries in my face, but I can assure that it doesn't happen very often.

Now that I got my little rant out there and wholeheartedly agree with the part of the movie that I saw but not much of that was new to me except for the part where the seed cleaner man was sued by seed mega giant Monsanto. I wanted to cry for that poor man... Being a farmer is tough work and I can certainly attest to that, but it's not all that bad. Not every dairy farm gives hormones to their cows to produce more milk. Hell the farm I work at is very much different from the farms featured in the movie. My boss is very careful about what her animals eat and what kinds of chemicals they have access to. She even paints her fences (actually I've been commissioned to paint her fence this year. I'm just waiting for a warm day.) with a non-toxic paint that won't make the cows sick when they chew on it or rub up against it, which is inevitable on a dairy farm. Her milk isn't organic or anything special. Her milk gets picked up every day and is pumped into a truck with other milk from the farm up the road and after her stop it will continue on to the next farm. Some farmers aren't as crazy, particular, anal, careful as my boss but as long as their milk passes the tests that are required of it, it all gets mixed together and distributed. Some goes off to make cheese, some for direct consumption, and so on.

Not all farms are huge factory farms. Granted the volume of food that comes out of one of those big factory farms is astronomical and can't be replicated on small farms and that's why those monster factory farms exist but not everything we buy is made this way. There are still farmers that let their animals graze in pastures. There are still farmers that don't buy into all the crap that is advertised in farming magazines. Seriously the farming supplies and advertising is out of control. Every time I get a peek in my boss's kitchen I can see stacks and stacks of magazine and brochures that came in the mail. Craziness! The farming industry has changed and some of those changes were not such great ones as it turns out but some other changes have been revolutionary. When my husband started working for my farmer boss over 20 years ago, she didn't even have a milk pipeline (a stainless steel pipe that transports the milk from each cow's milking machine to the bulk tank in the milk house to be cooled) in her barn. My husband at the ripe old age of 10 carried stainless steel buckets of milk from each cow into the milk house and dumped them into the big cooler tank. Twice a day! Granted I'm convinced that my boss lives in a continuous loop of 1987, a world where cell phones don't exist and answering machines are completely optional (Seriously she doesn't have one and is very rarely in the house. Makes her very hard to reach.). When I come for nightly chores twice a week, we don't use any fancy equipment, besides of course the automated milkers, you gotta draw the line somewhere. No, the most technologically advanced piece of equipment I use is a push broom and a pitch fork. I pitch out the food we feed to the cows from the silo. I carry around bales of hay and distribute them to hungry, drooling milk cows. I carry buckets of water to the heifers in the shed because there isn't even running water out there. Seriously antiquated, but it works and is a fairly environmentally friendly way of farming. May not make lots of money and sometimes even loses money depending on the ever changing milk prices.

I know other young farmers, people my age who have given up on other careers and have started farming, to get into the family business just like their parents and grandparents did generations before. The sad part is that not all families carry on the farming tradition and operating farms shut down when the farmer finally decides that it's too much work. I can't blame them for that either. Being tied down to a farm isn't for everyone. It's hard to go away for even a day if there isn't someone around to feed and milk your cows. They don't care if you need a vacation, they still need to eat.

While we can't change how people run their farms as long as they are following the law, we can do things to make the food we eat safer and healthier. Start by growing your own garden if you have the room, really it's not that hard at all or even purchasing a garden share from a local CSA or just stopping by the local Farmer's market in the summer and support your local farmers. Trust me, as the local and organic farming movement gains momentum, there are farms popping up in many communities both rural and urban, you just have to look for them. Not hard stuff and that's what the film suggested also. Making a choice on what kinds of farming and food production you support when you go to the grocery store or out to eat. Don't buy those cheap white eggs, buy the more expensive brown ones from the lady up the road (and almost get pecked to death by her free range chickens on the walk from your car to her garage store) in support of a local woman trying to offer healthy and very tasty food to her neighbors. Support that kind of farming not the kind that gets loads of bad press and is clouded in controversy over salmonella outbreaks and unfair treatment to animals and workers. Buying and eating healthy, unprocessed, organic, local food is more expensive, no doubt about that, but if you can squeeze in one or two things on a regular basis, it can be affordable. It can also turn you into a food snob *ahem* so be careful.

Oh by the way, Happy Earth Day! Now step away from the computer and go turn your compost pile.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday

I know I have posted a variation of this outfit before but I think it's worth doing again.MaeMae and Binny are as excited about spring and summer fashions as I am excited about my new greenhouse. Seriously I think we all have spring fever, only one problem for them. The weather is only warm and sunny if you are in the greenhouse!
They have been dying to wear shorts and summer dresses and they have but it's just not possible every day. Like yesterday, Binny wanted to wear this little pink outfit, but at only 45 degrees, there was no way I could send her to school like that, and suggested that she wear a pair of jeans and a sweater. Then in Binny's dramatic style, she holds up one finger, arches her back, raises her eyebrows and says "I know! Mom, you find me some tights and I'll go grab my pink shirt!"
More Wardrobe Wednesday at Heathen Family Revival.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wingin' It- Rhubarb Crisp

I mentioned yesterday that the rhubarb were getting close to being big enough to pick. I couldn't wait any longer and today I cut down enough to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp. The stalks aren't very long yet and will probably get three times as long in the next month or so but they were big enough to fill our rhubarb craving. There are many more coming out of the ground so I know that what I took today will be filled in very soon.

I didn't even bother consulting my cook books or even this recipe I posted last spring. I usually just wing it. (Although after looking up the recipe to link to it, I realized that I made it almost exactly the same way, just didn't measure a damn thing.)

Chop up the fruit. Toss with some sugar.

Make a crumbly oat topping
Top and bake for a while in the oven at 350. When it starts to smell insanely delicious and get all bubbly and golden brown, pull it out of the oven and let it cool on the counter. In our house it doesn't sit for very long until somebody insists on trying it and ends up burning the inside of their mouth, just to get the first taste of rhubarb for the year.

It's that good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Garden Club

Another Monday and yet again I have lots of photos of what's been happening outside and also inside my new greenhouse! First the outside stuff.
The raspberry bushes are off to a nice start all full of new growth and healthy as can be.
The rhubarb too and they are now especially happy after I spent the better part of 2 days weeding and tilling the ground around them. My arms and abs are killing me but the rhubarb needed the attention.
Still not quite big enough to pick but soon, very soon.

The strawberries got some much needed attention yesterday also, yet were much more difficult to weed around because the plants are small and the weeds managed to tuck themselves right up in next to the strawberry plants. After much swearing and using almost every tool in the potting shed, we were finally done. Oh yes, the Gardener helped too...
Hello asparagus! Still kind of skinny and young looking but I'm hoping to get out there with some (almost finished!) compost very soon to see if that will beef them up and produce more than just a handful this year.
I picked these three stems this morning and didn't even bother bringing them to the house to wash off or share and popped them right into my mouth. Yumm!

The trees are starting to bud and this beauty is already showing off some bright red leaves!

The greenhouse is complete and full of plants! We're still trying to figure out the best way to use it without letting the plants get too cold over night (hauling the flats down to the basement each night is too much work) and too warm during the day with the sun shining down on the windowed structure. There are two removable vents on each end of the greenhouse that we have been playing around with to find the right balance of warm and humid but not too hot.
So far between 70 and 80 degrees seems to be the best temperature but once yesterday (with only one vent open) the thermometer read over 100 degrees and the plants looked a little droopy and dry so I quick opened the door to cool things down and gave everything a big drink. I also left the other vent open for the rest of the afternoon. Today I tried something different. I propped open the door at the top a little bit to allow the hot air to escape while still maintaining a warm environment. We'll see....

Over night, the temps have still been dipping down below freezing so we wheel the greenhouse into the garage and put a small space heater inside it set on low to make sure that the plants don't get too cold. We also throw a packing blanket over top for insulation. All for plants!!! Sheesh, you'd think these were our children we are caring for and not tomatoes and petunias!

Anybody else going nuts gardening? Either leave a comment on what's growing in your yard, greenhouse, basement or post a Monday Garden Club update on your blog. Don't forget to drop your link in the comments and I'll add it to this post.

Participating Bloggers

Out In Them Sticks