Monday, October 29, 2007

Eating Seasonally - Different but Delish

Okay, I just had to post this photo because I was feeling positively Path-to-Freedom-esque this morning when I could find no other fruit to put on my homemade granola but a lonely pomegranate. At PTF, they are always showing their "100 foot diet" photos and I swear there are pomegranate seeds in virtually every photo. It was my inspiration. :)

I must say that pomegranate seeds sprinkled on cereal are very different, very seasonal (berries are a thing of the season-past and bananas ain't local) and pretty darn good. Definitely something I'll repeat.

As for the homemade granola, it is my mom's recipe. I remember being a kid, waiting for the granola to come out of the oven. It was so so good and warm and just a little bit crumbly. Anyway, here's the recipe. I play with it depending on what I have on hand - and to accomodate my children's gluten free diet.


1 cup raw cashews or raw pumpkin seeds*

9 cups rolled oats**

2 cups soy flour

1 cup whole wheat or rice flour

3/4 cup honey

1/2 cup oil mixed with 1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend liquid ingredients then mix with dry ingredients. Crumble and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then 200 degrees - stirring every 15 minutes until golden brown.

* I love nuts in this so I usually add more. Plus, with cooking seasonally, I've got pumpkin seeds coming out of my ears so I happily put them to use here in my most recent batch.

** Most oats have cross contamination issues with gluten but you can now purchase certified Gluten Free Oats online. Miss Roben's is my favorite place to order online - and they've recently switched to more environmentally friendly packaging in response, at least in part, to my request.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Back to Boo-sics

Earlier this month, we took our children to a local pumpkin patch to pick out their Halloween pumpkins. Boy, have pumpkin patches changed since we were kids. There were three or four bouncy houses, two train rides, a haunted house, three pony ride, a hay ride (ok, they had this when I was a kid) and, oh, pumpkins. We walked into the "farm" and I told the boys to pick out a pumpkin. They ran to the pumpkins all excited, quickly grabbed one - yelling "this is the one" and then sprinted in opposite directions: one to the bouncy houses and one to the train ride. What?!?

Growing up, going to the pumpkin patch was a big treat. It was all about picking the perfect pumpkin for your very own jack-o-lantern. Not so these days. Even pumpkin patches set up in parking lots of inflatable slides and bouncy houses. The pumpkins are an afterthought.

That day at the farm, we let the kids play and enjoy the rides. We did not get a pumpkin though. Instead, this morning, we trundled out to the car and drove to a quiet field where they actually grow the pumpkins right there. It was exactly the experience I was looking for. No rides - though they unfortunately did have a bouncy house. We just said no to the bouncy house and told the kids we're here for pumpkins. They also had a very small petting zoo - all the better for me to persuade hubby to get some chickens! ;-)

Anyway, my oldest (Mr. Active) ran and ran and ran through the giant field searching for his "perfect pumpkin" - an extra large one. My little one picked up little pumpkins, one after the other, trying to load them all into the wheelbarrow. It was so like Halloween when I was a girl and I was so happy to share that special experience with my children - without all the excesses that rob our children of life's simple pleasures. You have to seek out these experiences - they are harder and harder to come by without some effort.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Greening the Holidays

I've long been guilty of going all out, full tilt insane during the holidays. I used to love the lights, the gifts, the consumer craziness of it all. Becoming more ecologically aware, however, has made me more aware of the resources we are wasting in doing this. It has also put me in touch with my "simple" side - as in simple living. I realize that what I remember about holidays is often fun with family, events, things that happened or that we did. It is very rarely anything material. For instance, I cannot for the life of me remember most of the gifts I gave last year for Christmas or any of the gifts I received.

I haven't yet figured out how I'll approach the lights and decorations for Christmas this year. It used to break my heart to think of a lack of Christmas lights twinkling around our little abode at night or getting rid of the giant inflatable decorations which are all the rage now. Halloween has been somewhat of a sustainable success though and that gives me hope for the rest of the holidays.

Halloween is upon us and I've made many a green change here. I've freecycled all electric decorations except for a plug in light to use as a night light for each of my kids. That may not sound like a big change, but trust me, it is! I got rid of most of the things piecemeal, thinking I'd only hang up some and then I just kept cutting back. I thought I'd miss my electric decor but in all honesty I haven't even thought about it. I reused our Halloween non-electric decorations from years past and put up the kids' art work and it looks plenty festive! Plus, the kids are so proud of their contributions. Maybe we'll be able to survive Christmas with no outdoor lights. Or maybe I'll swallow my compact-guilt and buy a couple new strands of LED lights.

I've had a few other green Halloween successes. My youngest is going to wear that same costume again this year that he wore last year. I tried to get the oldest to use a hand-me-down costume but no go. It just had to be C3PO and he even asked to earn it (we have a sticker reward system). Making one would have entailed quite a bit of environmental impact what with the mask and the gold fabric. Good luck finding a used C3PO costume! So new it was. I'm pretty pleased though as that was our only new expenditure.

As for candy, we live in "Mayberry" and get hundreds of trick-or-treaters. I figured the best thing I could come up this year was to buy a single big candy bar (I usually give a handful of smaller ones) to cut back on packaging. Maybe next year, I'll come up with some sustainably grown chocolate or better yet, some nickels and dimes (literally). For now, step right up and get your Hershey's bar and please, please, please, do NOT throw the wrapper on my new sheet mulch.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Some Big Changes This Week

This past week has seen a lot of changes over here at the Green Bean homestead.

We spent last weekend ripping out the water sucking lawn on our gigantic side walk strip (400 square feet) and replacing it with the lasagna sheet mulch recommended by Toby Hemenway in his home-scale permaculture book, Gaia's Garden. Basically, this is a method of alternating carbon and nitrogen so that your soil becomes more fertile on its on to avoid hauling in fertilizers in the future. You start by aerating the soil, covering it with slashed vegetation, then adding a thick layer of newspapers or cardboard. After that you add manure or grass clippings, then leaves (lots of fall leaves around here to be gathered for free) or hay, then compost (free from the city, made from people's collected yard waste) and finally a top dressing like wood chips. You water in between every layer. It doesn't look like much now but supposedly, in the spring, the soil will be great and then I'll plant my apple tree, some blueberry bushes and a few other plants. I may also do a cover crop to grow over the fall. At a minimum, we're saving water by not watering that strip for now.

Above is the work in progress. Below, is our finished product. Looks so so. All of our neighbors came out to see what we were doing so, at a minimum, it was a community building exercise. :) After we completed our project, I ran across an old post from one of my favorite blogs where the blogger also employed the sheet mulch method and swears by it. If it worked for them, I'm assuming it will for us. Keep your fingers crossed.

Our next big change, my dear hubby started biking to work. It took him a little over 30 minutes and he'll probably only be able to do it once a week but it's a big change for us. He also takes my youngest to preschool once a week which enables me to walk my oldest to school an additional day - that makes 4 out of 10 trips to school a week where we walk.

Also on the spouse front, my husband has started bringing his own lunch to work two to three times a week. I know this isn't new to a lot of folks but it is to us. He can't do it every day because he has lunch meetings some time. That said, I pack him a no waste lunch made of food purchased from our local farmer's market and he has a healthy, inexpensive meal that does not include the usual disposables inherent in a fast food lunch from the local cafeteria.

Finally, we fired our gardeners (though they were really super nice!) and their gas powered machines. We've started using our new push lawn mower this weekend.

I'm so happy that we continue to make progress.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I Hate Cheap Plastic Crap!

So, this afternoon, a five minute check up at the dentist for my oldest ended up with both kids wallowing in the dentist's plastic toy bin sifting through brightly colored, inexpensively made bits of plastic for just the right piece of junk to take home (I've yet to come up with the courage to pull the kiddos out of there crying for a toy with all the dental assistants and other parents looking on). Anyway, my youngest (it wasn't even his appointment!) picked some blue car with the ubiquitous MADE IN CHINA sticker on the back. I loaded both kids in the car where they cooed over their treasures and talked back and forth about them. Before we had even hit the freeway, the little guy starts crying that his car is broken.

Sure 'nough! That darn piece of junk broke in under 5 minutes. Being made of cheap plastic, most likely laden with lead or some other undesirable material, it cannot be fixed and now only deserves a place in a landfill somewhere. When will we learn! Just because the dollar price is cheap, the environmental one is not. That little piece of #@%*( cost a lot of oil to make, likely exposed its underpaid maker to unhealthy chemicals, sucked up more oil (and trees in the form of boxes) on the way to the beautiful state of California and, after providing a mere few minutes of amusement, must now by tossed in the garbage. That's it! I resolve to force the kids out of that office (and any other place offering such junk) without a toy next time.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Simple Food

We try to be healthy, eat local and be environmentally conscious here with our food. As a result, my kids never get brightly colored processed corn packaged in flashy bags in their lunch boxes like all of their friends. I make an effort to make their healthy, local, homemade food look fun and interesting so they don't feel completely left out.

The other day, I sent a Jack-O-Lantern hard boiled egg in my son's lunch for a special surprise. I just hard boiled a local brown egg and then used a sharpie to draw the "Jack-O-Lantern" face. He was delighted!

Yesterday morning, we invented boo pancakes! I admit that I had to use a gluten-free mix (my kids are gluten intolerant) but I added some fresh pumpkin and made ghosts, pumpkins, goblins (just blobs really but children's imagination is a beautiful thing), skeletons and mummys (the latter two look the same to me but totally different to the little ones). These were gobbled up quicker than I could throw them on the skillet and the kids were asking for more this morning.

I can't take the credit for making fun shapes out of pancakes. I admit to copying Ma from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I recently finished reading her books which are chock full of back to basic, simple living ideas.


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