Spring Has Sprung, the Grass Is ‘Ris…

I wonder where the birdies is!*

*This was my late Grandma Farm’s favorite springtime poem, my mom told me recently. She would recite it every time my mom saw her in the spring – spring has sprung, the grass is ‘ris, I wonder where the birdies is! – then cackle with delight. I just love that.

Today was a simply fantastic day. It’s also that wonderful time of year where, even though still stark and brown, the air holds promise of greener days, of growing things, of time spent rolling in the grass and picking dinner from the backyard:

  • I spent a wonderful morning visiting just a few of the many churches in our neighborhood, inviting them to the upcoming Keystone-Monon Community Garden organizing meeting. So many friendly, smiling, welcoming faces and well wishes – it was a great way to start a busy Sunday! I’m reminded yet again of how many awesome people there are, right in our neighborhood, I have yet to meet. Also, if my church growing up had been like any of these? Well, maybe I’d still be a church goer. They made me feel embraced and welcomed.
20150322. First days of spring.

Although you can’t tell, so much has happened already this spring: fresh compost in all the beds, soil turned, hay removed, things cut back, sweet potato bin readied, and the first seeds planted.

  • I got some work done – a grant application for our after-school and summer camp programs, the Eat Well Club, and editing a monthly online newsletter – then got some food into the boy post-nap. Then….
20150322. First days of spring.

Gardening doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive: we’ve used this same chicken wire and canvas drop cloths to grow sweet potatoes three years now.

  • We headed back out and wandered around Arsenal Park, where we’re hoping the community garden will take root (literally), putting flyers on every house around the perimeter. I feel so strongly that we need our community to drive this effort, thus my flyering and helloing efforts this morning. Facebook and email only go so far.
20150322. First days of spring.

The middle bin was full of amazing compost just last week. Now? It’s mixed into all of our garden beds for some hopefully amazing plants this year.

  • THEN we had a very special surprise for our fearless leaders, who are expecting their first baby any day now. We headed to the farm at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, which is a fantastic place to enjoy the spring weather. I was feeling a little lazy while volunteers moved wheelbarrows full of mulch all over, readying the beds, but Willem and I had the important task of hanging out with 4-year-old Berlin. She loved Willem and really wanted to teach him to not eat the mulch. Sorry, Berlin, we’re not quite there yet, but we appreciate your steadfast efforts and sweetness.
20150322. First days of spring.

Garlic, always our first green things!

  • Fearless leaders arrived, and we handed over their gift – well wishes for them and the newest little one from the entire Indianapolis food, health, and yoga community. We couldn’t think of a single “thing” to give them; but then we thought of the amazing work they have done to build this community right here in Indianapolis and realized the most meaningful thing we could give them were that community’s words, hopes, and dreams for their new family.
20150322. First days of spring.

Some fresh chicken bedding for the run and a set of Chris’ still-empty bee hives (I think he plans to use that for a swarm if he’s lucky enough to find one this year).

  • Willem and I finished our flyering, then headed home. On the way back, I noticed a bunch of folks a few doors down, doing some lawn work and hanging. Willem and I sauntered over, invited them to the next community garden meeting, then chatted all things gardening and neighborhood block partying. This community organizing stuff is making me bold!

Spring, friends. It’s here, in all its still-slightly-brown glory!

For the Record: Beets, Carrots, and Radishes

This weekend and today: broke up the soil in the garden beds and shoveled the most beautiful compost I’ve ever seen come out of our bins into the beds most in need of a little pick-me-up.

20150316. My own personal Zen garden.

Seriously, look at this stuff. My own version of a Zen garden right here.

Also today: direct seeded a whole lotta beets, radishes, and carrots. Because beets, radishes, and carrots need to be in our bellies.

Oh yeah, and this guy has been helping me. Baby garden initiation 2015 begins!

20150316. My new garden pal.

We have a few new tools in the garden this year.

Our newest garden tools.

20150316. My new garden pal.

Willem’s new favorite toys are an old timer I have in the shape of an apple and leaves. Sounds about right.

Next up? Onions and greens! 

Doing Good and Being Awesome: Turning Over a New Leaf

As the snow slowly melts away in our corner of the world, tiny seedlings grow strong in our basement, and the promise of many, many new faces leaps up in my near future, I’m reminded of how dynamic life really is. All winter, we hole up, cozy and warm in our house-cocoons in a sort of stasis, with vague recollections of buds on trees and crocuses popping up through thawed dirt.

20150301. It's beginning to look a lot like... March 1?

As Kurt Cobain would say, though, spring is here again, friends, and this spring in particular promises to be the beginning of something amazing, something much bigger than me (or any one person, for that matter), something dynamic and shifting and growing and changing.

Drum roll, please: Thanks to the nudging of a new friend and neighbor, Sara Croft, and the powers of Facebook, this spring we will be organizing our neighbors to create a community garden in the Keystone-Monon neighborhood of Indianapolis. Just writing those words makes me feel giddy, excited, and a little terrified, but mostly all warm and fuzzy.

Whee. I want to read this whole book, right meow! And get these flyers posted! Also, Willem totally said "kisses" just now, which i think makes it his first legit word (beyond mama, dada, and neigh, of course).

Sara is an energetic, get-it-done kind of woman, and with just one simple Facebook post describing her vision of this project, she had me, hook, line, and sinker. See, what we’ve already discovered is that there is tremendous power in numbers. What feels like an incredibly daunting undertaking for just one person – finding and securing land, building the community involvement needed for success, seeking out water and supplies, building beds, managing volunteers, and countless other things we haven’t even begun to imagine – seems not only manageable, but fun and fulfilling with many hands, many faces, many ideas driving us forward.

Why a community garden? As followers of this blog know, we have a very healthy backyard (and, increasingly, front yard) garden, as well as chickens, bees, and compost. What I’ve longed for, though, is the shared wisdom, commiseration, fun, and all-out neighborliness that comes from sharing such a garden space. The summer of the drought and triple degree temperatures a few years ago, when our garden became a study in suspended animation, all our plants simply shutting down? How nice would it have been to have a group of friendly faces to commiserate with, to work side by side in the sweltering heat to keep those plants hanging on?

20120727. RAIN CLOUDS.

That year the rainclouds formed, but no rain came.

I want to be a part of creating something bigger than me, something that not only feeds our bellies but also nourishes our minds, our need for social connection and community, our ability to care for ourselves and the motivation and drive to look out for one another. There is nothing more basic, more human than cultivating our own food.

20130504. Garden hands.

20150301. Inside, everything's green.

I’m also so looking forward to the “community” part of community garden. When I was a kid, we buzzed all around the neighborhood, a pack of wild dogs on Big Wheels and bicycles, until the streetlights came on and it was time to go home. I want my son to have that sense of togetherness, of community, of learning and growing and struggling and succeeding together. Though this process is only just beginning, I’m already reminded of how there are still so many amazing people I have yet to meet in this world.

In other “new leaf” news, my amazing husband starts what will hopefully be an amazing new job on Monday…

20121103. Birdie, three months old.

And my little family recently started our second year around the sun together with Willem’s first birthday. Happy birthday, you wonderful little babe! Like I said, life? Dynamic.

Willem's really into raising his food in exaltation before eating it these days. Praise you, pancake!

Willem turns one!

A Year Ago Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

I don’t think I will ever feel as strongly, strangely nostalgic for “a year ago today” as I do right now. See, in a few days, my first baby turns one. A year ago, he was still part of me. And after his first birthday? Well, a year ago from then, every day moving forward for the rest of his life, he will have been his own little awesome person. You follow me on that one? Good.

Stats have been taken! Now the kid just needs to turn one.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? I mean, there are anniversaries, of course. This past September 7, I certainly reminisced fondly about a year prior, when I got to marry my love, my best friend, and one all-around awesome, standup dude.

But, just as all the Bradley classes and relaxation techniques in the world could not possibly prepare me for how painful labor was, I also couldn’t begin to fathom how completely life would change once Willem joined us. I read up on every possible thing I could before Willem was born: labor, caring for a newborn, baby sleep, cloth diapering, hospital packing lists, stroller reviews, etc. etc. etc. I read until I could read no more… and then I rallied and read some more.

None of those things could ever prepare me for life as it is today. It sounds so cliche, and I can’t even quite describe it. The closest I can come, though, is thinking about where I was a year ago. I remember how excited I was, how ready I felt, how impatient… and I laugh at myself for how completely unprepared I really was. 

So where was I a year ago? A year ago yesterday, 2/15, was my due date. Chris and I celebrated by getting splurge yarn at Mass Ave. Knit Shop and eating delicious Mexican food at La Margarita in Fountain Square.

Splurge yarn:
Hearts.

BELLY:
20140215. Hello, due date!

A year ago today, 2/16, Chris, Birdie, and I tromped through over a foot of snow at Holliday Park, determined to walk this baby out of me.

Birdie and the Sleepies

A year ago tomorrow, 2/17, was my first day of maternity leave. I visited the midwife in the morning, bought some photo frames, and made it home in front of an ice storm. I framed a bunch of our wedding photos, got the diaper changing area ready… and as I walked out of the nursery, my water broke.

I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. Up to that point, it was all theoretical, the whole “having a baby” thing. Once your water breaks, you realize, OH HOLY CRAP, child birth is imminent. Like, it is ON, people. You also quickly realize that you are both the train conductor and passenger on this ride and at a level of intensity you might never experience again. This is actually happening to you – you’re the only one who can actually do this whole child birth thing – and, at the same time, you are totally just along for the ride. Oh holy shitsnacks.

And then a year ago the day after all that? Well, on 2/18, Willem was here.

Baby K has arrived.

Baby K has arrived.

Baby K has arrived.

Baby K has arrived.

And nothing will ever be the same again. What a lovely life.
20150127. Sickie kid.

It’s Never Too Early, Right?

Disclaimer: While in my brain I know it may still be a tad early to start seeds, in my green-growing-things-loving-heart, I just don’t care. 

This year, we have a seed starting Renaissance of sorts going on in the basement.

BEHOLD! We have shop lights! With adjustable chains! And a heat mat! I even have a table to work on (so what if the “table” is two saw horses with a piece of wall paneling for the table top?). As the seedlings grow, I’ll move them up to the upper shelf to make way for more babies in the seed nursery on the lower shelf. 

20150208. Seed starting upgrades! Lights that raise and lower and a heat mat.

20150208. New planting setup (sawhorses and a piece of paneling).

What did it look like before, you ask? (That’s the polite way of saying, “How in the world is THIS an improvement?!”).

Last year: Note the boxes used to bring the seeds up to the lights, which were zip tied to the bottoms of our shelves. Also note that wimpy-ass lights, which required constant rotation of the seedling flats lest we have plants growing sideways. Oh, and let’s not forget the wood paneling used to steady the seed flats.
20140209. The seeds are planted! Our no frills growing setup.

2013: I think it was also this year that I used every cookie sheet in our house to try to provide some way to manage the seedlings as they grew and grew and grew. Yeah. Cookie sheets have no place in your seed starting setup, FYI.
20130209. In hindsight, I may have planted a few too many seeds this spring.

 

What seeds have we started at this point? So far, we have a small army of greens, lettuces, and onions going. I also couldn’t resist the siren call of the pepper and planted a load of those.

We had horrible luck last year with seedlings in general and peppers specifically, so I think from here until planting day, I’m just going to start a new round of seeds each week. That may be a bit of an exaggeration… but only just.

 

 

Best Urban Homestead-y Children’s Books (according to Willem)

I started reading to Willem when he was around two weeks old. He would get his little legs kicking and really seemed to enjoy it, so we just kept on reading.

20140313. Reading time with Willem.

Fast forward to today: in one week, he will be one, and reading is very much a part of our everyday life. We read book after book before naptimes and bedtime. Willem can spend a good 10 minutes simply turning the pages of one of his favorite books or, like today, pulling each book, one by one, out of our “library stash” in the living room.

Christie Reading to Willem

We also have kind of an awesome collection of garden, farm, chicken, and homestead-y type books. I thought I’d share Willem’s top five!

      • Ten Seeds, Ruth Brown: I love, love, love this book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, it’s a wonderful CIRCLE OF LIFE tale, and we count the seeds on each page, so I’m pretty sure it will be solely responsible for Willem being able to count to ten.

    • Chicky Chicky Chook Chook, Cathy MacLennan: This book is just fun. At first, I felt a little awkward reading it, but once you get into the flow, man, it just rolls right off the tongue. Percussive would be the right word for this book. This is in Willem’s limited right-before-bed rotation, and it’s one of his faves.

    • Mama, Is It Summer Yet?, Nikki McClure: Nikki McClure can do no wrong in my mind. I’ve gotten her calendars for the last four years. Her art is just beautiful, and it really speaks to the baby brain (high contrast). This is the first of her books we’ve gotten; I look forward to more.

    • On the Farm, David Elliott and Holly Meade: The inner wanna-be block printing artist in me sings with joy at the artwork in this book, and the melodic, entertaining poetry is just grand. They have a book called In the Sea, too, which is now on Willem’s wish list.

    • Chicken Cheeks, Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes: Hey, it’s written by Michael Ian Black! What’s not to love? We haven’t read this a ton yet, but I’m guessing once Willem reaches that magical age where anything related to butts is hilarious, this will be in constant rotation.

20140208. 39 weeks.

Happy reading, all!

Breastfeeding: The Un(der)told, Rather Mundane Story

Take a moment to peruse the mommy blogs, and you’ll find an abundance of highly sentimentalized accounts of women’s breastfeeding relationships with their children. You’ll read about gut-wrenching, tear-inducing (for the mom) weaning processes; of middle of the night, oh-so-peaceful nursings; of moments spent smiling down on your baby’s shiny locks, just the two of you nestled away from this big, loud world.

There aren’t a lot of accounts, however, that fit my experience with breastfeeding. My experience? Breastfeeding: it’s just what we do. How’s THAT for a t-shirt slogan? Probably not going to win any La Leche League contests with that one. If I’m breastfeeding in public without a cover, it’s not some political statement, nor is it because I’m a perv. It’s just the way my son eats. I would venture a guess there are a lot of women in this same boat.

IMG_0080

But before I hurl myself headlong into this particular topic, I have to first acknowledge how incredibly thankful I am to have been able to breastfeed my son for the last 11+ months. Breastfeeding, I DO love you, I swear. Let me count the ways:

  1. I am (or, rather, my milk is) literally all the nourishment my son needs in his first year on this planet. Let’s ponder on that for just a moment. Seriously, I love being a mammal. We are amazing beasts.
  2. No bottles to scrub, no pumping sessions many times a day, no formula measuring. Just whip out a boob, and voila: breakfast (lunch, dinner, second breakfast, elevensies, supper, etc.) is served. I am incredibly grateful, too, because, while many a lactation consultant would have you believe that the vast majority of women can OF COURSE do the whole exclusive breastfeeding thing, this is really not so true. I would say at least half if not more of my mom friends have supplemented with formula or pumped regularly or pumped exclusively or any combination of the above for all sorts of reasons. And that is not only totally okay, but normal! It annoys me that a woman might feel guilt or “less than” because she’s been told the lie all her life that breastfeeding is easy and foolproof. But I digress…
  3. Antibodies are freaking awesome. And I quote: “When a mother kisses her baby, she ‘samples’ those pathogens that are on the baby’s face. Those are ones that the baby is about to ingest. These samples are taken up by the mother’s secondary lymphoid organs like the tonsils, and memory B cells specific for those pathogens are re-stimulated. These B cells then migrate to the mother’s breasts where they produce just those antibodies that the baby needs,” says Lauren Sompayrac, author of ‘How The Immune System Works.'” HOW COOL IS THAT?!

20140616. Working on the sippy cup action.

Breastfeeding, it’s not you I have a beef with, but rather the (well-meaning but, in my experience, misguided to the point of detriment to the mother) “breast is best” community and the very odd, pervasive message that breastfeeding should be this beautiful, profound experience – and that experience is actually one of the primary motivators for a woman to breastfeed in the first place (or hold off weaning, extend breastfeeding, etc.).

So what has my experience been, you ask? 

  • First two weeks: Sheer awfulness. Absolutely horrid, complete with toe curling pain and, ahem, damaged nipples. That’s right. DAMAGED. NIPPLES. Two words that should never go together. I made it through thanks to my own stubbornness and the promises from many friends that it would get better. There is nothing more demoralizing than sad nipples, particularly combined with exhaustion and insano-peppers post-partum hormones. It was during this time that I was told by various lactation professionals that, “We are just fine tuning here,” “Your latch looks great,” and, “I’ve seen worse.” Super helpful, right? I would have a lot more respect for lactation consultants as a whole if they could admit that BREASTFEEDING DOES HURT for many, many women. The insistence that it SHOULDN’T hurt if you’re doing it right (insert many new mothers’ first introduction to a lifetime of mommy judgment and mommy guilt, thanks a lot) is insane. If you applied 30 minutes of suction every two hours to ANY part of your body – like, say, your elbow – it would probably be pretty raw after a week or two, too.
  • Next three months: I started metering out the pain killers I was prescribed for the pain of giving birth, instead using them so I could have at least a couple of nursing sessions a day that didn’t induce toe curling pain and the urge to cry. I was healing, but it pretty much hurt like crazy for months. MONTHS. And that, my friends, puts a serious damper on any warm, fuzzy emotions you might have about breastfeeding.
  • Three months until about 11 months: This was when breastfeeding really became… just what we did. And it was lovely. We started getting it down, aided in part by the fact that nursing sessions were slowly decreasing. We got on a better schedule, and Willem nursed in the morning, after each nap, before bed, at night a couple of times… and soon he was sleeping through the night (or at least not needing to eat when he needed some help getting back to sleep).
  • And then we hit 11 months (aka last week): Willem and his four top teeth suddenly started marathon, half-hour nursing sessions again. He got his first cold, so I’m guessing his little body recognized that it needed some extra antibodies. Within days I was having flashbacks to those first awful months. We will not go through that again. Oh no, we won’t. Enter in the first thoughts and efforts toward weaning.

Willem has an appreciation for green things, too. Kale, collards, and garlic scapes, coming right up!

So what’s next for us? No clue, but I think we’ll know when one or both of us are ready to go cold turkey. I know I have an almost one-year-old who’s eating solids, drinking milk, and clearly thriving (hello, 25.5-lb. baby!).

Breastfeeding the babe, seven months and counting.

In truth, I shy away from highly emotional representations of breastfeeding, partly because I just don’t relate and partly because they leave me feeling guilty for NOT having this crazy personal breastfeeding relationship with my son. But I’ve decided this is one particular thing that I refuse to feel guilty about on this whole parenting journey.

20140930. Willem's first spaghetti (with winter squash).

I hope coming clean with the fact that breastfeeding is not always some divine experience makes it that much easier for the next person to just FEED HER BABY however she chooses, without guilt or judgment. And some of us will even be honest about the fact that breastfeeding is HARD AS F*CK and sometimes REALLY, REALLY SUCKS and, for a lot of women, is just NOT POSSIBLE. And also that all of that is completely normal.

How Has It Been Almost a Year?

The baby’s-first-year-on-the-planet time warp is REAL, folks. How is it that our son is almost one? Well, really, he’s almost 11 months old, but since I’ve begun planning his first birthday party, it feels like his first trip around the sun is really almost here.

It simultaneously feels like the longest year of my life AND like he just arrived yesterday. Kind of for the same reasons, actually – Willem has changed SO MUCH in the last 11 months (and so have I), and the changes are happening faster and faster every day, it seems. Suddenly, we have a waving, giggling, steady on his feet (at least when standing), sweet little guy with his own PERSONALITY and stuff. Oh, and he can say “mama,” which is about the cutest thing ever.

And to think: a year ago, he was still IN MAH BELLY. Totally crazy.

20140112. 35 weeks.

One year ago today.

Anyway, I’m getting pretty excited for his birthday. The kid has so many toys already, so we are definitely not getting him much in the way of “stuff.” Instead, on the actual big day, Chris will take off work so we can go do something fun as a family – I’m thinking we’ll go to the Children’s Museum. Then we’re having a small party of family and friends to help celebrate.

I am ALL OVER Pinterest these days re: party decor. See Exhibit A:

First birthday crafting.

Willem loves reading, so the big “thing” he’ll get from us is something along the lines of this:

Chris is going to build the tent frame, and I just ordered this fabric for the tent sides. I am probably, definitely a little WAY TOO EXCITED about it. I think we’ll really enjoy reading together, lying in our tent:

I’m also putting together some fun little camping supplies to round out the whole tent gift idea. Like… have you ever knitted a log? Because I am currently knitting a log! (I mean, I don’t have a LOG….)

Any other ideas to add to the tent/camping gift? I need to go thrifting and see if I can find some fun metal cooking camp pots, maybe a metal mug. A fake/wooden Coleman lamp? Or, heck, a REAL (but baby-friendly) lamp of some sort?

New Year’s Intentions, Part 2: What to NEVER, EVER Buy Conventionally (or What to Grow in Your Garden)

I was so excited about all the fancy words in my last post that I neglected the real meat/reason I wrote that post in the first place: to document which foods are best to buy organic and which are passable when conventionally grown.

During the summer, we hardly buy vegetables at all. We have so much growing in our yard that it’s difficult to eat it all at times. During the winter, though, we rely on others to grow our produce. The insane things we allow to be sprayed on our fruits and vegetables in this country totally freak me out, particularly now that we have a tiny, small being who loves fruits and vegetables in the house.

But the thing about buying organic or solely at the farmers market? $$$$. Really. I hate to say it, but $$$$. And also? Selection (at least at the standard chain grocery stores). And getting downtown to the weekly winter farmers market with a baby is just not always practical.

Dirty Dozen: The Environmental Working Group has a list of foods you should absolutely, never, OMG-you’ll-turn-green-and-die buy if conventionally grown. Strawberries are a really great one to grow at home instead (as well as spinach, snap peas, hot peppers, bell peppers, celery… shoot, just grow ‘em all)!

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes
  • Hot peppers
  • Blueberries (domestic)

Clean Fifteen: Look how many of Willem’s favorite foods are on this list! SCORE!

  • Avocados (BABY FAVE)
  • Sweet corn (BABY FAVE)
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen) (BABY FAVE)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Cauliflower (BABY FAVE)
  • Sweet potatoes (BABY FAVE)

Resolutions: Confessions of the Garden and Eating Variety

So this is kind of embarrassing to admit, considering I love my garden and all growing green things so much AND considering I work for an urban micro-farming/health and wellness/general “get awesome with your bad self” non-profit… but wow, have we ever fallen off the healthy eating wagon as of late.

My biggest intention for 2015? Get back into whole, healthy, organic eating. Period. As much as possible.

20141231. Good intentions for 2015.

It started when Willem was born. I had no energy to make much in the way of healthy food, and I was starving ALL THE TIME, breastfeeding Willem, so getting calories of any kind was more important than trying to piece together healthy meals. 

Add to that the fact that the garden itself was rather sad last summer (I was a little too preoccupied with general functioning and raising a wee babe), and so even during prime eating season, we weren’t eating super great. Then… in saunters winter. And everything falls to shit.

Willem eats wonderfully. He is very much interested in food, and at 10.5 months, he still has never had a jar of store-bought baby food. The problem? Willem eats better than us. By a lot.

Which brings us to my goal of getting more healthy, whole, organic foods back into our lives. We’ll be looking into a meat CSA again for the early winter/spring and going organic (and hopefully local) for our vegetables. It’ll get easier once our SUPER-AWESOME GARDEN OF 2015 starts producing this spring, but the next few months will be a good testing ground.

20140104. Garden planning, v.2015.

Also? I just got this amazing book from my in-laws for Christmas. So excited to curl up with this, a wee glass of whiskey, and watch the snow fly outside.
Day 71. Wonderful Christmas gift from my in-laws and SNOW and football. Ahhh, Sunday. #100happydays