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

Resolutions, 2014 Edition (or Can We Just Continue on with the Awesome, Please?)

Last year, I had some kick-ass resolutions. How do I define “kick ass”? For starters, I actually kept them (to be fair, one of them was to drink more juice).

A brief recap: my 2013 resolutions…

  • Drink more juice. Check!
  • Apply for an apprenticeship this summer with Growing Places Indy. So much checking!
  • Take a trip with my honey. So we didn’t end up in Oregon, but our vacation did require passports. Check and check!

More importantly, though, it seemed my mental pump was primed this time last year for some big changes in 2013 (of which there were so, so many). It’s easy to list off the events that happened: got engaged, got pregnant, did an urban farming apprenticeship, learned so very much all summer long, expanded our garden, got married, went on an awesome vacation, had a fantastic baby shower, etc. etc.

20130907. Our Wedding!

However, the internal shifts are harder to quantify or even vocalize without starting to feel like a dirty hippie. But they are really, incredibly important to me. A few of the things I learned this year:

  • View the world through a positive lens.
  • Actively kick those negative, ugly, or self-defeating thoughts out.
  • Get excited about the immense number of things you can do, the things you can learn, the people you can meet, the ways you can move forward and just be better at being you; don’t worry about your limitations.
  • Actually, just kick those (mostly perceived) limitations to the curb while you’re at it.
  • Do it. Show up. Open your heart. Don’t be afraid.
  • Approach the world and especially the people in it with abundance and gratitude and thanks and gentleness. We all need more gentleness.
  • Let people know you appreciate them. Show your gratitude any time you can.

20130801. Growing Places Indy Summer Apprentices.

Speaking of showing gratitude, I am so thankful for so many people over this last year. My parents (gratitude times a million, this year and always, really); Chris, who got me through the worst days, supported me unconditionally as I came up with new schemes and dreams, and cheered me on through the best; Laura, Tyler, all of my Growing Places Indy peeps, and my inspiring, thoughtful, hilarious fellow apprentices this summer; Amy at South Circle Farm for so graciously opening up her farm to us on what turned out to be one of my favorite days this year, our wedding; Maggie at Fall Creek Gardens for being generally awesome and letting me help out with the new demonstration garden; our good local friends, fellow knitters, and neighbors; all of my girl friends scattered across the country, who listened during some damn dark days early this year; and my amazing, generous, loving extended family, of which I’ve always been so thankful to be a part and which expanded even more this year.

20130512. The whole clan.

So my resolutions for 2014?

  • Keep working to live all those hard to quantify, sometimes easy to forget life lessons I picked up in 2013. 
  • Approach motherhood and our soon-to-be expanded family with humor, joy, and adventure. Oh, the places we’ll go.
  • Go on a real vacation with my husband and my baby. Maybe this year will be our chance to roam the Oregon coast, expand our micro-brewery horizons among the Portland-hip, and introduce our baby to a starfish or two.
  • Continue to put myself out there and open my heart to people who make it easy to feel gratitude, thanks, and positivity.

Happy NEW YEAR! Here’s to lots of goodness in 2014.

20130928. New onesies for the sprout.

20131231. Chris' favorite Christmas present.

A Year Later: Checking in on That Whole “Life Plan” Thing

I’ve never really been one to have what you might call a “plan” for my life. I cringe at the “where do you want to be in five years” question, so popular among motivational speakers and prospective employers. The only grand vision I have ever had of my life is to have it be a happy and fulfilling one. What does that actually look like? Well, that’s a moving target, always shifting, which I like to think keeps things interesting.

20131020. Our fall garden, half deconstructed.

Our fall garden – beginning to harvest and prune and clean up.

With that in mind, though, I realized recently that I did set a new “life plan” for myself, just a smidge over a year ago. It is amazing to me to see what has come of that one simple proclamation in such a short amount of time.

20131020. Little Red amongst the leaves.

Little Red amongst the leaves in the chicken run.

From September 22, 2012:

However, a new life plan has manifested itself as of late, and I think it’s a damn good one. My new plan is to offer whatever services I can (aka whore myself out) to all the people I think are doing super-fantastic things in this town until one of them either hires me or adopts me… OR I learn enough that I decide I can move forward with my own thing. At the very least, I will meet people who I think are doing awesome things, learn a ton from them, and maybe, just maybe, make something out of it. At the worst? Well, I don’t really think there’s a downside, to be honest.

So yeah – new life plan: surround myself with awesome people, doing awesome things that I want to be doing, too. Seems simple, right? How did it take me so long to get here?

20131020. Birdie, totally tuckered.

Our exceedingly cuddly animals continue being exceedingly sweet.

So where am I today? Things are different and wonderful and surprising and awesome. I’m getting to create and make and grow for myself, my friends, and organizations I believe in and want to be a part of. I have a husband and a dog and a baby on the way. I am really excited for the future and to see where me and my little family are a year from now.

20131020. Prolific peppers.

The year of the prolific pepper.

In short, exciting things are happening, and they all stem back to that simple decision to just reach out and do something. I love it when positive actions receive smashingly positive results. It doesn’t always happen – at least, not to this extent – but man, is it ever cool when it does.

20131020. Fall basil.

Even the basil is ready for fall and new things to come.

 

TREAT YO’SELF!

Last week, I did my first ever multiple day juice/veggies/fruits fast. Day one was a complete juice fast, but the rest of the days I incorporated raw and cooked veggies and fruits. Finally, I threw eggs back into the mix. I don’t think I eat horribly in general, but I wanted to reset how I look at food and move towards a more conscious way of eating. And, frankly, I have wanted to break the hold of processed foods, fried foods, and CHEESE for a while.

Dear baby Jesus in heaven, do I ever love cheese.

But get this – I felt fantastic this past week. It was hard, but not in an “I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD IMPLODE INTO MY CONCAVE, GROWLING, SHRIVELED STOMACH” sort of way. A few things:

  • The greatest difficulty I had was getting over my own head. I found myself getting up from my computer during the work day to make some tea, and the moment I was standing in the kitchen, my head switched over to, “What should I grab to munch on?” I hadn’t realized how strong that pull is.
  • The longer I went, the harder it was to put anything remotely crappy into my body. This, of course, was the desired outcome… so that was pretty sweet.
  • I also started thinking a lot about the whole concept of treating yourself. One of the main reasons I typically treat myself food-wise is because I feel like I’ve “been good,” which, in actuality, means that I feel I’ve been depriving myself or something is missing. But what if you looked at everything you ate as treating yourself? Example: fresh squeezed kale/pineapple/orange juice is DELISH, and it was not a stretch to think of it as a treat and to savor it. I tried to appreciate what I was eating and look at every bite as treating myself – treating myself right, that is.

By extension, then, what if you viewed your whole life as episode after episode of “treating yourself”? What would be possible then? I understand that cleaning the toilet will likely never feel like treating yourself. Your boss may occasionally be a hideous hose beast. Commuting in bumper to bumper traffic will probably never be elevated to “I’m totally treating myself right now” status (although a great album coupled with some inventive car dancing routines could perhaps ALMOST get you there).

20130209. Beaker's first egg.

Simple pleasures: cracking Beaker’s first giant egg to see what’s inside.

But if we make an effort to live our lives with a sense of levity and work to make more and more of what we do every day feel like a treat… what then? Think of how differently we would look at the world and each other. Think of everything we could do.

In honor of all this seeking and reaching, I give you this song: Cloud Cult, “There’s So Much Energy in Us.” I heard the captain say, “We’re so close to it. So very close to it. We still have energy in us.”

So far today, I have treated myself with the following:

  • Made (and ate) a delicious curried egg salad out of hard boiled eggs from my backyard tenants, aka the chickens.

20130209. Beaker and her giant egg.

  • Spent a good portion of my morning in the basement under the bright, clear grow lights, transplanting my beautiful seedlings, thinking about nothing… then friends and work and life and trips and to do lists… then nothing again… Just enjoying being with green things and dreaming of how they will grow.

20130209. Thank goodness for green things.

  • Hung out with my best feathered friends in the sunshine and relative warmth.

20130209. Backyard with the chickens.

  • Went for a long walk in the fresh air with my best furry friend, laughing as she ran through puddles and chased water droplets flinging off her paws, admiring her floppy ears and happy-puppy gait.

Birdie values inter-species relationships. Bean does not.

How did you treat yourself today? And, more importantly, what parts of your days are always a treat?

Resolutions 101, or How 2013 Will Be the Year of Juice

I used to be one of those lofty resolution makers. Every year, I’d wax poetic about how I was going to lose 10 pounds, do 50 situps a day, ride my bike every day, eat nothing but green things for the entire month of January, etc.

Having a new puppy, though, I’m learning a lot about positive training. Basically, you want to set your puppy up to succeed, encourage her profusely when she does… and when she doesn’t do what you want, you ignore it and move on.

It’s like this bolt of stupid came shooting down from the heavens and illuminated my whole lofty resolutions bullcrap I’ve been pulling for the last decade. Shouldn’t we all be setting ourselves up to succeed? Shouldn’t we be using positive training on ourselves, making baby steps towards the things we want and the people we want to be? And why do we feel the need to default to extremes (“You WILL do this, you WON’T do this”), only to feel utterly crappy about it when we (of course) can’t possibly live up to these insane shifts in behavior we’ve tried to demand of ourselves? I say “bolt of stupid,” though, because none of this should have been an epiphany at all.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, getting back to resolutions, in the interest of setting myself up for success, I decided I will only make resolutions I know I can keep. Drum roll please… My resolutions for 2013:

      • Drink more juice. No, really. I got a juicer for Christmas, and carrot/ginger/pear is my jam.
      • Apply for an apprenticeship this summer with Growing Places Indy (and figure out a way to be able to participate in said apprenticeship if accepted).
      • Take a trip with my honey (like, a real vacation, not just down the road for a day or a long weekend), maybe to the Rogue farm out in Oregon.

There are a couple of others, too, but they aren’t really for public consumption. I’ll let you know when I achieve at least one of them, though!

In other news, we had a lovely New Year’s Eve at our neighbors’ house, and today we had our first four-egg day!

20130103. Happy New Year! Our first 4-egg day!

Pink, green, brown, and white! All four girls laid an egg today.

20121231. We're the creeps who bring eggs and bubbly for the NYE party hosts.

What? Doesn’t everyone bring a six-pack of eggs along with a couple of bottles of bubbly for their NYE hosts?

It’s Decorative Gourd Season!

Maybe it’s weird to be making plans for the future in the fall. Everything around us is dying back. Once screaming-intensity desert temperatures are suddenly dropping into the 30s at night. Scarves have  been busted out, as well as handknit wool sweaters smelling of cedar. Hell, we had our first fire last night – and it was delightful.

However, a new life plan has manifested itself as of late, and I think it’s a damn good one. My new plan is to offer whatever services I can (aka whore myself out) to all the people I think are doing super-fantastic things in this town until one of them either hires me or adopts me… OR I learn enough that I decide I can move forward with my own thing. At the very least, I will meet people who I think are doing awesome things, learn a ton from them, and maybe, just maybe, make something out of it. At the worst? Well, I don’t really think there’s a downside, to be honest.

With that in mind, I’ve volunteered my time twice so far over at Big City Farms Indianapolis and had an awesome time. I’m hoping I can continue picking Matthew’s (head farmer/owner) brain about how he’s gone into business for himself and, well, everything there is to know about farming an urban plot. Right… I’m sure that would take me my whole life. In addition to gleaning these nuggets of wisdom, though, I’ve also been enjoying sharing stories about plucking turkeys, what happens to the chickens when young couples break up, missing the caramel apples of old handed out at Halloween, and how jumping into piles of leaves really is what a six-year-old should be most excited about re: fall.

On Thursday, I worked a full eight hours at my job, but I didn’t really feel as though I had accomplished much until I got to the farm and spent a few hours weeding. I think that’s saying a lot.

So yeah – new life plan: surround myself with awesome people, doing awesome things that I want to be doing, too. Seems simple, right? How did it take me so long to get here?

20120920. Big City Farms Indianapolis.

I came out on Thursday to start weeding the “disaster zone” by myself… and I was super excited to be able to take a few shots of the space without feeling like a total creep/dork. And yet, I still feel like a creep posting these shots.

20120920. Big City Farms Indianapolis.

It’s the quintessential urban farm plot: bordered on one side by the highway and an old factory-turned-antiques mart, a view of the skyline in the background, and a very active, noisy train bordering the other side. I kept thinking, “It’s so peaceful,” and then a giant semi would go wailing past on the highway. Ah, nature.

I also discovered today that just past those train tracks is Flat 12 Brewery, which makes fantastic beers (like Sushi Saison, a delicious Belgian IPA, a cherry stout that almost required chewing as you ingested it, and… some others I can’t remember because I sampled a few too many this afternoon).

20120922. A true lady always leaves lipstick stains on her plastic glass.

When we got home, it was time for the chickens to have some outdoor time of their own.

20120922. We hang. Me and my best bitch on a Saturday evening.

My favorite bitch, Beaker, came to chill in the late afternoon sun. She really does get this cozy every time I hang with her.

20120922. Me and Little Red.

Little Red is still quite little. We’re beginning to think she might be a bantam.

20120922. Boo.

Boo in high relief.

20120922. Dino Puppy says HEEEEY.

Dino Puppy, coming in for her closeup.

And this about sums up how I feel about my whole new life plan:
20120920. Happy!P.S. I almost forgot the whole point of this post. Would you like to read my favorite piece of prose related to fall and the changing seasons? Warning: it’s delightfully FILTHY in the language department. “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, M*therf*ckers,” by Colin Nissan.

Resolutions: Choosing to Sweat the Small Stuff

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
– Flora Whittemore

I’ve been thinking a lot about the small stuff, not in a mountains out of mole hills way but in the context of how little things add up to big changes. Think of all the resolutions we make (i.e. I WILL lose 15 pounds this year, I will STOP drinking alcohol on week days, I WILL go to the gym every day). Maybe it’s not the big-ness of the resolution that ultimately makes it impossible but the ultimatum, the absoluteness (I will, I won’t). Or maybe it’s the fact that what we would really love the most is for those resolutions to happen immediately: we put them out into the ether, and *POOF* we are fitter, happier, more productive, etc. (see Radiohead, “Fitter Happier”).

Life doesn’t work that way, though. Truly, life is busy and hectic, and trying to make a huge, sudden change of course is not practical (unless you’ve nearly been eaten by a shark or swam yourself out of an avalanche or had some other near-death experience). You hit the snooze, drag yourself to the gym, shower, make yourself presentable for the world at large, work work work, do the household chores or (in my case) run around town looking for woodworking tools for your dad or whatever other random errand you’ve got planned, and by the time you get home, it’s all you can do to avoid the siren call of the pizza menu pasted to the fridge, make a fresh dinner, and force yourself to just STOP at the end of the day.

So I guess I’ve chosen my resolution for 2012: to sweat the small stuff. It’s the little things or nothing at all. It’s an attempt to slowly shift the norm. Incorporate little thing after little thing into how you actually live, and you wake up one/five/ten years later living a different life.

What’s my first little thing? It’s totally not glamorous. Ready? I am going to… TURN THE SHOWER WATER OFF WHILE NOT ACTIVELY RINSING MY GRUBBY LITTLE SELF. Revolutionary, I know. To reiterate, though: it’s all about the little things.

Besides, I like places like this (Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada):

tilt shift, bow lake, canada.

And this (my brother and nephew at Mt. Adams in Washington):
100904. pointing emphatically at the mountain.

And, yes, this (Chris and me floating on Lake Monroe, Indiana, on a perfect lake day):

lake monroe boat trip. chris and i know how to roll on the lake.In summation, this year it’s all about sweating the small stuff.

Footnote: Also? Chris, in his infinite wisdom of all things Coast Guard-y, has just informed me that turning the water off to lather is referred to as a “sea shower.” Sometimes I like to pretend that the Coast Guard is just a cover story and he was actually a pirate.