Kindergardens Week 9

This weeks Kindergarden assignment is to show our gardens from our children's perspective. This was a ton of fun for my girls because they LOVE to steal my camera and take pictures of themselves!  If they weren't so stinkin' cute they may get in trouble for it! If someone stole my laptop they seriously would wonder why I have pictures of blurry little girls body parts......

Is it just me or does it seem like nothing is growing like it should?  My peppers and eggplants look way too small.  The corn looks on the smallish size too.  And really my beets and carrots just are not growing at all.  I was thinking next spring I will make seed tapes for the beets, carrots and radishes so I won't have to worry about overcrowding! 

The tomato and squash plants, on the other hand, have taken off like crazy!!  I tied the tomato plants to stakes last week and they were about half the size of the stakes.  This week they are almost as tall as the stakes!  I love tomatoes and I cannot wait to pick the first big juicy red globe of goodness!

We also found a little surprise!  I am not sure what it is but we have been filling in this spot in the yard with some leaves, dirt and various other types of fill all spring and the Hubs seems to think we threw our pumpkins off the deck into this spot last year.  I dunno know but I guess we will find out sometime in the fall!  It would be nice to not have to buy all those pumpkins this year!! 

Our roadside lillies finally bloomed.....I love these bright orange flowers!  I transplated this one this spring after it had sprouted leaves and it bloomed.

The girls loved taking pictures of the strawberries.  We still have a few ripening in the beds.

Our lettuce is looking good.....

We had a lot of fun doing this, I think I was more excited than the girls were!  Every week when we walk out there it amazes me how much things have grown and how much closer we are to having fresh, untouched, organic food!  I cannot wait to have the first ear of corn or ripe tomato!  I can practically taste it now!

Hope everyone else had a great week of gardening!  I know we did!  Have a safe and happy 4th!


What a busy week!

Sorry for not posting anything for a few days, we have been busy here!!

We have been busy with the chickens who like to eat the bugs in the field on the other side of the road.  Anyone else see the irony in this?!  And yes we too have been making lots of "Why did the chickens cross the road" jokes this week!  Agnes is still a ham and is the leader of the pack.

We also have been busy cleaning the house, which has been neglected , badly, for the past two months.  No we aren't leaving food on tables or garbage all over.  I just haven't dusted, scrubbed floors, wash down the bathrooms, clean my bedroom and the girls room.  We have kept it pretty tidy, if you showed up at my house today it's clean just not my kind of clean.  But hey we have been working outside trying to make food and chickens grow for two months!  Sometimes cleaning just becomes secondary!

We are also busy getting ready to take the girls on a hike this week.  The Hubs and Little Bird love to hike and he has always wanted to take us hiking, real hiking, not rail trail or walkway hiking, but real in the woods on a path hiking.  Little Bug is not a hiker, not at all!  Walking is not her thing, thank goodness for backpacks!!  We decided that if all goes well this Friday morning we will make this a weekly thing!  I can't wait to share the pictures! 

We are also busy with Little Birds 5th birthday next week!  I cannot believe she is 5......I have been asking myself where the time has gone!  People keep telling me to wait until she is 18 or graduates high school.  I still have 6 years before I worry about that!  My little Peanut is 11......And not so little anymore!  She will be graduating in 6 years, when the time comes I will probably lock myself in my bedroom and cry for days.....   

So this week was busy, busy with life, some fun things and some not so fun things!  I love our little life and I wouldn't change it for a single thing!! 


Kindergarden Week 8

Our family has had one of those weeks. The hubs and Little Bird hit a deer driving home on Father's Day, the girls were sick most of the week so we had to switch up taking days off from work, the chicken coop leaked water in the one side and I lost Photoshop along with some of my pictures. It is weeks like this that you seem to miss all the little things that matter in life so I need to take a deep breath, step back for a moment and relax.  The hubs and Little Bird are safe, the car can be fixed, the girls only had a minor illness, we are working on the chicken coop and I am reloading Photoshop right now.  Just breathe........

This week with the girls being sick and the humidity and the rain we didn't get outside that much.  We harvested some more radishes and strawberries. We actually had the radishes in our salad last night!

The chicken coop leaked on the one side and Agnes is such a ham, she came running over as soon as she saw the camera........

We found a ladybug hanging around.  I love ladybugs, not only are they cute bugs, they are beneficial insects.  

This week the girls learned how to tell it was the end of the day by looking at certain flowers.  Spiderwort and primroses are great time tellers!  It is about 5:30 pm when the spiderwort closes up, 6:30 when the primrose closes and 8:30 when the chickens come home!!

The last picture had nothing to do with Kindergardens, it is the Shawangunk Mountain range and it acts as a reminder to me to stop and enjoy all of the beauty that surrounds us. God has given us so many blessings! Have a great week everyone!  


Couscous with veggies and shrimp

Little Bird and I are home for a sick day, the hubs had to go pick her up yesterday from daycare so it was my turn to stay home today.  She is feeling much better than yesterday but daycare has a 24 hour rule.  I wish I could do this everyday!  I enjoy being at home with them!  I can also catch up on some stuff I have been meaning to do here at home!  Anyway on to the point of the post!!!!!!!

Last night I came home and realized that no one had taken anything out for dinner, by no one I mean me and it's the story of our lives here.....So in my rush to think of something quick, I remembered a recipe I had seen a few weeks ago for a quinoa salad.  We love quinoa here, I have a whole container of the stuff but the more I thought about it I really didn't want to have quinoa for dinner.  I don't have any spinach or some of the other things I needed to make the salad. So scratch that idea.  Then I remembered I had Israeli couscous.  Big delicious pearls of couscous goodness!  I then quickly tried to come up with what would taste good with the couscous, hmmmmm.  I searched the fridge to see what was there, oh yeah, onions, peppers, garlic, carrots and tomatoes. It's my base for spaghetti sauce, and it tastes great together! I have shrimp in the freezer, they take 2 seconds to defrost under some cold water!!  A little cumin, salt, pepper and a little bit of chipolte chili peppers seasoning.  It needed some liquid......Water?  No, there is no taste.  Chicken stock? Nah not feeling it tonight.  Beer? I wonder what it would taste like.  It is a summer ale.  Eh I guess we will find out!  Glug, glug, glug!  Oh and you can cook the couscous right in the liquid so it is a one pot wonder!  So easy and so simple!  Filling and full of veggies! By the way, I never measure (except when I bake) I either eyeball it or add and taste. I included the recipe below, sorry there are no real measurements, feel free to use whatever you want!

We always say we will try something once and if we don't like it we won't make it again.  I got the nonverbal approval from the hubs as he went back for thirds!  He is also not picky like my children who barely touched their dinner.

Tonight I am better prepared, it's crock pot pulled pork with barbecue sauce, coleslaw and corn.  I smell it now wafting through the house!

What creative meals have you come up with when you forget to take something out for dinner?

Israeli couscous with Shrimp and veggies

1/2 of a large red onion, diced
1 medium julienne bell pepper
1 carrot
1 large tomato diced
1 bottle of beer (I used the brand that is the same name as the guy who signed the Declaration of Independence)
2 1/2 cups of Israeli Couscous
2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Spices to taste, salt, pepper, chipolte chili powder, cumin

Saute onions, peppers, carrots and tomatoes until soft. Season to taste. I used a veggie peeler to cut up the carrots it was faster that dicing them all up!  Add the liquid cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the couscous and cook until tender.  Add the shrimp at the end, cook until done.  Taste, add more seasoning if needed.



I promised you a little more information on Kindergardens.........If you want to join please head over to The Inadvertent Farmer!

I love Kindergardens, I really just love the premise get your kids involved with gardening and giving back to the community! A garden is such a  simple and fun thing to do with your children.  It really teaches them valuable life lessons on where their food comes from! We have also been given a challenge to give back to our community.  Our extras will go to the Queens Galley here in the Hudson Valley. 1 in 6 Americans struggle with not having enough to eat, that, in my opinion, is 1 too many.  No one, child, adult or senior citizen, should ever have to wonder where their next meal is coming from.  To me it's such a shame that a first world country even has this statistic.

My kids use to think tomatoes only came from the supermarket!  But ours are starting to flower!

We harvested one radish, it was small but tasty, Hopefully we will have some more in the coming days!

Little Bug pick one of the strawberries it was not quite ripe yet but she insisted and gobbled it right up!  Our strawberries are new in our garden this year so they did not produce as much as I thought they would so we had to go to the farm to get a good supply for preserves. I am very glad we have all of these farms around us!  Oh well maybe our strawberries will give us something next year!

Our not quite ripe yet strawberry.  Little Bug ate it anyway......

Mud puddles at the farm!


Glad we picked enough to make preserves!

I need to figure out how to keep the area cats out of my raised beds, I keep finding little "presents", the hubs solution is electric fence.  Maybe I will get some netting to put over the beds.

The chickens will hopefully start giving us eggs in either July or August.  We really do enjoy the gals and Little Bird really watches over them, she is a great chicken farmer!  For now they run wild all around the yard and get into almost everything!  I am glad they do not get into the raised beds, yet......

The hubs holding Lovely Rita......


Edith and Agnes......

All in all it was a great week for us here!  Lots of stuff is growing away and hopefully by the end of the summer we will have a bounty of goodies to eat and share with our community!


Oh so happy for Friday!

Enough grumpy, grouchy rants!!  On to the good stuff!!! Just a quick update, well an update none the less because this week was full of good and fun stuff!

We are refinishing our basement so it looks less like a basement and more like a oasis for our family.  Things are moving right along after the brief (by brief I mean long) break we took in early spring/late spring/early summer so we could get some of our yardwork and gardening done.  But now the babies birthdays are coming up next month there is a renewed feeling of getting our butts in gear!  Thankfully we have enlisted some help and really I am grateful to have the help right now!! We are really blessed with a wonderful circle of friends! I am hoping to start painting next week, fingers crossed.

Little Bird graduated from pre-school and Little Bug graduated from daycare up to pre-school.  In case you don't know my two little ones were born 1 year and 16 days apart.  It's kind of like twins except twins are a little easier, in my opinion, because they go through things kind of at the same time, Irish twins do not!  Just as one is getting out of one phase the other one is getting into that phase!  I have my hands very full and am very blessed to have three beautiful, healthy and happy girls!  They had a little ceremony at daycare, no parents, but the teacher took lots of pictures!  The girls had a fun day!  I cannot believe in a little over 2 months Little Bird starts kindergarten.  And my littlest baby is growing up too!  Feels like we brought them home just yesterday!  It's funny how these things sneak up on you!  

I am very, very excited to tell you I have joined the cutest little contest called Kindergardens. Check out Kim's wonderful and informative blog over at The Inadvertent Farmer!  I will have more details about Kindergardens over the weekend!! 

Ahh spring/summer time can only mean one thing........Frank the flower guy!  They are really great to us over at Paradise Perennials.  I found him on Craigslist last year and I will tell you what I will NEVER go to to those home improvement stores again!  Frank is our flower guy from now on!  Oh and you should check out is wife Scarlett's website she make some of the most beautiful rescued glassware for your blooms!  If you happen to live in the Hudson Valley, they are right in Tillson. Seriously two of the nicest, most sincere people I have ever met!  Thanks again Frank and Scarlett for the garlic chives, spiderwort, daylillies, and bee balm!!  I always support local businesses, they are the crux of our economy!

Last night the hubs, the girls and I enjoyed our first campfire of the year!  Mmmmmm toasted marshmallows are good.  I gave in to my rules of organics last night because 1. I know how to make marshmallows 2. they are such a pain to make!  3. a campfire is nothing without marshmallows.  It was nice to sit and sing campfire songs, toast marshmallows and just be together! 

We also went back to the dairy farm yesterday for more milk. The baby calf has not been born yet but the guy there says it could be any day now!  The girls and I can't wait to go back and see the newest edition to the farm!

Alright well that is it for now, stay tuned this weekend for more about Kindergardens!


Oh you eat organic? Must be nice....

Yes actually it is nice........I would even go as far to say it is delightful!  So there stick that in your big, fat, GM, frankenfood, frog leg corn chip and smoke it. I know low blow but I have good reason!  

I was called a demented leftist crunchy nut the other day, I don't agree with it because my political beliefs have little to do with my food convictions.  Yes, I have to fight for my right to eat the foods I want, the way I want but they do not drive my decisions for going organic.  I have my reasons for eating organic.  They are mine, not yours. I don't shame you as you buy your chemical filled fruits, chicken, pork and beef, don't shame me because I choose not to.  Don't tell me that knowing my food is wrong and I am demented for wanting to see my food alive and thriving before killing it.  I don't look at it that way. And I certainly don't beat you up because you don't care where your food comes from or how it was treated.....

There are a lot of different reasons to eat organically and everyone has their own reason.  In a nutshell, it is my personal belief that eating organically and sustainability are key to leading a healthy lifestyle.  I feel better when I eat this way and so does my family.  The rules in our house are to eat local if we can but always organic.  If we cannot find it organic we just don't eat it.  We eat lots of fruits and veggies, drink raw milk, eat organic local honey, and make a lot of our own food.  I make bread and crackers at least once a week.  I am working on a whole wheat organic chocolate chip cookie recipe that uses honey instead of white sugar.  I'll let you know how that goes in a later post!

A healthy lifestyle also means healthy for the planet too!  So what would happen if food would not grow anymore?  What if water was undrinkable?  What if we could not cure simple infections? These are very real questions in my mind and a thing I believe can happen if we are not careful about the types of chemicals we put in the ground or our body, whether directly or indirectly.  Keeping the earth healthy is the key to our very survival, yet most people don't care that we waste more or use more chemicals than we did even 100 years ago.  Our planet is in a very sad state of affairs people!  Time to wake up and smell the roses cause one day it will be too late!

Ok here's my take on chemicals in our food, call me crunchy if you want........Just because you can't see the chemicals on your food does not mean it is not effecting you.  If you could see bacteria on your food and you knew it was harmful, even deadly, would you eat it?  Probably not. If someone poured bleach, glue or that pine scented cleaner on your food before serving it to you would you eat it?  Again probably not.  Well guess what if you are eating the non organic meat from the supermarket you are eating at least the bleach, the glue and the e. coli.  They still keep the pine scented stuff in aisle 7 for now.  And even then I do not trust the supermarkets organic selection because I cannot go to the farm and see the food. And now we are finding out that Big Ag has it's big ol' dirty hands (read: adgenda) in organic and some things are not as organic as the label says.  Everything we put into our body has a reaction, good or bad.  In my opinion we just do not know enough about the chemicals we put in our foods to say with certainty they are safe for human or animal consumption.

So I say stop picking on people who eat organically, let us eat the way we see fit.  I won't let anyone tell me what is good for me or my family.  And I won't tell anyone, who is not willing to listen, what is good for theirs!

Do you eat organically or local or both? Or not? What are your reasons for doing so? 


Oh rain, rain, go away, well maybe today was a good day for rain

I had plans today.  Plans to get out and make trellises for my beans and stake up my tomatoes. But my plans were foiled. I thought about dodging rain drops and just doing it but it was cold and crappy out.  I know excuses, excuses......

I did however make homemade liquid laundry soap.  I got the recipe off of , I used recipe number 1.  It is so much cheaper than buying Tide and I know exactly what is in it, water, lavender castile soap, washing soda and borax. It seriously took me 20 minutes and a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and I was done!  I just used it for the first time on some towels I washed, they appear and smell clean. There is no actual scent but they don't smell like dirty towels! And be warned this soap does not suds up like commercial laundry soap but so far it looks like it does the job!  Also you could add regular white vinegar in lieu of fabric softener and it will be the cheapest load of laundry you have done in a while!  The cost?  Just about $8 for about 2 1/2 gallons of soap.  So that is 320 fl. oz. divided by $8, that's $.40 an ounce.  320 ounces is 40 cups and you use 1/4 cup of detergent per load that's 160 loads of laundry!  You use 2 ounces per load so it cost me $.80 for just the detergent to do laundry!  Sorry you cannot find a deal like that anywhere!! So far, so good and I will keep you updated!

Tomorrow maybe the weather will get better and I will be able to get out and get my gardening done!


Chickens, they may be what's for dinner!

The hubs and I were chatting the other night.  The subject of the chickens came up. Now when we purchased our gals we had every intention of allowing them to lay until they started tapering off then they would become dinner.  This is why we bought Golden Comets, they are good layers and meat birds.   I raised them from day old so I am attached but a chicken is a chicken. Don't get me wrong I love my gals but this is where our food comes from. 

My thought is I don't have a personal relationship with my tomato, zucchini or bean plants so why should I have one with my chickens?  After all this is the reason we got chickens was for eggs and meat, right?  So then my hubs associated killing the chickens with killing the dog.  No way, I won't eat my dog, besides it being illegal in the US, he is a Groenendael (read: hairy) I wouldn't want to shave him....

So now I have this dilemma, am I a heartless coldblooded killer?  What is the difference between the chickens we raise here at home compared to one being raised on a farm?  Is this an issue because we disassociate ourselves with the food we eat? Because the food at the supermarket or farm is already dead it couldn't have been someone's pet? I really don't know. 

I don't expect my hubs to do the deed.  I am either going to learn how to do it myself or try to find someone who will process them for me.  We still have quite a while before we have to worry about this.  Hmmmmm, maybe I am a coldblooded chicken killer?


Little moments that become big memories........

Anne Park said "Sometimes the best moments happen on the unplanned, and the greatest regrets happen on not reaching what is planned."   No truer words have been spoken.  Since we started slowing down and focus more on us as a whole, I have noticed more and more of these little unexpected moments.  Sometimes they are bursts of giggles as the girls play in the other room.  Or when we water the garden and it turns into an inpromptu water fight.  Don't get me wrong we will continue to have some structure in our evenings but to me these little moments when nothing was planned seem to be the best memories I have. 

The girls and I visited a dairy farm.  I planned on going there to get fresh milk, I didn't expect it to be a moment....I picked the girls up from school.  We had to run out to get milk and we were going to a farm to get it, not the store.  The whole ride there little bird and little bug kept excitedly asking if we were at the milk factory yet. I had to explained over and over that this was not a milk factory it was a dairy farm and milk factories do get their milk from dairy farms, just not this one in particular.  When we pulled up little birds first reaction was "Ewwww this smells bad!"  If you have never had this experience before there is a pungent odor that come from a dairy farm but sweetie this is what a dairy farm smells like. I agree with little bird it doesn't smell pleasant but I have smelled far worse! We met Cyndi who owns the farm along with her husband Frank.  Such a nice family!  We were invited to go and meet/pet the cows.  When the girls saw the little calves their little eyes lit right up! "Those babies are so cute" they said in harmony!  And there were the cows, Holsteins to be exact.  These beautiful ladies were happy to let the girls pet them!  They tickled the girls little tiny hands with their huge tongues.  The girls bursted into laughter!  They watched as the cows happily chewed their cud asking them if they liked their bubble gum!  We said goodbye to the cows and went back into the store room and purchased 2 gallons of fresh milk (in half gallon glass jars, no plastic!) to take home.  The girls chatted almost the whole ride home about the cows and their adventure at the farm.  They asked it we could get a cow. "No, not this year" I retorted, in all reality we will never get a cow, I don't have anywhere to put a cow.  I will be happy going to the little farm in the next town over.  At our house everyday is a learning day and that day little bird and little bug went to the dairy farm but they got so much more than a tour. They got to know and touch their food, they had a personal experience with it. It's nice to know where our food comes from and the family who provides it to us.

When I got home we got busy with dinner, watering the gardens, bedtime, and our nightly book that I forgot all about the events of the day.  In the quiet of the evening as I looked back on the days events I realized this was one of those moments.    Something had unexpectedly become a great memory for us.


A photographic journal of sorts.........

So yesterday I did something I haven't done in a really long time.  I went out and took photos of around my property. I love taking pictures of plants. First plants do not move and these photos always come out much better than my people photos! Second, it gives me a kind of visual journal of everything from year to year.

I was glad that it was nap time for Little Bug (boy did she need the nap yesterday!).  I grabbed my camera and with Little Bird in tow we set out on our little backyard adventure to take great pictures of all the plants and animals around the house.  She gave up on taking photos with me after about 5 minutes of me telling her no she could not touch the camera. Her birthday is coming up next month and she loves taking pictures so this gave me a great idea for a useful birthday present.

First place we went was the garden in front of the house.  The roses are beginning to bloom and their perfume-y  fragrance fills the air.  

I realized that something was eating the leaves on the rose bushes.  So I flipped over a few leaves and finally found a little fat yellow worm munching away happily on one of the leaves.  Note to self, need to find something to keep little yellow worm from happily munching.....I am kind of partial to my roses, they were all Mother's Day gifts from the kids.

I have three rhododendron bushes in front of the house too.  While the bushes are almost done blooming for the year the bees still love, love, love this bush, as do the hummingbirds.  While it is in bloom the bush is buzzing (pun intended) with all these big fat bumble bees tirelessly collecting pollen.  They kept working even though I invaded their space.

Then Little Bird and I decided to go to the raised beds.  We planted three varieties of strawberries in our raised beds this spring, Earliglow, Tribute and Northeastern.  But they won't yield anything sizable this year so I was surprised to find some of the buds swollen with either flowers and fruit.  Yum, I can hardly wait until these sweet little red jewels of deliciousness are ready to pick, even if I only get a few!  

We planted Moon and Stars watermelon this year and it is coming in quite nicely.  They just popped out of the dirt about 2 weeks ago so no fruit yet but hopefully during those dog days of August we will be able to enjoy some crisp, cool, refreshing watermelon.

And finally a few chicken pictures.  This blog would not be complete without chicken pictures.  Normally my little gals hide under the deck and just hang out in that general area.  But some of them have become a little bolder in the past few days and have ventured out into the yard. 

How do you track your gardens progress from year to year?  Do you keep a journal or take photos? 


Okay, I am finally ready to to this......

I have wanted to create a blog for quite some time now.  Just some place I could collect all my thoughts, maybe teach a thing or two and maybe learn something. That being said I wasn't sure what I would write about, would I even have the time, does anyone care about what I have to say?  But after mulling over it for a while now I am finally ready to put all my thoughts, trials and tribulations in one place. My goal is to write something at least once a week, maybe more. So without further ado I present to you for the first time my blog, Raising Sweet Grace.....

A little about me......Well for people who don't know me first and foremost I am a mom. I have three amazing little girls.  They love being outside, helping me cook, tend chickens and garden.  I am a wife to an amazing, wonderful and supportive husband who, yes honey I wrote this down for the world to see, allows me to do lots of really crazy and kooky things without a second thought.  He calls me his crunchy little farmer and kinda just goes with the flow, chuckling (or grumbling) every time I change my mind about something. I have great friends too who are also my family, they are a great support system and I don't know what I would do without them!  Family and friends are the most important elements in my life and they keep me grounded.  I am a gardener. I love being outside and in my gardens, every single day. I love the feeling of the dirt in my hands and watching my plants grow.  My dogs, Chloe and Bear, keep me company outside and my two cats, Hardy and Abbott, well they just do their own thing!  We also have six Golden Comet pullets, whom I lovingly call my chicken bitches, we raised them from day old chicks and I am totally in love with my gals! In the future, we are hoping to add ducks, goats and bees into the mix but we are trying to take it one thing at a time. My life is truly full of blessings!  

So enough about me.....What will this blog be about?  Well it is my musings and ramblings about our adventure to a simpler, greener, more sustainable life. Less than a year ago my loving husband and I decided (well I decided, he had very little choice but nonetheless was in total agreement) that we no longer needed to keep up with the Jones' or anyone else for that matter.  We wanted to start living off of our one acre plot and start a path towards green sustainability.  We feel that it was important for our family to live in a chemical free, organic world (as much as possible) and we wanted to get back to the basics and the one thing that matters most, family.  So with no real plan we have been trying to form the simpler life we craved.  It is still a work in progress and probably will be for a while.  This spring we broke ground for our organic raised beds, a compost bin and a chicken coop. It was a very exciting step for us! 

Just one more thing before I end, I have just one simple rule......I understand that everyone has an opinion and while you are certainly entitled to yours please respect the opinions of myself and others, I will extend the same courtesy to you. In a nutshell don't be mean. I also will not tolerate any name calling, derogatory or racist statements, these statements will just be deleted.  I reserve the right to remove anything that I feel is offensive. This blog is about what is working for us and our family and it may not necessarily work for you.  If you find something didn't work for you feel free to let me know, but be nice!  

I hope you will follow me and watch as our adventure unfolds and our gardens grow!