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A burgeoning dandelion wine farm you ask? Oh no. That is our backyard. And every year I look onto this grassy wasteland of rocks and weeds hoping for inspiration. Every year I seek inspiration from the usual places; Martha, Country Living, Gardener’s Supply, etc. This year, we get serious. Stay Tuned: From Wasteland to Secret Garden in 2012.

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So it was just two days ago that I was complaining about how busy I have been for the last three weeks and how much I wished I could return to the petticoat and Pantaloon days of yesteryear, blah, blah, blah, blah.   I am suspecting some cheese in the mail any day now to accompany my seemingly never ending supply of whine.    Yet here I am today, quite possibly never happier to be here in the 21st Century.  Well, except for maybe the day I gave birth to my daughter and got an epidural, but that’s a tale for a different day.      Nonetheless, this weekend I have fully discovered, explored and become slightly addicted to Pinterest.

If you have not discovered this amazingly decadent, extraordinarily useful, and completely addicting website/tool than now is the time.    DIY Projects, Books to read, Delicious recipes all right at your fingertips.    It’s pretty simple.  You find something you like you “pin it”.   The pin gives credit to the original site and when you click on the pin it takes you straight there, opening up a whole new world of interesting and amazing blogs, websites and businesses that I might have never known existed from just visiting Google.   You can follow people and visit all of their pins and even re-pin to your board.     You need to decorate on a budget?  Pinterest it.   You are looking for a good book to read?  Pinterest it.   You have finally decided this will REALLLY be the year you make all homemade gifts?  Pinterest it.    The site is still new, but once you start I promise, you will not be able to start.    Creating a visual journal is something I have been working on to help me have a hard copy of inspiration to look back on in my dullest of moments.  Pinterest, gives me a digital version of that to keep track of all the most interesting and fun things I find when perusing the world wide web.   So in essence, I will once again be complaining about lack of time, because having found this amazing new and fun site, I realize I need at least a year off to do nothing but craft, cook, landscape, garden, raise animals and read.    Well, a girl can dream an count pins to sleep!!  Happy Pinning.

English: Red Pinterest logo

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Today I made homemade Gluten Free bread in a bread machine. This is BIG news because there was a point in my Localvore/ homesteading career when I really believed that baking bread in a machine was cheating. I am not sure what contest I was in or who I thought was judging me, but I believed it nonetheless. Then I got the Gfree diagnosis. As it turns out Gfree bread dough is not the same. It’s sticky. It’s slimy and cannot be needed well by hand or dough hook. So when my hubs surprised me this Christmas with a breadmaker that has a Gluten Free setting I was excited but skeptical. I put the ingredients in looking over my shoulder for the French bread-bakers of Christmas past who might be rattling their whisks and rolling pins in anger. Surprisingly they did not show up, so I went on to hit the start button, do some laundry, talk to a friend, take a shower and pretty up for dinner at a friends’ house. Moments before we walked out the door the bread was done and on the cooling rack. Tomorrow, we will have fresh bread and clean laundry for breakfast which in the old ridiculous order would be impossible. The moral of this post? No-one is going to give you a medal for doing it by hand, so if you want fresh, delicious homemade bread, the bread-maker is the way to go, especially if you are gluten free!!

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I am what you might call “pleasantly plump” .    This is something that I have coped with for the better part of my life.

My Before Picture

At some point you learn that your happiness is not linked to weight, you need to love yourself before you can lose weight, and yaddayaddayadda, you know the rest.    I have been successful at weight loss before by making exercise a priority, by counting points through Weight Watchers, drinking a lake’s worth of water, finding my inner chi with green tea and by eating a lot of 100 calorie snacks and frozen healthy choice dinners.   Back then I was single, worked a swing shift (which meant time for exercise in the morning without beating the sun to the punch line), and had no clue about the whole food and/or local food movement.   So, here I am 6 years, one husband, one child, one normal 9-5 job later, wanting nothing to do with ingredients I cannot pronounce or food that looks and tastes like cardboard.  I get the concept that local and organic do not always mean healthy.  An egg is an egg.   Butter is still full of fat.  Alas, the organic cow does not produce fat free milk.  However, if any of you fellow homesteaders and or farmers out there have found out how to raise a fat free cow, I will take it.    The moral of my story is that I often run into a great internal conflict between my weight loss goals and my localvore eating goals.  I know what you are about to say:  There are lots of healthy eating options in the local/organic world.   Yes, I make my own vegetable soup.   Yes, I eat apples and bananas (I know not local but they are one of my guilty pleasures).   Sometimes, though, gosh darn it, I want bacon.   I want a chocolate brownie that doesn’t have a horrible hair-raising aftertaste .   Have I also mentioned that I am gluten intolerant and thus lead a gluten free  lifestyle?   Yes, it is true, and I can tell you that low fat, gluten free and tasty do not often intersect.   So I find myself at this crossroads and asking what would my ancestors do?  Well, weight was not an issue.  Why you ask?  If they didn’t make it they didn’t eat it.  There was no supply of chips or cookies in the pantry.  Ice cream and butter had to be churned by hand.    Also, their daily routine mirrored the $100 dollar boot camp classes we pay for today.  There was not a lot of spare time for feeding your face with brownies while you were making clothes for your family to wear.  So my new focus for weight loss success will be a combination of my homesteading love and Weight Watcher’s point counting.    I will have a feed to my Weight Watcher’s log on this blog, which I will begin using as my daily confessional.  Some will be short and sweet and some long and tedious.  In the meantime here  is my Top Ten List of a  Modern Day Homesteaders Tips for Weight Loss:

10.  If it doesn’t require preparation or come directly from nature, you cannot put it in your mouth.  Convenience for  this farmgirl  means little to no self-control.

9. Become a GFree artisan.  There must be whole grain, low fat Gfree recipes out there.  Find them.  Make them.  Enjoy Them. Lose Weight.

8.  The obsession with being “crafty” and making everything yourself can be your escape.  One cannot cram a brownie sundae into your mouth while trying to craft handmade gifts and decorations for the holiday season.

7.  People managed to get around for thousands of years before the invention of the wheel.  You have two feet.  Use them.

6.  Enjoy the good stuff: in moderation.   There are plenty of options that will meet your organic/local needs without overdoing it.  A touch of maple syrup or honey goes a long way.   Dark Chocolate is God’s gift to the lifelong dieter. The Laughing Cow cheeses seem to have easily pronounced and limited ingredients.   If you have the points left over, Ice Cream and Wine should always be enjoyed.

5.  If you have your own chickens, you have a lot of eggs.   Egg whites can be your hero.    Egg yolks can be frozen and used later in a “good stuff” recipe from number 6.

4.  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.  Make it worthwhile.  Visit number 6.

3.  Keep track.   In this age of excess if you don’t, you will overeat.   So, if you bite it, you write it.

2.  Portion control.  This may have been innate for our ancestors, but not so much for us.  Measure and weigh.

1.  If you are hungry eat.  When you are full stop.  The women of old did not have the luxery of eating in front of a TV or with the Iphone on their hip.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you.  It is your only real link to a simpler time.  As it turns out we have not physically evolved all the much.  Munching on Frito’s and playing words with friends does not a mindful food experience make.

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A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

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As I prepare my last batch of hot pepper jam for this season and plot out the holiday baking madness for the upcoming season I am also preparing to put our garden down for an extended rest.   That’s right, for Garden Season 2012 we will not be planting anything in our garden plot.   Does that mean this Farmgirl has given up only 3 years and 6 chickens in?  On the contrary,  this Farmgirl has been inspired by a great book that I picked up at my local Tractor Supply  The Backyard Homestead:

This book is a must have desk reference for anyone who wants to start a backyard homestead or begin to dabble in producing  their own food from scratch.    Upon purchasing this book I had some AHA moments about  being a bonified urban homesteader.    I have not mastered anything mind you (as clearly illustrated by this year’s less than bumper crop of carrots and beets),  but I do feel that I have a good handle on growing vegetables in a garden.    So 2012 our goal is to make our yard a well-rounded food bearing garden retreat.   We would like to add apple trees and perhaps some pear trees.  We would like to clear out the random and useless rock garden next to our pool and create a blueberry patch.   We would like to plot out a location for  raised strawberry and raspberry beds.   Perhaps a deck and real live fireplace and/or bread oven.   Perhaps a door yard full of berries and nuts.  Boxed herbs and of course a handful of containers loaded with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.  Oh and maybe, just maybe we might actually get that compost system set up that we have been threatening to put into operation for 3 years now.

So,  you ask what will these homesteaders do for fresh and local produce next year?   Well, we will start by getting a full share in our CSA, Maplewood  Organics.   My final calculation after this last pick up of what we received for this season was nearly $350 of organic potatoes, peppers, onions (which, I might add, organic onions were going for $2 a lb. today at the grocery store) brussel sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, fresh-cut flours, swiss chard, kale, radishes, lettuce, green beans and more.  Given that, I am super excited to see what a full share will garner us.  Of course there is always our local farmers markets and farm stands where buying in bulk is encouraged.  Having  just filled my belly with Gluten Free Lasagna made with delicious homemade tomato sauce, we will make sure to do whatever it takes to get our hands on fresh tomatoes.  So. long story not so short, we will do what our ancestors have always done and give our garden plot a rest after what can only be described as a “challenging” season for growers across the nation.    We will fill it with winter rye,  and host a potato sack race over the top of it for leap year in July!!!  We will build the backyard homestead/haven of our dream and in 2013 recreate the veggie magic of old.   And by then, ideally, I will be picking my first apples from our own tree, making my own soap, jewelry and clothes (try to contain your envy) and munching on homemade yogurt and string cheese.   At the end of the day, homesteading is an attitude and a lifestyle.  Gardening is a huge part of that, but anyone can grow a vegetable, a true homesteader grows and decorates an entire buffet.

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It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights. Due to an impromptu business trip I was left to care for the house, our child, the dog, the cat, and of course the chickens or “girlies” as we refer to them by myself.  Have I mentioned that I also have a full-time job? Yeah, it was a little overwhelming but on the whole we managed just fine save one little incident. My first evening of caring for the girlies I went to collect the eggs hours before dark set in. For those of you not in the know, chickens generally go to roost once dusk descends.  Ideally, you want to collect these eggs before evening as reaching into the coop while the chickens  are roosting can be, well, awkward to say the least! Nevertheless, I was reaching in to get the eggs well before dusk and discovered that I could not reach them through the hanging food container, so in my infinite wisdom I took the food container down from its hook and continued my quest for the eggs. I retrieved them, celebrated, and then attempted to rehang the food dish. This is where things took a turn toward the Hitchcockian. I struggled for what felt like an eternity to find the hook with little success when I looked up and was faced with this in quadruple:

Curious and Scary

It would seem that the ruckus I was making caused the girlies to come take a peek at the person not Nate breaking into their home.  Suddenly, the space got very small as these 4 girlies invited themselves into my personal bubble.   The closer they got the more panicked I became.  In a moment of sheer frustration in the elusive hook, I dropped the food causing a chain reaction of screaming, feathers and birdies flying.   Once I uncovered my head, I realized that I was not only covered head to toe in straw, but also that all 6 girls had returned to the scene of the crime to figure out what had occurred.   I found myself slamming the door shut to avoid having any escapes and breaking out in insane laughter as I pulled straw from my hair.  With the help of a friend some hours later,  I was able to hang the food and had a week without further incident.    I imagine any neighbors who got a glimpse of me got a good chuckle.  So the moral of the story, don’t make any sudden movements when 4 chickens are in your bubble and wear sweats in case you too find yourself covered in chicken dust and hay.   On a more serious note in regards to chicken care and egg collecting, I learned today that washing the eggs when they come in from the coop is not the no-brainer  I once thought.   As it turns out, the eggs are coated in something called bloom when they are layed.   This protects them from a lot of bacteria including salmonella from crossing the shell into the egg.  If you wash them off, especially with cold water you not only wash off the bloom, but you also create a vacuum in which bacteria gets sucked into the egg more readily.   While the little germaphobic gnome that lives in my soul will not let me put dirty eggs in the fridge, I am more careful to always use a steady stream of warm water and dry the eggs completely before placing in the fridge.  Of course as always, I would recommend you cook your eggs all the way through to ensure safety, but at the end of the day, chickens in healthy living conditions with less stress are less likely to transmit bacteria to their eggs, but cleaning them appropriately is still key.  Visit Backyard Chicken Forum for more info and happy, less hair-raising chicken raising.

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