Category Archives: musings

Patching Holes

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This winter I’ve spent a handful of evenings on the couch, not knitting, but patching. I go in and out of favor in terms of patching my two boys jeans. Last fall, when school began I ordered them all new jeans. When December rolled around there were holes ripped in almost every single pair. These are rough and tumble boys, these boys of mine. With Christmas in full swing there was no time to be had patching, so I ordered them a whole new round of jeans. They had holes in them within 6 weeks. This time I took to patching. It seems rather silly in a way to spend an hour patching a hole in a $10 pair of pants. It’s so much simpler to buy them, but as I’m sure you well know, there is a worldwide price to pay in buying cheap clothes, so if I have extra time on my hands I enjoy patching them. If not for thrift or political statement then for the beauty of a little handmade on their factory made pants.
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My hand knit socks had taken a beating on the heels. Unfortunately for me, these socks had been sitting in the mending basket all winter and now that the weather has turned warm, I finally found time to patch them. Since I hand knit them, there was no way I was going to toss these into the trash without trying my hand at fixing them. I had never repaired knit socks before, but I just retraced my original knitting stitches with a new strand of sock yarn and I think I found success. I’ll be all set for cozy autumn weather next October.
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Patching things in this day and age seems sort of a luxury as it takes time. And not too many people have that sort of time on their hands. Usually I don’t. And I think a fair amount of people, maybe the majority of people, would rather go out shopping than sitting under a bright light with a needle and thread. I can understand that. And at certain times, I feel that way too. But most of the time I really don’t like either on-line shopping or in person shopping and I would much, much prefer to sit at home on my couch and repair what I already have. It’s a satisfying feeling to use your mind and your hands to fix and mend a broken thing that no amount of shopping could ever recreate.

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10 Years Ago

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10 years ago we were married, on a roasting hot day here in Sonoma. We tried to keep it a simple affair a mid-day gathering at a local restaurant. We didn’t want our friends and family and ourselves to be caught in a sea of terrible expense or stress. It was a lovely day. My mom made my dress. While we were scheming on the design, my grandma found a box from her mom, it had a handwritten note inside that said, ‘For Kendra’s wedding dress.’ I was the first great-granddaughter for 10 years, you see, and I’m sure when she, a masterful seamstress, wrote that there was no question that of course a wedding dress was to be handmade! It was a section of beading from her wedding dress from 1918. That then became the central theme of the dress, matching beaded material was found. My mom’s wedding dress buttons were reused on the back. It was gorgeous!

10 years ago we just had heads full of dreams. We wanted a house and some children and a thriving garden and certainly chickens. We wanted to travel, cook good meals and entertain friends. On our honeymoon we broke ground on our first garden together. We’ve had many successes and failures, droughts and floods, births and deaths both in the garden and in life these 10 years. It’s an epic journey, life and marriage. And I can’t wait to find out where it takes us next.

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Tending to the House

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Slowly, ever so slowly this house is becoming our house. Maybe I had forgotten or maybe I never felt that ‘stranger in my own house’ way with our first house. We were so much younger and newlyweds when we bought that house. We were more used to living in funky rental situations, but we worked hard to transform that house into ours and to leave that all behind and enter a new house to start from scratch was an adjustment. The memories of the previous owners were packed up in boxes and taken away and with our memories yet to be made, we moved into a very empty house. This house always had a warm feeling to it, but with all white walls and not a picture hung on them it lacked life & personality. I promised the boys that we’d add life to their room first. While I nixed their ideas of a black and red painted room, we all agreed on a nice blue, the color of both the water and the sky, as they said. And we added red accents from a little bit of a splurge at Purlsoho. Walking into their room now makes me very happy, it gives me hope that this soon will be our house. That we’ll add the life back into this warm house.
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With a big hesitant sigh, I put my very favorite, always saved at the back of the linen cabinet, tablecloth on our kitchen table as an everyday tablecloth. It was a brave move with two boys who seems to put more food on the table and floor than in their mouths, but I did it. Of course it hasn’t been without it’s consequences, it is now stained with catsup and who knows what else, but I needed to see something I loved on the table when I walked into the kitchen, to make it feel more like home.

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As I’ve been busy trying to make this house a home, Scott has been incredibly busy making this house a more sound house. We aren’t schooled in construction or in any trade at all, but where we lack training, at least Scott, makes up for in gumption. In our years of homeownership we’ve gotten ourselves into a few head scratching situations, as was this one pictured. I mean, really, what do you do with this? Well, through a series of phone calls and educated guesses and executive decisions, this is now all taken care of and our house is more sound. And the deck almost all ready, we are under deadline after all, we have a boy who’s about to turn a year older and no house is a home without it’s first party.

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15 Minutes to Slow Down

Resolution : Draw More

I made a resolution to draw more this year. And it is one that I plan on sticking to, come hell or high water. I was an art major at one time, I drew as an outlet my entire life, but then I grew up and my daily life got filled with all sorts of things. Drawing took a back seat. So this year I’ve vowed to sit down for 15 minutes each Wednesday morning and draw, something, anything. 15 minutes isn’t very long, just time for a quick sketch really, but I wanted it to be an obtainable goal and I can do 15 minutes.

This day I drew a leaf of a scented geranium that grows outside our dining room window. I started drawing plants my senior year of high school when we had to do senior reports. Did you have to do one of those too? Well, I grew up at the base of Mount Diablo and spent a lot of time hiking all around it as I grew up. So when senior report time came up, I decided to create a book called, The Urban Dweller’s Guide to Mount Diablo. To call it a ‘book’ is really stretching it, it was more like a hand bound booklet. I delved into the flora and fauna of the area and started drawing and writing it all out. Ever since I’ve been fascinated with drawing plants and leaves. It is so soothing and meditative to try and replicate a simple little leaf. And you learn so much about the botany of it all when you draw it. I was always terrible at sciences but when I draw it things start to make sense to me.

Even if you think you can’t draw, I encourage you to try sitting down one day and drawing a leaf. Maybe even trace the leaf, if the idea of drawing the outline of the leaf seems overwhelming and then slowly fill it up with the veins and other lines you find inside. It is a nice thing to do when your shoulders are up to your ears with stress. Slows you down.

Sea Ranch Cards

Cards I made using my print gocco from drawings of grasses up at Sea Ranch.

And I don’t know about you, but I can always appreciate something to slow me down!

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A reminder to eat well

Broken Arm

We got to see inside our oldest sons hand last week. And if you remember from the last post, when we last got to see inside his hand we saw among other things that his young hand were still in the process of growing. This time we saw that we’ve been doing something right because his hand is growing in the most normal of ways, well at least until he broke it. Fascinating to see the changes that have happened, and fascinating to see the obvious break. And so we go about our job of feeding him even more healthy and nutritious foods in hopes of helping him heal a little bit faster. Which promptly began with a treat of ice cream and a t-rex illustration as soon as the cast was put on.
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In the very same week they looked inside of my grandma and saw how her kidneys are slowly starting to break down and lose function as is the normal coarse of action when your body gets so old. And they looked inside my sister and saw that her baby is growing well and is expected to arrive next month. It’s not often that we get to use modern technology to look inside of ourselves and our loved ones but it is always a good reminder that one of most important reasons we grow food is to nourish ourselves so that we can help the little ones grow, keep ourselves strong, and help the older ones live as long as they healthfully can.

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My No-Shampoo Hair Saga

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This is the first time I’ve shown myself on my blog. Here I am, unshampooed hair and all.

When I first heard about people not shampoo-ing their hair, I immediately thought of the worst…that somewhere out there was a group of yucky greasy haired folks walking around. This was about three years ago when I first discovered the Mothering forums. There was a post link with hundreds of replies to this whole ‘No Poo’ thing. Gross, I thought.

Then last summer I started noticing a trend in bloggers who also decided to stop using shampoo. Amy of Angry Chicken is someone whom I admire so when she gave up using shampoo I became curious. Then I noticed that Meg of Sew Liberated converted too. If these beautiful, crafty woman were doing it, maybe I should try it too?

I first started noticing that maybe you didn’t need shampoo when I had my first son. He was born with very little hair and what precious hair he did have all fell out and he was lacking in the hair department until he was about 18 months old. So I never bothered shampooing his hair because he barely had any. And it never looked bad at all, actually it looked great. In fact I only started shampooing his hair when we was just over two years old only out of peer pressure…everyone else was doing it.

Why Would You Ever Give up Shampoo?
Supposedly most shampoo is laden with terrible chemicals, which is truthfully not hard to believe. Plus going through bottle after bottle creates a lot of unneeded waste and expense. And if you were like me, if you go a day or (gasp) two without shampooing your hair does look like a big greasy mess. Am I right? The real reason I wanted to give up shampoo wasn’t so much for the chemicals or the landfill situation, but because isn’t it always nice to give up being dependent on something that we don’t even really need? Especially something that corporate culture insists we need everyday? It’s kind of a liberating feeling.

The way that shampoo works is that it strips your hair of it’s natural oils. So your body reacts from it’s oil shortage by making more. Then you wash it the next day and strip the oils again, which means that once again your body produces more oil, you see how the cycle works. But by not using shampoo you let the hair oil factory regulate it’s oil production levels to create a healthy balance.

Using baking soda instead of shampoo is a good way to cleanse your hair without stripping it of it’s oils. In fact some people claim that they don’t even use baking soda, they just rinse their hair!

My Entry into Being Shampoo Liberated
I first stopped shampooing last August and it was a total disaster. Maybe it’s because my hair was really long or maybe I didn’t wait long enough through the transition period (it can take a while for your oil glands to slow down their production). I went back to shampoo using. Then in October I cut my hair up to my shoulders and decided to give it a try again. This time I was successful. I started out by combining a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of water in a little ramekin every two or three days and bringing that into the shower with me, but soon I got lazy and just combined the two in the same proportion into a large empty plastic bottle (an old Dr. Bronners bottle). I squirt out about half a cup onto the top of my head and give my hair/head a good massage with my fingertips. Then I flip my head over and repeat with the underside of my hair. Then I thoroughly rinse it all out. Some people follow that up with a rinse of diluted vinegar, but I haven’t really found a benefit to doing that with my hair. My hair afterwards is tangle free.

It did take about a week of transition where I had my hair in a pony tail everyday, but after that my hair actually gained more volume. Scott mentioned that he’s never seen my hair look so healthy.

But Then I Went Back to Shampoo for a Bit
But because there is a bit of ‘girly’ in me, I started to miss the nice shampoo smells and big soapy lather. So over the winter I started to shampoo every two week or so. Then I went for another haircut and loved the way my  hair felt after her shampooing that I went caved and brought out the shampoo bottles again. At first I hoped that I could shampoo just once a week, maybe every four days if need be. But I soon realized with shampoo it’s an everyday or nothing commitment. My hair got dependent on shampoo all over again.

So now I’m back to baking soda. And I really don’t think I’d ever switch back. And for those ladies who highlight or color their hair, using baking soda on colored hair is just fine. I highlight my hair (hey, I never said I was completely natural! I do have my vanities.) and the color hasn’t faded a bit. I do the baking soda routine about every four days now. Which means that those days in between I take shorter showers which helps with the whole drought situation. And the fact that I don’t have to keep buying shampoo helps with the whole financial/economy situation. And of course, Scott is back to complimenting my hair again, which is always incentive to keep going. See, it’s a win-win-win situation.

Are you also one of the crazy no shampoo-ers? Tell me your story.

Update: My hair was featured on MSNBC’s website. Check it out!

Update: A 16-Month Update.

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What you are doing in your garden

Spring in Sonoma
One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about having this blog is a realizing that it becomes a bit of a community. So I thought I’d take a moment to share with you what you are all up to, so you can click around and get to know each other too. I realize that this list is only a small fraction of those who visit A Sonoma Garden, but I promise to make this a regular feature so we can all meet each other.

Hortois at Garden Tips also wrote a great article on drought tolerant vegetables. If you are living in California, Australia or another dry summer place, doing anything you can to make your garden more drought tolerant is well worth the effort.

Compostings, who’s blog is always entertaining to read, is teaching us all about inoculants and how they may be necessary for your garden. Don’t know what inoculants are? Better click over to find out.

Maureen at Photos by Meg joined the Freedom Harvest Challenge put on by Path to Freedom. The challenge calls for backyard gardeners to collectively produce a million pounds of produce. 2500 people have signed up already and I’m thinking of adding our name to the list. Maureen has already produced over 48 lbs this year! Impressive!

Our own Sinfonian was featured in the Seattle Times on how to build a 2′ x 2′ potato bin. The great thing about Sinfonian’s potato bins is that they grow as the potatoes grow. As most of you know, as your potato plants grow you should mound more dirt up around the green plant to encourage more potatoes to grow. If you are looking for a compact place to grow potatoes, check out Sinfonian’s potato bin tutorial.

The Perfectly Imperfect has a beautiful picture of red daikon radish slices. Gorgeous vegetables. We are growing some this year and I can only hope they will turn out to be so pretty.

For your daily dose of cuteness, Laura just got in 100 baby chicks. So cute! Really, you must go see the pictures and the video she took of her new chicks.

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How Do You View Food?

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fennel & orange salad
Is food comfort to you? Is it a way of nourishing you? Is food art to you? Do you relish in stockpiling what you grow? Do you play at being frugal in how you feed your family? Has food become your outlet in fighting the world’s ills? Chances are you might consider all of these things when you think of food. But have you ever thought of food as medicine?

For as long as I remember, I’ve had an interest in food. As the years progressed so has my interest. My interest in food and eating took a rapid step up after spending time in Italy. How can half a year there not change your interest in food, really? To me, at that point, it was mostly about taste. And about community. And interests of growing food started to take a higher interest. I would spend my quiet days between art classes walking through our University’s Urban Farm thinking and dreaming of a future that I luckily live today. I started taking cooking classes and would attempt to translate Italian cookbooks into evening meals.

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waiting for dinner with a gin & tonic…the ultimate health beverage…right?

During my single days in Larkspur, I lived over a French restaurant. While the sounds and smells of french dining filtered up into my windows I set out to perfect the perfect pork chop and apple tart. I had no real interest in viewing food as a way to save money (although I was always near broke at the time), or a way to save the world. I thought it neat to buy things local from the farmers market, but I didn’t make it priority. I didn’t even have so much as a window sill to grow things, so growing food was just a hope for the future. I just wanted things to taste good. I knew nothing about pasture fed animals and ‘free-range’ turkeys seemed like an outrageously expensive indulgence.

Then I met Scott and my simple interest in food was dwarfed by his devoted passion for it. Little did I know that he was busy cooking down in that same French restaurant. He already had a thriving vegetable garden and would shower me with homegrown succulent fare. But again, for us it was all about the freshest, best tasting food we could find and grow. And sharing food with others was always an important element.

Fast forward to just over a year ago. At that point, I had just read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food and we realized that pasture fed, free range animals weren’t a frivolous thing to eat, but they were important to our health. We learned that buying our produce local and seasonally wasn’t just a ‘neat’ thing to do, but that it made such a difference in our world’s future when we didn’t. So food became a little bit more about health as well as a bit more about foods impact for our environment.

My poor baby has asthma!
the evil (yet helpful) asthma medication
At the same time our oldest son at age 3 was diagnosed with asthma. I don’t know if your children have asthma or if you know anyone with childhood asthma, but it is a scary thing to face as a parent. We were faced with having to give him regular inhilations of steroids through this very intimidating face mask. He would cry bloody murder out of fear of that mask anytime we approached him with it. Which only made me even more unsettled about what we had to go through. So I did as any mom searching for a better solution would do and I ordered the book, Natural Relief for Your Child’s Asthma: A Guide to Controlling Symptoms & Reducing Your Child’s Dependence on Drugs. And that made me think about food in an entirely new light. Food really could heal you. We’ve made small changes in his diet and environment that have helped control his asthma enough that we’ve been off the daily Flovent since the beginning of last summer.

You may remember my post on raw milk last month. That post was inspired by my recent reading as well as the reading I’ve done about asthma, allergies and excema. I’ve been doing some additional reading that talks about food as medicine which I can’t wait to share. But before I do, what is your take on food? How do you view food? If thinking about this provides enough fodder for your own blog post, add your link to the comments and I’ll add your link up here so we can all read it.

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‘Tis the gift to be free

Holiday Performance

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

No, this post doesn’t have anything to do with gardening or food or any of my normal topics, but when my four year old filed into this soulful theater with the rest of his little schoolmates singing this it made me all teary eyed and I thought I would share. We send him to a Montessori school in our 100 year old community center that places strong emphasis in developing each childs true sense of being, something that is very important to Scott and I. We hope in this big world full of commercialism and keeping up with the Jones’ that both of our boys figure out just who they are and find the place that is just right for them.
Holiday Tea

May we all find the place that’s just right for us.

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Let’s talk about milk for a moment

Milk & Cookies
Do you mind if I talk about milk today? Milk has been on my mind lately. A funny thing to spend your quiet moments thinking about, I realize but, that’s me and the way I think.  

I never really thought much about milk until we started giving it to the boys when they turned one. We always just bought whatever low fat milk was the least expensive before we had kids because we used it sparingly in our diet and we were on a budget. Milk was an after thought. And every once in a while we’d buy Straus Family Creamery  milk because it was so neat that it came in the glass bottle with the cream at the top. We treated more as a novelty than anything else. But within the last year or so my thoughts on milk have become more passionate. There’s so much to consider when buying milk, low fat, non fat, whole fat, and what about raw? Then there is the price. Milk is somewhat expensive to begin with but then the organic is even more expensive and switching to a diet of raw milk might cause you to take out a second mortgage on the house. And should we even be drinking cows milk at all? What about the rice milks and soy milks? Then there is my friend who only would give her daughters goats milk because cows milk is harder to digest. There’s so much to consider it makes my brain hurt.

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Scott and I made the switch to exclusively drinking organic milk. His descriptions of  the mid-west feed lots and corn fields turned our eating around in a lot of ways, frankly. When babies are in there second year between the ages of one and two, it’s recommended that you give them about four glasses of milk a day. That’s a lot of milk, especially when you have two thirsty boys. But we realized that all of the trace chemicals that collect in standard milk just wasn’t worth the savings.

Then after reading In Defense of Food I became worried about the percentage of fat in the milk we drank. This book by Mr. Pollan had a big influence on me, but there is this one little sentence in that book that haunted me. He never really expanded on it or meant it to be a key point but for some reason I thought about it everytime I went to the store to pick up another gallon. He said that low fat and non fat milk is often beefed up with dry milk to make it creamier. And that dry milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which is a bad kind of cholesterol. Not the good kind that whole, raw milk provides. This is the artery clogging kind of cholesterol. Knowing Scott’s family’s struggles with heart disease I take great concern in the health of all three of my boy’s (big and small) hearts. Bad cholesterol, even in tiny amounts,  is not something I want to invite into their lives, or mine frankly. So we made a vow at that point to only buy whole organic milk.

But now I’ve been thinking of raw milk. I keep hearing and reading more and more about it. I had heard of raw milk before and been a tad bit curious, but being a good ultra-pasturized raised American, it just seemed like inviting a whole lot of risk into your life by drinking it. I’ve been pregnant and breastfeeding for many years in a row and that’s always one of the biggest no-no’s: to eat unpasturized anything. So I always passed it up. But lately I’ve been thinking about it again. Both my father and Scott’s father were raised on farms and both drank raw milk growing up. And they survived just fine. Maybe this pasturization preaching that I’ve heard my whole life really isn’t as vital as I thought.

If the idea is to eat things that are processed less and in a more whole state, shouldn’t raw milk be what we all drink? If pasturization makes milk completely devoid of nutrients, why do you we even bother to drink it? I’ve heard a few times now that raw milk is like liquid medicine. Is this true? I suppose the only thing holding me back at this point from converting to a raw milk drinker is the price. At our local grocery store a gallon of raw milk ranges from $16-$20/gallon! Versus $4 for standard milk and $6.49 for organic. We consume about two gallons a week so you can see how that would add up for us. I realize that we are incredibly fortunate in this economy to even be able to afford milk, let alone organic, let alone even contemplate paying for raw milk.

And you realize too that switching to raw milk would only be the beginning. Soon we’d have to switch to raw cheeses, raw milk, raw ice cream and raw butter (which was $12.99/lb!!). If money were no object, I would switch us all over tomorrow. But like most folks, we have to keep a watchful eye on our spending habits.

We had a new friend over yesterday for the afternoon. Not knowing that she was into nutrition or food at all she suddenly started telling me all about her families switch to raw milk. Isn’t that funny, how the world works? Just when your thoughts are all about milk, in walks a converted raw milk drinker into your family room to tell you all about it. Anyway it made me realize that I’m probably not the only milk thinker out there. Do you drink milk? What kind do you drink and why??

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