Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Heartbeat

Some might say that in order to feel your heart you only need to find your pulse, but I strongly disagree. In order to find your heart you must find your home. After all, home is where the heart is ;-). And my heart lies within this beautiful woman and the three amazing kids who see beauty in every corner of the world. What I have found in my family is the ability to overcome every obstacle placed before me, natural or man-made and make ways for us to live in harmony and peace with what we are given.
The best advice I can give any of you is to truly follow your heart. It may hurt at times and it may seem like it has stopped beating, but during those times you only need to listen more closely. If you just bear down and listen with all your strength you will find your path and it will be one of honesty, integrity, self-esteem, courage and love.
You may not find the same things as I have but you will find your inner peace and in doing so come to peace with the world around you. A good way to start is to be kind to your mother earth and she will be kind to you. We are all linked together in this world and one action influences another in a tremendous way. So be kind to your world, your neighbors, your family and your friends and they will be kind to you. Build a garden instead of buying a big screen TV, make your own solar panels instead of reaching that next level on your Wii, it doesn't matter what you do as long as you do it with the voice in your heart.
As for me, I am going to continue to live my life according to my heart. I suggest you all do the same.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Singing in The Rain!

I love this weather. For anyone not in Phoenix, it has been raining and cloudy for the last two days, but still in the 60's! Last week, I had all the doors and windows open to let the unusual warmth in; this week, rain, rain, glorious rain! The two baby trees held up well in the 55mph wind last night. They are getting soaked every day like their instructions said to do, just not on my water bill.

The garden is going crazy in all this wet weather. The broccoli is flowering and getting so tall. Next year,Tris and I noted that we need to give the other plants more room around the broccoli. That's one big ass plant! The lettuce is huge. We keep eating it as salads or in wraps. We, sadly, lost all of the winter squash, but one. They grew, they bloomed, they froze and couldn't recover. Also noted for next year. New baby carrots are starting to pop up, from the second round of sowing.

The peach tree has little nubs growing on all the branches. Tris and I are putting a net on it this year so the birds can't get at the baby fruit. The apple tree, the one we just planted, has fuzzy little nubs starting to just come out. A sure sign of a happy tree. The pomegranate is a little slower, but still alive. I don't expect any fruit this year and very little if any next year, but after that, I'm hopefully going to get my harvest on!

I am doing a fair amount of research today about how well pear trees grow here in Phoenix. They sell them at Home Depot, but that only means HD wants money. We have made plans for three more trees to plant in the front yard and now is perfect! The ground is not rock hard, so my back won't break! After the trees are planted, we are planning the spring garden. I will keep you posted on that. Here's to a bountiful 2010!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Small Things

Friday, Boy 1 and Boy 3 helped me plant a small her garden on the side of the house.  We planted rosemary, peppermint and sage. The small plot we used is on the north side of the property and shaded by an old China Berry tree.

 Right now, there are no leaves so the herbs are getting full sun, but in the summer they should be shaded. I hope this works!

We also decided to plant a few flowers in pots. Color is a good thing! These are Violas!

Cloth Toilet Paper-Update

So the cloth TP has been a big hit with Tris and I. When I have to use paper, I feel a little sensitive. Ha! We have had guests use them and report that we might be crazy, but that it was really nice. And the roommates have started using them. Already real toilet paper consumption has gone down. I washed them for the first time a couple of days ago. They haven't been sewn and I wasn't sure that they wouldn't just fray and fall apart. They didn't. I was able to wait for 7 days before I washed them and I only washed them because they were filling up their bag.

This time, however the bag is filling up much faster, so I know the roomies are using them! Woohoo! Also, real quick, one of my roommates, Mesch, told me this morning that she was going to switch to the Diva Cup for all of her menstrual needs! Just a small proof that we can change the world, even one person at a time!

Love and Yard Work

Tris and I have been kicking our asses since Thursday to get the side and back yard cleaned up before bulk trash pick-up tomorrow. So last Thursday, we spent 7 hours laboring. We trimmed the bougonvilla (excuse my spelling) to the ground, almost an act in vain, we swept and cleaned up the whole side yard and weed-eated the back yard. All the big things were tossed onto the growing bulk trash pile and today we went to Whole Foods and bought extremely expensive, but totally worth it, biodegradable yard waste bags. They were $5.69 for 5. Ouch!

We also planted two trees: 1 pomegranate and 1 combination apple. The apple tree, the one with all the tags, has 5 different kinds of apples; Granny Smith, Gravestien, Red Delicious, Green Delicious, and Fuji. They were all grafted together. That kind of tree is a little bit scary to me, changing a tree like that.

Hard labor is one way for us to expend extra energy and also show love for each other. We both have a love for the outdoors and we both also have great pride in our house. (Before Tris moved in, I had neither the energy nor the drive to keep up the house. She makes me happy.) When I look at the work we have done together, I am so full of love for her, for us as a couple. We kick ass!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This Little Piggy

This morning Tris and I got up early-ish and went to one of the farmer's markets. This one was new to me. It is every Saturday on Cactus just east of the 51, at Roadrunner Park. Parking was a bit of a mess, but the market was small which I like. I do not like huge crowds. I thought I would take this blog to talk about the farmer's markets in the Phoenix area. (All the pictures are from this morning.)

The biggest one in Phoenix is the Wednesday/Saturday Downtown Farmer's Market at Filmore and 1st St. Parking is not so bad. The selection is HUGE! Sometimes too much. You can get almost anything. Eggs, veggies, fruits, meat, prepared meals and crafts. I wish there were flowers like there are in the Northwest, but alas, they don't grow like that down here. There is also music and always a friend or two to bump into.

On Wednesdays, you can go to the market on 20th St and highland, by the Trader Joe's. I like that one because I can get all my non-produce groceries at TJ's, then get all my yummy fresh veggies and fruits at the Market. Some of the stands boast organic and some of them are organic, but it costs too much for them to get certified. Even still, I try to get the certified organic, unless I know the growers, which does happen sometimes. There is a soap/lotion maker at this market. I love her stuff.

I haven't been to it, but I hear there is a thriving market in Tempe everyday. It's on University and Farmer Ave. I will probably take the train there next weekend. The kids are marketed out today.

Alli (Top, behind register, selling Number 3 a bunch of radishes), my new friend, says there is also a Friday market in Mesa on Center and University. Once again I have not been to this market, but I do have all next Friday to check it out. Here is a list of farmer's markets in and around Phoenix. There is really a place for anyone on here, whether you are north, south, east or west. Go explore your local market, eat seasonal food, check out what your neighbors are making with their hands and their love.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What Does Simplicity Mean To You?

To me, simplicity means living a quiet, simple life. No electronics blaring, no credit card bills to pay, no zoning out on the computer for hours. Simplicity is waking up early in the morning for my walk and chores. It means doing my small part to nurture Mother Nature.  It means back yard games instead of video games. It's using less and giving more. Simplicity is handmade versus store bought. Simplicity is less stuff, better yet no stuff, only necessities, which in turn, means less cleaning.

Simplicity is feeding my family healthy, nutritious meals I grow and cook myself on a stove that neither uses natural gas nor electricity. Simplicity is learning the arts of canning, beekeeping, urban farming, sun drying and dutch oven cooking. It's free range city chickens and fresh eggs. It's the push mower where the goat misses.

Simplicity is earth dwellings. From the earth and, someday, back to the earth with no harm.

Simplicity also means living virtually free of the government, taking care of my own. That sounds really Minute Man to me, so let me clarify. I mean keeping my kids healthy myself, without anyone telling me I have to vaccinate. It means not having government regulated utilities, including water, when I get out of this city. It means no food pyramid, no GMO's, no subsidized corn or soy in my home. Simplicity is educating those around me. It is rising up, without violent action, against a lie.

Simplicity means a future of seasons, seasons that change color, seasons that bring more than two different weather patterns, seasons that bring about change in people. Simplicity is listening to that change and being that change. Simplicity is not being afraid of change, even what some may consider backward.

Simplicity is purposeful living. It's speaking, walking, gardening, raising our babies, honoring eachother and loving gently. This is what I strive for.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cloth Toilet Paper

Can you think of anything nicer than really soft toilet paper on all your pretty parts? Now think of the last time you bought TP. If you are like me, you looked longingly at the really soft stuff and your heart ached for all the old growth forest Kimberly Clark uses for Charmin. Alright, maybe you are not like me, except that you want the softest on your softee. Recycled paper is rough, but it's recycled. So my heart can feel good, even when my goods do not. Until today!

I decided after reading all these posts from Crunchy Chicken, a must follow blog, that cloth wipes were definitely something we could do. Even the roommates could get behind this one, if they so desire.

So today, I found an older flannel sheet that had a few holes, washed it and cut out 65 5X5 squares. I started with 6X6, but they seemed too big. I will be getting a couple of mesh bags to hang on the TP roll holder for the used ones. Never fear, those of you who are faint at heart, I will still be keeping paper around for you and for poop. Not sure that I am ready to do the poop thing again. Three boys in cloth diapers was enough for a lifetime. I'm sure it won't be long til I change my mind.

Hopefully, Tris will make an appearance on our blog and let you all know how this little experiment is going. I don't know if 65 will be enough or if we will need more. I'm thinking I would like to go at least 5 days between washings. I think the smell factor will determine wash time though. Definitely an update to look for.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Phasing Out Our Cell Phones

While Tris and I were eating lunch together today, she got a phone call on her cell. She ignored the call and angrily stuffed her phone back into her pocket. I asked her who it was. She said it wasn't the person that angered her, it was that she could be reached at all times. I also don't like that aspect of having a phone. Feeling like if someone texts me, I have to drop everything and text back or if I forget then someone taking it personally. It's just dumb and we are both over it.

So here's the plan. Tris's contract lets up in March or April and we will just let it expire. The kids have a phone on my plan that they don't need anymore, so she will use that to go on the motorcycle ride she has been planning from Key West, FL to Homer, AK. After that, my plan will expire and we will get a landline. Remember those, from the olden days? We will also get an answering machine and pay for long distance.

I'm figuring that we will save $225 a month!!! That's money that can go into our land fund! It was good that she brought up this plan because I thought she would think I was crazy for wanting this. "The blood in the compost thing was one thing, but getting rid of texting? Who are you?" That's what I thought she would say! Boy, was I wrong! I am so excited to move forward with this plan!!!

Attack!!! Ok, Maybe just migration...

When I got home from dropping Kid 1 at school, the neighborhood was all a-tweet! I have spent many years at home during the days and have never heard this kind of action! I can't even describe what thousands of birds sound like all at once. It was like being in the aviary at the zoo, but way louder!

I know that some of you grew up in places where bird migration was normal, but not me. Unless it always was and I'm just now noticing it. Either way, it was fascinating. I left some doors and windows open so I could hear what was left of them.

I have searched through some pictures of birds indigenous to the Phoenix area, but cannot come up with what type of bird this is. Anyone know? I guess I need to add bird watching to the list of things I want to do.

(OK, I just clicked on this picture to make sure it got bigger so you all could see it better and it does! Except it looks like a cartoon. So let me briefly describe some of the details that are lost. The bird has a green iridescent neck and chest, spotted belly and black eyes. Does that help?)

The Incredible Edible Onion

The word onion is of Latin origin, the word unio meaning "single" because only one bulb is produced per seed, as opposed to garlic which produces many bulbs, and unio is also the root word for union, as in there are many layers to the onion that act as one. And many layered the onion is! Did you know that the onion is good for you as well as tasty? It's rated as one of the world's healthiest foods. (And it is not on the 12 highest pesticide containing foods list.) Here's why:

The benefits of eating onions include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, helps keep blood sugar levels low, supports gastrointestinal health, boosts bone health, is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and helps protect the body from cancer, including ovarian and colon.

Onions contain a compound known as allyl propyl disulfide (the stuff that makes you cry) which helps to raise the amount of insulin available by competing with the negative feedback system in the liver because insulin is also a disulphide. (Negative feedback is when a Product A is produced and when there is enough in the system, it then attaches to an enzyme binding site on the Product A producing cell and stops the production of said product.) In this particular instance, the allyl propyl disulfide does not stop the production of insulin, but actually increases it because the insulin itself cannot bind to the receptor sites to stop it. The increase in insulin lowers blood sugar levels because the extra insulin ushers more sugar to the cells.

From the chart you can see that onions are high in chromium levels. chromium is a mineral found in glucose tolerance factor. Higher chromium levels help cells respond more efficiently to insulin, once again lowering blood-sugar levels. When the cell response to glucose is higher, the need for insulin is lower. So the onion increases the insulin, but also increases the cell's insulin accepting performance, thereby, in the long run, lowering insulin levels. 20% of the US population shows a chromium deficiency. Chromium, in the body, is depleted by consumption of refined foods, such as white sugar and flour.

Chromium, along with vitamin B6, also helps lower bad blood cholesterol (LDL) levels and increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Lower cholesterol means that plaque cannot build up in the arteries as easily, leaving one also with lower blood pressure and a healthier heart.

For your pooper, onions contain a high number of the flavonoid quercitin, which acts as an anti-oxidant. (A flavonoid is a plant pigment, usually white or yellow.) When cooked with meat, it can lower the amount of carcinogens produced by cooking at high heats.

Onions are also high in a flavonoid called kaempferol. Kaempferol can also be found in non-herbal teas, broccoli, curly kale, leek, spinach and blueberries. In studies, kaempferol has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Women who consume onions may have a lower risk of osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that onions are high in gamma-L-glutamyl-trans-S-1-propenyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide, GPCS, for short. GPCS has been shown to inhibit the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bones. Eating raw onions during menopause, especially, may save a person from a lifetime of pain. Other medications can have the same effect on osteoclasts, but have terrible side effects. The only side effect to onion consumption is temporary bad breath.

Onions also contain anti-inflammatory agents. They can help reduce the pain and swelling caused by osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as reduce asthma symptoms and congestion in the chest caused by the common cold.

All in all, onions are a marvelous food. They can be eaten raw, some people eat them like apples, some add them to salad or salsas, like me. They can be sauteed and eaten in almost any veggie dish. I think I use them in all my veggie dishes.

We planted both red and white onions in the garden this year and about two dozen sprouted and are thriving. After I did this research, I wish I had planted more. Wow! Who know all of this from one smelly plant! Speaking of their smell, they are also a natural insecticide in your garden.

Why do we keep letting these pharmaceutical companies keep pushing us to more and more drugs? There are beautiful and homegrown remedies out there for so many ailments. Eating natural unrefined foods will also keep a person from getting to the point of needing all those drugs in the first place. Does eating a Snicker and a Big Mac really seem worth it? Not to me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

To Pea or Not to Pea? That is the Question.

Definitely to pea! There are many different varieties of peas. We decided to grow shelling peas. We bought the seeds from Baker's Nursery, a local family owned nursery. As with all the seeds we bought, these are organic and heirloom.

The company that packages these seeds is called Botanical Interests, based out of Broomfield, CO. We were so excited to get seeds that are organic and heirloom that we did not think to look for a local seed company. Next time we will do that. Our plan with this round of plantings is to save our seeds. Anyway, back to the peas.

The peas plants will grow up to 58 inches tall with white blossoms, as you can see. They don't need stakes, but we let them grow up the chicken wire. Right now, I am looking at the garden and contemplating where I could plant a second and third succession of peas.

Peas are a cold weather plant and one of my favorites to grow. They are also a fav for the kids to eat. This is the first pod. There are seven peas. Yay!!! I am so excited to eat them!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tampon Composting?

I am down to compost just about anything. The only thing I don't compost is meat. We don't eat meat so that helps, but the roomies do. So today, you can imagine my surprise when I found compostable tampons and panty liners! They are also organic, unbleached cotton. They could only be better if they had no applicator, but Tris is not willing to take that step yet. I, myself, am a Diva Cup girl, but I think this month, I will start also dumping my blood in the garden compost. I will need to find a mode of delivery because when I am dumping the Diva, it's not exactly convenient to run outside with a full cup in the middle of the deed. As for Tris, we will see how the composting of tampons goes. Tomorrow I will need to reinforce our compost bin so cats and dogs don't go digging for the goods. I think a hammer and nails will come in handy.

Here are links to both the Diva Cup:

and a blurb about Organyc brand tampons:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Organic Garden

We started with a plot of light brown AZ dirt, overgrown with weeds and crazy grape vines. We knew we had our work cut out for us! To the left is our compost pile. The structure is made of old pallets. We turn it by hand. It is looking so full right now because we have finally trained the baby-children to throw food scraps in the bucket! They do it at school, why did it take so long to get into the habit of doing it at home? The first thing I did was tie up those grape vines. They do finally produce, so we want to keep them as healthy as possible. Then we pulled weeds and turned soil. The white PVC pipe is a misting system that I would like to use in the summer at night to simulate a little rain and cool the garden.

A week of de-weeding, digging, sweating and poop tossing brought us to the beautiful dark soil we are looking at now. That's me and my trusty hoe. It was September and what I had on was still too many clothes. We would get up at 6 in the morning to avoid the heat and sometimes even that was not early enough, but our dreams of bounty kept us going. I used an old sheet to loosely tie the grapes up. That way, the cotton could disintegrate at will and we did not have little pieces of plastic dry-rotting and flying all over this poor earth. Eventually, we will build the soil up enough to remove the wooden borders and have a breathing raised bed garden. For now though, we work with what we have. You can see Amelie, our dog, at the bottom. She is good at running through the garden and digging it, so we had put chicken wire fence up all around the whole thing. That is putting quite the damper on easy access. We will find a better way.

The vines are tied, the weeds are gone, the compost, manure, phosphate and blood meal had a week to cook and now the seeds are in. Waiting to see what would come up was so hard. Of course, the rewards have been great. We planted peas, red lettuce, spinach, broccoli, garlic, red onions, white onions, winter squash, tomatoes, which one book says works, but the nursery says doesn't, and carrots.

Presto chango! We have a graden! It's so beautiful. We water it every two days, except the carrots. They need a deep watering followed by several days of dryness as to grow deep and long. In this picture, you are looking at the peas growing up the chicken wire fence. They are starting to flower. I can't wait to pull fresh peas off of the vine and eat them. In the lower left-middle, that is the broccoli.

LOOK!!! The broccoli is starting to flower!!!! It's so beautiful and looks tasty.

We have started planning the spring and summer garden. Corn is high on our list and since I have grown in before, I am not afraid to do it again. My biggest concern will be getting heirloom, organic seeds, hopefully without having to order them. We have been harvesting the red lettuce and spinach for salads and sandwiches and it is delicious. Tris ate some chives this morning and even after she brushed her teeth, you could still smell them! Ha!

We also did a little transplanting this morning of 6 onion plants and 1 tomato plant. The tomatoes are not doing as bad as I thought they would. There is no way that we could plant them now and hope for anything and if we would have planted them two weeks earlier, we would have had better luck, but oh well. Live and learn. Like with the carrots. I think we planted them too soon. Only a few popped up, so this morning, I sowed some more seeds. I also sowed some more seeds for the red lettuce. We are expecting 70°F weather all week, so I am hoping that this will be good for germination. I will keep you all posted. Yay!

About Us

This is Tris. Most people call her T. We met on Christmas Day in 2008. She hails from Northern Minnesota, so we have a lot of fun with her accent, which I have picked up and use quite often now. She has 2 sisters and 3 brothers. T is a smart kid. She has degrees in Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology and a certification for motorcycle mechanics. As you can see, she rides her Harley Davidson everywhere and when I am lucky, I get to ride on the back. Although I am learning to ride it alone! She is my home, my lighthouse and my secret-keeper.

This is me. This picture was taken at the Seattle Public Works building in July of 2009. I love Seattle. I have many friends there, but I don't know If I could live there because it is rainy most months. I love my sunshine! I was born in Tucson and aside from extended vacations and an exchange trip in 1994 to Germany, I have never lived out of Arizona. I am not sure I ever will. I happen to love this state's weather, but I loathe most of it's inhabitants. AZ is a Republican's wet dream. I plan to keep on changing that! I have 2 sisters that live in northern AZ with and close to my parents. When I am not studying to keep my straight A's, I knit, blog, sew, dream and play. For money, I sell my knitting and sewing and I work with kids with autism. I love my job, I love those kids.

This is us on New Years Eve 2009 at our small house party that we call Family Dinner. We have Family Dinners quite often when I am on break from school; at least once a week, oftentimes two or three times a week. Family means just that. Our blood family, our friends, gay, queer, transgender, lesbian, straight, you name it, all are invited. Together we manage our garden, camp, plan our life, sing, smile, raise our babies, write, read, Facebook, host Family Dinners, laugh, cry, watch movies and dream.

Tris and I raise our (they came from my vagina) three boys with love, patience and much tolerance and honesty. Number One is 11, Number Two will be 10 soon and Number Three is 6. They make us smile, laugh, shake our heads, question why, fume and think about everything. They love us unconditionally and we give that right back to them. They are the hope for the future, so we try to be careful with their souls. Tris couldn't love them more if they were originally hers. They still see their dad half time and that relationship is good. I am grateful for that. They all go to Waldorf School where they learn regular academics, in addition to, gardening, woodworking, handwork (knitting, sewing, crocheting and such), cooking (especially food they have grown themselves), Spanish, beeswax modeling and painting. They learn to find the beauty within and without, something that is reinforced at home.

I am writing this blog to hopefully show our journey to simplicity. I did a little test to see what my carbon footprint on this earth is and it showed 4.5. At that rate, we would still need almost two earths to fulfill my wants. My real want is to reduce that to almost nothing. By further reducing, we hope to cut our expenses down so far that we only have to work part-time and still be able to afford to save enough money to buy ourselves a piece of land to live off of. Our garden is just the beginning of this. We are (very) slowly converting our garage into a sustainable living structure of cob and straw bale. We would like the small amount of energy we need to be generated by the sun, which AZ has an abundance of. I will write a whole blog on the plans for the dwelling later.

This process may be slow, but I know we will accomplish this, even while I am in school. I graduate in May with my AA, then off to ASU for a Bachelors of Ummmmm? Ok, so I haven't quite figured that out yet. Maybe math, environmental science, special ed, I don't know, but what I do know is that Tris will support whatever I want to do now and later. I also know I will do that for her! Love really is what this world needs. Love, understanding and to have his cloud of consumerism lifted.