Friday, May 24, 2013

Magic Beans... Earth Day Follow Up

Congratulations to our organic bean seed winer, a homesteader from Ravenswood, West Virginia! She sent us an awesome photo for our Earth Day contest and has won Organic Heirloom Green Bean "Early Contender" seeds. 

We love her idea to lessen her family's imprint on the planet for SO many reasons! We plan to steal it once our camper is open for the summer. I'll be sure to post photos. Thanks again LM for the great idea!
"Our family has a designated campfire cooking area and for many meals we forgo all the electrical appliances and prepare our meals outdoors by fire.
Here pictured are my daughter Aycie and my niece Jillian. Jillian is preparing our chili for this meal. Campfire cooking us yummy and delicious!"    -- LM
Congratulations and enjoy your beans.

If anyone has any recipes to share, please do. I'll be happy to pass them along. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrating Mother's Day with an Easy Peasy Tutorial

Happy Mother's Day! 

I love this tutorial because it's super easy, can be used for any holiday or just "because," it's inexpensive, kids can get into it with minimal mess, and did I mention it is EASY?

Hopefully you have done something special for Mom, since her big day is today ****

Quick aside. Who decided we get ONE day?!? Mommas need a weekend, if not an entire week! But who am I kidding? If mom REALLY got time off no one would know where anything was, kids would not get anywhere they are supposed to be, four square meals of cereal would be served, and I hate to even think about the laundry pile up!****

But if you haven't gotten Mom that special something yet, don't fear. You can have this project whipped out in time for Mother's Day dinner.

First, pick your jar. I used mason jars because we had a few that are chipped. They wouldn't seal right when we can veggies from the garden, so THIS is a great upcycle.

Any old jars will work, so sift through your recycle bin and pick a pretty one. Then, you need paint. Pinterest is FULL of ideas on just how to accomplish this step. Many folks use leftover paint and swirl it around the inside, then let it dry.

We started using this method, but my children did not yet have a respectable amount of silver paint all over their clothing and bodies and grass and deck, so they decided to then paint the OUTSIDE in addition to the inside. I tried to be patient, although I had a completely different look in mind! Regardless, they turned out great. Best of all, the kids made them and had total artistic license:)

You can use any paint, but we used Krylon spray, because we had some leftover in the cellar. Let dry completely. Then comes the fun part - collecting flowers!

Sure, you could buy a pretty bouquet, but it's much more fun to go on a nature walk with the kids. It's amazing what you'll find. We used branches, wild flowers, ferns, greenery, grass and I snapped off a few peonies and lavender from the flower garden. We had a wonderful time on our walk. I love seeing these kids create and walking with them, listening, and watching them get excited!

We cut all of our hodge podge flower assortment to the desired lengths and put a little water in the jar. Last, we raided the ribbon basket (a real mess of random ribbons and fabric clippings) and the rugrats picked out the final element to add to their creations.

My son, who is really much too busy with a balloon to have his picture taken, chose pretty purples and reds and asked me to tie a "froofy bow" (his description). I don't know what "froofy" means, but he seemed happy.

My uber-independent oldest decided that I was not to  help in any capacity, no way, no how, and chose a softball theme with a mismatched heart made of pipe cleaner. I couldn't love it more.

There you have it! Cheap, upcycled, easy peasy, and kiddo-involved. <

Most of all, Blessed be and enjoy your day!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Belated Earth Day, Ya'll!

We were all tied up with standardized testing on Earth Day 2013, so we decided to move it and celebrate just a little bit later. Anyway, shouldn't EVERY day be Earth Day? We certainly think so!

One of our biggest goals in homesteading with the kids is to lessen the footprint which we leave on Mother Earth. The rate at which Americans are ravaging our planet is astounding!

As a family, we are moving forward. Sometimes our steps are huge and sometimes they are very small, but we are always moving forward. THAT is the theme of today's blog! And if you read on and hang tight, you may even win organic heirloom bean plant seeds:)

1) Recycling is a great first step in healing our planet and it's also GREAT for the economy (more on that later). Approximately 251 million tons of trash is generated in the United States each year. YIKES!

Worse, the EPA estimates that over 30% of that trash could have been recycled. Don't own that! It's easy to get started.

Simply set aside containers which make it easy for YOU to recycle. Our containers sit in the cellar and I throw them into the van each time we go down to the ball field (where our recycle bins are located). This takes MAYBE 10 minutes a day on average, but the payoff is HUGE!

2) Do NOT throw away that food! The National Resources Defense Council estimates that a whopping 40% of all food produced in the US ends up in a landfill. This costs the average family of 4 over $2000 in loss.

What a waste! There is no good reason for food to rot in a landfill, and rot is what it does. You see, food does not break down  in a landfill, in a garbage bag, under trash, where it receives little air or sunlight. 

There are so many ways to avoid this costly fate. Try giving the food away. Compost it, use a garbage disposal, or donate it to a friend with farm animals. If you are anywhere near me, I'll take it! My animals eat A LOT. I mean a lot!

Composting is simple, and maybe the best option for keeping the cost of food waste down in your home. You can get creative with a compost bin, OR if you have farm animals, compost it straight into your garden.

I have three sections of garden and one, of which, is never in  use. I chuck all of my leftovers into that space and let the chickens and ducks aerate the soil, by scratching and digging for their treats. They create a very biodiverse ecosystem, promoting healthy organisms, worms, etc. - everything you need for a lush and healthy garden!

Often, at Maple Valley Farm, there's even a goat or cow in the garden to fertilize the compost even further.

3) Ditch the shopping bags. Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste. When the small particles from photo-degraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans. 

If you cannot avoid the plastic variety, please recycle. Most stores have recycle areas just inside the door. Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. 

However, recycling is not a perfect option. Consider the cost - Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs $4,000. The recycled product can be sold for $32.

Better than recycling, consider taking advantage of reusable cloth shopping bags. They are inexpensive and EASY to make out of old tee shirts. The possibilities are endless!

4) Burn baby, burn, burn. In 2008, Paper and paperboard made up 31% of municipal waste. Recycle what you can and burn the rest. It's that simple. 

Hey, the old timers did it! Who remembers their grandparents burning trash? Why put anything into a landfill which you could easily burn? It's too easy not to.

We keep a basket by the back door and it's a great chore for the kiddos to burn trash daily. Just be sure to follow any city burning restrictions. 

Since we started burning trash, we are  now able to put out less than 1 small kitchen trash bag per month of waste.  I go for months without even putting trash out on the curb. Pick one of these easy and practical ways to decrease your trash output and then celebrate! You'll be amazed at just how easy it is to cut your waste by a huge percentage.

Remember I said that recycling is good for the economy? Here's the payoff - It has been estimated that recycling, re-use, and composting create six to ten times as many jobs as waste incineration and landfills.

What steps are you taking to recycle, reduce, and re-use? I'd love to hear from you!

Email your photos to for a chance to win Organic Heirloom Green Bean "Early Contender" seeds. ANY AND ALL STEPS COUNT! Send in your pictures, folks



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Waffle Iron Nom Noms

As I sit here blogging, my loving husband is doing his best to make my PC work. It's broken. That is as technical as I can describle the problem. In the world of technology, it simply doens't work. Yes, there are parts and tools and terms, but I have no idea what they are. I know that a big box arrived today and now the hubs is unpacking it with a very serious look on his face and there has already been sighing and grunting - the engineer is at work.
Gluten Free Bread w/ Spinach & Mushroom Panini

Why is this important to this blog post? Because I am a photo novice and I like to take pretty pictures for you and run actions in photoshop to make up for my poor photography skills. No computer = no pretty photos. So, you are stuck with my poor attempts using an iphone which is smarter than I will ever be. In fact, I only have it because it cost me $1.05 and my other phone died. But that's a different tangent...

Back to this post = I got a really awesome waffle iron for Christmas from my kids... yes I did. And I LOVE it. I want to marry it. It is AWESOME. And cooking with it makes me awesome.

I might be a little obsessed with it, as every day, I sit and daydream about what I can cook in this dream machine...

In my defense, I am forced to think a lot about what to prepare for my family's meals as of late. Labs show that my daughter is reactive to certain foods, so gluten is out and dairy is on the chopping block as well. No soy, corn, or dyes either.
Actually, we are eating REALLY well, thanks to lots of browsing cookbooks, online recipes, and blogs. Creativity is key! Tonight, we tried gluten free pizza in the dream machine.
Gluten Free Pizza with Organic Sauce and Rice Cheese
SUCCESS! It was nom nom delicious. And cooking is super fast, which ANYONE cooking for a family on a restrictive diet will appreciate. You simply make your batter and pour it in. It will take some trial & error to get it golden brown, but it cooks really nicely & evenly thanks to equal heat on both sides.
For sandwiches, just coat with butter (or coconut oil for us) and put the bread right on the iron. In a few magical minutes, you will have a meal fit for royalty!
We also love shredded potatoes cooked to a golden crisp in this little wonder. I enjoy some onions, peppers, and mushrooms mixed in. What do you like to make in your waffle iron? I've heard of cakes, brownies, and cookies - that is my next experiment!
The Lee Stamp of Approval - Even Mufassa Wants a Taste!
 Gluten/dairy free meal done in minutes! Whew, I'll pretend to look tired. 
Sorry, Mufassa... He Cleaned His Plate.
 Please share your ideas and recipes with us!

 And just because.... here is a terrible photo of our spoiled Pekin ducks in the snow.