Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wild Food Foraging

John Kallas, Ph.D., Director, Wild Food Adventures (holding wild sweet pea)

This past summer, including today, I have taken 3 classes on Wild Foods from John Kallas here in Portland. 
The first class, we went to an organic farm and learned about all the edible weeds that can grown on a farm, we picked an assortment and made a delicious salad with them..  I really do mean that it was delicious..You'd never realize how good some of these plants are!  He doesn't like to call them weeds, because really they are native plants that are indeed edible, but often mistaken for weeds. 
(rose hips)
The second class, was about survival. It was a foundation class that went over the types of survival and about some of the easier foods to find and prepare-ones to avoid because they take too much energy to prepare. He said that the number one important thing to do in a survival situation is to stay calm and simply look around for awhile and think about what your resources are and what is around you..  In other words, your psychological state is #1!!  Chances are you want to leave that situation and food isnt' really your first priority(oftentimes)--people are usually rescued within 3 days and you can survive a month without food depending on the weather and conditions..water you need much sooner, though.. 

Today's class, was neighborhood foraging and we found lots of foods from an old city neighborhood, from trees, bushes, weeds...bushes.  (rosehips, plums, english walnut, lindentree, (pokeweed bad-unless really cooked), sheep sorrel, chestnuts, cats ear, pulslane(sp?), hawthorne, mountain ash, wild fennel, mint, wild sweet pea, green amarath, english linden tree, oregon white oak, wild spinnach, red clover, etc..) Lots of food around here!!  Learned that wild spinnach and wild garlic mustard are among the most nutritious greens known (and taste really good)!
english linden tree-like lettuce

 Brought my husband and  kids with me this time--little bit tricky with my kids..3 hours is a long time for them, I realized to listen and stand around looking at plants..but I think it was good for them to try..  My husband needed to take them for a couple breaks..  Realized that it is good for kids to be pushed sometimes even when they are bored--wasn't as fun for us, but character building for them (I hope)

In any case, these were fun and valuable classes.   He offers many many more classes..I realized through the 3 classes that I took that there is a wealth of knowledge out there!!  I only got a grazing of it..  There are many plants that are poisionous, so you really need to be careful and know what you are doing!  (for example the wild carrot looks almost just like the VERY poisonous hemlock that can kill you even in a very small quanitity and tastes good..

John Kallas also has his first book out and plans to write a whole series. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Beginner Sewing and Knitting: Taking back the skillz

Here is my first apron that I just finished about a week ago.

In part of my journey towards a sustainable lifestyle, I am determined to learn some of the skills that have been on my bucket list for years!  I have always enjoyed crafting..As a child/youth, I made many a latch hooking, as a teen and college student, I got into oil painting, but I always wanted to know how to knit and sew.  In 6th grade I took a home ec class and briefly learned to use a sewing machine, but didn't pursue it, because I thought it was not the "college track"--Even though, I enjoyed it, I did not think it was a class "worthy" of the track towards "success" and "being college educated".  (what a snob I was)--and I really wasn't a snob.. especially in junior high..I was kind of shy and nerdy and not in the hip group..but I was a popular wanna-be-for sure!  I did not always have the backbone or confidence to stand by and trust what I felt was right either-back then... I'd like an earring and someone would tell me it was ugly and then I'd think I was wrong in liking it-- (that is a whole other story of adolescent insecurities) In any case, I feel very differently about the "value" of this skill..  And really want to "take back the skills" that have been devalued during at least the last couple of generations..  For example: with this skill, I can make pajamas for my kids that are not filled with toxic flame retardant--take control of my own buying power so that I do not have to be limited by what is on the shelves or be "forced" into buying fume filled sleep ware.

And here I am, going back to it, because I really did want to learn how..and have always thought "the thought of knitting and sewing during the wintertime" a very warm and fuzzy thought--just as appealing as sitting in a cafe sipping a great latte..

 **I am learning how to use a sewing machine and sew from patterns from classes at Portland Sewing--taking the complete 12 week course: Learning to Sew. 12 classes @ 3 hours/class.  The first 4 week block, you make an apron, the second-a robe, and the third pajamas.

Portland Sewing: "We offer sewing classes for the beginner to the advanced stitcher wanting to learn something new, from sewing basics to pattern making, draping, tailoring and couture. No matter the class, our job is to make sure you gain skills, create a project you like, build your confidence — and have a good time doing it!" (My review is that I really like the instructors and the school.  You can begin knowing nothing about sewing and feel after each 3 hour class, you have learned a great deal)  I am not afraid to ask questions..and find it much easier to learn the skills and "tricks" than I would have trying to learn on my own..  The classes continue from the very beginner all the way to people who wish to do apparel design professionally!  You begin with Learn to Sew (if you are a complete beginner)--Then you can continue to Beginning Sewing, then Intermediate, and so on..  I also believe that the prices are very reasonable considering each class is 3 hours long and you really get the help and the level of learning that matches where you are at in your skill level. 

2111 NE 43rd Ave. Portland, OR
(503) 927-5457
Sharon Blair

I am learning how to knit from the book: Stitch and Bitch. (which breaks down each knitting skill into manageable bites) with simple projects for the beginner to intermediate..and interesting historical commentary on knitting.

 Here is the Janome sewing machine I am making payments on on top of a sewing table I bought on Craigslist.  (I really like that it has metal parts (built to last) and can lock in place the slooooowww speed)--because I am such a beginner!  (-; 
And here is the first 1/3 of the scarf I am working on. Knit Knit. Pearl Pearl..  (-; 

And this is truly truly fun for me.  I love create and get to see the "art" of what comes out of it; and I love to learn..and it is sooo useful.  I am hoping to next learn how to knit a hat, and I also have high hopes of making Halloween costumes, curtains, learn to quilt, and hem up some pants.  (if I can find enough "free time")  Fall/winter is a good time to attempt this, I think as my garden slows down..

And I want to be a part of advocating for a wonderful (not quite lost art)--that is not just an art, but a very very useful skill.

Co-Sleeping and Baby Wearing

I am 23 weeks pregnant now and feeling my little girl squirming around A LOT!  She is making herself known to me more and more and I wonder how it feels to her to be inside of my uterus.  I have spent many many hours in close proximity to my first two children.  I carried my daughter a lot in an ergo carrier-like a kangaroo mom.  She was always so content to be close to my body.  I almost didnt' even need to think about it.  It was one of the most calming places for her to habitate and it allowed me mobility--felt very natural.  Both my children shared our bed a lot...depending on their need at the time.  They don't really anymore except for some snuggle time on weekends, but I still snuggle them at night time in their own beds before bed..not every night, but often..  They look forward to it and ask for it. 

Thinking about my new little girl and her experience--and how close she is to me now, and the transition from within my body to outside of it.  Does she feel confined inside of me at all I wonder as it literally feels like she is trying to get out!  (-;  I think it is a very comforting place for a baby, depsite its cramped space..It is where she needs to be right now..  And afterwards, how much she will need to also be close by -in connection to me (and dad, and brother and sister, etc..) 

Human beings are extremely undeveloped at birth; they can't support the weight of their heads, they cannot be mobile for months...  Other (animal) babies are mobile almost at the beginning.  Wearing my child kangaroo style, does seem so natural.  I hadn't really reflected about this while pregnant before..  but it seems that the very nature of babies, that they indeed do need to be in close physcial connection--  I was such a newbie when my son was born and did not quite understand why he would flail up his legs whenever I place him backside down in his crib..(how unnatural that must have felt to him)..and how difficult it was to put him down and not wake him up..How much easier it is to simply tote a sleeping baby around (at times).  My son, who is now 7, hated being put down. He wanted to be held alllll the time, and at that time I did not have an ergo carrier, so I often sat there, with him in my lap, waiting out his nap.  (I do not have the luxury of that anymore!) I quickly learned with my daughter to "ergo" her, as I chased after my 2 year old toddler.

I wonder what else I will learn this time around..  It is nice to reflect on this as I am yet again pregnant. It solidifies my feelings about this.  (I'm not anti-crib) It does have its usefulness..and there are times when I know I will need some psychological and physical it become more appropriate for the baby..  But, I do think ideally wearing a child is a wonderful way to bond and meet the needs of a baby..  And co-sleeping is great too (up to a point) long as it is compatible with the parents feelings about it--  and the parents are still able to meet their own needs. There does come a time when the parents need to honor their own needs to be "separate" too...It cannot completely be a drain, or it may not be a good thing for their family.  If it is causing too much hardship, then perhaps, some separation is better... 

But, that separation should be a gentle transition.  I learned with my daughter that for us (when we were ready to encourage her to stay in her crib)  that I didnt' want to entirely have her "cry it out"..I put a mattress next to her crib and stayed with her until she felt safe..and I often had to be there with her, especially during moments of regression caused by colds, teething, growth spurts..and simply unknown reasons sometimes.. 

Wonder what will work with this new daughter-of mine??  and what will work for us as a family with 3 children..  I definitely no longer have the luxury of making up sleep lost during the night..  5:30am is wake up time for me so I can make breakfast and lunch and get my kids ready for school..  Not much time before I have to pick up my daughter from 1/2 day kindergarten.  I'm sure I will be in a survival mode of sorts for quite awhile..  Sometimes, it depends on what a family can endure--Because sleep is soooo necessary for being able to function. 

But as my daughter squirms inside me, I believe with all my heart that keeping her as close to me, as much as I can, is the right thing in the beginning.  It is the nature of the baby--to need that.  And it goes beyond babyhood too--as I said, my 7 and 5 year olds still need it, not as often, but certainly on a regular basis. It does not make them "dependent"--  Both my children learned to sleep through the night..not as fast as the rigid crying it out method, but  they got there and I think they are pretty well adjusted, independent, and feel safe and confident. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hidden Room Dreams

I have a recurring dream that I find new parts of my home that I never knew were there before. This morning, I finally slept in!  (I've been pretty wound up lately about getting our home ready for the baby, getting the kids started in school, canning, and learning how to use a sewing machine(and realizing how much more I can do with this new skill), We also just found out we are having a GIRL!  (-; 

In any case; I, having finallly gotten a full night's sleep, had one of those dreams:

I was wandering in my home(I think I went downstairs: yesterday we just started fixing the drywall in one of the rooms in our basement) While downstairs, I found a new part of the house/room that had its own kitchen and refrigerator. The kitchen part was up a step/a short level higher than a sitting area..There was a big refrigerator (I sometimes wish our refrigerator was larger)--On the lower level, there were also  couches and  shelves of stuff left from the previous owner filled with really nice pots and pans..I was really excited for the expansion of what I could do in this open fun- feeling space.  There was also a large door  with windows with light streaming inside, leading outside to a city street and the ocean...felt like I was in a beach town..Then as I looked around some more I realized that this room was like an indoor courtyard connected to others people's homes. The space was shared..and down a hallway were other shared rooms for sewing and crafts and tons of other fun stuff..People started showing up..There was a Baha'i event going on..Lots of people talking together..coming and going, getting food, going to the crafting areas.. 

My general feeling was of awe---It felt wonderful..  At first I was excited about the expansion of our home, but then I realized that there was so much more with how it opened up to the community.  It was busy and happy, and creative.. 

I love this kind of dream!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Harvesting and Canning

Home Harvesting-pears, fennel, pumpkins, blackberries, strawberries, garlic, beans, tomatoes, broc,

good crop of garlic this year!

ordered 20 # of nectarines for jam--surprised just how good the jam is!

plum-pear jam, and nectarine jam

Farmers market green beans
Dilly Beans!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Someone told me recently that what I do is "optional"...It has hit a nerve. 

There are so many assumptions and so much ignorance and bias implied in that one word.

What was it that was considered optional:

canning, growing food, going to the farm to pick up our veggies, buying food in bulk, making food from scratch, composting, attempting to phase out the grocery store, taking my children on outdoor adventures-like going fishing.. 


All this work I do, unimportant...  ??

Honestly, I question it sometimes...It is not a "convenient lifestyle".  Often the cleaning of our house is put as a second our home is not as groomed as it could be..Dandelions and clover are out of control in our yard. And we aren't even worth yet, of being really "green"...We have too much "stuff" are cluttered..we watch TV, etc..  Our life is not simplified enough..We live in 2 worlds still.. 

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen...Someone might look at me...barefooted and pregnant and think I'm some kind of Betty Crocker(stereotype)..  But, I'm not...I don't think of myself as a 1950's type..I think my views are more radical/liberal than that..but in many ways I'm conservative too. (I don't think it is bad to be liberal or conservative-I'm not one or the other) I'm religious, but my religion is "different"...I am a Baha'i..and my beliefs do not fit into a conventional box..  Some have told me we are going to Hell, because we do not think Christ is the "only" truth..  We believe in Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, Zoroaster, and Baha'u'llah.  So, I don't think I quite fit into the Betty Crocker(stereotype) box..I cringe at terms like "housewife"-I am not subservient to my husband. I do not see my purpose in life as singularily serving his needs. (I believe women and men are equal and deserve equality) I dress up very little. I do not wear make up and rarely even jewlery(although I'm thinking I'd like a pretty pair to wear recently..)  My  cakes are messy..My pie crusts fall apart. My sewing and knitting looks like a child's work.  I am not much a "neat and tidy" /perfectionist person..  But I do like some order, and I like my house to be clean(not gross)..I don't really like the clutter, (but my house is cluttered)..

I'm digressing.. I went on another tangent..  (-;  Anyway-  Optional:

what I am getting at is a feeling of importance...I might have been thinking about "going back to work" or trying to "earn money somehow" just about now.  I; however, am about to have another baby in January..and if at all possible, still wish to be available and not have a day care raise my child...just as I've felt about my other 2 children.. 

Would my job be seen as necessary or "optional" even so...  as the "secondary bread winner"?? 

What I have been doing, to me, is not "optional" but very important...I honestly feel I am part of a kind of revolution...  Notice the headlines lately?  how often food is often you find that the food or products you use are full of toxins, are made poorly...  Everything is now based on "convenience"..and ruled by what marketers tell us we need...We have become locked into a dependency upon that convenience..  I am TRYING to break free of that as much as possible..  shifting from convience to value..

But, what I am doing is "optional"...maybe doesn't even taste as good sometimes to the kids as the store bought white bread..  Why do it--spend hours doing something you can buy really cheap??  what is the point?  Why spend hours learning to knit a scarf, when you can simply buy one for $5?  Why do this to myself?...if it is "optional"? and my scarf is full is mistakes...and not as "neat" as the one from the store!? because I'm so new at this..and just learning a child..

I don't have credibility yet...  My garden growing skills are also still novice..still learning..  Everything I'm doing is novice, because I've only just started over the course of the past 3 years..  I'm not a "master" of it yet..and it takes me longer..and I'm spending too much money on books and getting it all started..  the wood for our raised beds..initial investments that are hopefully going to last for years..(hopefully)

all optional?? 

hearing that word, hurts...because sometimes, I'm not even sure if I am dong the right thing.  and sometimes, I backslide on the principle of sustainability...

Sometimes, I am filled with a grand sense of purpose in doing this---and other times, I wonder if I am wasting my time..  Sometimes, these battles are not always won..  buying a water bottle, then finding it has BPA in it..then buying another water bottle...feels wasteful..and frustrating that it is not always clear-cut and easy to figure out. 

It has become increasingly more and more difficult for consumers to figure out what is okay and safe to buy...and even at the I trust to vet to not "over-vaccinate my pet"...or the doctor to not "over vaccinate, over treat, overly intervene"...I am learning that sometimes there is way too much invasiveness in medicine...and I think this over-treating can be detrimental to our health...too many vaccines=too many chemicals...  Our dentist x-rayed my children without even asking me if it was okay.  My vet put a pesticide on my cat without asking me first!  an accumulation of chemicals...exposures..all so we can live longer..(I guess)...Pharma--"just give them a drug to make them feel better" There are drugs for everything! 

My point is, I am trying to change my/our life around...trying to decrease our dependency...but it is not convenient...

but to me it is NOT optional!  because the current way  of "convenience" is not sustainable....Why would I want to be on any other path than this one where I am striving to change how I think..which is not really "mainstream"---and definitely not convenient...

but I love it...I love the learning..even if it doesn't look polished yet..even if I don't look completely "credible" or earn prestige from doing it..  even if someone thinks I'm some kind of 1950's housewife..  I am not doing this; however,  just for my family; I am dong it, because I feel I am a part of a larger change that I think needs to happen..and I'm doing because I enjoy it..and feel good about it, and feel like I an gives me the same kind of satisfaction as it does when I have created an oil paining, or wrote a term paper for my masters degree..  I do it, with as much professionalism, love, and effort, as I did to earn my BS and MS and apply for jobs..  It is my profession right livelihood, and it takes just as much effort and intelligence and SKILL!!  as any outside of the home job I have had..  and I work hard at it..  and I'm still on a learning curve with it..

but it does not give me "title" or prestige. or raises, or pay, or promotions..sometimes it doesn't even save me money (yet)--I'm working on that part..   

but optional??  unimportant?? 

Isn't the tip of the iceberg of putting down what a woman might do as "inferior"!  I am a feminist in this sense--that I am sensitized to this--and I am a feminist--that I believe a woman has a right to choose what she loves to do--to be able to choose her path...

And what I LOVE to do is be a full-time mom, and a "radical-homemaker"...and perhaps a writer..if I ever get past my rudimentary rough draft stage of writing...  (-;  And I've worked as  a teacher and a counselor(program therapist and play therapist)--I've been there too and may go back to it when my children are in school full-time.. 

But for now, I am here, at home in this profession..  that I love..

doing what I love and following my own sense of integrity and purpose is NOT OPTIONAL..

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Glimpse of the past

After a day of canning dilly beans; and blanching and freezing corn, beans, and strawberries, I was feeling exhausted this morning.  I layed down on the couch and listened to my children play.  Sequoia was pretending she was the ice cream truck driver only she was selling kittens instead of ice cream.  Tristan was buying them from her.

I closed my eyes and felt completely at peace and the image of my grandparents home in Vermont came into my mind.  I was a child playing in their home during an overnight visit.  My grandmother dressed in a simple dress and apron was making breakfast.  The smell and sounds of pancakes, bacon, perculating coffee aromated in the background and my mother and grandmother chatted.  There was very little technology or "stuff" in their home, and it had a smell..of food and this old house smell with it's old decor and the home was still locked into the 40's (except for the large color TV in the livingroom).  There was an old rotary dial/shared phone line.  If it rung once it was for them, twice for the other party line (or the other way around). 

Everyone was relaxed and there was no hurry to the day..  We were there to visit, play, eat, and let the day unfold, no other agendas.  I had a small box of toys, my grandparents kept there for me, and that was enough.. 

My grandmother was unendingly patient.  She would play and engage with me.  I remember she and I lined up the chairs in a row and pretended they were a train we would travel on with the toys.  She and I would also tell stories to each other, recreate episodes of Little House on the Prairie or the Waltons.  I will never forget the hours she would spend with me, often allowing me to "lead" the play.  She never seemed to mind or feel pressed to be doing something else.


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