Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Untouched Photos of our lovely walk about....

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Wildcrafting and Cheap Entertainment

On of the ways I am expanding my pantry this year is to explore the natural resources in our timber. Look what I found....

Wild plum and elderberry. I found these while taking a walk with the girls on Friday. Last year a friend made me elderberry syrup that I used whenever I felt a cold coming on and I was the only one in the house who didn't really ever get sick last winter. Awesome. I hope to make some syrup of our own for this winter.

The wild plum was unexpected. It is in a place that it should have been obviously blooming in the Spring and we totally missed it. How is that possible? Very excited about the plums.

And.....I have these in flower vases. My girls love to pick flowers and these little beauties are EVERYWHERE. Flowers really do make me smile and a tiny girl with both hands full of flowers for mama makes me smile bigger than I ever imagined was possible.

Here they are riding along side of my walking. Lily is teaching Holly how to "drive".  Taking long walks in our back yard/woods is a wonderfully simple way to spend an evening. We packed some peaches and juice and called it a night.

I think with all the entertainment options for kids and adults alike we can easily forget the free option of a nice walk outside. We did this when we lived cityside too. And while taking these walks in the city we would meet neighbors and find fruit trees, much like we do out here in the country. Right now our neighbors are breeding cows and harvesting silage and hay.

There are hidden resources to be discovered. What are some you have found?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

These Little Piggies Went to Market

We saw this display at the fair, if you click on the picture you can actually read the words. When you take a drive in the Iowa countryside and see these buildings, now you know what they are! I didn't until about 3 years ago. I wondered how Iowa could be a top state for hog production and yet I'd never seen any pigs on farms. Cows? Yes. Horses? Yes. Even sheep in fields. Never pigs though. Now I see them all over the place. It really is big business.

For us too. But we do things differently. Our pigs also have constant access to clean water and food. Our pigs have shelter that protect them from extreme temperatures, plus their natural behaviours. Predators? We've not yet had a problem. The herd tends to look out for themselves plus our fence is pretty decent too. We also care for our animals, but we also care for additional needs like playing and happiness. I do think that happy animals make better food. They have room to run and play. They actually like sleeping outside under the stars. The self regulate for hot and cold. They are really quite clean and have not destroyed the pasture as we were warned they would do.


Pigs running!
Pigs gathered to eat.
Pigs nosing things up in the pasture grass.
Four of these happy pigs went to "market" today. They spent 3 weeks eating mostly whey, milk, walnuts, apples, and peaches. They ate very little grain, after filling themselves up with the good stuff. Transporting them to market was a new challenge and Chad learned a lot about the process. On my end, I learned a lot about the order forms. Tomorrow very early I find out if the pigs were big enough to provide jowl bacon. Later in the day I drop off order forms and verify information. It's all very exciting!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Stamps Family Spends the Day at the Fair

We always start out in the animal discover center. The girls were not as impressed with the baby pig display as they were last year. In fact, Lily has expressed dismay at the way the mother pig was physically restrained in the space. Interesting. They DID like the ostrich though!
Yes, that says the bird will grow 1 foot per month. How long is a month? How old will the bird get? How many months is that? Her eyes got wide as she calculated......No, that does not mean FEET as in the webbed bi-pedal variety. Kids are funny.
Lil'Bug's first request for food on a stick? FISH. We found shrimp on a stick and AMAZING I am still craving it fried chicken on a stick at this place:

Yum. Drool. Yum again. Seriously. The crawfish etouffee  (not on a stick) is amazing too.

And the rain rain rain came down down down. Tut tut. So we headed inside to see......

Giant watermelons. Feeding frenzy was averted.

Oh yes, a butter Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham. Awesome. Also a butter Jersey? I love this part of the fair. My favourite part is upstairs to see the bees but I was on stroller duty and by belly was being kicked from the inside out.  So Lil'Bug brought me lemonade with honey and Chad brought me pecan pie nuts. Mmmm. The fair is all about the food, yo.

Next stop, the dairy barn. Two scoops? SHE ATE IT ALL.

Pork Chop on a stick secret? This booth has smaller lines and better chops, in my opinion.

Cows. We are too excited to be adding a cow or a beef to our farm soon.

After all the animal viewing we head for the sky! This was almost the girls' favourite part. Corn dogs were not impressive to either girl. Weird. They ate them, but I guess after the chicken and shrimp.....

They also LOVED the Texas tourism booth with the lady and her guitar, BUT the best part of all? The Ye Old Mill ride. The dark tunnel and the boat ride and going with just Daddy and then getting a root beer float. Best day ever. I had fun playing with the camera, and just being with my family. It was rainy and not crowded= perfect. I mean, the girls end up getting wet no matter what (fountain and water features.....and sweat). It was nice not to deal with massive lines or bathrooms with 45 minute wait times. We did miss doing to the DNR building. I forgot all about the archery thing they had going on. Boo.

So that's how we eat our way through the fair. The only thing I missed was the pineapple whip. Last year and this year we could not find the stand ANYWHERE! I wish I knew....maybe next year?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Sample Sunday!

On Sunday we set up our farm booth at Prairieland Herbs and answered questions about our pork! It was lots of fun.

One of the ways we had the table set up. It changed throughout the day.

There was a tie dye station and a hula hoop demonstration and lots of good smelling things to eat.....our booth was next to Ebersole Cattle Co. and Shanen showed us the ropes, literally.  We met face to face some of our customers that we'd only known through facebook or through mailed checks! We sampled new soaps and scents.
Dawn the amazing hula hooper!

Things I learned that we need if we do this again: Samples. Duh. Sample Sunday? We are all out of our own pork until fall harvest so we simply had nothing to provide as samples.....except lard. So next time we will bake little apple pies or jam tarts and shortbread cookies made with lard. That was Chad's brilliant idea.

Shanen showing us the many uses of dry ice....
We also need a banner or poster for our farm name. Something that is upright and has large print. The name and description on the table did not draw people in the way that a large sign might? Also brochures with pictures, price data, and time lines would be good. I had not even thought of that until I saw Shanen's.

Next up, we will prepare for Farm Crawl 2010! I should have our cookbook ready to preview by then, I hope!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Imagination at Play

I've been meaning to write about this for a while. Playgrounds. Play equipment. Toys. My own observations.

I mean no offense by recalling this conversation, but about a year ago my mama friends and I were discussing park day and playgrounds. Some mamas liked that park day that is always at one park, and that the kids rarely if ever play on the standard equipment. Some disliked it for exactly that reason! Their argument was that the kids were bored and that led to trouble, fights, and interpersonal drama. They favoured going to a different park every week and providing structured, controlled activities.

I can see the benefit to both in the short term, and really we have to decide what is best for each of our own families. However, I am going to try and articulate why I prefer going to the same park despite the drama that sometimes arises.

First, consistency is nice. My kids know what to expect, I am familiar with the geography and boundaries of the park and can better set boundaries. There are sometimes new kids, but there is always somebody they are familiar with including adults that they have grown to trust and therefore listen to and respect. They know the bathrooms, they know the trees. They can pick up imagination games that they started or played the week before.

Second, boredom is the fire of ingenuity. They have come to prefer the trees to climb and hide in, the woods to run in, and the open spaces over the metal equipment and sand pits. Sometimes they go there too, but not to simply try out all the monkey bars. They exercise their brains as well as their bodies and come up with new ways to be physical in the space provided. Sometimes someone brings a ball or a Frisbee and then they play for a while at that game.

Third. Interpersonal drama. Girls being catty. Jealousy. Physical fights. Wow. Sounds just like a school playground! A couple observations on this. One is that THIS is socialization at work. The stuff that everyone claims we are depriving our kids of. It's not intrinsically a bad thing. No, it is a GOOD thing when they can play with these roles and emotions in a familiar place, nearby people that can and will intervene if necessary, that the kids can go to for help in solving issues or that they can trust will step in. Not that it gets to that point often, but it has. The small jealousies that my girls have been a part of are not small to them. They have been on both sides of the dynamic, trying out roles and then working them out. A couple weeks later the same girls that were in tears hating each other have worked out their differences and are friends again. The lovely thing about this is that they have our guidance, they have the check of the fact that we often hear both sides of the story before we even leave the park and thus can provide the kind of gentle guidance that allows them to work it out instead of it escalating.

Honestly, I find that my girls tend to engage in roles that they see me struggling with and more fully express the emotions. Like a fun house mirror, this can often remind me to heed the advice I give them. Sometimes grown ups can be really childish and we often forget that the children hear and see everything, not always processing the nuances of human behaviour. They call it as they see it.

Playground play is so important to the developing mind. I specifically try not to get involved when they have conflict and encourage them to find solutions, while reminding them what behaviour will only cause more pain and conflict. By trying out these roles, they experience both sides and develop empathy in a way that I think that only allowing them to engage in structures controlled activities can not do. I heard a study once that claimed that be denying this kind of role play, we simply delay the opportunity and the kids will still try on the roles later, possibly without empathy and thus are created sociopaths and bullies.  At least I think it was that study! LOL.

A fourth reason is that the group is multi age and multi generational. School playgrounds do not provide this, or most do not. Lil'Bug's friends are not all her age peers. She can hold a conversation with someone's grandma, as easily as she can with her friends. Her friends are both older and younger than she is. Some are girls and some are boys. She learns by observing how to treat others, she sees the affects of her words and actions and can have the encouragement of her peers and parents to make right if her actions have an effect that she is unhappy with. She gets to KNOW people as individuals. If she doesn't like a game or a dynamic, she does something else for a while. Sits with me, eats a snack, climbs a tree, cuddles her sister. Then jumps confidently back into play. Park day is 3-4 hours long. That gives the kids TIME to work out their play as well.

Sometimes it is nice to just sit under the shade trees and colour. Or sit up high in a tree. The comfort level of our park day provides both opportunities and the kids don't feel pulled to explore a playground they may never see again or pushed to play a game they don't want to just because it is the structured activity provided and all their peers are doing it. Sometimes they get into dangerous things, like a mud puddle that had poop in it. Or they find a drug needle or a condom in the tree cover. It is a public park after all.


Introducing Blueberry Girl into the equation has changed what park day means to me as well. I can no longer lounge in the shade chatting with people who have older kids. I have to be on active playground watch, defensive against a runner who goes for the parking lot, pushing swings, spotting acrobatics. This phase will pass and soon she will be climbing trees and rolling in the tall grasses with the older kids and I will repeat the cycle with Zaphod in a few years. The benefit to the girls far outweighs the extra effort on my part. Plus, it just means I have to actively PARENT and I will not complain about that. It is after all my role in the dynamic.

Being with like minded parents who do not find my food philosophies or parenting style crazy is nice. It fills me up with confidence for the week. Being more confident, I can walk my path with my head up. THAT helps my girls grow as well.

And as an additional thought, I wonder what always providing children entertainment and structure would lead to? Would they always require someone else to provide that? Would they start to complain that they are bored and have nothing to do? Would simple toys not be enough to capture their curiosity and imagination and would that part of their brain atrophy? What kind of adults evolve from that?  Is there more benefit to unstructured play and unstructured bio rhythms than to structuring it and controlling it all when they are small and young? Possibly introducing more structure as age and social culture requires it rather than pushing it on them early? Or maybe there is in fact structure present, just not the kind we control with whistles and force? The structure is present in the consistency of time and place, giving the children the basis to feel comfortable and confident.

So that's just what is in my head today. Happy Monday!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wild Beauty on the Farm, Messing with my camera