Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Window into our Life

I want to offer a window into our everyday life as we attempt to move towards a more sustainable life and educate our children at home. I will, ocassionally, share a meal plan (Don't think I am a domestic goddess. I am not.) based on what is growing in our garden and perhaps share a recipe. I will also share the books we are reading and tools we are using for school. I will write about what we are planting, what is growing, what we are harvesting, what is hatching, and other farm and home events.

Our typical weekly activity schedule is: Monday - Scouts, Tuesday - ballet lessons for which we drive 3 hours total, Sunday - Sunday School. We learn at home with all structured lessons occurring in the morning. I work part time from home in the morning before the children awake, in the afternoons, and sometimes after everyone is asleep. We have plenty of time to explore, play, and do chores. This week is not typical! We have extra activities and we will be traveling with husband, leaving on Saturday.

What's for Breakfast, Lunch, and Supper?
  • Breakfast -- scrambled eggs and blueberry muffins. I will also make bread for sandwiches in the morning.
  • Lunch -- Sandwiches (peanut butter or tuna salad) and grapes
  • Supper -- Cabbage rolls with beef and pork, cornbread, and fruit salad. I make enough cabbage rolls to have them for lunch and to have a meal in the freezer. I am making these earlier in the day because we have the Pinewood Derby race.
  • Breakfast -- leftover muffins
  • Lunch -- leftover cabbage rolls or sandwiches for those who want them
  • Supper -- This is ballet day and we don't get home until 6:30 p.m. I usually stop and get a couple of roasted chickens at a deli. I will add sweet potato and apple hash and green salad to complete meal.
  • Breakfast -- Homemade Granola and yogurt
  • Lunch -- Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches made with leftover chicken from last night
  • supper -- Chicken Noodle Soup, ham rolls, and brownies. We are hosting a monthly dinner for the elderly in the community so I will make enough for 30 people.
  • Breakfast -- Yellow Grits and Bacon
  • Lunch -- Chicken Noodle Soup leftover from last night
  • Supper -- Homemade Pizza
  • Breakfast -- Granola and yogurt
  • Lunch -- Pasta with Marinara sauce and green salad
  • Supper -- Hamburgers on the grill, cabbage slaw, roasted potato fries
Email for recipes or shopping list. I use A Cook's Book recipe management software that has a cool monthly menu planner with pantry. I get a plan and shopping list.

What's in the Garden and on the Farm?

If you notice we have cabbage on the menu twice this week, so you guessed it. We have cabbage ready to eat. We also have lettuce and broccoli.

I found the first daffodils this week. Perhaps a few were tricked out of hiding by the Spring like weather. It is still a bit early.

The chickens have started laying again after their molt and short light break. I am so thankful for the beautiful fresh eggs.


Yesterday afternoon, Spring seemed to be beckoning and with Spring comes cleaning. The children and I attempted to clean all the trash from our highway frontage. We gathered twelve (55 gallon)bags full of everything imaginable and there is still more. We haven't cleaned all winter, but, even so, this is certainly a terrible display of filth. While we were cleaning, a few people pulled over and joked, "I didn't know you had started working for the county." I, of course, answered, "No, I'm working for myself" and went on to explain that I couldn't enjoy my porch swing if I had to look at all that garbage.

Then, an idea occurred to me. There is so much garbage on the road because people don't take responsibility for their trash. Littering people believe it is alright to litter because they believe the government will clean it. People have abdicated so much responsibility and power to government that they no longer feel responsible for much of anything, including their garbage. Other examples are:
  • Many parents have abdicated the education of their children to the public school system (government). If children aren't educated when they graduate, do the parents feel responsible? Of course not! The schools failed.
  • Care of the elderly, poor and homeless is not an individual or community problem anymore. We don't have to get involved in a Dickensian way because the government will handle it -- no need to take responsibility.

In addition to abdicating responsibility, we have to consider the volume of garbage produced in our throw away society. Eating while riding down the road, out of paper, plastic, and Styrofoam containers is now a way of life. We are churning so fast, that people don't have time to sit down at a table and eat with real silverware, off of real plates. Children have so many plastic floor flinger toys and gadgets that the play things have no value. Our closets are filled with too many clothes. Clothes that are too tight, too hot, too large, too out of style. How can this be better? Would there be so much junk on the side of the road if the things we had had real value?

I wanted to have something profound to say, but my back hurts so much from leaning to gather the trash that I will rely on this quote from Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Sayers:

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


As Robert Frost said in Mending Wall, "Good fences make good neighbours." Bad fences, though, can show you what good neighbors you have. We moved onto the farm about a year ago and have been struggling with fencing everyday since then. Neither my husband nor I gave more than two seconds thought to the state of the fences before we settled here. We were more concerned about the lack of floor and bathroom in the house. We met our neighbors early when the calves wandered onto the highway. Southern country people are great! At least ten cars pulled over to help get the calves back where they were supposed to be. Obviously, fencing became a top priority. We have installed miles of barbed wire and thousands of posts.

Underestimating the prowess of my flock of Buff Catalinas, I made a picket fence, of sorts, around the house and garden, out of wood that was not good enough to go back on the house. I lost every one of last year's first crop tomatoes to the chickens. I found truth in my search for an aesthetically pleasing fence - the truth that you need chicken wire if you want to keep the chickens out of the garden.

Katrina blew through and my garden fence and every wire fence on the property was gone or at least severely compromised. Since that time, our neighbor's herd, including one buffalo, wandered over; another neighbor's horses traipsed into the yard; and our cows can move, at will, to any pasture. So much for managed grazing. A year after moving here, we still have almost no fencing and are building fences almost every weekend. We have gotten to change the century old fence configurations, gotten to clean the privet off the fence rows, and gotten to experiment with different fencing techniques and can now fence beautifully. After calls from our kind and understanding neighbor, I was out last night getting a calf back where he belongs. We are fencing today.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Moving Away to Come Home

I moved away from here over twenty years ago vowing to never return. Believing there was nothing for me in rural Mississippi, I left for Chicago where I lived, married (Of course, I married a Southern man as any self respecting daughter of my parents would have done.) , worked, attended graduate school, and finally had a baby. I love Chicago and surrounding area -- diverse people, free days at the museums, Lincoln Park, jazz clubs, restaurants, free festivals and quasi-free festivals.

So why am I sitting on the porch of this hundred year old farmhouse which sits atop a red clay hill in Central Mississippi? Space -- space to stretch my legs without inhaling fumes, space to let my children roam without constant supervision, space to let my mind wander, and space to plant and harvest -- was the magnet that pulled me home.

Home - a place I realized I didn't know until I returned; a place I spurned and embraced at once-- was smaller than I realized and devoid of the diversity I had so cherished in Chicago. The grocery store has no produce, the library has few books, and the intellectual diversions are few and far between. Even so, I felt at home. Home is a place where your mind rests and you are capable of a singularity of focus.

Join me for a journey of truth, tradition, honor and fun; a journey through great and good books, through the gardening seasons, through the trials and celebrations of home schooling and country Southern living.