Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby steps

I grew up in a family that moved out of the city to five acres of land 30 minutes away from town. We raised chickens and milked goats, owned a variety of dogs, a cat, some rabbits, and a horse. We tended some amazing gardens and ate a very healthy, mostly homemade diet. We had a compost pile and recycled, long before it was easy and/or cool to do so.

So it probably isn’t very surprising that I would eventually end up tending toward natural, sustainable, healthy living. (I wish I had better words for that. I hate using buzz words.)

It certainly isn’t an overnight change, although I do think that the past 4 months or so have speeded the process. I’m really focusing on making small changes, baby steps, because trying to change everything all at once just isn’t realistic!

So, what baby steps have we been taking?

Well, one of the first big changes was finding a fantastic CSA, Farm Fresh To You. We get a big box of delicious, fresh organic produce every second week. Nearly all our fruits and vegetables come from this now. I do still buy some extras at the store – usually bananas and spinach. As a direct result of this, we’re eating more (and more varied) vegetables and fruits. Getting CSA boxes regularly forces you into this, and while it can sometimes be a challenge, I think it is a very good one.

(If you’d like to try FFTY, you can use promo code 6164 and my name, which will give me a referral credit and you a $5 discount.)

We’ve been drinking a lot of green smoothies. Yes, Sarah, I’m a convert! We have smoothies about 2-3 times a week, either for breakfast or with lunch, and they always include a healthy dose of spinach. The boys enjoy them (usually) and I’m always amazed at how much more fruit and spinach we can consume in this form than if I’d just served oranges and bananas.

We’re making our own yogurt and eating more of it. The boys LOVE this. They choose homemade yogurt over store-bought sugared yogurt every time, so I’ve stopped buying the flavored kind!

And we’re making more homemade bread. We usually buy Oroweat bread, which is about as healthy as you can get from the store (no HFCS, 100% whole grain) but I love the simplicity of homemade bread. I buy two kinds of organic whole wheat flour from Azure Standard (one is better for pastries and the other better for breads) and it is lovely to know exactly what I’m putting in. I’m also experimenting with soaking our grains before using them, so far with great results! (Baking bread is pretty simple for me because I have a bread machine. My parents gave me one years ago, and when that died I found another for $5 at a thrift store. Bread machines are wonderful things!)

On the sustainability front, I started a recycling program in our condo complex. I’m so ridiculously proud of this. :) We now have an entire dumpster specifically for recycles! I’ve also been worm composting for awhile now. Almost all of our “green” kitchen scraps go outside to feed our thriving worm colony. The children are enjoying this project, I get a completely unreasonable kick out of playing in worm dirt, and I’m happy that we’re not throwing so much stuff in the trash or down the garbage disposal. Plus we end up with lovely dirt to enhance our gardening abilities.

And gardening is going really well. I’ve been gardening since we moved her five years ago (the back yard with space for it was part of the reason I loved this place!) so this isn’t really a new one. The flowers are thriving, and I love being able to bring beauty into our home simply by going outside and cutting a few stems. This year we have the strawberry patch, and I’m also growing tomatoes. I put a lot of worm dirt into the patch before planting them, so I’m really hoping that this year they do well. Fresh tomatoes are so good for you and they taste amazing! I want to grow some spinach, too, if I can figure out how and where. I’m tired of paying $6 for organic spinach, especially since we go through it so fast.

Which brings me back to nutrition, and a goal that I’m baby-stepping my way towards: giving up packaged, processed foods. This is one of the hardest ones, because it means giving up convenience. So I’m doing this gradually, and carefully, always mindful of the fact that sometimes hamburgers at McDonald's, or a frozen meal from the grocery store, is a better choice in order to keep Mommy functioning well! But I do really believe that in general, whole, unprocessed foods are important for health. Will processed foods really harm you? Well, maybe not today, but over a lifetime, I think the evidence is fairly convincing that they will. I also have a personal genetic history that leads me to believe that supposedly "safe" chemicals can, in some individuals, cause disastrous results. So I have a very personal impetus to keep ingested chemicals (found in pretty much anything processed and/or non-organic) to a minimum. I’m also becoming more and more convinced that the nutrition industry (which changes it’s own mind at least every ten years) has no idea what is actually healthful, and it may be prudent to stick with foods that our great grandmothers on farms would have recognized.

A lot of this, I know, sounds “crunchy” and “green” and slightly counter-cultural. That’s ok. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but this is the path that our family is finding most compelling. It is a compelling picture when you take it all together. Spend a lot of time/effort at church, read a lot, incorporate educating our children into the center of our life. Eat well, simply, and carefully. Return what we use to the earth or to someone who can re-use or re-purpose it. Give away as much as we can. Care for our bodies, care for our home, care for our little patch of ground outside. Care for the little souls entrusted to us.

We’re doing our best. With baby steps.


Amie said...

I loved reading what you are doing Em very exciting! I am so addicted to making homemade bread, it started as an "let's try it and see" and now I don't know that I can ever go back! We have some sourdough starter in our fridge the kids call "Harry" that is really a part of our family now (ok not REALLY) big desire right now is a cow for milking but since that goal is not practical right now...
Have you ever thought about grinding your own flour? It is AMAZING the nutritional value and might be another baby step (not to mention the flavor...mmmmm)

Simple living for me is so freeing I love it :-)...we still don't have eggs from our chickens but we are hoping in a few months we will in the meantime we have entered into an agreement with a local farm, I bake them whole wheat bread with no processed sugar and they "trade" it for fresh produce and eggs. It has been AMAZING and it was so easy to set up!

You are an amazing mom to your boys I love reading about your creative ideas!


Ma Torg said...

Although we started going in this direction several years ago due to financial reasons, we now would never turn back even if we did have the money! My body feels so much healthier now that we eat meals from fresh ingredients. I am lucky to live in a 'green' area where local markets carry produce from local farmers for cheap (yes, organic produce is actually pretty cheap here!) and I can choose what I want each week. However, that delivery does sound tempting! What size box do you get and is it enough? We eat mostly vegetarian and I wonder what size would be best if I chose one day to go that route.

I hope one day to live near people who want to go in on a joint venture for meat and dairy deliveries. I've heard that buying those in bulk is the cheapest way to go.

Anyhow, good for you, Emily!

Becks said...

Good for you! I sort of started going in this direction because I had to: because I have celiac disease and cannot even eat trace amounts of gluten, I started having to read labels really carefully. Once I started doing that, it was over. All I could think about every time I read a label with 100 unpronounceable ingredients, was what the heck all of it was, and whether I should be putting it in my body!

Anyway, good for you!

Care said...

I'm happy that I've had a green smoothie at your house! =)

I'm also happy as I remember Jonathan running into the kitchen and saying, "I need VEGGIES!!"

Amber said...

Good for you! I must admit I'm not entirely convinced about the green smoothies, but I'd be willing to give one a try. Could you make them without bananas? I try not to buy things that are perishable and come from far away.

Right now I'm taking a good hard look at our cheese. I tried to order some of the raw cheddar from Azure, but it didn't come. And then there's the 5 lb bag of shredded cheese from Costco... so convenient, but I would rather not think much about the milk it is made from. *sigh*

And 30 minutes?? You guys must drive really slow. :-)

Tamra said...

I think that's a wonderful direction you are taking! I wish I could be better at all of those things. I think you might like a blog I read.

Anonymous said...

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Rachel M. said...

I'm doing the same thing, out of necessity - I have fibromyalgia, and the pain and fatigue are much improved when I stay away from processed foods. And sugar. And salt. And meat and dairy.

I've been making fun of vegetarians and vegans for as long as I can remember, so I suppose it's only appropriate that I now am one. But oh! I do love it!