Friday, April 23, 2010
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.