Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Era of Responsibility

Yesterday on the National Mall, President Obama reminded us all of the "price and promise of citizenship" and called for a "new era of responsibility."


While I could quibble with some of his choices and some of his ideas (most notably harnessing the "soil" to run our cars and factories), overwhelmingly I breathe a sigh of relief to have a leader willing at least to address climate change in serious and substantial ways, willing to admonish us all for our "collective failure to make hard choices," and willing to call on us all to reconsider the "ways we use energy."

Now, what the future brings depends upon each of us to take up Obama's call in ways we see fit, adding our individual preferences and opinions to a collective surge toward energy independence. Up to each of us is the task of making our individual opinions heard and seen by providing a model to move forward in ecologically responsible ways.

With each step we take, so too do our nations move forward. With each willing step, we show others a way forward. Do not look to Obama to do this hard work; we must look deep within ourselves, for there the responsibility lies. This is the gift he offers: the motivation to find within ourselves a higher purpose and a noble sacrifice, the opportunity to "choose our better history" as men and women "obscure in [our] labor."

If "everywhere we look, there is work to be done," what work will you choose? How will you answer this call to service and sacrifice and usher in a new era of responsibility?

I hope folks will commit to making at least one change in the comments section, and we'll work together to hold ourselves responsible for these changes. In that spirit, I'll close with my own pledge for energy reduction and learning to live with less because this is how I choose to define "progress" and "growth." This is the legacy I want to leave my children's children: a way of living in harmony with technology and sustainability.

  • We will eliminate our second refrigerator, which at first blush seems like a major luxury, but with our dairy cow plus egg and meat sales, we've felt we really needed that second refrigerator. We're in the process of figuring out how to maximize our inside refrigeration space and change our habits with regard to refrigerated food. My goal is to have the garage fridge unplugged and decommissioned by February.
  • We will be getting a cookstove this year (yay!), which should be up and running by the fall burning season. It will enable us to cook, warm the upstairs, and heat water simultaneously without coal-generated electricity. Jim plans to plumb it into our electric hot water heater to reduce the amount of electricity we draw to heat our household water.
  • We will install our outdoor shower with solar hot water this spring, and I'll even dig the post holes myself rather than waiting on Jim to do it. (Yes, you all heard that, and Woody, I'm sure you'll take his side and hold me to it. *grin* ) Between this and the cookstove, we ought to achieve a roughly comparable seasonal reduction of electric-heated water as we would if we installed an expensive solar hot water system. That's our hope anyway.

C'mon, what are your ideas? What will you pledge?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Regime Change and the Politics of Hope

Inauguration Day here in America, and we'll be watching with bated breath as Barack Obama is sworn in as our 44th president.

Yes we did.

There is much to hope for as the next four years unfold, and so much for concern.

The economy for one, and whether Keynesian economics will provide work and much-needed infrastructure changes or whether it will be the shackles on the legs of future generations.

Climate change and James Hansen's rosy report of "flooded cities, species extinction, and climate catastrophe" for two. Will we keep hearing words like "clean coal" and "cap and trade" or will serious efforts begin?

Two wars and America's standing in the eyes of the world for three. What does a responsible draw down look like, and how long will it take?

Agriculture and food security for four. Vilsack offers no great hope on this front, but there is hope that Alice Waters is getting through to Michelle Obama on an organic garden at the White House.

Here's to the politics of hope and change overriding the age-old addage, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Artisan Bread Baking

For my birthday, my mother-in-law gave me some cash, which I quickly disposed of by signing up for two artisan bread baking classes offered through our Rural Heritage museum. Our instructor, Bill Theriault, a historian and founder of the Peter Burr Living History Farm, has been baking artisan bread for many years. That's my friend Joan standing next to him in the photo to the left.

The first class I took was a beginners class that covered the basics of sourdough starters, kneading, shaping, proofing, and baking. By the end of that class, we'd all baked at least one loaf of bread and tasted all the others, and had some to take home to our families in addition to our very own bag of established starter.

For the past month, I've been diligently practicing my basic artisan bread skills at home, trying to figure out how to integrate them into my world. Baking artisan bread is about a 24 hour process from start to finish, and while it's not all that labor intensive, it can be tricky to remember to do all the steps at the right time and to figure out how to fit it into one's already-busy day.

The process begins with pulling the starter out of the fridge the morning before baking and feeding it, though I'm baking often enough that I'm just leaving my starter on the counter. First, discard any "hooch" (the alcohol waste-product from yeast feeding) on top and the very top layer, which probably has some dead yeasties. Then feed it with about a pound of flour and a pound of water. About 12 hours later, or before you go to bed, reserve half the starter to store in the fridge, and feed the remaining starter enough flour/ water mixture for the recipes you'll be using the next day.

Kneading takes about 20 minutes, the 1st rise with a natural leaven will take approximately 3 hours at temps between 70-85°, and the "proofing," or second rise will take approximately another 3 hours. The bread itself bakes for around 45 minutes, and then it will need to cool an hour before cutting. Quite drawn-out a process, eh?

For Christmas, I got these gorgeous willow proofing baskets along with a stoneware cloche in each shape—a boule and a batard. The cloche is absolutely essential for reproducing at home the thick, chewy crust that defines artisan bread... short of putting in your own masonry oven, which of course I'd love to do, but doubt that's happening any time soon. The floured proofing baskets are what create the beautiful pattern on the bread, along with the slashing, which can take any shape the artisan baker chooses. Some folks have made their own cloches by using terra cotta planters, a great, low-cost solution, but at such high heats, I was concerned about any lead or additives that might be in these off-the-shelf buys and decided to invest in good, food-grade stoneware. Breadtopia is a great source for both materials and tutorials—loads of information there.

I just took the advanced class this Saturday, and it was wonderful. We made several flavored loaves as well as several different kinds of recipes, including bread pudding, savory french toast, stuffed dinner and dessert rolls, and English muffins. We experimented with many toppings and fillings and ingredients, creating lots of variations on a theme to expand upon at home.

Knowing my family's likes and dislikes, I left the chocolate breads to others and jumped all over the savory breads and English muffins. I made a delicious savory French toast from a 3 pepper bread, as well as a raisin spice artisan loaf, and raisin spice English muffins. I made a double batch of raisin spice dough, enough for a 2 lb. loaf and at least 8 muffins. Here I am rolling out the mini-boules to create the muffins after the first rise; the bread boule is already resting after its first shaping. By the time I was done the muffins, the bread loaf was ready for its second shaping before placing in the proofing basket.

Here I am taking my finished loaf out of the oven. The raisin spice recipe was amazing, though I'll be adding walnuts to mine because we love nuts. Jim was wild about the 3 pepper dinner rolls stuffed with roasted peppers, which I knew he would be. For any chocolate lovers out there, we had one loaf made with ghirardelli cocoa substituted for 1/3 of the flour in the recipe, making for a stunningly black loaf of bread with an intense chocolate flavor reminiscent of a black forest cake when topped with cherry preserves and a dash of powdered sugar. We also made cranberry chocolate dessert rolls; a pecan, cinnamon, carrot bread; 3 pepper bread; and a 3 pepper bread pudding stuffed with sausage and caramelized onions.

The class was invaluable because we talked about when to add different ingredients, which ingredients are yeast-inhibitors and how to deal with those, how to troubleshoot different problems, etc. The English muffins were amazingly easy to make, as was really just about everything else, but just having the chance to play around with all the recipes with an experienced someone along for the ride was really helpful. Bill's a terrific mentor, and the best part about all this is that come Spring, we'll hopefully have community baking days in the new brick oven he's helped build at the museum! Because I've been a part of the classes, I'll have dibs on baking my dough when it's fired. I'm very excited!

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Awards

Over the past year or so, several folks have been so kind to bestow blog awards while I've been decidedly ungracious about accepting them. My humble apologies. I always mean to get around to writing about it and following through with the passing on, yet time always seems to get away from me.

Christy, over at Farm Dreams, just gave me an award together with some very kind words, which were, in truth, much better than the award itself. Maybe that's what these blog awards are good for—giving us the opportunity and cause to say something nice about someone else. (Even if they do often feel more like chain letters, but that's the humbug in me talkin'.)

So, to put the humbug to rest and do my homework: here goes... I hope I didn't miss anyone, but if I did, thank you, thank you, thank you! I am grateful for your acknowledgment.

Pass this along to at least 3 blogs.

Crunchy Chicken

(not so) Urban Hennery
Sharon Astyk

For their ability to inspire and motivate so, so many readers to make this world a better place.

Lisa over at Zahn Zone passed this one along, and so did my friend Ren:

1. The winner can put the logo on her/his blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 5 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you’ve nominated
6. Bonus points, list 5 random things about yourself that we might not pick up from your blog.

Crystal for her style and energy and orderly approach to urban homesteading and for jumping in with both feet.
Olivia for her amazing and enviable sense of self.
Dayna for her optimism, enthusiasm, and willingness to share all of herself.
Sarah for all that she does with littles and all.
Grow the Change I just found her blog, but I like her style, and anyone who can knit a bra deserves an award. (So does the person willing to wear it!)

From Kim at Achorn Farm Blog:

These are the rules to accept the award:
1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.
4.The award winner and one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. To show these rules

Ren Ren has a couple blogs, but I linked you to her personal, creative space. She's amazing and inspiring and always follows her passion. She is creativity personified.
Madeline I know she's already received it, but she deserves it at least twice. I love her creativity, her photography, her honesty and zest for life, and her bee novel, which I hope one day to be honored to read.
Rue who probably already received this, too, but she's amazing, artistic, profound, and occasionally, just plain twisted. Plus, she wrote one of the best unschooling books around.
Laura a quietly amazing artist whose style is vibrant, feminist, celebratory and thoughtful all at once.
Tansy who makes beautiful homespun inspiration filled with love, sugar and spice, and everything nice.

And this one from one of my favorite bloggers Madeline, and sweet Jenny, my neighbor in West Virginia:

Whomever chooses to accept the award then needs to nominate ten other blogs. (Yes, this one's intimidating. Ten?!!)

The Matron of Husbandry Nita might be the most knowledgeable person I "know." She's gritty, practical, and a veritable wealth of information. I want to be her when I grow up.
Contrary Goddess CG pulls no punches and follows her ethical compass, straight and true. I admire who she is and what she stands for.
El someone I'd like to invite for dinner, share a good glass of wine and great conversation.
Jenny, who doesn't blog nearly enough but who is an amazing inspiration nonetheless and one of those soul-mates who lives just way too far away.
Chile Chews who always has something to think about.
Peak Oil Hausfrau practical and motivating.
Walter at Sugar Mountain Farm filled with great information and perspective, from farming to photography.
Women Not Dabbling in Normal the sum is better than its parts, or something like that. Good stuff. Check it out.
Choosing Voluntary Simplicity The title's a bit redundant, but it's a veritable clearinghouse of information.
The Automatic Earth a go-to blog for enjoyin' the ride to hell in a handbasket.

This one is from Gracie over at Urban/Prairie Living:

"With the Premio Dardos, recognize the values that each blogger shows each day in commitment to transmit cultural values, ethical, literary, personal, etc. that, in short, demonstrate their creativity by alive thinking that remains intact from their letters and words."

The rules for accepting the awards are:

1. Accept the award and post it on your blog along with a link to the person who has awarded you.
2. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement. Remember to contact them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

15 is a huge number of blogs to name, so I'm going to acknowledge several bloggers who have worked hard to make their dream a reality, to walk in step with their ideals, and to make the time to share some of that journey with us. Thank you for your commitment to sustainability and to reducing your impact on the earth. Some of you already received this, but you deserve it again. I haven't thanked you yet, so it still counts!

Wendy over at Home Is
Kim at Achorn Farm
Christy at Farm Dreams
Lisa at The Zahn Zone
Verde at Justice Desserts
Vicky at Perry Hill Farm
Heidi at Wisdom of the Trowel
Tara at Enough
Shasha at Seeking Simplicity
Jayedee at Life in the Lost World
Susan at Stepwise
Burbanmom at Going Green
Destabee at Kaleidascope Living
Tracy at Ramping Up the Garden
Robin at MommyMommyLand

Whew! I think that does it, and now I can sleep easy at night, knowing I haven't dropped the ball. ;)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Independence Days Update

Okay this is just a teaser since a new one is coming. From my drafts folder back in November....

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I'm still here, plugging away, working just a little bit harder in the face of all this economic uncertainty to learn new skills and get the homestead in tip-top shape.

I have an OCD-like quality that emerges when life feels beyond my control, and I respond by controlling as much as I possibly can, which generally includes my immediate environment. This means my house is actually clean (yeah, that's where all that time not posting is going), I've been working like a dog to finally finish the basement family room that's been three years coming, and I've been reorganizing and reworking our pantry system as well as continuing to stock it with home-made canned goods, bulk grains, and even home-made cheese.

So, without further ado, here are some category updates:


Transplanted all those seed trays into both the market and winter gardens for fall and winter harvesting. The gardens are going like gang busters, and I've already harvested a couple of lovely heads of napa cabbage and bok choy. The peas were tasty if not prolific, though the first frost took them out. Next year I need to make space for them in the high tunnel perhaps because the kids do love them so.

We had our first killing frost October 20th, and I lost a huge harvest of peppers because I wasn't on top of it. Thankfully I'd already put up lots of salsa and roasted peppers and had a big basket of hot peppers drying in the kitchen. Still, it was a disappointment, and I vowed to be more diligent come October about keeping the plants harvested.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Food Post

Because it's been a while since I've done a food post...

We've been enjoying lots of pork this year thanks to our very productive Tamworth piggies. This last round we took to the butcher we had the ground made into hot Italian sausage ropes, which are absolutely delicious. Here I am making a sourdough calzone with spinach, hot Italian sausage, homemade sauce, and mozzarella cheese. (And see that corner behind me where the coat tree is? That's where I want to put my new cookstove that I'm trying to talk Jim into.)

This is my baking center, which you can see is lower than the rest of the counter. I love it. It's the perfect height for rolling out cookies and crusts, kneading dough, and kid cooking. It's the short part of our "L" shaped island, with the longer part a standard-height breakfast bar where we do most of our eating because the kitchen table is usually covered with projects and clutter, as you can also see in the photo above.

Easy, fast, and deeeeelicious! C'mon, take a bite... Yummmm.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Food Security, Part IV

Time to get into the nitty-gritty of food security: seed saving. I'm still working on a steep learning curve with this one, but each year I'm able to take another step in the right direction. I've come to believe that seed saving is the very foundation of food security. Even for those who grow their own food, myself included, dependence upon seed companies could quickly create a large hole in our food security should seed sources dry up for whatever reason. Demand outstripping supply, crop failure, bankruptcy, and worse, all could play havoc with our ability to grow food for our families. Making time now to learn seed saving techniques while the supplies and time are still available is valuable insurance against an uncertain future.

By saving seeds, you'll also be helping to preserve biodiversity, a worthy goal all its own. Seed saving is something our ancestors practiced not only because it was frugal but also because it was practical and the only real way to guarantee that they'd have the seed they needed for next year's growing season. Without these seed savers so many of our heirloom varieties would have been lost, yet this threatens to become a lost art. If younger generations do not step up, learn these techniques, and preserve the knowledge along with the seeds, we may literally find ourselves relying on single hybrids susceptible to mass die-out, not unlike the great potato famine.

How could this be, you may ask? As Monsanto and GMOs march (and drift!) on, small seed savers become more and more crucial to maintaining species diversity because many are lucky enough to live in pockets isolated from larger growers and the cross pollination that can result. More and more heirloom varieties are being lost because commercial hybrid seeds dominate growing fields, resulting in both cross pollination and decreased demand for heirlooms. While there's nothing wrong with non-gmo hybrids, most will not reproduce true—some can be stabilized over a few generations—or are completely sterile, rendering a gardener dependent upon the seed supplier. Large market growers and agribusiness turn toward hybrids that will work for their conditions of production—pest and disease resistance, travel, storage, uniformity, machine harvest, etc.—and as long as consumer demand supports these conditions, heirloom seeds will continue to be under threat. Often, too, taste and nutrient density are sacrificed for market qualities because so many heirlooms can't stand up to the demands of shipping and storage.

Besides protecting heritage and diversity, seed saving also builds a seed store adapted to a particular climate, meaning that saved seed likely has a better chance of thriving in its environment than shipped seed. This kind of adaptation takes generations of seed, but perhaps in the face of climate change such efforts will prove invaluable. Grand seed saving projects like the Seed Vault in Iceland are terrific efforts for governments to undertake, but I don't think they should be the only efforts, nor should they absolve each of us from doing what we can to help as well. At the very least, they fall prey to political whims, at worst, they could fail entirely, so they shouldn't replace individual seed savers by any means.

Seed purity can be tricky business, however, and I strongly suggest getting a good book like Suzanne Ashworth's Seed to Seed as a reference guide. If you're anything like me, this book will become a go-to guide, as I'm inevitably forgetting things and having to look them up all over again just to be sure: which plants require pollinators, which can be left under row covers, that kind of thing. Maybe some day all this will become second nature, but for now, this is my seed saving bible. There are also several good organizations like Seed Savers Exchange that offer information and support. In my blog sidebar, I list several sources for heirloom seeds from different regions of the US. I personally order the majority of my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a small, mid-Atlantic company based in Virginia, and I've been very pleased with them; however, I've heard lots of wonderful things about the other companies listed as well.

The many different available resources cover ways to ensure seed purity from insect and wind pollination, including isolation distances, maturation time, and day-caging, but they can make it all seem pretty daunting at first with all the information and conditions. Getting started seed saving, however, really is as simple as ordering a variety of open pollinated seeds from an heirloom seed source. (Open pollinated simply means that plants will reliably reproduce the same variety from seed, and this is essential for saving your own seed.) I try to grow at least one open pollinated variety of every vegetable I grow even if I'm growing hybrids for other reasons. I'm not saving seed from all of them each year, but ordering the seed at least ensures that demand for o. p. seeds remains steady. This way, too, I'm able to try out different varieties to see how they perform in my garden conditions. I also try to hold back a few seeds from each of the o.p. varieties, so I will have them for the following year if I can't get them.

For the first year of actually saving seeds, I'd recommend starting with something easy like beans and then branching out from there. The more you do it, the easier it will seem to take the next step. Beans are good first plants because they're perfect and self-pollinating with relatively low isolation distances, meaning that they don't need to be miles away from the nearest planting of beans to ensure purity. Choosing a distinct-looking bean, too, can be an easy visual cue. When planning to save seed, it can make good sense to plant only that variety for the season just to minimize any chances of cross pollinating. Row covers can also help reduce the chances of cross-pollination by insects with bush varieties. Because beans are self-pollinating, the row cover can be left on except to harvest, and this has the added benefit of protecting plants from bean beetles.

Moving further into my own seed saving journey, I've found that learning the different plant families for seed saving is just an extension of knowing them for good garden rotation to minimize pests and diseases. It's all part of the same whole. Because plants within the same family can often cross with others in the same family, knowing which plants are related starts to become really important, and it's not always obvious. I'm not going to go into very much detail about the hows here—it would take up too much space, and I'm no where near as knowledgeable as a good book on the subject, but there are some simple tricks that I've found helpful.

One easy way around cross pollination in the home garden is to simply save seeds from one variety one year, and another the next, being sure not to let the off year plants go to flower. This year, for instance, I was able to save seeds from over-wintered chard in the spring, pull those, and save the seed; next year, I'll save the beet seeds. It's also possible to stagger plantings chronologically within the same season, but this requires a bit more planning ahead. These methods require a close eye, and they're certainly more demanding than just throwing a few seeds into the ground willy-nilly, but they can integrate really well with an intensive planting rotation. Simply pull the plants as they start to bolt, and plant something else in their place that won't cross pollinate.

So far, I've been able to save my own beans, tomatoes, chard, endive, gourdseed corn, popcorn, spinach, sorrel, dill, cilantro, sunflowers, okra (thanks to Pam G. for the original seed), lettuce, chives, leeks, and green onions. I've also saved potatoes and garlic, but not from seed. I'm hoping to get some turnip and beet seed from over wintered plants next spring, but the turnips can be tricky, as they'll cross with any bolting Chinese cabbages and broccoli raab, meaning I'll need to be on top of things to make it work. I'm considering venturing into day-caging, depending upon how much energy I have at the time. Still, it's possible to get a decent seed store going without all the hoopla. I've had some failures along the way, too—carrots, michihli, and quinoa, for instance—because I wasn't careful enough. In the case of the carrots and quinoa, I had wild species growing too close that were impossible to eradicate, so those may be something I'll have too much trouble saving to make it worthwhile.

As you can see, used egg cartons hold a lot of my seeds. Not necessarily the most sanitary method, but it's what I often have on hand while collecting or sorting the dried seed. Other recycled containers work well, too, for large quantities of seed. For small amounts of seed, envelopes are good, and they can be easily labeled and traded. The key is to keep seed cool and dry to avoid any mold formation. Silica gel works well in sparing amounts because the seeds need a small amount (around 3-5%) of moisture for proper germination. For long-term storage the freezer works best, but be sure to allow the storage container to come to room temperature before opening so the seeds don't collect condensation. I keep back up seeds vacuum packed in my freezer as a minor insurance policy. They take up very little space and may prove quite useful down the road. Then again, maybe my kids will be cleaning out my freezers one day wondering why the heck I have all these vacuum packed seeds. Ahhh, better to be safe than sorry, especially if it's easy enough.

I'm by no means self-sustaining in terms of seed saving, but I hope to keep improving on that front. Right now, I'm too much of a variety-addict to limit myself to my own saved seeds, but if something were to happen, I'd have a pretty decent garden all on my own, and I hope to keep improving. Seed ordering the way I do is a luxury, but at $2 or $3 a packet, it's a luxury I'll continue to indulge. I've already placed my '09 seed order, not wanting to put it off too long. Even ordering before the holidays, I encountered several back orders, my onion seed among them unfortunately. Neither onion nor corn do well saving beyond a year, so they need to be ordered or saved fresh every year. Luckily, many other seeds will save for years under the right conditions.

My 2009 Seed Order: modest compared to previous years, but that's due as much to leftover seed as to my own seed saving efforts. At this point my goals are still to try different varieties as well as to have a wide variety, though not a great quantity, of seed in cold storage. The asterisk indicates hybrids.

bean, louisiana purple pole

bull's blood

Buckwheat (cover crop for high tunnel)

purple dragon

corn, super sweet*

straight eights
edmonson pickling

edamame, asmara

listada di gandia
ping tung long

bok choi
purple mizuna
red giant mustard

red russian

Thai oakleaf
red salad bowl
salad bowl
rouge d'hiver
drunken woman
winter density

moon and stars watermelon
strawberry watermelon
hale's best muskmelon
edisto muskmelon

ruby ring*

Sahuaro anaheim*
Red Knight*

Yukon gold
red nordland

cherry belle radish

Squash, summer:
yellow crookneck
early white scallop
costata romanesca
golden bush scallop

Squash, winter:
table queen acorn
Cornell's bush delicata
waltham butternut
marinia di chioggia
blue ballet
Galeux d'Eysines
Cinderella pumpkin

gold nugget
striped German
green zebra
sweet olive*

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Okay, the gray was bringin' me down

New Year's Resolutions

That reflective time of year again where we're invited to look back on the outgoing year and assess where we've been and determine where we'd still like to go. Taking the time to write my goals here not only gives me a record, but it also holds me more accountable... to a certain degree anyway. Lord knows I can be my own worst enemy.

1) Bring my actual lifestyle more in line with my ideals on a sustained basis.

This is something I'd like to work on across the board—translating those good intentions that are always so resolute at about 3am yet tend to fall by the wayside by about 3pm. Or, I'll be really good about stuff for a burst of time, only to fall back into bad habits and the ease of disregard or denial. Entropy is my enemy. This resolution, of course, blankets all that follow, so this will be my governing principle for 2009.

2) Be better about record keeping and writing in my journal.

Yep, this would be one of those things that I'll be really good about for a while only to drop off mid-season, only to resolve to be better about it, only to drop off again. Fits and starts. Bursts of disciplined energy. Must. Keep. It. Going. I need to find a way to integrate journaling into my day so it doesn't get left out. I've tried doing it right before going to bed, but sometimes I'm just too tired. I've tried doing it first thing in the morning, but I get side tracked checking the news, and emails, and all your blogs....

3) Get back into a pattern of morning meditation and stretching.

As I get older, my body rebels. Recovery and bounce back take so much longer than they used to on those days when I push myself too hard. Consistent care and stretching will go a long way. Focus more on health, less on dis-ease both in myself and in the world at large, cultivating the positive and releasing the negative.

4) Get out more as a family.

We used to rock climb on a fairly regular basis before we moved, and we'd all like to get back into that. The animals make it tricky to do much camping, but we can certainly do more day hikes and camping in the backyard. We need to explore our local areas more and take the time to get out and do the things we enjoy.

5) Dig out the front yard and get the medicinal garden going for real.

Last year the family cow preempted my front garden budget, so that vision was put on hold for a while. 2009 will be the year of the herb. I have a gorgeous plan sketched out that one of these days I'll scan and upload. It includes several spiral walking paths along with a host of edible plants in addition to the medicinals. On a bright note, we have been dumping all our coffee grounds in what will be a blueberry/ cranberry bed, which is at least the beginning of conditioning the soil for these acid lovers. I also heeled several varieties of plants that I started into my kids' gardens, so I should have several established plants to pull from in addition to starting even more from seed.

6) Continue to reduce our impact on the earth and help inspire others on their journeys.

I'd like to find a way to reinvigorate the community group I tried to start last year and to keep a circle of local support going, which helped inspire and motivate us all, myself included. I'd like to move forward with some of the more expensive updates to our household that will help make us more sustainable, including the washing machine and refrigerator issues. Additionally, I'd like to open our farm to interns through local and regional channels, as well as, perhaps, WWOOF.

7) Community outreach.

Linked to number 6, but not limited to sustainability, this would include broader community projects and giving, particularly in terms of food and health. The kids, too, would like to become involved in our local Appalachian trail group and our 4-H clubs, and I'd like to do more with our Rural Heritage Museum. My goal, too, is to be more proactive about creating my own local social support network and to become more active in our homeschooling group.

8) Work more with my kids on their goals.

The kids are getting old enough that I'd like to begin actively encouraging them to set goals and supporting them in what they need to achieve those goals. Up until now, while I've certainly tried to support them in any way possible, I've been content to model goal-setting for the most part, allowing them to focus on valuable play time and all the learning that comes from that. Now that they're getting older, I'd like to see them learn and grow through more deliberate goal-setting and working towards larger projects. In particular, I want to focus this year on helping Em pursue her drawing and designing, encouraging and enabling Julia's entrepreneurship and 4-H goals, and fostering Sam's desires to learn karate and blacksmithing.

9) Spending less and giving more.

I'm still working on my relationship to consumerism. While I've never been a huge shopper, I still find our budget disappearing every month, which ends up being somewhat puzzling. Of course, much of it has gone towards stocking the pantry, farm infrastructure and such, but I'd like to get to a point where that kind of spending starts to pay off. The flip side of this goal is my hope that as we get our infrastructure set up that we'll be able to free up more money to donate. More than that, though, I'd like to continue to encourage and support an economy of caring and sharing, of bartering and mutual assistance where the benefits go toward real, local folks rather than faceless corporations by acting locally to produce global change.

10) Continue my own ongoing education efforts.

I'd like to continue to learn and grow in new areas, fostering and modeling a love of learning and life. My goal is to cultivate projects that benefit myself, my family, my community, and my planet, and to share what I've learned with others. Mostly, I'd like to continue to find ways to make this world a better place, to use my energy for global good, and to nurture and nourish those close to me.

May this new year bring us all the resolution to achieve our goals, the health to maintain our energy, and the strength to sacrifice for greater good.

Peace and Joy.