Guest post: Gradually Going Local

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Ami who blogs at Writing: My Life.

I first heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) several years ago in a magazine article. I immediately loved the idea of paying a local farmer in exchange for a weekly share in whatever he or she produced. What better way to really know where your food is coming from? Unfortunately, by the time I’d learned about CSA the deadlines to sign up with any of the local farms had passed. I planned to check into it again the next spring, but kept letting those deadlines pass me by.

The desire to start eating more locally kept building, though, as memories of homegrown tomatoes and carrots straight from the garden came back to me. Then, in the spring of last year, I read a book that changed my perspective on food tremendously. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle reacquainted me with the natural order of food. It reminded me that eating a tomato in January (unless it comes from a jar you put up in August) is not natural. It made me take a second look at my banana-eating habits. And it taught me that local eating can be healthy, good for the environment and really flavorful, too.

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I started running into articles on local eating and Community Supported Agriculture everywhere, and I began thinking much more consciously about where my food was coming from. Yet again, I was too late to join a CSA for the year, but I shopped mainly at the farmer’s market that spring, summer and fall. I spent my weekends prepping and cooking fresh produce. I did some freezing and drying to preserve a bit of what I brought home. I even tried growing my own tomatoes, which unfortunately succumbed to the beaks of the pigeons and blackbirds before I could enjoy them. I also did a little local-eating experiment, and I learned a lot about how difficult our current food system and lifestyles can make eating locally.

The difficulty didn’t discourage me, though. I did my best, and this year, I was a little more prepared. I joined that CSA and was at the farmer’s market on opening weekend ready to eat with the seasons again. I got a newer refrigerator, with a freezer that could hold more produce for the winter months. I joined the One Local Summer Challenge, with the goal of eating at least one completely local meal each week. I planted an herb garden in my tiny backyard.

One day I hope to have a garden to tend with berries, squash, peppers, juicy tomatoes and more. But for now, I support my local farmers and try to keep my eating as local as possible. Sure, my behavior hasn’t completely changed. I still spend money at the grocery store and I haven’t started canning and root cellaring yet. And eating local certainly isn’t the easiest eating option. But I feel good knowing that my money is supporting local agriculture. I’m happier knowing the farmer that grows my vegetables at the CSA. I see him regularly when I pick up my share and he sends us a farm and harvest update every week. Even the farmers at the market are open about their growing practices and I’ve come to know several of them by name. These days, I know where my food is grown and I trust that it’s being done with conscious concern for the land and the people who will consume it. Of all the benefits of eating local, I think that’s the best one.

Ami is a technical and freelance writer trying to live a healthier and greener life—and some days she succeeds. Read more about her local eating escapades at Writing: My Life.

Guest post: Shot from the Heart

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Stephanie of Adventures In Babywearing.

Shot From The Heart
By Stephanie Precourt, Adventures In Babywearing

My decision to not vaccinate my children is something I get asked about a lot. This seems to be one of the hardest subjects to “agree to disagree” upon. Whether it is with your doctor, your mother, or your friend. I get the impression that when someone hears we do not vaccinate, they feel like they must put up their defenses and explain why they do. And all too often they think not vaccinating is neglectful and alarmist. But most of these people have never met someone with a vaccine-injured child. And many times they have not really researched- both sides or any side at all.

I do not vaccinate for a few different reasons that include adverse reactions immediately after vaccination for one of my children, neurological issues in my oldest son, as well as several years of research on the subject.

But I would never criticize those that do vaccinate. I understand that neither choice is easy. I am so glad that we at least have a choice and I hope everyone is making an absolutely informed choice- one made on their own and not only with the help and instruction of their doctor.

Some of the most common false assumptions parents have about vaccines are based on fear, and not on truth. They think their child won’t be able to attend school. You can see your state’s laws regarding that right here. Many parents think that since the mercury has been removed from vaccines, there’s nothing to worry about anymore. But not all mercury has been removed. You can see the CDC (Center For Disease Control) vaccine ingredient listing here. And one of the scariest thoughts of all is that your child will die if they get the chicken pox, measles, or tetanus. If you do your research on all the diseases children are “immunized” for and see the true statistics and treatment options, it’s not so scary anymore. To people like me, the ingredients alone in just one shot is what is frightening.

When we all are informed, aware, and concerned, then good changes can start happening. Until then, why shouldn’t they just continue giving your baby shots with formaldehyde, aluminum, and thimerosal if no one’s complaining?

Doctors and the men and women running our government are human. They can be helpful, but they are not God. They do not know everything- how something will turn out tomorrow or in five years. In the end, only you as the parent are the one who will be held accountable. Go with your heart, your gut, and your instinct, and above all, make your choice an informed one.

Stephanie blogs daily at Adventures In Babywearing. You can also read more of her posts on the subject of vaccines in depth here.

Guest post: Surviving Your Four Year Old

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Alicia who blogs at Magic and Mayhem.

Surviving Your Four Year Old!
Originally posted Jan 26th, 2008 by Alicia

Lately Jack (age 4) has been really pushing my buttons! He’s been argumentative, angry, bossy, defiant and just plain trying. He’s told me he hated me (which neither of his big sisters have ever done!), threatened me, made mean faces, you name it.

I have read enough parenting books and been through enough parenting to know that children act bad when they feel bad. Still, it is very hard to take when a small boy keeps shouting at you and saying mean things! There is only so much of the Mary Poppins hat you can put on before you feel like beating him with it.

I know what the conventional wisdom is. Spank, yell, punish, show him who’s boss. Be meaner back to teach him how to be nice. I’m not a fan of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom was once that the world was flat and you should own slaves. That doesn’t mean I didn’t lose it and yell and act mean a time or two during this phase, but it wasn’t my goal.

The behavior has been going on for several weeks and it was a long few weeks.

In order to get through it, I read Your Four Year Old again to remind myself what was age appropriate and what works for the age, modeled handling my own anger well, firmly told him that he could not treat me badly and left the room if he was nasty to me, offered lots of hugs, talked about his feelings and healthy ways to express them, dramatically increased his mama time, gave him more choices, read extra books, smiled lots, told him I loved him lots, complemented his good behavior and waited.

Of course I also lost it and yelled, told his dad to take over, vented to friends, and acted rotten myself a few times! I’m human, after all. :)

Fast forward to the past few days. I have my old Jack back now for the most part, just a little older and wiser. Today he greeted me with “Hi mom, how ya doin’?” and then made up a poem for me later (You may be big, you may be small, but you’re my bestest friend of them all). The past few days he has presented me with artwork, told me many times how much he loved me, helped out when asked, apologized when he was rude to his sister…. He’s been a mature, sweet, helpful, funny little boy.

This is a big time in Jack’s life. He stopped being the baby in the family 8 months ago when his brother came along. He is learning to read and write and add. He is growing and changing. He’s stuck inside during a very cold winter and not able to run and move the way his body needs to. He’s got to share, compromise, negotiate and be patient many times a day, which are skills a lot of grown ups never master.

It can be so hard when little ones (or big ones!) go through stages that make us nuts. I can just imagine what it will be like around here when we have a bunch of teenagers! I am so glad that I had faith in him and kept working at helping him through it, instead of turning us into enemies.

And with that, I’m off to go play with said four year-old! Have a great day all!

Alicia Bayer is an Attachment Parenting, homeschooling mother to four fabulous kids ages 1 to 10. She runs the website A Magical Childhood (www.magicalchildhood.com) and a parenting/homeschooling blog (http://magicandmayhem.homeschooljournal.net/).

Guest post: The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Tiffany who writes at the Natural Family Living Guide.

The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

Most people spend a lot of time thinking about food. They think about meals they need to plan for their families, food they need to add to their grocery list, new restaurants they need to try, and the carb and calories counts of the foods they love. They have a lot of opinions about their food and what they like and dislike. But many are still not thinking about food in a meaningful way. They are not thinking about where their food comes from, how it gets to them, under what circumstances, and at what cost. There are social, environmental, and ethical considerations that often go unnoticed. The food you eat is important and it does have an impact on the world around you.

One particular quote that seems to sum it all up is taken from John Kinsman, a Wisconsin organic dairy farmer, who said “Every time you spend money on food you are voting for the world you want.”

So what can you do to make your dining experiences more ethical and sustainable? I have a few ideas about that.

Eat Organic – It is a sustainable method of food production and helps to ensure that our farmlands will be rich and productive for future generations. Most times when you hear any mention of organic food it is in relation to healthful eating and chemical exposure. It is usually a health related issue. This issue is actually much deeper than that. Organic agriculture is a strict form of sustainable agriculture; a way of producing food products without harming the land. Its main goal is to work the land without preventing future generations from being able to use it as well. Organic farmers try to conserve water and preserve the soil. They also sell locally many times helping to conserve energy and fossil fuels. Organics are a health issue AND an environmental one.

Eat Local – Eating local is better for air quality and pollution. Let’s face it…if your food has to travel thousands of miles to you then the planet is being needlessly polluted. Estimates on how long the average food travels from pasture to plate range from 1200 to 2500 miles. A lot of energy is expended freezing, refrigerating, and trucking that food around. Eating locally grown food means less fossil fuel burned in preparation and transport. Also, Supporting local farmers, especially organic farmers, means supporting sustainable agriculture.

Eat Less Meat – You don’t have to go vegetarian if you don’t want to, but it does help the environment to reduce meat consumption. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals. Our taste for meat is also taking a toll on our supply of fuel and other nonrenewable resources: about one-third of the raw materials used in America each year is consumed by the farmed animal industry. In my opinion the problem is not that we eat meat or animal products but the volume to which we consume them and the way we go about producing those foods. A good book that discusses this is Full Moon Feast which talks about eating according to the phases of the moon and eating the way we did hundreds of years ago.

Eat Whole Foods – Eating foods that have not been processed and packaged helps the environment by reducing the amount of garbage going into landfills. Shop the outer section of the grocery store to avoid the processed foods.

Garden – Eliminate the middle man all together and grow your own food…organically of course. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Try It Out! Tips for Sustainable Eating:

  • Try your hand at organic gardening. If you have no space for an actual in-ground garden then try to do container gardening. There is nothing like homegrown food!
  • When planning your weekly menus try to see if you can incorporate at least 2-3 meatless meals a week. Reducing your meat consumption is a great leap towards greener living.
  • Don’t just change what you eat: change how you package and store your food to. Reusablebags has a great selection of reusable food storage containers such as bento lunchboxes, wrap-n-mats, grocery totes and stainless steel water bottles.

So pick up your fork and join the revolution of people who want to change food and farming, creating better health and a better world.

You can read more from Tiffany at her blog, the Natural Family Living Guide, where she writes about green family living, parenting, natural health, safe children’s products, and homeschooling. Subscribe to her blog here.

Guest post: Healthy, Organic and On the Road – A Dilemma

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post comes from Lynn of Organic Mania.

The holiday season really got me thinking about how to maintain a healthy, mostly organic diet while traveling. The traffic down Route I-95 reminded me that I’m not the only one with this challenge.

Sure, you can pack healthy snacks to combat hunger while on the road. But when traffic pile-ups occur, or fatigue sets in, there’s no substitute for pulling off the highway and into a restaurant. But where to go? Even those who normally avoid fast food will confess that fast food restaurants can seem like welcome outposts off a major interstate. So it’s at these roadside McDonalds, Denny’s and Pizza Huts that you will find the bewildered vegetarians and organic foodies, desperately looking for something – anything – healthy to eat. And while some of these fast food restaurants have made great strides in offering healthier options, the food is not organic or locally grown. Sometimes it doesn’t even taste fresh!

Following is a listing of the best options I’ve found for organic on-the-go eating that should be easily accessible from most major interstates. No, they’re not perfect – I still dream of Broccoli Heaven, my fantasy roadside snackbar. But they’ll do in a pinch! What’s been your experience? Leave a comment and share!

Panera Bread – Panera features two kids’ menu items with partial organic ingredients – a grilled organic American cheese sandwich and a “Kid’s Deli” sandwich, which is organic cheese with your choice of roast beef, ham or turkey. Both items are served with Horizon organic milk* and Horizon squeezable organic yogurt.

Target – Yes, Tar-zhay! The in-store cafes feature a Kids organic mac n’ cheese meal, which is served with Horizon squeezable organic yogurt and Horizon organic milk. True confessions: as our local Target overlooks busy railroad tracks, which my 5-year-old son adores, I am a frequent diner at Target. That’s how I know that they are often sold out of the squeezable organic yogurt. This poses a problem when the well-meaning clerk asks if my son would like “fruit snacks” instead – as in the high fructose corn syrup, GMO variety. Of course, he would like some of this “special treat” – some GMO corn syrup and sugar to go with his organic meal! Arrggh….

Chipotle – While Chipotle does not have purely organic meals, some of its beans are organic, and its chicken and pork are sourced from non-factory farms. Chipotle also recently announced that it would serve only rBGH-free sour cream at its more than 530 restaurants. For a cool graph that shows where Chipotle’s “naturally raised” meats are available nationwide, click here.

* You may have heard of claims that Horizon milk is not truly organic. There were lawsuits filed alleging that the cows were not being treated in accordance with organic standards. However, the suits did not allege that the cows have been treated with growth hormones or antibiotics or fed unnatural substances, as can be the case with conventional milk. Given this, Horizon organic milk is a better choice than the conventional milk available at these fast food outlets.

At OrganicMania.com and over on Twitter (twitter.com/organicmania), Lynn blogs about trying to make sense of organics and healthy green living, with an eye toward savings on organic food.

Guest post: From my Belly to my Chest

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week and today’s post, about breastfeeding, is from Nell who blogs at Casual Friday Everyday. Please be sure to check out my earlier WBW post and giveaway (two breastfeeding books) and API Speaks is giving away a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding as well.

From My Belly To My Chest

My breasts are heavy and full. The bright blue veins running through my chest also remind me of the life growing inside my womb. My entire upper body reminds me that one day this baby will be on the outside and will need my breasts to feed her/him and will no longer rely on my womb to sustain its life.

Soon I’ll be exhausted from laboring and delivering this little life and as they place the wee little one on my chest she/he will latch on for the first of many times. The life giving liquid will pour from my body giving her/him life.

It’s a beautiful and natural thing our bodies do. A pure, sweet bond is instantly developed when our young infant is nursing at our breasts. It’s also a powerful feeling, much like when giving birth. Look at what our bodies can do. Look at what they were made for.

Even with it being such a beautiful, natural and bonding thing it doesn’t always come easily for everyone. I’m one of the “unlucky” ones who experienced many of the issues some of us face. From a baby who was tongue tied to a yeast overgrowth that made my breasts ache to sore nipples that cracked and bled (the first time) to nipples that were so irritated from the pads rubbing against them they’d actually begin to invert. I’ve experienced it all…well maybe not all.

Even through the pain and difficulty I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew I was doing what was best, what I wanted to do, what this baby needed. And I fought it tooth and nail. But all the fighting on my own never got me very far into the process. The bond was lost. The nourishment gone. The natural, beautiful experience forever buried in my memory as I let go of breastfeeding.

A lot has changed since my 18 month old was an infant. My parenting style has changed. What I’m willing to do for the betterment of my children has changed. What I understand about living a more natural lifestyle, laboring naturally, vaccines, taking care of our earth and yes, breastfeeding has changed.

Aside from my increasing knowledge on such topics, another large change that I know will help me along is my desire for help. I’ve sought out the help of a doula for this labor and delivery. Doing it alone is no longer an option if I wish to achieve the birth of my dreams. And neither is breastfeeding alone. I now realize if I wish to overcome many of the hurdles I’ve experienced in the past I must get hands on help from a professional.

I must seek out the knowledge of someone who is trained and has successfully breastfed their own children for long periods of time. I’ve read all the books and emailed really amazing women with my previous experiences…now it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and get one on one guidance for as long as it takes so that I’m still nursing this new little one well into her/his second year of life.

Breastfeeding is sweet — and when it doesn’t come easy, we need to seek out help. I know I will…this time around.

Nell is the mother of two young boys with another baby on the way later this year. She’s a blogger at Casual Friday Everyday, a home-based business owner and freelance writer.