Joining the Food Waste Reduction Challenge

I’m joining the Food Waste Reduction Challenge that begins today over at Crunchy Chicken. I think we do a fairly good job with minimizing waste in our house, and the food that does go bad goes into the compost bin, but there’s always room for improvement. There are definitely occasions when we could eat leftovers instead of making something new and we do just the opposite instead and then the leftovers end up going bad, etc. Composting food waste rather than throwing it into the trash is definitely preferred, but it’s still wasting food, money and energy.

According to Crunchy Chicken, “A University of Arizona study showed that 40 to 50% of U.S. edible food never gets eaten. That’s $100 billion worth of edible food discarded every year in the U.S.. It’s a tremendous waste of resources and one that we are all guilty in contributing to.”

Will you join me in taking on this challenge? Visit Crunchy Chicken to sign up. This challenge is for the month of February.

Another reason to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup – mercury!

In case you needed another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup, here’s a new one – it may contain mercury. According to a Washington Post article, “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.”

Janelle Sorensen (of Healthy Child, Healthy World) co-authored the studies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade report along with Dr. David Wallinga, mentioned in the Washington Post article.

According to Sorensen (who spoke with me via email), at this time it is unknown what species of mercury this is. Personally I don’t know that it matters too much, because mercury is just plain bad for our health.

  • The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.
  • The EPA has determined that mercuric chloride and methylmercury are possible human carcinogens.
  • Very young children are more sensitive to mercury than adults.

You may recall that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings regarding the consumption of certain types of fish containing mercury for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children.

Should there be warnings against consumption of mercury-laced HFCS too? When you consider HFCS is found in so many food and drink products these days, it may seem hard to avoid. Cereal? Yes. Bread? Yes. Soup? Yes. Lunch meat? Yes. Yogurt? Yes. Condiments? Yes. Soda? YES! Even infant formula can contain corn syrup! If you shop at a conventional grocery store (not a health foods store), check out the ingredients listed on just about anything you buy. You’ll be surprised (and maybe even a little freaked out) how many items contain HFCS. According to the Washington Post, “On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.”

That’s why the HFCS commercials by the Corn Refiners Association are so laughable. They say HFCS is fine in moderation (though they never quantify what that amount is), but how do you consume it in moderation when it’s infiltrated a large percentage of the products in the grocery store?

What really freaks me out though is to know that corn syrup is in infant formula. It might not be high fructose corn syrup, but still. Does a baby need artificial sweeteners? What about genetically modified (GMO corn) sweeteners as most corn is? And more importantly, how can a baby, who’s diet consists solely of formula, possibly consume it in moderation? Or is moderation only necessary for HFCS, but not corn syrup? I tried to find the ingredients in formula listed online and was able to find a few brands – two listed the first ingredient as water, followed by corn syrup. That’s alarming to me.

Increased corn allergies
Could this prevalence of corn in the diets of the youngest of our species, as well as being the number one thing Americans eat (because it’s in nearly everything), be contributing to the rise in corn allergies in this country? My guess is yes.

Returning to the study…
Sorensen shared with me some of her thoughts after doing months of research about HFCS and mercury:

In essence, we rely on a vastly complicated global food system that has many opportunities to go awry. And, not only is the chain of ingredients and manufacturing very complex, the foods we are eating are very complex and unlike anything people ate even two generations ago. HFCS is one story in this grand theater of food production. And, even though the studies are small, it’s clearly an actor that deserves more attention as a potential instigator in the public health drama we are currently witnessing. First of all, HFCS is an unnecessary part of the human diet. We thrived for millennia without it. Second, the caustic soda used to manufacture it can be made using mercury-free technologies. Safer alternatives exist and are used widely at this very moment. Third, even though the exposure is minute, it’s a repeat offender in the average US diet and should also be addressed in the context of combined daily exposures of modern day society.

The authors of both of the studies recognize the limitations of their findings. There is clearly much more research to be done in order to be able to understand what the true health implications may be. Maybe the impacts end up being nominal, but who wants to risk their child’s health and development waiting to find out when it’s such an unnecessary exposure?

Human development is a miracle. The journey from egg and sperm to adult (and even beyond) is a tumultuous and risky endeavor. Research is increasingly showing how very vulnerable the developing fetus is – susceptible to exquisitely small environmental exposures – so, why take an unnecessary chance? Why even allow antiquated technologies that are extremely pollutive; that have safer, economically feasible alternatives; that are completely unnecessary in food production? There is not a single piece of this story that makes sense.

What is the FDA’s response to the request for “immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply?”

Sorensen says:

The FDA and industry are quickly trying to assuage the concerns spread by these reports, calling us irresponsible for setting false alarms. But, the FDA and industry are notorious at this point for coercing people into taking risks their instincts tell them not to. I’m not anti-FDA nor anti-industry; I simply believe in transparency of information. If you decide this risk is nominal, that’s your decision. For me, and my family, it’s not okay. And, it’s extremely simple to avoid.

How do you avoid HFCS?
You buy whole foods, not processed foods. You prepare meals from scratch. You grow your own vegetables and buy from local farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSAs. You look for certified organic foods. You read the labels and find alternatives to the products containing HFCS. It might seem like it’s in everything, but it’s not. There are brands of bread that don’t contain it (even at Costco), just as there are brands of soda, yogurt, and infant formula, but you have to read the labels to find out. Become a wise consumer and vote with your dollars.

Finding balance
It might seem like the best bet it to avoid HFCS at all costs, but even Sorensen admits that she lets her kids consume it once every now and then. “It’s a very small amount and I know I’m very careful about other exposures. Life is all about balance.” Yes, yes it is.

Lastly, if you are looking to reduce the HFCS in your or your family’s life, you might want to check out the blog A Life Less Sweet One family, no high fructose corn syrup, eating healthier. And here are a few more related posts: from Nature’s Child – HFCS, fortified with mercury, from Ask Moxie – Whoa: Mercury in HFCS, and (a really good one) from AngieMedia – High Fructose Corn Syrup is Dangerous for Many Reasons. A couple more: from Mom-101 – High fructose corn syrup contains mercury and other reasons I think we’re going to start feeding our kids air and from Her Bad MotherPoison In The Ketchup: This HFCS Scare Might Actually Make Me Start, You Know, Cooking From Scratch Or Something.

Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food Giveaway

UPDATE: This giveaway is now over and closed to new entries. I was recently contacted by Earth’s Best Organic about the opportunity to offer one of my readers a wonderful organic baby food gift pack. While I tried to make most of my kids’ baby food myself, there were occasions that I needed the convenience of jarred baby food, and Earth’s Best Organic infant foods never let me (or my kiddos) down.

In addition to this giveaway, Earth’s Best also currently has a “Celebrate the Firsts,” a receipt redemption promotion, going on where parents can earn coupons for Earth’s Best products, as well as earn goodies like Jason Organic baby body care and Fisher Price Tubtime Friends. And there is a sweepstakes component giving parents the chance to win free Earth’s Best products and Fisher Price toys.

The First Foods Gift Pack Giveaway includes:

  • 4 jars each of organic First Foods Apples, Pears, Peas, Bananas, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
  • 4 jars each of 4 oz Apple Juice & Pear Juice
  • a delightful Earth’s Best Cereal Bowl and Bib
  • and a copy of the book, “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram

WIN IT!

To win the First Foods Gift Pack, simply leave me a comment. For additional entries, you can Tweet this giveaway on Twitter (include a link to this post) and/or post this link on your blog, message boards, or forums. Please leave an additional comment here for each entry.

The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The winner will be selected using Random.org on Thursday, Jan. 29, and notified by email (so please be sure I have a way to get in touch with you). Thank you and good luck! 🙂

Peanut butter granola squares – recipe

Peanut butter granola squareThanks to tifi who tweeted this peanut butter granola recipe to me the other day. I made a few modifications to it (like cutting the amount of honey and sugar in half because it seemed like a lot, using whole wheat flour, and adding in flaxseed to it). The results were quite delicious. Here’s my version of the recipe:

Peanut Butter Granola Squares

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (or another kind of flour if you prefer)
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional)

1 cup butter*
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter (preferably organic PB with no sugar added)

Directions:
Combine oats through salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Heat butter through peanut butter in a sauce pan until all are melted.  Add melted mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Stir to make sure oats are completely covered.

Spread the mixture into a 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

* Farmer’s Daughter asked about cutting back on some of the butter and suggested applesauce as a replacement. I think this would probably work well and cut down on the fat. I plan to try it out the next time I make them. 🙂

Update 1/30/09: I made this recipe again, but this time used only 1/2 cup of butter and added 3/4 cup of mashed ripe bananas. This worked really well. It cut down the fat and the squares held together a lot better and were a lot less crumbly. And they are delicious!

Great Green Goals for 2009

I was rereading a post I wrote at the start of 2008 – Living Green past and future – where I outlined the things I’d accomplished in 2007 toward living a greener lifestyle and then added more eco-friendly things I hoped to accomplish in 2008. This year I’m going to do the same thing and Great Green Goals for 2009invite you to post about your green goals for the upcoming year too. If you write a post and link back to this one, leave me a comment with the URL and I’ll add you to a list at the bottom of this post.

First, here were my goals for 2008 and my comments on how I did beside them in italics:

Green goals for 2008:

  • Grow a bigger garden – Did it! I grew tomatoes, basil, green beans, carrots, strawberries, zucchini, and yellow squash.
  • Possibly join a CSA to eat more locally and shop at the farmer’s market – Did not join a CSA but I did learn more about them and picked up a friend’s CSA share one week (when she was out of town). And I did some of my shopping at the farmers’ market.
  • Buy some cloth diapers that can stand up to Julian’s nighttime pees and stop using disposables (7th Generation) at night (We cloth diaper during the day.) – Yes and no. We stopped using 7th Generation dipes at night and instead stuff a Fuzzibunz diaper with a prefold and a gDiapers insert (which are biodegradable). Not the perfect solution, but better than where we were at.
  • Learn how to can foods – YES! And here’s proof. I canned three types of jam/jelly, spaghetti sauce and pear sauce in 2008.
  • Learn how to make my own yogurt – YES!
  • Read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” – No, and don’t even have it yet.

In 2008, I also:

  • Made my own butter.
  • Started using a clothesline to dry our clothes/diapers (at least some of the time).
  • Started using an eco-friendly dish soap.
  • Bought a dehydrator and dehydrated apples, nectarines, and strawberries.
  • Joined a food co-op.
  • Started using a Moon Cup (like a DivaCup).

As for 2009, my green goals are as follows:

  •  Grow a bigger garden still! Although my yard is small, that is not the problem. The problem is that we have three large trees in our backyard that block out most of the sunlight. I’ve been trying to figure out if there are some places in my front yard that get good sun where I might plant some veggies, but we have a lot of trees there too. The only places in the front yard that I can think of that aren’t shaded are right by the sidewalk. We don’t have a ton of foot traffic on our street, but I’m not sure I want to dig up the yard to plant veggies when we want to sell the house in the next year or two. Hmmm. I think I might have to do some container gardening in addition to the small garden I already have.
  • Join a vegetable seed co-op.
  • Can more than last year.
  • Dehydrate more than last year.
  • Bake my own bread more regularly.
  • Continue to move away from the use of plastic and be mindful of plastic packaging.
  • Learn how to sew using my mom’s old sewing machine.
  • Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which I already have) by Michael Pollan
  • Learn more about ownership and care of backyard chickens (as our chicken crusade plods on)
  • And, of course, continue with all of the other things I’m already doing.

Now it’s your turn. This isn’t exactly your typical “Green Challenge,” but it is kind of similar. Write a post telling me your green goals for 2009, leave me your link and I’ll add it to the list below. (If you link back to this one, that’d be great too.) Or just leave me a comment telling me what your goals are. I’d love some more ideas! 🙂

Other bloggers making green goals for 2009…

The cookie tray – recipes to tantalize your tastebuds

As I sit here typing with a belly full of turkey, trimmings and pie, I have to admit that the idea of baking cookies is the farthest thing from my mind. Yet I know when I wake up tomorrow my desire to bake (and eat) will be renewed again and as the holiday music fills the air over the next few weeks, I’ll be happy to have this list of tasty recipes to look back on. Because even though I can’t imagine taking one more bite of food at the moment, these recipes look really darn good.

Chocolate chip cookiesI put together some of the best recipes I could find and broke them down into categories. I think there is likely something here to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth, but if you don’t find something you like, please feel free to link to your favorite cookie recipe in the comments. After all, whenever cookies are concerned, the more, the merrier.

If you are like me and have a bunch of pureed pumpkin to use up, you welcome any recipe that involves pumpkin. Did I mention my neighbor dropped off a container full of 13 cups of pumpkin this week? Oh yes, she did. Ordinarily I would welcome such a gift, but when my freezer was already full of pumpkin puree, it forced me to get a little creative. That is why we had chocolate pumpkin cake for my son’s birthday earlier in the week, as well as two kinds of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this evening (and probably pumpkin soup later this week). Luckily for me there is no shortage of good pumpkin cookie recipes out there.

Pumpkin Cookies

  • Mommy Wizdom claims she has a recipe for The Best Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever and told me that anywhere she takes her cookies, people ask her for this recipe.
  • At Green Hour, there’s another recipe for kid-friendly Pumpkin Cookies (scroll down to the third recipe), where the kiddos can help “press raisin eyes, a nose, and a smile on each warm cookie.”
  • Julie at Persnickety Palate posted one of her childhood favorites, Mom’s Pumpkin Cookies. This variation includes almonds and chocolate chips.
  • Last in the pumpkin category is the recipe for the easiest cookies I’ve ever made. Seriously. This recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cookies (AKA The easiest cookies I’ve ever made) literally has only two ingredients (though more can be added, but that’s totally optional).

Speaking of simple cookie recipes, here are a couple more that even the most inexperienced baker can handle.

Simple Cookie Recipes

  • Jenn from The Green Parent told me this recipe on Twitter. It’s so short and easy, she gave me the whole recipe in 140 characters or less, and I quote, “3cups pb, 3 cup sugar, and 3 eggs…mix and bake then press a Hershey’s kiss in the top. Yum Yum and soo easy!” And hello, chocolate and peanut butter (which is what the “pb” stands for above) together? In my book that’s a combination that can never go wrong.
  • Brandy from Savin Some posted a Cake Mix Cookie recipe that uses white cake mix and just two other ingredients.
  • And at Cindy’s Desktop, Cindy confesses, “I cannot cook hard recipes!” Her solution is to only cook easy recipes and she offers up a variety of Cake Mix Cookie recipes.

Chocolate chip cookies are a favorite in my house. I always say that you can add chocolate chips to nearly any recipe and it will only make it better.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • When I first read about Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies on Twitter, I was a little taken aback. Sure, bacon is good and chocolate is good, but combining them? Hmmm. According to Michelle Baker, AKA the Urban Eater, “The salty, crisp bacon is MAGIC with the sweet chocolately cookie. Perfection. I recommend NOT eating these straight from the oven as you will not stop.” I’m not sure if I will try these out myself, but I’d love to know if anyone else does.
  • If you are looking for a little more traditional chocolate chip cookie, you might like these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Teresa Long of Intent Blog.
  • These Black and white chocolate chip cookies that come from Jessie at the blog The Hungry Mouse use Oreos as one of the ingredients look pretty darn tasty.
  • Flour Girl, ironically enough, posted this recipe for Flour-less peanut butter banana chocolate chip cookies. Again, peanut butter and chocolate. Yum!

Of course, ’tis the season and a post about cookie recipes wouldn’t be complete without some holiday recipes.

Holiday Cookies

I should probably apologize to all of the vegans out there for that bacon chocolate chip cookie recipe above (sorry), but if it’s any consolation I found a handful of vegan recipes to help make it up to you.

Vegan Cookies

Since I included so many recipes that include chocolate (how did that happen?), I want to throw in this non-chocolate recipe for good measure: Lemon cookies from Mennonite Girls Can Cook. (Honestly, I had to include it just because it looks really good.)

And lastly, because we should not forget our canine friends, here are some cookie recipes for the dogs.

Dog Cookies

  • Lisa from Condo Blues had to get creative when she recently found herself out of dog treats before an agility class. Because her dog has allergies to wheat and corn, it is hard to find dog treats in the grocery store anyway, so she developed her own Allergy-free apple and banana dog cookies.
  • Ali at Home of the Lazy Dog has a recipe for Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. She says she’s made a lot of different kinds of dog treats over the years, but these are her favorite. They’re “easy, healthy, natural, crunchy and taste great.”

Have a favorite cookie recipe you’d like to share? Please leave a comment with a link or the whole recipe, I’m not picky. Happy baking.

*When buying chocolate chips (or chocolate of any kind), I recommend buying organic and fair-trade whenever possible. If it’s just not in your budget (it’s unfortunately, not usually in mine), then I suggest avoiding Nestlé products and buying a store brand (generally cheaper) or another brand. Why? You can read about the Nestlé boycott here. This is a boycott that I continue to stand behind.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Moving on to the chicken crusade

hens.jpgNow that the election is over and Obama has been elected our next president, and Motrin has taken down their offensive ad, I need a new cause to occupy my time. 😉 My latest crusade is to get an ordinance passed in my city to allow backyard hens (no roosters). I wrote about this a bit before, but last night I decided to start a new blog devoted entirely to getting the ordinance passed. (UPDATE: I previously said I wasn’t ready to release the URL yet, but my partner in crime and I are ready now. It’s Urban Hens.) I have a lot of work to do in the weeks ahead. Our city council should be voting on the ordinance in December.

If you’ve recently had an ordinance passed in your town that allowed backyard hens and you have any suggestions or resources to share, I would be most appreciative. Feel free to email me or leave a comment. Thanks. 🙂

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get clucking. I’ve got a craft show to check out, a house to clean, and a certain little boy’s 2nd birthday to prepare for.

A return to normalcy

After a couple of wild days around here (blog traffic* that was through the roof and a newspaper interview), the Motrinmoms buzz is dying down and things are returning to normal – uh, whatever that means. I guess for me it means today I’m baking seeds from a butternut squash and two pie pumpkins and I’ve got an organic chicken in the crockpot for dinner. I need to make some pear-apple sauce too from several pears I have that are more than ripe at this point. I’ve been slacking off on my cooking lately. Ava is having her preschool Thanksgiving potluck lunch today at school and we took mashed potatoes (made with locally-grown potatoes). Julian is turning 2 on Sunday and I can hardly believe it. He’s already exerting his independence and seems to be as stubborn strong-willed as his big sister and mama. Oh, and my mom arrived into town and will be staying out here in Colorado for an extended visit. Jody and I are hoping to get some date nights (if we can remember how those work) since we’ll have a willing and able babysitter.

If you’d like to read the newspaper article it is here: Local blogger stops national ad – on the front page of today’s paper. And here’s the photo that accompanied it.

111808blogger-a.jpg

The caption: Local “mommy blogger” Amy Gates played a major role in an online protest of a Motrin ad that many moms found demeaning. The Motrin ad suggested some moms “wear their babies” as a fashion accessory and that it leaves moms sore, but it’s a “good kind of pain” because it’s for the baby. Gates posted a twitter feed about the ad Saturday that erupted into an online firestorm. Joshua Buck/Times-Call

* My blog racked in nearly 6,000 visits on Monday – that’s about 12 times the amount of traffic I usually get.

The chicken, the egg, and the children

Wednesday night I went to a meeting about a proposed city ordinance to allow backyard hens in residential areas. Although my city was formerly a farming community, hens and other livestock are currently only allowed in areas zoned for agriculture. I’m interested in having backyard hens myself as a way to live more sustainably and because I feel it would be great for my kids. A teacher who attended the meeting, while pleading her case in favor of the hens, said she’s had students that didn’t know a hamburger came from cows. That got me wondering, how many of today’s children really have no idea where their food comes from?

Penny, a New Zealand mother of two who blogs at Walking Upside Down, reinforced the point when she mentioned her son’s kindergarten teacher told her she once took a class to farm growing cabbages and the kids asked, “Who put them there?” Penny said, “I was so surprised there were kids in my area who didn’t know where veges came from!”

Belinda Moore, who writes Home Grown says, “Children need to know their food, be connected to it. Even if you’ve never grown anything before, learn beside your little ones. Sharing this knowledge now could foster a lifelong interest in gardening, a forgotten skill that some day could become vitally important once again.”

I feel fortunate that we live in an area where we have access to local farms so that my children can see how different fruits and vegetables grow and that they don’t just appear in the grocery store. We also planted a garden for the first time this year and they were able to experience something growing from just a seed into a vegetable we could eat for dinner. Those kinds of experiences, I believe, are important to give our children.

Another thing I appreciate is having access to local free-range eggs. I recently discovered a family farm a few miles from my home, Ollin Farms, that sells fresh, free-range organic eggs every Wednesday morning. The problem is, as I’ve come to discover on more than one occasion, you have to be waiting at the farm stand when they open at 10 a.m. in order to make sure you get your eggs. They only have a limited supply and they sell out fast. Just this week I went to pick up a dozen for both me and my friend Alison. Julian and I arrived at 10:15 a.m. and the eggs were already sold out. According to the farmer they only had 7 dozen this week because their older hens are slowing down production for the winter and their younger chicks still have another month or so to mature before they start laying eggs. Seven dozen in one week is just not enough to keep up with demand.

That is just one of the reasons that I would like to be able to own a few hens of my own. Not only would I like the organic, free-range eggs (which are far healthier than factory-farmed eggs), I would like to expose my children to the experience of caring for animals and to get better acquainted with their food. My daughter Ava, 4 years old, has already told me with pride on numerous occasions that she will be the one who collects the eggs every day.

Owning your own chickens is also better for the environment. According to Meg Hamill who writes for Planet Save, “Making backyard chickens legal is a good move for cities interested in reducing their ecological footprint. Urban chickens provide a local source of eggs, meat and manure.”

Ever since the proposed backyard hen ordinance came about several months ago, it has received a lot of attention here and quickly became a very contentious subject. There are several people in favor of the ordinance, most of them interested in knowing where there food comes from (these are also the folks who grow their own tomatoes and other veggies), and in living more sustainably. There are also a good number of people who are opposed to it, citing concerns like smell, noise, unhealthy for children to be around, increased predators, decreased property values, etc.

It was the mention of chickens being unhealthy for children to be around that piqued my interest. Although a physician who was present at the meeting dispelled those concerns, I decided since I know quite a few people, both in person and on the ‘net, who raise chickens and have children, it was worth it to ask them about their personal experiences too.

My sister-in-law Jennifer who lives in Kansas with her husband and 8 children, as well as numerous chickens, a cow, some pigs and goats told me, “Some people think that the feather mites that chickens have are a problem, but they are not transferable to humans. Any pet that is not cared for well or cleaned up after obviously poses a health risk of some kind, be that cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.”

I think that is the real concern in our city. People are understandably concerned about the few folks who won’t be responsible chicken owners and either won’t care for their hens properly and/or won’t clean up after them. While I’m sure there will be a few bad apples, I say why not cross that bridge if and when we come to it? Let’s trust in our neighbors that they will do the right thing rather than assume the worst right off the bat. I believe most of the people who want to get backyard hens want to do it for the same reasons that I do and will likely be responsible hen-owners.

When properly cared for and cleaned up after, chickens should not pose health risks, and from what I heard from several people I asked, kids can’t get enough of them.

Sarah with a chickenMy sister-in-law Jennifer said:

Our kids love their chickens. I don’t know that chickens should be a petted-type pet, but ours certainly are. My children love carrying them around. They have put chickens in a swing Andrew holds a chickenbefore (not sure the chicken liked that so much, but she didn’t throw a fit either). We get so much enjoyment from watching them. They go nuts for watermelon rind and tomato scraps and everyone in the house loves to check for eggs. They have found new and creative places to lay their eggs and thus we often have to hunt for them. It’s Easter every day at our house!

Angela from Rahn Family Blog told me her daughter Shraddha spends hours with their chickens. She’s got some adorable pictures of her daughter with her “babies.” “I never realized how much fun we would have with chickens. We are always so excited to run out and feed them leftovers and they jump all over us in excitement whenever we come to visit…especially when leftover oatmeal is with us.”

Amber from Berlin’s Whimsy writes the Chicken Chronicles about her little flock. In her post Chicken Therapy she relates how she and her two kids have been too busy to spend time observing their chickens lately and they all miss it.

We miss our chickens. We see them fairly often but it isn’t the same as walking out to the chicken house in the morning and watching them flee from their confinement—-a spectacle of legs, wings, and squawks, leaving feathers floating in the air. I especially long for sitting outdoors with a bit of knitting while absent-mindedly watching our chickens interact with one another, listening to their chicken conversations. As much as it is amusing, it’s just about the best prescription for stress relief—-another lesson in simplicity. I know it sounds odd, but until you’ve tried it, you just won’t understand.

Monica Brand, a home schooling mom to two girls and two boys, shares a picture of three of her kids, the Chicken Wranglers.

Leslie, from Recycle Your Day says her little boy loves having chickens.

Tristan loves to go every morning and feed them and check for eggs. He always crouches down and points to one and says “egg”! It’s really cute. When my niece and nephew come over they love to watch them and my niece will go and retrieve eggs if she see’s one or two! She always asks about them. Kids really find them to be fascinating. I’m happy that Tristan has the opportunity to grow up with chickens and horses. He loves em’ both.

Dawn from Kaiser Alex told me on Twitter that she has fond memories of hatching chicks in an incubator back when she was a kid in elementary school. I asked her how she liked it and Dawn responded, “Well it was 25 years ago and I still remember, so I guess pretty well.”

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that this ordinance will pass so that we can take the next step in living more sustainably and so my children can have these special kinds of experiences and memories too.

Additional resources:
The City Chicken
Backyard Chickens
Chicken Raising with Toddlers
How to Keep Chickens in the City
Nine Books for Newbies to Urban Chickens
Raising Chickens on an Urban Homestead
Raising Urban Chickens: Part 2 – Building a Coop
Raising Urban Chickens: Part 2A – Building a Coop

Cross-posted on BlogHer. Feel free to check out the discussion over there too. 🙂

Trick-or-Treat : Halloween Candy Alternatives

This post was especially popular last year, so after a few updates and changes, I’m recycling it this year.

Candy aisleHalloween is right around the corner, but in light of my recent discoveries about damaging effects of artificial colors and flavors (and petroleum and coal tar) in candy, I haven’t been feeling very excited about a holiday that promotes candy consumption.

Consider this:

Americans spend a whopping $950 million on Halloween candy every year. So it’s not surprising that a 2006 Mayo Clinic article estimates that 1 in 3 American children are now considered seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s a staggering 25 million children who are at high risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, exercise induced asthma, disturbed sleep patterns, premature maturity, liver/gallbladder disease and depression. — Go Green

So the idea of handing out “treats” that are laden with sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup AKA HFCS) AND chemicals was less than appealing to me. But what is a good alternative that won’t get my house egged the next day?

Using several different web sites, I’ve compiled a list of some alternative Halloween treats. (Please be aware that some of these may be choking hazards for small children.)

Non-food options:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Playdoh
  • Pencils
  • Small pads of paper
  • Fancy erasers
  • Pencil toppers
  • Crayons
  • Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
  • False teeth
  • Superballs
  • “Slime”
  • Kazoos or other small musical instruments
  • Tiny decks of cards
  • Origami paper & instructions
  • Bubbles

Healthier food options (buy organic and/or fair-trade if you can afford it):

  • Natural non-HFCS candy
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Pretzels
  • Glee gum
  • Packets of instant hot chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Fruit leathers
  • Prepackaged trail mix
  • Prepackaged cookies

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid costume jewelry, especially glossy, fake painted pearls and toys from vending machines, both of which may contain lead
  • Avoid cheap plastic toys that are just going to end up in the trash and go off to the landfills

Last year I passed out cereal bars to the older kids and stickers to the younger kids and I didn’t hear any complaints. In fact, the younger kids were often quite excited about the stickers.

Now what about for your OWN kids?

What do you do if your kids go trick-or-treating and come home with a bag full of stuff you’d rather they not eat? While my kids at 4 yrs old and almost 2 are still too young (in my book) for door-to-door trick-or-treating, we went to a Halloween parade yesterday (the kids dress up and walk down Main street) and the local merchants passed out candy after the parade was done. Last year I decided to buy some natural candies – suckers, cookies, fruit leathers, etc., to trade Ava for once she was done trick-or-treating. She was happy with that. This year, however, I didn’t stock up on the natural candies first because I recalled that we got so little candy from the excursion and I’m not going to sweat it. She and Julian have had a piece of candy yesterday and one today and I think that’s fine. Everything in moderation.

On Halloween night this year, I think we’re going to go to a Halloween carnival at our rec center. There are a lot of games for the kids to play, prizes, and fun. It beats going out in cold in the dark if you ask me and I think the kids will enjoy it more. 🙂

What will you pass out this year? Will your kids go trick-or-treating?

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