Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Corn Crop

Back in the fall, I talked with my farmer friend, Arthur Black.  I asked him about corn.  And planting.  I asked specifically what type of corn he grew, because I knew he paid an awful lot for seed.  And GMO seed is supposedly very expensive.  And so, I was thinking that maybe that was what he was buying and therefore what I was eating.

Now, the thing about GMO is that it makes a bigger, prettier, bug free crop.  But farmers are paying a premium price to grow that seed and the company that produces that seed is making a ton of money and then suing farmers if they save seed from year to year or if their crop cross pollinates in the wind and they didn't pay the company for that other seed in that other field.  And I am eating something very pretty that is costing the farmer and that bugs won't touch.  


I have this thing about my food.  I like it to be natural.  I have this funny quirk where I feel that back when plants were rotated and crops were grown using last year's seed harvest and nature seemed to do its rhythm thing and there was a dance between the farmer and nature and the growing process that food was better.  Maybe it is silly of me.  Maybe I have developed some type of nostalgia for a life I know very little about.  But I like knowing about my food.  And I like to think that if I harvest seeds from my hobby garden, then certainly the farmer should be able to harvest seed too.

This whole ethical conundrum I find myself a part of doesn't bother Arthur.  He likes the GMO corn because it has its benefits, despite the cost and the company threats.

He actually has a farmer friend in Columbia, SC that recently paid that company several hundred thousand dollars for breaking the rules somehow.  He either saved some extra seed or accidentally caused the wind to cross pollinate right before the company came to town.  But either way, it was a big mistake.  Not kidding.

Anyway....GMO corn produces twice as many husks per stalk and takes less water.  It is bug resistant since it was genetically mixed with Roundup Ready at its conception in a lab.  So while he pays more for seed, he spends less time and money watering and gets twice the yield without the concern about bugs.

Personally, I don't want to eat the margarine version of corn.  Arthur and I have decided to accept our differences.

Instead, Arthur has even gone so far as to find me a friend of his that is interested in the hippie movement concerning food.  He has helped us connect, gotten us set up with a basic growing agreement, helped me think through a co-op of sorts, and offered his farm store as our meeting place.  Arthur has been a doll.

And Jodi is willing to grow me real corn.  Not margarine corn.  Real, Silver Queen, with a few worms and all.

I am thrilled!

The reason I am telling y'all this is because I am going to let you in on my corn crop.  Honestly, I can't afford an entire corn crop without a community.  So, for you locals and those close enough to make the drive for the fun of all this, here's the deal:

One family/ share requires a $25 down payment by next Friday, March 7th.

That gets you in on the deal and allows my farmer, Jodi to go get seed, etc.

Once the harvest comes in, each family gets one tenth of a quarter acre. (It costs around $1000 to produce an acre of corn.)  If I have an odd number of people, I will figure out the math to make it all fair in the end.  Each family is required to buy their entire share of the corn crop.  The corn crop will cost wholesale, or no more than $4 per dozen.  

One share will bring in about 10 to 20 dozen ears of corn.  The big range has to do with the weather.  

So, each family/ share costs $25 down payment + $4 per dozen = Total ranging from $65 to $105 for the total share.

The corn is to be picked up at Black's.  This is not organic corn.  For the farmer's peace of mind, he has the right the spray it around once a week.  I will get a written agreement from each family outlining our deal so the family and the farmer feel good about this endeavor.

So, who's in?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Dress Project - 2013

Let's talk about yesterday.  Yesterday was October 1st.  Normal day.

Except that it was October 1st.  The first day of the October Dress Project and I didn't have a dress.  And I had promised to participate.  Problem.

Also, I had agreed to let my oldest son go participate in a computer ministry at the church first thing in the morning and had forgotten to warn him.  He wants to learn computers, so this would be fine if I had let him know more than five minutes before time to leave.

Let's back up to three days earlier.  I knew I had procrastinated to the last minute to make a dress for this project.  So I went ahead and washed my fabric. Only, when I went to get the fabric from the washing machine, it had unraveled quite a bit.  And shrunk.  For the next three days I alternated between denial (easy given the weekend schedule of soccer) and contemplation about ways to make this work.

I considered going to buy a dress, but that seemed wrong given the whole anti consumerism flavor of the month.

I considered doing Jen Hatmaker's Seven fast for clothing.  That required WAY too many decisions.


Nope.  Not a dress.  I was mentally prepared for a dress.


Nope.  The ones in my closet are just too old.

So, here we are on day one at 9 am, my son is getting teary and yet unplugging the old computer to prepare to go walk into a church ministry I signed him up for and forgot to tell him about, and I need to get dressed....for the next thirty one days.  Paralysis.  Family breakdown.  I blamed it all on Michael for talking with the head of the computer ministry.  Smooth move on my part. We ended up not leaving home, and I ended up sitting in the fetal position in my closet in my pajamas.  Key (the eleven year old) came to get me, helped me up off the floor, and told me to let it go.  I assured him he was smart enough to learn how to scrub computers by simply watching YouTube.  See how supportive I am?

The above ridiculousness is why I need this month.  Focusing has been difficult lately.  Homeschool, soccer, church, meat orders, corn planting, food preservation, Historic Brattonsville, pottery classes, boys' club, art club, MNO, etc.  I feel pulled in too many directions.  Too many choices.  Unsettled. Not focused.

So this month clothing decisions are simplified and I am making a conscious decision to prioritize.  I do know homeschool comes first.  It is simply our way of life.  Homeschool chaos means our whole life is thrown into chaos.  So homeschool must be first in line. Period.

Church, soccer, Historic Brattonsville, and nutrition are all important to us.  Lots of times those main events collide.  We need to look at that issue.

Me.  I want to work from home and I have been writing for an online news site which doesn't actually pay me after all.  I mean they would if I convinced everybody I know to go like me several times a day for the next six months, but otherwise, nope.  No pay.  I have looked into bidding for jobs, but I am not sure I need to be focusing on that right now.  I thought about starting this sewing gig I have wanted to do for years.  I watch my friend, Allie Mac, get her fashion on and feel lots proud for her and a little jealous for me.  But if I really am honest with myself, my heart isn't there like it used to be.  I love food.  Whole food.  Healthy food.  And the farms they come from.  But is that a place to start a career?  Clueless.  Letting God deal with that one.  So this month this is yet one more place that needs me to focus.

God.  Church.  Prayer time.  Sunday school.  All sadly lacking in my daily routine lately.

Hence my October Dress Project = Focus.

So.....back to me on the floor of my closet.....Did I ever get dressed?

 I did....eventually.  I chose jeans and a white tank top because I own two identical tank tops.  The main challenge is not the tank tops.  It is wearing the same pair of pants for a month.  Did I mention I forgot they don't have any pockets?  I was so relieved to make a decision, I forgot that detail.

Maybe I will make a tunic covered in pockets....and homeschool....we need to get in homeschool...........


Saturday, September 14, 2013

One Dress? What?

A couple of years ago some women from my church, my old church to be exact, decided to do the whole one dress campaign.  I wanted to be involved.  But I had just moved away.  And I was too crazy busy functioning on my new life in a new place and Way Too Lonely to go about self introspection on my own while my friends did it together.  Nope.  Just not a possibility.

Then last year I thought about the whole 1 dress campaign again.
For various reasons.
One is because I want to start a sewing theory.
Really I want to make clothes for me and a girl I do. not. have.
And I want to make clothing for third world boys.
Seriously with the pilowcase dresses saving the world.  What about the boys?!?!?
Another because I like challenges.
And, HELLO, most people in the world do. not. have. a walk in closet. full. of. clothes.
Seriously.  What would it be like to own one dress?
Hence the "to connect with me" reason.
And to find camaraderie with my old church girlfriends.
And because I like challenges.  Did I say that?
Also. No biggie. I want. A. Girl. (Can you tell I have boys?)

But, alas, I had just started homeschooling and was already on a crazy train and just did not think the idea of wearing the same thing every. day. for. a. whole. month. while. teaching. my. OWN. CHILDREN. was a good idea and so, again, I focused elsewhere.

So here we are.

The One Dress Campaign is for the month of October and THIS YEAR I AM READY.  I live in a home I am not leaving in the foreseeable future.  I have homeschooling down to a science (not really but let's pretend).  I have hit a good stride in my hippie phase.  I am canning on a regular basis and even know what a scoby is.  I. AM. READY.

Here's the thing.  I don't know why I am doing it, except that I feel a desire to connect with God.  I think I am fairly simple in my desires and yet the moment I start a budget I feel the need to go buy something.  And what that tells me is I am not simple.  Humble.  Satisfied in my abundant blessings.

Yes. This year I am ready.  It is time.

Because I am at a place where I am willing to learn a bit about myself in a way that I have never tried before.


I may not make it.

I am not promising to go for the whole month.

What I am promising is that I will try....
and I will struggle....
and I will learn....
and I will share.

So for those utterly confused at this point,  

October Dress Project (The Original:))

P.S.  Now to pick the dress.  Fifteen days and counting.....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Green Beans

Family Promise is a non profit, ecumenical organization that helps homeless families get out of their cars, off the streets, and into a warm, safe place while they receive a bit of nurturing and guidance.  The participating families stay with the program around twelve weeks, where they are then assisted into a permanent residence.  Family Promise provides hope.  It also provides a unique opportunity for volunteers to connect with people from all over the community and societal ladder in a way which breaks down barriers and builds relationship - food at the family table.

The other night the latest rotation needed green beans prepared for twenty five people.  For a small gathering, the local farms are the perfect source for fresh green beans this time of year.  But for a large party, frozen green beans work just as well.  Check ingredients to make sure the only one listed is green beans.  No chemicals are needed in preserving frozen vegetables.

Green Beans (Serves 8 to 10 or one certain family of four that eats them like candy....)

2 lbs fresh, snapped beans or one 2 lb bag, frozen
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup organic soy sauce (Trader Joe's version is also fine.  Organic is for those grabbing some at an area grocer.)
1/4 cup organic raw sugar (May substitute raw honey)
2 Tsp kosher or sea salt
1 Tsp fresh ground pepper

Place green beans in large pot.  Pour in broth and add water to cover beans with liquid.  Add additional ingredients.  Stir until mixed.  Bring to boil.  Allow to boil for a couple minutes before simmering.  Cook until desired softness, longer for fresh beans.  Use slotted spoon to serve.  Broth may be saved for future dishes.  Rice is yummy cooked using the left over broth instead of water.

***Ingredients for dish were purchased at BiLo in York.  On hand items came from monthly trips to Trader Joe's or from the York BiLo.  Walmart may also sell many of these ingredients.***

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A brief history of why we eat the way we do.....

I have to feed two boys, a husband, myself, and a dog every day.  More than once.  And as much as I give them, they tend to keep coming back.   (Sort of like the alligator that my father in law threw a chicken neck to - to make him go away - it didn't work....)

Back when Michael and I first got married, we ate very well, though there was not what I would call a movement around what we did.  We loved the weird, healthy stuff, like tabouli and couscous.   Michael had lived in Japan after college and had gotten used to eating unusual dishes, fresh from wherever.  My Dad had made the odd things for me growing up while my Mom taught me how to make the more traditional, practical dishes for day to day family cooking.  So Michael and I always ate well, no matter which one of us fixed the food.

Another element to our food choices has always been that Michael has type 1 diabetes, and his mother read lots and lots of labels and measured lots and lots of food to make sure her baby boy grew up well.  So when we got serious, she did too, making sure I knew what Michael needed .... and what he did not need.   The Japanese diet he ate while overseas was actually a great one all around.  Good for him, yummy for me.  We tended to fall back on fish and rice and greens a lot early on.  When there have been times in our marriage where his diet has needed adjustments, it has thrown me into a tail spin for at least three weeks.  I have to go back to reading labels, which makes grocery trips long ordeals, until I settle into our new routine.  Honestly, I cannot remember really reading a food label - ever - until I had to cook for Michael.

Early in our marriage our first boy came along.  I made his baby food from scratch out of leftovers because it seemed like the thing to do.  My friends called me hippie.  When our second child came along, I did the same thing.  Between both boys, they have eaten exactly one jar of baby food.  It was at Jeannie Simmon's house in Aiken.  It was organic and orange colored. I do not know why my brain has chosen to use up space remembering this.  She had it left over because her kids hated it.  Mine didn't know better.

Shortly after the second child, I developed gastroparesis and I was sick.  For a year and a half.  Our hippie food gave way to whatever I could boil quickly to get the people fed.  End of story.

When I was finally well, what I could digest had changed dramatically and it did not match Michael's diabetes and that made every meal complicated.  We handled it okay for awhile, but it was at this time I began paying closer attention to the details on all those pesky little labels....not the sodium content or the grams of sugar, but the actual ingredients.

So here we are....six years later..... we eat whole foods, together, and we can all handle them.  I digest them.  Michael controls sugars with them.  The kids eat them.  They make sense and they have brought our family back on common ground.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Peach Jam Recipe

I am going to make peach jam.  I have to make peach jam.  I have peaches still frozen from last year in the freezer, freshly picked peaches in the refrigerator, and no chicken broth.  I need to cook a chicken so that I can make my own stock.  But I don't have room in the freezer to store the stock because I have been collecting and freezing freshly picked fruit like any good foodie hoarder would do living five minutes from a plethora of  pick your own farms.

So to make room for chicken stock, I must make peach jam.

And because I am not completely staisfied with any recipes I see, I am going to make up my own.

Two, actually.

Small batches, maybe.  Maybe not.

These are the ingredients I am going to experiment with in large batch measurements, though I may halve these if I feel eight to ten jars of rosemary compote could be a bit excessive.  Foodie hoarders, be proud.

10 to 11 cups of chopped peaches - The ones in my freezer still have skins, so I am going to use those for this particular batch, but skinning peaches is always a move in the positive direction.

6 cups organic, raw sugar

Two liquid packets or one box of liquid pectin - No judging, you whole food organic critics.  I like to use my liquid pectin.

One lemon, juiced and zested

A good, healthy bunch of fresh rosemary twigs off the little plant on my front porch.

Cook down everything.  Then add the pectin.  Boil/ simmer for another fifteen minutes. - I read that you can add up to a half teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming, and I might try it if I remember.  Add that before the pectin.

Put the whole cooked yumminess in your jars, stick a lid and screw on 'em, and boil the jars for fifteen minutes.  I am sure the CDC would love it if I boiled them for twenty minutes, but I have never found it to be necessary to go that long.

For the second batch, I will do everything the same, but I will use half brown sugar, take out the rosemary and lemon and throw in a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a tiny half teaspoon of vanilla.


I'll let you know how this goes...

I am thinking the first recipe for meat and salmon, and the second for breakfast.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Hatch Homeschool Diaries - Answering questions for the other 96.4% :))

We are winding down here at the Hatch household.  I am helping the boys complete lots of unfinished projects while looking ahead to next year.

Next year.  And the year after and after and after that....

You are going to really do it that long?

Homeschool I mean.  High school?

Are you qualified!?!

( I'll go ahead and get this one out of the way.  Yes.  Yes, I am qualified.  And No. I do not have a degree in Physics.)

Questions.  I get lots of questions.

What time will you be done with your school? 

What subjects do you cover?

What curriculum do you use?

How can you handle teaching to two different levels at once?

I could never do that...being with my kids all day.

We don't work well together.

How can you homeschool legally?

Oh, you have a teaching degree...that is why it is OK for you to homeschool.

How do you make sure your kids are socialized?

Don't they miss seeing other people?

Do they get to have many friends?

I would hate having to stay home all day.  I need to get out too badly.

I just need My. Time.

Well, I am sure you are doing a good job, but I am talking about the uneducated parents that homeschool.  I mean, they are hurting their children.

Some of these questions are innocent enough, but some I feel the need to answer so that I may shed some light from a different perspective.

The problem in thinking that we do "school at home" is that most people remember having to sit at a desk for hours on end with various monotone teachers lecturing, occasionally throwing in a good one that made one subject come to life, filling out thousands of worksheets, and then doing this act of boredom for many years until one day we are declared graduated.  And then taking that memory and relating it to my house and my dining room where I personally subject this system onto my children while never taking them out because "we homeschool".  So then, of course it would stand to reason that corporate schooling whether it be public or private would look better.  At school you at least had friends that sat in those desks next to you and that you could secretly talk to if you were careful.  I mean, you got socialization, unlike that dining room table where it is only your little brother and his smelly farts.


While some people do run homeschool as though it is school at home, very few of my friends subject their children to such torture.  Homeschool at the Hatches and in many homes all across the country is actually taking place alongside the parents, with respect and patience for each other.  Out in the open, at the grocery store and the local farms, and the park and the planetarium and the museums and the restaurants and on hiking trails, schooling is happening with groups of happy people of various ages.  Conversations are taking place and are not interrupted by a bell or a silent lunch, and kids are collaborating on how to build working soda machine models out of Legos.  Right now as I type, this is happening.  Baking and gardening and sewing and reenacting and building are all common parts of our months, cycling in and out according to desire, season, or basic need.  Learning is infused with life and life with learning.  There is no need to separate the two.  In fact it is quite natural in pairing those together.  All that - instead of a desk and chair and lots of useless, brain numbing worksheets and repetitive book exercises. 

But what about the socialization?  The other kids. Their. Age.

What about it?  Is it normal to have to raise your hand and pray some adult says yes when you make the request to go to the bathroom?  When your children get into an argument with their best friend and feelings get hurt are you hoping they go to the relationship experts - their other best friend (who you have never even met because you heard about her and don't want her over at your house) in math class in period six?  When you go into the office is there an armed guard and metal detectors making sure those mischievous office mates don't try to sneak in knives or drugs for their mid morning breaks?  Is everyone in your life within three years of your age, and are all your best friends exactly your age?  And are all the older folks in your life completely uncool in their "mom" jeans?


My kids' socialization happens through support groups and boys' club and tween group and art class and gardening club and park day and field days and monthly hikes and messaging friends to find out how far they've gotten in Harry Potter and to share a great deal on Legos at Amazon.  And then there's church and soccer and sleepovers and neighbors and walks downtown and.....all of that AND they get to eat lunch around the kitchen table or lying on the floor reading, they can go to the bathroom anytime, there are no bullies waiting at their lockers, no metal detectors for the front door. 

That is how we get socialization. 

Real life practice in real life situations.  All day.  Every day.

For all the rest, the answer is that they study the same subjects that the public school kids do, but in much different ways.  While I am glad that I have an excellent background in education, I have also had to realize that my view of education as a public school teacher actually held us back at first.  I kept trying to create that "school at home".  I love my kids, and I have always missed them when they were away from me for the day.  That would be why I worked at their preschool, picked them up early, and substitute taught at their school before bringing them home.  But....I also understand those that struggle to get along with their children.  To those parents, I am truly sorry and I get that it is hard.  I just ask.... Are you sure that it is your child that is the problem with your relationship?  Could it be external factors, such as what they are exposed to at school?  Could they need a different learning environment?  Could they need you to listen and see them in a new light?  Wouldn't it be easier to correct behavior and develop a positive relationship with them at home rather than working with everybody's leftover patience at the end of a day?

Don't get me wrong.  I don't think that everyone should want to homeschool.  I get that parents have careers.  I will be honest and say that there are days I miss working.  There is a restaurant downtown that needs lunch servers and I thought it sounded like fun.  But I can't apply for such a job just yet.  I do have to make hard decisions about my life in order to continue homeschooling.  It is not for everyone, and I do not think we live in a world where the same decision is best for all people. 

But before you tell that odd family that homeschools their kids and lives down the street from you that you could NEVER do what they do, please stop.  Take a moment to think about what it is they truly do.  And realize, it probably isn't what you imagine. 

Just sayin'.