Thursday, June 11, 2015

Experimenting with Community Supported Agriculture

A few weeks ago, I saw an Instagram post made by a friend who was displaying her huge weekly share from her recently joined food co-op.  And it got me thinking.

I've looked into these co-ops before but never tried one out.  I decided it was time.

For several days, I researched all the local co-ops and CSAs (community supported agriculture), and I found a CSA that was not too complicated to join, had a super easy web site for placing orders, had some open spots available, and was nearby (actually turned out to be closer than I thought....)

In case you haven't notice, I'm one for experiments. 

So far, I'm enjoying this one - it's fun to open up the box and see what's inside each week, but in the end, I have to decipher if I'm saving money or not, which is the ultimate goal.

I joined for four weeks' worth of deliveries.  Along with the weekly fruits and vegetables, I ordered a month's supply of meat.  Technically, it won't last a month, but it will go a long way.  This included 20 pounds of an assortment of meats --- whole chicken, beef roast, pork chops, bacon, Italian sausage, beef filets, New York strips, wild caught Georgia shrimp, ground beef....

I also receive a weekly delivery of raw cow milk.

Each week in my fruits/veggies box, I have received at least one or two items that I would typically not buy, so that brings a little variety to the table.  :>)

The first week, I received a vegetable that I'd never heard of ----> Kohlrabi. 
So I did a little Google search to find out what to do with it.  I used the recipe here to create the shredded kohlrabi patties.  It didn't taste like anything I had tried before.  It wasn't bad, but I don't see it becoming my favorite vegetable anytime soon.

In this weeks box, I received peaches and blackberries, broccoli, zucchini squash, cucumber, kale, parsley, lettuce, and beets.  The only way I've ever cooked beets was last Christmas when I used them to color my red velvet cake.  Not sure I want to go to that much trouble here in June, so I'm going to have to Google once again to figure out what to do with them.

Last week's surprise or unusual inclusions were shiitake mushrooms and a rutabaga.  Mushrooms are pretty versatile but don't think I've ever cooked a rutabaga.  As part of last night's supper, I cubed up the rutabaga along with a turnip from another week's box (they looked alike so I figured that was okay), covered and boiled them in salty water, and then mashed them up together with added butter and some bacon left over from breakfast.  Not too bad.

I do like the variety of vegetables I'm receiving, and I've yet to use my entire box of produce in a week before the next one arrives. 

If you're wondering about costs, it was right around $400 for the month for the meat, fruits, veggies, and milk.  Our food budget is around $150/160 a week, so that leaves around $50 to pick up extra needs during the week. 

Another plus to this adventure is it turns out the manager of this CSA lives about a mile from me, so she just drops off my weekly order on my front porch on her way home.  Now that's hard to beat.

Next week will be week number four, and I'll have to make a decision on whether to continue or not.  With my dad's garden starting to come in, local produce stands having such good prices and healthy-looking items, and not to mention the fact that I recently tried out Aldi, I may have to take the experiment in a different direction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Gift of Family

Yesterday was the funeral for my sweet Uncle Frank.  Suffering with cancer, his journey at the end was like my mom's in so many ways.  I was especially sad for my aunt and cousin, but I'm sure everyone had a touch of relief that he was no longer in such terrible pain.

Uncle Frank turned 82 this year and was the oldest of 11.  One brother died at birth, and the rest have remained to this point.  I see that as a blessing that they have all had one another for so many years.

We do not live near most of the family and some of them I have not seen in years.  Actually, a lot of them have never met my youngest two children....and that's a little sad.  I mean, Amelia is almost 10....  There was lots of talk of planning a reunion, so I'm hoping that will happen and that situation can be remedied.

But yesterday, as I sat studying those who were there, I realized what a bunch of humble and gentle men and women these people, my kinfolk, are.  They got it honest.  My grandmother definitely had a quiet, gentle spirit.  One of those people that it's hard to imagine she ever raised her voice.  Not that I think she never did - I mean, with that many kids, how could you not? Lol!  But you never know.  Maybe she did, maybe she didn't.  Overall, though, Proverbs 31:26 is a verse that comes to mind when I think of her:  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And the law of kindness is on her tongue.

All these children have been successful, hardworking individuals - owning their own businesses, getting college educations, joining (or drafted into) the military, working hard for many years and retiring from large companies - and most doing so while farming and raising plentiful gardens.  Even in success, I don't think any of them have forgotten where they came from.

It was reiterated yesterday what lowly means they all started from.  The youngest brother who is a minister, Uncle Merle, helped with the funeral, and he spoke of how after some of the older siblings had left home, they all looked forward to seeing them come back to visit.  Being the oldest, Uncle Frank was the first to leave home, and Uncle Merle told stories of how he sent money to them and also purchased their first television.  They were one of the firsts in the community to have a television, so that was a big deal!  My daddy (#4 in the lineup) was still living at home at the time and remembered that as well.  My uncle went on to say how meals may have been small any other time during the year, but they always looked forward to the holidays when there would be plenty because of siblings coming back home and because of what they would bring with them.

Family is so important, and I realized yesterday how proud and thankful I should be to be a part of this one.  I hope in the years to come that I get to make up for lost time and get to know my long distance uncles, aunts, and cousins even better.  I look forward to hearing more stories like those above - in a happier setting of course. 

One of the things I'll remember most about Uncle Frank is how he liked to pick on people.  With him being one of the few siblings that lived relatively close by, we spent many Sunday afternoons at his home when I was growing up.  I especially remember how he loved to ask my sister, "How's your love life?"  She would usually answer, "Fine, how's yours?"  He'd usually have a snappy comeback, and I think this dialogue repeated itself on many occasions.  (I think she was happy when she got married and didn't get asked that question anymore.) ;>)

Most important is the fact that so many of these family members have a strong faith in God, and I believe my Uncle Frank did.  I love the peace that brings, knowing this is not the end. 

Rest in peace, Uncle Frank. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Melbourne Beach, FL

A few months ago, a friend invited me and my children to go with her and her children to "the beach house."  Our hard-working husbands would not be able to go, but it sounded like a great way to celebrate and relax after a productive homeschool year.

Almost three weeks ago, we loaded up two mini-vans and headed south.  Indeed, it was a very nice getaway.  Short but sweet.

The older beach house was quite charming with lots of character.  From the back door to the waters edge was just a few steps, and my view from the bedroom I was sleeping in was amazing.

The children enjoyed playing with their friends ~ Madison and Cari both brought along a friend.  No loneliness or boredom issues on this trip.

There was no pool, which was a first beach experience for my crew - generally more time is spent in a pool than the ocean - but they (me, too) spent lots of time in the water, riding the waves, jumping waves.  But most of my time was spent relaxing on the beach, reading A Praying Life, which was time well spent.

A very nice way to say....."Hello, summer ~ so happy to see you again!"

Jeremiah 31:35
Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:
- See more at:
Jeremiah 31:35
Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:
- See more at:

  Jeremiah 31:35
 Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
    and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
    the Lord of hosts is his name:

Jeremiah 31:35
Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:
- See more at:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New Home Progress

Unfortunately, under the subject "New Home Progress," there's not a whole lot to report.  We've found ourselves at a standstill, and I'm sure there's a very good reason for that - that we may or may not see down the road.  Maybe Brad and I are in need of more patience, and this is a good tool for that? (I chuckled as I wrote that.  Who isn't in need of more patience?)  Maybe something we need at a certain time is going to come at a better opportunity later than sooner?  Who knows.....but I pray it all starts coming together real soon.

In the meantime, here's what April/May brought about ----->

We had the land surveyed and we're waiting on the surveyor to return the work on that...... (patience....ugh)

and our architect is almost finished with drawing up our home plans.

We went ahead and had the house site cleared - along with a back yard area - and that's the biggest visible sign of progress that has done my heart good.

I had some "before" pictures, but when I downloaded them to Picasa, the program crashed - deleting the photos - and I had already deleted them from my camera that's that.

I pray June is a month that brings more progress.  I feel like, weather cooperating, the process should go fairly quickly once we get started.  We've chosen a very simple house plan - almost a square (so I guess that makes it a rectangle - LOL!) - with a basement that will be partly finished and the other side used for storage.

Our plan is to utilize every square inch of living space - unlike our previous home (my uncle did our sheetrock for us on that home, and he commented that it was one of the most cut up homes he'd ever seen - he wasn't lying).

As we wait, I'm trying to pare down our "stuff" even more and read about and be encouraged by others who are doing the same.  I've realized that I'm one of those people who have held on to some things just because of feeling guilty about getting rid of it.

"Thank you" to whoever told me it was okay to get rid of that stuff and to not feel guilty about it. 

So there you have it.  I'm very thankful and excited about this opportunity to simplify our lives in different ways, and I'm looking forward to when we reach the end of this season to looking back and seeing God's hand in the process.  I certainly did 16 years ago - the last time we did this - and I have no doubt we'll see it again. :>)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Planning for the Homeschool Year 2015-2016

I am so excited about our upcoming homeschool year.  That's really nothing new, though.  Each summer, as I look back over the completed school year, it's nice to think back about what worked and what didn't and begin researching what needs to happen next.

One big change we're making is not returning to Classical Conversations.  This school year was a trial year, and it was fine.  I have no deep regrets about doing it at all.  For our family, I just didn't feel it was worth the investment.  There were aspects I liked and some I didn't.  One big issue is the learning of skip counting, which ultimately caused Amelia to turn to that for her multiplication work in math - thus leaving her memorized multiplication tables in the dust.  So, we're working on recovering that this summer.

My children liked knowing they would be with their friends that one scheduled day per week, but play days can fill that need.  (I'm thinking of starting a new support group in our area, which could also facilitate that.)

So, with that out of the way, we're returning to My Father's World - a curriculum I love and that has worked well for our family.  I'll be doing the Exploring Countries and Cultures with Matthew and Amelia.  I learned through Classical Conversations that my children are ready to learn together in some subjects, and I'm excited about being able to do that.  I did this same subject (ECC) with Madison and Cari when they were around this age, and without a doubt, that was one of the best years we've had.  I hope to document our journey through this curriculum in the coming school year, which I feel will also hold me accountable to do the extra suggested activities that will go a long way in increasing their understanding and knowledge of the various countries we'll be exploring.

ECC covers history/geography, Bible, science, art and music.

For Amelia (5th grade), I'll add Teaching Textbooks for math and continue with her First Language Lessons for Well-Trained Mind for grammar.  I'm also adding a little Switched on Schoolhouse for extra grammar practice.  We'll be sticking with IEW for writing.

For Matthew (1st/2nd grade), I'll add Rod & Staff 2nd grade math.  He's still not quite reading - getting close - so we'll continue with his Phonics Pathways.  I'm also starting him on First Language Lessons for WTM, and for handwriting, he'll use A Reason for Handwriting.

Cari will be starting with her 11th grade work, and she wanted to return to the co-op this year for some of her classes, and we're fine with that.  For her classes there, she will be doing math and U.S. history.  It's a good atmosphere, and she's looking forward to seeing some of her old friends from two years ago.  They also have prom and other extra-curricular activities, and she's excited about that.  

In addition, for grammar/lit, she'll do Easy Grammar 11 and American Literature (from MFW), which should work well as she's studying U.S. history.  I'll probably use IEW for her writing as well.

She did not care too much for her Spanish program this year, so we're switching to Latin to meet her two-year requirement of a foreign language.  I'm going to use Visual Latin for her as I've seen lots of good reviews on that program.

Her science class this year will be Anatomy & Physiology.  We'll use Precepts of Anatomy & Physiology (we used this program for Biology in 9th grade and were pleased).  She'll also watch the Body of Evidence DVDs and use the corresponding curriculum. 

It is so nice to already have a plan in place.  Now it's time to celebrate the previous school year by enjoying our summer break!


Here's the "more about that" I mentioned in the previous post... I was around 6 years old the first time I realized I nee...