Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Week In Photos (9/22-9/29)

This last week was a bit on the crazy side. Ever have one of those days where you want to keep doing things while you're still awake, but you're really too tired to be effective? There have been a string of them in our household in the last week!

Staying busy is far from a bad thing though. We're experiencing some wonderful autumn weather; it's warm without being hot, and there's a nice cool breeze now and then. This is the perfect weather for working on outdoor projects that weren't as persistently pursued in the heat of the summer. The house site is a little cleaner, the fall garden has been planted just in time for some late September rains, and the new shed is all but complete!

Mellie seemed to enjoy the rain we received as much as the plant life did! Maybe a bit too much, in fact..

Between rainy days, we took a little time to sneak off to a beach party the Georgia Birth Network was holding.

We also got a bit of work done towards the financial end of the house project. I'm working on a series of baby and toddler dress patterns to sell on Etsy for a bit extra, direct to house fund income.

I hope everyone else has had a great week as well!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Drying Chiles

Last night we sat down at the dining room table after dinner with a big pile of red chiles and a mission: to get them bundled and ready to hang for drying.

The process is very simple. All you need to get peppers stitched into a nice little bundle is some thread, a needle, and a bit of patience. Simply push the needle through the lower part of the stem, threading each pepper on one at a time.

Make sure to tie a loop at the top so it can be hung in a cool, dry location until you're ready to use your peppers. Our chile pepper plants are quickly becoming covered in peppers again.  expect to do this a few more times before winter arrives, then to enjoy some spicy vegetable soup when it's cold outside!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Birthday Weekend

It feels a bit silly to write a weekend recap on a Tuesday night, but I think this past weekend warrants it. Sometimes it seems that babies have some secret communication, preference for a weather pattern, or maybe just like a particular lunar phase. Whatever the cause, this weekend brought the "I think I'm in labor" call from every doula client I had with a September due date. Calvin's birthday party was also this weekend, as was a Georgia Birth Network event I had previously committed to attending. It was a wonderful, but exhausting few days. Monday was spent relaxing with a friend for a much needed day off.

So now that I've mostly caught back up on sleep and spent some time with my little girl, I have lots of pictures to share!

My table at the Birth Ball was a bit sad looking next to others with larger displays. I guess I need to add some height to my presentation.

Mellie wore her new dress out to play (and promptly found a mud puddle).

I did some henna for a friend while Mellie played with her little ones during our day off. The design was based on a Tree of Life, with some alterations that were symbolic for the recipient (such as a bird for each of her children).

My mother was kind enough to provide us with some great food during the crazy weekend. Poached asparagus and black bean salad make a fantastic cold lunch.

Tomorrow it's back to work around home. With any luck, tomorrow we can get some peppers bundled and hung up to dry and some more clearing done on the lot for the house!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mellie Loves Horses

Yesterday afternoon Mellie and I went to visit a friend for a play date. Said friend is an avid equestrian with two horses she jumps competitively. I wasn't sure what Mellie would think of the horses, but given her curiosity about the other animals she has encountered, I felt it was reasonable to expect a good reaction.

Good ended up being an understatement. She had a blast! She had fun playing with the other kids there, but she was absolutely giddy when we went out to see the horses. My often overly serious child was all grins and giggles when the horses were in sight.

She even had her first horseback ride (ride meaning she sat on the back of a very sweet, calm, stationary mare in the stables for a few minutes).

It was a great day out. I hope we get to go visit again soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sewing Day

My Etsy shop has been in desperate need of some new stock for quite a while now. Given that the extra income from Etsy is the only source of income from which the profits go directly into the house fund, this is something I need to work on. Summer is fading fast, so I've been tossing around a few baby and toddler clothing ideas that are at least a bit more suited to fall weather. I had an opportunity to sit down and test out a new pattern yesterday and I'm quite pleased with the results. With any luck I'll have my shop back to where it should be in no time.

The funny looking green thing behind the pins is a little plushie I tossed together to be stuffed with any fabric scraps. I call him "Lumpy" because it's appropriate. I worried that he might be a bit on the creepy side (he's always staring at you), but Mellie, surprisingly, really likes him.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Play Days

It's still a bit strange for me to see Mellie running around, climbing, swinging and sliding. I recognize that she's in no way still an infant, but sometimes it seems like I should still be pregnant, not chasing a toddler. Time flies. It also makes parenthood a bit surreal.

While it may seem like she was a newborn yesterday, she is overflowing with energy lately. Trips out give her an opportunity to explore a new place, and seem to help deter the harrowing adventure that is herding an under stimulated toddler. She's quite happy to run around in our yard, but sometimes mom needs a change of pace too.

During the summer we frequented the aquarium (which I might like a bit more than Mellie does), but as temperatures drop back into a reasonable range we've started heading to parks and playground again. One of our favorites has a play area specifically for toddlers. Cal's somewhat odd work schedule lets us take family trips there during the week when there is minimal crowd. I love the family time, and it seems Cal and Mellie agree.

Once the house is finished, I would love to build a play area and garden just for Mellie, but, until then, the playground is a nice getaway for all of us.

The House

This drawing was a rather rough sketch that isn't really to scale, I didn't use a straight edge, and the perspective isn't terribly correct (it was drawn in the car on the way to visit family). Regardless, it does give an idea of, roughly, what I expect the house to look like. Until all the permit mess is worked out, this is all subject to change, but I fell in love with the craftsman style homes and little bungalows that populated some of the less tourist frequented areas of Savannah. I loved the attention to detail and developed a particular love for decorative, exposed rafter tails and the idea that a house didn't have to be massive to be a dream home.

I tried to be very realistic about what we did and did not need when formulating this plan. There have certainly been times in my life where I have dreamed of living in some massive mansion with a room for every whim, but the majority of my thoughts center on the idea that more space is more to clean and maintain without any truly notable benefit.

Not to say the plan is without indulgences. I did want a kitchen with lots of counter space, a living room AND a family room, wide hallways to be lined with built in bookshelves, and a dedicated work space. Cal wanted a space to paint and an outdoor kitchen. The other side of that is knowing where we're willing to make sacrifices. I've learned that I am completely satisfied with a bedroom that is only large enough for a bed, space to move around said bed, and storage for clothing and personal items. I've also learned that, while I want a dedicated place to work, a desk in a closet is plenty of space for my computer and I generally prefer to draw outside or at the table. For that matter, I've also realized that a separate dining room is not something we generally use if there is space for us to sit and eat as a family in the kitchen. The current design is approximately 1600 sq. ft. I'm sure we could manage with much less (Cal and I have mostly comfortably shared an apartment of roughly 700 sq. ft. that featured a side room we didn't really use until Mellie was conceived and it got pegged as the baby room), but I believe this will be a good size for our needs and desires.

One of the central ideas behind this project is to spend as little as possible while maintaining the integrity of the structure and the design. We plan to build this out of pocket, skipping the 30 years of debt that seems to have become an American tradition. So far we've purchased a sizable chunk of our materials for just over $1000 by shopping around and keeping an eye out for a good deal. This includes all the doors and windows, a good portion of the wiring, pipes, outlets, and fixtures needed,  roof trusses, one load of rock for the exterior, and (hopefully) all the cement block we need.

Another concept at the heart of this plan is to be as self sufficient as possible. While we will likely be hooked up to the grid, the design is intended to be functional off of it through use of solar panels, a rainwater reclamation system, a grey water system, possible use of well water, and design features to provide some natural heating and cooling. Covered porches on the south and west faces of the house will offer some insulation to the most exposed sides of the structure from the sun during summer, while an outdoor kitchen gives a place to cook a hot meal without heating the house. A parallel set of doors on each side of the house should offer air circulation on a warm, but breezy day. A centrally placed indoor kitchen can heat the house while a meal is cooked during the winter.

My dream is fairly simple: a home for my family, gained without a mortgage, that gives us what we need without going overboard.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oh Yum!

Today was a bit of a crazy day, but I did get a chance to sit down and enjoy some of the gourmet marshmallows I had ordered from my friend Kathy's new Etsy shop. (This package was the cause of the hike up to our mailbox mentioned in the previous post.) Her shop is named "Oh Yum", and the name fits!

I had plans for smores and hot chocolate, but they didn't last long enough. While I can't say how they are toasted, I think the fact that every marshmallow has been consumed in the span of two days, in a household that eats few sweets at that, speaks volumes. The coconut went first, followed shortly by the almond. The fruit flavors I was a bit more hesitant about, but after trying them I'm in love. While the almond is still my favorite, lemon flavored marshmallow goes amazingly well with a glass of iced tea after garden work on a hot day!

If you have a sweet craving that needs sating, need a very tasty party or wedding favor, or just want to help support a very awesome work at home mom, check these out!

Signs Of Autumn

Autumn seems to have begun overnight. One day the world was lush, green, and hot. Then, one morning, we woke up reaching for a blanket and gazing out the window at a handful of the first golden leaves on a nearby tree.

Autumn also tends to be a time of many deadlines for me, so the last few days have been part of a mad rush to get submissions ready for a handful of gallery shows I wanted to enter this year.

We did get a chance to sneak out for some family time, and a walk to the mailbox, during which we saw yet another sign of autumn; there were muscadines (a wild grape native to this area) everywhere! They're somewhat tart, but have a great, very unique flavor. Calvin entertained Mellie while I climbed around in the wood line a bit trying to fill a bowl with dark purple fruit. I didn't get as many as I had hoped, but not a bad haul either!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pick A Goat, Any Goat

Whether or not to involve livestock in our little homestead adventure was a subject of some debate.. except when it came to goats. I've always liked goats. They're curious, intelligent, outgoing, quirky little creatures. They like to play and explore. Plus they're kind of cute. Calvin fell prey to goat fever pretty quickly as well.

After developing a mutual desire to have a dairy goat or two, the next step was to address the practical aspects. We needed a shelter, secure pasture (both to keep them in and to keep predators out), a plan for care, and to choose a type of goat.  Shelter worked out neatly, since this whole endeavor was well timed with the building of a storage shed anyways. Pasture along the wood line provides browse (brush type vegetation for happy goat munching) and a mix of sun and shade. The plan for care mostly resolved itself by location (their proximity to the driveway makes it convenient to check in for anyone on their way in or out). That left breed.

Our goats are Dwarf Nigerians. I looked at several breeds, but in the end it came down to La Manchas, Nubians, or Dwarf Nigerians. While I was much enamored with the cute little elf ears of some La Manchas (not ideal for the breed, but I like them), and the rounded faces and floppy ears of Nubians, in the end Dwarf Nigerians won out. My research led me to feel like they were ideal for our situation. They give birth easily, require less land per goat, don't mind the heat, have a great temperament, give a respectable amount of milk for their size, and are small enough to be managed with minimal effort, even when they're dishing out a generous portion of stubbornness. So far, these little goats have been a great fit for us!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Planting

When it comes to home grown produce, summer crops are great, but cooler weather plants are where my heart is. I have a long standing love of root vegetables and dark, leafy greens. Beer braised kale with garlic is something I'm happy to make a meal of. Mixed greens in a spicy peanut sauce is another well loved recipe, and a root vegetable soup is my favorite cold weather staple.

Today had a definite hint of autumn in the air. This morning a light jacket even felt appropriate before the sun was fully up. The tomatoes have stopped producing well, the eggplant and beans are clearly done for the year, and the few remaining summer squash are busy hardening to give us seeds for next year. Even the massive number of margiold (calendula) plants scattered through the garden are making the transition from blooms to seeds.  I've been taking down plants that seem to be completely done bearing and replanting for a few weeks. We canned the last big handfuls of tomatoes week before last and most of the tomato plants are now replaced with broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions and lettuce. Our peppers are still producing plenty, so fall plantings are going in around them as carefully as possible.

We started a number of our fall plantings inside back in early August, but it's never too late. If you're interested in planting a fall garden, most root vegetables, leafy greens and winter squashes can be planted any day now for a late in the year harvest of fresh produce. Arugula and radish are particularly fast growing, if time is a concern. Heavy mulching around the bases of plants (as insulation for the roots), cold frames, and hoop houses can also greatly increase the length of your growing season. I'm personally a big fan of mulching, but this year I'm hoping to try a small hoop house for growing greens in winter. My fingers are crossed for fresh turnip greens in February!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


My name is Jen. I am a mother of one, wife to a wonderfully open minded man, artist, designer, childbirth educator, and doula. I grew up in the Atlanta area with time split between the city and an area that, at the time, was pretty much considered to be out in the country (it has since been swallowed whole by suburban sprawl). Pretty much immediately after graduating high school, I ran away with my then boyfriend (now husband) to Savannah, after which we moved around a lot for a few years, I stumbled my way through college, he went down a very different path, we moved in and out and back into a cute little house on the edge of Savannah's historic district, got married, started a little business, started a little family, and then made the slightly insane decision to leave it all behind, move back to metro Atlanta, and do something completely different.

My daughter, Mellie, is a 16 month old whirlwind who loves to feed the animals and play in the shower. She talks a little, signs a bit, and likes to pick out her own clothes (including which diaper she wants). Very recently she has started making the transition from walking to running and climbing creating a ton of chaos and terror. She likes to help me in the garden and is great at pulling weeds.

Cal is my husband. I don't pretend to know what all goes through his head when I spout ideas and ramble while formulating plans, but I can say he's very supportive and a very hard worker. He keeps me believing we can do this when there are bumps in the road.

And that is us in a nutshell.