Monday, February 28, 2011

backyard chickens!?!?

You have no idea how surprised I was when Able-Bodied Boy mentioned a year or so ago that he might like to have some egg-layers. Sweeeeeet! My friend Barnhenge Momma has a few dozen egg-layers and meat birds, and she makes it look so easy. Which, it seems, it is pretty easy:

a Rhode Island Red
Buy/build coop and run. Raise chicks or buy pullets (teen-aged birds). Put them in the coop. Give them a hand with where to lay eggs (if it's the first set of birds you own, they need a bit of training since they don't have other birds to watch). Collect eggs and check water and feed daily. Clean the coop and run every 1- 2- 3- 4- weeks, depending who you talk to and the conditions. Overall, not really all that difficult!

We learned most of what we know from the PASA Backyard Chicken class we took on Saturday, led by the very knowledgeable and sweet Amy and Chris. They definitely made it seem very attainable for a lot of different folks. We also plan to spend a day with Barnhenge Mama (and Papa) to do a "chicken internship" :)

We have quite a list of things to consider before we make the plunge, though.

  • Do local ordinances allow us to have them? Is the coop a large enough structure that it needs to follow some sort of code? (Zoning officer will be dropping off information this week!)
  • Where do we put the coop and run? Will it get a mix of sun and shade, or do we need to provide some sort of shade cover (vines over the top)? Will a little smell bother you if it's close to the house, or can you combat that with fragrant flowers/herbs?
  • How do we procure the coop? DIY, help from an experienced coop-builder, buy it online...?
  • Do we get a rooster? They can help with protection when the birds are outside of their run. Are we letting them out of the run much? Will our neighbors care about the crowing?
  • Do we get chicks or pullets? Chicks take a bit of care for 3 months to raise, but the handling will get them used to you (and kids, if you have them). Is it much more expensive to get pullets?
  • Where will we get our hay/cedar chips from?
  • Do we have a reliable chicken-sitter when we are both away?
Needless today, Able-Bodied Boy and I don't really see eye-to-eye on a lot of this. Tons of discussions to come. But I'm sure we'll come up with a good plan that works for both of us!

Once we have 3-4 birds laying, we'll start getting around a dozen eggs each week. Which is quite a bit for us, but I think we can use them to barter with others for garden produce or other homemade goods. We'll also have a good bit of fertilizer to use in the garden, to supplement the worm compost. And they will eat most excess foods we don't give the worms, so we can stop putting scraps in the trash or bushline (even at Thanksgiving!).

Amusingly, mentioning all this on Facebook prompted a lot of my friends to speak up about their experiences with chicken-raising. Have you had chickens? What's the best/worst thing about it?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

EDIT: We got the copy of the relevant local code; looks like this might be a problem. For any agricultural/farming uses, we need to have 5+ acres and set the structure 200ft from the property line. With only 1.5 acres, that puts the coop under our house and still 3.5 acres short. Our property is bordered by the road on one side and by one owner's horse pasture or unused land. So there would really be no residential issue, if that's the concern.
We're going to look into the feasibility of getting a variance (will ask if it's ever been done before). If we might be able to get one, we'll try to get the neighbor's support and take our tiny coop plans to see about a variance. If it doesn't look like a variance is going to happen, we may just talk to the neighbor and/or take our chances... I'll keep you posted!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

mattress purchase update: the east coast organic mattress company

This has been a sustainable homesteading weekend, for sure. Yesterday we attended a class on backyard chicken operations, in preparation for the long-discussed egg layers we want. (More on that later!) The class was an hour from home, and I figured since we were already so far from home, we might as well detour another hour to one of the only eco-friendly mattress stores in our region, The East Coast Organic Mattress Company.

Now, it must be said that we got a little bit of flack for this. We were called hippies by one friend, and got blank stares from others. Able-Bodied Boy got the obligatory pats on the back in sympathy. "Seriously?!!?! Organic mattresses? Dude, have fun with that."

Really people? I honestly don't understand how this can be so weird. You opt to buy the organic veggies in the market sometimes, right? The organic dairy products? And they aren't all that different from their regular counterparts; they don't taste extraordinarily different, or have different textures. They are a little more expensive, but are conveniently located next to their counterparts, and sometimes you decide it's worth it. You might even drive over to the natural foods store to buy more products like it.

It's the same with mattresses, I suppose. The end result is that you get a bed that is comfortable, feels the best for your body type and sleep patterns. You might pay a bit more, but you have decided it's worth it.

That being said, to be honest, I think Able-Bodied Boy and I were both a little skeptical about going to a store specializing in organic mattresses. I mean, what makes a mattress organic, and can the types of materials they use compare to standard materials, and what about the durability, or the variation in firmness? I had hopes that they would be worthy of the long trip, but felt a bit of everyone else's skepticism. What if it was all just lumpy organic-wool futon pads on top of sustainably-forested wood, sold by rabid hippies that smelled vaguely of patchouli? Eeee gads!

We were oh-so-pleasantly surprised! Leona, the owner, patiently led us to each bed, explained the materials, the density of the mattresses, waited for us to comment and ask questions, and even brought me a selection of organic pillows when I mentioned noticing they had quite a variety on all their beds. Anecdotally, they sounded very durable and worthy of consideration.

And the beds, oh they were so comfortable! Some were soft and quilty, some were very very firm. They had toppers and pads and multiple layers of different densities and they could even make each side different if you had two different sleep needs. They had foam mattresses and spring mattresses and a variety of foundations to match each mattress. Each mattress used a different combination of materials, but all organic (or we-can't-afford-the-certification-but-really-are-quite organic) and/or sustainably-sourced.

I won't detail all of their materials, how they are sourced, how they are made and put together, or even which ones we liked. A mattress purchase is personal, and I'm sure you'll learn everything you want/need to when it comes time.
photo from the East Coast Organic Mattress Store website
But I have to say I was really extraordinarily impressed with the East Coast Organic Mattress Store, and Leona. No stinky mattress fumes, and no patchouli :) We will definitely be considering our favorites from their store as we continue our search and decide which sort of mattress is best for us.

Have you ever gotten those skeptical looks before when you decide to try something a little outside the box? Was it worth it?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Thursday, February 24, 2011

on the polarization of politics, and hope

I used to have opinions and care about politics. Involved in campaigns, in political organizations, lively discussions, reading local news and national news and international news. I used to feel like knowing and understanding and listening and expressing and acting and voting all made a difference. And maybe they did.

But I can't say any of that anymore. As our political organizations have become more extreme in the defense of their own views and of their opposition of all else, as the media has become more interested in stories of conflict, and as ordinary Americans (and, sadly, the youngest generation) see and hear less and less compromise, I have given up on speaking up - unless, of course, I'd be willing to shout.

I don't think that politics was always about winning. Don't get me wrong, it's always been a bit about power and influence. But lately the voices of reason and moderation have been marginalized as shouting and the squeezing through of agenda has taken over. The goal is to win, not to find a good way or a practical way or reach a compromise. They walk away, literally WALK AWAY if they don't like what they hear. They ignore, IGNORE, anyone who disagrees. It's not about the natural swing of power, it's about a "mandate". It's not about voicing an opinion that's not mainstream, it's being a "whack job".

I don't think I'm alone in this. Too often I hear of people giving up on politics, giving up on the system, begging for a third party, and asking how the hell we get out of this mess of a political environment.

The thing is, some had hope a few years ago, in Obama - certainly a life-leaning candidate, but an agent of change and hope nonetheless. Hope that he could shake things up, take the high road and be the better man, a compromiser. He said so much that gave so much optimism about who we are and what we can accomplish and how we can overcome our problems. He said so many of the right things, without even doing them, that he got a Nobel Peace Prize. Now that is nothing if not hope: the promise and potential and premature vision of better things.

We have a stake in one another ... what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and ... if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.
      - Barack Obama, 2006
And then he walked into office being followed by his own party in the majority; they over-ran him with their WE WON! mentality, and we sunk further into the pit for another two years. And those that flocked to his speeches with fresh faces and the encouragement and empowerment to make a difference have fallen back under the shadow of what he called "24-hour, slash-and-burn, negative ad, bickering, small-minded politics". His shine has faded and we're once again left feeling like the kid under the covers, listening to our parents shout every night.

I watch and listen as the Middle East struggles to find it's own way. I see revolution, in all its peace and all its violence, and I wonder: what will really change? I hear that Egypt's Supreme Council, in its "temporary" role as leaders of the nation, have such an broad footing in the infrastructure and economy of the nation that some fear they won't allow too much in the way of change, for fear of losing all of their own power. I see the Israeli's and the Palestinians shout and refuse to compromise in the same ways our own political parties chose to act these days.

So I see all this. And I'm numb. I can't care anymore. What good does it do? Where is the hope? Who is capable of being the voice of reason? What will it take to prevent us from running each other into the ground?

But that little voice in the back of my head, the wise one that knows this too shall pass can't help but want to put a step forward in spite of it all.

Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.
      - Barack Obama, 2008


ARE YOU? Will you join me? Share, repost, copy that last bit. Maybe it will inspire, guide, motivate, and give us the boost we need to find our way back to the middle road.

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

w/mo2h #4: composting with worms, part three

part three: better living with worms

So, we've gotten a worm composter. We've already dealt with some issues. What now?

Bedding. Worms are not princesses; this doesn't have to be a too hard, too soft, gotta get it just right sort of thing. When you start a new tray, they just need something that has good circulation of air and won't break down too quickly. The list of options can get pretty extensive, but shredded paper product, dry shredded leaves, peat moss, and yard clippings all work. Most people recommend a "mixed bed" using a couple of different materials, and adding water to get it to the right moisture level. Some recommend making sure they have something gritty in there (sand, soil) to help the worms digest everything, but I've also read that food scraps have enough gritty bits for the worms.

Pasty Peat! (sounds like a bad pirate name...)
I use a half bucket of peat moss mixed with a couple handfuls of lime (Journey to Forever-recommended, but other sites have said that lime is not necessary. Maybe I'll try it without one time to see how it goes.). Then I start adding water and stir it up with a 3-prong cultivator or fork until it gets more on the pasty side and less on the crumbly side. It's not an exact science unless you really want it to be! After that I mix a couple large handfuls of shredded paper and spread that out in the new top tray. Remember that these trays have holes in the bottom; a pizza box lid works perfectly to help transport trays with the least amount dropping.

One new tray, ready to go!
Food (Concerns). They can eat pretty much any organic material (we're talking the general natural-not-man-made sort of "organic", not the over-priced inconsistently-regulated sort.) like paper products, fruits, grains, vegetables, garden trimmings (disease-free, please!). 

I have read various advice about what not to feed your worms. Citrus, onion, garlic, meat, dairy, fats/oils, fish, bones, etc. Again, Journey to Forever's advice was the best: go for it, but try them each in small quantities first. If you aren't sure, look up the type of food to find out if there are any concerns. Citrus may be too strong for worms, so you'll find that it's use is recommended sparingly; too many grains may cause overheating of the compost; meat/dairy/oils may cause bad smells. Paper and veg products are generally safe, so start there and add other stuff in small amounts. You might get smell, the worms might not be able to decompose it, but in smaller quantities you'll have a much better change of thwarting another Thanksgiving Day massacre-type event.
Our happy worm home :)

Feeding and Layers. So, we keep a "Happy Worm Food" jar in the kitchen. We put in diced food scraps and take it down to them every few days. Right now I would like to get at least one tray through the process, without incident and without putting in any "iffy" food stuffs. I put each bunch of scraps in a new pile under the bedding (using a fork, trowel, or cultivator!) in a grid system - think Tic-Tac-Toe board. Your "working" tray - the topmost tray that is receiving food scraps - should have the bedding on top and the food underneath.

Harvesting and Rotating Beds. Once all your food pile spots are full, it's ready to sit to allow the worms to process the scraps, and you're ready to start a new bed for new scraps. The worms can travel among the beds by using the holes in the bottom of each tray. So make a fresh "working" tray and put it on top of the older tray. The worms will migrate up as they are ready, and you can start putting food scraps in to attract them. The trick is that the bottom-most tray should always have sheets of paper in the bottom to prevent them from going through the holes into the drip tray; so the very first tray you make will have paper in the bottom.
It's compost!

Once the bottom tray looks dark and rich and you can't really see much left of your scraps, then it's compost! We keep a large bucket to put the finished compost in; haven't yet decided when we'll use it but it's certainly going to go in the garden. I use a gloved hand to pull out some of the worms that are still in there, but you don't have to as long as most of your worms have already migrated up to the other newer trays.

Once you take out that bottom tray, you should make sure that the new bottom tray has the paper in the bottom of the tray so the worms don't drop. This has been a bit tricky for me to figure out. If upper trays have had no bottom lining so the worms can migrate up, but the food scraps have to stay underneath of the bedding, how can I put paper under all of this or transfer it all into a papered tray? My solution: dump the material for the bottom-most processing tray into a new paper-lined tray, and then cover with a light layer of the new bedding for the new working tray. 

Worm life and reproduction. Without getting into too much detail, they will reproduce themselves to sustain life in your composter. If you give them plenty of food and bedding, they'll keep reproducing; if you stop feeding them as much, they won't reproduce as much. Or something like that. Suffice to say it's population control and it's based on what you give them. I told you I didn't want to go into detail! I'm sure my worms have been cranking out the babies because I still have good population in there these 4-5 months after purchase; I just haven't sought out their little hatchling capsules.
Worm Tea: not for drinking!

Worm Tea. Excess water drips through the trays into the trip tray, and can be disposed of using the spigot. But don't toss this down the drain!  Save it as an excellent plant fertilizer! Liquid gold, I tell ya!

Other Considerations. There are other things you need to watch out for; generally, checking in once a week is a good idea. Environmental temperature of 60-80F - colder or hotter and you'll have to do some extra work. Compost temperature - if it's getting quite hot, it's the result of environmental temp or types of food and there are solutions. Moisture - too damp, add dry shredded paper; too dry, add water or wet food. Bugs and Smells - types of food and moisture levels.

Perks. Year-round compost production. Indoor or outdoor operation. Only requires work every 4-6 weeks. No pet sitter - can be left as is for several weeks at a time. 

So, would you consider composting with worms?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Monday, February 21, 2011

i wanna be an urban homesteader!

It's Urban Homesteaders Blog like a Pirate Day!! If you haven't heard about this issue, read Crunchy Chicken's post (and the comments, which tell more of the story) about the Dervaes family trademarking the widely-used term Urban Homesteading. I am constantly reading the blogs of urban homesteaders and I am in awe of all they do. In honor of the day and in taking up the issue with my heroes, I'm reposting my i wanna be a farmer post with some Urban Homesteading changes/twists!

Do you have one of those completely unrealistic visions for yourself? A dream beyond dreams that seems so easy and yet completely unattainable?

I want to be an Urban Homesteader. Hiding the smell of manure, sweating in the garden, finding attractive rain barrels, worrying about city regulations while trying to raise chickens, fighting with the neighbors, making due. Oh it's all so romantic in my mind.

I read about it. Daily. A myriad of bloggers. I regularly read gardening and farming and urban homesteading books. I research composting and starting seeds and naturally taking care of pests and plant diseases and how-tos for everything under the farmers sun and moon. And all I've concluded is that I need some hands-on instruction. Live-in instruction, really, over the course of many many seasons. And a lot more time.

I think I could live very happily on an Urban Homestead, in the midst of all the culture and excitement of a city while coming home to fresh eggs and garden. Ha! Not at all realistic, but that's what dreams are for, eh?

I read Chile Chews and Casaubon's Book and Adventures in Urban Sustainability and APLS and arduous blog and Cage Free Family and Community for a Sustainable Future and Contemplating Change and Living the Frugal Life and The Green Phone Booth and Throwback at Trapper Creek and Tiny Choices and Towards Sustainability and Two Frog Home and so many other blogs that inspire me to want to do all these things, and show me that it is indeed possible.

Maybe one day, slowly but surely, I'll find a happy medium between my black thumb in the rural farmland and the vibrancy of a rural life surrounded by city life. But the progress is so slow, if at all, that I think this might just have to stay in the 'dream' category.

Are you an Urban Homesteader?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


w/mo2h #4: composting with worms, part two

part two: the great worm suicide, the thanksgiving day massacre, and other issues

When we last left off, our fearless worm-lover had started her composting adventure, not yet realizing the worm trajedies about to befall her...

I don't remember where I read it, but I had heard that the worms get really confused when they are first put into the composter. They decide to find the darkest spot and - even though the bed you just put them in is nice and dark and food-rich - they opt to crawl out.

Thus, the great worm suicide. I put them under a window. I put a small light directly shining on the lid. And yet a dozen or so (which is actually very little of the pound) crawled out to their death on the floor of the basement. Do not fear though! Had I taken the time to get a high-powered workshop light over there, I probably would not have any problem with suicidal worms. But it is apparently a common issue. If you are not fond of seeing worms, but are willing to try vermicomposting, I suggest laying some newspaper extending a few feet from all sides; if you do have any suicides, it'll be easy to roll them up.

The first couple of months went very well. We cut up our food scraps into bite-sized pieces (human bites, not worm bites :-P) and buried them under the bedding as directed. We created a good bit of food for them, but they seemed to be eating it. By the time I had buried little piles all through the first tray, the first pile in that tray was decidedly less distinguishable than the newer scraps.

As Thanksgiving approached, I figured we would need another tray to accommodate all the scraps as we hosted 6 adults for the holiday weekend. So I made it a couple of weeks in advance so the worms could start migrating up to the new tray and get acclimated. (More on how to make your bedding in part three!) That weekend, we added scraps and more scraps and even more scraps. The top tray filled pretty quickly, and we stopped giving them any more. Out came the old kitchen bucket and we started hauling out to the brush again.

I didn't think much of it until a couple of weeks later. I checked on the progress, and lo-n-behold, the progress was slow. I had overwhelmed them. With too much to eat in too little time, combined with some of the types of scraps we put in (like fruit skins), fruit flies multiplied, en masse. December was a crazy month of holidays and travel, so I didn't look into it further. I just put out some fruit fly death soup (apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, and a little dish soap - it all tastes yummy until they lose their footing!), swatted them away when we used the finished part of the basement, and hoped that I hadn't ruined my wormies. We opted to stop feeding them for a while, until things got back to normal.

Had I read the website and booklet, I would have learned a simple trick for containing the fruit flies. I could have just filled our spare tray with shredded paper and used that as the top tray. The flies wouldn't be able to navigate through it to get out, and would prevent them from coming or going. Chrysanthemum spray would work too. Lessons learned! Don't overwhelm the tray, and fruit flies can be handled easily!

I checked on them again last month: the fruit flies were gone, the bottom tray had made a lot of progress, and the top tray was not looking like a dirty salad anymore. I noticed that some of our scraps, especially the eggshells, weren't really breaking down at all. Mostly it was the bigger pieces, as I was pretty inconsistent with that, so I think we'll definitely start chopping the bits into smaller pieces; apparently eggshells should also be dry and crumbled too, so something else we'll need to work on.

Overall, though, the worms pulled through just fine and are quite hardy. You don't have to slave over them, really. Leaving them alone for a few weeks, without even checking in, is not the end of the world.

So, now that we've gotten it established, worm care is pretty easy. Follow a few simple guidelines and a rotation schedule every 4-6 weeks, and the fresh compost will start rolling in...

So, what sorts of bedding do they need? Don't they die at some point? What happens once the compost is ready?

coming soon - 
part three: better living with worms

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Sunday, February 20, 2011

w/mo2h #4: composting with worms, part one

part one: welcoming your wormies

Before you ask: it's not smelly, you don't have to touch worms if you choose not to, and it does not require a lot of work. Just so's ya know...

Oh, the lady from the Costco ad
makes it look sooooo easy! Bah!
I hate throwing perfectly good food scraps away, and with a garden, it makes sense to to reuse this material for composting. But neither of us were willing to go through all the effort of building and maintaining an outdoor composting spot. So a couple of years ago we started with a small compost bucket in the kitchen, which every week was dumped into the brush at the edge of the yard. At least the weeds were getting fed, right?

Last year, Able-Bodied Boy and I struggled to make a large rotating composter work. We brought it home from Costco, put in some material and waited. We got ants. We waited. Everything else stayed the same. We made adjustments, added wet material or dead material. We finally determined that it was too dry because the bin was actually not really sealed properly. It still sits outside, looking like a small space capsule.

So I finally looked into vermi-composting: the worm method. There is a lot of information out there on the web, with a lot of different variations. I found the Journey to Forever website to be the most useful, from worm information to methods and techniques. I did look around, but this seemed to have concise information, consistent with most everything else I was reading.

One of our first considerations was location: we did not want stinky, buggy compost inside! Worms like consistent temperatures, and being out of the sun and rain, but they also don't produce odors or bugs readily. There were certain types of foodstuff that might induce a bad smell, or attract bugs, so I read that you just had to introduce those items slowly, if at all, to test how your batch reacted. So it seemed as if a basement location would actually work for us. Worst-case scenario: the stink could remain isolated to one corner of the basement, and if bugs became a huge problem we could take it outside while we regrouped and figured out what we did wrong.

Now, we were not keen to build our own box, so we opted for the Worm Factory. It's a tray system that allows you to have several different "stages" going at once, and a drain for excess water. Our main shopping venue is Amazon, and it's super-saver shipping, so we worked with those parameters in our search. There are plenty of other models out there similar to each other, and I have no doubt that each of them has pros, cons, and things you just plain adjust to. With some good reviews and features, we opted for the Worm Factory, bought a pound of worms, and waited for delivery.
The Worm Factory. We likie!

Providing us with complete instructions on how to care for the worms, and the bedding for the first batch, made setup very easy. The bedding they provided was a coir brick and some shredded paper; just soak the coir, then mix in paper. Our worms came in a small canvas bag, so they were easily dumped in. They recommend putting sheets of paper in the bottom of the lower tray (to keep the worms from dropping through to the base) and on top of the lid (to keep them in and keep the lid from getting too gross), and the box it came in was fulled with long sheets of paper padding, so we didn't even have to get any newspaper. Super simple! It even has a summary of instructions on the lid for convenience.

So everything went perfectly well for the first two months, despite one episode of worm suicide. Then Thanksgiving came and the worms revolted...  

What will happen next to our fair wormie friends? Why did some commit suicide? What was sacrificed in the Thanksgiving Day Massacre?

coming soon - 
part two: the great worm suicide, the thanksgiving day massacre, and other issues
part three: better living with worms

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Saturday, February 19, 2011

i wanna be a farmer!

Do you have one of those completely unrealistic visions for yourself? A dream beyond dreams that seems so easy and yet completely unattainable?

I want to be a farmer. Up to my elbows in manure, sweating in the garden, birthing goats, worrying about the weather, raising chickens, cutting wood in the winter, making due. Oh it's all so romantic in my mind.

I read about it. Daily. A myriad of bloggers. I regularly read gardening and farming and homesteading books. I research composting and starting seeds and naturally taking care of pests and plant diseases and how-tos for everything under the farmers sun and moon. And all I've concluded is that I need some hands-on instruction. Live-in instruction, really, over the course of many many seasons. And a lot more time.

I think I could have lived very happily as a farmer's wife, birthing babies and feeding goats and slaughtering the lambs. Ha! Not at all realistic, but that's what dreams are for, eh?

I was very amused with Sharon Astyk's blog post the other day on Casaubon's Book, where she described "realistic farm tours". I was all ready to take her seriously, and she only amused me with her irony and sarcasm. And made me fall in love with the idea even more. *sigh* But I want to take these classes!!
"Pick a buttload of little tiny things." You've always dreamed of being a farmer, right. Now you can enjoy the real experience - picking a whole lot of little annoying things for 9 hours in the sun. No matter what the season from early spring (dandelion blossoms for wine) to late spring (chamomile blossoms) to high summer (currants) to late summer (beans) to autumn (every last damned cherry tomato), there is always something small that needs to be picked, and picked some more. Learn new curse words to describe the idiot who planted these things and thought it would be a great idea to sell them! Bonus activity - wash an endless number of eggs that birds pooped on!
I think it might be the learning experience, the sum of so many intricate parts that all fit together to make that sort of life work, as it has for thousands of year. The rotation of crops and of the animals in the fields and the manure into compost. Sharon, in her other blog The Chatelaine's Keys, reposted something she had written before about the diversity and interconnectedness of the animals on her farm. It intrigues me, not only that everything can be so tied together to those animal's habits, but also that there is such a body of knowledge that I have no concept of. I just amazes me.

I do have a friend, Barnhenge Momma, who lives about as close to my dream as I think I could ever acheive. I'm hoping one of these days she'll grace us with a post about her homesteading life. All the canning and pickling and growing and life at her home makes my soul come alive, and gives her this wonderful mother-earth glow.

Maybe one day, slowly but surely, I'll find a happy medium between my black thumb of plant death and the vibrancy of a life surrounded by life. But the progress is so slow, if at all, that I think this might just have to stay in the 'dream' category.

What are your dreams? Do you have any hope of achieving them?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Friday, February 18, 2011

flabby gut woes

Ugh. I'm really really not looking forward to the next scale-surf. (early March)

I don't feel any thinner. Even those first five pounds weren't noticed. My clothes don't really fit any differently, save a pair of jeans a size too small that I can just barely manage to tolerate for a day. My flabby gut still looks like a big swim tube. My only hope is that I'll be pleasantly surprised when I step on the scale, but I'm certainly not expecting it.

Jill of Lost and Not Found posted about abdominal work last week. She and I must have some sort of cosmic connection because I had just been telling myself that I probably ought to - at some point in the future but not really now cuz now is a really bad time - start doing ab work before bed. And lo-n-behold the voice in the back of my mind comes to life in her post and says NO REALLY THIS IS A GOOD IDEA!
If you're looking for a quick way to feel better about yourself, determine a routine (perhaps something as simple as two sets of 15-20 regular crunches and 2 sets of 15-20 side crunches) and stick to it consistently for a few weeks.  Do it at least three times a week, but you can do more if you want. You'll feel the difference in no time!

Wait. Why am I 'ugh'ing? I love ab pain! I stopped going to the pilates class because I felt the style wasn't giving me enough core work and next-day aches. I crave the ab pain! Bring it on!

So let's just admit what's going on here. I'm a lazy unmotivated bastard. Unless I have to do it, or have some sort of outside influence, I have a great span of excuses that keep me from doing anything above and beyond. My bedtime routine is perfect. I crawl into bed, take my sleeping pills, lay out my morning vitamins, do one last check of facebook, chat with Able-Bodied Boy about the day and upcoming plans, and turn on my sound machine. Why would I want to add ab work to a perfectly lazy evening??

And no, I still haven't gotten to go through all the wonderful workout stuff that Beth, Girl Explorer lent me. Me = lazy. I need help. Maybe I can beg Able-Bodied Boy to be my gut buddy at night?

If I had a web cam, you'd see that my face is skeptical and snarly right now. Not that I doubt he'd do it, but that it would mean I'd actually have to do it. Interrupt my lazy evenings for ab work. Ugh.

So here's the choice. The flabby gut 'ugh' or the lazy girl 'ugh'? Which is worse?

Probably the flabby gut. I just can't win :) I guess I'll try to get started on that sometime soon...

How do you work up to doing something you know is good for you but really don't want to make the effort to do?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

reminders of gratitude

I will be the first to admit that I am not always the most gracious of people. Absentminded, I'll walk away from a helpful person without saying 'thank you', or forget to follow up about a friend's important appointment. It's not that my momma didn't teach me right, but I admit that I - more often than not - am inwardly-drawn. But this is slowly changing, with some assistance.

In any case, amidst the chaos of the last few weeks there has been a sense of deep gratitude within for those surrounding me.

I have this amazing circle of friends, one which I inherited in a very bum deal and to which I'm connected by nothing other than a common single tragic event in our lives - the loss of a dear friend. I don't want to dwell on this, but it does speak to the circumstance surrounding how we met and became connected. This isn't your typical met-them-at-work, met-them-at-college, met-them-through-a-hobby group, had-to-be-friends-because-we-saw-each-other-a-lot-and-are-forced-to-get-along. The question "How did you all meet?" is postured with bland expectations. The answer is singular in this case, just like the circle.

Ok, let's just admit... most of you reading right now are in this circle. So I don't really need to go into too much detail about how amazing it is to see everyone stay so connected, despite great distances and grand dramas. All too many times I have seen amazing instances of effort and forgiveness and joy bestowed on one another.

Somehow, so many of them have this incredible ability to truly get to the core of a person, find their essence and their passions, and feed that soul with their own gifts. Instances of generosity, thoughtfulness, willingness to go above and beyond, simple embraces, and drop-of-a-hat love. They see the bigger picture in so many ways, beyond personal grievances or selfishness.

These are the people that saw me through last year. When I was doom and gloom and struggling to get through even the most menial of tasks - they checked in, allowed me to vent, didn't for one second let me forget they were there, and just simply loved me. Love I didn't think I deserved, love that I rejected at times. Love they sent nonetheless. Without asking for a single thing in return.

I am grateful too for a supportive, loving family. I think of them often, despite distances and busy lives, and take great joy in the growth of our relationships over the last few year. After years of believing I was so different and so misunderstood, I grew up. Simple as that. And it's allowed me to feel comfortable reaching out to extended family and try to initiate growth in those relationships too. Small but progressing changes that continue to make me smile.

I refuse to get mushy and tell you about how amazing Able-Bodied Boy is. He just is. He brings out the best in me and challenges me to be even more, all while loving me unconditionally. And I'll be done now before I get carried away and cry or something. Awkward, considering it's my Wednesday night out in the coffee shop...

So thank you all. You amaze me and shape me and give me something to strive for. I love you all and you are my personal heroes.

Who are you grateful for?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the healing miracle of aloe

During my small soiree on Saturday, I burned myself. Really badly. I'm normally pretty tolerant, but I was nearly in tears with the searing pain.

From First Aid certifications, I remembered that it's best to run a burn under warmish water... not to cold and not too hot, so I did so for about 30 seconds.

Then I grabbed the exacto-knife and lobbed off the tip of one of my aloe leaves.

Now, this little aloe plant has come a long way. Able-Bodied Boy's mom gave it to us a year or so ago. It sits on the kitchen window sill, just begging for me to kill it. But I haven't. We water it every week or so and it has already produced two babies (I had no idea they sprouted new shoots!): one went to Awesome Boss Lady; the other sat on the sill in it's own container, produced two more babies of it's own, and finally went home with Beth, Girl Explorer. The momma aloe looks a little worse for wear. She's sacrificed appendages for sunburns and crock-pot spill-overs and other minor 1st degree burns. But this was her first 2nd degree burn.

So, I lobbed off a small bit, split it open, and smeared it gently on the top pad of my ring finger. Oh the pain!!! Able-Bodied Boy got me a bandage, which he tried to apply to my finger. The pain was too much for me, so I took over, trying not to put any pressure on the finger tip.

The first aloe miracle was the end of the pain, in less than an hour. No pain. What. so. ever. I took off the bandage and fascinated myself with the painless blister. This is nifty!

Before bed, I smeared a ton more aloe on the finger and on a bandage and applied the bandage. A little bit smelly, but I knew it would help a bit.

The second aloe miracle was discovered the next morning. Still no pain, and the edges of the burn were already healing. The blister had already reduced in size by about 15%.

At this point, I stopped applying aloe.

The third aloe miracle happened yesterday, when I visibly noticed the blister reducing in size all day. And this morning, when the blister was gone entirely. The skin is still slightly red and papery, but still...

Two and a half days, from 2nd degree burn to just a slight red mark. Aloe rocks my world. And my finger.

I'll probably try more sprouting in the spring, when momma will get more light and more consistent temperatures.

Do you grow any fabulous healing plants? What plant, and how does it help?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Friday, February 11, 2011

will a video suffice?

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming...

I have a major endeavor that will have me occupied until Sunday, after I recover from the presumed hangover.

Until then, enjoy this video... it made me smile!  And reminds me of cursing my friend and her husband by taking their 2yo around the ice rink in my arms for her first ice skating encounter; for the rest of the afternoon, she had a meltdown every time any of us stopped for rest :)  She's a snow-baby like me!

Have a great weekend! Any good plans??

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

Thursday, February 10, 2011

me wednesdays

It has morphed over the last year, this night o' mine. A way to get out of the house. An attempt to find a central place to meet up for girl's night. A place to hang out while waiting for yoga. A night that Able-Bodied Boy can do his thing and I can go do mine. A night for me. A Monday. A Thursday. A Tuesday. A Wednesday.
Decidedly decaffinated.

I head straight for the coffee shop after work. It forms one point of a triangle separating work and home, which is neither great nor terrible. And considering the vast Bermuda Triangle of nothing within... I'd almost consider it a reasonable distance from home.

I order tea. Green or Rooibos or chamomile. I do not order coffee, or black tea. I did, accidentally, a couple of times, before they re-did their tea board in color codes. Drew was wrong about a tea once; it is still our favorite, but only Able-Bodied Boy is allowed to drink it. I just bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce...

Yes, I took a bite of the pears before
taking the photo. nom nom.
It's warm and inviting there. A big purple couch, a half dozen cozy arm chairs, plenty of tabled seating. The walls are rich, they hand-write all the menus and drink offerings in chalk on the wall, the display is full of less-than-humble baked goods and larger-than-life quiches and richer-than-god mac-n-cheese. It is paradise.
I sit. I read. They bring me my drink and food. Oh the food. It's a light cafe menu of paninis and salads and wraps, with regular soup specials and special specials (Drew has been tempting me to try the eggplant or veggie lasagnas as they come available). But I'm normally just looking for something light, so as not to make yoga uncomfortable, so I order their signature salad (greens, candied walnuts, mandarin oranges, pears, cheese, carrots) with a stealing of the sesame soy dressing they use on the asian wrap. ohmygod.

I eat. I drink my tea after it cools down. I read. I use their free wi-fi. 90 minutes fly by. Then I go to yoga.


FitnessYoga Studio, from their Facebook page
Oh peaceful place. The instructors are very personable, extending warm welcomes and assistance to new folks, while taking the time to get to know the regulars. I took my first class with Jackie, but didn't have any other classes with her until a one-on-one thai yoga bodywork session (ohmygod) a year later, during which she recalled nearly everything I had told her about my previous experience and recalled how I had fared in that first class. That's the sort of personal involvement they bring to their clients.

My regular Wednesday night class is now being taught by Karen, and my favorite part of the night with her (besides the awesome moves she gets us through) is Fiona Apple's "Across the Universe". I get so caught up in the velvety tunes that I nearly always forget to breathe, listen, or move with the rest of the class. But that's ok. It's a lovely moment to have, nonetheless. I <3 Karen's play list, I just have to remember not to sing along during class.

I used to have company for one part or another of my Wednesday's, but that's been hit or miss lately. Which is ok. It's nice to have a night set aside for nothing. Once in a while, I'll skip it for very pressing matters at home, but for the most part, I plan my week around having a Wednesday night just for me. The offer stands for anyone who wishes to join me!

Do you have a time or a place of your own to relax? Where/when? What does it do for you?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

ps. no establishment gave me anything in return for my love of them.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

the lesson of the day

It has been quite a few weeks of changes and choices and priorities. They all bring to mind the ever-following baggage in our lives - those things that seem to be quite important to us, but on close examination are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

So today's lesson I am supposed to be learning is Letting Go. As I face all these challenges, beginning to panic and doubt and bemoan it all, it becomes easier to let the baggage in and crowd the conversation. Excuses, all of them. I am a hoarder of my emotional investments, clinging to the idea that one more moment here is more important than my growth. Wraithraider aptly pointed this out to me today, and I'm grateful for the perspective.

Moving on is hard. We have invested our hearts and souls and time and tears and blood. A piece of our self has been left. Why wouldn't we want to take it all with us? Take it into the next relationship, the next step in our personal growth, in our career path, a new home, the next great adventure with everything we own on our backs...

I have a dear friend who over-packed for her time away from home. Seriously over-packed. Knowing full well that half of what she brings could be fully provided her - or obtained if the need arose - she still insisted on bringing umbrellas and blow dryers and curling irons and twice as many shirts as necessary (just in case... as if we don't have a laundry room...). She brought pillows and empty bags and hangers and alarm clocks and jewelry boxes and first aid supplies. She came with apologies about the four suitcases, and was endearing in her desire to be unobtrusive in her needs. She also realized that she was an over-packer, but said she couldn't help it.

I asked her to try something. After that particular visit, she was to go home and, as she unpacked, she should set aside every item that she brought and did not use. And then as she put those items away, think about how she could have managed if she hadn't brought it. She and I spoke about it later, and she seemed to enjoy the exercise. And for her next visit, there were only three suitcases.

I took my own advice, and managed to survive three months abroad with just one duffel bag and one backpack.

However, I am decidedly not using that advice this week. I'm clinging to the past like a bad prom date - as if the pieces and bits and heart and tears I've spent will turn to dust if I walk away; as if it would be the end of the world if they did.

My end is someone else's beginning, and what I take forward is lesson.

*deep breath*   Walking away now...

Have something you need to let go of? Hold my hand and we'll help each other along...

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

Sunday, February 6, 2011

w/mo2h #3: when the bottle runs low...

No, we're not talking a wine-bottle crisis.

We're talking shampoo bottle.

Have you ever read the ingredients on your shampoo or conditioner? It's sort of scary, but you've been using shampoo since your parents started throwing you in the bathtub and it just seems, well, normal. You've never heard the news say "Shampoo has been directly linked to cancer!" or alzheimers, or autism, or birth defects. So, even if those ingredients look a bit daunting, why would you ever stop using it?

For me, the main point is fear of the unknown, unregulated corporate world. Personal care products aren't highly regulated, so they can make up whatever they want about a hydrolyzing moisturizer protien called Hair-rifficizer, and consumers will nod and feel satisfied when their hair is clean and shiny. Great. I don't really know what all these things are, but I know some are petrochemical-based and that doesn't satisfy me, no matter how shiny my hair gets (mmmm shiny like Gulf birds!). And I don't really trust some corporate marketer to tell me what's good for my hair.

And other considerations include the product packaging (plastics, aka unsustainable oil consumption), the cost of traditional shampoos and conditioners (the alternative below is cheaper!), natural living (my hair actually likes to go a couple days between washes, and your scalp can adjust it's oil production according to your washing habits... less oil if you wash it out less, more if you wash more frequently), and ultimately, the X factor (unknown chemicals and toxins on my body, which Melinda of of One Green Generation writes about here and you can learn more about with any of these links).

So, if I could find an alternative that's not any more expensive, and does what it's supposed to do (take away dirt) without ruining my hair (too oily, too dry), I'd be ok with that. Would you?

As my shampoo bottle runs low and I contemplate what to use next, I've found an alternative I'm willing to try: the No-Poo method. It uses just baking soda (for the scalp) and vinegar (for the hair) as cleansers. You can also add essential oils to mask the vinegar smell and create your own fresh scent!

From all I've read, it seems that it works for many, but not all hair types. But until you detox your hair of all the crazy stuff it's been fed for so long, you won't know what your natural hair type is. I've seen users whose hair has changed in it's dry/oily factor, straight/curly, and in shine. I know my hair is shinier and healthier after a day without shampoo.

Based on techniques from Melinda of One Green Generation and from Erin aka the Conscious Shopper, I'm going to try this:

1. Boil 1 part baking soda to 6 parts water. Cool and put in a squeeze bottle.
2. Mix 1 part vinegar (apple cider or white) with 6 parts water, adding an essential oil or whole spices if desired. Put in a second squeeze bottle.

3. Massage a bit of the baking soda solution into the scalp, leave for a couple minutes, then rinse.

4. Work a bit of the vinegar solution through the hair, then rinse a few moments later.

5. Crystal, the Thrifty Momma, also uses a coconut oil as a moisturizer. Just a tiny bit, she says! I'll only use it if my hair seems to get very dry.

I'm really excited to try this soon, as soon as my shampoo runs out, which should be soon. The conditioner is a bit more full, but Able-Bodied Boyfriend steals bits of that now & then and probably wouldn't mind if it stayed in the shower :)

Does anyone wish to join me in this trial run?? I have a collection of scented oils, if you want to bring some bottles over and make our first batch together!

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Saturday, February 5, 2011

compromise and eco-comfort

I mentioned earlier that Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I were in the process of looking for a new mattress.

When he first brought it up, my mind immediately went to all the "bad" things I've heard about mattresses. Unsustainable, rainforest-killing latex procurement; the use and off-gassing of petrochemicals; toxic fire retardants; concerns about the effects of these materials being put into landfills. I expressed these concerns.

Of course, I have a terrible memory for details, so I expressed these concerns poorly. Very, very poorly. "Ewwww, a regular mattress? They're, ummm, bad. They can give you cancer!! Can we get an eco-mattress? They're better! Because they're, um, green."

Funny enough, a couple days later, arduous blog posted about trying to find a green mattress in their area. I took it as a sign; if I can actually get my act together, we should try to find one of our own.

Now, Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I are mostly, well, complete opposites. We handle things and make decisions in different ways, and not always in ways that are complementary. You have to choose your battles, so we mostly end up doing the divide & conquer thing or at least let one person take the lead on any given project.

He's a researcher. He can sit for hours on end, browsing and reading everything on a given product or topic. After sitting all day at work in front of computer, I'm more of a skim-a-few-of-the-most-popular-articles sort of person. And since the mattress was his idea, he has definitely taken the lead on researching and figuring out what we need to do in order to make this decision.

He wants something comfortable and durable/long-lasting. I want something eco-friendly, or at least not overtly eco-unfriendly. I did a bit of research on the main points of concern (material sources, chemicals used, how easily they break down/off-gas, and if the main materials used will decompose easily and without toxicity), and asked Able-Bodied Boyfriend to add that to his research. We're also looking for mattress recycling programs, both through the manufacturers and other organizations.

It was a bit of a struggle at first. He was concerned about comfort and durability, and even availability. I did some research and found some eco-friendly mattress stores in the region that are less than 2 hours away, which we plan to go to for some additional mattress-testing. Every time we spoke, he had done more research and seemed more open to them, but less optimistic that we'd be able to find one that was comfortable and durable. So we'll see...

My main fear, though, is just being ok with a regular old toxic mattress. Because I always have been ok with them, and because it's easy to let things like that into your life and never think about it again. Sure, the first few stinky weeks would bother me, but annoyances fade and you get used to the smell and feel of the purchase and it becomes another thing faded into the background of your life.

That's not to say that I would be in green heaven all the time if it were a greener mattress - ok, maybe the first few weeks I'd grin from ear-to-ear every night, nudging Able-Bodied Boyfriend with a "hey, this make me feel good about our part in this world" - but after a while, it would become normalized.

Question is, which will it be? A normal life of the toxins we let in? Or a normal life of eco-logical/-nomical decisions?

I'll keep you posted.

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Friday, February 4, 2011

that other big ch- word

chap-stick? no...

chimera? no...

oh yeah, change.

It's funny how capable I always think I am of handling it. I see it coming and try to flow through it rather than bracing myself for the impact. I tell others just how fine everything is going to be. I recall all the changes that I've gone through myself, and see how life has managed to move on.

And then I cry. A lot.

I cried for part of the long ride home tonight. Just after a long hug and a fond farewell to Awesome Boss Lady (yes, you have your own moniker now :). She's moving on to bigger and better things for herself, having left our team better for it. And our company for that matter.

When I found out, it was all "OK! We can do this! I'm happy for her and we will all survive the transition! Yay change is hard but good!" But by the time this week rolled around, it was harder and harder to face the fact that such an integral part of our daily lives was going to be gone. I panicked, slightly. Maybe a bit more than slightly.

That's the thing about change, at least for me. No matter how hard I try to prepare myself, it always seems to slap me around.

Two months ago, the biggest little change in the world happened to me. One of those non-moments that will - quite literally - forever change me and my world. It's upended every priority, every notion of self I had. Not in a bad way, but that's the thing about change... it doesn't have to be bad to still be hard.

Which only makes life more tumultuous these days. I face a multitude of changes, choices, and life-altering happenstances that need to be addressed, well, now. Even if the choice is to put off the choice, or the change is to not change. They are all clawing at the back of my brain. And even though I saw them coming many months ago and tried to prepare myself, this big non-event has altered how I look at everything.

So what now? I'll try to sort out my head through the weekend, walk into work on Monday and maybe feel a little anxiety about it and just plow through. And in another few weeks, another version of normal will be, well, normal.

Face it. Plan ahead. Panic slightly. CRY. Panic slightly. Move on.

What about you? How do you handle change?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

ps. i refuse to do the cliched "ch-ch-ch changes" thing

pps. crap, i just did.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

the state of the body

It's that time again, when I go scale-surfing and try to hold my head high as my eyes drop to see which way the numbers go.

And we're.... DOWN a total of 5lbs since the beginning! Which means I'm losing weight a little faster than I intended, but I'm ok with that at this point. I suspect that I'll reach a threshold at some point that will take a little more effort to break through...

(And let me just say, I was very very very nervous about getting on this morning, like butterflies-since-last-night nervous. For some reason, I've felt really big the last 24 hours.)

So what am I doing wrong and what am I doing right, based on my goals?

Water consumption: up, but not all the way up. Probably around three 750-ml bottles, but not the four I'm looking to get. On random days I'll get to 4, other occassional days I'll be at 2.

Eating habits: doing pretty well during the week. I'm eating good breakfasts, snacks, and lunches through the day; buying the necessary fruits & veggies as needed; making the other foods to supplement; all without too much lazy excuse. The evenings are tough, especially when Able-Bodied Boyfriend is out of town. I find myself coming home to face the Hunger Hobbit growling from beneath the steps into the house. Years of habit, I suppose, just like not being able to read Bon Appetit without drooling mouth and grumbling tummy. Weekends are tougher (especially when snowed in!), but I'm trying to self-restrain from just eating mindlessly. My schedule has been a little off lately, but I've tried to do good in remembering to take snacks and stick to it no matter where I am. I'm about to start a certificate program at the university, but I have already planned to get a salad from Salad Works on my way each week, to keep things light (they have salsa in the back, which you can request in lieu of a calorie-heavy salad dressing, woot!).

Working out: mostly Fail. In the last couple weeks, I've only done my DDR an average of three times each week, although a couple of mornings were spent shoveling, which counts in my book! And I missed yoga due to the snow once too. I have dropped the pilates class, though I have yet to break into any of Beth, Girl Explorer's videos and games she left for me to try. Ugh. I have excuses and nothing else.
This week, however, I'm breaking them. In the past, if I stayed up past my bedtime (10p), I'd use "a good night's sleep" as an excuse not to wake up early for my workout. Not this week! I'm getting up, and Able-Bodied Boyfriend is even gone too! That's a double-win in my book :)

The clothing dilemma: thanks for all the input everyone! I think I'm going to only buy a few things - absolute necessities and shoes/socks/other things that won't really change in size - but with only half my usual budget.

Overall well-being: feeling great! I blew off a tempting scale-call last week, and don't plan to jump on again for another few weeks.

Thank you all so much for following along, encouraging me, and being the supportive community I need :) I always love hearing your thoughts and feedback!

How are all of you, my Able-Bodied Friends?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

chile verde


This will be our second recipe from "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea. The heart of this recipe is the slow-cooked beef, the fresh taste of tomatillos, the tang of tomato, a bit of spices, and a bit of heat. Change it up, use what you have/love. Cook it forever, until you can shred the meat quite easily. Serve it over brown rice and top it with cheese and sour cream.

And since slow-cookers are a forgiving way of cooking, I have to admit I have never made it strictly according to the script. Let me 'splain...

We had a bunch of green tomatoes at the end of the season last year, so both batches used green tomatoes (3-4 fresh replaces a 14-oz can of diced), rather than the red canned ones the recipe calls for. Tomatillos come in a variety of sizes, so who knows if my ten were the same as her ten. I put them both into the food processor to "chop", as she recommends for the tomatillos, and then did the same with the green peppers and onions to save time and a dirty cutting board/knife. All of that turned into a soupy green mess: perfect for simmering the meat!!

I'm "averse" to sage, so I omitted the sage and replaced it with a little thyme. I'm not a huge fan of cumin, so I cut that in half. We are partial to mexican oregano.

As for the meat, I used some sort of beef chuck roast as she calls for. We also had a ton of hot peppers from the garden, so I used a few of those instead of the red pepper flakes. I omitted the diced green chiles in our second batch.

I hope you test this recipe for yourself, make some substitutions based on what sounds good to you, and enjoy!

Much Love,
Able Bodied Girl


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ble: best lasagna ever

Over in New Zealand, I was told that Edmonds cookbooks are to kiwi homes what the Joy of Cooking is to our mom's cookbook collection. So I scoured Wellington looking for a well-loved copy in used bookstores, only managing to get my hands on Edmond's Food for Flatters. It had several recipes that kiwi friends had made, and plenty of others that I had seen on restaurant menus or had heard of from others, so I brought it home as a little taste of my time there.

To be honest, I haven't made that many recipes from the book. (Ok, how many of you out there also have cookbooks that have barely seen any splatter? I know I have a half-dozen or so!) I tried a pancake recipe, which quickly got adapted, but is now one of the three most-frequently used recipes in the kitchen. I made the afghan cookies, which were slightly disappointing (my fault, not the book's). And I handed the book to Able-Bodied Boyfriend to choose a recipe, and he chose Lasagne with Spinach and Feta.

And thus, the BLE was born... it has been converted from metric and slightly changed, but at the heart it is still a kiwi favorite of ours.

Turkey Lasagna with Spinach and Feta

You'll need:
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 8oz mushrooms, sliced or chopped
  • 2 14oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 10-oz packages spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8oz feta, crumbled
  • 9-12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, enough to create three full layers in the lasagna pan of your choice
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce, divided
  • 8oz shredded mozzarella

In a large frying pan or electric skillet, heat the oil. Add onion and garlic; saute. Increase the heat and add the meat; brown well. Add the mushrooms, diced tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, oregano, and basil. Bring to a boil then simmer for 40-50 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix the spinach and feta thoroughly. It helps to use forks and to slightly warm the spinach.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles; take them out 2-minutes before they reach full cooking time. Set aside on waxed paper to dry.
In your lasagna pan, spread a quarter cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom and sides of the pan. Layer the prepared ingredients as follows: 1/3 noodles, 1/2 meat sauce, 1/3 cheese, 1/2 spinach mixture, 1/3 noodles,1/2 meat sauce, 1/3 cheese, 1/2 spinach mixture, 1/3 noodles, remaining tomato sauce, and remaining cheese.
Bake at 350F for 20 minuteso or until bubbly and heated through. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This recipe freezes very well in portions. Use a foil lasagna pan to create the lasagna, but do not bake. Freeze for one day. Turn out from pan and cut into desired portions (may need to let it thaw for an hour to be soft enough to cut). Wrap in foil and freeze. When deisred, either thaw and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or bake frozen at 350F for an hour or until bubbly and heated through.

Serves 4-6

What's your favorite type of lasagna?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl