posts tagged with 'hippy'

wreathing

Last year as part of our solstice celebrations we made wreaths, and I was pretty happy with how they came out. This year I thought I'd get a start on the process a little earlier, so we could be thinking about Advent too. And decorating the house for December is always nice too.

a hemlock wreath with red ribbon hanging by our front door

ever green

Our friends joined us for the making, which we did out in the yard under a beautiful sunny sky. All it took was hemlock and holly from our trees, some wire—more wire than you would have thought, but still not that much in the grand scheme of things—and some ribbon. The ribbon was the problem: we had to get some more from CVS, and while biking there was delightful their prices were less so. $1/yard is a bit steep for 3/8 inch polyester ribbon if you ask me. Still, I'm pleased enough with how all the wreaths came out, and spending four dollars on a 16-inch wreath is actually pretty reasonable in the grand scheme of things. Plus we had fun!

Lijah smiling with his wreath around his neck

wreathed

Of course, we didn't manage to make the Advent/solstice wreath, the one to hold candles. And Lijah didn't finish the one he was making. He got too cold. More work tomorrow!

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slight variations in the pancake recipe

Our shopping schedule has been a little disarranged lately—not unlike our blogging schedule, clearly—so we're out of whole wheat flour. But Friday is pancake day without fail, so the whole wheat flour in this morning's batch had to be replaced with white. It's not the first time I've needed to make a substitution; a couple weeks ago we only had maybe half a cup of milk, so I filled out the rest with a mix of yogurt and water. You might be surprised to hear that it worked just fine! I wasn't. I knew it would.

I actually found the all-white flour pancakes to be more different than the yogurty ones. I had originally thought that I put in the whole wheat flour just to show my hippy credentials—crunchy granola and all that. But after seven-plus years of making the same recipe, I've gotten used to the whole wheat taste. This morning's version was fine, but somehow lacking in depth. I guess that means my hippiness is now deeply ingrained.

It actually makes me feel pretty old to see how long ago I came up with this recipe. It feels like just yesterday—and also like an eternity ago. That's what having kids does to you. It's just like how when they found the old iPod (pictured here) I noticed that the version of my music collection frozen within is very little different from what I have on my computer now. I thought my taste in alternative hip hop was pretty sophisticated; is it still avant-garde if it's from 12 years ago? Oh well, the boys really appreciated hearing that Antipop Consortium album.

The pancake recipe has changed ever-so-slightly from seven years ago. For the record, here's what it is now:


In a large bowl whisk together:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon

In small bowl beat:

2 large eggs

Add to the dry ingredients, along with

1 1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp melted butter

Mix gently with a whisk until well-combined and not too lumpy.

Put your skillet over medium-low heat and butter as required. Pour the batter (I use a quarter cup measure, not quite filled for each pancake) and cook until most of the bubbles on top have popped, then flip and cook the other side for a few seconds.

Enjoy with or without 20-year-old music!

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why our family is weird

Yesterday Zion's friend from across the street wandered over while I was hard at work on the wheelbarrows. After watching for a few seconds, he asked, "Do you know why your family is weird?" Before I had a chance to accuse him of assuming the premise of his argument, he went on: "It's because you like to make things instead of buying them to save money." Well, that's true I suppose. I was happy to make the wheelbarrows work instead of buying new ones. But saving money isn't really my main motivator... I just happen to like making things.

Though I suppose the money is part of it; I get depressed by an existence built on making money so I can spend it. Since I don't enjoy spending money, that process seems like kind of a waste of my time, and a diminishment of my agency. In buying things I feel like a prisoner of marketing and created wants, but when I make something myself I feel empowered and capable and generally happier. It's not a huge deal; it's not revolutionary or world-changing. It's just my preference. And maybe it is a little weird in 21st century America. Fair cop.

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wood and metal

Today was a wonderfully sunny early spring day, and the boys and I spent all afternoon working and playing outside. My main occupation was fixing the wheelbarrows; there were three, and none of them functional. Now there are two working wheelbarrows and some trash, and I'm very proud of myself. As I worked and got dirty in the clear March sunshine I found myself appreciating the beauty of the wood and metal around me. So I took some pictures.

a tree stump with a rusty metal rod stuck in it

tools for wheelbarrow repair

That's the stump where we split our firewood; it's black because Harvey and Zion were using it to chop their own charcoal the other day. I drilled a hole in the middle so I could use it to mount the wheelbarrow tire on the rim. It was much harder than putting on a bicycle tire!

Plastic is a fine material. I was glad to have a piece of thick PVC pipe on hand: I cut lengths of it to center one of the wheels on its shaft. I would have had a much harder time cutting metal parts, even assuming I could have found pipe with the right diameter (I have lots of PVC pipe, since I grab it out of the trash whenever I see it). But as I cut it I regretted the bright white plastic bits falling around my otherwise brown and gray workbench stump. When I finished up my hands were about the same color as that wood and rusty metal, which felt about right.

bolts and hardware on the bench in the shed

leftover parts

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it's 7:30, do you know where your children are?

As I type these words it is, and I don't. I have a pretty good guess, but since Harvey disappeared soon after we got home this evening and Zion and Lijah headed out a little later, after some decompression time, I've had no solid knowledge of their whereabouts. Which is fine, right? The fact that they took off without worrying about letting me know where they were going surely has something to do with all that we've done to allow and encourage independence over the years.

Why independence? Well, I'm sure it's great that we're helping them become self-actuated problem-solvers who will go on to do great things; also it gets them out of my hair so I can do the dishes. But now they're old enough that I'm starting to consider a different problem: in all that time away from our happy hippy household, are they being too exposed to Bad Influences in the shape of their hooligan friends? Sure, right now it's only Pop Rocks, Pokemon cards, and video games, but can hard drugs be far behind—or even pool?!

I laugh, but of course there's a serious worry beneath my hyperbole. Lots of my life choices are pretty counter-cultural, and there's nothing more culture-following than a third-grade boy in public school. So there are moments of mild concern, at least, around things like Flavor-Ice consumption and name-calling. But then I figure that, to be real, independence can't be limited. My role is to tell the boys my own opinions and to try to help them make good choices for themselves—I can't make their choices for them. Luckily, they're good kids so it's not as fraught a process as it may be for other parents. Long may it last; so far I do see some connection between independence and responsibility, so I'm prepared to say, at least, "so far so good".

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playing dirty

The first heat wave of the summer has struck (that one in February didn't count) and we're responding with less clothes and more dirt.

shirtless and dirty Lijah posing holding his staff

a pause to pose

Besides enjoying our sandbox and hose-derived mud, the boys spent an hour or two yesterday evening playing at their friends' house across the street. They just finished up a renovation and still have two good-sized dirt piles just crying out to be climbed. While the bigger kids amused themselves with ball and imaginative games, Lijah just grabbed a hoe to use as an ice-ax and headed up one of the mountains... again and again and again. I made sure he had a nice bath.

Today the baths are already over with, after an even sweatier day hiking in the woods and walking around town, but with the heat fading a little bit in the twilight the kids are all back out in the dirt. Oh well, the bedding will wash. And though they do clean up alright, they're pretty cute dirty as well!

Lijah's dirty face

showing his work

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our kind of mower

the mower in the lawn

effective technology

It's hard to believe, given that it feels like it was just winter the other day, but I thought it necessary to give the lawn its first trim of the season yesterday. Continuing my practice from the end of last year, I brought out the push reel mower. The six-year-old from next door was interested. "That's a weird mower!" she said. "We have... a different one."

We do too; two in fact. The one I bought all those years ago and one I got for free from a friend. Right now they're both broken—I got the second one in hopes of fixing the first. And I will, someday: there are good uses for power mowers. Composting leaves, for example. But for mowing our lawn, which really isn't that big now that we've reclaimed so much of it for garden and muddy play space, so much internal combustion isn't really necessary.

I used to think it was, because for ten years I didn't think the push reel mower worked. It turns out I just needed to use it for a little while and it would sharpen itself. Now it works like a charm, at least on the tender spring grass. And worrying about clippings laying on the lawn? I haven't bagged the clippings for years. So few downsides, and a couple nice advantages—mainly that the sound is a pleasant whir rather than a deafening mechanical whine. With the beautiful spring weather we've had to endure two straight days of mowing and blowing from the neighbors' yards, and it is horrible. Down with gas power! Up with human power! Push reel mowers for all!

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our tiny Patriots Day celebrity

The Bedford parade and pole capping feels like months ago now: we've been through like two seasons since then. But it was really only a couple weeks, so I'm not too late in posting this collection of images that the Bedford Citizen collected. Or only a little bit too late: I had the link open in a tab for a couple days before I managed to actually look at it this evening, mainly to see if the boys and I made it into any photos. Sure enough, there we are on page 8, top right-hand corner. There are lots of very pretty photos to see in that document; ours, sadly, is not one of them. But at least it shows we were there!

As it happens, so were a great many other people, many of them kids. Why did they pick us to single out—with a not-technically-accomplished photograph, no less?! Is it just because we're locally famous for getting around town on a ridiculous bicycle? Was it Lijah's tiger pajamas? Realistically, it was probably Zion's musket that did it; nobody else thought to bring their guns to town this year. On the next page the only kid in attendance wearing ear protection also gets a photo, so it could be they were looking for uniqueness rather than beauty. And there's no denying we're unique! Sometimes even more than I'd like... but mostly I'm just proud. There are worse things than having people pay attention to you as a result of your strange life choices.

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hens, what are they good for?

our red hen eating grass in between patches of snow

little red hen

Eric at Root Simple wrote a post last week wondering whether it made sense for them to be keeping chickens. I was surprised to read it: they wrote a whole book on "the Urban Homestead". And here I am going around saying that everyone should have at least a little flock—not least our friends who will soon be moving out here to the country slightly more spread out suburbs. So why do we keep chickens?

Reason 1: for eggs. We can get great local cage-free eggs at a reasonable price at the farm around the corner, or expensive pastured eggs at Whole Foods, or, seasonally, local super-expensive eggs at the farmers market. All of which are fine, but how much easier is it to be able to pick up hyper-local, free-range, sometimes-organic eggs right in our own backyard every morning? How much do we pay for them? Um, I'm not quite sure. But I don't think we pay much more than $30 in feed a month, and we're getting maybe 120 eggs per month this time of year, so around $3/dozen? We spent some money on the coop too, but not much, and a long time ago.

Reason 2: as pets. While our hens don't have names—well, not names that we know, anyway—we feel like they're not just livestock. Like, when they stop laying we'll be happy to keep feeding them in recognition of their service. And the boys would be more than happy to hold them and pet them, if they would ever let themselves be held and petted (I guess we didn't socialize them super well to people). I still don't like when they get in the house—but they're part of the full prayer-time roster ("...and Rascal, and the chickens").

Reason 3: as lifestyle accessories. Seriously! We can't call ourselves suburban homesteading hippies if we don't have chickens around the place. And they really liven up the property: visiting kids and people walking by on the street alike seem to appreciate them.

our different-colored hens eating spilled scratch

bad photo, pretty hens

Even the work involved in their care is a positive in my book. Sometimes I even wish there were more of it!

Of course, there are downsides. The permitting process in our town is a little annoying (not to mention costly). And this time of year, as the hens' wake-up call inches backwards past 6 am, I sometimes wish I could feel a little less like a farmer. But never for long. One issue I've heard from a lot of people is trouble with predators, but we've been lucky in that regard. I built the coop pretty secure, with multiple latches to the doors... but in all our years of chicken keeping I don't think we've seen any serious attempt to break in (and now Harvey leaves the nesting box lid unlatched almost every day). We have lost two hens to hawks over the years, but that doesn't seem unreasonable. Maybe Rascal keeps away other potential—more persistent—predators.

So while I won't say categorically that you should get chickens... if you've got any sort of yard at all, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't.

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hippy secret ingrediant

Today I made sourdough pancakes and laundry powder. What do those two things have in common? Baking soda!

Ok, so maybe what they actually have in common is that unless you're a crazy hippy you've probably never even thought about making either of them, much less on a Tuesday morning; but the baking soda made me notice that I am a crazy hippy, so I wanted to comment on it.

We've been making our own laundry powder for a long time—or to be more precise, Leah's been making it. But I took over the laundry duties a couple months ago when she started working some out of the house, so when we ran out the other day the responsibility for making more fell on me. We use the recipe from Making It, written by the couple behind the Root Simple blog—it's just one part laundry soap (Leah still makes that, by a process unknown to me), two parts borax, and two parts baking soda. It works fine, it's cheap, and best of all it doesn't stink.

The pancakes are newer; I started with them because once you have a sourdough starter you need to keep making more sourdough starter, and there's only so much bread that one family can eat (especially when 50% of the adults are gluten-free!). But I keep doing it because they come out light and crispy and delicious, even with all whole wheat flour and less sugar and much less fat than my regular pancake recipe. The two younger boys don't like them much; I can't decide if that's a feature or a bug.

I don't really have a recipe for sourdough pancakes besides whisking an egg into a cup of happy starter, fed the night before, along with a tablespoon or two of sugar and a little salt. Then I dissolve some baking soda in water and fold it into the batter. You'll notice it's a fat-free food at this point, but I fix that by cooking each pancake in plenty of butter: I make sure to add more to the griddle for each batch.

I don't know about everybody else, but baking soda doesn't much feature in my more conventional baking. Too unpredictable. Who knows if a particular ingredient has enough acid to activate it and remove that horrible metallic-salt taste? An ingredient other that lactic acid-laden sourdough starter, that is. I really feel a connection to my homesteading forebearers of, oh, the late 1800s when chemical leaveners became widely available.

We do lots of odd things in our household, and not all of them require purchasing baking soda in bulk. But some do. It is a signifier, of a sort.

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