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Archive for July, 2012

There are lots of things I like to eat that don’t grow around here.  Mandarin oranges, for instance, and sweet cherries.  Coffee, chocolate, mangoes, cinnamon.  If I am going to eat these, I don’t really have much choice but to buy them at the store.  Back in Alberta, I could at least buy BC fruit (cherries, peaches, plums) from grower-run stands, but I have yet to see such a stand here where we live.   So, the grocery store is my supplier.  As much as I would like to keep my eating local, I also want to be able to enjoy food I can’t grow; I feel that growing our own or buying local for things that grow here, but continuing to indulge in ‘far away’ treats is not entirely unreasonable.  However, I still try to follow the seasons with my non-local food purchases, so I can get it as close to home as possible – peaches from B.C., for instance (in season shortly), versus peaches from Mexico (which is what you’d get in January).

 

Then there is the stuff that we could grow, but haven’t got a harvest of yet – blueberries, for instance, and apples, and plums.  Sour cherries, also, and pears and hazelnuts.  We have planted all of these, but the trees and bushes are not yet bearing, and mostly won’t be for some time yet.  Some of these things, we have gotten lucky and found a local source for – apples and raspberries, in particular.  However, we have never found someone selling local blueberries, nor pears, nor sour cherries, which is a shame, as we would really like to buy these things from a local seller, since we are going to buy them anyways.  Especially with pregnancy last year, and now with a baby who will be starting on solids in the next 6 months, I am not going to be a purist about eating only what we can grow or acquire locally.  Being healthy and well-nourished trumps heroic efforts at local eating, or even making political statements, for me.   However, I do find it sad that there is so little opportunity to buy local varieties of things that actually grow very well here.  Once we get a transfer down to the farm, and have the space and irrigation water to do so, we plan to BE the local supplier of several things, but I digress…

 

All of this is a long lead-in to the fact that I have seventy pounds of random fruit sitting in my kitchen that needs dealing with, not counting the 20+ pounds I have already put up for the winter.  Now is the season for sweet cherries, as well as blueberries from the West Coast (local blueberries are much later – more like the end of August, I believe).  I have no idea what the season for mangoes actually is, but they are on sale by the case right now, and were on sale by the case this time last year, so I assume that means they are in season somewhere right at the moment.   So I bought 50 pounds of them, as well as 20 pounds of sweet cherries and 20 pounds of West Coast blueberries.  Ninety pounds of fruit…sounds a little excessive, doesn’t it?  But we managed to chew through a lot more than that last year, and now we are three, so I am erring on the side of having too much, rather than too little.

 

So what do you DO with fifty pounds of mangoes?  Well, last year, we dehydrated a ton of it, as well as freezing some.   We found that, while we enjoy the dehydrated mango, we don’t eat that much of it, but we do love mango smoothies, and had to ration the frozen mangoes, so this year, it will all go into the freezer.  You could also can it, but Hubby and I agreed that it would probably be too slimy for our tastes (mango is a little slimy at the best of times), and we couldn’t think of how we might ever use canned mango, so frozen it is.

 

The cherries will also mostly be going into the freezer.  If  I had been able to find sour cherries (also called pie cherries), I would have canned up a bunch for pie fillings and maybe jam.  However, sweet cherries don’t make nearly as flavorful a jam, and are too sweet for making pie filling (in my own opinion), so they will also mostly be frozen.  I am making an exception to try a recipe for cherry preserves that I think might be nice with yogurt, so 2 or 3 pounds will end up in the pantry, but the rest will be frozen for making smoothies and eating over yogurt and ice cream later, or possibly flavoring some applesauce that I plan to can in the fall, time and energy permitting.

 

Most years I would make blueberry jam, and even canned blueberries in light syrup (for pies and muffins), but I went overboard making both of these things last year, so this year’s berries are also being frozen.  We absolutely burned through the frozen blueberries last year, so I am putting much more away.

 

We have picked most of the peas that we are likely to get from this year’s garden, and frozen those, too.  While the harvest was rather disappointing, it was entirely our own fault…we had to excavate the peas from under a mat of thistles and nettles and other weeds before we could even harvest them – the garden got away on us, again.

 

The raspberries should be coming soon, as well.  We won’t be able to harvest enough to meet our own needs for the entire year, but we’ll still get some, and there is a fellow from a nearby town who sells them for a reasonable price, so we’ll be buying some for…you guessed it…freezing.  I would normally make jam and raspberry preserves, but we do still have plenty of those put away.  I did not realize how much jam we were giving away in a typical year in Alberta, so we seem to have a glut.

 

You may be beginning to notice a pattern, here.  It has been between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius for the majority of the last few weeks (save a few days when it has rained), and the idea of boiling anything on the stove for any length of time at all is not appealing.  Freezing is a relatively quick and easy way to preserve seasonal fruit, especially if you like smoothies like we do, or if you like yogurt and fruit (my usual breakfast at work).  It just happens that the fruit that is in season right now lends itself well to being frozen, though the peaches will be coming soon, and we generally like to can a bunch of those – however, when I was pregnant, I was less interested in eating the canned peaches and pears, so we still have a respectable stash of both, and I am debating whether or not to can any new ones this year at all.   In the end, it will depend on the weather and my overall energy level, I suppose.  It is amazing how much produce you need when you are planning for an entire year of eating, but I would rather be eating frozen blueberries that I bought for $2 per pound than paying $7 for per pound later for frozen berries, or $4 or 5 for a tiny clamshell package of berries in winter when we’re having a craving…

 

 

 

 

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I have a confession to make.

 

I don’t like breastfeeding.

 

Oh, I will continue to nurse Baby M, unless advised otherwise by a qualified doctor, but I don’t have to like it, any more than I have to like changing his diapers.  It is necessary, natural, and good for his health, but that does not make it enjoyable or fun.

 

I object to all the propaganda I have come across that makes breastfeeding out to be a transcendent experience, something that all good mothers cherish.  Mostly, I find it messy, painful, and boring.

 

This is not an invitation for advice on how to improve Baby’s latch; it’s not that I’m doing it wrong, but rather a symptom of the fact that he wants to nurse all the time.   Nursing is the only thing that will calm him when he is having crying fits / gassy spells, which is pretty much all day, right now.  For hours at a time.  The constant abuse makes my nipples sore, and that is just an unavoidable side effect of the constant nursing that I just have to cope with.   Trust me on this one.  I’ve spoken to an army of lactation consultants about it.

 

However, my lack of enthusiasm about breastfeeding makes me feel a little…well, like maybe I am doing it wrong.  I mean, it’s the ultimate earth-mother experience, right?  It’s how you bond with your child.  Everything I have ever read describes it as beautiful and meaningful and all that.  Nobody mentioned the cracked, bleeding nipples (the brochure mentioned “some mild discomfort”), nor the hours spent stuck sitting in a chair, trying to focus on a book when you’re up at 4 am for the third time that night.  Or having the baby kick said book repeatedly out of your hand, or kick the cracked, bleeding nipple on your other boob, or kick the (not yet healed, still very sore) C-section incision site.   Or the frustration of always having a sweaty, hot little body on top of you, when it’s 35 degrees Celsius outside, and the last thing you want to do is snuggle up with anything warm.

 

Instead, as far as I can tell, you’re supposed to be happy to get up at 3 am (after an hour of sleep) to tend to the needs of your little bundle of joy (they never mention the shitty diaper, either), and lose track of the entire hour you spend feeding, due to being transported by the the joy of staring at his contented little face.   This lady has it all figured out (and writes beautifully about it, I might add), and I kind of envy her, but that’s not how I have experienced the whole breastfeeding gig.

 

The reality is – MY reality is – that it’s work.  Lots of hard work.  Sometimes it really sucks.  It’s endless nights that I can barely keep my eyes open enough to make sure kiddo stays properly latched (if I fall asleep, and he slips a bit, I pay for it the next day), followed by endless days that I can barely keep my eyes open enough to shovel some cereal down my throat and go back to feeding.  My nipples aren’t bleeding anymore, but they sure do hurt.  Engorgement is a daily experience, since kiddo nursing all the time (even when my breasts are empty, and/or he’s just chewing a nipple, rather than actually eating) signals my system to make more milk.  In plain English, engorgement means your breasts are overfull, and they feel like a couple of huge, bruised, heavy water balloons strapped to your chest – I have this ongoing feeling like I’ve been kicked in the boobs by a horse.

 

Then there’s the boredom, and sweatiness, and general I-don’t-wanna-but-I-have-no-choice-ness of the whole thing.  Your body is no longer your own.  It’s not like I can hand Baby M off to Hubby to deal with the feeding – sure, I could pump and let Hubby bottle feed, but I’d still need to pump in the middle of the night (to keep supply up and relieve engorgement), and it’s easier to just cut out the middleman, as it were.  And there’s the being tied down, and / or trying to figure out how to feed the kid in public, without flashing dozens of random strangers, while kiddo is determined to kick off the blanket you’ve thrown over yourself in an attempt at protecting your privacy.  And the leaking, the messy, sticky, potentially really embarrassing leaking.  Did I mention the sore nipples?  I completely don’t get how this is transcendent.

 

Oh, there are moments to treasure when I truly love holding the little guy, all sleepy and snuggly and (most of all) quiet, but they are just moments, usually interrupted by crying or spitting up or loading a diaper.  That’s okay – I  didn’t sign up for parenthood for the glamor, and there are other rewards, even now – like when Baby M coos, or grins, or even just watching Hubby interact with his son (which is amazing all by itself).  I’ve heard that the first six weeks are the hardest, and maybe it will get better, but in the meantime, I don’t want to feel pressured to treasure something I don’t enjoy.  Like I said, I do think breastfeeding is important (very important!), and I will keep on doing it (though I may also whine about it), but I want to put another viewpoint out there, as I have only ever seen one article that suggests that breastfeeding might be anything other than amazing, and I think we need to acknowledge the unpleasant aspects, as well as the good.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way; we should not be made to feel inadequate or like bad mothers, just because we don’t enjoy the breastfeeding experience.

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Poor Baby

Baby M has had a rough go of things, so far.  It started with a long labor, a wonky heartbeat, then the emergency C-section.  Then an IV for antibiotics which he ripped out of his hand, leaving a nasty bruise (he did a matching job with my IV, I might add).  That was followed by a course of antibiotics for me that messed with my guts and his.   Things have gone progressively downhill since then.

 

The crying and gas kind of sucked.  The diarrhea was no fun, either.  But then his poop turned green, and little bits of blood started showing up.  Plus projectile vomiting.  All with more and shriller screaming, of course, and much, much less sleep for all.  You can tell he’s in real pain – he goes rigid, balls up his fists, and squeals.  He’s inconsolable.  He’ll go from perfectly asleep to suddenly screaming, and we feel terrible that he’s so uncomfortable…and nothing we do seems to help, from walking and bouncing, to tummy massage and pedaling feet, to gripe water and Ovol.  We’ve been to the doctor, and Baby is gaining weight and not dehydrated, so she sent us home, to await an appointment with a pediatrician.  I’ve tried cutting milk, nuts, caffeine, and ‘gassy foods’ (oranges, brassicas, etc) from my diet, to no avail.  Cereal is not the same with rice milk, either, I might add.

 

When he’s not in pain, Baby is a real cutie.  He can lift his head surprisingly well, and he coos at Hubby and I.  He can focus on faces, too, and smiles sometimes, though I don’t think they’re real smiles for us yet.  He likes to look at windows, and at us – he will turn his head to watch Hubby walk across the room.  Hopefully, the pediatrician will see us soon, and will have some sort of solution for us.  Meanwhile, the lack of sleep and/or quiet around here is cutting badly into my blog posting motivation, so please bear with me!

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Last spring, I had hubby make me up a bunch of nice round beds in the front yard, to plant herbs and flowers in.  Then I got enthusiastic, and ordered 100 strawberry plants – 50 June bearing and 50 everbearing.  I had planned to build raised beds for them, but did not get around to it in time, so they wound up taking over my herb gardens.  Then, Hubby kindly dug me another herb bed this year, but I saw some strawberry plants on sale this spring, and…you get the picture.  Someday I’ll have a herb garden, though, I swear!

 

The June bearing berries had a great crop, but unfortunately a lot of them rotted on the plants, as I was in the hospital and then slightly distracted with the newborn and C-section recovery, and we just had our hands full.  We did pick several large containers, though, and get them into the freezer for future smoothies.  The everbearing plants have also been doing well, with great, big, sweet berries.  I thought the everbearing plants would never really bear enough at one time to bother with making preserves or digging out the vacuum sealer, but I was wrong.  A couple of days ago, I picked enough berries to put 8 cups in the freezer, with plenty left over for us to eat fresh.  And, there were still a ton of nearly-ripe berries still on the plants that we’ll probably have to pick tomorrow or so.

 

We freeze the strawberries in 2-cup containers, as that’s the amount I use to make a batch of smoothies.  I will also freeze some (chopped smaller, mind you) in 2.5 cup containers, as I have a fruit coffee cake recipe that uses that amount.  It is much easier to freeze the berries in appropriately-sized packets in the first place.  Martha Stewart types will tell you to freeze them first on cookie sheets, then package them (they won’t stick together so badly that way), but I never have enough cookie sheets (or freezer space) to do that, so I just pre-measure them and quit worrying about it.

 

I am really impressed with the yield on these plants, despite neglect and lack of picking.  Next year, we should wind up with even more, as this year’s new plants will also come into production.  As usual, I may have over-estimated how many plants we really needed.  On the other hand, though, we really like strawberries, and somehow managed to demolish about 70 pounds of various types of home-frozen fruit over the winter, so maybe 125 plants won’t be overkill, after all…

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