Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Random Act of Kindness Tuesday- A Story of Nails

Controlling tempers on the Viking Homestead is an on going trial and error for all of us. I found this story that  touched me and I hope it resonates with you, too.

Nails in the Fence!

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the little boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.  Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled down. He discovered  it was easier to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day he was able to hold his temper. The day passed and the little boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say 'I'm Sorry,' the wound is still there.

Make sure you control your temper the next time you are tempted to say something you will regret later.~ J

~from Forever Awezome

Friday, January 25, 2013

Garden Planning- On line Garden Planners

February is around the corner and its time to start planning what to grow in the garden. 
Last Spring I spoke about my favorite seed catalogs here. Like many who try to grow food to sustain their Homestead and families trying to figure WHAT to grow is always a challenge. One of the recommendations given to me by my Garden Mentor aka Grandma Viking was to grow what your family would naturally eat. Since Kale is not on the favorite list  so we don't grow it but we love tomatoes and peas so they are a regular fixture in the garden.

An ongoing project Viking Dad and I have is to grow enough culinary and medical herbs for our family use. There is such a cornucopia of herbs it is always hard to choose what to grow.

I am a past master of forgetting what I grow and how successful the crop was in that season. It is not uncommon to find volunteers in a garden box that I had totally forgotten I had planted there the year before. The Viking Children like to call these Fairy Garden Surprises. For the most part it is not a problem however I do try to follow a form of gardening called Companion Gardening and sometimes these volunteers are in the wrong in the place.

Last years goal was to be a better planner and hope I can remember to document what we grew.

Last year I was introduced to Mother Earth News Garden Planner. This online subscription allows you to plan your garden and even gives you links to seed companies for the produce you want to grow. This program also includes:

  • Frost Dates
  • Garden Bed Designs
  • Planting Guidance 
  • Garden Records
It seemed to help and we had fun as a family planning out our garden for the year. However, for record keeping I continued to fall back on my tried and true spiral notebooks. 

The Viking Homestead, like many families, is also on a tight budget. While we enjoyed Mother Earth News Garden Planner it did come with a subscription fee. I decided to set out and search for free software that could also help plan our garden.  These are but a few I found. 
I was sharing my new found discoveries to another Mentor of mine aka My Dad and he gently reminded me about his own method of record keeping. He asked, "What happened to graph paper and a pencil?"

Any or all of these planners are good. The best practice is to keep it simple and fun. 

Happy Gardening....

Bless Bless
Viking Mom

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

No Grocery Store Challenge-Week 2 Unexpected Teaching Moments

Since starting this challenge we have had several unexpected teaching moments with the Viking Children.

 Viking Monkey Boy is earning steps towards his Tiger Badge for Cub Scouts. Many of the activities like talking to vendors about recycling, growing food, and helping feed the homeless are all character building steps found in the Cub Scout laws and promises. Whoo Hoo!! This has been an unexpected gift and surprise.

Talking to the Homeless.....

This last trip to the Farmer's Market we were approached by several homeless men asking for money or food. Since we take the Viking Children on these outings Viking Dad and I have had to sit down and talk about how we were going to discuss this topic with the Viking Children. We want to advocate compassion but also protect them from being taken advantage of by less scrupulous individuals. Last week I shared the Blessing Bags for Random Act of Kindness-Tuesday. You can read about them here.
 In our discussions we were reminded about Saint Nicholas, Saint Martin and even Saint Lucia by the Viking Children. BAAZINGA!
You can re-read my post about the saints here.

We decided we would make a few Blessing Bags and take them with us on our next trip to the Farmer's Market. 

How do other families talk about the homeless and giving charity?

Viking Monkey Boy and Viking Lady Bug did, with Viking Dad's guidance and support, speak to a group of individuals who were using old T-shirts and making them into shopping bags. The "donations" given were to help support their endeavor. Inspired by their effort, or by the coolness factor of the T-shirt bag, Viking Monkey Boy donated a quarter from his pocket. He has mentioned he wants to go back and donate more to their project.

Live Music- Donations

Unlike the canned music found in regular grocery stores there is live music at this Farmer's Market. It has been awesome to listen to live music. I am still looking for the clowns. This particular fiddler had his box open to invite people to give a donation. Another teaching moment for the Viking Children. What are the criteria to give money to a musician? This is a good question which we need to reflect on as a family. Any ideas?
Viking Monkey Boy did give him a dollar because he made Viking Lady Bug dance. Now, that is a good criteria. 

I wonder when or what the next unexpected teaching moment will occur in this challenge. 

Bless Bless
Viking Mom

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Random Act of Kindness Quote of the Day

"A Single Act of Kindness Throws Out Roots in All Directions,
and the Roots Spring Up and Make New Trees."

~Amiela Earheart

Friday, January 18, 2013


I have written a couple of times on the importance of composting. 
You can read about Composting 101 here and here.

 The Benefits of Biodynamic Composting:

  1. repairs the soil’s ecosystem
  2. absorbs moisture
  3. builds soil by increasing the vital humus content
  4. protects against erosion
  5. saves water
  6. eliminates the need for pest controls and soil foods
  7. works on all soil types
  8. promotes healthy root growth
  9. heals your soil and heals your soul
We have been actively heap composting for some time, which is perfect for small scale gardens. We compost EVERYTHING! Well, almost everything. We do recycle our plastics and some papers at an off site facility. 

Since our Humble Viking Homestead is too small for the large scale Biodynamic Preps we have discovered that in Malibu a humble farm provides not only the Preps but also healthy compost to augment our own compost. One of the key elements to healthy compost is dairy cow manure. I have very patient neighbors, but I don't think they are too keen on having a dairy cow for a neighbor. 

Check out Malibu Compost Biodynamic here

When I first started the path of biodynamic farming/gardening there was precious little on Internet. I had to attend several workshops and read many books written by the gurus of biodynamic farming. 
I still strongly encourage participating in any or all workshops on biodynamics farming/gardening. The community of people is healing for the soil but also the soul. 

 Here is a video that will tickle your curiosity.


The Goods
“Biodynamic agriculture…is necessary not only for the sake of somehow improving agriculture, but so that human life on earth can continue at all, since as physical beings we depend on what the earth provides.”
-Rudolf Steiner

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Grocery Store Challenge- Week 1

After weeks of careful menu planning, research and list making we finally made it to the Hilcrest Farmer's Market. It has been been advertised as one of the largest and most diversified Farmer's Markets in San Diego County. My expectations were met and exceeded. 

Here was the plan:

Dinner Menu:
Monday: Beef Stroganoff
Tuesday: Spaghetti
Wednesday: Mommy's Nom Nom Meatloaf
Thursday: Baked Chicken with Rosemary and Mushrooms
Friday: Sloppy Joe

Lunches: Deconstructed Sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables. (We were able to get fresh gluten free bread!!)
Breakfast: This weeks- Scrambled eggs with orange juice or milk.

Each meal is planned keeping the seasonal produce in mind and what we had currently in the freezer or on the shelf. ( Yes! Lots of organization and planning. I so hope it gets easier.)

The Reality!

At the Hilcrest Farmer's Market we were able to get for $80

1. Mushrooms- 

  • 1 pt medley (+)
  • 1 pt white buttons (+)

2. Organic Cheese- Mozzarella and Garlic Cheese Curds (It's a Wisconsin thing)
3. Johann's Gluten Free Bread- 2 loaves
4. Citrus- Oranges and Grapefruit (+)
5. More Citrus- 4 limes and 4 HUGE grape fruits (+)
6. Organic and Gluten Free Italian Sususage
7. THE BIG SPLURGE! Meat from SonRise Ranch

  • 1-lb ground beef
  • 1-lb Italian sausage
  • 2-lb chuck roast
Now, the reality of the matter is that there are some items we just couldn't get at this Farmer's Market for various reasons. One the vendors didn't have the required item or it wasn't an item we would not normally find at the Farmer's Market; like dish soap or toilet paper. 

So, we headed down to our favorite Ocean Beach People's Co Op. The produce at the People's Co Op are also grown locally or grown within the state. 

At the Ocean Beach People's Co Op we also purchased with an additional $75:
1. California Baby Aloe Vera Cream (Viking Lady Bug has chapped skin from the weather)
2. Monterey Jack Cheese ( I live with a Cheese Head- what can I say.)
3. Corn Tortillas (There is a vendor at the Hilcrest Farmer's Market but we missed her.)
4. Dish soap ( Not available else where)
5. Red Bell Peppers ( Not in season)
(+) 6. Onions
7. Apple juice ( There is a vendor at the Hilcrest Farmer's Market but we missed them, too.)
8. Milk 
9. 1/2-1/2 Cream ( For the Caffeine Based Life Form that lives on the Viking Homestead.)
(+) 10. Garlic (Yes, we missed that vendor, too)

What did we get for $150.00?

1. Six days worth of meals (Breakfast-Lunch AND Dinner)
2. In Addition: 7- 1/2 pts of orange marmalade from 10 oranges+ 2 limes and 1 qt of canned grapefruit.
3. Fresh fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner
4. Yummy! Fresh baked gluten free bread.

Lessons Learned

1. GET THERE EARLY and ON TIME! (Boy, did we miss a lot of good deals and produce)
2. Check menu against seasonal availability. 
3. Need cash in pocket. Most vendors are cash only and very few take credit cards. The only draw back is the lack of receipts. 
4. We may have to plan our menus on the three local Farmer's Markets to make sure we have a large enough variety for our menus. 

Once again I am amazed at how lovely and friendly the people are at the Farmer's Market. This is a world where one can stop and truly talk to people. The "beeps" and the "boops" and the artificial lights and canned music found in grocery stores are gone. These sounds are replaced by giggling, talking, and live music. There was an amazing aroma of cooked foods, fresh foods and fragrant herbs. There is something magical with handing over cash too. I felt a connection to where my money was going.

Well, lessons learned. Week 1 down. Time to plan for Week 2. 

(+) indicates- Seasonal Food.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Random Act of Kindness Tuesday-Blessing Bags

Blessing Bags- I wish I could take credit for this idea. Mamas on a Dime blog has their own Random Act of Kindness challenge. You can read about them here.

One of the Mamas found on Pintrest Blessing Bags. I thought this was a brilliant idea. Over the holiday season the Viking Kiddos learned about various Saints who were inspirations for giving and charity. You can re-read the post here.

The Blessing Bags are perfect to have on hand to give to someone who is in need; specially the homeless.

This is how to make one:

Gallon size Ziplock bags

Items to go in the bags, such as:
  • chap stick
  • packages of tissues (Kleenex)
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • comb
  • soap
  • trail mix
  • granola bars
  • crackers
  • pack of gum
  • band aids
  • mouthwash
  • coins (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)
  • hand wipes
  •  warm pair of socks
  • gift cards for food like McDonalds or Starbucks. 
  • A note of encouragement/blessings
  • An envelope with stamp and a few sheets of paper for a letter home.

Assemble all the items in the bags. Seal the bags and keep in your car for the moment you need them.

At any store there is always a bin with travel size items that are not very expensive which are the perfect size for this Blessing Bags.

Random Act of Kindness Challenge--- Are you brave enough to make your own Blessing Bags and hand them out in your community?

Bless Bless
Viking Mom

Monday, January 14, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Farming Friday- What is Biodynamics?

 "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted..." Ecclesiastes, ch 3, vs i-iii

One of our goals on the Viking Homestead is using historical techniques in a modern age. As we have found there is precious little in a way of written documentation on how Viking Age or Medieval farmers farmed the land. 

What we do know:
1. Seasonal foods-

  • Food was available due to the seasons and location. During the Viking Age and Medieval times technology like refrigeration and mass transportation was not available. Food preparation and preservation had to be done so that food would be available during the winter. 

2. Farm tools

  • Check out Medieval Farming Methods here

3. Farm Animals

  • Check out Medieval Ridge and Furrow here

4. Planting Seasons are different in England/Northern Europe then in San Diego County

  • Check out The Medieval Farming Calendars here

We do have archaeological evidence of tools and even what breed of animals were on the farms. 
The information and theories are available on how the farms grew their foods but what about the applied practices?  The closes theories we have discovered is biodynamic farming/gardening. 

What is biodynamic farming?

Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.  Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture.

Biodynamic Calendar
Is it the same as the Medieval calendars?

Rudolf Steiner was approached by farmers in the 1920's asking for help regarding rehabilitating the land on their farms. They had discovered that the land was dying from poor land management. In a series of lectures in 1920, Rudolf Steiner developed biodynamic agriculture based on his anthroposphical beliefs

To learn more about Biodynamic Farming in the United States check this link out here.

On the Viking Homestead

We discovered a few things about our Humble Homestead. 
1. It was rather abused and was dying. So, we are slowly bringing it back to life.
2. Southern California climate and temperate zones do not always jive with Midwestern United States or European climate and temperate zones. So, we have had to be uber creative and flexible regarding planting times.
3. Water management. We live in a semi- arid desert area. Water is a precious commodity. One of our goals is to build and sustain a water recycling/reclamation system based on the biodynamic methods.

For the last two years I have been posting my findings on historical peer review blog sites. This year I will share our findings with you. 

Bless Bless
Viking Mom

Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Challenge- What's for Dinner?

"Viking Mom! What's for dinner?"

 Usually, on my way home from work or school I would stop by the grocery store and pick something up for dinner. Keeping our Non-Conventional Grocery Store Challenge in mind Viking Dad and I decided we would start our challenge at the local Wednesday afternoon Farmer's Market.

Our budget: $40.

Wednesday Afternoon Farmer's Market 
In the foreground are the beautiful ladies from The Lavender Fields
You can find their website here.

One of the enjoyable things I found with this small Farmer's Market was how friendly everyone was to me and the other customers. Each vendor spoke to me like I was a long lost friend. It was really relaxing and fun. I had to keep in mind that this was January and much of the produce was winter season vegetables and some fruit. San Diego County is unique in that we do have varieties of fruits all year round. 

Here's what I go for $40

The Loot
1. 1-lb of spinach
2. 2-bell peppers
3. 1-lb mushrooms
4. 1- "Bacon" winter variety avocado
5. 1 pt. local fresh strawberries
6. Almost 2-lbs of fresh green beans
7. Yummy locally grown Fuji apples
8. Fresh sheep milk feta cheese- Yummers!
9. Total Splurge!- The Lavender Fields Classic Lavender Body Mist.

The only exception to this loot is the Gluten Free Udi Bread.- 

 Heirloom Tomatoes

Fresh Feta Cheese, Apples, Strawberries and Bacon Avocado
Fresh Green Beans-Lots!

And I had left over money!

I had $2.25 left over!

The only exception to this loot is the gluten free Udi bread. However, I just discovered that at the big Sunday Farmer's Market there are two vendors that do provide gluten free bread. I am looking forward to exploring this Sunday's Farmers Market.

Lessons Learned-
1. Menu planning. We really really need to sit down as a family and complete a weekly menu. 
2. Need seasonal food recipes. Any ideas are very much welcomed!

Tonight's Dinner Meal:
  • Paleo Caveman Steak (we already had the meat in the freezer)
  • Grilled bell peppers, mushrooms with garlic cloves
  • Spinach salad with apples, bell peppers, almonds, and feta cheese
  • Pork and Beans

I am so looking forward to this Sunday's HUGE Farmer's Market. 

Bless Bless
Viking Mom

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No Grocery Store Challenge

Our New Year's Resolution is to use conventional grocery stores less. 

Two years ago I read an article about how a Mother took a 30 day challenge where she stopped going o conventional grocery stores for all her food and only shopped at Farmer's Markets and/or Co Ops. She was inspired to start this journey after watching Food Inc.   You can read her blog post here on her progress. After two years she continues to grow her own food, shop at Farmer's Markets/Co Ops and local farms and still hasn't stepped into a conventional grocery store. She has admitted that she does purchase her "paper goods" and "shampoos" from Amazon.

Our motivation  for attempting this challenge is less ominous then being inspired by Food Inc.

We were motivated by the following reasons:
1. Our family requires a very strict diet. Having a strict diets for a family of four due to significant health issues can be expensive.
2. A desire to provide holistic, organic and clean food for my family. We have read Omnivours Dilemma and the author confirms what we have always believed in about our food.
3. Cost analysis between shopping at a conventional grocery store and shopping locally for our produce. Is it possible to feed a family of four less expensively from local farms then from conventional grocery stores?
4. Additional produce for canning and emergency prepping.

I can't take credit for the plan. I gathered my ideas from 18years2life and The Hippest House Wife (which I think the site has been retired). I have added a few tweeks so the plan will fit our families needs and goals. One of my new blogs I have found is 18years2life. You can read her blog post here. 

1. All produce and products need to be purchased from a Farmer's Market, Co Op, You Pick Farm, or family/friend farm. 
2. Grow as much produce and foods on the Viking Homestead.Watch for future post on the redesigned gardens. 
3. Items that can't be found or purchased at a Farmer's Market etc are to be limited. Viking Dad and I need to brain storm on this topic as to what guidelines we want to establish. Right now Viking Dad's soda addiction may be an area of challenge. 

Can a family of 4 on restricted medical diets eat organically without growing broke?

I will keep you posted on our progress.