Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WHAT'S SHAKIN' AT THE FARM

While you can plan for just about anything, the worst drought in 100 years is something that just cannot be predicted. Yet, we have still been very lucky. Even without the ability to water the crops, from the middle of July on, there has been something being produced in the gardens all season long, even though the late summer/fall harvests were smaller than in past years.

There has never been the need for us to go the the expense of putting in a new well before because the rainfall and our planting methods, soil condition, etc. has always been sufficient for a very productive season. Next year, however, the drought is expected to continue and possibly even into 2009. For that reason, we will have to take on the financial burden of putting in a well and irrigation system if we are to continue to run the Farm.

Putting in a well means we will have to tighten the belt yet another notch (I personally am running out of notches) and make the best of it. That is the nature of farming. A farmer doesn't have the luxury of feeling secure or complacent about much of anything, especially when he/she is an organic farmer. You just have to accept things, deal with them best you can and move on. There is nothing that we would rather do, though, so we will continue to make every effort possible to continue to make this work.

The drought has been a humbling experience for a lot of people in this region, because it has shown us that we simply cannot take our resources for granted anymore. Environmentalists and ecologists have been making dire predictions about these types of things for years and years, but until it finally hits close to home, it is easy not to pay much attention.


AT THE FARM
The Farmer, in particular, has worked so very hard this year to keep things on track. Adverse conditions, while not something one desires, must be looked on by us as a learning experience. Because of the extreme conditions of this summer and fall, we have had to completely rethink how we do some things. Some of these changes will enable us to better manage our resources and give us the ability to still continue to work the Farm with just the two of us.

We can't afford outside labor and need to have things at a level we can maintain with just our 2 strong backs and 4 willing hands. And while we love to have volunteers come to work at the Farm, the majority of them just can't make enough of a time commitment to reduce our workload. Mostly our volunteers/apprentices/interns are here for the learning experience and we love having the opportunity to share our knowledge and passion with them. Part of the good stewardship of an organic farmer is to pass the torch onto the next generation and that is something we take very seriously.

Our farm products are marketed through a CSA (See "What the heck is a CSA?" posted 10.10.07). Because the spirit and structure of a CSA means that everyone shares in both the bounty and the risk of a farm we are not the only ones who have all been affected by this year's extreme weather conditions. Record cold, a record heatwave, a record drought...we had it all this year. Our CSA members have been given a close up view into the day to day trials of being a farmer.

It has meant a great deal to us to have had so many words of encouragement and support throughout the past several months from our memberfriends. If anything positive has come from this situation, it has given us all the time to stop and appreciate just what it takes to get our food to the plate and to be more aware of the fragility of all of our food sources.

This year has also been an eye-opener for Americans about the dangers of imported and non-local foods, with food safety issues cropping up on almost a weekly basis. It only takes one catastrophic event to affect our food supply, no matter what the source. Belonging to CSA has gives you access to one of the safest food supplies available (unless you are growing it yourself). Even our handling methods are geared toward food safety (it is a requirement of our certification).

Next year, we are going to go back to making home deliveries. After making a study of the logistics of this plan, it is actually more environmentally friendly for us to drive 100 miles per week to deliver than to have many people driving to one location to pick up their produce. (I calculated the number of miles that our customers drive and it is considerably less for me to do the driving.) We have a small gas sipper that will be used for this purpose and so we will stand by our commitment to Mother Earth.


THE NEW AGE OF POULTRY
Next year, we will be producing our own eggs for our CSA. As I have mentioned on several occasions, we already have about 50 chickens that we have for our own usage and making a transition to a larger laying flock is just a matter of renovating the chicken house, obtaining the chickens and setting up nest boxes for them, etc. which will be one of our projects for the winter months.

This project is very exciting for us for many reasons, not the least of which is that we will be attempting, over the next 2-3 years, to establish a breeding flock of two critically endangered breeds. As defined by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy Critical means: Fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States, with five or fewer primary breeding flocks (50 birds or more), and globally endangered. This has been a goal that we have had in our long range plans since we started and we are finally ready to make this happen. Anyone who participates in our CSA in the future will be a key part of this project.

Bringing a livestock breed back to the role for which it was originally intended is necessary to ensure that the breeds are truly viable again and so stabilize their status. The work of the ALBC and small breeders have rescued many breeds of livestock from near extinction. We strongly believe that these animals are part of our history (human history...not just American history) and should be respected and appreciated for the role that they have played in that history. Preservation of our past can certainly help to shape our future, if we are willing to learn from that past.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Keeping it Real...

At New Moon Farm, we are firmly rooted in the rhythms of life. Everything is connected in some way and every action has a consequence, good or bad. To be aware of all aspects of one's life is paramount to peace and happiness.

No less important is our belief in seeking harmony in everything around us. We strive to maintain the natural habitats and riparian areas of the Farm. We build habitat to encourage birds, insects, animals and other native species to grow and flourish here. Sections of what appear to be weeds and brambles is a planned sanctuary for birds that nest close to the ground, as well as a place for beneficial insects to lay their eggs or burrow in for the winter. Certain crops are allowed to go to seed or winter over because they produce blooms early in the spring, giving the bees a source of nectar earlier than they might find it otherwise.

Instead of fighting to conquer the natural elements around us, we seek to find that balance which allows us to live in accord with them. These simple but powerful ideas are the foundation on which New Moon Farm was built and that touch everything we do.Here at the Farm, we try to promote not only a peaceful, healthful, natural lifestyle for ourselves and others, we also employ many of the tenets of simple living. By producing as many of our needs as possible on the farm and practicing voluntary simplicity wherever we can, we limit our dependence on other sources for our comforts and necessities. Sustainability is key not only to our farming methods, but to our daily life.

One of our specialties are the heirloom varieties we grow here at the Farm. These "antique" vegetables and flowers are literally a living historical link to our past. Many of the heirlooms we grow have their origins within the cultures that brought them to America during the settling of this country. Some of them are even indigenous species that grew wild in our region and were harvested by the native people who populated this area before the Europeans settled here. This fascinating aspect of what we do is something that is both intriguing and exciting. Not only are we able to grow our own food, we are able to make a connection between the past and present in a very tangible way.

Biologically, the human body responds to things in its immediate environment...we get allergies in spring, are more lethargic and have cravings for protein rich foods in cold months, things like that. Humans have always coexisted in the same environment as the plants that they used for food, until we started using the industrial food complex for our food supply. The rise in disease and other conditions related to diet have tracked a path right along side the evolution of our modern food systems.

We believe that eating local organically grown produce, in season, is one of the best ways to provide optimum nutrition and to feed both the body and the spirit. Government intervention has made our food supply about commerce instead of good health and nutrition and now as a nation, we are all suffering. It makes more sense to me to eat foods that grow in the same area or region where one lives than to consume something the came from thousands of miles away (or even from another country half way around the world...) not only for the sake of the environment but for our own good health. And there is an almost spiritual result from eating food that you know is good for you. If one truly believes in a Higher Power, how can that person not treat their body as a temple. How can one believe that human beings were made in the image of God, yet treat the body with such contempt? "You are what you eat" is one of the truest axioms ever put to paper.


Namaste

Friday, November 16, 2007

A day in the life (This post is a long one....)

There hasn't been much excitement around the Farm lately, so I think I will just take you through one of my ordinary days, like yesterday.

First of all, we get up with the chickens or in our case, the puppies. That means it is just about the time the sun comes up. If the puppies sleep in, so do we. Since there is no time clock to punch we pretty much take the day as it comes. Most summer days we are up at 5 am or earlier, but at this time of year, it is too dark and cold to get up that early, so things move at a little slower pace.


I get up first, usually, unless the Farmer has something to do. I am one of those people whose eyes fly open early and then they are AWAKE. No lounging around in the sack or going back to sleep. That drives me crazy and I don't know how people can do that. Anyway, I get up and immediately get dressed because there are 6 dogs waiting to go outside for their morning constitutional.

For the most part, our dogs are outside, but once it gets to around 45 degrees at night, they all come in for the night. Because we follow a routine that is almost a ritual, getting everybody out is not a big deal. Of course, we aren't quiet, so the Farmer is not far behind. Usually all this is happening about 6:45 and it has been COLD for the past couple of mornings. We come back in and the big dogs go back to bed and the puppies get to run around the kitchen and play with us, get their breakfast, wrestle and then go back to their kennels until it is "outside time". Soon as it warms up enough, they go to their outdoor kennel to run and play some more. Maggie and Jack are usually wherever we are and Callie goes into her outdoor kennel. She is the official guardian of the chickens, so she spends her day patrolling the perimeter of her kennel (which is right by the chicken lots), taking long naps in the sun or barking at those big, funny looking dogs in the back pasture (they are actually dairy cows from the organic dairy next door).



After the dogs settle in for the rest of the day, it is time to feed the chickens. That doesn't take but about 20 minutes and is so boring a chore it doesn't warrant more than this sentence. After the chickens, I feed the barn cats their breakfast. Like the dogs, if it is cold, they are huddled up in a pile and reluctant to come out, so they get fed later in the morning.



The feline matriarch at our farm is Garbo and she is mother to anything and everything that comes around. She even catches mice for the puppies. The first time I saw her do that I thought she was just playing with them (pups)through the fence but when I went closer, she was actually pushing the mouse into the pen with the puppies, just like she would do with her kittens.

A couple of years ago, she stole a litter of kittens from another cat and when I went to check on her kittens in her box on the back porch, there were nine kittens instead of 4. She raised all of nine of them. The mother of those kittens was a little sad stray somebody put out and she was wild as all get out and a terrible mother. I think Garbo sensed that and decided to step in. She has never done anything like that, either before or after that time.



Garbs is also a great big cat, bigger than most toms. She is not called Garbo because of shyness but rather because she has given new meaning to aloof and haughty, even when referring to a cat. Also, IF she is in the mood to let you pet her, you better be prepared to do so at your own risk because if you don't pet properly or for the amount of time she has allotted for your attention, she will grab your hand (or anything else handy) and hold onto you until you start up again. While I don't think she means to do any harm intentionally, a 15 lb cat can hurt you with their love. The good news is that if you never start petting her, she will accept that and leave you alone. And when I said she was 15 lbs, I might add there is not an ounce of fat on her anywhere.



Garbo is also our miracle cat. Back in the summer, I was out in the backyard hanging up clothes when I saw her coming across the yard. She wasn't walking or moving any different that normal but as she got closer I noticed a gaping wound all the way across her chest.



I have to be graphic to make a point to this story, so skip this next part if you are squeamish.



The only way to describe this wound is to say that it looked like somebody had flayed this cat open. The wound was at least 4 inches long and it was so deep that you could see the bones in her chest moving as she walked. Miraculously, there was not another mark nor was there any blood on her anywhere. She just walked up to me and me-meowed like she always does when she is feeling social. Because it was late on Sunday afternoon and my vet was out of town, we decided since she wasn't debilitated or in any pain, we would wait until Monday and take her to our regular vet instead of the emergency clinic. Since she loves to be indoors, I put her into one of our pet crates, fed and watered her and made her as comfortable as possible. She purred and just rested quietly for the rest of the evening.



First thing, the next morning, I took Garbs to the vet. The first comment everybody who saw her made was that they had never seen anything like it before. The muscles were severed in two, the skin peeled back and you could still see the white bones of her sternum and her front legs moving when she walked. It was an amazing thing to see.

The prognosis from the vet was pretty bleak. She said that the wound couldn't just be sewed up because of the damage to several layers of muscle and the angle of the cut. Garbo needed major surgery to repaid the damage and then she would have to have meds, lots of follow up and a long recovery period. The bottom line cost was estimated at about $500-600 if no complications. My heart sank because I knew we couldn't afford to spend that much on a barn cat, no matter how much I loved her. The alternative was euthanasia which was something I couldn't even consider.

So, I called The Farmer and he said to get some antibiotics from the vet and bring Garbo on home. The vet hooked us up with antibiotics, pain meds, something to irrigate the wound and something extra for the last moments. I brought Garbs home and we again put her in the kennel and made her comfortable. This was mostly for my benefit because she still acted like nothing was wrong with brought her home to die but she seemed to be in denial.

But then the miracle continued. I tried to give her the pain meds but she resisted to the point that I decided it would hurt her more to be jumping around so I put that away. When I tried to clean and irrigate the wound, she let me know very quickly that she could do a much better and efficient job and so that item, too, was put away. I did crush up the antibiotics into her food because I knew that trying to shove a pill down her throat would be worst than the other two "treatments" I had tried to administer.
(Let me point out here that this is the way it is on a farm. Taking every sick or injured animal to the vet is usually not an option. You have to learn how to treat wounds, deliver meds, give injections and so on, so this is not something I recommend for you to try with your pets at home. I know what I am doing and have been an animal rehabber. The Farmer is also a licensed general falconer and we have kept a red tailed hawk for the past 9 years, so our combined experience and varied knowledge is way past the average person's.)

By the next morning, I was beginning to have a little hope, although I figured that she would be damaged beyond having a normal life and would spend her days sitting around the house. Of course, Garbo had other ideas. She finally decided that she was hungry enough to eat the food with the crushed pills in it and didn't object after that point. She simple spit out any pieces big enough for her to detect. Her tongue must be ultra-sensitive because there was dust in the bottom of her bowl. I tried dissolving the stuff in some milk, which she hates anyway and that was just a waste of a pill and a bowl of milk. Finally, after about 3 days of trying to trick her into these meds, I gave up. She looked fine, the wound was starting to heal and I figured what the heck. If she was doing that well with relative little of the meds in her, we'd just chance it.

On the fourth day, she wanted to go out and stay out. The other cats cams up to greet her and she warned them off with a hiss, which is all it has ever taken, so there was not a major confrontation in the backyard. She hung around the back steps and lounged on one of the yard chairs and came back in to eat, etc. a couple of times when I came in to check on her. At the end of the first week, she was almost completely back into her regular daily routine, except she was smart enough not to go out hunting or stray too far from the house and yard.

Garbo is now 100% back to her old self. There is not even a scar where she was hurt. Her beautiful soft white fur has completely grown back in and you can barely feel a little bump under it where that awful wound was. We can only speculate but think that she may have jumped up after something and gotten caught on a barbed wire fence and her weight caused the barb to slice through her. We haven't come up with anything else that makes any sense because that wound looked like an incision.

We will never know what happened, but I am just thankful that we made the decision not to have her put down. She is totally Garbs again, the Queen of the Farm and everybody knows it.
She is also the keeper of a secret that we will never have the answer to. The miracle of her recover from what should have been a devastating injury is something to ponder. The incredible healing power of a predatory animal, her instinctive knowing what to do to heal herself and the fact that she showed us how to help her are as inspiring to me as anything I have ever experienced and the lessons are not wasted.

New pages on our website

Our CSA is taking reservations for 2008 at the moment, so if you are interested go to New Moon Farm and read all about how is works, etc.

And since running and working an organic farm isn't enough for me to do, here
are some of my other projects.

Here is the link to my newly updated recipe site called
It's Vegetarian, Ya'll! In the Kitchen with the Farmer's Wife

Also recently updated is the information on the all natural soap that I make
New Moon Naturals

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to my world....


This is Maggie.

Maggie again, wondering what I am doing.
She is mama to the puppies in the following pictures.


2-Wk Old JRT Puppies - look at those little fat bellies.
Jack Russell puppies look remarkable like hamsters
for about the first 2 weeks. At this age, the look is
beginning to morph into something more puppylike.


Same puppies in just 2 more weeks. See what I meant.
How cute is this?


Diva, Turtle and Pi. All the pups in this litter are special.
Pi went to his new home at 8 weeks, because I know his new family.
By 10 weeks, he was already learning the commands no, sit, down and
learning stay. The 3 I still have are on about the same level. I never
sell or give a puppy to a new home, until I am satisfied they are ready.
That means some training is done but I make sure they have a level of
confidence that won't lead to neurotic behavior because of some traumatic
event in their early weeks. It just makes sense to me that puppies are
like babies and putting a 6 week old puppy up for adoption is cruelty of
the highest order. It is like giving a 6 month old infant to a family of chimpanzees.


Pyglet, Pi, Diva and Turtle


The Diva (Devious) This little girl is very special.
Her markings, size, coat, etc. are remarkable. She is also
very small and will probably be tiny like her mother.


Turtle, looking forlorn. Turtle is my boy. He
is a "shorty" like his dad, Jack. He looks a little
bit like a beagle because of the color combi, but
he is all JRT. He is the quickest to respond to
"Let's go in the house" and "Who's hungry?"
He already knows how handsome he is and loves
to be petted. This boy is a lover not a fighter, demonstrated
by how often his sisters beat him up.
Pi and Diva are looking at Prissy, the cat.


And this is Prissy, resident pest. This is the cat
that is into everything and wants constant attention
when you are outside. She has the one most likely to
get locked in the basement.


We promise be good if you let us out...sure you will.


Diva looking for a way out, while Pi and Turtle play.
That is momma, Maggie, in the background.


Diva and Pi, playing with Puffers


Turtle running laps around Puffers.


Pygmalion a/k/a Pyglet...sweet, sweet little girl.
Pyg has a bristly rough coat and little whiskers
around her face. She is the tallest and the calmest,
if there is such a thing. I called her Piglet as a tiny
puppy because she was the fattest puppy. Now she has become
Pyg(malion) because she is turning out to be such a great dog -
looks, personality, everything. Love the Pyget.


Pyg and Pi play with Puffers....check out her kitten
in the background. My Jacks are raised with cats
and everybody gets along. Puffers has no fear that
these puppies will harm that tiny kitten.


Case in point...here are a three of our roosters
and three of our cats, just hanging out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

First thing this morning I was awakened by a Cooper's Hawk breakfasting on one of my pullets (that is a young chicken, a hen actually). It was too late to save the chicken, so I let the Coop's have her meal in peace.
This is a Cooper's Hawk. Beautiful, isn't she?

For those who have grown up believing that the Red tailed Hawk is the infamous "chicken hawk" I shall correct your perception's at this point. Cooper's Hawks are the culprits and unfortunately many, many red tails have paid the price for the Coop's indiscretions. If you live in the city and have a back yard bird feeder or bird bath, Cooper's are notorious for staking out these areas and routinely picking off songbirds
This doesn't mean that the Cooper's hawk is doing anything wrong, just taking advantage of a good situation that human beings have set up for her. Unfortunately, most homeowners will immediately believe the hawk killing the happy little tweeters is an evil being that should be punished. Which is just wrong. The hawk is only doing what it does naturally....prey on other birds. It is a predator of the highest order and should be thought of that way. Humans have killed them for years, simply for doing what nature designed them to do. So there is no point in my getting too upset over losing the chicken this morning. It is part of that Circle of Life and Nature's perfect balance, which I mention frequently.

So anyway, that was how the day started. Then I looked out the window and it was raining. It only lasted a couple of minutes and was so unexpected that I walked outside to make sure I hasn't having a self-induced hallucination (this is a farm and it hasn't rained in a long long time,

you know). But it was really raining, although I didn't even get damp when I went out. Maybe it will rain Wednesday like the weatherman predicts.Of course, I don't put a lot of store in the weather forecast. Like The Farmer says, meteorologists are the only people he knows who have a job where they are guessing at everything they say and that even if they are wrong 90% of the time they still get paid a lot of money. This is near the top of my list of things that make you go "hmmmmmmm".

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Peaceful Sunday Morning to All

It is Sunday morning again. Pretty peaceful around here today. We just had
a big Southern breakfast with the works and I almost need to head back to bed for a nap, which of course, will never happen. I have to go out to feed critters soon and am just finishing up my morning tea and writing this brief blog. My last entry was a bit heavy so I will just say "hi" for now and leave you to enjoy your Sunday.

Life is a song ... sing it.
Life is a game ... play it.
Life is a challenge ... meet it.
Life is a dream ... realize it.
Life is a sacrifice ... offer it.
Life is love ... enjoy it.

~ Sai Baba ~

Friday, November 9, 2007

UP ON THE SOAP BOX

"It may be long before the law of love will be recognized in international affairs. The machineries of government stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another." -- Mahatma Ghandi.

Each paragraph below is a link to the webpage cited.

HUNGER IN AMERICA This is a hard many of us to imagine since America considers itself to be the richest country in the world. But this is the reality of economic and social disparity in the U. S. In 2004, 38.2 million people lived in food-insecure households, including 13.9 million children In 2004, 11.9% of households (13.5 million households) were food insecure compared to 11.2% (12.6 million households) in 2003. In 2004, 3.9% of households (4.4 million households) lived in food insecure households where one or more members was hungry compared to 3.5% in 2003. Sadly, these figures continue to rise. To learn more about Second Harvest and Hunger in America and what you can do to help by clicking anywhere in this paragraph. The above statistics were pre-Katrina. Go to www.hungerinamerica.org for 2006 study results which were released this year.
GLOBAL WARMING AND THE FUTURE It's real, it's here and we (humans) did it. Now what are we doing about it? The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, a worldwide think tank, may not have the answers, but they certainly have the facts here

WORLDWIDE BIODIVERSITY Biodiversity provides not only food and income but also raw materials for clothing, shelter, medicines, breeding new varieties, and performs other services such as maintenance of soil fertility and biota, and soil and water conservation, all of which are essential to human survival. Nearly one third of the world's land area is used for food production. The issues covered on this website range from agricultural diversity to invasive alien species. A must read for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.
WOMEN'S HUMAN RIGHTS Every day, women and girls around the world are threatened, beaten, raped, mutilated and killed with impunity.Currently, Amnesty International is involved in an international campaign to stop violence against women. Join the "Stop Violence Against Women Campaign" and help make women's human rights a reality. Also visit other areas of the Amnesty site for information on other human rights issues across the globe.
PEAK OIL -- FACING WORLDWIDE DEPLETION
What is Peak Oil? "The term Peak Oil refers the maximum rate of the production of oil in any area under consideration, recognising that it is a finite natural resource, subject to depletion."

ANIMAL RIGHTS Animal rights might seem like a stretch on a simple living info website, but the fact of it is that this is a very important part of finding your spirtual path. Kindness, love and caring for your fellow creatures is the reason for taking care of the Earth in the first place. Domesticated animals did not ask to be dominated and have their species manipulated by humans. I think that many people intepret the Biblical term "Man's dominion over the animals" to mean we can do what we choose with them. I believe that just the opposite is true and that mankind was charged with the care and protection of all our fellow creatures. This link will take you to a less radical section of the PETA website called "Cruelty-Free Living" and has a lot of information about vegetarianism, consumer products, etc. WARNING: Don't visit this site with your kids unless you look at if first. There are not any particularly sensitive images on this page, but there are links to them. PETA is not for the faint hearted, but if you care, you need to know about these things. While I do not condone their extremist tactics much of the time, the investigation and reporting that they do is top drawer. And their ads do get people's attention.
www.greenpeople.org/animalrights.htm is the Green People website and its state by state list of animal welfare organizations.

Be responsible.

MORE COOL KID STUFF

WildWatch Wildlife Live Cams
This is one of my all time favorite websites. The State of Washington has live wildlife cams set up so that you can watch nesting eagles, herons, owls, even salmon (they are not nesting...they are swimming). This is a great resource for homeschoolers who want to learn more about wildlife. Previously I watched a clutch of eaglets hatch which was very cool. Cams are seasonal, of course, but when spring is approaching there should be lots to see. Of course, the fish never sleep (there is a salmon cam).

A Parents Guide to Internet Safety (for kids) This is also a great website for activities, vegetarian recipes for kids, etc. This site was created for and about kids from India, but there is lots of info any parent can use. Also gives you child a change to learn something about kids in another culture.

Origami for Kids The word origami is Japanese: oru means "to fold", and kami means "paper". Origami is an ancient art where sometimes simple, sometimes intricate paperfolding is used to make 3-dimentional objects. Origami can be an activity for younger kids using simple patterns or older kids using more intricate patterns and skills. It can also be a great learning tool because of the geometry of the folds, angles and building of a 3-dimensional object from a flat piece of paper. And it can be done anywhere there is a sheet of paper available (great activity for a plane or long car ride.) Another great origami site is Origami USA which is a national organization for the enjoyment of origami.

Killer Freebies for Kids This site has loads of free stuff kids (and big people) can order/win/earn. When I was a kid, I belonged to the Around the World club and each month I got something from another country. Stamps from all over, an ink block and brush from Japan, a book mark with the Eiffel Tower from France, it was all pretty cool to a 10 year old. Still sounds pretty cool to me now and I am way more than ten. Only warning about this one is that you might want to look at it with your kids. There are some offers there that are not completely "free" (magazines with 1 issue free, stuff like that). You might find something cool, too.

Youth on Line Pen Pals Did you have a pen pal when you were growing up? This is a great way for kids to learn and get to know someone from another city, country, culture, or simply with something in common. The main site for Youth on Line is pretty good, too. From what I can tell from this site, it is pretty safe for kids to use online. Of course, be your own judge and read for yourself, but check it out.

HOME MADE TOYS!!!
The following websites have instructions and plans for making homemade toys with your kids. HAVE FUN!!


Super Sock Monkey on the Web
The intro to this site says it is "A fun and safe Web site devoted to all things related to sock monkeys. If you're a longtime fan of sock monkeys or a new comer, this site will fulfill all your sock monkey dreams."
Okay, I admit it, this one is a little weird. Personally, I think sock monkeys are a bit strange, but I also think real monkeys are too, so it is probably just me. Many people love monkeys, sock or not, so if you are a monkey lover, here you go. All kidding aside, the history and other info about this piece of American nostalgia is kind of interesting, even to a non-monkey lover.

Homemade Toys from Recycleables A couple of the toys on this website don't seem to be completely safe to me in an unsupervised setting but I put it here any way so that you can see how simple your plan can be and still make a pretty cool toy.

COOKING WITH KIDS

Cooking with your kids is like a no brainer, in my book. You have to cook, they have to eat. What could be a better way for everybody to get to spend some quality time? You can even involve Dad and make it a total family affair. You get some help (?) in the kitchen, the kids get to see what goes into preparing their food and everybody gets to help clean up the kitchen at the end.

There is a wealth of opportunity for learning experiences in the kitchen. Math (measuring and weiging), organization (getting your equipment and ingredients assembled and prepped), problem solving (reading Great-Grannie's handwriting on that famous family recipe) and patience (waiting for water to boil is nothing compared to waiting for your cupcakes to bake). And who knows, you might end up with a budding chef?

I also think this is a great way to instill a degree of future independence in kids, because it is one thing you can check off the list of what you need to teach kids about the "things mommy won't be there to do for you when you grow up". This is especially important for boys, although I know a lot of girls who could use some lessons, too. I have two sons and both of them were taught to cook,wash and fold their own laundry, clean the toilet, sew on a button and a host of other mundane chores that some guys have no clue about once they are out on their own. This can go a long way to making a college kid away from home a little less lost and confused when away from home for the first time. Anyway, now that you are inspired, here is a good website to get you started.

Cooking with Kids GREAT SITE!This is an online version of the book "Cooking with Kids" and the author has taken great care in providing information that is more than just how to bake cookies with your kid. It is about families preparing and having their meals together and the value of a child's involvement in that process. There are insights into why cooking with your child is more than letting him/her be "mommy's little helper" once in a while. And I particularly like the section on helping to set up your little "chef" with their own set of "pint sized" cooking tools. Tasty recipes included, too.

The Art of Happiness

HAPPINESS
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" Children smile 400 times a day on average ... adults 15 times.
Children laugh 150 times a day ... adults 6 times per day.
Children play between 4-6 hours a day ... adults only 20 minutes a day.
What's happened?
~ Robert Holden (from 'Living Wonderfully') ~

I am happy. I admit it. I laugh often and play alot. Everyday I look at my life and I am so profoundly grateful for all the gifts I have been given that I almost burst at the seams. I love what I do for a living. I have two of the best kids in the world. I have a beautiful granddaughter who is nothing but pure joy. I share my life with the most amazing man who makes me feel special and loved every day. I love my parents who gave me so much of what I am and who are pretty great themselves. I love my brother because he is my brother. I love my in-laws for many reasons, not the least of which is the contribution they made to shaping the life of my love. I love the furred, feathered and scaled companions I get to spend my days with. I have a pretty incredible life and I'm loving every minute of it!
How about you?




14000 Things to Be Happy About I have a wonderful book called "14,000 Things to Be Happy About". It was written by Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer and it is a gem.
In the book, Barbara lists page after page of things she has to be happy about.
She also has a website that lists daily random "happinesses" and this is the link to the site. I find such affirmation in the contents of this little book that I was inspired to make my own list. So far, I am up to several hundred things and I add something new almost every day. With all of the negative aspects of a hectic and busy life, this can be a great exercise in the advancement of self-nurturing. Try to spend just 5 minutes each day writing down those things that do make you happy. And share it with others.


The Secret Society of Happy People Here is a site that will put a smile on your face. The founder of this site is Pamela Gail Johnson, author of the book "Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade: Adventures of the Secret Society of Happy People"

Read an excerpt from the Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living or visit the official website of the book The Art of Happiness.
This book is a groundbreaking collaboration between His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, and Howard C. Cutler, M.D., a Phoenix-based psychiatrist. See what one of the most revered men (the Dalai Lama)on the planet has to say about happiness.

Martha Beck Oprah has called Martha Beck one of the the "smartest women I know". Read what this Life Coach has to say about what happiness really is and how to achieve it. She has some inspiring things to say. You can read more from Dr. Beck at her "O" magazine online column.

How to Be HappyThis is a "how-to" manual for being happier. I think the format is interesting and some of the "instructions" are too obvious, but overall worth a look.


howtobehappy.org Michael Anthony is the author of this website and offers a free e-copy download of his book entitled "How to be Happy and Have Fun Changing the World". May not be everyone's cup of tea, but certainly worth taking a look at what Mr. Anthony has to say.