Monday, December 12, 2011


My favorite thing about living and working on the farm, is how much more connected I feel to the earth. It was thrilling for me to watch the first blossoms of Spring on my new apple trees, the birth of the goats, all the chicks that hatched, and the day I felt the air change completely, as Fall blew in.

The latest thrill has been seeing our turkeys through an entire cycle.  Something I never imagined I would do.

Last April, I bought five 8 week old turkey poults.  They were a mix of Bourbon Red and Midget White, heritage breeds.  According to Mother Earth magazine, these breeds rank #1 and #2 in taste tests, and they were hatched locally, so I was all in!
They were adorable!

I read that turkeys will imprint on you the way geese do, and they did. Every time I went into the coop, they would fight to be the first to jump up on my shoulder or head. Sometimes I would end up with one on each shoulder and a third on my head. The kids got a huge kick out of it!  And I hardly minded the time I was standing in line at the grocery store and noticed foot print shaped poop smears on my shoulder and chest!

By the time they got to weighing about 10 pounds, I was over it. Their claws were getting big and they liked to peck at every shiny thing, like my teeth, eyes, hair.  And then they started to be downright ugly! It was about this time that they made the local paper for the first time.  Then I started to be able to tell the Toms from the Hens.  See, the Toms have more red skin on their faces and heads.  I had three of the former, and 2 of the latter, which was perfect!  One each for Thanksgiving and Christmas, then 2 Hens and a Tom for breeding.

With the kid's Farm Programs that I run, I'm always a tiny bit nervous when I tell the little ones that some of our animals will be food.  I am determined not to lie about it or sugar coat it for them, but at the same time I want them to learn that it's a vital part of the circle of life.  So far, even the vegetarian kids have accepted my explanations on the subject!  They have learned why the boys become food and the girls become pets. (yes, I will admit it, they have become my pets!).

By August, I found myself explaining why the turkeys were "walking on each others backs". One of the kids guessed that it was a massage, and their backs must hurt. Um, ok, kid, no.  I told them that this is how they make babies. They squealed with excitement!! "we're gonna have babies?" "will I be here?" "I'm gonna tell my mommy I need to come every day so I can see!" "can we hold them?"

Now, since this was my first go round with turkeys, I had to depend on the information found on the information super highway (as my little brother calls it).  I read that turkeys are too young to be mating at 4 months and that my hens wouldn't start laying until Spring 2012.  So we just went about learning all we could about, that there would be no babies until Spring Camp. And that the fleshy, bulbous bumps on their face and chin are caruncles.  We also learned that the snood (the fleshy thing that hangs down over the Tom's beak) gets longer and shorter depending on, uh, what's happening at the moment. Once, we were feeding them grass and one of the Toms gobbled down a bite AND his snood! He started choking and I was forced to give him CPR, pulling the snood out of his throat.  I was an instant hero! I have learned that the boys are not so smart and lack personality, while the girls are sweet, even loving.

In September the hens started being really friendly and seemed almost attached to me. I think we have a connection. I may need to get out more often. I could let them out to free range and they would come back when I called them. They liked to sit on my lap and be petted and would even take a snooze there, in spite of the rambunctious kids around them.  And then. Then they started laying eggs. Lots of eggs. I slipped them into the cartons that I sell to friends and neighbors. We ate them. (they taste the same, but are bigger and have an incredibly hard shell).  And then in November one of the hens started sitting. Sporadically at first, but then she wouldn't get off the nest unless I brought in oat hay.

Her sister soon joined her...about then, they made the paper again! At first they had 22 eggs under them. By the time I checked last week, they were up to 33.  I candled 3 and saw that there were chicks growing in there!  I won't lie, I have been more excited than the kids, and the kids were pretty excited.

We went into Thanksgiving week with the kids fully prepared for the fact that one of the Toms wouldn't be there when they got back.  And they were really ok with it. Even explained it to their parents, very matter of factly.  On Thanksgiving day, John and I spent the day harvesting 5 roosters and our Thanksgiving turkey. (My kids were with their dad, so we celebrated the Sunday after.) I have no pictures of this. The harvest. It was really solemn and I felt like it would be disrespectful to show pictures of it.. We barely spoke at all. We just did the job. I found myself talking to myself, to the birds, under my breath, the whole time. John handled the killing part (traffic cone turned kill cone and a knife to the jugular) and I gutted ( I wish my hands were smaller). We plucked together. (awww, how sweet). When we got to the turkey, the job became a whole lot harder, He was heavy. His wings were strong and he wasn't friendly and tame like the hens (for this, I'm grateful).  I had watched many videos to find the fastest, most humane way to do this.  The best way involved hanging the bird by the feet, weighting it's head, then cutting the jugular. Nice and neat in every video I saw...but our weight broke, and he started flapping hard enough to give a black eye. I ended up holding his head, talking to him (not that I think that mattered to him, but it made me feel better to say sorry and thank you) until he stopped moving. I'm pretty sure those blood stains will never come out of my jeans and I'm ok with that. 
We let the turkey sit, overnight, in a cooler full of cold water and ice. Then I mixed up Dog Island Farm's kick ass brine recipe and let it sit in that for a whole day, followed by a day of "rest" in the fridge. On Sunday we enjoyed THIS...

I have no words for how great it was. 20 pounds of great.

Meanwhile, I read that 25 days was the incubation time for the eggs the hens were sitting on. That would have put us at the middle of last week. I harassed the hens three times a day, feeling under them for chicks. (did you know hens can hiss???? They do. trust me). Nothing!

Then on Saturday, John and I did something we never do. Ever. We went to a Christmas party at the Chaminade Resort and spent the night. Farmer Pam became Party Pam! Shocking, I know. 

And, when we got home in the morning my first stop was the turkey pen. Where I heard PEEPING coming from under the Mommies!  They didn't want me to look, so I left them alone. It got pretty cold last night, but it seemed toasty warm under them, and I am really trying to let nature take it's course, so....
Today I couldn't stand it anymore. I couldn't hear the peeping anymore and didn't want all their work to be for nothing. So, with Marielle, the brave 5 year old, in tow, I headed to the coop to assess.  We were nervous. She wouldn't even come in at first, but soon was cooing and petting the hens with me, hoping that they would remember all the lap naps we gave them, rather than freak out and kill us!  I felt around under them and felt something...I pulled out this half hatched baby....

That's when I decided to pull all the eggs and put them in the incubator.  In one of the grabs, I felt downy feathers and heard peeping again.  I wish I had a picture of the look on little Marielle's face when I pulled this out of the nest we built together a month ago... (This picture was taken as the chick snuggled under my shirt, trying to get warm). 

And, so, as I type this, I have this little baby in my shirt and at least 7 peeping in the incubator.

May the circle be unbroken.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting Back to Normal, 10 Years Later

This sign hung on the fence where the towers once stood

It's September 11th, 2011.  Ten years ago we, as a country, were under attack.  When it started, we didn't know who or why or what the end result would be.  On that day, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. This number doesn't include the hijackers, the heart attack sufferers, the miscarried or those who have died since, as a result of injuries or toxic dust that they encountered that day. 

 On this day, I am relieved to have cancelled my cable. I don't think I could stand the constant barrage of images and recounted stories that I have seen all over the internet for the past week. Please don't misunderstand, my heart breaks and my throat closes every time I see those images and hear the stories of people who were there and/or lost friends and family as a result of the attacks.  Like most everyone else in the world, my tv was on nonstop for days, trying to see and understand what was happening.  I was at Ground Zero (where I took these photos) on the 5th anniversary of the attacks and cried for 24 hours straight as I walked the streets, meeting people, touching pieces of history.  The reading of the names has never left my mind.  September 11th, 2001 is something that none of us are ever going to be able to forget.  Even without the week long, sensationalized recounting by the media, the candle light vigils and the t shirts.


We will never forget.

St Paul's Chapel cemetery

 Today everyone takes a break from hating on the gays, arresting the raw milk farmers, and trying to eliminate the rights of any group with different ideas, hopes and values.  Wouldn't it be nice if if every day could be like this, without thousands of people dying?  I feel that the best way to honor those lost on that day, is to get along, have perspective, and compassion, be good to one another, like we were in the days that followed.  I am spending my weekend with my community, sharing ideas and work.  Hopefully building bridges, rather than digging moats.

A few days after September 11th, 2001, I wrote a letter, that was published in our local paper, expressing my feelings.  All around me there was so much hate and fear and paranoia, but I was feeling something very different.  Yesterday I thought of this piece and decided to dust it off and print it here, as my own tribute to 9-11.

 Getting Back To Normal
Everywhere I turn, these days, I hear someone saying, "We just need to get back to normal, go about your everyday business. That's the best thing we can do right now..."  I beg to differ.  In fact, I beg you all to never go back to what we called "normal" before Sept. 11th.

A homeless NY man
I have long been depressed by what I saw as "Ugly Americanism"; capitalism gone to the extreme.  Humans passing each other on the streets without so much as a glance in the direction of their fellow travelers.  So many people in such a hurry to achieve, that they spend increasingly less time with their families, and have no friends outside of work. And they don't seem to care.  Above all, they don't seem to care.

There are horrible things happening to people and lands all over the world, but America isn't quick to act if our own financial interests aren't involved.  Here, at home, those who "have" look down on and rarely even perceive as human those who have not been so fortunate. For decades this has been what's passed as normal.  I've always been ashamed of my country's self serving attitudes here and abroad. I had lost all hope that there were still enough good, decent, caring people left to allow us to survive as the human race.  We are torn apart by everything from race to religion, abortion rights to same sex marriage, breastfeeding to education.  Until two weeks ago, we had become a nation divided by issues that we can now consider unimportant. Now we are worried about whether or not our children will be exposed to nuclear holocaust or germ warfare.  And, if they're spared, will they be drafted to fight in a war against fanaticism? 

I have been fortunate enough, since September 11th, to see that there are indeed enough good people left.

They are all around us if we take the time to notice.  Please, take the time to notice.  Say hello to strangers and teach your children that it's ok. Walk around your neighborhood.  Offer to help someone that you may see as undeserving.  Blow bubbles with your children and fill them with wishes. Dance in the rain and celebrate the ability to do so.  Bask in the glory that is freedom because, as I have come to realize, freedom is what America is all about.  The flag has a new meaning to me, one that I will never again take for granted. 

We are free.  Free to make changes for the better. Please do. Never forget this moment in time and please, don't ever get back to normal.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekend Review

This is my latest obsession (besides the curry zucchini soup), Sassy water.  I first heard of it over at Sprout 'n' Wings Farm, where Michaele raved about it. The original version includes lemon and cucumber slices, mint and grated ginger. I leave out the mint and use extra ginger. This recipe has taken me from someone who could go all day without drinking any water (bad) to someone who is craving it and drinking a quart and a half a day! (good)  You gotta try it!

In the greenhouse I have PEPPERS! Total fail last year, so this year I have left them in there for the whole growing season and am getting a good crop of jalepenos and red bells. Yay!

The pumpkins are starting to turn orange! My biggest producing vine, so far, is this one that volunteered under my orange tree! Isn't that always the case. The volunteers, they just know when it's time.  The Marina di Chioggias are catching up quickly, though! (that's them creeping all around the sunflowers below)

And what's this? That's right, Valencia Melons!!! I count 5 so far and my other heirloom melons have lots of flowers on them. This is the most exciting thing EVER!

Big red cabbage, all stripped down and ready to be part of dinner tomorrow. This is about the size of a kid's head!  Feed me Seymour!

The sunflowers are booming!  This doesn't look spectacular here, but it is about 10 x 5 feet of pumpkins and sunflowers. Next year, bigger!

I know I write about my beloved Pink Pearl Apple tree all the time, but come on! This tree was just planted in the Spring and look at all those apples! Note the beehive in the background? I swear by the bees for upping production around here!

And look at that gorgeous pink flesh!! (The apple's, not mine)

  This little piggy is getting HUGE! I keep looking at the crate we brought her home and and she has easily doubled in size

And my Polish rooster, Elvis Jr, made a huge drop in the food chain this week when he attacked me while I was changing his water.
Elvis, it's what for dinner!

One of the artichokes pitched into the compost bloomed. So pretty!

And the Tomatillos are in! Time for John's famous salsa!

The artichokes are super happy here!
  They live near the Richmond Green Apple and Japanese cucumbers.

Seed saving...

The Black Copper Marans are laying like crazy. Such beautiful eggs and they are getting bigger and darker every day!
 The three Ancona ducklings I hatched are big now. And, I am 99% sure that I have 1 male and 2 females!  So exciting, since they are endangered.

While it seems 3 of my 7 Mille Fleur Leghorns are roosters! Boo!

I love the bees!  Look at them, so hard at work!
And my fall crops are ready to leave the greenhouse!

How does your garden grow?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Zucchini Season-they're taking over

It's high zucchini season around here. The time when you step away from the garden for a day and come back to find this  

I've been diligent in using these Cocozelle Heirlooms. We've had them steamed, sauteed, in a creamy parmesan soup, as fritters, in a layered casserole with onions, in chocolate chip cookies, bread, as chips...I AM the Bubba Gump of zucchini!  But I grow weary, so I went in search of some new and exciting recipes to make use of today's bounty. What I found and made was so awesome, I had to share...

First I tried my hand at hummus, which I've never made before. Jeez, I've never even used our food processor because I have an irrational fear of it. But today I am brave. And hungry. And working on a very limited grocery budget, since Farm Camp ended.  Most of the recipes I found involved tahini, which I don't have, so I improvised with sunflower seeds.  It's lemony and garlicky! Mmmmm  (disregard the curry in the photo-it was there for the next recipe...)

  • 2 cups peeled zucchini, chopped
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 lemon, juice of
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • Cayenne to taste

Blend all of the ingredients in food processor or blender. It doesn't get much easier than that!
Next I found a recipe for Curried Zucchini soup and made a few adjustments based on my taste and the reviews I read (which said it was too thin-so I added potatoes).  It's cheap, filling, exotic and super low cal. Not to mention good for you! And it is OH SO GOOD. I put some in former jam jars and froze them for lunches in the next few weeks.

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 tsp curry powder (very mild with this amount, I'll add more next time)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 4 small zucchini, (or in my case, one huge) halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 3 carrots, chopped to 1inch slices
  • 3 potatoes, chopped  1inch slices
  • 1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable)
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Stir in the onion, and season with curry powder and salt. Cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in zucchini, and cook until tender. Pour in the chicken stock, add carrots and potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until everything is softened.
  2. Remove soup from heat.  Use a hand blender, or transfer in batches to a blender, and blend until almost smooth. (if you use a blender, LET COOL before blending or the lid will blow off and leave you with a big mess or worse!) 

Environmental Literacy-it's not just for Hippies!

Our kids are over-scheduled and over-connected with all the current technology available. No Child Left Behind has (in my opinion) caused more problems than it was ever meant to correct. Schools are now so test score driven, that there is no room for the things that are needed to grow well rounded, thinking children.  Sunshine, fresh air, a sense of themselves and their place in the world, these are crucial, but lacking from our public schools.  It used to be that these things were available outside of school. We spent our afternoons, weekends and Summers outside, making our own adventures. We didn't have video games or cell phones.  We had to think of ways to entertain ourselves and, guess what, we DID!  We learned how to think, and solve problems, not just to pass tests. We had art classes and shop classes, cooking and sewing, even auto repair class!  We could go out for any number of sports teams, we had marching bands and could choose from a variety of instruments to learn. And we got to choose from 3 languages to learn, beginning in 7th grade. All during school hours. The same number of hours that our kids are in school now. Is this new math?

I came across this article and feel so relieved to see someone else feeling the way I do.

The authors of The Failure of Enviromental Education write, "The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, with its focus on standardized tests, leaves little time for history, civics, art, literature and other courses that can shape responsible, involved citizens and teach them common sense, Saylan and Blumstein contend. So far, schools have failed “to provide what is necessary to turn the tide of environmental deterioration.”


I started my educational farm because I saw a need for kids to spend time outdoors, climbing trees, caring for animals. We plant and harvest and cook and bake. We make art and play hide and seek. We all sit down and eat a picnic lunch together. And, by doing so, we learn to communicate, to have social skills, compassion and conversation. To be responsible and self sufficient. We even figure out how to "pump" ourselves on the big tree swing and think of the best hiding places. I think these life skills are the building blocks of a good human.  And isn't that what we all hope to contribute to this world? As a parent who can't afford to send my kids off to private school, where they could get more of these experiences, it becomes my responsibility to fill in the gaps and help my children to be enriched with a well rounded education.

What are you doing to enhance your kid's public school education? If you decided to give up on the system and home school, at what point did you round that corner? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bee Aware

We keep bees here on the farm. Well, we actually have someone who brought bees and leaves them here, giving us a smackerel of honey now and then. Why keep bees?  A lot of people don't realize that they are a vital part of our ecosystem, not just another pesky bug.  I have seen a dramatic difference in our crop production this year! I've got 20 apples on a first year tree, just planted in May. That's crazy!

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man" 
Albert Einstein

That's a pretty compelling reason, right? Of course, not everyone would agree with such a dramatic scenario, but bees are pretty darn important to our food supply, since they pollinate 70-90% of all the crops on this planet (I found varying numbers) and they are dying off FAST! Some statistics show that colonies worldwide have decreased by 80%!  If you take a minute to think about it, when we were kids, there were bees, butterflies, ladybugs, even Praying Mantis' all over the garden.  We didn't even think about it, they were just common. Now look around...what do you see? Not much.


There seem to be a number of reasons. Some reasons cited HERE are genetically modified seeds, herbicides/pesticides and cell phones! This research is really interesting and sad, I hope you'll take a moment to read the whole article, since I didn't want to butcher the information by relaying it. 

What I take away from this article is HOPE. 

With some effort, we can begin to reverse the damage done to the bee population.  You don't have to have a hive in your backyard to make a difference (although, it's a pretty cool thing!).  You can start by eliminating chemicals in your garden.  Consider planting plants that bees are attracted to. Plants that have been hybridized for the "modern" garden are often sterile, having no food source for the bees. Bees also need water.  In order to keep them from drowning, put some stones in a shallow dish and set it in the garden. They can sit on the stones and drink away, safely.  And, as always, encourage your kids to know more about bees and why they're so important to us!   

Here are some great bee facts taken from the Queen of the Sun website. (This movie will be showing at the Live Oak Grange in Santa Cruz, August 30th at 7pm.)

1. Honey bees have four wings, six legs, two compound eyes made of up many, many tiny lenses and three simple eyes on the top of the head that are light sensors.
2. Honeybees perform a waggle dance to communicate the location and the directions to distant food sources that are 100 yards to 2-3 miles from the hive.
3. In one trip honeybees visit 100-1500 blossoms to fill their honey crop, an organ separate from their digestive stomach that is used to transport nectar.
4. Forager bees, steadfast and committed to their task, make up to 30 trips a day. Using their long, straw-like proboscis they collect nectar from the wild flowers and herbs of meadows. As Johannes Wirz says in QUEEN OF THE SUN, “Bees are the golden thread from flower to flower, keeping the world in bloom.”
5. The honey bee’s wings beat at incredible speeds! About 200 beats per second, creating the their un-missable “buzz”. A bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour and can fly a total of up to six miles.
6. Bees were not only one of the first sources for sweetness, but also for light! Beeswax candles were used by humans to provide long-lasting light in the darkness. Secreted from glands of the bee’s abdomen, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build the honey comb in the beehive.
7. In their entire lifespan, a worker bee only produces 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of honey.

8. The beehive is a “super organism”. All of the bees work together as a single entity. A lone bee cannot live on it’s own outside of the hive for even 24 hours.
9. In winter bees live on stored honey and pollen and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Their “body” temperature in the hive is close to human body temperature, 95-97 degrees, regardless of the temperature outside of the hive.
10. Some big numbers to think about! In producing just one pound of honey, bees from the hive visit approximately one million flowers. The entire hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles. This is  equivalent to one and a half orbits around the earth just to collect one pound of glistening honey.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pen Pals

This morning, when I opened my mailbox, I was reminded of one of the great things we have lost to technology, letter writing.    I got this beautiful drawing and letter from one of my 3 year old Farm Campers. (Mommy transcribed for her)

It's full of love and excitement, telling me about the frog we found here and relocated to her pond at home.  There is something so special about holding a piece of paper, reading these words.It's just not the same as words written by computer or text.

When I was a girl, we lived in San Diego, while my grandma lived in San Jose. We had an ongoing correspondence from the time I started Kindergarten. She sent me pretty stationary to use, and I would excitedly wait for the mail every day. On birthdays and every little holiday, my letter would come with a package. It wasn't ever anything extravagant, but I lived for the outfits she sewed for me, using fabric scraps from other projects. When I came to visit in the Summer, my Mom would become my pen pal until I got back home.

When I was in school, I remember a time that our teacher assigned Pen Pals for us. They were kids our age, out of the country. They had committed to improving their English by exchanging letters with us. It was a lot of fun and we were able to learn so much about their culture and lifestyle.  It was a great experience.

Of course, now, we can jump on the information super highway and find out about any culture or land we'd like.  We're busy people and don't often get to see our friends or extended family, but we can communicate with them through Facebook, text messages and emails. It's all instantaneous and very effective. But is it the best? The only way?  Over the years that my kids have been in school, I've noticed a serious decline in the language arts expectations.  Penmanship doesn't count anymore. Teachers are even overlooking grammatical and spelling errors and grading work based on the idea and the fact that the work was done. I have been told that this is because most people now use computers to write, and have spell check, so the details of knowing how to spell don't matter once you have passed the level of 5th grade spelling tests.  Ouch. What about the love of the language?  The flow of the words?  Putting pen to paper?

Now, I'm no hypocrite. I adore the internet and all it offers. I use it many times a day, promoting my business, chatting with friends, doing research...but I also have a firm grasp on spelling (I never use spell check, so of course now there will be errors in this post) and sentence structure.  Even when I text I don't use fake words. It just feels wrong to me.  I worry that we have a whole generation of kids who don't know the basics of writing, the excitement of holding a pen and pouring out your ideas or thoughts to a friend or the anticipation of a response to the last letter you sent.  And I'm not the only one...
This from

"A considerable number of educators and children's advocates worry that James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was right when he recently suggested that young Americans' electronic communication might be damaging "the basic unit of human thought -- the sentence."1 They are concerned that the quality of writing by young Americans is being degraded by their electronic communication, with its carefree spelling, lax punctuation and grammar, and its acronym shortcuts."

In the spirit of the "Slow" movement, I propose bringing Pen Pals back. Not Internet Pals, but the real thing. Have your kids write to grandparents, aunts, former teachers, friends.   A whole class could exchange letters with kids from another country or just another neighborhood.  An ongoing journal, between mother and child, will help to build writing skills and become a sweet memory book.  Let them dot their i with a heart and make big swirly letters.  Help them to learn to love writing and expressing themselves on paper. 
If we don't, who will?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keeping it Real

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet."  ~Fran Lebowitz

Lunch used to be a simple affair.  Mom (or grandma) would call us in from playing, OUTSIDE, to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, glass of milk and apple. Period. There were no menu options and there was no complaining. (once, when I complained that I didn't want to eat my dinner salad, my grandma promptly poured the rest of the salad into my empty milk cup, put it in the fridge and it became my breakfast. We learned , quickly, not to complain about food!)
Once school started things changed very little. Mom was a fan of Adelle Davis, and we were sort of hippies, so I didn't even know about processed foods like Kraft cheese or Wonder bread.  We never drank soda or had candy, except the little bit of fruit shaped beauties in our Christmas stockings (which was SO special and still warms my heart to this day because my mom searched high and low to find them until I was in my 30's!).  Breakfast was usually oatmeal (the old fashioned way, big and chunky) because mom said we needed something to "stick to your ribs".  Some days she would make us a Tiger's Milk smoothie with banana to wash down our chewable vitamin C tabs (I always wished for Flintstone's).  Our school lunch was PB&J on whole wheat bread, usually homemade, an apple, and 2 cookies. Not 3. Not 4. TWO homemade cookies every time. We bought a carton of milk in the cafeteria to go with.

Every day, I watched my classmates blissfully eating bologna sandwiches on that fluffy Wonder bread, the perfectly wrapped Ding Dongs, or the creme filled Twinkies.  Rather than milk, they often had soda in their brown bags.

I'm not gonna lie. I resented my mom for making us eat healthy food. Didn't she know she was ruining my social life? Friends asked me, "why doesn't your mom buy real food?!"  I had no idea. I figured she just didn't care enough to throw down for the amazing bread that, "Helps build strong bodies 12 ways..." 

Nearly 20 years ago, when I became a mom, it all made sense to me.  As soon as I found out I was expecting, I gave up meat and bought organic produce.  When my son (and then 3 daughters over the next few years) started eating food, it was real food.  Not those scary little vegetables and hot dogs in jars. I took whatever we were eating and blended it until they were able to chew.  As a result, all 4 of my kids will eat most anything, have never had ear infections, rarely get the yucky colds that make the rounds at school, and are generally happy and healthy little (and not so little) humans.

During my Summer Farm Camps, I have been observing the kids and their lunches. What they like and how they treat their food.  I see the difference between the kid who thinks nothing of throwing pretzels at a friend, and the one who drops her PB&J tortilla in the grass, picks it up, brushes it off and eats it. The girl who lets out a happy giggle when she opens her bento box to find big fat strawberries, and the one who takes 2 bites of her sandwich, then throws it away, calling the rest "crust".  My favorite was the 5 year old who opened his lunch box, showed me the variety of whole and healthy foods inside and said, "see, I told you my mom was the best!"  

It makes me really sad to see kids lacking respect for their food. What it takes to grow, cook, and prepare it.  What it means to have enough money to buy it and spend the time packing it into that cute little lunch tote.  Even when I resented my earthy lunches, I knew how much it meant to be able to have it. That my mom wanted us to have the best she could offer and it was all packed up in that little brown bag, with love. 

As our kids start a new school year, I hope that we can find a way to help them appreciate good, healthy, natural foods. To appreciate having enough, and not wasting it.  And especially, to appreciate the person who packs their lunch, with love.

For lots of great lunchbox ideas, using real food, visit