Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Year of Food

This picture is from Life Magazine in 1951 and is an example of what the average blue collar family ate in one year. The amounts are based on Department of Agriculture statistics. The man in the picture worked for the Du Pont plant in Cleveland for $1.96 per hour. His family spent $25 per week on food.
This is the annual grocery list:
  • Evaporated milk, 56 cans
  • Cheese, 20 lb
  • Butter, 56 lb
  • Margarine, 21 lb
  • Milk, 698 qts
  • Peaches, 3 bu
  • Grapes, 2 boxes
  • Eggs, 131 doz
  • Apples, 2 crates
  • Oranges, 2 crates
  • Cantaloupes, 1 crate
  • Lemons, 1 crate
  • Watermelons, 2
  • Plums, 1 box
  • Bananas, 1 stalk
  • Peaches, 20 cans
  • Cherries, 11 cans
  • Frozen corn, 2 cases
  • Frozen orange juice, 48 cans
  • Shortening, 72 lb
  • Flour, 450 lb
  • Dried fruit, 8 pkg
  • Sugar, 350 lb
  • Pears, 15 cans
  • Bread, 180 loaves
  • Tomatoes, 15 baskets
  • Potatoes, 690 lb
  • Beans, 3 baskets
  • Radishes, 1 basket
  • Squash, 1 basket
  • Cucumbers, 1 basket
  • Beets, 3 baskets
  • Ice cream, 8 ½ gal
  • Lettuce, 2 crates
  • Cauliflower, 1 crate
  • Cabbage, 1 crate
  • Carrots, 1 crate
  • Celery, 1 crate
  • Peas, 1 bu
  • Onions, 1 sack
  • Orange juice,11 cans
  • Spinach, 22 cans
  • Sauerkraut, 12 cans
  • Cereal, 48 pkg
  • Coffee, 39 lb
  • Tea, 12 lb
  • Ham, 144 lb
  • Pork loins, 132 lb
  • Saddle lamb, 15 lb
  • Saddle veal, 30 lb
  • Carp, 25 lb
  • Salmon, 20 lb
  • Chickens, 31
  • Turkeys, 2
  • Beef, 300 lb

This two and a half tons of food is such a clear example of hour our food choices have changed over the past sixty years. I first saw this photo in Bill Bryson's memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a comical reflection of his childhood in the 1950s. He features this picture on the first two pages of the book and refers to it as an example of how plentiful and happy most Americans were during the 1950s. From there, I researched the photograph further and found the actual list, particularly the amount of fresh produce and basic supplies and materials, fascinating. I would be interested to catalog and document the groceries we purchase for a year. I'm not sure if I would be as proud to share that list all of the time. It certainly would not include three baskets of beets, 15 pounds of saddle lamb, or 72 pounds of shortening. I still love the idea of going back to basics.

Ben has started to move into the next box of hand me downs (size 12 months), and I'm so excited about all of the new cute things he has to wear. Josh picked out this outfit for church this morning. It was a pretty big hit, but I can't believe how old he looks.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food Rules

Michael Pollan's latest book, Food Rules, is a very quik read, and refueled my interest in nutritional anthropology and making better choices about my food. Michael Pollan wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both of which I recommend for everyone to read. He also contributed a great deal to Food Inc., one of the best food documentaries I've seen. For those of you smirking at the idea of comparing that to all the food documentaries I've seen, I would recommend the following: Supersize Me, Food Fight, King Corn, Fast Food Nation, and The Future of Food. I know this may seem so far out there, but I honestly believe that our food choices, how, where and what we eat, can be one of the biggest shifts that Americans can make in order to solve obesity, the health care and welfare crisis, and even the increasing problems children are having in school (ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and poor social and emotional coping skills, etc.)

Back to the book at hand, Pollan outlines very basic rules to follow that would accomplish all of these changes. But I will be the first to admit that food choice habits are so hard to break. Some of my favorite rules are:
#2 - Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
#7 - Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third grader could not pronounce.
#13 - Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
#22 - Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
#46 - Stop eating before you're full.
This continues on through 64 rules, each with a short explanation. This short book is a good compliment to his two longer texts which have the same general theme with much, much greater detail. I feel so strongly about this issue and I truly believe that changing what we eat can change our nation.

In related news, we just placed our seed order with Baker Creek Seeds and we have some big plans for the garden this year!

Ben is up to seven teeth, and he can stand on his own for a few seconds. He hasn't tried to take any steps yet, but he will walk all over the house on his own while pushing his train. Thanks to Tiffany for the cute monkey tags shirt!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

House For Sale

No, we aren't moving. The tenant recently moved out of a house we own in Springfield and we are in the midst of serious preparation to get that house ready to sell. We have been at the Springfield house over the weekend and every weeknight to paint, clean carpets, scrub down walls, and try to get the house in decent condition to list. We are going to start off listing it ourselves, but will resort to hiring a realtor if we have no interest in the home for long enough. It's a three bedroom, 1 1/2 bath, two car garage house and I think it will be pretty nice once it's all fixed up. As soon as we finish all of the painting and cleaning necessary, we are going to stage it with furniture from our house and borrowed from our family members. The whole process is a little stressful with everything else going on, but I'm still feeling optimistic about the whole thing.

Ben started daycare this week too. We only sent him for a couple of half days. He had a great time the first day, but wasn't as happy about going this morning. We called around, toured, and carefully chose a place to send him. I feel comfortable with the location, but there will be some adjustment for Ben getting used to his first time being in the care of a non-family member. He's never even gone to the church nursery, so spending a day with strangers is a pretty big leap for the little guy.

He is pulling himself up to standing and standing alone for a few seconds at a time, but hasn't attempted taking any steps yet. We haven't seen him as much lately because of working full time, then going over to the Springfield house to paint and clean until late each night. I think this is making him extra clingy when we finally do see him. There is supposed to be another big snowstorm, so we're expecting to all be snowed in together for the next few days. That might not be such a bad thing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eight More Weeks

Monday we had our follow up appointment with Dr. Sami. He and his staff are so impressed with how well Ben is doing and how much rounder his head is looking these days. Sami recommended Ben wear his helmet another eight weeks before being checked again. Eight more stinky, sweaty weeks.

Ben also had his H1N1 booster shot and he weighed over 18 lbs. I am glad he is getting so much bigger, and it seems like he's really growing all of a sudden. We have boxed up the last of the 3-6 clothes and I pulled out the twelve month shirts from the back of the closet. He's still not quite tall enough for the twelve month pants, but he is getting closer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My new favorite TV show is Hoarders. It's on A&E, and exposes peoples homes who have way, way too much stuff and a boat load of emotional baggage to go along with it. The disorder is fascinating and the show truly intends to help those people break through their emotional patterns that are causing them to accumulate so much stuff without disposing of what they no longer need, along with the chronic disorganization that goes along with having more than you have space for.

I love that our house isn't any bigger, and I try to embrace minimalism and getting rid of things as new things come in. Every time I watch Hoarders I want to give or throw something away. So over new year's weekend, I did just that.

When we moved here, I started putting things aside in a yard sale pile. We have lived here about a year and a half and had a mound of trash bags in our basement. I can't honestly imagine we would get much for the old easter basket, clothes, fake flowers, and other odds and ends if we were to have a yard sale. I also despise actually having a yard sale. After every one I have had, I vowed not to ever have one again, and we live in a terrible location for a yard sale.

As I was putting away our Christmas gifts, I started bagging things up for the yard sale pile. Out with the old, in with the new. It occurred to me that we were probably never going to actually have a yard sale, so I called the Christian County Family Violence Center and asked what kinds of things they could use. She went through a whole list of things they need. Although the Christian County center doesn't have a website. This is the link to Springfield's Family Violence Center, and they have a wish list that is very similar to the things the Christian County group needs. Because I had so many other odds and ends, she suggested I bring everything to their thrift store and they would sort what they would sell in the store and what the women needed.

I filled a box full of personal products and cleaning products from my couponing days. After sorting through the basement and every closet in our house, I filled twenty trash bags of things to donate. I also filled four boxes of Ben's things to send to a friend expecting twins. It feels so good to have all of the closets and cabinets cleaned out.

When we go through our storage in the basement of Pam's shop, I'm sure we will have even more. I also didn't go through the garage because it's so cold. This fall we are going to go through the Christmas stuff and come up with even more from there.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow Days

We have had a surprise four day weekend due to the cold, snowy weather.  I wanted to use this time to work on Ben's birthday present (huge craft project I am looking forward to sharing). However, I had the worst stomach bug I've had in years. Mom came over to help while Josh went to work, and now Josh is feeling terrible. I feel better already, and took a few pictures of Ben playing with his toys this morning.

I can tell a huge difference in his head shape. The helmet has really made a big difference. He is still wearing it 20+ hours a day and is finally sleeping better with the helmet on. I can't imagine how uncomfortable that would be, but he manages.

He is great about standing on his own and walking with the train from great-grandma Phyllis. I reorganized our bookshelf so more of his toys could be up off the floor, but I still feel like we have been overrun with toys, and I can't believe he's going to be one in just over a month.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter on the Farm

Farming through the winter is a lot less fun than living on a farm in the summer. Although that goes without saying, the donkeys have a beautiful winter coat and the chickens are all fluffed staying huddled together. We have had below freezing temperatures for days and we are carrying out buckets of water and trying to thaw their water tank with heat lamps, to no avail.

Another fox has been visiting and we lost another duck, back to only one. It also seems like our chicken numbers are down but I haven't counted lately. I am concerned about the weather reports predicting ten year lows as the week progresses.

Even though keeping everyone fed and watered is a pain in the winter, the snow is so beautiful and reminds us again of why we are choosing this lifestyle.

We also started our first week of Josh and I both leaving for work every morning and Ben going to grandma's house in the morning. We are still getting used to this routine and I'll be ready for bed by about 8:30 tonight.