CLOSED!!!! Celebrate National Pancake Month With TPLT and Krusteaz!! (GIVEAWAY–Ends March 5th, 2014)

(This giveaway is now closed. The winner, chosen via random.org, was #8, and she did not respond within the 24 hour time frame…I actually allowed 48 to hope she would contact. The new winner via random.org is #10, Julie and Scott Laws. Julie has confirmed her address and entry, and she has won the prize. Congrats, Julie!)

Admittedly, part of a self-reliant life is learning how to make things from scratch. However, I’m also a frugal, working mom, and to me, sometimes, it’s better to use a mix and eat at home than to find myself in a drive-thru ordering an Extra Value meal.

However, I’m picky about my mixes, and I want them to 1) be the right price, 2) taste good, and 3) be easy to use. For years now, we have been buying and using Krusteaz pancake mix. So, when they contacted me for the chance to offer a giveaway for National Pancake Month in February, I couldn’t resist. I’ve worked with them before, and I love their products!

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We’ve been using Krusteaz pancake mix as our go-to for all things flapjack for several years, since we first found it in large bulk bags at our local warehouse club. To us, the mix wasn’t sickeningly sweet, yet wasn’t bitter like some competing mixes on the market. I also like a fluffy pancake, but I don’t want it to have “poof” to it, and the resulting pancakes from Krusteaz’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix are the perfect blend of fluffy, yet traditional texture and shape. I also like the fact that the only ingredient I need to add is water, which makes breakfast easy to whip up on a busy Saturday morning.

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Krusteaz has a wide selection of pancake mixes such as Buttermilk, Blueberry, Heart Healthy, Honey Wheat, Chocolate Chip, Apple Cinnamon, and Original. Our family prefers the Buttermilk mix. They have an option for almost anyone, though I will say that my only complaint is that I’d like to see an organic/non-GMO option added to their line-up.

Look at the yummy goodness….

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We’re a pretty traditional family. We’ve added chocolate chips and blueberries to our pancakes in the past, but when it comes down to it, we’re happiest with real maple syrup and some bacon on the side!

Want to win some Krusteaz products? Would you like to score five free Krusteaz mixes of your choosing? Maybe you want to try their traditional pancake mix, or maybe their Molten Deep Dish Cookie line is more your speed? Would you rather try a Honey Cornbread mix? Try them all for FREE! Krusteaz is offering one winner 5 coupons to redeem for 5 free mixes of your choice! Giveaway will run until March 5th, 2014 at 11:59pm, and I will choose the winner via Random.org on March 6th. Krusteaz will ship the coupons to the winner after winning entry has been verified. Winner has 24 hours to respond before another is chosen.

Here’s how to enter…you get an entry for each of the following:

1) Comment HERE and let me know that you have “liked” This Path Less Traveled on Facebook.

2) Comment HERE and let me know if you have shared this contest on Facebook.

3) Comment HERE with what Krusteaz mixes you would choose if you win.

4) Comment HERE telling me your favorite pancake style or recipe.

5) Comment HERE telling me your favorite pancake topping.

That’s a total of five possible entries per person! Remember to comment HERE, and know that all entries will be verified. Good luck!

*Disclaimer: I was offered free Krusteaz products in exchange for hosting this giveaway. Krusteaz is in charge of administering prizes. My views are 100% honest, as I have used Krusteaz products for years.

Seeds of Change

I have a notoriously black thumb.

I mean, it’s bad. If it would become any blacker, it would rot off and die, much like the few plants that I have tended.

When I weed, I always manage to pull up the plants I’m supposedly protecting from invaders. Neighbors stopped asking me to water their plants for them while they were on vacation, giving the chore to more capable eight year old children instead of my adult self.

I had a potted plant when I was in graduate school. I named it Seymour. For only being watered maybe five times, it did manage to last about six months before turning into dust.

Our yard was meticulously (if a bit ambitiously) landscaped when we purchased our house six years ago. I didn’t lift a finger to weed, till, water, nothing. I wasn’t interested. I left it to overgrow. I now use it as a way to give directions (“We’re the house with two feet tall weeds blocking the front view of the house…you can’t miss it.”)

Last year, I thought I would attempt to “learn” how to care for plants by purchasing potted herbs and strawberries. You know, when the professionals say they need sunlight and water, would you believe that they actually do? They really mean it. I completely forgot. I could stand there, looking at them, get distracted, and forget to grab the watering can.

(They were alive, once upon a time.)

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(Before you ask, yes, I remember to feed the children and the animals. They don’t LET you forget them. So there.)

However, I’m starting to become frustrated. The thing is, I’m working on a farm now, where I am surrounded by growing things, even in the middle of Winter and these “polar vortexes” we keep experiencing. I see these baby seedlings in the greenhouse, and it’s almost a sort of spiritual thing, if you will. You can’t be surrounded by new life and not be moved, compelled, to participate. I’m looking back on helping my Pap in his garden with nostalgia now. I’m looking at my yard, and I see wasted space instead of viewing it with apathy. I see others talking about the bounty they hope to reap this year during the growing season, and I want to have my own harvest–want to go outside and grab a sun-ripened tomato if I want it because it is mine, my tomato that I grew (with Nature’s help, of course).

I’ve found myself inspired. I yearn to be able to join in the creation and growing process, to feel dirt between my fingers, to smell the earth, to tend, to watch something grow from the ground, from a little seed, into something that is nothing short of a miracle. (And let’s be honest…I’m not hopping on the baby train any time soon. This mama has hit her maximum capacity with little ones.) I want to be able to rely on my own work for vegetables and herbs, instead of being forced to depend on someone (or something) else for my food all the time (admittedly, I love supporting local farms, but the celery I bought from the grocery store the other day was grown by a company with “LABS” at the end of it…….my food was made in a LAB?).

So, that evening, I hopped onto the Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange websites, and I ordered seeds. There are seeds for strawberries, radishes, carrots, hot peppers, chives, thyme, oregano, basil, mint (herbs will be potted), onions, tomatoes, and peas (the peas can be potted, too, apparently). I haven’t a clue what I’m doing, and I’m sure there will be more loss than success, but sooner or later, I’ll have a harvest of my own, with renewed effort and motivation. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? The seeds of change have to be sown sooner or later.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to reap what I sow.

Why We Choose to Support Local Farms

Today, I was excited to find an article in the Huffington Post that outlines several reasons why, and ways, to avoid factory farmed food products and why it is so important to break our reliance on grocery stores. You can find that article here.

I don’t necessarily want to repeat what the author has already written. But because this blog is centered around our journey to become more self-sustainable and more aware of our purchases and consumer choices, I felt compelled to share why it is important to us to know where our food comes from and why we support our local farms.

I’m not going to lie to you or try to pretend that we are something we are not. We have Pop Tarts in our house. We sometimes have to buy meat at a traditional grocery store. Drinking Pepsi is one of my biggest vices (though I am trying very hard to moderate my consumption of it, for health reasons). Sometimes I give my children boxed cereal because it is quick and easy. And every member of my family enjoys a good fast-food burger when the mood hits us. Even though I want to have backyard chickens someday, we don’t have a coop and a flock on our property. I have the blackest thumb of anyone I know–I couldn’t even keep potted herbs alive for longer than two months. We don’t grow a bit of our own food.

However, when you have children, and as you age and develop health issues, you start to pay more attention to ingredient labels. I notice a behavioral change in my children when they consume food with artificial food coloring and dyes. I am noticing that I have adverse reactions to traditional dairy products, when consumed in higher quantities (i.e. yogurt is okay, but drinking straight milk can have troublesome side effects). I’m realizing that I can’t handle fatty, overly sweet, or highly greasy foods anymore without, um, paying for it a few hours later. I’m troubled when I realize that there are ingredients on our labels that I cannot pronounce, let alone define. I’m frustrated that high fructose corn syrup is in seemingly everything I feed my little ones–and it’s not the corn syrup in and of itself that is a problem for me, but that, due to it being inexpensive, companies make things twice as sweet as they used to be because they can–hey, this stuff doesn’t cost much anyway, and the kids love sweet stuff, so throw twice as much in there because it will sell! One of the reasons we cut traditional cable is because we got so tired of commercials telling us we had to buy, buy, buy or we would somehow be lacking “the good life,” and commercials trying to get my children to eat neon colored fake foods are part of that. While we do enjoy meat and animal products in this house, it breaks my heart to know that animals are crammed into feces-laden, disease ridden feedlots, and that they are abused, tortured, neglected, sickened–all to sell eggs or a chub of ground beef to the grocery store. And what comes of these feedlots and slaughterhouses, not to mention factory farms where the crops are assaulted with pesticides and chemical fertilizers? Well, all of the sickness, and the chemicals, and the toxins go straight into the ground or the water supply–and of course they can enter your food. Think of all of the outbreaks and recalls with veggies and meats in recent years….

We shared a CSA with my in-laws last year. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. Some farms offer a program where customers can purchase a “share” of what the farm produces at the beginning of the season. The payment in early spring helps fund the farmer’s endeavors. In return, you get a box or a bag chock full of the farm’s harvest every week throughout the growing season. You essentially own a share of the farm’s bounty. This is really something that I believe in because you are giving not only financial support to a local farm, but you are also showing faith in them and what they are doing–and what these small farms are doing is so important, both to our families and our food system in general (the animals, the environment, etc).

(One of our weekly bags from last year’s CSA share.)

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I encourage you to visit one of your local, small farmers. There are few things more rewarding, and honestly, one of the most responsible things you can do for your family, is to talk to a farmer and ask him/her about the produce they grow–how it’s planted, tended, harvested. With a local farmer, you can go straight to the source to ask where your food is coming from, where it originates. You can actually see it growing in or roaming the fields. Go to a large company, like the corporations that govern feedlots, and chances are they will drive you away quicker than you can blink. They don’t allow cameras or questions, but a small farmer will (I can’t tell you the number of times that I have visited local farms JUST to take pictures). If you’re not interested in physically going to the farm, many communities have farmers’  markets where you can see what has been harvested (usually that morning, not weeks ago and then trucked across the country, like factory farms will do), and you can ask questions of the farmer or the workers.

(Besides…picking your own strawberries at a local farm reaps a huge savings, money-wise, and the berries are far more yummy.)

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When I think of this subject, I tend to think of chickens. I have an inherent fascination with chickens. They are just fun to watch. One of the things that brightens my day is seeing the chickens roaming around in the mornings on a farm–they wander the property, usually not too far from the barn, picking at the ground for bugs, scratching, clucking to one another as they make their rounds. The resulting eggs are so tasty–far better than anything from the store–because they eat natural foods, and they are healthier creatures to start with because they can live how nature intended a chicken to live. The eggs are beautiful, unique, various colors, different sizes. They are the total opposite of uniform, colorless eggs from chickens that have been packed by the thousands into a building, where the only thing they have to peck and scratch are each other, where there is no room to roam or, simply put, to be a chicken.

I’m blessed to live in a rural area that has multiple farmers’ markets, several CSA opportunities, many more local farms, etc. I understand that it isn’t as easy to simply avoid factory farms. I get it. I mean, I live in the middle of an ideal community for it, and I still go to the standard grocery store when needed. But it is so easy to make one or two changes. Maybe your choice is to grow your own herbs in pots, or to buy eggs from the farm instead of the store, or to attend the market once a week or once a month, or to choose one fruit or vegetable to buy organically–the thing is, even that one small step matters. It’s voting with your wallet. If everyone committed to one small thing, think of what we could do?

What is your small baby step going to be?

(Taking your little ones to the farm and teaching them to enjoy it and to make a habit of it…that is one small step.)

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Grain Mills and Flour Milling

Today, it is my goal to hopefully answer all of your questions regarding grain mills and flour milling–why to mill your own flour, what type of mill to choose, what grain mills are easily available (and all about each one’s specifications and capabilities), common grains that you can mill and how to use what you produce, with recipes galore!

Let’s begin, shall we?

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First up, why to mill your own flour

As you more than likely know, there is a large difference between refined, commercial flour and that which you mill yourself. Commercial flour (that you buy in the store) has all of the “good bits” of the wheat/grain taken out of it, like the nutrient-rich germ, and the remaining endosperm is then ground into flour. Why would a company choose to remove the best, and most nutritious part of the wheat and grain? Much like other processed foods, companies want their products to have a lengthy shelf life, and when whole grains are ground into flour as-is, they have a very short shelf life before going rancid. If you make a product that lasts longer, it will cost less to produce, and you won’t have to produce as much. So, nutrition is sacrificed for shelf life, economics, and consumer demand. And most consumers have budgets to watch, so they eagerly choose the cheaper option that lasts the longest, over the more expensive product that doesn’t last as long–even if that product is better for them than the more inexpensive one. Commercial flour is turned into basically little more than a starch, which acts like sugar in your body, and can lead to health problems and dietary illness if consumption is not moderated. I know you’re probably wondering, But the package says that the flour contains multiple vitamins? It has to. Because they take all of the good things out of the flour, the federal government requires that something “good” is put back in to make it resemble the original product. But, consider this analogy–say your favorite, valuable, antique vase is broken and shattered into several piece. Sure, you can glue it back together into something that resembles a vase, but it will never, ever be what it was before. It’s now just a broken, glued jumble of pieces that no longer fit together as they are meant to do. If you mill your own grains and produce your own flour, that priceless creation is still left intact, and all of the original value, in this case nutritional value, is still there.

So, you want to mill your own nutrient dense, high quality, whole grain flour, and you want to own a grain mill. What types are available for you, and what should you choose?

Let’s start with the two most obvious differences between mill types before we get into the finer differences. If you’re looking at it from a purely basic standpoint, there are two types of mills–electric and manual. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these before we break down the different types within each category.

Electric mills, without question, have the largest capacity for grains, and the highest yield of flour in the shortest amount of time. Although there are more technical steps involved, there is significantly less physical effort needed to use them, as opposed to a manual grain mill. If you are looking to produce a large amount of flour in a short amount of time, and want to do this on a fairly regular basis, then you might want to consider purchasing an electric mill. The biggest downside, however, to an electric mill is that it obviously needs to use electricity. If you are considering a mill for survival or preparedness purposes, you might, at the very least, consider a small, inexpensive manual mill to have on hand in the event of a lengthy power outage. Another slight downside to electric mills is that you cannot really find an “inexpensive” electric mill on the market. On average, the cheapest electric powered mill runs roughly $179.00, which we will discuss later. (You can buy items such as grain mill attachments for stand mixers, but be wary of these as they are prone to damaging the motor/gear box of the stand mixer.)

Manual mills run on human power and effort. There is a crank that you rotate to grind the flour inside of the mill (more on what is inside of these mills later). This can be a very strenuous and time-consuming job, as the grinding takes a significantly longer amount of time to complete. Grain capacity is also generally smaller. However, manual mills are not dependent on electricity to function, making them perfect for those who are searching for a mill for emergency preparedness purposes or who are wanting to be off grid. You can also buy them rather inexpensively if you only want to make a small amount of flour once in a while, and mills for this purpose can be found for as low as $50. Higher end manual mills, made with much stronger materials (and that often have lifelong warranties and heirloom quality), can be very expensive, ranging between $240-$1100, on average. Manual mills have simpler operation and fewer steps, and it is easier to adjust coarseness/fineness mid-use than it is with an electric mill. That being said, that makes it MUCH easier to make non-flour items, like homemade cereals that electric mills usually cannot produce.

All about electric mills–brands, components and styles, pricing, etc.

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On average, electric mills cost between $179-$289. There are a few brands that cost significantly more. What I want to do is share with you three common (and easy to find) electric mills, and along the way, as we discuss each one, we will learn more about their components, parts, warranties, capacity, settings, etc. The information I will share with you will come directly from the company websites, which I will list with each description, as well as some places where you can purchase them (for price comparison).

  • Wondermill–This mill possess an LG Electronics motor (1250 watt). Grinds wheat, beans, legumes, corn, and other common grains, and you can purchase a small grains adapter for the mill that will allow you to process amaranth, millet, quinoa, etc. There is a website where you can see what it can and cannot grind at www.willitgrind.com. The hopper has an 8 cup capacity, and the canister has a 12 cup capacity and comes with a lid. The mill works through a motor that powers stainless steel teeth which crush the grains by impact until they turn into flour. This process is referred to as “micronization.” You can choose from Pastry, Bread, and Coarse flour settings when processing your grain. These mills are very highly reviewed, and they are known for being one of the top electric mills on the market. On the main website, the mill’s MSRP is $259.95 (http://www.thewondermill.com), though they are known to offer sales of $20 off at various times. (As of this writing, the mill is $239.95 from the manufacturer.) Limited lifetime warranty. Make sure to buy this mill from an authorized dealer (you can find them on the company website) in order to use the warranty.
  • Blendtec Kitchen Mill–This mill  has a 1.8 peak horsepower motor. These mills have been on the market for many years, and at $180, on the manufacturer’s website, they are on the lower end of the price spectrum for electric mills. Comes with a six-year limited warranty. Hopper can hold 3 cups of grains. The 24 cup collection bin doubles as a lid. The motor comes permanently lubricated, so there should be few problems in that area. Mills all dry grains, beans, legumes, and corn, but, like with most electric mills, it cannot grind seeds and nuts. Manufactured within the United States.
  • Nutrimill–Manufactured by L’Equip/Bosch, these mills are made in Korea. They are capable of milling all dry grains, beans, legumes, etc, but like the other mills mentioned, they will not grind seeds or nuts. This mill is known for being one of the quieter mills on the market. Has a 20 cup bowl capacity, and they claim on their website that the mill can grind 20 cups of flour in five minutes.  Mill uses stainless steel milling heads. The motor is high powered at 1200 watts, similar to the Wondermill. There is a limited lifetime warranty provided. MSRP on the official website is $289.99. However, the mill can be found for $229 at the time of this writing at Amazon (all Amazon links are affiliate links): L’EQUIP Nutrimill Grain Mill

Interested in manual grain mills instead? Let’s take a look at three market favorites:

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Before you read more about manual grain mills, please be aware that there is a large market for manual grain mills, and I am only covering the three most commonly purchased. Also, strangely enough, there is a very wide price gap, with some mills priced as low as $60, and there are some on the market that cost well over $1000 (I am not featuring anything that high end here). I recommend you also do research yourself–you might find a brand that you prefer that is not listed, as there are many more manual mills available than electric ones.

    • Victorio Hand Operated Grain Mill–you will struggle to find a more inexpensive, yet effective, manual mill. Compact, yet versatile, this little mill outperformed a mill 9 times its price during our grain milling course (I was blown away). Stainless steel milling chamber and a 2 year warranty come with this tiny machine. This mill cannot grind oily seeds and nuts, like its electric counterparts. For those who have emergency kits for their families, this would easily fit into a bug out bag, etc. MSRP is $89.94, but Amazon currently has this for the best price at $61: Victorio VKP1012 Hand Operated Grain Mill
    • Wondermill Junior Grain Mill–These mills are manufactured in India, and are produced by the same company as the Wondermill Electric Mills. They are one of the highest reviewed manual grain mills on the market. One of the standout claims with this mill is that the manufacturer states that it will grind oily seeds and nuts, so for those who are interested in making nut butters or pastes, this mill would be an excellent option for you. This mill uses stainless steel augers to grind grains as well. List price is $300, but you can often find it cheaper elsewhere. Limited lifetime warranty. Hopper holds 1 quart of grains. Can be found on Amazon for $220:Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain / Flour Mill by Wondermill
    • Country Living Grain Mills–I personally own this mill, and I have a lot of experience with it. Made in the USA, this mill is made of heirloom quality, using industrial grade ball bearings, solid I beam construction from cast aircraft aluminum, and stainless steel shaft. There are lots of accessories available for this mill, including a system to motorize it (costs several hundred dollars), or to convert it to be powered by bicycle. However, there are some inherent cons–MSRP on the manufacturer’s website is $429.00, before any added accessories. Also, the flour output seems very slow compared to other mills, though it creates a higher quality flour with a better texture. Limited lifetime warranty. From personal experience, customer service is excellent. Mills with slight cosmetic damage are sometimes available for a discounted price.

What grains should I mill, and what can these grains do? 

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I am a limited human being, and, like you, I am on this journey right along with you (hence, the title of my blog). If I tried to wax endlessly just about wheat, I could write pages and pages, and I am already overdue in providing this “class” to my readers. So, I will share with you some EXCELLENT online resources regarding different types of grains, sites with great recipes, and what these grains can provide for you:

King Arthur Flour discusses whole wheat flour, the Nutrimill, and provides a tutorial for Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread.

Do you know anything about spelt? Try this species of wheat, per The Kitchn’s suggestion.

Black Fox Homestead provides a recipe for Spelt Flour Coconut Bars, for those of you interested in trying spelt flour.

Dr. Weil teaches us about barley, the world’s oldest domesticated grain, and Bob’s Red Mill introduces us to the concept of Barley Brownies.

Have you ever heard of einkorn grain berries? The Homesteading Hippy tells us more about this “ancient wheat variety.”

The Homesteading Hippy also shares recipes for Pumpkin Scones AND Blueberry Scones.

Bob’s Red Mill has a yummy recipe for Rye Pancakes that uses both rye AND buckwheat flour–both being grains you can mill yourself!

Kristi Stone from The Mind to Homestead has so many scrumptious recipes to choose from, like Buttery Shortbread, White Wheat Dinner Rolls, and Pumpkin Bread.

And……..because they cohosted our live class, I would be remiss if I didn’t include this AMAZING recipe for Whole Wheat Oatmeal Berry Crumb Bars from the fabulous farm, Goodness Grows!

This is only a small list of grains and recipes–there are countless other varieties to try. That is the beauty of milling your own grains–you get to explore a whole new culinary world outside of Big Box Store Flour. Now, go play! 🙂

NOTE********* I personally own a Wondermill, a Victorio Hand Crank Mill, and a Country Living Mill. Country Living provided me with a free mill to use for my blogging endeavors, and also for a future review. However, the others were personal purchases. If you are interested in my take on either model, please feel free to email me at laurashelton115@gmail.com.

A Month of Gratitude, #20-22

I am feeling grateful for many things this evening, so I am looking forward to writing this entry. Lately, it has been a bit of a chore to sit down and ponder what I am thankful for because, well, I suppose we all have our mopey, gray months, and November is one of mine, due to the weather change, the stress of the impending holidays, etc. However, I think it’s times like these when it is the most necessary to count our blessings because it helps to save us from drowning in our own self-pity and miseries.
So, tonight, I am grateful for:
20) The willingness of others to serve and assist me when I am in need of help. Whether it is my mother in law who constantly helps me with my children when I am overwhelmed or need a break, or my husband carrying in load upon load of groceries from the van to the house in the freezing rain without complaint, or our housekeeper who keeps her rates low and always does more than we ask of her–I am grateful for their generosity.
21) The clearance shelves in our grocery store’s organic/natural foods department. I am able to stockpile organic canned goods, healthy cereals and snacks, natural cleaners, and many other things we otherwise couldn’t afford, thanks to this little known area of my grocery store. It is important to me to try to feed my family higher quality foods, so I am grateful when, for example, I can find organic canned baked beans for 70 cents a can (and which now reside in my food storage).
22) The artwork my son brings home for me every day from Kindergarten. They provide warmth for my soul, and color to my refrigerator’s door. 🙂

A Month of Gratitude, #17-19

I am grateful today for:

17) The fact that I have never had to wonder whether or not I would be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. I have experienced financially rough times in my life, some that essentially cripple me with stress, but I have always known that I would have the ability to cook or enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Going without that, on my favorite holiday, is something I cannot comprehend.

18) Modern medicine. As the weather gets colder, I tend to be prone to all sorts of respiratory bugs, and I am so thankful that we live in an age where we have medicines and treatments for many of the illnesses we suffer from. Earlier this year, my baby girl was hospitalized with pneumonia and influenza, and it was frightening enough to see her suffering so badly, but it was even more sobering when I realized that, had she simply been born in a different era, she could have died from these so-called commonplace illnesses.

19) Sunshine. Especially at this time of year, a peek of the sun through the clouds is one of the most calming things I can even think of–it’s a natural antidepressant, and I am so thankful for the days where I get to be out to enjoy being in the sunlight.

A Month of Gratitude, #3

As the weather grows colder, and finances become a little tighter, I am grateful today for the fact that I grew up in a religion that counseled its members to prioritize obtaining (and maintaining) a food storage.

Growing up, I always thought that the whole counsel of “keeping a one year’s supply of food” was a bit much. I had this image of women sitting around happily making bread with 50 year old hard red wheat. (Okay, let’s be honest, some of the ladies were a bit like that.) I felt like we were being told to prepare for some apocalyptic doomsday (we weren’t). I thought it was overkill.

However, as both times and the economy changed, the church amended its advice to starting with a three month’s supply of food that you would eat on a normal, everyday basis, plus 72 hours worth of emergency supplies that are easily portable (medications, toiletries, food, life saving items like space blankets and water filters, etc). Then, if you choose, you can slowly grow your food storage to a year’s supply if you like.

The thing is–it has NOTHING to do with some Doomsday Prepper thing. It has EVERYTHING to do with a faltering economy (I’ve experienced it), job loss (my loved ones have suffered from this), inclement weather (ask me how many times I get snowbound out here in No Man’s Land), extended power outages (which actually was the impetus behind our even starting a food storage–we felt the whole thing was silly until we found ourselves without light, good food…we had lots of things for our then baby and some generic granola bars…that was about it), and so forth. These are everyday crises that can happen to anyone. And in these moments, there is no guarantee there will be money available or the resources open to buy what you need.

We’re slowly growing our storage–we have a decent amount of “everyday” foods, a 72 hour kit, a freezer full of frozen meats and vegetables (and other items), and we keep staples like flour and sugar in bulk. We also buy some items in metal #10 cans for long term storage. I’m not sure how long our storage will last, but if we need it, it is there, and we use a little of it every day.

So, today, I am grateful for the counsel of putting food by, and the blessing it has been in our lives. This counsel was the starting point for us to try to make other changes in our lives to become more self reliant and to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

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tomatoes

applesauce

peaches

 

A Month of Gratitude, #1–Plus, A Very Special Announcement!!

It seems to be a blog and Facebook tradition to document one thing you are grateful for every day in November. Obviously, you know I am grateful for my family, friends, shelter, my health, and the traditional things most of us are thankful for every day of our lives. My gratitude for those items are beyond expression, and are really a given. I want to ponder the more unconventional things I have reason to be thankful for–the things we often take for granted.

And so begins the first thing I want to express gratitude for (although none of these items will be in any particular order). Today, I am grateful for wheat. Wheat is often called “the staff of life,” and it is a crucial part of so many things that we enjoy–breads, pastries, cereals, pastas–and even things you wouldn’t expect (did you know they can make doors out of wheat?). It is often abused (the nutritious parts of wheat are often removed during processing for store bought foods and flour), and as such, it gets a bad reputation for being unhealthy. Yet, there is growing evidence that some (not all) gluten sensitive individuals experience relief and can enjoy wheat based foods when they mill their own flour from fresh wheat.

We consider ourselves “preppers” on a small scale–we don’t believe in doomsday, but we do believe in emergencies such as extended power outages and blocked roadways (we experience both on a regular basis in the country), and also the inability to travel in inclement weather (we also are snowbound frequently). One of the things we store is wheat in buckets, and I have been extremely grateful of late to find a local source of non-GMO, organic white wheat for home milling.

(Excuse the poor photo…taken from my phone’s camera, but buckets of wheat such as this one are commonly seen in our home.)

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Without this valuable grain, we would be without so many things that we enjoy, and so today, I am expressing my gratitude for this simple plant.

And this subject also leads to my special announcement–yay!!

On Saturday, November 23rd, at 10:00am, This Path Less Traveled (and yours truly) will be cohosting a class with Goodness Grows (an organic farm in Bedford, PA) on milling your own flour. This will be the first in what I am hoping will be monthly classes sponsored by this blog on self sufficiency skills. The class will be held at this picturesque, historic farm itself, outside of Bedford, Pennsylvania (5360 Bedford Valley Rd  Bedford, PA 15522). You will have the opportunity to try a few different types of grain mills (both electric and manual), and you will leave with a few pounds worth of flour of different varieties of grains to use in your Thanksgiving cooking and baking. Registration IS required either by email (laurashelton115@gmail.com) or by RSVPing on the event page, which will be located on This Path Less Traveled’s Facebook page. There will be a $5.00 fee per participant in order to cover the cost of the non GMO, organic grains you will be milling, and that fee will go directly to Goodness Grows to cover the material costs.

For those who are not local and cannot physically attend, class materials will be posted online so you can virtually participate in the class as much as is feasible.

Hope to see you at the class!

Hopeful Eating

I find myself sometimes getting lost in online conversations on internet forums or Facebook. There are so many controversial subjects these days, particularly among the parenting set–vaccinations, the breast vs. bottle debate, the safety of cosleeping, modes of discipline (or lack thereof), etc, etc, etc–and it is enough to drive me mad. I find myself often becoming so depressed by the fighting over what is right and what is wrong, and yet, I admit that there’s a part of my nature that gets sucked into these conversations and watching others argue. I watch, I become frustrated or angry, and then I find myself disheartened for the rest of the day.

Perhaps the most heated discussion I find is about what we’re eating, or not eating. There are so many hot button subtopics. Are GMOs safe for consumption? Are organic foods really the best? How can we stop the decimation of our environment created by these monocrop farms of corn and soy that are grown and maintained via the use of chemicals? How can we end the cruelty that occurs in overcrowded, unhealthy factory farms that are filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of animals suffering together in such a small space? There’s rampant hunger due to the faltering economy. There are arguments over food stamps. There is wariness toward corn syrup, processed foods, additives, dyes, refined sugars. We worry about obesity and food related illnesses; we see malnutrition in American children. We worry about the origins of our food, the fact it is being trucked to us over thousands of miles, and sometimes, across continents. We have more and more people using the resources of food pantries. Our children are constantly bombarded by clever advertising that tries to encourage them to eat all of the wrong things.

It’s enough to just make you sad. It seems hopeless and futile. Where do we even begin to fix things? Where do we find honest answers? And will we find the answers in time to save our children and our future, our earth?

You can see why the discussions get so hostile. Sometimes, though, I feel like the anger ends up making things worse. We get enraged, fight with each other, just to win an argument on Facebook, and in the meantime, what is actually being accomplished? Is anything getting better? Are changes being made? Instead, we fight just to fight because we are upset, and we want changes, and we don’t know where to begin. We engross ourselves so much in the negative that we become blind to what reality actually is.

After a trip to a local organic farm, one where we receive our CSA, in fact, it dawned on me. At times, things do seem hopeless when it comes to the Standard American Diet (with the apt acronym of “SAD”). But, if we stopped fighting for a minute, stopped relishing our anger, stopped insisting that WE, and only WE, have the answers, we might truly see the good that is happening around us.

Change is happening. It is slow, it will take work, but it is happening. As I stood overlooking acres of organic farmland, I thought, how can we not see it?

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Organic foods are becoming more accessible to the masses. I can find them in discount stores, in the supermarket, at the farmers markets. More and more people are voting with their forks and wallets by demanding organic foods, and you can see this in the grocery store as the natural and organic sections grow bigger and bigger. Organic foods are the fastest growing subset in the food industry right now.

We might not have all of the answers regarding GMOs, but there are more and more people asking questions. Many are demanding that their foods be labeled. They are asking companies about whether or not they use genetically modified ingredients in their products. We want to know what is IN our food.

Along those lines, more and more are wanting foods made with simpler, and known, ingredients. We are looking at the labels before we buy a product. And when natural or unprocessed foods are hard to obtain, we are learning to make foods from scratch–mill our own flour, make our own bread, canning and preserving fresh produce ourselves.

We are becoming locavores. We want to know where our food comes from–we go to farmers markets, we join CSAs, we buy food directly from farms ourselves. We are buying our food in such a way that we can personally ask our farmers how they care for their livestock and how they grow their crops. Schools and businesses are adopting farm to table methods.

We are growing our OWN food. We are becoming gardeners, caretakers of backyard chickens and goats. We are learning to reap our own harvest from our own land.

I think we can become so fixated on the arguments, the worries, the problems, that we don’t see what is around us, and that change is happening. Change doesn’t happen by yelling at someone behind a computer screen. It occurs when we take action, take charge of our diets.

I have a lot of hope in what I see.