Visit to our farm friends, fresh reads, & a new recipe

Last week we had the great pleasure of a fall day and a visit to our farm friends in Russia with our homeschooling group.  Our family has known the Cordonnier’s for awhile now and have bought sustainably raised-organic pork and chicken from them.  Matt and Kim have worked hard on this farm with their five boys and are committed to a sustainable lifestyle.  I love so much of what they put into practice and they are a great source of wisdom for me (want to learn how to make your own soap and homemade granola bars?  These are your folks!)  For the kids, the highlight is being able to run free around the farm and experience the pigs, cows, horses, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and cats that are there.  The other highlight is to play in the gigantic haybale fort constructed by the Cordonnier kids.  We had wanted to bring other friends up to their farm and finally got the chance.  Our homeschool group LOVED this.  Who wouldn’t?  In addition to being able to swing on a rope into the hay bale there were also hay bale tunnels.  The older kids figured out how to swing off the rope and directly into a tunnel. Our hosts also created a short scavenger hunt for the kids.  They worked in teams and ran all over the farm.  But the haybale swing was the highlight-the only thing that willingly pulled them away was the promise of snacks.   In the short time we’ve been homeschooling I’ve learned its about a 50/50 chance you’re going to have a good day.  Some days are a struggle.  As for every kid entering kindergarten must have thoughts like “Why can’t I play all day long?” and I’ve found myself saying to the kids “It’s school now, I need you to listen” more often than I’d like.  However, when your school day is a field trip to a working farm and you get hands on time with animals and friends, those are the easy homeschool days.

As fall moves on, my reading has probably increased.  I’ll admit I’ve been reading a lot of kids books.  Some with my children and some to preview for our read-aloud chapter books and some just for fun.  We’ve been going through this great list from author Aaron Zenz and his kids on their website “Bookie Woogie” of their favorite 200 books.  Our favorites have been “There Are Cats in this Book” by Vivian Schwartz and “The Hicuppotamus” by Aaron Zenz.  Both of those made me laugh out loud while reading them.  Some chapter books we’ve been reading are the classic “Winnie-The-Pooh” by AA Milne and I’ve read or reading “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary and “The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark” by Jill Tomlinson.  I’ll admit I’ve got a weak spot for fantasy; it is a fun read for me because it’s not serious.  I’ve recently read “Son of  Neptune” by Rick Riordan and Inheritence by Christopher Paolini.  I’ll admit it, I went out and bought the latter the day it was released.  We’ve got the other three books in the series and have waited 3+ years for the conclusion of the story.  Both were perfect for me- easy, blow through reads with lots of action- but not necessarily perfect novels or the next great American classic.  For more grown-up books I picked up “Grammar Girl presents The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students” by Mignon Fogarty (I figured I could use a brushing up on my grammar) and “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta.  The Power of Less is about reducing stress, clutter and getting focus in your life and Leo’s blog “Zen Habits” is one of the most popular in the world.  I’ve been also working through “Community” by Peter Block for my non-profit work and community development interests.

Experimenting with new recipes is something I love to do and I can’t wait to try these homemade almond joy bars from Deliciously Organic!  The most ambitious thing I’ve made lately is an Tarte Tatin-think of it as an upside down apple pie with caramel sauce and I’m really loving Bobby Flay’s (of Food Network Fame) new cookbook from his restaurant Bar Americain. With fall here and colder weather coming I’ve welcomed the days of pots of soup of the stove.  To paraphrase my friend Christine “Can you have enough soup/stock pots?”  This past week I had one burner filled with chicken noodle soup and the other filled with a beef stock to put away in the freezer.  I’ve also got an easy Vegetable Soup recipe that is healthy, quick and goes great with some crusty bread.


  • 4 C. Chicken Stock + 2 C. Water
  • 1 onion – minced
  • 2-3 celery ribs – minced
  • 2-3 carrots – chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves- minced
  • frozen or canned corn
  • frozen or canned green beans
  • 1 can great northern beans (or your favorite)
  • Favorite small pasta- like stars
  • 24-32 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt, Pepper, Herbs as you like

Saute the onion, celery, carrots, garlic in your soup pot with some olive oil.  After about 5 minutes add the chicken stock, water, beans, herbs, and tomatoes.  Simmer for about30 minutes.  Add the pasta, frozen corn and beans and let cook for another 30 minutes.  Serve with a topping or parmesean cheese and a side of crusty bread!

As November draws to a close I’m also looking forward to having one of these on my table!


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