This fall garden was my first time growing anything on our new property, and especially at this scale! Our garden is currently 20 x 42, and it took my poor husband days to turn this large chunk of lawn into my new playground. I've definitely had some failures this season, but also some great successes - I'll highlight them all here and hope you can learn (and laugh) along with me!     DO mix in as much compost as you can while planting, and add as necessary while growing. I know this is not going to be my most fertile go-around with this particular patch of land. It used to be lawn, so the soil is very clumpy and clay-like. I added some manure/compost and did the best I could. This winter we will have pigs and chickens spending all of their time in a hoop house on top of my garden. Can you imagine what our soil is going to be like next spring with all of that free fertilizer!? DON'T plant rows of lettuce and kale all in the same day or week. I planted so much kale, it is really beautiful and abundant. However, it's all about the same level of maturity. Since kale can keep going until it's 20 degrees out, I should have successively planted so I'd have a continuous crop into the colder months. Since I know I will have so much excess, I will probably cook it down and freeze it. DO plant flowers in/around your vegetable garden. I planted marigolds all along the perimeter and they have attracted SO many bees. The bees are also LOVING the squash blossoms. When I see them they are usually buzzing around, absolutely covered in pollen, and probably super happy about it. I know it's dorky, but knowing the dire state our bees are in because of conventional agriculture, I am glad to be doing my part! DON'T underestimate cabbage worms and other pests. I've had a tough time with the white moths laying eggs on my kale leaves. Some of the plants remained healthy, yet others have leaves that look like Swiss cheese. I've purchased some diatomeceous earth to spread around, but I have not been as diligent with my pest control as I should have. So far, after a couple weeks of consistent application of the DE, I've noticed some plants appear healthier and are carrying less eggs. In the future, I plan on using row covers for my crucifers to prevent the moths from laying as well. I was lucky that I did get an excellent harvest before the pests really made my kale their home. DO grow butternut squashes in mounds. These plants' vines are so far reaching, that placing them in mounds at each of the corners of the garden has afforded them enough room to grow. They are still creeping up on my other plants and beyond my garden fencing, but that's OK! DON'T plant a bunch of turnips just because they're easy and available. For some reason, I went crazy with the purple/white globe turnips. They have been growing beautifully, but I hate the greens (they are weird and spikey?) I also have no clue what I'm going to do with the rest of these random turnips roots, as we've found out we don't particularly love them either.  Oh well. DO plant squashes - all the squashes! I started my garden in July and I thought it was too late for some varieties. Turns out, my zucchini were prolific and my butternut and spaghetti squashes are thriving as well! I had no problem with pests in my squashes, and I am literally growing some of the largest spaghetti squashes I have ever seen. Considering organic spaghetti squash is $1.99 a pound at the grocery store, my 8.7 pounder is worth quite a bit! Spaghetti squash is also one of my favorite and most versatile low carb foods that I know my daughters will eat. DO install mini sprinklers or drip tape vs. using a hose to water. I try not to water too often, but on hot summer days with no relief in sight, you need to give your plants a drink. Save yourself the sanity and endure a couple hours of agony by setting up an autonomous system. The mini sprinklers are particularly great. I found them on amazon, they came in a pack of 6. You do have to cut up a hose in order to set them up, which I was more than happy to do until my husband showed me just how expensive hoses are (eek!). Anyway, it has worked well, and I'll run them for 10-15 minutes at night if I feel the plants need a drink. DON'T water your garden in the peak of day. The best time, I've found, is early morning or later in the evening. You will lose so much water to evaporation, and also water on the leaves may attract more heat from the sun than your plants like. [AdSense-A] DO replant if you don't see sprouts within a couple of weeks. I think I planted my cauliflower and broccoli a bit too early. I replanted and now have healthy plants growing. I was worried that I was doing something wrong, but it's obvious that there are too many factors at play. Not every seed is going to sprout, and that's OK! DON'T go crazy weeding all the time. I thought this whole garden thing was going to be so much more maintenance than it actually is. A pristine, weed-free garden is gorgeous - but your time is important, and costly, too! I've been working full-time and taking care of two toddlers. I have a miniscule amount of time to spend weeding. I think the amount of weeds will also improve by using no till methods in the future! DO buy this book Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener. My sweet husband bought this for me last Christmas, and all I can say is THANK YOU! It covers every topic you can think of in a very concise, easy to understand manner. The internet has so much information, that it's almost too much. You can't weed out people's opinions and you are usually directed to some random forum topic circa 2006, which is only sometimes helpful. This book is a gem! I am so not an expert on all of this. I'm actually getting nervous about my Spring garden. What will I plant!? When will I plant it? Will I do transplants or direct sowing? I have no idea what the answers are. I'm planning on spending the winter season checking out the seed catalogs and figuring out how to best accomplish it all.   Now, I'd love to hear from you! Comment if you had a fall garden this year! What are you looking forward to planting in the Spring?   Thanks for reading!      

If you're anything like me, you might be a little bit sick of zucchini or summer squash. I have these big, beautiful zucchini plants that I was so excited about in the beginning of summer. Then, they started going wild - growing huge, huge squash constantly. I'm pretty proud of my novice green thumb, but if I eat one more piece of sautéed zucchini, I might cry. First world problems, I know. I often will turn them into zucchini fritters, but this is very labor intensive and time consuming (albeit delicious). This recipe is a very easy way to use up this last harvest of summer squashes. It is comfort food, but pretty [...]

This post contains affiliate links - thanks again for your support! If you read my initial post on sourdough, you'll know that I was actively questioning whether or not to try gluten again. After watching "Cooked" on Netflix, I was convinced to give it a go after almost 4 years of abstention. The thought of being able to consume real bread again, without consequence, was very enticing! When choosing a flour to start with, I wanted to go with something that is as far from modern wheat as possible, and it seemed like einkorn fit the bill perfectly. Einkorn is much less adulterated than modern wheat. It's genetics are much more simple, and it's lower in the gluten protein. That's good news for someone like me - as I was hopeful that sourdough fermentation would break down most, if not all, of the gluten in the flour. After doing some brand research, I decided that Jovial Foods einkorn flour was probably one of the best sources I could procure. As far as instructions go, you'll need a starter recipe which explains how to cultivate natural yeast. You'll also need a bread recipe -  I chose this one from Beets N Bones. It was very easy to follow, plus, it helps that her bread looks absolutely gorgeous. I had high hopes for mine! You'll also need some basic equipment. A digital scale (this one is inexpensive and works great), a large bowl, and a locking glass storage container. I followed the Jovial starter recipe for 5 days. You basically just combine warm water and flour in different proportions and let the mixture sit in your pantry. After a couple of days, I had bubbles! The fifth day is the first day that you are able to use the starter for bread. sourdough Now, I'm going to warn you - the bread baking process is long and tedious. On day 5, I took 1-2 tablespoons of the starter and mixed it with fresh flour and water. You need to let this mixture sit for 4-6 hours. This is called creating the "leaven." I wrapped the bowl in plastic wrap & a towel, and let it sit on the counter. IMG_2791 Meanwhile, my twins were doing this: IMG_2792 IMG_2793 After 4-6 hours have passed, you should see bubbles in the bowl. Then, you add 550 g of water to the leaven, and mix in 750 g of flour. Let it sit for 3 more hours. IMG_2807 Lastly, you add 15 g of salt and the remaining 25 g of water  - to create a very wet, sticky dough. IMG_2811 IMG_2813 This is the fun part. You get to turn the bowl and fold the dough over itself several times every 30 minutes for about 3 hours. The dough is supposed to increase in size by about 20-30%. It is incredibly sticky since Einkorn doesn't have a ton of gluten in it. Therefore, it really isn't going to knead like an all-purpose flour loaf. After this phase, I let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I set it out for an hour to lose its chill. I followed the recipe and preheated a dutch oven for 20 minutes at 475, then baked for 15 minutes lid on, and about 20-25 minutes with the lid off. I didn't score my loaf - because I'm a straight up amateur. I'm really mad that I didn't, because it would have looked so much better. IMG_2820 As you can see, it came out very dense. I knew that I was using an immature starter and that my first loaf would probably be terrible. The good thing is - it tasted pretty fantastic. It was everything I ever wanted in experiencing gluten again. It was very sour and dense, but had a great, crispy exterior.  I did try to moderate how much I ate because I didn't know what after effects it might cause. Unfortunately, after a day or so, my loaf completely fell and any air pockets were lost. I know that future attempts will probably be better if I use a more mature starter. Will I make sourdough again? Normally, if I get "glutened," I feel bloated, nauseous, and experience serious tummy troubles. I did not react to the sourdough in that way at all. I did, however, experience something that I had not felt in a long time. Since watching my carb intake and going gluten-free four years ago, I very rarely feel my blood sugar go through the roof. After eating this bread - I could almost immediately feel it - it's a high from the carbohydrate, and then a subsequent crash. It reminded me of how I felt when I used to eat a standard American diet. There is also that sense of wanting to binge on freshly baked bread. It's certainly a gateway food for me where I lose self-control. I do not feel this way when I eat quinoa, GF bread, or rice. I think I would make sourdough again, but not for everyday. Maybe once in a blue moon, if I'm hosting a gathering or something where homemade bread would be a great addition to the menu (or if I just want to impress people ;-). The thing is, maintaining a sourdough starter is a lot of work if you only plan on making bread once or twice a year. You'd have to refrigerate it and diligently refresh it once per week just to have it on hand. You could create a new starter every time, but that requires A LOT of expensive flour and a huge amount of preparation time. Not to mention, if I keep making new starters and baking bread on the 5th day, my starter will never improve and neither will my bread's quality and texture. It's almost as if you have to go all in on sourdough bread. Commit to the effort and get results, or pretty much don't do it at all. This is one of the points in "Cooked" that spoke to me so much. After going through the process of baking bread by hand, without commercial yeasts, etc., I understand that it's definitely a labor intensive commodity. One of the men featured in the series implores you to eat whatever you want - so long as you make it yourself from scratch. Think about if you had to make ice cream from scratch before you could eat it. You'd probably never eat ice cream, save for maybe a very special occasion. We are not eating foods in quantities that match the effort to take to produce them, and it's making us sick. Every night, I find it very easy to make meat and vegetables for dinner. But, bread, cookies, cakes, pies - I can't have those on the table by 5 pm every day if I'm honoring the authentic means of production. Eating simply is eating naturally; unadulterated is easiest and usually best. Treats always have a place, but only on occasions when the effort, time, and cost are worthwhile endeavors. I have to say, being gluten free for so many years, I'm pretty happy where I am. Putting so much effort into something that I don't even regularly eat is probably not worthwhile for me. Perhaps as my kids get older, it might be a great project for homeschooling because there's a ton of science and exactitude involved. I'm glad I was inspired to try it and look forward to potentially enjoying it again as a rare treat. I'd love to read your thoughts!  Have you ever made homemade bread? Do you think it was worth the effort? Are there other foods that you like to make homemade occasionally?

This post contains affiliate links - thank you for your support! One of the biggest reasons that I started a blog is because I've always loved reading them. There are several that I've been following for 7+ years. Whether it's just a glimpse into someone else's day, or a serious, well-researched opinion piece - it's free information that is up to date and right at our fingertips. I don't know about you, but I don't have a whole lot of time for reading lengthy novels or nonfiction books lately. So, I just wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the week with you! whatimreadinglatel By the way - if you like to read blogs and don't have a feedly, I highly recommend getting one! It keeps everything organized, so you don't have to have 1000 tabs open or annoying bookmarks. 1.Proteinaholic Review from Raw Food SOS Denise Minger wrote the book Death by Food Pyramid, which is an exposé on the politics and special interests groups that influence the US dietary guidelines.  In this (super lengthy) blog post she breaks down the good and the bad of the book, Proteinaholic, by Dr. Garth Davis. This book promotes a plant-based, low protein diet. Denise's rebuttal is well organized and fair. What I thought was an especially interesting point, was the comparison of the human diet to that orangutans and gorillas. Dr. Davis argues that because they are strong and eat only vegetation, humans can and should do the same thing. Denise then discusses how humans have entirely different guts, dominated by the small intestine rather than the colon, which are not designed to ferment 40+ pounds of plants per day like these herbivorous primates. If you'd like to read more about this - definitely check it out! 2. The Problem with Undereating I pretty much always like what anyone at Girls Gone Strong has to say. In this post, they discuss really low calorie diets (think 1200/day) and what you should do instead for weight loss. 3.  10 Common Primal Mistakes You Might Be Making Everyone who starts a new diet or lifestyle usually has a time where they go overboard. I know it was definitely that way for me when I started eating primal/paleo. Now, I just follow my instincts about what I think is healthy and try not to stress as much - i.e. I really don't care that I eat rice, popcorn, or quinoa. Mark Sisson discusses some great points in this post, and I'm guilty of pretty much all of them. Some of my favorites are: not eating pounds and pounds of bacon or almond flour treats just because they are "paleo," and not buying too many supplements and crazy stuff to support the lifestyle. I think there is a great internet community that supports real food.  However, sometimes people will get in partnership with companies and make you think you need to buy this collagen supplement, oil, bars or whatever - as if you're not paleo if you don't buy it! It's so not true. 4. Millenial Farmers Fight an Uphill Battle  Did you know the average age of the american farmer is 58 years old? This article discusses the younger farmers coming on to the scene (I hope to be one of them), who eschew conventional ideas of factory farming and are starting a new food movement. I particularly loved this comment at the end of the article:

"Even with all of the difficulties getting started, the risk, the time investment, change of lifestyle (I was a tech entrepreneur, and my wife an accountant), I would do it all over again. Getting up before dawn, drinking a cup of coffee as I watch the sun start to climb the hills, taking my 3 kids out before school to feed the animals, knowing that everything I do that day will have some kind of lasting effect on our goals as a family operation, is incredibly fulfilling. We are just starting out, and we have much to learn, but I'm looking forward to next 45 years of my life with even greater anticipation. How much more could you ask for."

Wow, that comment is just... everything. 5. Got Allergies? Your Gut Microbes Could Be Responsible  Great read about adding in foods that support gut microbiota diversity. I'm definitely not doing as good of a job as I should, especially since I struggle with allergies and asthma. 6. Why You Should Ditch the Classes and Pick Up Some Weights Alyssa, from Mom on the Move, started out with group fitness - but quickly realized it wasn't giving her the results she wanted. She's definitely not bashing people for getting moving (because any exercise is good!), but she is pointing out that a lot can be missing from your standard aerobics-type class. 7. 9 Tips for Helping Your Little Ones Adjust to a Time Difference With a couple of super long flights to Hawaii and back with twins, I can totally relate to her tips here. The time difference once we got to our destination was definitely less of a big deal than it was just getting through the 9 hour flights! I was lucky enough to sit next to a former OB/GYN last time who LOVED babies and didn't mind being kicked while they nursed LOL. 8. Maybe This Is The Easy Part Great post from a mommy of twins + 2. I don't know how she does it, but she has an awesome outlook on the whole situation! Thanks for reading! If you have any posts that you'd like to me to read and potentially add to the next volume, please contact me - (ashley [at] downhomeduo.com) or comment. If you have any thoughts on these posts - I would love to read them below!