Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hulk's Heroes: My Organic Older Sister

Picking up raw milk fresh from the neighbor's cow. Gathering eggs and storing them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Harvesting berries from a thriving garden. Chopping wood in the forest mist. Fueling the wood-burning stove to heat the house.

My gorg sister Chandy in Australia. She almost moved to New Zealand. Who does that?
This is daily life for my effortlessly beautiful sister Chanda. She's not only a world-traveling writer, a mother of two, cheek-pinchingly cute boys, the wife of a German manly man, and a dutiful resident of a small, Oregon logging town.

She's also an organic superwoman.

"I want my choices to represent what I, as an informed consumer, support and want to see on store shelves," she tells me. "If more and more people buy products from companies who are being responsible, participating in sustainable practices and making/growing quality food, then we, as consumers, are saying 'hey, if all you other companies want our business, raise your standards and you’ll get it!' We drive demand, so I demand quality. Organic products, at least most, are a step in that direction."
Chanda's hubby, Michael, and their youngest son, Tallin.

Chanda's a huge inspiration to me when it comes to organic living. It seems my mom wove a thread of it in all of us, but out of all the kids, Chanda's the most unwavering tapestry. So, I'm always calling her up to hear the review on her new yogurt maker or debate which website is best for essential oils. It's almost like she just intuitively knows what's best (I credit her open, earth-connected mind that makes her so imaginative writing her fairy tales).

So enough of my jabber; I'll let you listen to the real organic guru here, Mrs. Chanda Diekotto.


What's in your garden?

Along with our eight chickens, we have herbs, tomatoes, leeks, corn, every kind of squash, potatoes (obviously), peppers, berries, apples, pears, figs, grapes, and brussel sprouts – though our favorite, hands down, is the KALE!
What is the most unique thing you do yourself?
We’re definitely not the only ones, but we make our own yogurt and ice cream.  It’s nice when you can change the recipe yourself and it’s hard to go back to the watered-down, store-bought kind!

Doesn't it make life harder to do things the organic way? Especially with kids?
Not at all! I bet a lot of people are already doing a lot of things I’ve already mentioned. Like any habit, it takes resolve and will-power, but once you’ve made the changes as part of your routine it becomes second nature. Sometimes it might get a little overwhelming for me, just because there is so much information out there, new recipes to try, and more DIY projects to do. It’s so tempting to want to do EVERYTHING yourself, but then I realize that I don’t want it to consume all of my precious time. Like anything else, it just is a matter of balancing priorities. If I start to stress out about crazy stuff like my kids eating too much hydrogenated oil, I just remind myself that I grew up on canned Spaghetti-o’s and Top Ramen and I think I turned out pretty OK. <---{TRUE FACT}

My nephew on an Oregon farm


My 2-year-old son, Lief, has recently discovered that coins can be exchanged for things at the store. After figuring this out, all he wants to buy is fruit snacks. I’ll give him a penny for helping me start the laundry and he’ll want to stick it in his pocket, carry it around with him, and take it out to look at occasionally while he imagines leaving the grocery store with a cart full of…fruit snacks.
After establishing this revolutionary idea of earning coinage, Lief was in the garden working with my husband and me.  Usually, he just takes his mini shovel and relocates dirt, but one day while doing this he struck gold – a Yukon Gold Potato, really.  He was so shocked and amazed that this food item was in the dirt! When we told him to go see if he could find more, he looked at both of us as if we had been keeping this awesome secret from him his whole two years of life. He then got his little wagon we picked up from a garage sale and went to work uncovering his crop. It took him all of five minutes to fill up the thing, which we then took onto the lawn and began sorting: First into colors (purple, red, and yellow) then into sizes. Then, with his little money jar in-hand, we told him he’d get one penny for each potato he found (which, unfortunately, is probably more than a real farmer would get), so we counted them up together (35) and then counted out 35 cents.  Talk about one of those super-duper parenting moments! This lesson was packed full of motor skills, mathematics, and fresh air. More importantly, we took all those wonderful taters and cooked them up for dinner – thanking him throughout the meal for such great potatoes.
Of course, later, we went to the store so he could buy fruit snacks.

Chanda's oldest son Lief is kind of a badass. He loves motorcycles (and fruit snacks).


Local, local, local – support your local farms and farmers.  Buying direct from a farm is just a beautiful interaction. We regularly purchase grass-fed beef and raw milk from a few farmers we have come to know and respect. Knowing I’m supporting them by buying food that they tended to and raised is priceless, yet I pay nearly half the amount I would at a popular grocery store chain. Talk about a win-win situation! Produce, eggs, dairy, meat, honey – they are all reasonably priced at the farm itself or at a farmer’s market. Organic food stores might even have a booklet of the farms in your area and what they produce and offer direct to the public. We usually subscribe to a CSA during the winter months, but starting spring we just go to right to the farm to pick out our own fruits and veggies. You are what you eat, so eat well!


Since our family is on a one-income budget, I’d say the easiest way to start a better lifestyle is to cut out all the stuff you don’t necessarily need. Instead of buying dangerous chemical cleaners, save yourselves some money and clean with a homemade vinegar solution. Get a clothesline or drying rack and save on your electric costs. Start shopping smarter. Buying from the bulk bins saves on packaging and costs less, AND you get just what you need. If you want to start eating better food, start shopping the organic food sales. If it’s something you like and that you can stock-up on – get at least a month’s worth. Make little changes that work for you, your family, and your budget, then you can start branching out from there.

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