What is EC + how we do it

Elimination communication, natural infant hygiene or the art of non-diapering. Mm! Now that is a vast subject, and a post I've been wanting to write for a long time, ever since the first questions started coming up on my instagram account. Basically, Elimination Communication (EC) means being attentive and responsive to your baby's cues and natural timing to pee and poo. It's a non-coercive practice, without any type of rewarding or punishment. When you see the moment coming, you take tour baby to a potty (or basin, toilet, tupperware, grass, compost heap, whatever) so they can eliminate in the right place. Sometimes sounds or signs are associated with it, so the child will learn to communicate her needs. In fact, EC is just a fancy name to describe what some cultures have been doing since, well, always. A friend of mine travelled to China and saw a mama 'pottying' her child in a trash bin after getting out of the metro! In some countries, not using diapers is just the usual thing.

EC will help you establish a close bond with your baby and help build not only your confidence in him, but also his confidence in you! It will help you being independent from diapers and carry a lighter bag, and save your time and water if you use cloth diapers (and bling bling if you use disposables).

We started doing EC when Jade was eight weeks old. By seven months old she was diaper free during the day. We still have misses and we don't do it at night - because honestly, at night we just want to sleep! And sometimes, when we're really tired / focused on something / just not feeling it we put a diaper on. Ta-daa!

Before starting, I'd like you to keep three things in mind: EC isn't a philosophy or religion (do you know what I mean?), a competition or a bastion of our parenting. In our modern busy world, not all parents have the disposition to do it and, of course, diapers are really practical. Misses are normal - nobody's perfect! You don't have to EC full time. You can do it when you're back from work, you can do it when you're outside in the garden, you can do it only on weekends and you can skip the nights. You can start it, stop it and go back to it anytime.

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How do I start?

Some people start EC from day one. You can start it anytime.

The beggining of your EC journey will require a couple days of patience. In these, you want to give your baby as much naked-bum time as possible in order to understand what signals she makes before 'going', as well as how often she needs to. Maybe she stretches out her legs (that's what Jade did), or squirms, or pulls that face. Depending on the age, she needs to pee every twenty minutes or once an hour.

You may want to start associating sounds when you notice her doing it (for example, for us pee is 'sssssss' and poop is 'mmmm'). She will soon get accustomed to this sign, which you'll later use as signals when you hold her over the potty (as if saying "you can pee here now")

At first you may be only getting poos, which are easier to understand. After eight weeks, Jade stopped pooping on her diaper, but I was really discouraged with pee - I just couldn't seem to feel them coming...

Keep on mind that, as your baby grows up and experiences different phases, the cues will change as well. Maybe he will even stop cueing - don't worry! You can always keep on following what I'm writing next.

Which moments can I do it?

Up there I wrote that EC is based on cues and natural timing. You may have got some cues already after the first couple days of observation, but there are other moments when you can potty (EC jargon calls these pottytunities. Super geeky, I know) These vary from baby to baby, but common moments are:

  • After breastfeeding - maybe your baby needs to pee right after, or twenty minutes after;
  • After getting out of the sling/ carrier - Jade always pees after getting out, but never pees while in it (OK, I confess, in our whole journey she peed twice on my back, but I was asking for it);
  • After waking up - if she woke up in a bad mood, I potty her while breastfeeding;
  • Before getting in the sling / car seat /etc - just in case;
  • When you think it's time - nobody knows your baby better than you do. If you thinks she needs to go out of the blue, probably you're right. A lot of EC is plain intuition.

Sometimes, you'll hold your baby over the potty and be wrong. Babies can be very clear when they don't want to pee. Just put the pants back on and try again later. Occasionally, the baby will pee right after having refused the potty. That's fine. In these cases, we just point at the pee and say "you peed on the floor, the potty is there", and point at the potty, always with a smile.

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Can I use diapers?

Once I was listening to a podcast with Andrea Olson and she said something that ringed a bell: parents practising EC use more diapers than parents who don't. Which is really accurate at first when you're still learning! You can EC and have a diaper on your baby. You just remove it and put it back after using the potty. But because you're being so attentive, you will end up using more diapers at the beginning, because you'll be changing them every time you notice a miss.

Andrea said something else in this episode, which was diapers are a backup, not a toilet. That pretty much sums it up :-)

How can I dress my baby?

This was one of my biggest questions! During the winter months dressing and undressing isn't easy. That's why we stopped dressing Jade in bodies, hard to unbutton under all those clothes, and put her in pants and t-shirts underneath. You can also try to stay away from snowman-like suits, which are just impossible to pull down and keep your baby comfortable at the same time.

As for the bottom, if Jade was not in a cloth diaper, I would want something elastic that could easily be undressed. Susana sewed some thin wool diaper covers for Jade, which turned out to be perfect first undies. They would absorb misses and I could even lay a prefold diaper in if I felt less confident. On top of this, the baby  can just be dressed normally.

I know some people dress their babies in long wool skirt with nothing underneath at home, so they can be warm and don't wet their clothes in case there's a miss.

What if I'm not home?

I can only approach this subject from our perspective, which is living the countryside, where we don't do a lot of city trips or spend a long time in places where we can't pee next to a tree.

But since we've started EC, we carry our potty every where when we leave home. It's a family member, almost.

  • If you're in the car, use the potty before leaving and every time you make a stop. Or, if the trip is long, every now and then you can pull the car over - depending on how often the baby needs to pee. Upon arrival it's another pottytunity!
  • If you go out walking, before getting in the sling is a good moment. Based on your baby's cues or timings, you can pull her out when she needs to. When you arrive to the destination, look for a toilet!

Now that Jade is walking and going easily where she wants to, when we arrive to a new place I go with her to the toilet / potty and show her where it is. This works sometimes and she points at the spot or tries to go towards the it when she needs to pee.

A few things to keep in mind

  • Don't be too hard on yourself - nor on your child. With time, EC will be something that naturally flows within your routine. And yes, misses will be part of it;
  • Take a couple extra pants when you go out with your baby;
  • Get in touch with other EC parents! It can be discouraging not to have others to learn from and to exchange ideas with. It helped us greatly to find other parents doing the same, both in real life and on social media;
  • You don't have to EC full time, every day (and after you've started and know your baby well, it gives you a cool sense of confidence to know that you can go without them anytime);
  • It really pays out. It can be weary at first, but yes, it really works! :-)

Good reads

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I hope you find this post useful! Did you practice EC with your children? Do have advice for the nights? An idea to share? Questions? Just leave a comment below! :

Happy new year!

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  Have a happy merry wonderful 2017.

We are returning home from a couple weeks in Brussels, a capital full not only of people but also of fear and distrust. What a contrast, coming out of our calm mountains, to walk in the streets alongside with military and their cars. To have the train stopped because of a false bomb alert. To know that, for a few instants, we shared the same gare with the crazy man that had terrified Berlin.

City life can be a beautiful thing. People are close by, organize themselves, create networks and endless activities, culture is at hand-reach. But more and more, we feel it just isn't the place for us.

I hope the year will bring to all of us peace and criticism, in a world seeming shattered, where we often feel uncertain and scared.

As I always do, I've written a list of wishes and decisions for the new year. It includes things like reading more books, studying more plants and casting on more knitting projects, but also really valuing family time and finding the piece of land of our dreams. Focusing on love - the things I love doing and making, the people I love, the places I love.

Love brings happiness, and I wish that your year is full of those. I think our world really needs it. ♥

To new adventures

_dsc0657 Autumn brought many thoughts and revelations. To be more accurate, it teamed up with ideas that had been roaming our minds already to turn us upside down and give our life a good shake.

Living where we do, how we do, many feelings have been accumulating over time - some loneliness, lack of social interactions, tiredness from being quite attached parents in model a nuclear family (that could be a topic all by itself, now couldn't it?). To go to the root of it, essentially we need the feeling of having a "community" around - families and friends, activities and cooperation, trades and markets. Somehow, this bubble popped out now and led us to a decision - moving out.

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Good news? We know where to.

We've known this place for about two years, and since the first visit it resonated so much within. It has became kind of a convergence location for wonderful people. Over time, a lot of people have established in this area, built their natural homes and gardened with permaculture. It's not a "community", but almost feels like.

Practically everyone is a bike ride away. There are quite some families and an alternative school is just starting. There's a workday every week, in which friends help out others in building and gardening, in a rotative way. Bakers bake bread and sell it. There's yoga and meditation in a yurt every week. There are markets and lots of trading. And there's a bunch of abandoned land.

So that picture over there? That's us in the morning after sleeping in a van, in a land quest. Looking for a beautiful piece of land and running after farmers in tractors asking for the owners. Tiring, hard work, but hopefully rewarding!

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On the other hand, we know we can't afford a decent piece of land at the moment. So our goal for this upcoming year is to work our asses off and put every cent aside to have a little bit of this to call our own and finally start working on building a new homestead and life- once again.

But with all these thoughts in mind, staying at home doesn't feel anymore like a very good option... So while we work/save/roam we hope to find a place in need of housesitting, or volunteer in farm, or stay at friends' in the area, so we can be social animals again and Jade can be around other children. Just until summer, when the plan is to head abroad for farming work!

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I will be focusing on creating new balms and soaps and will look for a work as a waitress or something more art-y, while Sam expects to find something related to building or carpentry. Cross your fingers for us, will you? We certainly are!

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So here's to new, exciting adventures! I'm just so grateful to go through the flow of life with these two by my side!

Olive picking

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Jade is sitting on the harvest net and plays with black olives. She places them in the nearly full basket, then tries to eat one, pulls a grimace, offers me one, I refuse - but thank you so much -, then takes one out of the basket, then another one, then turns the basket over.

Yes, picking olives with a toddler is really not that much fun.

We were six and cleared our olive trees in a couple days - we only picked the ones in the tiny parcel around the house, because we had to leave soon. It won't be an enormous quantity of oil, but will hopefully last for a half a year.

And Sam took them to a different press this time, a super old school one that still makes it the cold way! Wow! I don't even think I've ever tasted cold-pressed olive oil! So excited about having it on hands in a few weeks when we return home.

Thank you so much for the visit and the help, Shaunna & Orion. It goes so much faster with friends!

Flax

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Christmas gifts keep on leaving my needles! This Flax sweater was so easy to make, and probably what is my first project without a flaw (at least that one can tell - ah!)

J is just modelling for it. I knitted it for her, but turns out it will be gifted to a baby that is a bit too big than the wee cardigan I had made him...

Plants are magical + a shop update

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Last weekend we had to decide between going to a seed exchange meeting or crafting some salves to have ready before going away for Christmas...

We chose the salves!

We gathered pine needles for a forest scented moisturizer, rosemary for a gently scented one, and our beloved nettles and chickweed come together in for a lovely lip balm. The fresh herbs were finely chopped and macerated in olive oil for long hours over the wood cook stove during the cold weekend, then blended with coconut oil and beeswax from a local beekeeper.

But what's so special about these blends? I truly believe the balms are not only infused with the plants themselves, but also with the powerful energy of our environment and our loving hands. Because the herbs were wildcrafted and garden-grown, they carry so much of us within. That's the forest we walk in everyday and the garden where we spend many hours, inside each one of those jars... They are unique.

I've listed them on the shop - and worked on its user-friendliness. Making a purchase is easier now, I think, but let me know your opinion on it!

Oh wait, it's BUY NOTHING DAY today! Tomorrow maybe?

 ♥

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Nasturtium pesto

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Pesto is one of those kitchen things we find ourselves going back to very often. It is so quick to make and absolutely delicious. We love it swirled up on pasta, mixed in rice or spread over warm bread... We always make our own and, when there isn't much basil - because, to be honest, our basil plants tend to disappear into our plates way too early -, we do it with whatever plant is happily growing in the garden.

That's one of the great things about pesto! You can make it with practically any edible plant you have - broccoli, watercress, mint, nettles, even peppers, the list in endless. The other parts will be olive oil, lots of garlic, any kind of nuts and a bit of good hard cheese. You can play around with these ingredients until finding a mix that pleases you.

Our staple pesto over here is based on mint, sometimes with a hint of basil if the poor plants still has a couple leaves...

Some time ago, though, I stumbled across a recipe from Maegen, based on... Nasturtiums. It got me intrigued, and when I'm intrigued by things I tend to try them. Good heavens!

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If you've ever tasted nasturtiums, you know they have a strong and slightly peppery taste, which makes them a wonderful addition to salads - both leaves and flowers! Making pesto out of it is pure genius. I made some small changes on her recipe when preparing it, because you all know I'm crazy about what's local and in season...

Ingredients

➳ A bunch of nasturtium leaves ➳ Crushed hazelnuts ➳ Chopped garlic ➳ Local olive oil ➳ Matured goat cheese ➳ Salt, to taste

Just cut everything together really thin, be generous with the olive oil and voilà. Be creative and add a pinch of whatever is missing.

Thank you so much for the inspiration, Maegen!

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Get them before the frost...

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So well... Yes. Winter is coming. And with it comes the frost, which isn't exactly the best friend of some plants. Eeeck! We had so many green tomatoes left. We got a bit behind this spring planting our garden and it's a shame that a lot of these didn't get to ripen - I've filled over three times this basket with unripe tomatoes! Luckily, there's something delicious to do with them...

...Chutney!

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This was our first year actually using them green. Last year a lot of them didn't get ripe either, but the frost arrived before we could.

Green tomatoes have this thing - you're not really supposed to eat them raw because of a toxin they contain, but once cooked they're perfectly safe. And taste so good!

I'm a newbie at chutney making, so after looking at some recipes got the basic of it and switched the foreign ingredients for good old local stuff (just couldn't get around the sugar! Ugh). Also, I didn't measure anything at all. You can follow these indications if you want to try it out, it's really just a rough draft. And you can change the things you don't have for some local goodness!

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Ingredients

➳ Enough tomatoes to fill a stewpot ➳ Four large onions ➳ A few tablespoons of sugar - I may have used around 200 g. ➳ A dollop of honey, or two ➳ Over-fermented wine - about a cup and a half ➳ Dried figs, a handful

Cut the ingredient roughly - they will all break down anyway. I started by sautéeing the onions with a wee bit of olive oil before adding the tomatoes. And then... Patience. Let it cook, and cook, and cook, slowly, with the lid on. The tomatoes will release all the water you need, so don't add any! Stir every once in a while. After about 40 minutes I took the lid out to allow it to reduce. It got slightly brown - I guess I could have waited to get it darker, but I was very pleased with the taste already. Meanwhile, get all your jars cleaned and sterilized and ready to receive the hot stuff. Pour in the mix and seal the jars in boiling water.


Ta-da! Don't forget that it tastes even better after a couple months.

I made three batches of this and we must have around 25 jars. Hopefully will keep us warm during winter. You can see some of them lining up on top of the wall in this picture - yes we need more storing space. And that's the stewpot I used to cook the chutney over the stove.

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The pleasure of clack-opening a jar of something you made, during the cold season, is incomparable. It makes you feel slightly self-sufficient, capable and oh so empowered!

I hope this post still reaches you in time for your harvest! How do you use your green tomatoes?

Big news!

Maybe you've already clicked the BnB link up there and this doesn't sound like huge news, but for us it is! Because, from tomorrow on, the house is officially open and ready to host. This means we've walked down all the bureaucratic path to have a license - now that wasn't the easiest thing ever! We can, from now on, advertise here and there, leave cards & cia. and well, have an income!

So if you feel like visiting the blog - or revisiting -, go on and give it a click. We are offering 50% discount for all stays booked during the month of October!

[And Daniela has already tried it and guarantees there are no snakes under the beds]

 

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Stones and more stones

Building happened during summer! We worked on stone beds around the house to help shape the space and create a more lively outdoors, as well as more sitting areas - yay! Remember the ruin we took stones from last year? We came back once again for material (once? What am I saying? We must have went there over 40 times with our old rusty  wheelbarrow). With all the people we hosted this summer, and the experience from last year's, building this one was almost fun.

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And since we have our hands on it anyway, let's remake the old one just across. - Sam

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And since there are new walls, let me climb them all. - Jade (and fall once, not pictured)

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Do you see the curvy corner on the right one? That's where our future cob oven will be! There's a hole in there, inside the bed, which will be filled with stones and whatever old hard material we can find, to make a stable base. And then, on top of it, we start the cob construction. We're still looking for models and different ways of doing it. I personally love the way Dreamweavers Collective shape their ovens and the light touch to it. But anyway, we sense that will be something for next spring.

For now, we'll fill the bed on the right with aromatics, loads of lavender and a tree in the center.

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Thank you so much to all the wonderful people who helped us doing this! It's a special feeling to live in a place that carries the work and intention of so many different persons

The garden in august

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August has been a steaming hot month, but the garden is so happy. This year we aren't harvesting as much as last one, but it may just be that the very damp spring delayed the ripening of vegetables. Oh, and the garden is growing! We're building twig fences with the help of our volunteers and new beds.

Meet Brigitte, Ulrike, Irena & Gudrun, our newest homestead members! This time, in a fox-proofed home.

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How are your gardens doing?

Gentle days passing by

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We've been having our best summer since being here, by far! Lovely groups of volunteers are passing and bringing an amazing renewed energy to this place. Just what we needed, after feeling homesick (remember that post?) and quite isolated from cool folks.

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I've been discovering a new routine - God knows how hard routines are when babies are around. I wake up very early with Jade and leave her and Sam in bed, as I walk to the compost toilet to empty her potty (yeah, that whole elimination communication thang). I bring a small basket along and, on the way back to the house, make a whole garden tour and the morning harvest. These moments, while the sun hasn't yet shone upon the garden, the air is chill and the soil is wet under my bare feet, have revealed such peace and clarity.

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The fire is started, coffee is milled and mint leaves for tea are picked. People start gathering under the pergola and preparing breakfast together.

One of the best things of having people passing  by is how easily you can actually see the result of what you're working on. And how you actually do the things you had only planned to do someday, or that would have taken you a week to complete, and in one morning is actually ready. And how all this different persons leave something behind after their stay. A new chicken coop, and new garden bed, seeds to prosper, their handwriting on the blackboard.

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OK, that's actually my handwriting planning the autumn crops.

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On full moon we were nine. After dinner we wrapped ourselves and blankets and hiked to the very top of the mountain. An hour and a half walking merely by the bright moon leads us to a magical place, from which we can see only mountains and mountains bathed in moonlight, all the way around oneself. Darkness and silver, and tiny disperse sparkles of light - villages. The wind is harsh against our faces, and we gaze at the moon and feel grateful, oh so grateful, for being here, now. We got home to cookies, after.

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Did I tell you the sunflowers are blooming? Beautiful, bountiful summer!

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As I write this, there's sweet guitar playing coming from downstairs. Jade, Sam and the cat nap together. We feel happy and contented, with a warm feeling of home within. Our car is breaking again and we aren't even completely stressed out by that yet.

 

I hope you're having a good summer too! Would love to know what you've been up to.

 

harvests + there's a newborn shop!

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A tiny mammal has been enjoying vegetables from the garden! (Ok, ok, her parents too). Carrots, eggplants, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers, snap beans, beetroots and some tomatoes are joining in the garden fest.

Meanwhile, in the wild, daucus carota (or wild carrot, Queen Anne's lace, bird's nest) has been calling. We've used some flowers in the kitchen and the rest... Well, that's an experiment for the later.

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Oh! Did you see our new page? I just added a little shop to our blog! So far there's only dreamcatchers in it (which were a small success on instagram, so now there's permanent corner for them). I hope to soon add some soaps and other goods!

Enjoy August, folks! And stay cool. Over here, the country is on fire. Like, real fire.

The garden in july

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This month the garden is booming! ☼The weather is steaming hot, going near 40º C in some days. Still, everything is holding up pretty well.

Last year we were watering every single day. This year, though, we are doing it only every five days, more or less. This leads to stronger plants, more used to face dry conditions, and which seeds will grow more adapted plants. Talk about resilience! (And water saving...)

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There's the classical vegetable-in-the-compost type!

We're having plenty of chard and have harvested the first carrots, beetroots, peppers, cucumbers, a handful of tomatoes - mostly lucky shots, to be honest. But it's a matter of weeks now before we start having all those courgettes, turnips, tomatoes, eggplants and everything else.

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This afternoon we prepared new trays of carrots, fennel, turnips and different salads.

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Happy august, everyone!

Salves

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Harvested during full moon and macerated for weeks by the windowsill, these flowers turn into lovely plant medicine for our family.This year we made our biggest batch of salves, from matricaria maritima, calendula officinalis and hypericum perforatum.

We actually made so much this year that the process could also be called getting ready for festival season - if you know what we mean.

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Oh the joys of clarifying beeswax from the neighbour's hives... Not. Big, giant, exquisite mess! "Now where's that leftover block I bought in a store a couple years back?"

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Big jars, small jars, and some bug bite salves too.

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We have enough for the whole year, plus to gift to family & friends. And, hopefully, to pay a few groceries too.

Which salves are you making this season?

The garden in june

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We're borrowing Seed to Salad Bowl's idea and starting a monthly series focused on the garden! It's a great way, not only to share, but for us to look back and appreciate/evaluate what we're doing. This season we are very far behind, but slowly catching up. We're planting a lot of things and doing a whole bunch of seedlings - there isn't any more space under the pergola for trays! It was only our second spring here, so we were still figuring out planting times and what works and doesn't.

Our biggest issue was the massive slug invasion, because it rained until so late (until last week!). They eat everything coming out of the earth, every tiny seedling in the tray - you don't even see the plant coming out, they get there before you, the sneaky little pests. That delayed us, too, since we had to repeat seedlings.

So far, in the earth, we got peppers, tomatoes, chilies, carrots, eggplant, cucumber, courgette, about five varieties of pumpkin, onions, garlic still, beetroot, watermelon, melon, cantaloupe, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, lombard, different beans, peas, lettuce, chard and a few corn plants.

This year ditched the potatoes, but next year will be planting them again!

Lately we've only been picking strawberries, raspberries and cabbage (oh, cabbage. Too much cabbage), but hope to start summer's bonanza soon.

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Millet breakfast bowl

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This recipe could also be called "millet breakfast bowl for those who are eagerly awaiting for summer's fruits but meanwhile have to stick with last autumn's dried forages", but that would sum up too much. Today is a windy cloudy day on the mountains and we needed something warm and comforting in our bellies. The most abundant thing in our pantry right now are the nuts from last year, so nothing better than using those for a filling warm breakfast.

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You'll need

☂ A cup of millet ☂ A handful of chestnuts ☂ A handful of nuts of your preference (we used hazel and walnuts) ☂ A pod of cardamom ☂ A pinch of salt ☂ Honey (optional) ☂ Cinnamon (optional)

Directions

☂ Fill half a pot with water and set it to boil ☂ Peel the chestnuts and cut them in quarters (to reduce boiling time) ☂ Remove the cardamom seeds from the pod and add them in ☂ Once the chestnuts are almost perfect, add the millet in (and more water if needed - this only depends on your taste for softer millet or more al dente. More water = more boiling time = softer result) ☂ While it all cooks, thinly cut your mix of nuts ☂ Sweeten your millet with honey if you want (we didn't, because we find the chestnuts sweet enough by themselves), and when it's getting ready take the lid out, for the excessive water to evaporate, and the remove it from the flame ☂ Toast your nuts with a pinch of salt until crispy ☂ Serve your millet topped with nuts and a pinch of cinnamon

The softness of the chestnuts combine so well with the texture of the millet. It was a perfect surprise to start the day.

Have a good week!