Cascadian Farm Organic Goodness

WELCOME TO OUR ALMANAC! READ ABOUT ALL THINGS ECO FROM ORGANIC VEGGIE
GARDEN TIPS TO GREEN FAMILY ACTIVITIES.

GOOD QUESTIONS

Why do you grow organic?

Because every little bit helps. While I am still on my journey to a greener lifestyle - there are many who are far ahead of me! - I believe that each time I take a greener step and make a more earth-conscious decision, I have made a difference. I want to preserve the world for my children and I want the world to be a healthier, safer place for them and their children.

What is your best organic tip?

Vinegar to boost natural dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent. I have used natural detergents for years now, but I must admit that sometimes the smell from musty towels that were left in a wet heap or the build up in my dishwasher makes me crazy. To get rid of the smell, I add white vinegar. Works like a charm!

What is your favorite CD?

I suppose if I have to choose, I would say R.E.M. Automatic for the People - but really it is impossible to choose just one of their albums. I adore R.E.M.

If you had to decide, what would you be: animal, plant, or mineral?

Animal. I would want to feel, to run, to eat and drink, to give birth - I would want to experience the world around me.

Using photography to help children appreciate our earth

Behind the lens, the world becomes a canvas – and all we have to do is find ways to capture the scenes. As photographers, we become more observant, more curious, more contemplative.

Teaching our children to look at the world with the eye of an artist helps them to look deeper and become more appreciate of the beauty – and damage – before them.

Are your children asking to borrow your camera? Are they grabbing your iPhone to click a picture?

Capitalizing on your child’s budding interest in taking photos can be a wonderful opportunity to help them learn more about nature – and of course introduce them to the incredible world of photography!

Where to start?

It may seem daunting – how does one teach a child the skill of photography, especially if you aren’t already a photographer?

Fortunately we live in a digital age – and photography has never been more accessible!

Here are 3 tips to get your child started taking photos:

1. Provide your child with a user-friendly digital camera that has an auto setting, and is equipped with a zoom lens.

You can choose a point and shoot camera or even an entry-level DSLR for a child who is responsible and old enough to take care of it. DSLRs also have auto settings, so a basic, light weight DSLR is can actually be a reasonable option for an older child if your budget allows. 

I recommend providing a camera with a zoom lens. This will give your child the added creative freedom and excitement of changing their focal length and working on composition. (Of course, using a fixed lens is another creative challenge that they will want to tackle one day too!)

I remember the first camera my dad gave me when I was a teenager. It was a high quality point and shoot with a zoom lens. I fell in love with photography with that camera on a trip to Prince Edward Island. The beautiful landscape was perfect for me to practice composing shots. When my dad saw my photos and praised me for my good eye, it meant the world to me.

Several years later, when he died, I inherited his Canon EOS SLR and lenses. It was before the Digital SLRs were available and so I “cut my teeth” on that film SLR, shooting my son’s first three years of life with my dad’s camera.

2. Teach your child the basics – and no worries, the internet can help!

The art and skill of photography takes a lifetime to learn. But everyone needs to start somewhere! It is amazing how a few basic concepts can radically improve anybody’s photos – even a child’s!

Teaching your child photography tips like “The Rule of Thirds,” getting in close, and checking their backgrounds, can empower them and help them to surprise you with their shots!

Digital Photography School.com has a great post about lessons to teach your child about digital photography. It also links to more of their posts that explain the concepts in greater detail which is perfect for an older child or teenager or for you to read and teach them. http://www.digital-photography-school.com/13-lessons-to-teach-your-child-about-digital-photography   

3. Let them shoot – and then review the shots with them later

The best way for all of us to improve as photographers is through trial and error. We need to shoot hundreds of shots to get a few that turn out the way we want them to. And the more we experiment, the more we learn.

So encourage your child to get shooting. Remind them that everything from a flower, to an old bridge, to a dirty shoe can be their subject. They are the storytellers and they can tell whatever stories they want to.

Take your child out into nature, on hikes or to parks – wherever you can find for your child to explore with their camera.

When it is time to download the photos and choose what to print, if your child wants you to, sit down with them and talk about the photos together. Listen to your child about what they were trying to achieve and offer encouragement and feedback.

Then celebrate their shots by allowing them to print their favorite photos and make albums for themselves and family members, or even print photo books online.

I am so grateful that my father provided me with cameras and passed on his love of photography to me.

When I have my camera with me I am never bored. Looking at the world through the lens allows me to slow down and look for beauty – and I always can find it somewhere. My camera helps me appreciate, even more, the world around me.

YOUR TURN: Do your children like to take photos? Has it been hard for you to “hand over the camera?” If you are a photographer, how old were you when you first picked up a camera?

 

Photos by Janice Croze

I had placed the box of vegetables from the market on the kitchen floor when my son, Jackson, who was two years old at the time, picked a giant red pepper and bit into it like an apple.

My first instinct was, “He is going to waste that, I better get it.” But then I figured if he was eating a vegetable – I wasn’t going to interrupt, nor complain about how he was eating it! Besides, when he tired of it, I could just slice up the parts he hadn’t eaten and use them with dinner. But to my surprise, my two year-old went on to eat most of the sweet pepper!

Ever since then, my kids have chomped into peppers like apples and eaten cucumbers whole. Sure, I slice them for them too. But if they want to grab a whole vegetable and start eating – who am I to get in between my children and a fresh vegetable? 

When we were at Cascadian Farm last month, Jackson picked a pepper and started chomping away. One of the PR team members was surprised, and remarked that she had never seen someone eat a pepper whole.

It got me thinking about veggies and some ways to make eating vegetables MORE FUN for kids!

1.       Hand it over whole – I remember eating carrots like Bugs Bunny when I was a kid, the green tail swinging while I did my best Bugs impression. My kids also love the freedom of eating their veggies whole. From peppers, to cucumbers, to carrots – skip the slicing and hand ‘em over whole! (And if your kids don’t finish the entire thing – no worries, you can take over. I bet you could use the extra veggies too.)

2.       Cut it cookie style – Grab some small cookie cutters and cut peppers into fun shapes. Just cut the pepper in half or thirds to get the pepper flat enough to cut into shapes. Kids will love making pepper cookies! (And you don’t have to worry about calories when eating the left over cookie scraps!)

3.       Pick it fresh – Even if you don’t have room for a vegetable garden, you can have fun growing and picking your own tomatoes from pots. My kids are never more excited to eat a vegetable than when they have grown and picked it themselves!

4.       Mix it up – Salads and salsas can be a great opportunity to let kids “make” their own food. To speed things up, you can pre-cut the produce and let your kids “build” their meal! Don’t forget that nuts, dried cranberries, and shredded cheese are great ways to spice up a salad and make it more kid-friendly.  And if you are making salsa – try adding corn or mangos! Your kids will love the different colors and flavours.

5.       Blend it in – If your kids aren’t buying it and they still wrinkle their noses at your veggie creations, you can always resort to pureeing vegetables and hiding them in their favorite foods. Your kids will never suspect that there is pureed cauliflower in their macaroni and cheese or pureed zucchini in their spaghetti sauce!

YOUR TURN: How do your kids eat their veggies? How have you made eating vegetables more “fun” for your children?

 

Photos by Janice Croze

“I never want to leave this place!” my eight year old son Jackson announced in the middle of the strawberry field, his fingers stained from picking and popping ripe berries in his mouth. “It is so fun -- even though it doesn’t have any rides... And it has the most delicious food in the world!”

Watching my kids run around Cascadian Farm, having a blast out in nature, eating fruits and veggies right off the vine, was simply beautiful.

Like Jackson said, they didn’t miss artificial flavors or thrills.

They were outside, with life stripped down to its essence and they were delighted by it all.

It is amazing how good food tastes when you pick and eat it, fresh from the earth.  It tastes like freedom, when you can drop it into your mouth without having to worry about pesticides or chemicals.

My kids not only had the chance to learn about organic and sustainable farming, they got the chance to taste the rewards.

We are home now, back to the routine of laptops, homework, and picking our peppers from the grocery store. But the time at the farm was a valuable lesson, an investment in my kids’ worldview. Every time I can, I want to teach and inspire my children to live sustainable, healthy lifestyles.

Thanks Cascadian Farm for a wonderful day – and for even arranging the sun to shine!

Your Turn: How do you get your kids to experience nature and healthy living? We would love to hear your tips!

 

Photos by Janice Croze

Their world includes recycling bins, organic fruit, and energy-efficient light bulbs. They won’t have to breathe second hand smoke in airplanes or install asbestos into building walls.

But not all of the ills of environmentally damaging behavior are behind us.

Our children will have to inherit the fight to clean up their world – and work hard to build a sustainable, healthier future for their planet.

I have to admit; sometimes I grow weary of the battle. Some days I want to throw the canned salmon tin in the trash instead of washing out the smell and putting it in my recycling bin. Often I reach past the organic produce for the more inexpensive option.

But I am convicted – not just for the world I want for myself, but for the world I want for my children and their children.

I am tired of the pesticides coating our fruit. I am sick that my son’s school has asbestos leaking out of its walls. And I am mad that lobbyists win over logic.

So I need to keep the passion for reform and healthy living alive in my children. I need to teach them about how far we have come and how far we have to go.

They have a long life of fixing our mistakes ahead of them.

Here are three ways that I try to inspire my children to be eco-conscious:

1. Learn from our mistakes.
Every time I say, “When I was your age...” I think of the old joke: “I had to walk to school uphill both ways!” It may seem like ancient history (and a pinch of urban legend) when we tell our kids about how life was decades ago, but teaching our kids about past generations' mistakes and how we have learned from them is critical.

2. Every little bit counts.
Fixing the damage humans have done to the environment is overwhelming for all of us! Kids can also feel like their contributions don’t matter much. Just as I try to remind myself, I talk to my kids about how our participation in environmental clean-up counts just as each person’s actions contributed to the problems.

3. The future looks brighter.
For all of us to keep inspired, we need to focus on the positives – on how far we have come and the better future that waits. Yes, there is much to be done. But our kids are being raised in a world of awareness and education. They are a generation that can and will change their world – for the better!

 

Photo by Janice Croze

Getting the kids outside (and excited) for a family “nature” walk might not always be the simplest task. So, if you are able to pull them from their video games and TV, you want to make sure that everyone has a great time!

I find a few simple tricks ensure that everyone enjoys the fresh air and the wild world waiting for us to explore...

1. There is magic in a mud puddle.
When you set off on your walk, don’t fixate on your destination. What your kids remember (and enjoy) the most might be found in the mud puddles or wild flowers they find along the way. Enjoy the journey – because with little ones in tow, you might not even make it to your “destination!”

2. Age matters.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to family outings is taking family members’ different ages into account. Try to plan your trip with age appropriate expectations. If little ones are coming along, keep the walk shorter with more “observation” time. An option is for one parent to lead a faster track, with one parent bringing up the rear. If you plan on splitting up, bring walkie talkies or cell phones that will allow you to stay in contact with each other.

3. Boys Scouts know what they are doing!
Being prepared is critical when heading out into the woods. Make sure you load on the sun block and bug spray, and pack supplies such as snacks, water, tissues, band-aids, compass, and bear-repellent. If you are planning a long hike or going into the back country, make sure you take emergency supplies, map, and let someone know your plans!

4. Count to five.
To keep my kids entertained or focused on a walk, I often suggest we make a list of five things. It can be to find five different kinds of leaves, five different sounds they can hear, or even just five things to report when we get back. One trip my son even included reporting to Dad that our puppy tried to eat horse manure! I am not picky – it made the kids laugh and fun is what it is all about!

5. Pack a camera – and not just for you!
If you have an older child, giving them a camera to take photos along the way will not only keep them interested, it can help them notice things they may otherwise miss. As well, it is a great way to see the world through their eyes when you look through their shots together after the trip is over.

BONUS TIP: Be flexible!!! As in every aspect of life and parenting, being flexible is usually the key to success! If the kids tire sooner than expected, if the bugs are biting too hard, or if no one is in the mood to find five things to collect – no worries! Focus on the positives and you will always have a great time together!

 

Photos by Janice Croze

My kids live a suburban life.

We pile into a minivan to go to an indoor hockey rink. We shop in huge box-shaped stores all lined up at the end of a massive parking lot. And we go for walks with our dog on a leash, along tree-lined streets with matching houses and primped lawns.

But despite our suburban surroundings, I try to keep a little “back to nature” alive in my kids.

As often as possible, we purchase our fruits and vegetables from the farm market down the street. We vacation in the wilderness, tucked in cabins perched next to lakes. And thankfully, with the green space behind our house, we can abandon the sidewalks and run through thickets and swat away bugs.

My favorite part of this summer, and I bet my kids would say the same, has been our almost daily wild blackberry picking.

Together, we push back prickly branches and maneuver past thorns to find these ripe, juicy blackberries.

We have spent hours these past few weeks in the blackberry bushes popping delicious berries straight from the branches into our mouths. And those we didn’t eat while we picked made it back to our kitchen were we spent the evening baking berry crisps together or packing our bounty in bags to freeze for winter.

Not only was it incredible family time out in the fresh air and then baking from scratch on warm August nights, but my children got to get their hands dirty gathering food – right from where it grows.

Our experiences this summer reminded me to continue to search out more opportunities for my children to be involved with food at the “ground level.”

I am planning on bringing my family with me to visit Cascadian Farm in October for their Harvest Festival, so my kids can learn more about organic farming and how we can make farms that respect the environment and produce healthier, safer food.

This fall we will also visit local farms to go apple picking, pull our pumpkins right from the fields where they ripened, and buy our squash and potatoes from the farm that produced them.

What about your family? How have you inspired your kids to discover “where food comes from?”

I would love to hear your ideas about how to keep our kids closer to our earth!

 

Photos by Janice Croze

Earlier this summer I wrote about helping your child to cope with home-sickness when heading off to summer camp.

As I told you in that post, I struggled with separating anxiety as a child and so being away from home was incredibly difficult for me.

But, when my teen years came and my desire to be with friends took over, my favorite place in the world was camp.

As a teenager, I would not only attend camp as a camper, but I would spend weeks volunteering for the younger-aged camps. Camp was my life. (In fact, I actually met my husband at camp when we were teenagers!)

So each summer, when camp ended and it was time to come home, coming back to reality was depressing.

I remember sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car on the way home from the boat, staring out at the streets which had suddenly become foreign to me. The city looked harsh, cold and dirty compared to life on the small island where I attended camp. I hated how fast it all moved, and how meaningless it felt compared to the warmth, fun and friendships I had just left.

When I stepped into my house, the comfort of my own bed didn’t make up for the loneliness. I wanted to be with my friends again. I wanted life to be all about fun. I wanted to be back at camp.

I coped by staying in close contact with my camp friends. We had lots of reunions and got together on weekends. To this day, many of my close friends are people I met at summer camp.

If your child or teenager is enduring the “end of camp” blues, they are not alone. The American Camp Association® (ACA) says, “The blues are not uncommon — causing some children to be tired, moody, and quieter than usual, or even irritable or grumpy.”

Here are some tips from the American Camp Association® for families to help ease the transition from camp to home:

  • Help them relax and adjust to the slower pace of non-camp life. Suggest they take a warm shower and get plenty of rest. Plan to have an "old favorite" for dinner.
  • Encourage reconnecting with friends from home. Volunteer to set up play dates and get-togethers to help re-establish a sense of belonging with friends they haven't seen in a long time.
  • Allow your child to write, email, or call camp friends. Many camps encourage campers to exchange e-mail and IM addresses with one another. Parents should make sure to oversee their child's online activities, and make sure that all camp policies are being followed.
  • Be open and available to talk about camp. Allow your children to reflect on their friends, their favorite moment at camp, and what they miss most about camp. Sharing experiences and feelings will help them feel connected to you, and will make the transition easier.
  • Organize a small "reunion." Getting together with local camp friends can help reassure your child that though his or her friends are out of sight, they are not out of mind!

The ACA reminds parents that it is normal for them to miss their camp family the same way they missed their home family at camp. “If your child gets the blues, remember that they miss camp because they had fun — and they enjoyed taking healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment... By being supportive and understanding, families can ease the sadness and help campers adjust to life at home. And, families can help campers remember that next summer is not that far away.”

For more information on camping visit http://www.campparents.org/.

My children are in perpetual motion.

My eight year old son slides down the stairs on his stomach, hits the bottom floor, grabs a ball and begins bouncing if off the walls. My two year old daughter climbs every surface she can find and wiggles off every chair I put her on.

Watching them, reminds me that children are designed to move.

But put on the television, or hand my son a video game, and they come to a complete stop – a dangerously, sedated stop. (I have to admit; sometimes it is a delicious stop for a tired mom!)

This generation of children is facing a new challenge – while life speeds up, our bodies are slowing down. We are sitting still, while technology moves for us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on technology. As I write this post, I am sitting in Starbucks, connected via Wi-Fi and typing on my laptop. I work online. I love technology. But I know its inherent dangers. And I know I have to work to counteract them.

With physical education programs cut back at schools across the country, homework loads increasing, and the constant temptation of video games, television and computers haunting our children as soon as the school dismissal bell rings, children are losing their natural state of activity and play. They simply aren’t moving enough.

And it isn’t hard to see the results. According to the American Heart Association, one-third of America’s children and teens are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. The increase in childhood obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. (www.heart.org)

So what should parents do? The world of computer screens, commuting, and long work days is the new reality. It is life in the 21st century.

But we can’t give up. If we don’t want our children to be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents, we have to help our kids, and ourselves, get moving!

Don’t get overwhelmed though. We can do it -- even if we have to do it in baby steps.

7 Tips to Keep Kids Active

1. “Walk” to School – My son’s school started “Walk to School Wednesday.” Families are encouraged to walk to school and children get recognition in class for doing so. For those of us who live too far to walk, we simply park a few blocks from school and walk. The morning exercise helps get our children’s mind and body ready to face the long school day ahead of them.

2. Sign Them Up! – It drives me crazy that I have to taxi children to organized sports and it definitely is a strain on the family budget, but a regular schedule of after-school sports activities ensures that your children get the much needed physical activity they are missing during their school day.

3. Get a Dog – A dog is an additional member of the family and brings along extra stress and costs. But if a dog fits well in your family, it is a great way to encourage regular physical activity.

4. Family Walks – After dinner is a great time to relax and enjoy some much need family time. Establishing a regular evening walk time with your children will not only improve everyone’s health, but it helps build stronger relationships.

5. Activity Breaks – Most kids want to enjoy video games or TV at some points during the week. Encouraging short activity/exercise breaks during their screen time can refresh their bodies and minds.

6. Get Equipment – Put up a basketball hoop, buy a hockey net, get everyone baseball mitts and then PLAY with your kids!

7. Go Online for Resources – There are countless programs and ideas online to encourage healthier lifestyles. Check out the American Heart Association for tips on activities with kids, weight and stress management, nutrition and more. www.heart.org

 

Photos by Janice Croze

It is 3pm. I want coffee. Or a nap.

My body is stiff and my mind is tired. My productivity is down and my creativity is fading.

I can reach for the coffee, or, instead, I can get moving!

For those of us who sit at a computer for the majority of our work day, it can be a challenge to stay fit and focused during the long, sedentary hours.

The only way I survive and keep my creativity flowing is to keep moving physically.

Here are 5 Ways to Get Your Body (and your MIND) Moving:

1. Stretch – I love to do yoga stretches throughout my day. I found some great yoga-based office stretches at About.com.

2. Take Breaks and Move – I am often too busy to move from my desk for a second. But I try to force myself to take even a quick “moving” break. If you have to, make an extra trip to the copy machine and jog over!

3. Make Lunch Time, Walk Time – I find walking to be the most invigorating, inspiring activity I can do. Most often, I use it as a time to brainstorm and start writing my next piece or proposal.

4. Work the Stairs – Making time for the gym sometimes isn’t an option for a busy working parent. So if you are working at home or at the office, don’t forget the stairs – the busy mom’s Stairmaster! You can do sets up and down the stairs – it is a mini work out in the middle of your day!

5. Get Your Office Moving – As employers realize that healthy workers save them money, companies are becoming more health conscious. If your office isn’t already a “Fit-Friendly Company” you can find tips at the American Heart Association and the AHA Start! program to help your office become a healthier workplace.

Bonus Tip: Skip the sugar; go for protein! When your energy level drops, reach for some nuts, low fat cheese, or plain, low fat yogurt.

I don’t like bugs.

In fact, while my older sister encouraged her boys’ interest in insects and bought bug collecting kits, I did not. I steered my son away from insects and silently hoped he wouldn’t develop an appetite for bug hunting.

And to be honest, my aversion to insects sometimes impedes my enjoyment of the outdoors. There are a lot of bugs on a wilderness adventure!

But as long as I don’t have to be the one picking up the insects, (be proud of me though – on a preschool bug hunt, I picked up bugs with my bare hands for my troop!) I do try to spray on the natural bug repellent and get outdoors with my children.

Our family is fortunate to spend a week every year at summer camp and we get away a few times during the year to my family’s wilderness cabin where my kids have plenty of time to get down and dirty with nature.

And when we are at home, we have a wonderful green space behind our house that we play in every day with our dog. There are short trails through the brush where the kids climb through twigs and sticks and play “fort.”

But sometimes it can be a challenge to find quick, creative ways to get our kids out enjoying nature. We want to build an appreciation for the earth in our children and spending time exploring is often the best way!

As a working mother, I don’t have a lot of time for extensive preparation or day-long activities, so most days I have to work with what I have got – a dog, a small backyard and a green space.

We play in the dirt – I am not a big gardener, (remember I’m not fond of bugs,) but my two year old daughter loves to dig in the garden, fill and empty her water can, rake, etc, pretending to “garden.”

We picnic, play sports, and have lots of dog-play dates where neighbourhood dogs come and play with our dog.

We pick flowers and gather leaves. And we collect rocks – lots of rocks. (For some reason, kids love rocks!)

Recently I found a site called Nature Rocks that has a free summer activity guide and even an activity tool where you type in your time available, your location, (i.e. backyard, community or regional,) and the age of your children. It then offers you a list of creative ideas for you to get out into nature with your kids.

I am thrilled to have found Nature Rocks and I will be using it regularly to add some variation and creativity to our family’s playtime. And I bet as I do, I will get more comfortable with those bugs!

How do you incorporate nature exploration and appreciation into your children’s lives?

 

Photo by Janice Croze

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