June 2012 Archives

A Karen Dalton Day

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One Month of Limbo

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This is the part I hate the most. I've been through it many times before. One part of my life comes to a close and for a short time, I'm left floating in limbo, waiting to dive into the next chapter. I hate the gaps in-between. I'm not a patient person.

I'm wrapping things up at Hayseed's this week. After Friday, I'll throw off the confining shackles of shopkeeper and start boxing up the leftover inventory. I bought a ton of it for the farm (tools, feed, soil amendments, books) so there's not really much to liquidate, which is a relief. It's been really fun, but I'm glad it is only seasonal. Being there all week during the growing season had me sort of feeling like I was being pulled away from what I really wanted to be doing...digging in the dirt and opening up some hives as opposed to telling other people how to do it. But I digress, it was really fun and I met loads of wonderful people by being there.

I'll be spending the rest of the month teaching and boxing up my life here in Brooklyn with Neil. We move in about 4 weeks, and once I'm in NJ I'll focus much of my attention on getting outbuildings constructed with Trish & Maureen. A greenhouse, a chicken coop and rabbit housing are on the top of the list of priorities. If we're lucky, we'll get some goat housing and a hay shed built too before it gets too blustery.

I've been spending a lot of time before the move budgeting, making shopping lists of electric fencing and loads of compost. I'm ready to do this. I'm standing still right now and I'm ready to book it to our new life!

On the other hand, I could use this time in between gigs to mend all of my clothes which are starting to look pretty shaggy. I'm a terrible seamstress and could benefit from the practice.

Listen to the words. If you hear them, you won't feel alone anymore.

Cheese Making Sunday!

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Today is my last day as Bing's DIYing expert for the Summer of Doing. Today's search term is "CheeseMaking". Type this term into the new Bing search and enter to win a bunch of great prizes, from Skillshare credits, to homebrewing and cheese making kits!

I used the new Bing today to search for a simple goat cheese recipe, in preparation of my new farm and the dairy goats we hope to bring on this summer.

This recipe from Serious Eats came up, and I gotta say...I'm sold. Few ingredients, minimally fussy preparation and little time is required to make a simple, fresh goat cheese.

Check it out by clicking HERE!

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Lemon season is drawing to a close [here in Nova Scotia], but If you are lucky enough to have some straggly lemons in your neck of the woods that you're looking to use up, I have just the recipe for you. Since this recipe only uses the juice, these lemons don't need to be picture perfect. I used Meyer lemons, but any variety will do nicely.

This jelly is ideal if you (like my husband and I) aren't really a fan of the bitterness of marmalades or other preserves which include citrus peels. It uses only the lemon juice, leaving the jelly with a bright lemon flavour and none of the bitterness. It is perfect on toast or crackers, and it's also amazing stirred into plain yogourt or spread on a crepe. The vanilla part was kind of a happy accident; the only sugar I had on hand (as I realized once I had already started and was too far in to quit) was some vanilla sugar (sugar which had vanilla beans sitting in it for a few months) In it went. The jelly would also be delicious without the vanilla.

Even if they're not used in the jelly, there are a few things you can do with those rinds! After juicing the halves, cut the little nubs off of each half so they will lay flat like a little bowl, and start some seedlings in them. Use them to scrub your cutting boards or pots on their own or with a bit of salt; they work especially well on stainless steel. Or pop them in a small pot with a bit of water and a cinnamon stick and simmer for a little while to make your kitchen smell amazing.

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Meyer Lemon Vanilla Jelly

15 oz lemon juice (12 lemons for me; this may vary, depending on the size of your lemons)
3 ½ c vanilla sugar (or 3 ½ cups sugar with scraped seeds from one vanilla bean added)
1 pouch liquid pectin

Yield: 5 8oz jars

Juice the lemons and strain the juice to remove any pulp or seeds. Place juice in a pan with the sugar and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Using a small metal sieve or spoon, remove the foam on the top of the mixture and add the pectin. Stir. Pour it into sterilized jars and lids. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

I'm Sherrie Graham, an urban homesteader of sorts in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I'm a mother, teacher, and soapmaker, and I blog about it all at www.twentytwopleasant.blogspot.com.

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Looking for inspiration for vertical gardening ideas on the cheap? In honor of Bing's Summer of Doing, I'd like to share some of what I've been doing to get my plants off of the ground to maximize space and improve the overall health of the plants. Plants that sit on the ground provide a perfect environment for fungal and bacterial disease so training your plants to grow vertically helps to improve air flow and keeps plants from touching, minimizing moisture build up and the spread of diseases like powdery mildew and blight.

During my work with Domestic Construction's Design.Plot we've toyed around with a bunch of fun materials that we salvaged and put to use in the garden. Here are some pictures with captions explaining what they are and how to make them!

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(A burlap coffee sack lined with landscaping fabric and planted with herbs. Find instructions for something similar made by my friend Martina HERE )

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(Simple wooden frames, much like those artist stretch canvas over, wrapped with colorful nylon twine and zip-tied to a chain link fence to add color an interest to an otherwise perfectly suitable, albeit boring way to trellis!)

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(Twine and bamboo tipis are a great and inexpensive trellis set up. They also manage to look very neat and manicured once they fill up with a vining bean or cucurbit!)

What is your favorite way to grow vertically? To find more inspiring ideas to GROW UP, search today's term using the new Bing by clicking here!

Check out this rad playlist I contributed to for Bing's Summer of Doing! Pretty good if you ask me!

If you don't have Spotify, you can download it for free at Spotify.com!

We've got a new word of the day coming up so don't forget to check in for chances to win some great DIYing prizes like homebrew kits and Skillshare credits so you can master a skill this summer!

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Home Brew How To: Part 1

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The summery weather has me thirsty. For beer.

Yesterday I stopped by a favorite haunt, Brooklyn Homebrew, with one goal in mind: five gallons of hoppy, summery pale ale. I sometimes dream of cooking up something crazy in my cauldron, like a black ale, or a lager, but I always end up sticking to a good old IPA or, if it's dead-hot summer, a saison. This time around the Brooklyn Homebrew's house recipe pale ale sounded mighty fine, so I gave it a go. It's a partial mash, meaning some grain and some malt extract; I prefer these to all extract brews because they taste better, and they're a lot easier and less fussy than all-grain.

I learned to homebrew from the man himself, Uncle Charlie. Charlie Papazian's book, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, is known as the homebrewer's bible. It's the perfect book for complete beginners, but it also includes more advanced stuff to delve into over time. Highly recommended. But there are lots of free resources out there online, too. One of my favorites is a forum called HomeBrewTalk, which has lots of info and lots of wisdom for grasshoppers.

In my opinion, one of the best parts about learning from Uncle Charlie is his mantra, RDWHAHB... Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

Believe me, it really comes in handy. There are lots of moving parts in homebrewing: temperatures to keep an eye on, time to keep an eye on, sanitizing to do to just about everything, did I just add the aroma hops instead of the bittering hops... it can be easy to get flustered, and something(s) will always go wrong-ish. But luckily, barring complete catastrophe, even if you make mistakes here and there your brew will turn out just fine. Trust me. I've had a carboy volcanically erupt in my bedroom... but what was left ended up being pretty tasty.

Why go through the trouble? HB'ing is a great hobby that pays dividends and gives good buzz. You can spend buttloads on fancy equipment or use pretty much all salvaged stuff, and either way turn out great beer. It comes in handy when you can't afford the good stuff as often as you'd like, or when all you've got for options in the neighborhood are InBev brands. And it's fun!

Well, without further ado, here's my home brew how to, photo-essay style.

Equipment and supplies...
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Bring water to temp.
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Soak grain.
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Happy Humpday, y'all!

Bing's Summer of Doing campaign is in full swing, and the word of the day is "Yarnbombing". I'm their expert in DIY-ing this week so each day I'll be posting tips on each word of the day, Spotify playlists, recommendations, Instagram photos and more!

Search the term HERE using the new socially integrated Bing and enter for a chance to win prizes ranging from Skillshare credit to your own DIY homebrew and cheese kits! Sweet!

Also check out the DIYing Pinterest board for inspiration for your next yardbombing project! Stay tuned for more DIYing throughout the week!

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Just a heads up that today at 5 p.m. EST I'll be heading up a conversation about beekeeping on Twitter in honor of the Summer of Doing campaign with Bing! Ask questions, share insights...I'll be here to get the conversation started.

Follow the conversation at hashtag #SummerOfDoing. My twitter handle is, of course, BKHomesteader.

You can also win a chance to name this here queen bee of mine!

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See you in Twitterland, beekeepers!

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My first honey harvest is coming up soon and my CSA members are in for a treat. I'm including a bit of pollen with each pick up and this week I placed pollen traps from Brushy Mountain on the front of my hives.

Here are a couple short videos demonstrating how they work and what they look like once set up. Not the most graceful design but it works pretty well. It's super easy to install and results in little to no damage to the delicate bees.

The end result: fresh pollen to dust on fresh chevre or consume as a supplement. Check out the nutritional benefits of bee pollen HERE.

The Summer of Doing!

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I hope everyone out there had a great weekend filled with rest and relaxation and lots of good eating.

I'm back at my brooklyn homestead after a week of slinging feed, soil and seeds at Hayseed's Big City Farm Supply and I'm excited to share with you all that the folks at Bing asked me to participate in their new campaign, The Summer of Doing!

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The new Bing has a focus on getting folks out there to do the things they oftentimes read up on via web searches. One way they hope to get people inspired to actually DO is through social media integration of web searches. If your friends have input on a topic that you are researching, say where to get the best street food in Hong Kong you'll be more interested in what your friends have to say about it and confident to get out there and do it!

Each week Bing will feature a new search term --something they want users to get inspired to go out and do. Each search unlocks the chance to win prizes, and learn about the new Bing in a fun, ever-changing way.

How to participate: Visit www.bing.com/doing to search the daily word, share it with friends, and enter to win the week's grand prize. ($1000 in goodies including a huge Skillshare credit, homebrew kits, a vertical gardening set and a cheese making kit!)

This week I'll be the expert for the term DIY-ing! Each day will have topic related to DIY and ways you can be more self-sufficient. From beekeeping to canning, cheesemaking to homebrewing, every day this week will have special blog posts, giveaways, interviews, Instagram photos, Pinterest pinning, Foursquare tips, a Spotify playlist and expert tips from yours truly. We'll even have a live beekeeping chat via Twitter at 5 p.m. tomorrow! (details to come)

Stay tuned for more fun DIY-ing news!! It's going to be a wild week!

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Please help us raise funds to build infrastructure for our new learning farm!

Don't be a sucker

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Rainy evenings like this here in Brooklyn are some of the best times to do a little thinking/reading/researching/planning for your farm/garden/homestead/life.

I cut out from the farm I manage, Brooklyn Grange, a little early today... I normally enjoy the rain, and boy do the crops need it, but after several hours in a trashbag poncho and mud up to your ankles shoveling raised beds and sowing seed, lust for comfort starts to take over.

Now home, nice warm shower taken, emails checked and answered, cup of foraged/grown linden and clover tea at my side, I figured I'd say hello to my homesteading friends after a while being away and tackle a gardening subject that has been a big focus of mine over the past few weeks.

The subject of this post is suckers. Already a pro? Get on with some knitting or whatever.

If you're scratching your head or have heard of suckers but don't really understand how to deal with them or why, read on. Spoiler alert: I am in favor of removing them, but I'm not a sucker about it.

If you've grown a tomato plant, you've dealt with suckers unwittingly or wittingly.

obamas_tomatoes.jpg apparently the Obamas could use a suckering lesson

So it's June, but guess what....it's not too late to start a garden easily, cheaply and still get good yields. There are many crops that are perfect for planting right now, beans, beets, carrots, greens..and you can still get seedlings for those longer season crops like peppers and tomatoes. It's not too late. I promise.

One of the excuses I get most often from wannabe gardeners is that they don't want to commit to building a raised bed in a backyard they aren't sure they are going have access to for long. They may have plans to move, or they are under the watch of a temperamental landlord so they just can't see hauling yard after yard of soil just to have their project brought to a screeching halt by unforeseen circumstances. I get it. It's a valid concern.

BUT!

I have news for those folks. There is low-commitment way to create a garden cheaply and easily. Here are a couple of the ways we've been gardening at Design Plot. The idea is that the garden will constantly be changing...evolving...so we wanted elements that could be modular and made of reclaimed, free materials. These are some of the things we incorporated for the same reasons most people claim they cannot garden in the city.

The Jute/Rice Sack Planter

This is easily my new favorite way to plant vegetables. Double bag two jute sacks (double bagging helps to keep them in tact better as they decompose), roll down to 6-8 inches of depth, fill with potting mix. We sat these on top of pallets to keep them kind of organized and off of the ground where they will rot through faster. Rice sacks are great for a more long term planting solution. Hit up your favorite chinese take out joint for them!

Because these planters are porous, you don't get root bound crops like you would in plastic containers.

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The Pallet Salad Bar

It's important for this sort of garden that you get untreated pallets so that you avoid chemical leaching that could end up in your greens.

Just bust out some of the planks of wood and nail them to the open ends, cut landscaping fabric to size and staple to the underside of the pallet. Lie in place, fill with potting soil and plant with lettuce, mustards, arugula and spinach! Densely planted crops fare better since the soil can dry out pretty quickly.

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The Tire Tomatoes

People like to talk a lot of trash about using tires, and I get it. You don't really want to be eating a bunch of salads grown in decomposing industrial rubber that has god-knows-what looming in it's pores.

But guess what. I live in Greenpoint, home of the 2nd largest underground oil spill in US history, people eat crappy food out of BPA laden cans and plastic bottles so I'm going to pick my battles and say that fruiting plants like peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and ornamentals can totally get planted in some tires with little fear of toxicity. Just avoid the greens. If you disagree, that's fine...but these things are abundant, free and would otherwise end up in a landfill. I'll take it!

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I hate to complain. I really do. I'm pretty lucky in many ways. I don't fail to see how fortunate I've been these past 6 years. I've lived pretty harmoniously in the same house since I moved here from Baltimore. I've had what felt like little resistance from the people around me when I started doing things that most people thought were crazy at the time. I don't want to complain, but I guess that's what I'm about to do.

This past week really did a number on me. A series of expensive automobile troubles, the death of one of my favorite chickens, money issues (there's always money issues if you are me) have just gotten me feeling the lowest I've felt in some time. I actually even cried to my mother like a baby at the worst parts of the week. It was humiliating, but I recognize that all of these problems are nothing more than tiny hurdles to tiptoe over. Sometimes, though, the little things just get into your headspace and swell up until they cripple you. I'm not used to feeling the cosmos resisting me so much these days and all I want to do is just throw my hands up, put all of my critters in a burlap sack and walk out of this city with nothing but the clothes on my back (most likely overalls.)

A ridiculous image. I know. But I'm in a funk and thinking about that makes me smile a little to myself. Running away with a bunch of cute animals in a coffee sack together sounds like a hilarious dream. One that is kind of becoming a reality the more that I think about it. Another reason to rejoice, I suppose.

Anyway, I was laying in bed this morning, staring at the ceiling. (It's where I do all of my best contemplating.) I keep thinking of all of the hard work I'm putting in and how I have literally nothing to show for it except the roof over my head and a full pantry (though I am debt-free). I have no savings. I am hand-to-mouthing it all. I have a car that keeps breaking down and emptying my bank account. I do not have anything that is mine. I feel like a child, but I am not a child. I am 32 years old and I need to get my act together.

This situation is of my making. I am working hard but I am not working smart. I know what I have to do, but I don't think I can do it here. I have limited resources currently (spatially and financially, that is) and high overhead. What I do have here is the support of really great people. That is invaluable...but I fear that it isn't enough...because all of those people are fighting the same battle I am. The battle to survive the NYC lifestyle. Not just survive it but thrive in spite of it. I thought I was thriving, but I was kidding myself for the sake of momentum. When I told another homesteading friend of my situation, he was surprised that I was not "doing well" financially. I'm teaching people how to keep bees and grow radishes in the city....how well could I really be doing?

It was that realization that caused me to finally accept that as much as I really love this place, I am not meant to be living in the thick of it. It's just too expensive and I have too little to work with. I'm glad that I'll be pretty close by so I can maintain some of the relationships I've got here, but I am really relieved that I've got something bigger to try my hand at working smart at for a change.

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Image by Jason Kandel

Goodbye

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Noodle died today. She had been getting progressively weaker over the past few days and I cared for her to the best of my ability, trying to keep her relaxed and in relative comfort. I had to force her to drink water from a dropper several times daily and I could not get her to eat on her own. The entire situation was heartbreaking and made me feel helpless, a feeling I expect I will have to get used to as a full-time farmer. Why couldn't I just put the poor girl down? Was I causing her suffering by allowing her to linger?

It's hard to say, but I know this. I was attached. I raised that tiny flock from day-old chicks and I was so deeply involved with their lives that the line between pet and livestock was a big smudged up mess. I loved that chicken. I love all 4 of them. Loosing one of them hurts.

I am sad that she will never get to experience the new farm, though who knows...life here may have ended up being better for the flock. There are few threats in Brooklyn and they get lots of attention. A fox could come through and steal their lives in New Jersey and I guess that's just part of the deal. If that happens, I'll be very sad about it but I'll try like mad to keep it from happening.

I did the best I could for that poor, sweet chook, but I can't help but feel like I failed at something.

I've been pretty terrible at giving updates that make any sense so far this spring. It's hard to find the time to sit down and put it all into words, so I figure I'll just start giving abridged versions of my week just so my readers know I'm not just sitting around on my duff all day!

This week was my birthday week, but it didn't really feel much like it.

I'll start with the baddies first:

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- Noodle, on of my Rhode Island Red hens has been very slowly dying over the past few days (I thought she was a goner but she keeps hanging on) and I can't muster the nerve to end her suffering. If it was any other bird....I've been giving her water and food and aspirin and have her separated in a warm dark place but there's nothing else to be done.

- The bee gigs I thought I had passed onto someone to take care of were not, so now my schedule is stretched a bit thin all summer long. On the bright side, the folks I'm working with are really great so it's hard to mind too much and come July things will be a little more flexible as a pack boxes for the move.

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- The bugs in the garden are pretty bad this year. I've been ruthlessly squishing aphids, cutworms, cabbage worms and cucumber beetles all week, in an attempt to resist spraying anything that might injure the bees.

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- We're in the last month of our 3 month stint at Hayseed's Big City Farm Supply. We'll be having a sale soon, but you should come get yr stuff while the getting is good!

The goodies:

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+ We're having a seed and seedling swap this Saturday at Hayseed's! Bring your extra seedlings, leftover seeds and something to drink and we'll hang in the garden and do the old fashioned switcheroo!

+ I went to the beach for my birthday and I ate this beautiful pile of food:

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+ For my actual birthday party this Sunday, we'll be doing this:

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+ So many friends have donated to our Kickstarter so far , but we have a LOOOONG way to go. I hate pester folks, but if you want to see us succeed, reposting alone is not enough (though it is greatly appreciated). Please donate anything you can! No amount is too small!

+ We're getting Maremmas for the farm to guard the chickens! Anand Raghoo from Raghoo Farms is helping us out! He keeps Maremmas on his flocks and they do a bang-up job of keeping predators away.

Lookit how cute they are when they are young and guarding Alpacas!

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+ The clock is ticking. We'll be living by the shore in less than two months!

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+ I'll be working with a really great community youth project in Yonkers this summer, teaching young folks how to be the best gardeners and eaters they can be! Can't wait to share more news on that as it all becomes finalized!

Please pardon the pesky posting related to our new homestead project but we very much need the help of our friends and followers to make this farm happen. We've got lots of great rewards to offer including honey, name-a-chicken (with a polaroid mailed to you!), farm stays and more! Please click above to donate.

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My other half

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I tend to forget sometimes that the journey that I started on my own doesn't really belong completely to me anymore. For the past 4 years, I've shared my home and dreams and aspirations with another person. As I gear up to make another move, I need to remind myself that I am not moving alone. It's not MY move, it's OUR move now and I need to make a better habit of painting a more accurate picture of what a huge part of my life this person is.

So here it goes...

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This is Neil. He's my best friend. We met at a Brooklyn bbq 4 years ago and have been dating ever since. For those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting him, you can confirm that he is one of the most gentle, empathetic and happy people ever. He smiles and the world seems brighter. When he's hurt, you hurt. He makes me aspire to be like him. His kindness is infectious. Everyone loves him. He is very difficult to dislike in any capacity. He's smart, he's funny (if you like dad jokes) and he dances like a marionette. Can you tell that I love him? I really do.

Neil is very different from me in that he isn't terribly obsessed with farm related stuff, but he likes me and he likes working with me so he contributes happily. At one point I thought his lack of enthusiasm over farming would be a deal breaker....would I have anything to talk about with someone who likes to ride bikes, noodling around with Arduino and listening to podcasts more than turning compost and pouring through seed catalogs?

The answer was a slow and sneaking "yes". It wasn't head over heels love at first sight. It took time and patience to work it out but I think we've both figured out our role in this relationship. He's the partner I always wanted and I'm so pleased that he thinks it's worth the risk to leave NYC and try something new. He'll still keep his job in the city. I'll get to farm. He'll come home and milk the goats in the evening (::ahem::) and I'll make supper and it will be good.

I can't tell you how less scary having him with me makes all of this.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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