Our Beloved, Beloved horse, Amie, has Died

Our enormously beloved horse, Amie (pronounced in the French, ah-mi) died this morning. She was 30 years old.

There will never be another horse like you, Amie.

Our neighbor owned and loved Amie before we did. My step-daughter Ariel fell in love with Amie as a little girl and wanted to buy her. Charmayne and I had just been married and our horse was the first thing we purchased. Ariel was over-the-moon happy and has loved her horse devotedly ever since. I still don’t think our neighbor really wanted to part with Amie, but she knew how much Ariel loved her, and decided to let us buy her.

Amie was the most gentle children’s horse on earth. This is no exaggeration. She would let the kids walk through her legs for hours. Xander spent so many hours with her. I always knew I could trust Amie with him alone in her pasture from the time he could walk by himself. He was so curious about her and she patiently stood by him while he would walk up and down underneath her belly!! He would check out her teeth, rub her knees, and explore every aspect of this magnificent beast, and she never once blinked an eye.

When both Amie and I were a bit younger, I would ride her for hours. I rode her up the mountain at the mouth of American Fork Canyon. And I used to ride her along the top of Traverse Ridge, before all the houses were built up there. Charmayne would laugh and call her my hobbit horse because Amie was always short, and I am tall, so it never looked right when I was riding her. Me and kids rode her for hours in the pasture. The day came, about five years ago, when Amie was just too old for me to ride her, but she continued to let the kids ride her, almost always bareback.

We had many large groups of kids come and ride Amie. She was the hit of our family parties, and the kids from the extended family would come and ride her. Xander’s kindergarten class came here for a field trip last year and they all rode her. All the grandkids loved her. She will be missed terribly.

Amie was famous. She was featured in my first book, both in print and photos. She is featured in my new book coming out in 2013 -- I just saw her pictures in the proof the publisher sent me last week. Amie was seen by more than 1,000 people who have toured our garden over the past year.

Thirty years old is a very old age for a horse -- it’s 90 in human years. She had been going downhill, losing a lot of weight, and we had been told to prepare for her death. But then we had a vet out, and she had oral surgery, and the vet put her on a special diet -- and Amie began to gain weight. Over the past 2-3 months she had gained about 80 pounds, and had begun to look so much more healthy. She never had a sick day. We had gotten rid of our two cows, and Amie had the green pasture all to herself again, which you could tell she loved. She was happy.

This morning, Ariel went out to feed her breakfast at 7:30 a.m. as usual. She found Amie at the south end of the pasture, behind the hill we had “built” for the kids a couple years ago. She immediately called the house. Charmayne and I were in bed asleep. I heard the phone ring, and then I heard Charmayne scream, and I knew something terrible had happened. We called Conrad and Xander and Ada and Dominick to tell them the news. Xander and Ada came over on their way to school to say goodbye. Xander was wearing his Halloween costume, and went into the pasture, walked over his hill, and ran down the hill to kneel by Amie’s side. Ada, who is only 2, had a hard time understanding.

Amie will always be beloved to me. You were the best horse, Amie. You let the kids love you. We miss you hugely this morning, but we are grateful that you didn’t suffer. You were happy last night! A happy horse for 30 happy years. Mourned by us all.

Even now, two hours after she found her, Ariel is in the pasture alone with her horse. The grass is covered with white frost. -Caleb

Over the Sugar Coma? Try a Healthy Halloween.

From the Daily Herald Provo, written by me :) Photo courtesy Julie Peterson.

You know the drill -- outfit the kids in photo-worthy costumes and let them run the neighborhood to fill buckets of candy. Then comes a saturnalia of sugar -- and when you try to reign it in, the little cuties' behavior can become less than adorable.
Is there a better way?
"For my family, Halloween used to kick off a two-month sugar high that would inevitably end in January with a New Year's resolution to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle," Betsy Schow of Alpine said. "That changed a few years ago when I lost 75 pounds and needed to find ways to keep it off for good."
Schow is the author of a new book, "Finished Being Fat," now available on pre-order, which details her physical and mental journey from plump to fit.
"Even if you're not a recovering junk foodaholic, little tweaks can have big impacts for you and your kids," she said. "A little sugar is nice, but a lot can lead to more than just the sugar crash."
Aside from those expensive trips to the dentist, there's childhood obesity, "which is running rampant in this country," she said. "And studies show that poor diets lead to behavior and focus problems in kids."
Consider not buying the big bag of candy this year.
"Use Halloween as an opportunity to emphasize fun in a healthier way and hand out some alternative treats," she said.
The best way to stave off a sugar coma is to feed children first, said Leslie Smoot of Real Foods Market in Orem.
"The art of trick-or-treating begins with a good pot of chili," Smoot said. "A good homemade chili will fill the family with a delicious bowl of nutrition before everyone runs out the door to collect treats. Our chef at Real Foods Market makes a large batch of chili every Halloween. It is a perfect solution for families on a busy Halloween night."
"This same strategy can also help children and parents avoid overeating at a Halloween party," said Mindy Probst, registered dietitian at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, in a statement to the Daily Herald.
Next, choose fun but healthy treats to hand out. Smoot suggests mini boxes of raisins, nut butter packets, SeaSnax roasted seaweed snacks, cheese sticks, water bottles, candy tarts, Spry gum (made with xylitol instead of aspartame), individually wrapped macaroon cookies or brownies, snack bars, granola bars or seed bars such as "Bumble Bars," or beef or turkey jerky sticks.
Schow suggests homemade treats including roasted pumpkin seeds topped with pumpkin pie spice, sandwich bags of popcorn tossed in pumpkin spice, or purchased goodies like Goldfish crackers, fruit leather or low sugar juice boxes.
Or forget treats all together and hand out what Schow calls Jack-O-Packs. Put a Halloween-themed coloring page and stickers and a crayon or two into a sandwich bag, or novelty toys like spider rings, fangs, temporary tattoos, spooky pencils or a small thing of play dough. Or give out homemade "monster dough" in black, green or orange.
Parents also have to take some control after the children get home with their sugary bounty, Probst said.
"Take the time to divide it into individual baggies," she said. "Use the snack-sized baggies rather than the sandwich size for more control. Then set the baggies somewhere out of reach and only allow one baggie per day."
Or better yet, make a trade.
"Find something your kids want more than candy and allow them to trade their candy in for it," she said. "The Brooks family of Highland has been using this strategy for years, with no complaints from their four children, ages 12, 9, 6 and 4. One year, the trade was for money. Another year it was for toys and another was for dinner and a movie."
Don't leave candy in plain sight. And read the labels.
"All candy is empty calories, but some will have more fat than others. Staying healthy around Halloween is all about portion control," Probst said.

Self-Planting Autumn Vegetables

[pictured: self-planted bush bean on Oct. 9. This bean and its neighbors have now been transplanted to a cold frame with other beans for winter growing.]

I’m always happy when vegetables in my garden plant themselves. There is no easier gardening in the world!

Having a self-planting garden is easy to do when you are using the right varieties of seed and have the right kind of garden (as detailed in my Forgotten Skills book).

My self-planted vegetables that have come up this fall include mustard greens, cabbages, rutabaga, peas, lettuce, and beans. On Oct. 14, I even found a baby tomato plant, about an inch high. All of my other outdoor tomatoes have frozen, but this one is fine and happy because it is so close to the ground, it didn’t get frozen (the ground releases heat at night). So I put a cloche over it. So far it’s doing great! We’ll see what happens.

[pictured: self-planted Osaka Purple Mustard greens. Seed for this plant is one of the varieties I sell.]

Another great thing about self-planted veggies is that they thrive. For example, I planted rutabagas, and then transplanted some when they came up so thick (because I over seeded). But the rutabagas that planted themselves came up before anything I planted, and are now more advanced and will produce mature roots before the ones I planted. Kinda makes we wonder why I even bothered planting :)

[pictured: self-planted rutabagas, one of the best autumn vegetables and one of the least used!]

One caveat of self-planted volunteers is that you may not want them where they are growing. I had beans volunteer, but where I have them is covered by a low cold frame for winter lettuces. The beans were crowding the lettuce and needed more space. So I transplanted the beans over to the beans I planted in fall -- and they are all thriving, in full flower right now.

[pictured: a sea of self-planted Swiss chard (among multiplier autumn onions)]

As I’ve said before, when I married my wife, she told me that rule of the house was that everyone and everything has to thrive on benign neglect, including husbands. In the garden, this means that the garden has to do most of the work itself -- we are busy. So when the garden plants itself, it’s just following the rules! -Caleb

[pictured: self-planted baby cabbages among lentils in a cold frame]

Darkness in the Soul of a Marriage, as Daughters Watch

I came face to face tonight with a terrible reminder that some people among us live in spiritual darkness.

We went to the Cornbellys maze and fall festival tonight as a gift from my work. Xander and Ada did the pillow trampoline and bounce houses etc. etc. and had a wonderful time. But at one point, I happened to turn around and found myself unexpectedly face to face with a hulking man just as he angrily called his wife a bitch.

He did this in front of his two very young daughters.

I was so startled I just said “whoa.” The man did not meet my eyes, but his wife did, and the look in her eyes was haunting. I was swept along by the crowd and I did not see them again.

My first thought was, did Xander hear that? Luckily Xander was headlong for the three-story climbing wall and was just far enough ahead of me that he didn’t seem to hear.

It is difficult to imagine marriage where a man would talk to his wife like that. If I ever even thought about saying such a thing -- in front of the kids or alone with my wife -- I promise you that me and my belongings would be on the curb about five seconds after I closed my mouth. My wife would never, ever put up with that.

Years ago, I was in the spice market in Luxor, Egypt and found myself standing in front of a man who was beating his young son with a stick. I’ve never felt so helpless. That moment has stayed with me. It still pains me. This is how I feel tonight.

Degrading your wife while your kids listen is the least manly thing a man can do. The most cowardly thing. How terrible that his tender-hearted daughters witnessed this. And if he acts like this at a crowded family-friendly event, imagine how he acts behind closed doors. I hope his wife and daughters are safe. I don’t know how to help them.

But I do know how to make sure that Xander is brought up to honor the women around him, and Ada to expect vastly different treatment and tolerate nothing less.


Reader Letters to Me -- Thanks!

[pictured -- one single day's worth of letters to me from readers -- 25 letters!]

Every day, my mailbox is full of letters from you who have bought my books, and my email box too. Thank you for all your wonderful letters. I'm sorry to say there is no way I could keep my day job and even begin to write you back. But I wanted to share just a few of the hand-written notes I've gotten over the past week or two. I'm so grateful to everyone for your enthusiasm for my books, for your enthusiasm for getting yourselves and your families healthy, and for being self-sufficient! You, my readers, make me smile! Thank you for your works of encouragement to me. -Caleb :)

"Thank you so much for the yeast flakes! I am excited to get them started. I have had success using sourdough starter in the past but my children don’t like the flavor so I’m looking forward to a milder bread very much. It is so nice of you to share! Thank you!" - Tracy S.

"Thank you for sharing your talents of provident living. Your timely (newspaper) article was perfect, as I have been learning about ways to improve my family’s health." -Stefanie C.

"Thanks so much for all the wonderful information that answers so many questions that no one else seems to find important. Thanks so much for the yeast start also." -Lee V.

"Thank you so much for the yeast flakes you are sending. I am gluten intolerant and am thirlled to get to eat bread again. I bought your book and love the information. Thank you soooo much!" -Tami C.

"I LOVED your book! I’ve been on a similar quest to stop poisoning my family with grocery store food. I looked for this exact information a few years ago and came up empty-handed, except for a starter recipe with no explanation that looked questionable. Now it makes sense. Thank you for the gift of self-reliance and nutrition, and thanks for the yeast starter." - Hannah G. "PS, I’ve been telling everyone about your book."

"I did purchase your new book and my husband and I can’t wait to get started. We actually have your first book as well." -Katie P.

Winter Garden Prep 2012

[pictured: baby winter lettuces -- my fastest growing variety. There is also a new variety of multiplier onion interplanted here, which I am testing.]

A lot of you have been asking how my winter garden prep is going, so I thought I’d share a few pictures.

[two large cold frames. The one on the left is protecting peas and multiplier onions. The one on the right is protection lentils and baby cabbages.]

Winter garden preparation is pretty simple -- plant the winter seeds, and cover the mature plants that I want to last through the winter. My vegetable-by-vegetable guide to winter gardening (the first ever published in the U.S. to my knowledge) is coming out in April, and goes to press in the first week of November.

[pictured: This glass door was on our house for many years, but a few weeks ago we replaced it. I’m just setting it on top of baby lettuces in the raised bed.]

I should also note that two nights ago we had our first hard freeze of winter -- it got down to 24 degrees. Just the first of many. We’ve also had about six more minor freezes (28-32 degrees). I have ten cold frames out right now.

[pictured: The glass house cold frame is protecting baby cabbages and baby cantaloupes. The other two are protecting winter lettuces.]

Here is what I have planted from seed in the last few days and weeks:
- multiplier onions (have not been in a cold frame yet).
- about ten varieties of winter lettuce (some proven, some as tests; some are in cold frames, others are not just because I’ve run out of cold frames.)
- a new Chinese kale (doing excellently so far; it has been in a cold frame).
- leeks (just sprouted, not in a cold frame yet).
- a very rare winter onion (seeds just sprouted outside today, Oct. 8; not in a cold frame yet)
- winter peas (in a cold frame)
- Swiss chard (growing like weeds, about 1.5 inches tall; not in a cold frame yet)
- baby cabbages, up to six inches tall, both in and out of cold frames and all doing well.
- baby carrots, thriving and not in a cold frame.
- my largest-ever planting of winter wheat (up and doing nicely; not in a frame and never will be)
- winter cantaloupe (doing great so far, but it is just in a cold frame and needs desperately to be transplanted to a hot bed. I have four baby plants, and two leaves on one of them froze the night it was 24 degrees).
- I also have fall bush beans in a cold frame. They are just going into flower and are doing excellently.
- Here is a list of the mature vegetables still in the garden: beets, turnips, Swiss chard, collard greens, lentils, rutabaga, brussels sprouts, longkeeper corn, carrots, cabbages, and herbs also in the garden, all without any protection and doing very well.

[pictured: frost-killed Italian zucchini]

So far it’s looking like another happy winter of fresh garden eating :) -Caleb