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Saturday, December 11, 2010


New Little Brother, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Struggle

In case you're wondering...yes, I had a baby. Surprise. Today was my official due date but my son Theodore Anthony arrived a wee bit early. Since his arrival on Oct. 8 at 2:14am I've been off bed-rest but, obviously, a bit preoccupied. Birth at 34 weeks meant Teddy was in the NICU for two and half weeks. During that time we received the difficult news that Teddy will also have Spinal Muscular Atrophy like his older brother Fulton.
Since that day in the NICU when the doctor gave me the results I have been struggling to figure out what the hell is going with my life. I've been overwhelmed with sorrow, furious with God and numb to everything around me. My faith, which sustained me during the period following Fulton's diagnosis, is suffering. I've stopped reading and writing. And, most upsetting, I've given up hope.
You wouldn't know it to look at me. I still love to be with my children, most especially Teddy and Fulton. I love spending time with my husband. We all enjoy the company of friends. But when I am still, and think of my situation, I am as I have mentioned.
Time will lessen the pain and I hope it will bring understanding of WHY, God WHY?! rather than more misfortune. Fulton's diagnosis made me a different person. I'm not sure what Teddy's diagnosis means for me now.
I will write again. I'm sure I'll need to in order to sort out my thoughts and heal but don't look for me on here too much. Perhaps a hibernation is in order.
You may take away this from my experience, because God willing you will never experience anything half as horrible- Nothing in life is certain. Time is short. You are more blessed than you believe so suck it up. Sorry if those sound cliched but any deeper meanings escape me at the moment. If there is something profound to be learned, I have yet to be enlightened.
I know that it is only through my faith that I will come through this, even though right now it seems that it is God alone who has caused/allowed this tragedy to befall me and more horribly on my children. I am trying to persevere and force the prayers to come. Your prayers, as always, are welcomed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Kelly's Kards

I've added a widget on the right to display some Christmas cards I've been designing while on bedrest. Thankfully, graphic design remains something I can do from bed. I'm still an amateur, but it's something I enjoy and involves little, if any cursing on my part, unlike most creative endeavors (including writing) that I undertake.
The cards have a definite style, which may or may not appeal to you. Please, spread the word to anyone you know who may appreciate my designs. If I can sell a million or so of these greeting cards, my husband can stay at home and focus on running the homestead rather than continue to frantically search for a new soulless job. (I'm only partially kidding.)
Thanks again everyone for your prayers and support.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Curse of Eve From A Different Perspective

Thankfully, since my last post, I've returned home (much to the relief of my children) but I'm still confined to my bed. I hope I can stay here for awhile, but just going to the doctors office for a check up makes my blood pressure rise, so we'll see.

As I lay here I've had quite a bit of time to reflect upon this whole 'mystical' journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Even though I'm a seasoned pro by modern standards I continue to be amazed at the movement I feel from the child inside of me, and apprehensive at the thought of delivering said child. Labor and delivery has always gone easy for me, so I've always managed to avoid all drugs. Many times, the attending doctors and nurses don't believe me when I tell them the baby is coming because I've barely arrived at the hospital and I'm not screaming for an epidural. I know my experience is unusual and I know many women have reasons for choosing to rely on pain medication during childbirth. However, a conversation with a close friend a few months back helped me to find new value in the suffering of pregnancy, and especially childbirth, and to see 'the pain of Eve' as an under appreciated gift of sorts. Seriously, hear me out.

Nowadays, we as a culture avoid all pain and suffering. With the bevy of drugs available to us, why should anyone be burdened by pain? Alleviating the pain of childbirth is a natural extension of this mindset. Interestingly, there are those who feel the pain of childbirth is the result of years of women being conditioned by society or the Church to feel pain during childbirth and with proper coaching, we should be able to have pain free childbirth -like animals. (Experts words, not mine.) If we had never been told that a painful childbirth was the curse of Eve, it would never had occurred to us to experience pain during delivery. Then there is the more widely held belief that child birth is painful, just because IT IS and that masking the pain with drugs is preferable to experiencing that pain.

Now, if you hold the belief that childbirth is painful, you have two options, ignore the pain (and in some cases, whatever else you body is trying to tell you during childbirth) through artificial means or accept that pain is a part of childbirth, and see it as a means to increase in holiness. Perhaps, God 'cursed' Eve with pain in childbirth so that she, and all her daughters, would have a a great and unique means to achieving holiness. As Catholics, we know that our suffering in this world can be lifted up for many intentions. As a woman who has experienced the pain of childbirth, I wish I would have thought about offering up those hours for departed family members, for the conversion of sinners or any number of problems facing my family or society at large. Can you imagine the power if all women embraced even a small part of the suffering of childbirth and offered it up for a good cause? So often we find ourselves in challenging situations and we forget to offer up our troubles, but with childbirth, you have months to plan and usually months of the discomforts of pregnancy in addition.

Given my difficult pregnancy this time around, I've already been thinking what I can focus my suffering towards. Certainly, there's times I'm laying here feeling sorry for myself and NOT about how my experience can help other souls. But it's a goal and in those moments between contractions which I know are only a few weeks away I hope I can remember the specific intention I've selected on which to direct my suffering and less on the pain of the moment.

I'm certainly not superwoman, and many women admittedly tell me they reach for the drugs ASAP because they're wimps in the delivery room. I won't argue with them but I hope that at least the idea that the pain of childbirth can be a GOOD thing, eternally speaking, will give women pause before asking for any drug.

Maybe God didn't curse Eve with painful childbirth after all. Maybe, knowing the strength of our characters as mothers when asked to do the ultimate-carry and bring life into this world- He designed a process to extend the wonder to the spiritual world too. We have the opportunity to unite our suffering, and ultimately joyful birth, with the pain of Christ crucified and His promise of eternal life for all.

"27. Saint Paul speaks of such joy in the Letter to the Colossians: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake"(88). A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering. This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly, but seems to make him a burden to others. The person feels condemned to receive help and assistance from others, and at the same time seems useless to himself. The discovery of the salvific meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person "completes what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. In the Body of Christ, which is ceaselessly born of the Cross of the Redeemer, it is precisely suffering permeated by the spirit of Christ's sacrifice that is the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world's salvation. It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption. In that "cosmic" struggle between the spiritual powers of good and evil, spoken of in the Letter to the Ephesians(89), human sufferings, united to the redemptive suffering of Christ, constitute a special support for the powers of good, and open the way to the victory of these salvific powers. "

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Laid up

Well, it looks like I've found the time I wanted for blogging. I'm currently on hospital bedrest due to hypertension and the fear of pre-eclampsia. Even if I get to go home tomorrow, I will be spending the remainder of the pregnancy in bed. I'm currently at 33 weeks and I'd like to make it another 3-4 but my blood pressure seems to have other ideas. Thankfully the baby is growing well and is very active.
With this time I will try to bring you up to speed on our homestead. My husband and I always have the best intentions about blogging as things happen, but, well....moving on.
Our chicks are now about two months old. We lost another one, probably to a hawk soon after we let them start free ranging around the yard. We fenced them off again until they managed to find a way out of their yard on their own-Mom in the lead. Now they've all moved into the main coop with the other hens and spend their days grazing the yard with their aunts. And all the chickens have adjusted to our new mouser, Butters, who so far has only killed a cricket, but I'm sure will be an effective deterrent against mice this winter... if he ever stops napping.
Although our spring and summer crops were dismal, our fall crops are coming in nicely. Lots of carrots, lettuce, peas and broccoli are peaking out. We managed one more nice pumpkin before the entire plant succumb to beetles and with cool weather finally approaching, hopefully, Tony will get a pie or two made. (And bring me a slice.)
Tony's unemployment has led to lots of improvements around the house finally getting done; many relaying on ingenuity to make up for lack of funds. And as fall birthdays and the holidays rapidly approach,we are working on creating more thoughtful gift ideas for family and friends. Thankfully, because we have always been conscientious in our spending the kids have not noticed a change in lifestyle and are a bit puzzled when Tony mentions getting another job.
We closely follow news on the economy and have to laugh at articles that try so hard to instill buyer confidence or insist on real change after elections this year. Both parties are to blame for this fiasco, and families like ours are struggling as the mud is thrown.
My medial bills and Fulton's are the largest unknown expense that seems to keep throwing our books out of wack. Weekly, new bills show up- a specialist co-pay we missed or a deductible on labwork from months ago. As the deadline for Tony's insurance coverage quickly approaches, we're investigating all our options and hoping the state programs cover us as well a they claim to. That is, if they ever return our calls.
So dear readers, thank you for checking back with us. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers, and know we do the same for you.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Autumn Revival

And just as I predicted-BOOM, it's September. We're getting back into the swing of things (aka new school year) and I've been mentally hashing out several entries. Tony and I hope to get back to posting ASAP. Check back later this week-I promise! Until then, a wonderful quote from "The Duty of Delight, The Diaries of Dorothy Day."

"I have fallen in love many a time in the fall of the year. I mean those times when body and soul are revived, and in the keen clear air of autumn after a hot exhausting summer, I felt new strength to see, to "know" clearly, ... to look upon my neighbor and to love. "
-October, 1969

Monday, August 02, 2010

A Successful Hatch!

It seems I was a bit pessimistic in my prediction at the end of the last post. Our broody hen hatched seven healthy chicks! And she is doing a great job as a mother hen, which is good news because occasionally a hen will brood, then ignore the chicks (or even kill them).

Only one egg did not hatch, and that was one that got slipped in with others before I moved the broody to her own private quarters. That egg was probably a couple days behind the others. After awhile the hen had to give up on it to tend to the seven peeps running around her. I candled it and could see a live chick in there, so I tried to incubate it with a heat lamp, but it didn't work.

The seventh egg to hatch seemed to have trouble getting out of the egg. It was a full day after the first ones hatched. I don't know if it was necessary but I finally just broke it out myself. But the hen was tending to the others and she wouldn't go back to that one to set on it and warm it up. The other chicks, who were all quite mobile, kept stepping on the poor thing, so I took isolated that one and put the heat lamp on it for a few hours. Once it dried off and got its feat under it a little, I slipped it in with the rest. Three days later and all the chicks look good.

Friday, July 23, 2010


For the first time, we have a setting hen. I had not planned to get any chicks from these hens for a couple reasons. First, I butchered all of the roosters that we got with them. Second, Rhode Island Reds are not generally broody. They have been bred to produce lots of eggs, then forget about them. We have Reds that are more of a heritage breed (as opposed to Production Reds who have even less of their maternal instincts in tact). So I wasn't too surprised when a few (out of 19) of them starting sitting in their nest boxes all day.

The problem is that when they go broody, they don't lay eggs. One hen in particular was very persistent and since we recently got a few roosters from a friend, I decided to let her give it a try.
We took all the eggs that were laid that day and stuck them under her until she couldn't cover any more. I might have let some other hens try, but a couple days after starting with this hen, our last rooster got picked off by a fox. All we had left was pile of feathers. Hopefully he will leave us a legacy. The Lord killeth and the Lord giveth life (1 Kings 2:6).

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. I have already learned a lot about hatching eggs. Unfortunately I tired to leave her in the coop with the other chickens. That was a big mistake. Other hens still tried to squeeze in there and lay more eggs in that nest. Finally a couple eggs got broken. One was unfertalized, so no big deal. But for the other I could see an embryo in there. Then of course the broken eggs made a mess all over the other eggs. As I was cleaning them I broke another one that had an embryo. So we are two down already.

Last week I candled eggs for the first time. To make a long story short, I think we have four or five good eggs. There were three I wasn't sure about, so I left them under the hen. Then a couple others were unfertilized so I pulled them out. We now have about nine days to go. It will be pretty exciting to see what we get!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Pickles, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

July Reflection

Summer is always a busy time for our family. Adding a garden, homeschooling and animal care on top of family vacations, picnics, graduation parties, etc. means Labor Day is upon us before we know it. Our schedule is compounded by regular specialist visits for our youngest, plus the added doctor visits for 'new baby' and me. (We don't share baby names until the child arrives so around here, everyone addresses my growing mid section as 'new baby'.)
My husband's unemployment has been a mixed blessing. His free time is quickly consumed by tasks that would have otherwise dragged into the evening or stole precious weekend hours from the family. Farming, and homesteading, is a full-time job but unfortunately, doesn't provide the money for the mortgage or enough food for the refrigerator -at least not yet.
Reaching the point of self sufficiency is certainly a ways off for us. Plants will only grow so fast and hens will only lay so much and we understand so little of it all. Unfortunately, the learning curve is costly. We thought baby lightning bugs were living amongst our plants. Come to find out they're striped cucumber beetles carrying bacteria that are already in the process of destroying our melons, pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers. Unlike our ancestors, we can always run to the store, so this lesson doesn't equal starvation but it means we won't enjoy more than the two jars of pickles in the fridge and probably no homegrown pumpkins.
But there's still hope for the soybeans, and despite a late start, the carrots, basil and pole beans too. As a consolation prize, we've been allowed by our neighbor the farmer to pick as many tomatoes as we'd like. Despite being coated with pesticides, I look forward to freezing batch upon batch of homemade sauce.
Life in the Garden State means the remainder of summer will be spend in the soil and playing in the sand. Being only a short trip from the coast means leaving animals and returning before they miss us, a luxury afforded few homesteaders. And once the shore is out of our system maybe we'll finally start talking seriously about getting that family cow.
The pleasure of the summer season and the joyful anticipation of many things (Fulton's wheelchair, a month off from school, the new baby) is a welcome change from the melancholy of the spring. Even the thought of reworking the budget and becoming more 'creative' with funds isn't enough to dampen my spirits; rather, I am excited by the challenge. There is much here that is ready to bear fruit and lay seed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Hello TNW readers! As my dear wife mentioned about four weeks ago, I am joining her here on TNW to write a bit about our homestead. For a while now we have been thinking about starting a new blog about homesteading, but since she renewed TNW, we decided just to do it here. To start with, I will give an overview of why we homestead.

Initially we wanted some measure of independence from the modern food supply system, and from the broader economy in general. We are not far along with that, but even the fairly minimal progress we have made is very satisfying. It is also about living more simply. By providing for ourselves, on our own land and by our own labor, we know there are few things that are under own power to provide, and what ever happens to the value of the Euro will have no bearing on them. To my mind, that brings a little bit of sanity to an insane world. Simple living is also antithetical to consumerism. Being committed to that life style means that we live with less stuff, we have fewer gadgets, machines, and trinkets that demand our attention. By using and having less, we reduce our bills and thus reduce the income that we need.

There are also spiritual advantages to working the land (to whatever extent you can). When you grow or raise your own food you are working directly with the system God made for us. You see first hand how His creation works, and you even participate in it! You have to pay attention to the rhythms He established in the seasons and in the weather. There is even a kind of liturgy to it. Indeed there are many facets of the Church's liturgy that dovetail with agricultural activity. There are Rogation Processions and Embertides, and various rites of blessing in the Roman Ritual. Soon you find yourself paying more attention to the work of God's hands, and less attention to the works of men.

Finally, homesteading is also a great education for children. They see where food comes from, the work that goes into it, the value of good food. They learn some measure of self sufficiency. They learn how to make do with what is available. They learn a little about the animal kingdom, and learn how the natural world works. It also prepares them for modernist twaddle about human oppression of animals and that kind of nonsense. As a good example, my daughter was reading a silly book about giants the other day. In one part of the book the nice giant tells the little girl in the story that humans are the only beings that kill their own kind. Giants don't, and neither do animals, according to this large fellow. Well, tell that to the rooster we had last winter who got dethroned as king of the roost.

In short, homesteading isn't just a hobby for us. It is part and parcel of our lives. To some extent is even part of how we live out our Catholic faith. Hopefully it will not be long until I can write more posts about the specifics of what we do here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Government "Charity", Part I, The Problem.

On June 28th my youngest son Fulton turned 2, a day we were uncertain we would see a year ago. As mentioned in an earlier post, Fulton has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. When we received this diagnosis just we were under the impression he presented as a Type 1. Most children with Type 1 SMA die before their second birthday. (Since those early days, we've come to realize Fulton does not have this most severe form of SMA and we anticipate more memorable birthdays with him and all our children.)
With the arrival of his toddler years, we are anxiously awaiting his power wheelchair. Our 15 passenger van is equipped with a wheelchair lift and we recently christened (at a Nativity of St. John the Baptist Party) our new deck with handicap ramp. Though somewhat bittersweet, we have rejoiced at these developments; brought about not through government programs, but through the overwhelmingly charitable acts of our friends and family.
Being the parent of a special needs child has opened my eyes painfully wide to the problems inherent in government run social programs. I have always argued here on TNW that charity is best carried out by Christians and neighbors not faceless agencies and government bureaucracies. It is now with personal experience behind me that I more fervently defend my earlier assessment. (The only exception I will make is for the NJ Early Intervention program. So far, it has been a lifeline for me, especially in regards to my social worker. But I will touch on them more in Part II. )
Our experience with other county and state agencies has been nothing but red tape, misdirected calls combined with a continuous waiting game. For example, my son will be receiving a powerwheel chair.This is standard for SMA children his age. Our cozy farmhouse needed major modifications just to get Fulton and his chair through the door. Thankfully, we already had a bedroom and full bath on the first floor. And because of his age, his chair should be small enough to fit through even our old, narrow interior doorways. But we needed at the very least a ramp and new back entrance door. The first agency I was referred to was just reorganized due to budget cuts. I was bumped from one office to another, given mis-information by the second office, re-called the first office after getting help from my social worker and told my request for ramp was submitted and someone would be contacting me. I was informed that once contacted I would get an evaluation of my house and the evaluator would then determine our families needs in regards to renovations and what their office would contribute. Then I could get three estimates and, with the departments approval, have the work done. That was four months ago and I have yet to hear back from them.
Our county ran a program similar to the state one, but, when employed, my husband made too much to qualify. Once he was laid off we inquired again and learned it was at least a four month wait to initiate the process. And then once the ball was rolling, the county would select our builder and take a lien again our house, so while we would save money now, the total cost would be deducted from the sale of our house.
These are the programs that are in place to help families. Seriously.
I won't even launch into all the issues we're dealing with applying for medical aid. That's a whole separate post.
Thankfully, we had friends and family throw themselves into getting our house ready ASAP. This was crucial because Fulton's chair is arriving in just a few weeks-ahead of schedule even! If we had relied on a government program, Fulton's chair would be sitting unused, for possibility months.
So what about those who don't have the support of friends, family or the community? What of those who can only turn to the government for aid? They're going to have to sit and wait. Either trapped in their homes, unable to get out, or stuck in a hospital or rehab facility. I've been investigating the ramp issue since last winter because I knew Fulton's chair would be ordered this spring or summer. What about those who are effected in a sudden accident? A car accident victim no longer able to walk-his family is expected to plan for home modifications and fill out reams of paperwork while making life or death decisions in the ER? Because otherwise, how will anything be done by the time he's able to come home?
I understand the need for government programs to provide a safety net so no one slips through the cracks but relying on the government for immediate needs seems downright impossible and even dangerous. When first told of all the programs available to help us, I was so relieved, but as I quickly saw the restrictions, limitations, etc, honestly, I panicked. There were programs to help, but that would take to long as mentioned above. Programs that would pay, but we'd have to pay the money up front.-which we've done to modify our van with a wheelchair lift; maxing our card out in the process as we wait for the reimbursement check. And there are programs to help with medical expenses but they require a regular scouring of our financial records and if we make too much one month, sorry, no help or, better yet, whoops, we overpaid, your family owes the government some money back.
Families who come to rely on these programs quickly learn that getting ahead equals less assistance even if getting ahead only means a promotion to night manager at McDonalds. That promotion may bring you more income but not enough to meet the demands of raising a family member with a disability. So one is forced to stay destitute, and live off the system, or become independently wealthy in order to cover all the needs of their family member. Those of us trying to stay middle class and not fall into poverty are totally screwed, to put it mildly. Our family's financial planning in regards to saving for our children's future and our retirement is actually detrimental to obtaining certain types of aid. We will have to exhaust all these savings, ie wipe them out, to become eligible for certain coverage. Because we acted fiscally responsible, the government will not help us. We are not wealthy. Our kids do not have millions set up in a trust fund somewhere. Our 401k will not last us very long, especially given the fact that my husband was just laid off. But rather than helping us to protect those assets, which will make our family less of a burden down the road, we need to burn through them- a scenario familiar to many people before they reach the level of poverty the government deems worthy of assistance.
It is a difficult situation to understand unless you're in it. People do not want to rely on government aid, however the burden of raising a medically needy family member will consume, in time, all your resources. The average middle class family does not have a huge amount of savings and usually has a bit of debt. It is hard to adjust an already tight budget for the unpredictable financial demands that accompany any medical disability.
Once a family comes to rely on the system, it is hard to escape and when you are trapped in a hopeless situation, it is easy to see how some people come to take advantage of the system or feel entitled to its benefits. The system itself is so demeaning, it is easy to be callous and demeaning right back at it. What would be your enticement for improving your situation? It's not simply a matter of picking yourself up by your bootstraps. Medical costs are high. You might be able to save a thousand here or a hundred here but when your child requires an emergency visit that totals tens of thousands of dollars, pinching pennies will not help you. Outside assistance is necessary because, who has tens of thousands of dollars in reserve?
The government does of course, but to them, you are a number or case file and in order to be fair and not have their resources abused you must take a number, wait your turn and follow the government protocol. You might never meet the person who processes your request or set foot in that departments office. To my friends and family, I am Kelly M., mother of Fulton. If I am in need, they will step forward and offer prayers, meals, money or just a shoulder to cry on within hours day or night. I can visit them or they will show up at my door and they give only because they want too and not because I filled out my form properly and waited six months for them to process my request.
How can we as Catholics, and Christians, save people from falling into a hopeless system?

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Winnowing , originally uploaded by KMantoan.

Tonight I plan on baking bread from our first harvest of winter wheat. Despite being trampled by children earlier this spring, our small patch managed to produce enough flour for an entire loaf of whole wheat bread. Not bad for my husband's first experiment with grain. I have a recipe for 100% whole wheat bread from King Arthur Flour that the whole family can agree on. If you visit my Flickr stream you'll see the progress from harvest to sifting. It went well enough for us to plan a larger patch for next year.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fresh Chicken

Fresh Chicken, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

This kids watch Papa clean a rooster before breakfast.

The Roost

The Roost, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

This is the door to our chicken coop. The kitschy art was a craft project my in-laws undertook sometime in the 70's. The rooster on the front is actually quite similar to one we just received, with two others, from some friends. The children have named the rooster that looks like this one Chanticleer after a children's book 'Chanticleer and the Fox' (taken from Chaucer's Caterbury Tales.) By the end of the week, all three should be either in my freezer or part of some leftovers in my fridge. I love, love, love me some fresh chicken.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recommended Reading

A friend of mine recently took an interest in urban gardening and was asking me for books, blogs, and assorted resources for learning more. I thought I would pass along my reading list. Feel free to add your own suggestions via comments. My husband and I still have much to learn ourselves so don't skimp on any good recommendations (or shameless self-promotion.)
The first category of books I want to mention are more interested in discussing the question of why to homestead, live simply and make do with less rather than just how-to. (Though many also contain great tips.) These books helped changed my mind and made me more open to ideas that run contrary to popular consumer culture. It's hard to see the benefits of laboring over your own garden or herd if you value convenience more than quality.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette
The Simple Living Guide
Better Off
Crunchy Con
Ten Acres Enough
Mary Jane's Farm Magazine-try to get ahold of the early issues.
And, of course, my study of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker Movement and Distributism helped solidify my beliefs in homesteading and self sufficiency as a something that is seamlessly woven into my faith as a Catholic. Our earthy pursuits not only feed our bodies but our souls as well. There is dignity in our work on the land and joy in sacrificing the excesses of materialism. Our choices speak about us as Catholics, not just consumers.
I also thing there's bevy of books and websites one can read to open one's eyes to role of Big Ag and our country's food supply. When you understand where the neatly packaged, heavily processed foods you've come to rely on actually come from, it becomes easier to see the value in reading labels, shopping locally and setting up a raised bed out back.
Omnivores Dilemma
The Botany of Desire
The Unhealthy Truth
The Organic Consumers Association's website is constantly updated with great articles about food, organic and otherwise.
I also recently discovered the La Vida Locavore blog which pulls great info from across the Internet and compacts it into one concise, tasty package.
And once you have bushels of fresh veggies you'll need to figure out what to make with them. I like, finding another recipe for zucchini so much easier.
The More with Less Cookbook- proves you don't need meat with every meal.
Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family
Laurels Kitchen-Laurel's Bread Book is equally awesome. I feel guilty for owning a bread machine every time I see this book on my shelf.
Once you've decided to change your lifestyle and become a creator of your food source rather than just a consumer, there are plenty of resources to help you try your hand at homesteading or urban gardening. Regardless of the size of your apartment, city lot, suburban yard or country acreage you can do it! Really. There's lots of people out there doing the same thing and learning as they go. There are so many wonderful books, blogs and magazines filled to the brim with information. You'll still make mistakes along the way but you might discover some new tricks too.
Blogs-(You can visit all these from my sidebar.)
Path to Freedom
The Yeoman Farmer
Homegrown Evolution
Mother Earth News
Backwoods Home
Urban Gardener-just discovered this new magazine and it looks pretty good.
Anything written by Joe Salatin
Barnyard in your Backyard-good overview
Storey's Guide to Chickens-great in depth book. Storey's makes many other guide books too.
(Online, you can visit Be sure to check out all their sister sites.)
The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It
Back to Basics
Compost This Book
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Root Cellaring
Preserving Food...
The New Square Foot Gardening-This is what we use for many of our veggies. Fool proof if it wasn't for our clever chickens.
The Bountiful Container - Great book or growing tons of stuff in very little space. You don't need to hang your tomatoes upside down to save room!
These are mostly books I own. There are plenty more I'd still love to read but so far, we can make do with these and the wealth of information on the Internet.
Our seed company of choice is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. And, since we only plant heirlooms, I want to get the book Seed to Seed ASAP. It's highly praised anywhere I see it so I feel confident passing along the recommendation.
I've also turned to the Instructables site for information on how to build greenhouses, rainwater collection systems and other farm improvements. (A quick peek around the site reveals DIY wood-stoves, solar power setups, compost bins and how to make a food dehydrator from a dorm fridge-cool beans!)
Lastly, be sure to check out Lehman's for some inspiration and all your non-electric needs.
The hardest thing for us with homesteading is finding time to do it all, especially given our family size and situation. And around the homestead, it's either feast or famine-the grain needs harvested, the roosters need killed and the seeds all need planted RIGHT NOW-and then you have a week of relative calm. We want to try as much as possible, but realistically, we can't and it can be hard to say no to that crop of garlic , herd of goats or whatever when you know the opportunity won't come around for another year.
So, I would say, it doesn't matter if you start small; just start something and don't be discouraged if your first attempt (or repeated attempts) fail. When you finally get around to serving your own fresh eggs for breakfast or fresh picked salad greens at dinner you'll feel great. And that feeling, plus a full stomach, will motivate you to do more, regardless of the extra work involved.

"To live in Newburgh, on the farm, to be arranging retreats, to be making bread and butter, taking care of and feeding children there, washing and carding wool, gathering herbs and salads and flowers — all these things are so good and beautiful that one does not want to take time to write except that one has to share them, and not just the knowledge of them, but how to start to achieve them." -DD, On Pilgrimage June 10

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Better Half

I am happy to announce that my husband Tony M., who currently blogs as benedictus over on his liturgically inspired blog Benedictus Deus, will be joining me on The Next Worker. Tony does all the 'manly' work around our homestead so it only made sense for me to drag him, er, politely ask him to join me in documenting exactly what it is that we do around here. Plus, given my delicate womanly condition, a.k.a pregnancy (complicated by hypertension), I've really had to focus on taking it easy for the sake of my health and that of the baby. It's absolutely maddening to me to have to sit still. And unfortunately, the tasks required to keep our homestead going cannot be done from the comfort of a rocking chair.
I'm very blessed to have a husband who gladly picks up the slack and a mother-in-law under my roof who jumps at every chance to interact with the kids, wash a load of laundry or even change a diaper. (No, I'm not exaggerating.) Maybe now you see how I find time to blog.
So I will go about my business as usual around here on TNW and Tony will help round out the content with his always insightful observations and commentary. Hopefully our relationship, which works so well in real life, will translate equally well into the virtual realm.

Waiting game

Heavy rain yesterday, combined with deep furrows in the farm fields around our house equalled LOTS of water in our strawberry and melon patches. Last time rainwater from the fields next door washed into our yard, it killed the grass. The particular method of plowing directed even more water onto our property (and into our basement) than we'd ever seen. We know the neighbors crops (tomatoes) are being treated with something, but we're not sure what. Our free range chickens also gulped heavily from the puddles that formed around their coop. It seems no matter how hard one tries to keep one's own food supply clean and pure, the decisions of larger producers will inevitably interfere. (Just look in any heirloom seed catalogue to see the problem with obtaining non-GM corn.) We now must wait and see whether or not the water that washed across our lawn carried more than just H2O. Perhaps a little isopropylamine salt of glyphosate?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's worth my time?

And BTW-I'm TOTALLY out of the Catholic blogging loop. I see some of the same ones out there I was reading a couple years ago but some have dropped off the face of the earth. I'm looking for some recommendations for good Catholic blogs and any other good blogs related to homeschooling, homesteading, simple living, distributism and the Catholic Worker Movement. (Yes, this is an opportunity to shamelessly plug your own blog as well.) Leave a comment or drop me a line. Thanks!


Today my family walked together in a fundraiser for my son Fulton. Around two dozen people came out to walk and many more pledged donations. We were astounded when the total amount came in at over $6,000, with more donations on the way. After such an overwhelming show of love and generosity, I've been moved to mention briefly, gratitude.
Being the recipient of such charity is difficult because you know you can never repay all the people for all the kindness and generosity they've shown you. It does however motivate one to want to give even more the next time an opportunity comes around. Looking over the donations, I was reminded of the story of the women who gave her last two coins. In the midst of an economic crisis, people are turning out their pockets, for my family. How often I've said, we don't have any extra money or time to give to this or that. How foolish I feel now, and how humbled. So I have immense gratitude towards those who gave so much when they are also struggling and I owe them a debt of thanks for schooling me in charity.
These people are only one of many blessings the Lord has given us in the midst of our trials. It would be easy to forget or dismiss them, and perhaps without grace I would, but thankfully, despite it all, I can wake up every morning and go to bed each night and thank God for many, many things in addition to my generous friends; the best husband in the world, four wonderful children, a roof over our heads, a garden and hens to produce food, space to run and savings in the bank just to name a few. God is so good. May He give me plenty of opportunities to repay that which has been so freely given to me.
"I do know that my nature is such that gratitude alone, gratitude for the faith, that most splendid gift, a gift not earned by me, a gratuitous gift, is enough to bind me in holy obedience to Holy Mother Church and her commands." -DD 12/17/66


Silkie, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

One of three new chickens on the farm.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A lifestyle blog?

After glancing over my last two posts, my husband says to me, "So, you're just putting it all out there, huh?"
Yes, I suppose I did. It wasn't my intent to start blogging again and pour my heart out in every post, however, it wasn't until I hashed out my thoughts through the last two posts that I was able to start thinking about what I do what to spend the majority of my time writing about.
Certainly, this blog is first and foremost Catholic, and I make no apologies for that. However, I would like to include information that I think would be of value to a much broader audience. I suppose if my incorporation of the Church's social teachings in my posts turns people away, I'll just have to live with it. But it is my goal to show how what on the surface seem to be distantly related topics (homesteading, distributism, simple living, Catholic values, etc) can all be brought together under the Catholic Worker umbrella into a coherent whole, or a complete lifestyle, if that makes sense. I think many people would be surprised to learn that the Church has historically supported what is now considered trendy, ie making do with less, supporting local businesses, and entrepreneurship, just to name a few.
With these thoughts in mind, I've added a few new widgets. Check out my Google Reader page for articles of interest. There's also a Google Calendar link. I've updated a liturgical calendar, plus I hope to add upcoming events such as farmers markets, county fairs, classes and more as a resource. The calendar is public so please feel free to add an event that may be of interest to my readers, or email me and I will personally.
I'll be attempting to post reviews of some books that have been especially helpful in our adjustment to homesteading, plus some observations on developments around our plot of Earth. If I'm confident enough, maybe even a how-to post or video.
Lastly, homeschooling is a large part of what I do around here. While I still have a lot to learn, I hope to share resources I've found to be helpful and techniques that have worked with my young children. But I'm always open to suggestions so please, don't hesitate to pass them along!
In time, I hope this site becomes a resource for those who hope to create the types of Catholic Worker farms and families that Maurin and Day originally envisioned. The CW movement was never meant to stay in the cities, though the work done there is some of its most well known and commendable. There is a way for the rest of us to incorporate the CW principles into our lives without running off to NYC.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June Reflection

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of my youngest son's diagnosis with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. We will spend Saturday at a Walk-A-Thon organized by my friends to help raise money for his related medical expenses.
The arrival of this infamous milestone is cause for me to reflect on all that has transpired over the course of this last year. Obviously, Fulton's diagnosis is hands down, the absolute worst event that occurred and probably ever will occur in this family. When faced with a disease like SMA, everything else in ones life falls quickly, and clearly into perspective. The spiritual, physical and emotional toll is unimaginable and ongoing. The only way I can describe it to those whose lives are not touched by a similarly devastating event is as such; a gaping, open wound on my very heart and soul. There are times when the wound is covered by a scab and the pain is less intense, the fears and tribulations of the trauma that caused the wound seem long past. But other times, the scab is ripped off anew, sometimes only by a thoughtless word or gesture, and I am left clutching at a hole from which pours forth unceasing pain and agony, and drowns all joy until the damage can be repaired.
Compared to such, how could whatever else life hands me, compare? So it must seem to many that I am ignorant, foolish, hardhearted or prideful when I do not response emotionally to what others consider a stressful situation.
In the last year, on top of Fulton's diagnosis and ongoing care, we have welcomed my husband's parents into our home, as permanent residents. We accepted God's surprise blessing of another baby, due Nov. 16, into our lives. And today, I will watch my husband arrive home from his job of six years for the last time; laid off and unemployed.
What is one to do when confronted with so many situations that lay out of ones control, or seem to have slipped through the cracks in an otherwise meticulously organized life? I have tried to think of ways to write about this topic for quite awhile and I have no concrete answers to the questions I've been asking for the last 12 months. I've relied heavily on my sense of humor and heavily on abandoning everything to God. When I allow myself the time and energy to dwell on my situation I feel like Atlas, balancing the world on my shoulders, and I am crushed, and defeated.
There is only God. I could reject Him now, and blame him for everything and curse my situation. Or I could turn it all over to Him, the only One who can bring good from what mankind can only understand as tragedy.
I don't want to be a "Job" and I feel like now I keep expecting another disaster to befall our family. But accepting what comes our way as God's divine plan for us make everything manageable. It is not an excuse for throwing up our hands, as if we have no choice in the matter. In fact by choosing to participate with God in these trials we are more apt to learn and grow. Sacrifice makes us stronger and helps us to persevere down the path God outlines for his followers. Jesus never claimed our life on Earth would be easy and I have to laugh at those who feel only good things come from God and bad things are what we do to ourselves. Convenient, comfortable and casual is their brand of Christianity. We have so much to gain from the bad things that God allows. Just because the rewards lay outside the understanding of mainstream society does not mean they don't exist or have tangible value.
I am a different person than I was a year ago. My situation shows me more clearly than ever my own faults and failings. I hope the next year, most especially, brings my son a miraculous cure, but secondly a joy and hope in accepting God's will, while offering up the pain, rather than a hesitant and reluctant walk with Him. May my joyful example convert the hearts of those who now only understand my faith as a curse or cause of my misfortune.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Following God's Will In Not an Excuse

(This post was originally written before 'June Reflection'. I hesitated publishing it but have decided to do so. It is admittedly a ranty, cathartic post. Please forgive any overlap in content with the previous post. -KM)

The news of my latest pregnancy (#5 if you don't know me) was greeted by my family with about the worst possible response- short of being disowned. I waited until I was 12 weeks to tell anyone other than my husband and a close friend because I knew the reaction would not be pleasant. My family has always had concerns about our growing family because of my health conditions. I've never had any trouble and come through each pregnancy fine. However, last summer our youngest son was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular disease known as Spinal Muscular Atropy. It is genetic. My husband and I are both carriers. We learned that each time I was pregnant we had a one in four chance of producing a child with SMA. The devastation of having a child with SMA was overwhelming for a time. I honestly couldn't see myself ever being happy again. In time, I came out from under my dark cloud but always looming in the distance for us was what do we do about any future children? For my family, and any one who doesn't agree with the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception the answer is to get my tubes tied, or make my husband get a vasectomy. We knew these were not options and so, with what we considered to be the gravest of circumstances we resumed the practice of Natural Family Planning. But, God seemed to have other plans for us because I became pregnant earlier this year.
Now I'm battling against the misconception that my husband and I are selfish because we supposedly planned to bring this child into the world, even though he/she might have SMA. We're irresponsible because we don't use contraception or sterilization to prevent pregnancy. We're saying 'it's God's will' to excuse our actions. Perhaps there is even some underlying hatred of a Church that would 'force us' to have children under such circumstances. And so on, and so on.
I don't think I can change everyone's minds. I'm exhausted at the thought of trying to convince some of my friends and family to not hate me. But whether they want to admit it or not, somewhere along the line society came to believe that God has nothing to do with the creation of children. Newsflash, God creates life, not you and He has a purpose for each individual.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I hallowed thee, I appointed thee a prophet unto the nations. Jeremiah 1.5

And most especially, society has forgotten that the primary end of sex is children. The purpose of sex is to make babies, not entertain you on a Saturday night. If God designed sex just for fun, we wouldn't have to introduce so many artificial barriers to prevent the inevitable. Even if you examine sex from a purely scientific standpoint, you have to acknowledge that it's primary end is procreation. It's how we keep our species going.
Plus, the fact of the matter is, people don't want me to bring another disabled child into this world. Sure, they love my youngest son but when speaking of an abstract, unknown child, I suppose it's better if such a child didn't exist. For his/her sake because living a disabled life must be so horrible, and mine, because why would I want that burden? And if that's not the underlying reason, why shouldn't I have another child? Or another 10? Then you open the floodgates to the all the criticisms of large families in general.
People, regardless of what they do on Sunday, believe very little in God's sway in their lives. People believe they have free will and that the choice is entirely theirs with God's participation limited to guiding them through the tough times and 'rewarding them' with the good times. They fail to see how it is possible to accept things contrary to what they want and regard it as God's will. Negative circumstances are to be avoided. No one but the staunchest Catholics understands the role of suffering in today's world. Although Jesus never promised an easy life for any of his followers, many Christians have come to expect it. They want God to take them out of tribulation not allow it to befall them in order to make them holier. Such a concept runs counter to modern thought in the Church and mainstream society.
So it is no wonder that my acceptance of this pregnancy, which is considered a horrible mistake by many, could be misunderstood. They can't see God 'blessing' us with a baby given our circumstances so this pregnancy must be the result of a stupid mistake or bad judgement on our part. They see contraception and sterilization as a God given option to preventing such mishaps and our refusal of them our own curse. They fail to see each as an immoral choice given the moral option of abstinence. It'd be like choosing to steal a loaf of bread to feed your family rather than pay for it. You'll eat either way, but one is wrong. Because people have no idea of self control the though of abstinance is downright appalling to them and basically they don't believe people can control their urges.
I think the choices we've made regarding family planning also make other people uncomfortable about the choices they've made, as if we're judging them by not contracepting and having lots of kids. You've made your choices and we've made ours. Why are you allowed to criticize the size of my family but I have no right to be appalled at your choice to contracept?
I guess people feel it's more responsible now to plan pregnancies and have less children. Most couples now feel like they can't handle more than 1 or 2 kids again forgetting that God gives you the grace to handle what he sends. We really have so little control over the surprises and tragedies that come our way but we always find a way through. We become tougher and stronger and we look back are realize we've done the unthinkable along the way.
Heavens knows I'm scared and my husband is scared but we've been scared before and looking back over our lives, we can see how God brought us through those times. We can turn our trust over to God and accept these trials, crosses, surprises-whatever because we know He is there with us as He always has been.
How do we know God's will? How can we be sure we are treading the right path and not being irresponsible or selfish? Our road map is the Church. Her teachings are the compass that point straight to heaven. We may not always be happy in this life with the trials we face by taking the road less travelled, but we can be satisfied knowing God is pleased with our efforts. Following our own whims and desires may be easier, more convenient, may please others, help us fit in better but if we acknowledge our faults and our nature as sinners we must question the ability of such a lifestyle to bring us lasting happiness in this world or the next.

Great resources for learning about the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Assuming all points are equal...

I've had some issues arise lately that have put me at odds with my family and some close friends. The situation has led me to see, very clearly, how hard it is nowadays to hold a rational discussion with people whose core beliefs differ radically from one's own.
It seems that most arguments, since discussions rarely stay civil, are fueled by emotion, generalizations and cliched talking points. This is not only because people no longer know how to argue their points logically, but because, and here in lies the real problems, for most people there are no absolutes on which to base anything.
No longer can people discuss a topic and agree on certain parameters outlined either by faith or natural law. Today, because we must accept all things as equal it is impossible to wrap up an argument by saying, "Well, we may not agree on the best way to reach point A but at least we can agree that A exists." To suggest in modern society that there is a definite point 'A' and that someone else idea of point 'A' is incorrect is heresy. Now, we must start all polite conversations with the understood idea that all point 'A's are relevant and equal or things quickly get out of hand.
This is maddening to me. I've pretty much given up trying to hold discussions with people on matters of faith and politics, unless we're close acquaintances who can agree to 'play nice.' My solution is simply to live my life the best I can according to The Truth revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Catholic Church which was founded by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. That's the bedrock of my arguments. If you're going to pick a fight with me, and then refuse to listen to my responses because you believe that the Church is all wrong and all religions are equal, what can I say? You're pretty much saying, "Your positions are not worth considering because they do not accept all points as equal." Therefore, only people who can agree to all things being changeable and not steadfast can argue...but then, how can you discuss two sides to an issue if you both must admit each side is correct? Madness!!!
It comes down to the fact that modern society is trying to cut out of all discussions those who hold absolutes, which as Catholics, we must be. We must hold steadfast to The Truth and all teachings of the Church, especially as we watch all other ideals which have stood the test of time crumble around us.
I wish I had studied logic, rhetoric and debate in school. Perhaps I would feel better prepared to tackle tough conversations with strangers. But seeing as how most other people didn't study those subjects and hold firm to an even vaguer sense of values than myself, I may not have anything to fear. Especially since, personally, I've reached the point where I'm willing to have that discord between myself and my family or a long time friend, rather than compromise my beliefs. It hurts like hell at times to not be able to talk openly with people simply because they refuse to give your views a fair listen. I can only hope in time that prayer and the example of faithful Catholics can bring about the conversion of such skeptics. Anger and yelling certainly won't and I refuse, or hope I refuse, to take the bait when it's offered to me in the midst of a heated discussion.
As I post more items, I hope that they can create meaningful dialogue and intelligent discussion. If you disagree with me, fine, but try to frame your rebuttals as complete thoughts (with correct spelling and grammar) and not, "U don't know what youre talking about papist! You suck!.The church protects child molesters!" And other 'deep' commentary which seems to run rampant in the comments sections of most online media. That would be super. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Didn't Mind My Mother

I Didn't Mind My Mother, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Free Range

Free Range, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Word to the wise

"God uses the simple and ignorant and powerless ones in this world such as we are to confound the wise."
-DD April 1, 1940

Friday, April 30, 2010

Puddle Hopping

Puddle Hopping, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tidying Up

BTW: I'm updating all my links and blogrolls. If you know of any good sites that I've missed please let me know. Thanks!

A break from great events...

So, despite telling some people otherwise...I'm going to come back to blogging- at least for the time being. I've uploaded a new template, added a profile avatar and got *big* plans for this site. If I ever figure out html, The Next Worker will really be rockin'.
I'm not even going to attempt to bring everyone up to speed on what I've been doing for the last year, but suffice it to say life has thrown some major curve balls my way, some good, some downright disastrous. But, we persevere.
I'm reading the collected diaries of Dorothy Day and her consistent writing has really motivated me to put my thoughts down again. I've started a private journal and from that, I hope to glean ideas for posting. The principles of my life are still Catholic Worker principles, so you'll see a continuation of the themes already mentioned in earlier posts. But I will introduce you to my family more closely and to myself as well. Here on our acre of earth, we are practicing what we preach as best we can, and finding the trials and tribulations that come with merging modern society with traditional values of all types.
And now, picking up where I left off...
"We always write on the great events later. When we live we do not write."
-DD 1/4/52