Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mommas- What You're Doing Matters

Moms- if you have 2 minutes, check out this sweet video that my mom emailed to me last week. It's a reminder that being a mother is the most important job on the planet. So true! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Knit Your Own

Before the weather gets too warm, I thought I would share a few of my knitting projects that I did over the winter.... toddler hats and fingerless mittens. Time to get your knit on! Pin It Now!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Our Farm is Growing!

OK, so my family lives in a tiny house (800 square feet) on a pretty tiny lot in urban Portland. And, like many Portlanders, we are becoming more and more curious about where (and how far) our food comes from and we have been trying to grow more of our own food, or at least be able to talk to the people who have grown it. So, also like many Portlanders, we have decided to grow our own eggs! However, we decided that chickens weren't right for our family. We grow food in our backyard (and chickens have been known to demolish gardens) and we were hoping for a bird that was a little more social.... enter DUCKS! After some advice and some research, we decided that ducks would be a great fit for our home. We were able to find some Ancona ducks via craigslist- these birds are supposed to be great egg layers (up to 280 eggs each per year!) and they are not able to fly (at least that is what they say!!) so we don't have to worry about our girls migrating south for the winter. Not only will these ladies produce eggs for us to eat, but they are also well known for their pest-control capabilities. Ducks LOVE to eat bugs, especially slugs which we seem to be teeming with. On top of that, they will fertilize our yard/garden with their droppings and they are supposed to make great pets. So these birds will give us food, pest control, fertilizer and companionship. I am sold.
We got our ducks last Sunday and here are a few recent pictures. Welcome Sami, Smudge and Mutter. They have already almost doubled in size in one week's time. They need to live inside for the next couple of weeks until they are big enough to handle the cooler nighttime temperatures of the great outdoors of Portland. Once they have moved to the backyard, they will have free roam during the day, but will be locked in a coop (a free one we scored off of craiglist!) at night for their own protection.
As for now, they are super cute and incredibly messy. I already love these little buggers but I am excited for them to move outside.....especially since they are sharing my bedroom (and let me tell you that bedroom + heat lamp makes you feel like you are sleeping in a tanning bed).
I will try to keep you updated on my duck-farming journey and my quest to grow my own food! Pin It Now!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Catch the Buzz: Mason Bees

Last weekend, my family and I hung our first mason bee tubes and we hope to start a little colony that lives outside our home. Before you declare me crazy, keep on reading! Mason bees are solitary bees native to North America (as opposed to what we normally think of when we picture a bee.. the European honey bee). They (sadly) do not produce honey like their European counterparts, but because of this, they do not need to be protective, and mason bees will only sting if they are stepped on or grabbed.
Now you may be asking yourself "if they don't produce honey, then what is so great about them?". Let me tell you! Mason bees are extremely important pollinators, especially now with honey bee populations on the decline. So, raising mason bees in your yard promotes pollination for your home-grown food!
This is my first time around with masons so I am still learning the ropes, but I have found my local nurseries to be a good source of mason bees, as well as information. You can purchase mason bee 'babies' in the mud-filled tubes shown above. After they hatch, they will be busy (as a bee) pollinating and creating a nest with next year's bees. So, you need some bee-filled tubes, and some empty tubes that can be used for nesting once the females hatch. You can simply drill 3/8-inch diameter holes (that are 3-6 inches deep) into a piece of wood or you can buy a tube system as is shown above. We went with the tube system as tubes are easily replaced each year, and bees need a fresh hole to nest in. Also, from the research I did, it seems this system is better at keeping out predators and fungal infection (presumably due to the cleanliness). Masons seem pretty low maintenance, and then main duty of the bee keeper is to switch out the used tubes each year.... seems like something I can handle.
I am excited for our masons to hatch and I am hoping some will choose to stick around and build nests for next year. If you are looking for a sting-free way to up your fruit yields, I encourage you to research more about our native buzzing friends. I have found the website of the WSU extension to be fairly informative, and any google search for "mason bees" will pull up plenty of results. Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Home-made Playdough

Here is a quick and easy playdough recipe that will save you money!

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
food coloring (the gel kind works well)
glitter (optional)
scented oils (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients together, stirring over low heat until the dough begins to thicken (think mashed potatoes). When the dough begins to form a clump in the center remove from heat. If your playdough is still sticky to the touch, just cook it a bit longer. Playdough that is ready should pull easily away from your fingers.

When cool enough to work with, split the dough into 1 or more balls, depending on how many different colors you want to make. Add a generous amount of food coloring and glitter to each ball; it always takes more coloring than you would think to make vibrant colors. For more subdued colors, use less dye. Thoroughly mix food coloring in by kneading, being careful to keep color away from hands if possible (yes, it will stain them.. temporarily!).

Store in an air-tight container and have fun!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Composting Yard Debris

Portland is awesome for so many reasons, one of them being that the city collects yard debris and composts it. Yard waste that gets thrown in with the regular trash ends up in landfills that are devoid of water and oxygen (both essential components of composting). This means that your yard waste, when thrown in the garbage, will get compressed, but will only decompose very, very slowly (like over hundreds of years). And, since landfills are lined to prevent any contaminants from leaching into water sources, those nutrients in your yard waste will never return back to the earth.
Does your city compost yard debris? If not, could they? think about proposing the idea to your local government and seeing if you can make a change!
If not, how about starting your own compost pile and keeping your yard debris out of the trash! To learn more about how to build your own compost bin, click here. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Creative Family: A Review

The Creative Family
by Amanda Blake Soule is a wonderful quick read that will inspire the urge to craft and create in just about everyone. The books gives examples of creative projects, ways to organize all the supplies that are needed to be so crafty, and focuses on ways to strengthen family rituals and activities. The biggest inspiration that I got from this book was seeing how this mother of 3 (and after publishing this book, now 4) finds time every day to imagine and create with her children. Sometimes I find myself using the excuse of being a working mother to justify my laziness and my hopes that my son will want to play independently so that I can get some work done. This book has made me realize that with a little bit of organization and planning, you can be busy and still find time to create. Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Spring!

Today is the first day of spring! Hooray! Our tulips have appeared and our peas are beginning to emerge from the soil. Bring on longer days, more sunshine, and a garden full of excitement! Pin It Now!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Toddler Yoga!

So, I have been doing down dog with my little guy since he could walk on his own, but recently he has started asking ME to do yoga with HIM! Wow! I started wondering how good yoga is for our wee ones (since we know how magical it is for us adults) and my brief stint of internet research showed that it has some pretty great benefits! It helps toddlers with their strength, flexibility, and coordination (of course!) but also with body awareness, relaxation and concentration. Plus, they seem to have such a fun time doing it.
Obviously, your average toddler is not ready for your regular routine of yoga poses. But, some easy ones you can work on with your child are: down dog, cobra, up dog, child's pose and tree pose. Plus, working with them on taking deep breaths with big exhalations will get them to relax, focus (maybe) and ground themselves. Finn thought it was great when we stretched our arms to the sky and took in a huge breath, and then released our arms down on the exhale while we made a big "ahhh" sound as we let our breath out.
I tried to rent a toddler yoga video, but I didn't find it very helpful as my son did not have the patience to sit through all of the talking. But, spending 5 minutes a day doing yoga, or anything that resembles it, will definitely help your toddler become more aware of their body. Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Styrofoam Peanut Drop Offs

Ever opened a package and had what feels like a million of those Styrofoam peanuts come tumbling out? I certainly have. You can always re-use the peanuts, and torture the next person that you send a package to, but if you aren't mailing packages to anyone that you are annoyed with, you may want to check out the Plastic Loose Fill Council's website. You can search by state or zip code to find nearby places that will take your Styrofoam peanuts and reuse them! That way, you can save plastic from being put in landfills, and you don't have to deal with a bunch of peanuts floating around your garage until you get around to using them. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day (yes, I am part Irish), I decided to make some fabric shamrocks to decorate our holiday "tree". (Our "tree" is simply a collection of branches arranged in a vase, with glass rocks at the bottom to hold the branches in place). The lighting in our house is awful, especially on rainy days like today, so these pictures are not the greatest.. but I think you can get the idea.
To create this tree hangings, I made a shamrock cutout from sturdy paper and traced in onto a few different green-colored fabric scraps that I had i the fabric bin. Before tracing, I folded each type of fabric in half, so that I would have 2 identical shamrocks of each type (you want them to match up when the shamrocks are placed together with the pattern facing out). Place your identical shamrocks together, with the pattern facing out, and use a sewing machine (or hand-stitch if you have the patience!) to sew the outer edges together. Leave a gap on one of the petals so that you can put some stuffing in later. Don't leave the opening on the stem or you will have a hard time getting it stuffed and then re-stitching. After you have sewn your shamrocks together, use some stuffing to give the shamrocks a little bit of bulk. It may help to use the eraser end of a pencil to push the stuffing into the nooks and crannies! After stuffing, use your machine or hand-sew the gap together. Thread some green yarn or ribbon onto a needle with a big eye. Use this to create a loop to hang the tree decorations. I just pulled the yarn through the top of each shamrock leaving about 3-4 inches of yarn on each side. Then I used this yard to tie the shamrocks to our tree. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sponge Shamrocks

I got this idea from another cute blog, Ramblings of Crazy Woman. I did it this morning with 2 toddlers, and although they needed quite a bit of assistance, it went pretty well!
Just cut a sponge into a heart shape, dip it into green paint and press onto white paper 3 times to create a shamrock shape. Use a paintbrush to add a stem, and then have the adult cut the paper around the shamrock. Pin It Now!

Eat Your Green!

Need an idea for something green to serve tomorrow for St. Patrick's Day? This is a recipe that has just started going in the lunch rotation at my house. Super easy, healthy and yummy. And bright green!
All you need for this recipe is 12 oz. of your favorite dried pasta, 12 oz. of fresh spinach, parmesean cheese (a couple oz-- to your liking) and some olive oil.
Cook the pasta following the instructions on the bag. For the sauce, use a food processor or blender (but a food processor works much much better) to blend up all of the spinach and the cheese with a few tablespoons of olive oil. If things seem to be "stuck", add more oil. If you are a big cheese fan, go ahead and don't be afraid to add more!
Once the sauce is completely blended and looks like a bright green puree, add it to your cooked pasta and mix together. The sauce will get warmed from the warm pasta, but the sauce is never cooked, so it is extra healthy and nutrient-packed. Top with a little more parm if you like!
Spinach WILL stain, so use a bib for the messy eaters in your house. We call this dish "dinosaur pasta" at my house (b/c dinosaurs are green of course! and because it convinced my little guy to try it...), but for this week, it will be renamed "Irish dinosaur pasta" in honor of all the Irish dinos! Pin It Now!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easy Felt Applique Shirt

OK, so a few weekends ago I made this super cute shirt for my toddler, and my only regret is that I made it on a plain old boring white t-shirt... it would be much cuter if I had used a colored tee or dyed this one first. Oh well.... I wanted to do a trial run, and I think it turned out pretty good! I completely, 100%, copied the idea from an awesome website, It wasn't hard at all, however, the hand-stitching around the designs did take quite a while..
A couple pointers of my own advice (that will only make sense once you read the instructions listed at the website above): you have to REALLY push the iron down to get the felt to stick.... and even so, it started to peel off right away. You pretty much HAVE to hand-stitch the design on, or it will peel away in no time. Pin It Now!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nature-Inspired Art

Need a new art idea for your toddler? My son and I do what I call "paint-with-nature" projects where we use nature to inspire our art.
The first thing we do is take a walk.. around our neighborhood, on a favorite trail, or on the way home from the library. Along our walk, we collect things from nature (rocks, sticks, pine cones, leaves) that look interesting, have a unique shape, or just feel right. Please make sure to only collect items that have fallen onto the street or sidewalk and do not pick flowers or plants from people yards! We than bring these items home and they form our paintbrushes for the day.
I then set up a paint area as usual, with a drop cloth, large piece of blank paper, and rinsed applesauce or other clean plastic containers to hold the paint. Make sure to use washable paint, unless you love you child's artwork so much that you want it memorialized on your walls and floors forever..
Now use the items you found as brushes to create interesting shapes and textures on the paper. It is an experience in combining nature and art, as well as a delight for the tactile side of your child! Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blooms Blooms Blooms!

Flowers flowers everywhere! Take some time today to stop and enjoy the newness of the approaching spring! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Super Simple Squash Pasta

Looking for a yummy, yet super easy dinner? Look no further: Pasta with butternut squash, spinach and goat cheese.

What You Need:
  • 1 lb of pasta (fresh is best)
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, washed
  • 4 oz. soft goat cheese
  • Olive oil for cooking
What You Do:
  • Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat and add butternut squash. Heat until squash is tender (about 25-30 minutes)
  • Add spinach and cook until wilted
  • In the meantime, boil water and cook pasta
  • After spinach is wilted, add goat cheese and stir to combine. Add mixture to pasta and toss.
  • Enjoy!
  • For the meat lovers in your family, this dish is also excellent with bacon crumbled on top.
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hand-Print Flowers

In celebration of the approaching spring, we created hand-print flowers to hang in our front window. Just help your wee one trace his or her hand, which becomes a tulip-like flower. Then cut out a stem and some leaves, and you have a personalized construction paper garden! Pin It Now!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Story of Stuff

For an interesting 20-minute video that shows you how the "stuff" we consume is manufactured, sold and disposed of, and the social and environmental degradation that comes along with it, check out The Story of Stuff. It is worth the watch and will make you never want to shop again! Pin It Now!