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!

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Pickling

Last year I made pickles for the first time. And they were delicious. So, of course, I wanted to make more this year. Sadly, our pickling cucumber plant didn't produce much, so I had to head to the farmer's market to get enough cucumbers to pickle... but it was worth it. I made some refrigerator pickles, loosely following the same basic recipe I used last year. Easy and delicious.
When we returned from our travels, one of our pepper plants was full of peppers, all ready for the eating. So, I also made a jar of pickled Bulagrian sweet pickles using basically the same recipe: I chopped up the sweet peppers, as well as one serrano, added peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, and a couple of grape leaves for crispness. Boil some white vinegar, and cover the peppers until jar is about 2/3 full, add enough filtered water to cover the peppers. Seal lid, let cool, and refrigerate. Easy. The peppers are yummy,  although they are quite a bit hotter than I expected (I think I should have removed the serrano seeds first!).
The pickles and peppers were both good, however, I was feeling the need to be a bit more adventurous in my pickling and wanted to try more than just basic vinegar pickles and peppers. I recently read Michael Pollan's Cooked, which has an entire section on fermentation. We think of pickles as being a fermented food, because they once were. However, most pickles we eat today, like the refrigerator  pickles I made, are not truly fermented. The are pickled in vinegar, which is itself fermented, but from what I understand, the pickles themselves never actual ferment. And fermented foods are amazing for you... they are essentially packed with probiotics and do wonders for your digestion. But, I guess those pickles made with vinegar are cheating. So, I wanted to make REAL pickles. The kind that actually ferment. The kind that grow probiotics.
So, I did.
I looked up recipes for pickling using lacto-fermentation. There wasn't a ton of information out there and there was a while lot of variation in what I did find. Many called for whey, which I didn't have and didn't really want to bother with, so I loosely followed a recipe that just used salt instead of whey. Here is what I did:
Cut the cucumbers and pack in a jar. Add in peppercorns, fresh dill, a garlic clove, red pepper flakes, and mustard seeds. Stuff a few grape leaves and horseradish leaves in the jar, add salt, and fill the jar full of room temperature filtered (non-chlorinated) water. Screw the lid on and leave the jar on the counter for 3-4 days. Apparently, the bacteria naturally present in the foods start to get to work and ferment the food one it is all sealed up.
After a day or so, I saw the water in the jar start to change colors and become dingier. I also saw some bubbling, which was a good sign that things were actually fermenting. I checked the pickles after 3 days... and it smelled pickle-ish but also a bit like sulfur. Ewww. In Cooked, Pollan talked about how fermented foods sometimes go through a gross stage before you get to the good part of fermentation. So, I shut the lid, and decided to check again on day 4. Things smelled better so I decide to give it a try. And, they were...... pickles!! Yay!! Except WAY too salty. I had followed salt amounts from a website, but they were definitely incorrect. I think I added 1 Tbl to my quart jar and it made these pickles inedible. I think I would halve the salt next time around.
But it worked! I fermented something, for real, and am very excited to try it again. Sort of amazing that I can grow my own good bacteria in a jar! I am planning on doing some more fermentation experiments over the coming months, and will share what I learn here.
Have any of you lacto-fermented foods? Any tips? Great websites? There was not as much information out there as I had expected, so I am guessing this technique is not used all that often. I am eager to learn more so I will have to look into doing some research....

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happily joining in with Ginny of Small Things for this week's yarn along.

I am about halfway through Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, a non-fiction about bottled water by Elizabeth Royte. I have found it fairly interesting, as this is a subject that I teach about, but I have found some parts of it to be pretty dry (funny that I described it as dry, since it is a book about water...). Also, the book is focused on the eastern US, where the author lives, but water and water policy works completely differently in the west, where I live. Regardless, there is still some good information in there, and it gives some insight into the political mess that surrounds our water system.

I have finished my arm warmers and am in love. Now I have moved back to trying to finish up Phoebe's poncho before cooler weather sets in. Only a few more stripes to go! And then a lot of loose ends to weave in.......

What are you reading? What are you knitting?

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Today I turn 36. I am now closer to 40 than to 30. Crazy. Some days I feel my age, in both my body and my mind: some days my bad back makes it hard to get dressed, some days my memory seems to completely fail me, and some days the wrinkles in my face seem to jump out at me. But most days I remember that I am still youthful: I can run and chase my kids (and often I have to chase Phoebe so I don't lose her), my mind is always active, and I often act way less than my age (which can be a good thing, but isn't always...). I think that the older I get, the more I realize that age doesn't really matter. As long as my mind and body are still able to make it through the day, than I am happy. And those wrinkles?... Well, they are just a sign that I have done a lot of smiling in my time (or at least that's what I keep telling myself).
Most years, my birthday is a day for me to set goals for myself for the upcoming year; projects I want to accomplish or things about myself that I would like to change. This year, my goal is to slow down and enjoy my days with my littles, while they are still little. With Finn about to start kindergarten, and Phoebe just a few years behind, it won't be long until they are both in school all day, doing activities after class, having sleepovers with friends, and becoming more and more independent along the way. Of course, that is what we all want for our kids... for them to become strong and independent people who can eventually make good decisions and take care of themselves....but if you ask me, this growing up thing happens way too fast.  I won't look back in 10 years and regret leaving dishes in the sink or not getting all of the laundry done, so if that is what needs to happen to have more 'down' time with my kiddos, than so be it.
So here is to 36- a year of slowing down, a year of enjoying, and a year of love. Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gratitude Sunday

For the past couple of days I have felt so grateful for my children. I mean, I always feel grateful for them (some days more so than others...) but lately I have been feeling really grateful. Like Super-Duper. Maybe it is because they are so darn cute, or maybe it is because I am about to leave for a week to spend time with some girl friends (without them!).... Regardless of the reason, I feel so incredibly lucky to have these 2 amazing little people in my life. It is certainly not always easy (in fact, it is probably more often difficult), but it is so rewarding. To watch them grow and learn, to see them changing every day, and to be the one who gets to guide them on this journey- its is all pretty incredible. 
I sometimes pine for the things I could do before I had children.... spontaneous road trips, late-night walks, leisurely breakfasts (you know the things I am thinking about)...... but in the end, nothing is better than being with my kiddos.
What are you feeling grateful for today? Pin It Now!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our August Garden and A Link-Up Party

It's garden link-up time again!
We were out of town for half of July and a good part of early August, and sadly, our garden has suffered for it. Our pet sitter was watering our garden for us, but no one cares for a garden the way that you care for your own garden, and we came home to find many of our plants looking sad and in need of love.
So, I am slowly trying to nurse our yard back to bliss, but it is taking time.
Fortunately, we are still enjoying some food from our garden: tomatoes (we have 3 kinds of heirlooms plus roma and cherry), green onions, beets, basil, zucchini, blackberries, hot peppers and pickling cucumbers. We are eagerly awaiting grapes, acorn squash, delicata squash, and corn. Plus, we have some amazing sunflowers and other blooms to enjoy!

What is planted in your August garden? Please share some pictures (of a blog post, flickr, etc.) and link up below! Can't wait to see your gardens!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yarn Along

Happily joining in with Ginny of Small Things for this week's yarn along.

I just finished an amazing book called The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. It was joyful, sad, funny, inspiring... everything you want in a good novel all wrapped up in one. I would highly recommend it. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Now I have just started Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, a non-fiction about bottled water by Elizabeth Royte.

I am currently knitting a pair of arm warmers from a lovely hand-dyed wool that I got last year at Flock and Fiber. I have been holding on to it, unsure of what I should use it for, and I think a pair of arm warmers (for me) was a good decision.

What are you reading? What are you knitting? Pin It Now!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blackberry-Plum Fruit Leather

When we arrived back from our travels, we had an abundance of blackberries and the sour plums that grow in our yard.. and I knew that we wouldn't eat them all before they went bad. So, I decide to make some fruit leather.
I took equal part blackberries and pitted yellow plums (I left the skins on), added a little cinnamon and a few tablespoons of honey (to sweeten the sour) and pureed it all in the food processor. It then spent a couple of days in the dehydrator at 135 degrees F.
It came out... sour. Really sour, actually. At first I was a little disappointed, but I like sour, and my kids like sour, and now, a week later, the fruit leather is nearly gone. So, I guess we liked it after all. I think next time I would do the blackberries and plums separately, and mix each one with something sweeter.
Have you made any yummy summer fruit leather combinations this year? Pin It Now!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Trip to the Coast

Last week, while my mom was in for a visit, my mom and I took the kids and headed to the Oregon coast for the night. We went to the town of Astoria, most well known for its salmon canneries and the film The Goonies.
We were only there for 24 hours, most of which was raining, so we didn't spend time any time on the beach, but we did get a chance to explore the town. We ate at the Rogue brewery out on the end of a pier and listened to the sea lions barking, we took the riverfront trolley through town and learned about the history of the area, we drove to the Astoria column where we would have had a bird's eye view of the town (had it not been super foggy), we saw the Goonies house (of course!), window shopped, checked out the Oregon Film Museum, and toured The Flavel House. It was a perfct quick getaway!!

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Saturday, August 17, 2013


Last Friday, both my mom and my dad flew out from Chicago to spend some time with me and the kids. My dad left Monday morning and my mom stayed until yesterday morning. The week flew by.
Lulu and Pappy (as my kiddos call them) did a great job spoiling us while they were here. We ate. A lot. And it was all so delicious. We went to the zoo and the science museum. A trip to the farmer's market. Wandered around the Bite of Oregon. Ate some more. We saw the movie Planes. We walked the neighborhood. Drank margaritas for lunch. It was a great visit and so nice for the kids to spend some time with their grandparents.
My mom, me and the kids also squeezed in a night at the coast... but I will leave that for a separate post tomorrow. For now, I am still trying to find my rhythm as we settle back into a 'normal' life for this coming week.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Our Summer Road Trip

After our week in Colorado, and 3 days at home to unpack, re-pack, and get organized, we headed out for a 2 week long family road trip.
First we headed to Washington. We spent a night at a campground camping with friends and then headed to the Gorge Amphitheater for 2 nights of Phish (a band that my husband and I used to see LOTS of in our past) and lots of friends, old and new. The weather was hot, but we spent our days relaxing in the shade, and by the time the music started, the weather was beautiful. Our second day there we awoke to a forest fire nearby, and we could watch it burn in the distance while the bend played.
Our next segment brought us to California. We first spent a night in Yreka, where another set of forest fires caused the town to be filled with smoke (in fact, about half of the drive don there was super smokey). The next morning we woke up and headed to our next destination, Lake Tahoe, a place where both Todd and I used to live before we dated. In fact, at one point, we were roommates, and I lived with him and his then-girlfriend, who was also a close friend of mine. We saw more music, more friends, swam in the lake, found gigantic pine cones, swam in the hotel pool, played mini-golf, and enjoyed a couple of days of hotel living.
Next stop: Berkeley and San Francisco. Here we had a whole new set of friends to visit, sushi to eat, a baby shower for a lovely friend, a trip to the San Francisco Exploratorium, fish and chips at Fisherman's Warf, sea lion viewing, and a glimpse into very urban living with kids. It was fun. Amazing actually. But, by this point, the kids were getting tired, crabby, and all out of sorts. We hadn't slept in the same place for more than 3 nights since July 15th, when we left for Colorado, and Finn thrives on routine.
So, we were all pretty eager to get home and try to find our way back to some semblance of a schedule. We have been home for 2 nights now, and I can tell that the kids are already happier. I know they had a great time, but I think our next set of adventures needs to be shorter. A week, or 2 max. Otherwise, the kids just start to melt.
And now, we are trying to be back to normal but also preparing for my parent's arrival tomorrow afternoon. At least we will be sleeping in our own beds!
And, as always, here are a few pictures from our adventures!

The Gorge Amphitheater-- this place sure has spectacular views!

 This is how the kids enjoyed the 2nd set!

  Photos of smoke from the southern Oregon fires outside of Yreka, California

 Peacock costumes on and ready to party!

Mini-golf in Tahoe

Phoebe even wanted to try the bungee trampoline... but after 2 jumps decided she wanted to get off.

Our afternoon at Lake Tahoe. The water (as always) was freezing!

Enjoying the urban views of SF

Afternoon at SF's Exploratorium. It was way cool. Can you tell who is in the sketch below?

What trip to SF would be complete without at least a peak at the sea lions at the Fisherman's Warf?

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