Friday, September 30, 2011

Homestead Tour: Parisienne Farmgirl

Everyone loves a home tour, right? What about a virtual homestead tour? A chance to meet another fellow homesteader and ask a few questions to get a glimpse into their life? Oh, yeah!

This month, our tour is traveling to see Angela at her Parisienne Farmgirl blog. Angela has a definite flair for all things French, and if I didn't know better, I'd say she was across the big pond! But no, she's here stateside, living out her farm-life dreams on an urban homestead with her husband and four children, one of whom arrived just this month! Perhaps you remember Angela from her spring Potager 101 gardening series? Let's find out more...

Your beautiful blog blends all things French with homesteading in a wonderfully unique way! I understand you took a very inspiring trip to Paris which made a big impact on your life and obviously it comes through in your blog.  Tell us a bit about that experience.

We had been to Paris twice before and had dreams of moving there together for about 6 months.  Then we found our "Parisienne Farmhouse" and realized that wasn't going to be possible.  We agreed that I needed to "get it out of my system" and that we were ready to begin a family after ten years of marriage so I rented an apartment "toute seule" (by myself) for four weeks and Joel came came to join me for weeks five and six.  It was a PROFOUND time for me and truly, truly shaped who I am today.  Simply to have that much time to be contemplative, to walk, think, experience such beauty and culture without the rush of a seven day vacation...

• Did you grow up homesteading or has this been something you’ve had to teach yourselves?

When I was a child my Mom did can pickles, we would go pick rubarb, she made jam from the neighbors grapevines but I don't know that it was with the intent of saving the family money or for expressing a self-sufficiant attitude.  The memories are very warm for me but as far as "homesteading" that is something I am teaching myself.

• What are the best resources you’ve found for learning in terms of homesteading?

I'm a Google girl.  My "MacTop" is always open on my countertop (and is thus covered in kitchen goo all the time).  I am so curious about everything and forever Googling what it is I want to know.  I would rather learn from someone else's mistakes - with three and any day now four little ones I don't have time for flubs.  I read REALLY fast and easily scan three or four articles about the same inquiry and then try it for myself.

• Your garden is a big part of your homestead and based on the French concept of a potager. For those who are new to that term, how would you define a potager and how does your own garden reflect that? 

"Potager" has become a pretty popular term now thanks to blogland.  Simply put a Potager is a decorated vegetable garden.  Not as utilitarian as the farm gardens of our great grandmothers.  It incorporates structure, raised beds, edible flowers and more. We have had ours for about seven years now.

• Can you share what gardening zone you’re in, what you’re growing this summer, and if you’re planning on any fall crops?

We are in zone five and I have never tried a fall garden.  Gardening is a ton of work and I do get burned by fall out as much as I love it.  This year though I will be planting spinach, another round of lettuce and garlic - which, I know is not a big deal but it is pretty exciting for me to try a fall garden.

• Any long term future plans for your garden that you’d like to share? 

We did the big expansion last year and there is literally no more room - unless I dig up the city parkway... which I would if I could.  The next step is going to be a "for sale" sign in the yard and Lord willing, a Hobby Farm.

• You did a series of posts this past year on Potager 101. Do you have plans to expand this and develop it for publication in the future?

Do I have plans for publication?  That question haunts me as I have about 3 things in the cooker right now, one is a journaled account of my time in Paris... it's just having/taking the time to do the illustrations the way I would like to.  I would love to publish my Teach Your Kids to Eat posts, write a book on making French Macarons and now that  you mention it... expanding the Potager posts sounds fun too!  See, that is why God made Midwest winters!  As much as I detest them, they give you the chance to move on to other projects!

• Tell us about your chickens and their unique coop arrangement.

Our chickens are a "no-no" in our town so we built a coop in our garage and they "free-range" in a nice 10x30' run along the side our our house.  Our coop is nothing fancy.  We built it out of two by fours, old kitchen cupboard doors and old doors from our house.  We can walk in on one side to collect eggs and feed them and walk in on the other side so clean up under the roosting bar.  Sadly, after ten months of having our girls our neighbor turned us in a couple weeks ago but I haven't parted with them yet.  There is a movement underway in town now and one of many votes will take place September 8th.  We don't plan on getting rid of them either way though.

* Note: Angela has since had a reprieve from her local authorities while they work on new ordinances. A hilarious read is her post "Introducing... the City Chicks"

• Cooking is obviously another passion for you. And recently, you were featured in Where Women Cook. Where did you learn to enjoy the kitchen and making culinary delights? 

I love food.  I love to eat.  And I am a bit of a control freak.  I realized a long time ago that I didn't want to wait for that special occasion night on the town to eat wonderful food... I needed to learn myself.  It's a process that is for sure.  The other day I made something from an internet recipe and when it was done I clearly questioned my own sanity and reading comprehension.  My guests were gracious enough to say it was wonderful but I wanted to crawl under the harvest table if you know what I mean.  For the most time though, my time in the kitchen is "trial and success" VS trial and error.

• What kind of cuisine do you like to cook the most and do you have a recipe or dish your family claims as a favorite?

Most of my cookbooks are French.  Go figure.  But there are so many regions and tastes to French cooking it is truly wonderful.  It's not about frog legs.  It's about fresh produce, legumes, lots of herbs and juicy cuts of beef.  My family gets giddy when I make pork loin with blue cheese.  They go crazy.

• Your kitchen is a beautiful gathering spot that you’ve taken great care to make special. What brings you the most joy about this space?

I think it's the life that takes place in the kitchen that makes it so wonderful.  It can vary from children, loud and swinging from the chandeliers to the quiet moments when I have it all clean at the end of the day and I get to light a candle and rest.  As utilitarian as it is, I do think it's a pretty space.  I love the dried herbs and old books... the tarnished silver and copper.  But it really is the heart of the home, it's where we spend most of our time as a family.

• With three young children and one on the way, what does a typical day look like at your place?

Oh goodness.  Hubby works the afternoon/evening shift and our youngest sleeps later than the other two ever did so we get a bit of a late start as compared to families who have to get out the door in the morning.  The two "big kids" are usually up by 6:30 and God bless them, they play in their rooms or together until they hear the baby (19 months) wake up or they can't take it anymore.  Then it's "Family Snuggle", an all out pile of arms and legs... all five of us, the kids fighting for a space next to Mom and Dad.  We usually make it down to the kitchen by 8:00 a.m. and I make a big breakfast of pancakes or some egg creation since we don't get to have dinner together but twice a week.
I am teaching the kids to help clean up, wipe counters, sweep... but the second they are done they are out the door headed for their bikes or the garden to find frogs and whatever else they can.  

Non-pregnant this is when I work out but I get so sick I always take my pregnancies "off". Once we start school on October 1st (I am due the 15th of September so there is no sense to begin before) the morning schedule will have my workouts done and school starting by 9:30.  We'll go 'til 11:30 and eat another meal with Joel before he leaves for work.

The kids rest or nap depending on their age from 1-3 p.m. and that is when I go crazy out in the garden or on whatever project I am in the middle of.  Aidan often ends up by my side, then the screen door slams as Amélie stumbles out of the house after her nap... this fall we will keep our ears open for the two little ones to wake up next.

Dinner is pretty simple in our house since it's just the kids and I.  We ALWAYS sit down together but I save my creative big dinners for Joel's day's off.  Then we wind down... the little ones are down by six-thirty and then the kids and I will read their Jesus Story Book Bible and usually a Laura Ingalls book.  We are reading the series for the third time in two years.  Farmer Boy right now... that's the best one!  Bed time with three and now four is a lot for one Momma and I am always trying to keep it warm and cozy but moving along so I can crash!  After the kids are down I relax with my computer or journal or tinker with a project.  I try to stay up 'til Joel get's home but if 11:00 hit's and he isn't ready to pull in the driveway I have to will myself to get to sleep.  It get's a bit lonely but we are grateful for the job and any day now I will have a sweet little baby to keep me company.

• When do you fit in time for blogging and reading other blogs? And about how long do you allow yourself on the computer daily?  

I only post 2-4 times per week.  It's just too much with small children, I could multi-task all day long and come back and forth to it but then it's like an obsession and I just can't have that.  I would LOVE to spend more time changing up my blog, reading others, commenting... but I am not in that season right now.  Any day now I am going to have four children ages six and under.  The reality is they need to see my face looking at them, not glancing over at a computer screen every spare minute.  Blogging can get really competitive too and I think that's pretty silly.  You have to blog with sincerity.  If you are running around commenting on everyone's blog just so they will come and comment on yours???  Come on, we need to grow up. I check my email and comments about 4 times a day.  That takes me about 5 minutes.  I've said "no" to things like Facebook and Twitter from the beginning.  I just don't want to live my life in front of a computer - and I could easily because I LOVE the creative aspect of it!  

•Any skills or goals you hope to tackle and learn in the next couple of years?

Oh that's a big question for me.  What don't I want to know how to do???  Seriously, I do want to learn to Irish Dance a bit and would that I could I would go back to Tango lessons (if hubby would go for it)!  I have always lost my baby weight in a timely fashion and now I am mentally revving up to do that again.  And boy, does that take some mental revving!!!  After I do I am going to become a Turbo Jam instructor because I think that would just be HILARIOUS!  I hope to improve my seedling/greenhouse skills... they seem so hit or miss.  I would love to go back to playing the piano and I just found a French teacher in our po-dunk town so I am anxious to see how much lessons are.  Oh, and oil painting, watercolor and maybe how to shoot a gun...should I go on???

• What advice would you share for someone wanting to make their own home a special haven for their family?

Consider the memories you want your children to have.  I have a mental list running... Access to books, music playing, Momma in an apron, Momma looking pretty (not haggled and worn down), homemade jammies at Christmas, homemade birthday dresses, creative time killers like homemade playdo and cardboard box forts... home, home, home... not memories of being on the go all the time.
As far as your husband, he is out there fighting for you all day - what do you want him to crave coming home to?   A fragrant house (and wife for that matter), good food, maybe a fresh pot of coffee or a cold beer, a wife that is pleased by pleasing him... It's about creating an environment for the people you love to thrive in.  Creating a place they can't WAIT to be a part of or come home to.  It's an AMAZING opportunity... to shape and influence such a profound part of someone's life.

Thanks, Angela! It's been fun to take a peak inside your life! You're not only tackling many of your goals, but you're nailing them! I love how homey your kitchen sounds and the fact that you dress nice just for your family! They will surely have many wonderful memories. Congratulations on the newest family member and may His good blessings abound within your home!

Be sure to visit Angela at Parisienne Farmgirl and say Bonjour ami!


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