Hats and History Lessons

Joining Small Things this morning for her Yarn Along.  I’ve been knitting up a storm in preparation for craft bazaars  later in the month, but took a break from those projects to make a little hat, on request, for Bea.  I have an abundance of odds and ends of grey wool, and she requested a grey hat with a sunshine on it, so it seemed like a perfect chance to use up those little balls of wool. Bea is very interested in pre-Civil War history and instead of reading while I knitted and needle-felted her hat, we watched The Abolitionists on American

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October handwork

It has been a long time since I’ve joined The Yarn Along, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy knitting.  The children slept in this morning, and I made some progress on fingerless mitts (the WIP ones are for Bea’s upcoming 11th birthday.  I will needle-felt designs on them when I’m finished. The Yarn Along is about what we’re knitting and reading.  I’m not currently reading any novels (because lately I’m up typing book chapters late at night while the kids are in bed, instead of reading), but a whole bag full of books we ordered just came in at the

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Autumn Fires

  We’re slowly working on getting out the autumn decorations and switching the Nature Table over from summer to fall.  The children have been collecting items from the yard and around the neighborhood.  It seems like every time I step outside, I find someone’s little collection of goodies on the front step or back table. I think some of the nature-mindedness is due to the time of year, but some of it is due to a wilderness study we’ve started: I’m teaching a class at our homeschool co-op based on the book My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

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Elderberry Harvest

This morning I had three brand-new hardworking volunteers helping us pick product for Birch Community Services.  We spent a good chunk of time picking hard-to-reach elderberries, which are in full production.   Fresh organically-grown elderberries go for $3-6 dollars/lb, and we picked about 25 lbs today. We also picked tomatoes, green beans, and a big flat of plums.  Sungold cherry tomatoes are my long-standing favorite.  They produce reliable, very sweet and split-resistant fruit over a long period and in great quantities. This is the first year we’ve gotten plums off a tree I grafted as a tiny little twig four

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Solar Dehydrator

A friend recently gave me her well-loved solar dehydrator.  I have been chomping at the bit to try it out, and yesterday picked a bunch of herbs (that will eventually go into salves) and set to drying them. I spent some time in the evening gathering calendula blossoms and comfrey (shown here), broad-leaf plantain, raspberry leaves, rosemary, lavender, and costmary.  The calendula blossoms come in an array of peaches, yellows, oranges since I let them freely self-sow around the garden and express their natural genetic diversity. I have two electric dehydrators and make a lot of dried fruit and herbs

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Grey Stripes and Good Books

Slowly, slowly, we are beginning to decorate for Christmas.  Advent candles and readings at dinner…working with Grandpa on a new homemade Advent Spiral (because we currently use a little birthday ring from my preschool years in Germany)…Christmas toys appearing in corners of the house where the boys are sure to find and play with them. …and Christmas knitting continues in earnest.  George is growing like a weed and needs new hats.  While watching a documentary or two late at night, I knit up a little stocking cap for him (no pattern, just wingin’ it).  It is a study in grey, using leftover Kilcarra

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Thanksgiving meditation

Thinking ahead to next week, we’ve been reading through a stack of library books about Thanksgiving – simple children’s stories as well as historical and anthropological recountings. Worked into our everyday conversations is the topic of thankfulness, and what the act of giving thanks looks like.  In light of these conversation with the kids, I’ve been reading some Wendell Berry in the evenings, and was particularly struck by the notion that, no matter how much we toil and struggle, somehow the success of our effort lies upon something Greater.  And so, when we reap success in life, we can see the

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Little Mitts, Little Hands

Strep throat and a chest cold swept through the family this week, so we have done little else besides snuggle and attempt to get well.  New “Triple Crown” thornless blackberries are waiting to be planted in the garden, the grapes and raspberries need to be pruned back for the winter.  However, nearly every item on this week’s “to-do” list this week has been abandoned in favor of long waits – for throat cultures at the urgent care, and antibiotics at the pharmacy. I cannot sit still without some handwork to keep me occupied.  All of the waiting for medical appointments

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Yarn Along: Annis

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along this week. Knitting: I’m finishing up the Annis Shawl in Brown Sheep Nature Spun fingering weight yarn.  The yarn was purchased several years ago on clearance, but I had never found the  right pattern for it until I recently came across “Annis” on Ravelry. Reading: Just finished re-reading How To Make A Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield.  Every time I thumb through it, I glean something new to apply to our landscape. On a whim I snagged On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-Rae Lee from the library “Best Picks” shelf.  It is a Dystopian post-apocalyptic novel, and while I

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Early September in the Garden/ Transitions

Well, the photo editor/uploader issues with WordPress haven’t been fixed yet, but I’m going to try and get a few images to upload for this post.  I wish the uploader would cooperate, and I could share photos of all the garden is producing – Sunchokes 10 feet fall, baskets (and bellies) full of “Fall Gold” raspberries, ducks laying pale green eggs every day, broody chickens, yarrow and salvia and dahlias splashing every corner with color… I love the transition of early September, when we are just beginning to be weary of summer, but not quite ready for the dreariness that

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King Tut

The girls and their auntie are up in Seattle for a few days.  The ancient Egypt obsession runs pretty deep in this family, and Bea and Ruth had a blast getting to visit the King Tut exhibit today. (A painting Ruth, age nine, did right before the trip) Some of our favorite Ancient Egypt resources: The British Museum’s website David Macaulay’s Pyramid The Silver Pharaoh Coloring motifs Exploring Ancient Egypt Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors Hieroglyphic Typewriter

On the Oregon Coast

We are home from a weekend yurt getaway to celebrate my husband and our second daughter’s birthdays.  There was a driving rain most of the time, so we skipped the frigid beach in favor of a hike through the woods. Definitely wool skirt, wool socks, heavy shoes kind of hiking weather. As we started out, we came across an open space full of toadstools, most toppled over by the wind (or grouchy gnomes perhaps?). Tucked in under the thick patches of ancient evergreen huckleberries and salal, and sometimes even wandering across the path, were many Rough-skinned newts, with their vibrant

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Tuesdays are for PJs

During the school-year, Tuesdays at our little farmlet are PJ days.  It is a day of the week in which we do not have garden volunteers here, or any scheduled lessons or activities outside the home. (Our budgie, Mr. Chirples, snuggling with Ruth.) We all look forward to PJ days.  In the morning, we can make a big, hot breakfast, catch up on lessons, read loads of books, and play games.  (Here, Bea is playing with the “Math Generator” multiplication tool.)  Sometimes we watch a documentary or listen to a book on CD in the afternoon, or work on a

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Nature Play and a Lunch Recipe

The past two mornings, the kids and I have worked on harvesting the end-of-summer lavender, which we will use for winter craft projects.  (More on that next time). The lavender plants are all in the front yard, which is unfenced, and we are along a bus line.  Keeping a busy toddler safe and occupied while we work on front yard projects is a must. George was kept very happy by his big sisters, who were dead-heading dahlias for me, and bringing him the spent blossoms to play with.   He had such a grand time shredding the flowers, flinging petals in

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Tactile Play Part I

Grandma Jan and Cousin Ruby got the children Perler Beads last week.  I have fond memories of making Perler Bead crafts with friends as a child, and was pleased to see how much the children enjoyed them, too. Hal spent the first few minutes just running his fingers through the beads in the pie tin.  As a 3 year-old, he really enjoys the process of tactile play more than completing a project.  When he settled down and started to work with the form, applying each bead one by one, fine-tuning his hand-eye coordination and fine-pincher grip. The girls, being 7

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Nothing To Do

The children are really enjoying this book.  It’s those days where we have “nothing to do” that the kids engage in deep, meaningful learning on their own terms. This week we’ve been playing a lot of card games (Bea’s favorite), which reinforce cooperation, strategy, addition, subtraction, memory recall for the girls, and help Hal ( age 3 1/2)  with number recognition. Our friend Dr. Ellie gave the children this paper punch-out book, and Hal has particularly been enjoying the city play mat in it.  It has been really neat to see him maturing in his play, and listening to the

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Advent 2011

In this season, we add Advent readings, reflections and songs to our homeschool day.   Some way we are enjoying this season of anticipation: reflecting with an Advent prayer book from Ascension Presbyterian reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible celebrating with Family Hymns from Kortney at One Deep Drawer playing with some of our Nativity sets on the nature table creating an Advent wreath

Top Secret Adventures

Many thanks to my mother for getting the kids a subscription to Highlights Magazine‘s Top Secret Adventures!!  Ever issue brings a new mystery to solve in a new country.  It’s one of the best structured homeschooling activities we’ve ever worked on as a family. We’re currently making our way around China attempting to solve a crime, and in the process learning geography, history, anthropology!  We’re solving logic puzzles and mazes, and breaking secret codes! We can’t wait to solve the mystery, and look forward to next month’s adventure!

A good, quiet morning

…reading a few chapters in Ann Voskamp’s book before the children were up… …enjoying granola in the breakfast nook after morning chores, watching chickens, ducks mucking happily around the yard  (Cran-Walnut Granola recipe at the bottom) …quilting for a neighbor’s baby, due in 2 weeks, while the children had breakfast. A welcome reprieve before tackling the general chaos of the day. Larksong’s Cranberry Walnut Granola Preheat oven to 325F, and get out two large jellyroll pans. In a large bowl, combine: 6 cups old fashioned oats 2 cups unsweetened, unsulfured coconut 1 cup wheat germ 1 heaping cup sesame seeds

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We’ve all been dreaming of them for such a long time, and now they’re finally here!!  3 fuzzy little day-old Indian Runner ducklings came home with us this past Wednesday. The duckings are just about the cutest things we’ve ever seen!!  They’re comical, inquisitive, interested in people, and love to snuggle their little heads in the crook of your arm. The little drake and two ducks will make a great slug-seek-and-destroy team, as well as provide us with up to 400 eggs/year (for the pair of females), and endless entertainment.  Besides being good egg-layers with sweet dispositions, we choose Indian

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9 and 10 days old

The chicks, 9 and 10 days old (Here’s hoping they all survive and none turn out to be cockerels, because the kids are just smitten and have named them all): Cookie, the Buff Orpington. (She’s the largest and fluffiest of the chicks, by far.) Violet (dark brown), and Nudge II (golden), the Auracanas. (You can see their little tufty beards coming in already!) Fiesty, the Salmon Faverolle.  She’s a petite little thing, but has lots of attitude (and 5 toed-feet and feathered legs!) Midnight and Blacky, our tried and true favorite breed – Black Australorp.  Our two and a half

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On this brilliantly sunny February Saturday, we ordered chicks and ducklings from the feed store, and discovered garlic, crocus, vibrant-pink rhubarb emerging from the soil, and soaked up the first hints of spring-to-come. In a week in which we had a lot of sickness and stress, and grief, I am doubly blessed that we are learning to make our home a haven, a place where we can witness birth, and rebirth, and celebrate life. And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,

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Early September Garden

  Temperatures have been dipping down into the low 50s and high 40s at night, and there’s been a crispness to the air that says Autumn is on her way here.  Many plants are waning, having set seed and beginning to shut down for the year.  So, this afternoon, in the bright sunshine, we cleaned up many, many wheelbarrows full of biomass for the compost.  Cosmos and sunflower stalks have to be chopped into small pieces to break-down well, but the chickens feasted on heads full of sunflower seeds.  Most of the sunflower seeds were set out to dry on

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Under the Sea

The children went to a Storybook Costume Ball with their cousins last night.   We had a two-day scramble to throw together some costumes, but we pulled it off just in time!    Here’s a little bit on what we made: Little Hen wanted to be Amphitrite, the Queen of the Ocean, wife of Poseiden, in Greek Mythology. Her costume: $0.50 -A blue velvet skirt from the thrift store (with about 12 holes in it that we had to mend) $0.00 – a tank top from her closet with a seahorse on it and a “seaweed” looking scarf from my closet

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Black Currant Jam

Little Hen’s new favorite jam:  Black Currant! I’ve always loved a little Cassis in my hot tea in the winter, but this is the first year we’ve tried jam made from these relatives of the gooseberry, which have a distinctive, smoky/ musky flavor. Black currants are full of pectin, so they are perfect for jam – all you need is currants, sugar, water, and a little lemon juice.  (Although, next time, I think we’ll try adding some cardamom or cloves, as Sarah@ UrbanMamas suggested). Here’s what we did: Sterilize jars, wash lids and rings and get them hot.  Have canner

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