Late June Garden Update

It’s late June at Salt of the Earth Urban Farm (home of the BCS Teaching Garden)!  Finally, some warm weather (mid-upper 70’s) has settled in (the tomatoes,  summer squash and bush beans look much happier) and everything is flourishing.  The harvest is increasing – every week, we are taking a few dozen cartons of organic snow and sugar snap peas, as well as boxes and boxes of lettuce, chard, kale, bitter greens, and a few choice boxes of herbs and strawberries to Birch Community Services.  We are still looking forward to the coming months and being able to take in

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Simple Baby Socks (No Grafting!)

Another baby wave!  Lots of friends are having babies in the next several weeks, so every spare moment, it’s knitting, knitting, knitting (I’ve even been knitting in church on Sundays!  I actually absorb the sermon better – multitasking prevents the mind from wandering!)! My knitting tends to go in a seasonal rhythm – winter babies always get hats (usually a pixie or a Debbie Blisspattern with little earflaps) and spring/fall babies usually get booties.  But what to make for summer babies?  SOCKS! I found that a lot of baby sock and bootie patterns (you know, the teensy ones) never fit

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Late May Garden Update Part I

The garden has really taken off  after a week of hot, sunny weather, followed by lots of rain. (although, the cold nights and wind the past few days haven’t done us any favors).  Volunteers have been able to start taking in a few baskets of organic produce to BCS, mostly radishes, mustard greens, lettuce, chives, tarragon and baby beets, bok choy, and kale.  The teeny harvests thus far just begin to hint at the bounty of the coming months. Between slug-picking and weeding and rain showers, we got a few pictures this morning – (above) The boys in the front

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“Flying Fish” Blue

This afternoon’s project was painting the chicken coop a vibrant blue (although it dried darker). The girls had a great time, and were sure to get lots of paint in their hair.  🙂 Up next?  A second coat (after picking up a second gallon), painting the trim and posts, and adding a nice bright yellow sunshine in the upper right corner, and this fall, a trellis and table grapes up one side.

Preparing for the duck invasion

After a flurry of chicken-planning activity this winter/early spring, we have our long-dreamed for chicken flock (the three hens, plus three new Speckled Sussex chicks, and three more chicks on order (2 Australorps and a Buff Orpington)).  And the chicken run is mostly complete (needs a little gussying up, and a grape trellis up the side).  Now, moving on to the next project, the Baker boys have gone into intense-planning-mode for … DUCKS! The boys are a bit so-so on the chickens, but can’t wait for ducks!  We have room for 3 (and maybe sneak in a 4th?) next year,

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On the wheel, on the map

We’ve been studying a lot about map reading and map making, and yesterday afternoon I brought out a huge sheet of posterboard and let the children create and label their own “treasure map”.  (Little Hen’s idea is to re-create the map in real-life in the backyard and then use their map to find the “treasure”.   Pretty clever idea, actually. My only concern is creating the “grape soda lake” they drew on the map…   😉 If the rain holds out, I think the girls will have a great time with their treasure hunt this afternoon. I was feeling a bit

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A budding artist

Look who decided to help himself to the craft supply box while I was attempting to make dinner (and the girls were having a tickle war). It’s hard to believe that Tum Tum will be TWO next month…he’s outgrowing so much of his sweet baby-ness.  I loved watching him drawing intently and singing to himself all the while – he’s growing into such a big boy so very fast…bittersweet, really.

Fresh Eggs

We got chickens!! After months of scouring Craigslist, pricing materials at the ReBuilding Center and researching plans (not to mention years of wishing, dreaming)… we finally found a used coop that met our super tight budget. (A coat of pretty paint, and the sturdy coop will look quite nice in the back corner of our yard.)   And a completely unexpected bonus- the large (6 nest boxes) coop came with enough fencing and fence posts for a very large run. An even bigger bonus – the coop came with 3 organically-fed, heritage breed, 9 month-old hens – 2 Australorps (two

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Yesterday afternoon, with my son on my back, the girls and I potted up the first of our tomato seedlings – all 51 of them.  (The one above is a “Black Krim”, a favorite of ours for salads.)  Another 26 little tomato-lets (started a week later) will be potted up this weekend, time allowing. (Above: Our eclectic collection of potted-up tomatoes – in sour cream and tapioca containers, large paper cups, milk jugs, juice bottles, hand-me-down pots.) It felt wonderful to spend the afternoon in the warm sunshine, kneeling with my children on the front steps, tenderly moving each little

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Real Food

Today we finished Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food.   The girls and I listened to it on unabridged book CD over the course of several afternoons of making dinner.  I had really enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, but somehow missed this one until now. Much of what he writes really melds with our family’s thoughts on what we eat, how we eat, and where our food comes from, and we found the book affirming and encouraging. In honor of Pollan’s call to simply “eat food”, instead of “food-like substances”, here’s the food we made for tonight’s

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Baking Day

Monday is baking day. We’re enjoying the Monday tradition of baking homemade bread.  Our favorite “fancy” recipe is Challah – the dough is so kid-friendly, the results wow everybody, and nothing goes better with homemade jam. It looks like the sun is starting to come out, so I think we’ll go plant some potatoes (along with the usual Yukon Gold and generic redskinned, we’re trying three heirlooms this year – German Butterball, All Blue, and a lovely pink-fleshed Red Thumb). After some busy gardening, I think we’ll deserve some challah and strawberry-banana jam for afternoon snack.  🙂

Little Ragamuffins

We scrapped all other plans for today, and simply played in in the dirt. As Firecracker said, “There’s nothin’ more natural than gettin’ dirty.” Somehow, in the midst of playing “dirt fairies”, “cruel dirt queen who makes her workers dig all day”, “climb dirt mountain”, “search for worms and buried treasure”, and “fill and empty buckets of dirt over and over”, we managed to spread just shy of two yards more compost over the front beds, finally completing them. Tomorrow – chard, beets, kale, mustard greens and potatoes are sown out front.  The coming weeks – finish backyard beds, plant

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Library books this week

The girls are listening to Daddy read The Mousehunter at bedtime, but our daytime book selection reflects the unusually sunny, warm weather that has us all thinking of anything except the tail-end of winter. We just finished listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Which is why we’re starting an asparagus bed -  Little Hen was fascinated by the chapter on asparagus – as read by Barbara Kingsolver’s daughter), interspersed with a complementary collection of Appalachian music.  Indulging a totally separate branch of the girls’ current interests, we had worked our way through a stack of books on Norse mythology and ancient

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Morning reading

This photo pretty well sums up our morning literary activities of late. First thing this morning, we had to get a bit pot of chili blanco going on the stove, and batch of brownies in the oven, since it’s our turn to bring dinner to our homegroup.   While Firecracker helped measure out the spices and crush the garlic, Little Hen was in the living room, practicing some yoga with her Yoga Pretzels cards (she says “Warrior 1” is her favorite pose).  She does 3 or 4 cards each morning, when she remembers. After the brownies came out, we sat down

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An afternoon with Percy Jackson

A lovely, chilly December Saturday – the icy weather kept us in the house, delving once again into the world of Greek Mythology.    We made  mugs of hot mint tea, and listened to Daddy read from our current Percy Jackson book. It’s wonderful to share a passion with your children – there’s not much we love to do together more than read adventure stories and share the world of imagination. Wishing your family some time to slow down and connect this busy season.  Blessings.

Making the most of our time

We are feeling a bit like hermits, cooped-up in the house for days and days – the little ones are still wrestling with sickness, and we had to miss church again this week.  Little Hen, still healthy, escaped to Grandma’s house for the weekend (a BIG thank-you to Grandma for inviting her up!). After homemade pecan-chocolate pie for breakfast (hey, we’re sick!), Daddy read to us from The Lightning Thief, which is turning out to be an excellent choice for Firecracker, who is captivated by Greek mythology. Another good thing is that I’ve been able to get quite a bit

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Little Knitter

Look who’s knitting on two needles! We are all recovering from a pretty awful family-wide bug, so the past two days we’ve taken things very easy.  Sunday afternoon, Little Hen said she wanted to get some knitting done and set to work on her first real “project” -  a little wool cape for her beloved Waldorf doll, Princess Rooth.  It’s going to be a simple garter stitch rectangle made from purple heather worsted-weight wool (from my stash) on size 8s.   We’ll lace a purple velvet ribbon through one side when she’s done to make it into a cape for

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Base Ten Blocks

Little Hen tends to rotate through phases where she really enjoys worksheets (which I can respect, although I don’t understand it!).  Her auntie has stocked her with books and books full of math worksheets, and I generally pull out a stack of the ones that match the topic we are currently studying, so they are available to her. Right now, we’re working on the concept of place value and adding two and three digit numbers.  Daddy brought some wooden Base Ten Blocks that he wasn’t using at work (he’s a math and history teacher), and they have been a wonderful

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Paper crafting – freestyle

The past month has left me feeling stretched pretty thin because of obligations and responsibilities to my family and others.     Tackling domestic duties and  “home schooling” the girls while my non-stop motion toddler “explores” the house into a distaster zone has also been a challenge.  Crafting has been particularly tricky – Tum Tum either attempt to eat or destroy anything the girls are working on – and he’s especially good at climbing up on the kitchen table and flinging art supplies across the room in a lightning flash. This day, he took a nice long nap after lunch, so as

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World Forestry Center

Over the weekend, we took advantage of the Smithsonian’s annual free pass day to visit the World Forestry Center, located right across from the Oregon Zoo.  The building is light and open, and the exhibits are well designed, educational, and attractive to children. There were displays appealing to many senses – here Firecracker is smelling the oils from different culinary trees and trying to guess their origin.   Euclayptus had her stumped – she said it smelled like “Burt’s Bees something…but that’s not quite right.” Little Hen played the tongue drums for a LONG time – and has been reminding me

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Vaux’s Swifts

Kortney at One Deep Drawer told me about the congregation of Vaux’s swifts in NW Portland, and this week we made it over to the Chapman School to see them.   For a bird nerd like me, it was a huge thrill. We set up early, with hundreds of other families, enjoying our picnic dinner (homemade hummus, Greek yogurt, tomatoes, flatbread, pear sauce), and reading books until the sun began to set. The school had some well-made signs up about swifts – with sections at the bottom geared for children.  One sign suggested we try  tracking one swift in the sky

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Safari Girls

We’re studying Africa off and on lately, primarily because the girls’ interest in the continent was sparked by their favorite musician’s recent work in Malawi.  I picked up this felt Africa playset at the thrift store on sale for a quarter, and it was a big hit.   Along with Dana’s music, we’ve been listening to some African music while the girls played with the felt set and throughout the week  – Acoustic Africa, Ladysmith’s Long Walk to Freedom, and the girls’ favorite Gift of the Tortoise. The girls decided they would take turns setting out pieces for the other

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Like most children their age, the girls are prolific artists (esp. Little Hen, who loves her water colors).  Our living room was looking pretty bare, and despite amassing a  substantial collection of their artwork, it’s just not in the budget to get anything professionally framed right now.  Why should that prevent us from displaying their art?  So, we strung up a line, hunted down some scrapbook paper on clearance at the craft store, and a little glue and a few clothespins later…the walls aren’t quite so empty. Some of my favorites -  The Lady with Grey Hair by Little Hen

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Math this week

Here’s a look at some of the mathematics we’ve been studying this week.  The girls LOVE the Sir Cumference series of books, and even though the math concepts are technically “above grade level” for them, the girls seem to have no problem understanding the material.  For example, Little Hen informed us that the slice of applesauce cake she had for dessert “makes an acute angle.” We’ve also pulled out a few board games from our enormous board game stash (mostly from thrift stores) that encourage children to think mathematically.  Despite the tedious sounding name, this Dino game is great for

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Books to buy, books to borrow

We made another trip to our favorite local bookstore, Powell’s.   It’s on the way home from church, and so very hard to pass it by without stopping in.  Every visit I am tempted to spend a ridiculous amount of money on crafting, cooking, and kids’ books.  And I could hide out in the Orange Room for hours and hours if my children didn’t keep dragging me back to the kid corner… In the end, I exercised some self-control, and left with only this hilarious kid’s book, which will be a gift for Firecracker’s birthday in October.  (But, I also

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