Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First Meal

Reading Girl Cooks!

Part of the fun is in the tasting, right?
My kids are not picky eaters.  I think that there are several reasons that they have more advanced tastes than most kids their age.  Certainly, one of the reasons, is that I encourage, and sometimes demand, that my kids cook.  The more time they spend in the kitchen, the better they get.  This was Reading Girl's first meal.  She made it all by herself and would not accept any help. I did help run the mixer and take the hot pizza pan out of the oven, but other than that - she was on her own.  She was so proud, and I enjoyed the night off.  The kids cook a meal entirely on their own about once a month.  The Woodsman usually cleans up.  I love to cook, but I also love a night off.

The Menu...

Mini pizzas (handmade dough of course) with pineapple, mushroom and plain.

Greek salad:  I liked this recipe so much I now make it myself.

Fruit Kabobs- we splurged and bought grocery store fruit!

Chocolate fruit dippers - I think she tasted the extra.

Two Great Kid's cookbooks...

Believe it or not, this is actually a very healthy cookbook.  Most of the recipes are vegetarian too! 
The ultimate guide to seasonal eating adapted for kids. 

Ready to Eat!

She was so proud, and so was I. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lesson Plans Heat Up - Summer Home School Part 1

Aren't Kids Supposed to Have the Summer Off?

Most of the year I plan lessons that revolve around the aspects of learning to read better:  decoding, fluency, comprehension, etc.  As the calendar turns slowly toward the end of school, my thoughts turn to the learning I'll do with my favorite students of all - Reading Girl and Soccer Boy. 

Although many of my school students are shocked when I remind them, learning does not, and should not, stop when the big state tests are over and when the last bell rings.  Learning is a life- long process.

We started a semi-structured summer school program for our kids back when they were still in pre-school.  We somewhat flexible, but try to maintain a schedule of learning throughout the summer, even when we're traveling.  We do generally take our beach weak mostly off - but the rest of the summer is full of exploring, skill maintenance and reading.

There are several reasons why we practice summer homeschooling.

1)  We want them to maintain what they've gained during the school year -no summer slump for our two if we can help it.

2)  It gives them something to do.  It eases boredom while at home and on car trips, and provides fewer hours of screen time opportunity.  T.V., Atari (yes, we are totally old school here), and computer time are only available when all school work and chores are completed for the day.  In practicality it means that no more than 30 min., if that, of screen time is usually feasible.

3)  Enrichment!  We have loved our kids teachers!  They're fantastic - don't get me wrong.   But they have 24 other little minds to teach.  Our kids don't always get the push they need, or the focus they want.  Both of our kids are old enough now that they told us what they wanted to study during the summer, and believe it or not, they're excited about starting.  In fact, when the package from Amazon was spotted on the table tonight they both wanted to know if they could start on their summer school work now. 

4)  My kids are often my Guinea pigs.  This summer, for my own professional development, I need to learn more about Vocabulary Their Way and Nancie Atwell's Writing Workshop.  What better way to become familiar with that material than to teach those lessons to my own kids.

5)  We need it.  For the most part, the Woodsman and I have great students.  We enjoy what we teach and what we do, but come summer we get to teach kids who really want to learn, and we get to learn with them.  Hands down these summer lessons are my favorite to plan and to teach.  There's just no contest. 

So.... here's what we'll be doing this summer...


We'll be using Nancie Atwell's Writing Workshop approach.  We'll mostly be writing poems, and possibly short stories.  Neither kid got to do enough creative writing this year.  We're going to read contemporary poems, talk about what makes good writing, and work at writing our own poems.


Soccer Boy requested more science experiments this summer.  We'll do experiments together from The Everything Kids Science Experiments Book.  They're a little more involved and will need parent guidance.   The kids will also choose one or more experiments from  Science in Seconds for Kids to do on their own.  Science in Seconds at the Beach will also be tossed into the beach bag to supplement the Jr. Ranger Programs - we go to Assateague National Seashore -  and to give us something to do if it's not a "beachy day".  These experiments will be so much fun they won't even know they're learning. 


Soccer Boy just started the Magic Tree House  series, and also has plans to read The Spiderwick Chronicles.  Reading Girl has stacks and stacks of books teetering in her room and on her bed.  I'm pretty sure that she'll be reading a lot of Beverly Cleary, and Nancy DrewThe Redwall  series and The Chronicles of Prydain are also on her "must read" stack.  I'll be continuing to read aloud the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we'll spend our car time listening to all of the books on CD we can haul away from the library when we're there for our weekly summer program visit.  We'll also be logging our books to complete our library's summer reading challenge. 


Word Study

Reading Girl's spelling is way beyond her grade level so we'll be working primarily on Greek and Latin Vocabulary.  We'll be using Vocabulary Their Way as our guide.  Soccer Boy will be focusing on r-control and complex long vowels. I'll be drawing lists from Word Journeys and pulling activities from Words Their Way.    This is an area where many kids get stuck and he will benefit from some extra work before next year.


One of The Woodsman's many talents is his gift for teaching math.  He'll be teaching Reading Girl long division, and starting to work on the times table with Soccer Boy.  I'm sure they'll play some math games and puzzles too.


Soccer Boy got a mandolin for Christmas and it hasn't been played much.  Both of us need to learn to play this summer.  We'll be working our way through Teach Yourself to Play Mandolin.  Reading Girl's hands are finally big enough to start learning some simple chords on the guitar.  She's really into Taylor Swift so we'll be working our way through the easy Taylor Swift book.  This book has easy piano, but also guitar chords.  Both kids will also continue to practice piano and work on theory from the Bastien Level 1 books. 


For the most part this will take care of itself.  Both kids love to draw, paint and craft.  I'll provide several craft books (My Little House Crafts Book and Nature Crafts) and the file folder of projects collected from Family Fun  magazine.  Farmer Dan is also an artist and a potter, so there will be several more formal art lessons (primarily drawing and clay work) as well.

Review Work and Prep for Next Year
Reading Girl requested Brain Quest Book 4.  She did Book 3 last year and loved all of the activities.  Soccer Boy will be doing Scholastic's Grade 2 Success with... series.  You'll notice that the workbook summer learning activities are at the bottom of the list.  These don't always get done every day.  They primarily come out when we're traveling.  Although Reading Girl loves her Brain Quest book so much that she'll probably whittle away at it some every day.

Wow!  This is a lot - I know.  But, we've got the ten best weeks of the year to learn and play together.  Don't worry... there will be plenty of time for totally unstructured play and imagination building.  After all, I'll be spending a lot of time in the garden and processing food in the kitchen. 

Hope this post has given you some ideas on what to do with your own scholars this summer.  I'll post a Part 2 soon where I talk about routines and management ideas.  Until then, happy planning.  Go talk to your little darlings and see what they're motivated to learn this summer.  There might be a little resistance at first, but once you unplug the T.V. they'll quickly decide that learning is better than boredom. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Faerie House

Looking for a fun, free nature oriented craft that can keep your kids occupied for hours?  Consider having them make a faerie house.  The only rule is that all materials must be natural - faeries don't like artificial materials. 

Step 1:  Find a suitable location for your house.  A shady, sheltered spot with a bit of sunshine nearby is ideal.  The base of a tree or the shade of a pine branch is a good choice. 

Step 2:  Gather building materials: stone,sticks and pieces of wood are the best choices.

Step 3:  Build:  Any shape is fine, but don't make your house too complicated or large. 

Step 4: Gather decorating materials:  interesting leaves, acorn caps, pine cones, berries and flowers are all pretty.  You want your house to be inviting.

Step 5:  Build Faerie Furniture and other items:  tables, chairs, beds, dishes, etc.

Step 6:  Leave it alone for a while.  When you come back, check to see if anything has moved - if the answer is yes, than a faerie has visited your house!

The following Faerie house was built by Reading Girl and one of her good friends.  They were entertained for hours and hours.  This activity never fails to interest them.  It's good for all seasons and almost all locations. 

Ready and waiting for faeries!

Faerie Furniture:  Table and benches

Want some inspiration?  Order Fairy Houses Everywhere on Amazon.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Down to the Bottom and All the Way Back Up

Don't wait.

View of South Kaibab Trail from above.

Even if the idea seems crazy...

Trail at Phantom Ranch.

... and the path seems long

Moon Rise at the bottom of the Canyon.

... and the way seems dark

Farmer Dan - halfway out of the Canyon on Bright Angel Trail.

... and the going will be hard, hot and out of your comfort zone. 

View of Bright Angel Trail from the top!

You will make it to the top, and it will fill you with a confidence that you didn't know you had.  A belief that you can conquer any task.  Thankfulness for the time spent - with yourself, with God and with others.  You will be filled with beauty from without and within.  The world will seem like a different place.  Forever.

Dedicated to the fine folks, and our fearless leader Melanie, who went down the the bottom and back out with us!

How we got there....

Three years ago Farmer Dan convinced me to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  At the time I thought he was completely crazy.   I had given him a coupon for a father/daughter back packing trip.  I thought he would pick somewhere in our mountains.  When he suggested the Grand Canyon I immediately dismissed the idea.  He was a looney.  We know a lot about backpacking, and being out in the wilderness - but we knew nothing about hiking in the desert.  At the time my kids were three and five and I couldn't even begin to imagine leaving them for a week's time.  I'd never been away from them for more than one night.  Finally, neither of us were in the kind of shape it would take to hike out of THE GRAND CANYON.  The old man would just have to let that dream die - there was no way we could go. 

But, I love my father deeply and truly.  When I saw how much he really wanted to complete this trip I decided to do some research.  Maybe there was a group we could join?  We really lucked out - there was a opening in a mule assisted backpacking trip with the Grand Canyon Field Institute.  We were going.  I still thought it was a crazy idea.  I don't even like heights.  I'm terrified of heights.  I'd been to the Grand Canyon before and thought that it was wonderful and majestic, but best enjoyed far, far back from the edge.  How in the name of all that was sane was I going to hike down into this monster? 

I decided that the best way to deal with my fears was to become really well prepared.  So, I picked all of the highest mountains near us and started logging 20 plus miles a weekend, and at least four miles closer to home every night.  By the time I went to the edge my body was ready, but my mind was still in agony.

Leaving my kids was so difficult.  I felt as if my heart were being ripped from my chest.  My brain knew that it was only a week, but my heart felt like it would be forever.  We slipped away before they were awake so I kissed their sweet faces in the dark, and crept out of the house leaving the Woodsman, my babies and half of my heart behind.

Finally, the much anticipated day of descent came.  I became increasingly nervous as we approached the edge.  I'm not a quitter.  I finish almost everything I set out to do, but I was so eager to walk away from this trip.  I was queasy and jumpy.  I kept imagining my lifeless body at the bottom of a cliff.  ( Note to reader:  Do not read a book about how people have died at the Grand Canyon the night before embarking on a trip down into the Canyon.) 

Mercifully, once we started  I was over taken by the grandeur of the rocks and the vistas opening out before me.  I was also finally calm enough to see the shine of joy coming off of my Dad.  I'm not sure I have ever seen him look so eager and excited. 

The hike down was hot, dry, fascinating and stunning.  It had been an especially wet winter and spring so there were many flowers to enjoy, lots of facts to learn about the Canyon and the majesty of creation in which to revel.

Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon, may very well be my favorite place on the planet.  I dream about returning there and could happily see myself spending part of the year working there once my birds have flown the nest.  Yes, it was blazing hot ( one day it hit 103 in the shade!).  Yes, there are rattle snakes and scorpions (they're bioluminescent).  But mostly the bottom of the Canyon is filled with a peace like no other.  Talk about going off the grid.  Phones don't even work down there.  The people at the bottom are different too.  I guess it takes a certain type of person to want to hike all the way to the bottom and then return to the edge.  It was sort of like being in a hippy fraternity where all of the hazing to join happens on your trip out.

The trip back up to the top was strenuous, but not nearly the impossible task I had envisioned.  Mostly I was stunned by the beauty of the Grand Canyon, and thankful for the training I'd done.  To say I hiked out with my father would be stretching the truth.  He was so far ahead of the rest of our group that I would only catch glimpses of him on switch backs several cliffs above me.  He booked out of that Canyon.  I did eventually catch him and convinced him to slow down his pace slightly so we could finish together. 

I found out later that he was nervous about being unable to finish, and the best way to deal with this fear was to get out as fast as he could.  In contrast, I wanted to savour every moment.  I knew that I probably wouldn't get to return until my children were grown, and I wanted every detail locked in my head.

The trip was good for all of us.  I became more confident.  The Woodsman became more confident - he and the kids had a fantastic week together, and he's been better about doing household tasks since then.  The kids survived quite well without me, and I was richer for knowing that everything ran smoothly even when I wasn't around. 

I'm so glad my dad is crazy.  Without his far reaching imagination we never would have gone all the way to the bottom and back to the top.  It's a bonding experience I will never forget.  We have memories that only the two of us share.  I'm so glad I helped my dad fulfill his dream.  Who knew that I was fulfilling my own dream too?

Next trip?  Hiking in the Swiss Alps?  Sounds like I have more mountains to climb. 

"The Long Up" 

by Kay Ryan

You can see the
land flattening out
near the top.  The
long up you've faced
is going to stop.
Your eyes feast
on space instead
of pitch as though
you'd been released.
The measured pace
you've kept corrupts
with fifty yards
to do - fifty
times as hard
against the blue.

The New Yorker  April 11, 2011

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lego Cake

Happy Boy!
Believe it or not, this is the first kid's birthday cake I've ever had to make!  Usually the Birthday Cake Queen (Reading Girl and Soccer Boy's Aunt) makes the cakes.  This year the Birthday Cake Queen couldn't come.  Oh, man - now what?  My kids have come to expect elaborate birthday cakes.  It's just one more way they feel important on their special day. 
I couldn't just pick up a store bought cake.  Soccer Boy wanted a real cake, made from home, with love.  He had total faith.  Of course I could make a cake that was a good as his Aunt's cakes.  It didn't matter to him that I didn't have any of the icing bags or tips, and even if I had them I didn't have the first clue as to how to use them. 
Farmer Dan is the other cake decorator in the family - no dice.  Farmer Dan was on vacation. 
Hire a local bakery to make the cake?  Drat.  The local bakery closed its doors recently. 
Beg a friend to make the cake.  Nope.  She had a sick baby. 
Then, just when I was getting all set to panic, salvation in the mail.  The March 2012 issue of Family Fun was full of wonderful kids cake ideas.  This Ninjago Cake was one of them.  It was so, so easy.  I left the cake in the pan for easy transport to the party.  I frosted it with chocolate icing, and then used red Fruit by the Foot, pretzels of various sizes, color sugar and Sweet Tarts to make a ring and other practice places for the ninjas. 

temple, balance posts, balance beam, wall, tree, bridge

Soccer Boy helped me put it together.  It only took us about 20 minutes.  It was fun.  It was easy.  Best of all - he was happy. 

Go to the Parents website for directions on making this great cake.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Two Tramps In Mud Time

These pictures are from last year.  But they seemed so appropriate to the rainy weather we've been having this week.  I can't think of many more beautiful sights.  The last of the asparagus, the first of the spinach, and  happy, filthy children.  So many blessings in just a little bit of rain. 

Two Tramps in Mud Time
Robert Frost (1934)
clr gif

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of beech it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And fronts the wind to unruffle a plume
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake: and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheel rut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
These two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an axhead poised aloft,
The grip on earth of outspread feet.
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the woods two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps.)
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right — agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Raised Beds Part 1 - Answer to the Quiz

Last Wednesday I posted a quiz. 

The correct answer was all of the above. 

I hadn't been feeling well for the first part of the week, so by the time Wednesday came around and my energy came back there were 10,000 projects calling my name.  As soon as I got home from school, I headed out to the garden.  The Woodsman joined me soon after and we built six raised beds.  They were constructed out of 1x8 cedar boards (8 feet on the long sides and four on the short ones).  We first screwed the corners together, placed them where we wanted them to be, pounded 2x2 posts into the corners and screwed the boards to the posts.  It took about 15 minutes per bed (I had everything pre-cut), and cost about $30. 
A note about the video:  This is my first attempt at posting a video.  It is just the first part of what we did, and it was taken by the Reading Girl.  Sorry if the quality is poor. Umm... and someone who knows me in real life obviously needs to teach me how to edit.            

After tucking the kiddos in bed, I walked out to shut the chickens in bed too.  I realized that it was a gorgeous evening, there was still some light and that I wanted to  HAD to plant something.  I decided that cukes and squash would be the easiest, as I was using some bagged soil to help form the hills.  The planting was going great until... ughh...I could no longer  read the seed packets.   Umm... was that zucchini I just planted?  No?   Maybe pattypan?  Ah, nuts!  I just planted the Laundry Fairy's mystery squash.  Bah...   

But I really, really, really wanted to finish.  What to do?  A flashlight?  No - too unwieldy.  Ask the Woodsman to come hold the light for me?  Nope - the Celtics were on - he'd think I was crazy anyhow!  Wake up one of the kids?  Nah... that really was crazy.  The kids?  Eureka!  I had a solution.  Farmer Dan got both kids light clips for their hats (Go here to see what I'm talking about.  They're dead useful.) to use when we're back packing and camping.  Ah... and The Reading Girl always put her light away in the closet.  Girl after my own heart.  I was set.

Armed with light, out to the garden I went.  I finished planting three full beds - all of the squash, cukes, gourds and even a hill of watermelon - in the total dark.  I think perhaps gardening is an illness.  Does anyone know?  I think I'm addicted.

The severely neglected deck flowers, dumped on the porch on Sunday, were staring at me accusingly.  They looked so forlorn and thirsty.  The only solution was to plant them.  This time I just used the porch light  - no head lamp necessary.  I planted to the rhythm of the June bugs hitting the screens.  Whirr... Thud!  Whirr... Thud!  I could almost hear their tiny brains shouting, "Let me at the light!"  I know the Woodsman though I was a complete nutter at this point.  I kept tromping down the stairs, past the T.V. and into the planting room to grab more dirt, another pot, more dirt, a hanging basket, etc. 

One of my personality traits, which is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse, is that when I think of something I want to do... I mean really, really want to do... then I almost always do it. I suppose some people call this being stubborn as a mule - I prefer to think of it as reliability.   Wednesday night was certainly a good example of my "reliability".  There are just some parts of you that will always be true - no matter how old you get - some of them even grow stronger! 

Aside - for a great poem about not being able to break out of your own mold - click here to read  James Hall's "Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem Too".  It's funny and so worth your time.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and then be sure to read it out loud - like Elmer Fudd - preferably with an audience.  I'll wait right here.

So, after planting everything and cleaning up (leaving a mess in the kitchen is a suit I can't seem to "buin"either).  I realized that I had yet to send the Laundry Fairy a Mother's Day card.  So, off to Woman to Woman International to send a donation card.  Then, finally, to bed.  Oh, wait, a post to write first (Could writing also be an addiction?)    Sure, I was a bit tired the next day, but it was totally worth it.  I love, love, love crossing work off my to-do list, that's another suit I own, but I don't think I'll "buin" that one anytime soon!  How in the world would I ever get anything done?

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Only Sport I Understand

It's quiet downstairs - that can only mean one thing.  The Celtics are losing.

 I don't get sports.  Not at all.  I can't play them (zero hand eye coordination and I'm slow) and I just don't understand them.  I mean - I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.  It's that bad.  The Woodsman, on the other hand, is a sports fanatic.  Apparently, just like vegetables, there is a team for every season.  Spring, I've been told, is for basketball.  See - and I thought you played baseball in the spring.  Hmm...

Over the years I've learned enough sports lingo to ask questions appropriate to the current sport.  I know that pass interference belongs with football, a rebound belongs with basketball and that trading involves more than giving someone your extra garlic in exchange for their extra beets.  But, that doesn't really mean that I get what's happening.  I try, I really try.  But as soon as I ask a sports question my brain becomes Charlie Brown at the library.  All I hear in response is "Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa wa."  I keep nodding my head and looking interested, but really I'm thinking - what in the world is he saying?  Do those words actually mean anything?  Are they even real words?

Ah... now the team must have had a come back.  Here are the comments I've heard traveling up the stairs in the past few minutes.

"Rebound!"  "That's it!"  "Yes!"    "Ah.."  "Miss!"  "(Clap, clap, clap)  Come on Defence!  Come on!"

Soccer Boy, as you might have guessed, is also a sports fanatic.  The sounds of a dad and his boy watching a game together are precious.  I have no idea what they're shouting about, but that doesn't make me enjoy hearing his tiny voice echoing his dad's voice any less. 

Soccer Boy is also very athletic.  One of my small fears is that as he grows older my inability to play and understand anything sporty will leave me out of part of his world.  For the moment I'm safe.  More than any other sport, Soccer Boy loves.... well, Soccer.
I love watching my boy play!

 This is good because it is the only team sport I ever played.  It is the only sport I ever liked.  It is the only sport in which I have even minor skill.  Which means, that it's the only sport I get.  I actually know what a corner kick is and how it differs from a goal kick.  If you tell me to play mid-field I know where to stand.  I know what it means to dribble and pass.  I know how to trap and kick.  I've even been known to leave the kitchen and the garden to play a game of one on one.  But, most importantly, it's a sport I can share with my son.  This season I helped out by coaching part of two games.  Coaching was fun, but having my son be excited that I was his coach for the day was even better. 

Let's just hope it stays this way! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

16 days... but who's counting?

 The big reading tests are behind my students.  Now we get to read and write poems!  Joy!  Their homework tonight was to write a poem.  Here's mine....

An Ode to Flip Flops
Even the word is onomatopoeic
Smack as they cross
sticky tar - could fry an egg - pavement
Freeness of feet unbound by buckles
By laces, by grommets, by ties
Free to slip out at any moment
to run on the morning dew wet grass .
Beach, creek, pool
Snipping basil forgotten when plucking tomatoes
Off in the car, off in the house
Repeating, repeating with every step
School’s out, school’s out, school’s out.
Go here for a great article on how these awesome shoes are actually dangerous.  

 I'm going to throw caution to the wind and keep wearing them!

 P.S.  This poem is dedicated to Bridget - cousin extraordinaire and flip flop diva.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Quiz

In the spirit of all the end of year testing that students are slogging through... a quiz.

What happened at our house tonight?

A)  The Woodsman and I built 6 raised beds in a little under two hours even though there was a Celtics game on at the time.
B)  My eldest child attempted to help out by collecting the eggs and storing them in the fridge, but accidentally mixed up the eggs that were already hard boiled and the ones that are raw.  Now, like Ramona Quimby, we don't know which ones can go in our lunches.
C)  I planted cucumbers and the first of my squash using my head lamp.  Who says you need light to garden?
D)  I finally sent my mom a mother's day card along with a donation to help women around the world.
E)  All of the above.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!  Click here to make your own honor donation. 

Check back later for the answer - possibly in video form.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Try to Remember to Be Thankful When....

Sometimes my kids go into crazy mode.  I mean flat out, giggle fest, sometimes screechy, howling with laughter loudness.  This mode often involves wild body gyrations, incessant repetitions of phrases that have no apparent meaning (ex. ferret, parrot), and wild cackles.  These crazy fests occasionally occur at home, but they are more frequently found while we are in the car.  Crazy time is especially prone to arrive if the Woodsman and I are trying to talk about the upcoming day, or talk about how the day has gone.  The likely hood of an crazy eruption is further magnified if mama has a migraine. 

I know that there are families where the siblings battle (my sister and I were more likely to squabble in the car than laugh), and I am truly thankful that my kids rarely fight.   They are fantastic friends - I'm thankful for that too, and I'm so glad they do such a stupendous job of entertaining each other.  I realize that not all kids behave this way.

I'm glad they listen to NPR and then repeat names and phrases which make them giggle.  Even if they don't really understand who Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was, I'm glad that his name is planted in their brains.  It will rise up one day in an AP class as if arriving from thin air, and it will have been their childhood glee that lay down that neural pathway.

Riding the Jackalope:  Wall Drug, South Dakota 
 I know that I will miss their crazy chatter when they are gone.  I know that the house (and car) often feel entirely too quiet even when they are gone for a few hours.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I want to install sound proof glass between the front and back seat.   Until then, I'll just try to be thankful - and maybe I'll carry earplugs.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Gods of Fire

Rainy Days, Snowy Days, Bone Chilling Cold Days...

On this cold rainy evening, I'm so thankful for the men in my life who keep me warm.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are associated with fire.  I would hear the clank of the furnace as Dad stoked the fire.  I never got out of bed until the house was warm if I could help it.  Saturday mornings I would wake to the sound of splitting wood being loaded onto the stack - I still frequently wake up to that sound.  Rainy and Snowy weather has always been my favorite type of weather.  These are days to curl up with a blanket and a good book.  Without the dedication of my "firemen" it couldn't possibly be as cozy. 

No other method of heating a home holds the same kind of toasty real warmth.  I'm always left cold in a forced air "heated" house.  Give me the crackle of some logs and the gentle rising heat of burning wood.  We never worry if the power goes off - no problem.  Who needs electricity to heat?  Not us.  Thanks to the Gods of Fire we're all set.

Hapaestus and Vulcan:  My Gods of Fire
I love the smell of woodsmoke curling out of the chimney when I'm working in the garden on a crisp fall day.  I know that when I go inside I'll be warm and toasty.  I even love the smell of my guys when they return from a successful wood harvest.  Who would believe that Eau de Woodcutter would be an appealing scent?
Woodcutting brings a sense of pride as well. Both Gods of Fire work in the professional world - there's a shortage of opportunities for them to be "manly men" in our modern life.  Here - they have a chance to shine.  That's one childhood job I've gotten out of.... now my children are the wood stackers!  I wouldn't want to sully their manly experience by getting in the way (wink, wink).

So... Thank you.  I don't say it often enough.  But thank you for enduring the heat of the summer, the humidity, the gnats, the sweat.  Thank you for the labor you so willingly put forth.  Heating with wood is not just an environmentally and economical way to heat the house.  It's an expression of love.  You two warm me right down to my toes. 

No - they didn't travel home with the chainsaw on top.

In Honor of the Work You Do and the Love You Show

By Robert Hayden 1913–1980 Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blooms, Birds, Blazes, Babes, Blazing Trails = Bliss

A recap of the weekend...

Blooms  - Marigold in a paper cup  - planted by Soccer Boy. Bouquet of Iris, Daisy and rose buds - picked by Reading Girl.  Growing in the yard and on the porch - red and pink Geraniums, Iris (white, yellow, light and dark purple), Columbine, Pansy and Sage.  On the trail - Lady Slipper, Mountain Laurel, Dog tooth Violet and tons and tons of other unknown and unnamed wildflowers.

Birds - some seen; some heard....  hawks, crows, red-winged blackbird, whippoorwill, finches, thrushes, thrashers, towhees, cardinals, phoebe.

Blazes - two campfires:  S'mores one night and Mountain Pies with Apple and chocolate filling another.  Relaxing and watching the flames.

Blazing Trails- Two kids who A) know the trails well enough and B) are responsible enough to blaze way, way ahead of their parents.  We finally caught up to them at the top of the mountain.  Beautiful day to be out together.

Babes - time with my kids, homemade cards, lots of love...  these two are growing up too, too fast.

Bliss -all of this love and a quiet, interrupted weekend at home.  So, so good to relax and enjoy each other. 
Photo by Michael Thompson 
Learn more about this amazing wild orchid here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Praise of Kale

Scary... Very Scary

Dinosaur Kale - Also known as Tuscan Kale.

Red Russian Kale
My daughter decided this fall that she was going to go as kale next year for Halloween - because kale is scary.  Unfortunately for her I don't share her opinions.  This year I planted two types of kale (Red Russian and Dinosaur) - it's that good. 

Our greens have all taken off and it's time to dust off those recipes for this wonderful (and much maligned) vegetable.  I haven't bothered to retype recipes that I got from the web.  Just click on the link.

Kale Chips

These are Soccer Boy's favorite.  If I let him, he would eat all of the kale I bring into the house this way - and he wouldn't share!  The non-curly variety works best for these.  Don't overcook them!

Cranberry Beans and Kale

We make this mostly in the fall.  It's very chili like - but oh, so good.  It also freezes well.  This is probably one of my favorite recipes from the fat free vegetarian web site.  I love too that it uses cornmeal, so it's gluten free.  As an extra bonus it uses ingredients that I always have on hand.  Be sure to chop the kale into bite size pieces or they all clump on your spoon.

Raw Kale Salad with Dates and Olives


Equal parts lemon juice and olive oil and salt.  The amount depends on how much kale you have.


One large buch of kale (any kind works with this one), stems removed and cut into ribbons.
Add some pitted dates, sunflower seeds (or almonds, or pumpkin seeds)- raw or roasted and salted and some sliced olives (green ones are good, but Greek ones would also be lovely).

Toss together - enjoy!

The rest of these gems are adapted from Simply in Season.

Kale Potato Soup

I always make a huge batch and then freeze it for later in the winter.  The kids really like this one - even the girl who thinks kale is scary.

Remove stems and chop two large bunches of kale. 
Add 10 cups of broth to a large soup pot. 
Chop 4 large potatoes (or the equivalent of those odd shaped babies that you found in the potato bed).  I don't bother to peel them - just scrub well.
Chop 1 onion and a head of garlic(sometimes I sautee them in butter or olive oil,but other times I'm healthier and I just toss them into the broth).  Those who are fearful of garlic may want to reduce the amount.
Add kale and cook for just a few minutes until it's tender and bright green.
Puree (preferably with a stick blender) until smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

I usually make this during Advent and a swirl of spaghetti sauce makes it look festive and adds some more good flavor.

Savory Kale

This is so simple.  I never would have tried it because it just didn't sound all that great.  But, one night a friend served it and we couldn't get enough.  Believe it or not, it's actually good for breakfast or brunch.

Saute one chopped onion and some garlic until brown and crisp.
 Add one bunch of kale (stems removed and sliced into ribbons).  Sautee a few minutes until soft and green - you may need to add some water.
Add 1 T of tomato paste and salt to taste.
Heat and eat

If you haven't planted any yet...Don't be afraid.  Kale is NOT scary.   It's not too late. 

Click here for seed ordering information.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

That's What It's All About

Family + Friends + Love= The Meaning of Life

That's it.  That is what it's all about. 


Snapshots of the past few days as we begin to grieve for my grandfather...

      Watching my daughter sit quietly in my Dad's lap for almost fifteen minutes.  No talking or reading, just sitting and being close.  This is something she almost never does any more.

       My son talking about how he was looking forward to the meal after the funeral - totally living up to Pap's constant comment about my son.  - "That boy sure can eat!" always said with a shake of his head and an amazed look.  I'm sure he was laughing in heaven when he heard that.

      Basking in the warmth of relatives I don't get to see enough.

Playing the "whose kid are you?" game.

      Drinking a few beers and hanging out with my cousins in celebration of my Pap's life.  The old man's humor is alive and well in his grand children. 

     The fear in my son's eyes when he thought that I had washed the prayer card with Pap's picture on it.  He wanted to be sure he knew where his "Gros Daddy rememery card" was at all times.  His pockets are where he keeps all of his treasured objects.
       Watching my seven year old son cry the entire way through the service while he clutched a picture of my Pap to his heart.  Feeling my heart break in three ways - once for me, once for my kids and once for my dad.

     Hands, hands and more hands - aunts, uncles, parents, kids, cousins - squeezing, rubbing backs, grasped in prayer, wiping away tears, offering tissues.

    Long,  strong, tearful and yet strengthening hugs.

Saying goodbye, touching his hand and face for the last time.

Crying until I didn't think I could cry any more - and then crying some more anyhow.

Watching my father weep.

Singing the Song of Farewell at the graveside.  My last gift.

Prayers and Pleas for reconcilliation between loved ones.

Laughing, eating and crying some more.

Long hugs goodbye and promises to meet more frequently and stay in touch better - and really meaning it.

Helping both kids hang up their prayer cards - almost the first thing they did when they got home. The boy chose to put it right near his bed where Gros Daddy can look down on him.

Listening to his stories (we've been recording them for years) with my children at bed and promising them that tomorrow I would make them each their own copies so they can play them as often as they want.

Crying some more, sharing favorite memories with the kids, and then crying some more.

Finding my daughter crying in her bed - she'd been so strong for her own Pap Pap, but now all the hurt came crashing down on her.

Healing myself and feeling thankful for all of the wonderful memories by viewing pictures and writing this post. 

I love you Pap.

Go now in peace faithful friend of God
As you take our love into paradise.
God's holy angels will lead you home
to the wide waiting arms of the Lord.

Clair Eash Sr. 
March 19, 2013 - May 5, 2012
Forever in Our Hearts

Memorial Quotes to ponder....

A Bright New World
We feel so sad when those we love are touched by death's dark hand, but it would ease our sorrow if we could but understand that death is just a gateway that all men must pass through and on the other side of death, in a world that's bright and new, our loved ones wait to welcome us to that land free from all tears where joy becomes eternal and time is not counted by years.

Helen Steiner Rice
“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that's all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.”
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Novel of Cupid and Psyche

We feel sad, for what we have lost. We feel poor, for the empty spaces. We feel rich, for we have each other. We will cry, for what we can't have. We will laugh, for our memories abound. We will hurt, for the love we can't give. We will rejoice, for the love we have received. We will be restless, for our lives are not whole. We will be peaceful, for we know it is not forever.

Nanette Hamilton


Indian Prayer
Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glint on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there. I did not die.

Author Unknown

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Joys (and one annoyance) of Spring

We now have lettuce in abundance!  I'm so glad I discovered fall planted lettuce.  It doesn't give us many greens in the spring, but I'm now able to pick full heads of lettuce.  By the time we're done eating this, the spring planted lettuce will be ready to harvest too.

We might, actually, get blueberries this year.  I'm holding my breath.  We planted this blueberry bush when we moved here (10 years ago).  It's finally loaded with berries.  I grew up with tons, and tons of blueberries, but my mom's bushes finally stopped producing a few years ago.  It's been hard to do without the past few years.  I have high hopes.
These are not our birds.  Our nest is on a windchime under our deck. We get to watch the action every night while eating dinner.   It was too dark under the overhang to get a good shot, but our babies look exactly the same.
 Check out Mon@rch's Nature Blog for some fantastic nature photography!

It's been such an warm winter than the Phoebes have already hatched out three nestlings.  I wonder if they're going to lay two clutches of eggs this year?  We don't usually see baby birds until mid June. 

On a negative note - the GNATS are back in full swing. Blech!  At least it means there is plenty of food for the swallows.  They have to be my very least favorite part of living in the woods. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Win Some, Lose Some

This weekend has been one of joy and sorrow.  We celebrated the Woodsman's endurance by cheering him on in his second marathon.  This one was his second and it was much more difficult than the first.  He finished in 4 hours and 19 minutes.  Fantastic job!  This was a better time than his first marathon.  We all enjoyed cheering for him. 

However, this has also been a sad weekend. My grandfather passed away on Saturday afternoon. I will miss him greatly. I'm so glad that I spent so much time listening (and recording) to his stories over the past few years. They were precious before, but they are even more so now. Time spent with the people you love is the most precious time of all.