New Babies on the Farm
It’s been the week of new life; our garden is starting to grow well (as are the weeds!) and our little farm is bustling with activity.
We’ve got several broody hens who’ve been hoarding eggs so Dan made a nifty cage that covers right in front of a nesting box and now one of our Silver grey dorkings has gotten down to business with about a dozen eggs. They always look so fierce once they starting setting a clutch.
Then Sunday afternoon, we’d all heard cheeping that we though was a bird but then as short while later, Kathleen came running in the house ecstatically calling, “there are little chicks, I saw them!”
And sure enough, one of the Silver Dorkings had gotten underneath a board in one of the compost boxes and there she’d hatched out eight teeny chicks. This was one of the reasons that I started Silver Grey Dorkings, because I’d read that they are wonderful for going broody and thus far this is correct.
Come Monday morning and Aneliese went out first thing to feed the bunnies and let the sheep out to graze when she came in with her exciting news. Maisie, one of the Shetland ewes, had just given birth! This is our first lamb and we didn’t expect her to lamb for another week according to my calculations. But there he was as healthy and hearty as anything. Other than giving Maisie a little milking to make sure that the plugs in her teats were out (thanks to a local sheep farmer for that tip, I’d have never known otherwise), all was well.
We’d been feeling a bit nervous and unprepared because we know very little about sheep and we already lost a calf at the end of 2016 so it was a relief to just be able to watch and let the sheep do their thing.
This is Little Wesley and he’s as little and cute as ever a lamb could be. Within an hour, he was already curiously sniffing around and trying to jump. Now a few days later, he runs all over, kicking up his heels and then sinking into the long grass for a little nap before going at it again. It’s adorable.
Inevitably, I get asked the all important question; what do you do with the animals? Yes, we do raise animals for meat. Not all but some. For, example on a good day with chicks, we might get half hens and half roosters in a clutch and we don’t need more roosters so eventually, we process them. And so on.
The next question I’m always asked, is why do you name them and make them friendly. Well, for a few of reasons. One, just try to keep three little children away from cute baby animals. For two, it’s just easier to identify the animals by their names on a farm of our size. We’re small, not using tags or brands etc and it’s just easier to say “Benjamin(the bunny buck) needs water.” Or ” Leave Maisie in the barn and put Belle out.”. Then finally and most importantly, tame animals are easier to handle and generally calmer. If they are used to all of us working with them, they are less stressed which is very important to us. We don’t have any ideal set ups for doctoring animals or loading them up into the trailer so we need to be able to do things like lead the steer to the road and into the trailer with out worrying that they will run away.
Anyways, that was just a bit of a random side note, I had just planned on telling you about the all the new babies. We’re a bit of a zoo around here right now. The girls rotate between catching tadpoles in the pond, to farm babies, to their gardens….to whatever adventure strikes their fancy. It’s pretty great.
The gardening season is upon us full speed. That time when weeds wait for no one and where daily there are seeds or plants needing to get in the ground yesterday. The girls and I went away for a few nights to a friends cottage by the sea and I was lulled into somewhat forgetting the work at home. I’ve quickly remembered though today, our first day home.
I love it though. I really truly love working in the soil, raising our food and beautiful flowers. And when the sun is shining as it was today, there isn’t much else that I’d choose to do.
Thankfully, Dan and the girls also enjoy gardening (though perhaps not to the same extent as me yet.) and so, while I still have twinges of feeling neglectful, most often we work/play side by side.
This year, the girls spent hours working on their own garden beds; they’v prepped the soil, gathered rocks, and made their paths and rock surrounds. A couple weeks ago, Aneliese requested to go to the local nursery to spend some of her birthday money on plants. She’d tucked it away as soon as she received it and it made me smile to see how she was choosing to spend it. On something beautiful, local and that would give her hours of enjoyment out of doors.
After choosing her plants, she’s been watering and tending them indoors and slowly hardening them off while trying to wait patiently for the right time to plant them.
Finally, she was able to tuck all her plants into their beds. They’ve all chosen some of the vegetables that they would like to grow in our main food garden where honestly, I’ll do most of the weeding and tending, but this is her own little space to make beautiful and to keep weeded hopefully.
Gardening is never one of instant gratification; it’s a slow process at times. Except for the weeds. They have this ability to grow overnight it seems. There is so much to be learned from a garden and I’m grateful for our bit of land where we can get our hands in the dirt together.
May Day 2017
May Day 2017
I’ve neglected my blog entirely in past year so I thought that I just jump in right where I left of, our May Party! We had a forecast of nine days of rain surrounding our May day celebration and Aneliese was anxiously checking the weather app looking for changes. Sure enough, it was still raining when we woke up but then the sun came out and it was a glorious spring day.
In hindsight, we should have done two may poles as we did last year, one of the younger kids and one for the olders but I thought that one would be best so it got a little jumbled. Plus the ground was so soft that the pole wouldn’t stay solidly in the ground. But it was fun and that’s all that really matters. Some day, we shall create a perfectly woven pole if we keep at it; I’m confident.
It was a beautiful, sunny day but I forgot to mention that there was also a great deal of wind which added a little excitement to the the may pole dance. The ribbons preferred a wild wind dance over being held in the hands of small children!
Far beyond a simple May pole dance; I look at these photos and am so grateful for the community that we have. Perhaps because we are now so far from our big family, I’m so thankful for the “grandparent” figures, the other mom and dad’s who watch out for my kids, the kids who join in the all the fun be it the may pole dance or climbing trees or hunting tadpoles or swimming in the cold stream. I’m so, so grateful.
Happy Spring friends and I hope to post here in this little space sooner than a year from now!
May Day Celebration
May 1st saw the sun shining brightly and cheerfully for our May day celebration! This has been a long awaited celebration by the girls, especially after reading of the May Day Celebration in the book, More All of A Kind Family. I admit, I love planning parties and I love having lots of friends in our home so I’m a pretty easy one to convince. Right now we’re in a bit of upheaval with a new roof in progress, a septic system being replaced, and a basement being insulated but we decided long ago that if we waited until our house and yard were ready to host parties, well, it just wouldn’t ever happen. So we go for it and with some tasty food, warm sunshine, super cute kids and great friends, how can you go wrong?
Most of the adults hadn’t been part of a May Pole dance before and very few of the children had either. I think there may have been a little cheerful skepticism as to how it would all work out but it all worked out great. Dan fiddled the may pole parade to our little pond side paddock and through a jig for the dance. The idea is that each person holds a ribbon and moving opposite direction of the person next to them, weaves over and under to make a woven braid of ribbons on the May Pole. The older kids did that for their pole while the younger ones kept with the same direction. I figure that by the time they are in their early teens, most of these kids will have it perfected!
And so May has arrived and we celebrate everything becoming green and vibrant with life once again. We celebrate warmth and friendship. Tomorrow, I turn to my freshly turned garden and begin the work of seeding and growing. Happy May, Friends!
A Pie Birthday Party; Aneliese turns 8
Our sweet Aneliese turned eight today. Our girl, our first born is growing up fast.
Months ago, Aneliese asked for a pie party for her birthday; pizza pie, apple pie, and banana cream pie. And so that’s just what we did.
Then she asked if we could have supper, picnic style, by our little stream which has become a magical place for them. She’s been wishing for a birthday picnic there for the past four birthdays. And so today was the perfect day for it.
While I made pies and pizza, they spent all afternoon getting the picnic party spot all spruced up and it was adorable.
They then loaded all the pizza and plates on to the wagon and worked together to haul it across the pastures.
It’s on days like this that the richness of life almost overwhelms me. We have so much love in our life. So much enjoyment of simple pleasures like shared pizza with dear friends. A strong healthy, vibrant little daughter who told me in the morning when the day wasn’t unfolding the way we had planned, that she didn’t mind if I couldn’t get pie made, even the pizza but that she was just so happy to share her birthday with friends no matter what we ate.
She fell asleep a tired, happy, very loved little eight year old.
Quite a while back I started reading about Forest Kindergarten where early education is spent almost exclusively outdoors. We spend a good many hours of our lives out of doors but there was still something so intriguing to me about the intentionality of this type of learning. Basically, the idea is that in whatever weather, children are encouraged to play, explore and learn in a forest or natural environment with the adults there to provide support and to assist. So for months now I’ve been wanting to have a more “formal” day of this once a month and finally today, we had our first “Nature School” day. “Nature” because we hope to spend these days in environments other than forest, such as at the beach. “School” because well, our daughters often tell people that we don’t do school because for some reason unencouraged and unbeknownst to me, they’ve decided that “school” is really only the things that they don’t like doing. The many pleasurable learning opportunities that Dan and I help bring about aren’t considered school thus we’re trying to help them understand that it’s all part of their “school” experience.
This morning, only an hour after our intended time, appropriately dressed and with food and other essentials such as Dr Bear, we headed out to a near by lake that we’d never explored before that we all agreed was a good first location.
Part of this idea is to allow the girls a lot of freedom to set the pace and to not really have my own plan of the direction the day will take. We want to give them lots of time to explore, play, imagine, ask questions while we offer our own observations here and there. Today we’d intended to discover a lot of animal tracks to identify and read about later at home, however the rain from the previous night actually melted most of the snow forcing some adaptations. We crossed streams, climbed rocks, played with ice, examined and discussed various trees, Lichen, and fungi, checked out holes, listened to the wind, and only one child got wet right at the very end. Even Penny was ecstatic to join us.
It was a great first Nature School. We hope to eventually invite some of our friends who are home educated to join us and we also intend to eventually spend close to six hours or so exploring and playing whereas today we managed about three which was still really great.
On days where we do this and it’s dry, we all want to bring our nature journals and some identification books but for today we took pictures of things that we wanted to remember for later, both for drawing and for looking up information about.
I love that we can do this together. That together, we’re learning so much about the things and places that we love. I love that the girls have the opportunity to play and explore in the forest, to take risks that mean things like sliding off a rock or slipping in a stream. I really believe this is teaching them resilience, courage, boundaries, and creativity, along with so many other life skills. These are the glorious days of educating the girls at home, the ones where it all just makes sense. It’s days such as this that make the days where not much seems to makes sense or flow smoothly just a little easier.
A little bit of Christmas
I admit, by the time mid December finished the steamroll that began flattening me in November, I was ready to find a cave and hibernate until Spring. But I didn’t. I love traditions and I love all the festivity around Christmas but this year many things were just too much. So they just didn’t happen. Or they happened late. Or they were modified. More than ever, our girls just want us, our time, our attention, and our affection. All things that I struggle to offer when life feels too full of other things. So I tried to pick the things that offered what we all needed most, a few times totally missing the mark but sometimes spot on. They loved the “candy cane” porch, the Zimsterne (cinnamon star cookies) for hanging on the tree were a highlight for Kathleen, and our tree that was blown over onto our fence in a preChristmas storm was made memorable by its Ogre like shape and made beautiful by lit candles on Christmas Eve/morn. Between dolls from Grandma, pjs and slippers and art supplies under the tree along with the traditional stocking of treats and the years supply of socks and undies, they were much delighted with their Christmas treasures as well as the ways that they were able to share with others.
And now we are in the new year with a few more days to spend, just us, before we get back at regular life again. In my totally imperfect way, I’m trying to savor these days. The moment that is right now. This morning that was a snowball fight and while this mama has surprisingly good aim, my arm is still tired.
Wishing you a hopeful, love filled New Year, my friends.
Advent Countdown & Christmas book list
When I first saw the idea a few years ago of wrapping 25 books as a Christmas countdown, I thought it was so great and wanted to do that with the girls. Fast forward the five years that it took from idea to action and the girls think its absolutely fantastic.
One of the reasons that it took me so long was just collecting books that were really good and getting enough over the years because who really wants to buy 25 books at once?!? But this year, an amazing tool called the library is taking a very active part in our advent countdown. In fact our first book needed to go back the same day because I checked it out too early!
So some are new to us books that I’ve thrifted, some are from Christmas past and over half are library books. I warned the girls ahead that they didn’t get to keep all the books and they don’t mind at all. The fun for them is opening a new book and snuggling in to read together before breakfast.
I have to admit that as of the evening of November 30, I still didn’t have any of the books wrapped and was almost ready to pop the unwrapped books in a basket. BUT a mama friend and two sweet little friends jumped right in at knitting night and wrapped those books up in record time.
When I posted a picture on my instagram, I had lots of requests for my book list so I said I’d try to get a post up of our favorites. As you’ll see, it was hard to choose. There are some incredibly gorgeous Christmas books, both illustrations and writing. Some are more overtly focused on the story of Christmas and the Christ Child as that is our belief and tradition but I would say usually in a beautifully written way. Many of the books we most enjoy are on the traditions and culture of Christmas; the girls especially love stories of the “old ways” as you’ll see. We also include St Nicholas in our tradition rather than Santa so there’s not much in our book list with the newer Jolly ol’ fella. We’ve also got some seasonal/wintery favorites that make this list as well. I’ll share them through Amazon links as way to get a good look at each one if you’d like.
The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumor Godden & Barbara Cooney
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston & Barbara Cooney
Becky’s Christmas by Tasha Tudor
Christmas Farm by Mary-lyn Ray
Silver packages by Cynthia Rylant
Pioneer Christmas; Celebrating Backwoods by Barbara Greenwood
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo & Bagram Ibatoulline
Song of the Stars by Sally Loyd Jones
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Christmas Stable by Astrid Lingren
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck
The Polar Express by Chris Allsberg
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe
The Bakers Dozen; A St Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard
The Yule Tomte & the Little Rabbits by Ulf Stark
A Calf for Christmas by Astrid Lingren
Silent Night, Holy Night by Werner Thuswaldner & Robert Ingpen
An Early American Christmas by Tomie DePaola
Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard Schneider
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
A Time to Keep; A book of Holidays by Tasha Tudor
By Trisha Romance A Star for Christmas [Hardcover]
Many of the Jan Brett books are absolutely lovely as are many by Tasha Tudor as well as Tomie DePaola, it would just take to much time to list all of them them.
For Younger Children:
Stopping By Woods on a Wintry Evening by Robert Frost & Susan Jeffers
The Winter Barn by Dorothy Ripley
Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Karma Wilson
Mortimers Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson
Animals Christmas Eve by Gail Wiersum
We haven’t read a lot of Christmas chapter books yet but this year we will read A Christmas Carol together and last year, we read The Family Under the Bridge. Many chapter books have a section about Christmas that we have read through out the year so I’ll give a list of those that I think of.
The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggins (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm also has Christmas Chapters that I loved as a kid.)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens & illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
Laura Ingalls Wilder books all have at least one Christmas chapter. For younger children, the best ones are Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek. **Just a little warning, should you read the entire books, there is some very overt racism in these books (especially Little House on The Prairie) that you may choose to skip or talk about. For us, its been a good chance to address some of the very wrong ways that specific groups of people have been treated in the past and currently and how racist attitudes are present even in people who seem really great and kind (this can include ourselves.**
I’d love to hear some of your favorite Christmas books. What is your family enjoying this year?
Thanksgiving in the back Pasture
After a long while
I received a comment a few weeks ago from a lovely reader asking if I would start updating my blog again. Oddly enough, I’ve been feeling the blogging bug again although it feels as if I’ve almost forgotten how. My hiatus wasn’t actually a planned event; it just sort of, happened.
Some things fit well for a season and then they just don’t. I’m not sure if updating this little space of the internet still fits me but I thought I’d try again.
Meanwhile life has been full to overflowing. Most days I don’t keep up but that’s a lament for another time. You can see one of my big summer projects here, https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/6832583?s=SijM. We rather do everything in fits and spurts so informally opening our little B&B was no exception. A call one night in June from someone wanting to rent the next night gave us the adrenaline rush that we needed to get the space ready and after that the bookings just kept coming. We’ve enjoyed a variety of folks from various parts of the world and I hope they’ve enjoyed a place of rest even amidst our sometimes crazy life.
We’ve seen some additions to our little farm, a whole lot of weeds have grown, we tried to naturalize our front lawn to the amusement of our neighbors, and we began painting the outside of this beautiful, rambling monstrosity that we call home. It guzzles gallons of paint insatiably.
And now Fall is almost upon us. With it comes a sense of rhythm and focus that all but disappeared over the spring and summer months. I’ve grand aspirations of a more scheduled and disciplined life. We’ll see how that pans out, hmm?
What new happenings has your life seen this past year?
Penny at a year old
Penny is just over a year old now. She did get a birthday celebration from the girls in December when she was actually born. She eats almost as much as a horse and is quite picky about which food she likes but she is a fantastic companion for our little family. Especially now that we’ve had to have Molly put down.
Everything about this beautiful girl is big. Big tail that knocks over ornaments and children. Big voice that warns of friends and what she views as potential foe. Big mouth that slobbers and drools kisses and greetings. Big body that stretches across the kitchen floor. Big heart that loves us.
If the girls are outside, she is right with them. She keeps the chickens where they belong and herds Blue boy back on the occasions that he has escaped his pen. And she is learning not to chew off our arms in her delight to be with us.
Christmas in Pictures
We had a very quiet Christmas, just our little family of five for the first time ever. It was nice, perfect for us for this year actually. I cooked way too much food though and we’ve a lot of turkey to eat so I’m quite certain that this won’t become the norm! We didn’t get the snow that the girls were dreaming about, instead we had the mildest day that we’ve experienced in December and so we went to the beach for a walk instead of going sledding.
Mostly I’m so grateful. Grateful for the love and life that we have. Grateful for my little family and that we get to be together. Grateful for Jesus. Those things are the truly beautiful part of Christmas and the rest is added bits of brightness that make my heart sing a little more.
Kathleen turns Three
Our dear precocious Kathleen turned three on Sunday. The first picture is her reaction to coming down from her bed and seeing her new crown (Santa Lucia inspired). Her reaction to her entire birthday continued about the same, so happy and funny because she doesn’t remember her last birthday which made everything a surprise for her.
Her highlight was by far her Bamboletta baby doll who she immediately called Baby Bunting. He is already her constant companion and it’s adorable.
She also thoroughly enjoyed some handmade gifts from her sisters and the book 1 is One from Aneliese.
She tried to feed Baby Bunting some of her strawberries and whip cream panCAKE but we recommended that he was a little young for that.
Our birthday tradition is that the birthday child decorates their own cake and this year she chose some of their animal friends to help in the celebration along with some holly provided by Aneliese from our bush outside.
It was such a good day celebrating our darling girl. Happy Birthday Kathleen!
Using an Antique Renfrew Cream Separator
With the birth of Sugar’s calf Blue, we are back into the full swing of milking. Although, at this point the calf is always with his mama and we are just milking what milk he doesn’t take. Within a week or so we will start keeping them apart for a couple of hours prior to one milking until we eventually separate for the night so that we can get a little more milk for ourselves while still milk sharing with the calf as I’ve talked about before.
One of the things that we have discovered since we got Sugar (a highland jersey cross) was that while highland cattle have a high milk fat content, their milk is more naturally homogenized more similar to the milk of a goat. This means that we get delicious creamy milk but get very little cream to skim off of the top for making butter or whip cream and other such delights. During our last round of milking, we were just trying to wrap our heads around the work and routine of having a milk cow so didn’t do much more than drink the milk and make yogurt.
This time though, we are hoping to be meeting all of our dairy needs with Sugar’s milk production. An interesting little back story is that when we moved to Nova Scotia, we wanted a cow. Specifically a Highland Jersey. When we were first exploring the attic when we arrived at our new house, we saw an old cream separator in one corner. It looked to be intact and we said that we’d figure out how it worked some day. We brought it down last night in all its heavy glory and after a thorough cleaning, we separated our first milking this morning. It was a family affair and we are really pleased with the amount of cream that we got from 2.5 liters.
I may be smiling but it was actually a bit of work to turn the hand crank fast enough to separate the milk properly. But of course I had to be part of the photo documentation!
There are a lot of layers to it that will need to be sterilized after each use so we likely won’t use it daily but will save the milk that we want separated and do it every few days. We will likely need to warm it a little before separation but we’ll figure all that out.
Can you tell which one is the cream? Its a pretty decent amount and is so deliciously thick. I’m not willing to give up our creamy milk completely so we will add a little cream back to the milk that basically becomes skim. I’m so excited for making a batch of our own butter! And cream in my coffee.
We’ve a new arrival to our tiny farm! Our highland jersey cross, Sugar, was due to calf at the end of this week. The 19th on my calendar to be exact. However, we were surprised with an early arrival.
It was a wet but warmish night and Dan went out late in the evening to feed Sugar after a trip to Halifax. I was just into my warm bath when Dan called to me that Sugar was having her calf out in the field. By the time I got out there, I could see the head and within a few short minutes, the little guy was born.
The girls of course think he is amazing and had already chosen his name should he arrive a bull calf. So Blue he has been christened. He had some troubles with nursing in the first day so I was often out there through out the day putting him on to drink and he wasn’t too interested. By evening though, I decided to give him a dropper of rescue remedy and five minutes later, he was down to the business of getting his belly full of the much needed colostrum.
He’s a cutie and though when they are this little we choose not to think of the future plan, he actually may become an ox for a friend of ours which the girls (and I) will love.
Maud Lewis; Capturing Joy
Part of my school plan for the girls is that we will do an artist study for a couple of months at a time. This includes studying their style, medium, personal life and most of all the beautiful images that they create. This might sound a little much for a four and six year old but this has without a doubt become a favorite aspect of our formal school time together.
For our first study, I chose a famous local artist, Maud Lewis. She was a perfect choice for so many reasons; her folk art style is bright, cheerful, simple and very appealing to the eyes of young children. Hers is a story of a life full of difficulty, loss, and disability and through out that she continued to fill her life and the lives of others, with beauty and with joy. I want the girls to learn from the stories of men and women who live with strength and character, but also who are not typically the people that our culture holds up as examples.
For the start of our study, I chose a book about Maud Lewis called Capturing Joy (click title for link) from the library and we began by reading that. The girls were immediately drawn in both by her art and by the story of this tiny arthritic woman who loved life and who expressed it through her paintings.
Over the weeks we read our book, looked at her paintings (mostly from a calendar that we have of her paintings), learned a little about some of the painting techniques that she used (although she would not have likely called them that.), and spent some time with one describing her pictures to others so that they could guess which picture was being described. I had the girls try to paint in her style and also I plan to have them try to copy one of their favorite paintings of hers.
Art only happens a couple of times a week and because each time isn’t totally focused on the artist that we are studying, it allows the girls to make a more lasting connection with the artist and their work as they come back to it from time to time. Ideally, I would have found other books about her but lets just be honest, I was proud of myself for managing to be as organized as I was for this first artist study and that I managed to find one good book.
Maud Lewis actually lived about 30 minutes from us in Marshalltown and so one day we were able to stop at the monument that sits where she spent her married life. We were also very excited to discover that her tiny little home that she so cheerfully covered with her painting has been restored and remains on permanent display at that Nova Scotia Art Gallery in Halifax. We rarely make trips to Halifax but were finally able to make it there in the past week. It was the perfect culmination of our study and the girls were thrilled to see her cute almost doll like house if a little disappointed that they didn’t actually get to go inside her house.
This is a gallery perfectly set up for children to enjoy. We were happy to find and read some new books that featured Maud Lewis’ paintings and the girls enjoyed a little video about Maud.
There were also many, many of her paintings on display and it was fun looking at the ones that we’d not seen before and also finding the ones that we’d spend time looking at at home.
I haven’t yet decided which artist study we will focus on next and I’m quite certain that none will be quite so perfect and easy to engage the girls with but I must say that I’m pretty delighted with how our first artist study has both the girls and I excited to learn about more artists!
Watching the Waves
We’ve had a lot going on lately and my head often feels like it’s spinning with the renovations that are on a deadline, homeschooling, animals, yard work and house work. Plus I often like to think that I can do more than I already can’t get done so I try to sneak in sewing, learning to knit, and crafting for the market. The result doesn’t look pretty inside my head, I assure you.
We had a day that started with loading Copper into the trailer to head to the butcher, which, with our particular set up of electric fences and no vehicle access to the pasture required creative maneuvering. Then it was on to homeschooling on a day that I hadn’t taken the needed time to prep. Winging it days can be the best or they can turn rather poorly. I won’t get into which this day was. Then because it was Dan’s day at home, we turned to our never ending renovation of the guest house. Wrong paint color, new paint, forgotten paint rollers later, we plugged away with my less than cheerful attitude toward the whole day until late afternoon before heading out on one last errand.
Since our errand took us in the direction of the Bay of Fundy, we decided to stop to collect the rocks that I’ve been wanting to make painted story stones. When we arrived at Hampton beach, the wind was blowing and the waves rolling over the rocks. It was incredible. The sound of the thousands of smooth rocks rolling as the waves hit and than pulled back, the feel of the wind and spray off water, and the smell of the ocean was amazingly therapeutic. Before everyone else made it out of the van, I just stood and breathed in the wonder.
It’s hard to admit how discouraged and frustrated I feel some days when all that I can see is the never ending list of must do combined with a list of should do and wish we could do. I struggle to see beyond myself and my own troubles when in my heart I know that while my struggles are real and legitimate, they are only a drop in the bucket.
Somehow, as I stand in the wind and watch the wonder of a power so much greater than my own, the incessant churning of my mind is quieted. The things that seem so formidable are reshaped to their rightful size and I can face them once again.
There are times when I hear and speak God in the quiet but sometimes prayer is best carried on in the tumult of ocean waves.
Toad’s Lost Button
We are just over a month into this school year. If you were to follow my instagram, you would see sunshine filled pictures of my darlings working away at the kitchen table, Farmer Boy being read under a bright Maple tree, and colorful, pet filled lane way walks. It really has been beautiful and everything I want for our children’s education.
The less photo worthy moments are harder to explain. It’s been a great month but also a very difficult one. I have high expectations of both myself and my girls but I’ve realized in some areas I haven’t laid solid ground work to give them confidence and structure. And we’ve stepped back, started over and I’m treading more softly and sensitively where I need to and more firm in my expectations where I need to. It’s a challenging balance for me, knowing when to back off and when to hold my ground.
One of our challenges has been in narration of the books that we are reading. Both girls have balked at retelling the story in their own words, they have always much preferred free drawing to drawing about something, and I was trying to go about it in too formal of a manner to work with where they are currently at. So I’ve been brainstorming ideas to make and keep reading and narration fun and worth their time. Our first real success was using the Frog and Toad story of The Lost Button which is an excellent early reader series by the way. As often happens with good literature, this story lent itself to naturally encourage learning in other subjects.
In the story, as Frog and Toad are walking, Toad loses a button from his coat which results in a search and the finding of many buttons that don’t belong to him. Both Aneliese and Cecily loved searching for a similar button as in the story that progressed until they found the very last button, Toad’s own button. They compared sizes and estimated what button would work before choosing just the right one; first a square button, then a thin one, then one with two holes and so on.
At the end of the story, Toad sews all of the buttons that he collected onto his coat and it seemed only natural that the girls would begin work on an extremely practical life skill; everyone needs to know how to sew on a button.
As they work, threading the needle, arranging the buttons, placing careful stitches, the littlest plays her own game. Sorting the wool felted balls that I made and now am glad that I never managed to finish the project that they were intended for.
Cecily, with her competitive spirit, finishes her buttons first with careful Aneliese not far behind. Cecily sewed hers into what she saw as a beautiful pattern, but Aneliese lined hers up and sewed them in the sequence of the story which she then used to retell Cecily the story and then later to tell her Daddy.
Not every day can or will be such a simple, natural flow but I love that we can learn together in unique and spontaneous ways that fit how the girls are currently learning and progressing.
Fisher Lake 2014
Through the warm generosity of some friends, we were able to spend Dan’s birthday weekend in a cabin on beautiful Fisher Lake. The past couple of years, its worked out that we have a few days to vacation in September and we’ve decided that we love it. It’s still warm and gorgeous but with a lot less bugs by the water. It was perfect.
First Day of School-2014
It felt a little frantic and sooo disorganized in the past couple of weeks as I tried to wrap my head around homeschooling again this fall. A good portion of the summer was spent with my family in BC and I suddenly realized that September was almost upon us.
I still feel a bit chaotic and disorganized, but, um, welcome to my life at this stage. But, ready or not, today was the first day of school for both Aneliese and my little Cecily. Aneliese in first grade and Cecily in Kindergarten (or Primary as it is called here) and a totally bummed Kathleen who wants to do everything that her sisters do.
Honestly, it’s actually a little anti-climactic to have a “first day of school” given how we choose to school for these early years. I think that when we talk about school starting and grades, the girls have something in their minds of worksheets and me as the wise old owl suddenly telling them how to do and learn things in a very specific and guided way. And yet, we didn’t stop schooling all summer even though I’ve laid out some more clear guidelines for myself for the next months in terms of the literature that we will share together, through reading, narration, copy work, and activities. We’ll study artists, bugs, weather, geography and history. But it’s still just in the natural flow of our day; I’m still delaying formal teaching of phonics or math for example. We’re approaching math playfully through stories and life and its working if I’m going by the Nova Scotia learning outcomes. I still believe that if we read regularly of good, solid twaddle free books that as we interact and engage in the stories, the reading will come as they are personally developmentally ready. I have high expectations and desires for my girls as they learn and grow in the wholehearted little people that they are to the wholehearted, aware, vibrant big people that they will become.
I’m confident that this is good for our girls and that this is right for us, for our family. And yet, I’ve been panicking this past week. So close to driving to the nearby school to register the girls. Because. I’m not organized. I’m not capable of perfection. I’ve been struggling with patience lately. I want what is best for them. I doubt my convictions and personal beliefs of education and learning. I’m scared. It’s a big deal.
But today, we walked through our first official day of the year together. And it was stressful at times. Didn’t meet expectations in some ways. Yet, it was so perfect. So natural and so us. My girls are bright, inquisitive, free, imaginative, and so ready to learn. I’m unconventional and have so much to learn, but I’m all in. Jumping in with both feet for as long as this is what is best for our girls and I. I can do this.
I have a planner that has on many pages this quote by Robert Frost, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”. Being a teacher is that for me; I want to awaken their souls and their minds to passionately learn and explore in this one life that they have to live.
Friday night we celebrated the opening of the coffee bar that is now sharing the Dan Froese Photography studio space and the weather cooperated in giving us a perfect evening. Saturday morning however, we awoke to high winds and power outage. We’re somewhat used to that here in Nova Scotia so we continued on with our day with a few modifications.
With the hurricane warnings that we had been listening to throughout the week, on Friday I had filled all the animals water troughs (old bath tubs) and had the kiddie pool filled along with plenty of drinking water in the house. We had secured everything and had plenty of food in the house. So we weren’t surprised and actually were quite prepared.
However, mid morning the winds pretty much stopped. The hurricane was down graded to a post tropical storm so we thought we were just waiting for the power to come back on. Mid afternoon, however, the wind picked up. Apparently the winds got up to 150 km/hr. We watched the trees in the yard, flatten and straighten, flatten and straighten. Branches, debris and then a thud which turned out to be a tree landing just next to the back of the house.
I think it howled through at least part of the night and we woke up to wet and still no power. We got right to clean up with everyone pitching in.
Maybe this sounds crazy and thoughtless but after the storm was over, it felt sort of like an adventure. We kind of made the most of that day of cleaning up together. That tree stump that Cecily is drinking out of is the tree that fell by the house (one of a several trees that fell on our property.); we noticed the water running from the stump so Dan made a bowl while he was bucking up the tree for firewood.
We trekked back into the forest for more drinking water after we learned that we might not have power restored until the end of the week. Cecily learned how to ride the pedal bike. We cooked and did dishes out on the veranda. Went swimming in the river. Went to bed earlyWe checked in with others to see what was needed. And we just hung out. That part was oddly refreshing.
We managed well for the four days of power outage. Sure, our toilets got a little smelly with the lack of water but we did carry buckets in from the pool to flush a couple of times a day. I did feel really stressed at times about losing our meat in the freezer *we didn’t* and the cows getting out on the highway because the electric fence that keeps them in wasn’t live *they didn’t*. I worried a bit about other people not having water for their animals and I worried especially about the lower income seniors around who wouldn’t have electricity and would lose whatever was in their refrigerators. But honestly, for all the trees that are down all over the place, for all the financial loss that I’m certain many people suffered, and for the days of being with out things that we rely on, we all have much to be thankful for. People pitched in to help their neighbors, few injuries happened and few homes or buildings suffered severe damage. We made it.
I had this post ready to go last night and then my iPad closed it before I could save it. An incredibly frustrating thing at 11:30 at night when I should have been sleeping.
The above picture is my weedy tomato and pepper patch. I’m fighting a bit of a losing battle with choke weed but there really are tomatoes in there and I did weed again, hence the late bed time. Pulling one weed leads to another, and another, and just one more until the darkness disguises which is the tomato plant and which is the weed.
I put in a little spiral herb garden which I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of years. This one is small and temporary but I can see that it works well for drainage.
Hopefully soon, the window will be covered in snow peas (at least I think that is what I planted there.)
We put our main garden in a section that we used as Max’s pen last year and it so far is being easy on us in terms of weeds. Everything there is growing well despite that late start that I had getting it planted. We ate our first garden salad for supper last night!
Daisy Crown, Pony & a Girl
It started out with the girls asking me to show them how to make daisy chains, then Cecily asked for a crown.
Once I placed it on her head, she said that she needed to run out to show Max the pony. This sounded like a perfect opportunity so I asked if I could come out with my camera and was given permission. I’m biased of course, but this is one gorgeous little girl. I love how her personality and heart just sparkles in her eyes.
Max didn’t look particularly impressed with the crown but he clearly enjoyed the attention before Cecily decided to climb on his back. He gave her a few turns around his pen between resting in the shade. I couldn’t choose just one or two photos so here is some adorableness overload.
After 21 days of much questioning from the littles as to when there would be chicks, we heard cheeping from under Mama Hen yesterday. Between Aneliese and I, there were many, many “just a quick peek”. To do a head count, to check if that little one had dried out and found Mama, to cheer for the one that finally burst through the shell, and to feel a momentary sadness for the loss that is part of farming life. In the end, seven wee bits of fluff shared their magic. This is one of those parts of farming that truly reveals a bit of Glory. A gentle remind of so much good.
A Tree Swing
We have a big old willow tree in our front yard; the only really big tree in our yard. Today Dan made the girls a rope swing. They couldn’t have been any more delighted. I was working in my garden and Kathleen came and led me over to watch the inaugural swings so I thought I’d grab my camera. So fun!
And then Aneliese needed a swing before bed.
In the Garden: May 21
My parents spent the past week visiting and brought with them blissful, sunny weather. I didn’t do a lot of gardening while they were here but did spend some time here and there while the girls played and played and played. Plus, my dad and I did attack the monstrous shrubs at the front of our house. They look a tad sorry right now with their new haircuts but in the long run, they’ll look much better. I’m not a shrub gardener so they’ve gone a little wild.
The day that my mom and dad left the forecast was rain so I decided to race it to get a bunch of plants and seeds in the ground.
Last fall, I prepped a hugelkultur (hill mound) bed and I’ve had strawberries in mind for it. I put 25 strawberry plugs in with a row of spinach that peeked out within three days.
I noticed yesterday that after the rain, my little strawberry plants have been joined by these little mushrooms. I assume they must have been in some of the compost that I used last fall and unfortunately I don’t think they are edible. What to do?
We noticed that our little patch of peas, spinach, and radishes is coming along nicely from the planting a couple of weeks ago. Next to them, Cecily and I planted a lot of sweet peas; several rows with tender care of deep compost, mulching, bone meal while some simply dropped in the turned rows as we tried to stay ahead of the rain. I’ve never grown them before so we shall see what comes.
I’ve really been focusing on getting the market flowers planted this week; I’m a little behind but hoping that only means I won’t have a lot of replanting during the spring rains like I did last year.
In addition to the flowers that I usually grow, peonies, poppies, roses, zinnias and a mix of “wildflowers”, this year I’ve added gladiolus, ranunculus, craspedia, larkspur, amaranth and dahlias. I don’t know much about any of them but should they grow well, they will be some gorgeous and fun additions to bouquets. Hopefully later I’ll have plenty of pictures to share of what each one looks like but if you have a moment, look some of them up, especially ranunuculus and craspedia.
Now I need to turn to getting in the vegetables and herb gardens. The practical planting. But still, one of my favorite things to do.
A Farmhouse Tour: My Sewing Room
When we first moved here, I had my sewing room in a larger room upstairs. Well, actually it was simply a room that held messy piles of all my stuff. Dan was using this small room as his office for teaching violin until this fall when he began teaching at his studio in town. When I finally began organizing my sewing room, I decided that this smaller but more central room would actually work better.
We had been saying that a door with a window would be perfect for Dan’s lesson room and then we saw this door sitting in someones yard. Sure enough they were selling it for a few bucks and it fits perfectly. I really like the cottage-y appeal that it gives the dining room.
When I started setting up the room, I was only going to paint the pink trim with the Cloud White that I had on hand. Then I thought that I might as well give the walls a couple of coats as well only to realize that I would also need to paint the ceiling. So I thought that I might as well paint the floor a soft gray. Then while I was in there, I realized that the attached little closet bathroom could really use some freshening up so a week later everything was painted!
The table is another roadside cleanup treasure that I painted with a DIY chalk paint that I made from a can of paint that I had tinted until it looked like a Tiffany’s gift box. I’ve added this color to a few things as you will see through out my little farmhouse tour.
Thanks to Pinterest for the thread storage inspiration.
I may not drink Coke but I definitely like their old crates. I grew up seeing these crates being used for storing milk jars when they weren’t full of milk in the fridge and they are one of the things that I brought from my childhood home. Nostalgic treasures now holding my felting wool.
I wanted a place to put my larger ongoing sewing projects so had Dan attach a tree branch to the wall. The slots that hold it make it easy to lift off so that I can slide the project on. It’s one of my favorite features of the room.
The basket was handmade by a local friend of ours who makes these gorgeous baskets in a traditional style, hand beating the wood to separate the strips, hand weaving, and binding with no nails. It’s really my market basket but for the winter has been storing my yarn.
In my little reading corner, I framed some prints from our favorite books, Miss Rumphius, Emily and Daisy, and The Ox-Cart Man (The links to the books are in my amazon affiliate store, which gives me a few cents when you purchase through my store!)
My egg basket lamp was another Pinterest inspiration that was exactly what I needed to finish the room. Dan didn’t have to do anything to the basket itself, just put the light socket through the already existing hole. That way I didn’t have to commit to it permanently being a light fixture.
This my friends, is the only completed room in the house (the little strip of trim needed on the floor doesn’t count). I’m sure it will see changes but it’s done, finished. There are even pictures on the wall! It feels good.
A Farm House Tour: The Laundry/Boot Room
Yesterday was Mother’s Day and after my breakfast in bed and sweet cards from my girls, we spent the day around home. I cleaned and did some fresh decorating along with reading stories, chatting, napping, cuddling, and eating meals made by Dan. At ten pm as I gave the tub the deep clean that it’s been needing, I realized that for me it was a perfect way to spend the day. It was relaxing and pleasurable to simply be with my family.
We’ve been living in our old farmhouse for almost three years and I’ve been asked many times to give a house tour. I’m finally getting around to doing that; right now is a good time because I’ve been combining spring cleaning and getting ready for my parents to visit. So we shall simply say that much of my house is much cleaner and organized than it is on many days. Yesterday, while I cleaned, Dan followed me with his camera to capture our house’s cleanest moments.
Up first is the laundry/boot room. We have great plans for this room but as yet they remain mostly on paper. The only thing that we have done is paint the walls and add some temporary storage until we’re able to add some of built in features.
In case you’ve never been in farm boot room, I’ll assure that this is not an honest depiction of how this room generally looks. See those boots? They track all kinds of outdoorsy goodness inside and, trust me, it doesn’t lend to a clean room. But now I’ll always have the memory of the day that it looked like this.
This cabinet is apparently a couple of hundred years old, I don’t know anything about dating furniture but it is a piece that I really like.
It may seem random to have hangers on the wall but we found these old ones up in the attic when we moved here and Dan thought they would be an interesting addition to our laundry room.
That galvanized tub and stand(also found in the attic) will eventually be fitted to become our laundry sink that will fit in the cabinets that will go around the washer and dryer.
The blue bench was a treasure that we picked up off the side of the road during fall cleanup. It’s been moved since Dan took these pictures but I’ll save that for another post that shows where it’s been moved to.
And that for now, is our laundry/boot room. It’s an important feature in our home and it’s also not insulated. Which means that winter laundry days are ch-ch-chilly and an unexpected overnight drop in temperature this past winter froze (and broke) our washing machine which bumped high on my hopeful list the insulating of the floor at least. Maybe this summer.
Little Bud’s First Bouquet
I mentioned last fall that Aneliese and I were venturing into selling flower bouquets at the market this summer. She has been asking to do if for well over a year and so we decided to try it. After a family brainstorming session, she settled on Little Bud’s Bouquets (I can never decide if the apostrophe should be there or not and she hasn’t gotten that far along in her grammar :). Our first market is next week and we are a little slim on flowers given the late winter and cool spring so we may be improvising (I’ve suggested fabric flowers!) for the first couple of weeks. However, we did manage to make a rather pretty bouquet this morning for our very first order that was brought about by the talented Dan Froese Photography for one of his clients. We (or perhaps I) felt a little nervous with this first one so Aneliese and I made it together but in the future, she will make many of the bouquets on her own.
Mud Pie Kitchen
Recently, Dan discovered a hole in the yard with the wheel of the trailer that he was backing into place. It turns out that it was a hole that Aneliese had dug in order to get dirt for making mud pies.
I remember spending hours mixing up mud pies, cakes, and cookies. With a little of this and a little of that stirred in, they were glorious delights. Our girls seem to have the same enjoyment of mixing up mud delicacies so we decided that for Aneliese’s birthday we would create them a mud pie kitchen.
We wanted to be simple and cute while still leaving a ton of room for using their imagination. We also wanted it to be something that didn’t make me want to cry every time I saw it getting muddy and wet.
For muddy and wet it does get! Nothing is new aside from the little counter to hold the sink bowl that Dan made from scrap wood. The stove was found in our attic and we think it is some kind of old dehydrator. Whatever it is, with a couple of burners painted on top, it makes a great little stove.
For the fridge, I confiscated a little metal cabinet from Dan’s workspace in the basement where it spent lonely days holding odds and ends. It just belongs in Acorn Cottage.
With collection of thrifted kitchen ware, they have already spent hours mixing and making.
It’s so muddy and messy and such perfect play.
Now she is Six
Aneliese turned six last week. I keep looking at her and wondering just when the little baby turned into this tall wiry girl with adorable freckles scattered across her nose.
A couple of weeks before her birthday, Aneliese had been telling me how fun she thought a play kitchen would be. Little did she know that we were working on just that for Acorn Cottage (their playhouse). She told her auntie on the phone that we don’t usually get them much for birthday gifts but that this year, it was a huge one. That combined with her birthday bike from her Gramma and Papa as well as several other little gifts and some birthday $, had her feeling quite rich that day!
Our birthday cake tradition has become that the birthday girl gets to decorate her own cake. The girls absolutely love it and often plan months in advance just what they want. I love it because it keeps the cake simple and is something fun and creative that they look forward to on their birthday. This year Aneliese requested a butterfly cake which was easily attained by cutting a round cake into four pieces and turning the rounded corners in. A very simple base for her colors which she applied while skyping with Gramma!
With the family friends that she invited, her requested roast chicken dinner, Aneliese felt that turning six was pretty great. I love seeing her enjoy her day and I love the little things that we can do to make it special and meaningful for her. Six. It feels like we’re moving into a whole new phase of life with her but maybe I’ve felt that every other year as well and am just forgetting. Either way, she is a lovely, precious girl who delights us with each year that we spend with her.
The Happenings of Late
Sometimes it’s sunny and warm so we pile outdoors in our bare feet to play in the dirt. Three crazy girls have even played in the sprinkler. Penny has released Molly from her duties as the girls faithful companion; in fact she has taken to it in a way that Molly never did.
Sometimes it’s rainy and cold enough that we tuck indoors with our projects and a warm fire. Cecily has been honing her competitive side with “hockey” and memory whereas Kathleen prefers getting into the chocolate chips when I’m distracted with my quilt.
Aneliese has turned into a meteorologist of late because she likes to plan when she will enjoy riding her bike the most and sadly she has informed me that we are most likely getting rain in the next couple of days so I’ll be clinging to the memory of dirt on my hands as I got my first seeds into the ground today. Maybe I’ll get some house cleaning done or maybe some quilting.
P.S. I know some of the pictures have Dan Froese Photography on them but don’t be fooled. I in fact did take them but managed to put Dan’s watermark on them in the process of resizing. Have you noticed my blogging absence lately? Honestly, if I took the time to remove the watermark, this post wouldn’t make it up either. Happy Saturday, my friends!
Sewing with Aneliese
I’d suggested that she might like to do some sewing with the intention of setting her up with some cloth in an embroidery hoop and a needle and thread. As we were choosing some fabric, it become clear that Aneliese had a different scheme in mind.
She wanted to sew something for Kathleen. A dress, in fact. With a little discussion we decided that a skirt was probably more doable and we set to work.
The thing about Aneliese is that she often decides that she wants to do things beyond her age and ability. My tendency is to try to give her something that she will enjoy that is her level, like needle, thread, and some fabric in a hoop. The issue is that she wants to “really make something”. And I’m realizing that she can, sometimes with a little direction, and other times on her own. She actually needs the challenge and the purpose to hold her attention.
We scrolled through a few skirts that I have pinned on my sewing board and decided to make this layered skirt.
It of course doesn’t show in photos, but I actually have a really hard time staying relaxed and patient while doing things like sewing. My fingers get itchy to take over and mistakes bother me. I’m learning though. I have to if this homeschooling venture is to be successful. We’re learning together.
And little Kathleen has a new skirt.
Like most people, we’ve got a lot on our plates, a lot happening in our day. And like many families, it can become so easy to get caught up in “busy” that we don’t take time to connect with each other and to simply enjoy being a family. There’s a common idea that families who eat together are more connected to each other and while I know that to be true, often I find that by the supper hour we’re all hungry and pretty focused on eating. We also don’t tend to do dessert most nights and so after supper finds us wandering off to whatever until bedtime. It’s not bad but I felt like we also weren’t enjoying as much of a shared interest in each other’s day as we could. So when my friend Beth wrote about some things that her family has done to “rescue the dinner hour”, I decided to try her suggestion of sharing tea together after the meal.
Frankly, it’s been wonderful.
I’ve been making a pot of tea before I put supper on the table so that it has time to steep and cool a bit and then while the others clear the table after we eat, I add the milk and a touch of sweetness to the pot, set out the china cups, and pour the tea.
We sip and chat, listen and tell stories, and we laugh. We all really love it. I’m hoping that it’s the start of a long lasting tradition.
I picture the friends enjoying evening tea with us. I imagine the girls on visits home from college or with their families some day, gathering around the table to share a pot of tea with the love and connection and respect of family that treasures moments like this together.
Bringing Spring Indoors: Forcing Flowering Branches
I’m trying to keep a good attitude, really I am, but winter this year feels kind of endless. This from someone who usually loves winter. I don’t know, everything just feels kind of old, cold, and tiring. But there, I’m trying to keep my chin up.
Look at those apple blossom, aren’t they so pretty? A couple of weeks ago, I was walking with Penny on a sunny day when I saw some branches piled that had been pruned from the nearby orchard. They had plenty of tight little buds on them so I brought a few home and stuck them in some water. Apparently they were at a perfect state of dormancy because within a day, the buds started to grow. Now, two weeks later, flowers!
I also broke some branches off of our own flowering crab apple tree, the old pear tree, and unidentified leaf only tree so I have several branches in varying budding stages around the house. It’s so fun and easy. Branches, water, container combined with a little light and warmth and you have beautiful (and free) floral arrangement that lasts for several weeks depending on how long it takes for them to blossom.
Now, I could get all technical by telling to split the base of the branch, to soak them in warm water that you change daily and even to put them in the dark for a couple of days. Or I could tell you to hammer the base to encourage it to absorb the water. You could do all of that and I have but honestly, this year has been my most unscientific year with the most successful results so there ya go. If I remember to change the water, I do occasionally but other than that, I’ve just enjoyed them.
I’ve found that almost everything that I put in some water works for forcing but here is a list of the commonly used flowering bushes.*
- pussy willow
- witch hazel
Enjoy an early glimpse of spring!
*This is a common list but I specifically borrowed it from this gardening site.
Learning at home: A simple ocean inspired nature plate
I love that with some simple intentional steps, it’s possible to encourage kids to learn through their natural curiousity. I don’t think that my kids are unique in that they are thirsty to learn about and understand their world; I see the same thirst in so many children. I just find it so exciting that I get to teach these three! I’ve shared in the past some of the ways that we use our nature plate and basically it’s using various parts of nature for learning and making life connections. Right now our nature plate is filled with little gifts from the sea; there’s a mix of shells, sea glass, dry vegetation, and rocks.
To this point we’ve kept it out of Kathleen’s reach due to her tendency to scatter the pieces at random. However, she has just gotten to the place where she is able to handle each piece with a bit more care as she explores. She’s particularly fascinated by the colors and texture of the sea glass. Every so often she climbs up on table and quietly(for her!) explores. In a couple of weeks, I’ll change it out with a few different objects, probably from collections on one of our spring truly has come walks. When it comes.
Dan laughed at me taking pictures and said that I’m giving you the romanticized version of getting hay because generally he goes for hay in the dark after the girls’ bedtime. Sometimes he and I unload and carry to the barn together which is lovely farm romance. More often though, he unloads it himself. But today, this was getting hay.
Around the Farm in February
It’s been a rough couple of days on “the farm”. I blame it on the wind. The recordings in the farm journal haven’t been fun. February 14: Wind blew part of the shelter over. February 14: Wind blew grain storage door open. Cows got into the grain. February 15: Called the vet, got directions. Baking soda drench. Withhold water. Keep them moving. Get them eating. Check their poop. Worry. Snow is coming. Roof is sagging. February 16: Another storm moved in. Cows still lethargic but on the mend.
Sometimes I’m not sure this is the life for me; I try and can’t do it perfectly. It’s all personal for me and I feel the blows way too much.
But last week, I took pictures of a sunny, warm and lovely day that I just never got posted. So here they are.
A Midwinter Farm Day
The girls haven’t been coming out to do chores with us much this winter. It seems it’s either cold and windy or slippery and sloppy so usually Dan and I tag team caring for the animals (Though truthfully, Dan does the lion’s share.)
However, this morning Dan left for work shortly after 6:30 which meant that the girls and I bundled up and headed out with the pooches to care for the animals.
Potty breaks, mittens, hats, coats, boats and sundry other incidents later, They were headed out with their little buckets.
Kathleen’s little Stonz boots have seen many winters of use between the three girls wearing them for two winters each so they’ve becoming a little low on traction:). Stopping for a snow angel is crucial to Aneliese; she has a tendency to flop in random spots to make them.
Kathleen loves the chickens and even has a couple that she is able to pick up and carry around. They were a little unsettled today because they are still getting used to the presence of little Penny. She shows no interest in chasing them at this point which is great! Sweet, grumpy Max. Aneliese just loves him and I’m quite certain that he spends most of his days thinking about eating. Food obsession aside, he’s a great little pony.
As we all troop into the house with rosy cheeks, eggs in pockets, fingers and toes tingling, life feels so good. Far too often, I slip into the mentality of just getting by, the chores and animals being just another addition to the list of all that I can’t get done well in a day. Tomorrow might be cold and I’ll be back to worrying about chickens getting frost bite and water freezing. Or maybe it will be a sudden thaw again and we’ll be trudging through deep muck again. Regardless, we’re as so very blessed. I want to remember that.
Penny (Our latest addition to the farm)
January had been a full, non-blogging sort of month. I’ve been meaning to blog, really I have but I just never seem to find the time. Partly because we’ve been spending a lot of time keeping the house warm and the animals relatively comfortable through the storms that our part of Canada has been seeing this winter. Then any spare time has been spent in determined organization mode. That’s exciting for me; so exciting that I hope to blog about it. But not quite as exciting as the new addition that joined us last week!
We’ve been saving our pennies for a puppy for while now as Molly is getting older. She’s also very loyal to me and so prefers to be where I am rather than with the girls. And so we’ve been setting a little aside with plans for another Australian Shepherd (Molly’s breeding). The girls saved their birthday money and, of her own accord, Aneliese made and sold paper hearts at the Christmas market to add to the puppy fund. It made me so happy to watch them carry in their money to help pay for the puppy, so cute and serious.
We’d also decided not to do Christmas gifts aside from stockings but didn’t think that we’d likely get a puppy before spring. Then a couple of days before Christmas, we found out about a 3/4 Bernese Mountain Dog and 1/4 Great Pyrenees litter that had a female available. After talking back and forth with the pros and cons of a dog that I’ve liked and wanted for years, we went to visit the puppies and see the parents.
We all fell in love. Cecily especially didn’t want to let our chosen pup go. Merry Christmas to us!
Of course she was still too little at Christmas so finally after the weeks of waiting, Penny came home last week. She is seriously the sweetest (not so)little puffball. The girls named her Penny because of the spots over her eyes. No other name would do. I know because I had chosen a different name. Penny suits her though.
She is such an affectionate (if a little needy) puppy and she LOVES to play outside. She’s been coming out a lot with Dan or I to do chores but the girls have also introduced her to their type of outside time.
She’s already well on her way to being exactly what I wanted; a dog that just hangs out and watches over them as they play.
Granted, she is going to be a very big dog so they may end up making her lay outside of Acorn Cottage.
Merry Christmas, Friends!
It’s been a beautiful, crazy, unusual, and perfect-for-us Christmas. Full of fun, quiet, noise, food, friends, just us, and family via facetime. The girls have been soaking up every minute of it, especially the fact that their beloved daddy is taking the week of Christmas off.
There was the exciting flurry of the days before Christmas of getting food made, gifts wrapped and house cleaned. And now I’m just soaking up this week of togetherness and time to just be. I stayed in my pajamas all day today, even while we went sledding on the hills of Fort Anne; they are red and woolen, so how could I resist. I cuddled Cecily and took a nap and quilted and cut out paper dolls. It’s a week to just be. Quiet. Reflective. Goofy. Cuddly. Playful. It’s a gift that I’m just soaking up right now.
When the night is long…
This morning, I walked through snow up to my knees to gather the greens for Christmas decorating. I could hear the laughs and calls of my three precious girls playing in the snow with their daddy before he left for work. I found a perfect little tree for the girls to decorate in their room; being squished between some birch trees meant it didn’t have much longer to thrive so I brought it back for them.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been baking and making. We’ve done our traditional gift of baking goodies for the garbage collection men. The music has been streaming through my new iPad. The recent snow has created a gorgeous winter wonderland. It’s all perfect.
And in the perfection, is the longest night of the year. See, I love Christmas and celebration and beauty. The decorating, the baking, and the gifts, the time together. But that isn’t the only story. This week I’ve grieved with friends for their losses, I’ve wept over the children of Syria, I’ve ached for my babies that I never really met. I’m missing my family so much that there is a pit in my stomach and a burning in my eyes. I’ve answered some very, very hard questions that my Aneliese asked about life, death, hatred, and God. I’ve found my own questions unanswered. The night is long and it is dark.
I think that I could ignore the dark, the sad, and the hurt if I chose. I’m pretty good at summoning up the willpower to do so if I choose to. I think that I could find a happy place of pretend and be only merry. Yet is that Hope? Is that Joy? Is that Love? Is that the story, the reality of Christmas? I don’t think it is.
Somehow, I don’t feel like the truth of Christmas is tarnished by the tears on my face as I tuck holly into jars and pray for Syria, my friend, myself. Honestly, I don’t think that admitting that my heart is aching lessens my joy. I don’t think my unanswered questions take away from Christ the gift of love; for me. The laughter that we share as we dance in our messy kitchen or as the girls giggle while I belt out “Christmas time’s a comin’” is only made sweeter when I recognize what a treasure those times truly are. Though it at times feels shaky, my hope is still present.
The night is long, my friends. But there is Light. May each of you feel that hope and warmth in your own places of darkness or grief or pain. May you know it as you are merry and filled with delight. There is light.
How to Show Gratitude to Public Service Workers this Christmas
As we give our girls love filled gifts that encourage them in learning the gratitude and delight of being generous gift receivers, we also want to help them in the practice of being generous, thoughtful gift givers.
One of the ways that we are doing that is by carrying on the tradition of preparing a small gift for the public service providers who help care for our family.
Read about this family tradition here:
Sledding and a Giveaway winner
We’ve officially gotten our big snowfall…in fact it’s still coming down. The girls are of course thrilled and have taken up sledding in the front yard. Dan made them some starting ramps to add a little more pizzazz to their sledding experience. They are quite satisfied.
Kathleen is right at that age where she can’t really play in the snow easily but also isn’t content to just sit and watch. She does NOT like sledding but does find it hilarious to watch her dear mama fall off the sled. I assure you, the laugh that sounds like bells coming from the top of the slope is quite worth it.
I’m sure that we’ll be out there again today in all the fresh snow.
Thanks for all the sweet comments on my giveaway, I enjoyed reading them. Wish I could send something to you all but Random.org only selected one number. And the winner is…drumroll….Charisa Reimer! Perfect, a little gift to celebrate your birthday!
I’m 30! (A Birthday Giveaway)
Today I’m thirty years old. I feel that I should have some deep meaningful reflection of my life over the past 30 years but alas I don’t really. If I find some deep reflections, I’ll be sure to share them with you. For now though, I’d like to share a gift.
I kind of love gifts. Both the giving and the receiving. As I mentioned in my post about my clean island, I was given an amazing gift this year for the big 3-0. My new iPad and speaker are pretty great. I’m afraid that I can’t share something quite that amazing with you so instead I’m going to share a few things made from the work of my hands. Full of love from me to you. Well, only one you because I only have enough for one. But lots of love for all of you.
There’s an acorn garland made from acorns collected by the girls and I. It’s a mix of real acorns and felted wool…super cute. Then there are hand dipped beeswax candle tapers. And lastly, my new favorite scented beeswax melters which are a lovely blend of essential oils in beeswax; I’m calling this one a Christmas blend (think cinnamon, orange, clove and nutmeg).
So leave a comment (I love comments, they’re like gifts to me), tell your friends, and tomorrow I’ll do a randomly selected draw.
Kathleen Claire turns Two (& Tree Day)
Our little Claire-y bear turned two yesterday much to her two sisters’ great delight. Her response was a little “Meh” and a little annoyed at waking up to an empty room because they didn’t wait for her.
This sunshiny girl is rarely without a smile but she does take her sleep and morning cuddles quite seriously so I think she found the excitement a little over the top.
After a little bit of growling, Aneliese and Cecily convinced her to open her present. (Sidenote: I couldn’t find any tape other than bright yellow duct tape but I made up for it with a duct tape flower.)
Smiles began once she realized that she got her own backpack, or packpack as she calls it, just like her sisters. And of course she had to get a few laughs and cuddles.
With a full day that included the Tree Day, I never got a chance to make her a cake so instead I made her a stacked panCAKE with berry sauce and whipping cream. I could see this becoming a tradition, she loved it so much.
And then…setting up the tree.
Kathleen took on the task of hanging ornaments with great delight. She hung each little red ball with care with lots of, “help me Mama?’ and “Up high”. I’d say, “how about here?” and she’d say, “No this one.” as she chose each perfect branch.
They were all three beyond excited about decorating this years tree and so incredibly cute.
It was a beautiful day celebrating our sweet little girl and enjoying the simple delight of being together and creating memories.
On my Island
Have I told you about the island in my kitchen before? Well, its huge and beautiful; we found and bought an section of an old bowling ally for a fraction of the cost that a hardwood counter top would have been. Solid maple and six feet long, I dreamed it up and Dan did the design and construction. It’s probably my favorite part of our kitchen and with little other counter top, it sees a ton of use.
It’s also perfect for the potluck gatherings that we so enjoy having. One of which is planned for my 30th birthday today but quite likely will see Dan and I enjoying appetizers for two if the storm has it’s way. Disappointment.
There is however one problem with this gorgeous island. It gathers clutter like honey attracts flies. Or something like that. I try to keep it clear, I really do. But I’m pretty unsuccessful at it most days. Usually I have multiple projects that I’m working on and as that is true of today’s clean up, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of a few of them. I took the pictures after cleaning up a great deal…I’m not that crazy.
This is my beautiful (and clean!) island.
This random collection is the dish for kitchen scraps that go to the chickens, raw milk clabbering (going sour) that is also for the chickens, vintage ornaments that I was given. And the best part of all, my beeswax crock pot. How many people keep a crock pot specifically for melting beeswax on their counter? I’ve been working on a lot of projects using beeswax lately so it’s been super handy.
Then I have a roasting pan with several dozen egg shells. I use egg shells for a few things, like making toothpaste, but these are also going to feed the chickens so that they make lovely eggs like the three in the bottom corner of the picture.
These are beeswax stars and hearts waiting to be made into a garland. Maybe a tutorial sometime soon?
Then I also had scented beeswax melters sitting waiting for photos so that I could do a tutorial of them. (Which is the real reason that I pulled out the camera!)
Christmas postcards that are still waiting to be filled out….maybe expect those after Christmas;).
And finally, my island now has this delightful little companion that I was given for my birthday!! I now can easily listen to music and I have a fantastic meal planning and recipe storing app that I still have to learn how to use but so handy! Not to mention everything else I need. I’m quite thrilled since my computer went out of commission in the summer and I’ve been borrowing Dan’s regularly.
And that my friends, is a little tour of my *clean* island!
The day of a four year old
I’m a little late as Cecily’s birthday was on Saturday but I wanted to share a few pictures of her day of celebration.
As I snuggled my newly four year old after she crawled into our bed during the wee hours of the morning, my memory went back to those teeny tiny days four years ago. Close to six weeks early, her respiratory system was still developing which caused her sleep breathing to be irregular so she slept propped up on my side, resting over my heart, breathing pattern regulated by mine.
Today, she is still a tiny little sprite who has the same wonderful chubbiness that the nurses exclaimed over in her preemie newness. Gentle and sensitive she is while so vibrant of spirit and life.
She loves color, bright color, every color, colors of the rainbow. She loves sparkles and tulle. She loves her cat Tutti. She loves cuddles, dancing, and imaginary play. Ever the peacemaker, she loves carefully, deeply. Especially her sisters. She often is quiet and chooses her words carefully.
Cecily Jane is a gift and a delight. As her little body cuddles in close, I am filled with gratitude that she was given to us.
Happy Birthday my sweet Cecily.
Peace- Advent 2013
Jesus replied… “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’”
John 14:27 & 28
This week, we light the candle of Peace and we wait in Hope.
Jesus, we wait for you. We seek your peace in our home, in our hearts, in this world. We wait for you to come again.