Showing posts with label not-quite-gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not-quite-gardening. Show all posts

Friday, April 21

Just Like Snow White

Except I'm not cleaning. Or singing.

Jase picked these. No clue what they are, but he had fun putting them in.
But the doors are open, the birds are singing, and it is gorgeous! I could probably whip up some dancing. We're smack in one of my favorite parts of the year - where the days aren't terribly hot, the mornings are still cool and breezy, and the mosquitoes don't come out this early yet.

That cat, however, is not my favorite right now. Several of our screens bear the mark of his wrath (or perhaps general displeasure) and I'm pretty sure the bugs will find those very spots every time we try to open the windows this year.

The Littles (still thinking up a good moniker for them - they've requested something else) and I went to the market yesterday and picked out some plants for the earth boxes. We didn't go in with a plan other than Find Something That Makes You Smile. They did.

Hibiscus! Em was absolutely smitten with the blooms, so we got one that has a ton of buds. I'm guessing it won't be able to live in this box long-term, but it'll be lovely here in the meantime. (We're getting mulch. It's a work in progress.)

Zorak is home today, which means the time-honored plan of Not Doing School. Of course, it's also going to be a day that somewhat violates the spirit of that plan -- they're not going to spend the day "hanging out with Dad", but rather, "working outside with Dad". All time well spent, though, so there is that, right? Plus, they get to sleep in. Nobody really complains. Much.

May is coming! None of us is looking forward to the heat, but the kids are starting to get antsy - finals week at the college is the first week of May, the water park opens the end of May, anatomy class ends in May, kayak weather... more time for hiking... so many good things are coming. They're ready.

I just need to get through this weekend and present a hospitable venue for the cookout. Then I can relax and look forward to the good things, too. If I lose focus between now and Sunday, though, it's likely to turn into a, "Hey, can you help us lug this wood to the bonfire and get the clothes off the line?" party. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.

I hear rustling and ambling. I've camped out near the watering hole (coffee pot) so I'll be sure to catch people as they awake. Time to get my Snow White on and whip this place into inviting shape! (Although, yes, I realize the visual is more reminiscent of Marlon Perkins than Snow White. That's probably a more accurate visualization all the way around, but I don't want to think up a new intro.)

This needs something else, but we're waiting for inspiration. Native, volunteer ferns, though. They look almost intentional!
 Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, April 20

More Spring Cleaning, Outdoors

Y'all, take your garlic. It is tick season, and it is yard work and hiking season. (OK, it's always tick season, but that doesn't matter so much when it's too cold and you're inside. But NOW, it's nice out. You want to get out and enjoy it, but you don't want ticks. Nobody wants ticks. Take your garlic.)

Yesterday, it didn't rain so we mowed and weedwhacked and weeded and mulched. (And this morning I realized I haven't been taking my garlic. See? Learn from my mistakes, folks.) This place is really cute when it's tidy! Oh, my gosh!

We cleared off the balcony and cleaned out the earth boxes. Jase asked if we could keep the ferns that have sprouted in one of them... I tried not to be too discomfited by the idea that it took actual airborne spores floating up that way for them to grow there (I could be a real mess if I thought too much about what's in the air most of the time). The ferns are pretty, though, so why not? We're likely not gardening this year, so we'll at least go get some lovely plants for the earth boxes on the balcony and make it look like we decorate once in a while.

I think only two of my Pieris Mountain Snows died! That's so exciting! One died early on in the fall because people kept dropping shovels, buckets, and bicycles on it. Understandable that it didn't survive. But then the other five just up and DIED over the spring. I was crushed. Three cheers for procrastination, though! (Hip, hip, hurrah!) I never got around to pulling them up and taking them to Nick (my plant guy) to find out what happened, and this week four of them greened back up and revived like you wouldn't believe. It's so exciting! I'm going to put a big bushy plant where people drop things - maybe they'll stop, then. (If that doesn't work, I'll try a pokey, mean plant. And if that doesn't work, I'm going to have to put down sand and pavers and just consider it a landing pad - but it's right beside the front steps, so I'll be honest, I don't wanna.)

We really do need to make a new roof happen this year. Eek. That much became painfully obvious once we got the rest of the yard and structures tidied up. (I'm kidding. We knew it was bad, but now it actually looks as bad as it is.) I wonder if the boys will enjoy roofing? Honestly, I do. Not so much the edges, which are terrifying, but it's a very satisfying thing to have a clean, fresh roof, with good underlayment and straight lines.

Our book club finished The Screwtape Letters yesterday. Finally. It's an incredible book, but this was a rough few months for the club -- with illnesses, travel, work schedules, and the insanity of my unpaid long haul gig (how I'm thinking of Jacob's ballet schedule, now), we had very few weeks where everyone could make it. We've picked the next book - The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, Since we have such an ecumenical group, I am really excited about some of the discussions we'll have over this. Do you have people in your life you can disagree with and argue with over a cup of tea? I hope so! It's a beautiful thing!

Z's on a weird one-day jaunt for work. He left before the sun was up, and he'll be back tonight. I want to remember to have dinner ready when he gets home. Of course, that's ten hours from now... should probably set a reminder. What's your favorite Welcome Home meal? Do you have one?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Tuesday, April 9

Scholaric and Such

We had a great weekend, filled with a little productivity and some really good family and friend time. MeWa and MeTae came down to celebrate Jase's belated birthday. She made him a cooking apron and brought him goodies to make (or, put together). There were all kinds of things in his little bag. The one thing he loves, though? The red rubber spatula that is All His Own. Pure joy. He used it to make the spinach yesterday morning and just chattered away about how great his spatula is. It's crazy what they zero in on.

And, now that he's five, he's decided it's time to learn to read. I don't know. I still need to get him in to see the ophthalmologist. And convince him to hold his pencil properly. But Em gave him the Classical Phonics books she's already done with, and he's happy drawing in them, tracing over her work while we do her lessons. He's got to be picking up some of that, and he's happy and engaged. I look around and realize that's a good half the battle, right there. (Also, we're loving Classical Phonics! If you aren't going to use Writing Road to Reading, and you have a child who loves to draw, but you worry that you'll pull your hair out with some other phonics programs, give this one a look. It's a delight to use.)

I got a wild hair last week and signed up for Scholaric, for our lesson planning and tracking. (Wild Hair Academy -- would that be too hard to explain on transcripts?) It's a very plain and simple program, and I wasn't feeling the love at first, but then we used it last week, and we like it! It's straight forward and easy to use. Set up didn't require that I haul out every title we plan to use for the term and enter all the details for that title before I could get started. (Something that drove me to some serious hard drive cleansing in the past.) The printouts seem to be a good fit for both my list maker and my schedule hater. (He doesn't hate schedules so much as he's just easily overwhelmed by myriad things to check off in the course of a day. The simpler, the better, for that one.) It's just customizable enough that I can make it comfortable for each of them. And if they :aherm: lose their pages, I have a digital copy on hand. So, theoretically, this will also be good for my blood pressure. After the trial period, the cost is $1 per month, per child. This maybe just what we were looking for.

In the rest of the news around here, no chicks have died, no children have wandered off, and I'm sleeping like a proverbial baby (not like any I ever had, but, you know). We've been going 90mph since we got home, though, and we're all in desperate need of a full week to just be *home*. I don't know what I was thinking when I scheduled ALL the things for right after we got back. Braces for James, braces for John, extractions for Jacob (the new teeth came in way behind the baby teeth and never triggered the roots to dissolve - he wanted to keep them and pretend he's a shark - we nixed that for what I hope would be obvious reasons, although he's still not convinced), groomer's for Buddy, clothes shopping for all the people who keep growing. I want to stay home and have tea, dangit! Maybe next week...

Z suggested we skip the garden this year. His reasoning make sense, but it feels like defeat. *Everything* grows here, often without any provocation at all. It shouldn't be that challenging for me to grow a garden. :sigh: But it is. And we do have other things to tend to this summer. So, we'll see. John suggested square foot gardening in the upper meadow. We'll have to do something about the moles, first, but that may be the way we go. The boys have already said they plan to plant their earth boxes. That's a ritual that doesn't get messed with. I do love that.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 20

Not Like Any August, Ever

I hesitate to say anything, but this August has *rocked* in Northern Alabama. Temps have remained in the nearly-reasonable 90's, the humidity hasn't gone over 100% more than maybe twice*, and so far nothing has landed on the house or the car! Someone's been Very Good, I suspect. Wow.

So we've been braving the out-of-doors more this year -- going to the river, on hikes, to the park, canoeing. We didn't spend nearly as much time at the water park this Summer as I'd hoped to, but some of that was because we weren't sweltering and desperate for relief the whole time. (June. June was awful. But after that, Mother Nature backed off the ire and we recovered.) We did get some good use out of it, though. I only lost one child, one time (which is pretty darned good, all things considered), and nobody got burnt at all this summer! No, I take that back. Zorak and the boys all got sunburned shins on a canoe trip with the Scouts a couple of weeks back. But that wasn't on my watch, so I don't have to claim it. BOOYAH! First time, ever!

We're in Week 5 at school, and so far, we're... pretty darned slow. Wow. We seem busy. We feel busy. But we're not laying tracks like we'd thought. So today, the kids brainstormed a new schedule, to be implemented tomorrow morning. No clue how it's going to go, but finding out is half the adventure, right? (That face you just made? Same one they made when I used that phrase this morning.) In all, though, it's going really well. EmBaby's reading more fluidly - her accent is killing us in the phonics, but she's starting to clear those hurdles. (I've never had one with an accent before. This is a whole new ballgame!) Jacob's just rolling through it to get to the books. I can't keep him in books. (Yeah, I know. Third child this age, you'd think he'd be inundated. I guess not.) John finally got a good callous from playing guitar. He feels legit, now, and it's given him a renewed vigor in many areas. And James is kicking into high gear is so many areas. Mostly after 11:30 or so in the morning, but once he's caught a gear, he can *go*.

For me, the big excitement so far was hearing John announce that he *likes* Latin. One day, Dwane Thomas at Visual Latin, and the good folks at Memoria Press (thank you for First Form!) will receive cookies, or brownies, or a copy of someone's NLE results with a thank you note. That's some crazy joy, there.

And the rest of Summer? Well, things don't always go as planned. We did get the sand - uh, this past Saturday. The windows we'd been putting in, one at a time, all went on clearance (not to be re-stocked  - ACK!) so we snagged all we needed in one size, and we now have new windows along the whole front of the house. We'll be eating beans and rice for the next three months, but the marked improvement in insulation is worth it already.

Oh, and okra! Our mad gardening skills have once again yielded insane amounts of okra. Not much else - maybe one cucumber, a handful of squash, two and a half tomatoes... we'll spend the Autumn pickling okra and giving thanks that we do not have to rely solely on what we grew for Winter sustenance. Again. Amen.

Kiss those babies!

* Tongue in cheek. Mostly.

Monday, June 18

Hot 'n Sticky Holiday

Zorak worked on the project with his co-worker most of the day, Saturday. I don't think they got it finished, as he needs a torch. I wish I'd known that before Father's Day. Someday, we will manage to figure out what he needs and get it for him before he runs down to Home Depot or the Welding Shop and buys it for himself. Not that he minds. Gifts don't say I love you to him - time, thoughtfulness, naps, kind words, affection - those things wrap him in a big hug and whisper, "You mean so much to us." And humor - a family that laughs together is happy and solid. We're fortunate, and we've got it good.

Father's Day was spent working in the garden. Sort of. I like to think we'd be better at it if our lives depended on it. I may be wrong, though. It's pretty miserable down there in the afternoons, and we haven't disciplined ourselves enough to get down there and get it over with in the cool of the mornings. (Of course, there will be no cool, ever, in another two weeks, so maybe it's just a pre-emptive adjustment on our part?) Thankfully, okra will grow with pretty much no input from anyone.

We graduated a couple more chicks from the basement to the barn. I cannot tell you how glad I will be when I no longer have livestock living in my home.

The kids and I made lunch for Zorak (shredded BBQ brisket sandwiches, tomato/cuke/sweet pepper salad, green salad, pintos, and cheesecake). We enjoyed lunch and then laid down -- and stopped moving. Z got a Father's Day nap. (Best Gift, Ever!) The rest of us watched MacGuyver and lolled about, with our limbs dangling off the ends of the furniture.

If I haven't done so already, I need to go on record now as saying I am SO wholly on board with the implementation of siestas in the South. Nobody wants to work during the hottest part of the day, and in the summer it's light late enough that you can get more done after a refreshing nap, anyway. When you add in the humidity and the lunch... Oy! Siesta is the only thing that makes any sense. But it's never caught on here in the South, for whatever reason. A shame, really - it's a lovely way to get through the hot'n'sticky part of the day.

This week? This week we don't have to be up at 5:45, so we're not going to be. That's about as far as we've made it on the planning end. And we're okay with that. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, May 13

It's Mother's Day

Happy Day to you, if you are a Mother, or have a Mother, or if someone loves you like a Mother.

I got up early to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace and listen to the gentle rain and the chipper morning birds. It's 63* right now, and so pretty! Sometimes it's nice to wake up at my own pace, instead of by hitting the floor running. That I managed to extricate myself from the bed with a pile of children woven around my limbs (there must have been a storm last night - there aren't usually so many of them) without waking anybody up is my Mother's Day Surprise.

We beat back the foliage, tilled the garden (again), and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned on Friday. I was firing on about 3 cylinders yesterday (using a V-8 as a baseline), so I spent a lot of time trying to sleep. The rest of them helped Zorak finish the chicken tractor and headed out to a friend's birthday party. When they got home, they gave the house some sprucing up, since I was out of commission. o_O Now we have that lovely lived-in bachelor pad look going. Again. My Mother's Day wish for the coming year is that EmBaby has some latent tidiness gene, and that I'll have an ally one day when it kicks in. Until then, though, know that the kitchen is safe, the coffee is hot, the kids are friendly, and those aren't my socks under the dining room table.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 23

Lost the cord again!

I saw a camera the other day that has the USB bit attached to the camera. Santa needs to see about getting me one of those for Christmas. In the meantime, we've cleaned the house, and there's no sign of the camera cord.

The camera is full, though, as the kids have been making videos. Oh, I need to buy each of them a camera with a boatload of storage (and an integrated USB dongle). The videos are sweet and funny. Or, they are once I stop hyperventilating over the fact that children don't tend to pick up before they film. Heh.

School is going beautifully. The first two weeks have been great. The kids' new math books arrived last week, and they dove right in. James moved over to Wheelock's for Latin. I hate Wheelock's, but he's happy. He'll wrap that one up this term, and then... I dunno. Orberg? Wing it? No clue. But that's not now, so we'll enjoy the rest of this term. We're hoping to have a few good adventures along the way!

John's ankle is healing well. He's off the crutches, and winging about with the boot. I've put a total moratorium on Paper On The Floor. Normally, I try not to be too uptight about it. It's hard not to have paper on the floor when someone is always sketching or drawing or making diagrams - between the five kids, there's... there's a lot of paper. Aesthetically, meh. But if you step on it with a boot? You're goin' DOWN, folks. And I can't... we can't have two broken bones on one child all at once. *shudder* For the time being, paper is now a Controlled Substance.

Jacob brought me the first Daffodil of the year, yesterday! We don't normally get them until February, but here they are. It's been a wet and balmy winter. I hope we haven't missed our pruning window for the trees! We'll check this week and see what we can do. In the meantime, we have a beautiful bit of sunshine in the kitchen window. Hopefully, it's the first of many to parade through the house this year!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 21

Busy and Beautiful

It's just been gorgeous, here. Even with the rain. And in spite of the storms. And the tornadoes. But if you grade on a curve, it's been gorgeous. And we've been delightfully busy! No curve needed.

We have five new fruit trees to put in -- 2 figs, 1 nectarine, and 2 plums. The boys dug the holes, but Zorak and I both keep forgetting to pick up peat moss when we're out. There are figs on the trees already, though, so we need to get on that. Perhaps this weekend?

In the meantime, we've been tending the other things. The pears are looking good. The apple trees haven't died yet (we'll grade on a curve, with those poor things). The blueberry plants all have blueberries! Very exciting. EmBaby has added three other flowering something-or-others to her growing collection of perennial flowering plants. And she's getting quite good at identifying them, which is great, because I can barely remember the things I've put in, and it's a sure bet we're going to need her input in the years to come. If I can just convince her to develop a deep affection for shade-loving plants, the front yard would look spectacular!

The strawberry plants aren't faring so well. Something keeps eating the leaves off the plants. Whatever it is, it's leaving the berries alone, but that's not helping. Now we just have sad, wilty plants with wee green berries and no leaves. Whatever it is also has no interest in the plant inside the trap we set near the plants. Clever critter. I need a more clever planting scheme, it seems.

The kids are wrapping up their schoolwork, and doing so well in all regards. We're toying with the idea of doing an Herbology-meets-Potions Summer Intensive Course, studying essential oils, indigenous plants and their culinary and medicinal uses and, of course, the always handy What Not To Eat Under Any Circumstances list. At the end of the study, I'd like the kids to have a basic grasp on making balms and salves, tinctures and poultices. They'll hopefully have a few things to keep in their backpacks on hikes and campouts, as well as a seriously beefed-up herb bed.

Zorak's shoulder is healing just beautifully. He's out of the sling, and moved on to doing weight-bearing exercises. He showed off last night by replacing the dead light fixture in the kitchen. Good stuff. And now I can see on that side of the kitchen at night! Yay!

There's more, but it's late. However, I just read this article, from The Happiness Project, and it inspired me to remember to do what I love, instead of putting it off. Voltaire wrote, "...a beautiful secret is to live at home." I love that imagery, and I love this life, in this home. But there are other things I love, as well, that fall by the wayside -- not intentionally, but due to some fault of my own to mind my time well and keep myself focused at will. I get wrapped around the details of getting things done, and have forgotten to stop and remember the moments at the end of the day. I miss that. And so, here I am.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 18

Oh, Dear. Fall, already?

Well, when the spammers begin posting at will in your comments section, it's a sure sign you've let too much dust collect on ye olde (How would you spell that, anyway?) If you need jeans, jewelry, or... pharmaceuticals, let me know. I'm sure I can hook you up.

So, it's October. Yeah. We survived Summer. (pause for a little celebratory shin dig and some cider) As per the arrangement, my reward for not voluntarily slipping into a coma in August is the truly Awesome Display of Fall Foliage. While I'm relatively certain God would get on with the Awesome Display whether I was aware of it, or not, I made an agreement with a smaller, more shallow entity that lives in my head, and haggles with me to get me to stay upright and functional when I really don'wanna... we'll call it... Jimminy. So, "Jimminy" told me if I'd just keep plugging along, there would be Autumn as a reward. And, not saying I wasn't tempted, and definitely not saying we were "productive", by ANY stretch of the imagination. Just saying... "Yay." And, regardless of the set up, I am deeply appreciative.

The garden was awesome, this year. Actually, no, it wasn't. But it felt like it was, until we tallied it all up. We got okra. A few cucumbers, until the barn developed its laser vision and *fried* the plants to paper. As Superheroes go, the barn pretty much stinks. And, um, okra. But, in the end, Summer ended and we were too thrilled to remember to put in a fall garden, and so, it shall lie fallow and recuperate. It shall breathe. (Hence, the Apathetically Organic moniker - just proves itself again and again as THE name for us, should we ever start smoking peyote and thinking we're farmers.) Regardless, we had a lot of fun with it, which makes it awesome, in a way.

Our latest project is a bike trail through the woods. It. is. *GAH* I can't think of an adjective that isn't some variation on "awesome". (Oh, but it IS. It really IS.) And it's late, and it's a miracle I'm blogging at all. Forgive me. Anyway, I can't even explain how much fun this is. The blisters, eh, not so much. And we're pretty sure that several areas in Dante's Inferno are landscaped with the briars native to the South. However, all that aside, all we need now are awesome little plaques "
Poison Ivy, Rhus Radicans,
native to North America, non-edible
Saw greenbriar, Smilax bona-nox,
native to the U.S., freaking impossible to eradicate without napalm
then it'll be just like a trail at the Wildlife Refuge. Without the Rangers. Or the tax exempt status. But those are peripheral. It's nearly complete. Ish. OK, functional. And very exciting. The kids love it. The dogs love it. We love it!

That's it for now. If I write everything allatonce, it'll be another six months before I blog again.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 24

Squealing Like A Little Girl

We just checked the weather, and it's supposed to be 89 degrees on Thursday! I know this doesn't sound exciting, but it is. It's exciting is so very many ways. Summer's on the downhill slope!

The sunflowers are hanging in the basement to dry. The okra's floating in jars. The beans are done, and we've learned a lot about those. The pears are thinking about ripening, and we found another pear tree we never knew we had!

The chickens are a little fickle, and we still have no idea what we're doing, there, but we're learning. Slowly but surely.

But Autumn is coming! Soon we'll spend time outside without our hair sticking to our necks, without the mosquitoes sticking to our arms. Soon we'll need jackets in the evening, and can enjoy bonfires in the twilight.

OH, yes, Summer's days are numbered, and as they drop, so do the temps! WOOHOO!

Kiss those sweaty little babies!

Sunday, July 11

Ur doing it wrong

As much as we love LOLCats, it's not always fun to feel like we'd be in a picture with that title. When it comes to gardening, we feel like we are quite often. And, looking on the bright side, sometimes, we're not. We canned pickled okra last night (learned a lot), had a good time, and in the end, we've got pickled okra. Yay. We also canned pickled cucumbers. Kind of blew through the learning curve on the okra, so the cucumbers went much more smoothly. I've learned a couple of things about canning this week:

* Only can with someone you love.
* You can pack more in that jar. Really.
* Okra floats. (Well, duh. We knew that. We just didn't put that together with the packing and the liquid until it was too late. And I mean that literally -- it was nearly midnight.)
* Don't make it harder than it has to be. (Applies to a number of things, actually.)
* All Other Kitchen Rules Apply (don't touch the pot without a pot holder, clean as you go to keep your blood pressure down, you get to eat the mistakes, and lick the spoon... whether you want to or not, is another story)

It's been a good gardening season, this year. We have also discovered a new superpower for JackJack , um, I mean Jase. Or, rather, we've found a way to direct his powers for Good. He's very good at pulling things apart, at tearing things open, at throwing things. He's quite detail oriented, and can mangle things for hours on end. So, he's the new bean sheller!

Next year, we'll wait until the beans are dry in the pods before we harvest them, like the professionals suggest. This year, however, we're eating the daylights out of fresh black beans. Soft, sprouted, semi-dried, and partially neglected. I figure by August, we will have figured out at least three completely new ways of eating these things! And, it'll keep Jase busy for the rest of the summer.
EmBaby gets in on the action, too. She prefers the washing and the picking, for actual work, but who doesn't love joining in on the kitchen activity?

This is our third year gardening, here. We've killed a lot of plants. We've grown a lot of weeds. We've tilled significantly more linear feet of soil than we've actually gardened. But, we've also expanded the garden significantly, widened our range of produce, and actually managed to harvest enough food to make a dent! We've figured out where to put what , developed some new trellis schemes, and nailed down the price on Japanese Beetle bounties. Now, to figure out a rotation plan that will work - one entire corner of the garden seems willing to grow only okra, and 18" tall corn stalks.

Sometime this week, I hope to put up pictures of projects the kids have been working on: new compost bin, chicken infirmary, shooting gallery, and American Revolution re-enactment field.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 10

Gardening, Homesteading, Frugality

No, not really. But doesn't that sound like I've been thinking hard, and have come up with something exciting to share? Or maybe more of the same, but couched in new terms!

Nope, sorry. It's about all I can do to keep the kids sorted out with school, plan the next term's work, and start shifting the boxes in the foyer out to the car to be shipped. The fact that the Growing Season is pretty time-sensitive doesn't help much. Not really.

We have no clue what we're doing, as evidenced by our lack of fertilization every. single. year. Or by my recent attempts at growing beans, without figuring out how best to, oh, I don't know, *harvest them*, before we put them in the ground. (Or, hey, even before they ripened! Or maybe just before I pulled them off the plants and *then* tried to figure out how to store them.) On the plus side, our overall disorganization and lack of ability means that most of this year's crop is still, technically, organic. Not Gov't Certified Organic, but Organic in the Way That Most People Really Care That It's Organic. But we don't have a label for that. As a matter of fact, we don't even have labels for the stuff we're putting up for our own pantry.

Which brings me around to the title, and my immense joy that there are Other People who have A Clue, and share their knowledge with us. What a blessing!

I've blown quite a few hours tonight (this morning? The sun should be coming up soon...) reading new blogs that I've thoroughly enjoyed. They seem to offer a blend of humor, honesty, and information that works for me. Perhaps you'll enjoy them, too.

Kathie, at Two Frog Home, has a baking fetish that makes me envy, and a craft fetish that makes me wish I had that genetic pre-disposition (but I don't. So I will continue to hope somebody will pass the quilts along when they are done with them.) Not to mention, she lives in Montana, and I'm pretty sure that's where God retired when He finished creating the world. *sigh* So beautiful!

From Kathie's wonderful Friday Favorites posts, I found this recipe for Tibetan Butter Tea, which I'm going to have to show James in the morning. And then, of course, had to poke around at Gracious Hospitality. But they don't mind me poking around at four in the morning. They're hospitable like that. ;-) (And yes, I am winding down, and it's about time to stop. talking.)

Also, Kathie had linked to the Urban Homestead (now called The Path to Freedom). I'd heard about this family's project, but had not seen the site. Wow! What a source of encouragement! It's amazing what they have done with 1/5 of an acre, and makes me ever more excited about progress on the Forever Home's land. (Caution: it's a little overwhelming, and can be depressing, or at least it was for me, until I realized *they've been at this since 1985!* This doesn't happen overnight! Just keep going, one plant, one corner, one lesson at a time.)

I've added a new category to entries: good neighbors. This will be the posts with links to other blogs or websites that I don't want to lose. It's good to keep up with good neighbors once you've found them.

Kiss those babies!
And, that said, I'm going to save this post.

Thursday, June 10

Oh Hai

It's June. So far, June has looked like this

Jacob's having a great season. He's at his final game, win or lose, right now. Back-to-back County Championship games at the end of a full day of Scout Camp. It makes my stomach hurt, just thinking about it. But he's having a blast. Wee! It's SUMMER!

I think I may lobby the Cub Scouts to push their camp back by a week next year. It always rains them out at least one day (this year, it was yesterday, and then they shut it down early today). It always overlaps the final championship games of baseball (and there are a lot of cubs in baseball). And, as we learned this week, it conflicts with Boy Scout Camp (although they needed Boy Scouts to assist with the Cub Scout camp).

And, when we aren't at the field, we're in the garden. These are nearly ready:

Lemon thyme, pineapple sage, Greek oregano, and lemon balm. The kitchen looks so old-school, and it smells fantastic! The garlic and horseradish are growing beautifully, but won't be ready for harvest until next year. The Bee Balm is freakishly healthy and happy. The chamomile isn't coming up. We suspect there isn't enough sun for it, where we tried this time. We'll try again in another spot. (This is the hard way to become gardeners.)

However, it looks like James has decided to make teas and vinegars for Christmas gifts! And it really is fun!

How's your summer starting out?

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, May 29

Don't Wait for Perfect

We have a tendency to put off doing something until we can do it "just so". That may work for some, but for us, it only means we'll keep putting it off indefinitely. Whether it's a lack of money, or of time, or even knowledge that gets in the way, it's always something. So, put it off until... blah, blah, blah.

Last year, we decided we'd put an intentional end to that, in our gardening areas. And wow, what a difference! Not that we have *any* idea what we're doing. But it's starting to look like we do!

Today, the kids and I harvested lemon thyme, lemon balm, pineapple sage and Greek oregano. It's all cleaned off, drying in little bundles in the kitchen window, now. Some of it will be used for tea, and some for cooking. Some of it, we want to experiment with.

The garlic and horseradish the boys put in earlier this spring are both doing well, and the kids can hardly wait for those plants to mature for harvest.

That whole end of the yard is starting to look (and smell) unbelievably good. And while I'm tempted to lament just how awesome it would have been if we'd done it the first spring we were here, (but then, we'd have a bountiful harvest, and still no place to put it - which is why the house came first. Still, one wonders...) In the end, we're getting to it, and it's really happening.

It felt so good, kneeling in the dirt with the kids, as they clipped and gathered the herbs. Walking slowly around the tea garden, with shears and bundles in my hands, listening to each of the children identify their plants.

Granted, we're on our third planting of tomatoes this spring (we cannot get them to germinate!), but as soon as we figure that out, we'll have the herbs to season them with!

Don't pass it all up waiting for "just so". Because "wonderful" and "your best" is absolutely delicious, in so many way! But "never got around to it" just doesn't season memories so well.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, May 4

Terrifyingly Awesome

We took the kids to the Botanical Gardens a week or so back, and I saw this thing. It's a beast of a tree. The thing is, it look gorgeous, delicate, and inviting (from a distance). But then I saw the title plate at the base of the tree.

Dragon? What dragon? Why's it a dragon? Zorak pointed out why it's a dragon. Ohhh....

Did you see it? Yes, lovely little orange erm, shaped, fruits. But beside those, look closely.

Crikey! Now *that's* a protective hedge. I'm thinking we'll plant them below the bedroom windows. Kind of makes the traditional holly bush look a little puny, doesn't it? Yep, then we'd have dragons, in addition to our half-a-moat! It's shaping up to be a regular little castle, around here!

Kiss those babies! (and, uh, keep them out of the dragon beds!)

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Saturday, May 1

It's Springtime, Y'all!

Why didn't anybody tell my 17-yo self that THERE IS STILL SO MUCH TO LEARN!?! Well, someone probably did. So why didn't I listen? Nevermind. There's still a lot I don't know, but I think I've figure that one out, at least.

So, we're gardening the garden of the Ambitious, this year. Cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, okra, okra, and okra. Kentucky pole beans and black turtle beans and sunflowers. Yellow squash, zucchini, watermelons, pumpkins, canteloupes and okra. Cayenne peppers, bell peppers, Blue lake green beans, tomatoes, and some okra. Honestly, we're just hoping to get some okra out of the deal.

And there's baseball. And school. And Scouts. And baseball. (EmBaby *hated* t-ball, so we are down to only two players, now. It feels so manageable!) And more gardening.

We're expanding the tea garden into medicinal plants.

The boys keep asking if I've blogged an update on each of them, yet, "with my pictures in it, Mom". But then they won't hold still long enough for me to get pictures to post. (I'm guessing they may not listen when we tell them how much there is still to learn, either.)

Did you know you have to have register with the State of Alabama to grow ginseng here? Not only to sell it (that's a more expensive license), or to harvest it (though they charge you less if you're collecting someone else's ginseng), but just to GROW it. Something that grows wild, without your help, anyway. Unbelievable.

We've got chicks. Yes, little birds. They're in the basement, with the Basement Frog, for now. This was our impetus to get the coop done. (Ya think?) The kids are ecstatic. I'm trying to find a way to develop a full-body second skin dip that will provide prophylactic support against salmonella, mites, and the willies.

EmBaby had her first major tricycle wreck, which also earned her her first shiner. It looked absolutely horrific for the first four days (she was fine, but we all went around cringing and moaning in empathy), and then this morning, *poof* it's nearly gone. And she's still on the tricycle every chance she gets. May she always be blessed with that kind of healing ability and fortitude. If I were more Irish, maybe I could come up with a catchy way to phrase that.

The figs are growing! Or, rather, one of the figs is growing. The other one seems to be holding very, very still, in the hope that neither Jason nor Sally will ever make contact with it again. We've built cages for all of the balcony plants (the two figs, and the three earth boxes), but I think we may have been too slow on the draw to do that one any good. The other one, though (the one that hasn't been uprooted and thrown off the balcony more than twice), is thriving and putting out vibrant, beautiful green shoots! So exciting!

And, there is baseball.

And gardening.

And the smell of sunshine and dirt on little heads.

It's Springtime in the South, y'all!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 15

In the tea garden

The tea garden survived the winter. The boys are working with the lemon balm, here. The pineapple sage returned quite beautifully, as did the bee balm. They're so excited!!

Wonder what else we could put in there? What would you plant in a tea garden?

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 12

Back to Basics

A few changes in the works, here. First, I'm abandoning Photoshop. It may be a fantastic program, but it requires time, patience, and an uninterruptedness that I simply haven't got at the moment. My feelings on this are along the same lines as on curriculum choices - The best program in the world won't matter if it sits on the shelf. So, back to Picasa, which has pretty much everything I need. (And what I need is to get pics available to Granny more often, for one thing! And to blog more often, for another.) So, here we are...
The weather is gorgeous, and it looks like we might actually make a little headway on the land, this year! So far, we've put in a blueberry stick (bush, eventually, but right now, shyeah, it's a stick), two raspberries, a blackberry (all sticks), and two cherry trees (actual trees - they make the sticks look even more pathetic). There are two fig sticks awaiting transplant, and Zorak did a little tilling in the garden, too!

EmBaby is still in charge of major defoliation projects, but she's agreed to stick to things that won't bear fruit, eventually. And, the apple and pear trees seem to be up and running for this year. We're hoping to avoid the June drop with proper thinning on the pears, and really just tossing Hail Marys at the apples. Not much else we can do, with them.

Some other changes we're making around the the Old Shack are educational - back to basics; nutritional - again, back to basics; philosophical - back to... hey, do you see a pattern here?

And so far, we're enjoying the changes!
Kiss those babies!
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Monday, March 8

Generally March

We've been here five years this month! Wow. Five years. That seems to have slipped right on by. One of the nice things about being in the same place for five years is learning to spot the rhythms and routines in that area. For example, it's March. This means several things, here:

We had temps in the teens not two weeks ago, but everything is budding out now. En masse. Happens every year and it still blows me away. It's like Mother Nature's hosting a foot race. (And we're going to lose. We do every year. But it's fun, now that we know what's going on.)

We still have no clear idea when the proper time is for pruning. We really hope it wasn't back when everything was still frozen, because it's hard to prune from inside your home.

When the weather changes from winter to spring temperatures, it seems to do so overnight. You sit through practice Friday evening, buffeted by cold, biting winds, surrounded by others with cold-induced runny noses, watching the kids through squinty, tear-filled eyes. Saturday, you can stand in the sunny spots with just a windbreaker, and as long as the shadows don't catch you, it's a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

There's *always* practice in the Spring. Always.

There will be one more cold snap. It won't come until we've put away the winter coats, but it will come. Out of nowhere. And it'll be COLD.

The Auburn v. Alabama game is played in the first week of April. I learned this, not because we watch the game, but because that's the signal to get your garden in the ground.

Poison Ivy leafs out last. I suspect that's so it's more difficult to spot it from a distance and have any hope of eradicating it.

The compost pile is about to really kick into high gear. We'll be glad we kept feeding it all winter, because this is the only time we'll be able to keep up with it.

Kids have no concept of weather patterns. They spend all winter outside, in the fairly cold weather, then spend most of April complaining about how hot it is. How they forget August is beyond me, but they do. It makes me laugh (as I throw them outside).

March is a very difficult time to stick to the lesson plans. It's gorgeous. The kids aren't complaining about the "heat" yet. There are robins and cardinals busily getting down to business. The sunshine through the branches makes an inviting path in the woods. The grass is still low enough not to lose anybody, and the days are so calm you can hear the creek burble quietly through the woods. It's a good time to take advantage of all that Springtime in the South has to offer.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, November 14

Kefir, The Learning Curve

I'm filing this under "Not Quite Gardening". I mean, okay, it's nowhere near gardening. But the Kefir is, technically alive, so it's kind of like having livestock. But I don't have a livestock category. Actually, it feels more like we're raising Sea Monkeys. But since we've never had much luck with those, we're calling them livestock. And we're filing it under gardening. (Yeah, you should see our filing system for bills!)

So, we got some milk kefir grains, and some water kefir grains. And we got them set up and doing their thing in the sunny spot on the counter. (I feel compelled to point out that this is *not* what ours look like. This is a generic kefir-picture. You don't want to see what ours looks like right now.) And then we forgot about them for a few days. Or, I should say, a few days longer than we're supposed to forget about them. Not that they just sat there. The boys picked them up and swirled them about every time they entered or left the kitchen. (I found myself wondering if this may be what went wrong with the Sea Monkeys.) But we didn't strain it when we should have strained it.

And so, yesterday, I strained. And strained. And tried not to breathe through my mouth. (Because honestly, I don't really enjoy the way things smell in their natural state. I like the way fish doesn't smell at the store. I like the way processed vitamins don't smell like a cow puked in the bottle. And, I like things that do not smell... fermented. Even if they are... fermented. Which is why I prefer wine to beer.) And strained some more.

At this point, it would be SO handy if I had any clue what I'm doing. But I don't. If you use kefir, please comment. Please fill me in. You can laugh, I don't care (we did!) But HELP!

We have "kefir", in the milk-form, that one would traditionally *cringe* drink straight up. But this is strong, so I'm hoping this next batch will mellow it out a bit. (Can I cook with this? Put it in bread? Or would that be mass kefircide?) The grains are back in fresh milk, and there's some thick stuff that we are bound and determined to turn into a dip of some sort. (Garlic makes everything better.)

And then, we have the kefir water. To which, we added grape juice to make kefir soda. My gag reflex is still going strong. The kids, however, *loved* it! Drank almost all of it over lunch. It's good for them. They like it. Life is good. Even when the learning curve is really, really steep.

Kiss those babies!