Thursday, September 5, 2013

The mountains are calling...

...and I must go.  -John Muir

We spent Labor Day in the Shenandoah National Park.  The park is one of my favorite places that I have been and we are so fortunate to have it a short drive away!

A while back I purchased a book for the kids called Scavenger Hike Adventures.  It takes good family day hikes and turns them into a scavenger hunt!  We had only done one of the hikes so far and the kids asked to do another.

We hiked Hawksbill Summit (the highest point in the Shenandoah National Park) via the Appalachian Trail and the Salamander Trail.  It was great.  The kids loved it! They did 2.9 miles with no problem, very little complaining and so much fun and laughter!  It was wonderful!

Here are some photos of our day.

Yellow Leprose Lichen (chrystothrix candelaris, aka Spray Paint Lichen) 

Eden practices the skill of rock stacking.

Very cool tree on the hike.

Two deer followed us for a while. No zoom used on this photo. They were really that close.

Mountain Laurel tunnel. I can't help but think about how lovely this would be when the Laurel is blooming.

This hike had several nice overlooks.

Snacking at Hawksbill Summit.

Looks like he might slip off the mountain. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

I Don't Hate it Yet

Two weeks in and I am still enjoying homeschooling.  We had a really bad day last Wednesday so we quit and went outside.  The kids (especially my TypeA who has to do everything as it is supposed to be done) wanted to finish later in the day so we did, but if we didn't, that would have been okay. 

Eden has already memorized a poem (Rain by Robert Louis Stevenson) and the first half of the Lord's Prayer. Her reading is improving and she is learning to write cursive. She is working on narrating stories we read and I am looking forward to this discipline helping her communication skills!

Theo is working on writing letters and numbers and counting to 50. He is so motivated and finishes his work so fast that I run out of work for him to do! I need to figure out what to do with him!  

This week we continued our nature study with the study of trees.  We learned about growth rings.  Once again the kids seemed to love it and the crafts we did to compliment the study.  Here are some photos from our tree study.

The girls have short attention spans when we are outside. Theo's is shorter.

Growth rings in the log pile.

Growth rings in the lumber pile.

We made cedar magnets for the fridge.

Painted magnets.

We used white crayon to draw growth rings in our nature journals, then we painted over them.
The crayon acted as a resist.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Today Felt...

...rushed and lazy.

We started school 45 minutes early this morning so we could get a jump on our day.  We had a checkup appointment for our dog, Amos, and the new kitten, Mittens.  We got through most of our planned items, but skipped out on our nature hike (on the schedule every day).

Mittens sleeping off her stressful vet visit.
I thought we'd walk when we came home, but it was rainy and dreary and we ended up just hanging around reading books and I let the kids watch a movie. Theo chose to watch it like this:

How Theo watches a movie.
 So, it felt like we ran around this morning and wasted the rest of the day. We'll do a proper, non-rushed day of school tomorrow.

Saturday, I took a planning morning.  I hope to do this each month.  I planned out the next 3 weeks of school and I think doing it this way will work out well for me.  We'll see!

My school planner.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Week One

Week one at Hunter's Grove Academy went pretty well, in my opinion.  I learned a few things about planning that I will implement when I plan out the next 4 weeks.  I did only the first week to start as I knew I'd likely figure some things out once we got going.

Tomorrow I will be planning the next month and I am actually excited about it!  This is such a switch in attitude for me and I am grateful that I have finally gotten to the place where I "feel the love" for this decision to keep the kids home this year.  I have bathed my attitude in prayer and it has been a huge internal struggle with my inner brat (she stomped around for a while saying "I DON'T WANNA'!").  Praise the Lord for bringing me to this place!

Wednesday, Eden started piano lessons.  We were given an old piano that belonged to a family member.  It has been fun to bang around on it even though it makes me cringe it is so out of tune (the tuning guy is coming soon)!  Eden picked out Twinkle Twinkle with my mom's help and she hasn't been able to walk past the piano without sitting down in front of it since we got it.  I have been playing around a little bit, too, though I can only pick out the right hand (thanks to 6 years of clarinet).

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of School 2013

We started school at Hunter's Grove Academy today!  Eden is doing Ambleside Online Year 1 and Theo is doing Pre K.  Much of the AO curriculum follows a one room schoolhouse approach where all ages participate in the lesson.  Eden and Theo will do separate lessons in reading, writing and math, but  Theo is joining Eden in Art, Music and Nature Study and will follow along in some Literature and History.

I decided to plan out one week and see how it would go before I set out to plan the rest of the month. I learned a lot today. I think the kids learned something, too!

Some friends joined us today for Nature Study. We made leaf prints, did blind contour sketches of the fifth largest white oak in the state of Virginia and learned about oak trees.
Eden doing copy work. 

Theo working on tracing.

Eden sketching leaves in her nature journal.

Evelyn (our friend) learning how to make leaf prints.

Sketching red oak leaves.

Not an oak leaf, Theo!

Our leaf prints drying on the line.

Cousin's Camp 2013- Giants in The Land!

2013 Cousin's Camp was a wonderful success!  The theme was Giant's in the Land.  We learned about George Washington who was a giant in character (and over 6 feet tall at a time when most men were not so tall).  We also learned about David and Goliath.

Here are some photos that capture some of what we got to do this year at Cousin's Camp!

We pounded flowers.

We dyed t-shirts.

We camped out.

We made meat pies and cooked them in dutch ovens.

We fought with water balloons and also played capture the flag.

We climbed trees.

We climbed trees a lot.

My mom (aka Cousin Becky) is a rock star! She is the mastermind behind our cousin's camp and she makes it better each year. So many people come together to make it a success and a big THANK YOU is in order!  What a great family I have!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The News vs. Joy

Joy is
1. a deep feeling or condition of happiness or contentment
2. something causing such a feeling; a source of happiness
3. an outward show of pleasure or delight; rejoicing

I've been working on cultivating JOY in my life.  Why "cultivating"?  Well, much like my weedy fallow garden (except for the pea bed which still has no sprouts) I need to plant and tend the particular things I want to grow in my life.

What!!  You mean my joy isn't contingent upon my circumstance? Well, it can be, but it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be.

I stopped watching the news.

When the elementary school shooting happened last winter, I couldn't watch. I was so stressed and overwhelmed by my own personal life. The stress of making family work when you are together for less that 1 hour per day was weighing on me. I wanted to remain joyful. I wanted to lack nothing.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 

So I chose to not watch. I chose to not read the articles, I stayed off Facebook, I wouldn't view the images.

I turned off the news.

This was a decision made out of the human need to shut off that which overwhelms our spirit. The interesting thing, though, was that while others were walking around in a daze, not understanding the world in which we live, I was able to avoid that feeling and was able to continue to tap the source of my joy. My own circumstances may not be as overwhelming as I think when I stop fighting other's battles and worrying about trials that haven't been given to me.

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn't care for those who are in the midst of trials, love them, help them if it is in our power. The Bible is clear, we are to help those in need.

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? I John 3:17 

Is knowing about specific sins and people's personal trials all over the world, in radical media form, in real time something we are meant to know? I would suggest that it is not. I would argue that our human psyche is not capable of knowing it all and remaining healthy. All of the scripture I could find on helping others seemed to indicate face to face help. In community. Seeing a need. Filling it.

Nowhere in scripture are we instructed to seek out tragedy, obsess over it, fret about it, alter our lives to accommodate what our fragile psyches are telling us.

We are instructed to count our own trials for joy.

I have been literally counting them, the trials. I have been writing them down and praising God for them and there is joy there. I have been looking for ways to see a brother in need and fill that need. To bear burdens of friends, family and those I "do life" with. There are enough trials there to keep me busy.  I have kept away from sensational news stories. I am healthier for it. I can access the Grace being poured out on my own life and family when I am not burdened by the emotions surrounding literally everyone else's tragedy or struggle.

So, I challenge you to 3 things:

  1. Turn off the news for 1 week (or one month). See if has any effect on your heart and mind.
  2. Count your trials for joy. Write down those things that are painful, and hard. Thank God for them and for how He will use them for His glory. Don't just praise Him in the storm, praise Him for the storm!
  3. Read Anne Voskamp's book  One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

I hate being scheduled to my breaking point. That is what life has been the past few months. I have hardly had time to come up for air. You know that feeling when there is light at the end of the tunnel? I can see the light, it's getting bigger and clearer every day and I feel relief. Peace.

We have made a huge decision in the past few weeks. Eden will not be attending the local public elementary school next year. I filed my Notice of Intent to Homeschool with the county's School Superintendent yesterday.

You may or may not know that we made the decision last year to put Eden in public school for the 2012-2013 school year. We didn't enjoy our homeschool experience. I really wanted to love having her "in school". I wanted to enjoy my "freedom" and let someone else do the hard work of educating her. I was already making plans to go back to school myself when Theo started Kindergarten! Funny thing about my plans... they rarely work out the way I plan them.

Long story short, public school didn't work out. There were many things that didn't work for us, but the  biggest was the schedule. Eden had to be in bed so early (in order to get up on time to catch the bus in the morning) and Brandon comes home from work so late, that they hardly saw each other. I also joined the PTA and volunteered to be the secretary. That was a huge time commitment in the evenings that further disrupted the family. I feel like our family life has been on hold for the past 9 months.

There are 9 1/2 school days left and that light is growing brighter. I'm getting my family back!

I'm working to figure out what we will do differently this time around. I feel a conviction about homeschooling this time, so that is helpful. Not having public school as a back-up means I have to do things well. I know a little bit more about Eden now, so I can work better to meet her needs. She has a bit of understanding about the requirement to get your work done after being in "real" school for a year. She is also a good reader now, which means she will be capable of at least some independent work.

I am terrified and excited and struggling with the lazy, undisciplined, whiny I dont' wanna part of myself. Tell me I'm not alone in that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finished Objects

I have been finishing up a couple of knitting projects this week. Right now, at this moment in time, I have NOTHING on the needles.  I need to start something else or I may get shaky!

My first project was a Truly Tasha shawl for my mom.  She spun all of the wool for the project.  Over half was spun on a drop spindle!  She intended it to be the warp for a woven shawl, but she never got around to it and asked me to knit it.  The yarn was overspun and kind-of hard (more desirable in a weaving project than in a knitting project) and I didn't really enjoy it at all until I began putting the lace edging on. It was rough and stiff and a little bit abrasive to the touch. After blocking, the shawl was perfect! It is soft with a lovely drape. I am so happy with it. I am so glad I stuck it out and kept knitting. 

Truly Tasha Shawl made from my mom's spindle spun wool.

Lovely lace edging on the Truly Tasha Shawl

The next project was a pair of socks for me.  They are the Monkey socks from Knitty. The yarn is alpaca I bought at the Fall Fiber Festival last Fall.  I love the lace. I love the feel of the yarn. I love the color. The pattern was pretty easy, too. 

Monkey Socks

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In The Garden

This winter I planned a complete layout overhaul of my garden space.  Instead of 11 3'x9' beds, I am going to have 3 4'x33' beds. 
My new layout is going to give me an additional 100 square feet of bed space!  

In order to implement this change, I opted to use a tiller which I don't usually do. It has been really wet here recently and the garden has only had short bursts of time when it wasn't too soggy to till.  The garden plan for this year hinges on me getting my peas in by Valentine's Day.  Sunday I managed to get one section (about 1/3) of the garden tilled. This was enough for planting peas, but I ran out of daylight.  Then, it rained again Monday. Yesterday was lovely, but the ground was so wet I couldn't plant anything.

Today, they are calling for rain. Grrrr! 

Well, I ignored what "they" were calling for and I went out to plant. I managed to get an entire bed planted with shelling peas and dwarf sugar snaps.  If you don't want to to the math, that equals 132 square feet! Yikes! I may end up with a pea sheller this year. 

Blessing of The Land (at Planting or Harvest)

God of the Universe,
You made the heavens and the earth,
So we do not call our home merely “planet earth.”
We call it your Creation, a Divine Mystery,
a Gift from Your Most Blessed Hand.
The world itself is your miracle.
Bread and vegetables from earth are thus also from heaven.
Help us to see in our daily bread your presence.
Upon this garden
May your stars rain down their blessed dust.
May you send rain and sunshine upon our garden and us.
Grant us the humility to touch the humus,
That we might become more human.
That we might mend our rift from your Creation,
That we might then know the sacredness of the gift of life—
That we might truly experience life from the hand of God.
For you planted humanity in a garden,
and began our resurrection in a garden.
Our blessed memory and hope lie in a garden.
Thanks be to God,
Who made the world teeming with variety,
Of things on the earth, above, the earth, and under the earth.
Thanks be to God,
For the many kinds of plants, trees, and fruits,
We celebrate.
For the centipedes, ants, and worms,
For the mice, marmots, and bats,
For the cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers
We rejoice,
That we find ourselves eclipsed by the magnitude
Of generosity and mystery.
Thanks be to God.

Taken from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chicken Butchering

Last February, you will remember we hatched a bunch of chicks in the house. One of the disadvantages of hatching your own chicks is that you will end up with about half of your hatch being male. Now I have nothing against roosters.  We love our Roofus, but too many males (when there are females around) will act a fool! They will injure the hens and can fight to the death. Often an aggressive rooster will attack small children or even adults.

By September, the 5 cockerals from the February hatch were six months old and making themselves a nuisance.  We had put them together in a separate enclosure in August for our safety and the safety of our hens.  With no females around, they stopped fighting, which was good, but I knew that butchering them was something I would have to do at some point. Keeping them cooped up and feeding them was not an ideal situation.

My friend who hatched the chicks with me, came to help butcher.  I built a fire in the pit that morning so we could burn the offal as we went.  I only put plant materials in my compost and I didn't care to attract vermin.  My goal was to make the process as peaceful as a killing could possibly be.

We started with Roofio, the meanest of the bunch. He had been dipping his wing at me for weeks and jumped at my son.  I thought thought that would make him the easiest for me to kill.

I used a "killing cone" I made from hardware cloth to hold the bird while I cut the jugular and waited for him to bleed out.  If you have ever held a chicken upside down you will know that they go strangely still due to some effect on their nervous system. Additionally, the killing cone holds their wings securely so there is no panicky flapping of the wings.

The killing cone has a hole at the bottom that is large enough for the bird's head and neck to fit through. We said a prayer of thanks for the bird, his life and sacrifice before killing him. The first bird, Roofio took 2 passes with the knife to cut into the jugular because I didn't move enough of the feathers out of the way. In spite of this, It was very calm and peaceful- surprising if you have heard the stories of the headless chickens running around the yard after grandma killed them! The bird very quickly bled out. The rest of the birds only took one cut and it got easier as the day went on.

Amy prepares to cut the bird's neck.
I used tin snips to cut off the bird's head before dunking it in a pot of very hot (not boiling) water to loosen the feathers.
Cutting off head with tin snips.

Dunking in hot water.
For me, the most difficult part was the cutting it up part.  In case you have never thought about it, the innards of a chicken don't come in a little bag stuffed into the carcass! They are actually all attached to something... usually something gross like intestines, bile ducts, or the crop.  It took me some time (and the help of several YouTube videos) to figure out what I was looking at, where to cut and what places to avoid with the knife at all cost (bile duct).

It wasn't pretty.

The end result wasn't pretty, but I ended up with 5 birds suitable for making stew and stock.  I used every part of the bird possible, including organs and feet. I made the most beautiful hard-gelling stock I have ever made.

Peeled chicken foot.

 When the day was over and I had time to mentally and emotionally process the whole experience, I came to some conclusions: It was emotionally grueling to take several lives, even chicken lives. Praying and thanking the bird seemed to be ways for me to lessen the emotional impact of the act, but I cried when I killed the first 2 birds.

As I go through life as an omnivore I am much more acutely aware of the lives that animals in my food chain have lived.  I want them to have lived well and to have died peacefully. Raising your own animals and knowing your farmer are the best ways insure that they lived and died well.  I also know now to have some hard cider on hand so I can sit on the porch and decompress afterward.

 I am sharing this post at The Prairie Homestead.

I'm Back

I apologize for my absence over the last several months.  Our computer died and it just wasn't in the budget to replace at the time.  We finally had the money for a new computer and so I am back to blogging.

There have been many things I would have liked to share with you during my blogging hiatus and over the next few weeks I hope to do that. Rather than catch you up all at once, I plan to share different posts about: a broody hen, my first chicken butchering experience, our new church, our public school experience, some knitting projects and my new garden configuration.

For now, I'll leave you with an old family photo.  This photo thrills me and I feel so blessed to have a copy of it!
My Great Grandmother's first cousins Jocelyn and Myrtis Jennings
and their mother Annie. Taken around the turn of the 20th century.