Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Despite the fact that we didn't have TuTu with us to paint the world green, and that D-meister in particular missed her presence, we did have a nod toward the holiday. N-man wore his leprechaun socks and danced a jig while we listened to The Pogues and we dined on shamrock pancakes. Of course, we also had traditional corned beef and cabbage for dinner that evening. Erin Go Bragh!



Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Cams

This kind of thing is an example of the very best that the internet has to offer. We should be using it to really study-- second best thing to first hand-- the world around us!

I love nest / den cams!

Hummingbird Nest WebCam (as of 3-21 no eggs left, no babies)


Barn Owl Nest (as of 3-21 one baby has hatched)


Barn Owl 2 (as of 3-21 these guys have hatched and are LOUD)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spring marches in

As with the spring of 2008, March has started out with serious kookiness. Yes, I said kookiness.

With our beautiful warm, sunny days and blooming trees and flowers, it was easy to be seduced into thinking winter had spent all its energy on the Eastern parts of the country. Yesterday, March and its madness arrived. In the space of one day, the temperature dropped from the 50s to the low 30s. We had dark cloudy skies, hail, sleet, rain, snow and beautiful sunshine. While the children played outside frolicking in fast-flying snow flurries, chanting "Stick Stick Stick!" I burned the insert so hot you could break into a sweat in the living room.

Spring may now come. I have declared it!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I begin to doubt myself

or perhaps, I need a vacation.

I love the Pacific Northwest. I love it here. I love the prevailing political sentiments, I love the public-oriented government entities, I love big, clear street signs and I love ferries. I love the Mountain. I love the Forests. I love that you can see four volcanoes at once on a clear day. I like being able to walk to the Sea and drive to a glacier on the same day (not that I ever do). I love the copious availability of free, low-cost and yes, the expensive, educational opportunities for our children. I love the masses of like-minded people and that one can source just about anything needed within a hundred mile radius.

The weather itself doesn't even bother me most of the year. Summer, naturally, is an odyssey. By the time Autumn rolls around, I have so much work built up from our summer activities and purchases that I don't have time to lament the passing of Summer's bloom and warmth. The darker months surrounding the Solstice don't even phase me. I need the rest after harvest season, and I enjoy the quiet. I find the noise and bustle of the children jarring to my sensibilities during this period, but I keep them busy enough with organized activities outside the house that it levels out.

But I hate--and I do mean HATE--the months from the end of January into the beginning of May. That's a long time to be disenchanted with your natural world. Winter doesn't really show here, in my experience, until this time. Even this year, when Spring appears to be sneaking up on us early, I refuse to fall for it as I did last year. Frigid weather is coming back this week, which no one seemed to believe would happen, and I do have some glimmer of satisfaction that this year, at least, I didn't install a garden ridiculously early just to watch it die.

What I hate most about it though, is not the waiting for the signals to GO! PLANT! YAY! It is my body's response to the intermittent cloudiness. My spirit is refreshed from a long winter's rest and now I find myself wanting to channel energy into project after project. I plan them well, I organize my supplies, and then.... nothing. I sit like a lump as if petrified by the fall of a shadow. When the sun is shining at this time of year, I zip around like I have no limits. I see nothing but the possibilities in my minds eye. I do not see dormant trees and rotting leaves, I can almost physically perceive the outlines of things I want to build, plant or paint. As soon as the light fades, I droop like a morning glory and quite literally forget what I planned to do. I have been working for weeks and today I sit here as if stupefied.

I believe that being in touch with the natural world is a good and necessary way to live, but this is ridiculous. For P-daddy, it is even worse. He doesn't connect with and during the solstice months the way that I do, and he starts suffering in October. Given that I only know the man because he deliberately chose Southern latitudes for the abundance of light, I begin to feel.... cruel.

Sometimes I wonder, despite my love for this place and the community we've grown here, if we wouldn't be better off choosing somewhere more sunny.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Back to Work

Your children won't be inspired to do much if their environment is chaos. It's a practical idea for life in general, but it's an important tenet of Montessori. Part of the process is, in fact, seeing organization in your surroundings. The children didn't receive new curriculum with this latest overhaul of their school room, but they've been invigorated with an enthusiasm for their work that I haven't seen for a while. Needless to say, I am happy with that.



New networked stations


Story of the World: Great Wall





Life Cycle of the Frog



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Harness Those Hormones!

One of the huge benefits of middle pregnancy is the burst of unexpected energy. Many women want to clean and nest. In my fortunate case, my friend Niki decided that her ire and energy would be aimed at my schoolroom carpet.

Whoever carpeted this house clearly did not have small children. They chose a delicately patterned taupe and put it throughout. This is not a good match for the PNW Homeschooling, chicken-raising, gardening, dust allergic family that we are. Beyond the carpet, we had some furniture placement issues that needed to be resolved before I would unpack the computer the children's grandparents sent them. Since they sent it at Christmastime..... time was well away from us.

So what happens when you tell a pregnant friend she can attack your carpet?

Yes, that.

We still need to do some fine details and hang some maps and pictures, but we're close to done!


New computer from the Grandparents



Science center


Language Arts / Sensory


Arts



Math / Culture / Maps

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A few small repairs

My pack arrived! I am babysitting quite a bit this week, while simultaneously beating back the (early, but obvious) spring-time laundry beast and making the tiny home improvements that make life better.

N-man has learned to make grits by himself and is now only eating grits for breakfast. We'll see how long that lasts! I love watching these guys learn to cook. They are so happy with their burgeoning independence!

My cell phone (which had a busted usb port) has been repaired. This was at least a minor issue, but because the phone was under warranty, my contact wanted to get it done. I shouldn't say repaired-- replaced is a more accurate statement. Shiny!

My cranky van is in the shop for its annual tax-time money-suck. No, I am not kidding. Every year at tax time, this van has had something go wrong with it that doesn't involve less than 250.00. Last year, it was my son breaking out a window and then a few months later, a fuel pump failure combined with a shorting out computer. At the time, we chose to replace the fuel pump because that was all the money we had.

This year, it is the brain. One of the ongoing issues with this vehicle has been intermittent failure to stay cranked. It always cranks, but then some kill switch is activated, as if it had an alarm (it doesn't) and it stops. Other, less invasive electrical problems persist as well, but that's the attention grabber. This season's issue involved a two week hiatus for the minivan in which it refused to start at all. Out of the blue-- the day we got our tax return-- it began to start again.

Hmm.
Just "well" enough to get it to the mechanic.

Some people would go along with conventional wisdom and ditch this van altogether. I can't say that isn't tempting. P-daddy had the idea to convert it into a chicken coop, and if we had 5 acres, I might even go along with it. Personally, I have been having fantasies about buying a vintage Vanagon for 2 grand and once again having a vehicle I can repair myself. But rationally, given that we can't yet finance a late-model vehicle, if we were to purchase something we could actually afford right now, we'd still be 1. paying more than this repair will probably cost and 2. buying someone else's problems. The cost-benefit ratio doesn't pay out.

Just in the 4 years we've had this thing, we have replaced so many integral components, it really is a better vehicle than it sounds like it is. The computer issue is probably going to resolve a great many of the trouble spots, and we will at least be able to have an accurate picture of what is going on under that hood. So, whatever. I can't burn energy worrying about it when our path is fairly clear. I don't want to be a one car family, but we can do it if we have to.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gearing Up

Despite the frigid wintry blizzards slamming the Eastern coast, we're doing fairly well here. The roses and fruit trees are waking up and baby deer are emerging from the forests. While we are still in the grips of our rainy season, the sun has been out more often this winter than in the last three years. A few days ago I pruned back all the roses and the fruit trees. Normally this would have been appropriate, but I am left wondering whether I waited a little too long. Nevertheless, I did a good job out there and it's a pleasant awakening of that part of myself.

Not that it didn't come at a price... with the success last year of our front lawn garden, I pretty much ignored most of the rose-herb garden. I paid attention solely to the edibles and let the rest of it run wild, which in Western Washington means the blackberries ran wild. The invasive variety that borders our property makes tasty blackberries that we're grateful to have, but one cane can grow twenty feet long and three inches in a year. I had my work cut out for me as I approached the thicket, and just as I was finishing, one of those suckers latched onto my neck. I had to cut a portion of it from the longer cane and then walk into the house to see what I was doing in order to remove it without gross and bloody injury. My daughter's face was priceless when I asked her, "Honey would you go and get the scissors please?"

Finally though, I am happy because I am getting this delivered sometime soon:



The gravy train has stopped, as my friends' supply of free HP laptop bags has dwindled and the last one I had has now sprung a hole. One per year of heavy use--- time to actually purchase a bag that is meant for the paces I put them through!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I remember the old days....sourcing farm vegetables

One of the peculiarities about moving to Gig Harbor when we did is the small pleasure of having chosen the area before it really grew up. We were here before the new toll bridge that made the commute accessible again for the first time in decades; before the Costco; before the YMCA. When we moved here we were still driving 25 miles-- each way-- to get our farm fresh produce from our beloved CSA on Puyallup's River Road. While I remain a huge fan of of Farmer Terry and her wonderful programs, the cold reality of rising fuel costs made an hour round-trip jaunt and a bridge toll just too much. Our own successful garden and the advent of the new Key Peninsula Farmer's Market also contributed so much food it just made sense to stay local. Our favorite local farmers are Greg and Maureen at Gentle Giant Meadows Ranch. They are friendly, hands on and very reasonable. Their working farm has provided us with berries, plums, apples and eggs. They also provide the community with CSAs of beef and lamb as well as whole chickens


A newer, local CSA that just formed last year is Peace of the Earth Farm. Their subscriptions are reasonable and they've had a year now to get up and running. I plan to go visit them very soon.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Making Music

The older children have been enthusiastically delving into their music lessons this year. From the recorder to the piano, even less enthusiastically to choir, they have been absorbing musical theory with the speed that adults envy of children. They've taken to writing their own tunes, or attempting to transcribe musical scores they like. Sometimes they even bring their homeschooling friends into the endeavor. Today I made them a little gift to support their fun.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Spiritual Vitamins

Take a beautiful pottery urn


Fill it with inspiring quotes and heartfelt sentiments



and give a friend a jar of Spiritual Vitamins!




Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Beach in February

A random sunny Saturday in February, at the beach.

Tossing rocks and watching the dog discover his water retriever genes.

Manning a pirate ship

that spies an oncoming craft.....


.....leading to an attack!



My son thinks it's summer, not February


Some moments of reflection

Friday, February 05, 2010

Why backyard chickens?

This is a nice post on trying to acclimate your neighbors to your backyard flock. We've been quite fortunate so far and haven't had to justify anything but I love the tone of this non-threatening, non-obnoxious flyer.

from http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2010/02/backyard-chicken-pr.html

Why Backyard Chickens?

The eggs.
Beautiful, best-tasting, and most nutritious ever. They are higher in omega-3s and lower in cholesterol than commercially produced eggs.

Keeping a few hens reduces the demand for factory-farmed eggs which are produced under highly undesirable conditions. Plus, as far as “eating local” is concerned, the backyard is about as local as it gets.

Compost magic.
Chickens consume kitchen waste, weeds, and lawn clippings, reducing stress on landfills and turning household compost into a wonderfully balanced super-fertile soil. Perfect for the best
gardening conditions imaginable--without chemical fertilizers.

Sustainability.
It may be a drop in the bucket, but shopping for eggs in the backyard and enhancing
the production of a kitchen garden is a tangible step many people can take to reduce reliance on the corporate machinery that has taken a bite out of our independence.

You Have Chickens in Your Backyard? I wonder . . .

Is it going to be dirty and/or smelly?
A well-maintained chicken set-up is a very low or no-odor environment. Much less so than cats and dogs.

Am I going to get a wake-up call at dawn every morning?
Few backyard chicken owners keep roosters. Roosters are not necessary for egg production, just for egg fertilization. Some hens intermittently set up an “egg-laying cackle” in late morning to early afternoon, but it isn’t the penetrating crow of a rooster. Just a “bawk!, I laid an egg, I laid an egg” announcement. Hens are very quiet most of the time, particularly during the early morning hours and well before and after sunset.

If only all the neighborhood dogs, leaf-blowers and teenagers would be as considerate!

Aaahh! Bird flu!!
Bird flu has never been found in domestic flocks in the US. In fact, experts consider an increase in home egg production to be an answer to the threat of diseases such as avian influenza which are aggravated by overcrowded poultry factory conditions.

It it even legal?
Yes, municipal laws in our county permit backyard fowl.

Can I have some eggs? Can I bring my children to see your chickens?
Yes! We love to share! And we love introducing our flock to the people who appreciate them the most-- kids! Chickens are a great teaching tool and there’s nothing like the experience of gathering a warm egg from a nest.

Copyright Little House in the Suburbs (www.littlehouseinthesuburbs.com) 2010

Thanks Ladies!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Twas a joke...

We didn't move, but I guess I wasn't as funny as I thought I was. While we haven't moved, they approved the name change of the Puget Sound.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

We moved!


Now, when my family and I head down to the beach, we're striding the banks of the Salish Sea.


http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/~stefan/SalishSea.htm

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Family Style

We took the weekend and packed it full of family stuff. It was nice, reconnecting with just us and carrying no outside plans. We made organic blackberry applesauce, using our own blackberries. I should say that this time, all I did was turn on the stove and mash the product. The kids did all the work.


The tongue of concentration

P-daddy even acquiesced to go to IKEA-- on a Saturday-- so that was a huge deal for him. We have some interior redecorating to do so we're desperately in need of some inspiration for furniture placement for a home-based lifestyle like ours. (I am just not finding it online so if you want to spam me, feel free to do so in the comments!)

D-meister always dresses for the occasion. The perfect outfit for IKEA? Eurotrash!

They're clearly stunned by the Vibrancy

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Scarlet Fever



Sir Prince didn't feel so well! (I didn't post this picture initially because I didn't think it looked too bad. That might tell you how pretty he actually got!)




The boys have chosen to ring in the New Year-- quite literally-- with Scarlet Fever. This is one of those weeks where the earthiest of mothers feels fervent gratitude for the wonders of modern medicine. The boys are on Keflex and recuperating nicely. The modern quarantine for such a thing is only a week, compared to the minimum 8 weeks just a century ago. Given that the disease is basically strep throat with a bonus! fun! highly contagious! shedding rash! I have confined the boys to their bunk beds while I scrub the rest of the house and manically wash all our laundry on hot. They don't mind so much, as their confinement also comes with extreme room service, unlimited ice cream and a TV / VCR / DVD fest.

At least the Christmas letter will come easily!