Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homeschool Thursday: Chores

I often wish I had more intention.  I tend to launch into things with too much impatience to give it the intention it deserves.  But, somehow this summer I was able to find a bit of clarity, and wisely incorporated a chore system during a time of the year when we weren't feeling over scheduled or adjusting to a new routine.  Without daily school work, without homeschool coop, or even our regular play dates to think about, I finally followed the inspiration from this family participation board over at Dig This Chick, and put together a system that is still working, after 3+ months of use (that's kind of a record around here).

The system is simple.  Each child has a circle, with wood rounds featuring age appropriate chores (small branch, chop saw, and sharpie are all I used, though bottle caps, flat glass beads, or mini photos would work too).  When they complete a chore it gets moved across the line.  The next morning I move them all back across the line to start again.  There's some reminding, and it helps that screen time is dependent on the completion of chores.   Every few weeks we switch up the chores so everything seems fair.  So far so good.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

some days are just hard

Being a stay at home mom is really hard sometimes.  Not just the days when the dog pukes on the floor and the toddler dumps his yogurt down his front, and the toilet overflows.  Those things seem worthwhile after a morning spent on the couch together with good story books, or in seeing my child's face light up with a new found skill.

What's hard is that we've been conditioned since kindergarten to rely on external praise of our worth.  Whats hard is that at the end of the day there are no colleagues with whom to sympathize, and at the end of the week no pay check for a job well done.

Deep down we know the worth of the work we do, or we never would have chosen this path of at-home-work with children.  Intrinsically we know the value of each day dedicated to creating and nurturing our homes and our families.

But, somedays as as I plow on, following my insticts and trying against the odds to trust in theirs, I end up cursing the lack of a policy book that would dictate the proper course of action for dealing with a surly 9 year old.  Wishing for some kind of assurance that I haven't somehow ruined my child for forcing her to sit and complete a handwriting lesson, or maybe for all the times I didn't.  For someone else in charge who could review the guidelines for stranger safety that isn't helicopter parenting, or the appropriate steps to take when your toddler has learned to swear.

Because there is no one there to say when I've done it well.  No way to know for sure that I won't look back on this all in 20 years and think  what the hell did I think I was doing?  We try, and most of the time I know that its the best thing I can be doing, most of the time its a blast, and most of the time I trust that I'm doing my best--and that just maybe my best will be just right.  But sometimes its just fucking hard.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Welcome Autumn

This weekend we greeted Autumn's arrival with proper fanfare:  a trip to the Common Ground Fair, our annual Autumn Equinox tradition atop Mr. Batty, our first and last lobster bake of the summer season, and some apple picking.  The weather cooperated being not too rainy and appropriately cool.  I love a chilly trip to the fair, and it feels right to break out the boots and woolens for the equinox.

I have to say I'm longing for a bit of the balance that is promised by this season--the equaling out of day and night, settling in at home and into a routine.  We're not quite there yet as there is still plenty coming in from the garden, one last week of squeezing in daily runs (yes the marathon is this weekend!), adjusting to our new schedule of school work, music, and swimming lessons and such.  But, I can feel that its close.  I'm ready for some morning wood fires, soup, and hiking.  Ready to have dinner in candlelight--not because we're eating ridiculously late, but because it is actually a bit dark.  I love summer, but come mid-September I love fall just as much.

The Hobbit Houses at the Fair
The Garden Parade

Surfing the berm, a C.G.F. tradition   

Wylie overlooking Camden harbor
Knitting, tea, legwarmers, and boots!  Yeah fall!

Our annual equinox celebration:  pizza, sushi, wine, and oreo cookies--half dark, half light.  Plus good friends, lots of play, knitting, and a final good bye to summer with the tossing of beach pebbles toward the Atlantic.  (Lest this seem too idyllic don't forget a healthy dose of sibling rivalry, over sugared/over-tired children, and minor spousal spats.  Nothing that can't be overlooked for the sake of tradition).  

Sunset from Mr. Batty

Welcome Autumn!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The View from Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

those colors!

  I can't get enough of the colors around here--and they're only going to get better...



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the garden...

  Plenty of critters, and still that giant squash,

  fall beets, onions as big as breasts (someone else's), carrots, our first cabbage head,

bush beans that won't quit, bull's blood beet and redbore kale, arugula, and those tomatoes (worth growing for the color alone).

I'm not sure what I like more, the taste or the view!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I harvested a very small amount of honey from our ladies last week.  The first year of a new colony the bees use so much energy and resources drawing out (creating) the comb that most of the honey they make is needed as food for the winter.  Taking just two frames I left plenty for them to overwinter with, and they are still busily working to fill up every last inch of their hive with the sweet nectar of goldenrod and asters. With so few frames to extract we opted for the slow drip method.  Fortunately we have quite a few lidded beer  buckets that turned out to be just the right size for holding frames of honey as they sat in the sun for days, dripping.

Last night we hung up the straining bag, and allowed it to drip through all night.  This morning we had enough to fill one small jar of our own Frogwater Honey. Not to mention a handful of buckets, pots, and frames for the bees to lick clean (just as soon as the children are done with them).

     Label courtesy or taproot 


Friday, September 14, 2012

The View From Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Homeschool Thursday: Acorns

Unlike the cranberries, the acorns seem to be never ending.  Bicycle helmets serve double duty as daily bike rides along our oak lined road have become something akin to dodge ball.  Every fall these smooth, shiny treasures fill our pockets, line window sills, and become the makings of some craft or another.  One of my favorite activities from several years ago was the making of our "hundred" board.

The title photo is an old one from that fall, with Juniper's then 3 yr. old feet in those favorite shoes of mine, and her fast pudgy hands gathering acorns.
This year the acorns are most treasured by the current almost 3 yr. old.

But they have not been forgotten by the others.  Wylie and Juniper were recently inspired (as they frequently are) to gather wild foods and play "survival" or "Mary and Laura" depending on who you ask.  This particular day was their most successful and after much collecting, shelling, pounding, and grinding yielded some pretty good acorn pancakes.  For the first batch the kids wanted to use all gathered foods and we turned to our two edible plants books to find alternate flour ideas.  There were many different options for making flour but most involved days of soaking, drying and pounding.  They tried one batch with all acorn flour (and two eggs, water, and maple syrup) which was edible but lacking.  The second batch was a mixture of 1/3 acorn flour, 1/3 rice flour, and 1/3 tapioca starch.  With some wild blueberries and maple syrup they were a hit.  

               The Peterson Guide is much easier to use and full of information, but Gibbons is pretty fun.  


Monday, September 10, 2012


Wikipedia defines phenology as:  noun, "The study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, esp. in relation to climate and plant and animal life."   

                                          outdoor bathing last March

The seasonal natural phenomena around here have been out of whack for a while, but most of the time the changes have been lovely, such as 80 degree days in March, and a July and August with barely a rain day to slow us down.  
But, when something negative happens its a bit of a wake up call as to how interconnected all things truly are.  While we thankfully haven't had a devastating drought, a tsunami, or a tornado (though they've been forecast) what I discovered the other day has really put a damper on my fall.  No cranberries.  

Last year we discovered that our frogwatery marsh was chock full of wild cranberries.  This year I've been waiting and scheming up all kinds of cranberry goodness for this harvest season.  But when I walked the bog to see how they were coming along I discovered the plants were bare.  Sadness.  

So what's the deal?  I did a little research on the Cooperative Extension website (a truly underused wealth of information) and emailed with an official cranberry expert and concluded that our plants most likely flowered early (in said 80 degree March/April days) and subsequently froze during one of the normal freezing temperature nights shortly thereafter.  Another factor is that pollination of early flowers, which around here is typically done by native bumble bees, was low due to a decreased population of bumbles who rely on snow to insulate them during the winter.  A third factor in the missing berries may possibly be the overall warmer temperatures all winter long.  Cranberries, it turns out, have a particularly high chill requirement, meaning it has to be really cold for a long time in order for plants to go dormant for the winter.  

I'm easing into the idea of  a fall without berries.  We bought two extra boxes of local organic blueberries to help pull us through the winter, we've been gathering elderberries roadside, and making the most of our frozen strawberries.  Its not the same, but will have to do.  

And as much as I never thought I'd say it, I'm hoping for a long, cold, snowy winter this year.   And with any luck, a bumper crop of cranberries next fall.   

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Homeschool Thursday: Life Cycles

Every late summer/early fall we collect monarch caterpillars (pics from previous hunts here).  Some years this requires a bit of effort, and other times like this year, we just spot them crawling along the ground.  Some years we find them in the end of September, this year it was still July.  (I've been thinking a lot about  phenology of a place and the changes we're noticing in nature's timeline here in Midcoast Maine, surely a topic for another post).  This will be our 4th year catching, observing, and releasing monarchs--though we've never (yet!) observed the egg part of the cycle.

Juniper age 3, with monarch caterpillar face paint


Every year it is the same process, yet we still get just as excited about seeing the chrysalis turn black, and feel that catch in our breaths the moment when we first notice the butterfly has emerged.
Cycles of all kinds are fascinating to me and their rhythms whether life cycle or seasonal ground me.  As my kids grow it is a true measure of the passing of time to experience these same rituals year after year each time through new, older pairs of eyes.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Honey Comb

There's a certain satisfaction in getting a paint color just right.
This one (on the left), wasn't it.  A little too mustard yellow, particularly for someone with condiment issues.

 So, I tweaked it.  A little blue from an old bathroom paint job, stir, a little more blue, stir, and like magic--or preschool, yellow turns to green.  An earth-toned, slightly edgy, almost ugly green (I've always had an affinity for the so ugly its almost cute).  It is just right.
Of course with a color this great I couldn't stop at one door.  If I lived alone I may have an entire room this color by now, likely more than one.  But, Rob is a bit more practical and talks me down from whims such as painting large areas ugly green.  It was however exactly the thing for a little bee love I've been planning for:

 Up close it isn't perfect--nothing here is.  If it looks like a two year old did our painting he probably did...but, the overall effect, the edgy green, the earthy brown, the honey comb goodness.  I'm loving it.

* Specs:  the honey comb pattern came from this Craft Gossip Tutorial (which I will most certainly be following sometime soon).  I downloaded and printed out the pattern, then enlarged it on a copier and re-printed it on a transparency.  Then, used a razor to cut it out.  For brushes I used those little foam brushes from the hardware store, at $1.19 a piece.  The blue frog is a paper cut out from a greeting card sent by my younger sister.  He's been perched there since we moved in 7 yrs. ago.