Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homeschool Thursday: Wild Foods

Last week our homeschool coop joined local author/environmental activist Jim Merkyl for a wild foods walk.   We looked at a few common herbs and weeds (curly dock, stinging nettle, large leaf aster and lamb's quarters shown *) dug a few roots, and learned how to dry herbs to save for winter use.  

As most of these large group things go we learned a bit, but most valuable was the renewed interest in edible wild foods that it has encouraged in our house.   We've been turning to the Peterson Guide to edible plants, and have learned about a local (to us) wild food book by a neighbor author.  We'll be ordering that soon!  
In the meantime we've been digging wild sarsaparilla root (not one of my favorites), winter green and peppermint for tea, dandelion greens with white beans and garlic, anxiously awaiting cattail pollen, and trying our hand at drying some greens for the pantry.  Unfortunately being able to questionably identify so many of our garden weeds as edible has posed an interesting issue in the vegetable garden.  Do I save room for these "pesky" weeds that I now know are nutritious and edible?  Or rip them out and toss them to the chickens?  So far our chickens are getting mighty healthy, and our kale seedlings have a bit more space, but its not without a little lingering and indecision on my part. At least I won't have to feel too bad when the weeding doesn't get done. 


* never eat any wild food without being absolutely sure it is edible and non-poisonous.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Morsels:  tiny bits of goodness from the past week....

This is the time of year when green is everywhere, and we're high on spring.  We're all barefoot in the mud, gardening and sweaty, black fly bitten, sun burned--we can't imagine having had to wear boots and snow pants, and trudge through snow.  And then it rains and is 40 F and we fire up the wood stove (one last time) and suddenly we're not so far from winter as we thought.  But, in trying to schedule appointments and lessons last week I found myself turning the calendar ahead in search of some blank squares--and realized we're just a page away from Summer.  Its kind of a cruel joke here in Maine that the longest day of the year is mid-June, when the lakes are just barely swim-able, and we're still firing up the wood stove (one last time).  But then summer is so unbelievably beautiful and after that come September and October with all their Indian summer glory, and suddenly we remember why Maine is the way life should be (and is!).  
But, back to spring, where, at least as I type this, I'm feeling like even the rainy days are lovely (though I'd like a little more heat ya'know) and I can't stop photographing every green thing in sight.  And chickens too.  So bear with me.  

    The ladies on new grass

  A few things growing in the yard

 This week we're:  

   * Eating our first salads from the garden (lettuce, spinach, radish, chive and asparagus)

* Watching the trees burst into cloud (pear, apple, wild cherry)

*Cutting, splitting, hauling, and stacking a lot of wood (yes that mountain of trees is nearly as tall as the barn).

* Preparing for a new colony of bees (picked up a nuc on Sunday to install the next sunny day, and hoping to split the blue hive later this month).  I'm looking for interesting names for the hives since there'll be some need to distinguish between the three.  So far they're just by color, but it seems like they deserve something a little more creative.  I'm up for suggestions.  

 Overheard from the kitchen, 9 a.m.
Juniper:  "Alright Kale, we could have frozen peas, or frozen blueberries...oooh, and I do see some ice-cream."
Maybe its time for second breakfast?

When Kale was an infant we had a lot of diaper free baby time, holding him over the toilet to go most of the day.  He was out of diapers all together by two.  Interestingly, he is our only child to ever wet the bed.  For a long time I was getting him up at night to pee, layering towels and sheep skins, but finally realized we had to start using diapers at night.  Unfortunately, after not wearing diapers for months Kale was furious at the idea of wearing a diaper to bed.  He insisted he was not a baby, and would not wear a diaper.  He was shaking with rage.  No diapers.  Since he has never worn disposables (only occasionally while traveling as an infant) he wasn't familiar with pull-ups.  I brought home a package and explained they were "pee-catchers" to catch his pee at night so his pajamas and bed wouldn't get wet.  Plus, they have cool pictures on them!  And he bought it.  He loves his pee catchers.  So, ironically, after cloth diapering two babies and non-diapering the third, I am buying and throwing away disposable "pee-catchers".  I can't stand the situation, but feel fairly powerless to change it.  I don't want to create an issue over something I'm sure he'll soon outgrow. So, I'm taking solace in the thought that at least it is only, and not even always, one a night.  
That is until yesterday when Kale rushed past me on the way to the bathroom, after having to stop a very fun game to pee.  After doing his business he came up to me beaming with this brilliant idea:  
K:  "Maybe we could buy some morning pee-catchers so when I have to pee I can just go in my pants.  Then I won't have to stop my game".


Happy Tuesday!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Through the eyes of a 3-year old

Everyday this kid amazes me.  Of course we are all individuals, but still with each of my nieces and nephews, with each of my own babies, and those of dear friends I am continuously amazed at how very many different personalities there are in this world, at how each each child is so very much him/herself.  Kale is no exception.  Parts of him are so very much like his older cousin Oliver.  He is sensitive and stoic. Like his brother he likes to know how things work.  Like his cousin Audrey he is an animal lover.  He is a story teller, an artist, and a ham for sure.  He is an athlete of all sorts.  He is incredibly articulate for his three years, and seems to know himself better than most young adults.  He is helpful and very good company.  Of course we all love him to bits.
Right now he is deep in the throws of "Papa obsession".  He dresses like Rob, follows him around, and while he still asks daily, "is it a Papa night or a Mama night?" (hoping all the while for a Mama night) he is no longer sad when it is Papa's turn for bedtime--only wanting to be prepared.
Overheard from upstairs:
K: "Hey Pop, you gonna wear your cap today?"
Rob:  "Yup"
K:  "Okay".  
Of course the both came down stairs wearing baseball caps and worker pants.

Below, our home, through the eyes of a 3-year old.



Friday, May 10, 2013

A Bit of Spring

A few bits of spring we're enjoying each day:  

Baseball, or soccer, or football, or ballet cleats (for the sport of the afternoon--whatever it may be)

New leaves unfolding on the beech trees 

The marsh greening up before our eyes 

Sunlight through baby leaves 

Flap-hats ("Mama, I look like a woman!" huh?), skinned knees, and shorts 


   Happy hens, and buds on the blueberries 

A newly planted lilac 

Daily walks on our  our path.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Homeschool Thursday: A few things Schooly

In bits and pieces throughout this amazing spell of weather (that seems to have ended since my last post) we did very little formal schoolwork, but I'm always amazed when I look back at my pictures and see all of the educational--even schooly moments that have happened on their own accord.  
This is of course not to discount the valuable learning that occurs throughout each day in play, exploring nature, sibling negotiations, gardening, pet care etc.  

Just a few:  

Practice in using a phone book.  In this day of digital everything is it even necessary to know how to alphabetize?  I'm not sure.  But its still the only way I know to find a phone number.  (If there are others don't tell Wylie).  

Khan Academy is a resource we use most often for math, but it has a bunch of other interesting information that Wylie loves to explore.  Right now he's in the beginning stages of a robot build.  This may be a long project that will most likely require some outside help--specifically in the form of some experienced solderers (any volunteers?)   

More and more rubber stamping, watercolor painting, embroidery (by Wylie) drawing, read a-louds, and lots of music.   

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Morsels

Morsels:  Tasty bits from the past week or so...

The weather here has been exaustingly beautiful--(is that possible?Am I a terrible person for thinking so?).  In the past two weeks we've had one cloudy morning, and I swear I hoped it would rain so we'd have an excuse to stay inside and get some things done (dishes, vacuuming, cooking, schoolwork).  But, it didn't happen.  I started a woodstove, set up some dough to rise for bread, and before I knew it it was sunny and 70 degrees again.  Hard to complain.  We just headed outside for another day of turning soil, planting, weeding, playing in the sand box, chasing chickens, and running through the sprinkler.  We are sun burned, dirty, and tired.  Its a hard life here.

We've been pretty much living on the screen porch, each day adding and/or taking away this or that until it is exactly what we've been hoping for.  I'd say its about there.  Thanks to my brother and his wife donating a futon, and my Honey with a hammer who built a kick ass picnic table we are pretty much set.  We ordered the bamboo blinds from Amazon, to block the blinding rays that hit the porch just about 6:30pm, but roll up the rest of the day to let in the breezes.  Its fantastic.

I've been doing a lot of gardening, in this new little patio space, in the cold frame, and in the big garden.  The peas and many greens are up and growing, slower than I thought due to the cold nights, but they'll make it.  Since there's been no rain, and none in sight for days, that means a lot of watering too.  The hose situation each spring is a bit of a headache, figuring out which ones are leaking, tightening connections, etc.  We have plans for maybe running a burried conduit for the hose to reach from the house to the garden which would hopefully protect the hose a bit and make it last a longer.  We did find some nifty attachments at the hardware store that clamp onto a hose where ever you need it, so you can simply cut out the leaky section, then clamp the hose together again.  These have worked well for the past two years, but our hoses will all be too short if we cut any more off.   For now we're making due, which is still a lot better than having no water at all, even when it means hauling 5 gallon buckets.

Kale (to Mimi):  My friend Jacob is the fire scheep.  
Mimi:  Jacob is a sheep?
Kale:  No, the fire scheep.
Mimi:  asleep?
Kale:  No, he's the fire scheep.  He sits in front of everyone in the fire truck.
Mimi:  Oh, he's the fire chief.  
Kale:  Yes.  He's the fire scheep.  He says I can do his job when he's done.  

Juniper and Kale have been having fun with water color pencils.  She likes to "help" him draw things, such as the cat below.  You can see his contribution in the red, her blue lines around his.  I swear she may be a politician when she grows up, she is so savvy at getting people to think her ideas are theirs.
J:  Kale, is that a cat you drew?
K: (looking at his scribble) No, its a tiger.  
J: But, do you see how it kind of looks like a cat?  Don't you think it looks kind of friendly like a cat, not fierce like a tiger?  Do you want me to help you make it look like a cat?
K:  Yes, it can be a cat!    
Thankfully he doesn't mind a bit.  He is more than happy to play any game she's willing to play.

Normally she's up for almost anything, but recently has reached some kind of developmental stage where she's seeking some alone time.  She will sit for  over an hour alone in the sand box, or under a tree, talking to herself and creating little fantasy worlds with sand, sticks, moss and flowers.  It is a lovely thing, unless you are a three year old, watching forlornly, begging to be allowed to join.  

I recently overheard this
heartbreaking conversation:
Kale:  Juniper can I play?
Juni: I really just want to play by myself for a while.
K: What are you playing?
J: That I'm a fairy.  But I just want to play it by myself.
K:  But could I be a fairy?
J:  Well, fairies are girls.
K: But, could I pretend to be a girl?
J: I just want to play by myself ok?

Fortunately today they shared a ride in the grocery cart, giggling as they hugged and kissed and pinched each other's cheeks while I tried to hush them a bit. But really who minds a little noise when there's so much sweetness?

Kale is officially big enough for the tag-along.  And he is loving it.  "I can go so fast on the tag-along.  I can probably go as fast as a motorcycle." 
We rode down the road a mile to the Passagassawakeag River for some fishing and a picnic.  We spent an hour just sitting in the grass, casting Wylie's pole, slicing apples and enjoying the sun.    Kale and I went back the next day when he requested upon waking, "a bike ride to the river, just me and you."  How could I refuse?  It was the perfect date.

They say it may rain on Thursday.  Until then we will live it up.  Gardening, bee keeping, bike riding, hauling water, playing in the dirt.  When it rains we cozy up inside for some reading and board games, cooking, and some much needed cleaning.  We'll enjoy it for a day.
Then we'll be hoping for sun again.