Saturday, July 24, 2010

This, That, and the Other Thing

Why do we always think that summer is going to allow us so much more time than we have through the rest of the year?  I always think....when summer gets here I'll get that done.  When summer does arrive we find ourselves busier than ever.  There is the garden to plant, weed, tend to, and water.  Then there is the harvesting, freezing and canning.  Animals start having babies left and right, and they need more water hauled as the temperature rises and the algae forms.  Mowing has to be done regularly (which, here, is no small undertaking).  Some opportunities present themselves only in the summer.  I mean, you can't just wait until things calm down to go swimming in the creek behind the water mill, now can you?  Once the heat index rises over 100 it's too hot to do much work anyways.

Since we've been running to and fro and doing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that...but nothing in particular, I thought I would share a little bit of this, that, and the other thing.

Kasi weighing down the ice cream freezer at Matthews Living History Farm Museum.

Alea weighing it down now....and ready to add some peaches.  (it was yummy!)

One of the kittens napping with my potted plumeria (before she went to her new home)

Our newest chick.  I think only one has hatched.

Has anyone had this happen?  Our almost mature corn gets surrounded by 'baby' ears.  We had dozens of them do this.  And, by the way, the mature ears weren't all they were cracked up to be
.....very under pollinated.

Here's another one  (one of MANY)

A loom a very nice new friend loaned to Kasi.  She is wanting to sell it (for a wonderful price) and let us borrow it to see if Kasi is serious enough about weaving to invest in a loom. 

We've been tie-dying.  We did several onesies, t shirts, and cloth diapers in all sorts of colors.  We are thinking of giving in to peer pressure and opening an etsy shop to list them, my soaps, and Alea's knitted and crochet items.  Opinions? 

Cloth diaper or burp cloth.   Love me some color!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Country Boy's Learning

The following is an excerpt from "A Country  Boy's Learning" by Joseph T. Moffitt within the chapter titled 'To Preserve Good Health';

"A general summary and a good one to keep in mind is the following;  Drink less, eat less, chew more, give more, walk more, clothe more, worry less, work more, write less, read more, preach less, and practice more."

Good advice!

The Incredible Edible Egg

Holy cow um chicken!  That's a big egg!

Because we are easily amused, we like to take pictures of abnormally large eggs that we collect from our hens.  Keep in mind that a majority of the eggs we normally collect are in the large/jumbo range.  I think we have only four or five hens that lay small or medium eggs.  We have one white hen that lays white eggs so large every day that they need to be stored in the door of the fridge. (and she's so tiny)  They have become so common that we don't even photograph them any longer.  But when we get gargantuan brown eggs....we whip out the camera.  Enjoy!

Scrambled eggs from free range hens.  They are much darker and richer than even store bought organic eggs.  More color = More nutrients.  I would photograph a store bought egg for comparison but I can't bring myself to buy them ~ not now that I have more free-range, organic eggs than I could possibly eat. 

I had better go collect some right now.  Bye bye!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Herbs Spice 'Em Up

I like to throw together the unexpected and see what happens.  I know, you're surprised.  I seem so even-keeled and predictable.  When I paint or sew or make jewelry, I like to mix colors that people don't normally think go together.  Normally, it adds dimension and makes the colors really pop.

The same goes for cooking.  After all, cooking is another form of art.  I think we forget that sometimes.  We can follow a recipe and duplicate someone else's masterpiece (or dogs playing poker print).  Or we can make it our own, adding unexpected strokes of bold colors or flavors.....making it three dimensional instead of flat.  Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so instead of adding sugar and cream, I like to round them out a little by tossing them with cinnamon, chili powder, salt and cumin and roasting them in the oven.  It doesn't make a dessert-like dish but a side with depth, a touch of sweet, with a tickle of salt and spice.

With summer upon us, and the colors of the garden to inspire me, I have been playing with adding herbs in unexpected ways to my everyday cooking.  Not where you expect to find them, like basil in my pasta sauce....but in desserts.  A little color and texture to please the eye and tickle the palate.

Now, you must know that I'm not very good at following directions when it comes to cooking.  Maybe I want to be an original artist and not a forger of a masterpiece.  Maybe I'm just a rebel.  I don't know.  I just can't seem to take simple directions and follow them without tweaking them in some way.  I used to collect cookbooks and peruse them for fun.  It just isn't fun anymore though.  Recently, I've found myself glancing through those same beloved cookbooks, and throwing them aside in frustration.  "That's just not what I'm looking for.  Oh, forget it, I'll just wing it!"

So, here are a couple of herbalicious recipes I discovered by 'wingin' it'.  You may enjoy them, and you may think I'm off my rocker (like I haven't heard that before).  I hope they at least inspire you to color outside the lines and think outside the box.

Lemon-Lime Coconut Rosemary Ice Cream

4 cups sugar
2 cups half and half
zest of two lemons and one lime
1 cup fresh lemon and lime juice (4 lemons & 3 limes for me)
2 T fresh rosemary
1 can coconut milk
Goat milk to fill lime of ice cream freezer (you can use whole cow milk if you wish)

Chop lemon and lime zest and rosemary.  Or if you are lazy like me, pulse it in the food processor with your sugar.  Mix first ingredients together.  Add to ice cream freezer.  Top to fill line with whole milk.  Freeze per instructions for your ice cream freezer.  Enjoy. 

This is a light refreshing ice cream....not really an ice cream, not really a sherbet,
but great for those triple digit days we've been experiencing.

Lavender Lemon Pizzelles
(sorry I forgot to take a picture and they are SO gone!)

3 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 t lemon zest
1 teaspoon lavender, crushed
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 t lemon extract
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder

Beat eggs and sugar together.  Stir in butter and extracts.  Combine flour and baking powder, and blend into batter.  Heat pizzelle iron and lightly oil.  Drop one Tablespoon of batter onto each circle of iron.  Cook according to manufacturers instructions for your particular pizzelle iron.  Remove and cool completely before storing (or you can form them into cones while they are still hot....I bet they'd be good with lemon-lime coconut rosemary ice cream in them).

I hope you enjoy....or create a few funky recipes of your own. 

Psalm 63:3
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We Don't Need No Education. We Don't Need No Thought Control.

We don't need no education.  We don't need no thought control....

I love Pink Floyd.  I always have.  I think back to that song, and the images I remember from the video when I saw it long ago.  The faceless children, slowly marching, indistinguishable from one another.  They all marched off the end into a people grinder that ground them into one homogeneous mass.  Seems kind of creepy, doesn't it?  Then I think back to my experience with school.  Is it really that far off from reality? 

I was a good student....for the most part.  I spent a little bit of time in trouble though.  I would do goofy stuff.  I would make people laugh.  I would laugh and smile at inappropriate times.  I would fidget when I was supposed to be still  (I still do).  I once got in trouble in the cafeteria for eating mustard packets instead of my lunch.  I remember when I was in the fourth grade and my parents got called in for a conference with the teacher and principal for my horrendous behavior.  I had held my breath during assembly and disrupted the whole thing.  Gasp!!!  Students were paying more attention to my behavior than the important (and equally interesting, I'm sure) assembly.  It was intolerable behavior.  You're shocked, aren't you?!  I know, I should be ashamed of myself.  The odd thing was that my parents, who were normally on the strict side, were not upset.  They laughed about it.....and a few other similar instances.  I still remember my strict, conservative parents saying that the educators expected their students to be mindless robots, and that I was just letting my personality show.  It was that personality that was going to separate me from others when I grew up and help me to be a success.

Now I'm a parent.  I have two wonderfully different little girls.  We started our oldest daughter in public school, and I worked in a public school.  But we felt like God was calling us to homeschool our children.  Trust me, it wasn't my decision.  I worked in a high school.  I loved working with older kids...young adults.  Small children left me baffled and frustrated.  Especially my first born, who didn't really want to spend any time with me anyways.   But God has a way of making his desires known.  If you don't listen to his suggestions, he gets a little more demanding.  So I quit work and began their home education.  And we cried and cried and cried.  Really!  It was horrible. 

Alea had some serious attention issues and Kasi (who was two and a half) learned everything without even looking and would call out answers from the other room when we thought she was watching Reading Rainbow....which would of course not help Alea's frustration.  I would pound on subjects until Alea mastered them, and suddenly she forgot everything about them and we had to start all over again.  I taught her to tell time at least eight times.  She would have it down for days and then, suddenly....she couldn't remember the difference between the big hand and the little hand.  So we cried some more.  One day I sat and held Alea while we both cried and I told her that I wasn't the best teacher in the world and that I didn't know how to teach her so she would remember.  I was at a loss.  I just didn't know what to do.  But I told her that I wasn't going to give up on her.  I told her that she was smart and I knew she could learn.  I would find a way to help her.  I asked her not to give up on me as well. 

I found over time that Alea didn't memorize well.  Most kids with attention issues don't.  So instead of following a curriculum and set lesson I tried getting her and Kasi both excited about learning.  I started reading aloud to them....Nancy Drew so they couldn't wait to find out what happened next.  I would allow them to work on something non disruptive while I read aloud.  Over time Alea would almost always pull out sewing, crocheting, and paper and pencils while I read.  Kasi would pull out math workbooks and puzzles.  She loves workbooks, and excels at math...and puzzles.  She is very self-motivated with her learning as well.  Before long, I would catch them sneaking behind the door with the Nancy Drew book trying to read ahead, absolutely dying to know what happened next.

This not only ignited their passion for reading, but gave them the freedom to develop skills from their other passions.  I found that as Alea developed her crocheting, she became calmer and more focused.  I also learned that Kasi's puzzles and math were all tied together, developing the same areas of her brain.  They became more passionate about learning and more creative as well, often designing their own games to test their skills.

As I began researching, I learned that many famous people considered the most brilliant minds in history didn't receive formal educations.  They were to constraining for their lofty dreams and passions.  The fact is that the public education system provides a decent, well-rounded education.  But if you have a passion and a gift for a certain area of study, rarely are you allowed to propel yourself forward.  You are one of many and all the students must stay, if not on the same page, in the same chapter.  There is also the fact that your area of giftedness is only one of many subjects in which you are expected to do well.  Energy must be drawn from your 'it' subject and poured into those areas in which you need, um, shall we  But Albert Einstein and Marie Curie and countless others were allowed to direct their energies into their subject of giftedness and passion, which allowed them to develop their knowledge and discover things previously unknown.  Think about this.  The previously unknown will not be found in any textbook or curriculum.  It can only be discovered.  To be discovered someone must first be seeking it.  That takes desire and opportunity.  I want my children to be discoverers.

So we are now what many consider unschoolers.  It is not the only way to learn but it is what works for us.  Don't confuse unschooling with nonschooling.  Our girls don't sit around and play video games.  We work to learn.  We just don't make it work.  We don't clock in and out, turning learning off as we walk out the door.  "Sorry guys, I'm on break"  We learn all the time.  It takes commitment, and really more time and effort than if we were following a curriculum and could shut the notebook as we finished a lesson.  But it is unstructured.  It is free-flowing.  That scares people.  It baffles them.

Wanna know a secret?  We joke about the robot kids in the Pink Floyd song.  We talk about how awful it is that teachers and employers want cookie-cutter kids and employees (uniforms aren't helping to break down that image).  But, really, if we were to be honest, we desire them to be the same because it's easier.  It would be so much easier if my kids weren't night and day....oil and water.  It is easier for a teacher to teach thirty kids if they learn the same way, respond the same way....and if the teacher only has to present the material in one way.  The military wants their soldiers to be indistinguishable from one another.  They expect the same response from everyone.  Employers pass blanket policies that apply to everyone regardless of special circumstances.  Why is that?  A machine operates more effectively if the parts are interchangeable....and is up and running quicker in the event of a breakdown because a replacement part is easier to locate.  We like easy and we like familiar.

Well, some of us.  There are those rebels among us that believe that variety is the spice of life.  Variety and change is their water and sunlight.  Don't tell anyone, but I'm one of 'them'. ;-)

I hope my kids won't grow up to be an interchangeable bolt in a machine.  I want to give them an opportunity to be just okay in some subjects so they have an opportunity to soar in areas they are both gifted and passionate about.  It may backfire.  All we can give our children is a strong foundation and opportunity for growth.  It is up to them what they build on it.  But two things I do know.  One is that we are having fun building that foundation together.  The other is that my parents were right.  (Sssshhhh!  We don't want them to know I said that.  It would blow my image. )  It is personality that sets one person apart from another, not some notations on a quarterly slip of paper....long forgotten and tucked away in a cardboard box.

......and just because I love a good quote or two.......

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford

All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind. ~Martin H. Fischer

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler

Teach children what to think and you limit them to your ideas. Teach children how to think and their ideas are unlimited."- Sandra Parks

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. ~Vernon Howard
"Modern education is competitive, nationalistic and separative. It has trained the child to regard material values as of major importance, to believe that his nation is also of major importance and superior to other nations and peoples. The general level of world information is high but usually biased, influenced by national prejudices, serving to make us citizens of our nation but not of the world."~Albert Einstein
We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. ~Lloyd Alexander

"It was at home I learned the little I know. Schools always appeared to me like a prison, and never could I make up my mind to stay there, not even for four hours a day, when the sunshine was inviting, the sea smooth, and when it was joy to run about the cliffs in the free air, or to paddle in the water."- Claude Monet

The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ~John Lubbock
"Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity, but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity. Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. Let him not be taught science, let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people's thoughts."~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.~ Anne Sullivan

"A child does not have to be motivated to learn; in fact, learning cannot be stopped. A child will focus on the world around him and long to understand it. He will want to know why things are the way they are. He won’t have to be told to be curious; he will just be curious. He has no desire to be ignorant; rather he wants to know everything."
- Valerie Fitzenreiter
"The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school." ~George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Gardening I Go....

Here are some scenes from our garden.  We actually have two gardens this year.  One in the same location as last year, now surrounded by an electric fence.  Last year we donated our entire sweet corn and popcorn crop and much of our melons and tomatoes to the wildlife population.  Not this year!  That is the garden where these photos are from.  It has incredible, soft, fertile soil  BUT it is away from the house, making it more susceptible to wild vegetable bandits, and away from a water source.  Any water needs to be hauled out there in five gallon buckets.  Of course, any of you that followed our saga of the first ten months we lived here without a home or well know that we are old pros when it comes to hauling water.  At least now we only have to haul them from the spigot at the house.

The second garden is mainly in raised beds in our front yard, within the area fenced for the dogs.  This was a good rodent control plan until our old grumpy dog died and we obtained a large, active, digging and plant tromping puppy named Cookie (aka Cookie Monster or Chewbaka).  With Cookie's influence our other younger adult dog got her second wind  and is now also like a big puppy.  We had to tack wire fencing over the raised beds in order to keep the Cookie Monster from digging up our seeds and seedlings.  It worked great.  The plants just came up through the openings.  The only problem is that the dogs refuse to understand that the beds are off limits and tromp all over them all the time.  Many black bean and pepper plants have been trampled to death by an overzealous and oversized puppy while I am trying to check cucumbers.  So all of our later plantings have been added into the larger electrified garden.

Having two gardens has helped us to isolate varieties.  For example, popcorn is in the yard garden while sweet corn is in the 'electric' garden.  We have so much wildlife here that we just don't have the luxury of planting in the yard or fields....everything must be surrounded....and surrounded well.  Last year we had a fence around the garden but the raccoons found out how to lift the fence and go under it, the rabbits went through the holes, and the deer went over.  We tried everything we could think of to keep them out....plastic snakes, dog hair, shiny ribbon, etc.  Nothing helped.  Electricity seems to be working pretty well so far.

Enjoy the pictures.  They were taken as the sun was rising above the garden so some of the pictures appear a little dark. 

Bean plants vining up the corn stalks.

Sweet Corn (Texas Honey June)

Peanuts ~ the first time we've ever grown them.  They are so fun!

Sweet Potato Vines ~ these slips were a gift from a friend...about thirty of them in all.

Multiplier Onions ~ the onion that keeps on giving.

Watermelon peeking out from among the vines (Amish Moon and Stars) ~ these are gonna be big boys, 20-30 lbs, and sure are some beautiful plants.

One of many tomato plants.  We got a late start on these as the ones that were in the yard had to be moved and transplanted, and many more had to be started from seeds at a later date (Cherokee Black, Mortgage Lifter or Brandywine ~ they all got mixed up in the move)

The banana peppers were dying in a pot in the yard.  They are slowly springing back to life after transplanting.

Potatoes ~ and weeds and johnson grass ( too late to weed more around the potatoes though.  We don't want to uproot any taters.)

Melon mounds from front to back~ watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, with potatoes and sweet corn in the back.

Happy gardening!

I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day. ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Boatload of Blackberries!

We are extremely blessed with blackberries this year.  I can honestly conservatively estimate that we have five or so acres densely covered with wild blackberries.  We haven't had alot of time to venture out to pick them, but headed out once two weekends ago, and once this last weekend (with a yield of about three gallons).  Of course, there have been those sporadic detours on our way in the driveway to pick a few and pop them in our mouths.  I assure you we have still left dozens of gallons on the vine for the deer, birds, and rabbits.  We have been trying to change our way of thinking and only taking what we believe we will need and not just what is available.  There is plenty of abundance for us and the animals to share.

What really amazes me is the variety.  We have big berries, small berries, hard berries, juicy berries, berries with big cells, and berries with small cells.  Some are already dried up and past their prime and many are still red.  From the looks of things we should still be able to head out for a couple more gallons over the next couple of weeks before their short season is past.  

We are discovering that we are blessed with wild grapes as well.  I don't yet know if they are scuppernongs or muscadines as both are prevalent in this area, but the fruits aren't yet developed enough to indentify.  But look at the pictures of the maturing grapes.  You may also see some berries that are changing color and not gathered in clusters like the grapes.  It also appears that their origin is the tree....not the vines traveling up the tree like the grapes.  Does anyone know what they are?  Are they edible?  I am going to research them.  Any help you guys could provide would be greatly appreciated.

We don't yet have all the answers as to why God sent us to this land.  We are getting bits and pieces of the puzzle as we go along.  As happens whenever we try to follow God and guess what he has in store for us, the picture forming doesn't resemble the one we expected to see when we first started working on this puzzle.  Of course it is more beautiful than the image our tiny minds had envisioned.

Every time we turn a corner, we are faced with yet another amazingly beautiful gift he has prepared for us and left for us to discover.  The blackberries and grapes, the persimmons and honey locusts, the walnuts, hickories, and pecans.  The amazingly rich soil that can look dry as a bone but still hold enough blessed water to nourish our plants a mere two inches below the surface.  These are just a few of the little blessings God has surprised us with here.  I honestly don't think I would be surprised to discover a natural spring somewhere at this point. 

Sure there's also an abundance of mosquitoes and poison ivy, but that has even given us an opportunity to learn.  We don't get poison ivy anymore since everyone in our family can now identify it in it's many forms....even in the winter.  And have you ever seen a honey locust tree?  They are fierce....definitely not something to be messed with. 

But this place is beautiful, fertile, and full of surprises....just like I imagine the garden of Eden to be.  I don't picture an organized and manicured garden, but a wild garden with gifts and nourishment tucked into the folds of the natural landscape.  I can't wait to share my next discovery.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Too Funny Not To Share

I heard a funny joke on the radio today................

What do you call somebody who won't fart in public?

A private tooter.

Sorry.  I know it's corny.  But I liked it.

Improper Use of Duct Tape

After searching long and hard, we found a camp for the girls to go to this summer that met both our budget and our schedule.  It is a horse camp located about 40 minutes from our home.  During five half-days, they work on riding English, Western, & bareback.  They feed, and they clean stalls, tack, and brushes.  They learn grooming and the names of parts of the horse and equipment.  And to top it off, they have crafts and a bible study.  For three days so far I have spent the afternoons hearing all the wonderful stories that the girls have had to share about camp.  I can't believe how much they have learned in such a short time.

I dropped them off yesterday and noticed Kasi walking funny as she climbed out of the van.  Her boots zipped up the side and it appeared that the zipper had broken.  It was zipped only at the top.  I struggled with it for a minute and finally told her she was just going to have to get someone to wrap it up with duct tape to get her through the day.  Everyone has duct tape, and this was a stable, after all.  And I left.

Here is the sight that met me when I picked her up.  This, my friends, is improper use of duct tape.  For you rookies out there, the duct tape should have been wrapped (horizontally) around the ankle in order to give it stability.  That would have held it 'til the boots gave out.  My husband laughed and told me that not everyone has had my level of duct tape usage experience. 

Seriously though, they may not have understood how to properly use duct tape (one of those subjects I think is seriously neglected in the public school system) but you have to give them some extra points for effort, and for creativity.  They are well on their way to learning to 'make due wit whatcha got'.