Friday, September 22, 2017


We didn't know it then
But years later it would be these moments 
That would call us home 

 ~"Scent Memory" :: Tobie Wahl & Phoebe Wahl, as excerpted from Taproot 

I have mainly Autumn and Winter memories, I think.  And I have memories that stand out as Golden.  They sparkle, somehow.  I guess we all have these, and they are treasures.  There's that part of These Happy Golden Years where Mary decides to spend her Summer with a friend, and Ma talks about how it will be good for her to remember, years later.  She was right.

We hiked the Rowlands Creek Trail yesterday, with falls as our destination.  I hadn't walked this trail in such a long time that I can hardly remember when it was.  It's near my parents' home, so it was very accessible during my college years and I spent a lot of time on it.  Mike and I walked it together, but I think it was even before we were married.

I have memory of this place: covered in snow and the trees bending under the weight.  I walked it with another love, as we often have others in our lives.  Oh, it was magic.  The woods were so quiet and special and my heart is full, just thinking of it.  I am learning to say to myself that it is okay to have those magic memories and to love them.  They are all part of the path that led to where we are now and where we will go. 

The woods have changed now, as they do.  The hemlock woolly adelgid has killed nearly all of the big trees that once bent under that snow.  They are more open now, as the trees have decayed to the point of falling.  Plants that love sunny spots have taken up residence, like stinging nettle and goldenrod.  Even white pines have again begun growing in this once mature forest.

There came a Summer some time after that snowy walk, maybe a year later, when I walked that same trail to stave off the inevitable heartbreak that followed.  I think I could have walked every trail in the forest and still not found the end, but time passed and my own woods changed.  Now it seems like that life I used to know never happened, or is only a fuzzy memory.

The truth of these trails I share with my children, these walks we take in the deep woods and these windswept hillsides I drag them to, is that they are my life's story.  It has unfolded on these same paths, shaded by trees both old and new.  It has seen the flowers bloom and wither, the berries grow fat and ripe, and the land change while it stays the same.

All this sentimentality aside, we had a great time.  The walk was shorter than last week, a 3-mile round-trip.  We followed an old roadbed and railroad grade, the one that I guess carried out the giant hemlocks that once ruled these forests before the current generation fell to the adelgid.

The falls seemed different to me, less than those of my memories.  I guess little stones had piled up and made the area more shallow.  That, and it's the time of year when streams are naturally lower.  All the same, the children were thrilled with the icy cold waters that took our breath away.  We skipped rocks and made big splashes and sat watching the water as we had our lunch.

There were no snakes this time, except for the gummy candy ones I found at the grocery store.  We saw a toad and a salamander, which was just enough.  The mushrooms were vibrant and plentiful.  There were partridgeberries and teaberries galore.  And these berries from the Spring flowers.

Roan said the trail made him sad, as much as he loved the water.  I felt that way, too.  We came home and read a children's book about forest succession, so I could remind him that new trees will fill the gaps of the old ones.  It was the same story with the great American chestnuts, after all.  We saw some, in one of the forest gaps, still trying to grow.  Like this picture of Willow, our memories grow fuzzy, but we keep what we can and go on.  That is the way, isn't it?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Summer's Best of Weather, Autumn's Best of Cheer

The golden-rod is yellow;  
The corn is turning brown;  
The trees in apple orchards  
With fruit are bending down. 

The gentian's bluest fringes 
Are curling in the sun;  
In dusty pods the milkweed  
Its hidden silk has spun. 

The sedges flaunt their harvest,  
In every meadow nook;  
And asters by the brook-side 
Make asters in the brook.    

From dewy lanes at morning  
The grapes' sweet odors rise; 
At noon the roads all flutter  
With yellow butterflies. 
By all these lovely tokens  
September days are here,  
With summer's best of weather,  
And autumn's best of cheer. 

But none of all this beauty  
Which floods the earth and air  
Is unto me the secret  
Which makes September fair. 

'T is a thing which I remember;  
To name it thrills me yet:  
One day of one September 
I never can forget.   

~Helen Hunt Jackson, as taken from Enki Grade Two Poetry 

As I am lamenting the highs around eighty, I am trying to remember that this really is perfect weather for many folks.  It is, if you wish to avoid air conditioning, as we do.  We shut out the sun during keys times and blow in the cool air at night.  Breakfast porridge is welcome, and we start the day with sweaters, ending in bare legs and sandals, only to cozy up under comforters again at bedtime.

We went up to White Top day before yesterday, to see the sights, and feel some sixty-degree temperatures.  As you can see, the seasons shift at a different pace up there.  The leaves were on the trees scarcely four months before they blew away to their Winter's sleep.  The last of the Summer flowers are still hanging on, like the wee goldenrod, aster, and closed gentian. 

The other scenes are from my parents' home, where we are house sitting again.  It gets me out along the country roads every other day, which is so nice this time of year.  It is clear that things are changing ahead of schedule this year.  Fairwood Valley was certain not far from peak color when we drove to the mountain.  My parents' own little valley is not far off, as much as the warmth hangs on for another week.  The maple nearly bare of its leaves was surprising and the spotted jewelweed has called it quits.

People speculate about a hard Winter, as older folks often do.  I could use it, as I imagine other people could.  Ticks and colds and things like that need a good freezing.  It makes me feel so awake and refreshed to be out in the cold and snow.  I do like hibernating at home, but I love getting out into the wilder weather just as much or more.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Third Grade :: Week Two

This new school year has a different feel to it. I'm not sure I could say exactly what it is, but part of it is the feeling that the days move along more quickly now. Our pace hasn't increased, but we've been steadily busy and things feel happier.  Last Friday came and it felt like the week had hardly began.  It is so nice to feel like the easiest part of our days is school time, though I know this won't always be the case.  For now, I will enjoy it.

We finished up some house-building by making a very simple wattle structure beside the playhouse.  Many books from Floris books operate on the idea that one has hazel and willow available all the time.  That's simply not the case, the way we do things in the US, so it was a pleasant thing to find a big pile of green branches right by our driveway.  Our neighbors had cut down a privet (evil things that they are) and gave permission for us to take some.  It's always good to ask, even with unwanted things.  We used metal fence stakes and wove the branches to make a sort of fence.  It's simple, but Willow certainly enjoyed it.

This week, according to the Christopherus syllabus, we are doing math review.  I've recently purchased the Making Math Meaningful source book, and found in it the 105 math facts that everyone should know.  Third grade is a good time to practice these, so we have begun with that.  We used these lovely number cards, and we'll probably bring out the base ten blocks today.

Mike attended a music festival over the weekend as a birthday gift from his family, and he had a dozen water bottles left over.  Willow used these to do various sharing and giving away math questions.  She was so happy to do it!  We even had the chance to see what a remainder looks like when things don't divide evenly.  It was really encouraging to me.

And lastly, for now, our multiplication wheel arrived.  I had bought one with twelve points, but it seems nearly all exercises and instruction operate on a ten-point wheel.  So, I traded it in and I am so glad.  It makes lovely patterns, as you can see with the four times table.  I struggled, honestly, with how to bring times tables to Willow beyond Enki's clapping games.  I don't know that we are really "behind" on that skill, but there is always room for improvement.

And with that, another school day will soon begin, so it's time to scurry around before everyone gets up!

Monday, September 18, 2017

First Grade :: Week Two

I don't know if I'll be able to keep up with the weeks all year long, but I like using this space for accountability and accounting. It is so nice to have a visual record of what we've been doing in our school times.   Lately, we've finished up our first form drawing block for first grade.

Laurel has joined in with Roan, mostly a bystander, as he has worked.  She has tried some of the forms, though I have not encouraged her, and she can make recognizable shapes.  Here, she's doing the sun, which combines a curved line and straight ones.

The container story from Lavender's Blue corresponds very well with the forms being taught.  It's possible to make an entire picture of the story using the forms--straight, curve, beehive, flight of the bee, mountains, parallel straight line, sun (missing here) and hills.

Roan's drawings have a very early first grade feel to them, as they should.  He had no interest in drawing for the longest time and very little interest in writing.  He shows great patience with both tasks, with a little encouragement.  I know he has felt so proud after accomplishing each picture.

I'll be back later with third grade things.  We're off to the library!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nature School :: Expedition to Dickey Knob

I like to call long walks "expeditions" because there is the implication that we'll be in for a big adventure. I think that was the case this time!  We walked from my beloved childhood campground, Raccoon Branch, to the site of an old fire tower at 3,649 ft.  I've done this hike once before, the week that Hurricane Katrina made landfall twelve years ago.

It seems there are differing opinions on the length of this out and back trail.  My official guidebook says it's 2.3 miles one way, but I have read as much as 5.5 miles for the whole trip!  It felt pretty long to us, with the continuous climbing and the three snakes we saw sunning themselves.  I told the children this must be The Year of the Snake, as we have seen quite a variety.  I went years, maybe a decade, without seeing any.  We've had numerous conversations about safety as a result. 

We were so glad to make it to the top and settle in to cook lunch on my little Snow Peak GigaPower stove.  Ramen it was, of course, as that has been the family backpacking food for decades.  My dad would occasionally pack in steaks or Spam and I splurged on freeze-dried food, but Ramen has always been carried.  We had raisins, dried peaches, and Little Debbie fall cakes, too.  You have to have something like that to keep going, you know.

It was nice to rest on the ridge and, thanks to the wonders of modern living, you can see what we saw in this video.  The trail has had some improvement since then, but it is basically the same.  I love to imagine what the fire tower would have been like in its heyday.  There is a road to the tower and I would love to take it down (or up) some time to see what it is like.  I have tried to find it on maps, and I think I found it here (filing for my own records).

We took it to meet the trail at the saddle of the ridge, instead of skirting it and meeting up with that garter snake again.  The old road was luxuriously carpeted with moss and made us all so glad we had made the long trek to the top.  We sang songs on the way down, to keep up spirits, and we all admitted we were pretty tired and looking forward to sitting down.  Laurel, at three years and ten months, was the most intrepid of the hikers.  She said at one point she wanted to go to sleep in her carseat, but she took short rests and we made it down without any trouble.

Signs of Autumn were everywhere as we walked.  Goldenrod grew and bloomed in the sunny spots on the trail.  The wind howled around us as we crossed over ridges, and colorful leaves littered the ground.  There are still countless leaves waiting to fall over the next month, but we enjoyed picking up our favorites.  Acorns were everywhere, along with the occasional hickory nut (the bacon of the nut world), and dried oak galls were a dime a dozen.  Mushrooms had appeared at every turn, thanks to the rain we've had.  I guess those snakes were enjoying the perfect weather, too. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Crafting On and On

Oh, boy. I think I've been a little busy lately. Well, here comes the cavalcade of crafting!

Laurel got a new nightgown out of some really soft pink flannel.  I used Simplicity 1569, as usual, and added elastic cuffs.  It suits her so well.  Her face, well, I'm just glad she's not doing her usual withering stare.  Willow got a new nightgown, too, made out of a couple of king size pillowcases and one that was standard size.  The prints match pretty well, and she is pleased.  I am, too, since it felt very thrifty!

I completed a very special project and got it off in the mail today.  This sweet bunting doll is for a dear friend whose baby was born still earlier in the Summer.  She is meant to be a comfort to her four other children.

She has a small rice and lavender bag inside to give her some weight and a sweet smell.  I modeled her after this doll from A Toy Garden.  I'd been saving the velour for a special project and this was it.  We all gave her a hug before we sent her on her way.  She is so very huggable.

Lastly, some yarn things--that blasted bunny hat, as I have come to call it.  I crawled through the bunnies, sometimes just doing a row a day.  There are only fifteen rows!  I feel so silly.  Oh, well.  I'm going to get it done and feel better about it.

I've also started a giant granny square in Mandala, which is quite the craze in yarn, I hear.  I picked it up on a whim, since the colors are nice.  This will be for Laurel, I think, ever how big it turns out.

And with that, a roasted chicken will soon be calling my name.  For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Autumn Weekend

Harvest home! Harvest home! 
Merry, merry, merry harvest home!
~Larkrise to Candleford :: Flora Thompson

Celebrations and stockpiles this weekend. And celebrations of stockpiles.

Mike turned 36, so we spent our weekend rejoicing with him and doing our best to make him feel loved--paper airplanes, homemade guitars, his favorite foods, a cake, digging lots of potatoes.  Oh, wait.  Well, he did seem to enjoy uncovering and bringing home 100 pounds (or more, who knows) of both oddly and nicely shaped potatoes.  I twice-baked some for his birthday meal and the oven element blew, scaring Mike to death.  Fireworks for his birthday! 

Fourth and fifth grades arrived, on the tail of the news that Christopherus will cease production of new materials for the time being.  Am I cursed, or something?  Enki did the same thing just after I purchased their kindergarten materials.  I am blessed, really, to be able to get these things while they were still available.  I'm really prepared now!  The future of Waldorf homeschooling looks a little shaky right now, but more on that later.  Let me just revel in this stockpile, too.

We brought in most of the garden things that were left, like those potatoes.  Laurel and I had hulled the October beans Friday, I think.  The plants had been sitting for awhile, out of the weather, until I had time.  We cut the corn stalks down for Autumn decorations and brought home a few nice ears that had begun to dry.  We found a few ears with smut on them, as well, which was pretty wild looking.  The pumpkins came home, too, with one left growing.  We didn't get the dozens we did last year, but I never really mind buying a few.  It is such a delight to see the fields here filled with them. 

We went to the Konnarock Community Center, because I simply had to get away from all the work here. The children loved the playground and I loved picking up the silky smooth buckeyes that were all over the ground.  These are wonderful for kitchen play (not eating, of course) and counting, and for all those "conker" crafts in Festivals, Family and Food.  The air was cool and the trees seem to be coloring early this year.

Oh, to be three and so strong in such a small package.  She's a pretty good size three-year old, though, wearing clothes that Willow did when she was five!

It makes me feel so happy to see the leaves like this, though I suppose the passing of time is especially poignant in the Autumn.  I was thinking of Willow who was once so small and is now just a few inches shorter than me.  She is still little on the inside, though, I know.  Her height deceives people.  Sigh.  Well, it was a full, good weekend.

Friday, September 8, 2017

School Scenes

 Oh, it has been chilly this week!  The warm weather blew out and brought rain and cold.  We had our first fire in the fireplace last night and it warmed the living room nicely.  It's too bad, I think, that the fireplace isn't connected to the more central chimney in the house.  The furnace has that one, so I won't complain too much.  It was around fifty degrees for nature school, and quite damp outside, so we welcomed the chance to walk and warm up.

Inside, we have marched along with our form drawings and other skills.  Roan has made real progress, offering proof that letting a lesson sleep for a few days does help.  He's been learning to use his block crayons, as well, and that has provided another challenge and opportunity for triumph.  He felt so proud when he was able to make a tree the way I showed him.  I think these things will help his patience grow.  He's often a slow-and-steady person, but has some areas that need improvement.  We all do.

Willow is working on a calendar with Roman numerals, in addition to reviewing second grade forms.  We're using the smaller size practice books turned sideways, with a page for the dates and a page for the seasonal picture and month name.  I also decided that the little shepherd could help her mark the date each day on the nature table.

Here's her picture inspired by the Bonnie Shemie book on mound-building, Mounds of Earth and Shell.  The children were especially fascinated by these people and we do have some nearby mounds we might visit.  Willow really loved filling up the page with people.  You can see that her handwriting here is a real departure from her normal.  I had a long sentence for her to write, so I penciled it in and she traced over it.  It shows me the potential she has, and I am excited to help her make progress.

Well, today is shopping day and a school day, so I better get a move on!  I'm tempted to turn on the furnace, but I'm resisting.  Some rice pudding on the stove and hot tea will be welcome!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Crafting On :: Seasonal Things

 I found some time to pare down my sewing list this past week.  Some projects were planned and others were quite spur-of-the-moment.

One of the unplanned projects was a crayon roll for Laurel, as she is not one to be left out. I used this tutorial, instead of Enki's, and it came out beautifully. The only thing I did differently was to leave out batting.  This roll holds nine block crayons and eight stick crayons.  The stick side has longer pockets. so I simply shortened two for the extra blocks.  These are the first block crayons we ever got, six years ago, if that is interesting to anyone.  They are still going strong!

This fabric is entirely too fun, so it made sense to immortalize it in something that she will use for years to come.  I think the print captures Laurel's personality quite well.  It was part of my free fabric stockpile that I amassed in the past year.  I have some left and I think I will make cloth bag out of it, as it's too heavy for clothing.

Roan got his crayon roll, as well, which was planned.  He liked his collection of boxes so much that I wasn't sure he needed one.  His crayon collection might be a little overgrown.  Fourteen blocks and ten sticks. . . so far.  His roll will hold thirteen more sticks!  I might use that for short Lyra Ferby pencils--yes, that sounds perfect!

I used the same tutorial and more fabric remnants.  Roan loves Christmas colors, so it is perfect for him.  With the new ones, I can see that Willow's roll could use a little make over, now that I know the proper dimensions.

Willow got a new old outfit that suits her so well.  The skirt was part of the fabric amassed--it must have sat unfinished for forty years!  It's a lovely canvas with two pockets on the front.  It needed hemming, and the waist needed finishing.  I added some buttonholes for the ties to go through, and this skirt should serve her for several years.  The peasant top is a couple of old pillowcases.  She needed a top to match, so I used this tutorial.  I gave it 3/4 sleeves with lace edging and I think it is so pretty on her.

And here's the only other planned project. ;-) Roan has wanted a night shirt for months, so I made him one. It was wonderful to find 60" wide fabric at Voldemart.  I used this pattern, simply elongating it and adding a curved hem.  He's really pleased and has worn it every night since, which has been handy with this cooler weather.  He was being so silly when I was taking his photo!

And that's it!  It was a lot of sewing, and I have plans for more, including something very special.  Maybe I will have it done next week.

P.S.  I forgot I made some Autumn napkins.  Here they are!  A dozen from a yard of new fabric.

For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.