Friday, July 21, 2017

Nature School :: Planning by the Lake

The heat wave continues, so we've been enjoying the cold mountain waters. The children went wading at Laurel Bed Lake while I did some first and third grade planning.  It seems many people had similar ideas (minus the planning), so we chose a new spot that we could have all to ourselves.  The children said it was more fun than the beach at our local state park.  


This lake is intended for anglers, so the children were excited to find part of a boat engine propeller by the shore.  They also enjoyed the clay soil and collected some on a rock to mold and squish. Laurel loves all kinds of modeling and dough, so it was hard to pull her away.

I really enjoyed the scenery, in addition to the ability to focus more clearly. I watched two does and two fawns run across the road, which is much more fun than watching deer eat the apples here at home. It might seem counter-intuitive to drive a hour into the woods just to look at binders and play the flute, but it works very well for me.

As far as my planning goes, I've read over the bulk of grades one and three.  I've got a feel for the rhythm the materials are suggesting, and I'm feeling ready to begin mapping out the year.  Both Christopherus and Lavender's Blue allow for days for outside activities, so I think it will work well to do two grades at once.  I think both children will benefit from the materials covered.

This Autumn book arrived this week, a birthday present from a gift card.  I like to use "marketplace" options when I get gift cards from retail giants, so this book came from a used seller in the UK. I generally try to keep to the US, but Waldorf books are sometimes tough to find.  These seasonal books are an interesting glimpse into Waldorf schools in Europe, and the seasonal activities cover a wide range of ages.  This one, in particular, includes third grade shelters!  If I can pull it off, I know Willow will love that.

Well, it's time to make the porridge.  Despite the heat, I was told that cold cereal was boring and it was time to get back to the usual routine!  I'll take it.

Happy Friday!   One last thing--we should have some exciting honey bee activity around here tomorrow.  I hope to be back with photos!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dog Days Scenes

Hot and dry are the words of this week, and will probably continue for awhile. I have visions of last year's terrible drought returning, honestly, so I have resigned myself to water-saving measures, in addition to more intensive watering of the gardens. The lettuce came out this week--it tasted horrible, thought it was very pretty.  The radishes came out, too.  I covered the empty spaces in grass clippings to have less moisture escaping the raised beds. 

We picked some of the bigger beets, along with a few accidental carrots. They're looking good, too.   The October beans are starting to take on their speckled pods, having masqueraded for awhile as regular green beans.  I got a little irrational, I'll admit, at the idea of three big rows of green beans.  I picked, snapped, and canned so many as a child that I shudder at the thought of growing my own!

The blackberries are coming in, little by little. The wild ones, as these are, are small, but we are enjoying them with generous sweetening. The thornless cultivated variety we have so much of are just starting to turn. Ones that look ripe must often be given a test pull to see if they are really ready to come off the vine. The longer they wait, the better.

This little person laid down and went to sleep on her own yesterday afternoon.  The scene was so sweet, I couldn't let it pass without a photo.  I guess she was playing with the rotating postcard and just drifted off.  The little quilt was my mother's baby quilt.  Laurel very much loves her very own tiny bed.

Each child has a guardian angel picture by their bed and this is Laurel's. It could never stay on the wall, but happily sits on her little bedside table. Willow lost a tooth just before bed. She said it was very loose and let me check. It came out with no effort at all!

Another hot day ahead--we're going to Laurel Bed Lake for nature school.  I know those waters will still have a chill!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Crafting On :: Work and Play

The days are full of outside tasks that are so pressing this time of year, along with some inside play when we are taking refuge from the heat.   Withe the new school year beginning in six weeks, I'm spending time studying and readying the house so that it feels more in order (sometimes). 

I consider working on play spaces to be crafting, since I try to think of new ways to encourage creativity and cooperation.  There are seasons that we need to have very few things out, or things that are more community property than special gifts.   

A piece of old driftwood scrubbed clean and a basket of shells have inspired new ways of play.  These gnomes were made by my dear friend Tanya a few years ago.  Here they are living under the sea.  Roan's gnome mines, of course.  He told me the other day that he had been mining diamonds and that he could see the gnomes inside them.  Here's a gnome in an undersea bathtub. 

I'll admit that I have felt like I have fallen off the wagon over the Summer.  Living day by day and week by week for six or seven weeks was a real period of challenge for our family.  I have been digging into my old favorite books for inspiration and centering.  The titles include: Toymaking with Children, All Year Round and our homeschool materials.  This is a wonderful time of year to prepare for school, I think, since the Summer energy has likely scattered our focus and we need some grounding.

I mailed off my portion of Celtic Myths yesterday.  This was a surprisingly quick knit, faster than other shawls that I have made, though I was given a free pass on doing the cables.  Roan said Tanya was a very good knitter, and he is right.  She will do a wonderful job completing the shawl.  I am excited to see photos.

Now that I've got a week until Christmas in July, I've cast on the Love Bunny Beanie for Becky.  I need a little more time to sit down, I think, so this will be the perfect motivation.  For now, though, it's time to get the laundry on the line and get ready for the day.

For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Child Study

I've told myself that the rest of July is for school planning, in addition to all the other things that life has for me to do. I saw this lengthy cartoon, and it has alarming accuracy at numerous points.  There's a book called The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood that confirms much of what is said.  My mind is swirling with so many things--garden work, food preservation, laundry, school planning, Willow's year-end testing, bees, upcoming visits and appointments, etc.

This is how time gets away from us and we wonder what we did all day.  All that mess aside, I am finding little bits of clarity in each day.  Just as we have all inched our way better, our routines and moods have slowly improved.  The weeds have been pulled, the laundry has returned to the line, and we've done some of our usual Summer activities.  We are no longer holding our breath and waiting.

As for school, I'm feeling fairly certain that Roan will begin grade one in September.  I've mulled over thoughts of another year of Enki kindergarten with more challenging stories, but I feel real joy and excitement over moving on to first grade.  His drawings show first grade readiness (houses, chimneys, skies above, earth below), as do his general day-to-day abilities and activities. I'm leaning toward Lavender's Blue Homeschool instead of Enki, because it is less teacher-intensive.  Having to adjust to Christopherus for Willow leaves me feeling like I'd rather use something that's a little more ready-to-use.   I'll fill in some details from Enki, like recorder, copper rods, and nature stories.

I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading, wanting to make certain that grade one is the right choice right now.  It will certainly be different to work with a child for whom all the letters and their sounds will be entirely new.  He does not count to great heights, and isn't really interested in it the way Willow was.  She was practically insatiable in her quest for knowledge, but that was Willow from the moment she was born.  Hungry.  He is very much his person, comfortable with who he is.  Roan has been more of a slow-and-steady kind of fellow.  He would take up new skills, often earlier than Willow (like sewing), but his path was riddled with two steps forward and one step back. 

Roan asked to walk home from the store yesterday, after we got our groceries.  I told him I'd get him past the parking lot, and then I'd let him out.  It's only a block, after all.  So, we followed along in the car as he galloped his way home.  He wasn't one bit afraid.  He's learned to tie his shoes, and is generally more independent.  He seems to have lots patience for copying letters, and he would often put a single word in his practice book that described his drawings.  He's also happy to retell stories, too, so I'm feeling like he could be up to the task of first grade work. 

When people ask about homeschooling, I make mention of the freedom that we have to tailor our lessons to the needs of our children.  If Roan truly isn't ready for first grade, I can fall back on the materials from kindergarten.  Enki provided more than two years' worth of stories, handwork, and movement.  In the meantime, I'll keep reading as much as I can of the new materials and trusting my intuition.

Well, time to get moving around here!  Happy Saturday!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Nature School :: Picnic

I packed a picnic for the children and me yesterday.  A lot of people moan about Winter--I do the same for Summer.  The days seem endless and none of us are really big fans of hot weather.  I blame my Nordic heritage.  Maybe it is my Scotch-Irish history that loves clouds and rain?  I'm happy to have all the wonderful things to eat from the gardens, trees, roadsides, and hedges, but I also enjoy the settled feeling of the colder months after everything has been squirreled away.  So, time to get out of here and see someplace else!

The meal was simple--boiled eggs, dried fruit, cheese, tuna salad and lemon water. We all love our Cuppows. I've even lost a couple, but we've replaced them.  

We drove over to the Fairwood Valley, at the foot of Mount Rogers and the Scales.  This was, historically, a logging town.  There's nothing left now.  With the old growth timber sent out on the train, the town dried up.  The Forest Service took the land in the sixties and it's now meadows for grazing, riding and hiking.  Cows and horses keep the land clear through government contracts.

The Lewis Fork Trail and its Wilderness Area was our destination after our meal.  I had made some promises about wading earlier in the day.  Sure enough, the children did find the water.  I reunited with my wooden flute after two months off.  The water was cold!  They would splash some on me, from time to time, and that was enough to give me a chill.  We didn't last too long, but everyone had a good time.

Here in town, the blackberries are getting ripe.  Up there, well, it's a few weeks off.  August is the time to pick blueberries and blackberries in the High Country.  I look forward to going back, since these are better tasting than what we find here.  I'll admit I prefer mine with a good amount of sweetening.

The last light of the day was making everything golden.  There was no way to capture it, of course.  The mind has to hold onto such things.  Everyone was in much better spirits than when we had left home.  Nature school success.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lemonade Stand

As we come to the Dog Days and St. Swithun's Day, the heat is swelling outside.  The air is drier and I am beginning my water conservation and yard preservation strategies.  The gardens must be watered, for instance, as the cucumbers begin and the tomatoes grow.  I use water from the dehumidifier on the raised beds, then pile on grass clippings to keep it from evaporating too quickly.  I mow (finally!) only the parts of the yard that are most visible or most unsightly, and that provides the grass clippings.  Round and round it goes.

Playing catch-up on Summer, we spent Tuesday afternoon with our beloved Dr. Davis.  He's a geographer, like me, and the one teacher I've ever had that has stayed in touch over the years.  The children love his lively personality and sense of humor.  We made ice cream and then shared the Snail Place with him.  

 The world is so big that sometimes I think I will burst with it all.  And yet, we keep coming back to this little rise in the ridge to work over the same little patch.  The children have, by now, made small heaps of old bottles and old cans, and they're starting to put in a shale floor in the den.  Laurel presides over all, as a queen would.

Wednesday saw some very hot weather, near record in places.  This was the perfect day for our lemonade stand.  Laurel and I made shortbread to sell along with mint and regular lemonade.  It was a hit, in the simplest way, and we lasted about an hour in the afternoon sun.  That was just enough.

Friends of ours, along with my grandmother, were the bulk of our customers.  It was nice to visit, and we offered free refills to folks who sat a spell on the porch with us.  We're planning a hot chocolate stand for the Winter months, with peppermint bark and biscotti of some kind.  I'm thinking we'll put up the tipi tent we have to keep the wind off and utilize our vast collection of thermoses.

I've got to quit the Winter dreaming, but I can't help myself.  I want to let the cold winds blow right through me and be covered in snowflakes before climate change takes it away.  I don't mean to be gloomy, but I have had a lot on my mind lately.  What a funny, changing world we live in.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Crafting On :: Busy Bees

Week before last, I discovered some honey bees flying in and out of the lower edge of some siding at the Roland Estate.  It's no small task to remove bees from a building, since their hives are often inside walls that must also be removed.  People who offer this service generally love the bees, so they will be carefully removed and re-homed.  We've found someone to do it and are looking forward to seeing the process from a safe distance.  In the meanwhile, we're busy at our own hive, each one of us.

I closed out Mitten Season with these Hollyberry Mittens, using the Sideways Mystery Mittens pattern. They look big, but when you put them on, they are just perfect. I love the cheery colors and I think I have enough left to make a matching hat of some kind. Probably ought to make it an EZ pattern, too.

The Love Bunny hat has gone on the back burner for a bit, so that I can work on Celtic Myths for a dear friend who needs to be enveloped in love.  I'm knitting this with another friend--I'll do the stockinette portion and then mail it off to her for the cabled edge. 

The children have been creating, too, as they have felt better and better. Lots of herbal tinctures are being made from our garden and that of a neighbor. Laurel spent the longest time carefully snipping up oregano and mint and filling a little jar.  She calls herself "Monica Jean."  

 There's sewing, too. Willow made these sweet aprons for the Muffy Vanderbears we have. Two were from my own childhood, having purchased them from a dress shop my mother loved. Another came to us from a friend who knew we had them, and now they have quite the collection of clothing. Carried picked up the little tin at the thrift shop and it was pure coincidence that it came with a pattern, fabric, and buttons to fit the very bears we have!

Willow and I worked to make her fairy a new dress and a little baby. She loved the fish fabric and we had just the tiniest bit of it. She's such a happy new mother, isn't she?

Roan made this little peg doll for me using colored pencils.  I love the way he draws faces.  He usually sits on the kitchen window while I wash the dishes. His little face just melts my heart--like he captures all the sweetness of my little boy.

Well, it's going to be very hot today, so time in the wading pool and ice cream are in order.  I better get to work on the custard!

For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

High Summer

It is so lush outside these days.  Everything is at its peak, as far as I am concerned.  The Rose of Sharon, or dog bush as some call it, is in full bloom and buzzing with bees and hummingbirds.  We watched one come up to the hollyhock that has grown to the height of the kitchen windows.  What a special thing that was to see.

In the trees, the oak galls are turning dark and the buckeye leaves are starting to show their age.  I always watch for the buckeyes.  It is a balm to me when the air feels so heavy and hot.  The past while has been quite mild, really, with brooding weather and days in the low eighties.  Next week is supposed to be in the upper eighties, so I think it will be time to make the lemonade stand that we have planned for so long.  And to take that trip to the local beach.

I've spent some of the morning weeding the garden.  While the rows were clear, thanks to Mike and Carrie, the plants are so full of grass and weeds it is comical.  I know now what it is like to let a garden get out of control.  I pulled mountains of grass, with still more to go.  The bean plants look so pathetic without their weedy companions, though they are happy and healthy and putting out flowers and pods.

The corn is getting tall and Roan loves to walk through the rustling leaves.  The apples are looking promising on the trees and the cucumbers are blooming.  The milkweed is full of activity and the pear tree is full of little pears.  This is a hopeful time, with just a bit of anxiety about the work that lies ahead.  I think the harvest will be a good one this year.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The past two days, I have been catching up on yard work.  It has been so nice to feel able, to be able to do such simple things.  Everything feels overgrown this time of year.  It's the time of waiting, these last few weeks before things really start coming in from the garden.  And, there are a number of things that have seen their time in the sun and are ready to return to the earth.  So, I've been pulling weeds and old pea plants and broccoli plants.  I've been cutting back, here and there, things that have gotten out of hand, and pruning the tomato plants.  It is nice to see the yard looking tidy again.

Our Independence Day was spent here at home, with a few fireworks at the end.  A stormy forecast kept us at home, though the weather stayed mild.  We had some leftovers from New Year's Eve, and the children enjoyed that.  We went to bed as the real fireworks were beginning.

This old, hollowed-out root became a gnome home yesterday.  Roan got him all fixed up with stones to block out the cold and grass to make things comfortable.  It is so good to see things returning to normal around here.  We did our morning verses and school work yesterday morning, still having some loose ends to tie up from the old school year.  The new one needs planning and that is my goal for July, along with more knitting.

My Sideways Mystery Mittens are really coming along, and I'll finish them today.  I've got to weave up the side of the hand and put on the cuff.  These sure have a lot of finishing and seaming to them, but the result is a very nice mitten.  I feel certain that they will do a wonderful job of keeping out the cold when the weather turns.  Elizabeth Zimmerman knew just how to write a pattern and shape things just so.

I'll be moving on from mittens, after this, to knit a hat for Becky for her birthday in a couple weeks.  She has a pet rabbit, so this pattern will be just perfect for her.  I've not really knit many things with color work, but I feel confident I can do it.  This may well become a favorite pattern over the years.  Who doesn't love a bunny with hearts?

And with that, another day is beginning.  I have a little fellow who wants to hear a story before everyone else gets up.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Lambsheep Mittens

It's steamy and hot outside, but I'm thinking about Winter.  I just sit and dream of snow piling up outside and howling winds.  I'd really love to be snowed in right about now, as much as I am looking forward to the tomatoes ripening and the forthcoming cucumbers.  I'm still knitting my way through Homespun, Handknit and here are the Lambsheep Mittens.

These are for Willow and they are entirely too sweet.  The pattern suggests that one ear is for the thumb and the other is for the little finger.  I'll admit to being a little intimidated by the embellishment, but it wasn't so bad.  I redid one mouth, but that's all.  Now, weaving in all those ends was its own job. 

I would make these mittens again, for sure, with a few modifications and some bigger needles for the hands that are always growing.  I do hope they will be treasured like my beloved kitten mittens were.  I learned to knit simply because I love mittens so.  I've got one more pair on the needles--Sideways Mystery Mittens.  I hope to finish one up today.

For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Birthday Views

Call this the Slow-Motion Birthday for a variety of reasons.  Mike was away for all of it, the first birthday I've spent without him since before we met.  So, some of the celebrating had to wait until yesterday.  And, we're all still taking it easy.  Willow and Roan developed tonsillitis, but it's easy to treat and not scarily contagious.  My Mothering Sense picked up on it very, very early, so there have been no fevers or real discomfort.  They were still feeling very much themselves, and that is a wonderful gift, too!

On to Birthday Views!  The hollyhocks are lovely this year.  It seems our home garden, after eleven years, is finally reaching a mature status.  We have abundant perennials--day lilies, lupines, columbine, bleeding hearts, and these lovely hollyhocks.

It's hay cutting time again, the second cutting this year.  All the rain has sure been kind to the farmers, I think.  Here the tractor is "tedding" the hay, or spreading it out again to dry before it's put into windrows to be bailed.  This spot is quite near my parents' home.  I remember the little boy who used to live where this field is now.

One could call this the Glitter Birthday, as well.  I gave the children free rein with the glue and glitter, so much that their bedroom had the strong smell of Elmer's glue and the porch is covered in silver.  I filled my vacuum with glittery lint and mopped up glittery water.  But, they were so pleased.  Roan made me the sweet little card and Willow made me a Christmas-in-July decoration and a beaded necklace. 

Here's Roan at the playhouse, as we were enjoying the shade of their tiny porch.  You can see one of the raised beds beside him.  The broccoli is finishing up, as are the peas.  The lettuce is nearing its end, as well.  There is still much to do, and Carrie gave me the gift of cultivating the Annex garden for me!  It is so nice to have friends who are creative givers.  She knew how much I hadn't been able to do lately, though I think I am ready to spend a few days weeding now (gently).

It was Nature School day, so I chose a trip to Whitetop Mountain.  It's been hot and humid the last of the week, so someplace high up with cool breezes was very welcome.  The ferns were thick under the spruce trees.

We picked wild strawberries, trying to leave the unripe ones for our trip back there for Independence Day.  These are not wild strawberries, but a rare kind of trefoil that only grows in the high elevations here.  The name escapes me.

The children and I talked about a walk down to Buzzard Rock this Summer.  It is the goal of every year, though we only managed it in 2014.  It would be wonderful if we could do it this time around.  Maybe in a few weeks when everyone has a clean bill of health. I, myself, have been dealing with asthma and hives (twice!), but feel so much better than I did.

It is so good to see the children playing and strong again, despite some setbacks.  We've simply never had such an experience and it's been very difficult, all around.  I had such a different picture of our Summer, but I am hoping things are on the upswing as the days grow shorter.  We had such encouragement from our dear friends, near and far, old and new.  That has been a wonderful blessing.

Lastly, we came home to the mail and this record.  There was no name, but I knew at once that Mike had sent it.  It's such a happy, sweet album that I have listened to hundreds of times.  It fits so well with the mood of Waldorf education, as do some of her other songs.  Mike tried to find an original copy, which is quite rare, so he was very thankful this album is still in production.  Vashti Bunyan went about her own life for a number of years, not knowing people were still enjoying her music!  She was persuaded to do some more recording a few years ago.

Today will be a simple day at home, caring for ourselves and our house and garden, and I am looking forward to it.