Sunday, 28 March 2010

Haybale Cold Frames and the Question of Dead Fish

I want vegetables now. I always kill my seedlings and I just don't have the space yet to dedicate to the seed flats. I have had success with direct sow, a lot of success, but this just doesn't work with tomato and peppers.....luckily I get plants from wonderful friends and neighbors, but I still want to be self sufficent in this matter. I am still a beginner, a beginner farmer too. I have so much to learn, perhaps more than one lifetime's worth of knowledge was not passed to my generation and learning from books and the Internet is surreal sometimes. There is a lot of trial and error.

Enter the haybales. I read about this here and here. Basically you place 4-6 bales in a square and then top with plastic or old windows. Our neighbor delivered to us all the old storms off their house last fall. Wonderful!

So here is the first haybale green house/ cold frame. We have 5 weeks until last frost date so I'm not going to bother starting cold weather stuff that I can just directly seed right now. I am going to try...tomatoes. Brave, daring, and maybe a little naive. That about sums up my entire adult life!

Once the cold season has passed and the plants can stand alone, the bales break down and make excellent cover mulch. I did this last year with cut long grass and had major weed problems- to address this I read here that heavily watering the bales so they sprout, then letting them dry out again, kills the seed sprouts and fixes the weed sprouting issue once they are spread as mulch. I also used old paper feed bags as a biodegradable landscape paper under the mulch. Excellent for weed control and they completely break down by the fall turning.

One of the other things I am going to try this year is dead fish as fertilizer. We had a fish kill in our pond and pulled out HUGE grass carp. Lily is 3 feet tall. The fish is the same size she is, maybe a little longer. Wow.

I will not be using those though, the smaller fish will break down easier and were scooped up with other organic matter from the pond. It will all be wonderful soil nutrition. I'm not going to use nearly as much as we actually have though, just a few buckets full as a trial. I know they will be great, but the guy who runs the tiller (my Dearest husband!) is concerned that they will tangle up in the tines. It is a small walk behind model but I have put on my wish list a pull behind for the tractor. He's also concerned about attracting wild predators. I don't know about that. I would think that compost heaps and gardens in general attract wild animals, but once the fish are tilled in it shouldn't be a problem. Right?

 Just look at those nutrient dense little fish! I'm excited for this trial and will be doing before and after soil testing out of curiosity. I picked up the soil bags and forms last week. We are testing the orchard grounds as well.

This is the other garden bed that will get the fish treatment. I can't wait for the soil to dry out and be workable but we have a warm dry stretch next week and if we can catch the end of it and till then, I think we'll be good to go.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Future Farmers

Last week we delivered our bright orange buckets to the whey lady, cheese maker extraordinaire. We are so lucky to have this connection. I am a serious cheese addict and I am surrounded by enablers! In fact when my Dearest jokes about restricting my cheese inventory to less than 10 in any given week he gets called affectionately....the Cheese Meanie. Heh. 

Cheese season is also known as kidding season. Get it? Actually it really is as baby goats are called kids. Oh they are cute too. Here's my kids with her kids: 


It is neat to think that the first time I ever stepped foot on this farm, our own farm dream was so far off that it hurt sometimes to reach for it. Seemed so out of reach. It wasn't though. I could have given up, I could have written off as impossible and made due with where we were in the city, but I didn't want to. I yearned for the open air and rural landscape of my childhood. I wanted that for my daughters. 

Muck boots and all.

Lil'Bug stepped away from the ATV for a minute to load something up and Blueberry slid on over and found the power pedal. Away she went!  It was all sorts of funny and cute. Not quite two yet and she's a pretty good driver!

Meet Wilbur the pig. He's about 4 years old and has been cared for lovingly the entire time. He was a city pig, but as soon as we moved out here she built him a pen, one for winter and one for warm weather. She found an old calf bottle and now Wilbur is really babied. Also in the picture is the snout harness lead, his food, and his medicine. He likes playing pirate and it was his idea to pose for the picture on the poop deck. Oh, and we had to promise not to ever eat him. I kid you not.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Equation for Meal Planning

So many people ask me about meal planning. It is the keystone to how I can organize our food and nutrition, and to many people just starting out eating healthy and local, it is the most daunting task. So I have transferred my weekly notes for you all to see. 

Meat + Vegetable + Starch= meal.

That's the base that I work from. It is somewhat misleading though because many on my starch list are actually vegetables.

I always start with the meat and in the beginning my list was not quite as diverse. It is ok to just start out with three or four meat categories. It took me moving to a farm and getting really brave to expand it as far as we have:

Then I narrow down the cut I want to use or I leave it open for a bit

(Basically anything with a lot of colour, leaning toward the greens)
Brussel Sprouts
Green Beans

(Now that's trickier because there are some vegetables I classify under this category)
Sweet Potato
Dry Beans

Then I match up my threes: For example

Venison Loin Roast with broccoli and sweet potato. There's nothing fancy about how I prepare the meat, just a slow roast with lard or butter and a seasoned salt pepper mixture. The vegetables get steamed and then I mash the sweet potatoes and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Beef, Hamburgers, Buns count as starch serve with green beans (again steamed, butter and salt). It is natural for me to want to serve fries with the burgers, but that's dual starch.

Chicken thighs (with bone in) and Rice, Cream of Mushroom Soup with a pound of extra mushrooms. Sometimes I'll also add chopped celery. Casserole style.

Pork, Iowa Chops broiled with seasoned salt, mashed potatoes and peas.

Pork, Ground browned and then sauce added, green beans and rice. Green Bean Sichuan.

Beef, Steaks seasoned and broiled, with pumpkin mash and Brussels sprouts.

Lamb, leg steak stew with carrots, dry beans, and onion. Throw in some spinach at the end or serve with spinach salad.

Beef or Pork, Penne Pasta with tomato red sauce with meat balls.

Beef, Pork, or Chicken- Chili with tomato, onion, peppers, and beans.

Pork, Ham steaks with carrots and potato, one dish quickie and an exception to my rule based on convenience.

Eggrolls: any meat, cabbage and carrots in a wrap and deep fried.

Pizza: meat, bread, cheese, tomato sauce

Beef: Tacos....ground beef cheese, corn tortilla tacos, tomato salsa.

Fish, steamed with carrots and broccoli.

And that covers two weeks, considering left overs. It makes it easy for families with allergies too, though we don't have any (thank goodness and knock on wood!), as the starch is where the glutens are and dairy is easily left out or substituted with goat dairy if need be. We follow a heavy meat and coloured vegetable diet so if I feel lazy I just leave out the starch one sometimes. Who says you need two sides anyway?

Often we will have less than a full serving left over, (a full serving can be frozen and sent to work with husband for lunch). I save it anyway and scramble it will eggs or make an easy pasta lunch with the added meat and vegetable. I hate wasting food.

That's how we do it here at the farm! How do you do it?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Field Day

This is the Western field, where we will be running pigs this year and hopefully grazing cattle in the next few years. We need some fencing done, but I hope that this field is the key to our farm's permaculture. The second picture is of the little seen "frog pond". Funny story, the realty advert said 11 acre pond and the Realtor walked me to this one first. Ha ha. It is a cute little mud hole. Still funny.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Crawfish Boil

We had set a pair of crawfish traps out by the dock last fall and left them over the winter. 

Of course they were full of crawfish once the ice melted! Lil'Bug always checks them when she gets to the dock. Sometimes she's found crawfish or fish or even a turtle trying to bite at the trap (she says).

So Lil'Bug collected them, Dearest threw back the smaller, and these six little mudbugs came home for dinner. Well, snack really. 

I didn't find much as far as recipes go, (and all the recipes called for 45 POUND sacks of crawfish. WOW! Yeah, not exactly what I had here) basically make some stock, boil some vegetables in it, season it well, bring to rolling boil, drop critters (alive!) into boiling water and cover. Boil hard for two minutes, turn off heat and leaved covered for 25 minutes. Done. I didn't want to fill a stock pot full of veggies just for 5 little crawfish (one was almost dead once we got ready to cook, so he got tossed....) I used 4 cups of salted water, 4 cups of my chicken bone broth, and a lot of Mama Podkayne's Swamp Fire Cajun Seasoning. Oh, it was good broth on its own, that's for true! 

So in the pot they went, and yes, they screamed a little. That part is freaky and Dearest insists that I was imagining it. Hmph.

Honestly, I boiled hard for 4 minutes. I know it was overkill. Lil'Bug gobbled them up. She was a pro at cracking them open and pulling out the little bit of meat. Dearest said the taste was delicate, not muddy or fishy like at the dinner places we've had them at. I think it was that I used chicken broth instead of fish stock and I kept them in constantly changed out clean water for 2 days.

Baby Blueberry didn't have any. This is her expression as she looked on. I can't quite figure out if she was grossed out or mad that she wasn't getting a taste? She's a hard girl to read sometimes.

Me? I want to like them, I just held back a little. I mean, everything is better with Swamp Fire! Maybe next time?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Poop and Mud Season

I am going to warn those faint of nose, this post is stinky.

Part of farm life is animal poop. It just is. A small farm like ours is really no exception. Most of the time the aggravations it can cause, like slipping in a bog of eternal stench (the pig area near the feeder after a long week of rain), are predictable and avoidable (mostly).

It is cold out right now so we don't really have to deal with smell.....but it is warming up. The unfortunate factor is that the snow cover has not thawed all winter and is now. This means layers and layers of dog, chicken, and horse poop (from visiting neighbors) are revealing themselves one sloppy disgusting strata at a time and mostly in the driveway by the back door.

Gross. There is not a lot to do about it either. Time and rain will wash it down and away. Until then we just have to (HAVE TO) take our boots off by the back door. We muck and mire through it. Today it was a lot better, but we had a lot of rain to get to this point. All that does though is cut the smell, the poop and mud just meld and melt together.

Just like when life is crappy. You can lay down in it, you can attempt to shovel it and move it, you can cover it up and pretend nothing ever poops, or you can just let nature takes it's course. Plant flowers, take off your boots. Life requires a little bit of all of these sometimes.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Blueberry Joy

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Babywearing, a Short Reflection

I wear my babies. A lot. At least 6 hours a day now that I have the Calyx figured out. I hold my babies. I share my sleep with them. To me that is normal. It is certainly easier than anything else I've ever done, including trying to be a conventional parent.

Lil'Bug walked at 13 months, well within the range of normal. She was starting to talk at 9 and learning baby signs as well. Still within the range of normal. Babies have a lot to learn about being an upright communicating human, it is hard work.

The first nine months of Lil'Bug's life I worked full time, attended graduate school at night, served on three volunteer boards, and she was at a conventional at home day care that did not wear her. She was on the floor plenty.

Blueberry is too. She is on my back now when we go out, during some naptimes, while I do chores, while we hike, ect, but she also gets plenty of playtime on the floor. She may be an early or a late walker, but I carry her MORE. Babywearing does not harm the baby. There is certainly a lack of respect for children as human beings, as people, in a certain facet of our society and that seems to be the normal order of things. That is heartbreaking.

Yes, it was criticism that prompted this short ranting. I wonder sometimes if the critical actually understand how hurtful words can be, especially when said in front of the children. Perhaps, since children are not considered full members of society, that little detail didn't matter to the critic. Yes, that is me being snarky. 

Lamb Stew, an original recipe!

I started out with a lamb shank and thought that I had read a recipe online for a lamb stew using a shank and navy beans. Then....I couldn't find it. My beans had been shelled and soaked, the lamb thawed.

So I decided to just make a stew myself. I read a couple sites to get a feel for what seasoning typically get used for lamb, what veggies get added, and official temperatures and such.

As typical for me I read the package wrong and they were lamb leg STEAKS not shank. So it was. I had carrots on hand and onion too, but I was out of chicken stock. Hmmmm.

So here is the incredibly simple recipe that I put together this morning an set the oven before going to church. An amazing and nutritous lunch was ready when we came home four hours later. So easy, so good.

1-2 1b package of lamb meat.
3 carrots cut up, bite size
2 cups of, soaked overnight, beans. We used our own, varieties were Jacobs Cattle bean and Ying Yang bean. A seven bean mix like the kind sold for ham soup would work though.
1 medium yellow onion
1 T Rosemary
2 T French Thyme
some butter
about a teaspoon of course sea salt
enough water to fill the dutch oven after ingredients are added.

*optional, a slice of bacon leftover (or hidden for this purpose) from breakfast.  usually my family vetoes wasting bacon in such a manner! I used cottage bacon from "Eggs and Bacon" for the addition and the only way I managed it was making a whole pound of bacon and extra eggs, leaving one small slice back in the pan. Everyone ate and was full and unawares of the rebel slice. The hardest person to keep from eating it was me. Ha!

I melted the butter in the dutch oven and browned the lamb on both sides. Then I added everything else. Covered and set in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes. Then I turned it down to 200. That was at 8:45 am and at 12:30 it was done and AMAZING. I'll add pictures in a bit.

Dearest said it was the best soup I have EVER made, possibly the best meal ever too. He really likes lamb. Both girls finished their bowls. I served, as a side, crusty 5MAD bread with butter.

I was nervous to use seasoning other than cayenne. The joke is around here that I don't know how to make anything without it. Ha! Well, it is kind of true actually. Even my cinnamon rolls and sugar cookies get kicked up a notch. What can I say? I really like Thyme though and since I was out of chicken broth to use as a soup base, the herbs really played an important roll in creating a good broth.

Frozen in the Mud

This time of year I get a ton of stuff done and then have off days where I feel mentally stuck. I came across a concept plot theme online, called Being Erica, where the main character gets to go back in time and fix things that have gone wrong, her regrets. A little like Quantum Leap except that it is all just her.

It got me thinking. What are my own regrets? Have I righted them? One of my regrets was a ring that a friend gave me in middle school. We both thought it was play jewelery and when I found it it was a garnet set in white gold, I told her but refused to give it back. I was 12 and stupid. You know what, I still have that ring and the thing I regretted was that I felt it ruined that friendship. I sought her out on facebook, admitted my folly. You know what? She didn't even remember the ring, BUT she was thrilled to hear from me!

Another regret I have is my manuscript drawer. I have an almost complete manuscript in there, unfinished. I also have a folder containing a slip of paper from the New Yorker saying that my work was just not quite right, but could I revise and resend? I initially took this as a rejection letter, but yet it still sits there untouched. It came when we were moving and I had a lot of other things going on. What excuse do I have now, 11 years later. Every day that passes, I regret not mailing it out.

I regret getting out of the habit of writing. This I can fix, I think.

Ah. I regret firing my daycare provider #2 the way that I did. It was cowardly and I handled the aftermath poorly. She made a bad decision and I had every right to fire her, but I should have done it in person and not by email and the resulting flame email back and forth is what killed our friendship. Though in retrospect, it was fading out anyway. I guess the point is that I regret not being a better person and handling it all with grace. I have since tried a lot harder to be honest and in person with people. Sometimes I miss her, but I know that it is a dead friendship and there is no need to waste time feeling sorry for myself. I also regret the time I lost feeling sorry for myself.

You know, that has been my problem for many years. Being honest and in person with people. Not that I lie, but I guess it is a lie to say everything is fine when it isn't. Or that I'd rather not talk about it when I would. It is a skill I learned when I was growing up, to make the best of the situation I was in. The one time I sought help, no one believed me anyway. Abused kids don't ask for help, I didn't fit the profile. So I regret not standing up for myself, advocating for my own welfare. Being a little selfish on that front.

But on the opposite end of that (or maybe as example of that), I regret not having a better relationship with my sister. I think I get all huffy and puffy about things that don't matter because of the things that do matter to me that I can't talk about. I have told her how I feel and I get the brush off or she cries (thus I can't talk about it). So we stick to the safe topics which end up with us bickering and me reverting to the know it all role. Perhaps it is based in resentment that she escaped the abuse I suffered, not that I wish it on her in any way, but because it allows her to view the situation in a rosier light and still allow the abuser such a huge role in her life. Why wouldn't she, she wasn't physically hurt.

You know though, regret is an anchor that weighs our heart down. I don't want to change my life or where I am in it, but by reflecting on these things I can make a point not to repeat these mistakes and actually conquer the beasts in the manuscript drawer! So you see this is a season of reflection for me, and soon the days will get longer and the sun will shine again.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Homeschooling Time

One of the biggest worries families seem to have approaching homeschooling is the time factor. The time it will take away from the day, the time invested, the time taken away from the primary teacher planning and grading and teaching.

Stop thinking schoolish thoughts for a minute. Institutional teachers plan curriculum and structure simply because of legal requirements and crowd management issues. Sure, homeschooling can look like that, but that doesn't mean that it has to. Homeschooling looks different through many eyes but also in many homes.

Here's what homeschooling looks like for us. Lil'Bug LOVES computer games. She needs help sometimes, so I put the computer for her in my bedroom and I fold laundry while she plays. Her favourite game involves pages that quite frankly look like school worksheets. I loathe busy work, but she enjoys them so she plays and learns. She whipped through the entire K-1 program in about a week and now she is repeating the program by her own choice. I have the next and a few others, but she wants to repeat. So I fold and they play.

Lil'Bug does farm chores and learns hands on about animals and their needs. She comes in and washes up. We talk about hygiene sometimes. Then she helps me with dishes and making our food. When we grocery shop we plan and talk about budget and I talk her through it as we walk the rows. I explain my choices and let her make some of her own. We talk about taxes and fees. She spots the produce manager and greets him asking, "What's fresh and in season today?" or, "What country is that watermelon from?" or, "Please could you help me reach the Brussel sprouts, they are my favourite!" He says I have her well trained and I respond that it is simply and wonderfully her.

We watch movies together. We sing together. We dance while cleaning up. We count things for fun. She likes doing workbooks in the long car rides to and from town. We play with friends. She goes to art and music classes once a week. Sunday school at church. We talk about the lessons. We practice. We pray.

The girls have free access to art supplies, some of the mediums are quality some are crayola. Lil'Bug loves painting with gouche and she also loves attending an art class in town.

When the weather warms up we will spend time in the garden, planting and tending. Lil'Bug has always helped with these tasks. Blueberry does too, as much as a baby can! They both help harvest and eat. Washing vegetables and fruits are fun!

I don't worry about teaching my then 4 now 5 year old to read. I read to her. We look at signs. We talk about words and letters. Some classical schooling methods don't worry about reading and fine math skills until 8-9 years old. If I change my mind about unschooling, I can always revert to Charlotte Mason or Waldorf. LOL. That's a little bit of unschooling humor there. We read a lot. Because we read a lot, Lil'Bug has learned to read early. She hid this from us though, she some how got the idea in her head that she would have to read to herself when she learned and would lose bedtime reading with us. Silly, but, to her, a real concern. She's over that now.

Life is learning. I used to catalog our day and match the activities to schoolish concepts, but I don't do that anymore. It can be helpful for someone who is new to homeschooling, or for filling out the legal forms required by our state. The problem is when school think invades your learning and there is no other way. The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom that we experience, not additional restraint.

Our days are free to explore. If I have more work to do one day, I do it. If we spend all day watching NG videos on penguins, we do it even if laundry piles up. If we burn dinner, we eat out or make a snack plate or eat leftovers. It's all fine. To an outsider it may look like we have no structure, but that is an illusion. We do have a pattern to our day, our week, our months. All humans do naturally as dictated by our sleep wake and season cycles. When we are at home, we move through our days naturally, sleeping when we are tired (ok, not me but the kids do) and eating when hungry. We go to town once or twice a week. We visit the Amish farm down the road once every other week. There is pattern, but it is not dictated by scheduled bathroom breaks or bells that ring and tell us we have to stop doing math. Sometimes the day gets away from us, but we just become skilled at bending time. We make time for things that matter to us, make time for things that need to be done too.

So I spent an hour scanning through pictures to find good ones to illustrate what our homeschool looks like. Then it dawned on me! That's what this entire blog is. Our life. Just scroll through the past 2 years and that's it. Life.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Facing my Fears: Facebook

Facebook. For goodness sake, I blog, so I already put it all out there. Why on earth am I so uncomfortable with Facebook? Really its just an organized way to stay in touch with the local mamas, right?

Then I got my first friend request from someone I don't really know. She's a nice person, a friend of my sister's, but I don't think I've ever had a conversation with her. Not even once. Why would she friend request me? So I started poking around. Some of these folks have 300+ "friends". Really? I mean, really? So my thought is perhaps it is like collecting Pokemon, gotta catch 'em all. Right?

To test this theory I name searched an old classmate who was very popular and valued just that. My conjecture would be that she'd have a lot of friends. Yup. 500+ Wow, I mean, just wow.

But people use FB for different things. It is a social media. Some people add people that they work with, that they went to school with, family, and the list can grow really big pretty quickly.

So I decided that I will accept invitations from people I actually know. You know, friends. That may limit my list to like 20 people but I am very ok with that. You know? The huge list of people doesn't seem to change the personal nature of their twitter like updates. But then I started thinking, it is different than blogging in that you SEE who you are sharing with, unlike blogging which is an open book.

So then, I started poking around my old classmate's list. I didn't attend the reunions for either of my old high schools, but people certainly look just as I imagined they would. Pictures can say a lot about what they value and personality too.  So then I was contemplating the value for me in connecting with old classmates. I'm not really all that different, just grown up.

But that's the thing. I am different. Not in personalty or likes, but in circumstances. When they knew me I was a scared little kid in an abusive home, bullied at school, and not a lot of hope. Then I moved to Iowa. Things didn't change much until I finally moved out and moved on. It takes a lot to extract oneself from the claws of the abusive person. But I did it. It was not painless, but it was necessary for the health of me and my family (though they still reach out and dish the hurt, ugh).

So that said, would connecting with any of those strangers really benefit me? Do I have time for that? I'm not really one for reminiscing over the glory days since they were pretty awful for me. I have to say I much prefer my life now. Another thing, I could not have imagined myself here, as I was then. What good does spending so much time connecting with old friends really do? Does it just keep us mired in the past instead of relishing the present and working for the future? Like Lot's wife, does looking back turn me into a pillar of salt (presumably from tears?)?

Then there is the issue of truth. Even the local mamas I know don't post a complete picture about themselves on FB or even their own blogs. So who are we really connecting with online? I see my use of FB as a local network and communication tool rather than some yearbook/online dating hybrid.

But by participating in Facebook I have put my picture and real name reachable. I think that's the heart of what bothers me. The anonymity of blogspot and my MP profile feels slightly protective, a mask that I take off when I choose, but that buffers my family, my children, our real lives- the ones we actually live now, from the world a little bit.

And then after all the hee hawing over what to do, I did it. And in doing so reconnected with three of my best friends from Illinois, friends that I had not seen or spoken to in 16 years.  That's half my life ago! For me it was a rewriting of the past, not fictional, but taking a fictional version and rooting out the truth. Replacing hurt and heartache caused by lies with simple truth. I needed that. I needed it more than I imagined I ever would. It was like taking a wound and finally allowing it to heal. I needed to remember that friendship to complete the picture of my past with something other than the abuser's version. Sounds sappy I know.

I still limit my friends list though. Call me cautious.

Just a Day

I knew going into this adventure that things would be different, that days would be hard in ways that would be new to me. Even knowing that, some days just hit hard.

One morning the dogs didn't come when called. I had to load up the girls and drive around looking for them. It's harvest season and deer season and just not a good time to be MIA. I found them with a pack of dogs running down by the highway, covered in cow manure. So I loaded them up and brought them home. In loading up the girl pup, Lucy, I noticed that she was in heat.

There are options. She was not a year old yet and a small dog. The dogs they were running with were all pretty good size. One of them followed us home and stayed near Lucy's kennel all week. Nice fellow, I guess. Still, this is not what I intended to do with my week. We called the vet, as I needed time and a night to consider my options and stop being angry at myself for allowing her to run while I knew she was soon to have her first cycle. This is just the kind of situation I didn't expect, so it threw me a little.

We had her fixed and she recovered well. End of drama. She stays close to home now too. 

You know though, life is like that. You have to roll with the drama and just keep a level head. Our trip south was a lot of that. I've written before that I don't have much contact with my immediate family, and my aunt passing meant lots of sudden close quarters contact. I kept a level head. My car was wrecked on the way down, kept a level head. The insurance company did their red tape bull crap, I kept a level head (mostly, I did actually cry on the phone with Dearest in a moment of exhausted overwhelmed frustration), the thought of being stranded and without a vehicle 1000 miles from home was hard to wrap my mind around. One of my favourite beautiful awesome aunts and Lil'Bug fought almost constantly, but I kept my cool. Crazy awful relative said crazy mean hurtful things to me, I just centered myself and kept on with the day, because it really was a predictable thing to happen, though eventually it crossed a line and I took the girls on a museum day and then home to Iowa.

Once home I thought I would decompress and let myself grieve and instead I just went back to our everyday normal. My Aunt who passed meant a great deal to me and Christmas was hard, especially when I found giant Stam's chocolate Santas that I knew would make her laugh. Instead, I picked up a fiddle and signed up for lessons. One of the things I had talked to her about last summer was my regret of never learning to play and how much I admired her son, my awesome cousin, for picking it up. Then as I grieved I realized that the only thing holding me back as an adult from learning and stomping out that regret was me. I may never be very good but I don't care. I miss her, and the time I missed spending with her and her family, missed because of stupid family drama, lingers as hurt in my heart. I am very glad to have reconnected with my Cajun family and I am working hard to keep that fragile thread of a connection from breaking.

All in all, I just have to smile and keep on swimming. Every single day is a blessing. Standing outside tonight under a canopy of twinkling stars, half hearted melting snow crunching under my feet, I praised God for the gift of that moment and the peace I have found in my own heart.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Reverse Psychology is Stupid and Harmful

Reverse psychology is lying. Lying and manipulating. The term just makes me shudder, especially when used in reference to an act of parenting.

I will never use it on my kids. It's mean and it undermines trust. Actually it is mean BECAUSE it undermines trust.

We use it in play sometimes, like saying that Burek was caterpillar, but even then it backfires sometimes. It is just a tool. Some tools should not be used for some things, like making people do what you want them to.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Thoughts on Diversity in the Classroom

My Dearest and I were "discussing" the Playscape post a while back. He is totally on board with homeschooling but thinks perhaps our homeschooling group is not as "diverse" as we would experience in a public school classroom. This conversation was almost 2 years ago and has languished in my draft box.


Here's the thing. I don't think, because of the nature of geographic assignment that classrooms are all that diverse. I mean, I may encounter a Muslim kid, but when would I get to experience his culture/religion? Religion and religious influenced culture is taboo in public school, no? And a show and tell one time deal isn't really experiencing it. You may have a black kid or an Asian kid or a Latino kid, but really, if they go to your school they are likely the same socioeconomic class as you, watch the same cartoons, wear the same clothes. How diverse is that really? At that age it is all about fitting in and assimilating. Finding cultural identity and making it a signature doesn't come until later, typically.

The point I am trying to make is that if I were to send my kid to public school so she can meet people of "color" or those with different religions, perhaps a re-thinking of the way my family lives should be considered too (not instead). All the public schools but two I attended had middle and upper class white kids. If there were kids of other backgrounds they were not in the honors classes I was assigned to. Not really a diverse experience, actually a very deep rooting of class (monetary) segregation where the parents' accumulation of wealth=opportunity and privilege. If a poor kid managed to somehow make it into these classes, that poverty was guarded and hidden, lest the peer group were to find out. Social diversity needs should be met as a family and not in the context of a bunch of immature age peers who do not have the tools to deal with differences when and if they arise. Don't get me started on how the school let everyone else know who the free lunch kids were. It was humiliating at best.

I also think that diversity is so much more than ethnic food or cultural traditions. Age and economics are important too. Recently a group function we attend decided the once all inclusive class should be divided into age groups. 20-40's all together, 40-60's, and 60+'s. That frustrates me more than the similar age groupings they did for the kids. I have more in common with the 40+ folks than the individuals nearer my age. I really believe that we all benefit from learning with and from people of all ages. Our society separates us too much as it is, why continue to do it when we have a choice!? People learn differently when in a diverse age range group. Setting us with our age peers does not level the playing field, it only gives unfair advantage to some. Perhaps that is the intention.

Recently Lil'Bug was really unhappy in her art class so I suggested to the teacher that the later class, the more advanced one would be better for our schedule. She was reluctant because the kids are all older....but allowed a trial. After ONE class it was obvious that it was a better fit for Lil'Bug. Not skill level, but socially. She just feels more comfortable with kids in her own linguistic skill range and sometimes the little kids just frustrate her. She knows this. She communicates it very clearly, which is sort of a factor of the dynamic.

Thinking about it, that art class IS pretty diverse and so is our homeschool group. More diverse than any classroom I ever sat in. Anyway, those are just my thoughts today.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Freezer Meal Friday

Freezer meal Friday is a good thing for me for a couple reasons....a day out with mama's in the winter when park day is on hold for our normal homeschool crew, meals in the freezer for when farm life gets busy and frozen pizza would be the usual.

 One great thing about the group is really the space. Abby has a HUGE kitchen with lots of light and counter top and an even bigger playroom for the kiddos to run and play and imagine and make messes and.....and Abby just lets us all in to create 36 meals and chaos.

That's right. 36 meals. 6 for each family. Whew we do a LOT of cooking! We share with each other cooking and spicing techniques. I learned last time how to best mince a garlic clove (and work out some aggression to boot). We've shared recipes and heartbreak and ideas and joy. Check out the awesome apron Sarah R. has on while she rolls the Burek.....Abby made it!

A couple years ago I was in an interesting place. I spent some time last week reading early blog posts of mine. Our journey from urban pioneer to actually working the farm, our journey from one child to two, the journey of homeschooling......not everything was easy.  Finding our place, our calling was tough. Really coming to know my own heart was harder than I ever imagined. Through the grief and heartache of losing one friend, I found several new ones that form a community, share my values, and also challenge me to be a better person, to learn, and to continue my journey well equipped.

Sarah D. and her daughter are making calzones. We had extra eggs and so we brought them! Sarah and I were pregnant with our youngest girls at the same time, almost at the hospital at the same time. She checked out as I checked in.

Quite honestly, the answers to my heartfelt prayer during that difficult time. I prayed to find a friend or two that would value me, that I could confide in, that I could dream with, that I could be inspired by, and wouldn't mock me. Everyday I find new reasons to be thankful for the blessing that these ladies are in my life. Thank you God! Pictured below is Ebersole beef. I met Shanen last year at a cloth diaper group. I still have no idea why I went, I really didn't need a support group to diaper my baby, but I met Shanen! She's cattle rancher extrodinary, and her beef is amazing!

This time is good for my girls too. They get to play and to help if they want. They get to see healthy relationships that we work hard to grow and they model their own after our examples. I don't have a picture of her on here, but new to the Freezer Meal Friday is Diana. I met Diana in birthing class when I was pregnant with Blueberry. Years before we moved to the farm!

I wanted this post to just be a picture essay, but I got a little carried away. I am just so incredibly thankful.