Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This past weekend we harvested more things growing on this beautiful land we've been given.
Black-eyed Susans growing near the house....
We picked pears. So many pears this year! Hurray! These few bags were barely a third of what was on the tree! I'm hoping to can them sliced, and also make pear sauce and pear butter. Pear butter on fresh biscuits. Yum!
We brought the onions in now that they are finished curing and the boys helped clean them up for storage.
I was reminded while watching them about a valuable lesson an older lady friend of mine once taught me. She told me that we are like onions. We have lots of layers. And that we should never compare ourselves and our struggles and daily learnings to others and what they are going through, because it is very likely we are not on the same layer. We are not all at the same layer in our learning and growing. But take heart, the Lord is gentle and good and he peels us away only as we are willing and most importantly He sustains us through it! I am glad to be in His gentle hand and I pray that I am always willing to go to the next layer so that I can love and serve others in a deeper more useful way. That is my prayer for you too, friends. :)

off to spend some time with my J....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two Summer Salads

It's been so hot here lately...it makes me think of "the Dog Days of Summer"!
One thing that makes this hot weather easier on us all is having some cool refreshing things to eat. As tomatoes and cucumbers are plentiful for us right now, I've come up with two salads that we make quite often to add to our meals. Thought I'd share them with you....

Summer Tomato Salad
You'll need:
About a pint and a half of ripe cherry tomatoes.
1/4 of a medium size red onion
about 4 oz. of feta cheese
1/4 c. kalamata olives
a handful of fresh basil
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash the tomatoes and dry them well. (just trust me and make sure they are dry, otherwise you'll be sad.) Quarter the larger ones and cut the smallish ones in half. Put them in a medium sized bowl and add sliced olives, crumbled feta, chopped basil and enough oil to just drizzle over the top. Pepper to taste. Mix gently and let the flavors mingle a bit before serving.

We've enjoyed this salad as a side dish to sweet corn, as a topping on a sandwich, and over a bed of lettuce. I think it'd also be good on some crusty bread put under the broiler for a minute. :)

Mom's Cucumber Salad
You'll need:
4 medium sized cucumbers
2 T. salt
1/4 of a medium sized onion
1/8 c. soy sauce, or liquid Amino Acids
1/8 c. rapadura or honey
1/8 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
a drizzle of Sesame Oil
ground pepper to taste

Wash, peel, and thinly slice the cucumbers and onion. Put them in a colander over a bowl. Generously salt them using your hands to mix it really well. Don't worry about the amount of salt, it will be rinsed off...this step is for keeping the cucumbers crisp. Let that sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse well and let as much of the water drain off as you can. (you can even gently squeeze the moisture out) Place into a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl mix the rest of the ingredients together with a whisk. Pour them over the cucumbers and let the flavors mingle. Enjoy!

We love the cucumber salad and make a double batch to keep in the fridge for the week. The flavor gets better as it sits. It's great on sandwiches too!

I hope I've inspired you to try some Summer Salads during this busy time of the year, when everything fresh is plentiful.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

About School

It's that time of year again. That crisp, fresh, Autumn air is sneaking in our windows at night and leaving us all feeling that Apple Season is just around the corner. And it is!

It's also that time of year, when everyone, everywhere, regardless of how little or how much they know us, feel compelled to ask my children what grade they will be in and if they are excited for school to start. Ha! I find it so very weird that people (a generalization, i know) can't find anything else more interesting to ask my very interesting kids about. And yet....I found myself asking a child of a friend those very questions! It's so ingrained in our culture isn't it?

Anyway...I'm almost always super impressed with how my boys answer those kinds of questions. I was happy with how well the boys did at their physicals yesterday, interacting with their doctor while I did my best to sit back and let them speak for themselves. (harder than it should be perhaps? but I think I did alright) I was so glad that the doctor was respectful and kind about our educational choices and she encouraged the boys to keep up the good work. (whatever that means!)

And today as I was pondering all kinds of things I'd like to write to you all about......I decided to fill you in on what our learning at home will perhaps look like this Fall. (I'll post the cucumber recipe tomorrow debbie, I promise!)

Our days of learning look a little like this. We wake up and make a lovely breakfast, drink tea, and discuss what we'd each like to do "today" in a world that allows any thing you want at all! And then we talk about what our little family needs to accomplish that day....like any errands, or laundry, or walking the dog, etc. And then we decide together what the day will look like. We have a loosey-goosey schedule. If we are home for the day and it's not a baking day then we have table learning activities in the morning. Mostly math, handwriting, and art projects. I try to do a one on one lesson with Cricket for reading at this time too. Badger does most of his things independently, his choice, and I supplement everything he does with lots of reading. He is constantly asking for books about this or that and reads throughout the day. We do history/bible and science kind of randomly for now. Science is mostly outside nature study and baking/cooking, with an occasional experiment or taking out the microscope.

During lunch I read aloud to them from the novel we are reading. Don't ask me how I pick these out. I just find things. Ha.

And in the afternoons we play. And build. And play. And talk. And drink more tea. And bake. And play. And the whole time we are learning and growing. It's quite nice. On good days, I even have time to put the laundry away and tend to other chores that are always waiting for me. But they do wait, and slowly I believe I am learning how to do a better job of balancing my job as housekeeper and my role as mother/teacher.

The only thing I'm not sure about for now.....as we start this year....is how to keep little Hen from needing me every single second of his day. He's such a crazy little monkey. Today, I realized he had snuck off while I was knitting. It was so quiet, I knew it couldn't be good. This is how I found him. Surrounded by markers with all the caps off. A big smile on his face.
A little budding artist.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Picnic

On Sunday evening we went to a picnic for Brother Dan's birthday! It was great to see the cousins again. And I was glad to see my brother Dan and his wife, Debbie. I love them more each time I see them! We ate while the kids romped and at the end of it all, before we said the inevitable "Good-byes" we took these few pictures of the kids.

Aren't they a handsome bunch of kids? They enjoy each others company so very much and it makes my heart glad. The cousins are back home (to another state) for another long while. We will miss you guys! And look forward to seeing you again, hopefully soon!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Saturday at Home

This past week we spent mending from a cold. It was a quiet week. By Friday we were feeling much better but the mancubs still seemed tired. This is how they spent part of Saturday afternoon. Watching Wallace & Grommit.
Saturday was a quiet day too. But we were able to enjoy some time outside and just be together. We are such homebodies. :) But J and I love being home with the boys, spending time outside in the garden, or playing soccer, digging in the sandbox, or climbing trees. We also got some things done that really needed some attention. J put the nestboxes in for the laying hens. Soon! Soon! they will be laying eggs! I can't wait!
This year we purchased some Auracanas. They are a breed of chicken that lay colored eggs. The shell can be pink or green or blue. They are quite beautiful, and the birds themselves are interesting, coming in all colors and even different shapes. The one above, is one of our Auracana roosters. His name is Blacktail, and I think he is a real beauty.

These birds are meat birds. A few from our second batch. We'll only keep them for another few days and then they'll go to our friends to finish growing on their land. Aren't they getting big?

This time of year is so interesting to me. I love harvesting things from the garden. Saturday morning we harvested some of our sweet corn. It was too pathetic to take a picture of, the ears being quite small and some even misshapen. I consoled myself by taking a picture of this instead.
Grandpa Ott's morning glory
The pears seem to being doing well this year, and seem to be ripening earlier than usual. I am thinking about trying to "juice" some in our cider press. I love having a pear tree, but don't really have many ideas for using them. I'm afraid that the chickens get more of them than we do. Any ideas of what to use them for?

I know I'm strange, but I realized as I was taking a picture of this, that every year I take a picture of the tomatoes that I grow. How weird is that? I guess I just think they are really beautiful. Love apples.
I was able to get three quarts of tomato sauce for the freezer and use some to make eggplant parmesan. I have dreams of growing enough tomatoes to freeze for use throughout the year. Bushels and bushels of them. Enough to make homemade salsa, and pizza sauce and marinara for the whole year! Ha ha! Perhaps when the boys are older....or maybe not. Maybe that's what the farmer's market is for. What a land of plenty we live in.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Paper Love

I once read another mama's blog about putting together a "when the mama's sick" box, and I thought it was a great idea. It was something about putting things in the box that would make your day run smoother when you are sick....like a few activity books or small new toys or a movie and some herbal tea and things for the mama too. It sounded cute. ha.

Today when I woke up feeling like my nose had turned into a faucet overnight....I at first thought I wish I had a magic box that would make my day go smoothly! (or perhaps a friend to help out! but alas, all my willing friends have little ones themselves....) But after a few hours with my boys I remembered that my kids are incredibly imaginative. And they can keep themselves busy with artful or useful things for hours if I only let them. :) And as my nose kept me occupied all the morn, this is what the boys did.

Badger made this lovable little guy out of the empty mineral water box and a few empty cans.
Badger also made a digger for Owl, which he painted.
That's his "concentrating" face. Isn't he so stinkin' cute!
This unfinished work will be a castle with functional drawbridge.
And here is a rather sturdy cardboard sword strengthened with popsicle sticks.
If little Hen had been able to join in the fun, I think I would've actually had a pretty easy day. But of course he kept me busy. His favorite things lately involve naming birds at the feeder. He says "chi....chi" when he sees a chickadee. :) And of course pulling things off the counter and throwing various items in the garbage. Oi. I'm just thankful he hasn't discovered that the toilet flushes yet. ;)

Signing off for now...so I can rest my weary head.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In the tomatoes....

Sometimes you don't have to go far to find something truly amazing. Look what we found today in our very own backyard.

A tobacco hornworm. Isn't he a beauty? Now before you get all freaked out and stop reading...let me tell you that this gorgeous fellow will soon transform into something even more amazing....a hummingbird moth! Have you ever seen one of those? They are really big and kinda furry and they can be found at evening time drinking nectar from flowers. Sometimes they are called hawk moths.
(underside view)
Now, I'll admit that I was a little freaked out to see this in my garden, because it had eaten two of my very large tomato plants. Grrr. It had eaten most of the leaves and even had taken giant chunks out of several large green tomatoes. I thought at first that the deer had somehow gotten into the fence. But upon closer look I found these.

Three of them. That big one is about four inches long.
Anyway...we've decided to keep them. No, really. Because wouldn't it be cool to see them turn into moths?
We're feeding them, and have put them into an aquarium filled with several inches of dirt, because when they're ready they'll fall to the ground and bury themselves while they pupate. Then one to three weeks later they should turn into a moth (i read they have a 5 inch wingspan!) And we'll release them. I hope it works. At any rate it's better than squishing them. Or feeding them to the chickens. Which one of my boys may have wanted to do. Sensitive isn't he?
And as a treat for making it this far in a post all about a giant squishy looking worm.....
Take a peak at these sunflowers that grew naturally under the bird feeders. I love watching things grow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sick days

Here's what we've been up to lately....

playing chess
drinking cold care tea
painting with watercolors....oh look at his dear little frowsy head.
and drawing. Lots of drawing.

We're a little under the weather here. And today it rained and rained and rained and then rained some more. So it definitely was an indoor quiet sort of day. And besides the myriads of snot and coughing it was actually quite nice. I love these boys. They are such good company and I know I am blessed to be in such a comfortable house, home here with them. One more thing to be rememberful about. God is good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Badger's Paper Projects

Badger, our eldest boy, is a uniquely introverted person. Whenever he needs some "down time" I can expect him to be doing one of two things....reading....or making something. He's been doing some really neat things with paper lately and I thought you might like to take a peek.

These first few are from a Star Wars lift the flap book that he is making. (all of these are totally his idea and independent work)

see the little ewok tree house?

He's also been exploring the world of Pop-ups. This one may be my favorite....
It's a mummy. And it was taped shut to the wall in the dining room. And in the other corner of the room was another piece of paper folded closed that had a secret message that helped you find the mummy. It was written in hieroglyphs which is also one of his hobbies. (I couldn't find that paper to photograph it, sorry...)

scary scene with bat
treasure chest that opens with the card
And a field of sunflowers. Apparently there is a message on this one too...see the hieroglyphs hiding between the stems....free points to whoever can figure it out. I'd have to go grab the book and look them up, because even though I faithfully decipher most of his codes I can't remember them to save my life. It's rough having a seven year old that is smarter than you. :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fun Family Times

J's brother and his family are in town for a visit! They spent the day with us yesterday and it was so great! We had a nice brunch together, followed by a walk to the park.
I can't decide which I like better....seeing the brothers together....or watching all the cousins play....
And as an added bonus the cousins just happen to be girls. Look. A dress, a pink shirt, and those darling bare feet. But don't get me wrong, they might actually be more busy and energetic than my boys. (maybe) :)
We decided to have them stay for even more fun, so we put up the tent and started a fire.
Yeah, I know this picture may not be exciting to you, but look at those brothers. :)
Getting ready for the fire.

There were smores and stories, followed by the two uncles and the 5 children sleeping outside in the tent. They had so much fun! And don't worry, the aunts "rescued" them from the storms this morning, bringing them indoors for breakfast just before the rain began. It was such a refreshing storm that blew in. The kids continued playing for the rest of the morning, just enjoying each others company. Hurray!

More fun times to come soon hopefully. (And if you want to see more pictures of our adventures you can check out my sister in law's blog. her pictures are great!)