Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn Air

Wow. It's been really gorgeous here lately. The air is fresh and crisp, but the sun still so warm and it makes me want to spend every moment outside enjoying the beauty of Fall.
We've been spending some of that outside time putting the garden to bed. I have never really done a great job at cleaning the gardens up before winter, but this year I am determined. We've been weeding and pruning and getting things all set so that in the Spring the planting can be done earlier and with less work. My crew has been tons of help.
First mate....Badger
Hen....awww...look at those l'il boots...

One of the boys favorite things to do is to gather eggs. It's so fun when the girls first start laying. We are getting about three eggs a day, but it should be about a dozen a day when they are fully developed. Hurray! This flock has been especially fun to raise. I don't know if it's because the boys are older or if the "work" part of tending to them just seems easier because we are more used to it. I find myself looking forward to going out and seeing them. Millie, my furry companion, willingly runs alongside me while I get feed and water.

Recently we've been having some trouble with a few of them flying over the eight foot fence....and at night if we are not quick enough to put them in the hen house we find them roosting in the trees.
Can you see the three hens in the apple tree? They are about 10 feet up. It seems cool and interesting, because well...who knew that a chicken could actually fly that well?....but then you realize how hard it is to get them down once they've hunkered down for the night and how unsafe from raccoons they'd be in the trees....and it just becomes kind of....annoying.....ha!
We've finished with the grape harvest this year and are totally cutting back the vines in anticipation of building a new trellis (pergola?) for them. They are much overgrown, but still the harvest has been so abundant that I've had a hard time feeling like I want to prune them. The grapes grow on second year growth if you prune them way back...then the following year there will be no fruit. must be today I started trimming away. It's actually sort of fun. Figuring out the entangled mass and where it's roots are. Finding all sorts of life in the vines. Spiders. Crazy big beetles with horns. Birds. Poison Ivy. Ok, so that last one isn't so fun. But so far, we've managed to avoid it. :)

See how established the vines are? The base of that vine is about four inches in diameter. I wonder how long these Concords have grown here. I wonder who used to gather them? Who planted them and pruned them each year until they were big enough to be trellised?

Tree Shadow Farm used to be an actual farm. A farm that stayed in the family for a long while. The great grandson of the original owner lives across the street from us now. He has fond memories of this place because his grandparents lived here and he spent lots of time in the house and yard and woods. He told me that his favorite memory was once when he stopped by after school, his grandma was in the garden and when he went up to her she started swatting at something with the rake. He said that he was totally surprised (and afraid!) to see a wolverine, right there in the garden. And he said, his grandma (in her 70's) fought it off with that rake and chased it until it took off into the woods.

I'm glad we don't have wolverines anymore. We have seen turkeys. And deer. And raccoons. And we have also seen this wild animal lurking about.....
Ha ha! Can you believe it? I found this picture when organizing some photos. Millie was the cutest puppy ever! Now, she's kind of just...a big furry ox! She still tries to climb into my lap though when I'm sitting on the floor, which I think is hilarious. She obviously doesn't realize how huge she is. I'm really glad we have her though and she is an amazingly smart and (mostly) obedient dog. And she makes these Autumn nights cozier, since she's mostly just a big furry foot warmer. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Promise of Growth

Today while the older boys were at Homeschool Co-op, the two littler boys and I planted bulbs. Tulip bulbs, and daffodils, and grape hyacinths (my favorite), and those beautiful, brave little crocuses that pop up on a sunny day even if there is still snow. We had lots of fun. Digging the holes was great fun. Hen was delighted to find worms and not at all afraid to pick them up. (all my other boys are) Owl was a great little helper, watering them all in place after covering them up with dirt for their long sleep.

We found tree roots while digging, since we were planting under our big, tall Maples. So we got to talk about roots and how they are the strength of the tree. We talked about bulbs and how they wait until Spring to start growing and how beautiful the new growth will be after a long Winter. It was great.

I just love how God designed bulbs to have everything they need to grow in that one little package and how they know to wait until the conditions are right before they start the process. Every time I plant one I am reminded of the beauty that comes in Spring. It is such a hopeful time to look forward too, even now as we enjoy the beauty of Change that Fall brings. God is good....and Steadfast. His creation tells us of Himself. I'm so glad of that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buttermilk Biscuits & Apple Delight

Well, several of you have asked for some recipes from me, so I'm finally sitting down to write a few more out for you. Oh...and by the way....for those of you who email me....I love the emails...really I do...but did you know you can leave a comment on the blog? and then if you did that, see, more people would be brave like you and leave a comment and then before long we'd have a whole conversation going. Wouldn't that be nice? Okay, gentle nudge over. :)

Buttermilk Biscuits

3 c. unbleached all purpose flour
3 t. aluminum free baking powder
1 1/2 t. salt
4 T. cold butter (please be nice to yourself and use organic)
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put flour, powder, and salt into a large bowl and whisk them together. (sifting is good too, but I don't have time for that usually) Cut cold butter into the flour until its smaller than pea sized. Pour in cold buttermilk and stir only until a floury, pudgey sort of dough is formed. Do not overmix. Dump out onto a floured surface and gently press flat with floured hands. The dough should be about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your biscuit, until golden brown. This recipe makes about 14 large biscuits.

Some hints to make your biscuits light and fluffy. . .

*always use cold butter
*do not put the biscuits in until the oven is preheated
*do not overmix
*use a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter...some people say you can use a glass, but if the edge is not sharp enough then it seals the edges of the dough when you are cutting it and that interferes with the rise

And about the flour....
Yes, I do use white flour for these. I only make them once in awhile, because of that. I have tried recipes for whole wheat biscuits so that I could use my freshly ground flour, but they just aren't as good. I have read of this online sourdough class that I am interested in taking. I bet you could make awesome whole wheat biscuits if you used sourdough!

Now, once you know how to make biscuits then you can make some Apple Delight!

To make Apple Delight....

Mix up a batch of buttermilk biscuits, but cut them smaller (from recipe above)
Peel, core and slice 4-5 apples (or pears! Pear delight is super too!)
Melt one stick of butter and then use a tiny amount of it to grease a 9x9 pan. Put a layer of peeled apples on bottom of pan. Sprinkle them with a small amount of brown sugar (or sucanat) and cinnamon. Then put a layer of biscuits, drizzle them with half the melted butter. Sprinkle with another bit of sugar and cinnamon. Place another layer of apples. Then another layer of biscuits. The other half of the butter. Then a wee bit more of sugar and cinnamon. You can put another layer of apples and nuts...or not.

Then bake at 425 for about 25-30 minutes...until the biscuits are cooked and it is all nice and brown and gooey. Carefully dump the pan onto a large tray. And voila! Apple Delight.

Yes, you can use honey or maple syrup instead of the sugar...just mix it in with the melted butter. And I know I didn't put a measurement for the sugar, but I really used only a little 1/3 of a cup for the whole thing. It was still sweet and delicious. So good in fact that I made it twice in the same week. Well, we do have a lot of apples to use just now.....

His First Book

My little Cricket. (okay so maybe he's not so little anymore...) Today, he read his very first book. No, not ever. He's been "reading" for over a year, but not on his own. He has always said he wanted to read, so I've sat with him for reading time while he patiently sounded out words. He's super good at sounding things out. In fact, he gets distracted because he loves all the different sounds. :) But today, for the first time ever, he read a book out loud to us (during lunch) on his own, because he wanted to, and he did really well!!! He didn't even stop to sound stuff out (which is a huge step in my opinion) he just plowed right through! Congratulations, my boy!
"Small Pig", by Arnold Lobel. Read by Cricket, most amazing of boys.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Something New

Last week we spent one day at a new Homeschool Co-op that started in our area. We were happy to be invited to join, and even happier to participate in the art, music, and gym classes. It is a relatively small group of families and run by people that we trust. Hurray! Only the older two boys are taking classes, which gives me some extra time with the littler boys. Hurray again! I had tons of cool ideas of how to spend that first day with Owl and Hen, but they had an even better idea. When I asked them what they wanted to do it was unanimous. Snuggle on the bed and tell stories. Um, ok! We had a great time just the three of us, and the older boys had a lot of fun too! :)

The art class is so awesome. It is not crafty at all. (phew) It is taught by a Chinese man, and he is teaching form and color and other important things. I believe children should be free to do as they like with art for the most part. But how cool is it for them to learn art "words" and ideas so that they know how to communicate with other artists? Here are the first two paintings the boys did.

Badger's study of fish
Cricket's study...of the same fish...isn't it cool how different they are?

When I asked the boys what their favorite part of classes were, they admitted eating lunch (they got to have a "packed" lunch with the other students) and gym were their favorites. :) I was a little surprised, because the boys love to draw and paint and I was excited for them about the art class. But then they told me all about the balloon popping game for gym time and it did sound really quite fun. It is great to see them becoming more independent every day. *sigh* Oh, how I love my boys!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Today it finally happened!!! We were eating breakfast (toast and tea), when we spotted our first tobacco hornworm had emerged from his sleep! Here he is....our hawk moth!!!
He is about three and one-half inches from head to wingtip. I'm guessing that his wings spread during flight would be about five inches, which matches what we read about their size.
We were all quite surprised at how camouflaged he was on his branch. His patterned wings are so hairy too! And in the picture below, can you see his antenna folded down near his eye? It's sort of hard to see but his antennae are little feathers!
We released him in our sunflower house, and he climbed right into the morning glories to hide out and wait for nightfall. I wish I could just sit and watch for him to take his first flight. We'll have to go check on him in the morning and see if he is still there. I am amazed at how beautiful and intricate he is and I can't help but think that our Creator is just amazing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Apples, Apples, and an Arrow

I rolled out of bed around 6am today. That's the usual time, on a good day. I want to wake before the boys to have a moment to myself to read and pray and to get settled in my spirit before the business of the boys starts. This morning I made a new apple creation, spurred into existence by my new apple peeler, corer, slicer. That contraption is really so very cool! I'm so glad I finally have one and I love love love it! Knowing that I could have the apples peeled, cored, and sliced in just a minute or two, it seemed like a good idea to make an Apple Delight for breakfast. So that's what I did. Apple Delight.
It was a pan of small homemade biscuits layered in two layers with apples, honey, pecans, and cinnamon. All baked to a golden brown. Yum.

We then proceeded to have a morning of apple pie making, because....well...the peeler, slicer, corer is just so fun! The boys love it! Did I mention that it leaves the apple, the ENTIRE apple in one big spiral? So cool!
Five cans of apple pie filling all ready for winter. Hurray~!

The afternoon was spent on chores for me, and playing outside for the boys. They are working on their archery skills. Badger has crafted this bow out of a willing branch. The arrows are a variety of material, from sticks to old Hosta stalks. Lovingly tied with ribbon. The ribbon they found in a drawer just happens to be the ribbon that was used in our wedding to tie off the aisles, 10 years ago. Who would've thought that someday it would be used by our boys to make arrows. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Catching Up

Yikes! So many little time! These are a few from the last week to catch you up! (sorry I've not more time, but until the harvesting and canning our done this is what I've got!)

Little Hen's cute green jeans.
The old fashioned rocking chair that we scored at a rummage sale. Hen loves to "rocka-rocka".
We went to visit family this weekend. We saw extended family and hung out with Grandma and Grandpa too, but the only picture I took was this garden spider. Go figure. She was a beauty though. About two inches across.
Making Apple-Pearsauce with Great Grandma's Seive....
The Sunflower House
The boys pretending the Sunflower House is a castle....

Hen recently started sitting in Little Owl's lap. Owl LOVES it! Brother Love.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


You can always count on me to try an experiment. Yep. Unless it involves eating something weird. Or hugging someone. And yes, I'm sorry I don't like hugging, but for goodness sake I can't help it. I do try.....and am getting better about it a little perhaps? Anyway.....

Experiments. I like experiments. I like trying new ideas out to see if they work. I like making do with what I have (for the most part) because it awakens this feeling of adventure within me. I like systems. I like trying to figure out how to make plans be more effective. Yep. I do.

Unfortunately for those around me ( poor husband) I like to think through experiments and what is effective and what isn't and how can I make it better? far too much. And often times, my ideas make more work for those around me. It's true. Sorry J. You are a trooper and I'm so glad you like most of my ideas. (unless it involves moving the furniture yet again...)

Anyway....I've been thinking about how I spend the day and how I can fit more in and do more things that I want to do and spend more time with my kids...yadda yadda yadda. Isn't that what most homeschooling moms think about from time to time? Ok...perhaps we think about it often. Well, I do. But you know me... I have a thinking problem.

Lately though, I've been realizing more and more two important things.....

Are you ready?

1. I don't have to finish everything and have a clean house and a cooked meal and bathed, well-mannered children by 6:00pm in order to consider my day a success.

I know. Most people already know this. And I thought I did too, but then I realized that I knew it, but I didn't really believe it. I didn't feel successful unless everything was done and everything all smooth and pretty. And it was slowly driving me mad. Ugh.

So yesterday I tried an experiment.....

I let myself work most of the day, while spending time with the boys. We picked apples, we read books, we played outside, we baked, we cooked, we snuggled, we cleaned the house, we walked the dog....and other things too. But then at 4pm, even though there was a mountain of laundry to be folded and floors to be vaccuumed still...I stopped. Yep. Just stopped. I put in a show (Doc Martin. Do you know it? It's so funny!) I sat down and did some knitting. It was great! I did this for about an hour and when J came home I was refreshed! Whoa!

I did this again today and I do believe it's my new thing. I'm going to work until a certain time and then I'm going to take a break. I'm going to allow myself some time for work and some time for play and some time for rest each day. It feels great....and I'm sure it's sound advice because it's just what Marmee would do.

and .....

2. The success of my day should be measured by what I have cultivated in the hearts of my children.

Do I need to say more about this? I dunno. I guess, for me, I need to be more aware of my interactions with the boys and make sure that my thoughts and actions toward them are well seasoned with Grace. I want them to see God's grace in me.

I fall pretty short of this sometimes. But I know that God is faithful in helping me. I know that He is kind and patient and always willing to help me try again.

And today Badger prayed at the dinner table thanking God for the new Lego magazine. And I'm so glad about that. It might sound silly, but I'm glad that my boy is learning that God cares about our little things too!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


More of Badger's Creations for you to enjoy.....

You might remember Wall-E from a week ago, but now he has a friend. Isn't she sweet? Her arms actually move. Cool.
Badger has also been creating paper costumes. The ring is made from paper and foil from a candy wrapper. The boy is frugal!
Badger created some "movie star" glasses...."you wear those during a movie, Mama"...hee hee....
And this one....this one is a disguise. He was hoping it looked like Hercule Poirot, detective. I think it's pretty good, don't you?

Monday, September 6, 2010


Ah, sweet, sweet autumnal air. How I've missed you and how very glad I am that you have once again returned. I love September. So very much. (October and November too.) Autumn is definitely my favorite season and J's too. It's so crisp and feels like Change is in the air, you know?

Anyway, I apologize for not blogging more, but not only does Fall call me outdoors to linger and also is harvest time! So we've been very busy digging potatoes and picking pears and grapes. I made the first batch of grape juice just today and finished putting up the rest of the tomatoes for the year. It's going to be a busy few weeks as we also get started with the cider making. The apples are not so good this year, but we hope to be able to still use them for cider.

Fall also means eggs! The hens are just old enough to start laying and I'm soooo glad! Cricket found the first egg and he was so proud. It must have been an Auracana egg, because of the color....a lovely grey-green.
We've also been growing and harvesting food for the chickens. (Badger's idea) I think sunflower seeds are so lovely when they grew. They are all lined up just perfectly and to me it shows the wonderful design of our Creator.
Fall also inspires me to knit. I finished a hat that I was making for myself, but as usual it looks much better on J. Ha ha.
The man just looks good in anything. *sigh* Maybe it's his smile.

Anyway...I'm off to start bedtimes with the little crew. Then I've got a date with that scruffily dog of ours. Fall also means burs. Ugh. Anyone wanna give the girl a haircut?