Friday, August 29, 2014


We had some friends over on Wednesday, and it took Clothilde a little getting used to not being the littlest one for a few hours.  It made me realize that it is slightly unhealthy to be the littlest of several children - everything always revolves around her.

Today is our last weekday of our summer vacation.  I'm feeling a little wistful, but I think the children will be glad to get back to homeschooling.  They have had an extremely boring summer this year, and mostly spent it pining for "screeeeeen tiiiime" (you have to whine when you say it) at my parents' house next door.  I was hoping they would have spent it exploring outside and doing creative projects, but no.  Screens are just so addictive.  I know, because I'm sitting behind one right now.

I've been working my way through The Teenage Liberation Handbook, which is written for teenagers interested in unschooling.  It's good. I like it.  I wish I'd had it when I was in high school - especially my dismal senior year when I had to drop Latin III so I could take stupid Life Management Skills.  Dumbest class ever.  Every day we had to watch movies about abstinence only, beer is a gateway drug, and if you have relationships before you're 30, your boyfriend will probably murder you (that was actually a movie plot).

The TLH is beyond Mirin's reading level at this point, but I thought he would really enjoy it if he could read it.  I thought the whole unschooling thing would be just for him.  But when I asked him about it,  he said he prefers to be "spoon-fed things," which worries me a little!

We definitely don't unschool, as I have always been interested in Waldorf education, which seems very different.  It can be strict and scheduled, especially in the Christopherous curriculums I bought after Clothilde was born because I knew my brain wouldn't work at all with a small baby.  This past summer I read more of Steiner's actual lectures/writing about education, and I think he would have been all for unschooling.  I think his ideas were taken and developed by other people and have gradually changed with pressure from achievement-oriented parents.

Last year I had a lot of anxiety about what we were doing all the time.  That was because the year before our homeschool evaluation did not go very well at all.  It was just me and all three children, and I could barely talk to the teacher or even remember what we had done because Clothilde was ravaging the classroom we were in, which was full of little baskets of various school supplies at baby height.  I had to keep pulling her out of the disgusting trash can.  It was awful, and the teacher asked us pointedly if I thought we had done very much.  I pulled Clothilde out of the trash can again and answered that we had done as much as we could! 

This past year I had Ethan come along, and we left the crazy toddler behind with grandparents.  It went so much better, especially because I had written an very detailed plan of what we were theoretically accomplishing every day.  Of course it didn't all happen, but that's the same with regular school.  The teacher loved it and didn't give us any problems at all.  This year I also made a very detailed plan, but I thought we would just work on it how it suits us.  The Norse myths, Zoology and all the first grade stories I've been really looking forward to.  There's always so much to do, but I've found that less is really more in many ways when it comes to education.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Corn Harvest

 The corn stalks are golden and dried, and so we have been harvesting the ears of corn that are also golden and dried and hang upside down on the stalk.  They turned out beautifully for the most part.  Some that were planted too close to the pumpkins and got strangled out didn't pollinate very well, but most of them have decent ears.  Lots of seeds for next year, and to share with other growers to keep this rare corn alive!

We are not going to eat any this year, because I'd like to save every precious kernel - but I am saving the husks to wrap tamales in.  Some day (next year?) I will make tamales with our own corn.

Otherwise the garden is wrapping up for the season.  The peppers and eggplants still have a few fruits.  I planted the new fall starts of cucumbers, squash, and beans.  This weekend I am hoping to get the fall tomatoes and melons in.  We'll see what happens.  This is the first year I'm trying a second fall planting of summer vegetables.  They might get frozen out in a few months, but there's always the chance they will be wonderfully productive before then.  Often we have disappointing Christmases where we still have the AC on and it's in the mid-eighties outside.  I think I will start my tomatoes for next year then, too.  I always try them in January when there's the two weeks of freezing weather and I have to nurse the little seedlings through.

I'm trying to refine my gardening skills this year.  Just this morning I started a second wave of the winter vegetables - kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, etc.  The first seedlings from two weeks ago are doing what they usually do - lingering with the first leaves and looking unhappy in the heat.  I've decided to start seeds every two weeks this fall to find out when the best time is.  I've tried reading the IFAS info sheets and talking to other gardeners about it, but I always get different answers and it never seems to work out some how.  This year will be different!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lazy Weekend

We didn't get anything done this past weekend.  The remaining chickens are still being fed and moved around, nothing in the lower room was fixed up, the children's new loft bed was not worked on, the winter garden beds were not built.  The only thing I can claim I accomplished were a couple of loads of laundry, but that's just out of bare necessity. 

We had such big plans for this past weekend, but we were just too tired to do anything except lie around on the couch and groan about how tired we were.  When we went out to do the chores, it was the bare minimum, except for a little of having to chase stupid Twilight Sparkle.  

Clothilde is better now, but even she was slow.  Sometimes you just need a break like that. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sounds of the Countryside

You would think that the countryside would be quiet and peaceful - full of the beautiful sounds of nature - a bird singing, the wind moving quietly through the pine branches, a trilling cicada, perhaps the unhappy moo of a far-off cow separated from her herd. 

But I'm afraid that pastoral noise has become quite modern in our parts.  While the subtle natural sounds still abound, they are often drowned out by the sounds of paranoid neighbors who hate the government shooting their illegal automatic weapons at what you hope is a decent backstop, or the incessant roar of a very loud diesel engine in the direction of a neighbor who must mow his tiny lawn for hours with an elaborate tractor set-up.  Lately there's been an even worse noise - something we have dubbed "Ear Tourniquet."

It's hard to say exactly what Ear Tourniquet is, because it mostly comes across as incredibly loud twangings of electric guitars, vague vocals screeching incomprehensibly into a microphone, and the world's lamest drum solos.  Occasionally there will be rifts from a recognizable rock song, which makes it even worse.  Sometimes it sounds like the country version of This is Spinal Tap, sometimes like a pumped up garage band.  Today it sounded like someone with palsy and no sense of rhythm practicing their drum set to rock music so loud everyone for miles around could hear how bad they were at it.  I'm sure they think they're super awesome.

The first time Ear Tourniquet ruined our weekend workday, they played for hours.  We were wishing for a major power outage when suddenly the music stopped and was replaced by bursts of gunshots and the sound of dirt bikes driving away.  We listened intently, hoping that the paranoid second-amendment neighbors had decided rock was too socialist and liberal or something and had mobbed them and shot their speakers out, escaping back into the planted pines on their ATV's afterwards.

But no.  They were back the next weekend, as loud and shamelessly awful as ever.  Ahhh....the sounds of the countryside.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


It's been horribly hot the past few days.  Mid-nineties and steam-bath humidity.  No fun.  But our weather karma seems to have shifted a little, as all week we have been heading home just as the huge black booming clouds are descending and showering the garden and pastures with cooling and much-needed rain (and dramatic lightening).  I actually got to see a lightening strike happen just down the road while we were driving home one day.  It was incredible.

Clothilde was sick and feverish today, which does not bode well for us.  Resting is almost impossible between the toddler and the farm.  She actually napped today for a short time, so it must be fairly severe.  Only the worst ones slow her down.  I am hoping it is roseola or something we adults have already dealt with.  None of my children have ever gotten roseola, although we have been exposed to it quite a lot.  I think it must be the passive immunity they get from breastmilk, because I had it as a small child.  My fingers are still crossed, however.

Despite the heat advisory warnings, I took the girls to the park yesterday morning for lack of something better to do.  We are immune to the heat by now.  I have been so tired (probably getting sick) and I was hoping it would wear Clothilde out enough that she would sleep a tiny bit before it was chore time.  We had the park entirely to ourselves, and it was wonderful.  All the little kiddie equipment was still in the shade, and I managed to bring cool water and strawberries.  It was the first time ever that we have been the only family at the park.  Clothilde was delighted that she could push the empty merry-go-round as slowly as she has always wanted to.

Mirin stayed home and bottled his lacto-fermented sodas he has been really into making with my mom.  When we got home, he and my mother were really pushy about having all of us try the sodas, but I was feeling too hot and dehydrated.  Ethan was home by then, so we went next door and missed the dramatic gastrointestinal explosion the wild plum soda apparently triggered in both children.  My mom had to open all the windows and air the whole house out.  It has been re-named "Bum Soda" instead of Plum Soda, and "Johnny-jump-up-and-run-to-the-bathroom."  It's also possible they are just getting whatever illness Clothilde has, as she had a similar thing happen earlier in the week.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Finally Behind Bars

For whatever reason, Twilight Sparkle has been horrible lately.  One reason is that she is a really bad size - small enough to still slide under the gate in seconds, but big enough to jump onto the milking stand and eat the mamas' rations while they are being milked.  She has always slipped under the gate to terrorize the milking paddock while I am busy milking, but usually she limited herself to nibbling the peanut hay or finishing off Matilda's leftovers.  Occasionally she would come over and try to nurse on whoever was being milked and I would snap an udder rag in her direction and shoo her away.

But now she has been entirely underfoot.  She crowds the milking stand and makes the mama goats kick, often ruining the milk.  She gobbles up their expensive barley while a new goat is navigating her way in to the milking stand, and doesn't stop.  She stands on her hind feet and gobbles from the other side and it's very hard to get rid of her.  I was finding myself chasing her and shouting.

Then I realized what needed to happen.  We needed the cage.  Why chase the thing around that is faster and has infinitely more energy than I do, when I can put it in a cage?  It's made this week such a relief from torment.  She gets to roam around and nibble Matilda's leavings, but as soon as she goes for the goat milking stand, she gets picked up and put in the cage until I'm finished milking (only about 15 minutes).  Then she is let out and we try to chase her out with the other goats.

 Sometimes this isn't possible, and the first part of this week we had to keep her separated with Nougat and Stripey.  Most little goats her age would have been delighted to be in with their mother, but Nougat is not that kind of mother.  As we were leaving, the fact that she had been left behind because of her inability to go through the gate (instead of going to the pasture with everyone else) was sinking in for Twilight Sparkle, and she was bleating miserably next to Nougat, who gave her a good shove with her horns.  She is that kind of a mother.

Because she is a goat, she never learns from this, so it is becoming routine to put Firefly back out with the other goats, put new barley in the milking stand, walk to the gate, walk back and pick up Twilight Sparkle and put her in the cage, and continue on - un-pestered this time. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Garden Notes: Getting Ready

No, this isn't the watermelon harvest!  These are the wild watermelons we call "Notermelons" because they are bland and taste like cucumber (not watermelon).  All the animals (pigs, chickens, cows, goats) like to eat them.  Some are growing in the pastures, but the ones in the garden are getting eaten by something (rabbit?).  Last year they were all eaten before we could pick them and we didn't have any for the winter.  I picked a bunch and we're storing them in the barn this year.

A few things are still going in the garden.  The zinnias are all blooming like mad.

The corn is tall and beginning to turn golden and dry.  I can't wait to open the dried ears up to see if we got enough seeds to plant for next year (and maybe to share!!).

(Can you spot the grasshopper?)

 I harvested some marigold and Tithonia seed heads, and the old dried pods of the cow peas, which I just didn't get around to picking this year.  We didn't have many this year and there were just so many other things to attend to.  Rose helped me shuck them at home, and we spread them out on a dish to fully dry.

 Peppers are a major vegetable for us these days.  They are still doing very well.  I hope they will continue to fruit until the frost, as they did last year.  We have discovered that the Scotch bonnet peppers we grew are just not very spicy.  I'm glad, because it makes them more edible, but Ethan was a little disappointed.  I blame the great compost beds.  It was too rich for them.

Other than the zinnias and cosmos, there's not much color in the garden except for the beautiful Mayo Indian amaranth stalks.  I planted this about five years ago, and it continues to re-seed itself every year.  They are a wonderful trap crop for all kinds of pests - stinkbugs, army worms, aphids.  I am thinking I might plant a bunch of it around the edges of the garden next year.

 In the midst of the still-hanging-on, I ripped out some of the old dying stuff.  The withering squash went, and all the melon vines.  Stinkbugs and army worms scattered in dismay.  I think I spotted a few squash bugs, too, which I killed.


The skeletons of the paste tomatoes came out, along with all the weeds that had taken over the tomatillo beds.  The first week of September I will be planting my already big and vigorous fall plantings of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and beans.

And just a short way from the destruction - in the shade - the winter starts are quietly germinating....

....and almost invisible behind the weeds of the fallow quarter, the winter beds are being built.  They really look awful before they're finished, don't they? 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Home Alone (with Clothilde)

Sunday was Ethan's grandmother's 96th birthday down in St. Petersburg.  It was a long drive, a restaurant meal, an hour in a house with extremely fragile decorations at toddler height, and another long drive home.  So Clothilde and I stayed home.  I was dreading a long day of keeping up with her and no breaks, but I was dreading the car ride and everything even more!

Ethan did the chores early in the morning, so we didn't even have to worry about that.  After they left, I took Clothilde to the park for three and a half hours to wear her out.  Eventually we ran out of water and the playground equipment was too hot to touch in the afternoon sun, so we left.  For the first time in a long time Clothilde took a nap that was not during chore-time (or actually it was, but we were not doing the chores then).  Ahhh, nap-time, I have missed you!!!

The evening was very quiet and mellow until Ethan and the big kids got home.  There was some excitement after that because everyone had such a great time.  It worked out perfectly, and it was really nice to have a day with Clothilde like that, as if she was the first, only baby.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nature Finds: Predators/Prey

The Banana spiders are at their height these days.  They are full size and in incredible numbers.  They are especially all over the front of the milking shed, where they catch the pesky yellow flies off of Matilda.  I love looking up while I'm walking and spotting their crazy high-up webs stretched from treetop to treetop.  I always wonder just how they weave their webs that way without being able to fly.  Perhaps they are extremely good jumpers.

This one here had woven a massive web that stretched about twenty feet from an oak tree to a black cherry by the orchard, and was rewarded with a big, juicy rhinoceros beetle.

This was a spider that Ethan found on the ground, paralyzed.  A victim of a mud-dauber wasp?  Or something else?  Apparently spiders are very tasty, because lots of things eat them.  I suppose it's the equivalent of taking down a mammoth in the insect world. Or maybe a Tyrannosaurus, something that could potentially eat you, too.

I love the way the banana spiders have fuzzy leg warmers on.

Another thing there's a lot of right now - grasshoppers!  These two are in the process of making more.

Ah ha!  Here's the guy who's making all the holes in my okra! But I do like the cool patterns of dots on him.

This is a mating pair of robber flies.  They look pretty creepy, but they are great and eat all sorts of annoying insects.  I've never seen a pair like this before.

If you have any good nature finds to share, leave a link in the comments!

Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Crisp

There are only so many times you can heat up half a left-over baked pumpkin before it starts getting boring.  I love pumpkin pie, but the wheat crust is always a little iffy for us.  I made up this recipe last year when we had too many pumpkins, and it immediately became a favorite.  My big kids both were so upset when I brought it to a potluck and it disappeared so fast they didn't get to have seconds!


2 cups pecans (preferably soaked and dried "crispy" pecans.  Regular pecans are great, too).
3 cups dried shredded coconut

1/2 cup Rapadura, Sucanat or coconut sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup or so melted butter


About 2 cups baked, mashed pumpkin

3/4 cup Rapadura, Sucanat or coconut sugar

3 pastured eggs

1 cup cream (hopefully from grass-fed, pastured cows)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon salt


1.  Whizz up all the crust ingredients except the butter in a food processor.  Mix in melted butter.  Press half into the bottom of a buttered baking dish, and save half to sprinkle on top.

2.  Blend all filling ingredients up until smooth and well-blended (I use my food processor again.  No need to wash in between). 

3.  Pour onto bottom crust and sprinkle remaining crust on top.  Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until set.

Friday, August 15, 2014


They are so close, these girls.  It warms my heart, and re-affirms my lifelong wish for a sister (instead of the annoying little brother I got).  If Rose does anything, Clothilde will immediately copy her exact tone and movements.  It's so cute, but I hope for Rose it does not get burdensome any time soon.  She copies Clothilde's "suffering infant noise" she makes if she wants anything, so it's mutual (it's a gently insistent eh! eh! eh! noise. Really obnoxious).  Yesterday they both put on an incredible improvisational ballet performance together in the living room for me.

Here we were watching the cows be moved along to the next paddock.  They were so excited that evening, nearly every one of them did some sort of fancy kick or toss of the horns as they ran by and it seemed like they were showing off just for us, and the girls were clapping.

(Ethan kindly cropped me out of the photo.  I seem to only be able to make strange squinty faces at a camera these days.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dreaming of Fall

 We got rained out again yesterday.  It rained so much the ground was spongy and there was standing water in places that look too sandy to have standing water.  I harvested the rest of the watermelons, because the vine had died.  One had already exploded from all the rain.  No picture, of course.  It was too wet!

We got some beautiful Queensland Blue pumpkins.  I can't wait to try them.  I'm letting them cure first, of course.  They are supposed to be good keepers.  Then of course more Tahitian Melon pumpkins (love them!), and the first of the Seminole pumpkins were ready.  That's pretty much it in the garden, except for some very large and very lovely basil bushes:

A mating pair of buckeye butterflies on lettuce leaf basil.  There will be more and more of them now that their host plant, Agalinis or false fox glove has grown up and will be blooming soon.

A long-tailed skipper on the cinnamon basil. 

Otherwise the garden is a mess of yellowing vines, rambling sweet potatoes, and weeds poking up.  But it's time to plant for fall!  I started more cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, melons and some fall herbs back in early July.  I have started clearing out beds to plant the new plants, which will be ready to set out soon.

On Monday my winter seeds arrived, and just this morning I started some cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Pak choy, Bekana, Brussel sprouts, cilantro, dill and calendula, because I'll admit, I'm kind of sick of eggplant, squash and cucumbers.  I have not had much luck with starting these things in August, but other people do and it works.  I am taking the flats out to the farm because it is slightly cooler there than in town.  If it doesn't work, I'll just restart them in a few weeks.  I am determined to find out how to make the winter garden thing work this year!  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Handmade Times Ten

For the past two years now, my sewing machine and I have occasionally looked longingly at one another.  Sometimes we write letters, but the hard truth remains that while there is a crazy toddler in the house, there will be no sewing.  When Clothilde was small and immobile, I managed to sew three baby bloomers for her, and before she was very fast or steady I desperately found time to squeeze in two pairs for friends with babies.  They only have six short seams, so that gives you the idea of how much sewing time I've had.  Just last night my dad was remarking how he's never seen a kid move as much as Clothilde.  Yeah, tell me about it.

It's been about three and a half years since I've bought or sewn any clothes for myself (not counting underwear!) and almost everything I own now has unrepairable holes in it and I just have to go around looking like a homeless woman.  I really need some new clothes.  Knowing what I do about the clothing industry, I just can't bring myself to purchase them.  Meanwhile, I have a huge accumulated fabric stash, needles, thread, and a pattern I really like.  With most of this year's knitting projects out of the way, I thought I would try hand-sewing.  It's something I can do while I chase Clothilde around the yard, slapping mosquitoes and pulling her out of the road and off of too-high tree branches.

For someone accustomed to technology, it has been frustrating.  A seam that would have taken seconds on my machine is dragged out to half an hour, and even then it is a little wonky.  But I'm sure I will get better at it, and hey, it's not like I would be able to use that time for machine-sewing anyway. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nature Finds from the Midwest

Ethan had to travel to Minnesota for work again.  It was really difficult with him gone, because there was no one to hold Clothilde while I was milking Matilda.  Matilda is large and doesn't like things that are loud or different, and she is always ready to kick, so having her right there with me is not an option.  Having her in the back pack while milking causes severe back, neck, shoulder and wrist pain after about five minutes.  I had the big kids watch her twenty feet away by the hay ring while I was milking, and this did not make her happy because she really wanted to come over and "help" me by stroking Matilda's back leg.  She just screamed unhappily for half an hour every day while I did the milking.  It was hard, really hard.  But he found some nice nature photos to share with you!

This is a Summer Azure butterfly - not very common in Florida.  It looks like it was mud-puddling.  Butterflies will sip muddy water (or even urine or fresh cow poo!) possibly to get minerals.  Males are usually the ones mud-puddling, and it is thought perhaps they need something from the muddy water to make sperm.

To anyone up North, this plant will look very common!  Ethan did not recognize it at all.  We have a relative that grows here - Impatiens.  It is jewel weed, and I really wish it did grow here because the tincture is a wonderful remedy for poison ivy rash.

He found a field of beautiful milkweeds with lots of life on them.  

This is a Viceroy butterfly.  It looks a lot like the Monarch butterflies, but notice the black bands crossing the wings.  I was pleased that I even recognized this butterfly (my dad confirmed the identification).

This is not our photo!  It is from Ethan's co-worker Adam Kent who was in Texas working on a project.  He knew we like unusual nature photos, and he sent this picture of a scarab he found (he gave us permission to put it up).

I never get comments on our nature finds posts, but if anyone also has any great nature finds they would like to share, feel free to post a link in the comments!

Monday, August 11, 2014


We had quite a day the other day  We were slaughtering the first half of the meat birds for this year.  We used to do all 50 or so at once, but since Clothilde was born we limit ourselves to the realistic 20 or less.  We did 21, and tried to arrange for babysitting by offering to trade my mom three chickens if she would watch the baby the whole time.  She had company coming on Saturday, so she was very emphatic that she could only watch Clothilde until 2 pm.  Okay, fine we thought.

Ethan went out alone super early and started heating the water to minimize the time my mom had to watch the baby.  When it was nearly hot, he called and we started on our way.  When we drove up, he was fiddling with the electrical outlet by the well.  It wasn't working, so we wouldn't be able to plug in our plucker.  I set things up while he finished fixing that, and all three children commenced to play in Mirin's pit and became very sandy.

Once the outlet was working and the plucker was plugged in successfully, we realized the well was off and there was no water.  I was trying to scrub out the chill tank and other tubs while Clothilde was simultaneously trying to climb into them, and my mother was "watching" her.  In the midst of this, Mirin began demanding a bucket to use for his pit.  He really wanted to use the ones I was washing for the chickens, but I directed him to some other buckets that had been sitting unused by the truck.  He grabbed one and started dragging it to the pit, stopped halfway and started screaming.  There was a mud dauber wasp nest in the bucket, and one had flown up his pant leg and was stinging him. He was fumbling with the button to take them off.  He finally got them off before I got there, and had only been stung once, pretty badly.  Unfortunately that day I didn't have my usual basket of stuff, so I had no Echinacea tincture to put on it.  We didn't even have water to wash it in, but I remembered we had ice for chilling the chickens.  That cheered everyone up, and Mirin even forgot to accuse me that it was all my fault for his pants being hard to take off after that.

Finally the water was on again, I finished scrubbing out the tubs and tank and ominous black clouds began to gather.  It hasn't rained for weeks, but boy it sure did rain on Friday.  I don't mind rain, but I am terrified of lightening.  We do live in the lightening capital here.  There's lots of it.  We ran up and got the chickens into a transport cage balanced on the wheel barrow, and wheeled them back.  The rain began coming down pretty hard then, and all the sand-caked children and my mom retreated to her car.  There wasn't any lightening, so I just put on my wonderful Chinese cooly hat  (I love it!!!) and felt fairly comfortable.  Even if the rest of you is soaking wet, having your head and face dry makes all the difference.

I think a lot of people who process their own chickens have a nice, snug sheltered spot where they can snub their noses at the elements, but we don't.  All we have is a folding table, a spigot, and a cast-iron bath tub.  Not very high-tech.  I suppose it stays cleaner that way, with all the rain and sun.  There weren't any flies to be seen on Friday!  They were all smart enough to find shelter.  We are also lucky that it was so warm, even being soaking wet was not unpleasant.  It was refreshing.

After about 5 minutes my mom started honking the horn.  I ran over and cracked the door just open to avoid the streaming rain pouring into the car.  She was fed up.  She said it was hellish and miserable, and she was taking the kids home.  I tried to get her to leave them, but she said it was fine and she would drive them out again later.  Then she left.  Ten minutes after that, the storm was gone.  It was beautiful, overcast and in the mid-seventies, which is idyllic weather here in August.  We finished the chickens around 2pm and Ethan called her.  He said she sounded like she didn't want to bring the kids out again, so we started on our chores.  We got home around 5:30, and my mom was furious.  She had been watching the children for 3 1/2 hours too long and she said they were horrid.  She said she had to bribe them into good behavior with gum, and she thought we were leaving when we called around 2 to say we were done with the chickens.  Oh well.  So we'll probably have to keep Clothilde with us for the next half!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kids Who Like Kelp

Ethan took these pictures of Clothilde eating kelp and signing for more.
Yes, my children love eating the kelp we keep for the animals.  Free-choice kelp is supposed to be good for all kinds of things - trace minerals, offspring vigor....wait, maybe that's why Clothilde is so exhausting!

We are going to slaughter the first meat chickens tomorrow.  They are in a really heavy coop - it's the usual Salatin-style one, but we had to replace the screen lid with a total metal lid.  It's a little like pulling a battleship over tall grass and blackberries.  Ethan is especially looking forward to having them in the freezer because he has to move them every day.  I'm excited, because goat and pork can get a little old if you eat them almost every meal for several months.

We roasted the first Boston Marrow pumpkin, and I'm sorry to say I wasn't impressed.  It wasn't like the Tahitian Melon pumpkins - love at first taste.  It's okay, I need to narrow down my pumpkin selection.  Nine different kinds of pumpkin is really too much.

In the Garden: Watermelons, Pumpkins and Peppers

 We've been pulling watermelon after watermelon out of the melon patch.  They are finally ripe this time!  The first one we picked sounded perfect, but when we cracked it open it was still only pale pink.  It was still very sweet, which is something I like about this variety.  These melons are perfect - one was even perhaps over-ripe. 

It's been a little bit of a challenge to keep up with it all.  There are still more out there needing to be picked.  Perhaps a dozen plants all planted at once was a little much?  My kids and I have both been saying things I never thought we would:

"You've only had one piece of watermelon Rosie.  Are you sure you couldn't eat another one?"

"Mirin, what do you mean you want me to cut that slice in half?  You can eat all that, can't you?'

Kids:  "We're sick of watermelon!"

I am thinking of freezing some if I get the time.

 The scotch bonnets are getting ripe!  We are still not sure what to do with them.  I grew them for Ethan, and one plant is making A LOT.  They are a really, really spicy pepper.

We are also pulling a lot of pumpkins out now!  The Tahitian Melon pumpkin will always have a place in my garden!  They are huge and just like a butternut.  We roasted one the other night, and it was super sweet and delicious.  They are also like four times as big as a butternut squash - good for our large family.  And supposedly they keep for nine months at room temperature.

 We have about 24 pumpkins stored at home already, and Ethan counted at least 26 on the vines.  Ethan is calling it "The Pumpkin A Week Challenge."  Some of the pumpkins are large enough to be plenty for at least three weeks, especially the Boston marrows. 

The scariest part is that they are still setting fruit!  (Can you see the bumblebees in the flower there?)  Would it be awful if we gave some as Christmas presents??

 Other late summer veggies - okra, sweet peppers and the Turkish-Italian Orange eggplant.

And a few figs.  I planted this fig tree about three years ago, and this is the first year it has fruited.  They are so sweet to the point of being almost syrupy.  I hope someday it will be loaded with fruit like the pumpkin vines!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Free Pattern: Cabled Archery Cuff

Mirin asked me to knit him a special cuff for protecting his arm when he is practicing archery.  If the bow is not drawn correctly, the string can snap back on your wrist.  I made a pattern for it and added a pretty cable (there was some good math I got Mirin to help with for homeschool!).  It turned out nicely, and I thought I would share the very simple pattern I created.  Of course it would be great just as a wrist warmer, in case you don't have any boys who love archery on your hands.  This is the first pattern I've ever shared (I thought I should add that).

I made it rather tight-fitting because I knew he would not want it to flop around on his arm.  The width can be easily modified by adding more stitches (5 per inch) to be evenly distributed on Needle 1 and Needle 3.  It is knitted in the round with four double-pointed needles.

NOTE:  This pattern has not been tested by anyone, but I have knitted it twice now and it turned out beautiful!  It's not terribly complicated.

Yarn:  1 skein Brown Sheep Company "Oats n'Cream" superwash (left over from my Phoebe Mouse project!)

Gauge: 5st/inch and about 6 1/2 rows/inch in stocking stitch

Needles: US 5 or 3.75 MM.  I suffered through with only 5" long needles I had bought from the Phoebe Mouse project, but they were a little on the short side.

Arm Measurements:  The measurements I went with were:

Forearm  9" around
Wrist  6" around
Wrist to Forearm  7"

Pattern:  (See below for cable chart and written cable instructions)

1.  Cast on 48 stitches and divide evenly between three needles (that's 16 st per needle if you are like me don't want to do the math!).  Join for working in the round, making sure the stitches aren't twisted.  You could place a marker for the beginning of the round, but I always use the tail from the long-tail cast-on.

2.  Knit all stitches on needle 1 (N1)

3.  K 2 st on needle 2 (N2), place a marker, work first row of cable pattern over 12 stitches (see below), place a marker, K last 2 stitches on N2.  (This helped me orient the cable pattern, especially when I was reading to the children and knitting at the same time!  You could also skip the  markers and just K 2 before working the pattern, with 2 left to knit at the end).

4.  K all sts on N3.

5.  Keep working as established, K all stitches on N1 and N3 and working the cable pattern on N2 until row 10.

6.  1st reduction row 10 (you will be on row 4 of cable pattern - one where you will K all sts anyway):  K 2 tog, knit until 2 st remain on N3, SSK.

7.  Continue as established, with reductions as described above every 10th row.  It helped me to write down which row I would be on the cabling pattern so I could keep track of it:

2nd reduction:  R 20 of cuff, R 2 of cable pattern

3rd: R 30 of cuff, R 6 of pattern

4th:  R 40 of cuff, R 4 of pattern

5th:  R 50 of cuff, R 2 of pattern

6th:  R 60 of cuff, R 6 if pattern

7th:  R 70 of cuff, R 4 of pattern

After the 7th reduction row, work the rest of the cable chart to R 5.  Bind off on R 6 of cable chart.  (unless you need the cuff to be longer.  In that case, I would suggest keep knitting and try to work in the cast-off for the 6th row, because it looks nicer that way with the pattern).  Weave in ends.

The cable chart is worked 12 times over 72 rows. 

Cabling Pattern Written Out:
1.  Sl 2 st to CN and hold in Front; K2, K2 from CN.  K 4 sts.  Sl 2 st onto CN and hold to back; K2, K2 from CN

2.  K all sts

3.  K2, sl 2 sts onto CN and hold in front; K2, K2 from CN.  Sl 2 st onto CN and hold in Back, K2, K2 from CN, K2.

4.  K all sts.

5.  K 4, sl 2 sts onto CN and hold in Front; K2, K2 from CN, K4

6.  K all sts.

Cabling Chart:  (Not super high-tech here, I just wrote it out by hand).  I apologize for my awful handwriting.

If you do knit this pattern, please let me know how it turns out!