Friday, October 31, 2014


We've been busy today with pumpkin carving, baking cinnamon molasses cookies for the occasional trick-or-treater, and costuming.....

We ended up with Zorro, a tiny cowgirl, and some character from "Frozen," which neither Ethan or I have seen.  Mirin and I did most of the pumpkin carving, of course, with strict directions from the little sisters.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

In the Garden: Eggplant Recovered

The good news about the garden is that the eggplants have made a full recovery from being chewed down to stubs by the blister beetles.  It's amazing how many pest problems can be solved by handpicking pests into soapy water.  That said, it was actually really hard to kill the blister beetles, because they looked at me with such awareness and intelligence.  I could tell they were very admirable insects, and I actually found myself apologizing to them as I plonked them into the water, saying, "I wish I didn't have to do this...if only you weren't eating MY food."  It's not true that eating vegetables is bloodless.  I kill so much more for my vegetables than for my meat.

The bad news this week has to do with my precious starts.  Caterpillars did a lot of damage on the first batch.  That batch has been planted and is thriving beautifully now, but it was set back from having to re-grow leaves afterwards.  Then Flora and Sampson came by and "grazed" the second batch, killing off a lot of the kohlrabi and most of the cauliflower.  They are both smaller than the rest of the cows and like to duck under the electric polywire.

We then tried moving the starts inside the garden fence, where it was apparently too sunny and they were fried in the afternoon sun.  It was very bad for the lettuce.  Then they were moved to a fenced-in spot at the top of the garden where the rabbits and bees used to be.  It was perfectly shady/sunny, close to water, behind a fence.  I thought I'd found the perfect spot - finally!

But alas.  This week the cows busted the wooden gate down and muscled their way in and attacked the table where the starts were - overturning a whole flat of cauliflower, the spinach and all the lettuce,which were all just about ready to plant.  I don't know what everyone has against the cauliflower. 

They crunched two of the nice new starting flats I had just bought under their clumsy hooves.  It seems to have been mostly Isla and Meathead's fault, which is only to be expected, really.

To make up for it, I planted a new row of parsnips, radishes, beets, lettuce and arugula in the garden.  A few of the overturned lettuce plants were able to be salvaged and seem to have survived by being immediately planted.  I think I could grow beautiful fall and winter vegetables, if only everyone else would stay away from them!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Eight Years

Clothilde actually took this picture.  We had an exciting beginning to our day today, which I won't describe.  It involved the toddler in the bathroom alone for a few minutes and lots of emergency laundry.

Yesterday was our 8th anniversary.  Not too bad for having been married relatively young for our times at 22.  We celebrated over the weekend with a dinner of grass-fed steak, salmon and shrimp sans enfants, because Mirin and Rose were off at a cub scout camp out with my dad and my mother-in-law was kind enough to watch Clothilde for a few hours.  It was a very peaceful, quiet meal.

Recently Rose got a ballet book for her birthday last Tuesday that had the story of Swan Lake in it.  It inspired me to get out Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction by Sue Townsend, which has many amusing references to  swans.  Somehow I started reading it aloud to Ethan while we were alone (it is not child-appropriate at all, but it is so funny), and we have been enjoying reading it together in the few times that the big kids are employed elsewhere. 

For our anniversary we bought two books for ourselves - Ben Hewitt's Homegrown and a book called Shop Class as Soulcraft we discovered through an online article.  We got two books because we have had trouble sharing in the past.  We are thinking we will read them out loud, too.  It is nice to experience the books together at the same time.  Otherwise we always end up reading long passages out of context to each other. 

I can see this becoming a family tradition, like our seven-year tradition of reading Washington Irving aloud in the fall that came about just after Rose was born.  Ethan had been ill with an unpleasant stomach bug, and at 40 weeks pregnant I requested he stay away so I wouldn't catch it just before having to give birth.  He stayed for a few days at his parents' house and picked up a collection of Washington Irving's stories to read while he was sick.  He liked them so much, he read them to me while I was recovering from Rose's birth a week later.  I love family traditions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Teeniest, Tiniest Milkmaid

Rose has been taking a break from milking lately, which is probably a good thing with how short the days are becoming.  Of course I miss our chats, but I am sure she will come back to it again.

Meanwhile, Clothilde and I were doing the chores together and she ended up being very helpful with the goats.  Her very favorite thing of all, and this might also have something to do with being two, is to be helpful.  She put their barley in and even tried milking Firefly.  I was so impressed with how much of the milking routine she knew because she is rarely there while I am milking (I always worry she will be trampled by an overeager goat or kicked by Matilda).

She had such confidence when she squeezed a few drops into the milk collecting jar.  She has grown up with it, after all.  I remember one of the first things she did when she first began walking was tuck a little plastic cup underneath our cat Teasel and try to milk Teasel's fluffly fat flab on her belly that really does have a strong resemblance to an udder (sorry, Teasel).  Teasel was NOT amused.

Monday, October 27, 2014

In the Kitchen: Cactus Fruit Salsa

It's become a tradition every year at the homecoming parade that Mirin and Rose always return with a bag full of thorny prickly pear fruits.  There's a huge, beautiful cactus that grows along the way, and Mirin always insists that they stop.  This is slightly uncomfortable for my mother-in-law, who always takes them - not only because of the spines that have to be tended to later, but also because the other people walking by always warn their children not to touch the thing, while Mirin is undauntedly and eagerly harvesting.

This year he was prepared, and even requested that gloves and a harvesting bag were brought along, so the prickly pears were in top condition this year.  I discovered that flaming them over the gas stove for a few minutes to burn the spines off does wonders for their handlability, and even managed to make salsa this year.  Just in case you find yourself with a lot of cactus fruit.

I did not manage to get a photo of the salsa itself that didn't look like a bowl of diced placenta, but I assure you that was only because of the lighting.  It looked very beautiful in person.

Cactus Fruit Salsa:

6-8 large cactus fruits, flamed, peeled and diced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 Tablespoon honey

juice of 1/2 lime

sea salt

* * * * *

Mix all ingredients.  Serve immediately.  We had it on the side of chicken tacos.  It seems to get juicier the longer it sits.  It will still have cactus seeds in it, which Ethan complained about.  They don't bother me, personally, and that is just the nature of cactus fruit.

Friday, October 24, 2014


I just had some thoughts recently about gratitude I thought I would share.  It came up in the Foundations Studies class I had taken through the Center for Anthroposophy (which I am not continuing with, for various reasons).  One of the spiritual principles one is supposed to live by is gratitude.

My family was not really ungrateful, but we did not ever really dwell on gratitude, either.  In some ways, though, things were taken for granted.  So gratitude was something I have had a lot of curiosity about as I've grown up, and something I felt was important to get in touch with.

For a long time, something held me back.  At first it seemed like the "I don't really deserve this" undertones I had always sensed from religious services I had attended when I was a child didn't appeal to me, but as I thought about it more about it I realized that what really held me back from embracing gratitude was a fear that being grateful for something would make it heartbreaking when it was gone.  I was afraid to be grateful for fear I would lose whatever it was, because being happy and enjoying something was an emotional attachment.  When I brought this up at the class, the teacher directed me to think about fear, and where it comes from.

But this did not seem right.  Thinking about it, I realized it was really a fear of loss and change, not just any fear.  And strangely that was made clear to me many years ago when my grandmother who I had been very close with died suddenly.  How glad I was that just hours before I had given her a big hug and told her I loved her - two very difficult things for a shy child like me that was not used to being hugged or giving hugs.  And even in that I felt a doubt that maybe I had lost her just because the value of our relationship had been expressed.

Reading Elaine Morgan's book on human evolution, I started thinking about how much things have changed, and how it is change that drives evolution and brought human beings into becoming human.  Change is a part of everything, no matter if we pause for just a moment and feel grateful or not.  But that pause, that enjoyment and the acknowledgement is important so that we know the gifts and their value to us before they are taken away - because they will be taken away, eventually.  Just as I was thinking this the words from the song of Starhawk's spiral dance came to mind:

"Everything she touches, she changes.  Everything she changes, she touches."

Yes, there is also a divine spark in that change.  And think of all the things that could really use some shifting around....

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peppers and Roots

  The Trinidad spice pepper bushes are loaded.  They are getting a little spicy around the seeds now that the weather is cooling off, but they are such delicious peppers, great for snacking on.

We planted another bed last week.  It's mostly roots - parsnips, beets and radishes, with lettuce between.  It's finally cool enough for lettuce, I think.

I was watering the garden last week, and was horrified to find that something had eaten the biggest, best and most beautiful Pak Choy all the way to the ground.  My first thought was, "What monstrous rabbit got through the netting and DID this??"  Then I realized I had cut it for dinner a few days before.  Oh, yeah.  I ate it.  Duh.

I did find two wooly bear caterpillars helping themselves to the tatsoi and Napa cabbage.  One was the usual bristly kind, but the other smaller one was soft and plush.  It reminded me of a miniature yorky-poo or some little hairy dog.  It was just the right color and texture for Benji.  They were so cute I couldn't bear to feed them to the chickens, so I gave them a stern talking to and escorted them out of the garden.  It's true - cute fluffy things ARE harder to kill.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Turning Seven

 Rose ended up with no less than two birthday cakes because a consensus was never reached about whether the cake would be strawberry or raspberry.  It served the dual purpose to ensure left-overs, as someone around here is very greedy with other people's birthday cakes.

This is one of my favorite grain-free cakes - It looks and tastes like chocolate, but it is made with carob.  I used coconut sugar as the sweetener (it is not super sweet) and they were filled with honey-sweetened whipped cream with crushed freeze-dried berries mixed in.  I iced it with the Nourishing Tradition's butter fudge recipe (simply honey, carob, and butter.  I added a little vanilla, too).  They both turned out delicious.  I'm afraid two cakes might become asked for more often.  I guess it's okay, as long as they are the same kind of cake.

Teasel made sure that she was front and center for opening presents.  Mirin had a terrible case of OSAD (Other Sibling Attention Disorder) and refused to have cake - but he came around eventually.

This morning I asked Rose how it felt to be seven, and she said, "Bigger!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nature Finds: Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail (and Mr. Coachwhip)

Yesterday Ethan caught three little rabbits near the garden.  We are not sure what to do with them.  We had caught one little wild rabbit years ago (eating my garden!!) and he did not take well to captivity.  We could release them (to go eat my garden) but....  

(caution, snake picture)

There were actually four baby rabbits at first.  Ethan caught three, but the almost 8-ft long coachwhip that likes to hang out in an empty pipe (that's how we know how long he is) caught one, too.  So if we let the others go, I'm guessing he'll probably eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A few other nature finds - a green lynx spider on dog fennel with an egg case.

These beautiful bugs I had seen in the garden and kept telling myself I had to get out there with some soapy water....but we found out that they are actually beneficial carnivorous stinkbugs.  It's quite a nice surprise to discover a beneficial bug after battling with so many pests this year.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Crazy Birthday Weekend

We had a crazy birthday weekend.  With Rose's seventh birthday coming up on Tuesday, the celebrating has begun.  She requested going out to Satchel's  for pizza for her birthday dinner.  We did that on Saturday.  We hardly ever go out to eat, maybe once a year, so it was our yearly stop by Satchel's, the local indie pizza joint.  They have a playground, which is the biggest reason Rose requested to go there, but they also have good pizza.  We saw a bunch of people we knew from Tall Pines school and also met a few new friends.

(This is Rose opening a card and presents we got in a mysterious package that arrived last week - Thank you, Dinah!!  She has already made a necklace with the beading kit!)

Then on Sunday we celebrated her birthday with presents and cake at my inlaws' house.  More cake and presents to come for Tuesday - that's how it is with lots of family close by!  We always have two Thanksgivings and often three Christmases!

Of course the children don't complain.

Mirin was the only casualty of the weekend - earlier on Sunday Rose's friend from school had a birthday party at the park.  Mirin was pretending to be a dragon and tripped over a vine and hit his head.  He's mostly recovered today, and anyway he was hoping for some kind of forehead scar so he could be Harry Potter for Halloween.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Goodbye Bees

We got bees about four years ago after we attended a top-bar hive building workshop and built our own top-bar hive.  Unfortunately, we didn't know that the hive had to be completely level or the bees will draw their comb funny and the frames will not be able to be removed.  We got busy with other stuff and left them alone, and when we opened the hive up again it was all stuck together and impossible to get the frames apart without really doing a lot of damage.  So we let them be.

We would check on them occasionally, and every May they would swarm.  We kept wanting to get a different hive and transfer them over or catch one of the swarms, but we were just too darn busy with other things, like building fences and running water pipes so we could use all the pasture for grazing, not to mention milking animals every day.

We moved our brew grain area to where the rabbits used to be this past week - that's where the hive was, too.  The cows had leaned over the fence and devoured a whole bin of it when it was at the top of the garden, and we can't have that.  The bee/rabbit area has a fence around it, and is shady, so I moved my starts up there, too because they were getting fried in the garden, but if they weren't behind a fence Horrible Florible (Flora's new nickname) would devour them because she's still small enough to duck under the electric fences and not get too bad of a zap.  She was very bad for the cauliflower this year.  So that was what brought us to notice the bees a little better this week.

I first noticed that there were no bees going in and out, and so I carefully opened the hive.  It was chilly and close to sunset, so I thought maybe they were not very active just then.  It smelled sweet and fermented and sick when I got the top off, so I knew something was wrong.  I had quite a time prying the frames apart.  Maggots poured out of the rotting comb, and the whole front of the hive was covered in the cocoons of hive moths and writhing with the larve of hive beetles.  We burned it, all of it, to keep these pests from just making more.  Goodbye to our bees, for now.

When we have more time, perhaps next year, or the year after, we would like to get bees again.  But we want to do them right next time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Garden Update: First Fall Harvest

This is turning out to be our best and most ambitious fall/winter garden so far.  We got some major garden work done over the last week.  There are three beds that are manured, hayed, planted, hooped and netted.  The hoops look so nice and professional - definitely a step-up from the ugly pvc pipe hoops we had made last year.  We're half-way to my goal of having six beds done by December.  I was hoping to plant another six in January to carry us through the spring season before the summer garden kicks in.  I feel like that's been my focus this year - filling in the gaps between seasons when I find myself in the grocery store.  We DO have a climate in which year-round gardening is supposed to be possible, although I'm not sure I will ever really be able to grow anything in August.  The fall starts of cucumbers, squash and beans have all died, but they might have been nursed though better if I had re-composted/manured the beds to refresh them.  I also neglected to water them through a dry spell, because all my focus has been on building this winter garden.  I hate to say it, but more cucumbers and squash just does not appeal to me these days.


 Ahhh, but I've been watching the bekana growing and drooling a little bit.  I was sick to death of greens just this past February, but it's hard to remember that now.  It's funny how that fades after awhile.  I know that by April I will be craving squash fried in butter and cucumber salad and forcing myself to eat yet another stir-fry or greens and fat back.

This week was the first week we were able to harvest some greens.  The daikon radishes are also coming along, and in the front the Napa cabbage seems to be starting to head.  I only hope the peppers from the summer garden last until we can put up our first batch of kimchi.  This cabbage is the only hybrid I am growing.  It is the first hybrid I have grown in our garden.  I usually stick to open-pollinated varieties, but I have been unable to find an open-pollinated Napa cabbage, and I really like them.  It's one of those things I find myself buying from the store regardless, so I might as well grow it myself.  I found some seeds from Johnny's seeds.  This variety is called "Rubicon," which sounds so exciting.

 My goodness the kale starts are so pleasantly alive this year!  This, I have to admit, is the first year that I have even had starts to plant, but I have always tried - unsuccessfully.  It's not so much that I tried harder this year, I just was finally able to apply my knowledge of the past six years of failure to my advantage.

The cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower starts all went in over the weekend, and I've just finished planting rows of carrots over-seeded with radishes.  Last year was the first year I seeded the radishes and carrots together, and it seemed to work out really well and definitely saves space in the garden.  The carrots take a much longer time to germinate, and the radishes seem to help keep the seeds in place or something.  I swear more carrots came up this way.  I'm growing French breakfast, plum purple and golden Helios radishes this year.  It's always hard to decide on the radish selection because they are so beautiful, grow so easily and I've grown a lot of different kinds so there are more I feel attached to.  I usually ferment them into brined and grated pickles.  It takes the spiciness away completely and they become sour, mild and delicious.  I'm trying out some new carrot varieties this year, encouraged by the successful growing of carrots last year.  I've got St. Valery, Chateney Red Core and Paris market carrots seeded in this bed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cute's Not the Problem

This yellow thing is the bin we get literally a ton of spent barley grains in every so often.  The girls thought it would be fun to play in.

After only a few minutes, Clothilde decided she was bored and climbed out.

Even though it's almost as tall as she is.  Isn't that terrifying?

I had the craziest shopping trip with Clothilde the other day.  When Mirin and Rose were small, I used to get compliments about how well-behaved they were.  They stayed close to me and helped me and never whined for anything - probably because I never bought anything other than what we needed.

At some point, that changed.  Now shopping trips with all three children are kind of like a nightmare.  The big kids charge around the store, playing hide-and-seek or tag, hitting each other, terrorizing other shoppers, whining for Larabars, kombucha, dried fruit, boxed cookies, chocolate, ice cream, etc. etc, which I still won't buy.  They block the aisles and run into old ladies.  They've been scolded by other shoppers, but they don't care.  I talk to them sternly and threaten to leave them behind next time, and they still don't care.  There's always a universal sigh of relief when we are steering our shopping cart out the door.

Clothilde is usually strapped to my back in the Ergo, but this doesn't stop her at all.  Her little arms can shoot out really far and grab things.  She steals apples on the sly, which led to The Worst Shopping Day Ever once when she choked on a piece of stolen apple peel and I found myself in the store holding a handful of baby throw-up (and a stolen apple).

This recent shopping trip was not so bad.  The big kids had been so horrid the time before that I left them with Ethan and only took the toddler.  I thought for sure it would be so easy with just Clothilde.  When we got to the store, she immediately grabbed a little basket and wanted to carry it around.  I thought, "How cute!" and, "Well, that will keep her busy!"  But it turned out not to be so.

Because she had the basket, she insisted on walking, so when we paused by the bulk section it was everything I could do to keep her from ripping all the plastic scoops out and grunging them on the floor while I also tried to scoop dried coconut into a bag and not spill most of it all over myself.  The produce isle was better.  She got to put ginger roots and parsley into her basket.  But then the basket started to get heavier.  She couldn't carry it, and there was unbelievable screaming when I put her basket on the cart, so we just inched glacially along the aisle.  The people working there all thought it was so cute.  Eventually, it just got to be too slow.  She became distracted by other things on the shelves and started "shopping" herself.  So I took to grabbing her and the basket and tossing them both into the cart, fighting to keep Clothilde in as she pitched around, screaming violently, and wheeled the cart where we needed to go.  Then I had to let her out again or she would have thrown herself out.  The manager even offered us a free cookie so she would stop screaming at one point.
She liked checking out because she could help take everything out of the cart, but once that was done she ran to the stack of baskets and started removing them and putting them all over our cart.  It kept her busy so I didn't interfere.  When it was time to go I very quickly re-stacked all the baskets and tucked her under my arm and we left.  There was a tough moment when I realized I couldn't hold on to her while she thrashed so much AND steer the cart, so I tried fitting her kicking legs into the baby seat, unsuccessfully, and the shopping cart slid sideways and started crashing into the front of someone's car.  Just then I happened to run into someone I knew.  Thankfully she also has a two-year-old and understood perfectly!

In the end I still managed to forget something.  Next time all three of them can hang out at the warehouse with daddy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A New Roof With Dog Fennel Thatching

Since Mirin's pit has expanded so much lately, the old tarp roof did not fit anymore, and rainwater was eroding the sides away.  He rebuilt one side of it with wood from old pallets layered with brush and dirt piled on top.  This is where the fire pit is now, and it even has a chimney.  Over the weekend we were out working in the garden, so he had plenty of time to work on it.  He cut some laurel oak saplings and set them up into a roof frame, onto which he tied  bunches of dog fennel thatching.  It looks just like a hobbit roof.  I dare say he's learned something from building the chickee with Willie.

I finally got some sleep again and seem to be over the hives.  It's amazing what a difference in one's general life experience sleep can make.  Ethan spent a lot of time with Clothilde on Sunday while I started new seeds, baked a pie for my mom for her birthday (she hates cakes she said), and brought Rose to a playdate with her friend from school all afternoon.  We ended up being an hour longer at her friend's house than I thought we would, and Ethan was really exhausted when we got home.  That's what several hours of following Clothilde around does to someone.  He had come up with a new nickname for her - "Clothilda the Zombie Tamer" because she always has an exhausted, barely able to keep up, staggering adult following after her everywhere she goes.

On the other hand, I was amazed at how energetic I felt despite not having much sleep, and I even felt like my brain was actually able to think again that afternoon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hard Work

All this year I've had one awful random physical ailment after the next that keeps me from sleeping.  It started out with a wheezy month-long chest cold my dad brought back from Cuba last December, and since then it's just been a constant parade of things from whooping cough to pityriasis rosea to having my toenail ripped off.  How predictable, then, that just when I had recovered from a bad neck adjustment that left me in horrible pain for over a week (and through both Mirin and Clothilde's birthdays), I got a nasty, lingering stomach bug for a couple of weeks.  I was just getting better from that, so naturally it was a perfect time to break out in mysterious head-to-toe hives the past three days.  I'm blaming my horrible luck on it being the Year of the Horse, which is supposed to be a bad year for Rats like me.  It's the only explanation I can come up with.  Is the universe trying to tell me something here?  Maybe it's telling me I should just have stayed in bed until 2015.

 I haven't had hives since I was a kid, and that was from a reaction to antibiotics.  I am fairly sure the hives were from something I ate. I recently went shopping and actually bought vegetables.  I know, it's almost sacrilegious to buy vegetables with our huge garden.  But the garden is in-between seasons at the moment, and I just wanted something other than pickles, pumpkin, or roselle after awhile. 

 The first night they weren't too bad, and I thought they were flea bites because our kitty Teasel was caught sleeping on my pillow.  The bedroom is usually forbidden to her, because she rolls in the gutters and hey, her nickname is "Fleasel."  The only thing I had all three nights was cauliflower for dinner.  It was organic Canadian cauliflower (awful, I know, but I hardly ever buy it).  I've never gotten hives from cauliflower before, but I had a vague sense that I was reacting to pesticides or agricultural chemicals on it, partly because my brother got horrible hives from non-organic grapes when he was a baby.

The hives were so bad, I was trying everything I could think of.  It looked like I had rolled in a nettle patch, and it felt like that, too.  I tried Urtica homeopathic, chamomile, baking soda, Epsom salts, the NAET allergy treatment, an adrenal supplement, B vitamins, vitamin C, clay, ice.  Nothing helped in the least.  Finally on Saturday night I had an idea it was maybe pesticides, so I drank several tablespoons of cod liver oil. It was like magic!  They started clearing up almost immediately.

Last week when we went to the horse farm to get a load of manure (it's not so much manure as very well-rotted hay from their hay rings), one of the horse people said to us, "Now that's hard work!"  She said it as if we were nuts to even attempt it, almost looking down on us for being dedicated to something that was so hard.

It's true that labeling can help you make better food choices, but when it really comes down to it, you don't really know much about your food from the store.  You can buy a package of salami that says the animals were humanely raised, but you don't really know what that animal's life (or death) was like.  You don't know how it was handled or where it was born or what it's personality was.  The cauliflower I bought was marked as "Organic" but I do suspect.  All the vegetables I bought last week looked pretty, but you can tell they have been kept refrigerated and were handled by many strange hands.  The food we get from our garden has so much life in it and seems so fresh and clean.  We know what has happened to them and who has touched them from seed to table.  We know the earth that it grew from.  I had replied to the hard work comment, "But it's so worth it," and it really is.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


This week has been trudging along so slowly.  What, it's only Thursday?!
We are doing better this week, but still queasy.  The hardest thing about a stomach bug is that I can never think of what to cook and everyone starves on the awful things I do manage.

Apart from that we've had an exciting two weeks with out-of-town company coming over and a nearly every night a late bedtime, which has really taken a toll.  Yesterday it was all I could do to keep the big kids from killing each other over something stupid.  Everyone wanted to be annoying, and no one could handle the slightest thing.  A bad combination.  We ended up not finishing our lessons because no one could focus beyond hitting, screaming, accusing and kicking (I'm sure I'm not alone in having this happen!).  We'll make up for it today - I hope!

At the farm, Ethan has revolutionized the winter garden by building a special bender-thingy to make metal hoops for hoop houses.  They look beautiful and durable - the test is to see if they support the insulating plastic and rabbit netting well enough.  We even got manure yesterday, although we had to drag ourselves along.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Yarn Along: Mirin's Celtic Knot Vest

Years ago I wanted to learn cables, so I picked up Cables Untangled and set to work on a few projects.  One of them, rather ambitious I think now, was a cabled vest for Mirin.

It sat largely ignored for a couple of years, but last year he picked it up and decided he loved it and wore it every day.  It was even painful to part with it when summer came.  This fall when we got it out, there was the unpleasant discovery made that it is too small.

Back to the needles!!  The pattern is too complex to tear out the bottom and re-knit, and anyway I don't have the yarn anymore.  The new dye-lot seems shockingly green next to the first vest, but I think it faded from washing, and there was one day I had set my woolens to dry properly in the shade and drove off to do errands.  When I returned the shade had moved and they were in glaring sun - I'm sure it was terrible for the color.

It took me forever to correctly copy the cable chart (I think I picked the most complicated one).  Finally I managed, with only a few errors that I'm not worrying about too much, because even the complicated cables get into a predictable rhythm and make sense.

Apart from that, I recently picked up the most interesting book.  It's called Descent of Woman by Elaine Morgan, and is an explanation of Aquatic Ape Hypothesis for humans.  It is just amazing.  It is one of those pieces of information that just opened my mind up and is giving me so much to think about.  It is changing how I think of human beings and the world.  As I was reading, I kept thinking of new information I've heard in various places that so strongly supports this incredible theory.

It's also a really fun read.  She includes such juicy, stupid and shockingly male-oriented quotes from real anthropology and human evolution papers about what she calls the "Tarzan Theory."  I can't help reading some of the worst ones out loud to Ethan, and we have both had a good laugh.  Some things, like how women's breasts ("fleshy hemispheres") evolved only to make sex more interesting for the male hunter, to grab his interest so he would continue to provide joints of meat. I think a few of the males she quoted got their academic toes stepped on, and that is why this theory has remained largely ignored.  It makes a whole lot more sense than the Tarzan thing, though.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nature Finds: Dog Fennel is the Place to Party Now



  Green Lynx spider eating love bugs (I thought they looked toxic!)

We have some redwood-like dog fennel in one of the pastures where I limed with a generous hand.  I've never seen the stalks grow so thick and tall anywhere.  Mirin brought one of the stalks home and it is as tall as the house.  I guess we REALLY need lime.  All the plants that like acid soil - the blackberries, dog fennel and broomsedge - all got enormous when I limed that spot.  That's how horribly acidic it is.

Apparently with the goldenrod beginning to fade prematurely this year due to the early cool weather, the dog fennel is the place to be.  It's little flowers smell very fragrant, and I imagine that attracts a lot to it.  You can't brush past it without some sort of creepy insect jumping onto your face.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Clothilde's Busy Day

I went to a Steiner study class called Foundation Studies on Friday and Saturday, leaving Ethan with the children.  On Saturday the big kids went with their Baba to B. B. Brown Gardens for a butterfly lecture he was doing, so it turned out to just be Ethan and Clothilde.

They were busy, very busy while I was gone.  They went to the store and bought supplies, brought them back and built hoops for the winter garden and some wooden pipes for a future homeschool project with the big kids.  This was all quite fun for an arboreal baby.  She certainly slept well afterwards!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Growing Greens

Whew, it's been a rough week around here.  I stayed home from the farm on Wednesday to rest, and Mirin was so kind as to watch Clothilde while Ethan did the chores.  He told me he made her walk all over the farm so she would sleep well!  (She did, too!)

The fall greens are growing so nicely - although these tend to do really well.  Nothing is large enough to pick yet, but soon.  I'll admit to tasting a leaf of the Tokyo Bekana because I was curious.  It was delicious and mild.  The daikon radishes and turnips have come up by now and have not yet been devoured by rabbits, so this is already an improvement over last year!

We are nearly finished reading E.Nestbit's The Book of Dragons for Michaelmas/Mabon/the equinox.  I loved this book when I was a child.  I had always thought E. Nesbit was male, but when we looked "him" up this year, I found out she was Edith Nesbit, and a very amazing woman.  It's funny how that sort of thing can make such a difference in perception, but reading it this year and knowing a little about her, I felt such an admiration for who she was and her sense of humor.

This week in the midst of feeling queasy and tired, I started re-assessing our homeschooling plan.  I told Mirin I was thinking of abandoning Macramé, since the last session he spent rolling around on the floor sobbing in frustration.  He was so surprised and said he loved Macramé and it was his favorite thing and he wanted to do more, even though it was hard.  So funny how our perceptions as parents can be so different from what is going on for the child!