Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jamie II

This morning Squeeze went outside to organize the remnants of our woodpile before "brunch" (our extremely late Saturday morning breakfasts).  Jamie was very upset that he was going outside in spite of his daddy's assurance that he would be back in very soon.

He drug himself into the kitchen immediately afterward and exclaimed with tearful dramatics, "Miss him! Miss him!"

"You're going to miss Dada?" I asked.  "Yeth," he answered.  "Miss him."

The sweetness.

Friday, December 28, 2012


On Christmas Day, Jamie was in the sunroom looking at a book.  Squeeze playfully tossed a shirt onto his back, which greatly offended him.  "Hey-ah!" he said, "Back-ah!" and clutched at his shoulders.

This story is so Jamie.  He is hilarious.  At two years old, he has been adding an "ah" to the end of most of his words.  "Back-ah", "Food-ah", "Big-ah", "Snack-ah" and so forth.  This kid jumps off furniture.  When the eight-year-old twins from across the road come over and all the boys are rampaging around the house in full battle gear, he's right in the thick of it.  He tells us to "stop it" if any of us are doing or saying something he doesn't like, including this morning when I asked him if he could show me how he can go potty on the potty-chair. 

Yeah.  He's spunky.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 Root Cellar

 The fruit of my labor:

 All the pretty colors:
BBQ sauce, lemon curd, tomato puree

 Close-up of Squeeze's wines

 My favorite: ferments
Sauerkraut, zingy-sweet pickles

The spread: so beautiful

Friday, December 14, 2012

Too hard

I've been meaning to post for weeks, but it is just too hard.  Too much to update on. 

In general: I was recently gone for an extended weekend for a friend's bridal shower; I'm feeling good and normal again, nowhere near as tired; I'm almost 17 week pregnant and started feeling the little bumpings of the baby moving this week; I finally thrifted an anus-kicking pair of cowboy boots that are actually comfortable (I've been pining for years); my brother and SIL are about to embark on a 6-month journey traveling internationally; Jamie is potty-training; we were snowed in last weekend for the first time in two years and loved every second of it; I made and canned lemon curd for the first time last weekend.

There.  Whew! 

Now that I have all that off my chest maybe I can start posting normally again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Friendly Beasts

I have officially arrived into the Christmas season with Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens.  This version of The Friendly Beasts has been known to make my brother cry and now it is making me cry too.  Enjoy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to kill a boxelder bug

I really enjoy the poetry of Bill Holm.  When we first moved to the rolling prairies, I discovered his books of poetry and essays at an area library.  He is a local writer, the descendant of Icelandic immigrant farmers, so the section was well-stocked.

I recently re-checked out one of his first books I became acquainted with: Boxelder Bug Variations: A Meditation on an Idea in Language and Music.  Oh, how it makes me laugh!  I had forgotten.  Boxelder bugs are a common, harmless pest that over-winter in Minnesota homes (though I never really saw them until moving to the southwest part of the state).  I have a tender-spot for them because of this book.

There is a Borealis family legend that tells of Squeeze's great-grandma, Mammy, being so disgusted by boxelder bugs that one fall that she poured gasoline over a large cluster of them on the trunk of a boxelder, killing the bugs, but also the poor tree.

So in honor of Mammy, I offer this poem.


                                                             Take two bricks.
                                                             Creep deliberately up
                                                             Behind the boxelder bug,
                                                             Being careful not to sing --
                                                             This will alert him.
                                                             In a graceful flowing gesture,
                                                             Something like a golf swing
                                                             Or reaching for your lover in the dark,
                                                             Gather up the boxelder bug
                                                             On the surface of the left brick
                                                             Bringing the right brick
                                                             At the same time firmly down
                                                             Together with the left brick.
                                                             There will be a loud crashing,
                                                             Like broken cymbals,
                                                             Maybe a breaking of brick, and
                                                             If you are not careful,
                                                             Your own voice rising.
                                                             When the brick dust has settled
                                                             And you have examined your own hands,
                                                             You will not see the boxelder bug.
                                                             There is a small hole in the brick
                                                             And he is exploring it,
                                                             Calmly, like a millionaire
                                                             In an antique shop.

         ~ Bill Holm
            Boxelder Bug Variations

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sometimes it is just so hard

Today is beautiful, sunny and in the upper-50's F, so I gave the older boys a choice for quiet-time while "the baby" napped.  Upstairs with books, or outside playing. 

They decided to play outside, which I think was a smart choice (duh!), but they begged for me to come and sit outside to watch them play. 

Their quiet-time is my quiet-time too, and the only time I have alone day or night, since I've been going to bed and getting up at the same time as them.  As much as I love these boys, I need my space.  I need that meager hour of QT in the afternoons.  I need the silence and solitude.  It is like a balm to my brain and soul.

I did go outside on the front step to hang diapers to dry while they transitioned from inside to out.  It was lovely and warm with that crisp fall scent in the air.  Diego bobbled around, looking for boxelder bugs, but Truen stuck close to me and regaled me with an endless minutiae of questions about plants and seeds.  So adorable, of course . . . but after 10 minutes my mind was buzzing and all I could think of was escape.

His string of questions included, "Remember those balls with seeds in them?  Where did they go?", "Remember when I planted them?", "Here's my special plant, do you see it?", "Will my plant grow as big as Diego?", "Where did Diego's plant go?", "The hen-and-chick, yeah -- where did it go?", "Will Diego's plant grow as big as Diego?", etc.

I tried to keep up with it as best I could until I realized I needed an escape and put an end to it after the second or third straight question of, "Will ____ grow as big as Diego?".  I finally very gently said, "Uhm, Truen?  Remember that this is my quiet-time too . . ."

"I know," he said good-naturedly, "but I just wanted to talk to you."

Heart-stab.  Of course he just wanted to talk to me.  Most of my morning was spent in the kitchen putting together a salmon chowder and a BBQ beef for the slow-cooker and keeping Jamie satisfied.  I hardly saw either of the older boys all morning while they played hard, enmeshed in their world of make-believe. 

Of course he wanted to talk to me.

It is moments like these when I think, "What kind of a mother am I?"  Seriously.  What kind of a mother am I??  And while I am able to see the larger picture, and I do know that I am not hard-hearted or even unusual in my short-comings or inabilities, my heart was pricked by his sweet desire to converse with me. 

It is so hard to be human.  I never used to think about that, I don't think.  I liked to complain about my slavery to the 40-hour work-week or how busy I was in school, but I'm not sure I ever felt so depleted as I do now.  Mothering is so intense, sucking the very marrow from our bones.  It doesn't matter if the well is dry or whether "I have it in me" . . . because all these little people need me, all the time.  They need my attention, affection, eyes, ears, hands, heart, mind.  My everything.  And they deserve my best.  But it is just so. hard.  Overwhelming.  All-encompassing.

{And I love them}

Friday, November 16, 2012

Two weeks later...

A list-post is the only thing that will do.
  • I haven't left the house more than a handful of times for the last month and a half.  I am going stir-crazy.  This is probably good, meaning that I have some of my interest in life and liberty coming back, but . . . I'm still really tired.  Going somewhere only appeals to me as an emotional outlet.  Otherwise, it is just too hard.  Tired.
  • Even the boys are begging to go somewhere.
  • I am 12 weeks.  
  • Twelve weeks and starting to feel a bit more energy flowing through my veins, but...
  • I still get really sleepy in the afternoons.  And I am completely tied and bound to food.  Getting hungry sends me in a downward spiral, and fast.  So "like usual" only way worse.
  • I can't believe I get to have a newborn again next summer.  I was re-reading about newborns from my pregnancy book last night with the insight of an experienced mother.  It made me smile and coo and squeal a little bit.  I can't wait to savor those first few days, weeks, months.
  • There have been a lot of inquiries about our pregnancy, asking, "I thought you were done...?"  Heh.  And so we thought.  But things got a little murky at the end of August and here we are.  I couldn't be more thrilled, just to be able to do it all one last time.  It makes me so happy.  Squeeze is happy too, feeling like it must be "meant to be".  He has said that he is excited about it with the exception of "all the work".  Always practical, that Squeeze of mine.  And what a lot of work it is.  Especially combined with manhandling 15 acres into submission and maintaining two large gardens.

Gotta go.  That's all she wrote para el día.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Annual Pumpkin Picture

If this series isn't positive proof that we need Squeeze HERE while taking pictures, I don't know what is.  I couldn't get them to hold still or look at me at the same time.  Sheeeeeeeeesh.  We ran out of time on the weekend we carved them and it is too dark to take pictures by the time he gets home from work.  I wanted pictures before the pumpkins started to mold and rot, thus the solo attempt.

I carved Jamie's cute little guy and Squeeze carved the boys' pumpkins based off their specific instructions.  They picked their pumpkins out on our outing to "Pumpkin Fest" (though Truen ended up using the one good one from our own garden vs. the lop-sided mammoth that he had picked out).

Pumpkin Pictures: 2011, 2009, 2008

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garlic lemonade

A post two days in a row??  I  know.  I'm amazing.

I've been sick for the past week with a sore throat, a cough, and congestion that rains down heaviest on me at night, while I'm trying to sleep.  It has been swell . . . yeah right.

Aside from the initial intake of echinacea tincture, I've been taking large doses of Vitamin C, gargling with tea tree oil in warm water, and drinking a warm garlic-lemon tea.  I got the idea and recipe from my favorite family health go-to reference book, Aviva-Jill Romm's Naturally Healthy Babies and Children.

It is soothing to a sore throat, tastes nice, and boosts the immune system.  Win-win-win.  I've really been savoring it.

Garlic Lemonade
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • Honey to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste

Pour the boiling water over the crushed garlic cloves in a quart canning jar, cover, and let sit for at least a half-hour.  Reheat the garlicky water as needed on the stove-top, adding it to the honey at the bottom of your favorite mug.  Stir and add lemon juice to taste.  Sip freely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It took for-ev-er

This morning it took me over two hours to assemble a Vegetable Beef soup, something that should take a half-hour.  All I had to do was brown the meaty soup bones and chop onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and kale.  All the other vegetables are dried and just need to be dumped in.  Honestly . .  . not much to it.  But there were boys crying and fighting left and right. 

The littlest guy tried to carry a step-stool into another room while I chopped whatever-it-was and fell on it, pinching his fingers.  (This was just one of the many crying fits he contributed over the elongated prep-time.)

The middle guy had a panic attack because he couldn't pull up his sleeves or wash his hands fast enough (as fast as his bigger brother) to come and touch the gelatinous stock.  (Seriously . . . it was amazing . . . like beef jello.)

The oldest was in shambles because he wants so badly to build a conservatory but doesn't know how.  He even went and picked out boards from the lumber pile, had his hammer and nails, but couldn't conjure anything that remotely resembles his ideal.  Tears of frustration.  I had him sit at the table with a good book and warm tea.

Eventually, after the first hour or so of attempting to put this soup together, there was a burning sensation in my brain as I contemplated whether or not I would ever finish.  I did finish . . . eventually . . . but zowie, it took a long time.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wonderful rain

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

It rained all day today, which is such a welcome event.  I can't even remember the last time it rained.  Maybe July?  The ground is cracked and dry.  The sound and sight of the drizzling sky felt so good.  Familiar.  Cozy.  The robins were in ecstasy hopping all around the yard.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Lil' buckaroos

We went to "Pumpkin Fest" at Squeeze's parents' church on Saturday.
They had a pumpkin patch, straw-bale maze, carnival games, and my favorite -- 
A dress-up box and old-timey pictures for big and small . . . so fun.
All three boys crack me up for different reasons.
Diego is so serious!
Truen's poses are so varied.
And Jamie was so benign and cooperative.
(The third picture is my favorite.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Last weekend

Last weekend was a bit more tame.  I took time to go on a walk with my family, sit in the sun, and relax a bit.  It has been over a month of intense work on the weekends and it felt very good to slow down.

Nevertheless, I still did some work:
  • Chopped and dehydrated 2 large bunches of celery
  • Rendered 3 quarts of snowy-white lard
  • Canned 17 quarts tomatillo salsa

It is supposed to freeze tomorrow night, so Squeeze pulled in the rest of the tomatillos and green tomatoes last night.  There are still plenty of cruciferious vegetables in the garden to glean from, but anything warm-loving (peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash, melons, etc.) is done for the season.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jamie says

Mullets are hip again, right?
  • "Bop!" = Stop!
  • "Maynoes" = Tomatoes
  • "Sooz" = Shoes
  • "Papo" = Pacifier (mutant offspring of Diego's baby-word "paso")
  • "Blankuk" = Blanket
  • "Meeoh-Meeoh" = Oatmeal
  • "Gampa" = Grandpa
  • "Bel-bo" = Belly-button
  • "Moom" = Moon
  • "Day-go" = Diego
  • "Soo-in" = Truen

Monday, September 24, 2012

More results from another three-day weekend

  • 10 lbs dried green beans (now fits in 1 quart jar)
  • 11 pints pickled sweet peppers
  • 10-ish lbs dried green peppers (both pepper jobs were a major time-suck with all the chopping and seed removal)
  • 4 jelly jars / 1 pint vanilla-melon jam
  • 6 quarts tomato puree
  • 5 pints charred chili BBQ sauce
  • 8 pints pickled green tomatoes
What I didn't get done . . .
  • Another batch of vanilla-melon jam
  • Decant/refill fermenting vessels w/ cabbage for sauerkraut
  • Apples up the wazoo
  • Tomatillos (a huge box filled to the top)
  • Green tomatoes
We talked about it this weekend and it is really feels like there is no end in sight.  Honestly, this could go on for another month (especially with all the work left to the weekends).  There are boxes and boxes full of produce waiting for me.  Seriously. 

I would like to try it during the week, but it is prit'near impossible with all the demands of the three little monkeys underfoot.  I just don't know how I would do it.  Things are different this year w/ the combination of age levels and temperaments.  It seems like I am always in the process of negotiating peace, breaking up fights, or comforting one screaming child or another.  (Not to mention feeding, bathing, directing, diapers, clean-up, etc.)

Nevertheless, I shall persevere.  I still feel strong, though my enthusiasm is starting to falter a bit.  And (heh) . . . we're supposed to start our little home school next week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The fellas right after apple-picking

Diego - 7 years old
Truen - 4 (5 next month)
Jamie - 20 months

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend recap

Romanced by tomatoes

Squeeze took Friday off, so I had a full three days to focus on food preservation.

This list blows my mind:
  • 7 quarts applesauce
  • 1 apple leather
  • 4 pints, 8 jelly jars melon preserves
  • 2 tomato paste leathers
  • 6.5 pints BBQ sauce
  • 1.5 jelly jars crab apple jelly
  • 8 quarts tomato puree
  • 8 quarts sauerkraut

But I did do it, all of it.  The apple leather came from a quart of applesauce that didn't seal.  The one-point-five jelly jars of crab apple jelly is just outrageous; the amount of work that went into those tiny little jars is off the charts.  But goodness . . . is it beautiful (and delicious).  The tomato puree turned out to be a lovely orange from the combination of yellow and red-pink tomatoes.

Diego is obsessed with "chesst" again, so Squeeze spent much of his weekend playing one game of chess after another.  He was also able to get various tasks around the house done and took 95% of the responsibility for the little guys.  Aside from breakfast each day, he made the food, wiped the butts, changed the diapers, broke up the fights, wiped the hands, etc.  They went on a melon hunt Sunday and made an excursion to the rock pile that left the place so quiet I wondered if they had been abducted by aliens.

All this allowed me time to focus on the strategy of what needed tending first and the resulting sequence of events.  Honestly, I am in such a groove this season that it wasn't a taxing experience at all.  I had on my "game face" and was still going strong at 10:00 PM on Sunday night (though I was definitely tired this morning).  Jamie had a tummy ache and needed me particularly on Friday and Saturday, so I did take a number of deep-nuzzle snuggle breaks to refill his tank (which I loved).

Up next weekend: tomatillo salsa and apple products galore.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Garden Tour

East Garden: Early June
The straw is laid down and all supports are in.
Onions are growing in the foreground.
Lettuce is the bright, bushy stuff on the left;
Peas are the tall plants in the background.

East Garden: Mid-June
A couple of weeks later and things are really growing.
I took this picture while a storm was moving in --
thus the pink lighting.

East Garden: Mid-July
Things are way, way up.
Onions will be harvested in a couple of weeks, corn is coming,
and the cabbages are starting to curl inward.

 To think . . .
this delicate little darling becomes
an enormous squash.

 West Garden: Mid-July
The vining plants grow here:
Melons, winter squash, summer squash, pumpkins.
Squeeze gives Truen credit for the idea for this walkway.
Truby was so excited about his "bridge" --
he drew a model of what he wanted, helped Squeeze pick out the planks,
and acted as construction assistant.
All the three of the boys loooooove walking on it.

Our very own grapes --
The birds got the majority of these little beauties.
Better luck next year...?

Mid-July harvesting:
Zucchini, beets, scalloped summer squash, cucumbers

Truen set this up while I was making lunch one afternoon.
Isn't it just darling?
We spent a couple of days protecting it from Jamie and
admiring the color and size differences, until the novelty wore off
and I disassembled it to make room on the table.

It has been flooding tomatoes for the past three weeks --
German Pink, Manyel, Cherokee Purple, Black Plum
(there's a bit of scarlett okra in there as well).
See our beautiful back "steps"?  And that lovely bottom-landing carpet?
Squeeze's dad will be building REAL steps this fall (can't wait).

 Melons, zucchini, & Cinderella pumpkins
from the West Garden --
the boys love the treasure-hunt of picking melons,
Not to mention the succulent, sweet reward.

Diego's vegetable stand --
This is his second year of selling vegetables.
His stand is in the kitchen; doesn't he set it up so beautifully?
While he sells to anyone who visits the house (thanks Mimi!),
his most loyal customers are his Grandmas.
The price?  One "hawk coin" . . . twenty-five cents.

East Garden: September
It looks a bit weedy and upkept by this point.

Cucumbers, corn, onions, and garlic are all done.  Some things are going to seed.  Second seedings of lettuce, radishes, cilantro are looking good, as are the second plantings of green beans and broccoli. 

The first planting of broccoli is putting out, big-time (though the florets are now about the size of your thumb).  Cooking greens are going full bore.  Tomatoes eggplant, okra, and peppers need to be picked every-other-day.

Our little franken-toddler has to be closely monitored these days.  He likes to stomp up to big green tomatoes or little peppers with uber enthusiasm, saying, "Rwwwwiiiiiiiipe!" and then lop them off their vines.  'Tis the season of life and garden.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The weekend tally

  • 2 pints watermelon-rind pickles
  • 7.5 pints charred chili BBQ sauce
  • 9.5 quarts tomato sauce
  • 1-2 pints tomato paste drying in the dehydrator (it started out as somewhere around 10 lbs of plum tomatoes . . . wow)
  • 8 quarts sauerkraut decanted, fermenting vessels refilled with same amount of fresh cabbage, salt, and caraway seeds
  • Went apple-picking and picked . . . uhhhhhh . . . 60 lbs?, 75 lbs? . . . 4 boxes full
  • Picked a sack filled with black walnuts to dry (experimenting)

How am I doing this...?  Very simple.  Squeeze keeps the boys under wraps for the weekend (they play alongside him wherever he is working, or "help" him work) while I spend two days from noon to bed-time in the kitchen. 

I am a preserving machine this season, a force to be reckoned with.  I surveyed our jar storage this evening and realized that we might run out of jars (and/or be forced to use the pints when I'd rather use the quarts).  The tomatillo glut hasn't even started yet and I have big plans for mondo amounts of salsa verde.  !!!

This is amazing for two reasons.  First off, I've been semi-embarrassed in the past, wondering why I have been hoarding such massive quantities of canning jars.  It always seemed so excessive.  But this year?  Whoa baby, I'm on fire. 

And that brings me to my second point, which is . . . I am totally Wonder Woman this year.  It is amazing.  I can't believe the amount of food I am preserving!  I assume it is a combination of fabulous output from our garden and the accumulation of skills and experience.  I am so impressed every time I go down in the root cellar.  It already looks amazing.

And last but not least, Squeeze built a sandbox.  (Sorry about that terribly back-lit picture, it was the best I could do at the time.)  We've been talking about it for the past 3-4 years and finally got our act together and decided this was it!  The biggest hurdle has been deciding where it would go.  Squeeze used wood from our huge pile of reclaimed lumber, harnessing the charm of the "rustic" look.  He did a great job.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Last weekend's stats

  • 2 pints watermelon-rind pickles
  • 4 pints cantaloupe preserves
  • 2 quarts dried plum tomatoes
  • 11 quarts tomato sauce
  • Still in the hopper (i.e. should have been decanted on Sunday): 6 quarts sauerkraut

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You can teach an old dog new tricks (me)

Instilling a sense of duty has not come naturally to me as a parent.  I'm all about inspiration and affection, learning to love the world around us, taking time to appreciate "the little things".  But duty?  Not so much.  Duty is "boring".

However, in recent years I have come to realize that duty is a very important part of life.  In it lies the simple building blocks of daily life: respect, patience, perseverance, serving others, care of possessions, maintenance of living spaces, etc.  Without these habits built into life, chaos reigns.  Chaos is worse than boring - it is dreadful.

A habit is "an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary".  Of course we clear our spot when we are done!  X-Y-Z goes back on the shelf after I'm done with it.  And that life-simplifying mantra, "a place for everything and everything in its place". 

Without a doubt, order and cleanliness comes easier to some than others.  Children amplify the need for these life skills, or lack there of, beyond reckoning.  I fall into the second category.  Lack there of.  Doh.

I remember reading encouragement to involve young ones in chores right from the start.  It will often take longer, but it is worth the effort of patience and (sometimes) added work to train them to help.  While I am doing that with Jamie, I never really did with Diego until he was a bit older, perhaps around 3-ish.  Probably because most of the said-chores were not on my radar screen.  The messes seem bigger and more ominous now, but also . . . prior to children, my jobs were to wash the dishes and clean the cat litters.  Squeeze did everything else. 

It has been a slow transition over the years, but I now hold the reigns of household management.  Of course, this also involves cleaning up after three little rascals, but I am floored by the amount of labor that is involved in "just life".  The daily grind.  The endless minutiae of picking up, organizing, cleaning, re-organizing, picking up, cleaning it again, and so on. 

Without daily maintenance, I am toast.  The tsunami-force of the mess monster swallows one whole - mind, spirit and all.  It is like a black-hole of despair.

My recent understanding of all this has initiated a major overhaul this past year.  The boys are becoming more and more responsible in household maintenance.  We all live here, and while I am your mama, I ain't your maid.

It has been a work in progress for several years.  I've spent a goodly amount of time hammering out my own failings . . . developing standards and creating structure in my own daily/weekly routines . . . and while I am not perfect, things have improved drastically.

Through all these inner-workings and sight of tangible results, I've realized that instilling a set of expectations in the daily routine is key.  It used to be the darndest thing to have my boys get dressed every day.  And brushing teeth after breakfast?  Fergettabou'dit.  They hit the ground running for the play table as soon as their breakfast dishes were cleared.

But then it hit me: make it an expectation.  Schedule it in to the routine.  Normalize it into daily reality.  One small example of this is my recent regimentation of "morning chores", which is nothing more than clearing the table, wiping their spot, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed.  But now . . . if they forget, all I need to do is ask sweetly, "What do you need to do next?" and they know exactly what I am talking about.  There is no harassing and the work gets done, in large part because they expect it.

It is embarrassing to know that I am just figuring this out with a seven, four, and one-and-a-half year old, but things change over the years.  Demands and challenges are different, as are the levels of activity and distractedness.  And shoot, I'm an ENFP.  We don't do well with the "trivial drudgery of everyday life".  Heh.

What is best though, is that I've come to realize that I can make ANYTHING into habit.  Whatever portion of the daily grind I need them to take responsibility for . . . I can instill it as habit into their daily routine.  One at a time, slow and steady wins the race, but I can. DO. it.

And that feels very good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The past is a foreign country

Retronaut: I am beyond intrigued.

People are people are people are people.  No matter when or where. 

I love stuff like this because it helps me get out of the entrapment of feeling like I am (or we are) "the first".  We are pioneering our own lives, yes, from birth to death - gaining the experiences and maturity that comes through living - but it has all been done before, a million times over.

Look into the eyes of some of these people.  I've seen them before.  I've seen them!  They are the faces of all of us.  Ever-changing, always the same.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preservation blitz

It is the wee hours of the night/morning and I've been in the kitchen for most of the day . . . decanting sauerkraut, jamming and canning 12 cups of concord grapes, canning 9 quarts of tomato sauce.  I didn't get started until mid-afternoon, but crikes . . . I'm bushed. 

Tomorrow I will need to re-fill the Pickl-It jars with a fresh batch of thinly-sliced cabbage n' caraway seeds for 'kraut and quarter plum tomatoes for the dehydrater. 

I really should blanch and freeze kale and collards as well.  They "keep" so much longer out in the garden, but better to get a jump on it vs. waiting until I am totally burnt-out and the plants are half-dead.  I doubt I'll have it in me, though.  Maybe sometime this week.

'Tis the season.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Harvesting & homeschooling

I feel a burning lack of contemplative thought in my life right now.  I don't have time to read, I don't have time to sit and stare, I don't have time for blogging.  It burns.  I sat down to write a contemplative post today, but realized that I don't have the time or ability to hammer my thoughts into a cohesive thesis.  So I shan't.  I just can't.

Our tomato table is full to the brim, waiting for me to slice plum tomatoes for drying.  I hope to have enough big-juicies to make a batch of tomato sauce soon.  Salsa, too.  I de-stemmed 10 lbs of grapes yesterday, concord grapes from our neighbor Walentyne.  They are such a gorgeous dusky purple-blue, my heart leaps whenever I look at them.  The next step is to separate the skins from the pulp.  I am making grape jam, so I will then cook the pulp, strain the seeds, then add the chopped skins back to the greenish-goo, add a sweetener and vioa-la!, jam.

I looked around the house yesterday and remembered, "Oh yes, this is September".  Of course it isn't September yet, but the harvest has started.  Things are getting wild.  I want to keep my perspective this year, to remember that the house might look like a cyclone hit it, but the chaos is only temporary.  It is worth it.

I am also looking toward the reality that we are starting Year 1 . . . first grade . . . of homeschooling this year.  We will start in October.  I feel fairly relaxed about it as I did most of my planning this past spring (with two year of reading and research undergirding it).  We have cultivated our home and lifestyle as a rich learning environment, so even if we haven't officially done "school", our little fellas have been schooled in many life skills and sciences since the very start.  I am also realizing that I am of the "better late than early" variety. 

I will be following the methods and philosophy of the educator Charlotte Mason using Ambleside Online as my training wheels, though I will be using The Story of the World as my history "spine".  I will be very curious to see how everything plays out.  It will involve a lot of reading aloud, which I think we will all enjoy.  I'm not exactly sure how to re-organize our day to make everything work, but I have read enough about homeschooling to know that it might taking several readjustments before things gel.

Other goals include teaching Diego how to read (which I think he is totally ready for, it should be easy) and teaching both boys how to tell time, as they currently measure time by Mr. Bean episode-lengths.  I think I need a morning board, so I can go hard at it with the season, temperature, date, time, etc.  Any suggestions out there...?  For some reason, I can't muster the inner strength to actually make one (though it must be easy).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olson Extravaganza

Posting a little sooner than last year . . .
My parents & sister left yesterday after a two-week visit.
We spent a week at our place and a week in the Twin Cities.
Lots of time with my sibs, grandparents, great-grands,
and a menagerie of extended Olsons.
'Twas good.

 The usual with Unky Erik

 The extended Olsons --
We had many a night like this.

Laid out flat at the beach --
three days without a nap'll do this to yeh.

My youngest sibs --
Snacking on homemade hummus
after splashing around with the nephews in the lake.

 Watching the koi at Como Park

Examining the fountain coins with Unky Andrew

 Blasting Grandma with the bubble gun --
She's the one that bought it for them! :)

Unky Jayna outright laughing --
Jamie's face was smooshed beyond belief in that mask.

Uncle Andrew & Auntie Brenda --
Keepin' it real with the kiddos.

Playing Go Fish with Grandpa & Great-Grandma

My lovely grandparents
"Up at the cabin"

The boys with their great-grands
and the friendly neighborhood kitty.

The last-minute goodbye photo