The Sun’s Going Away!


Well, so much for maintaining a weekly posting schedule over the summer!  It is now late-September and our brief sun-time is waning.  Last Saturday was our final Farmer’s Market of the year, and this morning we saw our first snowflakes.  I’ve dug all my potatoes and stored them carefully away. (Good thing we didn’t get too many, since storage would be an issue – no root cellar.  Still, I’d have liked to get a bit more than “about double” what I planted.)  There are still carrots and beets in the ground.  Frost and moose very sweetly took care of the rest of my vegetable garden.  The Boy is now quite fond of moose, since he didn’t have to choke down any kale or cauliflower this year.  There is still buckwheat to harvest, and maybe enough barley to make a couple pots of soup.  And I just collected the last of the tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse.  Oh, and we tried growing a couple of tomato family relatives called “Sunberries” and “Garden Huckleberries,” which are supposed to produce mega crops of dark purple berries that are best picked after a few frosts.  Well, maybe the “mega” part works farther south.  I picked a handful of Sunberries from the 35 or so plants I put in, but the Garden Huckleberries barely even set fruit.  Fortunately, those were two gift seed packets from Mom-in-law (Hi, MIL!).  They were actually a few years old, which is why I started so many – I didn’t really think many would germinate.

Though we did get some produce (enough to be thankful for!) it’s been a kind of disappointing year in the garden.  While I did manage to get some ripe tomatoes and enough summer squash to not mind composting a couple, we were overrun by chickweed


The chickweed is still growing.

and bird vetch


Bird Vetch – the Kudzu of the North

(and plantain, lamb’s quarters, dandelions and clover . . . ), and it was a very wet summer.

We did not get very far in our horizontal priority list, but we did manage to move our ducks outdoors! Hoorah!  The Husband build a lovely outdoor coop for them, with a nice enclosure, several covered areas and a pool for bathing.

They weren’t exactly “free-range”; there are too many free-range dogs and cats in our neighborhood to let them wander the property outside of a sturdy fence, and the property is too large to enclose (well, with our budget).  They did get to spend most of the summer outside, though, eating all the mosquitoes their little hearts desired (and as much chickweed as we could give them).  Meanwhile, the indoor coop has had a makeover.  The Husband emptied and cleaned it, and we’ve repainted the coop side with fresh white paint and polyurethane to protect the floor.


I had to include The Husband or it would have been hard to see anything in the all white coop.



Ducks back in their winter quarters

We are still working on the storage/work side.  That part can be done with the birds back inside, but since the return to winter quarters had to happen, those quarters needed to be ready first.

Currently we have 20 ducks and 2 bantam chickens.  They all returned to the coop but some are just visiting.  Several, at least, will take up residence in our freezer in a week or two.  Egg production has declined somewhat this year, and our spring hatching disappointingly produced only three healthy ducklings (and one of those even needed some help to get out of her shell).  Time to bring in some fresh blood.  Next spring we’ll order some new birds to improve the gene pool a bit.  We considered just starting over in the spring and sending all of them to the freezer, but that would mean no fresh eggs at all over the winter.  Store-bought isn’t enticing after having fresh for so long!  Also, we don’t have a stand-alone freezer.  Trying to fit 20 ducks in the above-the-refrigerator space would be a nightmare.  Hopefully, now that the birds have returned to the consistent 14-hour days and 50-60 degree temps of the indoor coop, they will think they’ve already been through winter and start laying like crazy.  If they don’t, we’ll have to do some investigating to find out who’ll survive the cull.

This time of year is always fun.  All the many things that should have gotten done over the summer but didn’t are still waiting.  School has started for both the teacher Husband and the homeschool Family.  The weather always seems to be gorgeous on days we are scheduled for indoor activities and iffy, at best, on those days we could work on those let’s-just-get-it-done tasks.  Let me tell you, wading through wet, waist-high bird vetch and slipping on overgrown chickweed to pick buckwheat in the cold rain is not my favorite part of autumn.  It’s all good, though.  The smell of autumn, the return of sunsets and the sight of the butterscotch birch and cottonwood leaves against the intense blue or smoky gray of the sky makes up for the yucky bits.

The Home Project, part 2


Nothing much has happened indoors since part 1, thanks to June being the month to get the Farmlet tilled, raked and planted.  We have also been working on enlarging the cleared area and planting a new raspberry patch.  I’ve been madly picking rose petals (for wild rose petal jelly – yum!), too, but now things are settling down and I can get back to the mess at hand.

Today, I took advantage of the Kids’ absence (yea for summer camp!) to start “cleaning” their rooms.  Now, before anybody objects to the idea of throwing out kids’ stuff while they are away and unaware, that’s not what I’m doing.  I told them both I would be sorting the stuff in their rooms and throwing away only the obvious trash.  The Boy grunted his assent while making Lego Harry Potter and friends play Lego Quidditch.  The Girl wanted a definition of “obvious trash.”  She was wise to ask, since I was assuming water-damaged papers and old princess stickers were clearly rubbish.  She disagreed, so those items are safe.  Sigh.

My plan is to separate the considerable amount of clutter in to piles – flotsam in one corner, jetsam in another, chaff over by the bed, etc.  Bits of tissue, old band-aids, broken bits of old toys, partial pencil erasers, dried-out markers – TRASH.  Usable but possibly outgrown toys, clothing, books, etc., in their own piles for inspection (and, with luck, removal).  Current toys, clothing books – in piles near where they belong – I am helping them clean, by doing some preliminaries for them, not doing the whole job for them.  Also, they will only be gone for 4 days.  That may not be enough time to excavate all the way to the floor in both rooms.

They, like me, have a ridiculously difficult time sorting stuff.  Each object they touch must have the memories associated with it aired before it can be dealt with; this often means an object that seems unimportant – even to the Kid who owns it – will become indispensable once they pick it up.  I am hoping that having the categories ready for them to go through (with my help, and not all at once) will make it easier to see what’s important enough to keep, and what they are ready to let go.  We shall see.  If it works, I might have them go through my space and categorize my junk.  I’ll have to be careful to define “obvious trash” really clearly, though.🙂

The Home Project


Organization has always been a huge challenge for me.  When I lived at home, my mom was great at helping me maintain relative tidiness.  When my room threatened to tend a little too much toward chaos, she’d nag – uh, I mean urge – me to straighten up.  Sometimes she’d urge me to do so repeatedly, over a very long time, but eventually I’d do it.

Then I went to college and grad school.  My poor roommates.  I’ve probably mentioned this in the blog before, but I always had the idea that when I settled down in a permanent home (as opposed to a dorm room or apartment), I’d be better at remembering those lessons Mom taught me.  Hmm.

It seems that 1. combining the household stuff of two mid-30s bibliophiles; 2. having kids; and 3. homeschooling does not automatically improve the organizational abilities of the chronically scattered.

My children are either genetically predisposed to messiness, or they are just following my poor example. (Nature versus nurture?)  This is not to say that my darling husband is a paragon of orderliness, but he is probably closer to that end of the organizational spectrum than anyone else in our household.

With that as background, and many previous failures as examples of what NOT to do, I am undertaking a mission to discard as much unnecessary stuff as possible and organize the rest, so that “a place for everything and everything in its place” no longer translates to “everything where it lands” and our disaster area can be referred to as a “home.”  I could go around and ask myself, for each item, “Is it necessary? Is it beautiful? Do I love it?” but I’m thinking of making the first pass through the house with a different question in my mind:  Is it crap?

There are no pictures in this post because “before” pics are too damning.  I’ll post some “in-between” pics as I go along, and when I have some decent “after” shots to show, maybe I’ll be able to share the “befores,” as well.

Wish me luck, and check back monthly for progress reports!

What’s your worst organizational challenge?

Weekly Wrap Up for May 15, 2015


But first, a few words about history.

For History, we are following the progression outlined in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind, which is a four-year rotation through time.  The first year is Ancient Times, then the Middle Ages, then Early Modern History, then Modern Times.  If you start out teaching your first-grader about ancient civilizations, by the time he or she graduates from high school, you will have covered the entire span of human history three times, each time with a little more depth.  Our history focus for most of this year was Modern History – from about 1870 to the present.  We got to the end of Bauer’s The Story of the World, volume 4: Modern Times a few weeks ago. (That book ends a little past the fall of Communism.  When it was published, in 2006, Bauer considered 9/11 and its aftermath to be current events, too recent to see just what impact they would have on history.)

We have started over, at the beginning, and I am SO glad.  Modern history is, of course, worthwhile as a subject – interesting, intriguing, invaluable for understanding our world – but my kiddos, at 9 and 11, want Good Guys and Bad Guys.  Trying to explain the subtleties of shifting alliances and what “national interests” are – meh.  It’ll be much more interesting to me (and hopefully, to them) when they are 13 and 15.  We know so much about the whys of modern history that the details bog the kids down.  3000-year old wars between the Sumerians and Akkadians are just fact.  No need to interpret which group was in the right, it’s enough to know that Akkad overran Sumer.  And hey, let’s make clay tablets to try out writing in cuneiform!

So, here’s the wrap up:

(Pre)History (and a little science):

-Studied up on archaeology and human ancestors like australopithecus, homo habilis, and homo erectus.

-Watched documentary on differences between early modern humans and Neanderthals.

-Used Stone Age tools (rocks!) to open a coconut. :)

-Discussed what collection of traits makes us uniquely human.  Kids settled on language, tool use and art.


-Discussed 5 themes of geography (location, place, human-environment interaction, movement and regions).

-Investigated patterns of migration of early humans.

-Noted that movement of information and a different way of interacting with the environment helped early modern humans edge out Neanderthals.


-Continued multiplication facts practice.

-Read up on early number systems and different systems for counting on body parts. (Look up Papua New Guinea counting systems!)

-Learned how keeping track of stuff lead to beginnings of writing; and how the Nile river’s annual flooding helped Egyptians get really good at surveying and geometry, as well as keeping track of time.

-Investigated the invention of zero.

-Went back to last year’s books to review and regain some confidence (both kids do fine with math, but they have a bit of mathphobia).


Science was pretty broad this week, with lots worked into history, but we also:

-Reviewed several earth science documentaries for Daddy (How the Earth Was Made series from the History Channel).

-Investigated bats, spiders and scorpions, at Boy’s request.  These are the “Crawlers” from Lego’s “Legends of Chima” series, and so are of infinite interest to him.  We watched a couple of Magic School Bus episodes and he read lots of library books on the subjects.

-Started an experiment to see if we can grow bacteria from some toys that were left in the bathroom sink for way too long.  We are also testing whether soap and water or bleach and water is more effective at killing bacteria.

-Are working on hatching our second clutch of ducklings. (Sometimes just life is science!)


-Checked out prehistoric cave art online.

-Attempted to grind pigments from rock to make our own “cave paint.” (Might need to try different – that is, softer – rocks for this…or maybe just sidewalk chalk!)

-I’m not really sure if this is art or science, but Girl flaked a rock into a spear point!  The point wouldn’t do much harm to a wooly mammoth, but the beast might get distracted by the sparkly gold ribbon she used to attach the point to the shaft. (Photo coming!)


-Girl had her harp lesson, as usual.  We have neglected practice a bit this week, though.  Daddy is the practice overseer/task master, and he has been super tired lately, as he always is at the end of the school year.

-The kids and I have been discussing the relative merit of Billy Joel’s music in different periods.  In other words, Piano Man and The Ballad of Billy the Kid vs. Uptown Girl, Allentown and For the Longest Time.  Um, probably can’t claim this is vital to their education.  But really, Uptown Girl?  Gah.


-Still plodding along, looking for the Goldilocks curriculum (not too hard, not too easy).  At least the Girl has some familiarity with basic vocabulary.  We checked an interactive program out of the library, and she has been doing about 20 minutes a day this week, but it is a bit too advanced and I can see the “I’m-beginning-to-get-immensely-frustrated-with-this” look on her face.


I can’t keep up with all they read, though I do check over what comes home from the library.  I don’t teach reading, though occasionally I have each of them read aloud a bit, to check fluency and pronunciation.  Didn’t do any of that this week.


Surprisingly, I got both of them to write a decent amount this week, with very little moaning.  Instead of giving them a specific topic and asking them to write, or asking them to write on a topic of their own choosing, I handed them each a sheet with the following typed at the top:

Tell me about the last book you read for fun.  What is the title?  Who is the main character?  Does he or she have friends?  Enemies?  What is the problem in the book?  Did you like it?  Why or why not?

I told them they didn’t have to answer all those questions directly – they were there more as a guide, something to think about if they got stuck.  I wanted complete sentences, and they had to give real reasons for like or disliking the book.  No “I like this book because it was AWESOME!” type answers. –

Boy wrote a good paragraph – he loved his book because “the cats are funny, there’s action, and adventure.”  He needs a little work on punctuation and capitalization, but very little, actually.  I was quite pleased.

-Girl filled the entire page with a very nice summary of her book (which she likes because of the “incredibly sweet” way the main characters always help each other out and work together to find the “best possible solution”).  She only made three teensy errors! And she summarized, instead of trying to retell the whole story verbatim!  Believe me, that’s HUGE.

-They both did a good job on this assignment.  I must have hit on the right amount of structure versus freedom.  Now to try and hit that sweet spot again!

Farm, School, Love


1. Farm-y stuff:

The last clutch of ducklings included 12 little fluff balls, six or seven boys, five or six girls. (It’s kind of hard to tell before they get their grown-up feathers.)

Today, we are starting to collect eggs for the second clutch of the year.  We have one duck from our first generation who is remarkably consistent with laying daily, and we would like to make sure to pass those genes on … but in the first clutch, the eggs we collected from her did not develop.  This time around, she has been isolated with a drake (we didn’t dim the lights and strew rose petals around to set the mood or anything, but you get the idea), to make sure it is not a lack of attention that caused her eggs to be infertile.

The snow is almost completely gone from the grain field.  Weekends will soon be spent prepping the ground for this year’s crops.  I’m not sure what will happen, kitchen garden-wise, since we are contemplating a visit to the family on the East Coast during the main part of the growing season.  (Can’t wait until after Hubs’s retirement – some time in the future – so we can travel during the COLD months!!)  Hopefully we will get the greenhouse built, at least, so that next year we can extend the season long enough to suit me.

2. School-y stuff:

Quarterly work samples and twice-yearly progress reports are due May 15th.  If I could figure out how to use LEGO Chima as a basis for all subjects, my life would be much easier.  Hmm. Perhaps, I could have my Students research the history of the LEGO company (history), and the molecular structure of LEGO plastic (science), locate LEGO headquarters, factories and distribution sites  on a map (geography), write a fan-fiction episode of “The Legends of Chima” (language arts), create posters of the world of Chima (art, and foreign language, if Girl did the writing on hers in German), learn to play the theme-song on the harp (Girl’s music), and figure out the profit LEGO, Inc. makes with each new ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY set of characters/”speedorz”/etc. (math/marketing/propaganda/brainwashing).

3. Love-y stuff:

11-years ago today, my darling Girl arrived and changed our lives forever, and for the better. ❤

Girl at about 2 months.

Girl ON THE DAY OF HER BIRTH, with Sir Moose-alot.


For those of you who know me personally, this is actually a picture of my daughter – not me!

Beauty at the Beach

Beauty at the Beach. (She prefers “Tomboy Covered in Muddy Sand.”)

And, because I was on a blog-hiatus through March, I MUST add that the Boy’s arrival in March, 9 years ago, was also a life-changing and blessed event!

My Boy

My Boy.❤



Boy Covered in Muddy Sand

Boy Covered in Muddy Sand