A Little Birdie

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Just playing in my art journal.  This little birdie is painted in gouache on a background of acrylic paints with some collage, stamping, stenciling…your basic mixed-media mishmash.  I don’t think the berries are quite done, but I just love how the bird came out.  I used a photo from the Oct/Nov 2016 issue of Birds&Blooms magazine as my model.

What do you think?  Any advice for finishing the berries?

Darcy for President

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My Girl’s delight with her English Country Dance class, and her desire to watch the dancing scenes in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, awakened in me a wish to reread that novel.  And then I had to watch the production from beginning to end, admiring and sighing over all the beautiful scenery, Colin Firth, the lovely dresses, Colin Firth, the magnificent estates, Colin Firth, the gorgeous sets and, of course, Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.

I am not a Jane Austen scholar, but I know enough to understand that she offered, through her novels, criticism of a society focused too sharply on manners, appearances and status.  I wonder if part of her continued appeal is that we have moved so far away from that excess of civility.  What an oddity Mr. Darcy would be in today’s world, especially if he suddenly appeared in the U.S., during this particular autumn.  What would we make of a fabulously wealthy man whose employees and tenants sing his praises rather than write tell-all books about him, who conceals both his own good deeds and the wrongdoings of others, and recognizes that people of different social strata can be worthy of respect? How would we handle the facts that his only “private server” is his valet, he is careful both in his actions and his speech (usually), and he admits when he has made a mistake?   Good manners wouldn’t give Saturday Night Live and the late night talk show hosts much material, and wouldn’t that be refreshing!  If Darcy ran for president, his slogan could be “Honesty with Discretion; Courtesy with Morality.”  People would probably say he waffled on his opinion of the Bennett sisters, and the birther crowd would actually have a point.  But you know, if he looked like Colin Firth, I might just vote for him anyway.🙂

 

Because I didn’t have enough going on . . .

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I proposed a class on hand embroidery to the Fairbanks Folk School, and it was accepted! Yea! I get to teach grown-up people! Who are not my children! (Well, the class is open to people 12-years old and up, so I might be teaching somebody else’s kids, but that’s ok.)  Here’s the class description, as well as a few pictures:

Hand embroidery is an easy and enjoyable way to decorate your life. You can embellish clothing, make art pieces for your walls, and produce lovely gifts for friends and family. You can spend hours or minutes, pennies or big bucks on your projects – no matter what your commitment level or budget is, once you know the basic stitches, you can create beautiful items easily.

In the first session of Easy Embroidery, you will learn basic hand embroidery stitches, including running, back, chain, and blanket stitches (and some variations), and the French knot. In the second session, we’ll add some simple filling stitches to your sampler and begin work on a small embroidered picture that you can frame, or mount on a pillow or greeting card. You will learn how to choose the correct fabric and thread to create the look you want for future projects. In addition, you will learn several ways to transfer a design to fabric: tracing with a lightbox or window, using an iron-on transfer pen, and using dressmaker’s carbon paper.

 

Yea! Go me! (It has been awhile since I did anything creative, so I’m pretty psyched about this class.) The Folk School is interested in a class on making rag dolls, as well as possibly something with polymer clay, so I’m working on putting together a couple more classes for them.  The embroidery class is 2 2-hour sessions, 6-8 pm on October 14 and 21, 2016.  Click here to sign up!

I managed one other little creative thing last week, too.  My sister needed a pair of earrings for a friend’s birthday.  The birthday was on September 8, which was the date of the debut of the original Star Trek series in 1966.  The friend is a fan, so here’s what I came up with:

They are a little wonky, but I love them.  I’m gonna make me a pair!  If there’s enough interest, I’ll make a bunch and list them on my ArtFire shop.

 

Aside
(The title of this post is “Summer Through Kids’ Eyes, and What We’re Doing for School this Year” – I don’t know why it is not at the top, in big, bold type like the titles usually are, but it does show up at the bottom of the post.  Weird!)
A couple of weeks ago, I asked the Kids for their impressions of Summer 2016.  Though it wasn’t an assignment (Why would a homeschooling teacher-mom ask for a “What I During Summer Vacation” essay?  Except for one week when they were at Bingle Camp, I was with them 24/7.  Well, maybe 18-22/7.), the Girl wrote the following short essay:
This summer we went to the lake two times, went swimming at our grandparents’ hotel pool twice, learned how to swim, still didn’t get our tree fort, but I did get a door.  We went to Denali Park for three days with our Youth Group, which was pretty fun, except it rained for two out of three days.  We also went on a really long hike in Gulkana, and volunteered at our local Stone Soup Café [an organization providing meals to those in need].  I auditioned for the Fairbanks Youth Concert Orchestra last week, and I got in!
-The End- 
The Boy said that, though he could remember everything, due to the fact that he has an excellent and deep memory, he has trouble accessing the memories on demand. :-)  We’ll see what he comes up with in a few days.
***
This year I am trying a more structured approach to school.  I’ve tried being structured before, but always in the back of my head was the idea that I should be letting them choose what they want to study, and that I should trust that they will learn what they need to learn in their own time.  Well, I’ve tried that approach, too. (Probably not as well as I could have.)  The thing is, I have not really committed to Unschooling / Project Based Homeschooling,  or a more formal approach.  Inconsistency is worse than choosing a “wrong” approach, I think.  So, this year, since the Girl (7th Grade! When did that happen?) has repeatedly asked for tests and quizzes in the past, and since the Boy (5th Grade! What??) seriously needs help learning to focus on tasks that are not of his choosing,  we are going formal.  Here’s the rundown:
Language Arts:
Daily Grammar Practice, Levels 5 and 7 (Both)
Cursive Practice with Pictures (G)
 -Cursive Practice with Jokes and Riddles (B) (An example: Why did the teacher go to the beach?  She wanted to test the water.)
The Writer’s Jungle/Bravewriter (Both)
-Reading and writing across the curriculum (Both)
Foreign Language:
Rosetta Stone German (G)
How to Train Your Dragon Dragonese (B)😉
Science:
Real Science Odyssey: Biology Level II (G)
Sassafras Science Adventures, Vol. 1: Zoology (B)
-Dover Human Anatomy Coloring Book (Both)
-Selected Topics in Marine Biology, as requested (G)
Social Studies/History:
Layers of Learning, Year 2:  The Middle Ages (Both)
-Many, many historical fiction books, and readings from several history texts (Both)
Crash Course History videos (on youtube) (Both)
PBS Learning Media
Social Studies/Geography:
-Layers of Learning, Year 2, focusing on Europe for the first semester
-Mapping The World By Heart – This textbook is one we will use over several years, and by the end, they might actually be able to draw a map of the world by heart…but even if they can’t, they will certainly have a better idea of where things are than they do now!
Math:
 –JUMP Math 7.1 and 7.2 (G)
JUMP Math 5.1 and 5.2 (B)
-Supplementing as needed with Khan Academy
Physical Education and Health:
-Swimming at Fairbanks’s Mary Siah Recreation Center (Both)
-English Country Dancing (think Jane Austen) (G)
Janice Van Cleve’s Nutrition for Every Kid
Home Economics:
-Sewing lessons with Mom (Both) (Girl wants to learn to make her own clothes; Boy wants to make his stuffed toy designs real.)
-Cooking – Raddish monthly cooking kit subscription, the cookbook produced by our PAC (Parent Advisory Committee – Kind of a PTA/Booster organization for homeschool) (G, though B might participate sometimes), and Janice Van Cleve’s Nutrition for Every Kid
Art and Music:
Atelier video-based art program (Both)
Beethoven Who? CD-based music appreciation course (Both)
Layers of Learning Year 2 arts topics as appropriate (Both)
-Harp lessons, concert orchestra practice and performances (G)
Whew.  I think that’s everything.  Looks enough, doesn’t it?  It might actually be too much – we’re almost through September and still haven’t had any formal art lessons (though both kids produce plenty of artwork, daily.  Boy has piles of drawings all over the house.  The piles themselves are becoming art installations.  Sigh.) I’ll give details and examples of coursework for each class over the next few weeks.

 

Summer Through Kids’ Eyes, and What We’re Doing for School this Year

The Sun’s Going Away!

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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

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The chickweed is still growing.

and bird vetch

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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.

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

 

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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

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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.🙂