put 'em up!

strawberry jam, raspberry jam, blueberry-rhubarb jam, dilly beans, pickled okra (we will be eating pickled okra a LOT this winter and/or giving it to everyone as Christmas gifts!), pickled beets, salsa, tomato jam, ground cherry jam, pickled serranos, pickled jalapeƱos.  refrigerator pickles, kimchi, fermented carrots.  apple cider (both hard cider fermenting at the moment and several quarts canned fresh to enjoy later) and salsa verde.  these are the 2016 canned goods thus far.

lots of food in jars as of late.  still to come, more pickled hot peppers, possibly a last batch of tomatoes, some apple rings, and maybe a late batch of jam made with frozen berries.

we still have a jar or two of last year's salsa on the shelf, but it is going fast- especially now that we have more.  last year's dilly beans and okra were finished long ago.  there are still a handful of jars of last year's hot peppers, some pear chutney, a jar of blackberry jam, a jar of curried zucchini pickles, some roasted tomatoes....  one jar of lavender-peach jam and one jar of wild blueberry jam from our trip to Maine last year that I'm saving for a rainy day..... oh how I loved that trip (aside from papa getting quite sick, of course).

here's to the tedious, meditative, sweaty, fun, and sometimes overwhelming act of putting food in jars to be enjoyed at a later date.  there are 3 well-stocked grocery stores and 2 natural food stores within 5 miles of our house (and all but one of those are within a bit under 2 miles).  I do not need to stock my pantry shelf with colorful jars of sweet and spicy and jammy and briny foods each August and September.  but I kind of can't help it.  there's something in me that is made happy and safe and calm by doing so.  there is something to the process, to each deliberate step, that makes me feel like I am tapping into some expansive, solid, good thing that is bigger than me and spans centuries.  like I can reach into the windows of far away and long ago worlds and greet far away and long ago women (and maybe men, but probably mostly women) in some simple and important and satisfying and very elemental way.

and that is magic, for sure.


first grade homeschool :: weeks 4 through 6

She illustrated and wrote all of the parts of the seasons calendar herself, and was so proud.  I just made the circles and went over the words in sharpie.  It is now cut out and attached to a piece of cardboard with a brad so we can spin it.

 practice, practice, practice

 we have a tendency to really spread out!

 she is working hard on compiling a species list of birds that she can continue to add to and illustrate

I finally stopped procrastinating and spent approximately 2 minutes filling out an online form in order to register our homeschool with the state.  I'm not sure why it took me so long, but now it's done.  We are now officially White Oaks Schoolhouse.  There are three large white oaks in our front yard (they are big players all around the neighborhood) and I knew I wanted to go with a plant/tree name, so it seemed a natural choice.  We got a little hung up on Academy vs. School vs. Schoolhouse, and I admit in the end I just filled out the form with the one I personally most preferred.  Academy seemed a bit much, school seemed not enough, and I found schoolhouse quite charming in a simple and old-fashioned kind of way.  Plus, well...... it's a school in a house, so it seems fitting.

Our last few weeks have continued along in much the same fashion as the first few.  We are finding our groove, learning how to go with the flow, and working to create an overall balance.  And truly, I think we've just about got it.

We are continuing with our routine of meeting at the dining table not long after she rises, and we get started on a bit of schoolwork before breakfast (or while I am making breakfast) and then continue afterwards, typically for a total of 1.5-2.5 hours (though that is flexible, naturally, in the event of horseback riding lessons, walks to the library, hikes, visits with nana, etc).

Recently she has done a lot of practicing her lowercase letter formation and practicing letter blends. We are also just getting started with cursive.  She thinks it is fancy, of course, and even asked me how to 'speak in cursive', which I thought was pretty cute.  She continues to love the Explode the Code workbooks and has worked through books 1 and 1 1/2 and is now a few lessons into book 2.  We have been reading chapter books at bedtime for a couple years now, and last night we finished the second book of the Birchbark House series (oh she is loving that Omakayas!) and tonight we started The Little Prince (which I've never read before and I kept finding myself wondering if it was totally bizarre to her but she seemed really into it).

Math lately has been a lot of addition/math facts worksheets, (>, <, =), figuring out the missing addend, playing shut-the-box, and reviewing geometric solids.  We also do some counting of coins and place value work, and I remain on the fence as to whether or not I will order a math curriculum at this point.  I'm thinking maybe next year, but we'll see.  I both don't want to miss some-big-something she'll need to know and also don't want to forget that she is but 6 years old.  Balance.

Our geography/history focus has been on North America lately and will be for a while.  We've read lots about the crossing of the land bridge and about the first people of our continent.  We focused on Greenland for a week (and I learned way more about the country than I ever knew before), and are finishing up some reading on Canada before moving on to the United States (which I imagine we will stay focused on for some time) later this week.

Aside from some fun, dynamic discussions (globe in hand, pretending the table was the sun, etc.) about day/night and seasons, and some more talk about food chains and the difference between being endangered and being extinct, our science and nature study lately has been largely focused on observations and identification of butterflies, spiders, and birds. We successfully raised and released 4 monarchs, have been watching all the butterflies in the yard, and happily found that a garden spider has spun her beautiful web in a place that is easy for us to observe her, which we have been doing several times a day.  The thing I'm loving most about homeschooling is the way we can so easily and naturally move in whatever direction we are called to move in.  Our monarch raising led to other butterfly observations, which led us to spy the spider, which led to learning about the parts of a spider, and so on.  I keep being so pleasantly surprised by the way things just lead into one another so effortlessly, but I suppose I ought not to be since that is, after all, the beauty of it and perhaps the very nature of learning when it is allowed some flexibility.

Another thing we are really enjoying is memorizing seasonal verses.  We are particularly loving the ones pictured above (my favorite is the one by Robert Louis Stevenson, hers the one by F.D. Sheeman) as well as this one, which we'd memorized last fall and came back to:
Yellow the bracken,
Golden the sheaves,
Rosy the apples,
Crimson the leaves;
Mist on the hillside,
Clouds grey and white.
Autumn, good morning!
Summer, good night!

-Florence Hoatson
All in all, this is what our days are looking like.  I'd like to do some more home-ec stuff like baking and cooking and handwork, etc. and so I plan to work that in a bit more (though no doubt our cider pressing last week would have filled that category nicely- I suppose we really are doing that I'm just not looking at it as 'school' now that we have gotten so much more organized regarding lessons, etc).  I'd also like to focus a bit more on music (maybe get her signed up for lessons with some instrument of her choosing- something aside from our fiddling together on the ukuleles- which is totally fun but I know it'd be good for her to have another non-parent mentor and teacher). 
We get quite a bit of schoolwork done in not a terribly long amount of time, and then we have our late morning-early afternoon somewhat free before heading to work to do art with kids.  It's working, I love it, I am beyond grateful that we are able to make it work, and really, I am learning so much myself.  What fun.  If you are homeschooling your kids (or if you are not) I'd love to hear about the routines, rhythms, etc. that you are most enjoying with your own kiddos.  Are there resources and references that you love most and find yourself going back to more than others?  Favorite children's literature magazines?  Favorite educational games or tools?  Favorite online subscriptions/'clubs'?  Let's inspire one another and keep the support and encouragement flowing!  I would love to have an ongoing discussion, if anyone is interested.


thirty six

(scenes from a birthday campout we had last weekend)

thirty six things I am grateful for, on my thirty-sixth birthday
(a birthday tradition)

:: yesterday's rain

:: dear, sweet friends

:: the wonderful sushi dinner I enjoyed this evening

:: standing in the garden today, surrounded by monarchs drawn to the Mexican sunflowers

:: the experience of raising and releasing monarchs over the last few weeks- such fun!

:: the five+ gallons of cider we pressed in the backyard today, with more to come

:: my body, for working and breathing and carrying me around and doing all the things it is supposed to do (and not too much of what it isn't) even though I don't always treat it as well as I should

:: my morning cup of tea

:: sweet Ollie, for purring at my feet and always finding my lap, and for his multi-syllable meows

:: for the great good fortune of being alive and well and safe and secure

:: for the great good fortune of knowing my child is alive and well and safe and secure

:: for good books to get lost in

:: for two jobs that fill me with joy and gratitude - art/play with kids, and garden/farm work

:: for the sweet birthday serenades by the kids at one of those jobs today, and for the various paper bling (a crown, necklaces, a bracelet...) that they gifted me with

:: the fading, wistful sound of crickets at night

:: and the sporadic yet regular sound of acorns falling on rooftops (the squirrels should be fat and happy this year!)

:: misty, soft mornings

:: watching the birds flying, eating, and flitting about in and around the garden

::  watching her run around wearing her bonnet, and the fact that it hasn't yet occurred to her that her choice of sunhat-style isn't the current cultural norm.  may she continue to not be swayed by such petty, fickle things as current cultural norms.

:: for the sweetest of birthday campouts at the farm last weekend, with the sweetest of friends

:: massages

:: fires- in the wood stove (soon), and in the pit

:: being able to hear the (lonesome sounding, but somehow comforting all the same) train whistle from home

:: fish tacos, and also the reliably tasty $8 meal that never fails me (Tostadas Tulum- veggies, beans, cheese, and shrimp on tostadas) at our local Mexican place

:: music, all sorts (but some more than others)

:: the opportunity to homeschool our daughter, and to grow and learn right alongside her

:: slippers

:: my family, all of them

:: my main squeeze~ for being the most dependable person I know, for being a kind, devoted, protective, playful and hands-on father, and for loving me back and loving me well.

:: salty ocean air, and the chance to stick my feet in the ocean at least a bit this summer

:: that she has gotten to know several of her great-grandparents quite well, and continues to do so

:: for having had the chance to say a heartfelt and meaningful goodbye to my grandfather before he passed away earlier this year.  for being able to hear him say goodbye and to know that he knew HE was heard and seen and loved, so very loved.

:: for the simple mala beads made for me by a friend, and the way the sandalwood smell calms me and the way, even if I don't remember to use it regularly, that just by being there on my wrist it is a subtle reminder to me that I strive for mindfulness, calm, understanding.

:: my collection of photographs that serve to instantly connect me to strong and good memories, which are one of my very favorite things, reminiscent-homebody-introvert that I am

:: the way the light dances around our dining room in the evenings, moving from the table to the wall to the pantry shelves, and all around

:: also, kimchi and chocolate ice cream (but definitely not together)

I love creating these lists- and while I don't look back at previous lists before putting the new one together, I always enjoy looking back at them afterwards and linking up to them so I can easily do so~  cheers!






2010 (one of the first posts I ever wrote)


first grade homeschool :: the first weeks

oh we are having such fun.  SUCH fun.  we spent her kindergarten year in a definite 'unschooling' pattern - mostly playing and going about our daily business and simply taking the time to turn lots of day-to-day experiences into the learning opportunities they always are anyway.  this year though, for first grade, we've got a more dedicated school rhythm.  she seems to want and need a bit more order and rhythm to her days, and my goodness we're certainly leaps and bounds more ordered now than we were before.  what with her binder and my homeschool planning notebook I am feeling quite organized.  we start the day with some language arts (she reads aloud to me and practices some handwriting, or she works her way through her Explode the Code workbooks- I wasn't sure about the workbooks at first, but she really loves them- I think partly because they look kind of like what her buddies at art work on at homework time- and she zoomed through and finished the first one already!) and move through some math (not using a curriculum at this point, but we've done all sorts of things from skip-counting with coins, practicing < and >, place values, measuring, studying patterns and shapes, ordinal numbers, practicing reading clocks, etc) and then some science/nature studies (so far we've done lots of monarch life cycle observations, read about and drawn food chains, talked about habitats, and studied the layers of the Earth), and geography/history (we've done the world puzzle map to review the continents and oceans, talked a little about the Ice Age and are now focusing on North America- she completed the North America puzzle map and we've been reading about the crossing of the land bridge, Native Americans, and will move on to lightly discuss colonization and settlers/pioneers moving west, and then discuss each country and talk a bit about food, culture, art, native animals, climate, etc- I'm guessing we'll be studying NA for at least 6 weeks or so).  there is art as well of course, a bit of music (these days in the form of learning simple chords on her ukulele), harvest days at the farm and weekly horseback riding lessons.  and of course still plenty of room for exploring and seeing where life takes us and what we can learn from it.

threshing our little buckwheat crop (in pillow cases) ~ 
we had about 8 bundles and may grind enough for a couple batches of pancakes. 

monarch babies! how fun to watch them grow from tiny caterpillars to big fat caterpillars and then form their chrysalids!  we even got to watch one as it formed it's chrysalis- so cool

working on the North America map

we've now got four chrysalids hanging in the enclosure! they are so beautiful~

I asked her how many different ways she could make a triangle, and a hexagon.  she had so much fun with it and she came up with quite a few!

mama's little homeschool planning notebook

a handful of our favorites resources and reference books from these first weeks

we recently gave the office a makeover with a giant IKEA shelving unit to store most of our homeschool materials, a rolling cart for her most-used art supplies, and a new (and very long!) desk/sewing and craft table for papa and I- made from a 98" birch butcher block slab and some steel legs~  I am loving the way the space feels brighter, more organized, and way more open.  I still need to get the world map back up on the wall and do a little fine-tuning, but I think it will work very well for us.

we found a little roll-top desk at an antique store a couple weeks ago.  she loves, loves, loves it.  if we can't find her, chances are she is sitting right there drawing or thumbing through a book while listening to audiobooks.  it is a pretty sweet sight, and when I'm sitting at the big desk I am right in line with her and we can wave at each other and check in.   we do almost all of our homeschool work (or, at least the 'planned' stuff that I am facilitating and aware of) at the dining table, but she loves her own little workspace tucked away in her room.

I am feeling pretty great about this homeschool adventure so far, and I think she is, too.  Now I just need to get on top of things and file with the state and pick a school name!


mid-August to mid-September garden

so many ground cherries!

as usual, our own backyard tomatoes, while delicious, have not been hugely productive.  thankful the extras at the farm keep me in salsa-making business!

handsome Ollie

the elusive blue-clad brown-headed Claire, in her natural habitat

one of her favorite things to do in the garden~
popcorn! we got a bit- a large basket full, and it is drying out in the kitchen right now

pickling prep

more pickled okra and dilly beans

the harvest right after our trip to Florida and Georgia~ it yielded a nice batch of kimchi and several more quarts of cucumber pickles

this should last us a while~  it's not quite the 9# we got last year, but I think we hit just under 6#

my favorite kind of meal~ garden veggies on top of rice, topped with an egg, garden kimchi, and pickled serranos.

usually we're lucky to get a few really ripe red peppers, but this year we've gotten so many already (over a dozen) from our five bell pepper plants and they just keep coming!

the garden is starting to wind down for the year.  I've pulled lots of plants and pretty much called off my battle with the bean beetles, though there are still a few handfuls of pole beans to pick.  the first round of kale is getting pretty leggy and the second planting is still holding strong.  I've got lettuces in and seeded chard and spinach but admittedly haven't taken the best care of them so we'll see how they do.  the pepper plants are kind of the superstars right now- churning out lots of fat red beauties and plenty of little green and red jalapeƱos and serranos.  leeks are still in, as are scallions.  collards and brussels sprouts and piracicaba (a wonderful non-heading broccoli I read about in Ben Hewitt's book The Nourishing Homestead) are going strong.  we've got a couple black cherry tomatoes that are doing really well and some brandywines that seem to be thinking about maybe turning out a few more ripe fruits.  I'm about to pull the cucumber plants out and I'll pick the half dozen or so butternuts and few pumpkins that are out there.  there are still beets to be pulled and sweet and thai basil to dry or turn into pesto or freeze as a basil/olive oil slurry.  the tomatillos have a little more to give, as do the ground cherries.  there are a dozen or so figs ripening, and the raspberries look to be getting ready to burst forth with their fall fruiting.  the thing about fall-fruiting with the raspberries though is that the spotted-wing drosophila fruit fly is around this time of year and likes to infest them before they are ripe and, well, it can be a bit of a turn-off.  so we'll see.

all in all, it's been a great garden year.  I didn't keep records quite like I have in the past.  last year it felt important to keep a log, to weigh out each harvest, and note all the jars that lined the pantry- almost like I wanted to see if it was all worth it.  but the funny thing about that is that it hardly matters to me if the garden and the food preserving is really saving us money (which I'm sure it is- we hardly buy produce in the summer except for fruit when our berries aren't cranking out and we haven't had to purchase salsa or garlic or various pickled vegetables or jam in years) because aside from saving us some money the garden just means so much to me.  it is my therapy and my daily check-in, it is a creative outlet for me and a huge source of joy.  it is and always will be worth it, in so many ways.  I can't imagine not gardening.  I mean, it'd be a lot easier to go away in the summer for a while if we didn't devote almost our entire backyard to growing food, but........ well- there's something grounding, and centering, and comforting to me about having that tie to a piece of land, however small it may be.  there is something about ordering seeds on a cold winter day and coddling those seeds into germination on the cusp of Spring and watching them grow through the season and eventually harvesting the literal fruits of your labor.  there's hope in planting a garden.  there is a simple yet profound nod to goodness and to life and to tomorrow that I find in planting a garden that I don't think I've found much anywhere else in life aside from watching my daughter grow.

so yeah.... I'll keep on gardening.  for sure.