July 21, 2014

Jude's wonderful to-do lists

Jude is the type of child who feels at ease when he knows what is going to happen. He likes rhythm and reliability, while I am more easy going and tend not to be much of a planner aside from the main regular occurrences of any day (food, laundry, showers, barn chores), so we started this new morning activity where we sit on the outside wicker bench and brainstorm all the things we would like to take place that day, and Jude writes them down on his chalkboard. Ollie runs around and plays and I snuggle the lambs who stroll by to visit us while Jude and I work together to write his to-do-list. He can't actually spell yet and we are still working on letter recognition and sounds, so what I do is write a letter and then he writes the same one under mine. We practice the sound, and then work on the next letter, blending sounds as we go until we read the entire word, and then the caption. Then I erase my version and we work on the next line.
It's actually very fun, and we refer back to it throughout the day when we 'forget' the important things we had planned! 

July 18, 2014

lunch from the land

My lunch yesterday consisted of a salad and a smoothie.
It was both delicious and beautiful.
I am so busy most days that I often forget to eat, or I eat tiny bits of this and that and end up feeling exhausted by early evening. No wonder!
So I thought I would make myself a decent lunch that afternoon, with lots of food from our land.

In the salad: lots of purslane, nasturtiums, red clover flowers, peppermint leaves, pumpkin seeds, fresh cherries and creamy dressing. 
In the smoothie: homemade yogurt, water, banana, strawberries, blackberries, mustard greens and swiss chard.

Today I kept to the same simple lunch design: a salad and a smoothie.

In the salad: garden leaf lettuce, purslane, havarti cheese chunks and nasturtiums with creamy dressing. 
In the smoothie: homemade yogurt, a touch of maple syrup, banana, strawberries, mustard greens, swiss chard, water. Same as yesterday but no blackberries, and I used wayyy more swiss chard. The kids wouldn't touch it because of it's greenness but I thought it was quite yummy! (-;

July 17, 2014

our gardens!

Our gardens are just absolutely flourishing with all this glorious rain we have been blessed with. Most of our food was hand-sewn, but Jason also started many different perennial flower seeds and tomatoes in the early, cold days of spring and they are all now establishing their places in the outside gardens, of which we have seven. We are growing many new heirloom flowers that will help to promote pollination and I can't wait to see them bloom! There are two smaller flower gardens nearer to the house, and an evolving garden in the front yard which is fenced in very cleverly with Jason's seasoning firewood. When that garden has exhausted its harvest (cucumbers and tomatoes) we will dismantle the firewood and move it to the porch.

In the front yard we also have a circular garden, beautifully embellished with invasive vines that were choking out many of the trees in the woods directly behind the house. Jason ripped them down and then fashioned a beautiful whimsical-style fence, weaving them in and around the established sheet wire fencing. This garden is devoted to tomatoes, of which we have many heirloom varieties. We grew tomatoes in the same garden last year and they did really well.

We added a corn patch in the pasture and are growing the original old-world corn. It's name is Floriani red flint corn and it was apparently used by the Native Americans. After contact with European settlers, some of this corn was taken back to Italy where it was grown exclusively in a remote area for hundreds of years! Now, it's making it's way back to it's original home. So far we have been very impressed by it's growth; Jason planted it and it literally rocketed; it grew so fast and tall! Every seed sprouted too, and the plants are all very healthy and robust. I can't wait for the harvest!

In the back of the property we have an herb and flower garden, another one devoted exclusively to garlic, and our main (and very large) garden, where we grow tons of vegetables. We fenced it in this past spring with stakes and chicken wire in the hopes that all animals, both tame and wild, would keep out, and it does seem to be working. There are many beds in this garden and a few structures and trellises for housing the beans and peas and squash. For the first time we are growing potatoes, and on the lush hugel garden there are gargantuan pumpkin leaves bursting out. I cannot recall all the goodness that is growing in there, but I will try to list everything: potatoes, pumpkin, squash, peas, sweet peas, mouse melon, beans, lettuces, ground cherries, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, fennel, garlic, purslane, nasturtiums, comfrey, calendula, turnip, radishes, tomatoes..That's all I can recall right now!

The apple trees are growing sweet baby apples, and we are enjoying a tiny harvest of wild raspberries and blackberries. The rhubarb was coming up small so we left it to strengthen and hopefully come back stronger next year. We left the asparagus alone this spring too.

I cannot tell you the amount of dedication that Jason has poured into these gardens. I try to help when I can, but the boys make it a tad difficult for me to put a good chunk of time into any one task (-; Everything - from the tending of seeds in the closet under a grow-light and the seedlings hardening off on the deck, to the building of fences, to the compost he worked to create with our red wriggler worms over the past year, to the digging, planting, watering and weeding of each bed - he has done all of this. He's amazing.

July 8, 2014

sheep, grass, wind, kids, life

In the past weeks, significant milestones have been reached. We celebrated Jude's fifth birthday which was simple, as is suited to my very sensitive boy. Grandma Jude and aunt Tashy came to join in and share the gluten-free cupcakes he made himself. It was a happy day (: The age of five is a heartbreaking one for a mama, as the child is little still, yes, but starting to lengthen and lose any last traces of chubby baby-ness. 

And very notable was Isabella's graduation from eighth grade! 

She is going to high school next year, geez louise, and I feel like I am entirely NOT ready for this stage of development! Where did that sweet pink-cheeked, goofy little cherub of a girl go? The one I wuld read 40 books to in one sitting (really!), the one I played dolls with, and drew pictures of fairies and bunnies and her favourite doll doing fantastical things? The mama gig is tough. I cry a lot, if only inside, mostly at the fleeting quality if innocence and the rapid pace at which your children cling to you and then gently start to turn away, finding their own path, edging their way out into the wide, wide world.

Besides these singular events, daily rhythms remain the same. Feed the lambs and chickens in the morning, let the sheep and goat out to graze, collect eggs, wash eggs, sweep the floor, cook and clean and walk outside with the sheep while the boys play in the long meadow-grass. Lots of crazy, wild, loud play, exploring outside and creativity at the kitchen table. Jason tends the gardens and I tend the animals. I make iced tea and sweeten it with his amazing maple syrup.

On Sunday afternoon I visited the grandmother of Isabella's friend. I had never met this woman before, but the stories and descriptions of her by her granddaughter had gotten me curious, so I called her up and she warmly invited me to her place. We shared a great deal in common, including a love of sheep, natural living and a back-to-basics lifestyle. She was making cheese when we first arrived, carefully arranging bricks in a cast iron pot precariously perched on the cheese to press it. She has 30 or so sheep which she raises for fleece, milk and meat, numerous gardens and a few mulberry trees, a gorgeous white horse and an adorable old farmhouse filled with antique and creative treasures including an old wood-fired cook stove, large loom and a spinning wheel. Needless to say, I felt joyous to connect with this lovely woman clad in overalls and filled with wisdom. She gave me my very first spinning lesson on her wheel and it was so much harder than I imagined but also what I expected, but I am hungry to keep working at it and now that I have my own spinning wheel, I can!
Isabella came with me that day, just us girls. It was a perfect afternoon spent, and driving home I spotted a pioneer cemetery so I pulled over to read the gravestones of those hardworking people who lived so long ago; One was dated back to the 1700's and I thought it amazing that I could still read the etched numbers after so may centuries of wear and weather. I do love history.

And with that, I have a feeling Ollie needs a diaper change, and as it is raining (thank you, clouds!) I suppose it is a perfect day for some book reading and drawing with the boys (:

June 25, 2014

Teapot and her hen-friend

The hens are always using Teapot as a step-stool!
She is so sweet and tolerant; She just lets them (:

June 24, 2014


The boys have been really big on dressing up lately. I find that there is an ebb and flow to their play, where they are constantly dressing and re-dressing the entire day long for weeks, and then they switch to drawing or building with blocks as the main focus. It's wonderful to watch them play, especially when they are working together and not squabbling as they were doing near the end of that very long winter. Ollie has been quite dedicated to being 'the very bravest knight' and tells everyone he meets about his very important role. He slays an endless stream of dragons and wears his basket helmet with immense pride as he runs around the house screaming and being knocked down by invisible dragons (: 
We have been reading Snow White and Rose Red; In the story there is a prince cloaked in a resplendent golden suit, so of course Jude has been dressing in his own golden armour and walking proudly around the farmyard. It is absolutely delightful, and while I sometimes play with them, mostly I leave them be in their sacred play world. There is no shortage of information out there concerning the importance of imaginary and creative play, and I love to watch their naturalness develop and flourish in front of my eyes. No back-to-back structured activities for my wild free-range boys! 
We make costumes and masks, spend lots of time outside just being, draw and paint and play. 
I remember the days when Isabella was small and immersed herself in her own amazing imaginary world; Her drawings literally blew my mind; She would draw Buddhists flying over clouds and Egyptians in the desert performing odd ceremonies, circus performers, intricate illustrations of animals and children, princesses and tribal people in engaging scenes. She would first draw the picture in pen or ink and then fill in the entire scene with coloured pencils. It would take her hours and she was so peaceful. She is 13 now and very much interested in fashion and her circle of friends; she has let go of that special small-child world of pure creativity. I cherish passionately the memories I have of her early days, and having the wisdom of knowing how quickly children grow and transform, I try to let the boys be little and wild and real without too much headiness or worrying that they might be missing or needing something that I cannot provide. I did that too much when my Bella was little. I was young and she was my first child; I loved her so, I wanted everything to be perfect, I wanted her to he happy and safe and full of only good things. I was in a state of perpetual self-doubting and guilt that I wasn't providing enough. I was silly. Children are wonderful and resilient and all that they are, all by themselves, right from the beginning (:

June 17, 2014

I lost my little one

Two days ago I strolled out to the barn to give the lambs their bottles but when I looked into their pen, I saw that Shady Grove lay lifeless on the ground. 
You cannot imagine my horror, and then unrelenting grief and sadness.
Jason buried her across the road, on the pretty hillside full of waving grass and wildflowers.
I cried the entire day, I loved her so much, and when I awoke the next day I had more tears. My sadness was so, so great.
If you have had animals of any kind, then you know each one has a distinct personality. Sheep are no exception. Shady Grove was my little love; my sweet gentle girl, always cuddling up to me when I sat in the pasture and resting her head on my leg. She often tried to climb into my lap for hugs even when she was obviously way too big. She smiled a big goofy grin when I scratched under her chin. Oh, my heart is so broken.
We don't know why she died. The previous day she was frolicking in the grass with Noble and Turnip; nothing would have suggested anything was wrong. Such is the way of life I suppose. Things are often sudden and unexpected. I know that, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept.

Shady Grove when she was just one week old. Such a sweet and gentle soul.

June 13, 2014

June so far..!

Sometimes, when I venture outside with the kids I simply cannot believe how beautiful it is; the wild leafy greenness, the abundance of wildflowers and the dragonflies flying in droves around us, eating any mosquitos that dare to get near us..It is so wondrous, and alive, and the very opposite of a long, quiet, cold winter. The tree frogs and crickets are singing their evening chorus nightly now and this has honestly got to be my favourite sound, following only the lonesome call of the loons on the lake.

Ollie has 'discovered' painting in a larger way this past week. He has been painting since he was quite small of course, but he has suddenly claimed an intense passion to paint on a whim and will become quite upset if he cannot do so, so I have a permanent painting 'station' set up for him, with quick and easy access to a palette, paint and brush for me for when I have to produce such things in a hurry! Mostly, he paints what he says to be dragons fighting knights, but sometimes he claims he is writing letters, too (:

The lambs continue to grow and strengthen, even Noble who we thought might not survive when we first got him. Now, he runs and bounces in the pasture and it is just the sweetest thing (: He run with the kids and usually trips one of them by crashing into them on account of his blindness, but they are usually laughing when they land in the long grass (-;

Our Russian Orloff hen was showing herself to be broody so we moved her, still sitting in the nesting box, out of the barn and into a rabbit hutch on our front porch. She had two eggs under her as I recall, so we added four more, and there she sat for 21 days. As I was finishing my nightly barn chores last Sunday evening I heard a peep from under her! I alerted Jason as to the tiny miracle on the porch, and when we woke the next morning, all six eggs had hatched! One chick didn't make it, but the remaining five are very healthy and doing well. If you have ever seen chicks then you know, of course, that they are very cute. But nothing can prepare you for the beauty of watching a mother hen with her chicks. They peek out from under her wing, they sit on her back, and you can see 10 tiny feet under her belly when she stands. It's a beautiful thing, motherhood.

We play inside, we play outside, I am perfecting gluten-free muffins, we walk in the pasture with the lambs and we enjoy the wondrous smell of peonies. Jason has been toiling and tending, planting and weeding our seven gardens and after the hardy bit of rain the past three days, the seedlings and plants have really taken off. We have already eaten asparagus and salad made with our delicious lettuce, and the rhubarb is just about ready for harvesting (:

I have to say though, that my very happiest day this month was when a new friend of mine gifted me with a gorgeous antique spinning wheel and carders. My heart is so, so happy! Now I can work with Pippin and Teapot's fleeces! This is all new to me, and I am feeling slightly daunted by what seems like a great deal of information, skills and terminology that I need to accrue, but I am excited and eager to begin learning (: Yay!

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