Saturday, September 30, 2017

Our kind of birthday presents!

Last day of September! It's a cool morning and I'll don my "soccer mom's cap" here soon. Before the rush lead up to heading out the door - waking kids, doing hair, getting breakfast in them and them into their soccer clothes - I thought I'd put a few pictures out there from Jason's birthday and the tail end of mine and mention two of the best birthday presents Jason received.

As alluded to in the previous post, I enjoyed getting to see one of my birthday buddies on my birthday. The only two babies I've been with at their births other than my own daughters both came on my birthday. Pretty special I'd say (but I'm very happy to be with other mother's giving birth at a time other than my birthday!).

It was a late night - I think I almost was able to wish Jason happy birthday before going to bed. And, as it normally does, my mind had quickly shifted to the celebrations of the coming day, which I was looking forward to facilitating and being a part of!
The first tasks of the day were to crank out some pie crusts and make a funny cake for breakfast (not a bit of leftovers from that one) and 3 grape pies (all from our very own grape vines) in lieu of a birthday cake for the evening festivities! The crumbs were largely made of ground sorghum and it worked (no sugar but some dehydrated pecans for a little crunch - enjoying a piece now for breakfast as I type!). After my morning (large) burst of chopping vegetables (had a 21 quart canning brimming with chili), I got in on a little outdoor family fun. It was sweet potato digging time! With a sub 40 degree night in the forecast it was time to get them out of the ground - we don't risk much when it comes to sweet potatoes! About 7 bushels of sweet potatoes is a pretty special birthday present! We picked all our remaining peppers since the sweet potatoes formed their understory. So fermenting some green peppers is in my future.

All throughout the day while we were moving rather quickly to get the potatoes in and other things done to be ready for Jason's party, there was peeping in the house. Jason's first round of chicks for his large Shenandoah hens order was hatching. And what a hatch! As of this morning there are 6 hatched under a mama hen and 34 in the house. One more looks very likely to get out (2 others less promising). So it might just mean that for Jason's 41st birthday, 41 chicks hatched. I think that's fun! Jason hasn't had much time to ogle them just yet but we had a little holding and admiring session late last night before calling it a day!

In the evening Jason was joined by a dozen plus friends for some work, some food and some play! He has been itching to get the rocks for seating and play placed in Nora's garden before her 10th birthday (a month from today) and it seemed like a good occasion to use the extra muscles around to collect a bunch. They not only lined her garden with selections for him to choose from, they even got to largest set in place and it's a lovely two-seater. How special!

They came in about dusk for a haystacks meal (and the aforementioned grape pie) along with lively conversation. Then those that could linger got in on some equally lively (or more so) ping pong playing. Once the guests cleared out it was time for Terah to get to enjoy her promised chick adoring session before she sacked out easily and quickly nursing!

Ok, time to wake the littlest (the soccer players are up - but still snuggling in bed together), and get this show on the road. I'll just end quickly with a little Terah tidbit. For as much as I note that this gal is our wild child and wearing her mother out, she is also a pile of fun! She is so spunky and full of crazy ideas. One of those seems to be that she loves putting things in her shirt. Here she was loading her front up with lots and lots of blocks. She also does it with markers with the lids off. Sigh! The other fun thing we are really enjoying is her language acquisition and her curiosity about everything around her. When she sees something that she doesn't know what it is, she will bring it to me or point to it and say, "What dat name mama?" I love it!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A quick update in between birthdays...

I'm sitting outside by the fire listening to Jason play guitar and the girls recounting the events of our day to Jonathan (ok, mostly Terah is with Kali helping her remember things - Alida is snuggling with my leg and ready to sack out for the night). The dishes are waiting this evening. The air is cool, the sky is clear, the moon is bright, and it feels good to linger by the fire. We enjoyed the last chestnuts of the season roasted over the fire, after a round of pizza pockets and roasted corn on the cob (we were joined also by Emily, Jonas and Ivy, who turned 1 today!).

Side note: after an incredible chestnut season, it came to a rather abrupt halt this week (the squirrels and worms took the end of the crop). That's ok as we are now into persimmons so haven't had time to miss them!

We are about to turn the page from my birthday to Jason's. But first I'll share a few updates from recent days as one of my hopes for the day was to get a few pictures up on the blog and bring it up to date. Things have been hopping around here (what's new?!).

We are into the fall soccer season. Both Alida and Kali are playing again on girls' teams with the local community league and loving it. Terah is their faithful cheerleader and loves coming along to practice and games. It makes for a full day for me on Wednesdays - I head to work for a long day, come home about 10-20 minutes before taking off with them for practice, only to get home around dark. I'm grateful their practice is on the same day and time, since game days are not quite so convenient. We head there around 8:30 for Kali's game, get home around 10:30 and turn around and head back for Alida's at 11:15, arriving home right about the time Terah is falling apart and ready for her nap. But, as I've noted in other recent seasons, it feels very worth it. The girls enjoy it so much and I'm really enjoying watching them play.
Another new thing this fall is that the older two girls are taking an art class in downtown Harrisonburg at Larkin Arts. They have just had two classes thus far but are loving it. They go with another friend, get to play some after the class, and it being on Wednesday they get home with just a bit of turnaround time before soccer. So the week has a bit of a different feel with that and also that their regular playdates have changed in that one of their friends has transitioned from homeschool to going to school away and so we are working to make sure we can get them all together at other non-regular-school times. At a recent playdate/sleepover, we roped all the kids into joining us for our Adopt-a-Highway run. It's great that every time we do it we seem to be finding less and less trash and recycling. Yay, we may be actually making a dent - happy to work ourselves out of this job!
The free little library is getting some attention! :) We have taken the liberty to remove proselytizing tracts...
This past weekend we took our annual trek to West Virginia with friends - I believe it was our 5th year going with grandparents, parents and kids and it is a tradition worth keeping. I so look forward to it each year. I can't say that I look forward to getting our place ready to leave for 3 days, or packing up kids and things, or the drive over the mountains. BUT once there, it's delightful. This year held much of the same - hikes and uninterrupted conversations for the middle generation, great food with the preparation and clean up shared around, picking cranberries, games, playing outside, going to Senaca Rocks for a picnic and time in the river - and some new things that might become traditions - making pizzas and roasting chestnuts in an outdoor oven, and us getting there a day early and me getting completely stuck in a book until I finished it! not sure how I feel about the latter thing (I loved reading a book but would enjoy it more if I didn't feel any sense of guilt about "checking out" for awhile - I really am good for nothing when I start a book that is hard to put down! I was able to finish it just before the crew arrived and then was more present to the relationships in front of me for the rest of the time - I had them hide another book by the same author!

Ok, my concentration on this blog post is shot (it's a rather typical occurrence that kiddo needs are trumping my desire for some writing/reflecting time). Terah is now begging for milk and pointing to the pictures on the computer so I'll end with just a few pictures from today. We took a little family outing to the Luray Zoo using the last (phew) coupon from their summer reading program. We are pleased to report that Cookie Dough, one of the goats we donated to them, is still as feisty and interested in people as ever! Terah was NOT equally interested in him and Alida was frightened initially by the very enthusiastic baby goats. She got more comfortable but Jason took Terah to look at other things while we fed the goats. We never got a glimpse of Oreo but they assured us that he is still there and doing fine, just keeps his distance a bit more from the action as he has more of the fainting gene and so keeps to the calmer places more regularly. It was nice to feel once again how happy I am NOT to have goats!

Most of us agreed that our favorite animal was the little monkey pictured here. He was really carrying on with Jason at one point. It was cute and entertaining. Terah, for some reason, was really interested in seeing a tiger. I'm not honestly sure where she got the idea she was going to see one, but they do in fact have a bengal tiger. But it was in its house so we were about to leave when one of the owners came out and got the tiger out. What a beautiful creature. We thought it rather interesting how scared Terah was of the goats but as calm as can be feet away from the tiger or the pythons and rattlesnakes!
On our way home we checked out Storybook Trail. We had learned about it some time ago from Samuel and Margaret, as one they loved to take their kids to when they were young. We hardly ever drive to go hiking but I really wanted to go, especially after Samuel died, knowing it was one of the last outings he took with the family (as the trail is wheelchair accessible). It was a delightful little trail - only 1/4 mile to a beautiful lookout, with lovely rock outcroppings all along a paved trail. We brought bikes and a picnic along. We pushed the envelope on Terah's afternoon nap as long as we could and I saved my birthday chocolate bar from Alida to help us make it home. Between offering small morsels back to the girls and then offering my phone with an Ivy video to entertain Terah, we made it home without too much fussing.
And now here we are! Time to get to bed so I can get up and get things rolling for the next birthday! More on that in a later post...

(and someday down the road I'm going to find/carve out/take the time to actually try to do more than slap up a few pictures with captions here - right now if I had enough time to write something more in depth I'm not sure I could actually articulate many of my swirling thoughts and emotions that accompany these days. The child at my breast right now seems to be sucking not only all the milk out of me that my body can make, but some days it feels like brain cells and my normal functioning capabilities too)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Making memories, new experiments, and more

Started this post early this morning minutes before Terah woke and now the day is nearing half over and I'm just getting back to trying to put some words with the chosen photos! Dancing is happening in the front room but Kali is out doing duck chores so Alida and Terah are on their own (which, of late, normally means that some squabbling is bound to occur within minutes). We'll see how far I get!

It was time for one of our monthly family nights and the girls also still had some unused coupons from their summer reading programs (soon to expire). So those two things combined into a family adventure to Grand Caverns, complete with a visit to their mini-golf and then a picnic to top off our time together! Let me first put in a plug for Grand Caverns - it's so much less commercial than Luray Caverns and we chose to go on a school day and hit the day and the time perfectly - we had our own personal family tour! It was lovely! As you will see I have no pictures from the time in the caverns. That was due mostly to the fact that the last time we went Terah was just days of being born, thus safely (and quietly) tucked inside me. This time she was experiencing a new thing that was a little unnerving at the start. That meant I was occupied with her the whole time - she went from being a little scared and so asking to go out or home and then to nurse, to then getting very comfortable with our tour guide and the place such that she wanted to dance around and I was worried she was going to bump into the walls or other cave structures.

That particular day was loaded with fun as later on Ivy came over for a playdate, giving her parents a date evening. I'm not sure who had more fun, but I think it's safe to say it was a win win of an evening all around! The four girls and I went for a bike/wagon ride which was very fun. It's cute to watch children get comfortable in their surroundings. Ivy was taking it all in at first and by the end was boldly rocking the sides of the wagon seeing how she could maneuver the slats and make fun noises.  We then enjoyed a picnic outside, where Ivy once again outlasted the rest of us in her chair - I'm still not sure how to tell when she is done eating, as she seems happy to just sit there and have me shovel in yummy morsels as long as I'm willing!
 This past weekend I got to a project that has been on my long term wish list. I was assuming I'd wait for a time when Mom was around to boost my confidence trying the experiment. But the walnuts seemed ready so we gave it a shot. Here's the before and the after and a few in between pictures. Our futon cover is now closer to the dirt color we wished for (Jason and I clearly were not thinking about kids when we chose a cream cover years ago!). Walnut hulls proved to make an amazing dye and the girls enjoyed dyeing a few pairs of socks and underwear and on day 2 when Jason gave it a second go round (for more even dyeing and a little more darkening) he threw a few clothing items of his in as well. We are happy with the results!
With that project just barely tucked away and cleaned up from we hosted a large grape juice making day on Tuesday with neighbors. We crested 80 quarts to share among ourselves of pure grape juice (liquid gold, I like to call it) by day's end (and over 3 gallons of strained grape pulp that is amazing with yogurt or by itself or on biscuits). Wow! Very fun! We all picked off grapes in the morning, had lunch together and when it was down to filling jars and the clean up, I took over the process so the others could get on to other things. I'm happy they trusted me with the process after I had run the one juicer dry in the morning. And maybe had they seen my two mishaps in the afternoon they might have not felt so confident. In short, the makeshift clamp on the one juicer we were borrowing came off and I got boiling grape juice on both of my hands and all over the floor and shortly after that the whole tube came off while I was trying to fill a jar, also sending grape juice where we didn't want it. I feel SO grateful that my hands are not worse - I hardly notice them unless I look at them or someone bumps them (which with Terah around happens a little too often). 
That seems like maybe it is enough action for days of late but in all our spare time it seems we are harvesting chestnuts and filling bags in the fridge. We can't eat them fast enough! As soon as I finish this up we'll be sitting down to a new recipe for lunch - chestnuts and bacon with kale. Can it be bad? [IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!] We also roasted chestnuts over and outdoor fire the other evening for the first time - Yum! They are not very buggy at all this year and the harvest is more plentiful than I ever remember. If you are in the area (or wish to come visit) and like chestnuts, we'll happily send you home with as many as you will use!

This picture is a pretty common stove top appearance these days - do I ever just use one burner? Here we have a large batch of ricotta cheese going, some of the last tomatoes stewing with shallots and a veggie saute that just needs eggs and cheese to be popped in the oven to have with biscuits for our brunch. That was the morning I also made a cottage cheese bake again (having Jason and I just take one taste and then wait until today for leftovers to see how we felt. The day I dyed our futon cover I was quite sick throughout the day and we were worried that something went awry with my most recent batch of cottage cheese - this was very discouraging to me and the jury is still out but we are a little nervous about trying it again so I'm baking with it and we are eating it in small doses - so far so good).

The little gal pictured here is as silly as she looks, and is not relaxing much as she approaches 2 years of age in less than a month! She is keeping me on my toes for sure and talking up a storm - with me understanding a greater percentage of the chatter each day. A very common phrase, being shouted in the front room as I type, is "no, no ida." As I mentioned earlier, Alida and Terah are cute with each other when all is well but if either are tired things can go downhill pretty fast. Or hungry, which is likely the case at this hour. The last of these pictures will have to stand alone or with short captions!
We have ant issues! They come, they go, they come again. Here they are, up on the top of our pantry ready to launch! Another project in our future: taking off the ceiling of our corner cupboard, seeing if there is a nest in there to clean out, reattach and caulk. Will that take care of it once and for all??? And do we prioritize that indoor project before frost? Likely not.
My little kitchen helper - who really can help now if she is so inclined. :) 

It may be the end of the season but the bounty is still beautiful, varied in flavor, color and texture. Harvest day every other day usually yields a smattering of such delicious treats!

I love autumn joy! It's thriving in Nora's garden and makes me smile every time I pass it. The bees love it too!

Another form of autumn joy for me! The harvests are coming to an end, and it's time to get cover crops in and tuck things in for the winter. I love this time of year, with the yellows and oranges and reds and the cool evenings and mornings! The only thing that would make it better would be getting outside at those times more! For now, must close as nap time is now upon us!!