Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cabinets (almost) done and today's snow fun!

So the girls and I have been back at Tangly Woods for 10 days so it seems it is about time to add a page or two to this year's "scrapbook." The past week plus has been full of a lot of "normal life" including but not limited to making cheese of course (my cheddar rack is full!), keeping the wood box full, attempting to stay on top of laundry and make use of the few sunny days for outdoor drying, upping our consumption of squash due to the supply still going strong, trying to creatively use up things (especially ferments) that have been in the fridge a little too long, keeping on top of the schedules and desires and needs of all five members of our household, chores, family game playing and popcorn, Jason and my reading time with hot drinks in the early mornings, and balancing my home and office work as best I can (which is normally a rather messy mix).

For Jason, he spent the first few days after we arrived home working on the "punch list" of the back kitchen project. It's all done except for one small task that must wait until some hardware arrives at the local building supply store on Friday. So maybe he'll still chime in here on the project once it is 100% done! We have all adjusted happily to the new cabinets, which are both functional, sturdy and beautiful. There are still many empty drawers and shelves that we'll "grow into using" over time. The picture here does not do them justice! Overall this project went well for us (as a couple and as a family). It was most stressful clearly for Jason, and it has been nice for him to be able to shift his attention and energy to other things in the last number of days. He got to spend the better part of two days loading up the wood shed for next winter, which is one of his favorite jobs. The girls all helped a bit on the the second day.

We enjoyed our February family night planned by Kali. We enjoyed wood fired pizzas together at Bella Luna and then went to see James & the Giant Peach at a local high school where one of Kali's friends was on the sound crew for the musical. By the end, we could all say we enjoyed it, but Terah clearly takes after her mother. There were tears for much of the first half and my main focus had to be on consoling her and trying to encourage her to stay quiet enough that we didn't have to leave. James has two very unkind aunts and of course, it being a musical, they were rather dramatic. Well everything is rather dramatic and loud and so it was suspenseful and tense, but she seemed happy that she had stayed. I did decide that when Beauty and the Beast is done at EMU next month, we'll make that a big girls and Mommy date. I'm sure that one would do her in!! I must always remember that we had to leave a Care Bears movie partway through when I was young as it was just too scary for me!

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about our connections to land and the earth and what reciprocity looks like. When we bought Leah Penniman's book Farming While Black at the recent conference we attended, she signed it, "the land loves you back." The more I reflect on these words, the more profound they are. And as Jason and I make our way through Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass, further reflection  on that theme is inspired and deepened - one of these days I hope to be able to better articulate all that is swirling in me as I read and reflect on this compilation of essays. I definitely consider it a "must read for all humans!" When I looked outside on Valentine's Day, it seemed like the whole sky was lit up with color - our valentine from nature. I hope my life adequately responds to the beauty and sustenance I have received from the earth. 
In the evening, we enjoyed a Valentine's day playdate with Ivy so her parents could enjoy a date! It was fun for all, as it always is, though I must admit that I didn't see the girls for a good part of the evening. There was a very lengthy potty party with Terah, Ivy and Kali as designated reader. By the time I finally went to check on them, Kali had a massive stack of Babybugs next to her that she had read. She is the most patient, kind, caring and generous 15 year old I know! Two kiddos' systems were well cleared out by the time the book reading session was called to an end!
And here we are at today! We woke to a transformed world covered in snow. I was able to convince the chickens to come down from their roost with popcorn kernels and some pork cracklins. Otherwise there was not a lot of chicken activity out and about today. We've been keeping the free range pens in more often right now anyway due to some really intense juvenile cooper's hawk pressure. In one day, Jason chased off a hawk twice that literally was attacking a hen. Close calls for sure! We are now collecting hatching eggs from a few of the range pens, Jason is doing some chicken shuffling to get other matings set up and we have our first broody sitting on eggs and another one in the process of being transitioned to a broody pen to receive a clutch of real eggs (the jury is out yet whether that transfer will be successful). I'm eager for the second broody to be securely in one of the solo pens as she is vicious. She drew blood on Jason the other day - that is why I wear gloves!

While the chickens did not want to be out today, we did! What a delightful few hours. By the time I finished an early morning work stint/zoom meeting and we had tanked up on nutty sweet potato waffles and chicken sausage, the snow was starting to turn to sleet. We decided to stay close to home, but after a few runs down our hill just couldn't restrain ourselves. This was good sledding conditions! So off we traipsed to Hidden Meadow's land next door to the best and safest sledding hill we know of! It was even worth crossing a creek to get there! It's steep enough at the start to get you going fast and then flattens out at the end for a good long stretch with no major obstacles in the way.

With sleet pelting our faces, we went down over and over again. In various combinations of people, sitting up, standing, kneeling, laying down. We went frontwards and backwards and stacked on top of each other. Terah went from the very top by herself and didn't want anyone waiting for her. It was so invigorating. I haven't squealed and laughed so much in a long time. What a delightful difference from my afternoon spent mainly in front of a computer screen trying to navigate a bad internet connection in Nigeria making a zoom meeting rather difficult (ok, impossible - we gave up after an hour of trying and resorted to email). At dinner we all agreed easily that our time together sledding was the time today when we all felt most alive and connected to ourselves, the earth and each other!
p.s. Here are two short tastes of our sledding adventures!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Back kitchen cabinet project & clearing out to WV!

After a glorious 3+ days in WV at my parents' Mountain House of Hope, it is time for the girls and I to head home to Tangly Woods. I'm very eager to see Jason, to do the chores again, to sleep in my own bed and get back into the rhythms and routines of our life in Keezletown together. That said, I'm not all that eager to depart. It's been another special winter trip over the mountains and Mom and Dad have filled the time with fun and relaxation for us all!

My goals and hopes for the time were all met and fulfilled beyond my expectations: to do some reading for pleasure, to play games, to enjoy some walks outside in the invigorating mountain air, to do our taxes and to not spend a lot of time on work stuff. I read a novel a day for the first 3 days and then when I had lived in the lives of others for enough hours for awhile (and cried enough tears - my mom sure can pick out tear-jerker love stories well!!), I decided to leave the last novel for another time and focus more on my own love story. I definitely soaked up the preciousness of our three gals as we hiked up the mountain together, played around the ice covered pond, enjoyed indoor games, and as I observed them loving their time here and with Grandma and Grandpa. This place is a place full of special memories and we keep creating more!

We just tanked up on a pancake brunch and Terah is happily putting together a puzzle with Grandpa. They were so excited to get in the car and head to the mountains. This was our first car trip since Terah stopped nursing/napping. She has never been a great car sleeper so I didn't think about even trying to make the trip aligned with any previous afternoon nap times. As it turned out Terah was sacked out before the first mountain and slept over all four, waking upon our arrival. That seems to be the story of much of my parenting experience - working hard to get kids to fit into some prescribed schedule and as soon as I relax about it what I had worked for with much effort and little success happens effortlessly. :)
Here's just a few additional memory-jogging pictures for the girls and I to enjoy looking back upon, and for you, whoever our readers are, to get a taste of our time away:
The girls went to the library with Grandma on day one to stock up on books and puzzles. I was already deep in my first novel!
And we were headed back to the library on day two as all the puzzles of the day before had already been put together!

I got a lot of reading done while Monopoly and Birdopoly were being played. Thanks to dad for playing it probably two times too many (I think he played it twice)! It's hard for me to remember the days when I could enjoy that game for hours without ceasing - Alida is smack dab in the middle of that phase!

A few of these pictures are ones my dad took and some of these activities I wasn't even aware of until seeing the photos - yes, I can get that lost in a book!!!

Here's one of the times I resurfaced for some game playing. I missed having my hubby as my Upwords buddy, but I also didn't have to worry about being a grouch if I lost as I don't seem to mind whether I win or lose unless I'm playing with Jason!
The girls and I enjoyed a hike just the four of us up to my uncle's cabin the first full day, complete with some hilarious games of tether-ball. Another day we enjoyed a walk up to Mom and Dad's pond, which provided for some great ice breaking play, which thankfully did not end in any child breaking through the ice with their body! I was holding on pretty tight to Terah! These little stints were the only quiet times in the house I think! I'm sure Mom and Dad will be glad for the quiet when we leave today and will soon after miss the chatter!
I'll have to do another post soon after we get home - or have Jason do a guest post on his days while we were gone. The days leading up to our departure were busy with finishing up the carpentry on the back kitchen cabinets, oiling them all, doing the back kitchen demolition and then waxing and buffing all the cabinets. I delayed our departure by a day to have the getting ready to vacation not be so stressful AND so that I could help Jason get the upper cabinets hung. I didn't want to leave and have him throw his back out on day one! So here's a few photos of the pre-departure fun that we got to work together on. The credit for this woodworking project goes largely to Jason's amazing carpentry skills, but it was fun for us to all get our hands on it towards the end. The girls also enjoyed there few stints going over to the garage with Jason to work on it. Another great homeschooling activity for all (me included). 
I should probably give a bit of an Alida-update as far as the back kitchen project is concerned (this is for her to laugh at down the road when she reads it). She has been quite resistant to this whole project - everything was as it should be in the back kitchen and now it would never be the same and the new cabinets would be horrible and.... She sure knows how to make a fuss about something! That said, she was still always eager to help Jason when she could, but would just remind us on and off that she did not like the changes.

Well that changed dramatically when her eyes fell upon the "cute little doors." The upper sink cabinets have a section with two small doors. It was love at first sight! I am not exaggerating - before long she couldn't stop gushing about the cute little doors, she was writing letters to them downstairs and coming up to read them her letters, she sang them songs and before you know it she wanted to add their "birthdays" to the family birthday calendar. I put my foot down. That is, until the family meeting. Then I picked my foot back up...with the promise that the "cute little doors" would be the ONLY non-human, non-animal-pet addition to the family birthday calendar. So the cute little doors share our niece and nephew's Groundhog Day birthdays! What a kid!! 

Before we left, we also got the next round of seeds started. It was time for parsley and fennel. I'm hoping for a good crop of fennel this year for all our sausage making!
I know Jason has been very occupied in our absence so he probably has not had a lot of time to miss us. And it had to have been more enjoyable to make noise and dust without worrying about our whereabouts. But I also know he will feel like home is home again when we are in it with him. And I know I will feel more grounded and at home within myself when we are together again!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Our famous poet!

Well, it's now 10:45 p.m. and Kali and I are the only ones still awake. It seems a tad ridiculous to stay up to put up a third blog post in one day, but I've been wanting to write an entry about cheddar cheese and about Kali's recently published poem. The cheesemaking can wait for another time - as I don't plan to stop making cheddar anytime soon (I'm hooked!!). But it seems worth sharing this while it is still hot off the press. Kali often enjoys sending in entries for various writing and art competitions in her Cricket magazines. The other day she got a 2nd place certificate in the mail noting that her poem was chosen to be printed in the February issue, which arrived the next day!
This particular one was a poetry contest back in October with the theme "mystery." Here's Kali's poem:

What's Wrong?

Once upon a nice fall morn
I pack some pickles, beans, sweet corn,
And also grapes (a whole big bunch) 
In a basket for my lunch.

I grab a book, a blanket, too,
Put on my socks, put on each shoe,
Walk out the door, and shut it tight.
Something doesn't feel quite right.

I look up at the orange sky,
Geese in a J shape, flying by.
A bright green cardinal chirps a song.
Still something seems a little wrong.

I set out upon my stroll,
Walk upon a wooden knoll,
Through autumn leaves in shades of green,
Purple, blue, and in between.

Bees around me zip and zoom,
Pollinating each mushroom.
Turtles leap from tree to tree.
There's nothing strange that I can see.

I spot a patch of nice red grass.
I spread my blanket, but alas!
Now, at last, I know what's wrong.
I didn't bring the food along!

And with that goodnight - for real this time!

A little bit of this and a little bit of that!

They have arrived and a shelf has been chosen for them - but they haven't been placed there yet. So far the girls are having too much fun flipping through them. Terah has named the green one (dedicated to her on the year of her birth) as "her book" and has a bookmark in it where she last left off "reading." Alida is still working her way through last year's. Kali is not going in any particular order but enjoying perusing. Alida is still loving finding my typos. Between these books and our current, almost nightly, practice of watching home videos all snuggled up in our bed together, we have been doing a lot of reminiscing around here. And not only that but something about looking back at the various ages and stages that various ones of us have gone through is great for providing perspective to the younger gals bringing up the rear. I'm so glad we have a few videos of Kali having fits about things changing or being "ruined forever." It is so helpful since Alida is smack dab in the middle of that stage right now! She is very much resisting the back kitchen cabinetry project, even though she knows her protests are futile.

So a recap on some highlights from the month of January!

We really enjoyed spreading out the holiday fun this year and hosted our last holiday gathering on January 18th - giving the girls a very good rationale for keeping up some of the Christmas decorations and lights until then. We did our final white elephant gift exchange (the 4th of the season) at that gathering and Terah is already asking when Christmas is coming around again. Due to coupons and the gift of many chocolate bars, the celebrations continue with sharing squares of dark chocolate with each other and Jason and Alida just finished planning her flower garden and ordering the seeds so now we all get to anticipate many colorful bouquets in our home this summer!

Sometimes homeschooling feels too good to be true. So much of the time it just happens so seamlessly, with joy and fun and ease. The other day, Alida and Terah wanted to paint. When I came by them busy at work, there was Alida painting and Terah on the other side learning how to paint a rainbow and a carrot. It was so sweet. Alida is really enjoying being the one with many things to teach someone. She is credited for working with Terah to write her name, writing the letters in little boxes and making boxes for Terah to try to copy her sample letters.

While on the subject of art projects, there was a lot of fun had the other day when Ivy came to spend the day with us and the girls were busy for some time making Emily birthday cards. The girls had so much fun together - it was a trial day of seeing how it would go for Ivy to be with us for a day. We started it around 10 since our girls are not early risers and Ivy integrated into the day without a hitch. I was not sure how nap time would go but she was sacked out before I even got the doors closed to keep things quiet so she would be able to fall asleep. And she remain zonked for a good 3 hours or so! I guess we tuckered her out. She has now slept longer in Terah's bed than Terah has ever slept in it - which is 0 hours! As well as the day went, I felt a different kind of tired at the end of it. It reminded me of what my mom said when we got back from the VABF conference. The girls had done so well with them but they were still glad to have us home. It's something about being responsible for someone else's child's well-being. That said, it definitely won't be the last time and I can see it getting easier and easier over time as the girls all get even more independent!

It would not be a complete update without mentioning that we have some serious puzzlers in this house! Terah has been taking apart and putting together, over and over, a puzzle that my folks had upstairs. She loves it and can do it all by herself which is a big hit. She is also getting better at putting harder puzzles together with Alida as her coach and assistant. It is a pretty common scene these days to have several puzzles out and started in front of the wood stove! And they aren't the only one working on puzzles. I imagine Jason would not call it a puzzle, but to me it feels about like Alida putting pieces effortlessly into a puzzle: I can't figure out how Jason can take boards and then come home with cabinets. Tonight he brought home the last of the cabinets. There is still a tiny bit of gluing, carpentry and sanding to do but we hope to be oiling by sometime tomorrow! We are not quite where we hoped to be by this evening, but we'll see what the next few days bring.

Alida is acquiring a love of photography - one that seems more sustained than Terah's. She gets her camera out now and again and talks about it sometimes, but it seems that Alida really loves to be named the "photographer" for a particular event or for a period of time. Today it probably took 45 minutes to download all the pictures and videos and I think I deleted about half of the 350 or so items. That said, interspersed in there with blurry and dark photos are some fun treasures. She's even getting into selfies:
She also seems to get good shots of normal life and facial expressions:
And photographs things that are so commonplace that I forget that we might want to remember that Kali heads for the recliner with a book pretty much every morning when she first makes her appearance:
The girls continue to treasure times with good friends. Looking back at old pictures and videos has inspired me to try to remember to bring my camera out every now and again when friends are over. Kids are changing so fast and I often have the thought that I'll never forget a particular moment but then the next moment seems equally momentous... A recent sleepover included about a four hour game of Monopoly. I used to love that game. Now it is about the last thing I would want to do for half a day. Right now the outdoors is calling me. If I'm feeling that way in January, when some days the high is not much over 20 degrees, what is April and May going to feel like. I just love the changing light on the mountain at different times of day.
I have no idea what I was doing when Alida got this picture without me knowing, but it's how I've been feeling when outdoors. She had the camera on our jaunt around yesterday collecting eggs and I won't include even a fraction here of what she took, but it was fun to see what grabbed her attention.
Terah is very excited about being able to go into some of the coops and collect the eggs from the nestboxes. Today she even collected the 3rd hatching egg and brought it all the way to the house, talking about how we might have baby chickies. She is so excited about the first chicks of the year and keeps talking about what a good mama our broody hen is. She doesn't miss much and is often repeating what she has heard me, Jason or her big sisters talk about. At this point, I think 4 p.m. is one of our favorite points in the day where Terah and I get bundled up (and normally Alida is eager to join also) and head out. It seems it is really clicking for both of them how much better they too feel after a dose of fresh air. It has helped us hit the reset button on more than one occasion!

Ok, time to bring this post to a close. I started it earlier and then we enjoyed a long evening with friends - introducing them to sweet potatoes with sausage gravy. Alida sacked out while the conversations were still going strong. Terah is still awake here beside me at 10:30 p.m. with no nap (she has gone cold turkey with nursing and naps amazingly well). Jason has read many books and she is exhausted but so far hasn't been able to let her body check out - maybe James Herriot is a bit too exciting for her!

I'll end with two of the pictures I took of plants at the end of taking our monthly property pictures this morning. I feel like I'm rooting for these little plants that are hanging in there in the cold and waiting for warmer temperatures. Most namely, I'm cheering on our garlic and spinach. We have just a few bulbs of garlic left from last year that I'm savoring. And as of today we have 6 cups of frozen spinach left. It's getting to the time of year where the green veggies are becoming sparser in the freezer and we'll be eating a lot more squash and potatoes (and meat) in the coming months!