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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Check!


It is between Christmas and New Year's Day as I write this. I was just looking back at some pictures from Christmas. We had fun as you can tell. I haven't had as much hobby time as I expected to have, but it has been fun just the same.
Laughing Water learned how to play chess with her Uncle Teacher. Sweet Cousin and Laughing Water got matching dresses from their Auntie. The Wood Artist enjoyed his new local history books so much that we discussed changing his blog name to Reads-a-Book or Ignores-his-Family. But that wouldn't fit in with the positive nature of this blog's format! :)
As for me, I'm feeling my creativity is at a very low ebb right now. Not sure why.
A highlight for me today was to visit MaryJane Butter's new FarmGirl store in Coeur D' Alene. It was lovely.
We were saddened by the terrible fire that destroyed 2/3 of our church's headquarters in this conference district today. We had held our wedding reception there 12 years ago, and many family and friends are employed there.
I'm restless tonight, so I need to go find something to absorb my attention! Nanette

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Catching Air



Its Christmas afternoon and we have finished a wonderful Christmas dinner. The Wood Artist's brother and his family were going to leave this afternoon for the other set of grandparents, but the weather and roads were too risky. So the kids are sledding again with a couple of uncles and the rest of us are taking it easy.
This morning I cross-country skied for about an hour. I went around the little town and up a road that hasn't been plowed yet. Everything was white. There wasn't any snow falling or wind blowing, but the ground, sky, ditches, and drifts were all the same value of white. It was impossible to see even if I was coming to a drift, but I really wanted to ski, so I aimed between two signs ahead and went for it. Fortunately, no wind came up, so I was able to follow my tracks back.
I should be able to post pictures of the Christmas gifts I made. All in all, I think they were a hit.
These are pictures of Mr. Blueberry Eyes jumping off a boy-made berm.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Over the River and Through the Drifts

Last Friday we loaded our van with all things needful for a winter vacation and hit the road. Our first clue should have been the drifts we had to hit to get out of our 1/3 mile drive. From there, it was snow packed and ridgy pretty much the whole trip to Grandpa and Grandma S. What normally take 5 hours took 7+ hours. But we did arrive safely and have had much fun since. We've been having snow like I remember as a kid. In the last week we've received about three feet of snow. My sister-in-law got delayed twice on the freeway for a long period of time. The children are having a grand time sledding and building snow forts. The Dads commandeered the city street in front of Grandpa and Grandma's house for part of an afternoon. They put a sawhorse to block the street so the children could sled down the hill. We may hear from the city fathers of this quiet little town, but I doubt it. I don't think even one vehicle came along the whole time. The boys built a jump and caught some "serious air". I'll try to post pictures of that later.
Tonight, The Wood Artist took me on a date to a great East Indian restaurant. It was SO yummy. There was only one waitress ,due to the bad weather, and she had a terrible time keeping up, but the food was worth the wait.
Here are some pictures of a couple of home made Christmas tree decorations I made with a friend about a decade ago. - Nanette

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Old Faithful


Old Faithful is our collie. He joined our family when he was about six years old. It took him only a short time before he assumed it was his job to protect Laughing Water and Mr. Blueberry Eyes. He is a sweet dog, but will take on anything he perceives to be a threat to the perfect tranquility of the family. If the neighbor's black lab comes, Old Faithful deftly keeps himself between Blackie and the children. Or the adults, for that matter.
So it was with some anxiety that we discovered that his left eye was rolling back in his head with some unidentifiable pain. The vet put him on antibiotics. He was also diagnosed with a kind of benign tumor on his gums that manifests itself like a severe gingivitis. He is convalescing in the house while the snow piles up outside.
The cost for helping his gums is astronomical, with really not much promise of helping. So we are trying some natural remedies. So far we are using colloidal silver and grape fruit seed extract. Any other ideas out there?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Come On, Weather Man, Give Me A Forecast Snowy White!

The weather forecast was for snow, then wind - a lot of it. Then cold. Lastnight as we lay in bed, watching the flakes come down, I chanced to see a breath of wind come and blow snow off of the tree. "Here it is", I said to The Wood Artist. And it was. from that first puff of wind, it increased into a roaring gale and didn't let up for one moment until 2-3 hours ago.
The trees are palsied into place still, even though the wind has stopped. We couldn't get to church today. I was supposed to teach a Bible lesson to the children and play the piano for the service. I don't know what they did. When I called, they assured me that they would come up with somethings. It couldn't be helped. The Wood Artist spent about 30 minutes just shoveling by the garage and the steps. Our driveway is 1/3 of a mile.
So we watched a charming video of Christmas carols, had devotions - what we could get with Mr. Blueberry Eyes bouncing around. We snuggled and tickled and laughed. I read a story to the children. We ate soup for lunch.
We have plans to attend a Christmas play tonight with family and friends - a yearly tradition. Granny Flash will come barreling through the drifts with her 4-wheel-drive Suburban to pick us up, something like the U.S. Cavalry rescuing stranded forts.
We will drive around looking at Christmas lights - another tradition. A few weeks ago, I chanced to find some paper glasses one puts on and every pinpoint of light turns into a snowman. That will add a little flavor to the expedition this year. Then we will join more family and friends and a few hundred other people at a local church's Christmas play. Much fun will be had by all. -Nanette

Friday, December 12, 2008

He Would Be Asleep By Now

Earlier this fall, we had a lovely adventure. We had gone to church, had a nice dinner, and settled down to visit. We started to grow sleepy and wondered whether to take a nap, or get out and enjoy the fall day. Fortunately, we decided to see what nature had to show us. She had a treat in mind!
We drove a short distance to the river that is near us and began to walk. We bantered about the children walking through the cold water. Laughing Water made a deal with The Wanderer, who was with us, that, when we were about to go home, she would wade through it if he would.
We strolled and discovered wild onions. Mr. Blueberry Eyes attempted to walk on the bank of a large pool, that attributed off the side of the river. He ended up getting stranded, clinging to a tree root. The Wood Artist went to rescue him while the rest of us waited and watched.
Presently, The Wanderer spoke in a calm and completely unsurprised tone, "There is a bear." He could have been commenting on the clouds, or a bird, such was the tone of his voice. We turned. There it was. A small bear of about two years. We hollered for The Wood Artist to look. We all stood watching the bruin, about 75 yards from us. He seemed unconcerned about our presence. Eventually he walked away and we followed him at a distance, hoping he would meander through the mud and leave tracks. He did. We were delighted! It was nearly dark, so the next morning we returned with plaster and casting tools. The prints were still there and we gave casting tracks a first try. They aren't perfect, but we are proud of them. While we were working on them, Mr. Blueberry Eyes said, "Mama! Racoon tracks!" I thought he must be making it up, but sure enough! They were coon tracks. We got those, too. Laughing Water was proud to discover a deer print so deep that one could see the dew claws. All in all, we were glad we didn't take a nap that day!
Tonight, the snow is falling and there is a blizzard watch. I suppose he is sleeping in his den now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Hoom It May Consume:


Our household is bursting with Christmas enthusiasm. Mr. Blueberry Eyes bought a Santa hat for Laughing Water and one for himself. The idea was that it would be a Christmas gift. But it was delivered upon arrival home! He just couldn't wait. He fell asleep tonight with his on.
Laughing water is bubbling over with excitement, and busy preparations. She is studiously practicing her piano Christmas songs, while The Mighty Hunting Hound keeps watch under the bench.
Even I am getting excited over my plans. Trying to make things for family members gets tricky when they are ever-present! But I am managing to move along on the projects by crossing and double crossing. More on that later lest I be discovered!
The other night, The Wood Artist and I watched a documentary on Catherine the Great. We instructed Laughing Water that she was to not get up and interrupt our quiet time. (You just never know what will be on these historical narratives!) When it was over, I walked into the restroom and spotted a note on the floor, obviously put there by Laughing Water. It said: "To Hoom it May Consume: Nika (The Mighty Hunting Hound) needs to go potty." Maybe it was because it was pushing midnight, but it seemed terribly funny to me!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wheelchairs and Bathtubs


This year I wanted to give special attention to nurturing my children's world-view. While I wish we could travel to show them the rest of the world, I have to be content with what they can "see" from a distance. We tell them stories of our life overseas before they were born, but it is hard to imagine.
So this was one of the thoughts niggling in my mind when I took on the Kenyan Orphanage project. I wanted them to have a bigger picture of their world than just "twice times" and "Where in the world is?"
The delightful thing is their response to it. Children seem to have a natural heart for helping others. Their capacity to empathise with others seems to be boundless (unless, of course, the "other" is their sibling!)
One day a wheelchair was donated to us. It was in a condition that I really didn't want to send it in. It seriously needed a scrubbing. Since winter has come, the outdoor water pump was out. The only other option was the bathtub. So in it went. Mr. Blueberry Eyes took to the project with great enthusiasm. He donned his wet suit and plunged in with all the vigor his six-year-old heart could muster. He scrubbed and scrubbed until the dirty old thing fairly shown!
For my part, I'm imagining that there is a person in Kenya that will soon be moving around in a way that they haven't been able to, thanks to generous hearts and an enthusiastic spirit of a child.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

'Tis the Season


The peacefulness in our home is hardly indicative of the week we've had. But then, that is why I like blogging. I can take idyllic snapshots of our life and post them and it makes my life seem just that - idyllic. I don't have to talk about negative things - like how the economic downturn is affecting our business or when in the world will our rented house get siding on it. It is like a movie. I pick the scenes I want to show.
But it is more than that. I save my complaining for my private journal. My blog is what helps me see the good things in my life. I don't exaggerate them. I just notice them. It helps me be content. It is a place I go to say "Thank you" for the good things in my life. It reassures me that the negative things I experience will pass. It is the good things I want to remember when I'm old.
So when I kiss my daughter goodnight and see The Mighty Hunting hound tucked under the covers with her head on the pillow, too, and then walk into my son's room and see Old Faithful, the purebred Collie curled up, keeping watch beside his bed, my scrunched spirit revives a little. It is easier to let go of the frustration I felt at seeing the ugly side of people today. It is easier to remember that God will provide. I really have very little to do with it. I wish I had remembered that a few hours ago. It would have eased the hurt and anger and fear.
I sit writing this after everyone in my family has gone to bed. A jaunty little Christmas tree sparkles at me in the quietness. It doesn't seem to mind that it has been trimmed with childish hands, in a way that would hardly bring tree fashion awards. It is folksy, homemade, a little haphazard and brings delirious joy to the children.
Someday I'll have a tree trimmed in perfect white snowflakes and angels. Everything will be symmetrical and even. But I know it will not carry the same delight that I saw in the children's faces as they passionately strew the ornaments on their beloved tree - the tree they tromped through the woods to get with their Papa and Mama.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


Today was a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Our home was filled with family and friends. We had some of the traditional food and a lot of games and laughter. My father loves "Scatergories" and there is always lots of laughs in each person's wrangling for points.
Laughing Water and Mr. Blueberry Eyes learned the game "Sorry" and loved it. Laughing Water played "The Farming Game" with her Uncle #1. Uncle # 3 was here, too, and that was extra fun because he is usually working on holidays. Uncle # 2 called from boot camp and was able to chat for a nice amount of time. He asked about the news as he doesn't get to hear the news there. Uncle #3 played a lot with Mr. Blueberry Eyes. (Uncles are listed in order of age,not lovability. They are all great Uncles!) All in all, it was a great day. Now we are sitting around visiting with our friend, "The Wanderer" solving the world's problems. I don't have the energy or mind to finish cleaning up the kitchen, so tomorrow will have to do. I chose to visit instead and it was rewarding enough. My heart is full and I wish to acknowledge my Father's blessings:
* Improving health after a difficult summer
* The tremor in my hands is slowly diminishing with thyroid therapy
* My beautiful, healthy children and the opportunity to live and learn in a gentle learning environment with them.
*A faithful husband who loves to talk to me and is an incredible support.
*Some incredible friends that bring richness to my life in so many and varied ways.
*I am so in love with nature and am continually amazed at the variety around me. (This post's picture is of one of the thermal pools in Yellowstone National Park.)
*My Heavenly Father and a great paraphrase of the Bible that I've been reading that is making His Word come alive to me once again.
A very blessed Thanksgiving weekend to each of you! -Nanette

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Summer Memories

I've been reminiscing over summer memories lately. When one is collecting their thanks for the past year's blessings, it makes you kind of nostalgic. I decided to do something new this fall and put 15 or so favorite pictures on my refridgerator door. I use the magnetite rocks I've found at some gift shops to put them up. They are uniformly dark and boast strong magnetic power, so they make perfect tools for mounting pictures! There is a picture of Mr. Blueberry Eyes shooting his bow and arrow. There is one of The Wood Artist beside a campfire. There is one of me covered in mud just after I've come out of a cave. In one, Laughing Water is sitting in a laundry hamper-laughing! Memories. I love thinking about these times.
This picture represents quite a memory. My parents live on a mountain. This summer they had two grizzly bears and one black bear practically taking them hostage in their own home! The bears hung out for weeks and calls to the Fish and Game Dept. did no good. When we would go to see them, my father would meet us at the vehicle with his powerful rifle and escort us to the house a few yards away. We never did get to see the bears, but my parents did many times. Once, my mother awoke from a nap on the couch to see the smaller grizzly standing on the generator right outside her window - peeing!
In this picture, Mr. Blueberry Eyes, who loves guns, is posing with Grandpa on the way to the car.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Africa Update


Today was a good day. I've been so busy working on my project of sending this shipment of things to Kenya. But, today took the cake. I got a call today offering a whole warehouse full of hospital supplies and equipment. Now I'm in a dilemma. There is enough to fill a 40 ft. container just with these medical supplies. I can't bear to let them sit in a warehouse, but it would be $10,000, give or take, to ship another container. I'm going to lay the matter before the Lord and a couple of churches. If the money comes in, we will send it.
I just love this picture of Benson. It was taken while he was visiting us this summer. I have an untold amount of memories at this picnic area because we visit it so often, but this is right at the top of my favorites. We were introducing him to the evils of American food, and, bless his heart, he was a quite a trooper. He was greatful for everything and said he liked it all. I can only imagine how strange it was to his palate. Ever since my first trip overseas, I've enjoyed cultural experiences, but they haven't always been easy. Anything different can be a challenge to homosapiens! But how rewarding it is to try.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Lovely Fall Day

I'm letting go of my usual frenetic pace today. The Wood Artist and I have a touch of the stomach flu now. Not bad, just enough to make me feel like taking it easy. The sun is shining and the fall day hardly seems like November! It is gorgeous, gorgeous! I had a really fun Bible class with the kids this morning. They are painting a mural of Heaven. We mixed a bunch of colors of acrylic paint into individual paper cups. Then spread newsprint on the table and they started to paint while I read Revelation 21-22 to them about Heaven from the Clear Word, a great paraphrase of the Bible. It was a really bonding time and they begged me to read more when I was done. So, we haven't got to math yet. But that is o.k. for today. I usually don't relax much on a school day because I'm afraid of falling behind, but Laughing Water is doing well and it has been one of those sicky weeks.
The Wood Artist scored big time lastnight. He got treats in town and set up our Reading Cottage (our class room) all romantic like. He started a fire in the stove and put the screen on so we could see the flames. He put candles around and brought out our wedding goblets, filled with root beer ( my favorite cold drink). We left the kids in the house with a video and their own treats. Then we read Christmas stories to each other while the other one administered a foot massage. SHWEEET! He'll be reaping brownie points for a long time! - Nanette

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Up In the Night


I'm up in the middle of the night. Well, for me anyway. It was about 3:50 a.m. last time I looked. I'm not normally an early riser, but this new thyroid medication is doing strange things to me. The muscle cramps in my neck didn't help, either. I was hoping my neighbors weren't up also and wondering why I was doing Tae Bo punches in my living room that early in the night. Boxing always helps my neck cramps. Weird, I know.
Or maybe it was because I was troubled over the Africa project. There are exciting and fabulous things rolling in, but I'm not having good success yet at finding tools and toys they need. (I know God will send it to us, but I was trying to help God out. Not a good idea. It makes one lose sleep!) I spent a long time yesterday calling box stores and other businesses seeking donations. I got a lot of friendly voices and people excited about the project, but am currently tied up in applications, faxes, and "will call you backs". I asked for help from my church family, but so far no takers on this part. I guess everyone is just as shy about fundraising as I am. I'm not complaining. They have been an absolutely incredible support in the other facets of this project. I feel so blessed to have such a great church family.
Maybe it was because I'm having a Mommy's time out today. The Wood Artist said he would "do the math" with the kids. I get to have a cranial/sacral treatment. That should help the neck cramps. What on earth will I do with the rest of the time? I mean I do have plenty I could and need to do. But it seems that if one is being given a break, one should take it! Maybe I'll get a new book from the library and find a cozy coffee (decaf Chai) shop to read it in for a while. I'll let you know what I decided to do.
In other news, Laughing Water got the stomach flu in the middle of the night a few nights ago. Poor dumplin' was awful sick. She vomited about 12-13 times in about 15 hours. She is still dehydrated and not wanting to eat much, but is on the mend. Mr. Blueberry Eyes had had it last week in the middle of the night. (Maybe that is my problem. My body thinks this is a new trend!) I give my family activated charcoal when they get sick. And, if anyone is wondering how to get that out of carpet.... hydrogen peroxide does wonders!
Regarding this post's picture. No, I'm not still getting flowers from my garden. This was taken several weeks ago! Cheers! Hope you're all sleeping peacefully! Nanette

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Climbing The Walls


Normally the term "climbing the walls" is an idiomatic statement meaning one is feeling rather restless, overwhelmed and generally in need of a change. In our house, it simply means that Mr. Blueberry Eyes is climbing the walls. There is no perfectly manicured house here. We got the house all clean for our family who are visiting this weekend. When they got here, they commented on how well the socks matched the faux finish on our wall. I looked a little closer and there, on the curtain rods, were my son's socks! That one was pretty hard to blame on the Mighty Hunting Hound!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fall Colors


I don't live in the part of the country that is normally thought of when the subject of fall colors comes up. We have some deciduous trees, but far more evergreens. Still, it is beautiful. But the Western Larch loses its needles in the fall and the yellow stage is truly beautiful! We took a drive a few weekends ago and this is one of the pictures I took. I always think of cozy fires when I see this sight because larch is a coveted firewood around here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Week

I'm not feeling especially wordy tonight. It has been a busy week, but I can't think of anything to write about! I baked bread and granola, nursed a sick boy, taught my kids letters, numbers and music and words. Some of it was fun, some of it wasn't. Laughing Water kicked off a new business that she has been working on with our friend, The Wanderer. Last weekend I had a really fun weekend with some girlfriends who have their birthdays close to mine. We went to a town a few hours away and got a motel with hot tubs. We laughed and talked our way through the weekend, giving each other massages, manicures, pedicures and pep talks. It was glorious! Now The Wood Artist's parents and sister are here and we are sitting around visiting.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spinning More Yarns



I just had to share what I've been up to in the spinning department. At my last lesson I learned how to ply what I had spun. Here are some pictures of my first actual yarn. It is two-ply. I'm having the time of my life! My teacher taught me all about setting the twist using steam or hot water, which I did lastnight. She also told me how to dye, using some natural things found in my woods and garden. I guess there are some natural dyes that require toxic mordents to set the color and some that don't. I am interested in doing it the non-toxic way, so she took me on a little explore in the woods beside my tutoring office and showed me the lichen to collect. She also said that onion skins make a good dye that sets well. I am saving the skins from my garden's red onions and when I have enough I will make a redish yarn. Laughing Water is insisting that I not dye the first yarn I did. I think she is right. I need to just keep that one simple. It is a lovely color anyway, don't you think? I will probably keep the big skein natual and dye the other two. - Nanette

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Adventurer Club and Five Toes


My kids belong to a co-ed scout club sponsored by our church. Last weekend was the Investiture, where they were awarded badges for the honors they had earned during the last year. They had both worked hard and earned quite a few badges. Here they are all dressed to leave for the ceremony. It was sweet to watch and funny when Mr. Blueberry Eyes saluted with one hand before he was presented with the honors and then with the other hand right afterward. Laughing Water will turn 10 in the spring and will move up to the Pathfinder group. She announced to me that she intends to earn ALL of the Adventurer Honors that are left before she turns 10. There are 38 left! That means an average of two a week between now and April! I'm tired just thinking about it! So, this week I took a look at how we can incorporate some of them into our home school curriculum. She is now working hard at learning sign language. I really don't think this is a feasible thing, but I will not try to discourage her. (Perhaps I ought to get her into therapy for over-acheivers!)
On another note, I was working with Mr. Blueberry Eyes on his math. I would lay out various coins valued at ten cents or under and he was to make the ammount on an abacus, with tally sticks, and on his fingers. Then I laid out three nickels. He pondered that for a time because, obviously, there were not enough fingers. Then, he whipped of his sock, put his foot on the desk and put his ten fingers beside his five toes! Gotta love those developing minds! - Nanette

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Tiring Week
















It was a long, hard week, so I decided to post a picture from a lighthearted day earlier this summer. Laughing Water and I are dancing outside of a cave we were about to go spelunking in.




It was just one of those weeks where homeschooling, music practice, business stress, and details of our mission project seemed to overwhelm me.




But today was a blessing. I got to sleep in (even if the kids' fighting did wake me up). Then, my mother offered to take my kids out to her mountain cabin where she was doing some garden work. That left me with some free time to get my chores done. I purchased a few groceries, cleaned my van and then came home.




One project that has been bugging me has been my garlic. I plant it in the fall and should have had it in the ground weeks ago. Indeed, if this had been a normal fall here in the North country, it would have been too late. I was in such a funk that gardening didn't even seem to appeal to me (a rare thing, indeed!). But it was a pleasant day and The Wood Artist had tilled part of my garden yesterday. I set myself a time limit and promised myself that if I got just 1/2 of the garlic planted, I would be happy. I put on my iPod and let the words of the music soak into my struggling spirit. In less than the alotted time, I had planted all of my garlic! This was a great blessing as a year ago my mother gave me a few high quality bulbs of different national origins. They did well this year, but I needed all I had to re-seed. If I hadn't got them planted, I would not have been able to preserve those kinds.




I'm trying something new. Since garlic is supposed to help with garden pests, I planted them in two different beds about eight or nine feet apart. The idea is that I will plant my cabbage patch between the two rows, in hopes that the garlic will help with the pests. After planting, I covered the rows thickly with straw. Here are some of pictures of the operation.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spinning Yarns




When I was a teenager, a relative gave me a spinning wheel. I was fascinated with the idea of spinning and tried for a while to do it. But I didn't have anyone around who could help me with the details and I eventually became discouraged and gave up. My wheel sat in storage for over 20 years while I always thought that someday I would learn the craft.

A few weeks ago, I took my children on a home school field trip to a local fiber mill. While I was there, I became friends with a lady who was demonstrating how a spinning wheel works. Laughing Water showed great interest and I scheduled a lesson on spinning. It didn't take long for the feel to come back to me and I've had some great relaxing times with my spinning wheel the last couple of weeks. Laughing Water is picking it up quickly, too, despite tension trouble with her rented wheel.

Spinning your own yarn is not cheaper, nor is it the most time efficient. But it is fun. And it is a great skill to know. It is one of those things that gives you a feeling of self-sufficiency. - Nanette

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Mighty Hunting Hound




Well over a year ago, I started to think that Mr. Blueberry Eyes, given his love for animals, needed a little dog he could love on. I looked and looked for the perfect one and last February, we found her. She was only 8 weeks old at the time and is 1/2 Yorkie and 1/2 Silkie/Poo. She was, indeed, just what we needed. She is just the right amount of spunk and lovin' and has quite the personality. The other night while I was fixing dinner, Mr. Blueberry Eyes was "starving" and I gave him a carrot to munch on. He sat on the couch and was watching a video while he munched. I suddenly realized that Nika was licking his carrot! Realizing that it was no good for him now, he let her try it. She munched about two inches of carrot before getting full! -Nanette

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kids and gardening




One of the things that makes my kids really excited it the thought of having their very own garden. This year, Laughing Water decided to have only a flower garden. She purchased a little house made of netting and planted peas and morning glories on it. Then she planted a profusion of cosmos, batchelor buttons and zinnias. It was really very pretty. Mr. Blueberry Eyes did mostly vegetables. I was pretty impressed with the harvest of his one tomato plant. Here he is pictured with 22 lbs. of tomatoes from one plant. While he was enthusiastic sometimes, he really didn't have the maturity to follow through on the weeding and tending, but he still enjoyed the process a lot!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Mission


This summer we had an opportunity to meet in person a man from Kenya with whom we had been corresponding for some time. Benson and his wife run an orphanage and he was in the U.S. for a fundraising trip. From the moment we met him at the airport, he was a joy to have in our family. It was this encounter that led us to undertake a huge project. We are collecting clothing, tools, and other useful things and loading a 40 ft. container to ship to Benson. We in America are so blessed and if we can share a bit with these orphans, it will be a little like sharing the blessings. I am overwhelmed by the task, and I am on a steep learning curve just to figure out the logistics of how to do it. But, we will prevail. We've been so blessed with responses from our local church. I will keep the project updated from time to time on this blog.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Over The River and Through the Woods


We were invited to a fall party a few days ago. It was just a great day of simple fun. We had a potluck of yummy food. A bon fire crackled the whole time. The kids played games and the adults chatted. Just before lunch, a big surprise arrived - a splendidly matched team of of black horses decked out in their finery. This would be the hay ride! We all took turns riding on a comfy bench. I even got to be on the ride that forded the mighty river. O.k., maybe it was a small brook, but it was still fun. The day ended with guitars and violins by the campfire. A perfect day! I think we should have a lot more entertainment that is so low key and refreshing! - Nanette

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Green Tomatoes


We had our first hard freeze last week. I considered myself blessed that it happened so late in the season. Most of the valley we live in is a zone 4 growing season. Our particular part of the valley is zone 3. So, when other parts of the valley frosted weeks before us this fall, I was pleasantly surprised. But, since all good things must come to an end, we knew it was only a matter of time before the hoop house froze, too. So, The Wood Artist picked all remaining tomatoes - ripe and green. The green ones, I put on shelves in the cool garage and covered them with newspaper. With a little luck, we should have tomatoes until Christmas. Does anyone know if you can store tomatillos this way, also?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fruit Leather


I haven't posted much lately because we've been flat out racing to keep up with the harvest! I have a thing for dehydrating food. Maybe it is because my Dad is the local dehydrating guru and teaches classes on it. I've heard him lecture on the increased nutrition of food preserved this way and the benefits of storing larger quantities of food in smaller areas. (A big plus for my small abode.)
Anyway, I decided that this was the year to stock up a bit. I went to a local fresh fruit market and asked if they had any overripe fruit. They did and for a great price, too. So I put the fruit into my blender and pureed it and spread it on my dehydrator sheets that are made especially for leather. My kids love the fruit leather/treats from the store, but I don't like them to eat a lot of it because it usually has food dyes and sugar (not that we eat a totally sugar-free diet, mind you). Or, if you can get a wholesome kind, it is expensive.
So after drying it, I roll it up in plastic wrap and cut it into 1 1/2" or so strips. I store it in buckets with screw-top lids so the kids can easily access it for snacks/hiking food. I experimented with yummy combinations. Lastnight I tried a batch of pear/banana/peanut butter. It really was not as good as I expected. And, with the p.b., it will need to be used quickly so it doesn't go rancid from the oils. In the end, I discovered that Mr. Blueberry Eyes does NOT like pear leather. Fortunately, most of what I made was peach, nectarine, or those mixed with plums.
Several of you have conatacted me saying that it is difficult to leave a comment. I changed my settings a bit, so I hope that makes it easier. I really like the comments! Keep them coming!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Salsa!


Sunday night we were visiting friends, working on a business project when supper time rolled around. I had made a soup out of our potatoes, leeks, and chard that was yummy, but I had also brought a number of garden vegies along. Since my friend was on the phone and the guys were busy on the computer, I just started making myself at home in the kitchen. (Gotta love friends like that!) I've never played around much with salsa, so I decided to give it a try. I got out their food processor and tossed in tomatillos, red onion, red pepper, small green pepper. After processing that I added the juice of a lemon, some salt and cayenne pepper. We sat around eating and talking about how much this stuff could sell for! Hmmm! One really could make a business out of something that fresh and good. At any rate, it was just fun to eat a whole meal out of the garden.
Speaking of which. I've not been posting much because we have been racing the cold to bring in the harvest. Will share more on that in the near future!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Singin' In the Shower


This morning brought an interesting event. We heard a crash at the window and peeped out to see a nuthatch not feeling well at all. It seems my last week's window washing had lured him to fly straight into the window. This has happened many times before, so we did what we always do and placed him on a clean rag and put him in the infirmery (our bathroom) with the lights off and the doors shut.
We left to go to our outside office/classroom and after some time, Mr. Blueberry Eyes asked if he could check on the bird. He came racing back to say that Mr. Nuthatch was gone! I knew he couldn't have gone far, since the doors were shut, so we raced back to check on him.
Sure enough! There he was, perched in the shower. I clicked some pictures and then proceeded to attempt to catch him so I could release him. That was not as easy as it had been when he was dazed and confused! But in the end I cornered him and was able to let him fly free. - Nanette

The Forest Has Eyes

This weekend was a wonderful one. I've been craving raw nature and we chose to spend our Saturday in God's great cathedral instead of going to church. We loaded our canoe which we've named "Buddy" (after the dear, old canoe in Sam Campbell's books) and headed for the lazy river South of us. The river meanders here and there and has made so many cuts that there are scores of sloughs and fabulous places to view birds. We put in at a slough and paddled to the river and shortly saw a bald eagle fishing. Along the way we saw a Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron. The autumn leaves were lovely - and comforting. Just when we thought it couldn't get better, I was scanning the woods with my eyes and suddenly caught sight of a tiny, masked, round face watching me from about 50 feet up in a snag. It was a raccoon. I stammered out my surprise and just as my family caught sight of it, two tiny faces popped up beside Mama. We stopped the canoe and sat there "visiting" with them. They curiously watched us until they grew bored and settle back into their cozy nest. What fun! -Nanette

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Vigilantes and Black Angus Bulls

After a truly lovely weekend at Yellowstone, we made our way home, slowly. Very slowly. It happened on this wise. The Wood Artist handed me the map and said, "You are the navigator. Just make sure we go through this Small Town!" No problem. I like maps. So I studied the map and determined the best way possible. As we went merrily on our way, however, The Wood Artist took the map, and declared, "No! I want to go this way." Hmmmm. Those road lines looked significantly smaller than the ones I had chosen, but, o.k. So we sailed along until there was a bump and a rattle and we hit gravel road. I raised an eyebrow. Not that I mind gravel roads, mind you, but we really needed to get home in a reasonable amount of time. The bumps got bumpier and gravel got narrower...and narrower. Presently we were creeping along this trail surrounded by sage brush. Suddenly, (I'm not exaggerating!)there was a huge ditch dug right across this road and a make-shift sign pointing the way into a rancher's yard. Now, mind you, we had just passed through a former vigilante area and I'm certain they were laying a trap for us. (O.k., so maybe a little exaggeration now.) They just saw the peeling paint on our mini-van and decided we must not have anything to rob! :) After detouring through the rancher's yard, we proceeded into canyons and gullies and I began to get nervous. You see, our car had just turned over 290,000 miles and I wondered what would happen if we broke down. It was still 6 weeks until hunting season and we may not be found in time. Suddenly, we rounded a corner and there, was a huge Black Angus bull. At least we wouldn't starve. But how would we (four vegetarians) harvest him when the only thing we had in the picnic basket was a bread knife. I shuddered, just hoping that we DIDN'T break down. Somewhere in one of the gullies, The Wood Artist mumbled something about getting the feeling he was becoming the butt of a blog. 37 miles and 90 minutes later, we emerged in the Small Town we were headed for. At the beginning of the day, I had had thoughts of stopping at a town on the way home and trying out a Buddhist restaurant I'd heard of. Not anymore. We were hungry NOW and settled for Taco Johns - and a layer of dust on EVERYTHING! Nanette

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Geyser Geezers and Coyotes

One thing I learned about Yellowstone is that they have some very friendly coyotes! I'm used to hearing them at my house, but in Yellowstone, they walk right by your tent or come up to your car in a parking lot! At first I was scared that they were rabid. Then I found out that they were all like that and began to enjoy them.

We saw Old Faithful 4 times. We especially enjoyed the bubbling mud pot at the Artist's Paint Pots. Mr. Blueberry Eyes thought the "Hook and Cook" pots at West Thumb were way cool! He had a great time imagining hooking the fish and cooking it in the boiling water right beside the lake. In the course of our time spent at Yellowstone, we learned to expect two questions at nearly every pool: #1 "Is it over my head? #2 Can I jump in? Which would inevitably be followed by a discussion of just how deadly that would be.
We were joined by our good friend, The Wanderer, on the second night. We camped near him for two nights and had fun learning camp-cookery from him and asking him all manner of questions about nature, since he is a ranger.

Our last day we spent geyser gazing. We got to see Castle Geyser, a fabulous geyser that goes for 15-20 minutes and has formed a castle-looking mini-mountain around it.

We even got to see Grand Geyser. Since it has a four hour window of when it can erupt, we armed ourselves with stuff to entertain the children and just camped out on the boardwalk. There was an old geyser geezer, grisled with character who would stand up and expostulate at each cycle about the potential of this being "IT". He was so funny to watch. He had to have been a retired professor of anthropologicalgeothermodynamicesospherology! -Nanette

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elk Bugling

When I was a young girl, we lived near Estes Park, in Colorado. I have a vivid, sweet memory of striking out one crisp, fall afternoon with my family and my best friends' family in search of bugling elk. We found a field with hundreds of elk grazing. While we sat in the ancient, white station wagon eating white bread and vegetarian turkey sandwiches, we listened to a magnificent chorus of screeches and squeaks. For some reason, that memory has gone with me and become one of comfort.
So on this trip to Yellowstone National Park, I told The Wood Artist that one of my main objectives was to hear the elk. We entered the Park's North gate and proceeded to the village of Mammoth. Imagine my surprise when we found a herd of elk right in the village, resting and grazing in the shade of the buildings. One bull strutted around proudly. He would swagger through his harem and in one glance rearrange them. Then, in one magical moment, he stretched his neck out and let go a magnificent screech.
Now, I live in a wild place and get rather used to bears, deer and other wild things. But, I think that moment rivaled the day I saw 10 grizzlies in one hike! O.k. I know that sounds nuts, but maybe it was the emotional tie to my childhood. Whatever it was, I was instantly hungry for squishy white bread and turkey sandwiches!

More on our trip to Yellowstone coming.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Own Declaration of Independence

Someone once said that growing a vegetable garden is like a declaration of independence. How true! I love that feeling of self-sufficiency one gets while bringing in a harvest. The last few days have been filled with that for our family. I learned how to braid onions and hang them to dry in our garage. I've harvested hot peppers to dry. We already have two bins of dried tomatoes for soups this winter with more in the dehydrator. The Wood Artist harvested heads and heads of rock-hard cabbage for the root cellar. I must try making sauerkraut this year. There is much more to be done to bring in the harvest, but I am already getting that feeling of coziness that accompanies being ready for the deep winter snows that come to my part of the world.
I will be away for a few days as we are taking a long overdue, short vacation. We are going to a National Park that I've always wanted to see..... Stay tuned. Nanette

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Rites of Fall

Our family is obsessed with picnics at our local nature reserve. It is where The Wood Artist took me on our first of many dates. We spend more summer weekend evenings there than anyone I know. We drag anyone who will go with us there. It isn't usually hard to get them there once or twice as it happens to be one of the most beautiful, recognizable landscapes in the world. But there are a handful of friends who will return with us again and again. These have become true kindred spirits - the kind who are like an extension of one's family. They fit like a comfy, old pair of shoes and you just expect to enjoy their company on a regular basis.

Yesterday was one such day. After church we headed to a trailhead with one friend and took a small hike. I was not in my best hiking form and everyone else didn't seem to mind. It was unseasonably warm and we found a cool spot by a small brook. The Wood Artist and Mr. Blueberry eyes explored the area and hunted tadpoles. They found a frog, which we played with for a while. Laughing Water begged chocolate from our friend, The Wanderer. The Wood Artist struck up a conversation with a hiker who passed. It was the most pleasant of afternoons. Toward evening we made our way to our famous picnic area. Here we met up with fellow die-hard picnic friends and cooked our dinner, laughing and eating the evening away.

As it turns out, it may have been one of our last of the season. Even as we drove home in the dark, the lightning could be seen. A short time later fall rains began. I'm not ready for it. My onions should have been harvested before the moisture came. But for today,I must relax and not worry about what didn't get done.

We are making the best of it. Beethoven is frolicking out of our BOSE. Mr. Blueberry Eyes has made a charming castle out of a blanket and the cat pole. A blue flag flies to signify the king is in residence. His Majesty and his mighty hunting hound (our Yorkie) peer at me from time to time from a castle window.

Laughing water is learning to operate the sewing machine as she stitches strips of cloth together. We made the strips from old polyester pants given to us by a local community service center who could not GIVE them away. (There ought to be enough about the evils of polyester pants for a post all its own!) Anyway, these strips will eventually be made into a crocheted rag rug for my kitchen. Laughing Water is learning the ins and outs of operating a sewing machine and alternates laughing over her successes and crying over her mistakes!

I must go and cut more strips for her. Nanette

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

World War II

I've developed an interesting taste for World War II biographies. I'm not sure why that genre of literature has captured my imagination so. I'm not a lover of war or violence. I think it is the psychology of the whole thing - the morbid fascination with how masses of humans can be persuaded to do unimaginable, inhumane, raw evil and still walk about with a great deal of self respect. It is a solemn reminder to me that I could be so deceived.
Through the years, I've read quite a list of first-person accounts. I like a true, eyewitness account. It lends the edge of reality that I can't dismiss when the story gets scary. This really happened. I can understand historical fiction for eras where there is a derth of eyewitness. But WWII is not one of those. (I know there is some WWII historical fiction that is worthy. Tricia Goyer is one author that I give exception to. She has researched so extensively that one learns much more about the war than just a spun story.) But the books I'm posting are all true. Do you have any to suggest? Is anyone else out there WWII biography lover?

Nanette

Garden Harvest

Today we picked three large bowls of tomatoes from the hoop house. I made a big tomato/cumcumber/red onion/dill salad. I find it very gratifying to eat so much of one's meal from what you've grown. We had a great deal of dill fern that smelled so good. I harvested much of it and will dry it tomorrow for the winter's supply of dill weed. Likewise, the excess tomatoes that we don't eat or share will be dehydrated for winter soups. Our tomatoes this year have had trouble with end rot and some splitting. Anyone know the cause/cure?
I have a personal theory I'd like to throw out for comment. It seems the economy is in distress and everyone is talking about it. Some say we will have a recession for another 18 months, or so. Others say it will be a depression rivaling the 30s or worse.
I was musing to myself while I toiled in the garden today. If the worst senario happens, it seems to me we are in more trouble than the Great Depression. Why? Because our society has become more dependant on a global goods market and we have fewer skills in the survival lines such as growing/preserving our own foods or making needed articles with our hands. With that has come the idea that it is the government's responsibility to take care of us.
Last year in our homeschool we read "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I highly recommend this true story to children and adults alike.) We were mesmerized by the sheer drama of survival in this story. I wonder if many people today would have the skill or stoutness of character to survive such a life-threatening situation. Or would many of our young people risk their lives like the brash Almanzo Wilder to save his town from starvation and protect his own assets at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe in the spirit of survival in humans and the general good hearts and pull-together spirit of the American people. I just wonder how self-sufficient we really are. We may have an opportunity to find out.
What is your opinion? Are we more prepared or less? Nanette

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Articulating Thoughts

I spent the weekend at a town a few hours away from where we live. I had enrolled Laughing Water in a seminar that teaches young people to effectively communicate in the public speaking arena. We learned that only 5% of people feel comfortable speaking in front of a group. That gives pause for thought when you consider that each of us has things we could share with others - be it a cause, knowledge of a specific subject, or life-saving information, (maybe even the Gospel?)
Now, Laughing Water is one of those gregarious souls who loves talking to people - one at a time. She could talk to anyone about anything for any amount of time. (The child spent many hours of her summer selling books door-to-door with her church group and LOVED it.) But the thought of talking to a group of people truly frightened her. We arrived the morning of the seminar in a frightful state of mind. I could barely coax her out of the car.
I was delighted with the young people that led out in the seminar, however. They were an amazing group of people with an energy level and a zest for God that was contagious. Laughing Water had a nice time. She even volunteered to recite her poem twice for her small group.
I attended some of the parent workshops and was struck with the importance of teaching our children to know what they believe and articulate their thoughts. There were very young folks there who have taken on big issues and are not afraid to give a voice for those less fortunate. Two of the interns working with our younger ones have taken on the subject of human traficking. They research, lecture and raise funds. We're talking 17 year-olds. Another young teen-attendee is currently doing research for a medical doctor who is scheduled to debate the sanctity of life vs. euthanasia.
It wasn't all heavy stuff. One intern simply wowed the audience with an interpretation of the poem, "Oh, the Places You'll Go". He has us shrieking with delight.
Once again, I was reminded that our children will rise to the level of whatever mental food we place before them. Whatever our personal choice for their system of education, we simply cannot afford to provide them with mediocre mental food or role models.

Nanette

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Time for a Chai Latte

Chai Lattes are my love language. I was first introduced to them a few years ago at my daughter's music school, of all the unlikely places. On the other side of the wall was our town's most loved and famous coffee grinding establishment. All through the lesson, they would share their rich aromas with us while we shared our virtuoso (or not) sounds with them. Mothers would come in an settle their child to practicing and then make a mad dash for their guilty (and expensive) pleasure. Now I am one of those people who enjoy the smells of coffee, but cannot abide the flavor. Additionally, I usually shun the use of caffeine. I'm jittery enough all by my lonesome, thank you! But then Francine shared with me that her guilty pleasure was not coffee, but Chai.
Chai? I'd heard of it, but assumed it was a coffee. I decided to bite. If nothing else, it wouldn't hurt to look like I fit in socially! :) After my first sip, I was hooked. The flavor, the spices, the richness, the smoothness, the scalding heat. Yummmm!
Now, our budget doesn't exactly accomodate a $3.75. Latte every week, so I limited myself. About once a month. Friends started to catch on and would treat me occasionally. I knew it was getting out of control when I knew exactly which spot in town had the best Chai (the original shop). Then I made the mistake of letting Mr. Blueberry Eyes and Laughing Water try it. Laughing Water loved it, but with Mr. Blueberry Eyes it was different. He would get this far away look in his eyes. He would gush about how much he loved his Mommy. He would swish it around in his mouth. He would ask for it. It was his love language, too.
When I started taking the children out for "Mommy -Chai dates", I realized it was time for therapy. Our budget simply would not sustain this kind of addiction. So I summoned my courage and asked the cute girl behind the counter for some help. She joyfully gave me the inside scoop - exactly what brand and where to purchase it in bulk. I had struck gold. I guiltily looked over my shoulder as I snuck out to my minivan. Score!
Alas! Knowledge is power, but it can also be disappointing. Now I could look at the ingredients and found that it had black tea (caffiene). No wondering I've been a little more jittery! Soooo, if anyone out there knows of a REALLY good green tea Chai Latte mix, please, come to my rescue!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Our Garden

Because we live in a Northern climate, gardening can be a gamble. This year was no exception. This is our first year of planting a serious garden. It is 100 ft. long and 70ft on the west end and 40 ft. on the East end. In the middle of the garden, The Woodworker built a 40ft. long hoop house. It is about 12 ft. wide and tall enough to walk through. We planted our most temperature-sensitive crops in it - tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, basil and other herbs as well as greens.



It was quite a year. On June 10, it snowed big, fluffy flakes for 9-10 hours. In July we had a frost scare - and did escape. Toward the end of August, the weather turned cold and a little rainy.



Despite the weather, we've been pleased with the results. Last year, the garden was an abused hay field. Who could have guessed it would produce such bounty the first year. Part of that I credit to an organic fertilizer I used called Sea Solids. People just stare at the huge plants and ooh and ahh over the wonderful flavor of the vegetables.

To Start a Blog

I've wanted to start a blog for a long time and I guess this is as good a time as any. It will take time for this non-computer savvy country girl to learn "the ropes". Bear with me. I smell a new adventure!

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