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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


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