Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wild Nettle Farm

Harvest season has come and gone, and I let the turnips go bad after we brought them in, the turkeys ate the carrot tops so I can't find them, and the "3 sisters garden" never really grew, but instead a huge patch of nettles grew instead. The garden is full of comfrey, burdock, nettle, eyebright, and purslane. This seems like a message from the powers that be, reminding us what we need to be healthy, and the fact that the fennel did fine reminds me of what is needed to make milk. Perhaps we need to look to what we have rather than what we think we want to be successful in our farming future. Many of the herbs that grow here wild (or otherwise) feed us well, nurture and nourish us, and make great bitters!

Nadia is playing Mommy a great deal, which seems to help her in her moments of jealousy. Her baby (or babies, depending on the day) nurse, sleep in the cradle, hang out in a basket that can be moved from room to room, get swaddled in a blanket, and ride in a carseat. All of this seems to allow her to work out how to feel about Milo's need for attention. She and Sage play dress up by the hour, and move about their play giving each other emotional support when Momma has to cook dinner and nurse and sweep and do it all at once!

Aidan is working on some projects to sell on a website for homemade crafts we found. There were lots of comics, zines, and coloring books for sale and self-published on this site. And he asked for a few for Christmas, as well as a sock pirate (like a sock monkey only not). Hopefully he'll sell a few of his creations and art, enabling him to have some extra spending money, and to find a sense of usefulness from his art. It also gives him something that is his and his alone, a hard feat with 4 children in the house. He tries not to show it too often, but he has his moments when there is too little mommy time. He does express it verbally well.

Sage is showing a new wit and quick sense of humor that wash away the hard demeanor she often shows on her face. I recently had to read a series of articles on gifted students in my courses, and there was a description of giftedness I hadn't seen before; it included a list of attributes that describes my little girl well, and confirms by assertion that gifted students can be mislabeled and often have learning issues that either mask their giftedness or are masked by their gifted nature. These include ability to manipulate a symbol system, logical thought, reason by analogy (very Sage), resilient,takes on adult roles, independent thinking and leadership ability, strong desire to learn about and understand culture, strong inner will (hmmm....), and heightened sensitivity to others and the world around them. These may be in conjunction with traditional definitions of giftedness (both intellectual and affective). Often these "atypically gifted" students had a disruption in early childhood (like divorce?) and perhaps a less than stellar early childhood ed experience (she was my full-time day care baby... with fluctuations in quality and turnover at the center). Interesting fodder for thought.

Milo is a new person already. His face has filled out (actually, his head looks gigantic compared to the rest of him), and he is seeing farther. Today he even reached for a toy in front of him. He's settling into a routine, and is getting better about changing time (he really hates being changed, I have to say!). Nadia responds to him quickly and softly, and Sage wants to, but often finds his failure to calm down immediately (especially in the car) distressing... which of course makes things worse. He likes tummy time, and being talked to, and often smiles when I kiss his nose. We had some "alone time" at lectures up at the Center for Northern Studies (Momma's mommy time!) and he spent most of each slide show staring into my eyes and smiling. It was nice. He's even beginning to make some intentional noises, although not many, which sound much better than his usual grunts and groans (less piglet, more human). His old man lines are smoothing out, and he is looking more and more like a baby, especially when he smiles-- dimples and all!

The house is changing too! The back bedroom (ours) got jacked and the sills and framing were rebuilt, and reinsulated and resheathed. The small upstairs bedroom (Aidan's) has been reframed, mold and rot remediated, resheathed, and insulated with foam board outside. The windows were ordered, with a low-e one for the north side. All the upstairs windows will be replaced in 2 weeks, including 2 south facing ones in Sage's room, both front doubles, and the north facing one in Aidan's room. Aidan wants his big closet ripped out, and we are building a smaller one with a built-in cabinet to replace his dresser. After the energy effeciency people come, we'll replace all the dry wall (in both upstairs bedrooms) that had water damage behind it, and finally paint the kids' rooms, and run a heat vent upstairs. Next project for me is to refinish the stairs (including pulling out the stupid staples).

As I study education more and more, and read the new "Race to the Top" Initiative being put forth by Arne Duncan and President Obama, I have to say I am even less convinced that teachers can do what they need to do to educate our future. Race to the Top is more of same, high-stakes testing, charter schools, taking education out of the hands of educators and putting it in the hands of legislators, and adding isult to injury: "merit pay". Even my course teachers are either enrgaed or clueless... not realizing that we cannot use what they teach us, particularly in areas of assessment and curriculum development.

And, watching my kids with the different personalities and learning strengths and weaknesses, I am more convinced that we have moved further away from genuine assessment and learning, and into a hole we will not be able to dig ourselves out of.

Which leads me to the area of social and emotional development. I have always been of the mind that children need a holisitic approach to their growth in the early years. Too much emphasis on intellectual development can lead to very lop-sided human beings. Many of the smartest people I know are very sad, manic-depressive, or just plain immature. (I do not preclude myself entirely from those statements). This week, someone I knew who spent a year at the Center for Northern Studies killed himself. I do not know the details, other than he finally lost his battle with manic depression, and that he was one of the most brilliant and sweet people I had ever met. His life with his girlfriend and family had disintegrated completely in the last two years.

It is not that I think that educators and families can stop this type of mental illness. It is that I suspect that a more genuine approach to education and child development, particularly in the early years, could allay some of the sadness and anger felt by the smartest amongst us. If we spent time on genuine experiences, genuine emotion, and genuine interaction, rather than a renewed focus on "kindergarten readiness skills" in early childhood (Read the executive summary of the Race to the Top on the US giv education website), we would grow healthier, happier, more genuine people. In this vein, Colin and I hope to get Nadia into an early childhood experience a few days a week that focuses on her social and emotional development, spending time outdoors, acting out stories, and being part of real life. She focuses almost too much on wanting to know how to do the things that Aidan and Sage and Colin and I can do already. We're hoping to send her a few mornings a week come January, although where we do not yet know, and I am hoping to use that time to do one on-line class, and to volunteer up at Sterling a bit (maybe it'll lead to part time work?)

In the meantime, I am looking forward to not being the host for Thanksgiving, and just bringing my weed-eating, nettle-nourished turkey for us to enjoy. I am sad I will miss a holiday with my big kids, but am looking forward to a holiday with the parents, however brief a trip it may be. And as we head out in the "muthaship" for the long, long drive.... I am filled with love for all of you.

Right now, I am off to nurse miss Nani to sleep for her nap, to call and check on the "big kids", to hide some craigslist Christmas booty, and to throw mister Milo over my shoulder for a bird's eye view of his world.

Maybe I will drink some nettle tea, too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's been an ugly week for poultry around here. The duckling died, first two when the door blew open one night (they were living in a cage in the mudroom), and then the next 3 the next night when they got themselves too wet in their water, despite our best efforts to ensure they would be warm enough. And this morning I found a pile of blue-black bones and feet, and a few hair like feathers, in the chicken yard. Not sure whether the other roosters or the turkeys are responsible for this, but either way, our new bantam silkie rooster has met his doom and been eaten. Just yesterday he was crowing and running around the yard. Uh oh. Sagey will be really distressed.

This morning the skim of water on the deck was a thin skim of ice, reminding me that if we get a few dry days, I really need to bleach the boards, or we are going to go sliding like crazy across it all winter.

Yesterday we woke to snow covering the hills and floating gently from the sky. It clung to the needles of the pines and firs, spruces and cedars, and seemed to defy the flaming warmth of the fire orange sugar maple leaves it coated. The kids woke up excited, flew into my room to open the shades yelling, "Wake up! Wake up! It's snowing!! It's snowing!!" While I drove Sage to her early morning violin lesson, Aidan and Nadia dressed in their winter gear and went out to build a very shirt snowman. He fell over as the day warmed, and even rained a little, but this morning he was the only remains of yesterday's beautiful white blanket.

The ravens have come south in the last few days, their ragged "craaaaahhhhh" replacing the clear, clean "Caw!" of the crow, and their huge wingspan is shocking when you happen to look up out the kitchen window in time to see them glide from tree to tree, or from tree to the road. They are circling the chicken yard, and I realized that the time has come for me to be sure the door is closed at night, protecting the birds from the various critters who begin to get daring as the weather gets cold and the human population drastically drops in the town of North Calais. The ponds are quiet, just the occaisional kayaker or canoer floating by. I woke early on Saturday morning, after hours of contractions and total exhaustion, and walked up to number 10 pond. It was cold, and I needed to wear a wool sweater, a wool hat, warm boots, and a scarf. My breath lingered in the air, and when I got to the pond, I was delighted to watch the spooky, wispy mists floating rapidly across the water, like so many wicked witches flying by, then fading at the north end as the sunlight peeked under the clouds and over the hills to warm the air.

The mists and ravens and blowing leaves make this little windy back roads unbelievably spooky and a very cliche'ed October picture. Pumpkins on the lawns, orange in the hills, mist in the valleys, and ravens calling and echoing across the whole scene. Beautiful, strange, spooky.

And now, as I write, Nadia is thickly painting black water color across her green butcher paper, seeming to express the coming darkness of the late fall.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

At the Rainbow’s End

By Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal, 9/3/2009 8:08:00 AM

Unwilling to let the book close on the Emmy Award-winning Reading Rainbow, many in the educational community are signing petitions, donating money, and encouraging viewers to speak up in the hope of getting their beloved program back on the air.

Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton taped his last show in 2006.

“There’s nothing like it,” says Anne Dean Mackintosh, a retired teacher from Haddonfield, NJ, who started one such petition late last month when news broke that the show would stop running as of Aug. 31. “The show connects to kids without talking down to them, and makes it cool to read.”

Public television station WNED, which owns the rights to Reading Rainbow, pulled the plug on the show after underwriting grants that paid the publishing and residual fees ran out, says John Grant, one of the executive producers for the program and the chief content officer for the station.

Those fees just kept 155 old episodes in rotation, says Grant who added that a new production would have cost $2 million to $3 million a year. Even though Reading Rainbow stopped taping new shows in 2006, with host LeVar Burton officially stepping down in January 2007, costs still ran about $250,000 to $300,000 each year to keep it on the air for the last two years. “There were a number of [financial] obligations attached to the show,” Grant explains.

While the program remained in rotation, executives at WNED and PBS suspected it was more popular with educators than with general viewers.

Still, those librarians and teachers who continue to champion the 30-minute episodes are a passionate lot, launching a Facebook group, Wiki, a petition and an online pledge drive to try and get Reading Rainbow back on air.

“I don’t think $250,000 sounds like a lot to me,” says Mackintosh. “If the word had gone out earlier, I think they could have raised that.”

But while Grant says the outpouring for the 26-year-old show has been heartwarming, he is trying not to encourage viewers to send in small donations in hopes it will run again. “We’re not going to be able to bring it back at $50 a person,” he says.

Yet, although fans can continue to buy copies, or view episodes they taped from air for one-year after recording them, others aren’t yet willing to give up the possibility of resurrecting the program. “It affected a lot of adults as well as kids and there are a large number of people who feel strongly,” says Mackintosh.

Reading Rainbow, which celebrated reading by having Burton and other celebrities like Bill Cosby and Flavor Flav narrate stories, and featured children reviewing the books on air, is a distinct departure from the now-trendy programming that pushes phonics to teach kids how to read. And that may have been its death knell, in the end.

“Reading Rainbow was born out of the desire to encourage the love of reading,” says Grant. “And that wasn’t the priority anymore.”

Biding our time

The nights are cold, but the days sunny and warm... when the fog finally burns off. Right now the poultry are getting smarter than the fence, and each day another seems to be out, but too stupid to figure out how to get back in. Tonight I am going to just open the gate, put out feed, and go in at dusk, and hopefully everyone will be where they are supposed to be.

Our momma hen seems to only have produced one live chick that then got stepped on or was hatched unwell. Too bad, as it had really lovely little chick fuzz all over it, in lots of beautiful colors.

We lost all the tomato plants to blight in the last week, and even the tomatoes that looked ok seemed to turn to mush shortly after being picked. Next year we will have to treat the soil and the plants to avoid its happening again. It has made the chance to get some heirlooms at farmer's market and at the local "local goods" store in Barre that much more of a luxury. Who would think that you'd not have tomatoes?? Very sad, really.

I had an appointment today and all seems well, heartbeat sounds great, weight is gaining as it should, belly size increasing as it should. He is certainly enjoying putting his toes up on my ribs! And he is definitely head-down now... which is probably the hidden reason behind the giant contraction and subsequent episodes of small contractions since last week. My midwife did say no more childcare at home... and normal activity only as it seems tolerable. Naps naps naps! And, let's get to week 35! (Four more weeks to go!)

The kids loved being up at camp in Island Pond with their dad, and I have to say, I miss it myself. They went fishing, and saw a moose, and just enjoyed the woods. Nadia began asking when we were going to go get them late on Sunday... and I was surprised she knew it was time! But I had to tell her they wouldn't be home until the next day, and even though she missed them, it made watching her run out to greet them yesterday afternoon that much more exciting.

Speaking of greetings, their bus just arrived, and here they come up the driveway for a quiet afternoon and some chores and homework.

Love to you all!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The mist slowly filled the valley as we walked home by the light of a three-quarter moon last night. Sweet-n-sour fresh apple taste stuck to our tongues from the apples lining these old farm roads, and the cold air nipped at our noses. We talked of everyday things, acted silly, and spoke of the magic of mists... could I really walk through them and end up in another time and place?

Here, in this moonlit night, it would seem the buildings call us to a time 100 years ago or more in Northern Vermont.

As the crisp smells of autumn stick to us all, we prepare for the coming of winter, and the coming of little Milo. The hens have hatched a small batch of chicks who will be needing a heat lamp soon, and what little grew in our kitchen garden is readying for harvest.

Friends come to play most days for the next month until the baby is closer to arrival, when Nadia and I will take time to just be at home, readying ourselves and our space. In the meantime, toddlers, preschoolers, and after schoolers prance around the house, singing, building, painting, using clay, and playing trains especially. Right now 3 of them, Nadia included, are building a fort under the old farmhouse table in the living room with my grandpa's wool military blanket (better known to us as the beach blanket), and we are waiting for the cool air to warm in the September sun.

I have gotten tired of longing for the days when I used to be involved in the Center for Northern Studies, and have instead invited people to come here and speak, eat a potluck dinner, and hang out. And today I begin my coursework in education at a small state college, hoping to somehow roll my interdisciplinary interest in how we learn, and how we raise children, into a license and degree. Maybe a little independent study in the sciences and understandings of the North will be in play.

And now... to go searching on an adventure for chicks, and apples in the yard. Maybe we will even collect some leaves to imprint in the clay.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Finally Summer

It is finally real summer after months and months of rain up here. I have given up on the "big garden, in favor of hobbling my pregnant and broken-footed self only through the front "kitchen garden" which has survived not only the onslaught of rain but the attack of the chickens and the woodchuck. Peas and beans have gone the way of the chicken gullet, and all things cucurbit and cruciferous (aka cukes, squash, cauliflower, and broccoli) have become favorite food for the wild and woolly woodchuck living in the backyard. His extensive burrows and tunnel holes have done nothing for the "catching" of him, and the availability of the rifle from Aaron and Sue has also done nothing to protect our garden. SO as we revamp our plans, thinking in the permaculture mindset of what needs to be closest (particularly since hobbling across the yard is difficult with the "boot cast") we are creating a set of terraces and small kitchen gardens and paths around our bedroom end of the house, and out front by the "play yard" and relegating that back space for things like potatoes, grains, etc. in future. Next year, however, due to the infestation of comfrey, burdock, nettle, and other lovely medicinal herbs, we are turning it into the pig pen.

I have been babysitting a bit, and am looking forward to continuing in the fall. Colin and I are putting together a business plan for after the little one comes, and I intend to finally do it for real. All of my rushing to do what everyone else says I should do has left me feeling unsatisfied and Iam hoping to finally do what I do best: educate and hang out with children, young and old.

I am looking towards a nature-based "field preschool" with some full-time child care as well. I still intend to work on my teaching license, if for no other reason than I want to design and implement a schoolo age program someday as well. Hopefully the internet will up and running this week at the house, so I will write more about it at my UnCommon School blog later.

Colin is working on developing and gathering needed materials for his own stone company, and we are brainstorming names. I applaud this decision, for a whole host of reasons, mostly because I know how much happier he is when he is working for himself. This would, for the time being, be in addition to work at Irving. And it would also have a continuing relationship with Anners and Annerscaping, but allow for more independant work on Colin's terms and in his style.

The house work begins this week, starting with the attic, then the small bedroom upstairs. Nadia's little bed has moved into our room, and Aidan spends all his nights sleeping upstairs in Sage's room, where Nadia's "stuff" has moved. There will be some serious shuffling around during construction/deconstruction time, and as we make room for the baby, and to care for other people's kids in the house.

In the meantime, despite losing much of the garden, the berries are robust... both black and red raspberries, with green blackberries announcing their presence as well. OUr little blueberry bush is doing well, and we are looking forward to planting more next year. We have discovered little cherry trees, and there are grapevines galore, although none of them seem to have fruited this year. We are grateful for our little pre-existing orchard, and looki forward to cultivating it and clearing out around it in the future.

Well, Nadia and I are off to enjoy the only real warm day ALL summer, and then to pick up Aidan and Sage at EarthWalk summer camp ( and off to Morrisville for a prenatal visit for the little man.

Enjoy summer's bounty and beauty and love.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Packing week

We're packing and packing and packing. But today is sooooo beautiful I am hoping to get some time outside... maybe hanging laundry or cleaning out the chicken coop.

We spent Saturday painting the "peeling paint" areas on the new house because it was far cheaper to just do it rather than escarole 150% of the highest of 3 estimates from other companies. The bank was willing to let Colin do the work as long as we got quotes from other painters. Silly, really. So we just headed out and did it. Colin scraped on Friday, and did the trim in a new coat of white, and we spent all day Saturday doing the rest. It came out really nice, however in places where the paint was really faded, the touched up clapboards are really obvious. So maybe I have my chore for the summer?

It was nice to be there, at the house, seeing where the sun travels across the yard, looking into the gardens, and watching the "neighborhood". It feels a bit like a summer vacation spot; cars with canoes loaded on top drive by and people bike and walk around the area. Little kids call from most of the yards, and people from out of state drive by regularly. The pond is only about a 15 minute walk away, and people seem to frequent it (and the next pond up, a 5 minute drive from our house) for fishing and boating.

Everywhere around us Spring has exploded into full view. Besides the steady stream of weekend out-of-staters, the hills have turned various shades of green and red as the buds begin to burst. The pale green of the birches and willows in most obvious just south of here, in the river valleys, and here the hillsides are covered in the burgundy of the maple buds. Alders are also beginning to put on their spring show, and spring beauties (little white flowers) litter the ground in some little hollows. The sugarbushes are sporting their new coats of wild leeks, while the marshes and stream banks have skunk cabbage and marsh marigold in abundance. Now is the time to eat marsh marigold buds, before they burst with their wild yellow flowers.

Birds all over the place are heading north, and various wildfowl have been on the move for nearly a month. In the last few days, as some rain and heat have turned the fields deep emerald green, woodland and field birds have returned, and here at the house I have been hearing birds like the winter wren exploding into long, varying songs that signal spring... I even heard a white winged sparrow the other day singing the first few notes to Fiddler On the Roof. Gone are the days when all we could hear was ravens and chickadees.

Colin took the kids to look at colors for their rooms, and we hope to go later this week to pick out the final options for everywhere else. We have agreed on a green for the living room, although we are thinking of layering it to get a bit of dappled, mossy green effect. The house seems dark all the time inside, so we are hoping for bright, yellow-based colors to keep things lively.

Aidan has demonstrated his love of kitsch as he describes possibilities for decorating his room. For quite some time he was interested in having it look like the Oval Office. But after our trip to La Musee de la Civilisation in Quebec City, he is now hoping for an Egyptian tomb look. A gold and Sandy colored wash on the walls with Egyptian symbols and statue-like Gods on the walls. We figured we'd let him run with the idea. Sage is still sticking to a pink with green stripe around the room that she saw in a magazine (my own damn fault), and I am still thinking green or yellow for Nadia. Our room is so different from the rest of the house... really looking like an urban loft, that we have decided to keep it that way. We'll leave it white, keep furniture and art to a minimum, and are going to use a deep bluish, large painting in place of a headboard. Should be great.

Well... enough time here in front of this screen (it'll rain tomorrow)... so off I go.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Spring At Last

Spring has finally come to Vermont... okay, we all know it came early, and I keep expecting a huge blizzard to knock us back into the middle of December. But last night, as we were loading the girls into the truck to go and get Aidan from wrestling, in a brief (and rare) moment of silence, I heard that tell-tale sound that spring had sprung...

The peepers were peeping.

They weren't too near, which tells me the glades in the woods around this house are still filled with icy springs and frozen streams, and the deer are still stumbling through the occasional drift of snow back in the hemlocks, but somewhere.... out there... the frogs have hatched and are singing of a new summer yet to come.

At the kids' school the flowers have been up for sometime, and the crocuses are blooming, the snowdrops are done, and the daffodils have heads on top of their 7 inch stems with bits of yellow showing through. The rare tree here and there, with its bare branches held against the cold, grey spring sky, is showing fat buds ready to burst... sheer exuberance holding out over a tree's own common sense. This is Central Vermont, after all. We can't REALLY be done.

Up in Craftsbury, Mianda says that they still have several feet of snow piled around their house up on cold Coburn Hill, and even here the trails in the woods have the crumbly "corn snow" of Spring. Its glassy little balls roll under your feet making for fun skiing (inbetween patches of mud) and bad walking when you and your toddler are trying to meander through the trees with a stroller (All while Nadia yells, "DEEEE-EEEAHHHH [deer] WHERE AAAAAARRRREEE YOOOOOUUUU????").

And off in the distance, the quiet night last night was interrupted for an hour or two while the rednecks of yonder rode out into the muddy corn fields... not in ATVs ready to sample spring... but no, on snowmachines, flinging up mud, and getting stuck in one last attempt at winter/mud fun.

The final sign of Spring? The chickens have been out wandering the yard for the last week or two and are laying eggs like no tomorrow... filling our fridge and making me think it might just be time for souffle's.

We had a beautiful day with sunshine and warmth yesterday, and while I cooked and cleaned for Colin's friends to come to dinner, Nadia ran in and out and all around, often with no clothes on. I cooked a lovely vegan menu (tomato and chickpea salad with fresh garlic, scallions, and basil; peanut butter and coconut milk noodles with a hot chile and lime twist; sauteed mushrooms with garlic; and spinach salad with craisins, tamari almonds, and friend tempeh in Adobo. Oh... and who can forget my famous vegan chocolate cake?? With ghiradhelli chocolate no less!!)

But today the grey skies have come, and it is likely they may stay. We are looking at a week of cold and nasty rain, with temps getting colder as the week goes on. This would be ok if we hadn't all just been mind-numbingly ill with a horrid stomach bug. Aidan puked all over the inside of the truck last night... spewing peaches in every direction... as long as that direction was the front seat. The ever considerate boy was trying not to throw up on his sisters or his friend Arlo, who were all in the back seat... coming home from wrestling. He is devastated because Daddy Adam told him that he can't wrestle in the tournament on Saturday if he is sick on Friday. But today he has a fever and he threw up in the night.

Sage wondered aloud why she hardly ever gets as sick as everyone else. Someday I will explain to her the sheer will to live she has exhibited, ever since she decided at 3 days old that it was ok to open her eyes and look around. My tiny, delicate, early, unsure baby has become the power house of this family, and force to be reckoned with. I hope someday she can see the fierceness she inspires in all of us to move forward and ensure "rightness" in the world.

And so now I bid you all ado... and go to check on my sick little boy on the couch... Scooby Doo on the boob tube and Nadia drawing pictures with markers she hasn't been allowed to use in a month or two (ever since she colored the walls).

I hope Spring is finding you all warm and dry and happy to watch the cycles begin again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ice Road truckers (Or rav 4ers/Subaru-ers)

The warm, sunny days around here have been followed by very cold, clear nights. This has left us with a driveway that resembles a fun house.

Last night, driving Aidan to basketball practice, I slid all the way from the barn to the first curve, which is where the sand/salt had managed to make some clear spots. The rest of the driveway had been ok, but with actual water running down the driveway during the day, the skating rink took over after the sun went down.

All is well, and no one has been injured in the up or down process, but whew! It is exciting!

Last night's huge, full moon made its appearance through the firs and hemlocks and birches in the woods behind us, eerie shadows thrown all over the snow. But it made for good whispers to the kids before they fell asleep, about the moon watching over them and making it safe for good dreams.

Today Nadia and I are coloring huge pieces of paper, and playing trains, and right now she is watching Caillou, the weird little bald four year old who is probably from Quebec. (Wow... that word looks weird without its accent agu on it). Anyway, she LOVES Caillou. We are also in underwear again... mostly because I am tired of spending money on disposables, and she's two, and it isn't like she doesn't come running to tell me she has pooped the minute she's done it. So, off to Walmart for more pairs of toddler panties! Hopefully they have those thick ones in stock this time (I have a gift card to spend there).

I am working on Valentines and planning my candy recipes for the kids' VDay parties.

All is well, and relatively quiet here, but we are looking forward to life in March. Sugaring. End of basketball season. End of afterschool for the kids. More warm days and probably more crazy snowy days.

And hopefully, less days of "Cars On Ice" in the driveway.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sorta snow day

It's snowing, It's snowing, the Old Man is shoveling...

Nah... but it is snowing. We aren't supposed to get nearly as much as people south of here, but more than we would've in Craftsbury. The kids' school district was only one of a few that was actually open today; only to send them all home at 12:30. Good thing our official, on-file, family emergency plan is "Come home on the bus" because I doubt I would make it up the driveway at a quarter to one. The roads really aren't that bad, but I did see a few people slide a bit on my way to the grocery store this morning... mostly because people can be idiots and they were driving way too fast around unsanded corners. But, Who am I to judge??

The snow day is exciting for me because it means that afterschool activities have been cancelled, and I am therefore able to cook a real meal yet again. We have a had a real dinner almost every night this week. Sage had practice yesterday, but got home at the same time as Colin. And on Monday, Aidan did not bring all his work home for me to review, so he was unable to go to his game.

Nadia has entered a very crafty stage it seems; I am constantly catching her dumping/ripping/hiding/breaking something. And she is very pouty when you catch her... which makes it very hard to keep a straight face as she stomps off to her bedroom and pouts and tears up in the doorway.

We had another poultry catastrophe this week, as Janess's little poofy doglet ate 6 more chickens, and Naked Chicken (although his remains are still MIA) appears to have finally met his end. Very sad. He'd survived so very much, including being the nearly flat chick in the bottom of the box when they arrived last spring.

But we are not deterred (Or at least, I am not deterred). This spring my order goes in for specific breeds of ducks... we want Runners for their eggs (prolific layers) and their funny gait. Probably only chocolate and blue colors. And my Cayguas, of course. And perhaps some of the weird Albert Einstein looking thingys called "Crested" ducks. Colin wants only white ones, but I am inclined to get some funny colors of them, too. And then we are going for Aracaunas for chicken eggs (the "easter egg" hens). Probably a chicken-tractors-worth of meat birds. And lastly, some silkies. They are a bantam breed that has feathers that feel like hair (and a weird crest on their heads and feathered feet), and black skin/bones/meat. They are a delicacy in Asian cooking, but just coming up here in the states. Apparently their meat is very rich, and some people freak out when they see the color. I guess it is less actual "black" meat and more like the dark meat on a regular chicken, only all the way through. Very good for soup and hot pots. Also arroz con pollo. So I hope to do quite a few of these guys... they lay small cream colored eggs and are excessively broody... you can set them on anyone's eggs. So hopefully we can get males for meat birds, and females to set on eggs so we never have to order chicks again. They'll even sit on goose eggs! (Although we are not getting any geese naytime soon). We are, however, thinking about turkeys. What kind and how many are still up for debate. I have found a local source for the silkies, and maybe we can see what we can get at the feed stores in group orders. I am hoping to do my aracauna chicks that way. And maybe the turkeys as well.

Time for thinking about seedlings is in order, as things like tomatoes and peppers really need to be seeded indoors by Town Meeting Day (first Tuesday in March). By the end of March, usually a lot of other things need to be in the trays, so I am looking ahead to that.

Well, I had better go figure out lunch.... the kids will be here soon and I imagine they got sent home before they ate.

Love to you all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A New Year

Hey everybody!

It has been a trying month, attempting to get through the holidays and birthdays, and to find time to do my school work. We have decided I should take a leave of Absence next semester, and try and focus on the stay-at-home Momma child care and farm thing. I can bring in a decent salary with just 3 kids. And if downstairs ever becomes available, I can set up a real home center that would bring in a decent amount, and allow me to hire someone to work with me.

We've given up on recovering much from the computer, although I have gotten back most of the music. Wish it had been our documents and pictures instead!! Oh well!! We bought an external hard drive to save stuff on from now on, so even if we lose a computer, we don't lose everything else!

The snow is beautiful, and Nadia and the little girl I have been watching and I have been taking long walks in the woods. We wander up the trail the downstairs neighbors made with their snow machines, and walk for a good hour usually. Sometimes, if the snow is packed down enough, I can even push the stroller on the path in the snow. Or we wander up with a sled. The girls have enjoyed doing a lot of the walking themselves, which is new for Nadia... up until the middle of last week she wasn't interested in walking in snow. But with a new snowsuit, mittens, and wool socks, she is ready and rearing to go! Too bad it will be too cold ALL WEEK to go out! Up in the woods we find deer roads, and last week I even watched a deer bound off the trail in front of us into the woods. The hemlock stands behind our house are a state designated deer yard, and you can tell! (Especially when I found hoof marks in the snow in the chicken yard... we'll have to be extra careful that they aren't eating the feed!). We have also followed mouse trails, rabbit trails, and squirrel trails. There is great tracking out here, and we expect to see fox and coyote trails as the winter goes on.

Nadia, Aidan, and Sage have been picking up little phrases in German, and really enjoy the company of another child. For Aidan, it has been nice practice to go along with his babysitter's training course. He LOVES the course. Both he and Sage are doing basketball, and Sage is skiing during the same time as Aidan's after school course. It has been fun for her to be one of the kids that knows how to ski. In Craftsbury, my kids were always the ones who weren't born with skis attached to their feet! Her friend from London has never been on skis before, and Sage has been enjoying helping her. Sage is also kicking butt in basketball, despite being 7 and in 2nd grade on a team with 3rd and 4th graders. She's a tough cookie!

Well, I really need to get on with writing my papers... The little girl has been sick this week, and I kinda think they are looking for someone closer to them... they didn't realize the ride between Montpelier and here might take awhile. So I am interviewing another family tomorrow, with a set of fraternal twins, age 20 months... one boy, one girl. And I posted another ad, and will put up posters this week. As long as I can keep 2-3 in here, everyday, we will be doing well enough, and it will keep Nadia and I busy!