Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jam, horse riding, books

Ah the u-pick! If I could I would have the kids and I either at the u-pick or in the woods every day this summer. And why can't I? Well, they are not always quite as enthusiastic as I am about picking large quantities of fruit. We are working that one out as best we can. It helps to make yummy things out of the fruit!

Today I made some raspberry jam. I love making jam and the kids love to eat it. They eat it straight- right out of the jar or in a bowl with a spoon (they also like it on toast or bagels). Today I canned ten jelly jars of raspberry jam. I am hoping to do another ten or so of raspberry and also several jars of boysenberry jam, which I tried for the first time last year and which was a huge hit. Boysenberry is definitely one of my favorite berries. Eva is asking for blueberry jam, which I have never tried. We have four huge blueberry bushes out front and are definitely going to pick some more blueberries soon.

Today was very exciting for Samuel! He had his weekly riding lesson and he decided to TROT today! Yeah! He looked like he was having so much fun, smiling all the while. I was so touched seeing him so happy and free up there on that horse that I felt all teary. It is really wonderful to see Samuel and Eva when they are so happy and free. They are so alive! Wonderful. The trot is a bit faster than a walk but not as fast as a cantor. It is a bit bumpy, though. The cantor, I am told, while faster, is smoother. Samuel was really relaxing into the trot, as they say, and truly getting the hang of it!

After trotting around beside him for a while, his riding teacher suggested the lunge line (which we have talked about before but never tried) and then he rode around, trotting, on the lunge line! I tell you it is so true, when they are ready they are really ready! This photo shows a rider on a lunge line- not totally free but the instructor isn't walking next to them either.

I have been reading quite a bit lately. I finished A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, which I loved! I also finished, albeit heavily skimmed, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which I did not love. I am reading two books on visual spatial learning, Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World and Upside Down Brilliance. I like the first one better mainly because the author focuses on different learning styles and the different strengths found in these styles.

Oh! And this great inspiring book called Plenty about a couple who decides to eat very local for a year. They eat nothing that has not been grown or raised within one hundred miles of their home in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I like how they call weeds optimists! Looking forward to reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I am on the wait list at the library, #168!

I like this quote from Plenty- "When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden"-Minnie Anmaries (I can't read my hand-writing for this note I wrote and I remember this name being somewhat French looking. I will have to take my chances on this!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I can do it!

Eva is four and four is very exciting. Eva is all about YES! and SOMETHING NEW! and ENTHUSIASM! and most importantly I CAN DO IT! Eva will rush ahead of me, racing me to the next new, wonderful task, event, joy! Last night I made a mistake and scooped the cat litter without her because, as I reasoned, she was feeding the dog and why not get both done at once (ever eager to get things done!). And now I really know why not! Because if I scoop the cat litter without Eva, then Eva does not get to scoop the cat litter. And so it goes. I learn to pay more attention, to get less done in half the time and to invite Eva to join in. Pull up a chair! Make a salad! Clean the floor! Hey momma, I can clean!

Here are some photos that Eva took. The tree and Elijah Blue are in our yard, the foot is hers and the shells and stones are on our nature table in the living room. All great fun, all things Eva spends time with intimately each day.

These days I am revisiting the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne with Eva. Samuel and I read some of them when he was Eva's age and a little older and now Eva has discovered them and is having me special order them at the library so that we can get the ones we want, when we want them! Today we read Mummies in the Morning. Samuel frequently joins us to read them, particularly the ones we skipped. He was recently very inspired by the ones featuring ninjas! Samuel and I also started a new series last night. We finished up the jedi books we had been reading for several weeks and this series is quite different and a lot of fun as well. Half Magic by Edward Eager has us all thinking of new and bigger ways to make wishes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

all about the garden

The first of our turnips that the kids planted as a surprise for me. I roasted some tonight with olive oil and salt. Next time I want to try some rosemary. I am glad I like turnips because there are quite a few. I think every single seed grew up! Turnip greens are, in my opinion, even better than the turnips themselves. They are great with potatoes! Can't wait to see what turnip flowers look like!

Below are some pictures of things you don't normally see in gardens. I have recently discovered that a few of the vegetables we enjoy with regularity are actually slightly more difficult than most to grow *successfully*. Both celery and cauliflower, as it turns out, REALLY like things a certain way. Mine apparently did not have either the soil or water requirements they prefer (or both or something else entirely). The celery I tasted was bitter and stringy and even tough- much to my surprise! And the cauliflower, well it never quite made it inside, as you can see from the picture. Both plants, though not up to my culinary standards were still ever optimistic and continued to grow and even to bloom flowers! And what I have learned (what I knew but have enjoyed seeing) was that all of these plants will bloom! if allowed. I want to add too that while I did not enjoy the cauliflower, the slugs (also ever optimistic) still managed to get a few nibbles in! And the radish flowers were so abundant and beautiful that I cut several bunches and brought them in and put them in a vase. Lovely. Who knew? Radish flowers! They taste like radishes too!

Pink radish flowers and trailing radish vine.

Little yellow-white celery flowers, swiss chard flowers (with red stems),

These onions are flowering and the tiny onion bulbs they made are flowering too, on top of the larger onion!

And here is the crazy cauliflower!

I love that the plants in the garden space continue to grow and thrive and bloom and make more plants and spread and volunteer and send out shoots and seeds no matter what I choose to do with them, whether I eat them or pick them or watch them. It is a good reminder that these plants are not here for me alone and that they have their own life cycle, their own destiny, their own way. Their flowers remind me of that and help me to keep in mind things like- if I don't eat the chard before it blooms and then the stalks are too tough to eat- it is not wasting the chard. Because to think this assumes that the chard has only one purpose in life and that is for me or someone near me to eat it. Not so!

I love the garden and growing plants for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that I find it deeply relaxing to be out with the plants. For this reason alone I find myself wandering out to pick around them and move them and plant them and water them. I have other ideas, though, that mix into my relaxation. Things like, wouldn't it be nice to grow ALL of my own vegetables like the woman in This Organic Life. Or, wouldn't it be nice to have a huge herb garden and then use the herbs in my soap that I like to make. Or, what about setting up a whole wandering gathering spot for the kids so they can just walk outside and gather foods as they like (Eva loves this and seems to do this regardless of how much I *set up*). The thing about some of these ideas is that while they are inspiring, they can also be stifling if I let myself take them too seriously (no matter how fun that may be!).

So the flowering plants have given me much food for thought over the last couple of weeks (if not food to be eaten). And I love how I feel even more open about the garden, about what can happen there, about what it means. So on that note, I am letting the chard fully blossom and then I am going to take them down, put them in the compost and put in some LOOFAH seeds (even though I found out I may not have enough time for their growing season!) and I am waiting for some ground cherry seeds to arrive. They have a little shorter growing season and I think they will be a lot of fun if they work out. More tasty fruit to pick besides the strawberries and the blackberries. I told Samuel too that if we have a lot of the zucchini and eggplant and cucumbers he can set up a vegetable stand and sell them in our front yard. He is very excited!

And of course the really great thing about all of this, flowering plants and letting things be and letting even more things go is that it naturally flows to my kids. Letting them be who they are, watching them do what they will do regardless of what I set out to do, these are things that I am ever optimistic about.

The trees in our yard are so prolific. There are dozens of small maple seedlings growing in the grass. At first I tried to dig up the seedlings to grow them in pots and then transplant them elsewhere later. Now there are just too many. They are beautiful though. When I showed Eva today that they were the little babies of our giant maple tree she was amazed. "That is the momma maple tree!?"

Little baby maple trees

Friday, June 15, 2007

Wow! Check out this onion!

This is an onion we pulled yesterday to cook up with some kale and cannellini beans. The kale is from our garden as well. Amazing!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

summer time photos

It was quite warm for a couple of days. Today is cooler and the kids and I enjoyed a walk in the woods with our dog Jack, who is ALWAYS up for a walk in the woods. Samuel took some photos of me, Eva and Jack. We had a lot of fun taking them. I am giving up modifying them and just picking one to use for the photo for the about me section of this blog. It seemed odd to have a picture of me without anyone else in it because I so rarely find myself completely alone these days. Someone is usually vying for space on my lap or pushing a cat off or something. So the photo is not only a photo of me but is also a photo of how life is right now.

The kids discovered our Japanese Maple in the front yard. Of all the trees it is the most inviting to little climbers. It is close to the ground and they don't have to stand on a stool to reach the first branches as they do with the apple tree. Samuel decided to make it into a club, complete with a club picnic and games. They played water quirting games and sack races. There was another game in between but as I recall it was met with a good many shouts and cries. I got photos of the picnic and the sack races!

Samuel has been wanting to take a class in electricity. His intent is to eventually build a robot and he wants to know how the robots work. We have done some reading about electricity and I have searched around for classes and have not found anything promising, yet. But today we stumbled upon a great electricity kit at a toy store we like called Let's Play in downtown Hillsboro. We were there to replace the plastic sword that Sparrow ate while she was missing us one day while we were out without her. It is this great kit called Snap Circuits Jr. and you can really move around the different components to turn on lights, move fans and make music (although we haven't figured this part out yet). And I am thrilled that it is both visual! and spatial! and very hands-on! Samuel had a the fan up and running and then bypassed the button to keep it running at all times. I love how the kids can move the pieces and get an idea how the electricity flows. There are more complicated components that he can add as he gets the hang of it. We are definitely on our way to building a robot!

We are also enjoying a book we found at the library called Transformed: How Everyday Things are Made by Bill Slavin. This book is great! We've been picking out a couple topics each night. Last night we learned how baseballs and jellybeans are made. The night before it was neon signs and plastic dinosaurs. I am looking forward to pencils.

I took this quiz that will tell you which book you are. I am A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This is what the quiz said about that- "Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS!" I was intrigued and decided to check out the book. I have been so pleasantly surprised and am really enjoying the book. I had no idea John Irving was such a funny guy. He has a real dry whit to be sure.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Dogs and Balloons

Well, Sparrow left today and I was reminded how quiet our house feels after one of her visits.
We played a lot of fun games with Sparrow while she was here. One of our favorites was a game called dogs and balloons. Jack joined in with this one and great fun was had by all. The way you play dogs and balloons is this- you find some balloons and blow them up. Dogs stand around barking at the balloons while they are blown up and then dogs chase balloons when you let go of them and they stream around the room making high pitched balloon noises. Or dogs chase and jump up to catch punching balloons as children try to bobble them back and forth. Or dogs chase balloons you blow up and tie off and throw up in the air. Dogs and balloons ends usually with all of the balloons punctured by dogs' teeth and with children crying over the loss of balloons. Children swear they will never play dogs and balloons again and dogs continue looking doggedly at the bicycle pump you used to blow up the balloons. I did not, unfortunately, get any pictures of dogs and balloons. If you are curious about how dogs and balloons looks, you can look at the picture of our dog Jack looking at the water gun in one of the photos from the plastics roundup day. Just imagine Samuel holding a balloon instead of a water gun and imagine Jack (or any dog) looking just as intently at the balloon. Add some barking. There you have dogs and balloons.

Sparrow took dogs and balloons a bit further than we are used to. She continued puncturing things that looked like balloons for many days after the actual day of dogs and balloons. Unfortunately, we lost several unintended balloons as well as our globe ball and our giant exercise ball. Thankfully, I saved the hippety hop. Samuel made me put it in the garage until she left, which was probably wise.

Here is Sparrow napping on the baby dolls. She will lay down to rest just about anywhere. I love how dogs really know how to relax!

Here is Sparrow looking fancy!