When I need to write the most…

Hi there! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve written, and I have so much to write about (farm camp, vacation, my parent’s visit last week, lots of food put up, and BenBen’s 5th birthday- today!).

However, as it’s been so long since I’ve written, I’m having a hard time getting started and still trying to get my head screwed on straight again after all that’s been going on. It’s a great problem to have, and thankfully so far, I’ve accepted the chaos instead of going crazy from all I “should” be doing.

The thing is that I know I need to be writing now more than ever, because that is how I process life. I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine again.

Do you need to write to process? Or what helps you when there’s lots going on and lots to think about?

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In August…

For many people, August may mean the end of summer, but I’m going to hold onto that free summer feeling as long as I can! I love fall too, but I don’t feel ready to go there yet.

August goals…

  • kid dates
  • date with John
  • wear a skirt on a normal day
  • play tennis at least once
  • bike once a week
  • try 2 new hairstyles
  • monthly family adventure
  • hike/run the 54 miles of the International Appalachian Trail in my area (I did part of it!)
  • kayak twice
  • organize and run farm camp
  • make a raw meal (just for fun!)
  • complete a sewing project with Hannah
  • make a kite with BenBen
  • walk to the playground

A couple weeks ago, we were straggling into a folk festival with the four kids when a couple breezed past us holding hands and smiling. The man grinned and said, I remember those days…and someday you’ll be free like us. As he said it, he raised his wife’s hand in victory. We all laughed; it was truly funny. As I think about my goals, I know that life goes in stages, and someday the fact that I do or do not hike on the International Appalachian Trail will be more a result of my choices (barring ill health) than the fact that I simply cannot do things because I lack the freedom. That is hard. I have the energy. I have the motivation. The goal itself truly is not that huge. But that is my life at this moment.

What is working…

This past weekend, we planned a family hike up a mountain we’ve never traveled before. When I explained our plan to the park ranger, she was very hesitant of our kids’ ability to complete the trail. I explained that I had never hiked it before so I didn’t know what it was, but that I thought the kids were able. I rattled off their hiking resume. I gave dates. I gave names. And in the end, she smiled and said she too thought they could do it. Not only did they hike that mountain that day, but they tacked on another peak as well (because they wanted to). My kids have a fantastic resume of hiking accomplishments! Hannah and BenBen are very anxious to hike Mt. Katahdin…next year?

What is not working…

Reading. Writing. Craft time. I guess that’s what winter is for! In fact, I am overwhelmed by how hard it is to keep up right now. And I don’t watch any TV, I have not watched even a portion of a movie since last winter, I don’t read blogs anymore…and still I cannot keep up. So, I’ll just keep doing my best! :)

I’m thinking about…

Traditional New England farmhouse gardens and what were in them…wouldn’t it be cool to have a garden of those traditional plants and learn their uses?! I’m sure you all have been dying to learn more about that. :)

Wind energy. There is talk of wind towers in our area and I’ve gone from not my preference to no way, Jose! as I’ve learned more.

From the bookshelf…

  • A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
  • Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Joseph Egan/ Donn Fendler

September goals…

  • dates with the kids
  • date with John
  • family vacation!
  • play tennis once
  • kayak twice
  • do a fun breakfast for the first day of fall
  • finish up the IAT in our area
  • do two new hikes
  • figure out how to use my serger
  • re-upholster a headboard
  • sewing projects with the kids

Aim high, right?! And maybe we’ll start school?

What have you been up to? Thinking about? Any of you know much about wind power?

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Farm camp!

When you’re really passionate about doing something, it doesn’t matter how much work it is.

That’s how I feel about farm camp. I am constantly struck by the fact that doing the things/projects I really want to do requires me giving up my routine and what I usually do for a day…and I have a hard time with that. When I finally walked with the kids to the playground and back one day, something we’d wanted to do for months (MONTHS!), it required me giving up my afternoon to accomplish it. And when I do farm camp, that’s really the only thing I do that week. It’s totally worth it to give up my routines, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy mentally. I miss reading and I miss writing and I miss working at other projects. But farm camp is way more important than any of that!

It doesn’t follow that I would do entire summer of it, but for a week each summer, it’s perfect. I do it imperfectly, but I do my best, and I’m learning to do it better. I want kids to learn where their food comes from, how amazing plants are, and appreciate farms and nature. I don’t think I could spend my time any better than that.

I have also realized the value of doing my best at something and doing it for free. Several people have told me that I should charge for farm camp, but that would ruin it for me. Of course, we have to be financially compensated for something that we do because it costs money to live, but there is value in doing something all out and not being paid for it. I am doing it purely because I’m passionate about it. At first I didn’t charge because I didn’t want to keep people from coming, but now I understand that not charging makes it more pure for me too, and more highlights my values…there are things worth far more than money.

We had a much larger group this year, and that worked just fine. I learned more of how to manage a large group (31-32 kids) of varying ages, and it highlighted to me the differences of those ages. I know what my kids can do and their attention spans, but to see a bunch of kids of their ages make me realize that many of those qualities are reflections of a normal child at that age and not just them. This is definitely the world according to Amy, but 4-5 year olds are really hard to manage with activities and instruction. They get value from farm camp (for sure!), but anything I tried to teach them was in one ear and out the other and they can’t follow directions very well…and I was shocked that this age of child is in school all day. I know my kids couldn’t do school stuff at that age, but I thought it was just them. Why are we pushing school on 4-5 year olds?! Okay, sorry for the soapbox!

I’ll write more about what we did for farm camp next week, but for now, just know it was a good time!

What is something that you have found you enjoy more by not being financially compensated?

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A peek into our week

I love how projects seem to all come together at the same time. It can feel for weeks and weeks like we’re not finishing anything, and then, boom! All of the sudden, things start happening.

P1100459We enjoyed the last few days of the pool before it closes. We went for a hike to the creek. We visited the botanical gardens in New Brunswick (a favorite spot).

P1100441 P1100449But we also got to work. I made relish at the kids’ begging (a labor of love with all that chopping). I weeded a few neglected areas. John put up corn and I dried dill.

P1100447John and the kids started tomato sauce. I canned enough diced tomatoes that I think I might be done with that for the year! Moving the stand mixer outside for making the sauce was about the best decision ever. It is such a messy, splatter-y job, and not only was there less mess, but it was faster because there was no worry about making a mess. We’re also still canning on the propane burner outside instead of the stovetop and I love that…it’s one more big burner available, it keeps the heat outside, and it somehow feels nicer with it out of the kitchen.

P1100498I had been trying to think of a creative use for this dirt pile from when the hoophouse was constructed. First I cleared it of weeds (a huge undertaking!), and then I decided it should be an herb spiral. It’s a little bit bigger than the recommended size for one, but I’m going with it anyway. Only time will tell if it works, but it should look cool anyway!

And next week is farm camp, so I’m deep in the throes of figuring out the logistics. I’m trying some different things this year, and hopefully, it is an improvement. I am also mentally preparing myself for the exhaustion that inevitably follows.

P1100494All the while we are enjoying the best.baby.in.the.world. I tell him every day, and then remind him not to let it go to his head. He is so content and agreeable with all of our plans- as long as he’s dry and fed. A perfectly reasonable little soul!

We have learned the trick to feeding ourselves well…it’s all about the big meal on Sunday. The past 5-6 weeks, we have made a huge meal on Sunday evening with lots of meat, beans, and several sides. And we can eat the leftovers for at least 4 days. Maybe I’ll get out tortillas to put meat and beans in, or maybe I’ll add the meat (already cooked) to a casserole, but it’s simple cooking from there. We can still eat wholesome and nutritious food and I don’t have to really cook every day. Aaah!

Can I tell you a secret? The kids have not watched any movies for almost 3 months…and they haven’t noticed. We don’t have a TV, but they usually watch a movie each Friday night on the computer. Summer is so full of other fun things that we simply haven’t done Fun Friday (other than the pizza). Hannah asked halfheartedly about movies once about 2 weeks ago, and then soon forgot. But otherwise, they haven’t said a word about missing them. I have no problem with them watching one movie a week, but I am thrilled that we’ve had a break from it. Meanwhile, the creative play and craft projects they are pumping out are through the roof. I can’t help but think it’s connected. I’m going to roll with no movies as long as possible. So, don’t tell my kids!

What were you up to this week? Anyone else do one big meal a week and eat off the leftovers? Have you been canning?

Posted in Family news, Farm | 1 Comment

Our second grade homeschooling plan

The letter of intent to homeschool has gone in the mail, I have purchased homeschool materials, and Hannah has been asking when we can start school again. On paper, it sounds like I should be all ready to go, but I still have not wrapped my head around what school looks like for us this year. I always said that at age seven, the time would come to do more formal school with my kids. Gulp!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not planning to have subject blocks throughout the day. Yet, we should probably do math, focus on handwriting, and start to work on spelling. I know at least in theory what we should cover, and it’s not over the top by most people’s standards. Yet, I am struggling to know where that time and energy comes out of. I cannot be and do everything (but I still try!).

So no, we didn’t do school most of this summer for all my intentions to the contrary. We read lots of books, yes, but none of them were from the “school” pile. And with Hannah begging to start school again, I can’t help but think that was just right.

I’m not stressing about it. When it feels important to start school, we will get started. And that will happen.

Whenever we get to starting school (in the next month?), here is what I’d like to cover for second grade. No big plans for BenBen this year (kindergarten) but he’ll join in with whatever Hannah’s doing at his level.

When you look at this list, realize that I don’t do everything every day. We might do some things every day but others once a week or just for part of the year. We have to have time to play too!

Math: Math-u-see, starting with Alpha, and Life of Fred continued

Spelling: All about spelling, level 1

Memory work: more of Linguistic Development thru Poetry Memorization, Bible verses, basic geography, and I’d like to get back to Classical Conversations (we’re mid cycle 1)

Handwriting: Draw Write Now, book 1

Phonics: Explode the Code, she’s on book 4

Grammer: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, level 2

Lots of read alouds (the core of what we do!)

Writing: journal prompts from Brightly Beaming

I would love to add Spanish, because the kids say they want to learn it. I don’t want to invest in a program and then have it just sit, so I might start teaching them on my own.

Do you have a Spanish program you love? When are you starting back to school with your kids? Experience with any of these materials?

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Four kids later…how to hike a trail

You from around here?

I was only a mile into my first day of section hiking/running the 54 miles of the International Appalachian Trail between Houlton and Fort Fairfield, Maine, when an older man driving a pickup truck  pulled up along side me on the recreation trail.

I chuckled to myself and told him where I was from. This was not Deliverance (I wasn’t scared), but it was a not exactly friendly rural curiosity that I did not expect to encounter…I mean, I am a local.

What are you doing here?


Well, you can’t get there from here…unless you are running along the border.

I just smiled. It wasn’t a question with an answer. Running from point A to point B clearly had labeled me as somewhat cRA-zY; nevermind that he was doing something illegal (driving a pickup on a recreation trail!).

After our interaction (he drove off soon after, shaking his head), I felt sort of happy. This ridiculous conversation made it an adventure and I felt that I was actually doing something. If you never do anything unusual, no one will ever ask you what you’re up to. Therefore, I must be doing something right!

Deer flies aside, it was a lovely first day of section hiking/running. I was pleasantly awed by my surroundings. I live right here, but I had never been on this trail before. I had driven the road nearby plenty of times and I was not expecting much, honestly. But it was beautiful and quiet and forested. Taking this trail through the area I live gives me a very different perspective of it.

Although it was a running distance that was not unusual for me (this stretch was 7.5 miles), going from point A to point B feels much different than something I would do in loops from my house. All those point to points will add up until I can say that I ran/hiked from ___ to ___, a decidedly different accomplishment.

I was excited to cover the trail when the idea first occurred to me, simply because it was there. I didn’t know anyone who had done it and it’s not something that people living here even know much about. But I am a thru hiker by nature, and if there is a trail, of course I should do it. It would be wrong for me not to! However, having started, I am even more excited about it than I was in theory. I can’t wait to cover new sections!

When I was first considering this, I knew it would have to be a section hike, because I do have four young kids. I thought I’d take them with me, but the logistics were so complicated. I needed John’s help in shuttling and then I’d be dragging children for longer than they wanted to be out, and it would eat up many, many days, and possibly not be all that pleasant if they were complaining.

So, I needed to go it alone. Then, I wanted to do the sections in order in a southbound manner, so I would always pick up where I left off. I have thru hiked two trails (the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail in Vermont), and I did both of them southbound. Southbound forever was sort of a motto in my mind (against the current). Most people hike trails northbound, because the logistics are in some ways easier (the northern parts are less accessible) and it’s the more common route. But we have always gone south and we’ve loved that.

Instead, logistically, this made sense to run/hike randomly, and every section I’ve done so far (3 out of 6) I have done headed north, because it’s been easier to set up. So, I am breaking all my rules!

Back in cross country days in high school, we had shirts that said, “pain is temporary; pride lasts forever.” I would also say that annoyances are temporary; satisfaction lasts forever. When deer flies are making me nutty while I run, I know that the moment I reach my car at the end of the section, the deer flies will be forgotten, but I will have completed part of my goal. When I couldn’t find the trail when I was almost to the end on my second day and I had to cover an additional 5 hot miles to get to my car by another route, that also was part of the adventure and another day behind me. The annoyances just don’t matter past the moment (remind me of that on a super-whiny day with the kids!).

So, this might not rank super high on the adventure-o-meter, but it does at least register. I feel alive when I’m covering the miles; I am doing something  out of the ordinary. It gives me a goal and a reason to be excited to get out of bed. And even Mommy needs that!

What is something you’ve found creative ways to accomplish, or maybe not your preferred way? Exercise? Crafts? A silly trail goal?

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My happy place

The flower beds around our house are continually in flux. I started with a blank slate when we moved in, and although it feels like slow progress, I can look around and see that I have, in fact, done something. I’m ridiculous enough to have to remind myself of that!

P1100376Two summers ago, I built the first bed. I had never planted a bed from scratch before and I felt super-proud of it at the time. Now, it is my least favorite bed. I don’t know what I want there, but it will be different- somehow, it’s not welcoming.

I am learning as I go and I am learning my style. Take the delphiniums. They look terrible now because they just finished blooming, but they are striking in blossom. I get more compliments about the delphiniums than anything here. And I hate the delphiniums. I have to stake them, but they are so tall and heavy, they fall over anyway. I resent that I have to do so much for them. They look fussy and formal, and that’s so not me. So, come fall, the delphiniums might go away, or I might move them somewhere that it doesn’t matter if they fall over.

P1100393P1100387 P1100378I would describe my goal look as modern cottage. I keep a running list of perennials I like and would like to plant and colors I am lacking, but as to how to set it all up…I just try things. I think I’ve nailed down that what I enjoy best is planting and transplanting, but I have to say that I enjoy weeding too- yep, certifiably crazy!

P1100379This area in front by the lilacs is a big question mark. A friend gave me courage to hack the two big lilacs because all of them were such wildly varying sizes, and they should come back fuller and hopefully, more comparable in size. However, I can’t decide if I should also have a flower bed in front, or just lilacs. It’s a mess right now because I’m waiting till I have a vision to start working.

P1100388I need to change the shape of this bed a little and make it more interesting at the end near the front door.

P1100384 P1100385This bed around the blue shed is new and not deep enough, but a start is better than nothing. Some of the plants look unhealthy; I just transplanted them from divisions- they will perk up.

P1100394 P1100391Like anything I want it all beautiful and established looking and that takes time, and honestly, something that could be completely established in two years would not be all that satisfying!

P1100380One good addition this year was a set area for cut flowers- these are annuals, but I love them and we have fun putting bouquets together.

We have pollinators in abundance, and even hummingbirds, that frequent these flowers. I love hearing and seeing the buzzing. BenBen, who thinks like an ecologist in seeing nature connections, is especially in tune to all that is going on with those insects. It’s not just a happy place for me! John, however, teases that I’m doing a disservice and attracting them away from the veggies. 

So, my imperfect but thoroughly enjoyable flower beds…what I do when I should be doing other things, like laundry!

What do you find yourself doing instead of chores?

Posted in Garden, Home | 1 Comment