the summer routine

P1100097The summer routine is in full swing here, and I love it. I read before that time stretches when we are doing something new or in a new place, but our brain processes the time differently when it’s old hat. I can see that in this summer. The past two summers were full of a fairly new routine/place, but now that we’re old timers around here, it feels like the moments are flying by.

I’m determined to eek every moment of loveliness we can out of these summer days, and we have certainly done our best so far.

The big kids are in swim lessons. I can’t believe how much Hannah has learned. BenBen is having fun, although I can’t say that he’s learned tons. We all know this is not his teacher’s fault!

The first day of lessons, I needed to go to the grocery store, and I felt kind of guilty dropping the two big kids off. I always have stayed to watch. When you’re used to four kids, going to the grocery with just two felt like a vacation. The next day, you bet I did something else during swim lessons! This is amazing!

Then I discovered I could walk around town during lessons with Micah and Sammy- easy to do with two kids, but next to impossible with four. All guilt is gone…I love this. In fact, I already feel dependent on this 40 minutes with a baby strapped to me and another in the stroller, because it is so easy. I am feeding myself. I halfway think I’ll need to find another outlet for Hannah and BenBen after swim lessons are done, so I can keep walking. Hmmm…

Before swim lessons, we skate or play ball in town for a short while. This also is good. By leaving the house, I am focused on the kids and they have so much fun. At home, I’m too distracted to do this.

After swimming, we usually find something fun to do, be it berry picking, hiking, or playing with friends. We’ve checked out a few new-to-us places, but mostly we’re going to our favorite spots to enjoy the season. In the evenings, we hit the pool. Our days are full.

Last week, the kids were in a mini-swim meet in our town, and that was an absolute riot. All the races were one length of the pool in various strokes. And no one had more fun doing their “race” than BenBen (wink!).

We’ve had some campfires, but of late, between evening pool and farm tasks, this has gone by the wayside. We have to get them set up before we go to the pool!

Canning season is also upon us. We have canned all the green beans already. The farm has lots of work to be done, but by John and I doing them together, tasks like green beans truly are fun. I have made some jam and I have pickles started. I’ll start on diced tomatoes today. Hooray for good food to put up!

We are canning outside this year, using the propane burner we got for boiling maple sap. I am thankful to not be heating up the whole house, plus the pressure canner on the glass stovetop isn’t ideal weight-wise for the stove. I do it and I’ve never had problems, but it’s not what you’re supposed to do.

What does the summer routine look like for you?

Posted in Kids | 1 Comment

Farmyard justice

Ugg, the rooster, is hard on the hens. He is never mean to John or me, and normally isn’t mean to the kids, although he’s chased them a couple times. The hens got a rest from him for awhile, but of late, he’s been back in the pen.

On our farm, chickens are not pets. Some people love chickens, but we don’t have any special attachments to them. They give us eggs and we like that.

So likely, Ugg is soon headed to the freezer. Especially after last night…

Our neighbor broodered four new hens (Rhode Island Reds) for us while she was starting a batch for herself. Last night, we introduced those four hens to the rest of the bunch. Doing this at night is supposedly preferable because they won’t get picked on as much (the other hens are already roosting). However, Ugg immediately began chasing the new hens. He’s a big boy. The kids cried a little as they watched because they were afraid.

P1100168Farmyard justice.

Lila was in Ugg’s face, sniffing him. The other animals were curious and cornered him in the fence. We just laughed.

It’s hard to no longer be the king.

Posted in Farm | Leave a comment

Why we still go to the berry farm

When we planned out our farm and what to plant and how much, I wanted to plant enough berry-wise that we wouldn’t have to go berry picking anywhere else in the summer. I wouldn’t have to drive, I can know exactly what has and has not been sprayed on the fruit, and in theory (anyone who has a farm can question this- it’s expensive to grow your own food!), it should be more frugal.

However, I want the kids to be able to pick freely. I want them to search for berries and graze as they play in the yard.

It is hard to say how many berry plants this will require, but for now, even for all the strawberry plants we have in our yard, we still have to go berry picking.

P1100141 P1100143We spent two mornings last week at the strawberry patch for berries to freeze and to make jam. The berries in the yard have produced well, but I honestly have no idea how many…the kids eat them whenever they find them.

This home berry hunting provides hours of entertainment, they are snacking on something healthy, and they are so thrilled with what they pick. I don’t want to be policing the berry patch so I have enough for a certain recipe or the freezer, and I don’t want to discourage their garden grazing. So, I’m giving the berry patch over to them for now.

Going berry picking is an event, an event with a focused activity, and that is hard to recreate at home. Much like it’s hard to find time for a craft once you get the supplies to do it at home instead of going to a class or studio. I somehow think that things I do around home don’t take any time, and I’m shocked when they do. But if I have to go somewhere to do something, I block off time for it.

I am so happy we have berries at our farm, and I’m happy we can go berry picking too.

Do you struggle to make time for anything once you started trying to do it at home? If you have a berry patch, how do you manage it with kids?

Posted in Farm | Leave a comment

The solution to too big of a yard

Lawn mowing is not our favorite summer pastime. We sort-of keep up, but we would not win any awards. That’s a-ok with us. In fact, our justification for much of our gardens and planting is reducing our amount of yard space. We’ve used goats on occasion to mow, but now that we have more planted, that is harder to do. Goats will eat anything growing…their blessing and curse.

This spring, I had to bite the bullet and get a gas-powered push mower at a garage sale. With my end-of-pregnancy blahs, plus the fact that with a newborn I would not be able to mow all the time, using our reel mower was not realistic. The grass is growing so fast at the same time that the garden needs planted and the animals need lots of attention. We can only do what we can do.

The reel mower is still the mower of choice, and now that the grass is not growing as fast, we plan to switch back to it. The only problem with the reel mower is that when you get behind on mowing, it’s impossible to catch up. It simply cannot cut tall grass. Now, we have a way to catch up if when we get behind.

But better than that, we decided that part of our yard should be a mini hay field and reclaim some productivity from that area. The orchard and the area north of the clothesline seemed the perfect candidates. We simply didn’t mow them at all, and a month later, they were ready to hay.

P1090817They were a rockin’ field of dandelions if you’re looking for a great photo spot next year (and yellow is pretty!). The kids are drawn like magnets to the tall grass too.

P1100059John has been working at scything this area, a little bit at a time, and once it’s dry, he hauls it in our cart, the most amazing addition to our farm. Previously, we hauled everything in buckets because we didn’t have a wheelbarrow. It was worth the wait; this cart is way better than a wheelbarrow (and John built it!).

P1100080Most of our hay is purchased in bales, and that’s how we feed our animals all winter. This hay is just a small but productive act, done more for the satisfaction than anything. We’re not producing that much.

It’s nice knowing we can mow in much less time by not doing as much, and it’s fun to see John scything in the early morning hours. Yep, we’re just those crazy hippies down the road!

Anyone else try to find ways to reduce their lawn size?

Posted in Farm | 2 Comments

Garden bliss

With the new hoophouse this year, we’re enjoying garden goodness way ahead of our normal schedule. Where it’s usually August before we’re getting much from the garden, by July 1, we weren’t only getting salad and kale, but also peas, green beans, and (unheard of!) tomatoes!

P1100070And these aren’t the small glacier tomatoes we usually grow and barely get ripe before the frost; these are real, beefy honest-to-goodness tomatoes. We haven’t grown tomatoes like this since our days in Minnesota (10 years ago).

P1100071We eat so good. One night last week at dinner, BenBen sat down and looked at his plate and said, “Farm meals are the best meals.” I agree.

We have strawberries. We’ve had a couple cucumbers. This is eating heaven.

The only “problem”, if you will, is that outside peas and hoophouse green beans are ready at the same time. Peas and green beans are two of the most time-intensive items to put up (peas for the freezer and green beans to can). We were up late last night working on peas (while rocking a baby) and we have another night’s work yet. Beans are a bit less time-sensitive, but they need done too. At least it’s satisfying work!

P1100040We finally got the kids’ gardens planted last week (late!). This year, instead of being a part of the normal garden, the kids’ area is its own thing. With raised beds, we won’t have to worry about little footsteps where they shouldn’t be, it’s easier for the kids to use, and we won’t have to remember what’s been planted where when we think of rotation for future years planting.

This year, Hannah and BenBen did their own planting completely, so it will be interesting to see how exactly things come up and where! Sammy just told me what he wanted (with prompting), and he somewhat “helped”.

A few things are starting to sprout and they are so excited!

How is your garden coming? What are you enjoying eating right now?

Posted in Farm, Garden | 7 Comments

The more (calves) the merrier

Lila was made to give milk…of course, she’s a Jersey! Her new baby, Maple, is now doing awesome, but she can’t make a dent in the milk from her mom. We could make cheese with the excess…or we can raise another calf on the milk.

That’s an easy choice! Since we’ll be needing another beef animal growing up for next fall anyway, John combined the two and got us a male calf from a dairy farm.

P1100082 P1100084Isn’t he beautiful? He’s a mix of Jersey and Red Holstein. And yes, he came to our farm in the back of the Toyota Corolla, the indispensable farm vehicle. The Corolla has hauled three calves now and at least 6 goats. :)

Now, John can milk Lila, feed the two calves (Maple plus this boy), and we get what’s left. This is plenty for us to drink and make yogurt, but not too much. Two birds with one stone.

The calves won’t drink milk forever, but it’s a nice break for us and they will thrive on this milk (versus the milk replacer we used when we raised bottle calves before).

Posted in Farm | Leave a comment

In June…

My June goals…

  • do a summer solstice sunrise hike and breakfast (our annual tradition)…instead of a breakfast we decided that a campfire with smore’s was more appropriate
  • get the kids horseback riding and into swim lessons
  • kayak twice
  • June family adventure…didn’t happen! :(
  • clean out my clothes and shoes 
  • finish one quilt top
  • start exercising again
  • dates with the kids
  • date with John
  • finish edging around all my flower beds

I took a lesson from Hannah last week. She had some craft projects she wanted to do, but it involved paint and I was hem-hawing about getting the stuff out (it was one of those days). But Hannah, bless her, got home after the pool and while John was setting up the campfire and told me exactly what she needed, and she sat down and just did it. I was humbled that she took so much initiative and also that she used a little window of time to get something accomplished. I could learn from this girl!

I love it when someone puts a name to something that I do, as though it is, in fact, a thing. I ran across the term habit stacking this month and I instantly knew what it was…I do that and it’s so effective. By combining habits they are way more likely to get done and it’s not as much to mentally process. That’s the only stuff I consistently get done in a day.

What is working…

Landscaping is the ideal project for my life right now. I could do it for hours or I can do it for 5 minutes. Not every project is that accommodating. Although my landscaping looks far different than what I dream of, it feels great to make progress towards that end. I’m learning as I go!

What is not working…

I’ve previously been the mommy that loses the baby weight within a few weeks and goes on my merry way, wearing my usual clothes. No longer! I have 15-20 pounds to lose this time…and it’s not coming off. I just want to wear my normal clothes and get out of the maternity wear. I can think of several excuses: 1) I gained more weight this time during pregnancy, 2) I am older, 3) I am not exercising as much, and 4) I am only nursing one instead of the tandem nursing I’ve done the last couple babies. But at least I’m starting to exercise again!

From the bookshelf…

  • North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindburgh
  • The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (a re-read)

July goals…

  • dates with kids
  • date with John
  • play tennis at least once
  • kayak twice
  • bike once a week
  • fun family 4th of July celebration
  • July family adventure…or two if possible
  • do a trail run
  • finish a quilt top
  • make a kite with BenBen
  • do a few sewing projects with Hannah (skirt, purse, bike basket)
  • make maple candy with the kids
  • check out at least 2 new-to-us places nearby

What have you been up to lately?

Posted in Learning/Goals | Leave a comment