In September

Fall always has me with what feels like 100 projects to finish. All the things from the year that I haven’t gotten done converge somewhere in September/October and my head starts to spin. Usually, my thinking goes something like, “I’m going to finish all of these projects today.” Then the next day, I say the same thing. And the next day, I say the same thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve not done one of them.

And somewhere about this time, I decide to scrap some of these projects and I recommit to doing one project each day. Only one. In the end, I will do that one project each day and I’m way further ahead than thinking I’ll do it all in one day which will never happen. I do this every year.

One more example of my life being about learning the same things over and over again.

September goals…

  • kayak twice
  • volunteer at the Common Ground Fair with Hannah
  • go to family camp!
  • hike with the kids to Chimney Pond at Mt Katahdin (next year, we’re on for the whole thing!)
  • figure out better chore and farm routines
  • play tennis twice
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • bake brioche with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • take the kids to the library
  • family vacation!

Family camp felt like a huge success. Because of animal chores, John was not able to go (sad!). The kids and I had a fantastic time and it met the expectations I had for family camp for sure. It was simple and about hanging out and the kids can’t wait to go back next year. I didn’t feel a deep connection to the camp the same way I have at some, but I have no complaints, the other families were wonderful, and we had a very positive experience. I’ve not found anything comparable within our state, so I think that’s our place!

I would never trade having a farm, but having a farm does limit what we can do. For right now, I am fine with that. One drawback is limited vacation time or breaking vacation into chunks. Thankfully there is a lot to do within a half-day’s drive of us! We went to the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec for a short camping trip and were blown away. We hiked to a waterfall and we hiked up one of the taller mountains….and saw a herd of caribou (yes, actual reindeer!) grazing at the top. Vacations don’t have to be long to be fantastic.

Another very positive and new September happening was volunteering and camping at the Common Ground Fair. I love the fair and all the rural skills and activities. I’ve wanted to volunteer before, but with the kids’ ages, it seemed hard to coordinate. This year, Hannah volunteered with me in the children’s area. We loved it! I would like to volunteer somewhere else next year, just to get a different experience, but of course Hannah wants to do the exact same thing. We’ll see!

October goals…

  • play tennis twice
  • harvest and save some garden seeds (new for me!)
  • hike to freedom (walk of part of the Underground Railroad in our area)
  • kayak the river (never done this in the fall)
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • bake brioche and macaroons with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • monthly family adventure
  • start writing a badge for Frontier Girls (just for fun!)

What are your plans for October?

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When my perspective is the problem

I am the queen of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

For at least 3 years, I have been getting up at the same time of the morning and trying to do set tasks and meeting failure. I start the morning grumpy because I haven’t accomplished all I wanted, yet I wasn’t getting up earlier, wasn’t changing my expectations, nothing.

I was absolutely sure that neither me nor my expectations were the problem. I had gotten up kind-of early and I had a right to finishing certain things before everyone was up.

I wish I was making this up.

The trigger for me thinking differently was a conversation with another mom who gets up early and what she does with her early mornings. For some reason, I saw it all in another light as she was talking. Not that I wanted her routine- I didn’t. But I realized that I could do things differently and maybe my expectations should be different, not only that I should be doing less, but maybe that my time would be better used doing other things. It was revolutionary.

I’m still playing with the particulars, but my days have been off-the-charts better by just looking at the same situation with a different perspective.

I am getting up earlier (it’s hard). I changed how I do my reading (and what I’m reading). I added a little exercise and stretching. I want to get to the point where I am also dressed for the day before the kids get up, but I am concerned about too early of a wake-up time. I do still have to actually function during the day! I am still not accomplishing everything I want to, but it’s better. I’m closer.

Even getting up VERY early, I am amazed by how “little” in some ways I get done. Everything takes time. I have to make definite choices and accept that by doing some things I am definitely not doing others. Oh, it’s hard to grow up!

I love my early mornings…that is, after I’ve been up for about 30 minutes!

Can you relate? Any issues you found were just a problem in your perspective?


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Why I love hiking, and a little about priorities

Everyone who knows me knows I love hiking. I could hike all day every day and be perfectly content. However, I didn’t put together one of my favorite reasons that I love hiking until a couple weeks ago…hiking makes conversations possible. When we hike together, there is nothing to distract. We walk and we talk and we have fabulous conversations that would not otherwise happen. So, family hiking is a definite necessity for us.

Why? Because with 4 children it is hard to have one-on-one conversations. I can go through a day (a week?) and have not checked in with the kids individually to know how they are doing. I have to ask and converse with no distractions (or minimal). And that is plain hard. Isn’t that terrible? I want to talk with them, of course; if not, I am only meeting their physical needs.

It’s enlightening when we do talk. I hear what they are thinking about or struggling with or what they really want to do. I always learn something.


Camping is a priority for us. However, you would not have known it for most of this year, because we hadn’t done it. At all.

Camping is simplicity and family time and adventure all wrapped into one. But we did redeem ourselves. Considering we hadn’t camped until 3 weeks ago, we camped a lot this year! My challenge is the mental work of packing, a big hurdle. Plus the constant struggle I have of letting go of my normal routine to do something out of the ordinary. Even though I won’t regret it and, later, not doing my routine for a day is a non-issue. Once we started camping, the challenge of packing seemed much less (mental list ready!) and we’ve gone 5 times….so far. More plans are in the works!

This camping void highlights the necessity: More and more I realize that we need to define what our family is about. It’s easy to go along with and do all sorts of good things without much intention. Homeschool field trip? I should be there. Kid’s science class? Definitely. Kid’s gym class?These are all good things, but just because they are good for one family does not mean they are good for us. It’s easy to eliminate things that are definitely not within our scope, but the things that are close are hardest to cull. It’s almost what I should be doing, but by doing that thing, we aren’t doing what we really are about.

We are about growing food for ourselves and living a rural life. We are about hiking and mini-adventures. We are about homeschooling as experiencing life as a learning opportunity. We are about community and hospitality. From there, I can cull. It might be a good thing, but it’s not what we are about. This will be a constant process!

Farm camp…Farm camp is a lot of work, but I love farm camp. It sounds funny, but I couldn’t not do it. To have kids experience farms and where food comes from is so my heart that it never crosses my mind that it shouldn’t happen. Thankfully my kids also love farm camp and hosting it makes them perfectly happy. Yet, a week is all I could do! I had more kids this year (45!) and by dividing into groups it seemed to work well. We did a lot of different things than before (zucchini candy, handmade pasta, fridge pickles, corn husk dolls, potato beads, crystallized mint leaves, and we hatched chicks, to name a few). When I think of priorities, this is a definite yes for right now.

Do you camp as a family? What are your family priorities? Do you share my struggling with culling the not-quite-priorities?


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The little farmer is 6!

P1130277 P1130293I even think he looks bigger!

Celebrating a birthday with BenBen is a joy because he is so easygoing and truly happy with everything. Being particular is not in his nature. Whatever we do, he loves. Whatever he gets, he loves. So, of course we want to love him all the more.

Thoughtful is the main descriptor I would give for BenBen. He is very conscientious and always thinking. He asks a million questions, and I love the way his mind works. He is the kid who asks what dust is or what exactly is smoke. He is great with babies and adores animals. Because he’s thinking, the boy cannot hurry and he told me that is his least favorite thing in the world, having to do something or get ready for something quickly. I believe it.

BenBen has told me multiple times that his favorite thing to do any season of the year is be outside. He is the most persistent berry picker (that’s first on his agenda every summer morning…in his jammies). He loves to fish. He enjoys hiking as much as I do (and that is something!). He came up with an idea for making a bike trailer that can carry food, water, and our camping supplies and has been working on its design this week. In the winter, he’s the most tireless skiier. Really, he is content to hang out outside any time of the year. Living in the country is perfect for him.

For BenBen’s birthday, he gave me the guest list, but told me to pick the theme and make it a surprise. I went with an adventurer/explorer theme and had too much fun planning activities for it. I made simple catapults (for shooting mini marshmallows) out of popsicle sticks, created an obstacle course in our yard, and made a treasure hunt with invisible ink messages. The kids had a blast. Win-win.

Here are BenBen’s birthday questions:

How old are you? 6

What do you want to be when you grow up? dentist, small farmer (like us) with pigs, cows, goats, and chickens, daddy with 5 kids “that’s all I can take care of”

Where would you like to live when you grow up? Fort Fairfield, Maine on our road

What is your favorite thing to do? camping, fishing, hanging out with Mommy and Daddy

What is your perfect day? my birthday

What would you like to learn about? the Bible, how to hunt rabbits and fox with my bow and arrow

What did you do for your birthday? camping, took pictures on my camera, friend party in a couple days

Who is your best friend? Mommy, Daddy, Hannah, Sammy, Micah

What is your favorite thing you did this year? trip to Kansas and North Carolina, hang out as a family


food bacon

vegetable ground cherries

drink orange juice

animal goats, cows

book my baby scrapbook

song Wagon Wheel

color orange

school activity The Life of Fred (math in story form)

toy legos

game Chutes and Ladders

restaurant Mommy’s

holiday Christmas

movie Oklahoma

birthday present camera, bow and arrow, tackle box, remote control car

Where would you most like to travel? Kansas

What are some of your wishes for this year? learn to read and do math, get a pig

We love you, BenBen!

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The hard part of farming

Part of being a farmer, I’m learning, is knowing when to let an animal go. It’s not all that fun. We can and should enjoy and love them, but the bottom line is that a farm animal is not a pet. Period.

Our largely urban, and mostly non-agrarian, culture tells us that animals are pets. We buy our meat and milk from a store, the product of faceless, nameless animals. It’s not really true. A friend has told me how the Amish have shaken their heads at her and her husband because they refer to their horse as “part of the family”. The Amish see animals as animals…they don’t fall into that farm-animal-as-pet trap.

So, we sometimes have to say goodbye to an animal that we love, and that is not very fun. I watched my neighbor go through this last year when her horse got sick and she had to accept putting the horse down. She could have tried lots of treatments and maybe prolonged the horse’s life a little bit, but she didn’t. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.

This weekend, we made the decision to cull Brownie, our only remaining animal from when we first started our farm. We moved to this house with Brownie and she almost seems like part of our family. She is super sweet and a great mother and she has been a blessing to our farm.

Yet, we don’t know how old Brownie is. She was at least 3 when we got her. We’ve had her 4 and 1/2 years, so she is 7 1/2 at the youngest. A goat doe only lives to be 10. The last two years she hasn’t carried a healthy baby to term (another clue that she’s old), although she accepted babies that were not hers and nursed them. When I read about it, older doe’s often die in childbirth and that seemed like the worst possible scenario. Plus, our barn is cold in the winter and to force her to endure the cold when she’s older did not seem kind.

The right thing was to let her go, along with most of the others. Because 22 goats is too many! We kept 3 female goats (that’s what we had only 2 1/2 years ago) and one buck that will breed those girls, and then he’ll go as well.

P1130251 P1130252We kept one of Brownie’s daughters who reminds us of her (Marbled Brownie), and the two daughters from this year of Little Brownie (Chocolate and Mocha). Yes, they all have food names!

We are winning the affection of this year’s babies by daily taking them goat treats (fun!). And Marbled Brownie snuggles with us whenever we visit. She is a special buddy of BenBen….he took Brownie’s going the hardest. I am so glad we still have goats.

Another farm dilemma is that you sometimes eat something you watched hatch…as in chicken. My kids know that meat does not come from a plastic-wrapped package at the store. It comes from a living, breathing animal and to eat it is something to be taken seriously.

They never flinch at eating meat. All of our meat either comes from our farm or a friend’s farm, and they know that. They have watched chicken killed and processed several times. So, I was surprised when Hannah was upset to eat it this past week. Then I realized…she had watched these chickens hatch. To her, that made all the difference.

We talked through it. She has to make the choice if it is right for her to eat it (after all, I was a vegetarian for 7 years so I understand!). I explained why I’d not eaten meat and why I now do (although I am conscious of the source). She knows why we can’t keep roosters (they get territorial). No one will buy a rooster. There is simply no other option than to eat them. If you want eggs, meat is a by-product. Same as milk. You can’t have one without the other. I am glad she’s thinking through these things, because they are hard. To eat involves sacrifice.

So, John keeps training us (in a good way!) that farm animals are not pets…he’s right!

Have you ever struggled through a similar dilemma? How did you learn this?

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I shouldn’t be doing everything!

Kids and chores. It’s a big can of worms, and I’m sure you have an opinion. I’m not going to try to convince you that my way is right and your way is wrong, but this is my journey to figure out what I will do.

You can call it lazy parenting, but up to now, I have not expected much of my kids in regards to chores. John and I do pretty much everything on the farm and in our home. Last year, Hannah started putting away her own clothes, but other than that, toy clean up was their only responsibility.

It wasn’t that I thought chores were bad, but it was more work to get them to do chores than doing it myself. Do I want to baby someone as they sweep the floor or just do it? Do I want to ask them to pick up the clothes on the floor or just put them in the laundry myself? The easy thing is to do it myself. I don’t want to be a nag and that takes way more energy anyway.

Of course I want my kids to be kids too. With the farm, I know people who have their kids do lots of farm work and I know families where the kids only play on the farm and they may observe work, but they don’t do any themselves. Our kids occasionally help us, and they certainly help with the garden work and tending their own gardens, but for the most part, we have tended towards the playing-on-the-farm side.

I feel okay with that. Yet, I have 2 kids now that are old enough to step it up. I would hate for them to leave this house and not know how to maintain a household, do dishes and laundry, clean, and take care of animals. I don’t want the farm to consume their days, because I strongly believe in play, but they could do some chores each day and still have plenty of free time. When Hannah is doing school, it takes her 2 hours a day. It’s not as if she’s gone 8 hours and has no time to herself!

It’s an attitude shift for me and it requires me to make a plan and help them stick to it. I don’t want to be constantly changing the chores and doing new systems all the time. My strong thought is that we stick to our plan.

So before we start school this fall, we are working on chore routines. Wrapped up in this, I realized that I have a set morning routine that helps me to have better days. Of course my kids should learn this skill and make sure they are doing their important things first thing each morning. We are getting these routines down, and then we can start our schoolwork. It seems logical to me.

While I haven’t figured out the farm portion (we are possibly transitioning some farm things on a bigger scale first), our morning routine with chores has been going great. Last week, we had one early morning when we had to leave the house at 7:30 (unheard of in these parts!). I told the kids to do their best on their charts and that I didn’t expect them to finish everything by this time. They surpassed my expectations for sure. They got up and, with a deadline, they were hard at work. The house was positively humming with activity. We left the house at 7:30 with everyone dressed and groomed, morning reading done, laundry put away, dishwasher unloaded, floor swept.

It worked!

Because we have long used magnetic charts for daily grooming type chores, that system works for us. Why re-invent the wheel? I remade the charts to include 4 chores for each big kid, along with the daily grooming. It’s a system they know, so once I explained their chores, it wasn’t a big deal. There is nothing for me to maintain. No rewards. It’s just what we do each morning. Both kids have to put away their own clean clothes. Hannah helps me load or unload the dishwasher, re-shelves any kid books that are out, works on her memory verse, and does some reading or journaling. BenBen fills the water filter, fills water bottles, and sweeps (because he loves to sweep).

I helps me for sure. Any of these things done is a blessing. And they love the responsibility. I feel hopeful that I can figure out the farm portion (not there yet!), and that we can all feel great with our contributions to the family.

How do you do chores? Any other chores you require of your kids?

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In August

I felt sad about giving up the summer swim lesson routine a few weeks ago. I love that routine so much. I walked every day but one that the kids had lessons, and it was absolutely wonderful. I’m over it now, but I mourned for a good week. However, we certainly haven’t shifted into fall mode yet! We haven’t started school. We’re not back into any routine (although I’m slowly working on that). We still have lots of exploring and adventuring to do.

I love that I feel more confident now in our homeschooling. I’m not as ruffled by the little jabs I sometimes get and I am not at this point worried that my kids know enough. It’s more clear to me that they are little and being a kid is an okay thing. It’s not as if they are plopped in front of a TV every day (or ever). They are creating and thinking and having real experiences all the time. Any homeschooler can tell you occasional flack is part of the deal and last weekend when I got my share, I could brush it off and really laugh.

Although most parents of school-age children understand why someone would homeschool, even if their reasons are different than mine- there is adequate fodder for understanding why someone would undertake such a venture, a lot of older folks do not seem to understand. Some do. But that is where more of the third-degree questions have come, at least to me. Both ladies I talked with were sure that I was not qualified to teach my children because I didn’t have an education degree and told me of kids in adult ed who were homeschooled and couldn’t do 2nd grade math. They both complimented my kids for making friends quickly and talking easily with all ages of people, and not 5 minutes later they were quizzing me on socialization. Umm, really?

And so it goes.

I did make lists of 10 ideas in various topics for 3 months…hooray. I missed 10 days here and there but I feel happy with this exercise. I don’t see myself doing it every day from here forward, but I do love it. It’s a great way to think through an topic if I feel stuck. And if I get in a rut, I would definitely do the every day thing again.

Intermittent fasting is still going well. I took a 3 day break from it when we were in a tricky setting for skipping breakfast- it was part of the community to eat together and I didn’t want to make a fuss that I wasn’t eating in the morning. And afterwards I decided that skipping breakfast is a great thing for me. I had issues with overeating, which is not a normal struggle, and I think I need that self-control practice each morning to not eat until lunch, because it does take restraint. ..Back at it!

My most rewarding new practice is sitting outside in the mornings now for reading and journaling. There is a hummingbird that visits me, I love hearing the birds, and I love starting the day in fresh outside air. I won’t be able to keep this up all year, but I totally should enjoy the season this way!

August goals…

  • bike once a week
  • kayak twice
  • farm camp!
  • play tennis twice
  • date with John (we attempted to watch the Perseid meteor shower in the middle of the night…although it was clear, it was an epic fail! We only saw a few meteors…oh well!)
  • dates with kids
  • bake a lattice pie and an icebox cake with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • take the kids to the library
  • monthly family adventure

From the bookshelf…

  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

September goals…

  • kayak twice
  • volunteer at the Common Ground Fair with Hannah
  • go to family camp!
  • hike with the kids to Chimney Pond at Mt Katahdin (they want to hike the whole thing but this will get them halfway- more realistic)
  • figure out better chore and farm routines- a big focus for me right now
  • play tennis twice
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • bake brioche with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • take the kids to the library
  • family vacation!

Are you in the fall routine yet? Have you started homeschool for the year?

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