We now interrupt our regularly scheduled program for…

P1120898 P1120900 P1120903the Knife’s Edge of Mt. Katahdin!

Earlier this week, I found myself on an adventure doing what I do best…schlepping loads up a mountain. Usually my load is a child, but this time it was gear and food. Last winter, a group of local people who were planning an attempt to get a paraplegic to the top of the highest mountain in Maine asked me to haul gear and make runs up the mountain with stuff that the crew would need.

Yep, I can do that!

I would have never thought to seek out something like this; in fact, being away from my kids is not something I really do. I questioned myself the past few weeks as final preparations were being made. Should I really do it? Was it okay to be away from my kids for a couple days and an overnight? Was it selfish? Everyone harps so hard about the fleeting time when kids are young- was I wasting it to be away from them for a couple days? This probably sounds ridiculous but these are the thoughts I was having. In retrospect (of even just a day), I can see that more clearly!

I wanted to do it because it is something I can do. I can hike a lot of miles and I can haul things and not only can I do it, it’s something I love to do. I hadn’t been on Mount Katahdin for 9 years and the thought of hiking again was appealing…it’s so incredible. The team was mostly people I did not know and I loved the idea of being part of a team. And of course, it’s totally interesting too. What all do you need to plan for when getting a woman who cannot use her legs up a big mountain?

So, I hauled a lot of stuff. In fact, I totally appreciated hauling stuff and contemplating the things that we all think we “need” with us. There was more gear than what we porters could legitimately stuff in our packs, so we had to go through people’s things and edit. We all have our things that seem important to us (me too!), that an outsider can clearly see are excess.

P1120913After I hauled stuff, I got to play a little too. I had been thinking about ways to push my comfort zone lately, but I hadn’t considered the Knife’s Edge on Mt. Katahdin, mostly because I didn’t know when I would have an opportunity. Like the trip itself, the opportunity presented itself, and the Knife’s Edge was definitely on my list of things that I haven’t done that seemed a little scary. The unknown is always scary! I did it…. and it wasn’t nearly as fear-inducing as I anticipated (true of most things).

In the end, the kids survived (and John did too). They picked me up in the parking lot and started hammering me with a million questions, all at one time….back to usual! All in all, it was a vacation to haul stuff!

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The power of one

As I walked with the boys around town last week, it was fun to watch the flutter of activity. Flower beds weeded and mulched. An eye-sore building torn down. Pathways swept.

It was festival week in our town, and it should look nice.

After growing up in the suburbs, I am a huge fan of rural life and this is one reason why. When you live in the suburbs, you can easily feel that it doesn’t matter what your individual choices are because there are so many people.

It’s true in where you shop, how you act, what service you can do, anything. If the sheer number of persons is so great, one tiny person feels little and unimportant. Yet, in a rural setting, I see clearly that my individual actions matter a great deal.

It absolutely matters if I shop at my local stores. I can make our area more beautiful with my hands. I can be an agent for community. My responsibility is greater. And when our town is having a festival, people care what the community looks like.

 

While my responsibility is greater, the opportunity is also greater. I realized in one epiphany a few examples in our area of one person and their great effect on their area of passion. One is passionate about art, another couple are about music, one coordinates amazingly organized running races. Without those “one persons”, the area we live would be less rich and we would all be missing out.

If I looked at an urban area, the same might be true- definitely there are very few people making things happen even in a more populated place- but I don’t know for sure. However, seemingly, one person can have a lot more influence in a rural place. That’s pretty cool.

The opportunity in this concept is mind-boggling. How can I (one person) make my community better? What can I contribute? With this responsibility in mind, I am more apt to do what I say I believe.

It also adds variety to my life. Because there is less going on, I want to support the activities and festivals and events we do have so I go to ones I wouldn’t likely attend if I lived in a place with more people. And I am richer for it.

Have you noticed this same concept? Do you think opportunity is greater in a rural area or do you disagree? Why?

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Motivated by rewards, aren’t we all!

My sweet Hannah has developed her mom’s propensity to start projects and books and have a hard time finishing them. I get it, I really do. The new is always more exciting. A new book has so much promise, even if you are enjoying the one you are already reading.

However, I will confess to getting frustrated with her about this not finishing things. She has half finished crafts all over the house and was reading 6 or 7 different books and continuing to start more. It was just too much.

I talked to her about it, but it wasn’t making any difference. So this week, I instituted a reward system. When I was a kid, we read books with Book It and got a pizza if we read so many during the summer.Why can’t I start my own summer reading program for my kids? This is way more effective than any conversation!

There is a local farm that makes their own ice cream. For every 5 books, Hannah reads, I take everyone for ice cream. The boys aren’t reading yet, so for now, they share rewards. I am happy to make that $10 investment if we learn the art of finishing what we start.

I wrote up a cute paper for her to list books on and put it on her desk to find.

Hannah’s first question was if the books she’s already started count toward the 5…absolutely! She got right to work, made a plan of what order she’d finish the books, and she has actually done it. In 2 days, she has finished 2 books and is almost finished with another. We’ll keep going too; every 5 books means another ice cream.

Any ideas for a craft finishing incentive? :) Maybe I need to do this for myself too!

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In June

June goals…

  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • annual summer solstice sunrise hike and campfire
  • kayak twice
  • play tennis
  • long run
  • stargaze twice
  • learn to identify 5 weeds I don’t already know
  • start learning the latin names of my perennials (because if I’m really a gardener I should know this!)
  • start some root cuttings
  • Swedish Mid-Sommar festival 
  • bake angel food cake and homemade ice cream sandwiches with the kids
  • work on an arbor for our grapes
  • monthly family adventure

June highlights…

P1120685Without a doubt, watching my kids in the Swedish Mid-Sommar festival was my top highlight. The boys (with their blond hair) were recruited for carrying the banner in front of the dancers, and Hannah performed folk songs (in Swedish) and dances with the group. They all wore costumes, of course, and the whole experience brought me so much joy. It made me realize how much I love cultural events and how important they are. This folk dance is all young people, so the tradition will continue; it has meaning and fun for them. It’s not just older people straining to keep a tradition alive. More than my kids learning ballet or jazz, I would rather them have this real experience of a living tradition. That’s just me, but I loved it! And they can’t wait to do it again next year.

We turned a corner in family adventures and can do family bike rides now! With two kids that are confident bikers and two in a bike trailer, we are unstoppable. We discovered that all of us can do the 5 mile loop by our house- it’s gorgeous, we wave to the neighbors and say hello as we pass, and everyone enjoys it. For now, we’re sticking to that loop because we’re building confidence- I wouldn’t want to push to far and have the kids think that I’ll ask them to do more than they are capable.

This month I knocked off two of my goals for the year in visiting a dairy farm during milking (awesome and so interesting as it was a totally different system than the dairy we visited last year) and attending a talk by a local author. When I made the goal, I had a different author in mind- I didn’t even know this author existed- and it was a talk that even the kids enjoyed.

What’s working…

This week as I started my walks with the little boys while Hannah and BenBen are in swim lessons, I felt like I had reached my peak happiness. :) These two months of morning walks are something I look forward to all year. We haven’t gotten into the groove of evenings at the pool yet, but overall the summer routine is lovely.

I am still intermittent fasting. I’m still doing my idea lists. We have running club once a week and we’re starting a troop of Frontier Girls and Quest Boys (alternative scouting program). I feel anxious to do some crafty projects, but that just isn’t happening right now. I keep thinking I’ll find a window of time for them!

From the bookshelf…

  • Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

July goals…

  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • kayak twice
  • play tennis
  • bike once a week
  • long run
  • stargaze twice
  • check out Canada day celebrations
  • make from scratch smores (homemade marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers) and strawberry shortcake with the kids
  • make gelato
  • monthly family adventure

Do you have fun plans for the 4th of July?

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News around the farm…late June

P1120802Kids can make anything into play…this is our pea factory. We all picked peas in the hoophouse. Then inside, BenBen loaded Sammy with peas in the cozy coup, Sammy backed into the pea factory and unloaded for Hannah and me, and she and I shelled them. Load after load after load. It was absolutely and totally fun.

P1120639Lila is producing milk for us, the new calf we acquired, and the 3 little boy goats we recently bought. She last calved a year ago, so it’s pretty amazing that she can still produce this much milk.

P1120752 P1120754 P1120759The other three cows (Rosie, Maple, and holstein) and the many (many!) goats are out to pasture and seemingly content. Like usual, we have no plan for what we’re doing with everyone, but we throw lots of ideas around. We have a pallet collection at our house at the moment as we get ready for hay delivery. We are trying some round bales this year in addition to square bales (round bales are way more economical but harder to manage because we don’t have a tractor or storage space for them). The plan is to put bales on the pallets and cover them with tarps.

Our flock of laying hens give us more eggs than we can eat right now, and the baby chicks are well. They are big! At three weeks old, they do not look like chicks anymore and they are quickly outgrowing their home in the basement. I am not sure where they will live next. Can’t put them with with hens (they would get picked on terribly). Maybe something part inside and part outside? Still thinking on this!

P1120772And our cat, oh my! She is a blessing. This former stray is just the cat our farm was needing. She made quick work of an astonishing number of mice, voles, and shrews, and she is sweet to boot. The one thing she hasn’t dealt with is the very large rat that lives by the chickens. Is it more than she can handle? We’ve put out poison, but rats are smart and he hasn’t touched it. There’s a funny google search for you: how to catch a clever rat!

P1120756 P1120760 P1120765 P1120766 P1120767 P1120769The gardens are coming and fruit trees are growing.

P1120764Awesome cranberry bed! I hope we get berries this year.

 

P1120773Christmas trees and basket willows. Did I tell you how we planted our last round of willows? We literally just stuck the freshly-cut stems into the ground. No holes. No digging. It felt ridiculous, but they grew better than last time when I made little holes for them! I love willows.

P1120763I am so happy with my flower beds around the house. I can’t wait to see how the white garden looks when it blooms!

How is your garden this year?

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Beyond the checklist

Despite my affinity for checklists, I might have a better system for summer.

In northern Maine, summer is a very short season. There are so many things I want to have a part of our days, and I often end the summer with at least 12 things we never did. Living in a rural place, I think we should be able to do everything that is available, but it’s actually hard to make that happen.

A couple years ago I made a checklist of all the fun activities that are available or possible for summer and we’ve dutifully worked our way through the list for a couple years, adding new checkboxes where we find new ideas (I added frisbee golf this year and a few new hikes). Each week would find me figuring out what we have done and what we could do the next week. It took a lot of time and effort. Plus, I ran the risk of ending the season with 12 things to do and one week to do them.

Instead, this year, I planned out the entire summer, not by days (which are hard to predict) but by weeks…all the way through August. Could it all change? Absolutely, but I am excited about it so far. I divided out the hikes and playgrounds and other activities, weighed them as to what time of the summer is best for each one (because it does matter- you don’t want to go on a buggy hike in the early summer!). If we don’t do a particular thing one week, I can always move it- that’s easy.

I’m not over-thinking summer this way. The outline of each week is on paper.

In addition, we’ve had a lot of fun with morning time for school. I packed a bag with all of our materials, so I don’t have to think about or gather anything. We can do everything or just do a few things. In our bag, we have a book about horse care, book of Bible stories, The Life of Fred, a book with paintings that we are discussing, and poems. The kids beg for this!

The theme of this post is clearly: how I have learned to parent and use less of my brain. :)

Next week we start swimming lessons, which will add another lovely dimension to our days….and I’ll be headed out for walks with the little boys. I love summer!

Have you done any fun summer activities yet?

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the hardest list to make

I’ve been working on becoming an idea machine and cranking out lists of 10 ideas for all kinds of subjects. It’s super fun, but I didn’t anticipate the most uncomfortable list of yet to make….10 things I could do differently.

Funny note: It’s easy to come up with 10 things I have recently started doing differently. Goodness, in the last month I’ve transitioned to a cell phone, started taking coffee without sweetener, I’m getting up early again, intermittent fasting, switched to driving a minivan, changed my planner system,…..

But to come up with 10 things I could do differently from the place I am is exceptionally hard. It could be anything! And yet to say I could do differently was admitting that maybe now I wasn’t doing it the right way or that I was needing change. I wasn’t even putting it on myself that I needed to implement any of these changes! Yet, putting it out there, opens up that possibility and it was stretching me in a way I would not call comfortable.

I could give myself an earlier bedtime.

I could do laundry only two days a week or cooking one day and planning for it to last for a week.

I could give myself a set routine for evenings.

I could try taking notes on my phone instead of paper.

I could exercise in the morning (so I actually do it).

I could start going in and out through the entry of our house instead of the side door.

I could sit on the floor for my morning reading time, instead of the couch, since floor sitting is healthier (although this isn’t possible the mornings Micah is awake).

I could read Don Quixote (I’m working on the Well Educated Mind novel list…oh yeah, first book!) in the morning instead of trying to squeeze it in later in the day.

There are a million possibilities, but it was hard to even find one when I started. I think of myself as being open to change….oh, the truth hurts!

And immediately, because I knew they were the right thing to do, I implemented an earlier bedtime, floor sitting in the morning, and reading Don Quixote (or whatever Well-Educated Mind read I’m on) in the morning. The changes feel good.

Any things you’ve started doing differently of late?

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