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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For someone who loves lists and loves ideas, the habit of daily generating lists on different topics is infinitely appealing. I read a blog post about becoming an idea machine recently, and I have had so much fun implementing this idea.

The author claims that by generating lists of 10 ideas on various subjects every single day, he completely reinvents his life every 6 months. After three weeks, I am convinced that this is a true.

The topic can be anything. I have to come up with 10 ideas for it within a day- they don’t have to be good ideas and there does not have to be an action step that follows. Yet, by putting some ideas into my awareness, I will take action on them. It’s a very positive exercise.

I have made lists for 10 easy ideas to improve our house, 10 things to improve our farm, 10 ideas to improve our library, 10 ideas for starting a composting business, 10 things I should learn about, 10 things I learned this past week, 10 ways to love on the kids, 10 conversations to have with Hannah…you get the idea.

Generally, 5 ideas come pretty easily on any topic, and the last 5 can be excruciating to eek out. Like I said, there is no expectation that I must do anything I write down. The purpose of the exercise is to think more deeply and see possibilities. Yet, I would say that on average 2 actions come out of each list of 10, and these are 2 things that weren’t previously on my radar. If there is something I am dissatisfied with, making a list of how to make it better, forces me to think in the positive, how I can be an agent for change.

I am committed to doing this for the summer, or three months. Then, I can continue or not. Everything so far from this has been productive and it’s a lovely habit that doesn’t take time where I am already pressed.

Back in high school, I kept a notebook with quotes and bits from books to keep. I am not sure how or why I started this habit, but I did it faithfully for several years. This past year, I ran across several sources that hailed the benefits of keeping inspiring or thought-provoking passages in a common place: a commonplace book. I read lots of books but I find the challenge to be giving myself time to mull over the things I want to pull out of them and find the common thread in what is speaking to me. It’s a little habit, but the value to me seemed obvious.

It’s not a journal (although I do keep one); this is a separate notebook and a place to record bits from books or a conversation. By writing down the words that speak to me, I am taking them in a little deeper. What I don’t have a plan for yet, is how or when to review them, because that is where the value really comes out.

Are you familiar with the idea machine? Have you tried it? Do you keep a commonplace book? If so, how do you review it?

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I never thought I’d do that!

I never wanted an indoor outdoor cat. In fact, at some point I said I’d never do that….so it’s no surprise that now we have an indoor outdoor cat and I love it. This is a female cat, but BenBen got started calling her Mr. Cat and that seemed so cute that we’ve all adopted the name.

P1120535Meet Mr. Cat. She spends all day curled up on Hannah’s bed (only Hannah’s bed) and she spends all night hunting outdoors. We know she can hunt because she leaves us presents of entire rodents that she has caught. They are literally all over our driveway.

I couldn’t feel happier about it. We had a massive rodent problem (we have grain for animals) and now I know there are a few less.

In other, I never thought I’d do that news, I have been intermittent fasting for over 4 weeks. I typically have issues with low blood sugar, so fasting is not something I’ve rushed to do. However, I have no low blood sugar issues with this. My usual fast is 16 hours, but I have done as many as 18 hours, and I feel really good.

I am hungry but not to the point that I can’t function- I can even go running towards the end of the fast and be fine. Doing all my eating within an 8 hour period means that I’m skipping breakfast every day (contrary to conventional wisdom…supposedly the “most important meal of the day”), but then I’m eating my normal food, which is primarily not processed and high in animal fats. I’m not dieting or depriving myself of any food I want. I just eat in all in a certain window.

I am more conscious of when I’m actually hungry and more conscious of how foods make me feel (too much sugar or carbs and my energy is terrible). I was not trying to lose weight but I’ve lost an inch or two around the waist, based on how my belt fits. A couple weeks ago, I had 3 days of the worst body odor ever and then it passed (I must have been detoxing something). But more than anything, I appreciate the increase in consciousness it’s giving me about food.

I feel very strongly that I wouldn’t want anything I write to promote consumerism, but I will confess to an accidental purchase that I’ve in the end been happy with. At Christmas, I realized a few days beforehand that I’d forgotten one present that I wanted to buy and it seemed important at the moment (likely it wasn’t, but in the moment I cared a lot). I could get a free 1 month trial of amazon prime and get the present in time, so I did it. I wrote on my calendar the day to cancel prime so I wouldn’t get charged for it. I felt so smart. A month later, I went to cancel it, and I had written down the wrong day! Talk about total humility. I confessed my waste of money to John, and he graciously laughed at me- he so wasn’t worried about it.

And I love it. I am not sure if it’s saving me money but it might be. Now I literally only go to our little small town grocery store. I don’t go into any other stores. Our grocery doesn’t sell scotch tape- no worries. An odd grocery item- covered. A random art supply Hannah needs- done. It saves the obvious time, but also saves me from impulse buys. None of us want to think of ourselves as impulse buyers, least of all me. But, I can occasionally get sucked in to a “great deal”. Not on anything big or expensive, but those little things do add up. So, I’m not saying that I am definitely saving money, because I have no data to back that up, but I am spending less. In the end, it wasn’t such a bad mistake.

And I got a cell phone. Yes, you read that right. I still have mixed feelings about it, but the bottom line is we have more data for internet at home and we are saving quite a bit of money each month (I’m using John’s old phone). I’m not totally converted yet and I hope it’s a good thing. I am working on some ground rules for myself, because I feel very strongly that I don’t want to be on it all the time.

Do you have any I Never Thought I’d Do That’s?

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New critters

P1120625This is written in the midst of our second egg hatching with the incubator…11 healthy chicks are pictured, with 3 more out but not yet dry. We are still waiting for action on 5 eggs…crossing my fingers. Knowing that some chicks are bound to be roosters, we really need more than 14 chicks, but of course we’ll take what we get.

Last night, the kids watched 2 chicks completely hatch out of their eggs. It’s a patience-inducing process. They kept asking if they could help the chick when it was taking awhile. No no no. The chick has to do the work. I asked the kids, “Do you think this is hard or easy for the chick?” Hard!

P1120635And that hour was exactly why we’re doing this, plus that they get to hold the chicks whenever they get the urge and we get super healthy chicks to start a new flock of laying hens.

P1120637John surprised me this week when he came home one day with a bull calf, part Jersey but mostly Holstein. We need a bull to breed Lila and the two heifers, Rosie and Maple. This guy is only a week old, so it’ll be a little while before he’s big enough to do the job (8-9 months). It’s a logical addition, and Lila has plenty of milk for feeding him.

Today, John is purchasing a new billy goat. We still have Bert from last year, but we question if our kidding problems were a result of too big of babies from Bert, a Swiss Alpine. This new billy will be a LaMancha, like our other goats. Honestly, we don’t have a goat plan, but this is the time of year that people sell billy goats. If we have any thought of keeping goats, we have to get a billy now. We can always sell him in the fall with our other cull goats!

The ever changing menagerie of the farm!

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