and the winner is...

Tami!  Thanks to all who entered the (in)spired deals giveaway!  I really love to be able to partner with some amazing businesses to offer fun things to my readers.  Stay tuned!  I have a couple great giveaways coming up in the next couple of months!  Tami, I will be e-mailing you shortly for some information.

knitting for babes

I love it!  I can't get enough of it, and that is good since I will have a new little niece or nephew to knit for in a few short months!  Of course, once they start growing...well...nothing ever turns out how I expect.  I have started knitting a cute little vest for the newest little in my family.  And since we don't know whether the babe will be a girl or boy, I am just going with soft rather than a specific color :-)  I do love this brown though, and I think it will be perfect for a fall baby :-)

As far as reading goes, well I am in a bit of a slump.  I read all the Fifty Shades novels in about a week, and now I can't quite find something that will keep my interest for more than five seconds.  Even my beloved non-fiction is coming up short.  Instead, I have been listening to a lot of music on Pandora :-)  There is something about the Tran-Siberian Orchestra that is soothing to me!  If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

I am linking up with Ginny for her yarn along today :-)  Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a beautiful bag and teacup here.

planting and life lessons

I didn't get all of my planting done.  Surprised?  I'm not.  Usually I do such a good job of getting everything in the ground (or pots) by the end of Memorial Day weekend.  This weekend was a little unusual in the fact that Matt was working on the chicken coop the entire weekend, so he wasn't as able to help me with digging and tilling and corralling the babes :-)  Now we have a few days of rain to contend with, but hopefully by the end of the week it will dry out enough for me to finish planting.

I realized that I didn't get nearly as many tomato seedlings as I usually get, which means I will be driving back to the greenhouse for more seedlings.  I try to plant as many tomatoes as possible, because I love tomatoes, and because I try to preserve enough for the winter.  It never seems to pan out.  I can't figure out how many pounds of tomatoes I need, how many jars of salsa I really will go through, and whether or not I want to push tomatoes through some type of grinder in order to have tomato sauce.  Instead, I just plant as many as I possibly can, and hope for the best.

Hoping for the best seems to be my mantra when it comes to gardening.  I never seem to do the conventional gardening techniques, I don't plant in rows - instead it is more of clumps.  I don't weed nearly as much as I should, and I forget to label things, which means I rarely know what is growing where until the vegetable shows up.

This past month I feel like we have taken several steps forward when it comes to our house, and making it a home.  With every spring in the past we have thought of selling our house (we even thought that this spring), but this year we finally committed to staying here, and actually living here which is something we haven't tried before.  When we were always looking towards our "next step" we would just float through our time here.  Not the most pleasant ways to live.  I am finally understanding make your place.  And while I still want to move to our land and build a little house and have some goats and chickens running around, I need to settle into what we have currently.

Oh those life lessons!  They certainly are a struggle to learn.  Is there anything new that you are learning about your life these days?

I'm linking up at the Homesteader Blog Carnival.

Memorial Day Weekend

Happy Memorial Day!  I hope that everyone is having a wonderful weekend!  We are still going strong at our house.  I was able to get a lot of planting done, Matt was able to get started on our long overdo chicken coop. So, today will be a post full of pictures :-)  Will be back tomorrow with more words!

I love my irises.  They come up every year.  I do nothing to them.  And they are TALL.  Well, I don't know how tall irises are supposed to be, these are about 4 1/2 feet tall.  But, they are beautiful!

Peonies...a lot of them.  They are beautiful.  Mine are always covered in ants.  I have heard that ants help to open the peonies, but I have a feeling that is an old wives tail, and the ants are just attracted to something sweet on the buds.

My blue hubbard squash is growing quite well.  Do you see those little black dots?  Yes, those would be the flea beetles.  Fast little suckers.  Diatomaceous earth it is!  Apparently this stuff is great at getting rid of bad things in the garden as well as around the house.  I bought two boxes and will be applying it liberally to all of my veggies...

Because they are also eating my mustard greens...and bok choy...and spinach.  I have heard that they particularly like tomatoes and peppers, and there is no way I am letting something eat those :-)

Found this little guy jumping around the steps.

Brought the ladies outside to play for the day.  They loved it.  When we took them in Saturday night, they all collapsed in a heap and fell asleep.  It was really funny.  They also didn't really venture out into the yard at all.  Instead, they mainly stayed under our stairs, and sat on one of the saw horses :-)

Matt started working on the chicken coop...

Looks great so far.  And Emma made it a point to bring each of the chicks over to the floor to try it out.  They seemed to approve!

I got a lot of plants put in pots as well.  We still have a lot to put in the ground, but I like to have backup tomatoes in pots...and my peppers do better in the earth boxes than in the ground.  In the front I have a San Marzano tomato plant, a brandywine, in the middle are 6 roma tomato plants - 4 in the pots, 2 in the earth box - in the next row I have an earth box of jalapenos (6) and one of sweet belle (6).  The large pot in the middle is sugar baby watermelon (which never grows even though Emma picks it every year).  In the back left corner of the first picture - pickling cucumbers.  I have nothing in the two white pots yet, not sure what I will plant, maybe summer squash or herbs or lettuce :-)

The weather was beautiful.  We were all outside for at least 12 hours everyday, and we plan to do it again today.  Can't complain with this weather.  I hope it keeps up.  Although, some intermittent rain would help.  You know, not 2 weeks straight of rain followed by 2 weeks of 80 + degree weather.  But a few days of sun, then a couple showers one day.  That would be nice!

What have you been up to this weekend?  I am linking up at the Rural Thursday today!  Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a beautiful tote bag and teacup here!

flea beetles and other garden happenings

This weekend is the big gardening weekend in Maine.  It is when 90% of people put their plants/seeds in the ground.  I will be one of those people.  I plan to go to the greenhouse to get my tomato seedlings tomorrow morning.  We have a bit more to do around the garden - ie weed wack the perimeter.  For some reason we can't get close enough with the lawn mower, and it gets a little out of control :-)

In other garden news, my greens are being destroyed by flea beetles.  I don't think they are the adult ones, they are so tiny, so a lot of this weekend will also be spent trying to figure out how to get rid of them.  Does anyone have an idea?  I have heard to use food grade diatomaceous earth, but I have no idea what this is, or where I can get some.  The other thing I read was neem clue what that is.  I have never done anything for my garden pest wise besides picking slugs and tomato horn worms off plants...I want it to be as natural and organic as possible, but if these flea beetles are going to kill everything I plant...well I have to do something!

What else will we be doing this weekend?  Hopefully building the dang chicken coop.  Our little ladies are definitely getting a little big for their temporary housing.  They enjoy going outside to play with the kids, and Emma is a little chicken mama which is adorable.  And actually, her older cousin was a natural with our chicks as well!

Since I have such a long list of to do's this weekend, I will be light today on the posting!  I hope everyone has an amazing Memorial Day weekend!  And don't forget to enter the great giveaway for a tote and teacup!

(in)spired deals review and giveaway!

I was so excited to be selected this month to do a review for (in)spired deals!  The products that come out of there are so inspiring, and well crafted!  I was sent the wonderful Good Things - Teacup and Tote set.  And what a set it is.

The bag is excellent quality.  I thought when I was receiving it that it would most likely be a re-usable bag for the grocery store, not the case at all.  It is well crafted of a heavy material that is easily cleaned by wiping with a cloth.  The interior is a beautiful yellow fabric that make me happy to look at - yellow is one of my favorite colors.  The top is held together by a magnet clasp, and there are pockets inside to store what you need.

This bag is perfect for going out for the day.  I found that I could store a couple of diapers and wipes, as well as all of my other needed mama things, in the bag with no problem.  The straps were comfortable as well, which is important when you end up lugging around half of your house just to get to the grocery store...

I was also sent a beautiful tea cup with a lid.  I have been drinking a lot more tea lately, and this teacup is inspiring to drink from.  With the verse: He fills my life with good things Psalm 103:5, it is a lovely reminder to think of what I am thankful for.

Being a mom is such a blessing.  Sometimes we don't realize how wonderful it is, especially when we are in up to our elbows in dirty diapers, and trying to get food into babes mouths instead of on the walls or floor!  I never expected to feel so much love for my children as I do.  Of course I knew that I would love them, but the depth of that love is amazing.  Each day to see their smiling faces look up at me and smile, or to tell me that they love me, it is amazing.  And the verse on this teacup reminded me of that.

And you, dear readers, are going to now have a chance to win this same set from DaySpring!  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post.  Easy peasy :-)  And for extra entries, do the following, and then leave a comment that you did it!

Follow my blog on GFC
Follow me on Twitter
Tweet about this giveaway
Share this giveaway on Facebook

I will keep the comments open until May 31st, and then draw the winner!  Please make sure that you leave an e-mail address so that I can get in touch with you if you win!

*DaySpring sent me this tote and teacup set in return for my review.  However, all the opinions shared are my own.

I am linking up at Giveaway Day!

what i'm not knitting

It's Wednesday again!  Already!  It seems like the weeks just fly by.  Of course, that is nothing new around here, but the addition of the warm sunny weather makes us want to get outside.  Then, before we know it, it is rest time, then time to get ready for dinner and a walk!

Needless to say, not an awful lot of knitting has been done over the past week.  I am still diligently working on my kitchen rags.  I am sure I will continue to knit them until I run out of extra yarn.  Since I am not using a pattern it makes it the easiest project to bring outside with me while the kids are playing, or if I have some free moments to knit a couple rows.  I am hoping to start knitting one of those adorable vests that I have seen on oh so many cute babes in the past several weeks with this lovely brown organic cotton.  It is so soft in my hands!

As far as reading goes, I have jumped onto the Fifty Shades bandwagon.  My goodness it isn't for the faint of heart!  I guess that I need to read about books before I get involved in a story.  I have to say, I had heard the hype, but I didn't pay attention to what was being said about why there was hype.  Now I know!

And in a completely different realm, I just started reading Radical, which I saw someone reading last week in the yarn along.  I am only through the first chapter, but I like what the author seems to be setting up about how we need to fully give our lives over to God.

Joining in with Ginny and her yarn along today!  Can't wait to see what everyone else is knitting and reading!  And be sure to come back tomorrow for a review and a lovely giveaway from DaySpring!

Guest Blog - Catherine of Yeah Baby It's Cold Outside

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Hug a Tree With Me about my homemade all purpose cleaner recipe, and I’m excited to welcome Catherine from Yeah Baby it's Cold Outside to Townsend House:

Hi everyone. My name is Catherine and I blog about eco-living and parenting over at Yeah Baby It's Cold Outside. I am very excited to write a guest post here at Townsend House for the 2nd annual Ultimate Blog Swap. I decided to write about a hot topic in the eco nerd world today: Urban Homesteading. This, of course, is just a fancy way of saying getting back to traditional skills which increase self-sufficiency (most of which are very environmentally friendly.)

Picture a couple raising a family on a farm in the early 1800's. What do you see? A few animals providing meat and dairy? Handmade clothes drying on the line. A large garden providing not only food for the family, but also the livestock. You walk through the front door into the kitchen and down to the cellar. There are vegetable packed in sand, herbs hung up to dry and jars of preserved foods to survive the winter.

Sounds romantic, doesn't it?

But not everyone wants to live so extremely, and urban homesteading is a modern version that allows you to pick and choose what you most want to do yourself, while leaving you the option of going to the grocery store or (gasp) fast food chain, should you so desire. One of the more popular aspects of urban homesteading seems to be preserving food: whether home grown or from another source.

While I did not garden last year, I did take part in a community sustained agriculture (CSA) farm that provided me with lots of veggies. We paid for our share at the start of the year and received a weekly box of organic vegetable from June to October (the growing season in northern Ontario). As a veggie hater, my husband left it up to me to eat most of what we received. Naturally, I had lots of leftover veggies.

What's a girl to do?

I had recently purchased a few good books on urban homesteading and root cellaring (see below), so I decided to take a stab at food preservation. I made a few small batches of canned tomatoes, cured the leftover onions, garlic and gourds (of which there were many), and buried the potatoes and carrots in sand.

I would love to say that everything went off without a hitch, but that is not the case. While canning the tomatoes was relatively easy, I grossly miscalculated how much I needed. A huge mountain of tomatoes amounted to only about 15 jars of different sizes, which lasted me roughly two months.

The gourds cured nicely and were piled onto wooden shelves in a cool, dark spot in my basement. I used a few around December (two months after storing them) and they made a fantastic, warm comfort food. The ability to make roasted butternut squash soup in the middle of winter from your own veggies is incredible. Mind you, there is only so much soup you can eat before you think you will start dreaming of squash

I had read about vacuum packing beats with a food saver and storing them in the fridge. They sealed perfectly and stacked easily out-of-the-way in the crisper drawer. The challenge here was that they took up a lot of room in the fridge, when they could have easily been stored in sand. Also, for reasons I still don't understand, all of the bags lost their vacuum seal and puffed up like pillows. There must be some sort of gas that forms in the bag that lead to this. I only noticed this when the glass shelf over the crisper started to slant. By then it was too late. They had a weird slime that I was unsure of. They ended up in the vegetable graveyard (compost pile).

Lastly my experience with the carrots and potatoes was the most amusing. Packed in layers of sand in recycling boxes in the same room as the squash, they remained well-preserved for a large chunk of the winter. The only thing I didn't do as well as I should have is maintain a slightly damp sand. For this reason they slowly began to shrivel in the sand. By the spring I was of the mind that if I ignored them they would go away.

They did not.

This is a picture of what has happened during my stage of preservation denial.

So where does that leave me? By reading this you may believe that I failed miserably or that I wasted more food than preserved. What didn't work out ended up in the composter, contributing to this years excellent gardening soil. What went well gave me the confidence to try again this coming fall. One thing is clear, I will need to look at my failures objectively in order to make a more efficient and successful preservation system.

With no elders to help me, I am doing what I can on my own; trying my best to preserve my sanity while I deal with the reality of my homesteading dream.

Further Reading

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
Urban Homesteader Blog

Visit Life Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!

garlic - what is wrong with it?

I think my garlic might be dying.  Is that possible?  I have never planted garlic, but for some reason I thought that garlic and onions were pretty much immune to issues...

I planted my garlic late last October, I thought that I had planted it at the right time, but then we had a stretch of extremely warm weather.  This was followed by a completely abnormal winter, with barely any snow, and lots of 50 degree weather - trust me, for Maine this is strange :-)

I was so excited when the garlic started to poke through the ground.  I have 18 heads of garlic growing, however, now it seems that some of them have stopped growing.  The outer leaves are yellowing and dying back.  I don't know if it is because I need to start harvesting garlic - in May? is this possible? - or if some unknown pest is killing them.

I do have one mole hole in my garlic bed, but I filled it in, and it hasn't opened up again.  Do moles eat garlic?  Perhaps this is why it seems to be dying.  Does anyone have any experience with this?  I'm not entirely sure what to do.  We have had quite a bit of rain the past couple of weeks, maybe that is the problem?  Maybe the stretch of sun and warmth the next several days will help them perk up again?

In the rest of the garden, my peas/spinach/swiss chard/bok choy/lettuce/mustard greens, they are all doing really well.  And my blue hubbard squash is poking out of the hills I made.  Of course, now that I have said that, I am sure some woodchuck is going to come and demolish my greens!

I am linking up to the Barn Hop today, can't wait to see what is going on with everyone else!

need new meal ideas?

So do I.  It is part of the reason I am super excited about the 30 day vegan workshop.  We are in between seasons for food right now.  Right at the end of all the good root veggies from last fall.  The strawberry season won't be for several weeks.  And all we have right now are greens.  Lots and lots of glorious spring greens.  Which is good, since I have been trying to eat a salad every day.

I recently started making a new salad dressing to have with my salad.  I have never been one for store bought dressings, instead I typically will use oil and vinegar, but that can get a little boring.  I also wanted to have something ready made so that I wouldn't always be grabbing the olive oil and vinegar and some spices.  It doesn't take a lot of time to just drizzle olive oil and vinegar, but when I have two crazy kids running around, I will take all the extra seconds I can get!

Salad Dressing makes ~ 1cup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Bragg apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon brown spicy mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Pour in a jar and shake it up.  I make this at the beginning of the week, and it just sits on my counter all week ready for when I have my salad.

Do you have a favorite salad dressing recipe?  What are you eating these days?

30 Day Vegan

This is an ongoing series about my adventures during the 30 day vegan workshop offered by Heather Bruggeman.  Welcome!

I am so excited because the 30 day vegan workshop has *unofficially* started.  The actual class starts on Monday, however, the class website opened yesterday.  I took Heather's first 30 day vegan workshop last year.  I was ready for it, or so I thought.  Instead, I fizzled out after 2 weeks, feeling unhappy because I had gained weight doing a vegan diet.  I realized that I was carbo loading, instead of eating a lot of fresh fruit and veggies.  Oh, I was doing that too, but I was also eating a lot of pasta and beans and grains.

This year is different in so many ways.  I feel more at peace this time around.  Life is not quite as stressful as it was over a year ago.  For one thing, I don't have a 6 month old baby and an almost 3 year old.  Instead I have a freshly turned 4 year old and a 21 month old - both who are much more capable of playing together and not needing mama quite so much!  And I think that over the past year I have learned quite a bit about myself, my diet, my habits relating to food.  Not that I am perfect, I don't pretend to be at all, but I have hopes for this workshop.

I recently finished Heather's Whole Food Kitchen workshop.  She isn't offering it again this year, but when she does, everyone should take that class.  It was an incredible wealth of information, and a perfect precursor to this class.  This class isn't just about changing your diet to vegan.  It is about wellness for all aspects of your life.  I think that is really important, without having balance in the other aspects of your life, changing your diet isn't going to have the desired outcome.  This time the workshop, for me, will be about all around wellness.

Over the past several months I have worked to get most dairy out of my life - cheese is my weakness.  I do still have dairy on occasion - especially if I have coffee in the morning - but overall, I am pretty much dairy free, and I like it.  We are still getting fresh eggs from the farm, and I do some baking on the weekends for my family - muffins/pancakes/frittatas - so I don't expect that to change, but I will try to stay away from it in favor of my green smoothies.

There is still a discount code available at Fimby.  Renee is a contributor to this workshop, and she keeps a vegan kitchen for her family of 5!  What an inspiration!

Is anyone else out there doing this workshop?  I would love to get to know you in the comments!

yarn along!

I have the uncanny ability to give away what I knit before taking a final picture.  Why is that?  I think, perhaps, that I get a little too excited to give away something I have made, that the actual documentation portion of the craft falls a bit short.  I had hoped to take a picture of the three little pockets that I made for the girls this past weekend, unfortunately, it didn't happen.

I was really happy with them, and the girls really liked them.  The entire day was a success!  I even had the opportunity to show my niece how to finger knit, and she picked it up immediately.  She made an adorable "skinny" scarf out of the left over yarn from the pockets.  Of course I didn't get a picture of that either...

As far as reading goes, it is the time of year when I start thinking about local eating, and how I wish all of my food came from local sources.  Yet, I am still drinking tea and coffee and buying bananas every week :-)

I think that Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life were the first books about eating an entirely local, seasonal diet.  These books have been on my shelves for a couple years now, and every spring I seem to want to read them again.  We are able to source the majority of what we would need, food wise, locally.  However, I haven't made the jump yet, to say that I will only eat was is available locally.  It is something that I think about a lot though.  It is something that I have talked to my husband about doing for years.  Maybe this year will be the year we make that leap.

Do you source the majority of your food locally?  Are you scared to make the commitment to only eat locally, like I am?

I am joining in with Ginny and her yarn along this week.

lessons I have learned

I have learned a couple lessons over the past few weeks, since I have started our "official" homeschooling.  I say official because Emma would be put into a four year old program this coming fall, if we were to go the public school route.

The first lesson I have learned is - don't keep to the schedule.  Emma loves some books, doesn't like others, loves math, isn't ready for all the writing.  It is amazing to watch her learn, and to work with her on different subjects.

We started with the Singapore Early Bird Math.  We have only done it 3 days - not consecutive days - and she has already completed the first 3 units.  There are 5 units in the first book, and two books in this first program.  I am thinking we will need to buy the next math program by the end of the summer.  I actually have to make her stop the math, or it might be all she does during our homeschool time.

Emma just turned four this past Saturday, and while she can write her name, she isn't all that interested in writing, or reading herself for that matter.  She knows the letters, upper and lower case; she knows all the sounds, but she would prefer me to read to her.  That is fine with me, I love reading, and as long as she sits still (she does) I will read whatever, and she loves it.

The second lesson I have learned is - don't expect her to match people her own age.  As her parent, I feel like she is advanced, of course that is probably not completely accurate :-)  However, I do feel like she is ahead in some things.  My main purpose is for her to enjoy learning.

This is such an amazing age, where she is constantly curious.  She is able to communicate well and tell me what she is looking for or wanting to do.  She knows her interests, and has enough independence to figure out her own opinions (although maybe not entirely accurate).

My school district puts their curriculum online.  Not the actual books and week by week lessons, but it does have the main concepts that are studied, what the child is expected to learn, etc.  I am so happy to have that available to me.  While, I don't want her to be stuck in a certain program, I do want to make sure that I am hitting on the same things that the public school would teach, while also giving her the chance to explore her own interests.  You may not believe that a four year old is capable of having their own interests, but when given some choices, she usually finds something extremely educational to look at - see math above.

I don't want to compare her to other children, because I firmly believe that all children learn differently.  However, I do think that keeping an idea of what children her age are learning, and whether or not it is actually in line with how she is, is very important.

What are some of the lessons you learned in your first weeks of a new school year?  What should I be looking out for?!

I am linking up at the Hip Homeschool Hop.

family cloth

There has been a lot of buzz recently about family cloth - do you know what it is?  The choice to not buy rolls and rolls of toilet paper, and instead use cloth wipes for your special bathroom needs :-)  I haven't written too much about it, since it is definitely a personal thing, and something most people find completely insane.  However, I decided today was the day!

We do use family cloth - for everything.  I decided to use family cloth after I had my first baby.  We were cloth diapering, and using cloth wipes on her.  It wasn't an immediate thing.  In fact, it wasn't even on my radar until I saw a post by Sara at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly - which I can't seem to find now.  But it was a picture of her little basket with all these pretty wipes in it, and that made me want to try it.

So, after perfecting my wipe solution recipe, I did it.  I stopped buying toilet paper, and started using the wipes.  My husband wasn't immediately on board.  I think that it is definitely something that people need to get used to, and he had a bit of time to get used to it.  But, when the toilet paper ran out, and he had no other choice in the matter, well, he liked it.

Warning: Gross personal discussion below!

There is a definite ick factor with cloth wipes.  I have heard of lots of families that will only use it for #1.  For some reason, after I had kids, I no longer was grossed out by anything, and this would be one of those things that gross most people out.  As I said above, we were already cloth diapering, so we already had a system in place for cleaning the diapers and wipes.  However, baby poo is a lot different than adult poo.  What has really helped, in my opinion, is bumGenius Diaper Sprayer.  Just like with the babes' diapers/wipes, we spray them before they go in the bucket, which cleans off most of the wipe.  I think that if I had to go in and deal with my husband's wipes, all bets would be off, but I don't touch them - and never will :-)

When I go to do laundry, I dump the entire bucket in the washing machine, do a rinse, hot wash with my homemade laundry soap, and then dry them outside or in the dryer on hot.  They come out fresh and clean, and we haven't turned back since.

It has been almost 4 years since we started using family cloth.  There have definitely been some awkward moments when explaining to friends and family.  Of course I continue to encourage my family and friends to try it - to which they all nervously laugh and wonder if I will have toilet paper when they come to visit.  I do; I keep a couple rolls on reserve for guests.

So tell me, do you use family cloth?  Would you consider it?  Do you think that if your family tried it once, they would be on board, like my husband, or do you think they would jump out a window to get away from it instead?  My kids don't know any different, so there is no issue for my oldest on using the wipes.  I think that is the key, they won't be grossed out if it is something they have always done!

I am linking up at the Barn Hop and the Homesteader Blog Carnival

Short Break!

I hope you all are enjoying this wonderful week!  I am going to be taking a short break due to my babe turning 4 this weekend!  Oh my, I can't believe how fast the past 4 years have gone.  It has been an absolute joy to become a mama to this little girl, and to her brother as well.  So, I will be in celebration mode for the next several days, hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  I will be back on Monday!

Today is a special day!

It is a certain niece's birthday today :-)  I can't believe that today she is 8!  What a special girl she is, and I hope that she has an amazing day today!

This is a pretty important week overall though, because Saturday is my Emma's 4th birthday.  I also can't believe that she will be 4 on Saturday.  She has grown so much over the past four years, and everyday is growing more.  The things she comes up with surprise me everyday, and I am so thankful to have her in my life!

Because of her special day, I am trying to knit up some of those cute little pockets that I have seen all over the place for these two special little girls (and a third little girl who has a birthday coming up in 6 short weeks :-)).  I thought they would make a nice little favor idea, of course I didn't come up with this until last night.  So the fact that I only have one partially made is slightly concerning.  But, they knit up fast, so I am thinking it will be a breeze to get these done...well that is my hope.

On the reading front, I am still reading Depletion and Abundance, as well as Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.    What I really like about this Herbal Recipes book, is that it isn't just about herbs, well that is a large part of it, she also talks about different foods that you can eat to strengthen you, foods you should avoid.  There are quite a few herbs I have never heard of, and because of that will probably be buying instead of growing them - at least for a while.  I'm not even sure all of these herbs can be grown in my area, but I will try my hardest to grow the ones that seem to matter the most to me.

I am also starting Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx.  My high school English teacher gave me this book shortly before I graduated, he thought I would enjoy it.  I assumed that I would enjoy it as well, but never ended up reading it.  When I went to college my love of reading was slightly diminished by all the required reading that I had to do, in fact I didn't even really start reading for pleasure and my own desire to learn until after college...sad I know...but it is what it is!  So, since my desk is now facing my book shelves, I have been staring at this book for a week.  I realized it was time to pick it up!

Joining in with Ginny and her yarn along again today!  Did your reading feel stifled in college?  I ended up taking two women's lit classes just so I could read some decent fiction - I was a Business major with a macro-economics concentration...silly I know :-)

living what you love

A few weeks ago I talked about teaching your kids to love learning.  This weekend I actually noticed it happening.  We had a few nice days in a row, which was amazing after a week straight of rain and cold!  So of course I was outside in the garden.  We also brought the chicks outside for their first experience outdoors as well.  I wanted to get some more seeds in the ground - something I am constantly thinking about.  Of course, my kids wanted to help me.

Emma especially has shown a natural gravity towards our chicks and also the garden.  Every time we are outside, she wants to plant something, she wants to dig up something, or turn the compost pile.  I know that most kids love being outside, but I think that because I am so passionate about food and the garden, she is becoming the same way as well.

She also has a natural affinity to the chicks.  I know that chicks are extremely cute and cuddly looking, but I wasn't sure how my almost 4 year old would do with them.  Would they scare her as they got a bit larger, would she squeeze them too hard by accident.  Nope, none of the above.  In fact, when we all went outside, the chicks just followed the kids around the yard, wherever the kids were, the chicks would follow.  It was incredibly cute.

When planting the seeds I would explain how to put one seed down at a time, or to scatter them, and she would listen.  Jack...well he just likes to throw the seeds...and then the dirt, but that's ok :-)  They were so interested in what I was doing, and wanted to follow my lead.  It was incredibly encouraging to see my passions showing up in their lives.

Now, I know that gardening and raising chickens isn't for everyone, but we are learning quite a lot right now, and I love to see that light in my babes' eyes and the connection that they are making to the outdoors.  I think this homeschooling/unschooling/reading/playing outside thing that we are attempting to do, well, it is working.  I want my kids to have passion in their lives, and if they see us living what we love, I think that will happen naturally.

Are you living what you love?  How do your kids respond to it?  I am linking up at the Hip Homeschool Hop!

i planted winter squash today...

I think it is too early.  It has been raining and cold here for the past week, but this weekend it was warm and sunny.  I immediately wanted to plant something.  So I decided on my favorite winter squash, blue hubbard.  My mom used to grow these in her garden.  I have wanted to grow them every year since we moved into our house (seven years ago).  They can grow quite large.  The ones my mom used to grow would be around 20 lbs.

Most people have butternut squash at Thanksgiving, we are blue hubbard people.  When I was little I used to call it old mother hubbard squash.  It would give my mom a good laugh.  And now, when we talk about our Thanksgiving menu, I will ask her if she got the old mother hubbard squash from the market.  Trying to cut that thing open is pretty much impossible, so we like to have a little game of throwing them as hard off the deck onto a piece of cement as possible.  It definitely is a fun thing to do the day before Thanksgiving when we are getting food ready!

There has always been some reason or another that it didn't happen.  This year, I finally did it.  But, if it is too early, I have a backup plan.  I am planting some indoors as well, to have has seedlings which I will plant at the end of the month.  It is a vegetable that I have a lot of good memories about.  Funny how we can feel so connected to certain foods, for me it is blue hubbard squash, and my mom's sugar cookies.

I am itching to be outside this year though.  Most years I don't even get outside until the end of May, not because the weather isn't nice, but because we are zone 5a (we were 4b until just recently).  I have been pushing the envelope a bit more in the past couple of years.  We have had some pretty big frosts in the past couple of weeks though, and I am sure my spinach is fried.  Peas are doing well though, and so is the garlic.

I guess I feel such an urgency on making sure I have as much in the garden as possible.  Making sure that we have food to eat is slightly more stressful than me goofing off with how many different varieties of tomatoes and peppers I can plant in as small a space as possible.  With a very short growing season, having enough never seems possible if I do it on my own, but I am giving it my best effort!

Is there something you have always wanted to plant, but haven't?  Will this be the year you try?  Do you have a short or long growing season?  All of you bloggers with tomatoes already ripening, if you want to send the warm weather my way, I would appreciate it!

I am linking up at the Barn Hop and Rural Thursday!  And I know the chicken pictures have nothing to do with my planting of winter squash, but it was their first time outside this weekend, and I figured they would be a lot nicer to look at than a couple of hills of dirt!

thinking ahead to the harvest

I have been thinking a lot about what I plan to grow in the garden this year.  It doesn't help that I have read so many other posts about how well their tomatoes are coming along, when I haven't even thought about putting a tomato in the ground yet!  Tomatoes are by far my favorite thing to grow, I never can enough of them, and I hope to have a lot more this year.

Today, I would love it if you would share with me your favorite thing to preserve from your own harvest.  I would really like to get some ideas on what other people want to keep through the winter.  Obviously, our choice to not do a CSA this summer has put a lot more pressure on me to get my garden producing, but I am also thinking ahead to next winter, and what I want to have available for me and my family.

Any thoughts and ideas would be appreciated!

Home Binders: Part Two

Welcome to my series on home binders!  I hope that you find it beneficial.  Over the next several weeks I will be going through my home binder organization, what I use for tools to help make my home binder successful, and hopefully some useful printouts for you to incorporate into your own binder.

When you start to put your home binder together, you will need a few basic parts to do so.  The first is, of course, a 3 ring binder.  I use a 3 inch green binder - which I talked about here.  Although, these are also nice, and would allow you to put a nice piece of art in the front cover.  Whichever you choose is totally fine, remember, this is your home binder.  You are the person that will be using it the most, so make sure it is something that you like.

The next important piece of the puzzle is page dividers.  Get more than you need, because once you start using this system, you will think of other categories you want to have separated.  In fact, when I started, I had one binder.  It included tabs like "holidays" and "homeschool ideas."  Of course, once I started using my binder, I realized that I was a little obsessive, and could use a couple more binders.  So now, I have one specifically for Christmas, and one for each of my kids for homeschooling.

You will also want to pick up some pocket folders which can go into the binder.  These are extremely useful.  You can use them for coupons, for recipes that you pull out of magazines, encouraging pictures of things you would like to in your home; anything, really, that wouldn't easily be hole punched and filed in your binder.  As an example, I tend to pull a lot of recipes out of magazines.  Pictures of recipes, actual recipes, lists of good food combinations.  And then, once every few weeks I really go through the recipes, see if it is something that my family will like, and then I usually try it - loosely following the recipe.  If the family likes it, I will write the recipe down on a recipe card, and then toss the page.  I tend to get rid of as much paper as possible, so even if it is a pretty picture, if I can make it once a decent way, I write down roughly what I did, file that in my recipe box, and toss the paper.

Finally, some loose leaf paper is essential.  I love making lists.  I can probably make the same list 10 times in one week if given the chance - part of the reason why I started keeping the binder.  The paper is good to have to jot down different ideas, projects you want to accomplish, foods that you want to try, books you want to look for.  Having the paper already in the binder means that I don't have to go looking for a notebook when I am in the middle of going through my binder.  It allows me a little extra time to keep moving.  I will often start writing a bunch of things down - like blog ideas - it will become a web of sorts, and then I will take that paper later on and sit down at the computer to write.  It may seem like an extra step, but if I don't write things down the moment I am thinking of them, they tend to disappear from my mind.  Most mamas talk of pregnancy brain, unfortunately mine never came back - especially after the second was born!

Next week I hope to talk about chore lists (for me), planning out my day, and some other good starting categories.  Is there another piece you think may be missing from my list?  Please share in the comments!

the dish cloth

After finishing up Emma's sweater last week, I needed something easy.  So, I am making dish cloths.  They are so easy, just knit up a square and go!  You can make them in a variety of sizes, and they are fast.  I have already made three, and plan to make a few more.  Since we are a paper free household, it helps a lot to use up the extra cotton yarn I have to knit new dish clothes.  I think that it is a great way to use up old bits of yarn, and they hold up extremely well.

As far as reading goes this week, I received a bunch of books in the mail from Barnes and Noble that I am very very excited about.  The one I am most interested in at this moment is Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.  I just started it yesterday, and so far so good.  I have been really interested in learning more about herbal remedies for some time.  I really know nothing about it, and because of that had a hard time finding a book that I thought might give me the information that I needed.  It is hard to look for a reference book when you know nothing about the subject!

One of the other books that I got was A Charlotte Mason Companion.  I have checked this book out of the library a couple of times, and I never seem to be able to get through the whole thing.  There is a lot of great information in it, and it is something that I wanted to have to refer to as we begin our whole homeschooling journey.

I have stopped adding books to my library list for a little while so that I can get through the books that I just got, and also finally get around to reading The Lord of the Rings, which I borrowed from my brother-in-law several months ago.  I started reading it to the kids before rest time yesterday, I like to read exceptionally long books to them before rest time, it helps them fall asleep faster :-)

I'm joining in with Ginny and her yarn along today!  Can't wait to see what everyone else is up to!

Box Day!

Well, we received Emma's new books for school.  I can't say that I am upset about it either :-)  Seeing the FedEx man come to the door with two boxes of goodies was so exciting!  Emma and Jack were so excited to see that they each got a box after it was emptied.

Of course they both wanted to play with the books immediately.  Emma, because she was excited to see new books to look at; Jack, because he likes to do every.single.thing. his big sister does :-)  Emma loved opening up the box of science experiment supplies.  Something that she wanted to do immediately.

Unfortunately, our instructors guides are all on back order, hopefully they will go out this week, so I only have the first couple of weeks that I downloaded from the website.  So instead, I let her watch the science experiment DVD that came with the program.  She watched just about the entire DVD, and is excited about all the experiments to come - as is Matt.

So far things have been going well.  We started in immediately.  Some things we do a lot of in a day (like Math, which she loves), and other things we go a bit slower.  The Bible stories are quite a bit longer than what she is used to, so we read a little less in that.  She loves the Sing the Word CD.

Overall, I think this will be a really great fit for us.  We have been working through everything first thing in the morning, right after breakfast.  We work at the books for about an hour and a half, and then she is ready to do other things, and it is a good place to end.  I hope that it continues to go well, but know that if I need to adjust some things, it won't be the end of the world!

Is anyone else crazy enough to start a new school year in May?  I am joining in at the Hip Homeschool Hop!