Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh What A Beautiful Evening....


The first 72+ (depending on where you are) day in Wisconsin brings you many sights..... tank tops, convertables, the sounds of Harley's that were put away in November.  It also brought our first official outdoor evening. 

We officially have kicked off the planting season with 11 items that we filled our cold frames with.  We even took a rather French garden artistic approach to our plantings, so it will be interesting to see the aesthetic as they grow up!  I'll list the specifics of what was planted on our garden plan in the right column.

In addition to the family effort of planting microscopic seeds, we had some outside play.  Neither of the kids have ever wanted to pursue bike riding much, which is wholly ironic considering how involved B is in it.  So tonight, with some extensive negotiation, B convinced Charles to remove the training wheels and give it a go.  He's now officially about one more training session from being completely on his own!  Of course Sid now wants to learn too, just so she knows.  She's more the roller skating type and terrified of falling off of the bike, but is willing to give it a shot.  I wish her brother had a bit of her fear.  It was a split second and basic fall last summer that broke his skinny, hyper-extended little arm.  The doctor warned us he could easily do the same to the other one, yikes...bubble wrap please!

A glass of wine on the back deck, listening to the kids run and play, and basking in the accomplishments of a warm evening.  What a wonderful start to Spring!

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Chick

March has treated us pretty well.  With the exception of one heavy snow, the weather was pretty mild.  Today it really feels like spring.  It's wonderfully warm **swoon**  and feels like porch sitting weather.

 On this final day of march we are very Chicken centric.  Cinnamon thought she'd play an early April fools joke on us and laid a shell-less egg!  Quite a sight, very much like a mini-water balloon!  Very fitting that we had this start to the day as it is chick day.  I picked up our supply of little ladies this morning, got them situated and have left them be.  Sidney insists on being the first one to spend time with them so they know who their mama is! :)
One Crazy Shell-less egg!
It's such a great feeling to hear those little peeps wafting up from the basement.  This is the first year the chicks have come before Easter, what a great treat to get them this week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garden Raising


It has been an amazingly beautiful day.  Even though the wind is whipping like wild, it was just what we needed to be invigorated.  Spending the day doing garden prep has given us a wonderful dose of vitamin D and allowed for the kids to run like mad.  There has been no shortage of running this weekend.  Non-stop play-dates for the kids have also contributed to the liveliness of the spirit.

We decided to re-define the walkways and  till the garden beds.  It then turned into let's clean up the walkways, re-align and raise the beds and compost all of the old beaten down straw from the old walkways.  It's looking amazingly good and 4 of the 6 beds that we will officially raised this year are complete.  In the rest of the garden we will finish the re-aligning part, then plant. We can continue to raise some more in the fall and next spring. This way the accomplishment is there and we can now devote our efforts to some of the other twenty or thirty things on our spring list. 

After a long day and tired muscles we sat on the porch in the sunshine, and just listened to the wind in the trees.  It was like a dramatic percussion show.  Ironically the perfect day for Sidney to be writing her Energy Position Paper for school.  She chose wind.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gazing Upon Flowers

Years ago I read this book by the Dalai Lama, after hearing a detail piece about it on NPR.  I found myself seeking it out once again this week.  A combination of things happened that have spurred me to reconnect with this.  A wonderful interview on Se'Lah's blog along with her recent post on impermenance that I found so calming, so grounding. 

As an adult, it seems sometimes more so than as an adolescent, crazy drama's effect our lives.  These are sometimes out of the blue, unexpected and completely blow you over.  I had one of those such weeks.  So I reflected on many things.  I found peace, solice, and regained confidence after reading the very basic and thoughtful daily writings of Thich Nhat Hanh.  I was reminded how to breathe again. 

We are excited to be participating in our third annual Earth Hour on Saturday.  I hope to teach and instill in my children the very important lesson of breath and living in the present moment that I was reaquainted with this week.  When was the last time you gazed upon a flower and simply took in a cool breath and smiled?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I've Got You Covered

I feel like I've spent an awful lot of time walking around the property looking for signs of life.  It's been warmer, but still so grey.  It's been a source of frustration when searching out my daily photos for the blog camp group.  Trying to find pictures that aren't completely dreary and repetitive has been a challenge.  Then as I took a deep breath after a day of much drama, and I realized that the color I seek is right in front of me. 

All I need to do is go 'back to the garden' (please picture a smiling David Crosby here).  We planted our first cover crop last fall.  The benefits to the soil are enormous.  Our winter rye has been thriving, yet hidden under the snow.  Now it is giving me the color I seek, to bridge me until the bounty of spring color arrives. 

Our baby chicks arrive next week, but they will be but a blip on the radar for this years feast.  Our two adult hens will soon be let out in their chicken tractor (photos of this amazing thing B constructed to come soon, I promise) to consume all of the delicate blades of rye.  Once the foliage is gone, what will be left is a beautifully aerated soil that will support all of the beautiful tubers that will soon be planted.  A small amount of forethought, from color to food source to soil, really has us covered.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our House

B and I have been together for 17 years.  Today marks that day 12 years ago when we got married.  The first full day of spring.  When we first began and were working hard finishing up school. Sunday's were for sleeping in, big homemade breakfasts, reading the paper and listening to Sunday morning jazz or The Beetles.  Then we would spend lazy afternoons driving in the country, visiting antique stores, and we always had a gift for dreaming.  Dreaming big dreams.

We've always taken those steps, big and small, together and with much passion.   When we make a decision we go full force and make it happen.  We decided together to strive for our own practice.  We built the plan over years, and implemented it through our dedication together to reach for our life goals.   Like our business decision, we decided together to make the jump into the very special homestead that has become our passion.  This decision we made to make more sustainable choices and introduce our kids to both the freedom and responsibility that comes with following your dreams. 

So today we remember, enjoy and continue to dream.  We've created Our House; and I look forward to every new moment that B lights the fire while I place the flowers in the vase that I bought today....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Early Spring Snow


We woke up after this beautiful spring week to snow this morning.  We were playing some farmopoly,  when Sidney sighed, got up, and started to put on her snow clothes.  Very dramatically she said "I hope and I pray this is the last time I have to put on my snow pants this year!"  Here's what an hour of wet snow play can produce.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dear Diary...


Dear Diary,

A friend recently told me that blogging is vulnerable, that it is like a window into your soul.  I had never really thought about it this way, and it was quite a revelation to me.  I write to chronicle my experiences and clear my mind.  I write to keep friends and family up with the direction of our lives and the radiance beaming from our kids as they grow and develop. 

What I've learned is, that writing gives me the outlet for my creativity.  I decided early on that I want to take the perfect photo to go along with whatever my pondering.  So as a bi-product, I'm learning to search out the interesting and beautiful picture too.   I wouldn't say that my life is an open book, but I'm honest and don't have anything to hide, so here I am.  My dear diary, though I haven't written in you since I was a child, I've learned blogging is my sanctuary. 

This window into my soul, is my diary. 

Love Always,

Dear Mr. Fantasy...

I love that last night when I came home from errands at after 7pm, the kids were outside, without coats, happy to be playing in the dusk.  Yes, kids in Wisconsin will play an imaginative Warriors related game (after Sidney's favorite book series).  They will play this game happily in a shipping box in a wonderfully balmy 55 degrees.   I know that two of the photos are a bit blurred, but the kids were moving continuously in this game, and hadn't even realized I'd taken the pictures until I uploaded them this morning.  I loved the feel of the complete fantasy they were in, as they pretended to be great warrior cats.  Here's to a weekend of beautiful weather and happy play!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Blarney.....

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life's passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!


Enjoy all of what life has to offer, today and everyday.  Happy St. Patricks Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bird Watching

Well hello Mr. Robin!  Or should I say Mrs. Robin?  I sighted the first pair of robins on Friday dancing and dodging across a corn field.  So I readied my camera and watched all weekend and not a single one here on the farm.  After lunch today as we pulled in at work I saw this, quite plump specimen, sitting in the tree and a cardinal right behind her.  Now the cardinal didn't see fit to hold still and pose, but I grabbed my little purse camera and snapped a few pictures of this one preening.  Now, I know she's not the most beautiful example.  What struck me was the bright yellow beak!  Maybe I'm suffering from winter induce photo-sensitivity, but I don't recall them typically having quite so iridescent a beak and maybe a little more svelte than this.  So, since the male species tend to get all the beauty, in the bird realm that is, I'm guessing this little lady enjoyed her bath and went on to enjoy the early spring sunshine.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Awakenings

 Iron Chef crown awarded last night
This weekend has been truly a blur.  Our hours have been filled with activities and farm tasks.  We began Friday night by making it to the finals out of 8 teams in a dodge ball tournament hosted by Young Professionals of Racine.  A really fun evening, though  my throwing arm seems to be feeling it more now, two day's later. And here I'd thought I'd lucked out!  Yesterday evening we participated in an Iron Chef competition with a group of friends.  The secret ingredient was released to us Thursday night and cranberries were our challenge.  We had some amazing food prepared by equally amazing friends and it was a blast.  I'm pleased to announce that our dish, which B did completely on his own while I sewed pot holders for the participants, won the overall prize!

I woke up yesterday morning to a light but steady rain.  My first cognitive thought as I got ready to pour my coffee, was... all of the snow is gone!   This afternoon we've had some sun break through and I swear to you I'm sitting here now, watching the grass turn greener by the minute.  It's a windy day and we've been back and forth to the barn to finish the cold frames, do some yard clean up, and glimpse little bulbs and starts pushing their way through the damp warming ground.  I've seen my first robin and tho' I couldn't get a picture of it, I know spring is here.  The chickens were pacing the coop, frantically, hardly able to contain themselves with the sight of so much grass again, so we let them stretch their wings a bit in the yard while we were outside.  They were so happy to be hunting and pecking!  They even clucked their way into the barn to watch us paint the cold frames. 


It's been breathlessly busy, yet relaxing to feel all of the awakenings around us.  I can feel the change when I breath in the air outside, and with the springing  forward this morning, I am so looking forward to being able to enjoy longer days.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Signs of Life

lilac bloom readying
 
Spring is trying to emerge.  The kids were out playing and I began to walk around and assess.  How I relished the squish, squish, squish beneath my shoes.  The snow has almost melted and what remains, in contrast with the 50 degree afternoon and approaching rain, is now almost steaming as it creates a thickening fog.  Where the snow has receded, I can see that the oregano and chamomile seem to be well on their way.  The black eyed susans have sprouted with a green carpet and I see the starts of the day lillies poking through.  I don't see any signs of tender asparagus stalks or rhubarb yet, but I know they'll be here shortly.

Now as we ready for a few days of steady rain, I'm ready for the season that I lovingly call mud.  I look forward to all of the colors that will soon emerge and liven our landscape.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sweet Rant

Ok, so I was remiss.  I waited until this morning to shuffle through the kids backpacks and sort items from their Friday Folder.  Though I knew this was coming, seeing it in writing got me started and I'm ready to rant.

Here it is:  RUSD (Racine Unified School District) Wellness Policy
  • Birthday treats are only acceptable if they meet RUSD Wellness Policy guidelines.  Treats must be prepackaged or store-bought.  Treats must be healthy (cupcakes, cookies, candy have low nutritional value and, therefore, not permitted)
  • Homemade items are not permissible at any time.
  • Prepackaged, "unhealthy" treats can be brought on 4 "exemption days" designated by the principal.  Those days are Halloween Party day, Holiday Party Day-before winter break, Valentines Day, and the Last Day of School. 
  • This is a district wide policy adopted by the school board.  Should you need clarification or wish to express a concern, please contact the Administrative Service Center (central office).
What??  Where to start?  So, I would contend that any treat that I choose to make because I want to do something special for my child on their birthday would have a healthier content than most of the pre-packaged crap at the store.   Now, I know the kids are super excited to give pencils or stickers out as their birthday treat (note underlying sarcasm), but I think we should be allowed a special snack.  Our school doesn't have over-large classroom sizes (24 kids), but other schools in the district may.  So if there are too many birthdays, where there would be sugary snacks everyday, then maybe designate one day during the month and the parents of the kids with birthdays that month can share the snack duty that day. 

As to the 4 exception days, I'm sure that the high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and corn syrup solids are much better for the kids than something that I make in my kitchen.

Maybe the focus of the wellness policy should involve the district reflecting on itself and it's hot lunch program that regularly has foods dripping with grease, and not the parents that care enough to do something special for their kids.

End Rant

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Easy Like A Sunday Morning

Well this song has been going through my head all day.   What better way to spend the day than starting with a cup of coffee, and a little peace and quiet.  Thanks to Christina for reminding me that I haven't made granola in quite some time. So I filled the early morning house with the sweet smells of oats, cherries, almonds, honey and cinnamon ahhhh.  Nothing quite says decadence like hot granola over vanilla yogurt, sleeping children and a few lingering moments with a good book.

After some blissful busy time outside in the sun, I'm winding the day down with a little girl whispering secrets to her best friend who's here for a visit, and baking cookies and relishing cookie dough with my little man.  Hope you all had a great weekend!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cold Frame


It was 42 degrees outside today and we hopped right into action.  We fired up the snow blower and went to it.  Yes, that's what I said, the snow blower!  You see, we've caught the we've had a warm sunny day and it's time to get this garden started bug.  So B cleared most of the snow from a small grassy area outside our kitchen window.  Then we took a large sheet of black plastic and laid it down to melt the remaining snow and begin a cursory thaw on the ground below.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon using old storm windows (reuse) and hinging them together with hinges that B bought at the ReStore (recycle).  This apparatus we will place on top of the beautiful angled frame that we're (well mostly him, with me doing a lot of holding and tool passing) building.  When this is completed we will place it on the once small grassy area and then fill our cold frame with rich soil and lot's of early lettuce, radishes and fennel.  We will be having micro-greens in no time, and the real thing with a small amount of patience.  And yes it is only March!

The brilliance of putting the cold frame right outside our kitchen window I'm very excited about!  It will be a wonderful edible ornamental, as well as shorten the walk for everyday salad greens and free up two full rows in the main garden! 

Though construction is complete, we'll be painting it barn red, to contrast the white windows
 
Now off to enjoy a couple of BBQ steaks.  Yes, it is beginning to look like Spring in Wisconsin.
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Friday, March 5, 2010

The Gathering Place


I bought this plaque at Irishfest a few years ago, it's hand cast using the bottom of a cauldron from County Clare

I love my kitchen.  It is my favorite room in the house.  I don't know if it's just me, but no matter where we are, people just migrate to the kitchen.  Whether it be with family or friends, that is the place to be.

  I began thinking about this again this morning after reflecting on last night.  We have a group of 4 couples that have met to watch Survivor weekly for the last 6 years.  It doesn't matter whose house we're meeting at on a given week, the first hour or so is everyone standing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine or beer, and chatting like eager kids on the playground.

Honestly, I think that time is the most enjoyable time of the gathering.  It's the truest time.  It feels innate like we just know instinctively that this is the gathering place.  It conjurs pictures in my head of clans huddled around the fire to communicate.   No, I'm not comparing us to neanderthals, just drawing a comparison of how important and comfortable this time is, and how if feels simply like a natural component of our social interactions.  I guess you can further prove that by the layout of most bars.  Galley shaped with a kitchen counter, though I must say that I prefer my hearth and those of my nearest and dearest.

So as we enter the weekend  I wish you the joy of dear friends and family and some time spent at the gathering place.  A Hundred Thousand Welcomes my friends.

**as I went to right this I was amazed at how few photos I have of this phenomena, I'll have to remedy that in future :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Commitment

 Look The Maples Are Beginning To Get Blooms!

Today was a day full of forward progression.  We had lunch with friends planning this year's garden.  Tallying last years totals and brainstorming what and how much to plant this year. We need to accomodate ourselves and to begin to supply farm baskets for our small group of guinea pigs good friends who have eagerly agreed to participate.  Planning like this really gets the adreneline flowing and we're eager to start.  B is planning on spending his weekend constructing cold frames.  Why this weekend?  Because once done, our cold weather crops are going in!  Yes, we're going to get this party started, even if we do live in the great white North!  Optimism, always!

Today was also chick order day.  So I ordered 15.  Yes, you heard me 15, well 12, three of them are for some friends that are planning to keep them as contraband in town; while many are trying to change the no chicken ordinances.  I guess the up side to still owning the house in town, is I can participate in emailing aldermen to voice my support of backyard chickens.  So come the 31st of this month we will once again have a big basement box for 5 Partridge Rock chickens and 7 more Araucanas.  We've had some challenges in our learning to raise chickens.  And now that I've ordered bulk and B has completed an iron clad chicken tractor, along with the barn area we've made, I'm certain that come fall we'll have eggs to supply all who want them :)

Today I picked up pieces for 4 scarecrow costumes for Charlies first grade musical.  I'm to sew the pants for the costumes to start.  I have officially taken the sewing skydive, and I hope I get my chute open before I hit the ground.  I've been proud of my progress in making aprons and owls.  Now it's time to learn and on a deadline, with 24 total costumes to be completed (12 of them very involved dresses) by 5 ladies, of which this novice is one.  Ask me in May, I may no longer be a novice

What did you commit today??
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Empty Bowls

Today marks the tenth year that our town has participated in an event called Empty Bowls.  It's a grassroots effort to help end hunger.  People in the community go to our local pottery store and make bowls that are donated for this fundraiser.  Others donate their wonderful homemade soups.  Then the doors are open throughout the day for anyone and everyone to drop in, buy a bowl and eat as much soup as you can hold.  The event has grown substantially since the first year I went and there's loads of beautiful pottery on raffle and music performed by talented young people to serenade us.  All of the proceeds go to our local food pantry.


Sidney looks forward to this event every year and couldn't wait for today.  You see, the last time we went, she dropped her bowl on the way out, and let me tell you that was a tragic thing!  This evening we made up for that.  There's no better way to start the new month, the month of spring's beginning, than to share it with so many friendly and familiar faces all trying to do just a little bit to help those less fortunate around us.
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February Summary

 
I began February with joining the blog camp 365 in 2010 project, which is a picture a day on flickr.  It has been a lot of fun so far, though I'm aching to get away from all of the white of our landscape.  March is beginning with a thaw and 40 degree temperatures for later this week, I hope to see a month filled with springing color.  This is what February looked like to me.

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