Thursday, October 28, 2010

This moment...oh silly Vivian!

Well we are going to be without internet again. We will be exploring other options. The toggle from the Cell Phone Company was really slow and not worth the money it cost. I am going to try to write several posts and post them a couple times a week at library until we find...sigh.. a dial-up service. Such is the life at the end of a dirt road. I would not trade it for anything though:)

Also, keep and eye on this space because I will be opening My Esty site with in the next couple of week and you can see what I do in my spare time;)

Monday, October 25, 2010

This morning...

I woke this morning to the song of Evan's voice as he sought the warmth of my bed. A quick, blurred check of the sky out the window informs me that it will be a cold, gray day. I lovely day to be at home. Mark left for work early this morning and I have no place to be....

Already, my mind goes to that forever to-do list. This may a good day to finish preserving those apples. I should probably work on someone's Halloween costume. After living here for two months, I am still trying to find a place for everything in this small house. There are couple of more corners I could organize...

I fumble for my glasses as I share a conversation with Evan about his plan for his day. We head downstairs. I read two chapters of Stuart Little to him. We make a plan to finish reading it today.

It is chilly. So I decided to start a small fire. I will close off the upstairs room. There is a door at the top of the stairs and a vent in the ceiling over the stove. If I close these then the downstairs will get warmer, quicker. I am learning how to use this passive solar berm house. I will open the vent and the door this late afternoon so it is warmed for our bedtime.

I put the kettle on for tea, slice some sourdough bread for our toast and ponder this weeks grocery list. I would like to get some pie pumpkins to preserve some puree for quick soups and breads. Our days have been busy and our regular evening dinners have been interrupted with Mark's and Tristan's schedules. So I need to have ingredients that are easy to use so some quick meals could be easily pulled together but still wholesome. The farmer's market is nearly done for the regular season. So I try to think of any other crops I might want to get for preserving for the winter. Maybe some more carrots for pickling or maybe some beets.

Tristan joins us around the breakfast table where boy banter gets around to plans for playing with legos. But first Tristan will tend to the animals and take care of some studying.

After breakfast I find Evan some clothes to put on and I begin morning chores. I fold some laundry that has been hanging on the rack. My regular housekeeping routine falls apart on the weekends and I play catch-up on Mondays. Sweep the floors, tidy, make beds. Evan shares his desire for Blueberry Muffins and I agree if he will help me. He is a willing assistant both in the preparing and the eating.

I throw another log on the fire when the eternal question of," What is for dinner?" is answered in this regular chore of tending the fire. I will bake beans on the woodstove and make a pot of corn chowder later in the day. Maybe a small green salad with the arugula and spinach I found at the farmer's market the other day. The beans will be made with local maple syrup and applesauce, local leftover pork. The corn will come out of the freezer. Our local dinner.

While the muffins bake and I prepare the beans for the stove, Evan plays with playdough. My kitchen table becomes a major construction site. Until...the muffins are out of the oven. The boys enjoy their share and I save a few for Mark to take with him with his lunch tomorrow.

As I write this post I realize that what was going to be a record of our morning is a study in home economics. Sometimes I find that I take what I do at home for granted. As a stay-at-home mom I do not always give my work the same credit as Mark's work outside the home. But it is the work I do at home that saves us money; feeds us real, wholesome foods; keeps order in our home and takes care of my family.

The muffins are eaten and I am going to turn an audio book on for Evan while I tidy the kitchen from our morning. It is almost lunch time...

Friday, October 22, 2010

The beginning of the ending of a long journey...

Tristan is in his final year of homeschooling. For me this has been a time of reflection. The time where I find out if the rubber meets the road or hydroplanes into a ditch. Oye!

I began homeschooling Tristan when he finished kindergarten. The year of Kindergarten was not bad, but it wasn't ideal. He went to a public school, a block from our house, for 1/2 a day. A couple of afternoons a week he would be picked up from an after school program while I worked. I was a single mother at this time. I worked in a hospital on day shift. I volunteered in his class once a week.

While sitting in his class I saw little kids who came to school without coats on really cold days. I saw 5 year olds with really bad bottle mouth and no snack at snack time. I saw kids hitting each other over and over again without adult intervention. Meanwhile, there was my quiet little guy not getting any attention from the teacher and her aide because they really had their hands full with the other kids who had much greater need. I can really see how kids can get lost in a system.

Tristan's Dad and I discussed options at the time. There was an alternative school inside the city school system that was more child focused, multi-graded, arts based. They chose students by lottery and Tristan was accepted. However, they would not bus kids who lived out of the district and we did not have a car at the time. I could not figure out how we could manage the transportation piece without starting our day really early on public transportation or ending our day really late for the same reason.

Another consideration to this possible arrangement was that I would never see my son. I would have to stay on day shift at the hospital in order to get Tristan where he needed to go. He would still spend every other weekend and a couple of afternoons with his dad during the week. What time we did have would have been spent shuttling him somewhere, a couple of tired dinners and bedtime and every other weekend. Ultimately, I realized that whether he went to the school down the street or across town I would have every other weekend with him and a couple of evenings a week. I wanted to be the one to raise my son. I wanted to teach him the values that are important to me. So we decided to homeschool. I switched to evening shift at the hospital so I would be home with Tristan during the day. I had a babysitter for those evenings he was not at his dad's. Life slowed down.

I am not going to sugarcoat the travails of those early years of homeschooling. One of the challenges that I faced early on was Tristan's dad. To say we have a history is an understatement. The relationship ended with me calling the cops on him. His issues of power and control have been a part of my life for a long time. First, he agreed to homeschool and then he didn't. We ended up in court and I was given full parental rights on matters of education. It was a long and drawn out process. I know that it affected my approach to homeschooling because I was always fearful that if Tristan and I did not have "paper" to prove he was being schooled then I would be back in court.

As for the learning it happened. I would have liked to unschool those early years but we didn't. Instead, I used a variety of subject curriculums. Tristan learned to read when he was 8. He explored sharks, insects, pyramids, dinosaurs, Greek and Roman Mythology. He took swimming and ice skating lessons, Art camps at the Art Museum and art school, summer reading programs. He had a group of neighborhood friends. Tristan and I spent many wonderful hours reading a great many books together.

We moved north in 2003. At that time we still used a variety of subject curriculums. He joined a 4-H group for homeschoolers, he took archery lessons and our new local library had many great reading programs for middle school aged kids. Eventually, as he grew older, I loosened the reigns until by the time he was in highschool he was unschooling. I am not going to pretend that he would get stellar grades on a standardized test. He is not very strong in math. I know that there are some holes in his learning if he were compared to someone going to school. But homeschooling for us was never meant to be just like school. My ultimate goal was to raise a lifelong learner; someone who enjoys learning and knows how to seek the resources for gaining the knowledge he wants.

And so here we at the the last year of school. At this point I am solely a facilitator ( or taxi driver).Tristan is excited by the blacksmithing he has done this year and is pursuing this knoweldge by being a member of the local blacksmithing association where he gets plenty of open forge time. He also gets to demonstrate his skills at local fairs and living history museums. He will be taking a classes at the New England School of Metalwork starting in January. He is taking a welding class through the local adult ed. He is working with a metalsmith at local jewelry store. He is trying to find a job. He is pursuing his GED where he is going to get some of the math he missed. He is an avid photographer and an avid reader.

And he is a pretty cool kid:)

This home

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Craving, Doing, Grateful...

  • the company of women
  • a chance to sing
  • a knitting pattern that is challenging but not intimidating
  • more time to write
  • Reading lots of picture books
  • making applesauce
  • playing taxi for a teen
  • knitting simple quick patterns for Christmas and Birthdays
  • My good kids
  • cool fall days
  • my new peaceful home
  • the good food that has graced our table
I am passing this on from Wendy...I hope you can pass it on too:)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


These are days are full. A small voice wakens me while I burrow deeper in the blankets hoping; if not a few more minutes of sleep, at least, a few minutes of quiet, still, cuddles.

The house is chilly and a cuppa tea is my first priority of the day. We have given up the favored daughter, coffee, and settled for its stepsister tea. Warm and milky is the bottom line in our home and it is good enough. I dress the dog in his harness and bell for hunting season and let him out for his morning romp; hoping that he stays close so I will not have to holler for him to "come" in my bathrobe. I can forgive his early morning wandering. The mornings are crisp, the air heavy with the smell of leaf decay. This is October. The month of passings.

For now our days are a mix of busy and quiet. I am busy because this is Teen's last year of homeschooling and it is a busy one. He is going for his GED so he can move on to other learning adventures with ease. He is also busy with blacksmithing, welding, metalsmithing with a local jewler. He is looking for a job as well. As am I.

My days as a stay at home mom may be numbered. In our home, we struggle with trying to be in the moment as well as keeping an eye to future. We look at our debt; which isn't much, and think that if I went to work we could have most of it paid off in a 6 months. So, if Mark were to lose his job, as a result of budget cuts, we would be in OK shape to weather the storm. If I went back to work for 1 year we would have our debt paid off before Evan began kindergarten. One of us would be able to be home with him to pursue his homeschooling career. Mark could pursue his music career. Coulds, Maybes, Hopefullys. It seems funny to me that after the year we have had that we are still functioning at this level.

A sign of the times, I suppose.

But this is what I do know. This is what I can count on... Each evening, Mark comes home. Eats a dinner I have made for him. He has a "music party" with Even upstairs (lots of singing, guitar and tamborine). While downstairs, I sit and listen to "Fresh Air" and knit quietly.

This is the moment and I am in it...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Independence Days Update

The nights are chilly and the house is chilly too. We are trying to hold off as long as possible before starting a fire in the stove. We've had several storms come through that have stripped many of the leaves off the trees in our yard. It is October and chores tend to preparing for winter.

Plant: nothing

Harvest: Kale, Apples, tomatoes, acorn squash

Preserve: Nothing

Local Food: Farmer's Market, Our local feedstore also sells many local meats, veggies and cheeses.

Eat the food: I made a yummy vegetable soup with local sausage, home preserved spinach,corn, home canned tomato and chicken stock, plenty of garlic and onion from our cold room. Still making sourdough bread. But we are also trying other sourdough recipes. This week we tried Sweet Potato Sourdough pancakes.

Waste not: Our neighbor and person we are buying our house from is building a Sap house. He has harvested the wood from his land. He hired a man to come to the work site with a mini-woodmill. The process is amazing and it is going to be a beautiful building when it is done. Anyway a by-product of the milling is slabs of wood with the bark still on them. He is letting us take what we need from this pile to finish off our sheep sheds. There is also enough there to build a small shed for storing our tools in.

Want not: We picked up the pieces for hooking up our woodstove and found that we were just a few inches off from the chimney. A neighbor had a spare piece for us.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


We are discovering the region we live in. Technically, our home is in the foothills of the western Maine Mountains; which, in practical terms, means we are close to the state's skiing region and great hiking. This past weekend we took a drive to Mt. Blue state park to hike Mt. Blue. This was Evan's first big hike. He made it up the mountain mostly on his own. Which is quite an impressive feat (given the huffing and puffing his parents were doing)

Evan did get a ride down. Thank goodness the Ergo has a 90 pound weight limit. Maine really is a beautiful state. This time of year is just amazing!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Independence Days Challenge...ahh Autumn.

This morning Evan and I took a small walk up to our mailbox. On our way we slowed our steps so we could shush our shoes through fallen leaves. We heard Canada Geese over head honking their farewell until spring.

I love the changing pace of this time of year. Gears shift from busy summer to a more routine pace. Some chores take on an urgency as the days grow shorter, the harvest wanes and the temperatures cool. But others are a welcome addition. I really could stack wood for a living. Washing fleece for winter projects is a new process I am enjoying. Knitting needles are busy busy.

Plant: Garlic, jerusalem artichokes, alium bulb, crocus, tulips, daffodils, anemone bulbs. Winter Rye.

Harvest: Kale, Last of the Basil, tomatoes

Preserve: tomato salsa, tomato puree, chicken stock

Local food systems: Farmer's market

Eat the food: I made a yummy squash soup from a butternut purchased at the farmer's market. Lot's of sourdough bread is being baked in our home right now. Most of our meals consist of mostly local foods now. We truly live in a rich foodshed now.

Waste not: We finally got a compost bin built for food scraps and some yard waste. My long term plan is to build a bigger bin system in the spring so we may really work our piles. But we needed something right now for food scraps. We have curbside recycling in our very rural location. How cool is that? I've been transporting our recycling for the last few years to a transfer station; which has the unfortunate side effect of recyclables piling up.

Want not: Okay I am going to brag a bit about my sourdough experiment. Rye flour and water. Cover with muslin or cheese cloth. Feed more rye and water once a day. In one week I had sourdough starter. I no longer use as much commercial yeast as I use to. The process itself is a wonder of nature. All these little microbes live in the air and help to leaven. Truly wonderful. And the bread is tasty too:)