31 December 2009

Reflections 2009

This has been an interesting year for us in our new house turned homestead. I think one saying rings especially true for us this year:

Good judgment comes from experience. 
Experience comes from bad judgment.

And apparently, we are still learning from our bad judgment.

Even though I don't always feel that I have youthful enthusiasm, I can say without a doubt that some of that youthful enthusiasm has been thwarted. Every time we try to take two steps forward and stick to a schedule, we are reminded that life doesn't work that way. Life is meandering. Life is organic. And messy. And has other ideas for you. Especially on a farm. Especially in the country. Especially when you've moved there after getting soft from a cushy life in the suburbs. The country knows you've been away and has lessons to teach you.

Some of the highlights of our blunders this year include the time we kept saying, "Pee-yew! It smells like a skunk died in the barn," when in fact a skunk had died in our barn, it just took us two weeks to figure it out. (Yes, two weeks, although to our credit, it smelled so bad we didn't spend much time "exploring" the issue.) The poor thing crawled behind the wood piles for shelter and some logs rolled off and crushed it. It was the pile of wood stacked in the darkest, farthest corner, behind two more rows of stacked wood, and the hardest for us to get to, but finally Kevin had to remove what was left of the skunk carcass and wonder of wonders, the smell actually dissipated after that.

And then there was the time I was hanging laundry in the backyard on a beautiful sunny Saturday, breathing in the fresh air, admiring the Great Blue Herons, and thinking how idyllic the day, the land, the morning's activity, when my husband comes running down with a nearly dead chicken in his arms, my daughter crying at his side. He had guillotined the chicken, ironically after I'd spent so much time teaching my five-year old how to properly attach the sliding chicken door to prevent just such an incident. The nearly-guillotined chicken earned the name Lucky and spent the day in our arms. Lucky's voice box was transformed in the incident and Lucky has a hard time seeing properly out if its left eye and doesn't lay eggs and is skittish of people now, but is fine.

Oh yes, and Lucky who always had the prettiest green tail feathers I'd ever seen on a Rhode Island Red, turned out to be a rooster! So of my seven "girls" I now have four roosters! Seriously! So much for my ideal coop full of happy, fluffy free-ranging hens who lay an abundance of eggs. Year one, our girls turned out to be more of a misadventure. And this says nothing of me, with a background in medicine and biology, that I ended up with four roosters and ignored the little hints and signs along the way until they couldn't be ignored any longer.

And there was the time we had an early snowstorm and instead of plowing the driveway, my husband drives behind the barn, under the pretense of emptying the mulch in the bed, and gets it so far stuck in the mud beneath the snow that the transmission decoupled itself from the axle. We watched it snow, and we watched the truck and plow sink further into the ground. It took two weeks for someone with the right equipment to come haul the truck and plow to the shop.

And there were many other of those sorts of times this year but there were also the times where we trudged into the woods together, our woods, and let Savannah pick out our Christmas tree, which she pulled home over a layer of fresh snow. Or the time we released all the dried milkweed into the air and watched the silk starbursts dance away, filling the sky over the pond. Or the times we made a camp fire behind the barn and roasted marshmallows until the sun set and night set in. Or the times we watched the turtles make the trek across the lawn to find the perfect spot to dig a hole for their eggs, lay them, then trek back to the pond. Or the times we picked all the strawberries we could eat and made the best jam that brings us memories of summer when we load it on our winter toast. Or the times we read our books by the big maple tree, Savannah in the tree swing, her legs dangling down, her head bent over her book, while the leaves turned their many shades of autumn around us. Let's hope for more of those times in 2010.

28 December 2009

Funny faces

Just in time for the New Year William has perfected a new funny face.

Here's the old funny face:

And the new funny face:

The old funny face:

And the new funny face:

Of course, we think he's quite handsome when he's not making faces at all:


But sometimes, it's so much fun to make the rest of the family laugh, who can resist the silliness?


25 December 2009

White Christmas

We didn't have to dream of a white Christmas this year.

It was a perfectly white day - a fresh glistening coat of frost on the deciduous branches, a dusting of powdered sugar on the pines, a white foggy sky, and a pond of frozen ice that William decided must be the perfect place for his afternoon nap.

Kevin cleared the snow from the pond and practiced his hockey while William and I skated and Savannah played in the snow around the pond, eating as much of it as she could.

  Santa was generous; Savannah received the harp she asked for,

William, who can't yet ask for things other than his Mama, naps, or milk, received a wooden play cube that we think he and big sister will enjoy for quite a few years.

Highlights included William's tractor book from Santa,

 and his dump truck

 (made in the USA from 100% recycled plastics),

Savannah's vehicle construction set and the wooden top and yo-yo from a local artisan (this top never stops spinning!),

 Kevin's blu-ray player, which he has yet to convince the rest of the family is really a family gift, but we'll see! I lucked out with some items from my Amazon wish list and chocolates in my stocking, the good ones that I'm reluctant to share.

I'll always remember this Christmas for our ice skating,

Savannah and Kevin constructing a fork lift together (and caterpillar and robot),

for William's all day snuggles, nap on the pond,

and new funny face.

Best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas evening.

Don't eat too much of the trimmings...

23 December 2009

Solar energy

I love our photovoltaic system! We don't have to lift a finger and everyday it generates clean energy that it feeds back to the grid. We just hit the 2 megawatt mark, which is very exciting considering it has been active for only four months and missed the sunny spring and summer months. Having produced 2 megawatt-hours of energy is the equivalent of planting 15 mature trees and not driving 1,609 miles in a standard car.

Without the summer and spring we are just breaking even with our system so I'm hoping that a full year of PV will put us slightly ahead.

06 December 2009

Closet Renovation

In the basement we had a closet that was intended to be devoted to wine. However, the amount of wine we drink in a year could have fit in just one of the small diamond cubes of this rather large wine closet. In the meantime I need more pantry space, more room for towels and sheets and more general storage space. So, my mom helped me rip out the old wine closet shelving so I could build a new one.

Here are the four generous shelves I constructed from pine. I was only able to do this because my mom was helping watch the kiddos while I cut the wood and screwed them to the shelf supports on the wall. Because I like wood smooth, I used the sander on all the edges and especially rounded out the front edge. I sized and spaced the shelves to permit two of Savannah's large plastic bins (for organizing her crafts) to fit beneath.

After the shelves were ready, my mom painted it white with Harmony's Snowbound. Harmony is a Sherwin Williams paint that contains no VOCs, so it's fine to paint with it even in cool weather when it's hard to ventilate. Snowbound is the color we use on all of our ceilings.

I love my new shelves and can't wait to put them to work organizing my home. Now that the girls have done their part, we just need Kevin to add the sliding door back to the closet. It was removed months ago when we tiled the floor over the radiant heat, but now that the ball is in his court, it might take a while.

18 November 2009

Family Tree a Thanksgiving Gift

As oral tradition becomes a lost art, I think family trees become more and more important. There are times in one's life when the only way to go forward is to first go backwards, return to one's origins. I think it is powerful to see where you've come from, the long line of those who have come before you, each contributing some role towards making your unique life possible. I like the organic form of the tree as well to portray the family lines.

This is my Thanksgiving gift to my family - our family tree. The children appear as apples resting on the tree's roots. They are the "apples of my eye", and in our house it's true that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree". I can look at the tree and trace my daughter's love for crossword puzzles, reading, and word games and our uncanny knack for finding four-leaf clovers in a field.

Each frame is 10 x 20 because nothing else seemed quite large enough to read without squinting and standing directly in front of it.

His side of the family tree...

...and her side of the family tree.

17 November 2009

Farm Fresh

Look what we started collecting this week...

...our own farm fresh large brown eggs. What to have for breakfast is an easy decision.

02 November 2009

William's half birthday

 Look who turned 6 months old.

His favorite thing and best love is still his sister - in play clothes.

Or in jammies, they always make each other laugh.

At six months William drinks water by himself, tastes some oatmeal and our homemade applesauce, sits up by himself, and can go where ever he wants to by rolling, pulling and pushing - his semi-crawl maneuvers. If he would get his fingers out of his mouth, he would be actually crawling, but we try not to tell him that.
He also says "Hi" and "Hungry."

31 October 2009

Halloween Witch

I'll get you my pretty!

And your little dog too!

But if you give me some candy,

 then I won't turn you into a toad!

Savannah's scary witch costume and William's frog costume for Halloween. Savannah filled her cauldron with Halloween treats despite the initial downpour.

02 October 2009

Fall glimpses

William is five months old and busy breaking his mother's heart with his babyness. He loves his toes, his thumb, and his big sister. His first word may very well be "hungry", which we hear almost everyday, but I'm waiting to be sure he knows what he's saying (he appears to!) I hoping I'll hear "mama" soon!

He adores the baby chicks and watches the brooder with interest a few feet away on the safety of his blanky. He doesn't get good traction when on a blanky so he tends to spin in circles rather than inch his way forward, as he sometimes does.

Savannah is busy with her home school year well underway. Music lessons, private art lessons, story times, nature hikes, play dates and the chance to choose two of the four topics we learn about every month. She enjoyed her first spelling test so much, she asked for another one! Topics covered so far: apples, caterpillars, farms. Upcoming topics: fire and fire safety, bats, pumpkins. Each week she also has a cooking day where she gets to do most, if not all, of the work. I'm trying to teach her basic scarf knitting as well but these fine motor skills are still  a challenge. For her craft this week she made a haunted forest with a haunted house and decorated our house for Halloween. She also taught herself multiplication by 10s and 1s last week, "by just thinking about it".

Making apple crisp "by hand" from the apples we picked.