September 20, 2011

Not Giving Up

My current list of things to do is about 3 miles long, and blogging is not on it. I checked.

But despite the piles on the counter, the piles on the table, and piles on my desk, here I am. I'm letting myself be okay with this because there's freshly picked, sliced and blanched carrots in the freezer, the second batch of veggies on the dehydrator in 24 hours, and canned pints of beets sealing as we speak.

It's obvious that our garden is behind by at least a few weeks, and I'm pretty certain that my 14 tomato plants this year have yielded the same amount that my 6 tomato plants did last year. All of this was made especially notable when last week's forcasted low was 26 degrees, an unseasonable low for us. I spent two evenings covering many square feet with every blanket and sheet I could get my hands on. I even went as far as pulling good sheets and blankets out of the house and going to the thrift store to buy more. (It's just a good thing I don't live near this one or there would have been a cat fight near the big shelf on the west wall.)

The kids and I harvested as many beets, carrots, and potatoes that we could that afternoon before I broke our pitch fork (Our soil is that hard right now.) And then I set out to put together the puzzle of blankets and sheets in such a way as to cover as much as possible.
With nearly 2000 square feet of total garden space, not counting the utter failure of a pumpkin patch, I still had to be choosy about what I wanted to save. Tomatoes and peppers were top priority along with a few flowers. I am beginning to feel ready for the gardening season to end - but not prematurely. I'm not giving up until we're all good and ready here.
The dog had to spend that night in the house otherwise she would have pulled all the blankets off my plants. When the alarm buzzed the next morning just before sunrise, I had no problems jumping right out of bed. I was eager to survey to the damage.

Everything I covered survived with just a few frozen leaves here and there. A few hardier plants pulled through with no covering at all, but everything else was done for.

Even with a smaller harvest than expected and an early frost, I've still got piles of produce waiting to be frozen, canned, or dehydrated that are stacking up quicker than the piles of produce that have been frozen, canned, or dehydrated.

But I'm not giving up. Not just yet.

Linking up to KinderGARDENS.

September 16, 2011

Adventure #3 {Mis-Adventures}

There's a whole list of things for this particular week that just didn't seem to work out. Let's see if I can recall them all....

A broken food dehydrator (it had only been used once). This was particularly fun to discover after carefully loading all seven trays with sliced peppers.

A girls tubing trip thwarted by the weather that was still redeemed and ended up being a great time.

A hair cut for the little girl given to her by her brother. It was only down to the scalp in one spot. Another childhood rite of passage checked off the list.

The first of many "one last trips" to the beach that ended up in us low crawling across the sand to avoid being hit by lightning in the storm that just sprang up out of nowhere. My multiple trips to the beach and back to the car in the rain to collect all of our belongings were especially funny. But no worries, I got everything loaded up in time for the sun to come back out.

It's really all quite laughable.

September 9, 2011

The Thing I Need to Say {My Deep Seated Desire}

I'm really not even sure how to start this post. I've got 3 or 4 other posts I'm currently working on (always lots of irons in the fire around here), and I would really rather just finish one of them. But this week's You Capture theme over at I Should Be Folding Laundry is "Back to School," and it gave me the motivation I needed for this post, this post that has things I need to say here.

Most people who know me know that I was homeschooled. A fewer number of people know that my husband was also homeschooled. Only people very close to me know that I've always wanted to homeschool my children. Even fewer people than that know that my husband and I haven't always agreed on this, even though we do now. And lastly, a few people know that we are currently ending our first week of homeschooling, the first week of Jack and Ava's first year of preschool.

And that is what I need to say. We are homeschooling.

There's a part of me that wants to blurt out in an effort to buffer this decision, "We're just trying this out to see how it goes." But I know me, I know our family, and I know we're in this for the long haul, Lord willing. Unless something drastic happens, we fully intend on staying on the homeschooling path.  And I say this because I've come to believe that rarely do we have deep seated desires that, unless contradictory to God's Word, are not placed in our hearts by God.

{blueberry muffins for breakfast on our first day of school}

Our choice to homeschool is not about being better or about being more righteous or even about being different, because homeschooling is not about any of those things. And believe me, I typically enjoy being different. But for some reason, being different in this way is oddly difficult for me, even though I grew up with this kind of different. No, our choice to homeschool is about this deep seated desire which I believe has become a calling on me, my husband, and our family. And when I lose focus and begin to obsess about missing the rather large sub-culture that is "normal" schooling, I just remember this deep seated desire and know that the only regrets I will have will be if I ignore this desire/calling.

The kids are only 3 1/2, and we're taking things slow. One of my brunettes laughed outloud at me (in a loving friend kind of way) when I said we were "casually starting homeschooling" this year. She was right to laugh. We don't do things casually around here, even if we try. But what I mean is I am keeping my expectations of myself low and realistic. It has become my mantra for everything: High Standards, Low Expectations.

{A list of preschool goals, academic, domestic, and spiritual - this is me keeping it simple}

And I'll just leave you with that. I could address my take on the two prevalent arguments against homeschooling, and someday I will. But not today. Because today is about saying this:

We are homeschooling. Telling the world here via my blog is easy. Telling the lady who cuts my hair when she asks where my kids are going to preschool is not easy. Telling the lady at the hardware store when she states that "soon your kids will be in school and you'll get a break" while she unknowing mixes paint for our "school room" is not easy.

But that's okay because way down deep, I've got that deep seated desire.

And this post is also about showing you pictures from our first day.

{enjoying an after school snack of freshly baked cookies on our first day}

And of course, today is about linking up.

Homeschooling is valid. So is public school, private school, and charter school. You can check out more back to school HERE.

September 7, 2011

Adventure #2 {Pressure Cooking}

To some of you, pressure cooking is no big deal. You're wondering how it could be considered an "adventure." But others of you are wondering why in the world anyone would intentionally put a bomb in their kitchen.

Well, to the first group of you, I will ask "Have you ever pressure cooked outdoors in the dark?"

And to the latter group, I will say "I didn't put the bomb in my kitchen. I put it out on my deck."

You see, last week's we're-going-through-a-new-life-phase-and-subsequently-I-have-a-lot-of-pent-up-motivation adventure was...........

wait for it.............

drum roll please......

Pressure cooking....outside.....on the the the rain.

Never a dull moment around here, I tell ya.

I feel the need to clarify my outdoor food preservation experience because I'm pretty sure the above would be considered "unsafe."

I have one of those glass stove tops, and rumor has it that they tend to crack under a pressure cooker. Nobody has ever told me why. I don't know if it is the prolonged heat, the weight, a combination of the two, or something else all together. But because we all know that rumors are completely reliable, I decided to attempt pressure cooking for the second time ever (first time alone) outside on the gas burner on our grill.

By the time I got the kids to bed, the dog fed, the jars located and washed, and the veggies prepped it was well past sun down. But regardless of the lack of lighting, I set out with a one year old pressure cooking lesson under my belt and two sets of only slightly conflicting instructions in front of me.

Every bug in the county found the outdoor light hanging just over the deck door, and I could see lightning flashing in the distance, but even so, I found the serenade of the crickets and wind through the trees entirely peaceful as I waited and waited and waited.........and waited......for the pressure gauge to reach 10 pounds.

I was only up 'til midnight that night. And only one jar didn't seal.

The next night? I gave it a whirl in the house on the glass cook top. All the bugs had found their way into the house the previous night, anyway, and it would have been just too lonely canning without them.

The rumor about the cracking glass stove top may be just that, a rumor, because it worked just fine, and I've got 12 pints of green beans and 12 pints of beets to prove it.

In other adventure news, I mowed the whole lawn with the spaceship zero-turn that week. I haven't shot any cylons yet, but I will once I quit trying to take out the trees in our yard.

September 5, 2011

The Essence of August

August has a very certain feel to it.

Everything looks a certain way, feels a certain way, smells a certain way.

A way I can't really define.

I suppose one could say that all months have their certain "feel" to them, and I guess that would be true. June is such a "ramp up" month where we excitedly dig out swimsuits and begin summer rituals and make big plans and watch the rows in the garden each take their own shape. July is the heat of it; busy, busy, busy making summer happen and with the endless weeding of the garden until the very last day of the month where the past 31 days feel both short and long, exhilerating and exhausting all at the same time.

Then August sneaks up on us......every.single.year.  And almost instantly, I can feel it - a certain richness, a certain bittersweet harmony, a certain satisfied longing. The crickets start to chirp. The cicadas start to buzz. The edge of summer softens. And I can only seem to describe the "feel" of this time of year as ripe. Ripe with the fullness of summertime memories. Ripe with expectations for the upcoming fall. Ripe with cool mornings, warm afternoons, and glowing evenings.

And because we feel the waning of summer at hand, we soak up a bit more of the days knowing they are numbered. We close off the hurry and take "just one more" trip to the pool, "just one more" trip to the beach, "just one more" ice cream cone, "just one more" watermelon, "just one more"

Ripeness shows itself everywhere in the garden, as well, as everything puts their all into giving fruit before dying. Reaching stems, creeping vines, thirsty roots, vibrant leaves all reaching, stretching, bending to soak it up, take it in, and use it to produce, to give. And suddenly a handful of seeds scratched into the dirt only a few months ago becomes buckets and barrels and jars of nourishment and of hope for the future.

And maybe this is what I feel in that final month of summer (those 20-some days in September never really counting). Maybe it is the keen awareness of my call to reach, stretch, and bend in order to soak it up and take it in to pass it on because before we know it, it's over.

August is over.


Whatever laments I made over the lack of interest my tots showed in the spring have been quickly forgotten by their endless enthusiasm in the garden now.

The little girl could spend hours out there. All I have to do is give her a bucket and permission to pick anything she thinks is ripe.

The little boy loves to excitedly run from row to row pointing out everything he notices and declaring his finds in an endlessly loud voice.

This time of year our meals end up being concoctions of whatever we found in the garden that day, and our current favorite is an easy to throw together, one skillet kind of meal with heaps of veggies, oregano fresh from the garden, and pasta.

And cucumbers. What does one do with an endless supply of cucumbers?

We continue to preserve and store up just as much as we can. No one told me food preservation was so addicting, but it is and I may or may not need rehab.

{I know, it's out of focus. But isn't he cute?}

A wet year has left us with an abundance of slimy critters to catch and torture admire. (No animals were intentionally injured. Those little hands just tend to be a bit over-zealous in their exploration.)

I remember loving catching frogs and toads and worms as a girl, but somewhere along the line of "growing up" I developed an aversion to actually touching these things now. So in order to help my tots explore and learn to love this smaller world, I swallow hard, paint a smile on my face, whisper "stop being such a ninny" to myself, and thrust out my hand.

Frogs jump fast and far, but I've caught them. Salamanders are surprising muscular and aggressive, but I've ushered them out of the kids' fence. Toads must have nervous bladders, but I just wiped my hand on the grass and said "Here! You try holding him."  And worms? Well, the worms in my compost are quite impressive. And they happen to by my kids' favorite gross animal. So I've plunged my hand into composting kitchen and garden scraps more times than I can count in order to land one of our happy and overfed "night crawlers."

And that's August, my friends. Catching critters and getting lost in the garden and preserving food late into the night and taking in every second.

Exit summer. Enter Autumn.

The mornings and evenings are getting crisp. I've still got a pail of apples to process. Salsa making season has begun. The squash are starting to get ripe. I'm running out of canning jars.

September has a certain feel to it, too. 

Linking up to KinderGARDENS.