Friday, December 8, 2006

Slipcovers for dummies
Natalie asked about my slipcovers in the comments below. Following the Valerie Principle, I'm making a new post. And anyway, I happened to have another pic.

Natalie, the slipcover on the big couch is one I bought with a gift certificate some friends gave me.

On the small couch, I have a length of white denim draped across the bottom half and tucked a little bit, and the back is covered with an old quilt. That's actually the backside of a full-size quilt my grandmother made, but the patches on the top are worn thin and falling apart. I hated to throw it away and kept it for years, trying to think of a use for it, and then hit on this.

I try to keep the edges of the denim tucked under, but as you see, it does come untucked. It's not too much trouble, though. I wash it once every month or two, spray it with Scotchgard and throw it back on. The quilt doesn't have to be washed but about once a year, since it's not actually being sat on.

Now, slipcovers for clever people. ;-) I've thought about sewing slipcovers, and checked out this video on making them from the library, and it seems a pretty straightfoward process. It showed how to measure the furniture and mark, cut, and sew the fabric. The only thing that required more than basic sewing skills was making piping to sew into the seams, which gives it a more professional look, but isn't really necessary. If you can't get the video from your library and don't want to buy it, you could try this pattern. It's the same info, but I found seeing it done on the video to be much more helpful than reading the direcions in the pattern, plus the video teacher shows you cool shortcuts, like a very simple way to make the miles of bias fabric you need for the piping.

But even though I already have the fabric, I haven't done it yet because it looks like it will be a pretty long project and I'm, um, just not clever enough right now. :-p


Thursday, December 7, 2006

More house pics for Kelly P, since she asked so sweetly. :-)

Another angle of the living room. You'll notice that nearly all the furniture is slipcovered. This is because it's all shabby beyond belief. The majority of what we own is either hand-me-down or yard sale and thrift store purchase, and there are even a couple of things we picked up off the side of the road.

We found that trunk we're using for a coffee table in the attic of this house, the big couch was given us by my in-laws when we first married, the small couch and the end table came from my mom - Mom and Daddy bought that end table when they first married. The centerpiece bowl on the trunk is a bread bowl that was used by Mike's great-grandmother to make her daily biscuit in. You can't see them very well, but there's a small blue-painted end table next to my rocker and a narrow blue cabinet in the corner to the right of the window which, along with the recliner my son is leaning out on, were given to us by the previous owners of this house. The beautiful blue, white and green handmade quilt was a gift from the super-talented Mrs. McIntyre. I bought the rocker at a yard sale for $5 and the ship paintings were bought at a silent auction at our church for just a few dollars. Um, the lamps were all bought new. Darn. For a minute there I thought I had an entirely non-newly-purchased room. :-p

This is technically our back door, but it gets used like it's the front. No one's ever used our front door, except for the Seventh Day Adventist Jehovah's Witness ladies who came to visit once. I was in the middle of lessons and didn't have time for a long drawn out conversation, so I told them my husband was familiar with their publication and wasn't interested, and thanked them nicely for their time. They never came back. I think I've found the magic words! "My husband isn't interested." Feel free to use it if you ever need it. ;-)

This one's especially for Heather P. The missing third box of books arrived this afternoon!

The other wall in the Christmas room - you can see the banister in the mirror of those pics in the post below. The boys' room is upstairs, and that pile of junk on the stairs is stuff they're supposed to take up when they go. That's an entertainment center we bought second hand, but I use it to keep my grandmother's quilts in, and extra blankets and things. The lamp was a bequest from Mike's Great-aunt Celia, who passed away five years ago, and the clock was a hand-me-down from his parents.

The older girls' bedroom. They're not fond of peach and want it to be painted either pale blue or green. What do y'all think? The beds are a second-hand purchase, and the bedside table began life as a sewing machine table. My grandmother bought it for my mom when she was expecting me. Grandmother didn't like Mom lugging her huge, heavy Kenmore machine around when she was great with child. :-D

One of the few new purchases, we had an Amish man make these hope chests for our two eldest daughters and gave them to them for St. Nicholas day presents last night.

Mike picked up this dandy piece off the side of the road a few weeks ago. Needs a touch up here and there, but it's sturdy and has such beautiful lines. The rug was left here by the house's previous owners.

And that's all for tonight - I'm tired! Good night, sweet dreams...

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We don't have the tree up yet, and I've only decorated a little so far - I tend to add a bit every couple of days, but here's a peek:

Advent wreath

Here's our living room with Advent centerpiece

The sideboard in the dining room

And the fireplace in the sitting room - the Christmas room, the kids call it now, since it's where the Advent wreath is, and where the tree will go in another week or two.

The kids made a bunch of snowflakes today and I let them hang them on the chandelier in the dining room - you can just barely see Mosey in the background, serenading us on the piano with Christmas carols.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Happy New Year!

Tonight we lit our first Advent candle - I think this is our kids' favorite part of Christmas. The verse we always read for the first candle is Isaiah 9:2, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Before reading the verse, we always turn off the lights and let the kids walk around for a bit, then Mike reads the verse and the appointed child strikes a match and lights the candle.

We've been doing this for so many years I've lost count, and they never tire of it. It's great having a tradition like this.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.

O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.

Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.

Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:

Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:

Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.

They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.

Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.

Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.

The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

Psalm 65

Saturday, November 18, 2006

do, doing, done
from Alexandra's blog

What have you done?

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb kid

33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer

40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow goat
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch tackle football

61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater

66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage

85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship

94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raiseding children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth (Not yet, but this winter!)
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about

130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read

136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Not yet, but next month!)
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cheese, glorious cheese
Last week I made a hard cheese using the directions to one of the recipes that Sora linked in the comments below. Not having cheesepress, I hung the curds in a bag for about half an hour to let some of the whey drain out so it would solid enough for me to contrive something. After draining, I laid the bag on a wooden cutting board and re-wrapped the curds and shaped them into a flat wheel about three inches high, then pinned a length of cheesecloth around it, to help it hold its shape. Then I covered it with another wooden cutting board and began stacking weights from my son's weight set on it, to gradually increase the pressure to 30 pounds.

It wasn't too bad, but since the whole arrangement was tipped a bit in order to let the whey drain off, the weights also slid off a couple of times. By the next day I had a cheese that was generally round, only with one square corner where it had managed to ooze out from underneath the band.

I cut the poor misshapen wheel into quarters and salted it in order the begin the air-drying process. A couple of us tasted a sliver of it before drying and it had a fine, mild flavor, which was good, since my daughter had wanted me to make a Gouda-like cheese. After two or three days of turning and salting and air-drying, I wrapped it in waxed paper and put it into the fridge to age. Now begins the long wait - I won't know if this is really a good cheese until the sixth of February at the earliest!

My dear husband, seeing the ugly cheese, promptly ordered me a cheesepress, and some wax. Waxing the cheese was a lot of fun.

I've also recently made another batch of soft cheese - some of it molded for two days to make it into a log with a more tart flavor, and the rest of it bagged for a few hours in order to make a very soft cheese with a milder flavor. I put fresh chives, parsley and cracked pepper into the molded cheeses, and all of that plus fresh garlic in the bagged ones. These have turned out really well.

Two of our does were bred back in September and we'll be drying them off the end of this month - their kids are due end of January/early February. The other two does, and the doeling are hostessing another buck this month, and if all goes well, their kids will be due around Easter.

I should have enough milk to make another couple of batches of cheese before drying off the first two, but for most of the winter we'll only have enough milk to drink. I'm thinking about buying milk from the grocery store to make cheese over the winter, so I can be more experienced when it's spring again and we'll have milk coming out our ears.

If you've been watching my NaNo meter, this will explain why the numbers haven't been going up.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Farm food
Last Friday night we had our first frost, so Saturday morning we picked all the green tomatoes off the plants. We have a grocery bag full of of them and yesterday I fried some for breakfast. They're easy to make and so delicious. You just slice them about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, then sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them, dredge them in flour and fry them in butter. Be careful to watch the color as you're cooking them so you only have to turn them once. It messes up the crust if you turn them more than that. They are so nice and juicy and quite spicy/tart, and go really well with scrambled eggs and grits.

This is classic Southern food, but the first time I had them was four years ago when we had our first really good crop. In years prior to that the plants had already quit bearing long before the frost came.

On another front, I'm trying to learn how to make cheese, and have not been terribly successful. So far I've done panir which turned out pretty well, cottage cheese that was rubbery, feta that I didn't salt long enough before brining so it never got properly hard, and herbed chevre that tasted good but was crumbly rather than spreadable. And my three or four attempts at ricotta haven't turned out very well - it's so tart.

In every case it seems that my problem was timing, generally letting something sit or drain too long before moving on to the next step (except in the case of the feta, which should have sat for one more day before brining). Last week when I tried another batch of chevre, I set the timer for every step, and everything went well, until I checked my recipe the morning after letting the cheese drain in a bag overnight to see when to take it out.


Chevre isn't supposed to be bagged and drained, it's supposed to go straight to the molds from the pot. Cheese-making is definitely not for the scatter-brained.

Today though, I took it out of the fridge, crumbled it up, added chopped fresh chives and freshly cracked pepper, stuffed it all into the molds, and put it back in the fridge. Maybe it'll get solid enough that I can take it out of the molds and have a sliceable cheese. But if not then we'll just use it crumbly. It tastes fine - it just doesn't have the texture I wanted.
I guess we're really rednecks now
My son killed a raccoon - put an arrow through its head. He's out skinning it now. This is so exciting, it's his first kill and everything and you won't believe what I did.

I offered to cook it for him. Seems a pity to waste all that meat.

So, I'd appreciate tips on tanning its hide and on cooking the meat.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Glutton for punishment
There's no other reason why I should be doing NaNoWriMo again this year, but here I am, trying again...

Harry Brock was a man on whom Fortune always smiled. He had started off life in a happy family on a prosperous farm and he had grown up hale and hearty despite coming into the world wrong-end-first. True, he was not at all clever of speech and this was a great failing among a people who esteemed wit and spent their evenings inventing riddles and songs on the spot. But the fact remained that whatever Harry set his hand to sooner or later prospered under it. In his youth he had mastered both his father's way with animals and crops, and his mother's secret of producing the finest blue cloths anyone in the shire had ever seen.

Her woad was the same that every other woman in the village used, so the other women never understood why her blues had such a richness and liveliness that they never could achieve, but his mother told Harry that the secret was the wonderfully soft water that flowed into their lake and the fine earth that she took from a certain spot beside a certain spring in their woods. Bessie Brock's blues were so famous, in fact, that three years ago Lord Rockwell had sent miles of finest silk, which he had somehow procured for his daughter's wedding gown, to Brockton Farm to be dyed a pale, celestial blue, and he was so pleased with the result that he gave the Brockton Farm family the perpetual right to hunt boar in all his lands.

It was boar-hunting that brought Harry and his little black dog out this early morning. The scent of the coming frost had been on the air last evening as Harry had made his way, singing gaily, to the cottage from the new barn after finishing the chores. Sniffing the air and eyeing the lake, Harry had decided to put off till another day the task of finding out why it had grown so low this summer in spite of plentiful rains. He simply could not miss hunting on the most propitious day of the year. The moon was just beyond full and hung brightly above the chimney top as he set off, three hours before sunrise, crunching over the hoarfrost with Keeran at his heels, his quiver slung over his left shoulder and his boar spear in his right hand.

Briskly he walked down the east-facing slope upon which his house stood, and past the lake shore, around the north side of the new barn, heading for the upper branch of the stream that fed the lake, found his path and struck out into the woods. Harry knew just the spot where he would watch for the boar he wanted. There was a sounder living along the lower branch of the stream and Harry intended to come at them from the woods to the north of the clearing nearest the stream, walking silently and waiting for the boar that would certainly come before dawn, seeking a mate. It was a dangerous business, hunting boar alone, and with only his small Keeran rather than a pack of ferocious hunting dogs like the earl’s. But Keeran’s heart was as stout as a lion’s and Fortune always smiled upon Harry’s endeavors.

( Here's the rest. )

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cold and flu season
In the comments to the post below, Kat mentions a comment I made at Christina's blog, asks me to share resources I've found helpful in doctoring my kids, so I though I'd repost my comment from Christina's here, and answer the question in a new post, since y'all can see that I'm woefully lacking in blog topics lately. ;-)

But first, an obligatory disclaimer: I'm not a medical doctor, nor do I play on on the internet - I'm just sharing what has worked in my family - you know the drill, so please use your own brains when taking care of your kids. Thanks ever so much. :-D

You’ve reminded me that I need to make my fall batch of garlic oil, which I use for ear troubles - the warm oil is soothing to an achy ear, and of course the garlic is antibiotic.

Crush four cloves of garlic and let them lie exposed to air for at least 10 minutes (this allows their healing properties to develop). Place into a glass jar and cover with 1/4 cup of olive oil; cover and let sit at room temp for one or two days. Strain out the garlic, then cover and place the oil in a cool, dark cupboard. It will keep for six months. To use, warm a few drops just until body temperature (test it on the inside of your wrist first), and place two drops in each ear, even if [only] one ear is feeling bad. Stuff some cotton ball in to keep the oil in for a few minutes. Repeat twice a day for no longer than four days.

Actually, I don’t think I’ve used this remedy much the last couple of years - not since I learned to use hydrogen peroxide in the ears for any kind of ear or sinus/throat trouble - but I like to have it on hand, just in case.

One of my children was bothered by the garlic oil, so I used witch hazel on her and it seemed to work just as well for her as the garlic oil did for my others.

Our kids have tended to have croup a lot and I’ve learned to keep eucalyptus oil on hand at all times. I sprinkle it on their pillows and pjs when it seems that they’re starting to have any trouble, and it keeps it from getting bad - usually they only have it one night. My now-11-year-old was hospitalized with it for three nights as an infant, so I got serious about finding something I could do at home to help and this has done it.

We’re generally pretty healthy, but have tended to get some kind of stomach bug once every three years or so, and this is our first year with our dairy goats, so it’ll be interesting to see how half a year of drinking raw goat milk affects our resistance to things this fall/winter.

(Further disclaimer: whenever I post a link to something, unless I specifically say so I'm in no way implying that I endorse every single thing you'll find there. I have found these resources to be helpful. Please use your own discretion.)

The recipe for garlic oil came from Encyclopedia of Natural Health and Healing for Children, by Marcea Weber, and is a wonderful resource. Lots of old fashioned home remedies and herbal remedies, plus homeopathic and Chinese medicine (neither of which have I tried before), and indications that it's time to see a health care professional.

The hydrogen peroxide idea came from Dr. Mercola - you'll have to provide your email to be able to read the article. His website is a great one for nutritional information and he has more info on vaccinations.

I don't remember now where I learned to use eucalyptus oil for croup, but I use it for every respiratory ailment we have - seasonal allergies, chest colds, that sort of thing. I have a steam vaporizer for each bedroom and I use them a lot, especially in the winter when the house is so dry, with a few drops of eucalyptus oil if anyone seems like they need it.

Probably the most important thing I do though, regarding my children's health, is to make sure that they eat well (I try to be careful about sweets, though we always have a treat on Sunday, and most everything we eat is homemade), play and work hard, rest well, and dress warmly. I'm rather an old-fashioned mother when it comes to dressing small children in particular. My kids run around barefooted most of the year, but as it starts getting colder I make sure the little ones have on a couple of extra layers of clothes - the little girls wearing leggings or thick tights under their dresses - and keep their ears covered and their feet warm and dry. Also, I try not to let the house get overheated in the winter, keeping it somewhere in the 65 - 68 degree range.

And of course, wash your hands!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Our schedule is more of a goal than an absolute - most days we're able to keep it, but then we have off days, like last Friday when we recieved a shipment of 27 chicks we're raising for meat birds, or yesterday when Mike was off work.

Here's a sample of our morning routine, which I described in the previous post:

For the full schedule, click here.

You'll notice that I don't have myself on there and except for meal cleanup, I don't have housework on the schedule. My work is so tied to the kids' that I didn't feel it was necessary to include a column for myself. Also, I have slightly larger blocks of time for each subject than are needed, which allows me to get things done wherever they fit in throughout the day. I find this works much better than having a tighter schedule that includes everything. It might be different for other moms, but I've learned that a tight schedule is too stressful and I actually get less done when trying to keep a more detailed schedule than on my more flexible routine.

Balancing housework with academics is extremely difficult for me. Let me just say that all new moms, especially prospective homeschooling moms, should be very diligent in teaching their children to clean up after themselves, and should also be careful not to accumulate stuff that will clutter up your house and take up your time. This is the voice of experience speaking.

When we've had our seasons of having to do Basic Survival Homeschooling owing to my lengthy illness or having a baby, or because of a move, the one thing I want to be sure of beyond helping out around the house, is that the children are spending at least an hour or two a day reading good books, or listening to them read aloud. Next time I'll discuss the level above that.

Here are a few references for those who are interested.

Managers of Their Homes

Sidetracked Home Executives

1000 Good Books List

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Back to school

My family is a decidedly relaxed homeschooling family, and I've been even more "relaxed" the last few years - before last year I hadn't had a new student learning to read in about six years, and for the last three years my oldest students have been taking Latin, logic, rhetoric, and world history from a tutor via the internet. But Mr. Roise is on sabbatical this year, and now that we're settling in here in Virginia, I'm feeling up to more structure, academically speaking.

In previous years I've had prayers, hymns, and Bible reading with the little ones after breakfast and morning chores, and read-aloud in the afternoon before naptime, but this year I'm taking a leaf from Cindy and having a more productive Morning Time. (Cindy, don't worry - I'm not obsessing, I'm only using your method to organize what I was already planning to accomplish this year. )

It's been a long time since we did much memory work, so yesterday, after our opening prayer, I had the older kids recite the last thing I remember them working on - Psalm 24. They were rusty, so I told them to work on it on their own, and I started taking the little ones through it, one verse at a time. Then we worked on a new hymn, after which the two oldest were dismissed. Mosey stayed with me to help with a Minimus Latin lesson, then went to her own studies. I read a chapter of the Bible to the four remaining young ones, picking up where we left off last spring, and then read the next chapter or two of The Magician's Nephew. By 11 o'clock, I dismissed all but my beginning math student, only I still can't find my Math-U-See books and blocks. A year in this house and I'm still not unpacked!

Meanwhile, my older students were working on their own studies. My 17yod is still studying math and Latin, but beyond that her work is mostly domestic stuff with plenty of time for her to write and draw, and lots of time spent reading. This year I'm having her read more theology and philosophy than she ever has, and I'm desperate to find a good source for classic literature. Our local library is pathetic, and she's already read all the fiction we own - several times.

#1 Son would have been in World History II this year, covering the period from the New Testament era to modern times, so I'm taking the opportunity this sabbatical affords to put him through a course of English history using Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples for structure, and filling in with primary source material, classic literature, and fun fiction, using books I already own. For an example of the variety of his reading, in the next couple of weeks he'll be reading Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" and "King Lear," and Rosemary Suttclif's The Eagle of the Ninth. I also have Churchill's six volume history of the Second World War, and I hope he'll make it far enough this year to read it, too.

My 13yod is studying math, Latin, and piano, and her required reading will cover American history, which we are studying together as a family.

I bought Clarence Carson's Basic History of the United States, which we are reading at the supper table, now that the days are getting shorter and there's less need for the menfolk to rush off to after supper chores, or more commonly - to eat supper after sunset when we're all too tired to be reading and having conversations.

And we've picked out several books to read together in the long winter evenings, which we're all looking forward to - I love winter evenings.

So there's a basic overview of the way we do school - lots of reading and talking that's fitted in with housework and "farm" work. It doesn't usually look much like school, but it fits well with our family's goals and interests.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Agrarian basics, part 2a
My answers to Eleanor's questions in the previous post in this series got so long I decided to follow the Valerie Principle: make a new blog post. :-) Eleanor's questions and comments are italicized and mine are plain.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

My first thought is that the word 'agrarian' is simply too limited a word for this idea. It invites misunderstanding. Can you change it to something else?

I really don't think I can, since too many folks are already using it the same way I am, and have been since at least the 1930s.

But really, since the dictionary lists the first definition as "relating to land, land tenure, or the division of landed property," I think this is decent. I've seen it referred to variously as Biblical agrarianism, covenant agrarianism, and Christian agrarianism, but it all refers to the duty of stewarship over the land.

My second thought is that I lost you right around where you said that the eye provides for its own needs just as the foot does, while serving a larger Body. I'm not sure how you mean that. The eye cannot provide for itself at all-- it needs liquid and nutrition via a blood supply...of course a foot cannot see and an eye cannot walk...I think I'm not getting your gist here.

I'm sorry if that wasn't a helpful analogy, but let me try to explain. In the analogy, the "body" is meant to represent all of humanity, with the different "members" representing different individual people or families. When I was thinking about the way the body works, I noticed that, because each body part functions in a very similar way at the cellular level, there is a sense in which even though they have different functions within the body, in some ways they function the same on a personal, or individual level.

Now, when I mentioned the cells providing for themselves, I was trying to point out that even though epithelial cells, for instance, are different from skeletal muscle cells, which are different from neurons, they all have certain functions in common, cellular respiration and reproduction, for two examples. Of course, I didn't mean to imply that each member can provide for itself in complete independence from its environment and from the body as a whole.

I was hoping that the reader would deduce from this that, in a healthy community, each family would have direct access to the earth - the blood supply - so that they could provide some of their own needs, even while they are working together to supply the needs of the larger community.

Thirdly, the world is fallen, and we must live in it and preach to it using words, not just actions. We must show forth the Kingdom. Certainly one method of evangelism is our love for one another, but we also have a mandate to share the Gospel. Sometimes it sounds like you're advocating seperating yourself from the world in favor of being only with Christians. I don't see this model exemplified by the Apostles at all. On the contrary, they seem to have used their vocations to reach out to the world in every corner where God has placed them. I see our occupations and economics as of lesser importance to the calling we have to go out and make disciples of all nations. I DON'T think you're disagreeing with that, but I can see some overzealous person trying to go there.

Well, you're right, I'm not advocating this. Maybe this tidbit I wrote elsewhere will help explain my views of radical independence in this context. And, forgive me if I seem callous, but overzealous people will always be finding some way to take something to an extreme, so I don't see how I can protect them from that. I do hope that in the course of this series I'll be able to explain my thoughts fully enough that at least I won't be thought misguided. :-)

Also, I think I need to point out again, that what I'm talking about here is not Christians going off and living only with other Christians. My main point is that the agrarian calling is Mankind's calling, Christian and heathen alike. So all the stuff I'm writing ought to be of particular interest to Christians, because we know our creator, but it really applies to everyone. So no, I'm not talking about some cult-like separation from the world. What I'm talking about is actually living in close contact with the creation - dirt, plants, animals, and people.

Fourthly, I also see an overzealous person taking this idea and getting in trouble with it by deeming himself more righteous than another merely by virtue of his economic outlook and ability to be 'productive'. It stands to make the less capable person feel less righteous rather than obligate the more capable to greater humility in service....

You're right about this and I've seen it myself. It is a great failing and ought to be repented of. However, to be fair, I've also seen plenty of "New Urbanists" who have the same disdainful attitude toward those on the other side of the fence that you describe here. It's really not a weakness that's particular to agrarians.

... I know a woman who has MS. She trusts the Lord in a severe stage of illness (confined to a wheelchair and paralysed from the waist down, as well as having many other health issues.)but cannot help anyone but herself-- it takes all her energy to try to stay in her own home. Her husband left her. Her parents are ill. Only our church provides free help to her. What about the elderly and infirm who cannot give but must only take? What of the plight of those outside the Body?

The Body of Christ is absolutely obligated to provide for the needy. I really think that in the agrarian model they'll be better provided for than they are now, simply because people would then be living in real communities where they actually knew their neighbors and interacted with them on a daily basis. The other huge advantage I see to this model is that everyone has a place, from the youngest to the oldest, including the physically and mentally disabled. In our current culture most of these people - most of our weakest and most needy - are institutionalized for most of their waking hours, if not for their whole lives. I truly believe that we need weak people so we can learn to serve them in humility, and sometimes each of us needs to be the weak person, so we can learn to be served in humility. And in a truly agrarian society, there would be no need for institutions as the community would be able to minister directly to each other. Do you know much about how the Amish function? They are one of the few communities that I know of that has a truly integrated society.

In summary, I can buy a good deal of this idea, but there are some really nasty pitfalls I see that could really derail a Christian Body that is primarily urgently called to reach out actively to this world, not merely take care of its own self. How do active, verbal evangelism and works of charity towards the fallen world factor into your scenario?

Wow, that's a big question. I can only say that people have to find their own place in the Body of Christ, in whatever kind of society they live in. There will always be some called to be evangelists, and there will always be families who take meals to the sick neighbor next door.

Maybe it would help me if you could tell me what you think would happen if my scenario were true. What if most people lived in villages, instead of in the suburbs, and worked all day right near their own and their neighbor's homes instead of driving off to the commerical or industrial disticts? What do you perceive as going wrong? I honestly don't understand what you're seeing as a potential pitfall.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Travelling with little ones

Summer's nearly over, but one of the fringe benefits of homeschooling is being able to travel during the off season. We've made many road trips over the years, and consider ourselves seasoned pros, but then in our case we've done it because we've had to and not generally because we were on vacation. We moved from south Georgia to upstate NY with 5, 3, and 1 year olds; from NY to Alabama with 6, 4, and 2 year olds and a 5 month old; from AL to VA... well, you get the picture. And of course any time we've wanted to visit grandparents over the years, we've had to drive anywhere from 2 to 22 hours.

But if you're not used to travelling with little ones it can seem pretty daunting, so I'd like to offer suggestions based on things that have worked for us over the years.

We generally stop every three to four hours.

Probably the first thing you'll want to consider when planning a long trip is how often to stop, so you'll need to be aware of your kids' level of endurance. Are they used to spending an hour or two in the car on occasion? If so, how well do they handle it? If your kids aren't used to travelling you may have to stop every hour and a half to two hours. Do you have a daily quiet rest time at home? What about devotions? If they're used to sitting still for an extended period of time this will help their ability to sit still while travelling.

Because we're not usually "on vacation" when we're on the road, we're almost always pressed for time, so we don't usually stop to eat - that is, we usually eat in the van. This of course, is messy, and not for everyone. When we do have time to stop for a meal, we try to stop at a rest area and eat a picnic lunch, but even then, the kids usually run around the whole time we're stopped and they don't eat much until we get back in the van. If we can't bring a picnic along with us, we try to stop somewhere that has a play area, or at least a bit of grass near the parking lot for the kids to run around on.

Try to combine as many activities as you can into each stop - that is, buying gas and food, and visiting the bathrooms. Every time you stop, make everyone visit the bathroom, even if they say they don't have to go. Unless we're having a picnic, our stops are usually less than a half an hour long, but this frenzied pace may not be conducive to the relaxation you're looking for on vacation. Actually, it doesn't feel frenzied to us, since we're used to it, and the kids know that they only have so much time to visit the bathroom and run around. If you're making a longish stop, take everyone to the bathroom the very first thing after you stop, and the very last thing before you leave. I can't stress enough the importance of properly regulated bathroom breaks. Having to stop every 45 minutes because you have five different bladders filling up on five different schedules will wreck your trip.

Passing the time

My kids have a running game of "Bug" they play every time we're in the car - even little ones can play that. Of course, counting things like horses and cows is fun, or if that's too complicated, keep on the lookout for something special, like a white horse.

Singing. Bring your hymnals along, or if your kids are too young to read, bring one, so Mom can lead hymn-singing.

Stories. Mom can read while Dad's driving and vice versa, or you can get stories on tape to listen to. We usually do this when it's nap time.

Let each child bring a small bag with a few items in it to play with while you're in the car. You can use a diaper bag or backpack or canvas tote, or even a plastic grocery bag or a shoebox. You'll want to limit the amount of small things that they can bring and help them pick out a suitable range of things - like one doll, one book, one notebook and a few crayons, and two matchbox cars.

We don't have a TV in our van, and don't feel the need for one. We bring along music and sermon CDs to listen to on occasion, but I find that I don't like to have anything playing more than a fourth of the time we're travelling. It will limit conversation (the best thing about travelling is getting to sit next to Mike and talk with him for hours on end!), and sometimes just sitting still and being quiet is good for everyone.


If you'll be stopping at a hotel along the way, pack an overnight bag that has pajamas, toothbrushes, and fresh underwear for everyone, so you'll only have one suitcase to take in. I'll bring a fresh blouse for myself and a fresh shirt for Mike, but I'll wear the same skirt and he'll wear the same jeans, and I usually don't pack a change of clothes for the kids in the overnight bag. You just don't get dirty travelling, unless there's an accident. In case there's an accident, you'll want your suitcase with the rest of your clothes in a handy location so you don't have to unpack your whole car to get a clean shirt for a kid who spilled his drink all over himself. Most of our trips are to visit grandparents, and this only requires us to make one overnight stop on the way, but if you're going to be making multiple overnight stops and need to minimize the amount of luggage you carry in to each hotel, check out the Deputy Headmistress's ingenious method.


We always bring a cooler with fresh fruit, already washed, and cheese sticks, and snacky things that we can pass out as needed. We also make sure everyone has a very small cup with a very small amount of water in it. We try to ration the water so we don't have full bladders when it's not time to stop. It's also for this reason that we pack lots of fresh fruit and veggies and only a little cheese, and no crackers at all. You don't want the kids getting thirsty and drinking a large amount and then having to go to the bathroom right away.

We also bring a roll or two of paper towels, some wet wipes, and a couple of boxes of tissue to take care of spills, messy hands, and runny noses. It might be a good idea to bring a few bath towels in case of large spills, and I know at least one family who always brings "travel sickness" supplies - a large trash bag, a gallon of water, plus paper towels and a bath towel, just in case.

Don't give your kids sugar while you're travelling, and this includes fruit juices. At meals we offer them milk or water. Nothing else. The driver and navigator get to drink caffiene if they desire.

The Deputy Headmistress is also a former military wife with seven children, and has even more experience with this than I have. She posted a six part series on this topic back in February, which you can read here: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Agrarian basics, part 2
The nature of corporate calling

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

(I Corinthians 12:12-18)

Just as the Body of Christ is one body with one calling, and each particular member has his own particular calling, so it is with the corporate agrarian calling of mankind. Which is to say, not everyone has to be a farmer.

For the purposes of this discussion I want to offer a definition of farmer as one whose primary occupation is that of producing food by way of cultivating the earth or animal husbandry, in order to provide for all of his family's needs, and with a view of producing a surplus that can be exchanged for the family's needs that aren't produced at home.

This definition is very specific and is different from the more general way I've sometimes used the word to refer to people who garden extensively, but don't do it to provide a majority of their family's needs. So if you've discussed this with me before, especially in the context of my descriptions of my ancestors' occupations, many of whom weren't farmer according to this strict definition, I just want to be sure that my narrow use of it in this series isn't confused with my more general use of the term elsewhere.

In the comments to the previous post, Eleanor wrote a lovely description of what I had in mind when I started this post, so I'm going to quote her.
...God has given us this earth, put us on it, and requires us to use it and steward it in some way that is best suited to the talents we have and the place where we are. For some that means contributing a knowledge of chemistry in order to rpduce medicines. For others it means a knoledge of metallurgy to produce tools. For others it means a knowledge of music to produce music, or a knowledge of light, color and form to produce art. It seems to me, in light of the way the tabernacle was first built, that everyone should be producing something to the glory of God, and that not all will be producing bread or raising sacrificial animals, but that some will be producing goods. Still others will be teaching others to be able to do these things, and not necessarily within the family only. Isn't this what the Body should look like, after all? We are made to be together, and interdependent, some doing this and some doing that, not only for themselves but for others.

This illustrates what I mean when I say that agrarianism is a corporate calling. We are all called to accomplish the same goal, be we don't all have the same "job" or the same way of contributing to that greater end. There is unity in our calling as mankind, but diversity in the way each us helps fulfill that calling. And, as Eleanor suggested, the particular work we are called to do is not only for the glory of God, but also for the blessing of the rest of the Body. I believe it's true that our particular gifts are not even primarily for our own benefit, though we can get a lot of pleasure out of them.

Now, we see that each member has its own particular gift to contribute to the body, or its own particular function to fulfill in the life of the body, but when we look closer at each particular member, we also see that at the individual level, the members all have certain functions in common. For instance, each cell in the eye has chromosomes which contain the blueprint for the whole body, but which also enable the cell to reproduce; each cell in the eye has mitochondria, which convert food into energy; and each cell in the eye has a membrane which serves in part to regulate the passage of materials in and out of the cell - food in, waste out, so to speak.

The interesting thing about this is that, even though the eye's particular calling, it's particular contribution to the body, is very different from that of the foot, the eye provides for itself in exactly the same way as the foot provides for itself. That is, when it comes to meeting its own needs, the eye functions in just the same way as the foot, but when it comes to meeting the needs of the body as a whole, it has a unique role to play.

So we have the unity of the body and the diversity of the members, but we also have a very striking smilarity between the cells in the way they function.

I want to propose that Mankind as a race is patterned after the Body of Christ. We have a unity of purpose - this corporate calling that I've been talking about in stewarding the earth - and we have the rich diversity of contributions that various members make in order that the body as a whole may fulfill its calling. But in a healthy body we should also see a remarkable consistency in the way each member goes about providing for its own individual needs.

I say "in a healthy body," because obviously the "body" we are talking about right now is very far from being healthy. It's true that this body will never be perfectly healthy until the New Heavens and the New Earth. But it's also true that we Christians will never be perfect even as our father in heaven is perfect, and yet Christ still exhorted us with this standard of perfection, because that is the goal which we are to be working toward.

It is the nature of corporate body-ness in a fallen world that oftentimes an individual will find himself in a bad situation that is not of his own making, or possibly his situation is the result of foolish decisions in the past. A soldier may find himself fighting on the wrong side of an unjust war for many reasons. Maybe he enlisted under a godly king who has since become corrupt. Maybe he ignorantly or foolishly enlisted under an ungoldy king. Or maybe he was impressed into service against his will. However it happened, there he is, and he is not free to make amends for the situation by deserting his post. He must continue to serve in his position, but in a godly manner. If he is given an evil order he must refuse to obey it, and be prepared to take the consequences in the same way that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were willing to suffer for their godly defiance of Nebuchadnezzer's evil commandment.

And if he is given a righteous way of escape, he must take it.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Part 1 found here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Agrarian basics
The Biblical foundation

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads....

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
(Genesis 2:4-10,15)

The first thing to understand about agrarianism is that man's original calling was to steward the earth, and that was not changed by the fall, or the flood, or the great commission, or Pentecost, or the industrial revolution, or the invention of computers, or anything. Agrarianism simply IS the way the world works, just as male headship is the way the family works. When the Lord said that the husband is the head of the wife, he wasn't making a suggestion, he was stating a fact, and as Doug Wilson says, a husband may be a good head or he may be a bad head, but he cannot be a non-head.

So, each of us sitting here is an agrarian. You may be a bad agrarian or you may be a good agrarian, but you can't be a non-agrarian. The Lord has given each of us some place that we are to cultivate and guard.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;
In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;
In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you.
May your rest be this day in peace,
  and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.

Our dear Papa Duke passed away around 9:40 this morning. Thankfully, Mike and the two youngest boys were with him the last few hours. Please pray for them as they travel to Mike's grandmother today to break the news to her.

Monday, July 24, 2006

America is so weird
Our goats need a steady supply of hay which we're not yet set up to raise ourselves, so we have to buy it. Our neighbor two doors down raises hay. This might seem like the perfect solution for us - local hay, local economy, all that good stuff. But there's a hitch. Our neighbor has a monster machine to harvest and bail it for him. Those round bales are more than six feet in diameter, so huge that they are useless to the small farmer.

So we drive 25 miles to a Mennonite farmer who still makes human-sized square bales.

Monday, July 17, 2006

But what did she mean?
Three year old daughter: Mama, am I an angel or a lady?
Me: You're a lady.
3yod: You're an angel that's broken.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Public service announcement
Due to some problem with plagiarism, eBay has quit allowing listings of "teachers editions" of materials on their site. In response to this, a kind soul has opened a new auction place especially for homeschoolers called This Little Piggy Stayed Home. Check it out - lots of good stuff there.

(HT: a commenter at Degenhart)

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Update on father in law
About one in the morning, Papa Duke suffered another stroke and the doctors don't expect him to recover this time. My husband and oldest son have left to go to Florida to be with him, if this is the end. And if so, they will next travel to Georgia to break the news as gently as possible to Mike's grandmother. Please remember Nanny Jewell in your prayers. This dear ninty-seven year old saint has already nursed her only other child as she passed away three years ago.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Especially for Anne after reading this post. This funny-sad poem came to mind when I read the article Anne linked attributing the increase in asthma, allergies, and immune disorders to the santized environment that we in the West strive for. While I make it make it my ambition to keep a clean house, not a sterile one - and there is a difference - I tend to think these problems develop more because of eating dead food, that is, food that's had all the life pasteurized or irradiated out of it. Well, that and unnecessary vaccinations, but that's a whole nother subject, and one I'm not willing to discuss right now. ;-)

Strictly Germ-Proof
by Arthur Guiterman

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gambolled up;
They looked upon the creature with a loathing undisguised;
It wasn't disinfected and it wasn't sterilised.

They said it was microbic and a hotbed of disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as banished hope
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.

In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
And 'lected it a member of the Fumigated Band.

There's not a micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his rations from a hygienic cup--
The Bunny and The Baby and The Prophylactic Pup.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Well, okay
Random updates for my faithful readers. ;-)

My two oldest (17yod and 15yos) are visiting my parents in Arkansas. They've been gone for about a week and a half and won't be home for another couple of weeks. I miss their work of course - Saturday I spent the whole entire day (about six hours anyway) doing Number 1 Son's job - cutting grass - but didn't finish it. And my workload in the house has doubled with Elai gone, since she does a lot of the kitchen work, including cooking lunch nearly every day and supper many days, and doing fun things with the little ones. But mostly I miss their conversation. It's so nice having nearly grown up children to talk with.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Prayer request - my father in law had a hemorrhagic stroke Saturday, and is stable now, but he's paralyzed on the right side. We haven't had an update since yesterday, so that means no change so far.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Have y'all been praying for me? Saturday we saw a new family looking at the house next door, so Mike went over to speak to them. The agent said that the family who had a contract on the house is trying to back out - they don't like the colors the builder has chosen. :-D

I told him that if he meets any more potential neighbors he ought to casually mention that we have seven children and nineteen animals, and that we hope to have more. Of course, if they ask, "More children or more animals?" he'd say, "Both." It's a public service, really. People want to know what kind of neighborhood they're getting into before they lay out cash. ;-)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

We're finally getting some much-needed rain. We've been digging up small trees from the woods around here and planting them along the property line to make a border. Boundary lines always make a property look so civilized, don't you think?

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I meant to post this back during the official poetry appreciation month of April, but it went by so quickly and I missed my chance. Well, Cindy has very kindly declared June to be the official poetry month of blogging homschooling mamas, so here's my contribution.

There are gains for all our losses,
   There are balms for all our pain:
But when youth, the dream, departs,
It takes something from our hearts,
   And it never comes again.

We are stronger, and are better,
   Under manhood's sterner reign:
Still we feel that something sweet
Followed youth, with flying feet,
   And will never come again.

Something beautiful is vanished,
   And we sigh for it in vain:
We behold it everywhere,
On the earth, and in the air,
   But it never comes again.

(Richard Henry Stoddard)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

It's been three weeks now since my dryer broke. It hasn't been any trouble at all, since #1Son rigged up a clever contrivance in the back yard for me to dry the laundry on in the sun, and Dear Husband cleverly rigged up a sytem of pulleys and lines in the basement for me to use during rain. The repairman is scheduled to come back Wednesday and install the part he ordered.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I'm doing my spring cleaning now. A bit late, I know, but my asthma has really been acting up lately, so I've stripped my bedroom so I can wash and vacuum everything. My dream house has a separate dressing room for Mike and me so we don't have to have any clothes in the bedroom.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Speaking of stripping - I need to do some serious decluttering around here. What with the recent change in our family's focus (read: there's a lot more outside work since we got goats and chickens!), I need to pare down on stuff inside. Clutter is my bane. I need to be ruthless. Ruthlessness regarding stuff is not a problem with me, but just physically handling so much stuff is. Sometimes I wish I had a magic wand. :-p

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday, so I must post my favorite Trinity Sunday hymn:

O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
It fills the heart with ecstasy,
That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!

He sent no angel to our race
Of higher or of lower place,
But wore the robe of human frame
Himself, and to this lost world came.

For us baptized, for us He bore
His holy fast and hungered sore,
For us temptation sharp He knew;
For us the tempter overthrew.

For us He prayed; for us He taught;
For us His daily works He wrought;
By words and signs and actions thus
Still seeking not Himself, but us.

For us to wicked men betrayed,
Scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death,
For us gave up His dying breath.

For us He rose from death again;
For us He went on high to reign;
For us He sent His Spirit here,
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

To Him Whose boundless love has won
Salvation for us through His Son,
To God the Father, glory be
Both now and through eternity.

Words: Unknown author, 15th Century; translated from Latin to English by Benjamin Webb, 1854
Music: “Deo Gracias,” The Agincourt Song, 1415

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Six Things, part 3

Being an enlisted family, we've never vacationed much, but, being an enlisted family, we've moved around every few years, and have taken advantage of the moves by visiting fun and interesting places along the way, and by making short side-trips when we've lived in exotic locations, like Upstate New York. ;-)

Fort Stanwix

Baseball Hall of Fame

Niagara Falls

Fort William Henry

USS Constitution and the USS Constitution Museum

Plimouth Plantation and the Mayflower II

Fort Toulouse, where we saw a mock battle modeled after the battles of the French and Indian War

King's Mountain National Military Park

Shot Tower Historical State Park

Hm. An awful lot of those are military history places. Imagine that.

My favorite place to visit, and one I'd love to go back to, was the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia, which we first visited while moving from Valdosta, GA, to Rome, NY, in the summer of 1994. "The Museum currently features six permanent, outdoor exhibits comprised of original farm buildings from Britain, Germany, and Virginia. These buildings have been carefully documented, dismantled, transported to Virginia, and restored." Pictured here is a farmhouse from Ulster, Ireland. When we visited, a kind woman was sitting by the front door of this cottage doing her needle work. She showed us the lace she was knitting on tiny wooden needles that had been carved by her husband, and she asked our eldest daughter, who was five at the time, how old she was. On hearing her age, the woman told her that if she'd been living on this farm two hundred years before, by five years of age she would have been responsible for knitting all the family socks. Fascinated by this, Elai wanted to learn how to knit. Looking back on it, the most useful thing I learned from the trip is how little meaningful work there is for small children to do when you buy everything you need ready-made. We're finally (mercy, it's been twelve years now!) learning to knit and crochet some things, most notably hats and dishrags, but I'd like to add socks to our repertoire.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Six Things, part 2
The truth is, I'm having trouble coming up with six things that folks would find interesting about me. :-p But here are two things today that might fit the bill.

I'm always in the middle of reading too many books. Not nearly as many as Kelly M, mind you, who generally has a score or more books she's in the middle of, but too many for me to read through and still be able to remember the beginning by the time I get to the end, or be able to remember in which particular book I read a certain interesting thing.

Currently, I'm reading:
Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts
Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons
Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility
Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin's So Much More
J.R. Miller's Home-Making
Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves
R.C. Sproul Jr.'s Biblical Economics

My mother was a school teacher and her mother was too, and from the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a mommy and have lots of babies, and be a school teacher. I had always figured I'd teach school until I married and then start raising babies instead, but back in the 80s when I was in high school, a family with three adorable little girls whom I babysat, began homeschooling. That's when the lightbulb went on - I could do both at the same time! at home! with my own children! How fun that sounded. And it was fun in the early days, but then it got hard and we had to reevaluate why we were homeschooling. Well, there are still plenty of fun days, but nowadays it's a matter of conviction, and quite often it's that conviction that sustains me. But I'm finding that as I get older and more secure in what I'm doing and why, it's becoming easier and funner again.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Little red Xs
All my photos are hosted at Xanga, which is down supposedly until 2pm today. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This is the first time I've ever encountered peonies in the flesh. Their heady frangrance and lavish beauty have me struggling to find the right word to describe them, and I can't find the one that's just right.

sublime    sumptuous    superb    triumphant    wonderful

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Cindy's Six Things
Since brevity is not one of my virtues, this meme is going to be posted in several parts. Tonight's Interesting Thing About Me is so long I decided to do only one.

My hair first started going grey when I was thirteen years old. My maternal great-grandmother was completely grey by the time she was sixteen, and my mother had a cool grey streak that curved back from her forehead by the time she was in her early 30s, so early grey just runs in my family. But when I was sixteen I started coloring it. Not precisely to cover the grey, though - all the kids in my Sunday School class thought it was cool - but because I wanted to look like Anne Shirley. Heck, I wanted to be Anne Shirley, so I started using henna. After about two years of this, my daddy told me it was starting to look brassy, so I switched to something else, but stuck with the dark auburn color.

I was nineteen when Mike and I first met and he really thought I was a redhead. I told him before we married that I wasn't, but I don't think he believed me. Apparantly my temper matched my hair color. Around the time I was in my late 20s, I decided to let it grow out so I could see what it looked like. I'd been coloring it for more than ten years by then and really couldn't quite remember my natural color. It was surprising to see how my original small grey streak right on the top of my head and grown - there was an area on my scalp about the diameter of a golf ball that grew silver hair. Before too long I started coloring it again, only more of a golden brown instead of dark auburn, trying to make the color closer to my natural color.

Now, my paternal grandmother had very dark brown hair, and she kept it colored up until she was about 80 years old. It was shocking to see her with dark brown hair one visit and snowy white the next. When I first started coloring it, I'd decided that I would stop coloring it long before I was that grey, so the change wouldn't be so shocking. I stopped the second time when I was mid-thirties, but started again when a woman at the mall asked me if I wanted to sign up for a special discount for Senior Citizens. :-p

The last time I colored my hair was in August, two summers ago. It is simply amazing how grey my hair has gotten in the past few years. That spot on the top of my head has grown a bit, but now I also have a grey streak at the right temple, and grey sprinkles throughout the top and front. The funny thing is, I always wear my hair up and it doesn't look grey from the front, except for that vague streak at the temple. And the underneath is still very dark, but the top is so very grey that it just... Well, I'll show you.

This is me from the front, taken last weekend when were at the Highlands Study Center Conference:

And this is me from the back, that same night:

Pretty wild, huh?

Monday, May 8, 2006

In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech to the National Congress of Mothers, On American Motherhood, in which he stated that "the primary duty of the husband is to be the home-maker, the breadwinner for his wife and children, and that the primary duty of the woman is to be the helpmate, the housewife, and mother."

It's interesting that we modern keepers-at-home have generally spurned that word, "housewife" since it seems inevitably to be preceded by the phrase "just a," and so, in the effort to give ourselves a title that sounds better, we've taken over what used to be the man's title.

Calling the man the home-maker is certainly a Biblical idea. Jesus said to his disciples, "In my Father's house there are many mansions.... I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)" Christ makes a home for his Bride, and earthly husbands, who are to imitate the Saviour, should see their priority to be to make a home for their brides.

Then, the bride, as her husband's helpmate, keeps the home and rules it - she is the woman of the house, the housewife. I think we should reclaim this word and restore it to dignity.
Tagged Twice!
Back when I was on hiatus, my Mosey tagged me with the Four Things meme, and now Cindy has tagged me asking for six interesting things about myself. Cindy thinks I should blog more often, so in order to oblige her, I'm doing Mosey's meme today, and I'll do Cindy's... oh, tomorrow or sometime.

Four Jobs I Have Had
- babyitter, beginning when I was about twelve
- I don't think I ever had a title, but I worked for my daddy in his lab several summers during junior and senior high, doing everything from janitorial to secretarial to testing - testing was definitely the most interesting!
- short order cook working fountain and grill at Swenson's Ice Cream Parlor, for three months when I was sixteen
- secretary for four investors at a securities firm, the year after I graduated from high school

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over
- Emma (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow)
- North by Northwest
- Sahara
- Babe

Four Books I Could Read Over and Over
- all of Jane Austen's books
- all of the Lord Peter books
- Creating a Family Garden
- Surprised by Joy

Four Places I Have Lived
- Biloxi, MS
- Valdosta, GA
- Rome, NY
- Montgomery, AL

Four CDs I've Listened to Recently
- Take a Dance
- English Country Dances
- Phantom of the Opera
- Christina Fuller

Four Places I Have Been On Vacation
- Nassau, Bahamas - my Sunday School classes's senior trip was a cruise, the only one I've ever been on
- St. Augustine, FL - when we lived in Valdosta, we used to go to St. Augustine with Mike's parents every summer
- King Salmon, AK - Mike had a remote assignment to King Salmon from June 1993 to June 1994; in the spring of 1994 he flew me up there to spend ten days with him
- Fredericksburg, TX - when we lived in San Angelo my wonderful sister stayed with the six oldest children (Lilian was only two or three months old) so Mike and I could spend a weekend alone

Four Websites I Visit Daily
- Highlands Study Center, my home page
- A Better Country
- the first five blogs in my blogroll
- Google

Four Favorite Foods
- anything Mexicany with lots of salsa, sour cream, and cheese
- homemade guacamole, which is my current favorite snack and side dish and sometimes main dish
- a chicken-pepper-pasta dish I make with Alfredo sauce and lots of bell peppers and jalapenos
- pumpkin pie

Four Places I'd Like To Be Right Now
- in my dream home
- in my rocking chair, curled up with a book and cup of coffee on this chilly, rainy morning
- living in a village like Highbury or Hollingford
- visiting Mike's grandmother

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Flora and Fauna
Since I had my camera handy, I took a few shots around the farm ;-) in spite of the mizzle.

Peonies and roses:

Chanticleer, whose tail is droopy on account of the weather, but isn't he a beauty? Also pictured are a guinea, a couple of bantam Araucana hens, and two standard chicks in the foreground which I think are also Araucanas. We also have six standard Shaver Reds which I somehow failed to photograph.

Queenie, Blue, and Eleanor:

Mike milking Eleanor (note the nascent patriarchal beard):

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

I like this woman
Having grown up washing dishes, I am surprised to find that so many people have not been initiated into the mysteries of this ancient and ritual-laden art. My husband, an orderly, logical person who actually enjoys washing dishes, hadn't a clue about ordinary dishwashing procedures when I married him. He stacked dirty dishes and pots on both sides of the sink; he put washed ones down among the unwashed, rinsed ones among the unrinsed. He did not set dishes to drain; to this day he tends to let water pool in them. He still follows no particular order of washing; a glass might be washed after a skillet and before a plate, then another glass, then the paring knives, then a cup. He is not bothered by food particles that are hard to see or those that are on the outside of a bowl or pot. He tends to walk away from the job midway and return a couple of hours later, seeing no reason not to break it up. To me, this all seems like heresy or insanity or the end of civilization.

Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts

I completely agree with her. Now I just wish I was able to impress all this upon my family. :-p

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The exquisite frustration of slow food
Generally speaking, my experiences with slow food have been satisfactory - whole wheat bread made from soaked flour is very tasty, soaking oats to make porridge has been a notable success, and so has making my own ketchup, using homemade whey from homemade yogurt - but sometimes things just don't go as well as I'd hoped.

Friday evening: Take a quart of fresh goat milk and decide to make Devonshire cream. Strain it into a clean ceramic bowl, cover and set in a warm place for twelve to twenty-four hours per recipe.

Late Saturday morning: Place dish on wire frame inside of a waterbath canner filled so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the dish. Turn stove on low to begin the long slow process of bringing the milk to a boil.

Saturday noon: Check water temperature and turn up another notch. Repeat every hour or so throughout the afternoon.

Saturday, 5:30 pm: Notice that cream is beginning to undulate as it should.

Saturday, 6:15 pm: Check cream again and realize that it has taken over twenty-four hours to get to this point, but so far it looks like it's going to turn out well.

Saturday, 6:20 pm: Step out of the kitchen for a moment.

Saturday, 6:25 pm: Return to kitchen to find a spoon in the dish and the cream stirred back into the milk.

Saturday, 6:30 pm: Recover from volcanic eruption and decide to procede, hoping it isn't ruined.

Saturday, 8:30 pm: After keeping hot for two more hours, cover and set in a cool place.

Sunday, 8:30 pm: Over 50 hours after the process was begun, take the bowl to the kitchen counter, uncover, and skim off the cream. Inspect. Sniff. Taste. Discover it's a failure.

*sigh* I suppose I'll try again sometime... Maybe next week.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Small children playing 20 questions

Child A: "I'm thinking of something."
Child B: "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?"
Child A: "Mineral."
Child C: "What is it?"
Child A: "Our goats! Your turn."

Child C: "I'm thinking of something."
Child A: "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?"
Child C: "Mama, is the table mineral?"
Mama: "No, it's vegetable."
Child C: "Vegetable."
Child B: "Is it the table?"
Child C: "Yes!"

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oh Sovereign Lord, give me grace!
We got four pullets today - they're sweet and Chanticleer seems to like them, although we're keeping the hens in the coop, and the rooster out, for few days while they get used to each other.

All of our animals are patured/free range. We believe it's the healthiest way to raise them... in the outdoors that the Good Lord created them for.

But that's not what has me praying for grace right now. We just met our new next-door-neighbors. The husband works in DC.

For the USDA.

The first thing he did when he saw the chickens was to tell Mike about Virginia's newly enacted legislation regarding the bird flu: If even one case of avian flu shows up, all poultry within 14 counties has to be exterminated.

Please pray for us - this has me almost as worried as if a hyperactive social worker had moved in next door. We'll need wisdom as we consider how much, or whether, we should talk to him about research showing that the avian flu is not as serious a threat as the USDA is presenting it, and that the solution is nothing like what the USDA wants - that all poultry be raised indoors.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Adventures in Goat Herding
We knew we'd need two or three does in order to have enough milk for our family of nine to drink, cook with, and make cheese, so we'd planned on buying at least one more doe this year, and that's just what happened. On a Wednesday earlier this month we drove over to a nice Amish woman's farm in Maryland and bought Ella, a five year old doe who had been retired from the herd that Monday, since she's a little hard to milk, and this woman had nearly a dozen does to deal with, so she really didn't have the time that Ella needs. We, on the other hand, figured she would do fine for us. The Amish woman kindly let us milk her before making the decision to buy so we'd know what we were getting ourselves into, and she gave nearly half a gallon of milk.

Well, we brought her home that evening and thethered her inside the pen while we milked Queenie and took care of evening chores, then we tethered her inside the shed when it time to put them to bed. Ella's previous owner had told us to be very careful not to let her get loose for the first week or so, until she has time to get used to us and to her new surroundings and get settled down. Once, Ella had been lent out to a family who needed her milk for their baby, and she broke loose and came home again, so we were trying to be very careful about this.

On Thursday morning, we tethered Ella to a tree beside the garage while I milked Queenie, and then I took a handful of grain to Ella to feed her while we waited for Stephen to take Queenie out to the pasture so I could take Ella to the milkstand. Ella took the handful of grain from me, took a step away and looked back at me and then bolted, breaking her tether!

Mike and Stephen ran after her while I jumped in the van to follow them, but we never caught her. She went down our road to the highway and headed south for a quarter of a mile or so, through a couple of yards, then went into the woods where Mike lost track of her.

We spent the rest of that day looking for her, and with the help of some very nice people (neighbors, animal control people, and even the sheriff were in on the hunt!) we finally caught her late Friday morning and brought her home again. The poor thing - she was scared to death. She had diarrhea for the next week and had to be kept tethered at all times as she still tended to bolt, especially while gazing into the woods from the top of our yard.

We kept milking her, though we had to give her milk to the cat since it wouldn't be wise to drink milk from an unwell animal, and took especial care with her feeding and water, and finally on Monday of this week she was well and we began keeping her milk.

Ella gives about three cups of milk morning and evening, and Queenie gives about two in the morning and one in the evening, which totals a little more than half a gallon a day, just a little more than we normally use in a day. Now, real dairy people refer to the amount of milk in terms of weight - a pint (2 cups) weighs about one pound - but we don't have a dairy scale yet, so we make do with measuring cups.

Queenie's kid isn't weaned yet, so that's why we get so little from her right now. Blue is about six weeks old now and will be weaned in another couple of weeks, just as Queenie should be reaching her peak production, so I'm thinking we'll be getting close to a gallon of milk a day this summer.

Time to order rennet for cheesemaking!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

RSS feed
BBG Valerie mentioned in my comments below that my RSS feed hasn't been working for her. Is anyone else having this problem? (Of course, if you are, I suppose you won't ever know to answer this post...)

I tried several times yesteday to publish this, but apparantly Blogger was down. It saved this one as a draft, but another I tried to publish disappeard into cyberspace. :-(

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Layers of Irony

Something occurred to me in my reading recently. Many of the symptoms or outcomes of the root defects in our culture today involve things like - plastic. So much of what we own is made of plastic because it's just cheaper to mass-manufacture plastic than to pay artisans who work with wood, clay, or stone, or to raise plants or animals for their fibers. We also use plastic in place of ivory, because it's just so mean to kill animals for their bones (instead of encouraging people to be good stewards of the animals that God has placed here), and many fine woods, like mohogany, because it's just Not Nice to cut down big virgin trees in the rain forests (again, instead of encouraging good stewardship of the resources God has given us).

We use lots of almost-plastic ingredients, like propylene glycol and methylparaben in cosmetics and other personal care products as emulsifiers and preservatives, again because it's either too expensive to use animal and plant based products or because of mass-manufacturing we need to preserve shelf life.

Then there's the whole slew of plastics that are used for convenience food storage, and for inexpensive household supplies. Don't get me wrong, now, I love my Rubbermaid stuff. I don't know where I'd put all my stuff if I didn't have plenty of Rubbermaid, or the even-cheaper Sterlite, to contain everything in. I much prefer real baskets, but they're pretty expensive, too, and if I'm buying something from China, I don't know whether I should spend less money and buy something ugly, or more money to get something beautiful. It's a quandary.

And then there's all the products that were created to facilitate factory farming and its attendant problems - the pesticides and herbicides, the antibiotics and hormones that practically all of us are exposed to, and all the products that were originally created to make keeping commercial kitchens and hospitals and such clean, and have trickled down to the household consumer, because really, they do make life much easier in a way. I love my Swiffer, and my Clorox bathroom cleaning wipes.

But the thing that really struck me was the irony... the poetic justice of all this. These things are all toxic to one degree or another and are probably responsible in a big way for the huge jump in various forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases and things like that that we're seeing so much of nowadays.

What's so poetic about that, you ask? Just this, that in our feminist society, the bulk of exposure to toxicity, most of which is practically unavoidable for most of us, comes from various forms of estrogen. That's right. Female hormones.