Saturday, July 30, 2011


This afternoon my son made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but it was too hot to turn on the oven, so we just ate the dough raw. :-)

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Owing to a late spring and an even later start with the garden, we just got our first tomatoes today. I'm telling you, I bit into one and thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

If you ask me, the only reason even to have summer is so you can eat fresh, warm-from-the-garden, home-grown tomatoes. Without growing your own tomatoes you're just getting hot and sweaty for nothing.

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This morning Mike and I went to an Amish grocery store we'd heard about. They have spices in large quantities for really good prices, so I stocked up on a few things I was out of -- celery seed, turmeric, paprika -- and bought a quarter pound of parsley, because you can never have too much parsley.

I also bought, for the first time ever, a tub of lard. I used it to cook our salmon patties for supper tonight and they turned out well. I'm glad to have another fat to add to my inventory. I've read that animal fats are the best for frying in since they can take the heat.

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We're raising ducks for the first time and several of them have turned out to be males, so we should have plenty of duck fat this winter. Sally Fallon says duck fat is the best thing in the world to cook potatoes in.

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My two oldest are in town tonight and they're going to go by the big grocery store while they're there to see if they can buy some things that I'm not able to get in the stores in our rural county: cream of coconut, macadamia nuts, instant espresso powder, plus a couple of other things. Tomorrow I'm going to make either Mystie's Intense Coffee Ice Cream or Coconut Macadamia Ice Cream for our Sunday treat, depending on which ingredients they're able to find. We bought the cream this morning from the man who butchered our pig a few years ago.

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While we were in Amish country we also bought a gallon of milk from pastured cows from a man we get milk from when our goats aren't producing enough, or when I want cow milk. (We would have bought the cream from him too, but he was out, and sent us to the butcher.) I'm going to try making yogurt with it because I don't like the way our goat-milk yogurt turns out.

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My sous chef and I have been in a food rut for the last year -- kind of bored with everything, not interested in coming up with meal plans, wondering why we have to eat every day anyway, let alone three times every day. Today, I'm loving food again.

I like it better this way. :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer school

So, yesterday morning after reviewing all his phonograms and other memory work (Psalm 8, the seventh day of the creation week, The Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13, the latter portion of Ephesians chapter 4, Pater Noster, and Poe's "Eldorado"), and having a handwriting lesson, I sent John outside to run around the house three times while I set up his French lesson. I've found that his eleven-year-old mind works better when his body has had some recent exercise, and it had already been more than an hour since he'd finished helping with milking the goats and putting them out to pasture, investigating the death of a chicken, taking the dog for a walk, and collecting and taking out the trash.

His run took a lot longer than I'd expected and when he came in he was mad as a hornet. Four of the goats had gotten out and gone to our neighbor's house to feast on their apple trees, and while running up the path through the woods to get them, he'd been stung twice by yellow jackets. I put baking soda on his wounds and sent him back out to find another way around. No good. The yellow jackets were stirred up all along the ridge he has to cross to get to the neighbor's.

Naturally I panicked and called my husband. Then, having sent John and Nathan on one more vain excursion, I fitted them out in ad hoc beekeeper's gear: jeans tucked into socks, a cowboy hat with a sheer curtain draped over it and tucked inside a jacket, plus a pair of gloves. By the time Mike got home, John had brought Psyche, the herd queen, home, and penned her up and the other three were following... slowly, but since the queen had gone home, they were on their way, too.

While the guys were out managing the mischief, I made half a gallon of lemonade to serve them when they came back inside. It's awfully hot here now -- in the 90s and muggy. It was past lunch time by then and my two oldest had come back from the library, so we made quesadillas and Mike went back to work.

It was nearly 2 o'clock by the time we finished eating and I didn't feel like doing anything else, so, remembering that Tuesday was the day that The Eagle was supposed to be in the Redbox, I sent Number One Son out to pick it up, and we spent the rest of the afternoon watching it. My three youngest girls are at their grandmother's and they're going to be sorry they missed the movie.

Oh, the two oldest were at the library because Eldest Daughter had an internet class which began at 11:00 (James Taylor's short story class through CiRCE and those of you who didn't sign up for it ought to be ashamed of yourselves), and our internet was down. We have this theory that our local provider houses the equipment in a leaky basement because service goes down whenever the weather gets a little damp.

Today we saw a bluebird in the bird bath and stood watching it for a while. Other than that, it was less exciting than yesterday, but we didn't accomplish much more.

I'm not worried though. It's too hot to do anything besides stand and stare.

I'm enjoying the time off, but I am looking forward to the fall, when all the children are home again and we get back into our cozy routine.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

In her post Video Games, Home Education, and the U.S. Supreme Court, Brandy discusses what is being called the third wave of home school persecution, and has encouraging things to say.

In the course of her post she mentions the earlier days when “socialization” was the big issue that home schoolers had to deal with, but then explains that this newer form of persecution is based on the fact that when a parent educates his own children at home, he is passing his own ideas down to his children, and those ideas might be dangerous or unacceptable.

But I’ve come to believe that this is what the whole socialization argument was about – not that home schooled children won’t know how to interact politely with other people on an individual basis, but that they won’t know how to fit into Society at large, meaning, they won’t grow up to be good contributors to the national economy.

The other night we were at Home Depot looking at new flooring for our kitchen and the young woman who was helping us, mentioned the installation fee a couple of times. After a while, when we’d finished picking out what we wanted, she said something about calling to schedule installation, but I said, “Oh, I have a son – he does all my installation.”

She responded with mock horror at the idea of us not paying someone to do our work, and I said, laughing, “I know – our family is so bad for the economy.”

And this is the point: As soon as you figure out that you can raise your own kids from infancy to adulthood without needing a paid professional to do it for you, you figure out that there are scads of things you can do yourself, and those kids grow up assuming that doing things as frugally and as independently as possible is the way Normal people function. They pay for fewer and fewer services, and in a service economy, if everybody did that, where would we be? This, I believe, is what so many fear about parents educating their own children at home.

One of the first times we visited George Washington’s birthplace, one of the blacksmiths was telling visitors about how economically independent from Britain the Virginians strove to be, refining their own iron ore, for example, and forging it into the necessary items, instead of sending the ore the England to be refined and forged there, as Parliament wished. In fact, Parliament wanted all raw materials to be sent to England for processing, and then bought back (as value-added products, in today’s speech) by the colonists. So the colonists were supposed to raise sheep and harvest the wool, but send it straight to England for carding, spinning, and weaving into cloth which would then be purchased by the colonists to make their clothes from. The same with timber, which the colonists were expected to harvest and ship to England, to be turned into the lumber and shingles they would buy to build their houses and barns with.

But at the Pope’s Creek Plantation, where George Washington was born, all of the family’s basic needs were provided by the farm. The plantation functioned like a village, with a blacksmith shop, a spin shop (for spinning, dying, and weaving wool and flax). Cobblers and carpenters had their shops, too. Most of the Virginia plantations worked this way, and allowed their craftsmen, who were nearly all indentured servants and slaves, to hire themselves out to locals who needed their labor. In this way, local communities provided for all of their basic needs. Wealthy families bought luxuries from Britain when they shipped their tobacco harvest to London, but not the daily necessities Parliament wanted them to buy, such as cloth for everyday clothes, lumber, and hardware.

Well, this blacksmith, in giving us this history lesson, remarked that, “When a people have gained economic freedom, political freedom won’t be far behind.”

That’s something to keep in mind this weekend, as we celebrate our political independence from Great Britain.