Sunday, September 29, 2013

Around the farm

Actually, this photo was taken
by my daughter
On the way home from church today we stopped so I could take a picture of a pretty plant I'd seen blooming along a stretch of road.

I was pretty sure it was chicory, but I wanted to ask Heather, my herbalist friend, who confirmed that it is indeed chicory, and now is the time to harvest the roots.  Heather says, "I like chicory (and dandelion) as a coffee additive because it really nourishes the liver and makes the coffee less taxing on the kidneys."

I love chicory in my coffee, but... um... in spite of the farm stuff we do around here I'm still more of an armchair agrarian than otherwise.


What was I saying?

Oh, yes.  We stopped and took this picture on the way home, and I guess that's what inspired me to take pictures of the things blooming around the house, so I took my phone with me on my afternoon ramble around the yard and took pictures of just about everything that's blooming right now.

First, there are still several blossoms on the climbing rose that grows across our porch.  Here's a nearly perfect one.

Beyond the garage/barn we have a huge stand of Jerusalem artichoke.  Our pastor gave us the ancestors of this batch a few years ago.  The succeeding generations are all volunteers.  Eldest Daughter makes a lovely soup out of them that's every bit as good as cream of potato.

Jerusalem artichoke, and poultry

Gratuitous poultry shot

Here's a better picture of the Jerusalem artichoke flowers.  They're related to sunflowers, so some people call them Sunchokes.

And here we have one of my daylily beds, which is overgrown with mint and some other weeds.  There's some kind of wild sweet pea in there on the left edge of the photo, but it doesn't really show up well.  And that pinkish-purplish beady stuff, that I have no idea what it is.



I remember that I identified this plant in 2008 when I attempted the 100 Species Challenge, but now I don't remember what it's called.  That was on my Wordpress blog, which only exists in my Google Reader archives, which I have not yet figured out how to access.

Daisy fleabane?  I think?

Our geese were extraordinarily noisy while I was taking pictures.  Don't know whether they wanted me to feed them or to go away.

I think it was the latter.

More of that pretty pinkish-purplish flower. 

I think this is different from the daisy-like one above.  The leaves are skinnier.

This seems to be a variety of dandelion.  The flowers bloom on tall stems, and they're real team players -- all the plants in the whole yard bloom one day, then they close up at night and the next day they've all turned to puff balls.  By the time I got around to this one it had already started closing up for the day.

Golden ragweed and an unidentified legume under my clothesline.  This legume is a lot bigger than the ones that infest the flower beds on the other side of the house.

The goats were unusually playful.  They're probably in heat.

The darker brown one is Jemima, who is a six year old half-Alpine half-Nubian.  The lighter brown one is Sunday, who's five.  She's a three-quarter Nubian, one-quarter Alpine.  Psyche is the big white one.  She's the herd queen and I think she's just interfering on principle.  All three of these girls (and Sunday's father) were born here.

This doesn't show well, but two of our crape myrtles are still blooming.

And here's a gratuitous sunset shot, taken by my shutterbug daughter a few days ago.

Hope you all had a lovely Michaelmas.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I had a head cold earlier this week that made me feel so woolly-brained I could hardly think.  Consequently we got zero schooling done.  The kids are obsessed with Minecraft and World of Tanks.  Minecraft is endorsed by The Libertarian Homeschooler, and WOT by my husband and adult children who often play it with the youngers, so I assuage my guilt by telling myself that they are learning Strategy and other Important Life Skills while playing these games.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

This Ancient Greeks class is killing me.  Even on a good week I usually read the biography in my kids' copy of Famous Men of Greece instead of from Plutarch, Herodotus, or Thucydides, as the syllabus calls for, but owing to the head cold and the inability to think properly, I skipped nearly all of the readings and I'm just listening to the lectures.  They're sooo interesting, though.  It's not a waste of time.  This week we're covering the reforms of Kleisthenes and the Persian Wars.  When I have time I want to think about the differences between earlier Greece under Solon and what it became under Kleisthenes.  Under Solon's laws it was more aristocratic and feudal.  Under Kleisthenes' it was more democratic and statist.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

The two oldest girls and I have been been watching a Korean drama called Two Weeks that just ended, and I'm feeling a little empty.  It was really exciting (action, intrigue, romance, treachery, heartbreak, murder... and that's just the first episode), and it ended well, with the bad guys getting their just desserts (plus redemption for more than one of them), the good guys who did bad things acknowledging their errors and making restitution, and all the right people on their way to getting a happy ending.

Lee Joon Gi (the Magistrate from "Arang and the Magistrate") plays Jang Tae San, a good-for-nothing piece of trash who doesn't care whether he lives or dies.  His ex-girlfriend shows up one day to tell him he has an illegitimate daughter he never knew about who's dying of leukemia because they can't find a bone marrow donor, and asks him to take a blood test to see if he might be a match.  Miraculously, he is a match, and he feels that for the first time in many years he has a reason to live.  But that day, his gangster boss discovers some things that send him into a rage, and he frames Tae San for murder.

If, like me, you know anything about donating bone marrow, certain aspects of this show you'll just have to ignore.  Tae San has lived so badly in the past several years that I don't think he'd even qualify as a donor, and then over the next several episodes he suffers several injuries, and of course he's not supposed to be getting any infections just now, on account of the bone marrow harvest coming up.  I just had to decide that Tae Sannie has magic healing blood, and get over it.  I guess it's like any show -- if you're a lawyer you can't bear to watch courtroom dramas; if you're a cop, police shows will drive you crazy, and so on.

But the depiction of the relationships between the characters is so well done.  Their backstories are slowly revealed throughout the show and add depth and meaning to their present choices.  The little girl is adorable.  The characters' emotions and reactions are believable.

The music is mostly forgettable, so that's a mark against my hypothesis that the quality of the music is a decent indicator of how well I'll like the show.  I'm glad it worked out that way -- some of the music in the early episodes is so schmaltzy that I was afraid I'd wind up hating the show and I really wanted to like it.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Oh, and I have to share this with you.  Bought this drying rack at Walmart a month or so ago and love it.  I line-dry a lot of my clothes and when I can't put them on the clothes line, I hang them in the shower in my bathroom, which is small and crowded even without laundry hanging around.  And then, if I don't get things hung up early enough in the day and they're still damp when it's time to take our showers at night, we have to move them, and, well, it's just a hassle.

I know. First world problems.  But I love this rack.  It's collapsible so I can keep it in my closet when I'm not using it.

Best $15 I've spent in a long time.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Well, tonight's Razorback game will be starting soon and I have to quit blogging so we can set up the computer and watch it.  Y'all be good.

Edited to add:  Alas, no ballgame.  I usually watch them on but they don't air every game -- this is two weeks in a row now.  This is the one time of year I wish we had TV.  Wish I could just get a football season package.  I know.  More first world problems.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pirate Story

...because it's National Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Pirate Story
~Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
    Three of us abroad in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
    And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.

Where shall we adventure, to-day that we're afloat,
    Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
    To Providence, or Babylon or off to Malabar?

Hi! but here's a squadron a-rowing on the sea--
    Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we'll escape them, they're as mad as they can be,
    The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday with Words: The power of a poet

We all know what it means to be spartan – stern, austere, brave, frugal – but Sparta, the home of Menelaus and Helen, was not always “spartan.”  During the Dark Age and the early Archaic Age of Greece she was not so different from other Greek cities like Athens.  Sparta’s merchants traveled to other cities to trade, her poets wrote lyric verse, her craftsmen and artisans flourished.

In the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. the Spartans fought two wars with neighboring Messenia. During the First Messenia War, Lycurgus gave his famous laws to Sparta, but scholars see the warrior-poet Tyrtaeus, who lived during the Second Messenian War, as the man who first envisioned the true Spartan – the people they became and whom we think of as Classical Spartans.

“Spartan Soldier”
~Tyrtaeus of Sparta (c. 620 B.C.)

It is beautiful when a brave man of the front ranks,
falls and dies, battling for his homeland,
and ghastly when a man flees planted fields and city
and wanders begging with his dear mother,
aging father, little children and true wife.
He will be scorned in every new village,
reduced to want and loathsome poverty; and shame
will brand his family line, his noble
figure. Derision and disaster will hound him.
A turncoat gets no respect or pity;
so let us battle for our country and freely give
our lives to save our darling children.

Young men, fight shield to shield and never succumb
to panic or miserable flight,
but steel the heart in your chests with magnificence
and courage. Forget your own life
when you grapple with the enemy. Never run
and let an old soldier collapse
whose legs have lost their power. It is shocking when
an old man lies on the front line
before a youth: an old warrior whose head is white
and beard gray, exhaling his strong soul
into the dust, clutching his bloody genitals
into his hands: an abominable vision,
foul to see: his flesh naked. But in a young man
all is beautiful when he still
possesses the shining flower of lovely youth.
Alive he is adored by men,
desired by women, and finest to look upon
when he falls dead in the forward clash.

Let each man spread his legs, rooting them in the ground,
bite his teeth into his lips, and hold.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday with Words: "House and wife and an ox for the plough"

This semester I’m taking a seven week-long class from Coursera on The Ancient Greeks. Check out the syllabus – it’s brutal.

This quote is from one of my assigned readings this week, a selection from Aristotle’s Politics, on the polis.  I’ve deleted a longish section because I wanted to focus on Aristotle’s description of the oikos, the household or family.

He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them. In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves), and of natural ruler and subject, that both may be preserved…. 
Out of these two relationships between man and woman, master and slave, the first thing to arise is the family, and Hesiod is right when he says, 
        ‘First house and wife and an ox for the plough,’ 
for the ox is the poor man’s slave. The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants, and the members of it are called by Charondas ‘companions of the cupboard,’ and by Epimenides the Cretan, ‘companions of the manger.’

Friday, September 6, 2013

Different children learn to read at different ages, and that's okay*

Of my seven children, one will probably never be able to read.  One was a fairly typical student in the beginning.  We used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, beginning whe she was six.  Then she progressed through easy readers and chapter books until she was about ten years old when she suddenly started reading way beyond her grade level (and by that I mean, she started reading The Lord of the Rings).  Another one learned to read about the same way I did – she had a few lessons in phonics when she was five or six, figured out the rest for herself right away, and began reading classic children’s literature on her own around age eight.  When she was thirteen I handed her a stack of books from Ambleside Online’s Year 7 book list and she managed them fine. 

The other four have all been “late” readers.  

Home Grown Kids, by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, was the first book I ever read on homeschooling.  I never believed that all children should develop physically or intellectually on the same schedule, but having read the Moores’ book, I was steadfast when a loving family member began to worry that my second child wasn’t reading yet shortly after his ninth birthday.

“Read, sing and play with your children from birth.  Read to them several times a day, and they will learn to read in their own time – as early as 3 or 4, but usually later, and some as late as 14. [p. 225]”

They’d said that children under eight or nine years old quite often reverse letters like b and d, and words like saw and was, so I wasn’t caught off-guard when my son also did that.  He had beautiful handwriting but he often wrote a beautiful mirror-image of what he intended.

I began his reading lessons when he was almost seven, using 100 Easy Lessons, supplemented with phonogram cards from Bonnie Dettmer’s Phonics for Reading and Spelling, which is based on Romalda Spalding’s method.  We’d have a brief lesson each day, always keeping it under fifteen minutes and cutting it shorter than that if he was struggling.  I wanted to end each lesson with success, not frustration.  When he quit making progress, we’d take a break for a week or a month to give his brain time to catch up. 

The most important thing to me was that he not learn to hate reading, or get the idea that he was stupid.

After a while I switched to McGuffey’s First Reader because the stories were more interesting and I could tell he didn’t like the silliness of 100 Easy Lessons.  That’s not meant to be a criticism of 100 Easy Lessons.  Lots of kids love it and do well in it.  I’m just pointing out that although it’s obviously a bad idea to hop haphazardly from one curriculum to another, there’s nothing wrong with making a judicious change when you think it will be better for your child. 

Then one day, when he was nine and a half, he picked up Brian Jacques’ Redwall and read the whole thing in a few days.  Just like that, it all clicked, and he never needed easy readers.

This spring my then-twelve year old son had a similar experience.  We’d spent years going through 100 Easy Lessons, memorizing phonogram cards, reading through all the BOB books, working slowly, slowly through McGuffey’s Primer and First Reader, taking breaks as needed.  He was also slowly reading through Josephine Pollard’s Life of George Washington, covering just one or two paragraphs a week. 

Then one day, because his older sister was taking too long getting to the next chapter of the Harry Potter book she was reading to him and the ten-year-old, he just read the rest of the book himself.  And it’s been hard to get him to do anything besides devour books since then.  Over the last few months he’s read the rest of Harry Potter, all of the Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson books, several Sugar Creek Gang and Landmark books, and The X-Craft Raid by Thomas Gallagher, which retells the story of the men involved in a particular battle during World War II.

My ten-year-old is still memorizing phongram cards with me and struggling through the BOB books.  She won’t let me forget her reading lesson though – she loves it and she’s eager to learn, it’s just slow, hard work for her.  She’s had a lot of trouble keeping the six spellings of /er/ straight.  Phonics for Reading and Spelling suggests this mnemonic:  “Her first church worships, and learns courage.”  She can remember that easily enough and she knows the first four, but she’s been having a hard time with the last two – ear, the /er/ of “learns” and our, the /er/ of “courage.” 

This week I hit on something that seems to be working.

We’re also using the cursive handwriting program from Logic of English, and looking at these two troublesome phonograms it occurred to me that c and o both belong to the curve family of letters, while l and e both belong to the loop family.

I wrote it out for her on the lined white board we use for lessons:

She wrote the two words out herself that day and the next day she remembered it – a huge victory!

I had another child who also needed to learn kinesthetically.  I’ll never forget how hard she worked on a – /ă/ /ā/ /ä/ – but never getting anywhere until I told her to march around the room, saying the sounds in rhythm.  That did the job for her.  After that, anytime she needed to learn something that wasn’t coming easily, she’d march and say it to the beat of her feet.

My point is that every child is different, and you shouldn’t worry if yours isn’t meeting typical grade- or age-level expectations.  Just work slowly and cheerfully at it, figuring out what your child needs in order to master the skill for himself.  Keep the lesson short – end it on a success, not a failure.  If either of you is getting frustrated, take a break for a while.  And by “a while” I mean anything from a few minutes to a few months, just depending on what the situation calls for.

* I just noticed and corrected a horrifically embarrassing typo in the title.  Of course, it can't be changed on Feedly or Facebook, so I'll just have to swallow my vanity.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday with Words: Implacable resentment

Odysseus answered: 
“May it please your grace, my lord King Agamemnon, the man will not quench his anger; he is even more full of passion and rejects you and your gifts….” 
All heard this aghast, in dead silence; it was a heavy blow.  They were long silent, but Diomedês broke the silence, as usual: 
“May it please your Grace, my lord King Agamemnon!  It was a great pity to ask [Achillês] at all or to offer your heaps of treasure.  He is always a proud man, and now you have made him prouder than ever.
 [The Illiad, Book IX, Homer, tr. W.H.D. Rouse]

‘No’ – said Darcy, ‘I have made no such pretension.  I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding.  My temper I dare not vouch for. – It is, I believe, too little yielding – certainly too little for the convenience of the world.  I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself.  My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them.  My temper would perhaps be called resentful.  My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.’ 
That is a failing indeed!’ cried Elizabeth.
 [Pride and Prejudice, chapter XI, Jane Austen]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


That's me yelling at Feedly.  Just now I accidentally hit the publish button on a post I meant to save.  It isn't ready yet.  It's incomplete.  It's probably also incoherent.  I immediately took it off my blog, but it was sent to Feedly before I could delete it and Feedly doesn't update things like that the way Google Reader did.


So, please ignore the last post.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Can't get enough of this song

It's from Master's Sun, the drama about the girl who sees ghosts, which I mentioned the other day.

[Translation by pop!gasa]

When you pass by my finger tips
Warmth spreads throughout my cold heart

I want to softly go to you and lean on you
But the distance between us is not narrowing

It’s okay even if I can’t touch you
It’s okay even if I can’t hug you
Lonely love
Yes I love you, like my destiny
I can feel you

Lalala lala lala
Lalala lala lala
Lalala lala lala lala
My heart can reach you

I want to reach out my hands and hold you
But it feels like we’ll get farther apart so I just linger around you

It’s okay even if I can’t love you
It’s okay even if I can’t reach you
Lonely love
Yes I love you, even from far away
I can see you

It’s okay even if I can’t touch you
It’s okay even if I can’t hug you
Lonely love
Yes I love you, like my destiny
I can feel you

Lalala lala lala
Lalala lala lala
Lalala lala lala lala
My heart can reach you

Lonely love