Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beautiful pictures taken by my sister Bhu

We're so lucky to have a professional photographer in the family.
These next two show Zoe opening up the gift that Bhu and I made for her. It is a box of ten board books. We included an alphabet book, a numbers book, colors, shapes, and then more family oriented ones, like "Uncle Nicolas' Vegetables" and "We Love" with pictures of her smile and her walk and her eyes, etc. on each page.. They were so much fun to make and are being thoroughly enjoyed by their enthusiastic recipient. Duct tape may be the answer.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

My brother and sister and their families traveled long distances to come be together here for the holidays. It has been so wonderful to be with them. My sister is five months pregnant and has the cutest "bump" ever.

For Christmas dinner we had duck prepared three different ways by the guys, roasted vegetables and escarole salad. Every bit of the food except the olive oil, butter and the herbes de provence (that we brought back from Europe) were from the farm.
The most exciting part has of course been seeing Zoe - now fifteen months old and an incredibly sweet and happy little girl.

Being pulled in the cooler wagon by her cousins paiges and being fed peas by her Aunt lady in waiting.

The lady in waiting, and princess Zoe's mum found time to also make two beautiful pies. I am so loving the visiting pie makers of this winter. Who's next?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Farm Photos

These first two are from the farm party at Helen's. There were lots more farmers - these are just a few of the most photogenic:

I haven't been to the farm this week. These are from the week before. I've been crafting gifts, picking out paint colors and flooring for the new room, swapping cookies here with friends and welcoming my sister! My brother, his wife and their one year old are in a plane right now, making their long way here from summer, on the other side of the world.

Right now, at 6:41 am, Fracas the cat is still chasing the same tiny mouse that she has been playing with for over an hour. I have been begging her to have it for breakfast and put it out of its misery but she's not listening.

At least the final ducks' demise, this past week, was fast. They never knew what hit them. They were eating Helen's flowers, pooping on her porch and were roosting at night on the high tunnels, causing lots of damage. Nicolas and Helen had understandably lost all affection for the ducks. But I hadn't. We will all thank the ducks when they provide our Christmas feast.

I hope you are all enjoying your holidays.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I am not sleeping much lately. There's excitement about my family coming. I'm panicking about the many things I forgot to do that day. I'm listening to the new sounds of our newly-inside-dwelling cat, crashing into the wall near my bed as she races back and forth with her invisible friend in the dark. Mostly, I'm worrying - about friends' troubles, or the homeless, or whether Nicolas is happy. I wish that I could be like sometime insomniacs Barbara Kingsolver and Rue Kream and get out of bed each night to write a great book. Maybe tonight.

Lack of sleep has softened me. The professional production of A Christmas Carol that we saw last night (our friends in it included two acclaimed young unschooled brothers) had me in tears over Scrooge's redemption. That was unexpected. I even acted in this play, years ago in Boston and was cynically burned out on Christmas carols for years. This year, just a few notes of Johnny Mathis and I well up. And, this particular production is great. If you are local, and can get there, I believe that even those less tender would love it.

This morning, I saw a branch out of a window and was touched by the way the wind moves its leaves, that there are just a few less of the red flutters every day.
I deleted the earlier published rambling about having lost my checkbook at the theater, and my "excuses of an insomniac" for having done so, because I found said checkbook between the seats of our car. Life is bittersweet but the emphasis today has gotten sweeter. I'm going to be a presenter at the Northeast Unschooling Conference, which means I'm bringing my family for a visit home to Boston at the end of August! I hope that some of you will be there, to pump me full of tylenol pm or mundane thoughts late at night and share a wicked good time. Do Bostonians still say wicked?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Slow Food/Michael Pollan news:

The following came to me in an email from an Atlanta Slow Food leader and friend:

Michael Pollan will be in Atlanta!

As you may already know, renowned author and food activist,
Michael Pollan will be the keynote speaker at the
Georgia Organics Conference in Decatur, Georgia on March 21, 2009.
We are pleased to announce that Slow Food Atlanta will be giving you the opportunity to meet and dine with Mr. Pollan while he is in Atlanta.
Please mark your calendars, and plan to celebrate the start of spring with Michael Pollan and other distinguished guests. We will savor
a fabulous feast in a convivial setting, created by Southern Slow Food chefs. Special pricing will be available to Slow Food members,
so join today if you're not already a member.
Save the Date: Fri., March 20, 2009. Details will follow soon at

Vote with Your Fork and Your Voice!

While we're speaking of Mr. Pollan, we'd like to call to your attention
his latest newsletter requesting support in encouraging
President-Elect Obama to nominate a Secretary of Agriculture
who will support sustainable family farmers
. Michael Pollan,
along with Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Bill McKibben, Erika Lesser and 13,000+ concerned farmers, chefs, activists and eaters have signed their names to a thoughtful letter to our future Farmer in Chief. You can find more information here:
Please take a moment to read this petition, and add your name if you agree. Time is of the essence.

Judith Winfrey
Co-leader Slow Food Atlanta

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Settling in for the duration

Still had been a decade since the last time that I did this - that time I was insired by our last move - so it could take me another year.
In addition we are making some constructive changes to this old house. I am liking the idea of staying in one home long enough to mark our kids' growth up the side of the wall until they are taller than we are. I moved twenty times before I was twenty-four.

Our screened-in side porch is transforming into a closed-in actual room. It will be a place to keep all of our art supplies, it will have a dog and cat door (so I can retire form being their all day doorwoman) and it still has lots of windows, so lots of light. I can't see us leaving it much except to use the bathroom or get some food and maybe to sleep in a bed.

We also finally got insulation blown into the walls so I am not wearing Gillen's down vest inside any more. But I haven't yet come to terms with the idea of updating our beautiful old windows to ones that would be more energy efficient. We have warm comforters and lots of sweaters.

My sister sent me a sock that she knit for my birthday. She'll bring the other one with her next week. This was her first time knitting socks (maybe even knitting?) Unbelievable, no? It is so perfectly beautiful. I have put my first time socks aside for now, with just one toe to go; not that they don't look just as professional. ; )I also have to show you a set of cloth gift bags sewn by Helen for my birthday last week. Aren't they festive, and so much better to reuse than paper? She has an etsy shop.
Another big change - Fracas has moved inside. She has learned to use the litter box and has found a new favorite spot in our bedroom.And finally, we replaced all of the many scary torn parts of our trampoline so the kids have been making that their home. Even in the rain :

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey, ducks and the friends who helped us eat them.

I'm a changed omnivore. After eating one of Gillen's turkeys and two of his ducks for Thanksgiving dinner, I now intend to only meat occasionally, and only from our farm or from farmers we know.

I didn't even take part in the duck and turkey slaughter. I just watched a few minutes of the plucking and some of the guts removal (which I also smelled) and I saw the pictures that our adventurous, young, wise, vegetarian friend Persephone bravely took of the event. I took the clean path of Japanese dinner preparation in my newly orderly kitchen. But something shifted inside of me. Maybe it was having known this dinner as ducklings and poults, or maybe it was that smell. Or maybe I have just woken up to just how much we gloss over the slaughter of the animals we eat by wrapping it all up in cellophane and placing it in massive, even stacks in grocer's coolers. In Europe, the feet and heads are left attached. I like that.

As Persephone's boyfriend, meat-eating Chopper, said this week - if we had to go through this process every time I think we would eat meat only on special occasions. That's my new plan. We'll see how the family adapts.

I'm not out to recruit anyone to this way of thinking. So I'll show only appetizing pictures of the birds and none of the main event. Just these:Those ducks that were not facing their last day at our farm were chased away from the scene of the slaughter by Gillen and his friend Aaron.Chopper helped Nicolas with every step, including thanking the birds.Washing them after they have been de-gutted.

Chopper fried the turkey outside so that we would have room in the oven for the many gourmet sides that Persephone helped me prepare and for the two ducks:
Almost the entire meal was local, including green beans I'd frozen this summer, sweet potatoes, yukon gold potatoes, escarole, radichio, raw milk and cheese. Next year, maybe we can use all local ingredients.

The exceptions were the pumpkin, cherry and pecan pies. Will you look at Persephone's pies:Look what that girl can do with pastry.
And they tasted as good as they looked.She also spent hours helping me prepare a Japanese dinner while the guys finished plucking and gutting the birds. I had to prepare Japanese for the joy of using all of my Japanese plates, bowls, sake cups and of course, these:Persephone worked so hard that when I prepared local beef (this is pre-Thanksgiving revelations) one day, the smell drove her to eat half a burger, for the first time in decades:And Chopper also got to act out of character, playing wii and W.O.W. for the first time and spending hours on the trampoline, rediscovering his boyhood, and a B-B gun (they're aiming at coconuts on the compost pile) with Gillen and Jesse:What a week. It was full and deep.

Another highlight was going to see Manheim Steamroller with some of our favorite unschooling friends, at the Fox Theater. Gillen and Jesse loved it. Jesse was inspired by it to want to play the violin. I admit, I wish it had been the keyboard. I now officially have some spirit and we are very ready for my Montana and Australian family to arrive.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tearing my self away from de-cluttering

Now that I've started, I can't stop. The newly cleared and repainted white space in my kitchen is like a beacon - pouring bright, revealing light onto every still-cluttered corner of my home. I want nothing more in life right now than to fill the trunk of my car with stuff for Goodwill and then clean and artfully display the real treasures that have surfaced. For instance, I came upon a yellowing piece of Japanese newspaper wrapped around something in the back of a drawer. I opened it up and found the tiny chopstick holders that I'd bought in a Tokyo yen store (like a dollar store) when Nicolas and I were there visiting his sister years ago. I can't tell you how exciting this was. I am going to make a Japanese meal next week for our visiting friends from Rhode Island, Persephone and Chopper, just so that we can eat with chopsticks - chopsticks that are picked up off of the table where they will be gracefully resting on these:The kids and I (with some local friends, the Wilsons) ate Japanese food yesterday at an unschoolers' Japanese festival hosted by Beth. It was great to reconnect with the Atlanta unschooling families.

There were lots of happy kids (who have all grown way too much since August) playing with the many surprisingly happy animals - Beth owns and fosters cats, dogs and a ferret.Above is Katie, holding Lucinda, who is named after the sweet girl below (Lucy for short), holding Violet.
There were swings, and football,
a fierce yu-gi-oh tournament to make Jesse's day, despite coming in second to Max:Origami, good conversation, and examples of cool crochet projects - Kimba's leg warmer for Lucy
that, on top the other project that I saw the day before at a more local gathering of friends:could possibly pull me away from more sock knitting. This beautiful blanket was whipped up in no time by Helen. I had to add the second picture so that I could commemorate the squirrel on the shelf behind her head, which was killed and stuffed by that day's wonderful host's husband (and Gillen's hunting hero) Allen. I have never seen this squirrel when we were there, ever. I had heard tales of him while on the phone with Allen's wife, Claudia, when she interrupted her talk of sweet tea to exclaim, "There's a squirrel in our fridge!"

But that conversation was at least a year ago. I have never noticed the squirrel. Or if I did, I don't remember. This is why I blog - to notice the details and then note them down so I'll remember them.

Now, back to unearthing the details in my home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turnips and Cabbage and Watermelon, oh my.

Every time we go to the farm, the kids immediately run to the barn, the cooler or out to the field for a turnip. They peel and eat several. I prefer them roasted.

In French, "mon petit chou" is an endearment. "Chou" means cabbage. I hear Nicolas' mom and his siblings say "chou-chou" often. Here's my big Chou with a bodacious head (of cabbage).

The farm has about a thousand pounds of watermelon radish right now.
They are much prettier opened up. We love them in salad.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cleaning Up

For a year now, Nicolas has had it with our couch. It has well-loved throws and wool blankets strategically covering its gaping seams and stains. But the real problem is that for many months now, it has no longer provided comfort at the end of a hard day. It is the sanctuary to which Nicolas retreats when he wants to fall asleep hang out with us around the wood stove.

So I researched couches, for a very long time, really wanting to just get one from Freecycle or Craig's list but also knowing how little chance there would be of accomplishing that in a timely manner when Nicolas can't drop everything to go pick it up and I can't drive the truck (I'm not a real woman -I don't shift, yet) to get it myself.

We went to a local furniture chain (blech)- the one place we could go to get a couch delivered quickly - meaning before six weeks from now. We have lots of valuable friends and family due to start arriving in a week.

It was late. We arrived an hour before the store closed. We sat on every couch. And then, with only minutes before closing, we decided upon the one I'd found online.

"I can only get you that one in the pearl color if you want it before January," announced our salesman.

Pearl? We looked at one another, visions of our red clay filled farm life running through our heads.

"Leather is very easy to clean. You can get it sealed at the factory and I'll be giving you leather cleaner in these bottles that you can come and get refilled, for life."

I thought about how dark our living room is and how difficult it has been to add more light with the old wiring. A white couch would really lighten up the room and would provide the highlights needed to see our guests' faces. I thought of a new bright, clean future that supported life with a pearl couch. I found myself agreeing to this purchase. Not only that, we bought the pearl colored chair to go with it. They will arrive on Wednesday.

I have been waking up in the middle of the night from bad dreams that include strange color combinations and dirt.

On a positive note, we have been even more inspired to de-clutter and deep clean our home, so that it will go with our couch:
Above are our newly repainted kitchen shelves, to hold the beautiful glasses and china that were being lost in the dirt streaked white.
My mothers' crystal, the Brenna mug I bought at the Live and Learn conference, the mug from our recent trip to Belgium, the dark blue glazed goblet from Ann Ohman, the mug from a Joffrey Ballet concert years ago called Billboards, the hearts mug from Nicolas last Valentine's day, the big pink tumbler that is Mindy's, the yen store cups from Japan, my mother's small Mexican mugs that I treasure so much that I painted a bathroom with the same colors, the egg cups from our wedding...

I'm pairing it all down to the essentials.
And I'm thinking of knitting a very washable blanket that will completely cover the new furniture. Because really, what were we thinking.