Tuesday, November 28, 2006

September highlights

It was Nicolas' turn to proudly stand by his sibling at his brother's wedding. Damien and Stacy were worth missing the unschooling conference for - yes, they are that special. Here, they are surrounded by Damien's three siblings.

Gillen, Jesse and their three male cousins, strutting their stuff. The one girl cousin, Clementine, was busy with the bride.

Gillen and Remi, learning new handshakes.

We could have danced all night, if we were twenty and not 6 and and 42... Actually, Jesse DID dance almost all night.

Nicolas getting a rare visit with his father, here from Holland.

After the wedding, Nicolas' father, Jean-pierre, and stepmother, Marie-Helene, went with us on a trip to Block Island in Rhode Island. We stayed at the Surf Hotel, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to have an old fashioned island hotel experience. There was no TV in the rooms and there were games of chess and checkers all over the lobby as well as people knitting, playing instruments, reuniting with other guests who have been coming back since they were kids. There is a huge porch overlooking the beach in the back and another one lined with rocking chairs in the front, overlooking the town. We loved it, though we weren't there much. Mostly, we biked, all over the island. Lots of nature, birds, seafood; we even saw a dead whale that had washed ashore. That was hard. Sad and very smelly. Jean-Pierre and Marie-Helene bike for at least an hour every day in Holland, usually much more! They do everything on bikes - buy their food, go to yoga class, meet friends, go to restaurants... I wish that we could live like that. Some day.

And that is just the beginning of the many moments that I want to remember here but may not have the time to recall, if I'm ever to rejoin present time! More attempts to come soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

One month countdown to DSL...

I found, a week ago, that DSL is FINALLY available out here and I immediately ordered it. I thought I'd be filling my blog, oh so quickly, with lots of pictures by now. But no, I must be patient. I won't have my starter kit until Nov. 14th. Aargh. It's that feeling you have once you've given notice at a job and the remaining hours at work are torture. This dial-up is suuuuuuch an agonizing wa a a aaaade through wasted moments. Uploading pictures takes just too long. So I will be continuing with reading others' blogs while I wait for the miracle of speed on my own and in Nov. I will be posting way too many events at once. Gillen and I are going to a bird festival in Jekyl Island this weekend, just the two of us. And I still have to post pictures of the wedding, and of Block Island, and of the canoe trip we took last night on a local river and of the Green Lynx mama spider we had in our home that was protecting its egg sac for a week.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Date for "Good Eats" show

Alton Brown's okra episode will air on Wed., Sept. 27th at 10pm on the food network. We have started TVoing his show once in a while and it is so good. Funny, and full of science and inspiring me to cook new things.

We just got back, a few days ago, from ten days away! Damien, Nicolas' brother, got married in NJ (great wedding) and then we went to Block Island, RI with Nicolas' dad and his wife, Marie-Helene, who were here from Holland. We biked (alot!) and bird watched and collected shells and rocks, and some living things in shells that are now decomposing out on our deck. It is incredibly beautiful there - much of it is protected wildlife. It was so much fun to be up north again - to see Red Sox bumper stickers on cars and to hear northern accents and to eat lobster!!!! My favorite food on earth; even better than chocolate souffle. Gillen and Nicolas had to get back for the market and for Gillens' soccer game a few days before Jesse and I, so we drove (well, my FIL, Jean-Pierre, heroically drove) them to the Newark airport in Friday afternoon CT and NYC traffic!!! It was a close call - they almost missed the plane and our bladders almost burst - we were in the car for many hours without a break. Then we used the fancy GPS system to get us back to NYC (we were in Christine and Philippe's new car) only to arrive in different parts of Newark and Hoboken before figuring out where we had gone wrong in our pressing of buttons. Lots of traffic going home and two hours later we were in NYC. Made us all appreciate living in the country!

I do love the city though. I feel so at home there from growing up in NY and Boston. The next day I took Jesse to the Modern Museum of Art. We had only been to the Natural History Museum every visit before and wanted to try something new. He likes Van Gogh's "Starry Starry night" so we immediately looked for that. He loved the Picasso's and the Jackson Pollack's and the large green helicopter that was hung from steel wire in the walls. But his favorite thing was being high enough to look out of the windows and search for Peregrine Falcons in the skyscrapers. He claims he saw one. I missed it.

I have many pictures of our NY day (Central Park, street fair, parade) and of Block Island that I will post soon. We had access to wireless on vacation, from the coffee shop next door to our hotel - it is painful to be back on dial-up, truly torturous. Wish I didn't know what I was missing. So I am following a friend's advice and will try sitting with my laptop in a parking lot somewhere where they have wireless, to add pictures here.

Life is good. Only wish we didn't have to miss the NM unschooling conference - the pictures of it show how beautiful the location was. Also, I miss seeing so many unschoolers together and reuniting with friends.

And I wish that fantastically vital people who are so special to so many wouldn't keep being taken from us. Most recently - Steve Irwin. And Hannah Jenner, beautiful nine-year old Hannah. Her mom inspires me every day to see my children in technicolor, brilliant detail, to appreciate the moment and to be just a little more patient.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Alton Brown arrives, by motorcycle, in the rain!

We have not had more than an inch of rain, on the farm, since May. Truly. It's been DRY. And then, this morning, the morning that Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show is filming at our farm, the skies finally opened up - big time. It ended up being O.K. The crew said the lighting is better in the rain and I am sure that Alton's leather outfit (biking outfit) would have been miserably hot in our normal weather.

It was so cool. The crew set up right next to our okra field, with two tents filled with sound and camera equipment. They even had a trailer in the field, for Alton to wait in while they set up! Gillen hung out quietly behind the main camera man. I am always amazed at his boldness. I used to have that too. The crew were fine with it.

Alton Brown directs as well as stars in the show. I learned a lot more about okra. The kids learned alot about TV production. Alton blew a line a few times and then commented later about how he had not been swearing in these moments because there were kids there. He ased why they weren't in school and I said that they were - that this was school. He really warmed up to Gillen and was very sweet to both of them. He even had his picture taken with me! Watch the show if you can. It will air some time at the end of Sept. they said. It is on every night at 7pm on the Food Network. The okra has never looked so well-weeded. I slouched into a middle aged mama slant. Oh well. At least the farm is looking good.

Tonight, I watched his show and an old friend of mine was on it - playing "Mr. Cinaman" - cinammon dealer and expert in cinammon history, both fact and fiction. What timing.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Hummingbird Festival

Gillen's birthday, last Fri., was the same day as the Hummingbird Festival (only 10 min. away!) so we met our playgroup friends there for the morning and then they came back here to visit. Gillen had saved up to buy some plants at the festival for his bird garden. His friend Shannon (who turned 11 two days later) helped him to plant them in the sunnyest part of our yard. We have so many trees that there isn't much full time sun. But we are radically assuming that his garden will thrive on the sun it does get! Already, the last few days, it has attracted so many hummingbirds. He got Agastache (smells like licorice), Pineapple Sage, Hibiscus (which I learned today from Alton Brown at the farm is a lot like okra - more on him later!), Crocosmia, and Stonecrop ("Autumn joy"). He planted them in a circle, inspired by the much bigger circular hummingbird garden we walked in,surrounded by tiny hummingbirds, at the festival. I tried for a picture of them. I was too slow.

Afterwards, here at home, everyone swam and ate and then somehow all ended up at the coffee table, doing art! From age 2- 11, one after another left the game cube,the pool or the toys in the bedroom to squeeze into the tiny art station,ignoring my offer of a much bigger table in the other room. It was my favorite part of the visit!

Gillen had his first sleeepover party the next night. He had four friends, all of whom only knew Gillen and then a friend who is Jesse's age to play with him (Gillen's idea). They all got along great. The older kids ended up playing with Jesse and "his" friend much of the time! There was swimming; a long,dark walk in the woods at the farm; and a spontaneous talent show at dinner (including many really creative burping displays as well as bird calls) and a movie - Jimmy Neutron, watched amidst paper airplane making and a few guys playing a Pokemon board game.

Cole gave Gillen a pocket knife. This was the dramatic unveiling of his present. Gillen also got a canteen and a sling shot, among aother things. All exactly what he would want and to which I have adjusted my initial unspoken flashback to "Lord of the Flies". I do love that he also wanted Playmobil. I was very glad to get him more for his farm set. He got to compare his pocket knife today to those of Alton Brown and his crew, all of whom are very into their knives. Who knew there was such a love of pocket knives among TV chefs, or maybe it's just on "Good Eats".

Praying Mantis Feeding

Gillen has been collecting bugs in the back yard or at the farm lately and keeping them for a few days at a time in bug houses. The Praying Mantis was so big that we could really see every detail of how it eats. I learned today that Praying Mantis females eat the male once they've gotten what they need from him. Wow. I informed Gillen and Jesse and was told that they already knew this from "The Most Extreme" on Animal planet. That show is sooo dramatic! I love to knock it!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Summer Farm Day

Here is Helen, my MIL and the owner of the farm. She is turning 70 this Sat! She is amazing. Here is Eva, a friend who does flowers with Helen. Growing the flowers was my job for a few years. I did love it. But Jesse is not as happy at the farm as Gillen is and frankly, it is OK by me! I get to take pictures of the cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, etc. and press them for cards and love them, without sweating over them all day. Helen also started and runs the whole chicken operation and her true calling is natural medicine. She's only 5 ft. tall but is an Austrian powerhouse of a woman.

Some of the hoop houses. They have enabled Nicolas to radically extend his spring and fall seasons and to grow much more in the winter.

Here is Jesse, surveying the land, having just wrangled a Rattler.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Farm Fame (by okra)

I have tried several times this week to upload some great new farming pictures, to no avail! I guess it's about my Mac browser? I don't really know. Maybe it's the dial up connection. But it worked a few weeks ago! Argh.

I will solve my technical problems and bring lots of pictures of summer bounty and hard labor here.

In the meantime... I have to scream with joyful anticipation of an upcoming event at the farm - I found out today that Alton Brown - the cool, whacky, witty, so appealing guy from the Food Network, is coming to the farm on Aug. 14th! His article in a Bon Appetit issue taught me how to make gourmet turkey at Thanksgiving. Apparently he used to be a music video director. I have only seen him on the Food Network once, but it was very memorable!

We have had the Food Network at the farm before, but not Alton Brown! He is coming to do a piece on okra. The good pieces on us are always about the okra! So strange. Fame by okra. Nicolas and Gillen were in a picture on the front of the New York Times food section a few years ago, in an article about our okra. Nicolas says this is why he must be growing it. If you haven't experienced it, okra is brutal to pick. It causes rashes that used to keep me itching for weeks. not everyone is so sensitive. If you wear long sleeves and pants it can't get you too badly.

I will get up early and go toil in the okra (even Jesse in tow) to be able to be part of this one. I hope he actually comes, and not just his crew. You never know.

Here's a great Okra recipe from the NY Times article :

Black Skillet Okra
time: 15 min.

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 pound tender young okra, washed
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 tbls. vegetable oil (I would use coconut and olive together)

1. stir flour and cornmeal together in small bowl and set aside. Heat 9-10 inch, well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat 5 minutes. Heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Trim stems and pointed ends from okra, and slice pods into 1/2 inch rounds, dropping rounds into colander. Rinse lightly with water, shake to remove excess drops, and toss okra well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle coating mixture over okra and toss in colander to coat evenly. Shake colander to remove excess coating.

3. Increase skillet heat to high. Add half the oil to skillet. Drop half the okra in skillet in single layer. Wait 5 seconds, and stir. Contimue to fry and stir until okra is deep brown and crisp with spotty char marks, about 5 minutes. Transfer fried okra to sheet pan in warm oven. Using mitts, remove hot skillet from stove and wipe clean with paper towels. Return hot skillet to burner over high heat. Add remaining oil and fry remaining okra. Serve okra hot with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, fluffy rice and fried chicken or as croutons in a green salad (I serve it with corn bread and fried green tomatoes).

YIELD: 4-6 servings as a side dish.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Kids' Week of Theater

Missoula Theater, a touring company out of Montana, came to little Social Circle, GA last week to put up "The Frog Prince", in only a week. They tour the whole country, as well as many other countries, putting up plays in a week using the local kids.

Gillen and Jesse were a little hesitant about going but are so glad that they did. Jesse played a Venus Fly Trap and Gillen was a Spider. They did great! It was fun for me to see them experience a bit of the theater life that I come from . It's great living in the country and having their grandmother's farm to explore... But I was grateful for a bit of culture right here, not an hour away for a change.

I also got a week filled with space to do whatever I wanted for a large chunk of the day. I admit to loving that! Knowing most of the people that they were with and feeling secure that they were happy helped a lot.

Wish I had pictures but my camera's batteries died at the beginning of their photo shoot.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Gillen's summer crops

Gillen loves the farm. He spent most of his first years there, napping on Nicolas' or my back while we worked, chasing butterflies, digging for Jerusalem Artichokes. By the age of four he was riding the tractor alone (when I wasn't there to see) and was selling vegetables that he had helped to produce, from his own table next to Nicolas' booth at the farmers' market. While Jesse is happiest with a good book, a long game or a huge puzzle challenge, Gillen is restless when home for more than a few days in a row. He is a farmer. He was there all week, working 8 hour days. This morning he got up at 5am to go with his father to the market (Jesse and I prefer to go later!). He is putting most of the money he earns in a savings account with plans to use it to take us all around the world.

This summer he is growing 1/5 of an acre of corn and a small row of watermelon. When I was taking pictures there the other day (to make a sign for our new store) Gillen rode up excitedly on his bike, covered in sweat, proudly clutching his first ear of the season. I think he may have picked it a week too early but he inhaled the hard kernels with gusto.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma - a review

I just finished _The Omnivore's Dilemma ( A Natural History of Four Meals)_ by Michael Pollan. I highly recommend it to anyone who eats. I have been aware of many of the horrors of our industrial food system in this country but after reading this book am now determined to almost never eat meat or chicken (outside of that that is humanely raised, grass-fed and relatively humanely killed by farmers that we know). In addition, the processed food business! Even the organic part of this political creation... I am glad that we grow our own food and that I have the time to cook and freeze it.

I hope I haven't frightened anyone away from reading this book. It is not all gloom and doom. His writing is just wonderful. He writes about foraging for mushrooms and I learned of a whole underground world of fungi that I never knew was so fascinating nor how all important this world is to some people! Another section of the book that I particularly loved was the chapter describing his visit to Joel Salatin's wholesome grass-fed animal farm in VA.

I'll stop. He writes much better than I ever will. Please read this book.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Train, and farm update

How I wish that I had a picture of Pat and I to post here but they wouldn't let us bring cameras in at Chastain. oh, and there is the problem that I didn't actually meet them! Elif had her fellow Ritz-Carlton employee (who bartends for them whenever they are in town) tell Jimmy all about me. Wonder how crazed she made me sound? He said they would be happy to meet me but that this trip it couldn't happen as they were getting right in the bus after the show to drive to Miami for a concert there the next night. But, Nicolas and I did get to sit up front with Elif and her friends and it was an amazing show, as always. They are such good performers. Nicolas heard a bunch of guys in the restroom who had been dragged there by their girlfriends all raving about Train. sigh. You just have to experience it for yourself the next time they come within a 300 mile radius of you (even to a nearby state, or country for that matter - it's so worth it).

The kids spent the night with our homeschooling friends,Helen, Scott and their kids and had a blast with the twins. She has built a beautiful pond in their backyard with a gravel path leading up to it that will become a river (with a pump). I feel inspired to start working on our algae-infested pond and to get a pump for a water garden for the birds. Helen has a blog now about their garden and I'll post the address in my links.

Farm update....
The field is full of potatoes-

Nicolas' booth at the Sat. organic market in Atlanta

One last picture from life at home -
I have started exercising again and the kids were inspired to do their yoga tape -

Friday, May 05, 2006


That blog entry title could become the new theme of my blog - seasonal entries.... four entries per year...NOT. That is all changing. I have finally figured out how to upload pic.s here on my mac and I have more time. So I will blog. Though there may be no readers left, I will blog in isolation!
My sister's wedding was April 8th and was held at the Burge plantation, here in Mansfield, down the street from our farm. It is where Nicolas and I got married, 11 years ago. It was a very stormy day up until an hour or so before the ceremony when the darkness and raindops were replaced by brilliant sun. It was a wonderful, creative, moving ceremony and a great week - lots of parties here so LOTs of work but a great time was had by all. We got to see Kenneth and Naomi (who came from Australia) and Wilson and Anita - who surprised Kenneth a week later at a dinner for his 40th birthday by flying in from Boston. I am so grateful that my sister and brother both married such fantastic people. Jesse agrees. Here he is making his moves to get Naomi to sign his dance card for every dance at the reception. He succeeded! Kenneth was very patient about letting Naomi be usurped by his nephew.
Here is a picture taken at the reception in a photo booth that Bhu and Matt had set up.
The picture at the top is of the bride and groom. Bhu and Matt secretly took dance lessons in NY and surprised us all with a beautifully choreographed number for their first dance. The night before, at 2am, they had snuck into my back yard (supposedly to discuss thier vows) and had actually rehearsed their dance by moonlight. And here is another women I am blessed to have in my family - Gillen's godmama and my father's goddess - Dina.

The other big event since my Jan. post is more of a lifestyle change, a revelation... A woman who goes to the market every week brought Nicolas a set of CDs about the Weston Price diet. It makes so much sense to me, intuitively and based on the evidence set down in the books I have since read. I am staying away from processed foods, am milling flour and baking our own bread and soaking grains before cooking them and eating lots of raw dairy and pasture-fed meat.... Also, lots of coconut oil and cod liver oil, tons of butter..... There is a great explanation at www.westonaprice.org if you are interested. I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen but am finding that I am serving the kids a lot better by feeding them so well and by staying out of their way more, just there when they need me. I have noticed that they are calmer since feeding them more homebaked desserts (with maple syrup and rapadura instead of white sugar). We have strawberries from the farm now so are eating lots of strawberry ice cream. Mmmmmm.

Another cool thing that happened lately was a birding competition at Charlie Eliott Wildlife Center. Gillen had wanted to enter it months ago but didn't know other kids (that were old enough ) who shared his passion for birds. We finally found a few other boys locally and had a team, just in time! They spent the last Sun. of April (from 7am -6pm) looking for birds. When two on the team had identified a bird (no adult help allowed) they could check it off the list. The mother of the other boys had connections! We were able to visit an eagle nest an hour north of us and to visit a building in Atlanta where her brother works that has a Peregrine Falcon nest.

We waited a while for the falcon to show up but did finally see him coming back to his family with prey (they think it was a barn swallow) which ws soo exciting. They saw 38 birds just at the farm and many at the wildlife center. Their total was 68 different species. At a reception that night, there was a birds of prey show and many door prizes. At home, Gillen said that it was the best day of his life. I am so glad that he was able to enter.

Jesse's yu-gi-oh passion continues.... He went to his third tournament last Sun. and in true Jesse style, won it! He wants a yu gi oh birthday party next month. His plan is to have the invited friends all play a tournament but we are attempting to persuade him to make this more voluntary and only one aspect of the party. He wants a Yu Gi Oh cake and pinata. Hmmm. I am going to try to create a pinata that is made of three giant yugioh cards but haven't figured out the cake yet...

His other interests lately are geomags and reading. He reads all the time. Reminds me of my brother and I. I love how varied his choices are - Greek Myths (which led to picking several different versions of odysseus at the library), Harry Potter 4, Dinosaur encyclopedia and Captain Underpants (he's on the bionic booger boy pair of books in the series).

Nicolas and I are going to see "Train" in concert tommorow night and may be meeting them after (thanks to Elif). Am I going to be able to speak? What shall I wear? I have to maintain calm and not turn into a crazed groupie at the age of 42!

Next blog will actually include the farm (and hopefully a picture of Pat and the guys in Train...).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back in the barn!

O.K. That was a bit of a time lapse! I want to write here at least once a month! I completely missed Dec. To catch up, soon after the last time I posted I was invited to Australia by my brother to help him out where he works. I had to make a split- second decision. Having just read _Jump Into Life_ by Arnaud Desjardin, I didn't hesitate. Despite an expired passport, missing Thanskgiving and being utterly unsure of my skills, I went! It was wonderful. Got to see my brother play baseball, saw he and Naomi in their beautiful home!!! Summer there; ferry rides; learned I'm a lot more capable than I'd feared... Now to get the boys there. I found out about a zoo in a place called Dobbo where you can drive or bike through safari animals and even camp there. Sounds cooler than Steve irwin's Australia Zoo and a lot closer to Naomi and Kenneth. But a visit to Nicolas' dad in Belgium needs to happen first. It's been five years!

We went to NC for a week right before Christmas and we hit a dead deer an hour before we would have reached Fontana Village. The car wouldn't start. We ended up at a Comfort Inn for two nights where there was nothing in walking distance but bad fast food and WALMART. It was interesting. Mostly I was grateful that we weren't hurt and that the car and hotel were covered by insurance! We would go to Walmart as a field trip. We bought a chess set and Yatzee and played a lot of games. The guys swam twice a day in the hotel pool. Then we rented a car to get to the cabin. It was a the top of a winding road known as "The tail of the Dragon". Once we finally arrived, we found ourselves in a ghost town. There was miniature golf which I was not brave enough to play in the bitter cold - but the boys were! I cooked a lot, way more than I had been at home, and I read. The highlight was a virgin forest that we visited called Joyce Kilmer. We saw amazing bunches of giant untouched Poplars and Hemlocks, among others. It was magical there. unfortunately it was also freezing and the kids had refused to bring their warm coats out of the cabin so they were miserable and our visit was pretty short! We will have to return there one summer.

Christmas was nice and quiet. We went with Poppy to A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and then hung out with he and Dina for awhile at their place. In the middle of the night, Jesse and Gillen came to our bed just in time to hear a rolling crash on the roof! Santa? We all looked at one another wide-eyed and then decided we'd better pretend to be asleep or he might leave. Nicolas thinks it may have been squirrels and their nuts, but he's not sure.

This new year has me cooking and freezing lots of food and finally putting some order in our life. Jesse is Yu Gi Oh crazed and is going to start dueling at a yugioh store soon. Gillen is drawing amazing birds and he and Nicolas have cut down huge amounts of wild bushes (mostly privet) on one side of the house in preparation to make a bird garden. Gillen also wants a fountain for another bird garden in another part of the yard. I want to create a beautiful garden before Bhu and Matt's wedding. So it looks like we'll all be spening a lot of time in the dirt hereat home. As far as the farm, Nicolas is putting up even more greenhouses. He had tomatoes until just a few weeks ago! I roasted a bunch of his root vegetables and discovered that rosted turnips are one of my favorite foods on earth. So sweet.

One more huge piece of news! Not only my sister is getting married but Nicolas' brother Damien is getting married this year as well! I love his fiancee, Stacy, and we're all very excited.

That's enough for now. Hopefully I'll have pictures soon.