Friday, August 31, 2007

Good farm day

“Just living is not enough... One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
-Hans Christian Anderson (author of my favorite childrens' stories when I was six).

We all had a wonderful day with Helen's flowers at the farm. It was just me, the grasshoppers and the butterflies for most of the picking but I had enough energy today, so that was alright by me. Gillen helped pick towards the end and he made some beautiful bouquets. Maybe spending all that time on my back while I made bouquets when he was little... No, it's all the time he spends there now watching Helen and Eva. But he's definitely got his own style. I love it.

He made amazing small bouquets, using Celosia, Phlox, Yarrow, Blue Salvia, Globe Amaranth with the odd Scabiosa(my favorite) and Snapdragon (that he miraculously found in hidden places).He was rightfully proud of his collection of miniature blossoms, all their small containers bedded down in newspaper for the ride to market in the morning. My large bouquets were fine, but I was much more excited about Gillen's.

Jesse made one bouquet but mostly he seeded spinach. Mmmmm. My favorite vegetable.

Just as we were collecting and washing the new eggs, we were hit by a sudden deluge. We've had three and a half inches of rain at the farm over the past few days, which Nicolas thinks may be more than we've had for the entire rest of the summer. It was powerful! But we think that even the littlest plants survived it, Gillen managed to herd all of his young poults in to the inner-most covered cage of their three enclosures, and there wasn't as much soil erosion (often a big problem for us) as Nicolas had feared. Once the lightning was gone, the kids had the greatest running-in-the-mud-joy of their lives. I managed to wash all the eggs without breaking them and rewarded myself by taking home six.

Nicolas and I made dinner together - most ingredients from the farm; cucumber salad, and spaghetti squash with tomato sauce made from paste tomatoes, garlic and onions.

I'm bone tired but am feeling grateful for our day of (mostly) sunshine, freedom and flowers. There will soon be lots more farm pictures on the flickr badge.

Rekindled duties (could become passions)

Our oven was fixed yesterday. It hasn't worked since the beginning of June. It seemed like a good idea to leave it off for the summer so as to avoid yet more heat. We grilled a bunch and didn't really miss it all that much. Well, I didn't. On Tues. night, Gillen mixed up the "smart cookie" recipe from the Moosewood kids' cookbook, Honest Pretzels and brought it over to our 90 year old neighbor's to bake them. This was the second time he's taken baking matters in his own hands and borrowed Miss Grace's oven. She loved having him there. They talked for an hour. He said that she described what our small town used to look like and the games she used to play - in the cotton that grew in our yard! I'm so glad that Miss Grace is there. They have known each other since Gillen was two. He said that he still wants to go bake there sometimes, even with our oven working.

Gillen's cooking inspired Jesse to want to cook so he broke in our newly fixed oven with "spaghetti pie" (another Honest Pretzel recipe) for dinner - very yummy! Especially with his addition of 3/4 of a can of organic green olives. Truly. They make everything better, not just dirty martinis.

So I feel a bit of cooking enthusiasm beginning to stir, somewhere deep within. I'm going to grind the spelt and mix up the Weston Price cereal recipe and soak it overnight and cook it up for the boys. It's so nice when their enthusiasm inspires me, so that I in turn can share with them, or mine inspires them, and so on...

My mother-in-law, Helen, is visiting her new grandson so isn't here making flower bouquets and washing chicken eggs (two of her businesses) so I'll be getting my hands back in the flowers tomorrow. I know that she'd be fine with me helping with the bouquets when she is here as well but lately, I need that extra push of necessity, just like with the kids' cooking. I am looking forward to the flowers. So many other passions took over that endeavor (remember how lame red heads can be about heat) but it is a good one to revisit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And then there were six...

We were out playing with friends and doing errands until after 5pm today. It was the longest we've ever been away from the turkey poults. Apparently their loud chirping was just too much temptation for the free roamin' beagle down the street, who is appropriately named "Chopper". As we drove up, Chopper was running off with three poults in his mouth and had left one bleeding (we think it will recover) in the enclosure. I don't know how he got in. I felt responsible, as did Gillen. The truth is that Chopper was just doing what hunting dogs who are still (ahem) intact in their lower regions are naturally prone to do - hunt and kill.

Gillen and Nicolas are, right now, moving the turkeys and their enclosure to the farm where it will stand within the bigger enclosure that Gillen had built for them for next week.

I am glad for the sounds of frogs and cicadas to buffer the sudden, poultless silence. I'll miss the little guys.

On the other side of our home, the writing spiders (argiopes) are thriving. We found a fourth one that has taken up residence on the grape arbor. While I was looking up more info. about them on various sites on the web, Nicolas and GIllen came home. I went out to see them on the porch, where the argiope live, and there, crawling over the large body of the original female while she sucked her cicada dinner, was the tiny male! If you click on the photo you can see it enlarged.
Can you see him, right above the female? I had just read about how small they are compared to the female (only 1/4 inch) or I would have thought he was her dessert. Of course, he may BE dessert, after he takes care of furthering the species. Or is that just Black Widows (and is it only in that Bette Midler song from the movie "The Rose")?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In the year 2100...

according to a National Geographic article I read in this month's issue, red heads will be almost non-existent. From the article - "..this year news reports buzzed that true red heads will be extinct by the year 2100...but while red heads may decline, the potential for red isn't going away." I like the word potential. I've always had lots of potential and now I can feel good about my DNA having it too.

At present, there are only 2% of us in the world. Apparently, not enough of us stick together and make babies. My first boyfriend was a red head - John Tayer, 7th grader. Nice guy. I wonder if he married a redhead. I got mine from my grandfather. No one else in my family had it. According to the article, redheads are more likely to feel hot and cold pain. Yes! Not only am I a dying breed but I have National Geographic (an important authority around here) justification for my extreme sensitivity to summer heat and winter chill.

I do like the red heads I know (or want to know) a lot - Diana Jenner, Julie Persons, Kimba, Eric Stoltz, the Pepperman twins (doesn't that make for a cool name), Judy Davis (in My Beautiful Career), Ron Weasley...

In honor of my new status as rare breed, I went to the Aveda store today and bought good shampoo and conditioner. Treating myself to that and a new bra (finally!) and having a few hours away from my guys has tamed my fiery nature (yes, I do have my stereotypical red temper moments) and I am so happy to be with my motley-haired crew again; Nicolas has dark brown, Gillen is blonde, Jesse has light brown... Go figure.

Monday, August 27, 2007


"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water."
Loran Eisley (Anthropologist), The Immense Journey, 1957

Gillen added lots of rocks from the beaver pond at the farm to the pond here at home. I now have a big beautiful flat white rock on which to sit while I wait for hummingbirds, dragonflies and whomever else may turn up. I love the sounds of water - the gentle babbling of the fountain that Gillen created with a solar pump, so that the sound only comes when there is sun hitting the panel - not too often and therefore more appreciated. And Rain! The first good long storm in a looong while, last Friday, had me out on our side porch smelling and listening for almost an hour.

This looks like a great watering hole for the fairies.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Turkey talk

The 13 newborn poults that came in the mail two weeks ago are now 9 noisy, flying, bigger poults. Two died due to the neighbor dog attack and the other two, Gillen and I think, from heat exhaustion.

Nicolas and Gillen created this temporary enclosure in our back yard where they'll live until they go to the farm next week. This is their third home expansion in one week.
The turkey shepherd.

Three sisters

Unable to take a picture of all three writing spiders together I have taken their portraits seperately. They are so photogenic that is hard to resist taking too many photos of them. I was told by a friend that they are sisters and that eventually one of them will eat the other two.
Who will go first? Who gets to do the eating? This kind of puts my kids' occasional sibling issues in perspective.

In the meantime, they eat (well, suck the blood out of) whatever lands in their webs. This one seems to have just wrapped up a cricket, with the cherry on the top being a small beetle-type bug that got stuck to the silk wrapping.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Insect Food Chain

Remember the writing spider of a few weeks ago that we fed in our front yard? Well, it is still there and it has two new neighbors. Two more writing spiders are on their own webs to the right and left of the original. wow. Our newly tropical climate must be making our area prime real estate for heat loving spiders. I wish I could get a picture that includes all three but haven't been successful so far; could be the sweat pouring off me that's blurring my vision. We did see another very cool bug eating its brunch in another part of the yard today - a praying mantis eating a cicada. At least, that's what Gillen and I think they are. We have ten bird guides, books about reptiles, amphibians, spiders, wild cats even but none about insects, and we have to run to soccer. Any entomologists or bug enthusiasts out there?


For the second day in a row, in 100 degree temperatures, Gillen chose to go to the farm and work. Nicolas is doing deliveries today and only one guy from his crew is there. I think Gillen may especially like that aspect - being one of the only ones there responsible for "The Farm". He is so much like his father in his enjoyment of hard, physical labor (which is good since Nicolas is turning 40 next year and his body isn't enjoying it all quite so much) and responsibility.

Meanwhile, Jesse and I are here in the air conditioning, choosing the layman's version of farming - a video game called Harvest Moon. The most interesting part of the game for me is watching my boys' choices for a farm wife. They both decided that the stereotypically cute, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, flirty girl (named Muffy) was not for them - actually they even called her ugly. Instead they both chose the straightforward, long brown-haired earthy girl - Celia. I like that. I asked if Celia does a lot of the farm work. "Oh no Mommy," said Jesse. "She is at home with Earth (Earth being the one year old son that Jesse named) - he is her work."

This is definitely my kind of farm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gillen's Garden map

Gillen drew the plants in his garden today and labeled them all, beautifully. His mom is not technically adept enough to get the whole thing pieced together well here. It was on 12x12 paper so I scanned it in to the computer in two sections but don't have the right program to attach the different parts together. Or I do and don't know it - always a possibility. I love kids' art and my son's garden.


I like potatoes, but mostly when they are mashed or scalloped with lots of butter, milk or cheese. Tonight we tried Nicolas' potatoes just boiled (well, with a big pat of butter on each plate to apply to each bite). It was so interesting to really savor each different kind and taste the subtle differences. The different varieties are: Huckleberry (red with a red tint to the inside as well), Ruby Crescent Fingerling and Yukon Gold. I prefer the tiny fingerlings. Most of the time, with produce, tiny is better. The corn meal encrusted okra fried in coconut oil was the best part of the meal so I ate it without any thought of taking its picture.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


This morning I got the inspiration I needed to put down Kenneth and Naomi's half-finished baby blanket and finally finish the trim on Damien and Stacy's - their baby boy was born! His name is Henry. We're SO happy that he is here and healthy and that Stacy can now get up. I love the name Henry. His middle name is Sebastien, which is strong and beautiful but was also the name of our St. Bernard when I was young, so I am glad about "Henry" winning the first-name honors. And I am glad that I finished the blanket so that it could fly with my mother-in-law to NY to wrap him in assymetrical, cotton goodness.

You gotta love a guy who drops what he is doing on his day off to walk out into the yard and hold up a blanket for his wife who is trying to get natural light to show the true Mission Falls 1824 cotton yarn colors. I got mine on ebay, very reasonably, from "supercrafty".

Saturday, August 18, 2007

If you are what you eat...

Then I wish I were more of this, more often.

I took this picture in July right before turning all of the above into Gazpacho. It was delicious.

Though we ate only local, farm friend raised meat and many vegetables from our farm all summer, we also reverted to eating lots of Kettle brand potato chips, Julie's organic ice cream, "healthy" root beer from the small health food aisle in our local grocery store and other processed quick fixes. Our nearest local organic dairy guy stopped delivering his raw milk near enough for me to get it regularly and back in June, our oven broke. And my third excuse is that I stopped driving into Atlanta regularly to shop at the natural grocery stores. We stayed closer to home this summer, using less gas and less energy. Thus began my downward slide (well, let's call it a vacation) away from weekly grain-grinding, Kefir fermenting, coconut oil infused smoothie making, sour dough pancake and bread making and many more chores that were once all part of my Weston-Price based traditional food preparation, done in the service of my family's health.

I keep waiting for my passion about cooking well to make itself known again. While writing this post the UPS guy arrived at the door with a big box of the high quality coconut oil that I ordered this week. It made me consider driving a ways to get the good milk to make that old smoothie. When the weather cools off, I'll be really hungry again. That will help.

In the meantime, it's been good to be less fanatical about food. We may have swung too far in the other direction, on this lazy food vacation, but I gained some perspective. I feel a lot better when I take the time to prepare our food from scratch. So that will help to inspire me to grind the grain and ferment the vegetables. At the same time, it isn't the end of the world when Gillen has blue Gatorade at a soccer game and goes a bit crazy, and it will forever be true that sometimes drinking a rootbeer float is worth the sugar reaction I have the next day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The party in my hair

I was having a blue morning. No good reasons, just tired of being tired, then feeling pissed at myself for not just appreciating that my kids were happy and healthy. Look at them - Jesse and his friend Logan playing the Dinobirdopoly game (that the boys and I made together three years ago) and Gillen scrapbooking. How often have I suggested this only to have them run in the opposite direction? Here they had discovered it on their own, always a better scenario around here, and was I grateful? Well, yes I was, but mostly I was listening to my inner moaning about how hot, tired and dizzy I felt as I mixed tunafish and folded laundry.

And then the mail came. In the mailbox was a package from Julie Persons containing Julie-designed hair pins and bands - some made with felt, some with glazed porcelain (or beads). Immediately, my hair dragged my groaning self out of my slump into a party! Because red hair, even when highlighted by grey, is always looking for an excuse to party.
For two of the clips, it was love at first sight. They cozied up to one another, ostracizing the old rusty bobby pin that they found living there when they arrived.
The rusty pin, having lived on my head far too long as it was, stole away from the energetic bright new company to retire peacefully in a quiet, dark drawer.
And then the hair clips and hair band spotted the colorful paper chain hanging above and decided it was time to bring it closer and dance.
Colorful paper and dancing hair jewelry - such a mood lifter.

I love Julie Person's art. You've probably seen her beautiful felted lactating ladies and mermaids on someone's site with the slogan "lactation nation", and her photos - incredible!

So now I have Julie Person's art in my hair, to go with my growing collection of art by talented unschooling mamas. Hanging in my laundry room is a river-glass mobile made by Anne Ohman (check out her articles about unschooling) that I bought at the Live and Learn conference , three years ago in Mass. Almost every single time I have a reason to look good, i wear the turquoise necklace that I bought from Rue Kream, author of Parenting a Free Child, at the conference in St. Louis. These three wise women have given me much unschooling and artistic inspiration. I'm glad to have a few of their pieces to hang out with, since they themselves live so far away.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Coming alive at dusk

Another fun, very full day yesterday. We went to a not-back-to-school pool party with other unschoolers in Atlanta, then to a birthday party and then to Gillen's long soccer practice. After buying Gillen's new bike this morning (his birthday present) I was spent. At dusk it finally cooled down and Nicolas came home! Always exciting to see him in the summer at home before dark. We immediately went out and picked lots of our muscadines to sell. Right next to the muscadines - the badmitton net. A fierce game ensued between Jesse and Nicolas. I'd been concentrating all day on the weeds, the power bill and the exhaustion of August. And then it cooled off and I remembered to look at the frogs and the flowers, with some cute guys thrown in as well. I love everything better at twilight.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Abundant day

Gillen and Nicolas came home this morning with three Bass this time. With so much going on today, they were put in the fridge for another night. We spent most of the day at the annual Hummingbird festival, held every year on Gillen's birthday weekend, at a local plantation.

We brought Gillen's friend Aaron with us, money for fun treats like shaved ice with syrups, moonwalks, homemade ice cream made in a giant motor powered churn, a gift for Nicolas' mother, Helen, whose birthday is today, and of course - more plants. I also brought my camera, so there are an abundance of photos and they were uploaded in a much bigger size than I intended and take up an abundance of room! And I didn't even get to the ones from dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant for Helen's birthday tonight.

The shaved ice man is Ed, the man who lived in our hundred year old house before we did. He repaired it, added stairs and a second story and built a deck and a side porch. He is the reason our house is so cool. He and his wife (whose landscaping and frog pond are what made me want this home) are also from Mass. and that may be the reason that we could afford it. He now runs an ice cream shop that he created out of a train caboose. The Caboose is being used in the filming of a movie with Luke Perry and LeAnne Rimes, called Good intentions, later this week.

Ewes Full Acres was there, run by an amazingly energetic and talented woman we've known for years who spins virgin wool collected from her own sheep. She had a huge array of variegated, hand painted colors. I bought some called grape hyacinth, that is a mixture of purple and green. Gillen's variegated green syrup tongue may have inspired my choice.

This is a goat from the animal petting area; no wool was spun from this guy. But he was quite the model.

Gillen was given a Butterfly Bush by a nursery owner who was impressed by his knowledge of the plants. How generous. Once home, he and Aaron immediately planted both this one and the ones Gillen had bought. Gillen always gets enthusiastic volunteers for the shovelling. Yesterday, another friend, Andrew, shovelled the burial hole for the neighbor-dog-slane turkey chick. Today, Gillen watched Aaron shovelling a hole for the Butterfly Bush. The butterflies already found the blooms before it was even planted. Hummingbirds soon followed. Life in the country, today, has been abundantly good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A decade since Gillen was born

My oldest son is ten years old today. wow. He is still the passionate, loving, intense little individual he was on that first day, when after three days of labor, two weeks after my due date, he was finally forced to come out of the womb by c-section. On an apgar score birth report they gave us it says that he had a "lusty cry". He still shows that lust for life - whether running in 100 degree weather with a soccer ball, caring for his garden, cannon-balling into the pool, making grandiose plans or giggling us all into uncontrollable laughter.

I am so glad that he chose us to to be his parents.

I am also glad that he decided this year that he didn't want a party. I can't imagine keeping lots of people cool today in this heat. We're too busy keeping turkey chicks cool. A neighbor dog got one out of the case earlier. There are now three chicks buried in Gillen's garden.

We are celebrating Gillen with his favorite things. There are three different kinds of watermelon here from the farm. We'll barbecue some ribs made with grass-fed meat raised by local farmer friends. We had a fruit tart that he picked out from a European bakery (first time I didn't make the cake) and he has a new good friend from soccer here for the day who loves nature, animals,swimming and fishing as much as Gillen.

Ten is still so young and innocent. At least it is on Gillen. At least this first day of it. : > )

It is also the anniversary of Gillen's bird garden, which he started after going to the hummingbird festival with some friends on his birthday last year. He and Shannon planted four little plants (first picture). It's hard to tell from the dog-day of summer wilting affect, but this garden has grown ten-fold, as has Gillen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

new chicks and a picture of a slow unschooling moment

Gillen's Bourbon Red turkey chicks arrived in the mail early this morning. Two didn't make it, but the other 13 are fine. I'm relieved that they all didn't die in this heat. They will live on our porch for a few weeks before going to a bigger enclosure at the farm. The new turkey owner says that he feels like a father. He goes out to check on them every half hour. It's fun having squeaky baby sounds, even those of a turkey, seeping in to the house. It's 110 degrees right now! They only needed the heat lamp for two hours or so before the porch thermometer was reading 105, so we turned the lamp off. Now, we even have a fan circulating air right above them. Maybe we should move them inside with their lamp?

Poor Nicolas. I remember farming in this kind of heat, years ago, and looking for reasons to go to Wal-Mart (no other option and I was still naive...) to get supplies for the farm. I also remember not having air conditioning here in the house, for years. I am so grateful for it now but we can only put it on so high. So we are all moving slowly and hanging out in our living room - a picture of which room provides a road map of our life at this moment.

The book in my lap in the foreground is _Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows_ which we are reading a lot lately. On the ottoman are a few of my projects - the two blankets that I'm crocheting and the _Playmaking_ book that I am rereading to prepare for a theater writing class I'll be teaching in Sept. There is a NC map there that Jesse was using with his "Which Way USA" NC game book (that's a cool series of state books that the kids revisit every once in a while). There are piles of library books and an older Harry Potter that Jesse is rereading, Gillen's crochet project, a few board games, a yo-yo that they were trying to figure out, a 500 piece puzzle all out and only a quarter finished in the corner that Jesse has been working on maybe once or twice a week since June.

I know that Nicolas doesn't always see the magic in all this, just the chaos. I often try to neaten it up before he comes home. If only projects could all live under an invisibility cloak, when necessary, to then reemerge and be continued when the impulse rises.

We watched a great BBC documentary with David Attenborough - "Life in the Undergrowth". It's like "Life with Birds" (also really good if you haven't seen it) but with insects. Man, these insects have some amazing courting rituals and even more amazing mating talents.

In an hour, a new "Ben Ten" movie is being shown for the first time on Cartoon Network. Several weeks ago, Jesse created a banner to remind himself of this big premiere event and hung it near his bed. We'll record it and watch it again with his two "Ben Ten" buddies.

Hope you're all staying cool.