Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Great "Raid Expansion" (where the whittling led)

So there they were, on the back steps with their sticks and their whittling knives, in boyish whittling communion. That's where I left them, to whittling peace. I asked about the specifics of the game ideas later.

"I'm going to open a weapons shop," said Gillen.

"I'll make more quests for the weekly raiding with the Wilson brothers," thought Jesse. All raids need good weapons (used on trees and crash test hay dummies, by the way, not on each other).

The great raid expansion game was born. The next day, when the Wilson brothers came to the farm, there would be new quests and new weapons for them to buy, with money created by Gillen and Jesse.
Gillen made "AC"s and "Q"s (the money). Jesse made "honor marks" which would lead them to strategically placed clues around the farm. They both made "open" and "closed" signs for the tables where they would display their wares.
Gillen made several weapons.This morning, they rushed to the farm to set up the clues, and their tables, before the Wilsons' arrival. Gillen was pulled away to have lots of pictures taken, by Angelina, for an article about he and his turkeys:Jesse munched on the whites of Bok Choi (handing me the greens) and read his book, his honor marks hidden under sticks and rocks, where they waited for the Wilson boys to get there.

And then, they came!
They loved the quests. After completing each one they came back and used their "AC"s and "Q"s to buy more, and to buy a weapon:Apparently, this expansion of the raiding game is going to continue every week, as long as the quest ideas and armour/weapon improvements keep coming (as well as the raiding customers, of course).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Whittling Brothers

What a good day. It was one of those meandering, never know where they're going to end up unschooling days that I felt privileged to witness, handing them food, drink and other supplies when asked, but mostly trying to stay out of their way. Maybe I'll get to adding in more details tomorrow. If not, this was a favorite bit - the two of them whittling together on the back deck, plotting a new game (which they then perfected for hours).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fun with maps

I ordered a United States highway map last week. Its arrival on our table has prompted all kinds of realizations. The first was that I finally need reading glasses. Well, at least for this map. (I kind of like them. They make me feel wise.) It's been fun figuring out different possible routes for our trip to the northeast next month. Then there is the fantasizing about a future road trip to Montana; and the planning for next week's much anticipated short trip to hang out with unschooling friends at a state park, down south!

In addition, this map (as well as the road atlas and state maps that started to accumulate on the table) caused Jesse to pull out his old puzzle map. Tonight, after dinner, he asked us to hold this map and play a game of capital guessing with us. Turns out he's been looking at this map a lot lately. He knew most of them! Nicolas, hoping to do better in his world capital knowledge, then brought the world map off the wall. (I too have been humbled by this nine year old. Yesterday he beat me in Bananagrams.)The whole world in his hands:In awe of his Papa. : )

Friday, July 24, 2009


He's kicking off his (once mine) boots after many hours of roping up vegetables. He rode home with his head hanging out of the window. He saw Food, Inc. with us the other night and now he wants a cow (always wanted one, to go with a horse, but now has some good justification). He can't wait to hunt us down some good venison. It's good that we named him Gillen T. He turned out to be such a cowboy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Discovered this weekend

- A box of letters, written to my mother in the sixties and seventies, by different suitors, and friends. What an amazing woman she was. But, I knew that.

- That Jesse has given up the final bit of interest he had in dinosaurs. Obsessed at four, he could speak about his passion like a genuine paleontologist (albeit with a few missing "r" sounds. ; ) He is finished with this one. But for a few favorite dinosaurs, we are packing them all up, along with the dinosaur books, into a basket. It will find it's way to some freshly-passionate dinosaur person at the unschooling conference in August.

- A cool number problem. Try this. Think of a number between 1 and 9. Now triple it. Add six to that number. Triple it again. Reduce this number to one digit by adding together the two digits of your number. Your number is nine, right?

- That I remember every lyric in "Fiddler on the Roof" even though I hadn't seen it for twenty or more years. It was one of my first records.

- That the kids liking this musical has totally justified my having bought the tickets to "Billy Elliot" when we are in NY in Sept. Don't you think?

- A need to write poetry to the tomato.

- That I no longer have my list of links to your blogs! My reader is gone. So leave a comment, if you would - so that I can rediscover your blog feed. Or, I could discover it for the first time. Thanks.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Family photo, at Duck's Cosmic Kitchen

I think this may be the first family one in a year. Gillen looks like he's been drinking our beer but he was actually way energized by the sweet tea.

The lovely locavore Virginia Dupree offered to take it last night. We were at one of the dinners that she puts together with the Decatur restaurant, Duck's Cosmic Kitchen, to highlight eating locally.

Three years ago, Virginia was eating lunch at Duck's and reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. She remembers what she was eating and that it was local. Between the delicious meal and the writing, she was inspired to take action. She put out an email to some friends asking if they would like to eat a meal with only locally produced ingredients at a local restaurant. That was on a Friday. By Monday, the word had spread and she had enthusiastic commitments from sixty people.

Now, there is usually a long waiting list for each dinner. She always includes a local farmer or other locavore, to eat with the gang and then talk about the specifics of eating local. The next dinner is hosting a local canner.

Nicolas and his mother went once before. Last night, Gillen was invited to join him in order to talk about his heritage breed turkeys. Jesse and I decided to join them. It was so nice - Tomato Pie, locally produced steak, Vidalia onion rings, blueberry sorbet served with orange and red watermelon. And Gillen was quite a wonderful speaker. Here, he is being transformed by his love of the desert:If you live in Atlanta or Decatur, Duck's Cosmic Kitchen (usually only open for lunch) is very special.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Gillen and his hunter safety certificate.He has been waiting for years to be old enough to take this safety training. Without the training, Nicolas and I hadn't felt comfortable with him owning or shooting a gun (he does have a B-B gun). I still can't say I feel comfortable.

But I do feel impressed. He studied for six hours yesterday and did the best of anyone in the test this morning. He couldn't wait to laminate the card and put it in his wallet.

We are eating a lot less meat lately. But we sure did love last night's rubbed and grilled pork chops, bought from our friends with the happy hogs at Riverview Farms. Maybe one day I'll only eat the meat that comes from Gillen's hunts. Hopefully that won't be too much. I imagine(well, hope) that most of his bullets will go towards shooting skeet. Though he now loves to give me a litany of reasons that hunting is essential for the environment and even for some of the hunted species.

I'm just focusing on his pride.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Farming Gene

These are the hands of a farmer, who creates life by skillfully playing in the soil. You can't see all of his callouses and scars here, but I know them well. I like hands, especially these. Here is a boy in a moment of regret.This son of a farmer had agreed that he did indeed want to work at the farm for a bit yesterday. But then there was this moment of remorse. Jesse has many other passions, beside farming, that make any farming genes less apparent for now.

He does, however, have great staying power. He could have left with me to pick up Gillen. But he decided to stick it out. When I came back, he had seeded six trays of lettuce and was hitching a ride on the tractor to move out the spent tomato plants - not a fun job. Look at his face! At the farm! Not playing a game or running on a field. Joyfully farming. (Also look at our cheerleader worker John, but don't let him distract you from Jesse's new face. Cheerleaders will do that - distract you from the main event.)Then there is Gillen, who inspired this post. He is a farmer. For him, it runs deep. Yesterday, he had gotten up before 7am (after a late night in Atlanta with us) to go to his archery/hunter safety camp. When I picked him up mid-day, he was tired. We got to the farm and he saw that Camp Kingfisher was there (they bring campers to the farm once a month). He leaped out of the car and ran to the field where they were working and stayed there for hours, way after the campers had left.

I understand liking the dirt and nature, and appreciating the abundance of good food, but not the having to farm. I don't have the farmer gene (just a willingness to serve the farmers and to wash their jeans).

This is a bunch of campers looking the way I would have looked if you had told me "for nature camp today, we are going to drive for an hour to a farm and get to do some hard work!"
But every once in a while, despite the heat and the bugs and other realities of outdoor summer work, a camper finds that they have farmer tendency or even farmer genes. It's usually the girls.

I'm so grateful for the farmer genes that inspire this back breaking, vital work. So, we learned recently, is Jesse. We saw a commercial for a devise that allows you to grow tomatoes by hanging them upside down. It's called the topsy turvy. The commercial stressed how much work the farmer has to do and asked why you would want to break your back doing this when you can just let the topsy turvy work for you?

Then a topsy turvy showed up at the farm. It hadn't been working for someone, so Nicolas agreed to try using it in a hoop house. Jesse saw it and started crying. He hates the topsy turvy people, whom he feels don't rightfully appreciate farmers. Maybe, too, he realized he didn't completely like the back breaking work himself. It was powerful to see him so passionately defending the farmer.

The antique effect

Inspired by the new-to-me yard sale treasures that I found at my friend Elizabeth's home, I "antiqued" these photos, in iphoto. Right after bringing them home, I spent an hour or so de-cluttering corners, a table top and a window sill, in order to better display each piece. I was seeing my home with new eyes.

Gillen found this book. It was written at the turn of the century, just a few years before the building of our house. It's been fun to read the recipes, that call for low or high heat (all done over a fire) and imagine the people who lived here cooking this way. The best part is the large amount of information about etiquette . Gillen and I read about how one was to behave as a guest in a farmer's home, what to expect and not expect from the servants, why a bathing room is a necessary room, not just a luxury, especially for tired farmers.
Below is Elizabeth's grandmother's suitcase. It is very heavy (porters were everywhere back then, apparently), lined with linen, and covered with stickers showing her destinations. It has three wooden hangers from which I'm going to hang art supplies in the art room. When I propped up this suitcase in there as well, Nicolas tried to remind me that the art room is a sun room, for eating as well as art. So, it may move to some other corner, but it will be on display.
This coffee jar now holds our beans and the sweet green pitcher holds the hot coffee until it has cooled enough to be poured into glass.
The new kitchen windowsill:
Cookbooks will now lie open for me on what was intended to hold the family bible. This will inspire me to try new recipes.
Though, in the light of day (rather than under the antique effect) it is made apparent how little room I now have to cook. I did declutter another area as well so that I can temporarily move my large cookbook pulpit, if necessary.

We also got a bureau (for $25 and a watermelon), some duck decoys (for Gillen), and more. Thank you Elizabeth and family.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Drummer Boy

Friday night, Gillen's percussion day camp had their concert on the square in Rutledge. It is amazing what Eva and her talented professional musician friend accomplished in a week. We are so lucky to have Eva nearby. She is also my zumba teacher. I have taught at a few theater camps and I no longer have what it takes to do it right. She could write the book.

What a cool camp. The kids got to pick between four countries - Brazil, India, Cuba, Spain, and the continent of Africa. Each group learned their country's specific rhythm, on gourd and goat skin drums that they all made for themselves the first day. They also sewed their costumes and painted the set. Gillen loved this camp.

The concert highlight:These boys represented Brazil; they also represented what music, and Eva, can do. They are brothers who live with their grandmother. They rocked! It was good to see them getting positive attention.

Gillen chose Spain because he had started a friendship with one of the other guys who chose Spain. Turns out that the Spanish rhythm is really challenging - it's a 12/13 time. The guy who taught them could not believe how well Gillen could keep the rhythm. He talked about getting Gillen a scholarship to take drumming in Atlanta. Gillen wants to stick to guitar, and to taking it locally.Gillen really liked the drumming but was much more impressed with this photographer and what she had to offer (Eva is the one directing the kids from below as only a yoga/zumba teacher could). He met the photographer one day in Rutledge's Caboose ice cream shop. Gillen commented on her worn cowboy boots and said that he had some that were even more worn. She asked how they could possibly be more worn then hers. Gillen explained that he was a turkey farmer and told her about our farm. Turns out she has been trying to relocate our contact information for years. She has been wanting to do another story on the farm. What trumped the drumming compliments, to Gillen, was that she is going to do a story about his turkeys!

Rural Georgia is meeting the kids' needs. My city prejudices are withering away, after fifteen years, in the unexpected opportunities held in our small town life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Jesse's week in nature camp

Imagine a loud scream:
To get their graduating wolf-imprinted camp certificates, the head counselor had the campers run and scream from across a field to a counselor. With the many different voices and styles of running, this was actually the highlight of my day, so far. Jesse didn't want the week to end. If only school could be as great as camp.

The shelter that Jesse and his crew made (here with his friend Sean inside):These are the same counselors that Gillen had at his overnight camp. He loves these guys. So he got in on the boom a chuck action (so not the right name, they'll have to correct me later) this morning before going to his own camp.
Head couselor - Karen, from Maine. She is awesome, and not just because she is a yankee. Gillen and I were inspired to bring her vegetables.Speaking of vegetables, I am trying hard to finally get another post up at our righteous (if neglected) farm blog. Any minute now.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The magic of a mini green ipod

Last week I inherited Nicolas' mini ipod. It has changed my family's life. I can attach it to speakers in the kitchen. This means wanting to spend more time there which means more happy cooking than happened previously. Plus, the kids are getting to hear my soundtrack, as opposed to just Nicolas'. Gillen was singing along to Regina Spektor with me tonight.

And, my dog is fit! Now that I have the soundtrack of my past, present and future to inspire me, Tuki gets much longer walks. (I must remember, on future walks, not to sing out loud, even in the country and especially not Tom Waits or Dionne Warwick songs. It happened tonight. I hope that everyone was indoors)

In other music news, in the car we've been listening to the Billy Elliott soundtrack and are loving it - especially this song. We'll be in NY in Sept. for a night or two. I 'm dreaming of introducing the guys to Broadway.

As for live music in the here and now, Gillen is in a music camp this week in which he is learning percussion and making his own instrument. We'll get to see him in his camp concert on Friday night. He is tapping out Spanish rhythms on everything.

If you're willing to share, I'd love to hear your favorite song of the moment.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Born on the Fourth of July

It was my father's birthday yesterday. The very cool city of Decatur honored him with a parade. Being the great leader and cat in a hat actor that he is, he ran home and got his unicycle so that he could be the master of ceremonies from en high:He and his fabulous wife Dina were great about acknowledging all of the citizens of their fair city who came out to say happy birthday:

There was an unprecedented turn-out:The grand finale was a magnificent fireworks display:
Though here, the kids are just looking up to their beloved Poppi, still riding the unicycle:Happy Birthday dad (and of course, the country).

Thursday, July 02, 2009


They play hard, argue passionately and defend one another ferociously. I've learned so much watching these two interact, including what I've modeled that works, and what doesn't. And I'm learning that the wrestling matches are some kind of male bonding ritual that is really not about anger at all. Nine times out of ten, no one gets hurt and there is often an awful lot of giggling involved.

I admit, I prefer watching them bond over guitars, in the pool, playing baseball or playing World of Warcraft. I can't help it. I'm a girl. But I'm getting more male-educated and brother-enamored every day.