Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Today is sweet

Hello again

Eli is playing Hawaii 5-0 on the deck on his trumpet.

Some beets came in from the garden today, and Joey let me dye his hair purple.

Grace is making Thai cucumber salad for our homeschool acquaintances who are coming from Cool with their boys Oliver and Jordan. I started to feel uptight about the mess, and then realized they probably live like we do, kind of messy. So instead of cleaning, or cooking, I'm doing this.

It was deliciously cool last night with all the windows open. I didn't have to wander in to sleep on the couch in the main room. It was a morning for slippers.

I think I've told some of you that my parents are in Indonesia now on their boat. I miss them, though we are able to skype, and e-mail pretty regularly. They've always had a sailboat, and when Gretchen and I were little, they made a plan to take a year off to travel by water. I liked trips on the boat, and I loved my parents, but I worried I'd get behind in school. I was about Eli's age. I think I may have discouraged them from doing something they always wanted to do.
When I remember it now, I think it would likely have been a neat experience.

I'm pleased they are having their adventure now (and for the last 5 or 6 years!)
And it makes me feel better about pulling the kids away from the life they were enjoying, and may miss a little. We will meet my parents in Thailand in November and live aboard with them for 3 weeks.

Books I'm reading now: Ultramarathon Man, Sandra Dodd's Big book of Unschooling, and A Thomas Jefferson Education.

I've been thinking about exercising again, and about how learning happens.

The new chicks stated laying tiny eggs this week. We added a second nest box for them.

Opal, so ridiculously full of kids she can't possibly make it to her due date (9/21) is behaving strangely. She is humping the other goat girls. We think maybe that means baby bucklings? Are their hormones masculinizing her? I hope we can be with her for the births.

It feels time to start some sweet peas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Yesterday I got 1 HUGE Squash and wait for it........................................................... 4 Cucumbers! I was so overjoyed I had tears in my eyes. Today, Papa helped me make a mini-bunk bed for the dollhouse. This weekend I also went to my soccer parade.

A candy mission

Yesterday, I decided that it would be cool to make a home made house all out out of candy. So, I told Papa that I wanted to make a candy house he responded by saying "yes,and because your learning about missions how about it is a mission". And that is how I got so close to the "fun part". Now I'm stopping for the night because I'm about to make the icing witch has to be made before or it gets hard.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Eli and I have been watching Ken Burns' "Baseball".  Good stuff.  It is so rich with history and philosophy and sport.  In it, Bob Costas notes how very few things maintain their importance to us throughout our entire lives from childhood to old age.  Our interests change, people come and go, our careers take only a portion of our lives.  Our families are with us throughout.  And baseball.   The sum of that history imbuing all stages of a baseball fan's life creates quite a story.  It is just a story with meaningless pieces, but the sum of those parts creates something real.  The story of the game parallels America's history over the past 150 years: race relations, monopolies, labor struggle, democracy, capitalism.  For those who follow it, it's a story that intertwines itself into our lives.  It is both metaphor and reality.

Eli and I are sharing the story.  It is real: fun to watch and play.  It is metaphor: we experience and observe the mental and physical struggle players and teams face.  It brings us together to share space, learn, discuss, experience defeat, celebrate, and tell stories.

Frog Blog

Yesterday I started a sewing project. It was a cat stuffy, but today it turned into a frog. It's eyes are made out of thread and it's body is made of scraps from some old fabric that Mama used. Since my frog is so small, I'm thinking about making a pillow and then when it is ready I will sew the frog on and there it will be a pillow! Do you think I should? Write yes or no on the comment thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gold County Fair entries

Gold County Fair entries by Sophia: 2 hats and 2 watercolor paintings.

day's harvest

Strawberry DNA extraction

garden work

Today at project time we decided to do a bit of garden work. Because my garden was growing slowly , Mama suggested I fertilize it. So, I grabbed a bucket and a shovel then I headed over to the compost bin. I removed the door and Papa helped me shovel rich soil into the bucket. Then, we carried our bucket into the garden. I had enough soil to cover my corn, melons, and water melons. But I did not have enough to proceed with covering my peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, pumpkins, and giant corn. So, I repeated the process again. Then, I was done.


Today we did a lot of projects. The first project we did was we made Mayo. It was good. Next,we did seed saving.I saved cosmoses. Last, we took a tour of our garden. I had 3 flowering fruits: Cucumber, Watermelon, and Squash (bolded plants have fruits on them already!).

Mayonnaise and the origin of life

Here's a quote from H. Morowitz, who wrote the essay "Mayonnaise and the origin of life."
" Individuality entered the world when the first membrane fragment wrapped itself into a closed shell and separated it's interior contents from the rest of the universe."

We've been discussing cell structure, and making mayonnaise-- Did you know the phospholipid lecithin in eggs enables the formation of a simple membrane, similar to that found in early (and modern)cells? Lecithin the molecule has love for both water (or lemon juice) and oil, and binds them together nicely. And mayo is yummy with tomatoes and eggplant in a sandwich.

Yesterday's project was DNA extraction from strawberries. During the lab, our neighbor Caleb came creeping up to the window in full fatigues, with a new brush cut, aiming a homemade (cardboard) rifle at us. He said he'd killed us all. He is 9, and his brother is being deployed to Afghanistan. We invited him in. He takes care of the animals and garden when we are away, and does a great job. When asked where each individual's DNA comes from, he answered God.

In other news, Joey and Eli planted a garden together, and spent an hour speaking Spanish. The chickens laid 3 eggs. The girls did some sewing from the scrap bag. Grace made cheese straws from the Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.

Last night we saw "The Help" at $5 movie Tuesday. We had read and enjoyed the book. Our library has the excellent documentary on the Civil Rights Movement "Eyes on the Prize ", so we will watch it together.

Gone with the Wind generated some interest in the Civil War earlier this Summer.

Joey put up shelves for my sewing an knitting goodies this weekend, and I spent some time organizing my gear. It's put me in a crafting mood, though my scissors are missing.

It's becoming deliciously cool at night. I received the seeds I ordered for the fall garden.
Don't be jealous: little finger carrot, purple sprouting broccoli, dinosaur kale, viroflay spinach, romanesco italia broccoli, beaujolais sweet peas, red meat chinese radish.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Rattle snake

Today at about 7 we were out side when Eli shouted ''rattle snake!'' We all heard and either rushed inside or ran over to see it. Papa checked it out then decided to call someone. The guy on the phone said to kill it, so Papa went out side ... but it was gone. I'm glad now Mama won't make a 'rattle snack' or snake belt.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update: Choice?

Update from my last post:

In the morning I made some of those choices for my day today.  As expected, I did not choose to do nothing.  I decided to start by working on the irrigation.  But I needed parts, and I decided to "multitask" by doing something else I wanted to do: ride my bike (to go get what I needed).

It started out as a great ride on a gorgeous day, but about two thirds of the way through the 25-mile loop, I got lost.  Then I got a flat.  I attempted repair, but the leak continued.  I was able to ride about 2 minutes before I lost air, had to stop and pump up my tire again to ride 2 more minutes and so on.  This less-than-ideal bike riding style got me thinking about the "freedom" I had been considering yesterday and it reminded my of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic.  Calvin is standing over a plant with a full watering can.  He goes on for a couple of frames about how he is like a god deciding for the plant whether it will live or die.  In the last frame, Calvin is still standing there with his full watering can but in the pouring rain.  Now he is silent and looking disgruntled.

I don' feel disgruntled.  It was still an excellent day.  I got the irrigation fixed, everyone came home, we found a rattlesnake (that did not bite us, see Eli's post), did some school work, sang, had a scavenger hunt, took care of the animals, ate watermelon, discussed the periodic table, and read.  But like Calvin, I also had a good reminder about the the power we ultimately have in making our choices.

See the comic strip

Today we saw a rattlesnake. It was in some tall grass and Rosie was running around it barking at it. I went over to check it out and I didn't see it until I was pretty much right on top of it. It was hissing and rattling . I turned and sprinted to the house and told my mom. my dad came out and didn't know if he should kill it or not. we called animal control to see what we should do. They said we should kill it. my dad went out to kill it but it was gone.

(Top photo of our rattlesnake--bottom photo is from the internet)

Freedom, Adventure, Isolation

When I began to tell people about our plans for this year, the vast majority of responses were along the lines of: "Wow! That sounds like an amazing adventure!"  Some remarked on the freedom we would experience away from most of the regular routines of job and school (except for Juliana, who is still in her work routine--thank you, Juliana).  In addition to having a wealth of family and learning time, these reactions were in line with our vision for the year.

We are now six weeks into the experience (though only really a week or so into the "meat" of it--as noted previously, the first month or so was primarily about setting up shop).  This weekend I have been on my own as the rest of the crew was back in the Bay Area for birthday parties, friend and family time, and work.  I've had the chance to wrap up a bunch of summer projects and also pause to reflect a bit about the adventure upon which we have embarked.

Yes it is freedom.  Freedom from the regular routine.  Freedom from many of the typical responsibilities of working life.  With that freedom comes time and so much potential.  But potential is just that: something that could be.  Eventually, choices need to be made and time will be filled.  So the freedom is really only temporary.   But that is still so much different than my regular experience.   In my "regular" existence, I have made the choice to be a teacher and it is a pretty long-term choice that monopolizes much of my time for most of my year (and it is a great choice, I should add!).  My choices this year are much shorter term; while I may choose this week to build a deck, or work with the kids on finding parallels between the Roman Empire and America, there is still freedom about what next week may be.

Yes it is an adventure.  And it is an adventure with my family.  But adventures aren't always easy.  In movies, they are full of peril.  Though I am not really concerned about peril, I do realize that taking this adventure has consequences besides fun and excitement.  For one, it isolates us.  I miss my friends.  My kids miss their friends.  Our choice time is often the middle of a weekday... who is around to meet and get to know then?  I miss our town and what we do there.  I even miss my work.  I have to drive more that I bike.  My kids worry about what they are missing at school (especially socially).  Don't get me wrong, I chose this adventure for the good and bad of it.  I'm just voicing the reality of what the adventure is: different, lonely, full of love, quiet, hard, memorable.  In short, it is the opportunity to just live with fewer distractions--both the good and bad ones--and do so as a family.

So tomorrow maybe I'll fix the leak in the irrigation or hang the solar flood light.  Maybe I'll buy strawberries and find some rubbing alcohol and soap for a lesson on DNA extraction.  Maybe I'll ride my bike to the regional park and take a run there.  Maybe I'll do all of those things.  Maybe I'll sit around and do nothing (yeah, right--do you know me?  Well, it could happen...). Freedom.  Time.  But tomorrow I will do these things alone.  When my family gets back we can make choices about our adventure together.  Either way, we will miss all of you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011



The learning center

We will be learning everywhere, but this is our indoor work space.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The children made some goals for the year as part of day 1 homeschool.
I'll make a few as well:
Grow or make more of our family food. Be a farmer, milkmaid, baker, canner, and beekeeper.
Create-- sew, knit, write. Make things as a regular practice.
Get stronger. Run a half marathon, and another triathlon.
Be present-- in my work with birthing women, with my colleagues, my family and friends.
Read wonderful books.
Slow down and simplify.

Our first day of home schooling.

Today was our first day of home schooling. We started out with funny candle experiments. Papa lit a candle and surprised us all when he ate it. Then he showed us how to make our own. We made them out of a banana and a peanut. After that, we got out our math journal and did a thing about how to use our reference book. After words, we learned about longitude and latitude. Finally, we finished up with blogging and ended our day.

Starting to homeschool

The first home school thing I did was , I got new ducks. My duck's name is Ginger. Sophie's duck is Honey. They are cute. Papa built a duck run for them. The first class we did at homeschooling was blogging. And we experimented with edible candles.


Hi everybody,
Im not necessarily happy about doing homeschool, but I'm going to try it out. I had a fairly good summer. I went to a really fun camp, and a couple of small trips and I'm sad that its over. I'm exited about not having to get as early (I need to be ready by 9:00), but I am worried about not meeting enough people.


This summer on July 1 we moved to Auburn. It wasn't as bad as I thought because since we have more space here, we get more animals. We got to keep our goats, get more chickens, and buy ducks. I also think that when we came here it opened up new opportunities. We met new friends,learned more stuff, and did more things together. But now summer is over so I will stop writing now.

first day of school

Today is our first day of school at home. We planned to start at 9 AM, but needed to do a little fence maintenence after Opal, our very pregnant goat, got to rubbing against the duck enclosure and popped the connectors free. This led to some duck pond maintenance (it leaks, temporary fix with duct tape). We'd already done some garden maintenance/observation and seed saving (orange cosmos and Lolo Rosa lettuce). Joey had been investigating another potential leak-- our well. It's nearly empty. That could be a problem.

Here's what's going on in the garden, and with the creatures:

The morning glory seeds we collected up the hill (on our neighbor's fence) had sprouted and popped out a flower on the bean teepee we built. The cucs are also flowering, and Gracie has the tallest corn and happiest looking watermelons. The soil is actually quite poor in the top garden foundation. We had a guy dig in 2 dump truck loads of manure, but it needs more. Building the soil up there will be a long term project. I've got the worm bin going, and we've started a compost pile of the animal bedding we muck out of the chicken coop and goat sleeping shed. But I need more!

We've lost 3 hens in the last month. Little Red got out and was mouthed by Rosie. Tigerlily got sick. And Honeybee may have been eggbound. A neighbor said something wise: "Out here in the country, animals come, and often they go too." We reinforced our fence. And decided to separate ducks from the chickens, in case their practice of bathing in the drinking water was causing illness. We also medicated the hens' water with tetracycline. We tried to save Honeybee by soaking her cloaca, and then reaching inside her vent to dislodge the egg, but it didn't work. Very sad. The girls held her as she went. I told them it was a blessing to be held by the one you love when you go.

We have quite a little graveyard going. I hope we're learning something from all this loss. I think there is something healing about digging a deep hole in hard soil. The exertion of it. The girls search about for stones and tiles to keep the burrowing scavengers out. We take the best flowers from the garden, and say a few words. These were good chicken friends, and we will miss their eggs too.

Opal and Frida Kahlo, our goaty girls are due to kid mid September. I predict poor Opal has at least 3 babes in there. She looks completely over the whole thing on hot days. I remember that feeling. Magic, their mama, may kid later in December. We'll milk the girls the remainder of this year. I'm looking forward to that. Goat milk, fresh, is creamy mild and delicious. Perhaps I can find a cheese-making teacher.

The lower garden has done well with sunflowers, lettuce, carrots, beets, zuchini, tomatoes, and more recently corn and beans. I've developed tennis elbow digging in the rocky clay soil. But also a great tan. And it is a lovely garden. Thanks to Mark Pletcher, and Tracey, who insisted on fencing the area when they were up for my birthday in May. The naughty goats were kept out, I threw down some seeds, and when I came back weeks later, they had grown into things we could eat. I think a garden salad was our first harvest.

Our family attended a homeschool conference in Sacramento a couple weekends ago. I think we got more excited about our plan for the year. And my trust deepened in kids' natural curiosity. I believe we've been home/world schooling all these years already. And I certainly learn that way too. When I'm interested in something, I investigate.

What I'm doing more of is noting the learning as it happens. For example, we've been reading James Herriot's book All Things Bright and Beautiful as a family. Lots of great vocab comes up. We discuss, of course, but now we also record the new words, context and meanings in our journals. They may become our spelling words.

Last night we saw Rise of Planet of the Apes (our theater has $5 Tuesdays!). This led to a lively discussion of viruses, and their use in genetic engeneering. I note that Eli has this interest. Will investigate more deeply.

Eli also has been pondering how we might develop a deeper swimming hole down at the creek. One that doesn't silt in, and fills from and empties back into the creek flow. He has also admired some wind chimes at our local nursery. Different metal tubes, of different lengths making different tones. We want to make them. Can we investigate resonance, sound, and the physics of sound. Will random lengths create discordant sounds?

Sophia has recently learned to knit in the round, and make pompoms for her hats. She will enter 2 in our county fair. She's enthusiastic about our plan to have the children make 1-2 meals per week. They will plan, shop and execute a meal of their choosing. Both girls have been painting portraits of al lthe animals in watercolor. We'll post a few samples. I love them.

Grace listed learning about natural dyes a goal. The girls have given Rosie, our dog, a purple mohawk (blackberry dye.) They want to do Magic's horns next.

More later. I'm off to make buttermilk bread and bring the laundry in off the line.

Monday, August 15, 2011


The chicken coop is built. The goats are fenced in. Two gardens are planted and irrigation is in place. I built a porch and a deck and had a walkway put in. It has been a summer of work: getting the physical plant ready. We've also had visitors (yay!) and trips to the river and swimming hole. The kids went to camps and we took a great camping trip to Sugar Pine Lake and have been back to San Rafael a couple of times (Juliana more with her work).

For the past week, we have begun to focus more on our primary adventure for this year: being together in learning. We officially begin our homeschooling in less than two days. Last weekend we went to the California Homeschooling Association's annual conference. I found it thought-provoking and informational. I heard about unschooling, deschooling, classical education, Zen schooling, and more. As is always the case with education, there are too many options! We will seek to find a balance that will hopefully keep Eli, Sophia, Grace (and me!) well-prepared for the return to traditional schooling next year, but that will also provide us with the freedom to pursue our interests with some spontaneity. What a privilege to have this opportunity with my children.

Tonight and tomorrow I am sitting down to do planning. It is mostly different than the sort of planning I have done for the past 18 years in the classroom. For one, there is less of it. The dynamic will be so different with three students instead of well over one hundred! My preparation as a homeschool "teacher" is to be ready to be present and flexible each day to follow the stream of our interests. In the classroom, I more often provide and present in an attempt to illicit interest from a large (and potentially passive) group. At home, I imagine myself needing to be ready to act more frequently on my students' (children's) inspirations. And I hope they will be passions! As a teacher, one's ultimate goal is to have the opportunity to mentor and guide (that and grade lots of papers, of course). I certainly hope that opportunity presents itself frequently (no, not the grading papers one). While I will need to create routines and structure, I want a lot of what we do to happen "organically".

There is much more to write, of course, but I do not turn a phrase with much pizazz, so I will save the few brave readers of these posts any further drudgery by signing off. Hopefully Juliana's more eloquent prose will grace the screen and there will be added interest from the weekly posts by the kids.