Saturday, October 29, 2011

Almost time to leave!

On Monday our family will leave for Thailand. Today was a clean up/get ready to go day and mostly every thing to do before we leave is done the chicken coop is clean, the duck pen and pool are clean, the goat pen is clean, bags are packed only 9 more math lessons to complete before the trip or on the trip, clean house, school work turned in, and house almost ready to be left.

(Editor's note: Sophia says she is too busy getting ready to add more!)

Field Trip Preparations: Thailand and P.S.

It has been a busy week here at the Stewyurt as we prepare for our biggest field trip of the homeschool year.  As you saw in other posts, these preparations have been both physical and academic.

In addition to a short, but sweet visit from the Walker/Thomas family (see Ruby-Doobie-Doo below)

and our regular routine of the week (we seemed to have found some ease in it lately), my personal focus has been making the animal enclosures as safe as possible while we are away and getting ready for rain.

To these ends, the Stewyurt now boasts an expanded awning over the deck and an expanded and secured backyard for Rosie (to the left of deck in picture). 

Special thanks to Eli who really stepped-up and fully partnered with me in the labor-intensive task of putting up the dog fencing.  For those of you interested in construction and/or geometry, the awning provided some serious problem-solving as I was forced to fit a square roof onto a round wall.  In addition to the expected angular challenges, nautilus-like spiraling and some leveling issues ensued.  I won't bore you all with it, but if any of you want to hear more, let me know.

In addition, we have more fencing for goat security and a new, automatic outdoor light for the garage.

I realize these changes may not be of particular inspiration (or even interest) to our readers, but I can't escape that this, in all its banality, is the news of the day.  I feel obligated to remain true to our blogging mission and report it.

In other events of the week, did anyone else get to enjoy game 6 of the World Series?  Wow.

After a Halloween in San Rafael, we will be on our way.  I'm not sure we will be able to blog much (or at all) while we are away, but we will have lots to share when we return.

We wish you all a November crisp on the outside and warm on the inside. 


Post script
I can't close without recognizing the most significant event since I last wrote here.  I couldn't find a way to fit it into the week's "routine" described above, though in its devastation it does instill in me a further gratitude for regular-ol' life.

Yesterday, our neighbor's nine-year-old son came over to tell us that the doctors have given his dad only weeks to live.  His words: "he is going Home."  What a brave boy to be able to speak that way of his father's predicted passing: a passing too soon for one too young with too much love and work still to give.

Life is short and unpredictable.  Joy is fleeting; contentment can be elusive.  While this is a special time for our family--an adventure--we forget so often that all of our time is special.   May we remember.  And when we face pain and the unpredictable, may we find strength and support.   We wish, pray, hope, and trust our neighbor and his family have these.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ready to go

I spent my day in the garden. It was a beautiful day.

The Summer garden continues to produce, though I feel almost ready to be done eating cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. The flowers keep going too.

I've said it before. Life is so sweet. I want each moment of it.

And I feel a heavy awareness this week that it doesn't always go on as long as one hopes or expects.

I can't imagine how one says goodbye, or goes on after the one loved has died.

Tomorrow we'll go home to San Rafael for a couple days of work, then Halloween and onto a plane for Phuket, Thailand via Hong Kong.

I feel ready to not work for a while. I haven't taken an away vacation since I broke my foot our first day at Hornby Island, B.C. I spent all my remaining time off having surgery, then recovering. I'll be more cautious this trip. No skim boards for me.

I'll see my parents, who I've missed.

We'll report back with photos and stories of our adventures.

A Thailand Overveiw

On Monday, we are leaving for Thailand, so I thought I'd give an overview of it's history, environment and culture.

The furthest back history recorded is 4000 B.C. Scientists found pottery and metal work from that time. In the first millennium A.D., there was the arrival of the Thai people. Then, 283 years later, written Thai language was invented. Much later, during 1850-1874, Western influence increased and slavery was abolished. Later, in 1973, Thailand switched to democracy, but in 1997-2006 the country was in turmoil.

Thailand also has a very rich environment. It has many rain forests which are full of birds and monkeys. There are also 7 types of venomous snakes living throughout Thailand. Thailand, which some think is shaped like an elephant, has 3 seasons: a hot season, a dry season, and a cold season. During the cold season, there is sometimes even ice.

One of the ways Thailand is very different than America is their culture. Their manners are very different. You can eat as soon as you are served with a spoon fork or chop sticks. Your bottom half is considered dirty especially your feet. Because of this, things touching the bottom half must be kept separate. Monks can not touch women in any way, so if a woman even wants to give a monk something, they have to pass it through some one else. The people of Thailand also greatly respect their king and expect the same from you so be careful.

Hopefully that will give you and idea about where we are going.


Creative Writing: Lilly, Chapter 4

See previous entries for other chapters.

Chapter 4

Hours later, a short plump woman skipped happily through the barn door.  She was carrying a large plate of of eggs and potatoes with a dollop of ketchup. "You must be starving, child!'' she said, looking at Caroline. ''You know that there is a lost sign on practically every post in town!"

Caroline was amazed.  Her mother didn't love her.  Or did she? "Well, lets call your parents then," the plump lady said with a sigh.

A sudden feeling of panic washed over Caroline, she didn't want to go back!

To be continued...


Field Trip: Bishop's pumpkin farm

A few days ago, we took a trip to Bishop's pumpkin farm with the charter school and our neighbors Ruthie and Caleb

First on our schedule was a pig race/eating healthy thing. It wasn't really a pig race it was mainly a play of the three little pigs heathy style. Next on our list was a wagon ride that started in about 20 minutes. We all had our eye on a carmel apple so Papa let us get some to share (one every two people). As soon as carmel apples were wedged into every hand(well almost every hand, we were sharing), we loaded the Hay Wagon

Once the Hay Wagon had reached it's destination ( the pumpkin picking place ) and stopped moving, I jumped out of the wagon and ran around determined to find a good pumpkin. Finally, my eyes rested on the one and only warty pumpkin! 

Then when everyone was satisfied with their pumpkin we were again loaded onto a vehicle. But this time not a Hay Wagon, a train! The train showed us old - fashion stuff. When the train finally screeched to a stop Mama went over to the giant pumpkins (that were rotting) and took some seeds to plant next Spring. 

Now that the Charter school had left we entered the famous corn maze for some fun. 

Now you know why only a few of us wrote...


Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Saturday Moment

Today was a typical Saturday in a lot of ways: soccer games, work around the house and land, a friend of the kids' over.  The games were fun to watch, it was nice to get some stuff done, the friend was well-behaved.  It was good, just what one hopes for from a Saturday.  Saturday is the middle of the weekend, after all: arguably the best day of the week.  But for a forty-something with family, home, work, and social life, it seldom affords much peace.  Something a little special happened today. 

After finishing a couple of projects, I grabbed a book and strung up a hammock under the deck.  It was late afternoon and the sun was well below its high point for the day.  The land is transformed around here since rain came a couple of weeks ago; everything has a glisten.  Tree leaves passed speckled light in different shades of green, vibrant and rich.  Bright mossy edges bordered the oak branches growing dense with their unpredictable directionality. 

I settled into my hammock and it was easy to let go.  I swung gently from a warm ray of the sun into the cool shadow of tree branches, then back again to the sun.  The temperature was perfect.  The kids were crafting inside together (cooperatively!).  I wasn't worried about something else I should get done.  I drifted and dozed a bit, didn't bother to crack the book.  I was just there. 

We've changed our look

New appearance, same great blog.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Presentation: Life in the Sierra Foothills. Available for reservation!

Sophia and Grace created the presentation summarized below to give to their class at Laurel Dell.   They share some of what they have learned about California history and some of what they have learned working with their animals.  Please contact us if you would like to book a showing (presentation subject to some editing).

The Stewyurt Nature Guide

We've been working on a "Nature Guide" that presents the natural history of our land.  Though it continues to be a work in progress, below are samples of our entries--one from each of the contributors.  We hope to eventually catalog most of the larger species found here (in other words, things bigger than bugs), some of the smaller ones, and perhaps even some of the important non-living components of our ecosystem.

Creative Writing: Lilly (Chapter 2 continued, Chapter 3)

by Grace

See previous posts for earlier chapters.

Chapter 2 (continued)

Caroline took a cheese and celery sandwich from her bag. Seeing this, Lilly trotted over, hoping to entice Caroline to give her a piece or two too. Looking into Lilly's eyes so vast and brown, Caroline reluctantly ripped a piece off and gave it to the little animal in front of her. The rest, she ate herself.

As the day passed, Caroline's love for Lilly grew and grew to the point where Caroline would tell her elaborate long stories every night. Also, Caroline started to slowly become lithe. That combination was a good one, because she now started building a shelter.

Chapter 3

Food was becoming a big problem for Lilly and Caroline. Caroline started to dwindle down in size and have intense stomach aches. Finally, Caroline decided she had to do something. So the next day she and Lilly set out to find some chestnuts. She picked and gathered all day so by the end of the day she had about 20 pounds worth (at least she thought).

She had barely closed her eyes that night when the loud sound of a rooster awakened her. "What, but I thought no one else was living here," she said to herself. Caroline was astonished when she opened her eyes. Around her was the red and white inside of a barn. Caroline's heart started beating when she realized that Lilly was not beside her. For a minute there was silence. Then suddenly, from the depths of a pile of clean hay, a small head popped up.

Caroline recognized the small face at was Lilly! So Caroline started to entice Lilly to get off the pile. "Yes!", Caroline thought as Lilly started sneaking slowly towards the sandwich she was holding. But Caroline was once again disappointed. As soon as Lilly got close to the sandwich, she stole it and was back in her hay pile.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: The Son of Neptune

In the previous installment of this series, Jason, son of Jupiter (or Zeus), wakes up and remembers nothing about his old life. He learns about Greek mythology and hears a prophecy at Camp Half Blood, a camp for Greek half bloods (half gods, half humans).

In this book, while Jason is a Camp Half Blood, Percy Jackson, the Son of Neptune, also loses his memory and finds himself in a Roman camp. He and some new friends go on a quest and learn that Greeks and Romans must work together to defeat the most powerful goddess of all: Gea the goddess of the earth.

Even though all these series by Rick Riordan are a little repetitive, I couldn't stop reading it. It was a fun, easy read.


Creative Writing: The Talking Power (Chapter 3)

By Sophia

Previous Chapters in earlier posts.

Chapter 3
Magic was never a big fan of me (my name is C.D.) going to school and leaving her by herself all day. So, one day Magic must have slipped inside of my backpack just before I woke because the first thing I heard when I got to school was: "C.D. had a little goat, little goat, little goat, C.D. had a little goat its scar as blue as sky. Every were that C.D. went, C.D. went, C.D. went, everywhere that C.D. went her goat was sure to go." I was shocked as I turned around to see little Magic sticking her head out of my backpack. I glared at her, she seemed to be having the time of her life.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Today I am moving slow and went back to bed after morning milking.
Steel cut oatmeal for breakfast. Pickles moved into the fridge and ready to eat, if one is brave.
Sophia is finishing up a knitting project-- following a pattern, a new skill.
Eli and Joey are digging fence holes to enlarge Rosie's enclosure.
Today I'll pack for Thailand, install my winter clothes, and dig some holes for Jerusalem artichoke and our new mandarin tree (Thanks Larissa and MaiMai, Ellie and Charley.)
I had a moment of sweetness, laughing about alpacas (Joey had an offer on one) with the family. I decided I never wanted to leave. Just to stay here with my people and our 10 goats and (hypothetical) alpaca, chickens and ducks, drinking milk, eating mini melons, hanging clothes on the line, growing food, and making things. Could we live on less? Could we work less? I think we could.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Children's Science Experiments

Over the past month, each of the kids has designed and conducted a science experiment.  The links (and urls) below are to their reports.  Your comments and/or email feedback are appreciated (we hope to do some revisions/alterations for entry in competitions in the spring).

Sophia's Experiment: The effect of soil on the height of plants

Grace's Experiment: The effect of different kinds of Manure on a bean’s length.

Eli's Experiment: To find the effect of water quantity on a bottle rocket and find the one that flies the highest.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Free style sewing

I made a couple new things!

When it got cold last week, I rejoiced at the break from 100 degrees. And then I got really chilly and started looking for the sweaters I'd boxed up in June. And my slippers. And a hat.

I decided to try my hand at pattern making. I have a pair of Old Navy yoga pants I like. They are thick and stretchy and warm. And the broad waist band keeps my belly toasty. I wear them under skirts or dresses if I can get away with it. And they are worn out.

I laid them out on wrapping paper and traced both sides. It was a little tricky. But the result was... pretty close. I'll wear them.


The second project is a skirt from a knitting book I like. I'm too lazy to knit all six panels, but I was able to sketch one out and cut out the pieces in thick fleece (again, super cozy.) Because I so love the warm belly phenomenon in winter, I decided to make a wide waist band for this too, which gave it some versatility as a dress. I like the external seams. It makes it a little architectural, I think. I guess I could wear it with seams hidden as well. I think I'll do a little applique on this at some point. (Joey was trying to coach me in proper posing techniques.. How to look thin in photos etc... Neither of us seem to know.)

Finally, my 5 year knit project: the hippie capelet. It still needs some refinement, but it is also warm. And finished.

Thanks for listening.

Community Service

l am doing a community service this year for part of my Bar Mitzvah. Community service is a mitzvah or good deed. Community services are important to me because they help people who need it and make me feel good about myself. Community services can be hard too because they require time and energy and also might cause you to step out of your comfort zone. Last week l did some gleaning at green gulch. The food we collected was donated to Saint Vincent De Paul. I had a good time picking food with my friends and felt good about all the food we were donating. In the future I will do more community services such as volunteering at soup kitchens or a animal shelter.

A miniature fashion show

One week ago we decided to create a mini fashion show. So we got busy hand-sewing little clothes out of unwanted fabric scraps. The clothes were so small that each piece of clothing didn't take long at all. In these pictures we only showed some of our miniatures. We have made a corkbord, toilet paper, magazines, magazine holders (for the bathroom), groceries, beds, desk blotters, pies, bread, napkins, napkin holders, cakes, a dog house, 2 single beds and 1 bunk, and many other things that take too long to mention.

We got interested in miniatures when I (Grace) looked at our doll house and realized that there was only one double bed for 5 dolls: a Mom, a Dad, a set of twins, and a big sister. So I decided to make a bunk-bed and another double bed (editor's note: see previous blogs) and since then we have been interested in miniatures.

papa's doll
papa's doll (party outfit)
mama's doll (coat, hat, and a dress)
mama doll (no coat)
mama doll ( only the dress)
a family picture

Sophia's desk items

Grace's bed

By Sophia and Grace

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Outside my window…Blue morning glories have grown up the fence in the kitchen garden. The tomatoes plants look dead, but are still producing. Among the dried out summer weeds, grass seedlings emerge, answering the recent rain. It's sunny. And the children have gone to school, so I am alone.

I am thinking…That the getting out of house today was filled with tension. It started sweetly. We milked Frida and Opal as the sun rose. No one put her muddy feet in the bucket. The mamas climbed up willingly, and their milk is creamy. Warm homemade bread and soft boiled eggs with our breakfast. Enough time to get it all done. But then some unnecessary, not-funny teasing, and harsher reactions. Shift to too much intensity, and Gracie tears.

I am thankful…for some time to myself today. For black soil ready to shovel into the clay packed garden beds, and seedlings eager to stretch their roots out. For my sweetie, who helps us get things done, and wrote me a song. And my job, which feeds my soul some late nights. For time to make and grow and read things.

From the learning rooms…The children are in Grass Valley with their homeschool peers. Eli does his math and history, but is most excited by what he reads in Discover Magazine. The girls are making miniatures and reading about polymer clay techniques.

In the kitchen…The dishes are washed. The morning's milk is on ice. Yesterday's bread is bagged. Sophia's spaghetti sauce is properly canned and in jars. The pumpkins we harvested are cooked and waiting to become Thai curry. I won't cook today, but the sourdough starter will keep bubbling, and the pickles will continue fermenting in their vat on the counter.

I am wearing…My grubbies from milking, and my slippers. My reading glasses are on the top of my head. That's new. My vision for close has gone fuzzy.

I am creating…I think I want to make sewing patterns from a few of my favorite winter cozies (yoga pants, wrap shirt..). And a six panel skirt out of thick fleece. I finished my 5 year knitting project. It's a striped short cape/ poncho.

I am going…To stay home.

I am wondering…if the animals will be okay while we are away. Most nights I sleep with our window open, to listen. There've been no losses for a while. We haven't found someone to do that for us.

I am reading…Isabel Allende's "Island Beneath the Sea". I tried to read it in Spanish, but I'm not ready.

I am looking forward to…seeing my parents next month in Thailand.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Day of Homeschooling

A lot of people wonder what a "typical day" homeschooling is like.  I find myself being somewhat evasive in answering because the days are often very different.  Sometimes we'll take a "field trip" somewhere or we are away on a trip.  Some days we take classes through the Grass Valley Charter School.  But when we are at home most of the day (like today), our days take a form fairly similar to what follows.

Some of us got up at about 7am today to milk Frida and Opal.  Today was our first offical day of milking as it is a good idea to wait about 3 weeks before taking milk from the babies.  We got about 1 quart from Frida and Opal and still left plenty for the kids.

Breakfast was duck eggs and leftover oatmeal.  It was pretty good, if I do say so myself.

About 8:15am we roused Eli from his lair.

Sophia took advantage of some down time to work on her miniature project.  She and Grace have become really excited about making small things for their dolls and dollhouse.  They did a lot of miniatures work all day today.  They are promising to put a fashion show up on this blog sometime soon.

We try to get started with "schoolwork" at 9am on days we are at home.  Today everyone did a math lesson.  We also had a pre-test on spelling words gathered from journal entries and other writing.  We reviewed vocabulary from reading and subject studies as well.

By about 10:45am we were done with "schoolwork" and it was "project time".  Grace played piano and researched miniature craft ideas.

Sophia and Juliana made spaghetti sauce for lunch and canning. Yum now and later!

Juliana made bread (note: it was awesome).  

Eli read a lot today and played some Minecraft on the computer.

Joey worked on recording a song and the awning over the deck. Don't get the wrong idea--I'm usually solo on the construction projects.

We had lunch together in the afternoon.

In the evening, we drove to town for Eli's soccer practice and Joey's karate (I'm doing karate to join Eli's practice, but he has a conflict with soccer on Wednesdays). 

While in town, we picked up some items we need for tomorrow.

After dinner, we were hoping for some family reading and a viewing of "Eyes on the Prize".  But we were too tired.  It was a good day.  I hope you got a better sense of what some of our days are like.